a family story

John Roxborogh

Catherine and Alexander Robertson

Sometime during the year, 25 June 1845 to 25 June 1846, Ann McKenzie gave birth to a second daughter, and named her Catherine, presumably after her great-grandmother, Catherine Stewart.  In 1841 there were no fewer than six Catherine’s in the village, two of whom bore the family name, “McKenzie”.  Any one of them could have been a close relative.  The Old Parish Records for Lochbroom show that on 1 February 1817, Catherine, daughter of John McKenzie of Achindrean, was baptized. It is probable that that child was Alexander’s sister and thus aunt to our Catherine McKenzie.  The name “Catherine”, or a variation of it, has appeared in every generation of our family since then.

Catherine was only a year old when the potato famine, that had already wrought havoc in Ireland, brought destitution to the North-west Highlands.  Crop failures, usually due to the vagaries of the weather, had occurred in this part of Scotland many times during the previous century but the famine in 1846 was on an unprecedented scale.  For many crofters the potato had become the staple crop but now, with the spread of blight, there could be no harvest.  Families were faced with the very real prospect of starvation.  In Coigach, and in Ullapool, the suffering was severe.  

Early in December 1846 Thomas Chalmers, leader of the Free Church in Scotland, wrote to the local Free Church minister enquiring about the condition of the poor in the parish at that time.  In reply the Reverend McLeod wrote of his inability to describe what many of them were suffering:    

The scenes of misery to be witnessed and the sorrowful tales of distress, which are to be heard from every Glen, shore, peninsular and Island are truly pitiable.  The people deprived of their only means of subsistence - with famine and actual starvation, not only staring them in the face, but in the case of very many, at this moment along our Coasts their hearts fainting and their strength giving way, for want of the necessary food.  The vast majority of the people depend almost wholly upon their potatoes, with fish when they can get it, as the sole means of their subsistence - the small patches of ground which they possess being entirely required to raise potatoes, barely sufficient in the most abundant seasons to support their families, great numbers of them are without any corn crop - and now that the potatoes have failed them, their whole dependence is taken away. . . . We hear much of the distress of Ireland - but if misery and want be characteristic features of that unhappy land, we have Ireland here.

Work-related relief schemes, such as road construction and home-based knitting, were instituted.  The area needed roads and the people needed cash to buy meal that was brought in by ship from the east coast.  The able-bodied men who could not find work on the roads were required to knit for a small remuneration.  Other assistance to the poor came from the landlord himself but overall the scene was grim.  Some families sought escape through emigration but our McKenzies carried on as best they could, as had their forebears ever since first coming to Achindrean at least a century earlier.  Famine conditions lasted for several years and it was not until 1851 that things improved. 

In that year Catherine’s three older brothers were at school.  She herself was not listed as one of the scholars either then or ten years later when the next census was taken.  In fact it is uncertain whether she ever did attend school.  When she was married in 1872 she made her mark with a cross in lieu of a signature but many years later she was able to sign her will.  During the intervening period she certainly acquired some of those literary skills essential to the whole business of horse racing, farming, and voting in an election. 

When her sister Isabella was born Catherine was five years old.  Three years later Alexander the last of Alexander and Ann’s children were born.  From an early age she learned to help her mother and Mary with the day-to-day household tasks and the care of the younger children. 

          In 1862 the crops failed again and the dismal scenario of the period from 1846 - 1851 was repeated although the famine itself was of shorter duration.  Her grandmother, Helen, died in 1866 and Mary left home to work as a housemaid.  John and Donald were then young men, working as shepherds, but still living on the croft.  Catherine had learned the meaning of responsibility early in life.  She was never far from birth and death and the ongoing struggle to survive.
        In adult life she sometimes spoke of that time, remembering what it was like for the people of the village as if it were yesterday.  The McKenzie’s fared better than many others because two of Catherine’s uncles were Chelsea pensioners who willingly shared their cash, little as it was, with the extended family.  When in her nineties she sometimes proudly claimed that she was probably the only woman then alive who had personally known men who had fought in the Crimean War.

John left home to seek work and then Catherine followed.  Like her sister Mary she worked as a housemaid, earning her keep and a little cash.  Living next-door to the McKenzies in Achindrean was a Robertson family.  On 6 May 1872 the intention of Alexander Robertson to marry Catherine McKenzie was recorded and exactly one month later the marriage took place in the Church of Scotland in Ullapool.  The witnesses were Catherine’s brother Donald, and two neighbours from the village, Simon McLeod and Simon MacDonald.  Alexander was described as a tenant farmer from Strathkanaird but it is not known whether or not he was from the croft next door. 

It was about 1853 when John and Margaret Robertson had come to live next door to the McKenzie’s.  Possibly they were Alexander’s relatives as John Robertson was a blacksmith and it was often said in later years that there had been a blacksmith in our family (as well as a minister, several fishermen and a kilt-maker.)  Certainly they were neighbours for twenty years and residents in the village for even longer.  John’s wife, Margaret, was still living there at the time of the 1891 census but there is no record of any contact with our New Zealand family.   

          Alexander was born in Ardmair, not far from Achindrean, circa 1835.  In the 1861 census he was listed as a tenant farmer.  His mother was Margaret McLeod and his father Murdoch Robertson, a farm-labourer, who died before Alexander’s marriage.  Little is known of his early life or of the history of his immediate family but it is believed that before coming to Strathkanaird he had been a fisherman in Inverness where at least two brothers owned fishing boats.

          When she married Alexander Catherine left the McKenzie Clan, and became a member of her husband’s clan, Clan Donnachaidh, the oldest clan in Scotland.  The history of the Robertsons and their clan had its beginnings in ancient times when the old Celtic Earls of Atholl ruled Scotland.  The name of the clan came from one, Donnachaidh Reamhair, known as Stout Duncan, who had led his men to fight under King Robert at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.  The family name of Robertson came from Duncan’s great-grandson, Robert Riabhach or Grizzled Robert, the fourth chief of the clan.  When King James I of Scotland was killed at Perth in 1437 it was Robert who captured one of the assassins and handed him over to the authorities.  That deed of loyalty was recorded on the chief’s crest by way of a hand supporting a crown while a chained wild man was held under Struan’s shield.  In 1451 King James II who by then had come of age further rewarded Robert.  Robert’s lands were declared the Barony of Struan.  The Earl of Atholl, the MacGregors and the Menzies held neighbouring lands.  Much strife ensued, sometimes even involving the Atholls regardless of the fact that they were kith and kin.

          Over the centuries Robertson men followed various leaders in raids and minor skirmishes as well as in the major battles at Sheriffmuir, Preston pans and Culloden.  However it was not always a case of the whole clan supporting a cause but sometimes just the followers of one chieftain or even a few individuals as at Killiecrankie. 

It was there at Killiecrankie, according to family tradition, that one John Robertson, (an ancestor of Alexander who married Catherine McKenzie), first fought when a lad of sixteen.  Surviving that, he lived to fight again at Culloden when an old man in his seventies.  He was wounded in that battle and later died as a result.  Those of his descendants who have walked through the fields of Culloden have been haunted by the experience. 

          While the chiefs came from the Robertsons of Struan there were many other branches of the clan, the main ones being the Robertsons of Lude, and the Robertsons of Inshes.  The latter family was from Inverness and was possibly our Alexander’s line.

The traditional home of the clan was, of course, in Atholl in the Perthshire Highlands.  The land there ranged from marshy swamp near the rivers to mountain land.  It was only the sheltered ground above the marshes and in the glens that was suitable for agriculture and settlement.  It was there that the chieftains and the clans folk built their homes.  The system of land tenure was much the same as in Achindrean with tacks men, crofters and cottars.  The main crops grown were barley and oats while the animals kept were ponies, sheep, goats and milching cows.  As in the west cattle were bled, especially during the winter, to provide the wherewithal for the black pudding, a dish that was still being made in the Robertson household in Ngarua, New Zealand well into the nineteen-thirties. 

The Robertsons had always been ardent supporters of the Jacobite cause and after the disaster of Culloden they were a proscribed family, their land forfeited and their people scattered far and wide, even across the seas to Jamaica.  Alexander’s own family suffered at the hands of the Duke of Cumberland’s men.  One group that sought refuge on the Isle of Skye was pursued relentlessly as a consequence of which a ninety-year-old lady lost her life in horrible circumstances.

Although from different clans, Catherine and Alexander had much in common.  Gaelic was their mother tongue, the language they spoke with their children until the younger ones, under pressure from school and from their English-speaking playmates, rebelled against its use.  For Catherine and Alexander however, the Gaelic was retained throughout their lives.  They shared bitterness against the English and kept alive the romance of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite cause.  And for Catherine, the dream of land ownership in a new country was as strong as it was for Alexander.

After their marriage they returned to the croft until such time as they were accepted as immigrants to New Zealand.  Although there had been an improvement in the economy there was still a very unsettled social climate in Coigach.  Following the passing of the Scottish Education Act there was a local School Board Election in April 1873, the beginning of democracy in that area and the forerunner of other changes to come.  Despite the possibility of an improved outlook for the crofter Catherine and Alexander set their sights on a new life in New Zealand.

In June 1873 their first child was born and named Catherine Anne.  One of the last things they did before leaving was to have the baby christened in the church where they themselves had been married.  She was three and a half months old when the family left Achindrean for London and the other side of the world.


Their first home in New Zealand was at Heaton Park, a large estate near Turakina, in the Rangitikei.  For the first few years in this new country they were able to enjoy the support of the extended family.  Their second child, Margaret Jane, was born in Otakapou, Heaton Park, in 1875 and two years later their first son John.  Both babies’ names emphasised the links with their Scottish ancestors.  Alexander who had emigrated as a labourer worked as such at Heaton Park and then later on at Oroua.     

Oroua Downs was another huge estate and although it was later reduced to 14,000 acres it still covered a great expanse of land between the two mighty rivers, the Rangitikei and the Manawatu.  Much of the Oroua River flows through here on the way from its source in the eastern Ruahine Range.  It joins the Manawatu at Rangiotu.  In the 1870s plans for settlement were being made in Campbelltown, Carnarvon and Oroua Downs and the Robertsons were attracted by the possibility of leasing or purchasing a few acres.  There was a delay with the sub-division but in the meantime there was work available clearing land, draining, fencing, grassing and above all, cutting flax.

The area contained much swampy land where flax grew abundantly but near the coast there was little vegetation other than scrub and rough grass growing on the sand dunes.  It was further east towards Campbell town where the really dense bush was to be found.  John Douglas whose name was given to the Douglas Block and Robert Campbell who gave his name to Campbelltown owned the Oroua Downs Estate.  Later this was changed to Rongotea.

          When labourers were first employed at Oroua the families lived in tent houses and had their basic provisions supplied by their employer.  A tent house was made from a wooden framework covered with a heavy canvas.  There was usually a dirt floor.  The sparse furniture was made from boxes.  Cooking was done outside. 

Conditions had no doubt improved a little by the time the Robertsons arrived there but things were still very primitive and the countryside bleak indeed.  While Alexander laboured at cutting flax and digging huge drains Catherine cared for their three children and in 1879 another baby, Alex.  It is doubtful that things were better for the family here than at Heaton Park and now they were alone in a sense, as the McLeans and the McKenzies had moved to Upper Tutaenui, too far away for regular visits. However they must have decided that the prospects were better for them in Oroua.  By December 1881 they were in Campbelltown and when Alexander registered their third son, Murdoch, he was able to state his occupation as “farmer”.  As no certificate of title or rates receipt has been located it seems likely that the land was leased but even so it meant that at last the Robertsons had moved a step upwards on the social-mobility ladder.  For them this was to lead eventually to farm-ownership, the breeding of thoroughbreds and of pedigree Jersey cattle.  But that was to take another 40 years.

          On 5 April 1881 Catherine Ann (Kate) and Maggie Jane (Jyny) were enrolled at Rongotea School only to be withdrawn two months later because it was too difficult to get to school owing to the bad weather and the lack of safe tracks through the bush.  The school register noted that the cause of their absence was “Bad roads”.

          There being no Presbyterian Church in Rongotea Alexander attended Brethren services.  This entailed a five - mile walk each way through the bush - a pleasant experience in summer but a challenge in winter.  The Brethren welcomed him but he did not become a member of their church. Two more children were born before the family’s next move, Donald in 1884 and Mary Ellen in 1886.  In that year Margaret and Alexander were enrolled at Carnarvon School.

Carnarvon School, where Kate and Jyny were enrolled in 1886. 

Five years later when their youngest child, Alexandrina Ann, was born they were living in Boness Road, Awahuri, four miles from Feilding where Donald and Alexander and their families, as well as Catherine’s parents, were already living.  Mrs Boness, after whom the road was named, was Catherine’s best friend.  Even the McLeans were within visiting distance at Silverhope.  Nan Bell, when in her 101st year, remembered well the trips by horse and gig and the excitement of being near to the cousins at last. There was always a closeness amongst the families that lasted well into their adult their lives.

The new house was a bungalow with a big veranda and fancy woodwork.  Many of their neighbours were Maori who became true friends.  One in particular was Punga who was remembered long years after they had left Awahuri.  Although much bush had been felled at Awahuri some was still standing – on the little farm and along the riverbanks.  Because of the vicinity of the river and the general setting of the place they named it “Riverlands”. 

Although then not old in years Catherine was known among the Maori women as the grand old lady of Awahuri because of the help she gave them during childbirth because of this Te Kooti was said to have promised her protection.  Another story pertaining to her relationship with Maori was also to do with Te Kooti who was often sought by the authorities. One day the local police rounded up a group of Maori men in the Awahuri in their search for him but the identification parade failed to produce its man.  Later, when the excitement was over, Catherine confided to her family, “I knew which was Te Kooti.  He was the one with the shiny shoes!”

During this time at Awahuri Catherine developed confidence in her relationship with the Maori people.  This was in marked contrast to how she had felt in earlier days when they were still at Rongotea and Murdoch was a wee baby.  Catherine guarded him well because she was very suspicious of one old Maori man who used to lean over his cradle feeling his little legs and commenting about how well he was growing.  This regular checking left Catherine very nervous indeed.

Mary attended Awahuri School until she passed the Sixth Standard but there was no secondary schooling available nor was there any possibility of tertiary education for children such as her and her siblings.  Once school days were over, often at the Standard Four level, children either helped at home or sought work nearby - labouring jobs for the boys and domestic jobs for the girls.

In 1896 the first wedding in the family took place when Margaret Jane Robertson married Thomas John Evans in the Wesleyan Church in Feilding.  Thomas John, (Jack), had been born on Somes Island when the family was in quarantine there following the voyage from England.

Although they seem to have enjoyed life in Awahuri and Feilding towards the end of 1907 the Robertsons were on the move again, this time to Cardiff in Taranaki. Murdoch and John and even their father had worked as labourers in Awahuri but in Cardiff they were share-milkers.  In the meantime Kate had had a son, Gordon Terence, (Gordie), who was then five years old.  It was Murdoch who took him to Cardiff School on his first day there, 3 February 1908.
Their new home was along Waingongo Road at the foothills of Mount Egmont, now known as Mount Taranaki.  They were there for about two years but found that the bleakness of the countryside around Cardiff made farming difficult.  Mr Owen Mander, of Stratford, writes:

 One of the early settlers was a Mr Chew Chong, a very successful and enterprising Chinese who established a dairy factory in Eltham in the 1880s. During a depression around 1890 he purchased fungus from the farming people and exported it to his homeland China, where it was treated as a delicacy. It was nicknamed “Taranaki wool” at that time and the trade continued right into the 1930s.

The host plant was mainly the small native Mahoe tree or Whitey Wood that having died, lay decaying on the forest floor, making an ideal environment where the fungus flourished. During the second season there Mary and Annie collected a great deal of this special delicacy and sold it to a Chinese dealer for three pence per pound, earning more money in that year than the cows returned.

          At about that time, land at Ngarua, Waitoa, in the Waikato, was being subdivided and advertised for sale.  Originally it had been part of the Ngati Haua lands but in the late 1870s it had been acquired by land speculators mainly one Thomas Russell.  Later it came into the hands of The Auckland Agricultural Company.  In 1897 it was vested in the Assets Realisation Board.  Some settlers were able to purchase large areas of land which they subsequently subdivided.  Joseph Scherer was one such.  In 1910 Murdoch Robertson, and his mother Catherine, purchased the farm they were to call “Riverlands” from Joseph and his wife Anne.  Other families from Taranaki also applied for farms in Ngarua as did people from Europe and Britain.


          Gordie’s last day at Cardiff School was 29th June, 1910.  The family packed up and moved to Stratford for a short period and then, towards the end of September, made the final move to what was to be their own land – 37 years after leaving Scotland and half a world away from Ullapool and Achindrean.  Undoubtedly a dream come true.

          Their property was in two blocks, separated by Ngarua Road (now Highway 27), linking Waitoa and Matamata.  It was a choice piece of land, the soil perfect for pasture.  There was native bush with its abundant bird life and the river with it’s out-size eels.  There was fencing to be done, manuka-scrub and flax to be cleared and grass to be sown.  The winding Waitoa River marked the back boundary of the main block.  Across the road, on the other half of the farm was a magnificent stand of totara trees that the Robertsons preserved for over ninety years.  It seemed appropriate that they name the place “Riverlands” in memory of Awahuri.  Murdoch, Kate and John farmed there in partnership for the rest of their lives, Mary and Annie living there until they married.  Alex, a blacksmith, had already left home.  He had married Mary Agnes Smythe (May) in Petane, Hawkes Bay, in 1907.  Now he and his family came to Waitoa to be near his parents as May had been unwell following the births of their children and was unable to care for the nine children and their father.  Either Mary or Annie, often accompanied by Nan McLean, would ride to Waitoa carrying big baskets of food for the family.  Waitoa was a thriving village at that time with its railway station, mail-centre, school and grocery store.

          Donald became a miner, firstly in Huntly, and then in Waihi. In September 1916 he enlisted as a sapper and left with the 3rd Reinforcements to serve with the Arras Tunnellers in France.  Postcards survive from the journey over via Cape Town and after they arrived in Devonport England on 29 January 1917, he wrote home to his sister:


1st February 1917 Dear Mary Just a line to say that I have landed in England after nearly eleven weeks at sea. We the Tunnellers are billetted in private houses so we get good beds and meals so we are having a good time. We will get 4 days leave before we go to France.


After the Armistice the Tunnellers were urgently needed back in New Zealand, but it seemed to take a while before they could leave for home.


London, 6th March: Just a few lines to say that I am going back to France tomorrow morning. I enjoyed my leave very much only the time went rather tow quick - I met Fred James here he was on his draft leave he will be going to Germany to wait for demobilization it will be sometime yet before we leave for New Zealand. . . . We are having a good time now - we are billetted in the Belgium peoples houses" 



There are stories in the family of how miners  at Waihi smuggled gold out in their milk pails, and it is not hard to guess their origin. But stories of what he did in the war itself have not been passed down. The work of the New Zealand Tunnellers in Arras is however commerated in France and in Wellington, and is now very well documented. Their service records, including that of Donald are now available online.


The youngest in the family Gordon has also left a record. Though his own story was complicated by the family secret that his "sister" Kate was actually his mother, his life was one of pride and achievement. Cathie Roxborogh spoke of her aunts and uncles frequently, but Gordon was her special inspiration, and one who strongly supported her through her own adventurous life and career.

Gordie was enrolled at Ngarua School on 27 September 1910, six days after his birthday.  He was in Standard One.  Ngarua, along with “Riverlands” was to become the touchstone in his life. 

There were many visitors to “Riverlands”.  The Evans children, Alma and Wallace, from Feilding spent quite long periods there and attended school with Gordie.  Catherine’s brother, Alexander, came from Mangaweka, her sister Isabella and daughter Nan from Auckland, and the Goldfinches from Utiku.

Riverlands Ngarua

The new house was relatively large and spacious.  It was known as “The Homestead” and probably was built for the Scherer’s.  There was no house of similar design anywhere in the district.  The beds with their feather mattresses were luxurious.  No matter how many relatives came to stay there was always room for one and all.  The outbuildings consisted of a wash-house with copper and tubs and lavatory.  Monday was washday.  Kate used to gather the fallen leaves of the ti or cabbage tree tie them in bundles and use them to start the fire for the copper.

          The cowshed was unusual and perhaps more American than colonial in style.  Murdoch had a penchant for the latest and the best - be it for cars or cows, or systems of milk disposal.  He saw a real distinction between the “Billy-can” farmer and the genuine one.  When John returned from the War he was given responsibility for the pedigree herd, which was kept separate from the others.  All were milked by hand.  When John died in 1931, some of the best animals in his herd were given to the Matthews and Scott families.

          When the Cunningham’s came as new neighbours a tennis court was built on their farm next to the road.  It was Alexander who used his fisherman skills from his early days in Inverness to make the tennis nets.  He was now in his seventies and not as fit and able as he had been in earlier days.  Here at Ngarua, with two adult sons and three adult daughters at home to share the work there was time to be idle.  It was said by some that he liked to read his Gaelic Bible while Catherine did all the work.  Certainly there was time to spend with his grandchildren, to read and to reflect upon life.  He and his brother-in-law Alex McKenzie spent many hours conversing in the Gaelic.  Often Gordie, and Arthur Scott his special friend, used to hide in the long grass by the cowshed listening to the two old men speaking in a strange tongue while they operated the hand-pump that supplied water for the shed.  When in his 90’s Arthur still recalled the occasions and the fact that they never did find out what was being discussed.


          The Robertsons were great gardeners.  Their orchard consisted of almost every species of apple, plum, peach and pear tree then available.  There was the Irish peach, an apple that was always ready to eat by Christmas Day, the Astrakhan, a huge tree with great spreading branches laden with cooking apples so big that two hands were needed to hold just one apple.  There were purple plums, red, and yellow plums, big and small, round and egg-shaped and a special Christmas cherry plum.  All through the summer there was fruit in abundance, ready for the picking.  The pantry shelves were filled with jars of jam and bottled fruit and apple tarts.  Yes, always apple tarts.  No visitor ever left empty-handed.  But the orchard was not just a source of food.  It was a magic playground for the grandchildren and their friends.  Aunty Kate and Grandma often suggested that the children hunt for nests and eggs.  A great hedge of macrocarpa trees sheltered the homestead from the wind blowing up from the south. It offered many a secret hiding place for the children and for the Black Orpington hens, Rhode Island Reds, White Leghorns and other breeds that often made their nests in well-concealed spots.  Many a mother-chook managed to outwit us until the day when she would appear with a flock of chicks in tow.  The turkeys hid until hatching was over and it was time to bring the young home across the paddocks to the kitchen door, - trusting creatures indeed

In 1917 Alexander died and was buried in the Te Aroha Cemetery. The granite for his headstone was said to have come from Scotland.

In 1923 Annie married Robert Scott and went to live in the Kaimai’s. Access was by a dirt road, winding and steep in parts, sloshy and unstable in wet weather.  In those days many a journey by car necessitated placing scrub and tea-tree in front of the wheels and hoping to get sufficient grip to get out of the bog.  As soon as the first skid was felt it was a case of “All out and push!”  Even the driver would push with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the doorframe.  The moment the car gained a bit of momentum, he would slide onto his seat and accelerate.  Murdoch had given Bob and Annie a car as a wedding present so that they would be able to make Sunday visits back to Ngarua in time for the mid-day dinner.

Sometime in the early 1930s the family decided to engage a sharemilker on the Ngarua property and they moved to a new place on Cussens Road, after a few years they returned to Ngarua and built a new house for employees across the road from the main one.

Gordon had married Annie Osbourne from Cambridge. He had met her when teaching at Maungatautari.  Gordon had had a little motorcar from the time he left Teachers College.  He and Annie visited Ngarua on a Sunday, as did the Matthews and the Scotts.

The people of Ngarua formed a close-knit community, working hard to solve the problems of poor roading, inadequate school buildings as well as the status of the school itself.  Other concerns were the need for a mail service, an outlet for their milk and cream and provision for social activities.  The settlers were persistent in their correspondence to the County Council re these matters.  Murdoch Robertson gave much of the sand for the road as noted in the council minutes.  School was held in the local hall.  Until 1912 the teacher taught at Ngarua for three days in the week and then travelled on horseback to Walton where she taught for the other two days.  In 1922 a new school building was opened but Gordie had left school long since.

          There being no church building in the district services were held in the hall.  When it was the turn of the Presbyterian minister to ride out from Te Aroha or Morrinsville, he dined at the Robertson’s home before returning.  A roast dinner with all the trimmings was served at the huge dining table in the parlour.  With its plush red drapes, piano and dresser it was an impressive room even although somewhat heavy rather than elegant.  Children were seldom allowed in there although there was one Christmas when the older ones were permitted to have dinner with the adults.  Because it was a forbidden area it was enticing to two little boys.  One day after the Christmas dinner Kate found them in a somewhat inebriated condition hiding under the table after having drained the leftover bottles of wine.

          Te Aroha was the shopping centre, the horse and gig the method of transport.  However one could leave the horse tethered to a hitching post by the railway station at Waitoa, about four miles away, and catch a train.

Catherine Robertson's family after her funeral 1939

In 1939 Catherine died and after her funeral a photo was taken of her extended family.

After many years of endeavour the little church in Ngarua was built and includes a Robertson pew.


Murdoch and Jean married in Melbourne in 1940 and returned to Ngarua but Jean did not fit into the family easily in spite of the efforts of all the families. 


First Kate and then Murdoch died and Jean inherited half the property.  She sold the farm and moved to Papakura where she opened a frock shop and married a Mr Shantah. After a time they parted and Jean returned to Annalade where she died.  Her ashes were interned at Te Aroha. When Kate died Gordon inherited her piece of land which remained in the Robertson hands until recently when it’s use changed, where pasture has given way to crops of maze and potatoes.  For 66 years Catherine’s dream was a reality. Like local Maori before them there were strong feelings about the land its ownership and associations and a sense of loss. Tangible marks of the family are the church pew and the honours board of the WWII service men hanging in the Ngarua hall,  but the stories of Murdoch, Jean, Auntie Kate and Robbie in particular are among the strongest handed down among the descendants.

Catherine and Alexander's Children

Catherine Anne (Kate) (1873-1944)
Margaret Jane (Jenny) (1875-1954)
John (1877-1931)
Alexander (1879-1962)
Murdoch (1881-1951)
Donald (1884-1945)
Mary Ellen (1886-1967)
Alexandrina Ann (1891-1951)