According to the legend were were raised on, Granny Abbott arrived in Te Kinga with the children about 1906 after a demanding and somewhat dangerous trip by today’s standards. However, it seems more likely that it was actually 1908… After sailing from the North Island, they eventually arrived off the coast of Greymouth. The ship tacked back and forth for 3 days, awaiting for the best alignment of sea conditions, wind and tides before crossing the dreaded Grey River bar entrance.
From there, they traveled by train to Stillwater, the next stage of the arduous journey was by told to us as by bullock cart to Lake Brunner. I have no idea why that would be, because the railway line had already reached Otira by 1900, and Moana was reputedly a popular picnic spot and easily reached by train.
Grandad Abbott had arrived some time earlier, preparing a rough cottage to house his family. Granny Abbot lived in the same cottage on the hill above Te Kinga for the next 40+ years. That cottage was right beside the railway line…
As a small boy, I spent quite a lot of time up there and still have vivid childhood memories of the orchard, geese, ducks and chickens. Hand-milking the cow, butchering their own sheep, making butter and carrying water from the well were regular rituals.
The house remained lit by kerosene lamps, although electricity had made it to Te Kinga some years before. The old black wood-fired stove ran from daylight til dark.
After the sawmills closed, a vacant house became available close to Nanna Hill’s place. Granny Abbott and Aunty Mac (Violet) left the old cottage and retired down the hill to modern conveniences.
I fondly remember the weekly baking sessions – bread, cakes and biscuits, hot cross buns at Easter… Games of cards in the evenings, endless stories of days gone by over cups of tea.
Granny Abbott had some amusing habits – she liked ice cream, but invariably sat with her feet resting on a block of wood in the oven of the old wood stove… Her classic hat, and thick black coat were trademark attire, and she liked a bottle of stout beer every week or so.
According to legend also, she was born in Cornwall…