|Anecdote||October 1993||Recollections Of Islay John Shirley and other Snippets |
My grandfather John Cheine McLellan: I remember my grandfather, he was a Gaelic man from Scotland, with red hair and a flaming red beard, which to me seemed to be very long and bushy. But later when I grew up, I saw a photo of him and it was just an ordinary bushy round beard. He thought that little children should be seen and not heard, and if anyone spoke at mealtimes they would be hit hard with a big stick. He scared me very much as a child. My grandparents had saved up enough money to go in for a Ballot Farm. He left in a cart to go and put the money in, and to apply for the ballot. But on the way, he called into the Hotel and arrived home about 6 o`clock stone drunk. He had spent all the money on drink. Also my father used to send the grandparents money for our upkeep (Jeans, my sister and mine). I'm not sure how often, anyway, my grandfather would read the letter out to grandmother because she couldn`t read or write, he never mentioned the money, but would put it in his pocket and go off and spend it on drink, or buying trinkets for a couple of girl friends he had on the sly. I went in a buggy with my grandfather, to Waikaka Valley when my aunt died. She was Frank Shirley's wife and they owned the grocery store in Waikaka. I was probably only about 3 years old. There was not enough room for me to sleep there, and so the Postmistress took me home and I slept with her in her bed. Years later I would tell this as a joke 'that I had slept with the Postmistress' when I was young. I used to go birdnesting for Sparrows eggs. There were lots of wheat farmers in the area and with millions of sparrows eating the wheat the Acclimatisation society offered 2 pence a dozen for the eggs. The corner store at Edendale was where we took the eggs. We wore shirts with elastic around the waist and would put a birds nest inside our shirts and put the eggs in the nest inside the shirt. On one of these trips I fell out of the tree and hit a branch on the way down and injured my back. I was put onto a door and taken home by horse and cart to see Dr. Rodgers who thought that I would not recover as he told my Aunt that the only way I would go out of the house was 'in a box' meaning a coffin. The Dr told them to give me a good time as he'll be in a box within 6 months. I was off school for about 27 months flat on my back. I was about 9-10 years old then. If only the Dr. could see me now.!! It appeared that I had a fractured back and it was cured? by an electrical masseur who treated me for the best part of a year in Invercargill for a very small monetary cost to my mother (aunt). He was experimenting with electricity massage. When I was about 10 years old my uncle came home and said to his wife that the Laird had just bought a new Renault car and that it could do 60 miles an hour, which was very fast in those days. I saw my first car when about 7 or 8 years old. The first dead person I ever saw was sitting in it. The steering wheel was in his hand and the steering wheel shaft had gone right through his body. The doctors in those days had to come in a buggy from miles away. The car had hit the small Wyndham bus on the railway line. My uncle got me out of bed to see Halleys Comet in about 1908. About the same time I saw my first aeroplane. An aeroplane flew from Invercargill to Gore, it made a lot of noise. Motorbikes came in about 1910; Harley Davidsons, very big bikes. About age 18 I bought a Triumph motorcycle, later a Horsman Triumph and a Ricardo, the first bikes to have 2 exhausts on the 1 cylinder, they were out like bull horns and could do about 100 miles per hour. Shingle roads weren't easy to ride. I went to Gore once a week to take singing lessons. Took my uncle to Mataura one time in a side car, on an old Norton, to see my grandmother. The old guy with his beard flowing in the wind said 'is that all it will do'. Was going off one Sunday on my motorbike and my Uncle said 'Where are you going and who are you going to see'. I said I' m going to Mataura 9 miles away to see a girl. My uncle said 'Well, lad when I was a young man I used to walk 9 miles every Sunday to see my girlfriend, now your Aunt.' I said, ' if I couldn't find a girlfriend closer than that I would have stayed at home.' We lived in a no licence region and so there was no beer able to be bought. My aunt was leader of the Temperance Union and she was a bitter woman as far as alcolol was concerned. To get beer, 5 of us used to put 5 shillings in each and buy a Postal note and send it with a note to Rupes Brewery at Waikiwi, or to Gore or Mandville and get them to send a gallon keg on the slow train to Edendale at 4 o`clock. Because they were under age they couldn't take delivery of it so they used to write a note and say would you please deliver it to a farmer who lived about 6 miles out of town. So that was how they got their beer. My Mother died when I was about 18 months old and I was brought up by my Aunty Flora Finlay, my mother's sister on the McLellan side - she was who I called my mother. My sister was brought up by grandmother McLellan. My brother was brought up by my mother's sister O 'Leary. When she died he went to his father Albert Shirley. My aunt Flora Finlay was a Maternity Nurse. In about 1918 there was a terrible flu, and she sent me to take people's temperature and mark it in a book each day. Often when I went back next day they were dead. When the Dr. came about twice a week he would look in the book and then go to see the ones who were still alive. Flora`s youngset daughter died in Gore Hospital the day King Edward the 7th died. The church bells were all ringing and everything was draped in black. I sat very close to the Prince of Wales when he came to a football match at Gore. I had played in the curtain raiser before the Prince came (about age 18).
Edendale only had about 300 to 400 people - no street lights in those days. The big day in Edendale was Xmas day when they had a big sports day. When I went to the Isle of Islay I met an old man, Dougal McLellan, about 90 years old, who told me that he could remember his father telling him many years ago about his two brothers who left for NZ. One was a seaman and the other was a landman. The seaman's son later became Harbour Master at Pt Chalmers. His name was Islay McLellan. Note: These two who came to NZ- Hugh the seaman had a large family and John Cheine the land man had a family of 7-8 duaghters so the name didn't carry on. I was 16 when I went to work in the sugar of milk factory for about 18 months. About this time also I worked on the Edendale Telephone Exchange for a few months as a night operator. I would have been 17 when I started in the cheesefactory and was there for 9 years in the Edendale Factory. In about 1921 I worked in Dunedin for awhile, at Sheild Brothers in their quarry, sprawling large rocks out so that they could be crushed for road making. After working in a cheese factory for about a year my hands were very soft, so you can imagine the blisters I got doing this work, as the hammers we used weighed 14 lbs. I then went up to Christchurch to work for my Uncle David Caithness in his timber and coal yard, Tuam St. I made small wooden boxes for him out of very thin wood. He supplied the fruit people with these boxes to sell cherries in.
I met Muriel Mullaney whom I later married, at the Annual Meeting of the Edendale Tennis Club. She was teaching at the Edendale school at this time. Daphne was born while we were at Edendale. During these years I bred Bulldogs and over the years successfully showed quite a few. There was Baron who pulled Daphne around in a cart when we were at Edendale. At Rowan, Opunake and Normanby we had other bulldogs and also a Pekinese called Mitsi. At various times I kept magpies which I taught to talk and at Patea had a Minor which also was able to talk. It became quite vicious and used to attack Muriel. From there I was appointed Manager at the Little River Factory where we stayed 10 years, Lyall was born while we were at Little River. While at Little River I joined the Manchester Unity Lodge in 1933. I am still a Member and have the distinction of being the oldest living member of the Waiwera Branch. On April 5th 1934 I bacame a member of the Waiwera Branch of the Masonic Lodge. The lodge in Little River no longer exists. We were both very active in School affairs, the English Church and anything local. Tennis etc. We were there 10 years.
Cars:- The first car we bought was a Willeys Knight coupe, 3 seater. It was a 6 cylinder slide valve model, in good condition but with a big mileage. Its book value was 45 pounds and we were able to buy it at that price from the traveller whose firm owned it. We bought it just before Lyall was born and thought we were on top of the world. We had an english 6 cylinder Sunbeam with a Dickie seat at the back. It had the best enamel finish you could ever see and the upholstery was solid english Leather. But it used more oil than gas so I sold it. After that we had a Ford V8. We came up to the North Island in that. At Rowan we bought a new Austin 10. We had that until we went to Normanby where we bought a Humber, and had that when we went to Patea. We came up to the North Island to the Rowan Dairy factory near Kaponga in Taranaki after that. Here we played tennis, were active in school affairs and I formed a Golf Club and a Golf Course was set up on a local sheep farm and was designed by Danny Sulliven? who later became Mayor of New Plymouth. Here I also had a plantation of pine trees that I had to keep clean of weeds, so we put 500 white Leghorn hens in there to do that job for me. I had the good fortune to have very high Grades for the cheese and was top Grade for New Zealand for 3 years and 2nd top for 1 year. Four years later we moved onto the Opunake Dairy factory for two years, where I played golf, tennis etc. After 2 years I was appointed Manager of the Normanby factory (1300 odd ton of cheese a year) for another 10 years. 36 years all told, making cheese. The first 4 years at Normanby were very difficult years for me as the company was almost Bankrupt and the plant was in a deplorable state, rundown and worn out. Parts were held together with bits of wire, staples, string and rope, even pieces of wood put in bearings that were worn out. Some of the permanent staff (12?) had been there for 28 years and really had no idea how to make good cheese. The previous Manager had been with the company for 38 years and the foreman expected to get the job and so I was not welcomed there at all. The staff did everything they could to make life difficult for me, but over the next few years I weeded out the trouble makers and replaced them with men I knew who were good cheesemakers. In the 4th or 5th year we got our first shipment of Finest Grade cheese ever in the Company's history in 55 years of making cheese. After that, things started to go my way, and life became a little easier. Shortly after that Normanby's grading was placed 2nd top for NZ for such a large tonnage factory. 88.7% finest Grade. In those days we were one of the 6th largest cheese factories in the Southern Hemisphere - not today. We were members of the Tennis Club, played Table Tennis in Hawera and golf. Also very acrive in Local affairs school, church and Queen Carnivals for Hawera High School and at Normanby to raise funds to build a new Hall. I had the distinction of rebuilding the Hawera Swimming Club and was a member of the Taranaki Amateur Swimming Club Association. It was in Hawera that the Editor and owner of the Hawera Star, Mr Lew Aggot introduced me to a new reporter on his staff, a Mr Harry Dansey, a maori from Rotorua abt 18 years of age. He told him to help the swimming club by giving write ups of our weekly meetings. There were Headlines in the paper that said if you showed any interest in swimming you could expect a visit from a small bespectabled man named Mr Shirley. I still have that cutting. Shortly after that the swimming meetings each week were crowded. Shortly after we left Normanby, and with the help of the Shell Company we bought Universal Motors at Patea. This venture was not very successful moneywise, but we made a living, and that is about all. Again we were mixed up in Queen Carnivals because of my interest in swimming. I became Chairman of the committee to raise funds for a filtered pool in Patea. We raised enough money to build the first full sized filtered pool outside Auckland and Wellington in a small provincial town. After 10 years there we were lucky enough to sell the garage and moved to Paeroa and I started up as an Insurance Assessor. Unable to rent or buy a house we rented a small shop that had a flat attached at the rear. We were advised by Gordon Craig of Manaia to put Knitting wool in the shop and so this was the beginning of Shirley's Wool Shops in Paeroa, and Thames. This turned out to be a good venture and turned the tide of fortune in our life. It was not easy at first, but with much hard work and ingenuity by Muriel and I, it turned out to be worthwhile. All through these years we were plauged by many heart problems for Muriel. Also it was there in Paeroa that I was hit several times with bad attacks of Sciatica. Because of health problems we sold the shops after 10 years. We bought a section at Otumoetai in Tauranga and built a house there in 1970. We landscaped the section ourselves and altered the house after 2 years, putting an addition on to the front, enlarging the living room. This made a great improvement to the appearance of the house and to its resale value. Through the 10 years we were there, Muriel had many heart problems and it ended suddenly one night at 11:15 when she had a final heart attack. I was devastated after 53 1/2 years together. All these years it had been good and interesting watching our 2 girls growing up -what with school, piano, sports, running, swimming and for years life was good and we had many happy times and events. As these were happening including table tennis and Indoor Basketball etc, I was very happy , purring like an old tom cat-very much at times to Muriel's embarrassment-she thought I purred too loudly -who wouldn't. All the years, and particularly in my early years, I felt embarrassed at my lack of education (-which was caused because I fell from a tree while birdnesting as a child and I was away from school for 27 months). I am always appreciative of the effort and hard work Muriel took to educate me and I think that she did a good job with a difficult and raw recruit. It helped me as I grew older and progressed in the Dairy industry.
After Muriel died I moved to Ellerslie to be closer to my daughters and friends. Going overseas for my first trip, I called to see two old school friends in America, whom I hadn't seen for many a year and I fell in love with one of them, Dorothy Turner whom I had known as Dorothy Chism as a child in Edendale. Later, I had worked for her father for abt 2 years. Dorothy came over to NZ in Januray 1982 and we were married in Auckland. Since then I have lived with Dorothy in North Cape May, New Jersey USA. As you know my whole life has altered from that day on. To me she has been a godsend and I am so pleased to have her as a compaion in the last years of a long and really happy, fruitfull life. On April 12th 1992 I had a 5 way heart bypass and recovered very well. At the age of 91 I had a second operation on one of my hips and have made a very speedy recovery. The hospital supplied me with rubber soled socks to help prevent me from slipping, but somehow while I was in the bathroom and went to turn around the socks gripped the rug on the floor and I fell backwards into the bath and couldn't get out. Dorothy called 911 and 2 police cars and a rescue squad arrived about 20 minutes later to get me out. Other than hitting my head on the soap container and seeing stars for a few minutes, the only damage I suffered was a sore toe and the back of my head.1