a family story

John Roxborogh

(Isabella) ANN HANNA

Ann McKenzie, as the second daughter in Roderick's family, was named for her paternal grandmother. Years afterwards when she was a young adult, like Helen and her younger sister Margaret, she took a second name, that of her aunt Isabella McKenzie. From then on she called herself Isabella Ann McKenzie - causing many problems for genealogists searching the records! 
She was 11 months old when the family left Scotland to come to New Zealand. She must have kept her parents busy as she crawled around the deck on board ship and later learned to walk during the-three-and-a-half month voyage. Like many people who came from Scotland as babes in arms or as very young children, Ann thought of herself as truly Scottish. She knew her heritage and spoke a little Gaelic.
Ann was enrolled at Takapau School soon after it opened in 1879 and was in Standard Four when her parents moved back to Waipawa in 1884. It seems that she left school at that point, maybe to help her mother or even perhaps to go into service as Helen had done the previous year. In the 1880s and the 1890s Waipawa School was praised by the inspector for the excellence of its programme but even so, many children still chose to leave before reaching Standard Five as they preferred to go to work. This may have been the case with Ann who was then 12 years of age.
        By the 1890s she had found employment at the vicarage in Porangahau. Her employer was Frederick Edward Telling Simcox, better known as Parson Simcox who, had come to Saint Michael and All Angels for three years in 1877 and stayed for 43. It was an interesting household in which to live and work and besides that Helen and Birley were living nearby. 
In 1894 Ann returned to live with her mother in Kaikora North. In July, Roderickena, her first child was born. Denie, as the little girl was to be called, was the first granddaughter to be named after Roderick. Roderickena was a new form of the name, the usual version being Rodina.
Once Denie reached the toddler stage Ann's mother often cared for her so that Ann could return to work. Denie always remembered that she had had many Maori children as playmates while living at Kaikora North.
While working at Farndon Ann met Robert Hanna, a widower with three teen-age sons and a daughter, Elsie, almost the same age as Denie. On January 18, 1899, Ann and Robert were married at the Registrar's office in Napier. From the very beginning Ann and Robert had a large "ready-made" family. Robert was a railway worker and not long after their marriage he was transferred to Windsor, in North Otago.  
Robert, an Irishman was born in Moher, a small village in County Cavan. It is believed he came to New Zealand in the 1870s. Until well into the 1880s he worked as a labourer at Meeanee in Hawkes Bay. He had married Elizabeth Ronalds at Napier in 1889 and she had died in 1897. Robert's father-in-law was a guard on the railways, and soon after his marriage to Elizabeth, Robert left farming to join the railways' work force as a platelayer. He was to stay with New Zealand Railways until his retirement in the 1920s.
          For Ann marriage brought many changes. She became step-mother to four children; in the same year she moved to the South Island away from the support of the extended family; and because of Robert's job she became part of a railway-settlement community.
Windsor was a small township 13 miles inland from Oamaru. It had been carefully planned to serve the Waiareka railway which ran from Oamaru to Ngapara with a branch line going to Tokarahi. Sections were sold by auction in 1879 and the first sod for the railway was turned six months later. However there were stops and starts and it was not until 1887 that the line was finally finished. The districts served consisted of several large estates where sheep-farming and cropping were carried out on a large scale. At harvest time people loved to watch for the grain train as it passed through on its way to the granaries. In sheep circles Windsor was known as the home of the Corriedale, it having been bred there.
          When the Hannas arrived in May 1899 they found it to be a well-serviced township. There was a store with post-office facilities, an hotel a smithy and of course the row of little railway houses on their quarter-acre sections just across the street from the line. The houses themselves were identical, only the garden bringing a touch of individuality to each property. All their lives, no matter where they lived, Ann and Robert had a beautiful garden. The station was at the edge of the town, a very short walk from Railway Street. There were private homes too, and on a hill, overlooking the valley, the school.      There was no mention of William, Robert's eldest son, being with them at that time, but the other two, Charles and Robert were enrolled at school at the beginning of the second term, and Elsie and Denie, three months later when they had both turned five. Elsie already had a second Christian name so now it seemed right for Denie to be given one too. She was enrolled as Roderickena Margaret Hanna.
From a social perspective the school was the focal point for the community. Until 1904 when a public hall was built all church services, concerts and dances were held there. The school-room had tiered seating with long desk tops. While some infant children might have their feet on the floor in the front row of the class those in the standards sat in rows above and behind them much as spectators do in the grandstand at rugby matches. When the room was required for dancing the tiered seating would be moved outside until the function was over.    
Windsor was a pleasant community with its store providing another meeting place apart from the school and the railway station. The two daily steam trains were always a point of interest. As a platelayer it was Robert's job to repair the rails and keep the lines straight. Later, while he was still at Windsor, he was promoted to the position of ganger with responsibility for a group of surfacemen. They were the ones who worked with spades and shovels installing the tracks, making tunnels and keeping everything safe.
The Hannas remained in Windsor for six years. They may even have had thoughts of permanent residency as Robert was once an applicant for a farm section. Their first child Catherine Pearl, was born in Oamaru in 1900 and George, Evelyn Ann, and Bertha Helen followed over the next two and a half years. The Scottish naming system was not followed but Ann did remember brothers and sisters and an aunt when naming the children. Although Catherine was a McKenzie name it was also the name of Robert's mother.
One of the fringe benefits which meant a great deal to the families of railway workers was the railway pass which entitled the employee and his wife to an annual trip. In Ann's case it enabled her to make a journey to the North Island to visit her mother and other relatives. Leaving the young children in the care of the older ones she set off alone on her once-a-year holiday. In the 1980s those visits were still remembered by nieces and nephews who were living in Hawkes Bay and Apiti at that time.  
Charles and Robert left school and went to work locally and then in May 1905 their father was transferred to Clinton, in South Otago. It is likely that they remained in Windsor and from that time on led independent lives.     Clinton was a thriving township 74 miles south of Dunedin on the Dunedin to Invercargill line. It was often referred to rather loosely, as Popotunoa, its old name. With its amenities, its rolling hills and fine farmland it was a pleasant place in which to live. The station was known far and wide for its tearooms; the waitresses wore smart uniforms and the place had an air of refinement not usually associated with railway tearooms. Home for the Hannas was another railway house much the same as their previous one.
Elsie and Denie enrolled at the school and once more there was a change of name for Denie. This time she was registered as Rodina which was then shortened to Dina. Catherine, known as Kate, was already of school age but she was not enrolled until later. After a year at Clinton Elsie returned to Windsor, perhaps to stay with her brother Robert who was then 21. Denie, like her cousin Fanny, passed the Proficiency Examination at the age of 12 but there is no record of her having sat the scholarship examination and in any case it was a considerable distance to the nearest secondary school.
After a year at Clinton the Hannas had another daughter and this time it was Robert's turn to name the baby. The choice reflected his interest in politics and his great admiration for Richard John Seddon. This child was registered as Phyllis Jane Seddon Hanna. When she was a year old Robert was transferred for the last time. The family moved to Waikouaiti on the coast north of Dunedin.
          The stretch of coast-line from Aromoana at the entrance to the Otago Harbour, to Moeraki and further north, is one of the most beautiful in all the world. Powerful white rollers sweep in from the Pacific Ocean only to die down in a gentle fizzle on the golden sands; the sky and sea are seemingly ever blue, the latter so clean as to be to all appearances pollution free. At sea-level the air is as fresh and new as on any mountain top. Long before Europeans settled in Otago sealers and whalers worked in these waters. It was there at Waikouaiti that the legendary John Jones built a whaling station and set up an agricultural settlement before 1840. The days of large-scale whaling in those parts were over by 1907 when Ann and Robert arrived but tangible reminders such as blubber pots remained. The Hanna children grew up with a sense of the history of this place as the family stayed there until Robert retired in the early 1920s.
Their childhood years were pleasant ones spent in a happy home where all were well provided for. It was often easy to lease a small patch of land on which to keep a few cows. Robert milked a couple. Such animals were like household pets and seldom needed to be tethered. All that the milker needed was a bucket and a stool. Ann kept ducks and hens and with fruit and vegetables from the garden they fared well. She was a wonderful cook and her raspberry jam in particular was long remembered for its unique flavour.  
The youngest of the children, William, was born in 1908 by which time Elsie and Denie had left home and were at work, Elsie at the local doctor's home and Denie further afield but still coming home for holidays. As George, Kate, Eva, and Bertha passed through primary school they too went to work. Bertha would dearly have loved to take a design course at the Technical College in Dunedin but her father did not want her to travel alone each day by train and so she had to give away that dream. The year 1915 brought great sadness when Elsie suddenly died on the eve of her marriage. She was struck with appendicitis and taken by train to hospital in Dunedin. In order to save her from the jolting of the carriage during the journey her father made a hammock which he slung from hooks in the ceiling of the guard's van. He travelled with her and a few days later made a lonely trip back home with her body. She was buried in the Palmerston Cemetery.
          Ann travelled north each year until 1921 when her mother died. There were some isolated and long-remembered visits to Waikouaiti from North Island relatives, Kitty (Kate) McKenzie a niece who travelled back with George after he had made a trip north; Alex McKenzie an uncle; and Mary Matthews a cousin, with her husband Ernest. A more casual caller was Ann's brother Alex, known as Sandy. He was often in the South Island working with shearing gangs and likely to call in without warning.
After leaving Waikouaiti School Phyllis enrolled at Palmerston District High School. Until her father retired and the family moved to Palmerston she travelled to school by train with other pupils each day. After matriculating she hoped to study at Dunedin Teachers College but due to the depression no more students were being taken in at that time. William spent two and a half years at high school and then worked on the bread delivery cart before going to the limekilns at Dunback where he remained until enlisting for overseas service in World War II. 
          After retiring Ann and Robert lived in their own home in Palmerston, a cottage on a few acres of land in Boundary Road, later renamed District Road. They planted a garden and Ann kept hens and ducks as before. As the adult children married they moved away but in most cases no further than Otago or Canterbury. Thus as the years went by there were always grandchildren visiting or staying for holidays. It was fun to come to this little farm, to fish for eels in the creek below the house while Granddad sat in the cane chair on the veranda watching, and smoking his pipe. When the grandchildren were tucked in bed Ann would sit beside them reading stories. This she continued to do until her eyesight failed in later life.
 Ann had rigid standards about many things. On washday the copper outside was lit, a little borax was added to the water and the clothes were boiled and boiled. Some had to be scrubbed on a wooden washboard before they were considered clean. In the evenings Ann and Robert would sit in their chairs on either side of the coal range and sing and sing. They had beautiful voices. Ann would sing in the Gaelic, sometimes a lullaby. She would sew and embroider and of course, knit. She made red flannel petticoats and slippers for all the granddaughters; her needlework was done in white cotton on fine linen. Her shawls were light and delicate -the envy of many but she herself was never quite satisfied because they were not fine enough to pass through her wedding ring, a test her mother's shawls had always passed.
When World War II was declared both sons enlisted. George had married and was living in Hampden at the time. Like many other wives and families Mary and their daughter Catherine were left to carry on until his return. William became a prisoner of war in Italy and there were many long and anxious days waiting for the war to be over. Before that day finally came Robert died and was buried in Palmerston on 27 February 1944.
Ann continued living in their home, sometimes having a granddaughter or a great-granddaughter with her, but with failing eyesight the time came when she had to move to Dunedin. She lived with Kate until her death in 1967. Her grave is in the Anderson Bay Cemetery on a hill high above the sea. Kate is beside her and nearby are the graves of Denie and Arthur Freeman, and in the Returned Servicemen's section, Kate's husband, Thomas Tippett and a son Robert. A century after her marriage Ann McKenzie's descendants numbered in excess of two hundred.   
Ann and Robert's story is that of two people who had a great love for children and family life, and whose pleasures were in the simple things around them. Ann's Scottish heritage was evident throughout and her feeling for the extended family very real. In a strange way her bedroom became a kind of shrine to their memories. The walls were lined with McKenzie photographs, the door was kept closed and only on rare occasions did a snatched glimpse reveal an inkling of what was there. On the day of her departure from Palmerston all tangible reminders were buried in the garden by Ann herself. Seemingly a chapter was closed.

Ann (1872-1967) married Robert Hanna (c1855- 27 Feb 1944) on 18 Jan 1899

Roderickena (Denie) (17 Jul 1894 - 9 Aug 1965)

Catherine Pearl (24 Feb 1900 - 1985)

George (14 May 1904 - 11 May 1974)

Evelyn Ann (9 Nov 19xx- )

Bertha Helen (16 Aug 19xx -)

Phyllis Jane Seddon (11 May 1906 - )

William Henry (29 May 1908 -)

Robert Hanna married Elizabeth Ronalds ( - c.1888) in 1889