To Dear Auntie Kitty
You left for New Zealand at the age of twenty-two.
Your family missed you then, and we still do.
When you left England how your Mum and Dad did fret
And there was much sadness for your Sisters AG and ET.
We heard lots of our Aunt who we had never seen
In a Country far off where we hadn’t been.
Our first visit to see you in 1984/85
Your wonderful welcome when we did arrive
All those lovely stories you had to tell
During afternoon teas when we ate so well.
Diana, Peter and Robert were so taken with it
On return, plans were made for another visit
But Robert with his busy milk round just couldn’t be spared
He just had his memories which we all three shared
Back Diana and Peter came on the 17th of December
Your happy face we did remember
Again stories told of your early days
Of times in the Bush and Spartan ways
Hard times you had when you were first wed
And much happier times when you moved to Birkenhead
We wanted to tell you how much you have been
Loved by us all and missed since last seen
We’re sending our love to a wonderful Aunt
We’ll never forget you, we certainly can’t.
So keep on going and work in the church shop
From us Auntie Kitty you are the tops.
With all our love, Diana, Peter and Robert
Auntie Kitty’s Story
Diana (Sheldrick) and Peter Shuttlewood together with Diana’s brother Robert Sheldrick were the first and only English relatives Kitty had seen since she moved to New Zealand in 1919
Written by Diana Shuttlewood as told her by Aunt Kitty, after their visit in 1984/85
My Aunt Kitty (nee Finding), who was my Mum’s (Agnes Jane Finding later Sheldrick) sister, she was born on 2 May 1897 in England and lived in Eyeworth, near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire. She was the eldest daughter of William Finding (died 5 Oct 1953 aged 91 years) and Eliza Carter (died 14 Oct 1946 aged 81 years). When we visited New Zealand in December 1985 and January 1986, this is the story that Aunt Kitty told me.
Uncle Ern was in the New Zealand Army, stationed in Stevenage, while Aunt Kitty was in service in Stevenage and that is how they met. They left England on 9th August 1919 after marrying Ernest Melville Poynter Small in the church over the road from where she had lived in Eyeworth and sailed to New Zealand arriving in Wellington on 26 September 1919.
Grandad didn’t give her away
Grandad (William Finding) wouldn’t give her away at her wedding because he didn’t want her to go to New Zealand as he knew he would never see her again.
They lived in Nelson for four weeks. At the end of November 1919 they moved into the bush (near Opotiki). Went by coach so far then onto horseback, Uncle Ern, his brother (Lawrie) and Aunt Kitty. They rode fourteen miles through the bush, up hills and down vales, came into a Maori clearing, where the Maori’s wanted to know who the white woman was, then they made them a drink and off they went again. Lawrie, who had known they were coming tied over ripe marrows to trees along the way and kidded Aunt Kitty that they were the fruit growing on the trees.
The tracks through the bush were only just wide enough for the pack horses and where they had walked they had made deep tracks, the packs on one side of their body hung right over the edge of the cliffs, very scary. Aunt Kitty said she had never seen anything like it before and that’s how she had to ride the horse when she first went out into the bush.
Living in the bush
They arrived at last to where they were going to live, it had a mud floor with ferns growing out of it, canvas walls and top (it was an old railway tarpaulin) Lawrie had made up the home for them a week before.
They lived three and a half miles from the nearest neighbour (a man living on his own). Lawrie lived near them for about sixteen months then he left, but while he was there he helped Uncle Ern cut down some trees and they built a saw pit to saw up the trees so they could build a proper house. Uncle Ern put Aunt Kitty down the pit on the end of the saw; she used to get covered with sawdust.
One day Aunt Kitty and Lawrie put Uncle Ern down the saw pit, they kept throwing bits of sawdust down on top of him which made him very annoyed. He did not know they were throwing it at him but that way Aunt Kitty was getting her own back. They planed all the wood to make the ceilings and floors for the house.
Uncle Ern escapes death
One day when Uncle Ern was on his pack horse a wild bull (it was all wild cattle out there) jumped down onto the horse and knocked it straight over the side of a mountain. Uncle Ern just managed to grab hold of a tree branch and save himself, the horse of course died.
The Children are born
Ena was born (7 August 1920) in the mud hut with Lawrie’s wife, Ruby, in attendance. All they had was a book of instructions to read about what to do; that included cutting the umbilical cord with a pair of scissors, Aunt Kitty had a bridle on the end of the bed to pull on.
When Audrey was due, Aunt Kitty rode a horse for fourteen miles with Uncle Ern , Ena was tied on his back on another horse. They then got on a motor coach for a twenty mile trip, where she went into a nursing home to have Audrey (13 February 1922).
Aunt Kitty stayed in hospital for ten days before catching the coach back. Their neighbour who lived three and a half miles from them was waiting for them with the horses. They rode back home with Uncle Ern carrying the new baby and the neighbour carrying Ena.
When their little boy was due, they did the same journey again. Harold William (Boy) was born on 25 February 1923 after a very bad time in which Aunt Kitty and the baby nearly died but everything was ok in the end. On leaving the hospital they did the coach journey once again, then they had to ride on a sledge pulled on the back of a horse as there were too many of them to put on the horse.
The house was built now and they had another lady and man living about four miles away, so when Jean was due they looked after Audrey and Boy. Aunt Kitty and Uncle Ern had the pack horses ready for the journey on which they were going to take Ena with them when Aunt Kitty said “it’s too late the baby’s on its way”, by that time they had a telephone so they phoned the postmistress who lived about ten miles away and she gave Uncle Ern instructions on what to do. Jean was born 11 October 1924. They managed it all by themselves, Aunt Kitty had a bottle of vinegar by her side ready to throw over Uncle Ern if he fainted but everything went fine.
Uncle Ern didn’t like babies and he wouldn’t wash the new born so Aunt Kitty had to do it all herself with olive oil and then wrapped the baby in a flannelette shirt of Uncle Ern’s
Uncle Ern’s mother visited them once while they were on the bush farm. They nailed a chair to the sledge and went to pick her up from the Service car. The horse dragged her back through the bush and over a creek, while she sat on the chair bumping up and down for fourteen miles.
Leaving the bush
In 1926 they had a bad time so left the bush farm. They had to burn all the bush trees down but if you didn’t burn them properly (and they didn’t), they would all shoot out again. They were wasting so much time trying to make a go of it. They even had to go out and pick grasses and get the seeds out of them and set them to make grass meadows for their sheep to graze on, after a while they also had a few cows which Aunt Kitty used to make butter from their milk. Uncle Ern used to ride into town three days a week to sell it. Aunt Kitty used to make it in a churn down in the creek about 3 o’clock in the morning because that was the coolest time and coolest place.
Another reason for leaving the bush was that Ena was ready to go to school. They walked out of their house, just leaving it; all they took was their stock – all their hard work was really for nothing.
They then rented a small Maori farmlet, they sold all the stock they had in the bush and bought about ten cows. On Christmas eve, Uncle Ern had gone out when a Maori bull got into their paddock with the cows, Aunt Kitty being nine months pregnant got a pitch fork and chased the bull out and that started the labour. Their neighbour who had a little car took her to the hospital and the baby, Doris was born on 24 December 1926.
Uncle Ern looked after the children, on Christmas day he picked some wild cherries and made a cherry pie for dinner. Aunt Kitty came home from hospital after two weeks and then she stayed at home for another two weeks. Then she had to return to hospital for her appendix to be removed while a neighbour looked after the baby, Uncle Ern and the other children. She stayed in hospital for three weeks and then as she wasn’t well enough to go home stayed with a minister and his wife for three more weeks.
The lady who was looking after Doris used to bring her to see her for a few hours every day; she eventually went back to the little farm.
When Doris was about eighteen months old, Uncle Ern bought his own farm at Pokeno, they sold the furniture they had to the Maoris and off they went by Service car first and then by train. Their new home was a big old farmhouse with three hundred acres. They had three hundred sheep and thirty six cows. The first year all was well, and then they were struck by the drought so they had to herd the stock to some marsh ground which cost one shilling and sixpence per head of cattle. They had to live in a tent and milk all the cows by hand, this lasted for thirteen weeks then it started to rain and the grass started to grow again. They stayed there at the old farmhouse for three years.
They bought another farm at Dairy Flat (Wilks Road). A drover brought the sheep to Dairy Flat (three hundred in all) and they also bought nine cows which were in calf and thought they would start a new herd but all the calves died because the ground wasn’t very good so they had to dig up all the ground and put manure down then ploughed it and set grass.
After three years Aunt Kitty found out that she was pregnant. She and Uncle Ern couldn’t believe it as Aunt Kitty had been “fixed”, as she put it when she had her appendix out. They were both very unhappy about the situation but it happened and that was that.
When Aunt Kitty was about eight months pregnant, Uncle Ern had pneumonia, he wouldn’t go to hospital, he was such an awkward man. A couple of neighbours took turns to sit up with him each night to give Aunt Kitty a rest. Uncle Ern was very, very ill, and then his mother came to help out.
Two weeks early, Hilda (Bub) was born on 12 February 1931 in the next room to where Uncle Ern was so ill. Bub cried one night and Aunt Kitty got out of bed , she looked into Uncle Ern’s room and as ill as he was he was dragging his mattress across the floor to another room as he said the baby was making too much noise.
He eventually got better and then when Bub was three months old their little boy died with diphtheria. Uncle Ern took him to hospital but it was too late, they were heartbroken their lovely young boy had been taken from them.
When Uncle Ern came back from the hospital, Bub was lying on the mat in front of the fire and he walked in and picked her up, which was the first time he had looked at her since she was born.
Boy (Harold) was seven years old at the time of his death. He had contracted diphtheria from a child who they had staying with him. Aunt Kitty was heartbroken, she still talks about him as ‘Boy this’ and ‘Boy that’. When he was buried six little school boys carried his coffin.
The farm then got on its feet and they then sold the farm after thirteen years and moved to another farm at Albany (Appleby Road, part of what is now the North Shore Golf Course). They had about fifty cows which Jean and Aunt Kitty had to milk every morning at 4 o’clock ready for the milk to be taken away. Jean didn’t go to school, she did all her school work at home because she had to help at the farm as Uncle Ern wasn’t fit to do the work.
They moved to another small farm in Albany, about 17 acres (Albany Highway, opposite the Albany Inn), then Bub and Aunt Kitty used to look after the cows (about fourteen) and Uncle Ern became a Real Estate (Land Agent) with an office in town (Auckland, where Downtown Shopping Centre now is) with four men under him. He made his money by buying up old property, doing it up and then selling it.
They moved to Beachhaven (near Rangatira Road?) which was just a house and garden, staying for a year, then leaving and buying a house at Otahuhu which was near the seaside. They had about seven acres and four cows and a little shop which sold ice creams and soft drinks just at the weekend. They also used to boil up their old copper and charge people for the water to make their tea. They stayed there about eighteen months before they bought their first house in Hinemoa Street (number 4), Birkenhead (in 1946?).
Uncle Ern was still in Real Estate, they stayed in the house twelve years before moving to 65 Hinemoa Street (in 1958?), where Aunt Kitty still lives. Uncle Ern retired when he was 65 and died at home aged 74 on 29 May 1963; they were married for forty four years.
Aunt Kitty caught the flu in August 1996 and was put into “The Gables” (built in around 1905 and originally used as a maternity hospital (Harold Hardy and Kaye Ferguson were both born there)), a hospital for the elderly to recuperate. Unfortunately the flu developed into pneumonia and Aunt Kitty died peacefully at around 3 pm on Saturday 21 September 1996. The funeral service was held at St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Hinemoa Street on Tuesday 24 September followed by interment at the Glenfield Lawn Cemetery, next to her husband.
The following obituary was published in the St Andrews and St Philips Parish newsletter dated 29 September 1996:
We extend our sympathy to Mrs Small’s family of 5 daughters, 16 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and 8 great-great-grandchildren. It reads like a dynasty.
Mrs Small has been a much loved person in St Andrews for many years. A full church on Tuesday paid tribute to the love and esteem felt for her throughout the district. For many years she helped every Friday morning in the Church Shop and made literally hundreds of “bunnies” for the shop which were bought and sent all over the world. She always loved the St Andrews carol singers who sang for her each Christmas. She once said that was one of the nicest things that happened to her for as a small child in England she stood in a ring with the carollers and held the lantern.
Last May on her 99th birthday the singing group went to her home after church and sang some of the old hymns she loved. For many years she looked forward to our Sunday afternoon drives and always came while she was able to. She worked long and hard for the National Party and for many years her home was their headquarters. She won the confidence and respect of many politicians and there was representation at her funeral on Tuesday. She also worked for the Red Cross. Her active and positive outlook on life made it a pleasure to listen to her stories of the past. We shall miss her but she had a rich and interesting life and has left a legacy of lovely memories. Thank you Mrs Small for all you did and gave to us.