Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 47, September 2003

Irene and Reg Hughes
Irene and Reg Hughes - Obituaries
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 47, September 2003
Irene and Reg Hughes

By Graham Watton (Secretary, Paeroa and District Historical Society)

The Paeroa Community and, in particular, the St. Paul's Anglican Church and the Paeroa and District Historical Society, suffered a severe double loss earlier this year with the tragic death of Irene Hughes, followed some ten weeks later by the passing of her husband, Reg. A wide cross-section of the community attended both funeral services to pay their last respects to a couple held in very high esteem.

Irene died on 17 January 2003 in the Thames Hospital from injuries sustained a few hours earlier in a horrific motor vehicle accident in Thames Road, Paeroa. She was three weeks short of her 90th Birthday. Reg passed away peacefully on the evening of 2 April 2003, at his son, Michael's home in Paeroa, after enjoying celebrating his 90th Birthday that day.


22 February 1913 - 17 January 2003

Irene was born on 22 February, 1913, the first child of Bert and Louisa Mackinson, in the little cottage on the corner of Willoughby and Arney Streets (later known as the Fennell Cottage and now a car park). Her father had arrived in Christchurch from Australia, where he met his wife, and they were married in 1912. They then moved to Paeroa where Mr Mackinson became involved in goldmining activities.

In 1914 a second daughter was born, Winifred Louisa, now known as Jonne, who still lives in Australia. When the First World War commenced, Mr Mackinson joined the army and spent the next four years overseas with the Hauraki Regiment. On his arrival home he received a soldier's land ballot at Southbridge, near Christchurch and the family returned south to farm the block.

Irene commenced her schooling there, but in the mid-1920s her parents separated, with her father returning to Australia. Mrs Mackinson and her young daughters stayed on the farm until 1929, when they returned to Paeroa. The girls, now aged 16 and 15 years, finished their education at the Paeroa District High School. In 1931 her mother married D W Robson (Bill), son of the first store owner in Paeroa, James Robson (1870). They moved onto one of the Robson farms on Thames Road.

At the age of 17 years, Irene commenced working, and in 1931 she was housekeeping for the Clarrie Swney family at Waihou. It was here that she met Reginald Hughes, a farm labourer on the farm and a long and happy association commenced.


2 April 1913 - 2 April 2003

Reg was born in Winton, Southland and was raised in a foster home with the Townsend family. His early schooldays were spent in Southland. He was awarded a free place in the Mount Albert Grammar School in Auckland by the Child Welfare Department in the Department of Education, and moved north in 1926 to complete his education there. Reg gained his matriculation exam and also passed university entrance exams in engineering, medicine and school teaching. Despite his teacher's strong advice to pursue a career in engineering, Reg followed his own instincts and took up farm work in the Waihou District. It was there, in 1932, that he met Irene Mackinson and we will now follow their paths through a long and rewarding life together.


It was at the Swney home that Reg met Irene and immediately they became warm friends, but they were not ready to settle down.

Irene continued her housekeeping, as well as other jobs, and in the mid-1930s, made a trip to Christchurch to reunite with relatives. In 1938 she went to Australia to meet other members of her extended family, including her father.

Meanwhile, Reg continued his farming work and after a period at Waiuku, was successful in applying to join the Police Force in 1935. After his training he was posted to Wanganui. During the seven years from 1932 to 1939, the paths of Irene and Reg crossed on several occasions and each time, fondness for each other steadily developed. Finally, on 22 July 1939, they were married in the Paeroa Methodist Church and the wedding breakfast was held in the Victoria Tearooms.

At this stage, Reg was still stationed in Wanganui and it was there that sons, David and Michael were born. Reg was then transferred to Hamilton, where John was born. In 1947 Reg resigned from the Police Force and he and Irene took over the Robson family farm in Thames Road, Paeroa. It was here that Peter and the late Roger were born. (Irene's mother and stepfather retired to Whangamata.) It did not take long for Reg and Irene to become involved in the community, especially as they supported their five boys in their activities.

Irene was soon on the Paeroa Central School's Parent-Teachers' Association, involved in the local Cub Pack and the Goldfields Special School, when it opened in early 1970. She became a very popular and respected home-craft teacher at Paeroa District High School (later College) with her cooking classes popular with a generation of girls. When these girls were approaching their marriages, they went to Irene for the Wedding Cake, always beautifully baked and iced.

A keen gardener and hand crafter, Irene was a prolific exhibitor in the local Agricultural and Pastoral Shows, and she was also involved in organising the home industries section of the show for more than 40 years. She was a collector for the British and Foreign Bible Society (later The Bible Society) for fifty years and a very active member of the St. Paul's Anglican Church Mothers' Union for a similar period. She was a foundation and regular voluntary staff member of the Church's Opportunity Shop when it was established in 1981.

Irene and Reg joined the Paeroa and District Historical Society soon after it was formed in 1964. After serving on the committee in 1972, the first of many overseas jaunts was undertaken, either individually or together, to visit sons, grandchildren and other family. Eventually, over the following 25 years, such visits would take them to all parts of Europe, South East Asia, Canada and Australia. Irene rejoined the committee in 1976 to become a very active member, including one of the foremost workers in the Museum, since its opening in 1979.

Not able to drive a motor vehicle did not hamper Irene's enthusiasm to be involved in these organisations. She was a familiar personality, riding her bicycle in all weathers from her home to town - a return trip of some 7 kilometres.

Her passing left a huge hole in the infrastructure of the Museum, a hole which will never be fully filled.

While Irene went about her community affairs, Reg developed his dairy and pig farm. He also became involved in the community, being a foundation member of the Opukeko Drainage Board and member for 42 years; on the Paeroa Central School Committee and the school's and the Ohinemuri Calf Club's Committees. He also joined the Agricultural and Pastoral Association and for many years served as a steward in the cattle and calf club sections. He was a member for more than 40 years of the Paeroa Racing Club, was a race-day steward and did many hours of voluntary work on the course.

He joined the committee of the Paeroa and District Historical Society in 1974 and remained a member for 29 years, including 11 years as secretary from 1983 to 1994. He fully supported his wife in her involvement in the Museum, and was often called upon to undertake maintenance work and arrange exhibits in the museum. He also had over 60 years membership of the Masonic Lodge.

On the farm, Reg had a small herd of cows and bred pigs. He separated the milk for the pigs and sent the cream to the Te Aroha-Thames Valley Co-operative Dairy Company's butter factory at Te Aroha. When the company centralised its operations on Paeroa in the 1970s, Reg did not want to change to bulk milk collection. He very reluctantly sold his pigs and cows and went into dry stock farming, an activity he continued until about four years ago. He was a tremendously popular figure around the Paeroa saleyards and always had a joke and a friendly word for everyone.

When Reg and Irene celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in July 1989, they received congratulations from a wide section of the community. The same was repeated on the occasion of their Diamond Wedding Anniversary celebrations in July 1999, with the pride of place among the hundreds of cards and letters received, being one from Queen Elizabeth II.

During the early 1990s, the late Roger, when preparing a family history, went to Southland and discovered that Reg had three brothers and three sisters. In 1996 Reg and Irene travelled to Invercargill to have an emotional meeting with members of the Pope family, for the first time in 83 years. Several members of the family from Southland and Auckland attended the popular couple's Diamond Wedding celebrations.

While Paeroa has suffered a severe loss, the community can move forward knowing that Reg and Irene have made significant contributions to making the district a much better place in which to live.


By Mona Townshend

At the Annual General Meeting of the Paeroa and District Historical Society, our President, Mrs Vera McMillan, asked me to speak of Irene Hughes.

"Irene joined the Society in the early years when the late Nell Climie was asking people to join after the first meeting was held. Irene assisted to collate the Journals at Nell's home and later at mine, for many years.

"Several meetings were called by former President, Mr Thorp, to discuss the opening of a Museum. After several suggestions it was decided to accept the Paeroa Borough Council's offer to build onto the Library building. Money was short. Fielden Thorp gave a cheque and fund-raising commenced. Irene gave a garden party and many hours were spent selling raffle tickets around the town, members being asked to assist. Irene had been to Whanganui and visited their new Museum. With the help of the then Mayor, Graham Lee, Irene designed the original Museum room.

"Irene always took a great pride in the Museum, cleaning and making sure that name tags were on items. She also made and sold thousands of jars of jam for funds. Her interest never lagged. Only this month, when Leila (Alley) and I were on duty, she called and asked me to assist her in changing the pictures on the board and said 'look at the finger marks on this case'. Leila quickly cleaned them off! I am sure that some of you will remember something similar that she has said to you.

"I will always remember Irene for what she has done or suggested for the Museum.

"We are very grateful for your company over the past years and we thank you, Irene, for your cheerful words and friendship given to us all."