Charles Andrew Grainger b. 21 May 1882, Summerhill, Sunderland, Durham, England.

This is not only the story of the early life of an ancestor but a history of the early pioneering days of Kiritaki - inland from Dannevirke. 

I don't need to write his story - he did it for us prior to his death at the request of his daughter-in-law, Barbara Grainger.  Thank you Barbara.

I never met this gentleman, who was my husband's Grandfather, but the following story has given me a great insight into his life and the pioneering life around Dannevirke.

This is 1963 and a long march back to 1886, the year of the Tarawera Eruption and the year my mother and father decide to bring their family of five sons and two daughters to New Zealand.  May, our youngest member and a real Kiwi, was born in Napier in 1888.  My earliest memories of my sister May were when she had to go to the doctor for an inoculation.  I was so much upset about it that Mother arranged with her doctor for me to be inoculated too (a dummy of course) and I remember driving down with Mother and baby in a two horse cab and then the journey home again, with me quite happy that our baby had not been hurt, or come to any harm.  We had to use two horse cabs because of the hilly terrain.

We embarked on the steam ship "Aorangi" at London docks on my 4th birthday, 21st of May 1886.  My father, George Willan Grainger was a Civil Engineer and Surveyor and had an appointment with the Napier Harbour Board.  There was no communication with ships at sea in those days but we learned of the Tarawera disaster when our ship put into Cape Town.  It was at first thought that the North Island had turned over but later cables told us that only a small area was affected.

I have very hazy recollections of England but I do remember Yuletide bread dollies being thrown over the wall to me.

I vividly remember Father carrying me on his shoulders down into the engine room of the "Aorangi", everything shining like a new shilling and the huge engines thudding up and down and later being taken by the officers to their quarters and treated to sweets, fruit, dates and nuts after regaling them with "Little Boy Blue". I was a young man of four with golden curls and an English sailor suit.

We disembarked at Auckland and went down on a coastal boat and as we made Napier Harbour there were two quite recent wrecks lying on the beach.  One, I remember, was called the "Boojum", an all iron ship.  The sea wall along the Marine Parade was being built by prison labour and it was a common sight to see two mounted and armed warders every morning marching a gang of prisoners down from the jail to the sea front for this work.  The large stones for the walls were quarried by other prisoners and these too were under armed guards.  I was thrilled as a small boy and spent many an hour watching from a vantage point.

Both Mother and Father were devout Church and Missionary supporters and our home at the Willows was open house for church workers, resting or in transit.  My memory fixes on one, a Mr. Mountain, a missionary from India.  He occupied a partly enclosed room on the veranda, and I wondered why he was not given a proper bedroom.  He used to take me to the baths to swim every morning and carry me on his back when swimming  and I loved him.  One morning when I went to his room he was not there and they had to tell me that he had become ill in the night and been taken to hospital.  Later he died of consumption.  He had often read to me and told me stories and I had learned to love him.  His death was my first great grief.

It was about this time that my eldest brother Bert met with a terrible accident whilst bush felling and was taken to Waipukarau Hospital.  This was done in several stages.  First of all he was carried out on a bush stretcher, then on a sledge, and then by dray.  He was finally taken by train from Oringi to Waipukarau.

Very soon after settling in New Zealand my father had bought land in the 70 mile bush, some of the most heavily bushed country in New Zealand and the two eldest boys, Bert and Arthur, with the assistance of skilled bushmen, Germans, Scandinavians and Poles, were felling some of the heaviest timber in the country. Father was in bed ill when the news of Bert's accident reached us at the Willows in Napier.  There were no telephone services then as we know them today and I remember being awakened and taken into Father's room and asked if I could be a very brave little boy and take a message to the Telegraph Office.  There was an all night service but the message for dispatch had to be taken upstairs and handed to the officer on duty.  I made it, but will never forget that moonlight trip.  Bert was a long time in hospital but eventually recovered.

The sun and sea were very glaring in Napier and I had been having some trouble with my eyes.  Mr. Agapardi, the eye specialist, told Mother I must be taken away from the glare and in due course Father made the necessary arrangements.  A cab came one morning early and took Father, my bag and me to the station.  I loved our old house "The Willows".  It was a huge and rambling house but just right for our large family and had about three acres of orchard, garden, lawns and shrubbery.  I never saw it again.  Years later when I was visiting Napier I found "The Willows" had completely disappeared and the whole area had been built on.

Father had arranged with a Mr. Heaven, the guard on the train, to take charge of me and having kissed me goodbye handed me over.  It is many, many years ago but I will never forget that day.  It was a milestone in my life and I enjoyed every minute of it.  To me it brought an entirely new phase of life.  I travelled in the guard's van on a huge, slow, freight train because I had to get off at a small flag station.  We left Napier at 8 a.m. and arrived at Oringi at dusk.  My brother Arthur was waiting for me and I was lifted up behind him on his black horse Prince.  I had never been near a horse before, much less on one.

The only fence in the Oringi flats in those days were those running each side of the railway line so we rode straight across the flats to what was then called Maharahara East and is now Kiritaki.  It was about five miles from Oringi Station to the farm.  It was on this ride that I saw my first dead animals, three huge dead bullocks, and Arthur told me they had been poisoned eating tutu.

Bert and Arthur were, at this time, living in a mill whare on Cranwell's old mill site and as we rode up the old tram line in the dark we saw a glimmer of light ahead through the long bush avenue of the tram line.  Arthur gave a cooee which was answered in kind by Bert and we were home!  To this day I remember that first night, with my brothers surrounding me with love and kindness.  They had a Maori eel basket in the river and we had fried eel and potatoes for tea.  I went to bed tired but happy.  Mother fretted that I would be lonely and unhappy with just the men but these were some of the happiest months of my life.  I really had a grand time in the bush and the men, five in all, with my brothers, were wonderful to me.  They would plant me down in a safe place with the tucker-bags and billies and I would be left there with all the things that delight a small boy's heart.  There were very many birds, lizards and walking stick insects, huge crawlers in the little creeks and the pigeons were everywhere  these were great company.  I was never lonely and enjoyed every minute of it.  If a big drive was being let down one of the men, generally a Mr. Cavanus, would come and carry me to a point of vantage and it was a great thrill to see several dozen huge trees crashing down simultaneously.  It was all good timber but at that time valueless and the one aim in life of the early bush settlers was to destroy the bush, burn it off and get the land into grass.  Mr. Cananus lived on Sturdy's Road in a two-roomed hut and I had many a cup of Billie tea with him.  He was known as a Russian Finn and used to make a huge pan of oatmeal porridge every Sunday morning.  He would just cut a slab out every morning and eat it with bush honey (golden syrup) and I used to think it pretty good too!

Kiritaki is just about as far from the sea and inland as it is possible to get and in the early days was completely isolated.  The only means of contact with anywhere or anyone was on foot or on horseback and our horses were far more prized than a Jaguar is today.  The clearing and stumping in preparation for ploughing was very laborious work and large quantities of explosives were used.  The first I remember was called Rack a Rock and comprised a black powder and a liquid which when mixed was terrifically explosive and dangerous to handle.  After several accidents it was withdrawn and we used several other explosives but finally gelignite superseded them all.  We also used a stump puller and two seven-ton Trewellers and two Price's jacks.  Of course fires were kept going day and night.  There was no Social Security, no child allowance, no forty-hour week, no dirt money and no strikes.  The cows had to be milked night and morning irrespective.  For many years after the bush was felled and burned the country was swept by terrible log fires, sometimes twice in one season and in some localities houses and sheds were lost, and miles of fencing.  There was an abundance of timber and many miles of slab fences were built and just burned like a train of powder.  There was no insurance against this.

About this time Father bought another 110 acre section fronting onto Sturdy's Road on which there was a three roomed house with a very tall chimney and colonial roof.  After the house had been improved my eldest sister Rosa came up to the bush to keep house for Bert, Arthur and me.  When Rosa came they brought in two cows and a horse and trap so that she would be able to get about and in to Dannevirke, nine miles away.  Of course there were no motorcars, only horses.  Rosa was a clever elocutionist and much in demand at the many church functions at Dannevirke and I was her constant companion.  She dubbed me Carlo her knight and it was she who first taught me to read and write, do sums etc..  My first reading book was "The Fair Maid of Perth"  how well I remember.  Our two cows were killed soon after we bought them.  A huge buckateer tree blew down in a violent storm and crushed them to death in their bails where they were sheltering.  My brother had to get a local bullock team in to drag the tree away to enable us to bury the cows.  

"My Father imported this two horse treadmill from Wisconsin, USA, about 1897 and with two draughts up it rated about 4 HP. We cut chaff, threashed grains and cocksfort, cut firewood and for about three years milked a herd of over 100 cows using an old draught. called Nugget, to drive the vac pump."

Haymaking and stacking Fernlands. "This was a very beautiful area of about thirty acres lying between the two rivers, the Oronokiritaki and the Tamaki and surrounded by profuse native bush and was a favourite picnic area."

There was not one single motor vehicle in New Zealand at that time and our very lives depended on our horses.  They were our first care in the morning and the last care at night.  Most of the heavy logging work in the bush was done by teams of bullocks from ten animals upwards and it was cruel work for animals.  Thank goodness this work is done by machine today.

There were no telephones as known today and here again we had to rein in a hack and gallop away if we needed to summons a doctor.  I was aroused one night by Father and asked if I would ride off to Dannevirke to get Dr. Rud McKay, a crusty old Scot. It was still pitch dark when I roused up the doctor and he said he couldn't possibly come out until morning as he could not see to fetch and harness the two horses he drove in a buggy.  However Father had impressed on me the urgency of the case so it ended up me getting and harnessing his horses, driving the doctor and leading my hack behind.  It was a diphtheria case and we were only just in time to enable the doctor to make an incision in the child's throat - she was choking to death. I then drove him to our house for breakfast, stabled and fed his horses and then reharnessed them - I do not remember a word of thanks.  Many tragedies come to my memory of those early days. The dreadful diphtheria epidemic which resulted in the previous episode and an epidemic of a eadly type of influenza which affected whole families and caused many deaths.

There were many magnificent teams on the roads then and many beautiful hacks and light harness horses. Far more pride and care was lavished on our horses and vehicles than is ever given to a motor car.

When my sister Rosa came to live in the bush she brought the family piano, a very heavy English instrument which came from the station by dray, then sledge and finally four men carried it into the house.  It was the first and only pianoin the district for many years and was conveyed up and down in later years to school concerts, dances and other functions. Two or three nights a week in winter friends would come in and there would be musical evenings with singing, piano, flute, piccolo, cornet and violin. It seemed to me to have been a much more rewarding form of recreation and entertainment than prevails today.

In later years Father resigned his position with the Harbour Board and the farm house was enlarged and a double reinforced concrete chimney built, one of the first in New Zealand, I think, and Mother and Father came to live in the bush.

We had a complete workshop, a foot powered lathe, stocks and dies for both pipes and bolts, screw plates an all sizes and a fine big bellows nd forge.  Father had brought all this gear out from England and when he came to the bush he set up a complete workshop.  We forged all our horse shoes, made all the gate hinges and locks, welded broken chains and were practically self contained.  The smithy was a grand place in winter.

When I first started school up in the bush I had to walk just over six miles a day to a small school at Heretanga. There were a numberof children school age in our district, mostly girls, and Father started a move to get our own school and school house. These were finally built on Sturdy's Road and it was about this time that father succeeded in getting the district re-named Kiritaki after the Oronokiritaki River. So then we had our own school at Kiritaki. Father was also instrumental in getting telephone communication with Dannevirke and a daily mail service, both of which were operated from our farm house. I, and later my sister May, carried His Majesty's mails on horseback daily, irrespective of weather. We found it a terrible tie and the renumeration paid by the Government did not pay for the horse shoes but it did put Kiritaki on the map.

After we got our own school in the district dances became a popular and regular feature and about twice a year a school concert was held. The first half of the programme was given by the children and the second half local talent, mostly from Dannevirke. This entailed a nine mile drive each way. There was a wonderful spirit of neighbourliness then. Other annual highlights were the school picnic and Sunday School tea and picnic which for many years were held on our Native clearing about one and a quarter miles to the back of our farm. This area lay between the two rivers, the Oronokiritaki and the Tamaki. It was a beautiful spot and it was here we did our first cultivating and cropping.

Several bush picnics were held every year too and those up the Oronokiritaki Gorge and into the Ruahine foothills were very interesting and popular. Whole families turned out, the older folk and small fry would stay with the tucker and the younger and more energetic would tramp on and climb into the Gorge. The pioneer women were great providers and with the aid of two camp ovens and billies on an open log fire, three or four course spanking hot meals would be served, with all the trimmings too.
Charles Andrew Grainger on Chum - the horse he loved and broke in.

Father was chairman and secretary of the School Committee and when some special business had to be dealt with and it was necessary to have a quorum - 6 I think- he would get me to ride around after tea and literally drag the required number to the meeting. Sometimes I even caught and harnessed their horses, but I did get them to the meeting.Father was also chairman and secretary of the small two vat cheese factory which was established on the Raparapawahi River (rapid running water) and I would ride around and rout out the men for these meetings also. The first payout at this factory was sixpence per gallon for the milk, but the "cow with the iron tail" became too popular and the Babcock test and payment on butter fat was introduced.

Tom and Charlie feeding out on Fernlands.  
Bush picnic up the Oronokiritaki River Gorge.  This snap is taken in the lower and less preciptious reaches.
Another highlight of school days was the annual trip through the Manawatu Gorge by rail to visit the Manwatu A & P Show at Palmerston North. This outing was organised and controlled by the teacher. The number of senior pupils chosen for the outing was about six and each had to earn to pay for the fares etc.. For two years running I took the contract to wheel and stack the matai fire wood for the school.  It was a very long day starting about 5 a.m. with a drive to the Oringi Railway Station, about three and a half miles, and catching a goods train to Palmerston North. This was a great thrill to we youngsters as the train passed through several tunnels in the gorge. There was very much more native bush in the gorge in those far away days and it was very beautiful, especially coming home at night with the train all lit up and the lights making fantastic light and shadow pictures on the river.  We would be a weary lot of youngsters on reaching our homes about 8 to 9 p.m.  The roll of the school at ths time would be about 26 and mostly infants. A girl and I were the only scholars in Standard 4, 5 and 6 and many boys left to go to work once through the third Standard. They could read and write in a fashion and that seemed to satisfy their parents. The need to earn was very pressing in those days.

The bot flies were a terrible pest and menace to our horses, particularly in the late summer and early autumn. We never lost a horse that was bred and reared on the farm but we did lose a valuable draught called Lion, one of a team of four draughts we had bought. I was working him in the lead of a four horse yoke in a double furrow plogh and quite suddenly he would falter. He began to just push his food around and not eat. When I took the team to watr he was never satisfied and I would literally have to drag him away. I tok him home and replaced him with another horse called Duke. Lion never worked again, he just sickened off and finally got down. It was a spring with cold showers and I made a tarpaulin shelter over him. I would go out once or twice during the night to pack straw and hay around him to give him some comfort and support but one night I found him flat out and battering his head on the ground in agony.  There was no alternative so I went to the house for the gun and shot him by lantern light.  This was a valuable draught horse and worth about fifty or sixty pounds.  We felt sure he must have contracted some terrible disease and decided to get the vet out from Woodville, a ride of 28 miles, and a post mortem examination showed him to be full of bots.  We hitched a couple of horses on and dragged him down to the back of the farm to a heap of logs where we buried the body and the bots.  It was a big job disposing of a large dead animal.  There were no bulldzers or power shovels, only the old pick and shovel.  We had a solution always 'on tap' during the bot season, a mixture of kerosene and soft soap with sufficient soap to make it tacky and sticky.  This sponged onto the horses deterred the flies and smothered and killed the eggs.  Even the foals would stand and be sponged.  The bot flies were able to stick their eggs onto the hair, mostly on the forelegs and shoulders and under the jaw and simultaneously sting the horse.  This set up an irritation which caused them to lick and of course swallow the eggs.  This often proved fatal.

Next page of Charlie's Story.