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Early Memories of Bluff, New Zealand

Marjory Irene Heaton (adopted by Bessie Boberg) born in Bluff, NZ on July 16, 1920

Part of the Family Tree can be found at the end of this story. This is Marjory's memories written in 1992. She is about to celebrate her 88th birthday on July 16, 2008.

I was legally adopted by my grandmother Bessie Boberg (Elizabeth Louisa)(Newman) nee Palmer. My great grandmother Emma Louisa Fry (Palmer) nee Holmes who lived two doors away in Foyle Street, Bluff.

My parents, Bertram Lewell Heaton and Mabel Irene Heaton nee Newman, my three brothers Bertram Lewell Jr, [called Bert or Lewell], Percy William [called Bill] and Derek Haig (who died when only 7 years old and is buried in Bluff Cemetery) and my two sisters Dorothy Mabel and Joan Mary, were still living at Bluff but later they all moved to Invercargill.

I remember very little of my early childhood but have since been told that Dorothy and Joan were fiercely jealous of me because Granny Boberg gave me rice pudding, boiled eggs, chicken etc. Trivial reasons you might say, but this was during the depression. There were five of them to be fed and cared for, little or no money to feed and clothe them. This led to Dorothy and Joan taking me for a walk in a sulky, pushing it into the water at Argyle Beach and running off to leave me there. For how long I don't know until someone rescued me, but it is more than obvious that I survived - after all I am writing my memoirs!

Another day while supposedly "minding me", they allowed a swing at the playground to come back and catch the corner of my left eyebrow where I still have the scar. Soon after my parents moved away.

The only memory of my brother Derek Haig Heaton is my throwing the wheel of a toy wheelbarrow in the air and it landing on Derek's head.

Derek died from pneumonia after being left in a draught from an open window in Kew Hospital [Invercargill]. He had had a successful operation for appendicitis. Born 24 October 1917, died 16 November 1924, aged seven. My father [Bertram Lewell Heaton] was devastated. He used to sing:

"When He cometh, when He cometh
To take up His jewels
All His jewels, precious jewels
His loved, His own
Like the stars in the morning
His bright crown adorning
They will shine in that glory
Bright gems for His crown."

In 1925 I started school at Bluff Public. My first teacher was Miss Dulcie Lovatt (the Infant Mistress - aged then about 50, at whose home gate we would wait for the privilege of walking to school with her. It was she who made me change from left to right hand, thereby upsetting my brain!!! One embarrassing time when I didn't realise you could ask to "leave the room" I poured the contents of my bladder on the schoolroom floor, so was made to go to the woodshed and get a shovel of sawdust to put on the "puddle" and had to sit in wet bloomers - with elastic in the legs, up which I had to put my hankie. Previous to this the handkerchief was pinned to my dress with a safety pin. We wore aprons to school, printed on small blackboards and used slates and slate pencils - never lead pencils. I walked a mile to school, home and back for lunch then home again in all kinds of weather as only experienced in Bluff. I wore black boots. Occasionally on wet days, of which there were many, we were picked up by Mr Tommie Doyle, the then Member of Parliament for Southland, and later Mayor of Bluff. I remember the car had celluloid windows and had to be started with a handle, a couple of bangs and off we'd go picking celluloid as we went.

We played Oranges and Lemons, Farmer in the Dell, Tig, Hide the Hankie and skipping. We collected cigarette cards depicting Trains, Nations of the World, Dogs, Flags of the World, Film Stars, English Cathedrals, Flowers etc. I remember my fifth birthday party and still have a Royal Doulton cup and saucer given me by Auntie Sarah Berry - not a real relation just a friend of my grandmother

On most Saturdays I was taken by train to Invercargill and always seemed to go to Todd's Saleyards where Grandma usually bought live chickens, hens and ducks. It was one of my duties to feed these, morning and night, wet or fine. Before going to school I had to make porridge for them made of pollard and hot water which I mixed with a large wooden spoon. The ducks were dirty stinking things and I had to put gumboots on to get the eggs. I enjoyed the bantams as they were self-sufficing. My grandmother sold the eggs to neighbours and the grocer for one shilling a dozen.

Grandma had a friend, a Mrs Moss, who was a dressmaker. When she cam to visit she asked if I was still wetting the bed and if I was she would threaten to sew me up on her sewing machine. I think that cured me. I usually hid somewhere when I knew she was expected. She was a tall gaunt woman who always wore black dresses and black stockings.

My Grandma had several friends in Invercargill and as Prohibition was in force there, they came to Bluff for most weekends. On Saturday nights they played Cribbage and I was allowed to stay up and play the gramophone for them. You can imagine what the records were like. I can remember " The Prune Song", "Big Rock Candy Mountain", "Annie Laurie", "Granny's Highland Home", "The Vacant Chair". My Grandmother taught me to play Crib and I learnt to count which was a great help for my Arithmetic at school.

Vera Dickinson who was two years older than me was brought up by "Auntie Jessie"[came to stay?]. The process was reversed on alternate weekends. Auntie Jessie's husband was away for weeks on end working on the Marion Tunnel at Lake Te Anau and Auntie Jessie used to clean out the Regent Theatre every day. Some Saturday mornings while she was doing the cleaning, Vera and I were allowed to watch whichever film was showing that night. I think it was called a "trailer" but have never been able to work out why as it can before - not after as one would expect. In the foyer of the Regent Theatre was Rice's confectionery shop. How Vera and I stood and drooled at the Bulgarian Rock, Coconut Ice. Nut Fudge, Butterscotch, Frisco Kisses and more.

The picture theatre showed "Movies", as this was before the "Talkies" arrived and Norman Bradshaw played the piano while the picture was on, increasing volume when it was exciting and softly when it was spooky. All the dialogue was printed on the screen.

The grocer shop was called Nicol Bros. (Brothers) and one of the ladies in the grocery department Queenie Stalker was still alive aged 90 (as of December 1992). I met her again at the Bluff School Jubilee. Once a week she would call at Grandma's and get the grocery order which was delivered the same day and there was always a large bag of boiled lollies for free. Nicol Bros also sold haberdashery, toys etc and every Christmas the toys were displayed at eye level but always behind a chicken wire so shop lifting must have been carried on all that time ago.

One day Grandma had taken me to Invercargill and somehow or other "she lost me" and I remember being taken to the Police Station where I waited disconsolately until she came to collect me.

I always enjoyed being taken to the Invercargill A & P Show. Of special interest was the Butter Carving and the free samples of Nugget polish, which always had an Indian Feather headband, and mini packets of Creamota.

In 1930, Sir Joseph Ward, once Prime Minister of New Zealand, died and his funeral cortege I remember very well. It was a perfect day, the coffin was covered with the Union Jack flag and candles flickered all the way up Bann St to the cemetery - not a breath of wind. Perhaps I remembered this event more so because we were given a school holiday.

When I was about 8 years old I was allowed to travel on the train to Invercargill every second Friday after school provided I wore a beret and carried gloves. Grandma saw me off each time on the train. I was always met by my dear friends Jessie Herrett and her niece Vera.

Vera and I used to go fishing off Bluff wharf and one day we ran out of bait. As a ship called the Paua was berthed across from us, and the cook came out the the galley with his white coat on (that's how we knew he was the cook) so we asked him to give us some bait - he threw an onion at us. Even though it fell into the sea it was useless.

One impressive sight was when the three NZ Shipping Company vessels were berthed in a line. They all had two yellow funnels and were named "Rangatira", "Rangatane" and "Rangitata". When the Indian boat "Nebada" came in people always said "Lock up your chooks" as the Indians would come ashore after dark and steal the fowls. When the boat came carrying guano from Seychelles Islands there would be clouds of dust when the guano was unloaded, especially if there was a southerly wind blowing.

Vera had a Pomeranian dog which always came with us to the children's playground nearby and I feel so ashamed when I recall I took it up the slide and pushed it down. I can still hear the scratching of its paws as it slid down, fortunately with no ill effects.

Auntie Jess and Vera lived in Gala St near which was the Water Tower. Some poor soul jumped off it one day and drowned in the water. Soon after a wire fence was put around to prevent any further disaster but eventually the top structure was removed, declared unsafe.

Every New Year's Day a regatta was held on Bluff Harbour - this was always a highlight as crowds of people came from all the over Southland and made it a picnic day. The hotels were full to the doors as Invercargill was still a prohibited area.

"Crystal" brand ice cream had a mobile shop which came to Bluff. I bought an Eskimo Pie and wasn't old enough to realise that it was made of ice cream and not meat. I put it in the pocket of my best dress with good intentions of taking it home to Grandma. When I arrived home "it" wasn't there but evidence of where it had been was all over my dress.

Once a year we went to the Wharfies' Picnic at Riverton, Winton, Tuatapere - somewhere different every year. Sack races, three-legged, relay, skipping races etc. and always lot of super prizes. We always went by train and on the journey we were given apples, lollies and bottles of drink and lucky tickets.

Because of the long twilight we were allowed to play outside until after 9pm. We played rounders, tennis, hide and seek, knuckle bones and hop scotch.

My grandparents had a fish and oyster shop in Gore St and spoke of oysters being fourpence a dozen and mutton birds eightpence.

[There is an old photo in the Maritime Museum in Bluff showing the shop with name W. G. Newman - Oysters. Their fishing boat was called Mountaineer.]

My great grandmother, Emma Louisa Fry earned extra money by doing washing for the officers of the visiting ships, mostly white shirts. She had a copper outside and a mangle. She made her own starch and ironed with irons which she heated on the coal range. She lived in a small cottage which I was made to scrub out every Saturday morning and she gave me threepence, honestly. She had a glass jar in which she kept Oddfellows. large peppermints which I used to steal but they tasted more like mothballs. She kept a Bible on the table beside her which she always opened when anyone knocked at her door "in case it sis the Minister" she said! She always wore a black apron which was held in place with elastic stitched at one end and button at the other which went into a buttonhole. Best of all though, she had a piano with candlesticks and after I had scrubbed the floors (for three hours and my hands were therefore clean!) I was allowed to play it. One of her friends agreed to give me piano lessons and I was overjoyed but sad when soon after she left to live elsewhere.

Both Granny Fry and Granny Boberg (mother and daughter) were very partial to a glass of ale and it fell to me to go and get it for them. I had a cane doll's pram and they would put two "peters" they were called - glass bottles holding a quart - in my pram, then my stuffed doll and a quilt and off I would go to the back entrance of the Eagle Hotel. It had been previously arranged that I ask for the cook who was their friend and that she would take the "peters" and get them filled in the bar. I used to take her a bunch of parsley. Sometimes I had to ask "Do you have any spare dripping?". This I had on bread after school if I was hungry. This arrangement worked well until one day at the top of the Presbyterian Hill I was coming home with my pram and one of my friends asked if she could see my doll and in my embarrassment I let go of the handle and off went the pram down the hill - broken glass and frothy beer everywhere. Guess I was punished but I can't remember.

From where I lived in Foyle St I could see the wharf and each morning I would try it identify the boats which had berthed overnight. Great was the excitement when the Wakouti came in - she had extra high masts, but more than that, once a year she would bring the animals of Wirth's Circus. I'll never forget the elephants being lifted out of the hold in a sling - all legs and trunk swinging in mid-air. We were allowed to feed the animals on the grass. One minute I had a sugar bag of rotting fruit and the next and elephant had swung his trunk and grabbed it, sack and all. I ran home in fear of the elephant dying. Maybe it did, maybe it didn't. I was scared of the police coming to get me.

About 1932 I was allowed to go to Timaru on the train which left Invercargill at 7am. It was arranged that I spend the night in Dunedin to break the journey. I was very proud to be met by my Uncle Ernie Newman who was Station Master at Dunedin at the time. He wore a hat with gold braid and a three quarter length coat. He lived at 39 Oxord Street, South Dunedin and although he as Station Master he didn't have a car and he "doubled" me on his bike. He had four daughters, Celia, Nancy, Rosalie and Dulcie, who later was Matron of the Christchurch Public Hospital and eventually later Chief Superintendent of Christchurch Hospitals.

Once a week Standards Five and Six travelled on the rain to Invercargill, boys to woodwork and girls to cooking. The boys would make stink bombs and let them off in their carriage. The girls would arrive back in Bluff minus their Panama hats or berets as they had been thrown out the window of the train. If you forgot to bring your cooking cap, apron or note book you were not allowed to cook but had to clean all the stoves. The teacher's name was Miss Lousely - always nicknamed Lousy.

Abraham Wachner was the Mayor of Invercargill and had an upstairs Shoe Shop. He gave away sheets of blotting paper, about 9 inches by 3 inches on which he advertised. We often went up these stairs to ask for some blotting paper as we used "real pen and ink" at school then. When he saw us coming up his stairs he would pick up a pair of farmer's boot and throw them down at us. He had a steel plate in his head due to First World war injuries.

The longest day of my life was when I went to Invercargill, supposedly to keep an appointment with Mr Frost the Dentist. I wandered round the shops until the train left for Bluff and never did keep that appointment.

When my grandmother, Granny Boberg, died in 1934, my sister Dorothy and my mother came to Bluff. Dorothy took me to Argyle Beach while the funeral was on and I had to wear black stockings. Within 3 days I was on my way to live in Timaru. I had to leave all my childhood treasures behind - two of which I would have loved to have given to my grandchildren. One was a doll made of cloth with the clothes patterned on it. I named her Bessie after my Grandmother. The other was a beautiful book names "Sunshine for Showery Days". Each story was illustrated with an etching - about 18 inches by 12 inches - and I would love to find a copy of it in a second hand bookshop.


William Newman - son of William Newman, Fisherman
b. 1817, Gosport
m. February 4, 1844, St Helier, Jersey
Mary Samson - daugher of William Samson, Stonecutter, of Cermo, Cornwall
b. February 28, 1822 Guernsey

George Holmes (Servant) of Tipperary, Ireland,
b. c1817
m. Eliza Angel (daughter of John Angel and Mary Ann Holcombe
married at Farleigh, Hungerford on December 12, 1810
b. July 12, 1812 (baptised) at Farleigh, Hungerford, Somerset, England

Emma Louise Holmes (Granny Fry)
b. June 21, 1844 Maybe from Bath, England?
d. October 1, 1931 at Bluff, NZ
m. 1 Thomas James Palmer
m. 2 Robert Cecil Fry
d. May 8, 1923 (buried) Bluff, NZ

Elizabeth Louisa Palmer (Bessie Boberg)
b. March 13,1862 at Jersey?
d. April 29, 1934 at Bluff, NZ
m.1 Henry George Newman (Sailor)
b. August 16, 1846 at Jersey
m. September 15, 1884 Jersey

Ernest Newman (Stationmaster Dunedin)

Mabel Irene Newman
b. May 27, 1890 Bluff, NZ
d. June 2 1961, Timaru
m. Bertram Lewell Heaton
b. June 14, 1884 Prestwich, Cheetham Manchester, England
d. April 15, 1960, Timaru

Percy Robert Newman
b. 1989

m.2 Axel Euson Boberg

Mary - Bill Struthers?