t04 Esther


My mother Esther Mary HOWES was born just before WW1 on 13th April 1914 in Fairlie. She is registered as being born on the 15th. Now did mum get it wrong or is the registration wrong? Mum did romanticise things and the story she tells is that granddad told everyone “he got a baby from the Easter Show”. The Mackenzie Highland Show in 1914 was Easter Monday 13th.
Mum often recalled going to St Patricks Church at Burkes Pass 20 kms away in the horse and gig and then to Dornie farm another 6 km away, but an older windier road crossing rivers to her Scottish gran (Mary Smart or Granny Greig as she called her) for lunch. I drive that route today, tarsealed now, but in awe.
“Dornie I remember from aged 4. It was a child’s paradise with a safe creek, fruit trees and Granny Greig’s garden and collection of hens and ducks. My parents had one of the first cars in the district along with a high wheeled gig pulled by a large white horse called Tickles. When my mother was having a new baby, Granny Greig would come over and stay and look after us. I was 16 when Elijah died and 26 when Mary (Granny Greig) died”.
Mum’s schooling was at the old Te Ngawai School (no longer there) 4 kms away on a shingle road. “We shared riding to school on horses called Polly and Ronnie”.
For high school at the Timaru Tech “We caught the Fairlie Flyer train from Albury each day”.
Mum worked damn hard, was a good cook, taught me to knit and sew. She loved poetry but not singing. “My teacher told me I couldn’t sing, so I never did again”.
But she loved her Scottish music and her Scottish connection.
But there were 3 major failings with mum. She romanticised, gossiped and had a favourite child to the detriment of us.
Mum could tell a good story about others. It took me ages to realise and wake up to the fact that she was also doing that to me. Dad had warned me years ago to be careful as he had got into trouble in the Police for telling mum things that got repeated. There was no one spared in our wider family from mum’s tongue. If anyone thought they were in the confidence of mum then I could pass on a good story or 3 about them.
I can tell you who borrowed money off mum, how much and who never paid it back. I know who she paid to go overseas. Mum did pay off a marital debt and also gifted me $10,000 for a new vehicle. Embarrassed as I was over that, I knew she had done it for others. So I am being my usual honest self here.
There is an issue that I will not answer here and that is – did mum have a child when she was 16?
The information my sister Jenny (and one other living) imparts meets the memories of incidents I have. Mum often mentioned that she left school to go to Nelson to stay with that Howes family. There seemed some urgency over that departure.
Mum was never happy with the Salvation Army, saying “how hard she worked for them”. Was she referring to their home for pregnant teens? Jenny states it was a male born 1930 who died in Nelson mid 1980s. I applied to the Family Court and was allowed an application. The Salvation Army kept their own records and a baby born then was given to a new parent with their name so mum’s name would never have been recorded.
Jenny recalled an incident where “Uncle Tom turned up with a male at our Addington home who wanted to see us kids. Dad chased them away in a bit of a furore”.
Now I recall that incident but never knew what it was about. Jenny maintains that Uncle Tom was in touch with this half-brother of mine. It remains a mystery to some but I did get an answer whilst working in Nelson recently, but while my sisters are still alive, I will write no more.
After Nelson, mum did her nursing training at Auckland Hospital. She then spent a few years in her early 20’s at Kaikoura Hospital. She recalled many fond memories there as she did about Hanmer Springs Hospital. But then WW2 started and in her late 20’s she answered the call and served in Samoa. On return she told of “doing an air ambulance escort and seeing the 1945 eruption of Mt Ruapehu”.
To get back closer to home she got a job at Geraldine Maternity until she married. In 1965 she worked at Te Kuiti Hospital and whilst I was at High School, at a Rest Home in Palmerston North.
Mum made no attempt to invite me to her 90th birthday party and additionally, efforts were made by others to ensure I didn’t get an invite. They made sure my ex-wife was invited though and somehow I was supposed to send the boys down! Then at the party mum slags me off cos I apparently stopped my boys from attending. Lies. However I was ill at the time but I did actually make attempts at the last minute to get the boys down via relatives in Taranaki, but they had already left.

Esther died on 29th October 2008 at Levin, 15 years after Ray.
Part of her ashes were placed in Levin with her husband while the rest were placed in a daughter’s grave at Burkes Pass.
There is a 3rd headstone for Esther – her own. As part of her written wishes, she had already chosen her own grave and headstone at Burkes Pass in which she had tendered her own garden.