Monday, June 15, 2009

Maria "Betsy" (Bee) McKenzie

Taken from the Bee Family Reunion Book 1986

Chapter Nine

Maria "Betsy" (Bee) McKenzie

Maria was born at Mohaka in 1859. She was the youngest of Anne and Francis Bee's children. Her greatest friend was her sister Kate, a friendship that was to remain all their lives. They were a lively pair and were well known for all their tricks and pranks. Maria was always very nervous of the Maori people, probably due to her early memories of the Hau Hau uprising. She used to tell us how she and Kate used to go down to the beach and collect shells which they spread around the house to act as a warning should unfriendly Maori's be about.

In later years Francis and Anne with their daughter Ann to look after them went to Patutahi to live on about 10-12 acres of land. This was probably before either Phoebe or Maria were married as both were married from the Patutahi church.

Maria met John McKenzie and married him in 1884. He had a property at Patutahi of about 900-1000 acres, mostly flats, which he called 'Burnside'.

After Francis died Anne and her daughter Ann went to live with Lil Bilham as Maria was looking after Jane McKenzie, John's mother at the time. After Jane died Anne and her daughter went to live with Maria and her family of one boy and seven girls until she too died.

The McKenzies had a big old house with the family kitchen and dining room at one end and a drawing room at the other. When visitors came they always used the drawing room and often the children had to parade before them, being asked to play the piano or sing before being sent outside. Maria was full of fun. Nona says when she was a child and Maria was baking often she would steal a scone and Maria would chase her around the kitchen, often throwing some dough at her!

After her husband John died the family moved to town while they build a house at Hixton. There was nobody to run the farm as their only son Alan had died two years previously. They sold most of the flats but kept about 200 acres called Mantle Hill. Some of the land they sold and left portions of the money in as mortgages. This they later lost in the Mortgage Relief Bill in the early 1930's.

However they built a lovely house at Hixton where they had about 10 acres and they called it "Braeburn". Maria set about to make another garden and a big orchard. They had their own generator for power and on the farm had a few fowls, a pig and a cow. The cow caused much hilarity in the family because each daughter had to take a turn at milking it, although Nona was the one who seemed to do it the most often.

In 1924 Maria and her family shifted to Nanui Road, Gisborne, where she lived until her death. Here too she made a lovely garden where all her grandchildren loved to go and play. It was here too that her daughter Nell came with her children to live after her husband Sid Newman had died. Nona, Kate, Marion, Ann and Joan were all married from Nanui Road.

Maria really loved her garden and her flowers. I remember her on many occasions when she was well into her eighties pottering around and picking flowers. On one occasion I recall, she had been ill and Aunty Nell who had looked after her had suggested that she went inside in case she caught a chill — Maria's retort was "If I want to die in the garden I will — I can't think of a better place".

We, all her grandchildren, loved to call and see Maria. She never lost the twinkle in her eye and never lost interest in us and all the things we were doing. In fact it wasn't only us who loved to see her— all the children in the street called her Granny McKenzie.

Alan Brandon McKenzie was born in 1885. He was the first born and the only son. He was much loved by all the girls, was great fun and an awful tease. He was a very good footballer and played for Poverty Bay. He was only 26 when he died and it was only a few months before his marriage to Jean Watts.

He died of peritonitis after being incorrectly treated for an ulcer. In 1913 there was no operation for appendicitis. A short time later King Edward was operated on for appendicitis and survived. The girls used to say if Alan had been a king he would have survived.

Ellen "Nell" McKenzie was born in 1887 and like her brother Alan was educated at Patutahi School. Nell then went to Miss Reese's School in Gisborne. She was the only one to be married from 'Burnside'. On the day of her marriage to Sidney Newman the creek was flooded and the groom and best man were thoroughly wet while trying to cross it. Nell's father John, thinking he was giving them wine to warm them up gave them mushroom ketchup and they wondered why it was full of cloves and their throats were burning!

John and Max were born to them while they were farming at Kanakania. From there they went to Waimata where Sid was notorious for driving his car all around the hills whether there was a track or not. It was here that Margaret was born. Finally they went to 'Totara Station which is between Whangara and Waimata.

After Sid died Nell and her children went to live with Maria at Nanui Road. In later years Nell was a great comfort to her mother and looked after her till she died. Her final shift was to Tyndal Road where she went to be near Margaret and her children.

She too loved her garden and her grandchildren were a great joy to her. She was wonderful at sewing, loved doing flowers and seemed always to be there to help any of her sisters should the occasion arise. We remember her with great love and affection.

Jess McKenzie was born in 1889. She was educated at Patutahi and then a private school in Gisborne. She then took a job as a governess to the Broadhurst family. She was the only daughter to be married from Braeburn when she wed Rev. Douglas Malcolm, Their first parish was at Porangahau where Marie was born. They went from there to Paramata and then to Hawera where they stayed for many years. Both Alan and John were born there. Their final parish was Haitaitai. Jess was a great help to Douglas as a minister's wife. She was a talented painter and singer and also, like the others, loved her flowers. Everyone loved Aunty Jess.

Annie "Ann" McKenzie was born in 1891 and was educated at Patutahi school and then to a private school in Gisborne. She trained as a shorthand typist and worked for Buscke Accounts Firm in Gisborne where they considered her very quick and good at her work. She boarded in town and used to bike home to Hixton each weekend. For one so quick and bright she was always doing dreamy things. One day when it was her turn to milk the family cow she let it out of the bail still leg-roped to the door. The cow, of course, bolted out into the paddock taking the door with it. Every time anyone tried to get near it the cow would bolt again and the door would come up from behind and hit it again. Eventually they caught it but the poor cow was impossible to get into the bail for many weeks after that episode.

She married Charles Bull, an accountant and though they had no children she took a great interest in all her nieces and nephews and in fact all her relations. She took great care of Anne Bee, who in her turn had spent many years caring for mother (Maria). Ann Bee lived with Ann and Charlie for the last two years of her life when she was slowly dying of cancer.

Aunty Marion used to tell me how tidy Ann was and how untidy she, Marion, was. As they shared a room this used to infuriate Ann, who finally put a chalk line down the middle of the room and claimed the tidy half.

Ann was very wiry and active all her life. She loved golf and flowers and people. She had a large lovely garden on the river bank behind the family home in Nanui Road and this she was still maintaining well into her eighties.

Charlie died after 15 years of marriage and Ann then set herself up as a florist and both grew and arranged the flowers herself with the help of Connie Stafford in the floristry side. She had a great sense of humour and was always trying to do things for others. I remember her often helping out when my mother was ill and for that our family will be forever grateful. She had a very soft spot for those who cared for her. In later years her memory failed and she died when she was 89.

Marion McKenzie was born in 1893 and educated at Patutahi School. She trained at Cook Hospital as a nurse and was spoken very highly of by both staff and patients. She was a very good looking girl and had many admirers. After nursing at Cook for several years she went to England with her sister Kate. She and Kate both nursed privately in England. Marion loved and admired her family. She once told me the story about when she and Kate went walking down the streets of London and how people would turn and look at Kate because she was so vibrant and healthy with her black hair and black eyes and red cheeks. It made me smile as I had heard the same story from Aunty Kate only the people were looking at Marion because she was so lovely!

On the boat on the way home she met Alan Campbell, a solicitor who lived in Orange (NSW). At that time she was 35. She came home and married him. They had one daughter, Barbara, who followed in her father's footsteps and was a very talented solicitor. They lived in Orange in a lovely old stone house with a most beautiful garden until she died. She specialised in growing iris which she imported from all over the world. She was very smart and dressed with great flair, was full of fun, most artistic and had that lovely generous nature that all Maria's children seem to have inherited.

Now at 90 she lives on her own at 9 Stevenson Lane with her little garden and her faithful cat Whiskers. Her only request to us is to bring her flowers and her little place is always full of them. She, like Anne, had no children of her own but finds time to show her love, generosity and interest in all her relations: She too enjoys a joke, even if it is against herself. She has a great capacity to make the best of life and her comment after I had gathered the facts of her life was “so far so good”. She is a very special person to us and we are all glad she has come back to be with us.

Kate McKenzie was born in 1899. She was educated at Patutahi and then at Iona College. She went to Wellington to train to be a nurse. While Kate was training the family moved to Oriental Bay to live for about six months to be near her. While at Wellington Hospital she met her future husband, Alfred Slater, who was to become a very prominent anaesthetist. After finishing her training she went to England with Marion. Kate too was a very good nurse. Alf's first practice was in Otaki and Kate was his nurse. Nona was with them when they set up their first practice. She said they got everything ready and then had to sit and wait for somebody to come. When the doorbell eventually rang Kate said "Don't hurry to open the door, pretend we're busy". From Otaki they moved to Island Bay, Wellington. After the war Alf took the job of anaesthetist at Bowen Street Hospital. While Alf was at the war Kate lived at Paraparumu and it was then she adopted David who gave them much joy. When Alf came back they went to a lovely home in Wellington and finally to Khandallah where she again made a lovely home and garden. She was a vivacious and active person who made many friends. She loved trout fishing, spinning, weaving, arranging flowers and was a great golfer. She was on a handicap of three or four. She played in the Russell Grace Cup twice. Once when she and her sister Joan were staying with Nona in Rotorua for a golf tournament they drew each other in the first round. There was so much banter that Hoddie suggested the winner should stay at the hotel after the match. History doesn't recall who did win.

Kate was full of fun, a very generous person who was close to us all.

Joan McKenzie was the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter which was supposed to be very lucky. She also went to Patutahi school and then to Iona where she was a prominent hockey player. She was in fact playing for her school in Gisborne when she first met Dawson Chrisp later to become a solicitor and her husband — some ten years later.

Always a keen sportswoman and one of the top tennis players for many years at the Kaiti courts, it was however golf which attracted her and in which she was to excel for many years. She was the champion of the Poverty Bay Golf Club. She was also chosen to represent the North Island and would most certainly had the honour of representing New Zealand but for the misfortune to have in the early 30's contracted a chest disease which limited her involvement in the game and finally was to cause her death. In spite of this however she still managed to play to a 3 handicap.

Joan and Dawson had a very welcoming happy home in Nanui Road with a lovely garden and tennis court, which they enjoyed building up together. We four children — Michael, Suzanne, Philip and Elizabeth, recall many happy hour playing tennis, cricket, fishing, or just being at home with them.

Joan was very artistic. She could paint and was renowned for her work with flowers at weddings, floral festivals and in her own home. She was a much loved mother and wife, full of fun and energy and lived in close contact throughout her life with her children and grandchildren.

Joan had a great way with her. Perhaps learning this at a very early age after discovering that if she had a tennis party when it was her turn to milk the family cow, some chivalrous male would offer to do it for her!

She managed to teach us as many of the true values of life and pass on many of her skills to us, but she never managed, to her disappointment, to produce a golfer of any sort!

Sue Fraser and Nona Hodgson

Nona McKenzie was born in 1896 and was educated at Patutahi, then Miss Hoggs school in Gisborne and then at Woodford House. She rather wanted to be a Karitane Nurse but Maria didn't want her to leave home. She was a great home lover so she stayed.

In 1925 she married Reginald Hodgson who had been a missionary in Melanesia. Hoddie, to all who loved him, was born in Yorkshire and never lost his delightful Yorkshire accent. Wairenga was their first parish then Rotorua for 20 years and finally after five years at Mt Maunganul he retired and continued to live there until his death in 1966. In each place Nona too made a lovely garden. At the Mount where the soil was sandy there was always a riot of flowers. I loved it best when all the Jiffies were out. They just seemed to be everywhere. Over the years she was a great help to Archdeacon Hodgson by teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir and doing more than her fair share of duties that clergymen's wives undertake. She made many friends, many on the golf course. She loved golf and her handicap was 12.

After Hoddie died Nona continued to live at the Mount amongst her many friends keeping up her interest in the church, her golf, her garden and doing what she could to help people. In 1984 she decided it was time to come home to Gisborne.

Sue Fraser (Gisborne)

No comments:

Post a Comment