a family story

John Roxborogh

Margaret (Maggie) McKenzie

Margaret, Margaret and Roderick's third daughter, was born in Waipawa in 1877. She was named for her mother but was always known as Maggie. Years later she took the name Vera as a second name.

          Maggie began school at Takapau and as it was a one-roomed school she was in the same classroom as her older brothers and sisters. In May 1884 when the family moved to Waipawa she attended school there. That was the year of the first school excursion to Napier, but for Maggie and her brothers it was summer in the following year before they could enjoy the thrill of getting up early to catch the train at 7.30 in the morning for a school excursion to Napier. Although the sights and sounds of the railway station were not new experiences for Maggie, Sandy and Rodney, actually boarding the train and travelling all the way to Napier certainly was. The prolonged hiss as steam was released, the bang of shutting doors, the whistle and the call of the guard now had a personal and urgent meaning for each of the children. And then came the first grinding sound of steel on steel and a sudden jerk of the carriage, with perhaps a false start before all was co-ordinated and the train gathered momentum, the wheels settling to a steady rhythm. Some children were boisterous in their excitement but for others this was a time to hug to oneself, like some precious secret, the sheer joy of it all. And at the end of the journey there would be the sea with its beach and maybe even ships to see. Of such were life-long memories born.

          Waipawa was judged to be a good school, the inspector reporting in 1885 that the recitations were the best in Hawkes Bay. Singing and drill were especially commended. By 1889 sword drill, elementary exercises and callisthenics had been added to the list of subjects. However as had been the case at Takapau and other schools, pupils left before passing Standard Five. Maggie had just had her thirteenth birthday, a few months after her father's death, when she was withdrawn from school. She and her youngest brother George went with their mother to live in Kaikora North. Some time later she went to work as a maid at Mount Vernon Station.  

          In 1898 Maggie married James Beere who in 1877 had come to New Zealand on the Fernglen as a boy of eight. His father William had been a farm-labourer in Kent, and had come as an assisted immigrant to work on a farm in Hawkes Bay. After their marriage in Napier, Maggie and James lived in Petane, a short distance away. James worked as a labourer and over the years the family moved about the Napier, Waipawa, and Wairoa districts. When their first two children, George James and William Roderick, were born they were living at The Spit, near Napier but by the time Margaret Sarah was born two years later they had moved to Hastings. From there they went to Waipawa until their home was destroyed by fire. They then shifted to Tikokino where the children spent most of their childhood. Their other children at that stage were Charles Ernest and Richard John. Later a second daughter was born but did not survive and was neither registered nor named. She was buried in an unmarked grave in the Hampden Cemetery, Tikokino. In 1919 Leonard John was born in Waipawa. 

          Tikokino was originally named Hampden but in 1908 this was changed to its present name. It was planned as a city but did not develop. Like Takapau it was at the edge of bushland and a great saw-milling centre known for the size of its totara logs. The Beere children grew up with a love of the outdoors, the bush and the wild country, the hunting and fishing. The boys spent the weekends and school holidays with some of the local men on pig-hunting and deer stalking expeditions, interests which stayed with Dick and Charlie all their lives. Other attractions were the horses and drays and the traction engines. The boys filled their hours in the company of the men who worked the engines and the horses, watching and learning and best of all, helping. The days were full of excitement for those young lads.

          James was a keen hunter and often took the boys, and Cissie too, on a day's outing. On November 18th 1917 the whole family except for George had gone fishing and rabbit shooting on a neighbour's property. The day was to end tragically. The Waipawa Mail of November 20 reported:


A sad tragedy occurred at Tikokino on Sunday afternoon, whereby William Roderick Beere, aged 17, son of Mr and Mrs James Beere, old and respected residents of the district, met his death. The family were out spending the afternoon fishing and rabbit shooting. The deceased was climbing a bank apparently holding his gun by the muzzle. It is thought that the trigger got caught in a tussock, discharging the gun, the whole of the charge entering the boy's right side. Everything possible was done to alleviate his suffering, but he died before he reached home. Widespread sympathy will be felt for the bereaved parents in their sad loss.


          The coroner's verdict was one of accidental death. Will was buried in the Hampden Cemetery and what might have been inscribed on a headstone

was recorded on a memorial card:


In loving memory


William Roderick Beere

Dearly beloved second son of James and Margaret Beere

Accidentally killed November 18th 1917

Aged 17 years

We will not forget him - we loved him too dearly

For his memory to fade from our lives like a dream

Our lips need not speak when our hearts mourn sincerely

For grief often dwells where seldom is seen.


          When World War I was declared in August, 1914, George James had not had his sixteenth birthday but like so many young lads at that time he was consumed by the thought of great adventures, the excitement of carrying a gun and wearing a uniform, and of being a man. He lived for the day when he would be able to enlist. The horror and suffering of a war not yet personally experienced, held little if any reality for him and was certainly no deterrent. Nor could his parents dissuade him. Three times over the next year or so he presented himself at one or other recruitment office, not just to see what was going on and who was enlisting, but also to offer himself as a volunteer for after all hadn't he heard of other boys little older than himself joining the forces? Three times his parents refused to sign the consent form. Eventually however his persistence won the day, his parents realising that he was determined gave their consent. He enlisted and went overseas even although he was not 20 years of age. For many young lads the idea of going to war fuelled a natural sense of adventure and filled them with excitement. George was still in France when he had his 21st birthday. He was the sixth of Roderick's grandsons to serve his country in The Great War.

          In 1919 the Beere family moved from Tikokino. James took a job on Woodlands Station, in the backblocks of Putere in the Wairoa district.Cissie went to work in Kimbolton and when George returned from overseas he worked at all sorts of jobs in the Tikokino district. Charles and Dick left school. Woodlands was a cattle station where life was hard but good. With wild country at the backdoor James and the boys could still engage in their much-loved sport while at the same time making a welcome contribution to the dinner table. When Dick was 15 he took on the job of drover and became responsible for droving cattle from the station all the way to Hastings, a long and lonely journey for a lad of his age but one which he enjoyed, having his horse and dogs for company.    

          After working at Woodlands for some years James joined the surfacemen employed by the Public Works Department. For the next nine years he was roadman on that stretch of road which ran from Putere to Mohaka. During this time the Beeres lived at Kotemaori. Dick had already left home and was driving solid-wheeled trucks at Tutira, Charles was working on the railways and Len was still at school. In 1932 Cissie married Edward Billett. James had poor health and died not long afterwards. He was buried at Wairoa.

          Maggie continued to live at Kotemaori and Dick returned home to take his father's place. In 1933 Charles married and he and Joan came to live nearby. Grandchildren began to arrive and by 1940 Cissie and Edward had seven children including their first set of twins while Charles and Joan had three. Nancy, the eldest granddaughter, spent much of her early childhood years in the company of her grandmother and even after her parents moved to Raupunga there were still many visits between there and Kotemaori. Fifty years on there are vivid memories of riding in the horse and gig with her granny; of the smell and sound of the horse as they drove up the road; of a wonderful garden and Dick's home brew and the times when she was allowed to put the sultanas in just before the bottles were capped.   

          Eventually Maggie bought a car but it was Dick who drove it until such time as he married and he and Eva moved away. When the Second World War broke out both Dick and Len enlisted.

          Maggie often travelled to Waiata to spend time with Cissie and her family. At the same time there was always the opportunity to visit her Feilding cousin, Jynny Evans. Actually Maggie was a great traveller. She loved the train and usually took one of the grandchildren with her when going on a trip, often to Cissie's, sometimes to Foxton Beach and once she took Nancy to Auckland to visit Len and his wife Lorna when they were living in Whenuapai. Other visits were made to Auckland to stay with her nephew Hector and his wife Hine. She often spent time with Dick and Eva and their two children at Tangoio. Like her brothers, Sandy and Rodney, she was a great one to pack up and move on, usually taking Janice with her for six weeks at a time, either to Cissie's farm or to Auckland. Long spells were also spent with Charles and his family, sometimes fighting with Joan over Nancy's hairstyle and getting Nancy and Margaret to perm her own. She loved to play cards, especially Coon Can as she called it. Doing the rounds of the relatives became her way of dealing with loneliness once the various family members had left home.  

          As she approached her late seventies she spent longer periods with Cissie who had moved into Feilding. Later she lived with Charles and Joan until her death in 1960. Margaret Vera Beere, nee McKenzie, was buried in Hastings. She was 83 years of age.





 - married -






George James

30 Oct 1898

08 May 1976

Sarah Margaret

06 May 1902

05 Jun 1990

William Roderick

31 Oct 1900

18 Nov 1917

Charles Ernest

28 Feb 1904

01 Apr 1986

Richard John

15 Nov 1906


Daughter (unnamed)



Leonard John

18 Jun 1919