The Kiwi Stewarts
28/101 Red Beach Road,
Hibiscus Coast, Aotearoa-New Zealand 0932
Copyright 2017 Dave Mullan
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This book set out to be a record of all of the thirteen children of Alexander Stewart, who was born about 1828, and Mary Ann Stark.
In common with many of the Irish of their times, most of the thirteen left their homeland. On the barest financial resources they made their way to four other countries, where their descendants continue.
A generation before them, Alexander’s own siblings had made similar journeys. We have only recently become aware of distant relatives in Australia and there will doubtless be more to be found.
These thirteen stories clearly deserve telling but this has not proved possible. With the aid of more and more detailed information through the world wide web, the task will easier for someone to pick up in a few years.
Of course, by then, another generation of living memory will have been lost. So this book sets out to document some of the stories that are already accessible to the families of the three siblings whose families finally settled in New Zealand. The book attempts to provide some kind of record of the life of every person in the first three generations of these families in this country. Perhaps it will inspire others to attempt the same for their own countries.
I am grateful to every person who has contributed to this collection. Some were really enthusiastic and sent in comprehensive accounts of lives in their branch of the family. Others were less keen, but contributed as they could. Many were interviewed personally and by phone so that some kind of picture would be built up. Thanks to this high level of cooperation, there is not one single individual in this group for whom we do not have a story.
At the end of the day these accounts will no doubt be found to be less than perfect. There are disagreements among family members as to some details. There are some things said that might have been better left unsaid. And there will be omissions—for whatever reasons— that might have filled out the picture of an individual or a family. Generally the lack of time for adequate research and the heavy hand of the editor must be blamed for these shortcomings.
But it is my hope that these stories will provide not so much a definitive record of demonstrable details as the nurturing of an overall family story. That is how I would like them to be used.
So, come with me on a voyage around the New Zealand part of the Landahussy Stewart family. Like our emigrating ancestors, leave some of your assumptions behind you. Bring, as they did, an open mind and an enquiring attitude and discover how alike we all are. And how human.
Red Beach Aotearoa–New Zealand
Alexander & Mary Ann
We don’t know much about Alexander Stewart, born in 1829, except that he seems to have married a woman of the same first name as his mother, Mary Ann Stark.
This coincidence took some sorting out. Happily, the conscientious clergy of Glenelly Meeting House—as the not very churchly Presbyterians of the day described their building—kept a detailed record of Baptisms. This, together with other sources, confirms that Moses, born about 1804 did indeed marry a Mary Stark.
From the same Baptismal Register we have discovered a large number of previously unknown first cousins of our Alexander. Presumably, most of them emigrated and lost touch with the Irish family. However, some are still represented in Victoria, Australia, their family tree having only in the last few years become linked in with our Alexander 1829 family through these records.
When Alexander married his Mary Ann, she was 29, the daughter of William Stark and Nancy Campbell.
Of their lives, we really know very little. The nature of recording details of births, deaths and marriages in those days was not particularly precise about the place of residence. Villages, townlands and localities all had varieties of names. But it is clear that this family worked farms—probably tenanted rather than owned—in Landahussy and Loughmuck. Enough family stories have survived to confirm that the latter was the home for this family as most of their thirteen surviving children were leaving home. The family names feature regularly in the records of the local Presbyterian Parishes and particularly Badoney, Glenelley and Ballynahatty. By the time most of the family were grown—and beginning to leave Ireland—it seems that the substantial two storey homestead at Loughmuck was the main centre of their life.
Alexander died on 10 August 1901 at Plumbridge although said to be living in Loughmuck at the time. One of the creditors mentioned in his affairs was Alexander Stewart of Philadelphia, conceivably, but not necessarily, his son. Mary Ann died in Plumbridge just a few months later, on 16 January 1902. By this time, a large number of their children had left the country. Within another generation, only two or three would be still in the old country.
Now we will conduct a brief survey of the thirteen.
Moses – 1862
Moses was the first surviving child of Alexander and Mary Ann. There has been some confusion about his birth date but the Glenelly baptismal register shows Moses, son of Alexander Stewart and Mary Ann Stark baptised on 3rd July 1862.
His birthplace is registered as Derbrough but if the family were attending at Glenelly then he probably was living in the family place at Landahussy, just across the valley. This would suggest that the “footstick” was in place over the river for up to a generation earlier than when our Stewarts are definitely known to have used it.
In Moses’ adult years he was remembered as being very musical and playing the bagpipes. He was apparently not impressed that he was carrying a family name that we know goes back at least to 1803. He is supposed to have said that he would never give the name Moses to a son of his. And, although he fathered plenty of candidates, he didn’t.
The family probably moved from the Landahussy farm just before the turn of the century. Perhaps Moses’ parents were able to obtain the second property to secure the futures of their sons. There may have been some coming and going between the properties for some years.
By the time he was about to be married, Moses seems to have been well established at Crevangar, and very active in the local church. On 12 Dec 1895 in First Church, Ballynahatty, he married Catherine Hunter, the daughter of William Hunter and Mary Huston. She was 22 and had been born at Lisleen, Ardstraw. She was about ten years younger than him. He is thought to have had to wait for some years for the economic opportunity to marry. Family emigrations of other younger brothers may have cleared the way, perhaps. A witness to their wedding was Moses’ sister, Matilda Jane Stewart, the grandmother of the editor of this book, Dave Mullan.
Moses seems to have been able to cope with his large family up reasonably well when they were children. It is thought there was a maid in the Crevangar household; considering the number of children and the wide spread of their ages, this seems perfectly likely. However, their daughter Matilda used to talk of having very special responsibility for three or so of the younger children for long periods. And it was well known among her New Zealand family that Matilda’s siblings were as likely as not to miss school on occasions to shepherd the animals or help out around the home.
Margaret August, Matilda’s daughter, wrote that her grandfather Moses was a forward-looking man and that she “greatly admired him”. She would not have ever met him so her judgment would seem to be based on what her mother said to her about him during her lifetime. Bill Mullan, son of Matilda, gained the same impression of the man’s strengths from what he heard others say of him.
Win Paton, a grand-daughter, said that she was told by her mother, that the girls never wore cardigans but had warm stoles. They had one new costume each year. They didn’t go out to work but they all learned how to kill, pluck and cook a fowl and they helped with the tedious work in the potato fields. All the girls learned the organ (though an organ was not acceptable in Ballynahatty Church around the turn of century as Crawford Mullan led the singing there with only a tuning fork or whistle to find the note). Win says that from the mild climate in Thames, New Zealand, her mother particularly remembered the bitterly cold winters back in the old country, especially while working outdoors.
Matilda Mullan, when she talked to her offspring, was apparently less communicative about her upbringing. Son Bill, when recalling all he had heard of the Stewarts who went to the USA in the first years of the new century, said, succinctly but comprehensively, “Moses stayed home to mind the family farm.” That was all he seemed to know. The remark was a measure of how most of the overseas families lost touch with the Irish families during three or four decades.
Moses was, of course, a farmer for his whole life, first at Landahussy and then at Crevangar. He died on 13 Mar 1937, at the family home at Crevangar, Omagh, Co Tyrone. Date of Probate was given as 25 June 1937. Beneficiaries of his will were his wife Catherine and his two sons Alexander and William James. Perhaps the other son, Andrew John, was left out because a few years earlier he had left for New Zealand under something of a cloud. Catherine’s death notice in the Tyrone Constitution tells us that she died at the residence of her son-in-law RJ Watson, Fireagh on 6 Jul 1950.
Moses and Catherine had seven children. Catherine, Alexander, William, Anna and Sarah all remained Northern Ireland or England. Mary made a marriage match to Robert Nichol that might have been less than comfortable for her Presbyterian parents and the fact that they decided to emigrate with four little girls did not help. But Robert’s health was already bad and they hoped for a much better life for him in New Zealand.
Andrew John unsuccessfully tried to persuade his brother Alexander to leave the country also but eventually left by himself, certainly becoming somewhat estranged from his parents at home. The stories of the families of both Mary and Andrew in New Zealand are separate chapters in this book.
William – 1864
William was born on 23 Feb 1864, and his place of residence was given as Derbrough, Plumbridge, County Tyrone.
However, the records of Glenelly Church show his birth as 29 Mar 1864 and the official registration was not made until 20 Mar 1864 so there is some room for doubt.
He died 5 Jan 1894, Landahussy, Upper Badoney, Co Tyrone N Ireland. The cause of death was stated to be Phthisis—a common term for the wretchedly common wasting-away family of diseases related to tubercolosis. The death was registered by his father Alexander Stewart. His age at death given as 28.
Mary Ann – 1865
Mary Ann was born 21 Dec 1865, Derbrough, Plumbridge, County Tyrone.
There is a marriage record of 9 Apr 1891, at Glenelly Meeting House which was the family church while they lived across the valley at Landahussy. Moses McNickle (which is spelled variously in the different records) was the groom and the witnesses were William Stewart and Sarah Ann Duncan.
The couple appear to have emigrated to America on the SS Circassia on 28 April 1891 under the name McNichol.
Subsequently they appear in the USA census from time to time. The 1900 census suggests they were living on Michigan Street, Rochester, New York. Their children are listed with them at this time; Minnie 7, Sadie 6, Bertha 4 and Alice 1.
Bill Mullan recalled a visit that Mary paid to the Mullan family when he was living in Warren, Rhode Island after 1910 but he seems to have confused the name of the oldest daughter with his mother’s sister. He spoke of “Mum’s sister Minnie and her two children”. Bill got the impression that Mary’s husband Moses “had some flash job” in New York; he said the two families never had any contact again.
In the census in April 1910 and again in 1920 Moses and Mary were living on Lincoln Avenue, Rochester, New York. Moses is 60, Mary 50 (that doesn’t seem quite right), Minnie 27, Sadie 25, Bertha 23, Alice 21, Maude 14, Margaret 9. But in the 1930 census, all the daughters had left home.
Alexander – 1868
Alexander was born 20 Dec 1868 and was named as a beneficiary of his father’s estate when Moses died in 1937. He is thought to have had three children, Alexander, Albert and Herbert.
James – 1870
James was born on 12 Oct 1870, when his parents were at Landahussy. The birth was registered by his father on 17th October.
The Ellis Island records show a James Stewart arriving in the USA with a Robert Stewart, both from Tyrone, on 6th May 1901. The brothers stated that they were heading for Philadelphia.
In a letter, a relative of Robert’s wife confirmed that Robert arrived there on 4th May and it seems safe to assume that James arrived there also.
There is no record of a marriage but there is a tradition in the family that one of the Stewart men of this generation died in a factory fire in USA, while working with one of his brothers. It is possible that this was James’ fate as the only official detail we have concerns his death at the relatively early age of 30. However, another family story concerns a Stewart who was killed when struck by the pole between a pair of horses when they lunged forward.
James died on 26 Sep 1901, Norristown, Pennsylvania and was buried four days later at Fernwood, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As far as we know, he was unmarried.
His death is commemorated on the gravestone in Mountjoy Presbyterian Church, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
Matilda Jane – 1873
Matilda was born about 1873 and was known as Tillie. She married Crawford Mullan of Blossom Hill, near Fintona and emigrated to Rhode Island, then to Queensland and finally New Zealand. Her family story is in a separate chapter.
Elizabeth Margaret – 1874
Lizzie, as she was known, was born in Oct 1874 at the family farm at Landahussy, Upper Badoney, Co Tyrone. Her birth was registered by her father on 26/10/1874. According to Matilda, whose features seem to have been somewhat utilitarian, Lizzie was a most attractive child and young women and a rare photograph tends to confirm that view.
She appears in the 1901 census at age 24, and three years later, along with her brothers George and Archibald she emigrated on 13 October 1902 to join their brother Alexander Stewart.
In the USA she met and married Louis Bordsen who was five years her senior. He had emigrated to USA the year before from Scandinavia and is thought to have been a sailor. The news of the marriage made quite an impression on Matilda’s two girls in Rhode Island who spoke in later years of Lizzie marrying “her” sailor. A few years later a Louis Borsden appears on the 1910 census as a “lodger” in Oakland Ward, Alameda, California. This might suggest that he and Lizzie were no longer together. As far as we know, Lizzie and Louis had no children, both documented as dying in San Mateo Co, California in 1956 and 1964 respectively.
John – 1876
John was another of the children who were Matilda’s special care. He was born on 27 Dec 1876 according to his father’s registration of the birth three days later. We know nothing of his childhood but he travelled on the same ship as Adam McFarland and Alexander Stewart to Philadelphia in 1903. They appear to have gone to stay with his brother Archie at 2234 Stewart St, Philadelphia. This is the same address that Lizzie, George and Archibald had gone to the previous year.
However, he doesn’t seem to have remained in the USA. He died back in Northern Ireland at the Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital on 19th April 1967. The death notice stated he was from Muff, Co Donegal, and “native of Plumbridge”, aged 91 years. He was interred in Muff churchyard and, Archibald, who must have been in the USA at that time, was named as his next of kin. He probably prepared instructions for a will before returning to Ireland and didn’t change them. Or is there a hint that having returned from the USA he was not quite in touch with more immediate members of the family?
In 2001 Heather McKinley visited Iskaheen, Muff, Co Donegal and met with a Calvin Porter who knew John. He showed her the farm where he lived. It seems that John inherited two adjacent farms—a good enough reason to return from USA if he had no other ties to the new country!—and lived with an old aunt and an uncle at Bushfield, Iskaheen. Both of them were unmarried and the adjacent farm was owned by another person who is thought to have been another uncle, although his exact relationship is still to be ascertained.
However, Heather was told that our man was known as “John the Yankee” and he apparently had worked as a horseman in North America. Remarkably, there is talk of a local song made up about him, to do with his courting a girl by the name of Rankin and owning a buggy; sadly, any other details of this intriguing affair remain unknown.
We can perhaps guess that John stayed in USA for a long enough period to establish himself as an American of sorts but had also spent long enough back in NI to build up another kind of reputation!
George – 1879
George was born on 21 Jan 1879 at Landahussy. We hear of him first in the 1901 census where he is listed at home at the age of 22.
The following year he travelled along with Lizzie and Archie to join their brother Alex Stewart in Philadelphia, USA. They seem a cheerful and hopeful trio as they prepare to leave their homeland for the “hope” land. Alas, only Archie left us any kind of record of himself and his affairs and that is due to the courtesy of the Christian congregations among whom he ministered.
There is a US Social Security number 554-70-6807 issued to a George Stewart in California, that presumably refers to our man. This is connected to a record of a death on 31 Dec 1967, San Diego, California.
Charles – 1881
Charlie was born a twin on 8 Apr 1881 at Landahussy. The Presbyterian Meeting House at Glenelley has a record of his baptism on 22 Jun 1881. He was among the last group of small children in the family who were often the particular care of Matilda. She spoke to her children in later years of having to watch over the little ones.
Charles arrived in New York on the SS Furnessia on 24 September 1901, aged 20 intending to join his three brothers, Alexander, Robert and James, in Philadelphia. Later he was witness to his twin brother Robert’s marriage in 1922. He was living at that time in Fair Oaks, California.
His brother Archie (and, almost certainly, Annie, his wife) sent him an undated postcard reporting on a visit to their sister Lizzie who served a “fine chicken dinner”. She was, apparently at 3017 Hoover St but had mistakenly given the visitors the wrong number. The house at 3017 Hoover St in Redwood, Los Angeles is for sale in mid 2011 and is described as “two bed two bath” and built in 1937. However there are half a dozen other streets of that name in the USA, including one in the Detroit suburb of Warren where Archie lived at some time. California seems to be more likely, judging from the couple’s intention to journey on to Long Beach. Archie, we will discover, travelled extensively in his evangelistic work.
The postcard refers to the fact that Lizzie was disappointed Charlie didn’t come to dinner while Archibald and Anna were passing through, which perhaps suggests that Charlie was not far away, perhaps in the greater Los Angeles region.
Alexandra Clyde remembers him visiting Northern Ireland in 1953. The NI family have a couple of photographs of him, probably both taken in the USA.
A US Social Security number 561-32-7309 in the name of a Charles Stewart, appears to relate to him and indicates that at his death in July 1970 he was living in Union City, Alameda, California, 94587.
Robert – 1881
Charlie’s twin brother Robert was another Matilda’s special responsibilities. He left Ireland for the USA by Wisteria Anchor Line, arriving in NY on May 4,1901 at age 20. The Ellis Island immigration records show that he arrived along with his brother James on the SS Furnessia on 6 May 1901, en route to join his brother, presumably Alexander in Philadelphia). We are even told he was 5 ft 7½ inches tall and had blue eyes.
Like others of the family, he seems to have moved on from Philadelphia to the West Coast. At the age of 41 he married Isabel Mulligan of Edenornary, Dromore, Co. Down. His brother Charles of Fair Oaks, CA and Isabel’s sister Elizabeth Mulligan of Long Beach were witnesses to the ceremony which was conducted by CW Iler on 24 Oct 1922.
Robert became a naturalised citizen on April 9, 1954. His address at that time was 2127 Portland St, Los Angeles, CA. We have found no record of any children.
He died in LA County on 19 Apr 1955 and the medical details were recorded for us in full: he had bronchiopneumonia and aplastic anemia caused by multiple myeloma. As if all that weren’t enough, he also had arteriosclerotic heart disease. He was buried at Rosedale Cemetery.
Andrew Joseph – 1883
Andrew was born on 27 Apr 1883 at the Landahussy home of the Stewarts. Nothing is known of his childhood or teenage years except by inference from details of the lives of his siblings. However, Dave Mullan’s interviews with family members in South Africa and Heather McKinlay’s diligent searching of obscure records have made it possible to put together something of his adult life.
On 22nd January 1901, when he was about 18, giving his address as 12 Collier St, Johnstone, Andrew signed up for the South African Constabulary at a temporary recruiting office in Glasgow (what was he doing there, we ask ourselves). A birth record suggests that he was born 16 Sep 1880. Well, he wouldn’t have been the first or the last recruit aspiring to the adventurous life of the military to lie about his age. He stated, more truthfully, that he was single, Presbyterian, and his next of kin was A. Stewart, Loughmuck, Omagh, County Tyrone. That might seem to be his father, but the date does not seem to be quite right. Significantly, this is the only indication we have that our Stewarts might have lived in Loughmuck before the turn of the century.
Andrew became a 3rd Class Trooper and is presumed to have served for the full term to 1904. Like many others, of course, he is thought to have applied for an extension of service when he was to be discharged.
After his extended military service was concluded he elected to remain in South Africa and on 6 Feb 1907 he married Ella Cecelia Du Bruyn in St John’s Presbyterian Church, Bloemfontein, Orange River Colony. He farmed for a while near Thaba Nchu and then went to work for the Railways at Bloemfontein.
At some point, a later record shows Andrew as a pensioner of the South African Railways and Harbours, attached to the Bloemfontein, Orange Free State Provincial Division. Ella is shown as a housewife and their son is the only minor at home.
One postcard photograph held in Northern Ireland shows Andrew and all their family in an orchard “after a big feed of fruit”—the easy language suggests that it was their own property. Perhaps this is the Bains Vlei hobby farm which he is known to have worked for a time while he was working with the Railways.
Andrew made at least one trip home to Northern Ireland. There are some photographs of him (with daughter Corry Timperley) that seem to be taken in NI. The Creevan Church records show that he attended Communion in the middle of 1929. Laura Martin has a postcard in Andrew’s hand with which he wrote of a visit he made to England in that year.
Phillip Timperley suggested that Andrew was a pretty tough character, lacking some of the graces of his wife. He was said to have up-ended a table in a temper on one occasion.
In 1943 Ella brought a successful divorce action against Andrew. At this time they were both living at 15 Lombard Street, Bloemfontein. What is particularly interesting about Andrew (and we are in debt to the indefatigable Heather McKinlay whose extensive researches in the Public Records of Northern Ireland left us gasping for breath) is that he and Ella were re-married in 1947.
Then they divorced again, with Andrew the plaintiff on this occasion, on 14 October 1948. This time he was living at 11 Cricket St, Bloemfontein and Ella appeared to be staying with her brother in law, P Venter of “Dewdrop”, Holfontein, Kroonstad District. But Ella was not there when the bailiff went to serve the court order in September 1948. Mr Venter ascertained that she was away in Johannesburg with her daughter who was seriously ill and her current address at that time was c/o Mr Maxwell, 49 Seventh Avenue, Highlands North, Johannesburg. Here the order was eventually served on 5 Oct 1948. That would seem to be the home of daughter Lillie and Jim Maxwell. Lillie was not especially stable and had a few episodes of not being able to cope at different points during her life.
Andrew was said to have very bad eyesight and died by drowning in shallow water in a roadside ditch, in the city of Bloemfontein, after falling in and knocking himself unconscious. The family have hinted that it might be possible that this is a generous account of his death and perhaps omits to mention an important causative factor in his accident.
Andrew and Ella had four daughters and a son. Alec and his wife Frances travelled to Northern Ireland in the mid-twentieth century and made contact with the homeland relatives.
Alec, was pleased to be interviewed when Dave Mullan was in South Africa. He contributed some fascinating insights into the family. Alec’s children, Lex and Cheryl, have also made family visits back to the old country.
Sadly, Alec died before his frank and helpful observations could be followed through for publication. He held the Ford Motors franchise for Ficksburg and is the third person in these stories to have links with that international company. He and his cousin Bill Mullan would have had a lot to talk about, but neither knew anything of the other until 2002.
Andrew’s grandson-in-law Philip Timperley provided some details about the extended family. Many of them have moved far afield, from Cornwall to the United Arab Emirates. It seems they are no better at keeping in touch with each other than many of the rest of us, so their stories have not so far been drafted for this project.
One grandson was considered very dogmatic and focussed and gave his family a good deal of worry with his views and actions. He eventually distinguished himself in a mysterious and dramatic death at the hands of intruders in his home. Other family members have distinguished themselves more appropriately in their chosen fields of interest and occupation.
Archibald – 1885
Archie, as he was known, was born 11 Nov 1885, presumably in the Stewart home at Landahussy. The youngest of a large group of siblings he was her favourite among his sister Matilda’s little sub-family.
She later told her daughter Peg August that she had been concerned that he didn’t get his full quota of schooling because it was easier and cheaper for his parents to keep him home to keep an eye on the animals in the field than to repair a broken down fence. Any lack of schooling doesn’t seem to have hampered Archie in his later life; he is the one member of the family of whom we have any sort of written account. We know that he led a full and interesting life.
About 1903 he left home for Philadelphia. He was just 18, but travelling with his sister Lizzie and brother George, planned to join other siblings who had gone to USA ahead of them. A photo of the three of them, held by Laura Martin, was probably taken at this time.
He worked in Detroit, including some time as a motorman or tram driver. He married Anna Meinhart some time before 1922 and they took up farming together in Merlin, Ontario. The reason that his story has been preserved for us is because he was soundly converted in a Gospel Hall service and became a much-respected travelling preacher in that denomination. The tribute to him in the book “Sowers, Reapers, Builders” written by James G Hutchinson and published in December 1984 by The Gospel Tract Publications, Glasgow, is our prmary source of information about his life.
In 1967 he was living at 13590 Longacre Road, Detroit 48227, Michigan, USA but he seems to have travelled greatly throughout USA and Canada over many years, as family in Northen Ireland have postcards from various places where he sometimes was in contact with other members of the family in the US. He made at least one trip home to the United Kingdom and family members there have photographs. From recollections passed on to other members of the family, it is clear that he was an interesting and charming gentleman.
Ann predeceased him and he was living in the Gospel Home for the aged in Longport New Jersey when he died on December 4th 1977.
He was named as next of kin to John Stewart, the brother who also emigrated to USA but subsequently returned to NI, probably to take up two family farms that were left to him. Archie’s US Social Security Number issued at Michigan was 371-46-1828 and more may yet be discovered about him.
This brief summary completes what we know of Alexander and Mary Ann and their thirteen children. We will now turn to consider the three families who settled in New Zealand. These accounts were written by their descendants or have been put together by the editor from interviews and other material.
Mary was born to Moses and Catherine Stewart on 2 May 1901, in Crevangar. She is in the second generation of the three New Zealand families we are considering in this book and was a girl when her aunt Matilda Mullan left Ireland. The large families and the wide spread of their children made for many such overlaps of the generations in those days.
Mary had the opportunity to learn music and attend cooking classes. The New Zealand Nichols have the impression that the Moses Stewart family was reasonably well off because of these accomplishments of their mother.
Mary and Robert were married in the Stewart family church, Second Balinahatty (later Creevan) on 18 Nov 1925. He seems to have been not an active Presbyterian and the family have no recollection of being anything except Methodist. Cath was their first child and turned up after a respectable interval, probably being born at Robert’s family home in Crosh. They lived on the family farm there as Robert’s only brother William was a policeman and wasn’t interested in farming. He died the weekend Cath was born. Her birth was registered by her father in the name of Catherine but this was not discovered until the certificate had to be obtained when she was married. All her life she had been called Kath for Kathleen and when the officiating minister used her proper name and spelling in her wedding service in Thames, New Zealand there was considerable surprise on all sides. But he was correct, having viewed her birth certificate.
Robert and Mary seems to have come into ownership of the family farm in Crosh as the family believe it was from the sale of this that he was able to pay their fares to New Zealand—not that it was a large or particularly valuable holding, they assured me. By this time the cost of a passage to the other side of the world was no longer a somewhat insignificant sum due to generous immigration subsidies. They probably had to pay their way.
The SS Ionic had been launched in 1903 and had done a couple of decades or more on the London to NZ run, generally, with immigrants and general passengers out’ and refrigerated cargo back. She also carried many New Zealanders as a troop transport during the First War. In her last refit in 1929 she had been converted to mainly cargo and Cabin and Third-Class passengers but due to the depression had then run out of work so was about to be decommissioned. All at once a cargo for New Zealand was found and her owners—thought to be Shaw Savill but they did not take her over until after the Cunard-White Line merger in 1934—advertised for passengers at a specially discounted rate. Only 29 were booked for the trip, including, according to the NZ newspapers, four or five ladies in Saloon and the rest, including the six members of, the Nichol family in Steerage. The Ionic’s bell hangs in the Auckland Memorial Museum as a reminder of the thousands who made a new home in this country during her service. Mary and Robert and their little family were a part of a major migration in which Ionic played a significant role. At least three other ancestor families of the Dave Mullan family travelled out on her.
Robert and Mary and their family spent their last night in Ireland in the Stewart family home at Crevangar. They shared touching goodbyes and went to bed for an early departure in the morning. Alexandra Clyde tells us what happened in the morning:
At Crevangar, where the house is, there’s a road that goes right through there and takes you out onto another road. So Mary and Robert didn’t have to come back down through the house to get out onto the main road. They were able to go out a different way. So in the early hours of morning they just slipped away.
Mary’s mother was very hurt that they didn’t say Goodbye again before leaving in the morning. No doubt they wished to avoid another emotional scene. It must have been a difficult time for all of them but this little disappointment lingered in the minds of the old people at “home” for years. Robert and Mary had made the decision for New Zealand because his sister Ruby and Jim Pollock “were already in the country and encouraged them to make the move”. Pollocks were farming in the Ngarua area and are thought to have found an initial position there for Robert to take up. However, in about 1935 he moved to their own work in Kopuarahi, near the Piako river on the Hauraki Plains. This would have been at the beginning of a milking season in the middle of winter when the herd was normally dried off. He was probably “share milking”, i.e. providing the farm labour in return for a percentage of the milk proceeds at the Kopuarahi Dairy Cooperative factory. This building is still standing, having been converted into a community hall.
It is clear that Robert’s health continued to fail. He contracted leptospirosis and there was a major emergency when he had to be hospitalised in the middle of the dairy season. We know now that Mary’s brother Andrew John, newly arrived in the country and based initially in Lower Hutt, came up and assisted with some of the farm work. He and his new wife Alice probably saw the share milking season out to the end.
Within a couple of years of their arrival, Mary and Robert gave up farming and moved to what was known as Woods’ Bay (now Whakatete Bay) up the coast from Thames. Here Robert worked for the Council and evidently enjoyed the regular hours and the outdoor work and the reasonably economical house rent.
However, there were transport difficulties. The girls had to leave for school an hour earlier and probably made winter trips to and from school in twilight. A trip to the school dental service for one of the girls meant that Robert had to take time off work to take her into town on the none-too-frequent bus service. They were also not able to go to the Methodist Sunday School (which must have been the choice of their father, for Mary was a staunch Presbyterian Stewart). Other trips for shopping had to be accomplished by cycle though they were grateful that their landlord neighbour was able to help with some transport and shopping orders.
After about a year, when the girls began to move through the school system and had to leave classes early to catch the bus home the decision was made to move into Thames itself. The family lived first in what may have been a miner’s cottage at 128 Sandes St, next to Gleason’s store. It was later demolished to make room for a larger house which extended over two of the smallish sections. In their day there was no running hot water and though there was a flush toilet it was outside the house. When Heather got diphtheria a proper toilet had to be installed. It was while they were in these limited circumstances that Robert died in 1943. Cath was just about sixteen.
Alexandra Clyde again, thinking about the Crevangar farewell that seemed incomplete:
The particularly sad part about it was that when they go to NZ Uncle Robert took ill not many years later. They were not there all that long before he died. Daddy used to say ‘Poor Auntie Mary will be having a tough time, ‘way out there with no family near to her.’ I’m sorry we never met her.
It was a big day about 1959 when Mary and the growing family were offered a brand new state house in Bowen St. It had four bedrooms and an inside bathroom as well as running hot-water. May says they hadn’t really missed this until they had it and it was a great boon, especially for Mary.
Cath says that she didn’t really notice at the time but at Bowen St the family entertained many visiting yachties down from Auckland for special regattas. Evidently some of them continued to call even when the regattas were over. She realised afterwards that she and the others were being “checked out.”
After most of the family had married, and left home—with or without the help of the yachties—the large Bowen St home was exchanged for a smaller State house at Mackay St. Here Mary saw out her days as an active matriarch of her growing family and a much-loved member of the Thames Methodist Church. Dave Mullan met her while in his first church appointment in the adjacent Hauraki Plains Circuit which included Kopuarahi where the Nichols had been share milking.
Mary died in Thames Hospital on 13th May 1972 and was buried in Totara cemetery, Thames.
Daughter Catherine Frances
Catherine was born in December 1926, the first of four girls of Mary Stewart and Robert Nichol of Crevangar and Crosh.
She says that in Northern Ireland her father milked a few cows and raised pigs. It seems they were living with his parents at the time. However, the death of Robert’s mother—the day after Cath was born—meant that “Mummy had the house to herself.” Cath remembers a lot of music in the home. Grandad Stewart played the bagpipes and her mother played the church organ for some morning services and had a fine singing voice.
The family moved to New Zealand when she was about four and a half so she remembers little about the early days in the old country. She has memories of the gig on which she and her father went to church while her mother remained at home with the young ones. Or perhaps Robert took her to the Methodist Church which was his family’s denomination, whereas Mary was one of the staunch Presbyterian Stewarts. The commendation of New Zealand from her Aunt Ruby and Uncle Jim Pollock included the comment that it was “lovely and warm and the children never wear shoes”. She said her mother was disturbed about this, taking it to mean that her sister-in-law was admitting that they were very poor.
Cath remembers that she was able to go to church most times but her mother had to stay at home with the children when they were very young. When the family moved to Kopuarahi, Cath was very sick. Although she had reached school age, which was six, she couldn’t go to school for very long and missed most of her first year. Eventually she and Win started school together at Kopuarahi. Catherine rode with a neighbour on the back of her horse and she was frightened when the horse jumped big ditches.
Because their father had to give up the dairying work, the family moved to the Thames Coast and Cath says they had lovely times on the beach. She remembers they caught a regular bus to go to school and had to leave school early to get it home. This was one reason why the family next moved into Thames. By this time her two brothers had arrived.
Cath has warm memories of life with Thames Methodists; she attended Sunday School and Bible Class. She was in the Junior Choir and later joined the young adult choir and travelled to Hamilton to give concerts and compete in the Methodist Choir and Drama Festivals there. Eventually she was part of the adult Sunday night choir which practised regularly on Thursday nights and she also joined a town choir.
She left school just as she was starting her second year of High School, because having started late, she was not in her own social group and the job was offered to her. The shop wanted an honest junior so she started. The board that she paid her mother would have made a significant contribution to a limited family budget because by then her father had died. She was in Hetherington’s drapery in a raised-up office where she could see the whole store and the counter staff whisked the sales slips and the cash to her via the vacuum tube system. It was a very responsible position as she was accountable for the entire takings right through to the point of banking but she says she really enjoyed serving in the shop occasionally and dealing personally with the customers. This happened especially during the war years as some of the staff had left to go into war-related work or the military.
Cath’s father had died in 1943, not long after she started work; she was not quite seventeen. So she did the big washing first thing on Saturdays, lighting the copper and washing the coloureds and boiling the white sheets and other linen. Her mother stayed in the house with the six other children and lit up the kitchen stove and organised breakfast. Then they hung the washing out together on big lines across the backyard to dry. She also heated water in the copper and carried it inside to the bathroom in the house for the family’s baths.
In 1948 she was introduced to a young man who had just arrived from England with a few other men the Government had brought in to work in Price’s Foundry in Thames. They were all qualified engineers and lived in a boarding house specially set up with staff and all facilities. Win was friendly with one of them and he brought Don along to make a fourth for table tennis. He was from Hornchurch in Essex and came out on the SS Mataura, having his 23rd birthday on the voyage. In Thames, they went for walks and she says one thing led to another…
Don wasn’t very happy with the heavy and dirty work at Price’s so he went to Auckland and found a better position. They didn’t see each other very often but he bought a motorbike and rode it down occasionally to Thames to see her. In May 1950 they became engaged. By this time the family was in the new State House with inside laundry, toilet and hot running water.
They married on 27th Jan 1951 in the Methodist Church and had a pleasant reception in the Fire Brigade social room. They stayed in a bach at Waihi Beach for a couple of weeks and had a great time except that Cath got very sunburned and could hardly move.
Arriving back in Thames they packed all their wedding gifts and possessions into big boxes her mum had kept for them. On the third week after their wedding they sailed for Australia on the Wanganella. Having booked six months ahead they’d secured a cabin to themselves.
They sailed into Sydney on a hot day and soon found two rooms available in a private home where they had the use of the kitchen in the evenings. A lovely retired couple did the main dinner meal for them all. They obtained good jobs and presently bought their first car and, after about three months, moved to the Gold Coast. They did a lot of sightseeing and swimming and, as the winter weather got warmer, made their way down to Victoria and rented a house and worked in Melbourne for some time. When they eventually returned to New Zealand they were warmly welcomed by the whole Nichol family.
They settled back into rented accommodation and bought a section in Mt Wellington, Auckland, where Don built them a home in his spare time. They were on the spot because they had already placed a little bach on the half acre section after clearing the bush off it.
Cath gave up her job in an insurance office when she became pregnant with her first child, Janet, who was born July 1953. They moved into the new home in late 1955 with most of the work done and a second baby girl, Pamela, arrived. Linda came along in 1959 and was quite small.
Janet started school at Mount Wellington Primary which was a new school not far away. She had driving lessons and got her licence and was able to attend church. She says they had very nice neighbours. Don worked in a hardware shop at Royal Oak and then started his own hardware business in Penrose Rd close to home. The area was opening up with homes and factories and he and two assistants were kept quite busy.
They had a fourth baby girl, Marion, in December 1960. The first home was now a bit small so they moved to a bigger home in Penrose Rd. A third move to Three Kings meant that all the girls were going to different schools in the Mt Wellington area, Don began a secondhand shop, selling mostly furniture and tools. With Cath’s help on the counter they did very well. Don used a truck for the business so she had more use of the family car. At weekends they spent time in an old bach near the beach at Mathesons’ Bay, Leigh. They then bought their own section nearer the beach and Don built them their own place in weekends; mates often went with him to help with the fishing.
Don and Cath are retired and living in the Hillsborough retirement village not far from their daughter Janet and the church Cath attends. They keep fairly good health and enjoy the life they lead.
Daughter Winifred Margaret
Win was born in Crosh, Co Tyrone, on 23rd January 1928. She was the second of seven children of Mary Stewart and Robert Nichol. She was at first known as Winnie but in her teens she asked to be called Win.
She had no recollection of her life in Northern Ireland as the family emigrated to New Zealand when she was three and a half, arriving in Auckland on June 3rd 1931. After a year in Ngarua, the family moved to Campbell’s Rd, Kopuarahi, where her father had a share milking contract with a Mr Roy Green.
Win and her sister Cath started school at Kopuarahi and their broad Irish accent seemed to intrigue the other children. The two girls came in for some teasing.
Win remembers a very strict father and mother, very committed members of the Methodist Church, her father biking many miles on gravel roads to attend church. Win has fond memories of kind neighbours and friendships with their children.
Ill health forced her Dad to leave farming in 1935. A virus connected with the dairy industry had him committed to the old isolation ward in the Thames Hospital for four months. Her Uncle Andy—who arrived in New Zealand not long after the Nichol family—and his wife Alice and daughter Margaret, about two years old, came to help. They were a wonderful blessing, helping with milking and cooking. Win thought that her Uncle Andy had lost his job in Auckland but it seems more likely that he came up from the Wellington region.
Robert had to give up farming and the Nichols moved to Woods Bay (Whakatete) on the Thames coast.. Win remembered had a wonderful year there. They were across the road from the sea, taught to swim by a neighbour, walking on the beach, travelling to school with sister Cath and Nan on the bus. She recalled Mollie and Harry Chittick coming to visit them and what a great thrill it was for her mother to meet her New Zealand cousin.
After a year on the coast, Robert found a house at Sandes St in Thames. It was an old miner’s cottage with no hot water and an outside wash-house and long-drop toilet. But it was more convenient for everyone to be in town in 1936. By 1938 the family had grown to six children, Bert having arrived at Te Aroha and Heather in Thames.
Thames was a lovely little town and the nearby creek and bush gave the family endless hours of pleasure.
Win was educated at Thames Central School and Thames High and enjoyed reading, music, tennis, basketball and swimming. She had three years in the Girl Guides and another three years in the Junior Methodist Choir conducted by Vic Rowe. These activities gave her many trips away to Hamilton; singing on radio 1ZB and 1YA was a marvellous experience and parents listened eagerly at home on their modest radio sets.
Church played a big part in their family life. All the children went to Sunday School, Bible Class and Senior Choir. Win learned the piano and singing for several years and was often asked to sing at friends’ weddings. The highlight of her singing days was participating on three occasions with combined choirs presenting Handel’s Messiah.
She worked first with Vic Rowe’s accountancy office and then in the office of Renshaw’s Hardware Store
During her twelve years at Sandes St there were joyful, sad and worrying days when Heather and Bert became very ill. By God’s grace they eventually recovered but in 1943 their father died.
Mary was a good mother and managed the family very well. They were always excited to be visited by Uncle Jim and Aunt Ruby Pollock or the Lower Hutt Mullan family. Mary was a great letter writer and the family received regular letters from Northern Ireland.
Win had always dreamed of being a teacher and in 1949 she was delighted to be accepted at the Ardmore Training College. Her first appointments were at Ngatea, Thames South and Waitakaruru, a small farming settlement on the Hauraki Plains. It was here that she met Robert Paton. Waitakaruru was a friendly place and Win was made welcome by Bob’s parents, Hamia and George and sisters Dorothy and April. Win and Bob were married on 7th June 1952.
They first went share milking for Bob’s parents and Sandra, Rhonda and Darryl were born during this period. But Bob was keen to have his own farm and was able to purchase one at Kerepeehi in 1956. He couldn’t afford paid help so this was hard work with long hours. Glenda and Gael came along during these years and all the children brought their parents a lot of joy.
Win attended the Parent Teachers’ Association meetings and taught Sunday School. She didn’t drive so Bob had to take her everywhere until he decided he’d had enough and made an appointment for her to learn to drive. She obtained her licence and they bought a Morris Mini into which the whole family squeezed—there were no seat belts in those days—and she says they all had great fun visiting grandparents and shopping.
A shortage of teachers gave Win the opportunity of relieving teaching around the Hauraki Plains. Bob drove the local school bus in the winter and this also helped to pay the bills, especially when the price of butterfat dropped considerably.
Ill health prompted Bob to sell the farm and they moved into Thames in 1966. they bought a big old homestead at 200 Sandes St and remained there for twelve years. It needed a lot of renovating which was done slowly over the years.
In Thames, Win resumed Sunday School teaching and joined the senior choir. It was a busy life, working as a teacher aide, attending school committees and helping Bob in the Milk Bar which they owned for several years.
Bob preferred outdoor work, so set up a fencing gang for some years. He also did some carpentry work with a friend and was a quality control inspector at the Toyota plant. He was finally superintendent of the Bowling Club. He loved bowls and was a good competitive player, a great sportsman, playing tennis, cricket, golf and rugby.
Glenda, Sandra and Rhonda went off to university and Darryl went to work on the Maui gas pipeline in Taranaki, so Bob and Win decided to sell the large house. They bought a very comfortable home at 314a Parawai Rd where there was also a small flat which his mother occupied until she died at 96. Win’s mother, Mary, died at 72 after much suffering from arthritis. She had always loved her grandchildren and enjoyed their visits.
Four of Win and Bob’s family are now married and there are four grandchildren and five great grandchildren and one great grandson, Lachan. Sandra has resided in Australia for twenty-five years so Win has had a few trips to New South Wales and another to Papua New Guinea while Gael and family were there.
In 1998 Bob was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Fortunately it remained stable for some time and he could drive and play bowls until 2005. Win also had health problems but a carer and home help meant that Bob was able to remain at home and Win was able to get out to church and Women’s Fellowship. The family were very caring and supportive when Bob became quite ill and he was admitted to the Tararu Rest Home where he died after six weeks in 2009.
Win continued in their Thames home for some time and on three occasions contributed a great deal to the Nichol family story in conversations with the author. She died in 2010 and, coincidentally, although hundreds of kilometres away, he was the first to be phoned by the neighbour who broke in. Dave’s name and number were on the top of Win’s notepad.
Daughter Anna Rebecca
Anna Nichol was born on her parent’s farm in the townland of Crosh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland on 10 February 1929. On her birth registration her name is given as Annie Rebecca Nichol, being named for her aunts Annie Stewart and Rebecca Nichol. However she was baptised as Anna and was known by this name, family also calling her Nan.
As a two year old Anna migrated with her family—parents and three sisters—to New Zealand in 1931. After some years on the Hauraki Plains, they settled in Thames when her father Robert was no longer able to work as a share milker.
Anna grew up during the depression years, the scarcities of World War II and the hard times after her father’s death in 1943. With her sisters she was involved in school, choir, church and was a keen reader and swimmer. Her school years ended soon after her father’s death, with only two full years of high school completed. Anna’s mother Mary had found her a job in a Thames discount store as the family needed the income. In later years Anna said she thought the timing was related to the looming cost of a new uniform required if she stayed on at school! A succession of similar jobs followed, Anna remembering with fondness her time working in a bookshop where a perk was being able to read the stock. Unusually for those times Anna moved away from home while still single, living and working in Hamilton. Another move in her early twenties took her to Wellington to start nursing training. There she met her future husband, Keith Paul, who was a motor mechanic in Lower Hutt.
They married in Thames in 1953, and moved to Pleasant Point in 1956. Her first child, Victor, had been born in Lower Hutt in 1955. Anna and Keith raised their family in Pleasant Point, Nicholas being born in 1957 and Julie in 1959. A fourth child, Meredith died at birth in 1963. After some years in a rental house on Harris Street, they built and moved to a house on George Street.
Anna and Keith divorced and in 1990 she changed her name to Anna Rebecca. From her early days in South Canterbury she was closely involved in the community. In the early days Anna was involved in the scouting movement as assistant cub master and cub master for the local group and helped set up the play centre in Pleasant Point. She was a Sunday School teacher for some time and served on the school Parent-Teachers’ Association.
Anna maintained an interest in nursing and in the late 1960s was one of a number of nurses who took up a local Timaru Hospital initiative to boost their staff numbers. Going back into training, she undertook a ‘refresher’ class and further training to gain her midwifery certificate. Following this Anna worked as a midwife at Timaru Public Hospital for some years. She was also involved in the community health in the days before Pleasant Point had a doctor with many people coming to her for advice and help.
In later years, Anna was a founding member of Aoraki Women’s Resource Centre, and as part of that was involved in establishing the Women’s Wellness Centre, and the South Canterbury Women’s Refuge.
She single-handedly edited and compiled “Notable Women in South Canterbury” in 1993 to commemorate Suffrage Year. This book has the stories of over 100 women in it. Anna ran the project from start to end, soliciting names for inclusion, writers for the stories, editing all the writing, writing several herself and organising the printing and sales.
Anna was involved in Forest and Bird Society action groups, and soil and health. She was also an elder of the Presbyterian Church in Pleasant Point—one of the first women to hold such a position—and was involved with the National Council of Women, the Pleasant Point Railway and Historical Society and Trade Aid.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Anna made three extensive overseas trips, the last two primarily to visit her relatives in Northern Ireland. She stayed with them for some months. Contact with the home families had been restarted by her sister Cath some years earlier and Anna enjoyed the time spent with this extended family very much. Closer to home she enjoyed spending time with her six grandchildren and was delighted to have lived to see a great-grandson.
When Laura Martin came to New Zealand in 1993 she stayed with many members of the family throughout the country. In Auckland she spoke on the phone to Douglas “for ages” but was disappointed that they could not meet. There hadn’t been much communication for years so it was hardly surprising. Anna, however, made a valiant effort to keep in touch. The family said that Anna didn’t take No for an answer.
The following quote from Anna’s obituary in the ‘Timaru Herald’ is a fitting way to close her story.
Her sudden death in Pleasant Point on May 12 1995 deprived the community of one of its finer citizens. She believed every woman was notable in her own way and worked tirelessly to improve those things she thought worthwhile, and was committed to many causes over the years.
Daughter May Isobel
Mary Isobel was born to Mary (Stewart) and Robert Nichol, in Northern Ireland in Omagh, Co Tyrone, on 10th April, 1930. She was the fourth daughter and the last of the family to be born in that country. She was always known as May.
Her parents decided to emigrate to New Zealand, clearly under the advice of Robert’s sister Ruby Pollock, who had preceded them there with her husband Jim. So, when May was barely more than a year old, they left. The big family evening at Crevangar to farewell them was marred by the fact that they left very early the next morning. Mary’s mother was greatly upset at the lost opportunity for a last farewell and carried the pain of that feeling for years. For their part, Robert and Mary, with their brood of four very small daughters, no doubt felt they could cope with no more tearful farewells.
The family arrived in Auckland in June 1931 and were celebrated on the front page of the NZ Herald. They lived first at Ngarua and then Kopuarahi in the Thames Valley and then, when Robert’s health failed, in Thames itself. May was about five at the time of this shift.
May’s school years, like the others’, were spent at Thames Central and Thames High. School was not easy for May. Indifferent health and the big family move into Thames meant that she started school a year or two late at the same time as her younger sister Win. She didn’t find school much fun. In answer to “What was the most exciting thing about going to school?” she says “Going home at the end of the day.”
May was teased that “her mother talked funny” and it is true that Mary had the most beautiful Irish brogue but of course her own girls never noticed it. May also drew attention to herself accidentally by quoting one of her mother’s sayings in a school essay. Seventy years later she thinks it might have been about “wombling” a plate, i.e. turning it upside down. The”b” she says, is not pronounced.
In her fourteenth year, Robert succumbed to the illnesses that plagued him and Mary brought up the family, by now enlarged with two boys and a fifth girl. May remembers vividly that housework at weekends was shared between the older girls and herself.
She left school at just over 15 years old when she was offered a job “in shoes” during her second year at the District High School. She’d taken a commercial course and later worked in a number of Thames offices. The position she enjoyed the most was Admitting Officer at Thames Hospital. She managed appointments for X-rays, outpatients and the Medical Superintendent as well as attending to various other aspects of hospital life. But about this time her lung trouble became serious and she spent some time as a patient rather than a member of staff.
Her teenage years were spent going to local dances, attending Bible Class and church and singing in the choir at Thames Methodist. She was about nineteen when the family moved into their first State House.
In 1953, when she was working in administration and sales in the Singer Sewing Machine Centre, she married Ira (“Pep”) Pepperell. They went to live in Auckland where she has been ever since. Although she continued to have health problems, including major surgery on one occasion, they raised a daughter, Marcia, who, with her husband Ed Forsman and their two children, Claudia and Alex lives in Wellington.
Ira and his father built diesel engines for model aircraft and also began the first sachet packaging business in this country, designing the machinery themselves. May became involved in helping with the packing of sugar, tea, coffee, tablets, liquids, etc. She also did the office work for the company, plus wages and other chores. She has no interest in the business now but it is still thriving under the name they gave it—HealthPak Ltd.
After retirement May and Pep spent their leisure time playing golf and enjoying holidays including a great trip to UK and Northern Ireland in 1986. They met many relatives for the first time.
They also went into the hospitality business and May still enjoys hosting occasional guests for bed and breakfast. She also accommodates cars on the drive and lawn for guests and family who make short trips out of Auckland airport.
Pep died suddenly in 1996 and May has been on her own since then. She was chief supervisor for School Certificate exams at a local high school for about ten years. She belongs to the local Mangere Historical Society and the Papatoetoe ladies’ Probus group. She has been fortunate to have been on three cruises to the Pacific Islands and has seen quite a lot of Australia.
May and Pep had one daughter—Marcia—and she and her husband, Ed Forsman, and two children live in Wellington. Claudia is now sixteen and Alex fifteen.
During her life May had a couple of bouts of a TB-related disease but has kept reasonably good health into her eighties. She continues to be active in the local Presbyterian church. Her lively personality and her interest in people and the wider family mean that she has contributed a lot to the modest flow of communication among members of the Stewart family. Her sisters pay tribute to the strengths she offered to those family members who were passing through even heavier crises than her own.
Son Raymond George
Ray had a very good sense of humor and a quick wit. He was friendly, outgoing, patient and tolerant, yet unpretentious and not one to suffer fools gladly. He was very family oriented and doted on his grandchildren.
Ray was born in Turua, near Thames, in the Northern part of the North Island, New Zealand on 23 March 1934. He was the second youngest of seven children, with one brother and five sisters. He would often comment on how he was badly hen-pecked by all those sisters!
His parents emigrated from Ireland with four of the seven children. Unfortunately Ray’s father died when he was eight. At this point Ray and brother Bert took on the role of keeping the home fires burning, literally going into the bush every weekend to collect wood for the coal range.
Ray completed an apprenticeship as a joiner, where he worked for about six years, before moving into the construction industry as a builder. He worked on many projects in and around the Thames area and was acknowledged, as a skilled tradesman. He progressed to Foreman where he remained until his retirement in the mid-nineties. Being well respected by his work mates, Ray become affectionately known as “nic-nic” a name that became popular with many who knew him. On occasions it extended to Lorna, with “Mrs Nic” and the kids, with “little nic”.
Ray and Lorna were married in November 1960 and their firstborn, Peter, arrived in 1961, with Belinda, Warner, and Lisa making up the perfect balance of 2 boys and 2 girls, something Ray was very proud of. Over the years the children were told the story many times of how Dad courted Mum by running 20 miles over sharp rocks barefoot down the Thames coast to see her. On one occasion he climbed a tree to impress her after seeing a bird’s nest: on putting his hand into the bird’s nest, he was bitten by a large weta—a huge and ugly native insect.
Family life centered largely on a twelve acre lifestyle block in the Kaueranga Valley, just outside Thames. Here Ray built the family home in the early seventies. This was built in the weekends and any other spare time there was, as Ray was still working in his full time job. This was typical of the hard work that Ray did through his life. Always doing something, Ray was a toiler and a workaholic.
While the house was being built the family lived in the garage which Ray had built first. This unfortunately leaked in heavy rain, and on the odd occasion one would wake to a flooded floor after a heavy night’s rain. It was a great adventure for the kids, but not so impressive for Lorna. At this point the work mates rallied to help out “nic-nic” and the house was soon completed and became a wonderful family homestead.
The valley farm was a great place to live, and for kids to grow up in, with bush, rivers and streams and thousands of things for them to do. With twelve acres, there were cattle, sheep, chickens and even a horse. With all these animals it soon became clear to Ray that a barn was required. Nine months after completing the barn, Lisa, their fourth child was born. Much to Lisa’s later relief, she was born a girl, because, as Ray took great pleasure in telling everyone, had she been a boy she would have been named “Barney”.
Ray was involved with the committee of the Parent Teacher Association, and coaching of sports teams. But where he really excelled was in the maintenance of the local hall in the Kaueranga Valley. He spent many hours organising, directing and carrying out work on this historic building at working bees on the weekend. This effort was very much appreciated by the local community.
In this same hall many dances were held, usually barn dances, with Ray, Lorna and all the kids having a great time. Ray’s great passion was racehorses and in the early days he had shares in the ownership of a racehorse. Most weekends when Ray was working around the farm or the house the small transistor radio with the races was never far away. And when the races came to town, Ray would always be there to put on a “bob each way”.
Ray was also keen on rugby and took particular delight in continuing to support the All Blacks as they continued to dominate the “the Wallabies”. Another great ritual for Ray was the Friday and Saturday night beer at the local working men’s club. This was usually just a few beers, and he would always be home by 7pm. Any later than this and he knew that there was always the risk that “dinner would be in the dog”
Ray enjoyed music, and as mentioned earlier, was a dab hand at dancing at the local barn dance. Some of his favorites artists include Buddy Holly, John Denver, and Neil Diamond. He was a also a handy singer himself, and really enjoyed singing in the shower. It didn’t matter if he didn’t know all the words, he would just add his own ones or hum along to fill in the gaps.
He had a habit of saying “How” as a greeting. And his frequent advice to everyone was “never admit to anything”. Ray died in 2006 and the tribute at his funeral has provided the outline to this account of his life.
Son Robert William Stewart
Robert Nichol was delighted to have a son after a raft of girls. So the first boy got all the family names: Robert, William and Stewart. But he was always called Bert.
When he was ten he contracted nephritis but this disease of the kidneys doesn’t seem to have slowed him down very much. He was keen and active in sports though also did quite well at school, completing three years of post primary before leaving.
He and brother Ray got on very well together as children, and were great friends. They walked down to Tararu for family picnics and other events. The two boys played football and, especially when younger, helped their mother about the property by mowing the Bowen St lawns as well as gathering scrub and wood for the fire. Bert and Ray did an afternoon newspaper run with the Auckland Star for pocket money. Using their father’s bike for carrying the papers, they delivered in Irishtown, behind the hospital.
All the children went to the Mackay St Methodist Sunday School. The girls recall they had to enter and sit on their own side of the hall. The boys were not so keen on Sunday School and while they no doubt enjoyed church picnics at Waiomu and the bus ride that went with them, their mother confided that she felt she was losing hold of them as they moved into the teen years. Badminton evenings and table tennis matches down at the church hall doubtless filled a gap in their lives but didn’t lead them to adopt a lifestyle more like the devout Mary hoped for.
Bert left school to go to work at the local hardware shop at 15 yrs. After about a decade of this he applied for the Police and was trained at the Trentham Police School. He was stationed in Auckland and Pukekohe. He met Gay who boarded with friends while she was teaching at Thames South School. They were married in Pukekohe and he continued in the Police service there for another decade or so.
Mary’s Irish background made her less than perfectly immune to a certain amount of religious intolerance and it might have been some disappointment to her than one of her sons married an Anglican and the other a daughter of a Brethren preacher. But Gay and Bert were married in the latter church to the accompaniment of a sermon that was, according to Win, memorable mainly for its great length. They shared fellowship with the Brethren until Gay left the marriage.
Bryce and Karla were born to them at Pukekohe. Later Gay persuaded Bert to leave Police and tackle a chicken farm. He then moved to a salaried position in the Franklin Power Board office where he worked with a brother of Peter Snell. He retired early and they moved onto twelve acres at Bombay where they had horses and the children were able to do show jumping. Gay bought and sold dry stock.
Bryce and Karla were studying at School Certificate and Bursary in High School there when Gay suddenly left Bert to live with a teacher colleague. None of the wider family could understand it and many were quite devastated. Bryce was particularly affected being just about fifteen. His mother continued working with special needs children at school and her work was written up in a very good article in the NZ Herald.
When Gay left, Bert was about 60. Their home was sold and he got a nice little place in Papakura. The family said he was a wonderful grandfather and he developed many friendships and competed in Trivial Pursuits nights as well as joining a group of “solos” where Naomi Lange, the former partner of Prime Minister David Lange also attended. He also took up square dancing but his passion for sports came to be directed more to his beloved Sky TV than to active participation. He especially enjoyed watching Rugby. There was no divorce; Gay preferred that they retain a platonic friendship and she welcomed him for Christmas and he helped her now and then with projects such as painting her house.
Two years after Gay left, Bert suffered the first stroke of several that eventually took his life. During this period Gay visited him regularly and was very good to him He was admitted to a rest home in Papakura where he died on 26 Oct 2006. At the funeral May spoke about his earlier life and Gay’s brother about his later years. Bert is remembered as a quiet and gentle man, uncomplaining in his final illnesses.
May is the one who keeps the family together these days and she is in touch with Carla who herself has a sick husband and three children and works full-time; living in Papakura. A further poignant note to their family story is that Bert’s son, Bryce took his own life.
Daughter Heather Elizabeth
Heather Elizabeth was born on 8 February 1938 when her mother Mary was 38. Win said that the other children were barely aware of the impending arrival because maternity clothing was not so obvious in those days.
Dad just walked her down to the Maternity Home just down the road. They left us in the house. When we knew she was a girl we all wanted her to be Shirley, after the lovely sister in the hospital.
Robert took time off work during the later stages of the pregnancy but Mary got severe varicose veins, ran a high temperature and had to be isolated from the new baby.
We were about nine and ten at when Mum finally came out. Heather was quite a joy; and we looked after her a lot so Mum could get on and do other things for the big family.
Heather had the same schooling as the other children and did well. When she left school she got a position in a local jeweller’s store, who took her on because Mary went with her for her interview. Her daughter Kim remembers her saying that working with jewellery and having to show it to customers was the impetus for her to stop biting her fingernails! She later enjoyed working for the Department of Social Welfare.
She met Jack Allison at a dance. The sisters recall that he rode a motorbike. His mother played the organ at Kerepeehi Church, where they lived, but, sadly, she died just before they were married in 1960. (The editor was in his first church appointment in nearby Ngatea and officiated at their wedding in Thames Methodist Church).
Jack and Heather settled in Auckland and built their own home behind her sister May in Mangere. They had two children, Kim, in 1964 and Ian in 1965. Jack did not want to have children until they had their own home, and once that was achieved they came in quick succession—only 11 months apart. They were schooled at Mangere.
Jack was a builder and worked for Neill Homes after they were married, but wanted to work for himself. Heather worked for Davis Gelatine. They saved and borrowed money and bought a dairy/milk bar in Mangere in 1969 which they owned and ran successfully for nearly four years. It was hard work for them both, seven days a week, and being on her feet on concrete floors for long periods of time exacerbated Heather’s own varicose vein problems.
When they sold the dairy, Jack started his own building business. The company was run from home, and Heather did all the books. They were very successful, able to buy up-to-date appliances like colour TV when it first came out, and also build a beach house in Tairua, Coromandel.
Heather played social badminton at ‘C’ grade level which she enjoyed very much. She was very good at both cryptic and standard crosswords, and she was an avid knitter of jumpers and cardigans. She played the piano accordion, when she could be cajoled into getting it out of the hall cupboard to entertain the children!
Jack and Heather were not socially outgoing people, and spent most of their time together at home or at Tairua. The travelled to Perth and Singapore on overseas trips in the early 1980s.
When Heather was 45 she was diagnosed with a carcinoid tumour on the lung. She was a smoker, but not a heavy one. In Mercy Hospital, the tumour was removed by surgeon Mr Barrett-Boyes. She spent some years cancer free, but the tumour metastised and she was diagnosed again in mid 1987 with further tumours in her spine and liver. She died on September 13 1989, just before Ian was married.
Her children remember her having a wonderful sense of humour, and being a lovely woman who died too young.
Andrew John Stewart
Andrew is another of the second generation among the three New Zealand families we are reviewing. He was born the year after Mary in the middle of the twelve years in which Moses and Catherine were having their children. It may not be insignificant that both Mary and Andrew emigrated to the same part of New Zealand at about the same time.
In 2000 Laura Martin and Alexandra Clyde talked a lot about their Uncle Andrew. It seems that in the late 1920s, Andrew wanted to go to NZ but both his parents tried to dissuade him.
Laura, a grandneice, said,:
Daddy (Alexander) wanted to go with him. But for some reason or other he didn’t—I think Granda must have persuaded him not to go. But I’m sure the two of them were actually planning to go together. Mummy and Daddy knew each other for years and years but he wasn’t thinking of marriage when he decided not to go to NZ. Indeed, they didn’t marry until several years later.
Laura’s sister, Alexandra broke in, “Maybe he wasn’t but perhaps Mummy was!” Both of them said that Andrew never ever contacted the family again but Moses used to talk about him quite a lot. They had obviously been fairly close.
His date of departure is not certain. Some of Nichol family think it was around 1930 but the Creevan church records show that he took his “last Communion” in 1926. That date would fit more closely with Bill Mullan’s encounter with him when the former was working at General Motors from about 1926.
Andrew traveled alone out to New Zealand. Robert’s sister Ruby and Andrew’s Uncle Jim Pollock were already there. They were share milking at Ngarua, further down the Thames Valley. The Pollocks had encouraged Robert and Mary to follow them and now Andrew was commencing a second Nichol migration. He arrived in Wellington and was met by his aunt Matilda and Crawford Mullan, grandparents of editor Dave Mullan.
Andrew stayed with the Mullans at “The Ranch”—their small property near the Taita Cemetery in Lower Hutt—for some time. There were no beds to spare in the Mullan household so Andrew had to sleep in the double bed with Bill—a situation which didn’t give the latter too much pleasure as he’d had an unpleasant experience when doubling up with another cousin in Australia some years earlier. Andrew eventually got a live-in job at Bentley’s dairy farm which was next door to the Chittick place “The Oaks”, Taita. While he was there he cut his finger pretty badly in a mowing machine which he was trying to free without going to the trouble of unhitching the horse. So he went back to the Mullans for a while to recuperate.
Andrew met Alice Winkie Peters at Bentley’s dairy farm, where she was working as a house help. There are suggestions that her well-to-do family in the South Is had found her a bit of a handful and sent her off up north to work. Bill Mullan had the impression that the two of them just got together and one day left Lower Hutt without any ceremony. In fact, he reckoned, nobody knew they’d gone or where they’d gone. But his awareness at the time or else his memory decades later left a bit to be desired. There might have been a period of two or three years while Andrew was in the vicinity. We certainly now have a marriage certificate stating that Andrew and Alice married in the Presbyterian Church, Karori, Wellington on 1 October 1931.
This was the year in which Mary Nichol and Robert arrived in Auckland. When Andrew and Alice left the Wellington region it seems almost certain that they went north to meet up with the Nichols and the Pollocks. Andrew may have found work with Pollocks further up the Thames Valley. But at some point it seems that there was urgent need for assistance with Robert’s milking contract at Kopuarahi because of his period of hospitalisation. Andrew’s farming background, his experience on the Bentleys’ dairy farm in Lower Hutt and probably later with the Pollocks might well have been helpful.
Alice was, by all accounts, a lively and very attractive woman from a very good home. Her brother was a keen polo player and died in a horse accident. In Northern Ireland, Alexandra comments again:
I think it was very strange that he (Andrew) never made any contact with the family. Daddy used to talk about him at times and wonder how he was getting on. I wonder if it was because of the fact that Daddy was persuaded not to go that Andrew felt let down by Daddy not going with him.
Win Paton had the impression that Andrew was allowed to get out of touch with the family because his wife was part-Indian. She felt that the family back home were very conservative—“They were a very proud race over there”—and couldn’t cope with his choice of a bride. But her mother Mary certainly didn’t stand off; she was in touch with both sides and was able to pass back little bits of news to them. Said Win:
(Mum) was pretty good; she would always write. But it would take weeks and weeks, of course… We never saw much of Andrew. We never had a car or a phone… I do remember staying with them once.
She also remembered that he worked, living in, with Ruby and Jim Pollock at Ngarua. She thought this might have been after the 1935 Kopuarahi emergency. Andrew may have taken up farming work for the Pollocks. Win said he moved into Auckland and was “manpowered” to the Colonial Sugar Refinery at Birkenhead. This could have been at the beginning of World War II or perhaps at the end of the depression. He and Alice lived at Northcote which was the next suburb to the Chelsea works of Colonial Sugar Refinery Ltd. Here Alice was quite ill while having her family.
They moved to Remuera about 1939. Notwithstanding the free workers’ ferry across the harbour to the CSR works, Remuera was not nearly so convenient for him. It seems he left the firm as soon as he was free to do so with the improving economic situation.
He obtained work much closer to home at Dominion Motors in Newmarket. Here he later became involved with motor trim assembly. He was part of the ten to fifteen man upholstery line that produced soft trim for the first run of Morris Minors that were part of the government’s strategy of allowing extra import licences for locally assembled vehicles. Coincidentally, this was the same trade that his cousin Bill Mullan was engaged in at Ford Motor Coy in Seaview, Lower Hutt. But they never met again after Andrew’s arrival. Indeed no one among the Matilda Stewarts and the Andrew Stewarts had any contact until 2009 when the editor went searching for information.
Considering that many of the Stewart family kept in contact, this is a little interesting and it occurs to Dave that Matilda, remarkable for her homeliness rather than her beauty, was known to be both uncomfortable and rejecting of her sisters and cousins who were more attractive. It is entirely possible that she influenced the family’s ongoing contact with some relatives and not with others. Certainly Bill Mullan was clear that this was a part of the family that they quickly lost touch with even though being in the same country.
The Irish family heard of Andrew’s death through Cath and Nan in New Zealand. He actually died on his mother’s birthday, 12th Sept, in 1982. It was after his brother Alexander had taken a stroke that led to his decline and death a year or two later.
Now we will consider the lives of Andrew’s three children, Margaret, David and Douglas.
Margaret was born in Matamata in the Thames Valley on 27 Apr 1932 the year after her parents Andrew John Stewart and Alice Peters married in Wellington. Her place of birth suggests that this was when the family was working in Ngarua with or near Ruby and Jim Pollock, who had encouraged Andrew to come to New Zealand.
Win Paton had a clear recollection of Margaret being with the Nichols when Win’s “Uncle Andy” came up to assist with the work on the Nichol place at Kopuarahi. He was helping out because Robert had become sick with a virus and couldn’t complete his milking contract. Win thought Margaret was about two at the time and this would seem to be about right if they went to the Kopuarahi in 1935. But Win said that the two families didn’t have much to do with each other subsequently. Andrew and Alice and their family moved up to Auckland where he was manpowered into the Chelsea sugar works.
Margaret would have gone to school in Northcote while her father was working at the refinery. Like her brothers, she probably went to school in Newmarket and Epsom when they lived in Ada St, Remuera.
When she left school she worked in a factory or two in the Newmarket area. And she is thought to have held some waitressing positions.
On 23 April 1952, in the Registry Office in Auckland, she married Keith Morgan. He was a self-employed fibrous plasterer and appears to have moved about a bit following business opportunities for this rather specialised work. Soon, however, they owned their own home on Waiheke Island.
Margaret and Keith had six children: Colleen Steven, Alan, Wayne, Sandra and Richard—who took up the same trade as his father—and five grandchildren. She was mostly a home Mum but is remembered as working part-time at the Tonka Toy factory.
Like most of the rest of her generation, Margaret was not in contact with the rest of the New Zealand Stewarts.
Keith, who had served with K-Force in Korea, was diagnosed with leukemia in his 60s and died in 1995. Margaret had difficulty dealing with his loss and son Richard suggests that she seemed to just give up. Sadly, she suffered some dementia and died in August 2002 at 70 years of age.
Douglas was born to Andrew John and Alice in Northcote, Auckland, while Andrew was employed at Colonial Sugar Refining works. They lived in the company housing adjacent to the plant.
He seems to have tolerated primary school better than most of us, and names one or two subjects which he enjoyed. When the family moved across the harbour to Remuera, he attended the new Normal Intermediate school attached to the Teachers’ College at Epsom. At secondary school he was a modest achiever but, although small for his age, enjoyed participating in sport.
Indeed it was because he weighed only about 32kgs at age fifteen that he was encouraged to leave school and take up an apprenticeship as a jockey. He was based in Karaka and did well but sustained a serious injury when his leg was crushed against the running rail. In 2011 he rolled up his trousers and demonstrated the slightly disabling effects of the accident.
Back in the city, he met Ellen at a dance and they were eventually married and commenced their own family of three children. After two years he had to find another career path and obtained work as a driver salesman with the Meadowgold Ice-cream Company in Newmarket. He enjoyed the work and was promoted to supervisor and then later asked to transfer to Rotorua to take charge of that major branch.
However, the Meadowgold enterprise failed and the family returned to Mt Wellington, Auckland where Douglas secured a position in refrigeration with Fisher and Paykel. He enjoyed the work and moved to East Tamaki when most of the business was shifted to there.
Douglas stayed with “F&P” for the rest of his working life. He took a lot of interest in his sons’ sporting careers; colour photos on the mantelpiece show he was manager for two Mt Wellington championship teams.
The company allowed him retire a little early because of his long service. He and Ellen moved out to Bernie Edwards Place in a new suburb of Howick and have been there ever since. They maintained some contact with members of the Nichol family, especially Anna Paul. Indeed Ellen and Anna were planning to travel to Northern Ireland and it was some disappointment to the former when Anna died suddenly.
Doug’s life is fairly quiet these days but he continues to look after the garden and odds and ends of chores around the home and property and says he is happy and content.
David was born on 6 Dec 1940, after the family had moved to Ada St, Remuera. He went to school first in Newmarket Primary and later to Normal Intermediate at Epsom. The latter was an especially long journey, involving trams and later, bicycle. Even so, he says it was a good 45 minutes’ push on the bike but at least it kept him fit.
He remembers art and craft work with special pleasure but not much else about his early school years. He played school and inter-school soccer but wasn’t involved in outside sports clubs.
David was interested in collecting stamps and spent some time—and money—at the Newmarket shop of Modelair, building model aircraft.
Intermediate Schools were new on the scene at the time and David was held back for a third year as he was about to reach leaving age of fifteen. When he left school, he had hopes of an apprenticeship with a metalworking company but that trade required him to be at least 16.
So he obtained a “fill-in” job at Vita Shoes in Newmarket. He did well and was offered an apprenticeship there and stayed in the shoe trade for sixteen years. He was given permission to attend night classes at Auckland Technical College. This involved a lot more travelling, but at least his time in night school was credited to his apprenticeship hours. He says that Vita management were very good to him and probably credited him the travelling time as well.
He was generally in the “making room” where the parts of shoes were fitted together on wooden lasts. But of course he became familiar with the rest of the processes of manufacture. The shoe industry in those days was protected by import licensing, and the time would come when most of the factories would disappear in the face of cheaper imports. But when David was in his first years or work there were several shoe manufacturers around the Newmarket region and he got to know many other people in the trade.
His wife to be, Gayle, worked in the same firm and their courtship centred around shared lunches in a local park as well as the usual outings. They were married in St David’s Church, Khyber Pass, in 1964 and bought a section in Beachlands, at that time a very remote rural subdivision. Keith Hay Ltd were offering budget starter homes for young couples and theirs duly arrived into two sections for assembly on site. David and Gayle still live in it in 2011.
After 16 years with Vita, David moved to Fisher and Paykel for the rest of his working life but it must have still been a long commute for work. Retiring at the age of 57, David still found time for the usual maintenance work on house and section. Good with his hands, he is still able to carry out most of what is required.
David and Gayle had two children, Paula in 1969 and Andrew in 1971. They say they are blessed with four grandchildren.
Matilda Jane Mullan
Matilda was the only member of the first generation to settle in New Zealand. From her age given in the 1901 census, she was born about 1873. So she came along towards the end of the first half of the 24 year period in which Alexander 1829 and Mary Ann had their surviving children.
Tilly, as she was known, spent her childhood at Landahussy. Grandson Dave Mullan has a Bible that she was awarded for her attendance at Sabbath School at Glenelly Meeting House on the other side of the river. In later years she lived at Loughmuck, a name which gave wry amusement to her and her brothers and sisters at the time.
In later years Tilly told her children that she had considerable responsibility for the younger members of the large family, probably especially at Landahussy. A NZ tradition about the “footstick”, related in an Appendix, dates from this period. In shepherding her younger siblings, she came to regard the twins and Archie with particular affection.
She may not have had such a good relationship with Elizabeth who was a couple of years her junior. Certainly, in later years, their only contact was somewhat cool.
Tilly may not have been given full access to schooling because she noted that it was unfortunate that Archie should have missed some school because he was kept back to guard the animals. Daughter Peg August, recounting this later, observed that it was probably better to keep a child from school than to find the resources to mend a fence. And perhaps schooling was also less of a priority for a girl who could make herself useful by caring for her younger siblings.
When the Landahussy Road family, or most of them, moved to Loughmuck about 1900 she was about 17. Actually, this move was probably back to a former family home as her brother Andrew’s birth was registered by his father “of Loughmuck” three decades earlier.
only surviving photographic likeness as a girl seems to have been taken at that time. The passage of time has not been kind to the photo but even so, it does her no special credit. Compared with photos of Lizzie she appears to have been of less than dazzling beauty.
Nevertheless, she eventually won the heart of the somewhat taciturn Crawford Mullan of Blossom Hill, The Diamond, Fintona. He was the youngest son of his parents and the last of his siblings at home so he was still tied to the family property and his parents. He and his father had begun the Blossom Hill Lodge, which is still functioning in the 21st century. He was some years older than Matilda and played several instruments as well as leading the singing in worship at First Ballynahatty Presbyterian. They married there on 5th November 1902 and their three children were born in the home that has in recent years been rebuilt on what is now called Blossomhill Farm on Cavan Rd just out of Fintona.
It is clear that the Blossom Hill property, around the turn of the 20th century was not much more fit to support a growing family and two aged parents than it is today. Indeed, Ronnie and Karen Robinson, who lived there in 2002, were both earning their livelihood away from the property. During the first ten years of the new century several of Tilly’s siblings crossed the Atlantic for America. Crawford’s siblings also moved as opportunity offered to Australia and New Zealand, leaving Crawford as the support for both their parents.
At some point the farm seems to have failed. Some say that Crawford and his father lost it because of their commitment in time and energy and resources to the Lodge. Whatever the reason, by about 1908 Tilly and Crawford were still in County Tyrone. But they were by then living in the village of Fintona with Crawford’s father, probably after the death of his mother. They are thought to have operated a kind of tea rooms from the property and later spoke of the old man upstairs banging with his stick on the floor when he felt he required the ministrations of his daughter-in-law.
As soon as his father died, Crawford gathered up his small family and took ship for the USA. The published account of his son’s life (No Standing Stone, Dave Mullan, ColCom Press) makes it clear that he was impulsive and did not involve Tilly very much in consideration of this kind of decision. They made their move from Northern Ireland so quickly that when his sister and family, who knew nothing of the possibility when they emigrated weeks earlier, arrived in New Zealand they found that Crawford and Tilly were already in America.
Other friends had preceded them there and Tilly had several of her own siblings in the USA but Crawford’s brother and sister had gone to Australia and New Zealand. So it is interesting that when he is asked for his next of kin on entering through Ellis Island on 9th May 1910 he gave Tilly’s brother John Stewart of Muff, Donegal. Perhaps they didn’t know where her brothers were in America; perhaps they didn’t want to get involved with them. It is as if Tilly’s involvement in the decision to go and the choice of destination didn’t have anything to do with her. Certainly, that is how her son Bill viewed it in his later years.
However, her children got the impression that Tilly found that home life in America was all she could have hoped for. Running water at a tap inside the house was a special luxury. She was perhaps more noncommittal about the marital relationship which, for a spirited and strong-minded young woman married to a dour and uncompromising male some years older than herself may not have been entirely a bed of roses. With three small children she probably had her hands full; another baby who lived only a few hours and at least one miscarriage would not have made for an easy life.
But she was smart. Receiving a bill for groceries allegedly not paid for before she left Fintona might have caused another honest household manager a good deal of anxiety but Tilly was so well organised that she was able—from the other side of the Atlantic—to produce the receipt for the payment she had made. Her grandson Dave, recounting this episode in Fintona’s main grocery in 2001 was told that the store’s devious stratagem of asking for accounts to be settled a second time was well known around the town a century later.
Tilly’s Willie Mullan was about fourteen months old when the family emigrated but recorded some clear memories of childhood in Warren, Rhode Island. His father was not only a stern disciplinarian but, he felt, inconsistent and hypocritical in his application of his Sunday religion to the workplace and the family. Tilly seems to have been a softening and moderating influence. For, her, too, the Christian faith was a central aspect of life, but she was not above having fun with her children and allowing a young boy a good deal of room to make the most of the interesting opportunities of life. He was permitted to play near and on the river. He tells of picnics and outings. He seems to have been encouraged to mix with adults, and made pocket money doing messages for the drugstore or helping with the local milk delivery. Being a lone boy coming after two sisters who were close to each other might have made for a difficult existence; his mother seems to have seen to it that he did not find it so.
She was, nevertheless, a complex person. Although she had family in America—especially the three younger brothers who had been her special care—she does not seem to have made much effort to keep in touch with them. The occasional visit was never reciprocated and, it seems, not greatly appreciated. Of Lizzie, the immediately younger sister of striking good looks and allegedly a personality to match, Tilly had hardly a good word to say. Bill Mullan recalled clearly that when Lizzie gave Tilly a handstitched cushion cover with pictures of beer and cigarettes and the words “I should worry!” on it, Tilly denounced it as pagan and tossed it out.
The impulsive element that characterised Crawford caused him to storm off at least two jobs, one of which could have developed into a very responsible and worthwhile position if he had been willing to be accommodating to his employer. But he was ever restless and one day he came home from work and said, “We’re going to Australia.” And they did—a week on the train across Canada and then by RMS Niagara over the Pacific via Fiji and Auckland to Brisbane. Here they found Crawford’s brother Sam and moved north with him to settle for a few years in Toogoolawah in the Upper Brisbane Valley. It was a struggle for Crawford to find work and his first job was managing a bullock train in the bush with not enough money to send to the family. Life in this frontier town was somewhat more primitive than Rhode Island and Bill recalls coming upon his parents outside where they thought they were alone, weeping (he didn’t say “fighting” but that would have been as likely) about the decision to come to Queensland. A more satisfactory position at the factory was obtained and they might have stayed for some time had not the Nestlé company scaled down its operations and eventually closed down.
Now there would be another sea voyage, this time to Lower Hutt, New Zealand, where Crawford’s sister Jenny had gone twenty years earlier. Here, just below the Taita cemetery, Crawford became his own boss once more, in a market gardening operation on what is now Waiwhetu Rd. Bill, relieved of the oppression of schooling but lacking most of its presumed benefits, remembers having to work for his father on the potato crop and feeling the disaster when the entire property was flooded and the whole crop ruined. One imagines that Tilly may have had to pour a lot of oil on troubled waters in those days but stoical faith seems to have kept her going.
In Lower Hutt Tilly saw her two daughters through rather volatile courtships to marriage. Mollie (Mary) fell madly for her cousin Harry Chittick, and nothing would persuade them that the match of first cousins might not be desirable. But off she went and they eventually established a substantial nursery business at Wanganui where Harry became a leading breeder of lilies and promoter of exotic nursery varieties. Peg (Margaret or Maggie) married Joe August who was a mate of Harry’s; they were a couple of rough diamonds and got into not a few scrapes when their courtships were overtaken by their occasional delinquencies. Joe and Peg had three boys who survived early childhood and Peg, like Mollie, maintained active connections with the Methodist Church to her death. Willy was last off the block, marrying Nellie Thomas in 1933. He had good work as Trim Foreman at Ford Motor Coy and they remained in Lower Hutt for a couple of decades, raising two boys and two girls before moving to Levin where he established his own motor trim business.
Tilly and Crawford were among the recipients of bequests from a Queensland distant relative of Crawford’s, John Roulston. Thus they were able to retire to a somewhat rural property in Queenwood Rd and later to a more urban home in Wereroa Rd, Levin. Their strict religious convictions remained with them to the end. When the young August boys came up for a holiday and Sunday came along they were dressed in good clothes and sat on the back step and given the bible and a hymn book to read. Their father had no time for religion so Peg was fighting a losing battle with them anyway, and they were not at all impressed.
Tilly died in November 1943 and was buried in Levin cemetery where, after another (impulsive as ever, we ask ourselves?) marriage which effectively prevented their family from gaining anything from his modest estate, Crawford joined her a couple of years later.
Daughter Mary Elizabeth
Mary was always Mollie in the Bill Mullan part of the family. She was born in Fintona, County Tyrone, in 1904, daughter of Crawford and Matilda Mullan of Blossom Hill, Cavan Rd.
She was well schooled locally and when the family left for Rhode Island in 1910 she continued into high school there. She and her sister Margaret were instructed in the Palmer method of writing and Mary developed a fine stylish hand of flowing copperplate, the letters neatly connected, everything written with the whole freely moving arm. She was given music lessons and at one house in Warren, RI a grand piano had to be slung up to the second floor from a truck and installed in the house for her and sister Margaret to learn on. Mary persevered for five years of instruction and became quite accomplished but she didn’t continue the piano into adulthood.
She was experienced by young Willie as a very intimidating oldest sister. He didn’t like her very much; the younger Margaret was a lot more fun. Mary’s idea of playing school was to line the two smaller children along the stairs and berate them and beat them with a stick—both no doubt normal behaviours for teachers of the day.
Margaret and Mary sang together in the choir at First Methodist Church in Warren. Although Willie experienced them differently from each other, they were inseparable when they were together. At least until young Mr Martin appeared on the scene. Mary was apparently considered old enough to have a special boy. He was allowed to drive his family’s car and this social status might have earned him some points in the eyes of other parents. But Mary’s father was not impressed. He was more than somewhat scornful of people more successful than himself —just about everyone he met, probably—and Matilda’s sympathies for her children were countered by his energetic disdain. It was probably a good thing that the impulsive Crawford dragged the family off to Australia when Mary was about nineteen. Bill thought that if they had stayed, something would have come of the relationship.
Once the family was settled in Toogoolawah in the Upper Brisbane Valley in about 1920, work was not easy to obtain. There was a phone in the house they were renting and when it rang nobody knew what to do with it and they just let it ring. But eventually it was established that the local manager of the Nestlé factory was seeking Mary as a home help for his wife. Mary later worked for the local doctor, a lady, even going on rounds with her as a sort of nurse companion. She was given a uniform which probably made her seem no less officious to her younger brother. He was also connected to the doctor’s household through being volunteered by his father into milking her house cow when she kicked her “lazy and goo- for-nothing” husband off the property. Bill observed that the doctor was a bit of a character; she answered his knock at the door once, stark naked under a loose dressing gown. For that particular teenager of those particular times, that was clearly a disconcerting moment.
The 1924 move to Lower Hutt changed Mary’s life. Work with the doctor was not exactly a sheltered experience but when she and Peg met Harry Chittick and Joe August there was a decided shift in the balance of culture. These two young men slept in a hut at the Chittick place, “The Oaks”, where Crawford’s older sister Jenny and Henry Chittick ran 28 acres of market garden. Both of the young men had got into a few scrapes of one kind and another, occasionally drawing the attention—also, once, for Joe, the full hospitality—of the Lower Hutt Police. The two young men were drawn to the Mullan sisters and had motorbikes on which they travelled out of town, sometimes overnight, to the wrath of their parents. But Bill says there was also some heavy courtship conducted in the summer house at Mullans’ “The Ranch”.
Mary had been a regular attender at church until this time. Bill comments:
She was going to be the upright one in the IOGT, the International Order of Good Templars. We kids styled that temperance organisation as “I Often Get Tight”. She was going to be the saint in the church and Daddy’s little girl.
Well, she would become a saint of a kind. But not quite yet.
Harry led the two sisters and Bill in a foursome in which they had trendy nicknames for each other and Mary’s one stuck: she was afterwards known in the family as Mollie. Margaret became Peg, which also stuck. Bill’s was Alexander, but it didn’t.
Mollie was old enough—she was certainly strong-minded enough—to make her own decision. She married Harry Chittick in the Methodist Church a year after Margaret (Peg) and Joe were married. Bill had to pay for the catering for Peg’s wedding breakfast provided by Grantleigh’s Bakery but firmly declined to do so for Mollie. He was not the least sympathetic to some of Mollie’s behaviour and not at all surprised when the supposedly teetotal celebration of that wedding was suddenly undermined as Harry and his sister Amy brought in bottles of beer and plonked them on the table.
Much enamoured of Harry, the confident, extrovert loner, Mollie perhaps may not have been aware that he boasted to Bill about his activities involving girls under Melling Bridge. Or perhaps she was secretly intrigued by his conquests. Or maybe she convinced herself, as countless young women have done before her, that the true and loyal love of a really good woman would bring him to his senses. The last was not to be: it was well known around the family that Harry entertained women in the home throughout their married life when Mollie was absent. Bill believes that the impressionable Win Nichol from Thames was propositioned by him during a short visit that she made at Wanganui.
Although Harry earned less than a third of the hourly wage that Bill was receiving at Todd Motor Coy, he owned a Dodge Victory Six and he and Mollie went off in this for their honeymoon. They lived in a spare house on the Otaki property to which his parents moved at about this time. Along with the other members of the family, Mollie received a windfall from the estate of distant relative John Roulston in Queensland. This was what probably enabled them to move to their own place on St John’s Hill in Wanganui in the mid-1930s.
Bill actually got on quite well with Harry and as time went on he found that things between him and Mollie improved. He remembers giving the happy couple an electric jug and he later became very involved in their affairs. In about 1939 their lovely home there was completely destroyed by fire while Mollie was in church and Harry was away on one of the frequent trips he made by himself. Only a single item—a china ornament—was saved by someone who reached in through a window. Bill and the four-year-old David, drove up at Easter to assist them to get established in a small shed hurriedly built on the property. Bill brought up a couple of chairs he’d upholstered for them. When a new home was built, the temporary structure survived as the flower shed—its aromatic environment became familiar to the young nieces and nephews who visited over the years.
Mollie and Harry began at Wanganui as market gardeners but, at Mollie’s prompting, soon began to get interested in flowers. Iceland poppies were her first choice but before long Harry was delving into all sorts of products. Flowers and shrubs became their primary business. They travelled to flower and gardening shows and Harry made a trip to Western Australia seeking new varieties to establish in this country. He gave popular talks and became something of an authority on the specialist breeding of lilies. New variant species of lily, camellia and leucospermum—and probably other varieties —were named after both or either of them.
Mollie continued loyal participation at the Methodist Church in Wanganui while Harry’s life continued its own directions. They probably made a conscious decision to have no children—they were, after all, first cousins. That may have left Harry with less than a perfect sense of loyalty to Mollie. He was very popular with both women and men and was no doubt the life of many a party which Mollie did not attend. He was a very good shot, often taking rabbits from down by the river and he served in the Home Guard during the war.
Those who knew them both really well realised that his extravagant lifestyle posed something of a threat for Mollie. At one point she was known to be secretly investing earnings of her own against any kind of future threat to her personal security. But her sense of loyalty and what she gained from the relationship would never have permitted her to leave Harry in spite of some quite significant provocation over the years. In the event, Harry’s extravagant lifestyle caught up with him in 1964 and his body let him down in a devastating heart attack. He was just sixty-four. A crowded congregation gathered to support Mollie and to honour him for his accomplishments in the national horticultural community.
By this time they had moved to a smaller block in Park Rd and Mollie worked out her grief potting the hundreds of camellias that he had been working with. Bill and Nell and Peg and Joe developed a habit of regular New Year visits for most of the rest of her life. She continued the business for a few years, then retired to a small home nearby. Here, in her late eighties she still drove her car to pick up “my oldies” to go to Church and Women’s Fellowship. She welcomed any members of the family who made time to call in on her, and impressed all with her good spirits and sense of humour. Her final move was to Kowhai Rest Home where, having maintained robust health for almost the whole of her long life, she died after a short illness, in 1990.
Daughter Margaret Hood
Margaret was later known as Peg to the immediate family but in the Methodist Church she was Margaret to her death. Second daughter of Crawford and Matilda Mullan of Blossom Hill, she was born there and commenced school in Fintona, County Tyrone. With her family, she emigrated to Rhode Island, USA in 1910, living in various homes in Barrington and Warren over the next decade.
She learned the piano for two and a half years but she was a little resentful that sister Mary had no less than five. Neither persevered with the skill into adulthood. Crawford wanted his girls to perform when they were being watched but he hated them to practice.
Younger brother Bill was closer to Margaret than the older daughter, Mary, and remembers her as a great sport and an easy mixer with others. She was a great tree climber, he said, and could run like the wind. She always won the Sunday School Picnic races at the Toogoolawah show grounds. Much to her mother’s disgust, she would tuck her skirt into her bloomers and away she’d go. Bill reckoned he never saw her lose a race. She was a bit of a tomboy and played and mixed well with her brother who found the older Mary rather too reserved.
The teenage Margaret worked for some retired ladies over the road in Toogoolawah. They asked her if she could come after school and do messages and help around the house. They were good to her and it was good for her to get away from Mary. She went to stay on a farm where the family used to whistle to call everyone together. She came home and got Bill to teach her to whistle so they could whistle to each other.
After she left school, Margaret was employed at packing at the milk factory at a job that her father arranged for her. She paid over the bulk of her wages to her mother. Her only outings were to SS or church. Bill says her only relaxation was to walk downtown—under his protection—on pay night where he would go into the shop to buy chocolates and they would walk around eating them. Tillie had no sewing skills and Bill thought that it would have helped if she had been able to encourage Peg or Mollie in doing something like that.
In Taita, Harry and Joe fell for Mary and Margaret. Immediately. “You interested in dances?” said Harry. The four of them got around together at functions which the girls’ parents would not have been seen dead at and romance bloomed.
Peg and Joe married in 21 March 1928—Bill remembers being well established at General Motors at that time. Grantleigh’s Bakeries did the simple wedding breakfast for 1/6 a head—“a cuppa and two cakes”. The Mullans couldn’t pay even this moderate charge—so Bill lent his mother the money. Crawford didn’t enter into that contract so Bill was never repaid paid.
Joe went to church a couple of times with Peg but neither of the boys continued. He was still working in a market garden when they were married but shortly afterwards his cousin offered him a milk round job with a cottage in White’s Line. Bill and others helped them clean up the cottage because it had been unused and neglected. There were two bedrooms and the barest facilities, but it was adequate for a couple starting off in the 1930s. There was a main stable on the road frontage, and a big old house for a family. It was some time before they had children and their first boy, Hugh, died. But in due course, Don, Dick and Barry came along. Another brother, John, was born later, but lived for only a week; the birth nearly cost Peg’s life
The horse paddocks ran in a line from White’s Line West to the rail tracks adjacent to the bridge.
Joe’s cousin bought another milk round to extend the business and invited Joe to run it at 1 Manchester St, Petone. Later Joe and Peg took this over, all the family taking shares in the business. They all rose early in the morning to work the round. They had a cooling chamber there for keeping the milk cool, and there were stables out the back.
Behind the stables Joe had a glasshouse and garden plot and he produced crops of cabbages or tomatoes. He probably gave most of it to his cobbers at the pub where he went after work in the days of 6pm closing. Even at home, his drink took priority. Peg would have dinner ready on the table and Joe wouldn’t start until he’d finished his large bottle of beer. Barry said that Joe never had an enemy in his life. He was a peacemaker and never said a bad word about anyone.
On the other hand, Joe reckoned, anyone who crossed Peg, got to know about it. She was the one who rounded up the debtors. Barry confirms that Peg had the business running very smartly. She also had a host of interests and took millinery and other classes. She did her own dressmaking and when the boys were small made Indian suits for them out of sugar bags.
When home deliveries of milk ceased and the business closed, Joe drove trucks for the Borough Council—he’d probably learned to drive, as did Bill Mullan, in the “Butterbox” truck on the Taita farm. However, Joe and Peg never owned a car.
Peg was an active member of the Methodist Church. She was involved with church life though probably not much in the committee line. She had not much time for meetings or socialising and hobbies but she was always hospitable and friendly.
Joe never had really good health and when his bronchial troubles began to affect his heart he gave up both work and smoking. He gained another twelve years before a stroke overtook him in his 80th year.
The Manchester St house was too big for Peg on her own. It was leased for a time to TVNZ for the John Bach series “Roach”. But after that she and Barry agreed to sell it and he bought a home in Wainuiomata where they both lived. Barry recalled:
World War III would come if the Listener didn’t come on Tuesday. She had to finish her crossword before anyone else in the family could phone to say they had done it—until she the day died.
Once the family were off her hands and the business not so demanding, Peg was a faithful attender at Petone Methodist Church. In Wainuiomata she had even more time for the church. But her funeral was held at the church where she spent most of her adult life, Petone Methodist, in 1996.
Grandson Donald Robert
Donald Robert August was born in 1930. His parents married were probably living in the cottage that had been put into shape for them in White’s Line West in Lower Hutt.
He was the first of the Matilda grandchildren and, as such, featured in a number of photographs with members of the family. One of these is with Uncle Bill Mullan, whom toddler Don called “Uncle Binkie”.
His childhood would have fitted into the busy schedule of a working milk run and he was used to working horses and all the paraphernalia of stables and yards. There was plenty of room to play and the nearby river with its mysterious groynes and tiny fish would have been an absorbing interest.
He went to school at Waiwhetu soon after it opened and this involved crossing the railway overbridge at Woburn. Brother Dick reports that they used to stop on the top and wait for a train to pass beneath. Sometimes the train crew saw the kids on the bridge, and the fireman sanded the flue and this produced black smoke and smuts. Dick says that once he and Don were so thoroughly covered with smuts and soot that they were sent home from school to get cleaned up.
Secondary education was at what was then Petone Technical School, involving a long walk over the river, via the railway bridge. Don went from there into an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner, working at Burns & Co in Petone. He was employed almost entirely in the die-making department, fabricating precisely engineered dies for Gadsden’s Container works.
Don married Melva, a Christchurch girl, in 1961, the family all travelling to Christchurch for the wedding. They had a flat near to the family milk business in Petone for some years but later obtained their own home near the Trentham racecourse. Their only child was a son, Mark.
Don had to give up work due to ill health that would plague him for the rest of his life. One lung was removed, badly scarred from the dusty environment in which he’d been working. After surgery, he held another position in injection moulding and then moved to General Motors’ vehicle assembly plant in Upper Hutt. Here he was a quality control inspector, a position that should have been easier on his health.
However, political decisions to withdraw tariff protection for the industry forced closures all through the country and Don took early retirement at about 58 years of age. Poor health continued to plague him.
Meanwhile, their son, Mark died rather mysteriously in his sleep in Thailand in 1997. The verdict was that he had sustained a heart attack in his sleep. A year or so later, Don was having a routine heart checkup in Outpatients and had a fatal heart attack as he walked from the treadmill for his next test.
Grandson Richard William
Dick was born in Lower Hutt, in 1932 and grew up in the family home in White’s Line West. Second surviving child of Joe and Margaret (Peg) August, he has memories of a lively childhood in a happy home.
From his earliest days he and his friends played along the edge of the Hutt River, a few steps from home. They made rafts and boats and swam. “I think we lived in the river for 98% of our time.” When asked if he participated in much organised sport, he says, “We just played around like a lot of Indians.”
Dick went to school at Waiwhetu in 1937. It would be considered a long walk today but he and his mates didn’t think much of it. They also crossed the railway at the Woburn overbridge and used to try to be on the top when a train passed beneath. During the wartime emergency he recalls that walking to and from school was a little more organised with everyone arranged in groups like today’s “walking bus”.
He found school easy and obviously enjoyed it. He was disappointed if he didn’t achieve high in his classes and was devastated once when sent home with a report saying that “Dick is a diligent pupil”– he thought it was bad news. Along with most of his generation in the vicinity he went to the Prince Edward Theatre at Woburn for Saturday matinees.
Secondary School at Hutt Valley Memorial Technical College was mostly enjoyable though he admits that English was like a “foreign language and made no sense at all”. He notes that there were only two secondary schools in the Valley at the time and there was a lot of rivalry between them; but later attending a reunion he was surprised to see how many people intermarried between the two schools. His course at Tech was largely industrial/technical and led naturally to an apprenticeship in electrical engineering with William Cable & Co of Kaiwharawhara.
Work was varied, involving all aspects of electrical engineering both marine and land-based industrial operations. His initial wages as an apprentice were 31/2 ($3.14) after tax and he had to pay 4/2 for the weekly six-trip return train ticket. He managed to secure some overtime, which increased his pay and reduced his hours to qualification.
Dick and Estelle were married when he was about 28 and at first lived with his family in 1 Manchester St, Petone. Later they moved into their own place in Nelson St and raised Glen, Susan and Jonathan.
Not long after marrying, Dick left Cables and embarked on a business in industrial electrical operations with three others. They later took over Trail Electrical and traded under that name until he retired.
Dick lives with partner Mali in Stokes Valley these days. His doctor tells him he’s living on borrowed time: indifferent health and specific problems related to asbestos poisoning are catching up with him.
Grandson Barry August
Barry was born the third surviving son of Margaret and Joe August on 23 May 1938 in the Penrose St Nursing Home where his brothers and cousins had also been born. As a youngster, he played in the river with his own friends from along the road. He recalls helping his father to collect the milk run horses from the large paddock between the Woburn railway overbridges. They’d been left there after the morning run but had to be brought back to the stables for the night.
Barry went to school at Waiwhetu, initially walking under the supervision of brother Dick, but sometimes, later, riding a hand-me-down bicycle. In really bad weather he was able to take a local bus. He remembers the stiff frosts of 1940s winters in the Hutt Valley and stamping through ice on the puddles in the road. He enjoyed school and describes himself as an average student who generally kept out of trouble—except for one very early occasion when he interrupted Dick’s class teacher by walking in and saying “Where’s my pie?” It was a day for buying lunches and Dick was evidently in charge of the shopping.
Barry was good with his hands and as a toddler created a slight problem by hammering nails into the lawn: If he’d hammered them in further he might not have created so much of a problem for his father’s lawn mower. A little older, he fabricated tin boats out of corrugated iron and made trolleys or carts.
Secondary school was at Hutt Valley Memorial Technical College, which was very convenient as by then the family had moved to Manchester St just around the corner. He did two years there and left for an apprenticeship with Fletcher & Co as a carpenter-joiner. The course involved 18 months each in commercial construction, housing and the joinery factory at Kaiwharawhara. With overtime, he qualified in less than the normal five years and stayed on for another few years. He then spent some time in coach and caravan construction, but his real love was house building and for twenty years he did “labour-only” contracts around Wellington suburbs.
Barry never married but continued to live at home. This meant that he was more easily drafted to help out on the rounds when someone failed to turn up for a shift. The horses had to be off the road by 7am and he had to leave at 7.30am for work so there were some busy mornings. Eventually the family business was broken up and individual rounds were sold off but the family retained the property. Joe drove trucks for the Borough Council for some years but after he died in 1981, Barry bought his first house and mother Peg came to live with him at Wainuiomata about five months later. Manchester St was sold about a year after that but not before it entered into history as one of the sets for the television serial “Roach”, starring John Bach.
Some time after Peg died in 1997 Barry retired to Levin and for many years was an enthusiastic and active member of Steam Incorporated at Paekakariki. These days driving any distance causes him a good deal of back pain and he is taking life a good deal more quietly.
Son William Alexander
Bill Mullan was born at Fintona, in County Tyrone. His parents, Crawford and Matilda were the last of their siblings to remain in Northern Ireland on the family farm Blossom Hill on the Cavan Road. As soon as Crawford’s father died the family set out for Rhode Island, USA.
Bill was about 14 months so he grew up as an American boy and has pleasant memories of life in four relatively modern homes in Warren until the age of about 12 when his father impulsively sold up and moved the family to Queensland. In the back blocks Upper Brisbane Valley, schoolmates were not so kind to the boy with the strange accent and the very unfashionable knickerbockers. Conditions were also very difficult for his parents and when Crawford lost his job at the failing Nestlé factory in Toogoolawah, he decided to move on again, this time to Lower Hutt. New Zealand.
For a short time the family lived with Crawford’s sister’s family, the Henry Chitticks. They then moved to what is now Naenae Rd, just below the Taita Cemetery and Crawford grew mainly potatoes for the vegetable market. The modest family property was known, somewhat ironically, as “The Ranch”. Bill was out of school by this time and initially worked for his father but soon obtained a job as a brick hand on the Laings Rd Methodist Church project. From there he went on to a cadetship at General Motors.
The Methodist Church was at the centre of the family’s life and among the lively young people who gave leadership in the smaller churches and enjoyed musical events around the Hutt Valley he met Nellie Thomas and eventually persuaded her to marry in December of 1933. They were influenced by the Frank Buchman’s Oxford Group movement of which, though somewhat elitist, claimed that individual sin was the world’s problem and the solution was in the individual’s conviction, confession, and surrender to God. This led them to a conviction that all issues of life could be resolved in prayer.
After living briefly in Wellington they had a home built at 16 Kauri St Lower Hutt. Bill had now moved to the newly established Ford Motor Coy and had been quickly promoted to be foreman of the Trim Department. They commenced a family of four about this time: David 1935, Barbara 1937; Marion 1940 and Peter 1942. The latter year they moved to a more adequate home and an immense vegetable garden at 15 Brasell St.
World War II saw Bill in charge of Ford MC’s Fuse 119 created out of his Trim Dept. He was also an NCO in the Emergency Fire Service and attended regular drills. After the war, Ford rushed to resume car production and demanded a great deal more overtime.
This was also a busy period for the growing Waiwhetu church where Bill and Nell were very active in leadership. He had been an active Local Preacher but now served over 20 years as Sunday School Superintendent. Several nights of the week one or both of them would be at church meetings, events and choir practice.
In spite of long and late hours at work and about church business Bill and Nell provided an excellent family environment for their children who remember family picnics, outings, summer holidays and all manner of special family entertainment in an age in which there was no spare money for any frills.
In 1956, after much thought and prayer, Bill quit Ford MC and set up a contracting business in Levin, producing sewn trim for the car assemblers in the Wellington region. Less than two years later the Nordmeyer “Black Budget” caused the withdrawal of “outside” car assembly contracts which was a severe test of faith for a couple who had always sought divine guidance in making major decisions. It was many years before WA Mullan Ltd business began to thrive. Peter grew into the business but Bill retained a hands-on role for some time. Against resistance from the regional Union organiser who called him “a prince among extortioners” Bill opened one entire factory that worked only between 9am and 3pm to take up the offers of skilled workers who had children at school and couldn’t work a full eight-hour day. Former employees tell of him going around each plant to greet every machinist personally each morning. The company became Levin’s largest employer—some 250 workers—before being sold at a propitious moment not long before new Government policies began to close down the entire car assembly trade in the country.
While in Levin, Bill and Nell served in many offices in the local church, including his terms as a much-appreciated Minister’s Steward. He also regularly attended the Wellington Methodist District Executive and he and Nell were hosts at the National Youth Conference at Blenheim. After much thought, he declined Rev Wilf Ford’s request for him to be named as Vice President of the Church for Wilf’s term.
Nell was active in the Methodist Guild Fellowship of NZ and became its last national President and was heavily involved in guiding the negotiations which merged the Guild with the Methodist Women’s Missionary Movement. She was greatly affronted by a Rita F Snowdon talk about “Mrs X and her big teapot” in which Rita no doubt sought to encourage everyone to feel that she had a talent for something but in which Nell saw a stereotypical put-down of what women could do in the church. She was a little before her time on that, as some other issues. Her national Guild conference photo shows about sixty women, all except her, wearing hats.
Bill was one of the founding members of the Levin South Rotary Club and in the year in which he took his turn as President he enthused his members to the extent that the entire club achieved 100% attendance except one member who missed one meeting and didn’t “make up”. He took up golf and played at least one day each week for many years, later turning to bowls and croquet, making many friendships through the leisure activities. Nell was among those who helped establish the Citizens Advice Bureau in Levin.
Nell and Bill had a small holiday home on Rainbow Drive at Taupo from the 1960s and the Tiromoana visitors’ books tell of countless guests who availed themselves of the hospitality of the house and sometimes also of Nell and Bill themselves. After living in two homes in Levin they decided to make Taupo their permanent home and moved to Oregon Drive around the corner. St Paul’s Union Parish welcomed them and their contribution to church and community was developed and extended. Some church members still remember the voluntary project laying 14,000 concrete pavers under Bill’s direction, not to mention his award of the honour of KCB—Knight of the Concrete Blocks.
Bill joined the Taupo Probus Club and gave leadership there. Nell became involved in the Senior Citizens Centre with “Care and Craft”. During the Taupo years they made several trips overseas, sometimes to Queensland for a few weeks in a rental apartment, sometimes on organised tours in USA, UK and Europe and often on their own resources visiting Marion and family in Canberra. It was just after a short visit to Melbourne where Dave was temporarily working in 1994 that it became evident that Nell was very ill.
When she collapsed at their Isobel St home in 1995, she was in the greatest of fear that she would become a long-term invalid like her mother and two aunts. Although the massive infection was successfully treated she sought Bill’s permission to decline further medication and announced that she was “on my last journey” and died peacefully next morning. Bill was initially composed but he had never been especially handy in the kitchen and after nearly 65 years” partnership with Nell, experienced a bereavement that was long and stressful.
He soon moved to a smaller home with a more manageable section and then, when St John’s Wood complex began to be constructed a couple of doors up the road, went regularly onto the site and identified the flat he would have. As first resident he was a successful “salesman” of the place to enquirers who called. He sold his beloved Camry and bought a mobility scooter, founded the residents’ scooter club, organised a competitive course in the car park and gathered a deputation to wait on the Borough Council to seek suitable scooter kerb crossings for routes along the lake edge and between key venues in the town.
St Paul’s Church was now just up the road and he was still regular in attendance but not now holding any position of leadership. The day before his hundredth birthday in 2009, his second femur collapsed and he spent his birthday having an artificial joint fitted in Rotorua while 35 family and friends feted his centenary in Taupo.
Making a very good recovery he continued for another eighteen months in his own three-room unit in the hospital section at St John’s Wood. He received callers with pleasure and always left them feeling it was good to have seen him. But in September of 2010 he died in his own bed and another large family gathering was held to celebrate his life for the last time.
Grandson David Stewart
Dave Mullan was born in 1935 to Bill and Nellie, and schooled at Waiwhetu, Epuni and Hutt Valley High School staying long enough to get University Entrance. Schooling was not a particularly pleasant time for him and the prospect of tertiary study was not even contemplated.
Passionate about audiovisuals, but with absolutely no prospects of finding work in NZ’s virtually non-existent film industry he worked for a year with Kodak in ciné processing. With an eye to better job security and outside work he then joined the NZ Forest Service for about three years during which he experienced a clear call to the ministry of the Methodist Church. Beverley Taylor of their home church at Waiwhetu, Lower Hutt, waited a few more years while he trained at Trinity College in 1957-59.
They married at the earliest opportunity—indeed their wedding invitations were already out when the Church Conference granted permission for him to marry. Their first appointment was at Ngatea in 1960. Paul and Christine were born in nearby Thames.
Parish appointments followed in Panmure and Taumarunui both providing varied opportunities of extra parochial involvement in secretarial work, church committees, administration and audiovisual projects. During these years he completed MA and Dip Ed over some fifteen years of part-time study. He took up private flying in 1970, going solo in six hours and achieving his full Private Pilot Licence in six months. He became a Territorial Force chaplain to the NZ Army and completed six years of “efficient” service, a level of involvement that was demanding but, in its way, very stimulating.
In 1971 he was sent as Superintendent to Dunedin Methodist Mission, the Methodist social service organisation for the Otago-Southland region. He became District Superintendent in his final years there. Experienced in voluntary family budgeting, he spearheaded the formation of the Dunedin Budget Advice Service and then, with Alan Mayall of Christchurch, called the first national meetings of family budgeting groups. Appointed to advise the Minister of Social Welfare on family budgeting, he attended over 120 meetings and events around the country and was the second President of the national federation that was formed.
Nine years at Trinity Methodist Theological College followed from 1982 and he developed the strategy of voluntary clergy throughout the country. He also provided educational resources for beginning clergy and their more experienced colleagues. Under his guidance, printing, publishing and video production became routine elements of the College’s contribution to the church.
His final church appointment was part-time in the Bay of Islands Cooperating Parish where he initiated the first Local Ministry Team for NZ Methodist or Presbyterian churches. During the years before his retirement in 1996 he took up several invitations to promote this ministry model in five countries and produced short videos and published books on the topic. By way of putting some bread on the family dinner table he also published about 100 books for other authors under the imprint of ColCom Press. He developed a special method of economically binding short-run books that otherwise would not have been commercial prospects.
Bev and Dave were both involved with the Uniting Parish’s ministry team and have opportunities of promoting this strategy from time to time. Dave takes occasional services and enjoys playing the organ for worship. They have both recently concluded substantial involvement with ratepayer and town planning issues. While Dave convened a major planning group for Paihia, Bev served on the small committee that won its appeal to the Environment Court against a 15 storey tower block on the waterfront. Almost all their $90,000 expenses were covered by grants and anxious fund-raising.
A member of the Standing Committee of the Uniting Congregations of Aotearoa-New Zealand for six years, Dave served a further term as national Chairperson. He has taken up some amateur drama work with the local group and wrote and performed a one-man dramatic production on the life of “Matthew the Gospel Writer”. Later, less seriously, he has written a one-act comedy which the drama group presented and three Murder Mystery Dinners which have been received with great enjoyment in nearly twenty places around the country and even in Australia.
Their daughter Christine is manager of an Orewa bank and their son Paul has a specialist television production company in Sydney. The grandchildren, two in each country, are achieving very well at university and in their chosen fields.
Dave got a diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2001 and after an unsuccessful prostatectomy is now on monthly Zoladex implants and daily bicalutamide pills. He is aware that at present there are really no medications to try next if these fail to suppress the returning cancer but is much too involved with interesting things to reflect on the implications.
Anyway, he has published a book (In and Out of Sync) on his life and can’t think of anything else that could possibly be added to it.
Barbara was the second of the four children of William and Nellie Mullan and arrived 15 September, 1937.
Schooled at Waiwhetu and Epuni, she was a founder pupil at the new Hutt Intermediate School for two years before going to Hutt Valley High School. At school age, she was competent at all things domestic but did not enjoy sports.
At 15, she was injured in a car accident and facial scars de-railed her life for some months. With the ground-breaking plastic surgery of Dr Cecily Pickerill and daily facial massage, Barbara avoided any scarring, regained muscle tension and has no disfigurement. The lost school time took its toll, but, like her older brother, she scraped through School Certificate with a minimal pass mark
Barbara’s chosen career as a nurse was cut short by rheumatic fever followed by Huntington’s Chorea. Although there was little heart damage she was deemed a bad risk for nursing. After a long period of convalescence, she attended Gilby’s Commercial College, in Wellington.
She was fully involved in the CYMM (Christian Youth Movement Methodist), Bible Class, social events and Easter Camps. Strongly committed to the church, she moved to Palmerston North for a year of voluntary service under the Order of St Stephen, providing free full-time service, as “office secretary” to the two Methodist churches there. In the CYMM she met her future husband, Bruce Smith and they married in 1960, living first at Elsdon Youth camp in the caretakers’ cottage.
In 1961 Bruce accepted a business manager position in the Solomon Islands Methodist Mission, based at Munda on Roviana. They didn’t see themselves as “missionaries” but they did enter fully into the life of the Solomon Islands Methodist Church. Bruce was busy with the Mission office. Barbara was pregnant with a first baby, learning to manage a home with cold tank water, making bread, a wood stove, (and wet firewood) very limited local produce, groceries ordered three months ahead, and arriving by boat, then canoe, every six weeks, with luck. She taught sewing classes, and entered into activities that enhanced the lives of the local women, as well as giving birth to two children.
Rachel was born in December 1961 at Honiara Hospital, and Martin 17 months later at their home in Munda. Contact with New Zealand was limited to one air mail delivery per week. The family took long term leave in 1964, to enable Bruce to complete his accountancy qualifications, and then returned for a further two years at Munda.
In 1966 the family returned to NZ, and settled in Levin. Bruce worked as finance accountant with Lanes Industries. Barbara became a stay-home Mum, and they added three year old Mellissa, a state ward, to the family. After three years, Mellissa was re-integrated into her wider whanau in another town but Rachel and Martin lost their “little sister”, and the family grieved for many months. Barbara may well be remembered as the parent at Levin North School, who could be relied on to make at least 200 toffee apples each year for the Levin North school fair.
Bruce bought a trailer in 1975, and the family set out on a series of Christmas family camps. Bruce and Barbara were again in the kitchen, cooking for about 40 people for ten days. This was an interesting and enjoyable way to have a good holiday with a group of like-minded people.
Over this period Rachel and Martin both left home; Rachel to work in Wellington, and eventually in London, and Martin to University in Palmerston North. They bought a series of houses and painted, refurbished and found tenants for them in Masterton, Wellington and Palmerston North, first to provide safe affordable accommodation for Martin and Rachel and later as investment properties.
Deteriorating sight from keratoconus limited Barbara’s activities for more than ten years in mid life. While she was never completely blind, this handicap seriously limited her sewing, knitting, home decorating. oil painting and other creative endeavours. She joined a women’s marching team, and eventually registered with the blind foundation, where she discovered “talking books” as she waited for several years for hospital call-up. Eventually a second graft restored sight in one eye to within the normal range. She re-ignited her secondary school passion in art, and regained confidence in driving the car.
About this time, Barbara reduced her church involvement, and moved her energy to a series of community service “firsts”. She was involved in setting up the second Citizens Advice Bureau in NZ, later chairing the district committee. She was selected to train with Consumer Institute to provide a frontline service for CABx and she became a member of the community Social Services Council.
The family moved to Masterton where Barbara chaired the new social services council in Masterton, joined the new CAB, selecting and training staff, and continuing with complaints service. She joined Masterton Marriage Guidance Council committee and chaired the National MGC finance committee, for a period. She trained and qualified as a marriage counsellor. All this work eventually led to professional training as a psychotherapist. She completed a two year part time training for group facilitators, to develop skills for working with groups and committees.
Over the last couple of decades Barbara has continued her quest for excellence in counselling and supervision. She was greatly stimulated by a three year training course in Hakomi Integrative Somatics. This body oriented method was a move away from traditional psycho-analysis and led to her registration as a Hakomi Therapist and to full membership with the new Psychotherapists Board (PBANZ). By this time, brain research of therapeutic techniques was clearly pointing to the importance of the brain-body connection, and new therapies such as Emotional Freedom Techniques© were changing the face of personal healing. Barbara completed a further five years’ of challenge and learning to become the only EFT Master in New Zealand.
Retirement seems to have no place in Barbara’s life and she and Bruce continue in their Palmerston North home. Their son Martin married Amanda and lives in Sydney; they have Ian (1992), Isobel (1993)and James (1996). Their daughter Rachel lives in Palmerston North with her son Kiran (1991).
Marion was born on 17 May 1940, in Lower Hutt when Bill and Nell Mullan lived at the first family home in Kauri St. They all moved to Brasell St, Waterloo when she was three.
She attended Epuni School then went to one of the first Intermediate Schools in the country when she was ten. Secondary Schooling was at Hutt Valley High School from 1953-55.
Marion says that academic pursuits at High School definitely took second place to sport, her favourite passions being swimming and basketball. She was also very involved in music and drama at school.
In late 1955, the family moved to Levin where she worked in a drapery shop for two years before returning to Wellington to live in a group house in Kelburn. Here she undertook various jobs before completing a social work course which led to her becoming a Child Welfare Officer in the Department of Education in 1962 in her old stamping ground of Lower Hutt. In these years her spare time was taken up with drama—she was an active member of Wesley Church’s Drama Christi—singing, dancing and basketball.
From early 1963 she spent two years as a Child Welfare Officer in Wanganui with a caseload extending to Ohakune and Raetihi.
In 1965 she married an Australian, Brian Jones, and moved to Australia living for the first 18 months in Mont Albert in Melbourne. A new employment opportunity for Brian prompted a move to Canberra in early 1967 and later that year Andrea was born. Simon followed in 1970, a year which also saw the birth of Canberra’s first courier service. Marion took an active operational role in Delfast and it developed rapidly.
Throughout the years of the children’s schooling, Marion was involved on the council of the Australian Modern Education progressive school that had been founded in Canberra in 1972. The whole family enjoyed the open and nurturing environment of the school which the children attended right through to their college years.
After her divorce in 1985, Marion re-trained in accountancy work and undertook contract work with various accountancy firms. While continuing with her accountancy, she established the first relocation service in Canberra. This involved assisting executives and their families who were moving to Canberra from interstate and overseas and included general orientation and familiarisation as well as researching and obtaining suitable accommodation and appropriate education facilities.
Since selling her business in 2007, Marion has continued with some accounting work as well as completing a training course at the Australian National Botanic Gardens where she is now a volunteer guide as well as Treasurer of the Friends of the Gardens . She is involved in an ongoing current affairs discussion group and various courses with University of the Third Age including one she convenes for solving cryptic crosswords. She enjoys regular trips to the theatre, is a keen gardener, bush-walker and bird-watcher and is passionately interested in the environment.
Grandson Peter Graham
Peter was the last of the four children of Bill and Nell Mullan and was born in Lower Hutt when the family lived at Kauri St. As they moved to Brasell St when he was a year old, he attended Epuni School, Lower Hutt Intermediate and then went to Hutt Valley High School for a year in 1955.
Here he excelled at sport, particularly tennis and hockey but the latter quickly became his favourite. He carried his hockey stick across the handlebars of his push-bike and this caused a fairly serious accident when he was thrown over the handlebars, smashing two front teeth. These were both subjected to another battering courtesy of a hockey game and on this occasion they had to be replaced.
He moved with the family to Levin and attended Horowhenua College in 1956 and 1957 where his main subject was commerce. This was an advantage when he started in the family business of WA Mullan Ltd in 1958. He met his future wife, Janice Hurst, when they were both sixteen and their wedding in 1961 was the beginning of a life-long partnership. In Levin Peter continued his keen interest in hockey and competition squash. Highlight of his hockey career was scoring the only goal in a rep game between Manawatu and Pakistan which was then the pre-eminent country in the hockey world.
Peter became General Manager of the business in 1975 by which time there were three factories with a staff of up to 250. He took up golf and soon achieved a low handicap. Still a hockey enthusiast, he was a very successful and popular coach for younger teams, travelling with one to a Christchurch tournament for the Hatch Cup for under thirteen year olds. He was a very active member of Levin South Rotary Club of which his father had been a founder member, and took his turn at the presidency.
Bruce Smith remembered that about the time the Smiths left Levin in 1974 Peter and Jan went into goat farming with another couple. Although this was primarily a hobby investment, Bruce heard Bill Mullan say that Peter really “got amongst it”. Jan said that she learned a lot about farming and goats in particular and they made quite a bit of money as well.
After the sale of WA Mullan Ltd, Peter went into the motel business in Hastings and later Rotorua where he and Jan bought a home adjacent to the golf course. He became captain of the Rotorua Golf Club and became a keen campaigner for equal members’ rights for women.
Out of sheer hard work and the changing markets, the motel businesses was very profitable for Jan and Pete and in 1996 they moved to Omokoroa—next to another golf course—and then into Tauranga. During this time of transition they were involved in various business enterprises including a period of “doing up” homes and a partnership in an avocado orchard.
In retirement, Peter became a highly successful equities trader. He bought a trailer boat and enjoyed offshore fishing in the Bay of Plenty. He and Jan enthusiastically took up outdoor bowls and this largely replaced his involvement in golf.
Peter and Jan had three children: Susan, 1962; Steve, 1964 and Craig, 1966. He became a grandfather at just 41 and took a great interest in his various grandchildren, particularly in their various sporting pursuits. Susan has three children, lives in Tauranga, and has herself recently become a grandmother. Steve and wife Glenyce live in Hamilton and Craig in Tauranga with his partner Andi.
Peter died very suddenly of an undiagnosed heart condition in 2003 at only 62.. It was a considerable shock to the whole family and a sudden end to a vigorous and fun-loving life of a dedicated family man.
The Glenelley Footstick
When Bill and Nell Mullan of New Zealand visited Co. Tyrone in 1981 it was for him a kind of returning to the land of his parents. But since he was only fourteen months old when he had last been in the country he made this visit with little previous personal knowledge of the area where his parents lived.
However, at the Ulster American Folk Park he had some conversation with a staff member and she declared that they were related. While in the area he met another whose mother had been a contemporary of his. Dad and this lady exchanged information about their parents that was new to each of them in turn. Was it here that the NZ story of the footstick was born?
“The Stewart Place”
The first Stewart home that we know of was on the Landahussy road in the Glenelly Valley, a little above Plumbridge. This town is famous for its bridge, said to have been erected by one Devine, who, being short of a spirit level, spat into the river and used his spittle to get the structure straight. The area is extolled in the tourist propaganda:
Lying six miles to the north-east of Newtownstewart, Plumbridge straddles the Glenelly river from which many a lordly trout has been taken, while four miles to the south the equally rich Owenkillew makes its way westwards to the Mourne. To the north, the Sperrins rise steeply, attaining a maximum height of 2,240 feet at Sawel, and compromising an undulating range of heather-covered heights interspersed with verdant valleys. The contrasting colour effects of sky and hills at different seasons of the year and under changing weather conditions are very beautiful, and there are panoramic views.
Bill and Nell drove themselves up the Landahussy and stopped at what is still called by some locals “The Stewart place”. The remains of the house where the family of 15 people lived were still to be seen, the once busy farmyard now absorbed into grazing. A kilometre down the hill over the paddocks, the Glenelly river ran clear and sparkling.
It was only while returning later through Plumbridge and talking with a local lady that Bill first heard about a tradition of nearly 100 years. She told him that her mother told her many times about the sight of the entire Alexander Stewart family of 15 walking in single file across a narrow bridge—the footstick—over this river on their way to church. This Sunday event was evidently known and talked about throughout the region. It became one of those scraps of a collective memory that go to make up the intricate and elusive web of a family history.
A Winter Visit
The Glenelly Valley was not particularly panoramic on the day that Bev and Dave Mullan made their pilgrimage in 2000. The rain fell steadily out of a troubled sky. Even with the determined assistance of a distant cousin by marriage, Bill Martin, we had a little difficulty finding our way. We now know that out of Plumbridge the Landahussy Road heads up the east bank on to the flank of the Sperrin mountains.
In just a few kilometres we stopped at a concrete cattle crush and dip. There were about 2cms of rainwater all over the concrete surface of the floor of the crush but somewhere under it there was a concealed trough, so we walked with extreme care. But into it we did walk because it sits on the site of the Stewart place. And at the rear left corner as you face it from the present road stands a remnant corner of the house itself. Recently overgrown by trees springing up along the fence-line, it has stubbornly resisted the effort of time to obliterate it and its memories from the landscape.
Behind the site, a few fields rise up onto the Sperrins but in less than a kilometre they quickly resolve into the heather slopes so much beloved of the brochure writers.
Along the fence-line at the back of the crush there is a remnant of another road, too clearly defined to have been merely century farm track; possibly it is the original route of the Landahussy road in which case the house might have faced the other way. But no Stewart who had an eye for a landscape would have built the house facing away from that wonderful panorama.
The Glenelly Valley at this point is everything they say it is. Manicured farms testify to the generations that have nurtured these slopes. Green hedged fields still roll down to the small river that seems to hide itself in the greenery and the irregular line of over-hanging trees in the distance. And somewhere, down along the course of that river, must have been the modest structure over which the 15-strong little legion of the Stewart family crossed to church on the other side Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day.
In 1835 a Presbytery Committee reported
….that there is a district called Glenelly considerably remote from the place of worship in Badoney; that in it there are 72 or more Presbyterian families; that they are anxious to have a separate minister.
The first appointed minister had his arm broken after an Orange service in his former charge so he was delighted to find that the Glenelly people were “quiet and inoffensive. Apparently “Protestants and Roman Catholics lived together in peace and friendship.”
The congregation first worshipped in a thatched cabin in the townland of Eden Mills, near to Plumbridge but on the opposite side to Landahussy. Alexander Patterson, though an absentee landlord, donated the site and gave generously to the Building Fund; later he built the School House and residence.
The present Kirk Session minute book includes an Alexander Stewart in the list of elders for 1857. The record of Baptisms and Marriages includes several children of Moses Stewart (1803) and Mary Stark. Among their large family, Alexander is of particular interest to us, and married a Mary Ann Stark. Both couples are some of their children are shown in the Register. At least two other sons, including Moses (1848) went to Australia where a small Stewart clan has only recently made contact with other members of the family.
Other names linked with the Stewarts (or the Mullans) appear on a congregational committee of eight people in 1869. This includes two McFarlands and two Campbells.
There was a great revival in 1859 and the Session recorded their gratitude for the “gracious outpouring of the Holy Spirit on several members of this congregation.” 15 new communicants were received. The temperance movement was becoming “very popular” at this “although it cannot be denied that the use of spiritous liquors still exists in some families”. One imagines that the zealous Stewarts would be among the abstemious.
In the 1870s the church was enlarged and lectures were held regularly; at one of these events, Joseph Stark (Derbrough), Alexander Stewart and Joseph McFarland all had rostered duties. In 1884 the stables which can still be seen near the corner were erected and at the end of 1887 Bill Mullan’s mother Matilda Stewart, aged 16, was presented with a bible inscribed “for good attendance at Glenelly Sabbath School RJ Beach, Londonderry”.
But the tide appeared to be turning: in 1897 a congregational meeting was called from the pulpit but not one member stayed for it. Emigration to other countries and other places had taken its toll. Even the devoted Stewart family apparently moved off their farm on the valley side about this time and occupied Loughmuck and Crevangar. The latter became their long-term home into the 1990s when the last of them left.
In the Badoney Church history there is a photograph of the Corrick footstick, a concrete and steel-railed footbridge over the river, probably named for a predecessor of just one or two planks’ width, supported on cables, with wire netting sides. It may have been something like this that had once straddled the Glenelly river somewhere between Landahussy where the Stewart family lived in the late 1800s and Eden Mills where the church was built.
We took some hopeful video of the valley as viewed from the Stewart place a Landahussy but could hazard no guess as to where it might have been. We drove on
upriver and took the only road down to the left, crossed the road bridge and turned left down the other side of the river. In a couple of kilometres we found Glenelly Church, sparkling in its £30,000 renovation and rewiring. Having contributed a modest £50 in return for the privilege of being custodians of Matilda’s inscribed bible we were keen to see the church but had not gone to the trouble of bothering the Wauchobs whose name had been given to us as people who would give as access if we wished to see inside.
However, as we pulled up at the church on Saturday afternoon, the Wauchobs and another couple were on the scene, doing those little things that often have to be done around the property before worship. They were delighted to show us the interior and especially the new lighting and rewiring which had been a huge cost. And to a casual mention about the possible site of where the footstick had been they responded instantly, “Oh, but it’s still there, just along the road. We’ll take you.”
Barely a kilometre along the road we stopped at a point well above the river and below us, in the tangle of growth over its well-defined course through fairly high banks, was the footstick. Like the Corrick photograph, it had sturdy concrete abutments at each end but without steps or ramp to meet them, a concrete slab floor and iron pipe sections for sides. It was used by school children from “over there”, the Wauchobs said, until the road bridge was put in and school buses began.
The sloping field was sopping wet but without debate about the conditions our host Bill Martin set off down hill with his camera. Dave could hardly stay up on the road in the face of this bold endeavour so down he went, too — straight onto his bottom, actually, as his feet went out from under him! But nothing could stop them now and some good photos and video of the Glenelly footstick were at last secured for the family history.
As we returned to the road, we became aware of a small overgrown avenue of trees that ran from the Glenelly end of the bridge up to the road near where we had stopped. This obviously shaded the path that had once come up the hill from the bridge. We were standing almost exactly on the route that lay between the Stewart home and their beloved church.
But on days like today, when the rain held off only for short periods, it must have been some adventure for this large family to leave their home on the opposite hills, walk along the road a few hundred metres and then make their way down the hedgerows to the footstick. Then, with the bigger ones keeping an eye on the little ones, the whole lot would have crossed the bridge in single file and straggled up the little avenue for another couple of hundred metres to gain the road higher up on the Eden Mills side. After that, it was a short kilometre’s walk along the road to church. Small wonder that the memory of this weekly pilgrimage was still alive 100 years later.
Here in the church the memories of the Great Revival of ‘59 and the excitement of the Temperance movement and above all the friendship of good folk in whom they had confidence welded them into a fellowship of commitment and care.
Tillie was one of the younger ones but even she had her responsibilities; young Archie was her particular care and she told her daughter later that she adored him. She often had the care of him while minding the family cows. So on Sundays we can presume Tillie would keep a special eye on young Archie as they crossed the Glenelly footstick. Perhaps she also sat with him in church and then saw him into his class in the Sabbath School which she herself seems to have attended with such devotion.
It is perhaps hardly surprising that these two youngsters, immersed in such a rigorous gospel, should retain its influence throughout their lives. The handsome, sensitive Archie devoted his life to the ministry of the church in the USA, not letting anything get in the way of his commitment to his faith. And in 1939, Tillie, when entertaining two of her less church-oriented grandchildren in Levin for a weekend, not only forbade the five and six year olds from playing outside “on the Sabbath” but actually sat them down in their best clothes on the back step and with only a hymnbook for entertainment.
The present footstick appears to have been built to replace the less sophisticated structure that the 15 Stewarts probably used more than a century ago. Perhaps it is on the exact route they followed, perhaps not. It was used quite regularly by school children until the upstream road bridge was erected and a bus service begun in comparatively recent times. Even this sturdy structure is showing the effects of time and weather but its heavy concrete will not yield for decades yet. Perhaps it may symbolise something of the resilient character of our foreparents.
The complete family tree of the three generations from Alexander 1829 and Mary Ann Stark. The first generation and the “Kiwi Stewarts” are covered, to some extent, in this book and appear here in bold type.
1 – Moses Stewart 1862 + Catherine Hunter
2 – Catherine Jane 1896 + William R McCaffrey
3 – Robert Alexander
3 – William Stewart + Eileen Davis
3 – Kathleen Margaret + Fred Bruce
3 – Annie Elizabeth + Charlie Gilmour
2 – Alexander Stewart + Laura Scott
3 Moses Robert Alexander Stewart
3 K M Laura + William Martin
3 Margaret Elizabeth + Albert L Hemphill
3 Alexandra + George Clyde
3 – W J Alistair Stewart + Florence Cochrane
2 – William James Stewart
[* 2 - Mary Stewart +Robert Nichol *]
3 – Catherine Frances + Don Smart
3 – Winifred Margaret + Bob Paton
3 – Anna Rebecca + Keith Paul
3 – Mary Isobel + Ira Pepperell
3 – W R S (Bert) + Gay Saville
3 – Raymond George + Lorna Moran
3 – Heather Elizabeth + Jack Allison
2 – Andrew John Stewart + Alice Peters
3 – Margaret + Morgan
3 – Douglas + Ellen
3 – David + Gayle
2 Anna Margaret Stewart +Bobby Watson
3 – Sarah Kathleen + Herbert Bruce
2 – Sarah Stewart 1906 + Albert McCrea
3 – Florence + Fred Cobane
3 – A William McCrea + Hazel Grahame
1 – William 1864
[* 1 - Mary Ann 1866 +Moses McNickle *]
1 – Alexander 1868
1 – James 1870
1 – Matilda Jane 1872 + Crawford Mullan
2 – Mary Elizabeth + Harry Chittick
2 – Margaret Hood + Joseph August
3 – Hugh
3 – Don + Melva
3 – Richard (Dick) + Estelle Stewart + Mali
3 – Barry
3 – John–DC
2 – William Alexander Mullan + Nellie Thomas
3 – David Stewart + Beverley Taylor
3 – Barbara + Bruce Deryck Smith
3 – Marion + Brian Jones
3 – Peter Graham + Janice Hurst
2 – George Mullan
1 – Elizabeth 1874 + Louis Borsden
1 – John 1875
1 – George 1879
1 – Charles 1881
1 – Robert 1881 + Isabel Mulligan
1 – Andrew Joseph 1883 – + Ella De Bruyn
2 – Ella + Jim Johnson
3 Son Johnson
2 – Corrie + James Timperley
3 – Phillip Timperley
2 – Mary + ? Ireland
3 – Fred
3 – Shirley Ireland
2 – Lillie + Jim Maxwell
3 – Stuart Maxwell
3 – Alistair Maxwell
2 – Alexander + Frances Willemse
3 – Lex + Jane Bonamour
3 – Cheryl + Llewellan Hyland + Hank Smith
1 – Archibald Stewart 1886 + Anna Meinhart
It would be impossible to list all the resources that have been unearthed by the amateur historians in the family. However, Heather McKinlay in Northern Ireland and Victor Paul in New Zealand have taken responsibility for keeping up the record of the family tree. They are happy to share what they have and welcome information to keep this record up to date.
About the author
David Stewart Mullan b.1935
Dave trained for the Methodist Ministry at Trinity Theological College and eventually completed MA, and Dip Ed. He and Bev married just before his first appointment in Ngatea where their two children arrived. Dave served in three parishes and two administration/educational positions in the Church.
A crisis in their ongoing adventure with prostate cancer brought them to the Hibiscus Coast Residential Village near Auckland in 2014 but in early 2017 his prospects seem somewhat improved.
Dave can be contacted at
Dave’s general books
A Small Qango Dave’s account of the Home Budgeting Advisory Committee to the NZ Minister of Social Welfare, 1978-1988. This small committee had 120 meetings and ran seminars, consultations and training events. It functioned like to no other Quasi-Autonomous Government Organisation with a degree of independence that left some of the Head Office boffins breathless. It achieved huge financial support for family budgeting volunteers throughout the country. A5 978-1-877357-17-6 (print) or 978-1-877357-24-4 (E-book)
Attwood of Hepburn Creek. The life of Thomas William Attwood, who settled in the Mahurangi 1907, initiated the NZ Fruitgrowers’ Federation and represented NZ fruitgrowing interests in South America and UK 1923-1925 and then went on to found the NZ Alpine and Rock Garden Society. Lady Anne Allum of Auckland was his daughter. A5. 134p. ISBN 1-877357-01-4
In and Out of Sync. Dave’s life story up to 2013. Extracted from a more substantial text, this book presents Dave’s personal family background and professional life and ministry. Reviewers have said it offers a significant and insightful view of the Methodist Church of New Zealand in a turbulent and challenging time. A5 220p. ISBN 1-877357-10-3
John Roulston, Grazier of Calkill & Runnymede. With Val Mullan of Brisbane. Our attempt to trace the life of the mysterious and very distant relation from the Upper Brisbane Valley. He left a fortune to family members in four countries when he died in 1929. Most of them had never met him. A5. 122p. ISBN 1-877357-00-6
The Family Budgeters. An account of the first decades of the family budgeting movement in New Zealand. Dave is one of the last of the “steam budgeters” who were around in the early days. He co-convened the first meetings to bring together various groups from around the country to form the NZ Federation, was second President, and represented family budgeters on the Home Budgeting Advisory Committee of the Minister of Social Welfare 1978—1988. 132p. ISBN 1-877357-22-0 Also as e-Book.
The Saga of Wasp. Revised and enlarged collection of Dave’s short stories, 2014. Some include significant historical material from his early working life with the New Zealand Forest Service. But all were written mainly for fun. Also available as epub, 2015 180p ISBN 978-877357-12-X
John Roulston, Grazier of Calkill & Runnymede. With Val Mullan of Brisbane. An attempt to trace the life of our rather mysterious relation from the Upper Brisbane Valley. Roulston left a fortune to family members in four countries when he died in 1929. Most of them had never met him. Subsequent research has challenged some of the guesses made in this book. A5. 122p. ISBN 1-877357-00-6.
Books on church and ministry
Diakonia and the Moa. Although published in 1983 this book offers a distinctive understanding of the role of the “permanent” Deacon in the modern church. A5 170p ISBN 0-9597775-0-4 From: Trinity College, 202 St Johns Rd, Meadowbank, Auckland.
Ecclesion — The Small Church with a Vision. Reflections on the contemporary church and suggestions for revival of the small church in vigorous new styles of Sunday church life, mission and ministry. This book introduces the thinking behind the Lay Ministry Team concept developed for Methodists and Presbyterians in the Bay of Islands Co-operating Parish in 1992. It is being completely revised and updated for e-publication in 2015 as ISBN 978-1-877357-16-9. Print version is A5 140p 978-908815-08-5
Following the Dream With David C. Pratt. Two former ministers of Russell Methodist Church present memories that were shared at the Centenary and Closing in April 2013. They include an evaluation of the hundred years of this congregation that never had more than 27 members. And there are some clues about what can be learned from a very small congregation. Print version 180p. ISBN 0-908815-13-8 Also an eBook with Shakespir.
Fresh New Ways — Emerging Models for Mission and Ministry in the Local Congregation. Ed. Dave Mullan. Papers and reflections from a significant Australian conference, this book details (a) new structures for the church or parish and (b) innovative styles of ministry. A5 130p ISBN 0-908815-76-X From: Trinity College, 202 St Johns Rd, Meadowbank, Auckland.
Koru and Covenant: With J J Lewis and L.W. Willing. This book offers biblical reflections in Aotearoa and note some links between the Christianity of the 19th Century Maori and the religion of the Hebrew Scriptures. Warmly commended by authoritative reviewers and some years after publication still very relevant. A5 120p. 120p From: Trinity College, 202 St Johns Rd, Meadowbank, Auckland. ISBN 0-908815-60-3
Mital-93—The Church’s Ministry in Tourism and Leisure. Ed: Dave Mullan Presentations at an Australian Conference are supported by dozens of flax roots ideas that have helped. “A fascinating study… an enabling resource” (Pat Gilberd). 82p. 220p From: Trinity College, 202 St Johns Rd, Meadowbank, Auckland. ISBN 0-908815-22-8
The Cavalry won’t be coming. Dave Mullan. Introduction to the concept of Local Shared Ministry in which a team of volunteers spearhead the mission of the small church which is discovering that all the resources for ministry are held within its own membership. Now issued as e-book as ISBN 978-1-877357-18-3. Print version A5 134p, From: Trinity College, 202 St Johns Rd, Meadowbank, Auckland. ISBN 0-908815-99-1
As indicated, Dave’s books on church and ministry are now available from Trinity Methodist Theological College, Auckland.
In New Zealand there has been considerable interest in the large family of Moses and Catherine Stewart who lived on the Landahussy side of the Glenelly Valley in Northern Ireland in the late 19th century. The large family aroused memorable local interest as they ventured on the “footstick” over the small river to the church on the other side of the valley. Even in 2002 locals remembered their parents speaking of the family of more than a dozen walking in single file, with the bigger ones supporting the smaller children. In 2002 the slender bridge was still in place and is featured on the cover of this book. It is a symbol of the adventures that most of that family would later make in five far-off countries. Some descendants from New Zealand and South Africa have met many of the remaining distant relatives in the old country and visited identifiable home sites. Indeed it was in Northern Ireland that links were renewed between South Africa and New Zealand after a communication gap of nearly a hundred years. From about 1995, efforts were made to put together stories of the thirteen siblings. These promised to be of considerable interest. However, there was no marked enthusiasm for the task from outside New Zealand, so in 2004 a small print edition was published, attempting to tell some of the stories of the descendants of that large family. This has been of considerable interest to the modest number of Stewart relatives in New Zealand and Australia. This on-line version was created from that volume which is now unlikely to be re-published. The book includes brief notes on as many of the original siblings as could be identified and described. There are in-depth accounts of the three families who settled permanently in New Zealand. Matilda married Crawford Mullan and emigrated to USA, Australia and New Zealand during the first decades of the 20th Century with their three children. Andrew came out as a single man and later married in New Zealand. Mary married Robert Nicholl and emigrated to New Zealand in 1929 with four very young daughters. The descendants of these three families have put together the stories that account for the bulk of this book.