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.
Mum left school at 16 and moved to Nelson to stay with some Howes family there.
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.
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.