The eldest daughter of Joseph Hewlett and Esther Mary was named Eliza and was born in Sherborne on May 14, 1825. A dressmaker, she was the first Percy to marry after arrival from England. She and Alfred Renall exchanged vows.
Alfred's first wife had died soon after arrival in New Zealand. His marriage to Eliza was to be a fruitful one with thirteen children produced to join the three children from Alfred's first marriage. According to an early New Zealand publication, no fewer than four of these children were to meet with violent deaths - shot, burnt, crushed in a windmill and killed by a falling tree. Another child was to die at an early age from Typhoid Fever.
Alfred Renall had been born in Heybridge, Essex (a few miles west of Chelmsford) in 1813 and had emigrated to New Zealand on the "Martha Ridgway". This vessel had left London on July 5 1840 carrying 223 passengers. He was described as a "big man in voice, personality and character, with a startling sense of humour, without pettiness or bitterness."
Our first glimpse of the man is however not auspicious. A house fire in Petone on December 21, 1841, started when a glue pot he was heating (he was a builder) caused sparks to fly and destroyed or damaged the following:
a) The home and possessions of a seventeen year old widow whose husband had drowned a few weeks before.
b) The new house of the Petherick family who had moved in that very day.
c) Partridge and Company's old store.
d) Buchanan's bakehouse, the former Commercial Inn.
e) Coglan's Australian Inn.
f) Several other houses and outbuildings.
As far as beginnings go, this must have been one of the most spectacular!
Matching his new in-laws, Alfred was both builder and miller and in 1850 this "burly settler with a tremendous capacity for work and humour" completed the Taita Mill. This mill used the grinding stones salvaged from the Molesworth Mill that the Percys had erected in 1847 but had later been severely damaged by flooding.
In its turn, the Taita Mill was destroyed by the river in 1858.
It is not, however, for bricks and mortar and flourmills that Alfred Renall is to be remembered, important though these were. Rather it is for his entry into local and national government "politics". His very forthright and powerful support for the small holders and the landless of the new settlement in his dealings with bureaucracy, both provincial and national, were to put him into the limelight and to keep him there.
In 1851 he is reported as having chaired a dinner meeting at the Newry Barn in the Lower Hutt, held in honour of Sir George Grey, the Governor at that time. Alfred owned the adjoining Newry Mill. It seems very likely that in those early days of the settlement, there were few, if any, public halls to hold such gatherings. Remember that the Percy Mill on the Hutt Road would later be used for dances and concerts. Mills, and churches, seem to have been the only buildings suited to hosting even modest numbers. With the very severely conservative nature of the church in Victorian times, it would not have been possible to "toast the health" of the Queen and Governor in any church construction.
The granting of representative government to the country and the subsequent election of Provincial and General Assemblies gave the "little man" an opportunity to apply some pressure to sate his hunger for land. With the aid of other settlers, mostly notably Joseph Masters and Charles Rooking Carter, Renall was instrumental in petitioning Governor Grey to make land available in the Wairarapa for settlement.
In March 1853 the first meeting of the Small Farms Association took place and the following year settlements were inaugurated at the two sites where the towns of Greytown and Masterton now stand. Alfred chose his sections within the Masterton development, though he was also closely allied to the Greytown venture. He also doubted that the size of the original sections would be adequate for the new settlers to be economically viable.
These two ventures were a drastic departure from the previous attempts at land development in New Zealand. Previous to this, successive Governors had tended to allocate land to their favourites, and to the already wealthy, and had ignored the plight of those who were most in need.
A few years after settling in Masterton, Alfred constructed a mill on a lead from the Waipoua River which continued to serve the district for many years. He also immersed himself in the local political scene and was twice elected Mayor of Masterton (1880-81 and 1888-89) and was appointed a Justice of the Peace.
Another organisation securing his involvement were the Lands Trusts of Masterton and Greytown. In 1870 a bill was introduced into Parliament under the title "Wairarapa Trust Lands Management Act". A year later a Provincial Assembly Act separated the interests of Greytown and Masterton. On April 24, 1872, at the election of the first trustees, Alfred was elected. The Trust had then total assets of 165 pounds. Today they have multi million dollar assets. Alfred was also to serve a term as chairman of the organisation.
Besides his interest in local body affairs, Alfred also trod the stage at both the Wellington Provincial Council and the General Assembly of New Zealand. He was elected to the Provincial Council from two electorates, Hutt (1853-57) and, after settling in Masterton, from Wairarapa West (1866-73). During his second tenure, he was to perform the duty of Chairman of Committees (1869). Between the two terms at provincial level, he sat as a member of the General Assembly from 1858 to 1866.
There are a number of stories that give a good indication as to style that Alfred Renall brought to local body politics. Once story from a Masterton Borough Council meeting from July 10, 1879, has been recorded. It appeared that Alfred, who had some engineering talents, had overseen the laying of a footpath extension. A councillor McCardle intimated that it was eighteen inches out in alignment. Alfred then retorted, in no uncertain terms, that he considered this an insult to his integrity, especially when McCardle was "a newcomer to civic management." McCardle replied, "If you were a younger man, I'd throw you out in the rain." Renall, stripping off his coat, and remember he was some sixty-six years of age, replied, "Come on then!" Happily for the sake of decorum others intervened. McCardle then withdrew from the meeting.
Another story reported in the New Zealand Times of November 8, 1880, states that, in regard to the current mayoral election, "It is hardly worthwhile for Councillor Renall to come forward, as, if elected, it would necessarily be a barren honour …... let whoever be nominal mayor, this energetic Councillor will be the Actual one."
Another project that Alfred took umbrage to was the purchase by the Volunteer Fire Brigade of the steam engine "Jubilee" in 1887 (the fiftieth year of Queen Victoria's reign). The machine immediately became the focal point of controversy because of a poor record of serviceability and an inadequate performance. On several occasions Alfred Renall publicly "wished it in the Waipoua" which is of course the river that flows through the town of Masterton.
In a number of these endeavours, Alfred was backed by Messrs A.W. Hogg and J.J. Smith who held an interest in one of the daily papers in Masterton. As he had aided the two men financially to acquire this "interest", this may be seen as making sure you know where the "goal posts" are at all times.
Such was Alfred Renall, a big man, both in stature and in the deeds he carried out. He had another twist to the story to impart, however after the death of Eliza he married for a third time.
Rather than going into more detail about the resultant Renall family, the "inquisitive" reader should consult the excellent record of their already documented history for more information. Needless to say that like their Percy cousins, the Renalls have scattered throughout the nation.
What of the family of the third member of the family of Joseph Hewlett and Esther Mary Percy? Henry James and Sarah Percy were to follow the Renalls and trek from the valley of the Hutt across the Rimutuka Ranges to the valley of the Ruamahanga and form a new branch of the dynasty, the "Wairarapa Percies".
Percys in the Wairarapa
Before embarking on this section of the saga, we should perhaps introduce the reader to the area they were to settle, Te Ore Ore.
Lying a couple of kilometres to the east of Masterton, the Te Ore Ore district is bordered by the Ruamahanga River to the west and the Maungaraki Hills to the east. The Whangaehu River almost divides the plain in two. For many years Te Ore Ore had been one of the main centres of Maori development in the Wairarapa and its subsequent sale to the "Pakeha" was not without some controversy.
The Te Ore Ore plain was first seen by "Europeans" when government agents made their way inland from Castle Point early in the 1840's. They were soon to be embroiled in a dispute between Te Korou, the recognised warlord of the northern region of Wairarapa, and Simon Peter, a Chief of Turanganui. It was Simon Peter who wished to lease his lands to members of the Russell family who finally held sway. Eventually the dispute was resolved with land being both leased and purchased outright from the Maori. Early landowners in the district among the new settlers were the Russell, Thompson and Collins families.
Richard Collins took up his land in 1849/50. He was purported to have had some 5000 acres between the Waipoua and Ruamahanga Rivers but this rather overstated his holding, which was far less. He named his farm "Te Ore Ore". In 1874 he was to sell his land - at ten pounds an acre - to F.H. Murray and T.L. Thompson of whom we will see more a little later.
The Maori also embraced farming in the area, both in their traditional sense and in the newer European style. They remain sizable owners to this day. The crops of wheat they harvested were expected to reach some 25 to 30 bushels per acre. Compare this to what were later to be produced by the Percy family at "Ngatakoko".
As an early example of racial indifference, or, more likely, of social arrogance, the local Maori had been "shut out" of the Pakeha schools. The new settlers had objected to the presence in the schools because they considered the Maori children's "lack of cleanliness to be a major obstacle." Because of this, a school for the Maori children was built early in the 1880's.
Before this however, a dispute, that was to simmer away from 1863 to 1869, developed in the Wairarapa. Te Kooti and Hau Hauism began to infiltrate south from his base in the Urewera. Pressure began to be exerted all through the East Coast on runholders to surrender any disputed territory. The "Maori King" movement was born and its forces quickly gained strength. By 1865 some supporters of the Hau Hau were in the Wairarapa but gained little support from the local tribes.
To combat this threat, the government of the day stationed an Armed Constabulary in Masterton. What this group of six men expected to achieve by themselves is speculation. Fortunately, for their health and safety, a militia of some seventy men was raised to aid them. With the defeat of Te Kooti in 1869 the threat ceased.
About this stage the Maori community at Te Ore Ore began to dwindle, both in numbers and importance. The major centre for their development in the Wairarapa now concentrated at Papawai, east of Greytown. There was however to be one very interesting local Maori celebrity come to the fore. This was the "prophet" Paora Potangaroa. He enjoyed a degree of eminence for some time because of his teachings. This "religious" fervour soon dissipated though and many of his followers converted either to the Ringatu faith or to Roman Catholicism. The small church near the marae at Te Ore Ore bears testimony to this conversion and is still being used on a regular basis to this day. Still later many of the community embraced the Ratana church.
To reach Te Ore Ore from Masterton requires a traverse of the Ruamahanga River. Until 1875 the only method of crossing the river was by way of a ford. Obviously with the size of the river and the volume of water it carried, this was often a hazardous undertaking. After the bridge was opened, on January 14, 1875, the access for settlers, Maoris and their produce was greatly improved. Toll gates were also in evidence on the bridge until May 1883. This improved access to Masterton, plus the opening of the rail link to Wellington, greatly speeded up the transport of the region's agricultural produce to Wellington and its port.
As an aside to life in the district, there was a court case in 1883 to which the defendant was T.L. Thompson of Te Ore Ore. He was charged that, "He had not taken effective steps to destroy rabbits." The case was dismissed in the Lower Court but the Chief Justice upheld the appeal by the Crown. Thompson was later to sell some of his land to the Percy family. Whether or not it was still infested with rabbits is not recorded.
Now on with the story.
Henry James Percy was born on February 25, 1833, at Sherborne, so that on his arrival in New Zealand with his parents and siblings, he was only a few days shy of his ninth birthday.
Little is known of his early days in New Zealand, although there is mention of his being in partnership with his elder brother as millers (H & J Percy) in the Wellington Almanac of 1865.
His obituary recorded in the Wairarapa Daily Times of December 5, 1904, makes mention, "his earlier colonial career (including) having had experience on the Australian gold fields, having worked on several diggings in those days of excitement and rapid fortune making."
Whether or not Henry made a fortune, we do not know, but we do know that after meeting and marrying Sarah Bicknell in 1854, they moved to the Wairarapa in 1869 and took up land at Te Ore Ore. Did he go to Australia before or after his marriage, and did any gold field earnings contribute to purchase this land? No records survive to solve this puzzle and there are also no records to show that his father contributed anything towards this purchase.
What do we know about Sarah? She was born at East Chinook, near Yeovil in Somerset, on February 24, 1839. Her family also came to New Zealand aboard the "Clifton" so both Percy and Bicknell families would have been well acquainted with each other before arrival. When she married Henry she would only have been fifteen years old, her husband just twenty-one. Unlike some of her rather "severe" photographic images, Sarah was known to have a kindly disposition, liking nothing more than to be surrounded by her family and especially her grandchildren.
To get from the Hutt Valley in those days required a journey over the Rimutaka Ranges either by bullock cart or by Cobb and Co coach which had started twice-weekly services from Wellington to Masterton in April 1866. This journey by coach took ten hours and was to be the quickest method of transport to Masterton until the rail link opened on October 16, 1878. The rail journey cut the duration of the trip to four hours. Today's trains make the trip through the tunnels to Wellington in less than ninety minutes.
One point we must remember is that Henry's sister and brother-in-law, the Renalls, had preceded them to Masterton by some ten years. Their business ventures were flourishing and perhaps it was they who somehow enticed Henry and Sarah to cross the Rimutukas to seek out a new lifestyle.
We know that for many generations the Percy family had been woodworkers but there is no record of Henry having done so. Although they had been millers, Henry was to become the first farmer in his family.
Henry's obituary tells us that he was a "progressive and enterprising practical farmer" who gained an enviable reputation as a successful breeder of Lincoln sheep. He was also to be the first agriculturalist in the district to use the plough for cultivating the land. On these fertile soils he grew some magnificent crops of wheat with yields of sixty bushels per acre or more. This was double the yielded harvested by the local Maori farmers.
Where did Henry get his knowledge of farming from? We do not know if he read widely or was academically inclined. So how was he able to be so successful in so short a time or, as seems more likely, did he receive good advice from other like-minded farmers?
The land that Henry purchased was named "Thornton Park" and occupied an area astride the Masterton-Castlepoint Road. It was later to be enlarged by the acquisition of a portion of the T.L. Thompson property, rabbits and all.
A few photographs from those early days survive. One in particular from the 1890's shows Henry and Sarah with some of their children, Henry looking prosperous and content with his lot and Sarah looking determined if a little dour.
Henry died on December 4, 1904. Sarah with nine of the children - Alfred, Oswald, Frank, William, Kate, Lucy, Eunice and Ellen are mentioned as surviving family. Henry Jnr., Fanny, Mary and Lizzie had predeceased their father.
Before we move on, there are a number of interesting titbits that have emerged from the Wairarapa Archives.
17/7/1880 from the Wairarapa Daily. A daughter (Ellen) for Mrs J.H. Percy - born in Petone! Obviously the Percy family did not trust the hospital facilities in the provinces in those days either.
6/5/1881 Percy Bros. advertisement selling hay, chaff and oats.
4/5/1882 a Mr H.J. Percy charged in the local court with "moving sheep illegally."
17/12/1891 Mention of a house fire at the home of Henry Percy.
6/3/1900 W. Percy (William John) signified his willingness to join the Mounted Infantry Corps.
This was followed by
20/9/1901 William John Percy married Miss Eva Hoar of Wellington.
The next generation now stepped forward to carve out their own special niches in the history of the district.
Alfred, Joseph, Oswald and Frank continued to farm "Thornton Park" under the banner of Percy Brothers. Their expertise with the breeding of both Lincoln and Romney Stud sheep culminated when many of their prized specimens were exported to South America in the late 1890's.
In 1897 they branched out somewhat and purchased half of the "Bowlands" property at Bideford and by 1899 more purchases of land saw them owning all of the farmland from "Tividale" to "Rosebank" on the Taueru River. This area amounted to some twenty thousand acres, although it must be added that a good deal of this acreage was still covered with native forest. When added to the two thousand acres or so of the very fertile Te Ore Ore plain you realise just how important the family was in the farming arena.
Now onto the individual members of the family.
The eldest child of Henry and Sarah was Mary Agatha. She was born on April 23, 1855. She was later to marry Henry Fairbrother and bore him a son, Henry Percy Fairbrother. He in turn was to marry Annie Turner. Four children resulted from this marriage, Kathryn, Phyllis, Rosa and Rupert.
Mary was to predecease her father.
Fanny was the second eldest child of Henry and Sarah, being born October 10, 1857. She was later to marry into the Noble family.
Like Mary, Fanny was to die before her father.
The eldest son was baptised with his father's own Christian names. Henry Jnr. never married and is little mentioned in any of the literature of the farms. As he died in 1900 at the relatively young age of forty, it is assumed that he did not keep very good health during his life.
Alfred Joseph, the second son, was born in 1862. While farming with his brothers, he met and married Catherine Bridget Killery in 1904. Catherine was the daughter of Irish immigrants from Limerick who had settled, like so many of their countrymen, on the West Coast of the South Island.
After the death of his father, Alfred "took over" the homestead at "Thornton Park" while Sarah, his mother, shifted in to Masterton to live in Hogg Crescent.
When Sarah died in 1915 "Thornton Park" was divided into separate units so that the brothers could farm on their own behalf. "Ngatakoko" and "Ellesmere" were both formed in this manner with the former going to Oswald, while Frank was to farm the latter. For some time however, "Thornton Park", which still contained that area that became "Ellesmere," was to be farmed by Alfred and Frank.
Perhaps the stories emanating from "Thornton Park" at this time may have been apocryphal but where does the old Te Ore Ore saying about the "Mad Percies" come from? We know that they were rather partial to enjoying life, and still do, but was there anything really odd about them?
It was also in this era that the family "donated" various objects to St. Patrick's Church in Masterton, most notably the stained glass window. Of all the brothers at Te Ore Ore, Alfred, who had married a staunch Catholic, was considered to be the generous spender. Rumour has it that Oswald and Frank, both Protestants, had to help pay for the "donation" as Alfred was short of money at the time! Once again, we see that diversity between members of the family in their choice of religions to worship.
The union of Alfred and Catherine produced five children, four of them girls. Mary, who married "Mick" Ingley, had two children - both girls. Rosie, the second daughter, married Abel Kerr but had no issue. Kitty married Bob Whiteman - one son and two daughters. Agnes, the youngest girl, never married, while the only son, Alfred Jnr, died in 1931 aged twenty-three and unmarried. Thus the second male line of the Wairarapa Percy family died out.
"Thornton Park" continued to be operated as a family unit after the deaths of Alfred Snr (1926) and Catherine (1924). Under the eye of some astute estate managers it remained a fine example of the art of both arable and livestock farming. Managers such as Jim Finlay continued to produce abundant harvests of oats and barley for many years. Alas "Thornton Park" and its neighbour "Ngatakoko" are no longer farmed by the family and are now the domain of market gardens, orchards and lifestyle blocks.
The name "Thornton Park" still lives on in the farming scene of New Zealand however. After purchasing the farm the Chittock family retained the name and set up a thoroughbred horse stud. Even when they onsold the property and moved to the Manawatu they retained the name for their new venture. Since then they have shifted again, to the Waikato, and the name went with them. However, the present owners of the block that contains the original homestead at "Thornton Park" have also retained the name for their holding.
The third son of Henry and Sarah was born in 1864 and for a number of years assisted in the farming operations at "Thornton Park". Baptised Oswald Joseph he was thirty-six when in July 1900 he married Ada Elizabeth Symonds, a widow with two children. Five more offspring, all daughters, were to grace the marriage.
On the "block" subdivided off from "Thornton Park" Oswald set up the farm that came to be known as "Ngatakoko". He also purchased a smaller parcel of land from the Te Tau family on which he built the imposing homestead situated on the Masterton-Whangaehu Road. Oswald and Ada were to live there for the rest of their lives.
"Ngatakoko" was the main cropping block for "Thornton Park" even after the brothers had taken up their separate titles. The very fertile, but well farmed, land produced enough to keep twenty-five horses in work at any one time. Horses of course to pull ploughs that cultivated the soil and that pulled carts laden with grain and wool. No tractors back then, only sturdy, reliable Clydesdale and Suffolk Punch draught horses. These horses were cared for in paddocks and stables situated near the homestead where they were no doubt well fed on the farm produced grain and chaff. Cropping was on such a scale that even as late as 1934 some forty workers were employed to bring in the harvest.
But why the name "Ngatakoko"? Well, if we break down the name, "Ngata" can mean appeased or satisfied and "Koko" means to take up with a shovel. Together then they would mean something like satisfied with the efforts of the shovel. Well the family were well satisfied with their efforts at cultivation, so the name "Ngatakoko" appears to very aptly describe the farm.
Oswald and Ada were both to die in the early 1930's. Of their five daughters only three married, Elsie, Jean and Lorna. Una and Dorothy never married but for many years remained at "Ngatakoko", albeit separately from the main homestead. They died in 1979 and 1980 respectively. The eldest daughter was Elsie. She married Bob King and they raised two sons. She died in 1963. Jean married Cyril Varco and Lorna wed Austin Donovan, but both died childless. As we see, the third male line of the Wairarapa "clan" also died out.
"Ngatakoko" homestead was sold by the family in 1950. This gracious old home has changed hands several times in the intervening years, but has recently been undergoing a restoration that will see it restored to its former glory. It deserves nothing less.
The farm itself is also now completely sold with only a small proportion of it being farmed in the traditional manner. "Lifestyle" blocks are the norm now. One wonders if those who till the soils of both "Ngatakoko" and "Thornton Park" today really appreciate the toils and travails of those that preceded them. You also ponder if they appreciate the skills employed in those former days that have enabled the land to be left in such a condition that abundance of harvest is still the norm and not the exception.
Kate Alice Eunice
The third daughter of Henry and Sarah was born in Lower Hutt in October 1865. Baptised Kate Alice Eunice she accompanied her parents to the plains of Te Ore Ore in 1869.
Of her early life we know very little. The first mention of Kate that we do have is dated July 29, 1896. This was an account of a double wedding at which Kate and her younger sister Lucy were married. The bridegrooms were Charles Spencer and John Donovan respectively.
This review of the wedding was printed in the "Wairarapa Star". "A pretty double wedding took place this morning, and was witnessed by a host of friends. The brides were the third and fourth daughters of Mr Henry Percy a well known and highly respected settler of Te Ore Ore. Miss Kate Percy was married to Mr Charles L. Spencer of Mangamahoe. The bride, who was given away by her father, was dressed in pretty grey shot tweed trimmed with grey velvet and with hat to match. She wore a handsome gold bangle, a gift of the bridegroom who was attended by Mr Joe Percy.
Both ceremonies were performed by the Rev. J. McKenna. The wedding march was played in first class style by Mr J. Kearsley. The wedding presents in both cases were numerous and useful. A number of guests were entertained this evening at the house of Mr Percy.
Mr and Mrs Donovan go to Wellington and Mr and Mrs Spencer to the Bush on their honeymoon."
They don't write them like that any more do they! A similar entry for the Percy/Donovan match also appeared.
Charles Spencer had been a law clerk before he moved to the Wairarapa as a farm cadet. He was the son of a Chemistry Professor at London University whose other sons included one who met a rather gruesome end. Trained as a civil engineer this second son had gone to New Guinea during a gold "rush". Unfortunately he fell foul of the natives, was murdered and, apparently, eaten!
Kate and Charles raised four daughters to maturity, all of whom were born in Masterton. Two sons died in infancy. In 1912 they shifted domicile to the Hawke's Bay where they farmed at Waihau Station, near Rissington, west of Napier. They were still on the farm when Kate died in 1928. Charles then moved from the farm and into Napier - just in time for the earthquake! Here he lived with his late wife's sister and her husband, Eunice and Leonard Richards. Charles died in 1941.
The eldest daughter of Kate and Charles was also to be named Eunice. Born in 1898 she married Daniel Butler from Dunedin and they had three sons, John, Daniel and Herbert. Eunice was to suffer the tragic loss of her husband when he was killed in action on October 31, 1918 during the Battle of Sambre. This death is made even more tragic when you realise that the Armistice ending the war came into effect only eleven days later.
Eunice was later to remarry John Johnstone Herbert and they produced two more sons, David and Maurice. Eunice died in 1964.
The second daughter was Zita Agnes. She married George Bilby, a Greytown born man. They had sons, three of them, namely Arthur, Neil and Mathew.
Next in line was Grace Ellen. She was born in 1901 and married a boy from "The Bay", John Joll of Hastings, in 1927. Once again, true to the Percy tradition, they produced daughters. Eileen, Jocelyn and Esmene's families still thrive in the sunshine at Hawke's Bay. Grace died in 1969.
Kate's youngest daughter was Olive. Born in 1903 she too married into the Joll household, to William Joll. Yet again the offspring were daughters, Joan and Marie. Olive was to die in 1983, her husband having predeceased her by sixteen years.
Joseph Hewlett Thomas
We noted earlier that the Percy Brothers had purchased land in the Bideford area in the 1890's. It was to be the lot of the fourth son of Henry and Sarah to farm these purchases and with his descendants to do so for close to a century.
Joseph Hewlett Thomas Percy was born at Wellington in 1868, the year before his parents moved to Masterton. His formative years were spent with his parents and siblings at "Thornton Park". He is known to have attended St. Patrick's College, Wellington, in 1887 after which he returned to work the farm in association with his brothers. In all probability he was at St. Patrick's for a few years before 1887.
In 1898 Joseph met and married Ellen Killery who was the sister of Alfred's wife, Catherine. Ellen at this time was the schoolteacher at Bideford. There she taught school in the church of St Francis of Assisi which had been built in 1875 and was to be used as the area school from 1879 to 1899. The church stood in the grounds of the "Waterfalls" property which the Percy family had only recently acquired. As well as the church, there was a boarding lodge usually referred to as the Accommodation House. This was to be regularly occupied by itinerant stockmen, drovers and harvesters, as in those days it occupied a strategic position on the main road just over the Taueru River.
Joseph and Ellen produced six children, three of each! They had begun their married life in a "whare" and it was to be some eleven years later in 1909 that the "Tividale" homestead was built. The builder was another well known Masterton identity and respected tradesman, Charles Daniell. The price - £1198.0.0
In 1925 Joseph gained control over all of the Bideford Block after purchasing the shares of his brothers. On this huge area of about twenty thousand acres he concentrated on farming sheep but he also had a keen interest in the thoroughbred racing industry. Among the better performed horses he owned were "Ruby King", "Royal Arrow" and "Gay Boy" (obviously Joseph was well ahead of public opinion when he named the latter horse). He was a regular attender at the racecourses of the Wairarapa (Opaki, Clareville and Tauherenikau) and at Trentham in the Hutt Valley. He, like his brothers, was also involved with the Red Star Rugby Club. During 1926 the house at "Dursley" was purchased from the Miller family and Joseph and Ellen were to make it their family home.
All was not "beer and skittles" however and it is thought that, as a result of large losses on the share markets of both Australia and New Zealand, Joseph found it necessary to sell a large block of land. This was the "Depression" era and many other persons were also to be subjected to difficult, almost intolerable, times.
"Tividale" was one of the areas kept after the sale and on those two thousand acres Joseph installed his eldest son, Clarence, as manager. In 1945, upon the death of Joseph, the title was transferred to Clarence's ownership.
Clarence was another who enjoyed the "Sport of Kings" and all things rural. For many years he was on the committee of the Masterton Agricultural and Pastoral Society. Another more fascinating interest for a farm lad was his enchantment with radio and mechanics and in the technology involved in them. For those living in relative isolation the radio was vital for up-to-date information and, of course, for amusement.
In his later years Clarence and his wife, the former Clarice Ingley, whose brother "Mick" had married Mary Percy, retired to Raumati South. "Tividale" was then managed by their only child, Patricia, and her husband, Murray Kennedy. The farm was eventually sold in 1989.
The "Waterfalls" and "Dursley" properties were left to Joseph's second son, Willie Henry. "Waterfalls" remained a sheep farm but "Dursley" was converted into a dairy unit which at its peak was milking some 250 cows, a large unit for those days.
Willie had married Noelene Wilson in 1925 and from this union three sons were raised, Joseph, David and Anthony. Willie liked nothing more than horse-riding and was noted as a fine horseman. When competing on his favourite horse "Steel Bell" he was rarely beaten.
It need not be stated that Willie was also a keen follower of "racing" and in his later life was honoured with life membership of the Wellington Racing Club. He received the same recognition from the Masterton Club. Other clubs in his sphere of activity included the Wairarapa Racing Club and the Wellington Golf Club. Besides the farm, his business interests saw him in directorships of both the Masterton Dairy Cooperative and Tararua Farm Products Ltd.
While on the story of sporting clubs, there is another one of which Willie was justifiably proud. He was a keen golfer and was still enjoying tournaments into his 70's. With a number of his friends the Bideford Golf Club was first established in 1931 on the "Waterfalls" property. The club house for this venture they sited between the church and the homestead. Many an ale from Burridge's Brewery in Masterton was consumed and many a tale told. Golfers, like fishermen, are apt to elaborate and embellish the standard of their abilities so no doubt many of the tales told were of the "tall" variety! Golf was to be continued by Willie's sons with David, in particular, and Anthony reaching high standards.
Yet another sport popular in the Bideford district was tennis. With the three farms all hosting full-sized grass tennis courts, weekend tennis parties became rather popular and very competitive. It is a trait of many of the Percy clan that they are not averse to victory if only for the elation of winning the "bragging rights".
Neither "Waterfalls" nor "Dursley" remain under the Percy banner today. They were sold in 1959 and 1971 respectively. Willie Henry died in July 1988 after having retired and moving to live in Masterton.
There was a third son of Joseph and Ellen. Henry was born in 1905 but unfortunately died in 1919 after a sporting accident while attending St Patrick's College in Wellington.
The three daughters of Joseph and Ellen all married and left the district. Eileen married James Goldie Brown, a teacher at Wairarapa High School in Masterton. They later settled in Auckland where James was to become Principal of Mt Albert Grammar School. He also earned renown as a writer of academic text books that were used throughout the country. The five children from this marriage all distinguished themselves in the academic field. Eileen died in 1986.
Monica, the second daughter, married Marcus Wilson and moved to Wellington where Marcus was an auctioneer. From this marriage there were to be six offspring of which only one was to marry.
The youngest was Joan. She married George Craike and produced an only daughter. They resided in the Hawke's Bay where George worked as an "agent" for Williams and Kettle, the stock and station agency. George won no little credit as a sportsman of quality.
One last word on the properties at Bideford. We know that the St Francis of Assisi church at "Waterfalls" was erected in 1875 and that about 110 years later Susan Percy, the great-granddaughter of Joseph and Ellen was married there. What is not so well known is that the "Dursley" homestead was also considered to be on consecrated ground and could also be used for religious services.
Now, onto the remainder of the family of Henry and Sarah.
Frank and Ethel Percy
We now arrive at one of those peculiarities that seemed to have dogged the name of Percy for centuries. This was the marriage of a second generation New Zealand born Percy from the "Wairarapa Line" to a third generation New Zealand born Percy from the "Petone Line". In other words, the marriage of cousins.
Frank was the fifth son of Henry and Sarah and from an early age showed a great affinity to the workings of the soil. He very soon became known as the "brains" behind the "Thornton Park" sheep stud. He was a gifted stockman and became extremely proficient in matters to do with the breeding of stud stock and their presentation for sale.
Ethel Alice was the fourth child and third daughter of Joseph Henry and Ada Percy from Petone. She was therefore the great-granddaughter of Joseph Hewlett and Esther, while her husband was their grandson.
They were married in 1906, Frank then aged thirty-six, his bride just twenty-one.
With the need to provide land for another family to farm, a second block, after "Ngatakoko", was sub-divided off "Thornton Park". This farm came to be called "Ellesmere" and was to be the base for Frank and his family. A good number of years later "Ellesmere" itself was to be further divided with Colin Percy farming the homestead block as "Ellesmere" and his brother Erl farming the other section as "Bushview". "Bushview" was later to be renamed "Kahikatea Farm" and it is now the only portion of the Te Ore Ore and Bideford farms remaining in Percy hands.
Like a number of their relations, Frank and Ethel were to be productive breeders. Two daughters were to be followed by six sons. Frank was only to survive the birth of his youngest child by two years and died in 1924.
Unfortunately for the farming operation, Frank's demise saw most of the accumulated history of his farming methods and the operational records disappear. As was normal for those times, Frank, along with most farmers, had kept few written records, relying instead on his own memory.
After Frank's death, "Ellesmere" was farmed as the Frank Percy Estate. Assistance from Alfred and Oswald helped greatly and with additional aid from various managers and advisors the farm was able to be effectively operated until such time as Colin and Erl were of age to take over.
As noted before, Ethel was a number of years younger than Frank and she was therefore a rather young widow at age thirty-nine. Although she was reasonably "comfortably off" by the standards of those days, it cannot have been an easy task to raise eight children aged two to seventeen.
The two eldest children, Kathleen and Jack, had finished college (Erskine College and St Patrick's, Wellington, respectively) at the time of Frank's death. The other children of school age were being educated at Te Ore Ore School alongside many of their cousins.
As the boys grew older, they all helped out on the farm and, as noted before, Ethel was soon to be joined by her sister, Coralie, who had also recently been widowed. Coralie aided Ethel in the raising of the family by helping to prepare meals and other general housework.
Another of her siblings, "Wiri", and his wife Mary lived nearby with "Wiri" working as a farm hand on "Ngatakoko". This also provided solace and comfort for Ethel in those early days of widowhood.
Ethel's interests turned to gardening and homemaking for her family and although not socially inclined herself, she was very hospitable and a warm welcome was accorded to all who visited. Food was always plentiful on her table and nobody was turned away but stayed to enjoy the delights of traditional home cooking. Family and friends seldom departed empty handed and on Sundays in particular the homestead rang with laughter and good cheer.
Ethel continued to live at "Ellesmere" where she died in 1950. Universally known as "Auntie Ethel", she was a kindly, concerned lady who always had the time to care for others. All of her children talked of a magical, carefree childhood at "Ellesmere" under her benevolent tutelage. Mind you, she must have had the patience of a saint to abide with some of the high jinks that her brood got into. More on that later.
One point we should mention is that Ethel did remarry but that this marriage to Harry Stratford was not destined to last and a "rupture" soon occurred.
As the boys of Ethel grew up they made their own fun. There were always plenty of cousins to play with - and to get into trouble with. They played tennis at the Te Ore Ore Tennis Club, which at that time had a very large membership, and with the Te Ore Ore Rugby Club. They later became very staunch Red Star Rugby Club players and supporters.
Other interests included the regular dances at the Te Ore Ore School, where their cousin Arthur "Bill" was always in demand as a pianist, and the beginning of a lifelong shooting habit. Swimming in the numerous deep holes of the Ruamahanga River remained popular for a number of years.
You may recall that we mentioned that Ethel's brother, "Wiri", and his family lived nearby. When their five sons united with those of Ethel, the perfect mix for trouble was complete. Stories of their pranks and escapades would fill a book by themselves, but we will have to limit ourselves to just a few. "Dad and Dave" had nothing on these lads. In fact Steel Rudd could quite easily have based his famous book "On Our Selection" on them!
Here are a few examples.
The boys were playing in the hayshed around 10 a.m. when Ian, "Wiri's" second oldest, fell and hurt himself. When the boys arrived home for tea 5.30 in the afternoon their mother, Mary, asked where Ian was. "Oh, he fell of the haystack so we left him there." They went out and collected Ian, took him to hospital where he was admitted with a broken leg.
"Wiri" came visiting "Ellesmere" on horseback. After a few drinks and a meal he went outside. Moments later he came in through the front door of the homestead on horseback and rode down the passage, through the kitchen and out the back door.
The boys discovered that the local County Council Foreman had a girlfriend. They also discovered his empty car along the local lovers' lane, "The Avenue". Knowing that the foreman was already married, they proceeded to wreak havoc on the car in the full knowledge that the driver would not be able to explain the damage without compromising himself.
Ethel got Colin and Erl to build a fowl run to extend the fowl house. Loading up the tractor and sledge with all the gear needed to do the job, they really tore into it with a will. When the job was finished, Colin got Ethel to inspect their handiwork. Ethel's reply, "How on earth are you going to get the tractor and sledge out?" They had built the run around them!
Ethel and Peter were gardening at the front of the house. Keith meanwhile had been away courting Cecelia, his future wife. Arriving home later that night on his bicycle, he threw it onto the lawn, rushed inside and informed all and sundry that someone had hit him over the head when he biked through the gateway. What transpired was that the rake had been left leaning against the gate and that Keith had ridden over its tines. The handle had of course sprung up and hit him on the head!
Peter built a new home in York Street and had a "house warming" party. Knowing what his relations were likely to get up to, he decided to have the drinks out in the garage. The night wore on and Keith, thought by some to be the quiet one of the family, decided that the greenery needed mowing so he got Peter's new motor mower out. But the lawn wasn't good enough for Keith - he took the mower inside the house and mowed the new carpet because "the roses on the carpet needed pruning!" Needless to say Peter was not very amused but some of the others thought that it was time that Peter was on the receiving end.
No wonder the locals of Te Ore Ore called them the "mad Percies!"
We will now move on to the individual members of Frank and Ethel's family.
The eldest child of Frank and Ethel was Kathleen. Born in 1907, though never of robust health she soon blossomed into quite a beauty. In this sphere she was not alone among the daughters in the Percy clan. Educated at the Island Bay Convent in Wellington, she soon caught the eye of a prospective suitor and in 1928, at the age of twenty, she married Ernest Mackley. Ernest hailed from the deep south and was employed by the Shell Oil Company.
They were to have two children, Trevor born in 1928, and Shirley born on Boxing Day 1931. Tragedy was to strike the family when only eight days after the birth of Shirley, Kathleen was to die. The young widower, only thirty-six, then had to try to raise the two infants.
It was, of course, an almost impossible task for Ernest. The grandparents of the children stepped into the breach, with Trevor being raised by his paternal grandparents, whilst the baby, Shirley, went into the care of Ethel. It will be remembered that Ethel's youngest child Peter was then only nine years old so it was like having another child of her own, albeit with a bit of an age difference.
Shirley was doted upon by her cousins, but especially so by her grandmother and great aunts, Esther and Coralie. She was later to marry Heathcote Lee, a near neighbour of the family from Te Ore Ore. Alas, Ethel was not to survive to witness the marriage. Shirley and Heathcote continued to farm land at Te Ore Ore for some years before moving to Masterton as their own children married and moved on to other endeavours.
Trevor was to marry Marion Siemonek.
John Everest Percy was the eldest son of Frank and Ethel. Born in Masterton and educated at Te Ore Ore School and St Patrick's College, Wellington, Jack, as he was called, was only sixteen years of age when his father died.
Although used to the farming way of life, Jack did not wish to make a career "working the soil" and gained employment with the Wairarapa Electric Power Board.
His marriage to Violet Lusty was followed by the birth of four children, two of each. It was unfortunate that this union was deemed not to survive and circumstances decreed that a separation would become inevitable.
Jack was to relocate to Eketahuna while Vi remained in Masterton raising the family under somewhat difficult, constrained circumstances.
Both Jack and Violet are now dead. Their children are scattered throughout the North Island. Bob farms near Rotorua. Kathleen remains in Masterton, while John shifted to Auckland. Susan, the youngest in the family, also moved to Auckland but she too has passed away, at an age much too young.
The second daughter in the family was Barbara Elizabeth but more often known as Betty. She was a much more robust girl than her elder sister and as of the writing of this book she remains in reasonable health though well into her eighties. Betty also was educated out of the district for her secondary school years at the Lower Hutt Convent. This had followed her primary schooling at Te Ore Ore.
In what was becoming a Percy trait, she also married a local Te Ore Ore boy. He was Alan Morris of the family for which Morris's Road is named. Three children were to result from this marriage, Gavin, Robin and Elizabeth.
Following a short term at Te Ore Ore after their marriage, Betty and Alan moved to "Flat Spur", near Blairlogie, situated further east of Te Ore Ore toward the coast. Here Alan worked for the Williams family. From there they went to Rangitumau but with the children reaching school age, Gavin was already at college, they decided to move to a farmlet in Nursery Road, Masterton. To supplement the family finances, Alan also worked at the Waingawa Freezing Works just south of Masterton.
On being offered a farm manager's position at North Road, Greytown, another move eventuated. Many happy years were to be spent there. One of Alan's great joys was horse racing. Another event he looked forward to was the weekly visit to Pat Spratt's hostelry. More tall stories no doubt.
Betty, on the other hand, liked nothing more than tending her garden, though she always had time for church affairs being a member of the Vestry. Betty also was a long standing member of the Women's Division of Federated Farmers.
Alan and Betty returned to Masterton in 1970 where Betty still lives. Alan died a number of years ago.
A footnote to the life of Alan. It appears that he had the nickname of "Tosser" which at first glance does not seem to be particularly flattering. Evidently there was a fierce rivalry between the families of Betty and Alan and her brother Erl and Nancy, Alan's sister. This rivalry was always at its most heightened during the cricket matches held at Erl's farm, "Bushview". Alan, it transpires, had a most peculiar bowling action which resulted in the ball being "tossed" in a most uncricket-like fashion. Hence the name.
Compiler's note: Since the compilation of this record Betty has herself passed away.
Shirley, like his eldest sister, Kathleen, was not of robust health. Born the second son of the family, it was not to be a long life for him. At the age of twenty he died after contracting pneumonia.
His name however lives on. Kathleen's daughter was named for him and his cousin Arthur, "Bill", named his eldest son Shirley in memory of a courageous battler.
The fourth born of the boys was Colin Trevor. Of a short rather stocky build, Colin was to become a very competent stockman, always taking pride in the standard of his livestock. With his younger brother Erl, an accomplished ploughman, they farmed "Ellesmere" for the family estate. Working well as a team, they produced high yielding stock and excellent crops of wheat, barley and oats. The grains they were to harvest themselves.
After his marriage to Eileen Munro in 1936, he took his bride back to live at "Ellesmere" where his mother and some of the younger siblings still lived.
As farming was classified as an essential industry, both Colin and Erl were exempted from military service during World War Two. It was during these years that the farm diversified to include dairying as well as sheep and cropping.
After his mother died in 1950 Colin continued to farm "Ellesmere" with Erl for some five years under the name of Percy Brothers. Then they dissolved the partnership and split the farm into two portions. Colin retained the homestead block and the "Ellesmere" title, with Erl naming his "Bushview". A few years after the division, Colin opted to return the farm to its original sheep and cropping function and discontinued the dairying experiment.
Colin sold "Ellesmere" in 1960 to Jack Williams, later to be the Labour Party M.P. for Wairarapa, and moved north to a farm at Tiraumea, east of Eketahuna. The family moved closer to Eketahuna and finally they came back to Masterton where for some time they ran a small café/restaurant in the main street. Both Colin and Eileen died within two months of each other in 1973.
Of their seven children, Judy, Warren, Kay, Michael, Colin, Lester ("Bill") and Marilyn, most have remained in the Wairarapa.
Colin enjoyed life to the fullest. Always jovial, never holding a grudge or having a bad word for anyone, he liked nothing more than good company, good food and good drink. Stories abound with regard to the milking of the cows carried out with the aid of friends or relations suitably fortified by a small keg or a few flagons of beer. Other stories of duck shooting expeditions with Jim McKenzie from "Maungahina" where they had shot their limit bag of ducks before the Gladstone or Taueru Hotels had opened their doors at nine o'clock in the morning. They were both good shots, with Jim McKenzie being closer to expert than good!
Perhaps one story more than anything typifies Colin's attitude to life. One night after a Guy Fawkes bonfire at "Ellesmere" Colin was sitting in his favourite chair. With a glass of beer in one hand and his shirt opened wide exposing the hairs on his chest he was extolling to anybody who would listen his philosophy on life. His eldest son Warren, in the best traditions of Percy pranks, then set alight to the hairs on his father's chest. Colin's response was to put the glass of ale down, pat out the singed hair, look his son in the eye and then say to him, "You're bloody mad!" He then picked up his glass and calmly rejoined the conversation. Not too much bothered our Colin.
His wife, Eileen, was another who, although not outwardly robust, contained an inner strength that saw her through trials that would have severely tested others more hearty. Mind you, with some of the things Colin got up to, you needed that inner strength! Like her mother-in-law, she was a generous host and a good provider for her family and friends.
Nothing remains of the original "Ellesmere" homestead as some years ago as a result of an electrical fault it burned to the ground. Much of the land itself has gone the way of both "Thornton Park" and "Ngatakoko" with lifestyle blocks now the norm.
Arthur Erl was the fourth son in Frank and Ethel's family. Born in 1915, Erl was to have a great love for the land and this endeared him to farming.
We have noted how he and Colin worked "Ellesmere" and then decided to divide the farm. Erl gained that area containing the large stand of native bush, hence the name "Bushview".
Before this however, Erl had done one very important thing. He had married. Once again a Percy married another from Te Ore Ore. This time is was Nancy Morris, the sister of Alan Morris. Both before and after this marriage, Erl had spent time working at the McKenzie "Maungahina" farm. He then joined Colin working "Ellesmere". At this point in time, the married couple lived in Morris's Road, but later moved to Harley Street in Masterton.
The time spent travelling each day from town to Te Ore Ore soon began to encroach too much into the working day, so it was decided to build the house in Watson's Road. This house remains the homestead of the farm today.
After gaining his share of the land Erl had soon, by dint of hard work over long hours, turned a rather wet block into a high yielding dairy unit. Barry, his eldest son, moved into banking and left the farm. Joe, the second son, worked the farm after leaving college. Ross also worked on the farm after Joe married before moving onto his own property. Erl and Joe then formed a partnership and operated "Bushview" together for some fifteen years. Erl and Nancy then moved to Masterton but continued to travel to the farm daily until he retired and relinquished control.
That is not to say that he has lost interest in the property. He is still an enthusiastic visitor and remains willing to do any odd job that he deems should be done.
Nancy supported Erl through good times and bad and was never one to shirk hard work. She was yet another with a generous heart and a kindly disposition. Nancy died in July 1978. Erl was to marry his second wife, Margaret, a few years later.
When Erl acquired his share of the original farm he could then indulge himself in another of his great passions, namely ploughing. Not just ploughing to boost production in the land, but ploughing as an art form, as a sport. This passion has rubbed off on Joseph.
Joe was also to make changes to the farm. For starters he changed the name to "Kahikatea Farm" in deference to the numerous large white pines in the district. He then increased the size of the holding from 84 hectares to 170 hectares by way of purchasing the farms formerly balloted to "rehab" farmers, Frank Brassell and Eugene Conaghan.
A far cry from the original Te Ore Ore holdings, "Kahikatea" with its six hundred milking cows is today the only representative part of the original "Thornton Park" remaining in Percy hands 130 years after the initial purchase. With a 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th generation involved at the moment in some capacity, the hope is that it will last for a good many more years.
We have mentioned two of Erl and Nancy's children, Joe at Te Ore Ore and Ross now farming near Dalefield. There are three others. Barry, the eldest, lives in Auckland, Beverley is married and on a farm near Martinborough, while Janice and her husband live in Masterton. Compiler's note: Since compiling this record Erl has sadly passed on.
After Erl in the pecking order came Keith Joseph. Another of the family educated at Te Ore Ore School, Keith did not move very far for his first job. After leaving school he was apprenticed to the Masterton County Council as a motor mechanic at their Te Ore Ore service centre next to the Ruamahanga River bridge.
In 1938 Keith was to marry Cecelia West and they produced three children, two girls and a boy. Three years later Keith was "called up" for Army service but because of illness he was not sent overseas but instead spent the war years in the Home Service Unit.
At war's end he joined Malmo Motors for two years before entering the employ of Wright Stephensons where he gained his formidable knowledge of the intricacies of tractors.
The early 1950's saw Keith start his own business when he opened the Robert's Road Garage specialising in the repair of farm machinery. Now that garage could tell some stories.
A final move in 1958 saw the opening of the new garage in Chapel Street South, "Kuripuni Motors". Cars had taken over from farm machinery at this juncture and early in the 1970's he gained the franchise for Izusu and then Datsun/Nissan.
Keith always gave the impression of being the quiet, studious type of person, but looks can often be misleading. This was one of those instances. Besides a penchant for singing in the bath - it is not recorded what the others in the house thought of the musical ability of this amateur Caruso - Keith had a liking for parties. Whether it was dancing with brooms or using the family cat to imitate bagpipes, Keith was often to be found in the midst of great merriment.
Later in life Keith and Cecelia ("Ceelee") found a new love - travel. In particular they formed an affinity for Norfolk Island, visiting there on a number of occasions with family and friends.
Keith's sudden death in January 1993 came as a great shock to all, moreso as his cousin, Arthur ("Bill") died the following day. In a very strange, but cruel, twist of fate, "Bill's" wife, Annie, was to die only weeks after Cecelia in 1996.
Of Keith and "Ceelee's" three children, Marie and Jeffrey live in Masterton, while Josephine, recently widowed, is at Pirinoa, south of Martinborough.
The youngest member of the family of Frank and Ethel was Geoffrey Laird, commonly called Peter.
Like Keith, his elder brother, Peter was drawn to the motor trade. Not for him the grimy overalls and grease besmirched hands however. Peter far preferred the smart suit, the highly polished shoes and the often misleading patter of the car salesman.
In 1953 he married Dorothy Anne Schofield with whom he raised two children, both girls. After a number of years in Masterton, they moved to Wanganui where Peter remained in the car "game" and where he still lives. Dorothy died in 1983.
Peter really enjoyed a good prank. When Erl and Nancy built their new home at "Bushview" they had a house warming party. All the family and friends arrived. During the evening Keith and Peter decided to get the cows in so off they went on Erl's new motor bike. Peter had just purchased a new suit. By the time that they returned he was covered from head to foot in mud and muck. Needless to say, Erl was not impressed with their help, nor was Dorothy. When Peter got home he removed the suit and left it where it fell instead of soaking it in water. They never got the stains out!
That concludes the story of the family of Frank and Ethel, but before moving on to the youngest son of Henry and Sarah, there are two quotes that summarise Frank and Ethel's family.
The first is from Peter who, in response to our "plea" for family details wrote in the column regarding his death, "not known yet!" That typifies Percy humour.
The second is that very well known saying of Ethel to her sons, "You boys will be the death of me."
Lucy and J J Donovan
Lucy was the ninth child and fourth daughter of Henry and Sarah. Family records show the birth place as being Lower Hutt. Her parents had settled at Te Ore Ore three years previous to this, so obviously it was thought prudent for the confinement to take place in an area more "civilised" than Masterton.
On July 29 1896 she married John Joseph (Jack) Donovan at Masterton in the double wedding which also included the marriage of her elder sister, Kate. Jack had been born at Masterton in 1868 and was the son of Irish immigrants who had recently settled there.
Lucy and Jack were to raise a large family themselves, with six daughters and two sons produced.
The family settled at Kopuaranga and lived at the end of the road now called Donovan's Road. There they farmed a property called "Woodleigh" and used it as both a dairying and sheep raising venture. The farm is today under the care of their grandson, Patrick Brophy, who still milks cows under the name "Woodleigh".
Lucy was to die at the young age of forty in 1912. Jack on the other hand lived to the ripe old age of eighty-four before passing away in 1952.
Thanks to the recorded memoires of one of the daughters, Agnes, we are able to get a glimpse of what life was like on the farm and in the community at the turn of the century and on into the 1920's.
The first of the family that we shall look at was christened Nora Lucy. Born in 1900 she, like the rest of the family, helped around the farm milking the cows by hand or skimming the cream, often while her father sat smoking his pipe and supervising!
Nora married William Edward Kjestrup, the son of a Danish/Swedish immigrant couple who had married and settled at Mauriceville. Nora and William were to bring forth five children, three sons and two daughters. One son was fated to die very soon after his birth.
The surviving children, Noelene Lucy, Terence Percy, Judith Marie and Graeme William George all married and settled down to raise families. Only Terence survives to this day to proudly "oversee" his family's achievements, especially in the agricultural field. His sons today strive to match their father's fine standards in the production of quality stock, especially Angus cattle. The name of the family stud farm "Kay Jay" evokes memories of strong, well conformed and healthy cattle.
The Kjestrup family also have a strong tradition in sport, mostly notably in rugby, but more recently in that other Percy stronghold, golf. Mind you, as with most families, there are golfers and there are golfers!
The next of the family to catch our eye is Agnes Josephine. She was born in 1904 and was to die ninety-one years later in 1995. Agnes was known to be a little reserved - she called it shy - but we suspect that this shyness may have been a "smokescreen" to hide what was a slightly abrupt manner. Underneath however she was kindness personified. She was never one to seek the limelight but was always there to give her unstinting support whether it be to the local school, hall or social club.
Early in her life she had also helped with the chores on the farm and would later recall journeying into Masterton once or twice a week to help deliver cream to a local vendor. This was by gig, not by motor vehicle. Some of those frosty Kopuaranga mornings would not have made this "open air" journey any more pleasant.
One story about Agnes bears repeating. She and her sisters were chopping chips of wood for the fire when one sister accidentally cut off the tip of one of Agnes's fingers. The family "foxy" caught the piece of finger and made off with it! Agnes was taken on horseback to see old Dr Hosking. There was no anaesthetic available then and when the doctor trimmed the stub of the finger Agnes responded in a very direct manner. She kicked him in the stomach! What the "foxy" did with the piece of finger is not recorded.
Agnes married John Francis (Jack) Brophy who, like the Donovan family, had hailed from Ireland, from Lismolin in County Tipperary in fact. Together they were to continue to work the family farm, "Woodleigh", until 1964 when Jack died. Agnes was to continue to manage the property for a few more years before relinquishing control to her son, Patrick.
Agnes, as noted before, was a great supporter of the Kopuaranga district. She was a very loyal member of the local Country Women's Institute and served for some time as both secretary and treasurer. It was only shortly before she was to die that she ceased attending. So loyal was she to things Kopuaranga that it would have been a brave person indeed who may cause Agnes to miss any of the important functions in the district.
Agnes and Jack raised three children to adulthood, Josephine Mary, Kathleen Gladys and Patrick John. One other son, James, died at just two days of age. Josephine, Kathleen and Patrick have all married and live in Masterton, Wellington and Kopuaranga respectively.
We now move on to Mary Agatha. She was another one of those shy children in the family whose actions whenever visitors went to "Woodleigh" would be to hide away out of sight.
The family would often recall the days of the early 1920's when there was a rabbit plague. The men would trap the offending rodents and bring them back for skinning and gutting. The carcases would then be sent by rail to town where they sold for 1s 6d each. Good money in those days - and good eating. The Donovans therefore had not only sheep and cattle dogs, but rabbiting dogs as well. That's where the "finger snatching Foxy" came in useful no doubt. Besides the dogs, ferrets were also used to hunt the rabbits.
But back to Mary. She was born in September 1906. After a childhood at Kopuaranga, she met and married David Daily from Ashburton. They settled in Lower Hutt where they raised a family of ten, of which eight - Nora, Helen, Pauline, Ann, Mary, Gabrielle, Rosalie and Christine - were girls. The two sons were Michael and David. Nora, Helen and Ann have since died. Their mother died in 1959, their father in 1973.
The fourth daughter of Lucy and Jack we look at was born in 1907 and given the Christian names of Huia Raphael. Huia was considered to be quite a beauty in her time. Mind you, so were her sisters and many of her cousins.
From an early age Huia showed an artistic talent not seen in the greater family with any regularity. Her cousin in Petone, Arthur Welch Percy, was however also considered to have artistic talent above the normal, being a very good painter in oils.
Huia's talent was to manifest itself later in life when her artistic works became the subject of some critical acclaim. That they have stood the test of time is also a tribute to her talents and her paintings are still regularly showcased around the country.
We must accept that her parents certainly knew what they were up to when they had their daughter christened. The Huia is a particularly splendid looking native bird, while Raphael was one of the most eminent of the "Old Masters".
In 1938 Huia married Robert John Lindsay and they were to bring into the world an only daughter, Susan Jane, who died too young at the age of forty in Sydney, 1987.
After their marriage Huia and "Bob" settled in Lower Hutt where Bob died in 1988. Huia, who is now approaching her 93rd birthday, is the oldest surviving member of the descendants of Joseph Hewlett and Mary Esther Percy. What's more, she today is resident in Petone where those original settlers made their first home in New Zealand.
Another daughter of Lucy and Jack Donovan was Eileen. She married Wilfred Wilton and bore him eight children but one, Kevin, was to die soon after being born. The other seven, Rae, Gordon, Genevieve, Colleen, John, Ian and Peter have all married and are spread throughout the nation.
No doubt Colleen also had stories to tell about her childhood of how her mother in the very early days did the family washing down by the river; of collecting dock leaves and cooking them as you would cook rhubarb; of getting pocket money of 2s 6d - not a week, not a month, but a year - given out on Masterton Show Day when all the family joined many of the other rural families for their one "real" day out.
The last daughter of Lucy and Jack that we encounter is Gladys. Like all of her siblings, she attended Kopuaranga School where the highlight of the year, not only for the school but also for all of the district, was the school picnic. Everyone attended. There would be lolly scrambles and races for the children to go with their pet lambs and calves judging. The parents no doubt would have "competed" in nail-driving and chain stepping contests and everyone would eat too much and, probably, go home with sunburnt bodies.
There would also have been the local dances and the annual Kopuaranga Ball. Memories of having the hall almost empty out around nine p.m. when the train, "the Wildcat", was due from the north. It would give a toot, the men would then go down to the station to collect their kegs of beer. Masterton of course was "dry" back then! Now that was what we call real service!
Gladys was later to marry into the Laing family.
The oldest son in the family was Joseph Jnr. He was not to follow his father's footsteps and stay on the land. His name was to be made in the transportation sector. "Donovan's Horse Floats" were to be seen all over the North Island as they shuttled their valuable cargoes of thoroughbred horses to and from race meetings and stud farms.
Joseph married Vera King, with two sons, Keith (1920) and Raymond (1934) gracing their home. Keith was to continue the family business after the death of "Joe" while Ray worked as a hydrologist both in the Wairarapa and in Hong Kong.
The final member of the family of Lucy and Jack Donovan we visit is the younger son, Percy Harold, or Patrick as he became more known as. He married Ruth Smith and fathered seven children - Judith born in 1932, Bryan (1934), Patricia (1938), Constance (1942), Geoffrey (1943), Thomas (1945) and Margaret (1948). These children are all married and between them produced thirty-six grandchildren for Patrick and Ruth. Quite some record.
Eunice and Leonard Richards
Born in 1878 and baptised Eunice Lizzie Esther she married Leonard Ernest Richards. A daughter, Roslyn, was produced from this union.
The Families of William John Percy
William was the youngest son of Henry and Sarah. He was born in 1878 and his wife a year later. In his younger years, William helped his father and older brothers on the "Thornton Park" farm before moving to Bideford where he was employed at "Bowlands".
It was while he was at "Bowlands" that his marriage took place. Here however we strike a problem. Some say he married Eva Rennie, others say Eva Hoar. The Wairarapa Archive records it as Eva Hoar so that will do us.
However, she was now Eva Maude Percy and with William they set about their married life. Three daughters, Nellie, Gertrude and Eunice, were followed by the only son, Oswald, last born in 1912.
In 1918 William purchased an 1110 acre farm property in Alfredton called "Wharekoa" from the Rutherford family. Within two years Eva had died at age forty-four. William was left with the very difficult tasks of running a farm and the raising of a young family. It was then decided that the girls of the family should attend St Mathew's Collegiate School, then in Church Street Masterton, and they were among those students who were the first to board at the school.
William then married Lucy Gadd in 1922 and fathered a further family of three, but more on them later.
The year of 1923 saw William leasing another 330 acres of land adjoining the Moroa Reserve. Now this Moroa is also in Alfredton and should not be confused with the Moroa situated just south of Greytown. He also had the right of purchase for this land but that did not eventuate as around 1930 he disposed of the Alfredton holdings and purchased a sixty acre dairy farm at Matahiwi near Masterton.
Lucy, or Daisy as she was more likely to be called, was one of a family who moved from Bundaberg in Queensland about 1910 to settle in Wellington. With the move to Matahiwi the family had to adjust to the more "regimented" life of working a dairy farm. That did not diminish the enjoyment they got when relations and friends visited or stayed with them however. Records still show the Percy and Gadd cousins delighting in the bucolic lifestyle of Matahiwi.
In 1950 William and Lucy moved into Masterton itself. William was obviously not keeping the greatest of health - he was of course seventy-five - because two years later he died. Lucy survived him for twenty more years, dying in 1972. During their lifetime they liked nothing more than to listen to the radio, especially to rugby and to parliament.
There may have been some "bad blood" between Lucy and the children of the first marriage and a few incidents tend to support this assumption. For instance, Gertrude left home and went to live with the Harman family before marrying Harry Seymour in 1924. That was to be the only wedding paid for by the family. The other two girls were to provide their own! Oswald was to leave the family home in 1926, aged fourteen, to go to live with Harry and Gertrude. Evidently his leaving was not of his choice! Some of the scars of those days are still apparent.
Gertrude and Harry set themselves up at "Rakanui" on Summit Road, also in the Alfredton district. Harry was also a shearer and was considered to be a bit of a perfectionist even through he was left-handed, a rarity in those days. Each year he declared that, "This was to be the last," but he was also there the next year. Once talking to the local roadman he said that it was hard to give up as it was a profession. The roadman thought otherwise and replied with a caustic, "It's a disease. You can't let go!"
Harry was also into local body politics. He was a member of both the Eketahuna and Akitio County Councils at the same time - the boundary ran through his property! As well as this, he still had enough time left to spare to be a member of the Wairarapa Hospital Board.
Gertie and Harry only had one child. Ross, like his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, farms in the Wairarapa.
Nellie, Gertie's sister, also decided to keep things in the family as it were, because she married Harry Seymour's brother, Ted. They were also attached to the land for so many years. Years that included the raising of six children, Robert, Madge, Allan, Bruce, Edward and James. They were another family to enjoy their sport, with Allan in particular impressing as a solid, reliable forward for the Red Star Club. Like their parents, many of the family found a living on the land. As for so many other of the Percy clan, they are scattered throughout the length of the nation today.
The third daughter, Eunice, worked for the Algie family at Alfredton for many years before meeting and marrying Bill Malmo in 1932. A keen hockey player, she played on many occasions for the Bush Representatives. Bill was also a keen and noted sportsman, representing Wairarapa in that exciting, but rather dangerous, sport of grass track cycling.
Another man attracted to farming, Bill enjoyed stints on farms at Tinui, Whangaehu and Te Whiti. In later years however, it was the fishing at Castlepoint that attracted his leisure time. Three daughters resulted from this marriage and they also have branched out throughout the North Island.
Eunice died in 1988, six years after Bill's demise.
Oswald, as mentioned, was the only son. After his somewhat premature departure from the family home, Os, as he was universally called, found his niche on the land as well.
After marriage in 1940 to Gwen Wainscott, he was to serve overseas in the Armed Services. On his return from the hostilities, Os "struck" a Rehabilitation Block on the Annedale Road at Tinui which he subsequently named "Oreti".
Red of face, it must have been the sun, and hale of spirit, he was a well respected and very popular identity in the Tinui area. Another man extremely fond of sport, especially rugby, he started a tradition in the area that has been continued by his son and grandson to this day. The East Coast Rugby Club may not have survived without their sterling efforts to the extent that only a few years have passed since both Os's son and grandson, John and Mark, played together for the club's senior fifteen.
Rachel, John's daughter, is another sporting type. This time, like her Aunt Eunice, a hockey player. She has played, and still plays, a prominent role in the Manawatu Representative side and must have been considered as a likely national team member.
We now pass on to the family of the second marriage. As we know, there were three children, William, Joyce and Ruth. William was the oldest and, like his stepbrother Os, served overseas during the war. A member of the 22nd Battalion, Bill was also a family member to "strike" a "Rehab" farm. This property was located on Anderson's Line to the northwest of Carterton and had been part of the Booth Block.
Bill's marriage to Patsy Westhead resulted in a son and daughter. They continued to farm their property until the early 1980's when they retired to Albert Street in Masterton and where Patsy still lives. Bill died in 1995. Their children remain in the Wairarapa.
Joyce was the eldest girl from the second marriage. She was born at Eketahuna and spent her war years as a "land girl." After marriage to George White they moved to Richmond, Nelson. George had served overseas too and had had the misfortune to spend a length of time as a Prisoner of War in Germany. On their move to Nelson, George resumed his trade as a joiner, a job he loved and was to carry out for many a long year, fifty in fact.
Their three children are now married and are all resident in the Nelson/Marlborough area. Like her father, Joyce has retained a lifelong interest with horses, both competitive and recreational and now also enjoys getting out into the open air for an exercise a little less severe, walking.
The youngest of the family of William and Lucy was Ruth. Now Ruth was a one off. The mould was broken after she was born. She was what you would call a very down-to-earth person who would not fit well into today's politically correct atmosphere.
One thing that Ruth was not averse to was hard work and regularly toiled in the paddocks. The compiler of this record can recall many days spent with his father Arthur ("Bill") and Ruth stooking and stacking oats both for the Percies and Peacocks at Te Ore Ore and also the Paytons of Akura. You can be assured that Ruth did more than her fair share of that hot, heavy and dirty work.
Ruth had married Phillip Adam from Wanganui. In the early 1950's they had worked for Ted O'Connor at Blairlogie's "Rorakorka" before moving to E.C. White's at Matahiwi as farm managers. In 1962 they branched out and began to work on their own account as itinerant contractors, shearers and fencers. To quote their son, John, "Jacks (Jills?) of all trades."
Like her father, Ruth loved rugby, whilst her garden was always lovingly tended and, no doubt, was always bountiful. Ruth, alas, like so many other "good 'uns" is no longer with us.
Phil is today living in Auckland with his son.
Before finishing this story on the family, we reflect on a few words that Joyce White wrote, "Though our parents did not have a lot of money the children had a wonderful life with a lot of love shown to us from both of our parents."
There is one last story about the Percies in Alfredton. Bill Percy was not the first Percy to settle in the area.
In 1890 two brothers, Foster and Len Percy, had won ballots for land there - Foster one hundred acres and Len two hundred. These two sturdy characters were sons of a Christchurch bootmaker who had fallen on hard times. The boys therefore had to leave the family business.
They came north to the wilds of the Wairarapa where they succeeded in their aspirations to farm the land. After marrying they very soon became rather prosperous and well respected members of the community.
Descendants from these two families still farm properties at Ihuraua and Ngaturi, both near Alfredton. As far as is known, they are in no way related to our family.
So after that sidetrack, let us get back to the main stream as it were and discuss the remainder of the family of Henry and Sarah.
Ellen and Robert Smith
Ellen Maud Percy was born in 1880. Nellie, as she was usually called, married Robert Smith and bore him five sons, Henry, Eric, Robert, William and Cyril. There were also four daughters. Linda married into the McKay family, Olive became Mrs McKenzie, Lilian, and Margaret who married a Banks.
Robert Smith was in the newspaper and printing trade and worked for over fifty years on the local Masterton newspapers. Rugby was a passion with Robert.
After the death of her father in 1904, Ellen cared for her mother until Sarah's death in 1915. Ellen was not however to enjoy the fruits of a long life as in 1921 she died at the tragically young age of forty-one.
To round out the story of the family is the saga of Elizabeth or Lizzie. She was the thirteenth child born.
Those with a superstitious bent can ponder over the outcome of this birth. Lizzie died aged 6 months. As they say, unlucky for some.
Percy Reserve - Te Ore Ore
Although the Percy family had been resident in the Te Ore Ore district for 130 years, no recognition had been accorded them. When the Masterton District Council decided in their wisdom that the "Avenue" was to be permanently named the ire of the Percy family was raised.
The new name was to be "McKinstry's Road" after the McKinstry family whose land adjoined the road. Much of their land had been purchased from the Ngatakoko Block.
Antony Percy, a great-grandson of Henry and Sarah, became a persistent and vigorous protestor. Joe Percy was another upset at the decision but the council would not budge although they did indicate that the Percy name would be used in the district at some future date. With the reunion nearing Joe wrote to the council suggesting that a 'vacant' plot of land be so named in recognition of the efforts that the family had provided for more than a century. The council set aside the parcel of land on the Masterton side of the Ruamahanga River Bridge. Honour was achieved.
There is one unusual point about this however. The land set aside for the reserve which came into being in January 1999 was never Percy land!
One last thing before leaving the Wairarapa. Just north of Castlepoint on the coastline is a hill named Mount Percy. No, it is not identified with any of our family, nor the Northumberland connection, but there is a family association.
One of A.W. Renall's great "enemies" was John Valentine Smith, the owner of Mataikona Station. They had served together on various public bodies including the Town Board and the Trust Lands Trust and they had clashed! Renall appeared not to favour Smith's rather lofty manner, while Smith resented the force and drive of Renall.
It was this Valentine Smith who coined the name for the "mountain" from his brother Percy Smith, who was the vicar of Windsor township near London.