Jackie belongs to a writing group formed after Deborah’s life writing course in 2015. She has also attended master classes at the Michael King Writers’ Centre taught by Deborah and was attracted to this latest course by the biographical element. Her memoir is a work in progress as there is still so much to write about and the story of her life is more complex than first imagined. The more she writes the more she discovers to write about.
She was born Minnie Blanch German on January 31, 1881 at Birch near Beer Ferrers, a parish on the western bank of the river Tavy above the confluence with the Tamar, in Devon, the youngest of nine children by her father’s first wife and the fifth girl. Her father had three more sons by his second wife. It was a crowded house.
Wavy red hair, just like mine, turned white as she aged and came into my life.
A tall winnowy figure she endured a sea voyage to New Zealand in 1897 as a sixteen-year-old with her older sister Florrie. “To escape their father’s wandering hands” so I am told. Her face was stern and she had a sharp, pointy nose which has carried on down the generations, but her eyes were kind and she could produce a wry smile.
A strong body was essential as she toiled on the Whakahongi Road farm, now Highway 27, at Tatuanui in the Waikato breaking in the land to become prime dairy country, finishing what her two brothers had started before her. I understand they all changed their name to their mother’s maiden name, Matthews around the time of WWI because of ill feeling.
Grandpa was a bit of a bully with a mean streak, and a hard taskmaster so I don’t think she had an easy life bringing up four children as well as attending to tasks on the farm. She was always beautifully dressed, however with expensive pearls befitting a wealthy farmer’s wife. I suspect she had no money of her own as all expenses were charged to the local general store and then paid each month as the Dairy Company cheque arrived.
When Grandpa died, she splashed out and bought herself a Japanese Noritake tea set decorated with silver and dainty pink roses. The ‘Japanese’ was always emphasised in whispery, reverent tones.
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