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Articles from New Zealand

By the late Mary Gavin, Matamata, New Zealand.

Reprinted here with permission of the late Author’s family.

See also theTribute Article to Mary Gavin

Originally published in "Matamata Women 1924-1993" edited by Joan Stanley, published by Matamata Historical Society, Matamata, New Zealand 1993.

Please Note: All the place names referenced in this article are in New Zealand unless otherwise stated.

Mary Lovie Qualtrough was born 22 November 1880 on her parent’s farm which was part of the Battle of Orakau site, near Kihikihi. She was the fifth of the family of eight daughters of William and Catherine Mary Qualtrough. Her grandmother, Catherine Lovie, was the midwife at her birth, hence her second name of Lovie. When her older sisters first saw the new baby, one said, "Isn’t she like a little bunny rabbit." The nickname of "Bunny" was to stay with her for the rest of her life.

A bright child she insisted on accompanying her older sisters to school at the age of four, walking the four miles to Kihikihi School.

As well as helping with the household chores the eight sisters had to help their father with farm work. They hand milked cows and helped with harvesting and potato gathering. Bunny became an expert horsewoman and drove the horses in the wagon or buggy. On one occasion she and her sister Annie were entrusted with a wagon load of pigs to drive from Kihikihi across a primitive road to Cambridge and across the river to a bacon factory at Hautapu. They set out at dawn and when they did not return by evening the family became anxious until they heard the heavy squelching of the horses’ hooves plodding through the swamp.

Bunny was apprenticed to a Kihikihi tailoress where she acquired skills, which stood her in good stead in later life. She was an active member of the Kihikihi tennis club where the uniform for ladies was an ankle length skirt, a long sleeved blouse buttoned to the neck, a tie and no doubt stout shoes.

About 1900, the Qualtrough family moved to Fencourt near Cambridge. William Qualtrough built a two storeyed barn which was used as a community centre by the local residents. Dances and magic lantern shows were held there. The girls continued to help their father on the farm.

Bunny met Bruno Schwarz who had recently emigrated from Texas, USA. They became engaged and both attended the ballot for the subdivision of the Matamata Estate held in the Sailor’s Mission Hall in Auckland in June 1904. They were overjoyed to draw a block of 159 acres on Waharoa Road West, Matamata. Bruno Schwarz built a small bach on the property and then a house for his bride. The couple were married in the Qualtrough barn at Fencourt on the 6th day of the 6th month of 1906 and started life together in Matamata.

Establishing a home and farm and garden, making new friends, meeting and helping neighbours and catering for the needs of a young family left little spare time. The first two children, Bob and Mary, were born in Cambridge. Midwives were engaged to come to the home for the birth of Jock, Richard (Dick) and the the youngest child, Bill. A second daughter, Margaret, was born at Dr Carolan’s hospital in Tainui Street (Matamata).

With Bunny’s practical experience in farming she was able to assist her husband on the farm. She helped with hand-milking of the dairy herd, drove the horse and buggy and fed the calves with a specially enriched mixture of milk and eggs as well as doing the everyday cooking, washing and ironing of the farm household. The washing was done with the aid of a copper and wooden tubs and the ironing with a Pott’s iron heated on the coal range.

She was a marvellous cook and housekeeper. The copper was a versatile utensil and used not only for washing clothes, but also for heating water for baths, boiling jam, preserving jars of fruit, making soap and boiling plum puddings. The latter was always the second course of huge hot midday dinners which Bunny prepared for the workers from neighbouring farms who assisted with harvesting.

Neighbours helped each other, especially at harvesting time when they shared equipment and labour. The Schwarz’s neighbours were the Egans, the Smiths, the Bullocks and the Englands. The Schwarz family became particularly friendly with the Gunn family. Bruno Schwarz and Sydney Gunn were both immigrants to New Zealand and became lifelong friends.

Their wives, Bunny Schwarz and Dora Gunn were New Zealand born and similar house-keepers who also became lifelong friends sharing many experiences, bearing and rearing children and even sharing the same seamstress in turn. Made-up sheets, towels and pillowslips were unobtainable so material had to be ordered from Walter Maingay, Smith and Caughey’s traveller. The material was cut into the required lengths and hemmed on a treadle singer sewing machine by a visiting seamstress. She also sewed boys’ pants,shirts and pink flannel undershirts and girls’ dresses, flannel bodices and bloomers.

The Schwarz family went to Texas for a year to visit their grandparents and family in 1920. They sailed on the Royal Mail Steamer "Ionic", whose bell is now in the Auckland Museum, and returned on the ill-fated "Niagara", which was sunk by a German mine in 1940.

After her husband’s death in 1953 Bunny retired to live in town with her youngest son Bill. She was foundation member of the Matamata Women’s Division Farmers’ Union. She went to Church and joined the Senior Citizens’ Club. She was often called upon to help and advise neighbours with sick children. Her wise advice was also sought as a marriage guidance counsellor long before the term was in use.

She died on 20 August 1968 at the age of 87. Dr Hargreaves [a Matamata general practitioner] once said of the author, "I greatly admire your mother. She is a woman of great wisdom. She always thinks before she speaks."

The author, Mary Gavin, is the daughter of Mary Lovie Schwarz. Mary Gavin died in Matamata, New Zealand, just short of her 93rd birthday on 9 June 2001.

February 2002

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