News Letters

Rangitoto Ramblings - August 2013


History & Memories – by Shirley Collins

Messrs Jones and others applied to the Devonport Domain Board, for a shack site on Rangitoto Island. Mr Jones was Secretary of the Workingmen's Club in Auckland. They called themselves "The Rangitoto Recreation Club" which was led by Mr Jones. This Club had site No. 27 and used that Bach for their recreation and storage on the Island.

In his wisdom and lucky for the Collins family, on the 8 th August 1911, Mr Jones applied for a shack site for himself and wife and on 29 th November 1911 Devonport Domain Board approved site No 36. Mr Jones was married to Edith (nee Ryan) who was a sister to Nora Ryan. Mr and Mrs Jones moved down to Christchurch, so Nora used the Bach regularly. She met Alan's grandfather, Mr Alf J Parker who was the Government Analyst in Auckland. Alf used to stay with his late first wife's brother, Johnny Hammond who had Bach No 32 which was on the left hand side of the water end of the Kowhai track. Nora married Alf Parker who had two daughters, Elsie and Violet Parker. Still keeping things in the family Elsie and Violet married 2 brothers, Bill and Fred Collins. Since 9 th October 1958 it has been known as the Collins Bach.

I first went down to the Bach the Xmas of 1957 with Alan. This was just a day trip as Fred, Violet, Bill and Elsie were there with their families for the holidays. The Bach is virtually the same now as it was then. Built with 12inch by 1inch kauri rough sawn boards and is one of the oldest Bach's on the Island. Bill and Fred got permission to build on an extra bedroom on the back over the existing deck. The front bedroom and lounge was painted we think sometime in the 1930's and we have left this as original. Alan and I married in December 1958 and my next visit to the Bach was New Year's Day 1960. I wasn't allowed to stay and I got told off by Mum and Auntie Elsie in no uncertain terms, as I had our first child, Lynda 12 days later. After this we spent all our Xmas holidays at the Bach, Bill, Elsie and family had the first 2 weeks of the holidays then Fred, Violet and family had the next 2 weeks of the holiday.

After a few years our family grew, Lynda, Graeme and then Angela. It was a mammoth undertaking as I remember taking a very large suitcase of baby clothing and cloth nappies down, disposable nappies were not invented then. Washing nappies in buckets of water using Lux flakes, wringing out as much of the water as I could, then getting them dry each day was no mean task. Today's mothers don't know how good they have got it. Having no refrigerator in those days was hard but we had a good safe. The shop used to get fresh bread, milk and odds and ends in every few days. We could order meat each week at the shop and this also was delivered by the Blue Boats on a Wednesday. When we had Angela in 1966 we still didn't have a refrigerator but I was lucky as the shop kept our milk in their fridge till I wanted it. We later got a kerosene fridge which came off a fishing trawler and we still have this today. It is an Electrolux fridge and it is well over 60 years old. The only thing is you can't regulate it very well and sometimes freezes up too much. This fridge has been well photographed by many New Zealand as well as overseas visitors which come through our Bach.

Lynda and Graeme being a few years older than Angela knew they had to keep to the paths at all times or else they could hurt themselves. One day Uncle Hugh was staying with us at the Bach and he was fishing off the rocks straight in front of the Bach. He told 3 year old Graeme that he could come over to him but on his way he tripped over and gashed his head open. Lots of blood and Lynda screaming at the top of her voice saying "he's dead, he's dead". We thought that would be the end of our holidays, but lucky for us there was the Ambulance rooms by the swimming pool. It was a hot day and the ambulance guy had just got into the pool so out he gets and fixes Graeme up. No stitches and no concussion and after dressing the wound and monitoring him for the next few days, he was fine. As these two got older they were always swimming in the pool. I can remember one day when we had them at the pool, Fred and Violet were looking after 11 month old Angela. When we got back both of them had a funny look on their faces and Angela was standing next to Violet leaning against the front of the settee. This was not unusual as she had been doing this for many months. Fred called Angela and she walked over to him on the other side of the room, laughing away. This is what you remember and her first steps were taken at Rangitoto is something that will be with us forever.

All the children have great memories of Rangitoto, fishing competitions, swimming races, dressing up parades, sports days like 3 legged races, egg and spoon races, running races, lolly scrambles, picnics and tug of war competitions. This was lots of fun for the children and the parents. Trying to find bits and pieces around the Bach and around the rocks for the dress up was a lot of fun for them. The children all had to swim in the pool and Vi Leech (Aunty Vi to all) insisted that they should be able to swim in the sea. They swam from the end of the wharf to the stone wharf next to the pool. The adults in their rowing boats on each side of them making sure they were all safe. There was a great crowd of children, mostly young teenagers who gathered each day, Collins's, Haywoods, Bells and the Hanley boys from the honey shed. The older children used to walk up the mountain, torches in hand on New Year's Eve to see the New Year in at midnight.

The men went fishing each day and Fred and Bill had a good name as the great fishermen of Rangitoto Island. Some got away but as you see by the photo below, this one didn't. Later on Fred, Alan and Graeme went fishing but I learnt many years later that the then quite young Graeme was told that some of the words used out in the boat were fishing words only and not to be used when at home. I can quite imagine the words that were used if Fred caught a stingray. He never treated them gently. They fed lots of people around with fresh and smoked fish; Bill was the best at smoking the fish but Fred was the best at scaling and filleting them.

At night we all sat around listening to stories about the Collins family who were bought up in the Hawke's Bay. If I only had a tape recorder it would have been wonderful to play back to our 8 grandchildren. We used to have four generations there but at that time the eldest of our grandchildren, Melissa was too young to remember the tales. Sadly before we had anymore grandchildren Fred passed away. After this we had Uncle Bill coming down with us. Bill was a 1935/36 All Black and toured England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Each night listening to Bill telling us about the tour and other stories he had us in fits of laughter. Alan, myself, Lynda, Graeme, Angela and now our son-in-law Garry couldn't get enough of the stories he told. For those that knew Bill Collins you will understand what I am saying about Bill, kept coming down with us on all our holidays. At about 4-30am there would be several thumps on our bedroom wall and a loud voice saying "come on the fish are biting and they will not wait for us." Uncle Bill always had a cup of tea ready for us. Thankfully I could go back to sleep until a respectful time to get up.

When I look back I don't know how we fitted all of us in, but with stretchers all over the lounge floor and the younger children on the sofa and settee we seemed to manage. It was not easy cooking for everyone as at that time we only had the smoke house which doubled up as my cookhouse. Boiling water, cooking meals (including roast meat and roast veges) just on 2 iron rungs over the fire was hard and hot work especially on hot days, but it was worse if it was raining as you tended to get wet. Then we got a double gas burner and bottle inside which it made cooking more pleasant. Now we have advanced to a B.B.Q. which makes it really quite a pleasure to cook. I think back and the experience of the old open fire cooking was something I can remember as good old Rangitoto cooking. This is still the way to cook fish. Straight out of the sea, a little seasoning and batter covering the fresh fillets and cooked in the pan of hot fat over a hot wood fire. Nothing can beat this.

We used to have white spirits lamps, then kerosene lamps, but I put my foot down and bought a gas bottle and lamp which lit easily. We had gas lamps for many a year and now with the help of great friends we put a new roof on the Bach, at this time John white wired us up for solar lights. What a difference this makes to be able to flick a switch to turn the lights on.

Alan and I still go down at Xmas, all the holidays and any times we can in between. We have not missed a Xmas since 1961 and I still love it. Just to chill out and get away from the traffic, telephones and television it recharges our batteries. Meeting up with all the other Bach people and catching up with their families at our happy hours is great. I hope I haven't bored you too much with my ramblings but I hope this will start other people writing about their experiences at Rangitoto.

Susan Yoffe RIP

Susan died very unexpectedly on 13 th November 2012. To say it was a shock was an understatement, she had only recently celebrated her 70 th birthday at the Devonport Croquet Club with family and friends. Those same family and friends attended Susan's memorial service held at Wakatere Boating Club on Saturday 24 th November.

Susan became involved with the Trust at the very early stages, her well respected research on the islands' Bach Communities and the oral histories she collected on behalf of the Trust were integral to stopping the baches from the bulldozer. Later Susan became a Trustee and it was her very special work that culminated in the Trust receiving the Honourable Mention from UNESCO, Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Awards. To this day the award is still spoken about at overseas seminars with something amounting to awe – how did a small insignificant building get to hold its own against other buildings such as the Archiepiscopal Palace in Goa, India.

Susan managed Bach 38 our museum which included the Auckland Heritage Festival Tours. Her cream scones and tea tours are a highlight, so much so we are on the list of some tour companies as alternative places to visit. She continued to research the community's histories and it was her research that enabled the first set of plaques to be installed around the Rangitoto Wharf Community. Just after she passed away her latest application for more plaques was approved by Auckland City and the Trust is endeavouring to complete the project in her memory.

Susan is missed. Her band of museum volunteers and fellow Trustees miss her dreadfully, we hope to have a remembrance service in November, where it is planned to dedicate a special Rangi seat to Susan.

Rangitoto Wharf Re-Build

Last September work finally began on a replacement wharf. As with all large construction projects it has not been without its hiccups – trying to find footings for the first set of piles took longer than expected but progress has continued apace since then. The Trust has had to cancel tours and the museum has not been able to be open as often as we would like because access has been restricted throughout the early construction period. The construction company and its staff have been splendid in assisting us with access for important events in the later stages. Hopefully the wharf will be mostly complete by December this year in time for the busy summer season. Some photos of the progress below.

Restoration Update - Bach 78

Graham Ball Builders Ltd were contracted to do a significant amount of structural work on Bach 78 so that the Trust could move the project ahead. The work was completed on time and to budget and the builders thoroughly enjoyed their stay on the Island. Since then because the weather has been so good we have been able to have fortnightly working bees, so progress can definitely be seen. Preparation is underway for painting closer to the summer season and with the sponsorship of Dulux, Selleys and Cory Electrical and not forgetting our wonderful volunteers the project is in good hands.