Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001
By Dorothy Bagnall
My sister, Helen, and I were born at Turua on the Hauraki Plains. Turua had been the Bagnall home since the 1870s, when George and Martha Bagnall and their family, who came to New Zealand from Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1864, took over the Hauraki Sawmills under the name of Bagnall Bros and Co. The family moved there from Thames in 1879 and our father, his three sisters and all but their youngest cousin were born at Turua. The kahikatea was worked out by 1919, the mill closed and most of the Bagnall families moved away, mainly to Auckland. The land was drained and made good farming country.
Our father, Stanley Wellington Bagnall, the only son of Richard Wellington and Lydia Chadwick (Lamb) Bagnall, was apprenticed to Mr Porritt, Solicitor in Paeroa before he went to the First World War in 1916. When he returned in 1919 he did not want an indoor job, and went farming at Turua. He married an Australian wife, Bertha Elizabeth Phillips, whom he met when she came as a delegate from Geelong YWCA, Victoria, to a YWCA triennial conference held in Auckland. After their marriage in Geelong and a honeymoon in Victoria, Stan brought his bride to his farm in Turua, before his house was built. He had a large garage built, lined and the inside painted with a pretty green paint. I was the older child, and lived my first year or so in this comfortable roomy garage.
The farm was 367 acres, on the corner of Hauraki Road and Kerepehi Road (now Wharepoa Road) and I think Dad milked 100 to 120 cows. He had a milking machine and an Alpha Laval Separator. The cream was taken in large cream cans on the sledge to the cream stand by the road outside the gate, to be picked up and taken by truck to the Turua Dairy Factory. The skim milk was fed to the calves and pigs. We, of course, had beautiful creamy milk always, from one of the best cows. Our father used draught horses for the farm work (no tractor), with the dray, sledge, harrows and other implements. He also had a small, quiet horse called Rona, which I at times had a ride on. The four working dogs were never allowed in the house, but in wet weather, to Mum's disgust, managed to make a great mess of the large back porch with their muddy paws. Everywhere was very muddy in the winter.
Our father had a car, a Buick, so that we did not have to depend on horse transport at all. He was allergic to bee stings and one time his leg was so swollen for a few days that he had to go in the car to the back of the farm. Occasionally we went to Turua, three miles away, in the gig, which was a treat, though it was very slow. One of the dogs, Ted, loved the car. When Dad had to go out in it, Ted would jump on the running board beside the front door of the car, and go with him. He never fell off, and was well known by all the neighbours and other locals. Electricity and the telephone were installed when the house was built (our telephone number was 25 S), so that I never remember being without.
Our neighbours were all farmers, whom we knew well and liked very much. The Troughton boys, Maurice, Henry and Dudley were all older than we were, and Dudley was the only one we saw very much - I knew him at school. Almost opposite the Troughtons were the Henry family, who had a nice tennis court in front of the house, near the road. Ray, Alison, Gordon and Margaret were their children. Mrs Henry was a fine pianist, and Alison, a couple of years older than I, was an inspiration to me with my piano playing. Our mother insisted that her beautiful piano, given to her as a wedding present, must come over with her from Geelong, where she and Dad were married. When I was seven she was therefore able to have me taught by Miss Lyla Green, of Kopuarahi. I always took this for granted, but some years ago I realised how lucky I had been. This was depression time and I have met others of our age who are very musical but had no opportunity of learning the piano as they did not have one, and their parents could not afford to buy one. Our special playmates were Alison and Margaret Henry and our other neighbours, Connie Bond and Pat Thrupp.
We went to Turua School (Motto : My Best Always) in the school bus, which picked up all the children along Hauraki Road. At this time Turua was a 4 - teacher school, with the Primer class, Standards 1 and 2, Standards 3 and 4, and the Headmaster taking Standards 5 and 6. My first headmaster was Mr Shepherd, then in 1930 Mr Harry Vause took over. Other teachers we remember are Miss Dixon, my Infant Mistress, Miss Widdup, Helen's Infant Mistress, Mr Nagle, Mr Graham, Miss Adlam, Miss Hoffey and Mr Maurice Madgwick (we knew him as Mr Madgwick), a Turua boy who came back as a teacher.
While I was at Turua School a dental clinic was built and a dental nurse was appointed. Now we did not have to travel on a small bus to Ngatea School - about eight or ten of us, or was it more? - to sit on a seat in the dental clinic porch until our turn came to go to the dental nurse. This was not an enjoyable trip for us.
One memorable happening when I was at school was the Murchison Earthquake. In 1929, on June 17, we were in the classroom, with about 10 minutes to go before we went out for morning playtime. Suddenly the electric light began to sway. The teacher must have known it was an earthquake - perhaps he felt it - for he said to us, "Class, stand. This is an earthquake. You can go out early to play this morning. Just move out in single file, very quietly." He was so calm, and we did as he said, but there were no more shakes, and the rest of the day continued as usual. Helen told me recently that she and Mum felt it at home. Murchison, in the South Island, is a long way from Turua, but this was, of course, one of New Zealand's worst earthquakes. Incidentally, we also felt the Napier earthquake in Turua, this time at the saleyards where Dad had taken us that day.
Helen has reminded me of one of her special memories of Turua School - the Maypole. We had three horizontal bars of differing heights which everyone enjoyed, then one year a maypole was put up as well. This was immediately very popular, with its long, strong coloured ropes hanging down, to be swung on. Helen's memory is that she hardly ever managed to have a turn, as she was so small, and the big ones always got there first and took possession. I, too was one of the younger ones, but managed to get on a little more often than my little sister.
Our home has perhaps some unusual memories for us. The bread was always delivered by the baker, who brought from his van a basket full of unwrapped loaves of different varieties, for our mother to choose what she would have. The first baker boy I remember was Harry Mules, of the Turua Bakery, then suddenly Harry stopped and we had Mr D Leach of Victoria Tearooms, Paeroa. As we were at school we seldom saw Mr Leach or his boy, but we remember the Paeroa Baker, and his name, because each Christmas a special gift arrived, written beautifully on it, "With the Compliments of D Leach Victoria Tea Rooms Paeroa". Two I remember are a nice circular tray and an equally nice milk jug.
In those days it was normal to have bread delivered, but my other memories are maybe not so normal. When I was five, our mother managed to finally change Dad's mind, and we were to be christened. As he had been brought up in the Church of Christ and Baptist Churches, he did not see the necessity of infant baptism, but Mum, as a Presbyterian and Methodist, had wanted it. Accordingly, one Sunday afternoon, the Presbyterian minister came to the house, and Helen and I were baptised in our sitting room - no one else was there, just the four of us and the minister. I wonder how many others can remember their christening! (Helen doesn't remember it.)
I do not remember a hair dresser in Turua, and I think that our mother usually cut our hair. Then Tony Radich arrived in the district. I remember well Tony coming on his bicycle, bringing his scissors and other gear to our place, to cut our hair. A kitchen chair would be put outside in the sun, a sheet put around our shoulders, and Tony would get to work. He did a good job, and was in demand on other farms and homes for cutting both children's and adults' hair. In speaking to his daughter, Olga Tvrdeich, I found that Tony was a barber in Yugoslavia before coming to New Zealand. He learnt the trade during his two years' military service. Now, in hard times it was adding to the money he made from the farm - cutting hair between milkings.
One unusual happening at home was not pleasant. I was aged six, and the school doctor told my mother that my tonsils would have to come out. She therefore arranged with the Turua doctor, Dr Trevalyn Miller, to come and take them out. Yes, no visit to hospital, or even to the doctor's surgery, but I had to lie on our large oak dining room table for the operation. I was given chloroform from a semi-circular, very light thing put right over my nose to put me to sleep. When I woke up, all was done, my tonsils and adenoids gone, just a sore, bleeding throat. Into bed I went, and after a few days was able to return to school. Helen was the winner in all this. Before he left, Dr Miller told our mother that he would never let his son have his tonsils out! Mum decided that what was good enough for his little boy, was good enough for Helen. She still has her tonsils and adenoids today, thanks to Mr W T Anderton, a wonderful herbalist that Mum was told about, who had his rooms at the top of Symonds Street, Auckland.
I am almost certain that the day of my tonsils operation, was the day that Helen remembers vividly. Dad was going to Paeroa in the Buick, and took Helen with him. When they returned we heard their story of an equally unpleasant happening. They had had an accident! They were on their way home, when, at a small bridge, they collided with a car driven by a lady, coming the other way. Dad assured us that it was her fault, and made a big thing about "lady drivers"! I cannot give an account of just what happened, but the car needed some repairs, and fortunately no one was badly hurt. Of course, cars in those days were made of much stronger metal than today, and they did not go so fast.
Finally, we remember our home as our Sunday School. We attended the Presbyterian Church, and when I was old enough, I began Sunday School at Turua, my teacher being Doris Olsen, she told me many years later! Our parents had always been involved with the church since their childhood, and when I was seven, our mother felt that there were a number of children living near us who never went to Sunday School, and she wanted to do something about it. She spoke to the Church and Sunday School people, and it was decided that she would start a Turua South Sunday School in our home. She arranged the lounge as the Sunday School room, bringing all the chairs in from the kitchen and other rooms. She let all the neighbours and others in our area know, and the Sunday School was started, with Mum as Superintendent and Alison Henry as pianist. It was a great thrill when I had been learning the piano long enough to be able to play two hymns for us, "Jesus Bids us Shine" and "Jesus Loves Me". Whenever we had these, I would play, Alison playing all the rest. The Turua South Sunday School continued until we left the district.
From the time I was about eight, Helen and I would go to Auckland for a week in the school holidays to stay with our grandparents in Epsom. Our father usually took us in the car, a long tiring journey, especially in the summer when, going over the "Razorbacks", Mum, Helen and I had to get out and find a stream in the bush to fill a bucket (Mum), a medium-sized billy (me), and a small billy (Helen), with water to put in the radiator. It was so hot going up and down the hills, searching. During the journey Mum was very good at keeping us entertained, so that it would not seem so long. We played, "I Spy with my little Eye", crossed our fingers when we saw a white horse, then looked out for a dog, and enjoyed the special places Mum pointed out, eg. "The church on the windy hill" - just after the turn-off to Mangatawhiri). This is still a favourite of mine, but with the upgrading of the road it is not so noticeable.
Two or three times we went to Auckland on the "Taniwha", which left Turua Wharf at midnight and arrived in Auckland at 7 00am, when our aunt would meet us. I remember at least once going on the service car, but as it always stopped at the Maramarua Tea Rooms on the way, and we'd have to get out, our parents preferred to have us safely in the cabin asleep. We moved about only after breakfast when the boat was drawing into the wharf.
At this time our Auntie Ella and her husband, Cecil Beckett, who had no children, were living with and helping our grandparents, and were very good at having the different grandchildren to stay. I took it all for granted at the time, but since being grown up, I have realized how wonderful our auntie was, taking us out somewhere every day. We visited great aunts and uncles and special friends of hers, including Miss Ella Greenwood of Miss Greenwood's Commercial School at Newmarket, Mrs Gerty Winstone in her magnificent home on Takapuna Beach, Mrs Choyce, from Milne and Choyce, next door and others. We really came to know Auckland very well, not only walking to Cornwall Park and up One Tree Hill, but also visiting the Zoo, the Museum, the Old Colonists' Museum, and many of the beaches, Takapuna, Milford, Cheltenham, Mission Bay and Waikowhai, the latter a long walk from Liverpool Street, and any other places of interest that we would enjoy. Though our grandfather had a car, Auntie did not drive it, and must have got very tired taking lively children round by foot, or bus, tram and ferry.
Helen and I were small children when the depression struck, but we did not suffer from it. Being on a farm, we had plenty of food: milk, cream, eggs, fruit and vegetables, even home-killed meat now and again - very seldom, as our father hated killing animals. Most of our meat came from the butcher, though we had our own young cockerels and duck. Our mother made a great deal of jam and bottled fruit, buying sugar in large 70lb bags, to be tipped into the sugar bin in the kitchen, one of three, the others holding flour and bread. Sugar bags were used for making peg-bags, bag aprons, oven cloths, etc. I had to make an oven cloth out of sugar bag in a sewing class at Turua. The flour bags also came in handy for making things we needed. Nothing was wasted. Blackberries and mushrooms from the farm were enjoyed by us all, especially the occasional dessert of large raw blackberries and scalded cream! Our mother was a champion scone and sponge maker, her cream sponges being greatly appreciated whenever the Church, Plunket Society or other group put on afternoon tea or suppers. Helen and I were very pleased when very occasionally, Mum's sponge was a failure, and didn't rise. We were then able to eat it!
Depression time affected a tremendous number of people. There was no dole for those who were out of work, and jobs were very hard to obtain. Because of this many took to the road, travelling around the country looking for work. Some stayed overnight, chopping wood or doing some other helpful task for a good dinner and breakfast. One who came to us was a "regular". I don't remember his name, but every few months he would appear again to be fed and stay overnight in payment for doing some work. But some very nice, reliable men stayed to work on the farm. At different times we had Rama, Dave Mann, Mate (pronounced Mattie), and Nick Ivicevich.
Rama was a lovely Indian, whom we all liked very much. A special memory of Rama is helping with the blackberry picking on the farm one day, helping to fill the kerosene tins and buckets which were taken home on the sledge. Rama's story of the elephants in India fascinated me.
Nick Ivicevich, whom we remember very well, was the nephew of Mate, the Dalmatian who was one of Dad's long term workers. Mate was a good worker, but he spent most of his time outside and we didn't get to know him so well. Mate must have told his nephew about us, for Nick arrived one day to see if there was any work. He was taken on and we all loved this young man, apparently only 16 or 17 years old. Mum was so fond of him that he really lived and ate with us and helped in the area round the house, rather than always being on the farm. When he left, Nick gave each of us a lovely doll, something really special in those difficult times.
Many years later, Nick saw Dad's death notice in the Herald in 1971, and wrote to me. I rang him and arranged to go and see him and his wife, Olga Nola, at their fish shop in Ponsonby Road. It was a delightful visit. Nick was terribly sorry to hear that Mum had passed away twenty years before. He would have loved to see her again - he didn't realize that we were in Auckland. His memories of us were obviously just as happy as our of him. I came away with a parcel of special fish - a gift!
The final man that we remember very well was Dave Mann. Again, he was almost part of the family, helping round the home, as well as out on the farm. I have memories of Dave in the sitting room with us after dinner in the evening, telling us of all his adventures. The most memorable was his story of the Murchison earthquake, about three years before. At that time he was chef at the Commercial Hotel and when the earthquake struck, the Hotel was damaged and his kitchen unable to be used. But most of the other buildings were also badly damaged and people needed to be fed. A Community Camp was set up for those without a home, and Dave became the cook for everyone, starting a fire in a paddock and cooking the food there. The cookhouse was a canvas shelter. It was estimated that Dave provided meals for 2000 people in the open. The Auckland Weekly News of 26 June, 1929 and the NZ Free Lance of the same date, had splendid coverage, with numerous photographs, of this terrible earthquake, including photos of Dave Mann, who for his mammoth task of cooking in such difficult circumstances for so many, was referred to as the hero of Murchison. (Dave did not have those papers with him.) I had forgotten the name of the place of the earthquake I had felt at school, but after Dave's stories I could never forget again.
For my 10th Birthday, Dave unexpectedly gave me a present, "The Child's History of England" by Charles Dickens. I loved reading and found this book fascinating, with the lives of kings and queens that would appeal to children. This book further ensured that Dave Mann was someone I could never forget.
When grown up, I always thought how I'd like to see Dave again, and used to look in the Auckland phone book, thinking he too might have come here to live. But never did I see a D Mann. In 1993, the Dunedin Naturalist's Field Club to which I belong, had its 10-day summer holiday at Murchison. This was a very special holiday for me, and I was thrilled to hear more about the earthquake and about Dave Mann from people who had known him. No wonder I couldn't find him in Auckland. He had returned to the West Coast and married there. It was disappointing to find out that he had passed away only two or three years before.
Dave Mann was our last farm worker, as very soon after my birthday we left Turua. Our happy life in our lovely home ended when we were suddenly told that we were leaving. The "slump" had caught up with us. Our mother told me many years later that the farm had been mortgaged on our grandparents' Epsom home, and our parents felt that they could not stay on. It must have been very hard for them to see everything go. We moved to a small 5 acre farmlet opposite the Tironui Railway Station at Papakura, a rented property. We did not bring any of our cows but were able to buy two other very quiet ones and also had fowls again. As at Turua, we had fruit trees, so once again had plenty of good food. The Buick was "sold" for £10 but Dad never received any money for it! When I was 11, we bought at 1/11 a week, two Farmers' Monarch Special bicycles, which became our means of going the two miles to school. Much better than walking the distance as we had up until then!