Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 13, May 1970


Hikutaia was the scene of a happy celebration last year when over 100 people gathered at the Hall to honour a gracious lady who had reached her 92nd birthday. Mrs. Ethel Hamilton, serene, and beautifully gowned, sat near the entrance to receive every guest with a charming smile. One heard her lovingly addressed as Mother, Aunty, or Grandma and always the remarkable eyes lit with pleasure as she returned each greeting.

Mrs. Hamilton (nee Alexander) the mother of seven sons, three daughters, with 45 grandchildren as well as 65 great-grandchildren, is a pioneer of Whenuakite, where she spent most of her life. She is probably now the oldest pioneer of the peninsula. After her husband's death in 1949 she resided for some years in Auckland, until she came to Hikutaia to live with her daughter, Mrs. Gladys Corbett.

Other members of her large family are: Mrs. Zella Roberts (Takapuna), Mrs. Elsie Watt (Whangamata) and Messrs Wilfred, Eric, Owen, Dave, Ken, Bert and Jack Hamilton, five of whom and three grandsons still farm in the home district. At the hall many family photographs were displayed and a carefully compiled family tree traced descendants of the pioneer Hamilton family who settled in Mercury Bay in 1868 and of the Alexanders who arrived at Kuaotuna at the height of the gold rush.

Mrs. Ethel Hamilton was born in 1877 at Panmure where her father was a farrier to the Garrison of Fencibles before settling at Kuaotuna. Later she trained as a tailoress and for a time worked for Mr. Hennessy of Paeroa. In 1898 she married William Hamilton and they settled at "Dalmeny" in Whenuakite where they carried on the business of farming, gum-buying, storekeeping and for many years the Post Office at all times working for the good of the district. They celebrated their golden wedding in 1948.

Now, in 1969, as Mrs. Hamilton presided over her large family seated at the sumptuously laden tables her son Ken said a heartfelt grace for all blessings. Wilfred Hamilton later spoke of the early difficulties experienced by his parents when roads were non-existent and settlers relied on river transport while mothers of large families accomplished successful home-making to an almost unbelievable degree. Such difficulties did not shorten their lives as evidenced by his mother and her 90-year old sister, he said.

After toasts were honoured, Mrs. Corbett read many telegrams of congratulations and Mrs. Roberts paid tribute to her mother's early training which enabled her children to discriminate between right and wrong and to stand by the high principles she demonstrated. In the 50's Mrs. Hamilton enjoyed a world trip with her daughter when they collected data concerning family history of pre-New Zealand days.

A feature of the afternoon was the beautiful singing by Mrs. Reidi and Miss Ritchard. The cutting and sharing of the birthday cake concluded a most enjoyable function.