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Taranaki Stories

These stories capture the very essence of Taranaki – the people and the landscape.
They record the achievements of those who live here, the struggles of the first settlers, the determination to overcome challenges, those who have made their mark on not only their own, but also future generations.
But the stories are not just about hardship – they are also inspiring, thrilling, mystifying, enlightening and entertaining.
 
 

 

Farming

Milk Maids: Children ready for milking on an Opunake farm in 1913. Image: PHO2008 - 588

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Tending the land is not a job for the faint-hearted – especially for those new settlers who faced acres of bush armed only with axes to create their rolling paddocks. Taking on the elements and nature, and winning, calls for people with tenacity and determination. But although farming life is often a hard one, it brings rewards too. It can also be the mother of invention as man dreams up revolutionary ways and methods of bringing food to the region’s tables.

A dog’s best friend – Bernard Murphy

Bernard Murphy has been up early mustering. The 80 year-old Kohuratahi farmer and his dogs have been bringing sheep down from the hills in preparation for shearing.    Although he's handed the day-to-day running of the farm over to his sons Steve and Dan, working with dogs is something Bernard has done since he was a lad. He's not about to stop just because he recently became an octogenarian.... more
 

A Girl Called Pearl : Early Farming Days on East Road, Stratford

Pearl Wildermoth's strong, wise spirit shines through her elderly eyes and the thought of revisiting her own history makes her smile. Memories of her early life on a farm carved out of the Taranaki bush near Stratford are sharp and clear.   Pearl describes her mother as 'pretty churchy' but someone who loved pearls. She always wanted a little girl called Pearl. "And there was this plainest... more
 

A Rehab farm at Mokoia

The 1940s were shaped by World War II, with more than 194,000 men enlisting in the armed forces, though New Zealand's population at the time was just 1,500,000.   By the time the war ended, 11,500 New Zealand men had been killed. Often those who survived were physically or psychologically scarred. Coming home and finding work meant their lives could start again.   Part of the Government's plan... more
 

A Whole Lot of Bull – Jim Thwaites and the Bull of the Century

No one expects to see George Bush's signature hanging on a wall at Oeo, South Taranaki, but if you visit Jim Thwaites' home, you will find the American President's endorsement displayed next to one from the Queen.   Both are commendations for Jim's magnificent jersey breeding success. One framed certificate marks the OBE (Order of the British Empire) awarded in 1991, while the other names him... more
 

At My Father’s Knee

Owen Henry, who shares at least part of his name with another famous author, O. Henry, was fortunate. Growing up during a time of no television, no radio and no money, meant many nights were spent at his father's knee being read to from a collection of loved and timeless books, many of which had travelled to New Zealand on board a ship from Scotland in the luggage of his settler forebears.   "My... more
 

Born at Oanui – Con Kuriger

Con Kuriger was born in 1922, in an old Oaonui farmhouse with no power, no running water and no bathroom. The toilet stood 30 quick strides from the kitchen door and was dug into a hedge.     The washhouse was a large copper parked beneath a tree, next to a pile of wood needed to heat the water. There the nappies from all eight Kuriger children were boiled to magic whiteness, before being... more
 

Early Days of Milking Tough On Children

In the early days of settlement, a typical day for many Taranaki children consisted of rising at dawn to catch and milk half a dozen cows.   When this was done, they had to walk 5-10 kilometres to their nearest school.  Needless to say there wasn't much energy left for learning and no time at all for play.    At the end of the day children faced another long walk home with more milking in the... more
 

Eltham – Town of Many Firsts

Eltham is the first town in New Zealand to have a water reservoir painted like a round of cheese. And it's renowned for being at the forefront in many other areas, some just as cheesy, say historians Don Drabble and Karen Christian. Backed up by a brochure they helped put together, the Eltham and Districts Historical Society members can pinpoint at least 10 other firsts for the central... more
 

Eltham Man Turns Milking Around

Cow psychology led an Eltham man to mastermind one of New Zealand's great farming inventions – the Turn-Style rotary milking platform. Back in 1967, a dairy inspector gave Merv Hicks two years to replace his old four-bail walk-through milking shed on his Taranaki farm. At the time, Merv was in a New Zealand Dairy Board discussion group with 11 other members. Part of their job was to visit... more
 

Honnor among tractors

Both Colin Honnor and his tractor are in retirement - but it could be argued that the Waitara farmer and his Chamberlain Champion 9G are more active than ever.   Colin collects and restores vintage tractors and he and wife Viv spend a good portion of each summer puttering around New Zealand's back roads on the Chamberlain 9G.   The couple's son Peter now runs the family farm, giving them more... more
 

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