Spectrum 172. Ngamatea

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Tono kōrero mai

Recollections of life on a high country station in the central North Island. Mrs Winifred Roberts, wife of the one-time owner of the central North Island's largest sheep station, recalls life and characters there with feeling and considerable humour.

Mrs Roberts recalls incidents from her years at Ngamatea (from 1933-1966), a 120,000 acre high country station in the central north island which she and her husband Lawrence ran.

Predominantly tussock, they progressively brought it in to pasture. The isolation of the station meant supplies would be brought in by the truckload from Hastings, a tonne of flour, half a tonne of sugar, two tonnes of potatoes etc. They had a continuous supply of vegetables from Colin, the gardener, who stayed with them for 21 years. [Jim Mills] in Napier would order chests of Brown & Co. tea direct from Ceylon for them.

Winifred then tells numerous tales of people who worked on the farm. Geoff, a station hand who was with them for 12 years, was a well-known character in Taihape. He was very clever and Winifred recalled that he thought in rhyme and frequently spoke poems. She reads one of Geoff’s poems, “No Sale”.

A fellow nick-named Cactus, who got about on a pony, had a poor sense of direction and would tie knots in rushes as direction markers. The other farm workers would go out of their way to prank him and change the knots to cause him to get lost. Cactus featured in another tale about the passing of Old Jim Crowe.

Gordon, one of the head hands, told her a story of an interrupted card game on a bright moonlit night. When the card players played a prank on Rod, his little fox terrier fell down the long drop.

Snows would start in April. It was a very varied climate but if they were isolated they could always traverse the snow in the tractor.

One freezing night some students got in to trouble on a tramping trip traversing Makarāka (the highest point on Ngāmatea). The police called out the newly formed Search and Rescue association and one of the farm's quiet horses carried out the body of a young man who had fallen to his death.

Thirty strong workers (plus their children) would come in for shearing. The shearing quarters could accommodate 50.

Winifred fondly remembers the sight of the musterers bringing the cattle in to the cattle yards. It was a pretty picture of the herd and the shepherds on their hacks.

They bred half-bred merino from a merino stud. The sheep are bigger and cleaner these days.

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Year 1976

Reference number 30195

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits RNZ Collection
ROBERTS, Winifred, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Perkins, Jack (b.1940), Interviewer

Duration 00:26:53

Date 1976

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