Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 49, September 2005
Editors Note: We thank Rex Robinson for making available the Eulogy which he gave at the funeral for his father, Malyon Isaac Robinson and for allowing an edited version to be published. Mal's funeral was held at the Cooperating Church, Paeroa on 2 June 2005.
Malyon Isaac Robinson, known as Mal, was born in Te Aroha on 29 March 1911, the second son of Isaac and Daisy Robinson. His names, Malyon Isaac, were both very traditional Robinson names - his great grandma was Sarah Malyon, who married Caleb Robinson, and the name, Malyon, has continued down the generations to a great grandson, Max Malyon.
Mal was eventually one of five sons, his brothers being Edward (Eddie), Harold, Trevor and Linton. The family farmed 300 plus acres, on the Waimarie Bend of the Waihou River, living on the riverside, as the river was the only means of transport. The milk was rowed down to the factory at Netherton. In 1914, Mal's parents built a homestead on the northern end of the farm where there was a rough track going down to Ferry Road and out to Hikutaia. The property was eventually re surveyed into three one-hundred acre plus blocks, with frontages on to this track and Isaac Robinson gave land so that the road could be formed legally. This was recognised by the Council, naming it Robinson Road. Two of these blocks are still in the family, being farmed by Mal's nephew, Glen and his great-nephew, Bevan.
Mal went to school at Hikutaia West, which was down Ferry Road. (The school site is now part of Mal Morrison's farm.) Going to school was a 2.5 kilometre walk, barefooted, down the metal road. When they were made to wear shoes in the winter, they took them off down the road and hid them in the grass or rushes, to pick up on the way home. Mal attended Hikutaia School for his Standard 5 and 6 years and sat his Proficiency Certificate, which had to be passed before it was possible to go on to High School. He was probably just an average student, but liked maths, and was good at it. He loved his rugby and in 1926 was selected in the Thames Valley side to play for the Roller Mills Shield. They played five games won five and returned home with the Shield, and I think, a first for the Valley. After he gained his Proficiency Certificate and because times were tough, he had to leave school to help the family. At the age of sixteen he got a job at the Post Office at Hikutaia as a messenger boy and switchboard operator. He spent six years at Hikutaia Post Office and played rugby for Hikutaia. They were quite a force to be reckoned with in those days - Robinson, Alley, Murdock, Avery, Corbett, Morrison, Hanlen are some of the names that come to mind. He then got transfers to Tauranga, Patetonga, Warkworth and Kaipara Flats. Whilst at Patetonga he purchased a Douglas motorbike so that he had transport to come home for the weekends. The roads across the plains were very rough and undeveloped, and made one a very skilful motorbike rider.
While Mal was at Kaipara Flats, his brother Eddie had an accident on the farm and died in Thames Hospital on 16 December 1937. Because of this, Mal was asked to come home and join his brother, Harold, on the farm.
In 1940 Harold married Lilian Cairns from Wanganui. Mal was best man and Lilian's sister, Dorothy was the bridesmaid and so it was then that Mal and Dorothy met. Dorothy used to come to Hikutaia to visit her sister but, in time, the family began to realise that she was becoming very friendly with Mal and that there was romance in the air. Mal and Dorothy were married at the Church of Christ in Wanganui on 26 June 1943. Their marriage was to last just on fifty-five years.
These were War years and prior to his marriage, Mal had been called up for the army and went to camp but, because he was a farmer and needed at home, he did not serve overseas but became a member of the Home Guard.
Mal and Dorothy spent the first months of their marriage living with Mal's parents, not an ideal situation. The country was in the grips of wartime shortages and rationing and there was no timber available for housing. However "Poppa" Robinson managed to locate and purchase two one-man baches from Ellis and Burnand in Hamilton and have these transported to the farm at Hikutaia. A local builder, Mr Chamberlain joined them together and Paeroa plumber, N C Davies, installed the coal range and did the plumbing. There was no electricity because of restrictions on new connections and so they had to make do with gas lamps and boil up a copper for the washing. By this time my mother was pregnant with me and they were really pleased to be in their own home. I duly arrived in April 1944. As the family expanded with the birth of Ian in January 1947 and Janette in October 1949, the house expanded to meet the growing family needs. The house was not wired up for 3-phase electricity and the coal range remained for the life of the house. Some of the highlights of life in the little house were the installation of a flush toilet with a septic tank and the installation of a telephone. We had our own party line with cousins up the road and spent the first night ringing each other up to practice our codes. We were three short rings (S) and they were two long rings (M).The purchase of a refrigerator, the washing machine, the electric fry pan, and the television were other milestones achieved by saving up the family benefit money, as you did not purchase anything unless you could pay the full cash price.
In 1969 this little house reached the end of its life and our parents built their brick home at 193 Robinson Road. It was our mother's pride and joy as it had an electric stove, hot water system and a shower. They lived there until our mother died seven years ago and it continued as Mal's home until he had a fall six weeks ago.
I can also recall the excitement when Mal bought his first car, a Morris 8, painted green and black, which he purchased second-hand from his cousin, Billy Vowles. I think it was a 1938 model, but I'm not sure. Mal could drive but did not have a licence and so he had to go and pass the test. Our mother was keen to drive and Poppa Cairns would come and give her lessons and she would practise driving around the paddock and backing around and in and out of gateways until she felt competent enough to go for the test and pass it, which she did. Our second car was a 1952 gray Hillman Minx. It too was second-hand, but us kids thought it was really good, a nice modern shape, with chrome bumpers and grill and it had a column gear shift handle.
Our father and his brother, Harold, worked for their father for many years on wages and at some stage in the 1950s, purchased the herd and traded as Robinson Brothers. They purchased the farm in March 1960. It was in two titles and Mal had the block on which he lived and Harold had the block on which Glen now lives. It was farmed as one unit until they retired from milking in 1973, and split into three farms. It has now gone the full circle again as I have leased my block to Glen and Bevan now farms it as one unit. As brothers, Mal and Harold got on really well and I don't think they ever had a serious disagreement. Harold was the schemer and ideas man and Mal just helped to carry them out. He was also the finance man and paid the bills. Their first tractor was a Farmall A and he spent many an hour on it, harrowing paddocks with Harold's son, Brian on his lap. Brian developed his love for machinery at an early age. They purchased a hay baler to bale their hay and from that grew a hay contracting business which Brian and Glen later took over.
During our childhood, Mal was busy on the farm and it was left to our mother to discipline us with the wooden spoon, or to lock us in the wood shed until we were repentant, depending on the severity of the misdemeanour. If we complained to Dad, he just said, "Oh well, you must have deserved it". He was very supportive and encouraging of our sporting pursuits and came with us when he could. His one love was calf club and he got involved running calf club day at Hikutaia School, and donated the Mal Robinson Cup for leading.
He has played bowls at the Alley Memorial Park for as long as I can remember and over the years was very involved with the Club. He was greenkeeper with Vic Alley for many years. In those days there was no watering system and in the summer, Mal and Harold would take a pump and motor out to the green and they spent many hours pumping water out of the creek to irrigate the green. They would not be allowed to do that today, without a "Resource" consent, etc. He was also very involved with the building of the new Clubhouse. He loved that place and if he saw something needing to be done, he just went ahead and did it, and it was like that right up until the end. If the gates were open when he drove past, he would have to go in and see who was there and what was going on. He enjoyed going out to tournaments, but it was Harold who organised the team and the names of Vic Alley, Esse Bax, Bill O'Hara, Eric Wiggins, Bert Manhire, Ted Clist are some who come to mind, who they went out with. The Club awarded him Life Membership in 1985, in recognition of his service to the Club and he has also been Club Patron for many years.
Church life has always been a big part of our family life. Our mother and Aunty Lil saw a need for religious instruction for their own children and others in the district, so organised a church service and Sunday School twice a month, with assistance from the Church of Christ in Thames, held in the Hikutaia Hall. Mal and I used to go out on Sunday mornings to tidy the Hall and set it up for the Service. This was successful for a number of years, the highlights being picnics up the Komata Creek and Christmas parties, with Santa in the Hall. When this closed we, as a family, joined St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Paeroa, where both our parents enjoyed being part of the church family. Since our mother died, Mal has enjoyed going on Thursdays for 'Soup and Rolls' for lunch. He liked to get there early to help set up, and then wash the dishes afterwards. In summer it was a big decision to make, whether to go to bowls, or 'soup and rolls'.
Our mother got a lot of pleasure out of the beauty of the plants in her garden. Mal was the gardener - she bought the plants and he planted them where she wanted them. He enjoyed the beauty of his roses and yellow narcissus bulbs, which flowered profusely. This year they are late in flowering, otherwise we would have had some to bring here today.
Mal's lifeline was his car and he was out in it nearly every day. He was well recognised around town as he never went out unless he was dressed with shirt and tie and hat. He has had ninety-four years on this earth and seen many changes. He will be missed by family and friends.