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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 26, November 1982

(By TUI MURDOCK)

Thoughts for some of us winged back 49 years when we attended the 10th meet of the 1982 hunting fixtures in the Maramarua Hunt Golden Jubilee year. It took place at Hikutaia over the high country properties of Messrs Cedric and Max Murdock, Hikutaia Farms Ltd and Mr R. McCollum.

Modern cars and trailers or large well-equipped horse floats or lorries brought followers and their high quality horses quickly and comfortably, mostly over tar sealed roads, from many parts of the Waikato, Maramarua, Hauraki Plains and Waihi districts. The sleek and well-matched pack was under complete control of the huntsman at all times. Pink coats were worn by all hunt officials in the field and the followers were in full hunting kit with mainly black or green coats.

Noticeable too was the fact that today's women followers almost equal in numbers the men. Some came with husbands, others alone, but capably unloading, preparing and reloading horses seems to them all just part of the day's sport. Onlookers, well they are very small in numbers in the Paeroa ward these days. It is a pity as they do add much to the day in many ways.

In 1933 the Maramarua Hunt was just one year old and their Paeroa ward with Hikutaia and Tirohia their hunting venues, just established. It was then that the legendary Paeroa hunt week of hunting, dancing, gay parties and later a gymkhana, became and remained for some 15 years, a popular June event for all hunt members and both town and country residents in the district.

A few who attended the week trucked their horses by rail to Paeroa, but the majority rode many miles over metalled roads to take part. Horses were grazed in and around the township and farming areas and the hounds were housed at the racecourse. Many of the out-of-town visitors were guests at the then called "Fathers" Hotel where "mine hosts", the late Mr and Mrs Fathers, foundation hunt members, and their family, provided wonderful hospitality to the hunt, a custom that continued over many years, and carried on in later years by Mr Bert Duncan.

So, on June 30th, after a lavish hunt breakfast at "Fathers", the clatter of hoofs rang through the streets of Paeroa as followers gathered and set out on the seven mile ride and walk for the hounds to their first hunt in the lovely Maratoto Valley, Hikutaia. There the well-known Hikutaia and Paeroa sportsman and racing identity and in later years deputy-master of the hunt, Mr Viv Young, had enthused the landowners to get behind the sport and under his control the country had been sparred and prepared for the event. It is of interest that among his younger helpers was one of the owners of country that was used for the 1982 [1933? – E] Hikutaia hunt, Mr Cedric Murdock, and that a follower on that first day, a school boy in short pants, was Brian Wiggins of Tirohia. Mr Wiggins now lives in Paeroa and these days is the secretary of the Maramarua Hunt. (He also was present at the 1982 Hikutaia hunt).

For their 1933 meet, at which visitors from Pakuranga and Waikato Hunts were among the followers, the hounds were thrown off on the Thames Road property of Mr A.W. Alley and after passing through Mr E.J. Walters, a good following which included children on foot and local riders including several women.

Dress that day for most men, was a far cry from the standard looked for today. Gumboots or leggings and slouch hats were the chosen addition to their attire. Stocks were unheard of and little was known about hunting rules. But who cared - the general feeling was, "this is the sport". So it was with a carefree air that the hunt moved into the valley with the first master, Mr. J. Fagan.

The weather for that day was kind and despite the hounds showing a decided liking for any heavy scrub and making little effort to obey the huntsman's summons to return to work, there were some good runs when the hunt swept up the valley in full chase, giving the day the exhilaration and gaiety that belonged to that era of hunting. Spills and baulking at the jumps were of course plentiful, all part of the day and the only two real upsets were when Miss Grace Gibbs' horse broke a leg and Mr E.C. Adams' hunter received a nasty injury when it hit a post.

A very satisfied and enthusiastic hunt returned to the Lowry homestead where the late Mr. R.W. Lowry, and his wife, who now lives in Papakura, were hosts at a wonderful afternoon tea supplied by the women of the district. But among all those remembered goodies, who could ever forget those small succulent home made puff pastry and apple pies made by the hostess. Those pies became a feature at hunts at Hikutaia for many years, even after the Lowrys left the district, when the late Mrs. A. Duncan continued the custom.

Between 30 to 40 onlookers also attended the afternoon tea. They had followed the progress of the day by road, urging and cheering riders over nearby jumps. They travelled on foot, by horses and bikes or in cars, mostly affectionately labelled tin lizzies which we now call vintage.

Here again Viv Young was busy circulating in his well-known and taking way, and the Ward Treasurer, the late Mr. Edwin Edwards, at that time the popular Mayor of Paeroa, must have been delighted with the amount donated or paid as subs at that first Hikutaia hunt. All good things must come to an end and with the inner man well oiled and fortified, speeches by the Ward representatives, Messrs Ernie Fathers and V. Young, and thanks given to the landowners and women, those hardy followers, horses and hounds, set off tired but happy for their long, slow journey to Paeroa.

Hunting that first day in Hikutaia was just a beginning. Very soon more farmers, both in the upper and lower part of the valley, most generously also allowed their land to be used. Few of those first day land-owners are still living, but their families and most new owners continued to support the hunt in the same way and this large stretch of farmland saw hunting for may years, in fact until the wide use of electric fences.

All meets there were happy events, but there has always been something very special and exciting about the day when the sound of the hunts-man's horn rang out for the first time in that lovely valley. Owners of Hikutaia properties are as follows - the first eight mentioned are where the original hunt was held. - Messrs A.W. Alley, E.J. Walters, M. Devcich, R.W. Lowry, G. and Miss G. Gibb, M. Ellis, M. Smith, Martin Bros., M. Miller, W.H. Alley, J. Minifie, A.A. McCollum, T. Corbett, G. Powell, A. Duncan, and G. Trembath.