The Letters

(Transcription of Original Letters from 1975 to 1987)

Charles (Charlie) Gairdner Dalrymple Tennant (1903-1991) of Blairgowrie, Scotland AND Mona Macquorn (Gairdner) Kent (1901-1993) of Auckland, New Zealand

[Select a # letter (below), place cursor, click to view) 


#1 – February 4

#2 – February 9

#3 – March 7

#4 – March 18

#5 – March 28

#6 – April 13

#7 – April 23

#8 – May 11

#9 – May 20

#10 – June 14

#11 – August 14

#12 – October 6

#13 – November 28

1976 Letters

#14 – January 18

#15 – December 6

1977 Letters

#16 – December 9

1978 Letters

#17 – January 6

#18 – March 15

#19 – December 1

1979 Letters

#20 – February 19

#21 – December 10

1980 Letters

#22 –  Autumn, Undated

1981 Letters

#23 – February 21

#24 – December 2

1982 Letters

#25 – March 20

#26 – May 16

#27 – June 27

#28 – November 15

1984 Letters

#29 –  January 16

#30 – November 19

1986 Letters

#31 – 12 August

#32 – September 3

#33a – September 30

#33b – October 27

1987 Letters

#34 – February 7

#35 – March 31


#36 Family Record @ February 1987 (11 Pages)

#37 – Magic of Masonry


#1 –  By Aerogramme February 4, 1975

Mona Macquoron Kent
10 Wicklow Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

(New Zealand History: First Woman to swim across the Cook Strait)

Dear Cousin Several Times Removed

How amazing that so many attempts are being simultaneously made to unravel the family mix-ups. My nephew, sister Betty’s son David Marshall Howard[1] has spent five years on the job; spent a small fortune on birth certificates, marriage and death certificates from near and far. He has contacted a Canadian descendant of an early Ontario settler, wonder whether the “lost” Robert married again and no one knew in the homeland?  Marshall read an advertisement in a paper to sell purebred pigs!  It has been an amusing contact, Sir Charles Gairdner (whoever he was?) was Governor of New South Wales in Australia, and recently there has been news of another Charles Gairdner visiting New Zealand, something to do with Airways Management…an Australian, so perhaps the son.

In the Births column in the New Zealand Herald, there was a notice “GAIRDNER, to Andy and Maude, a bonnie wee lass” (sounded recently arrived from Scotland?). Our William Tennant [2](Gairdner[TT2] ) phoned the address, but had no response; just not interested!  When Irene[3] (Gairdner) came to the country, brother John[4] phoned from Invercargill, right at the far end of the South Island asking us to try and contact her, as her photograph in the paper was extraordinarily like our father (Robert Macquoron Gairdner) and also Temple Sutherland[5] who we all knew and loved.  I managed to trace her through Professor Robert ? (blow can’t remember his name!) who was President of the New Zealand Epilepsy Society and find out where she was staying in Auckland.  Thus we met (Irene); brother Tennant (William Tennant Gairdner again) and his wife and I took her sightseeing and were charmed to meet her. I also attended her reception in the Mayor’s office in the Town Hall … she was very impressive as a speaker…most appealing as an educationalist, and I was proud of her and we all felt a sense of rapport… I think it was mutual.  She has sent on your letter, of course, and this is my acknowledgement… thank you.

Not wasting space by paragraphing! Our grandfather, Robert John (Gairdner), was the son of the Indigo Planter[6], his mother (our great grandmother) was Corrina Macquorn McHaffie, and the name Macquorn has been a family name since then… we abound in Robert and John, William, Temple, Charles and always the Macquoron thrown in for good measure.  Marion Smith (the ring lady was wife of Dr. John Gairdner), father of the Indigo Planter, I gather and the little photo shows the most mournful face I have ever beheld. It must, as photographs were not taken in the early 19th century, have been taken of a portrait.  Dressed in white crinoline, she has draped over it a beautiful fine black lace shawl…perhaps a suri worn as a shawl. Her life must have been tragic … losses of children from cholera I think and no doubt the horrors of the Mutiny and the losses of fortune. John was Governor of Madras, I think, also Senior Medical Officer of Health for the Bengal Lancers.  May not remember correctly…getting to the dotty stage of the middle seventies.

 As children, Grandfather used to regale us with the adventures of Henry Cochrane, Earl of Dundonald, his brother John (father of Grizel) (a grandmother) was sentenced to death as a Covenanter…saved by the gallantry of Grizel.  Books and long poems have been written about her. [7] There is a biography (on Cochrane) written by Warren Tute (Cassels, 1965) that is now out of print.

It is the Cochrane[8], the Admiral, the Earl of Dundonald.  His flagship, the Esmeralda, is still duplicated as the flagship of the Chilean Navy and visits Auckland every three years. … you doubtless know its history?  I have been unable to buy a copy in this country, and if you should be able to find a secondhand copy over in the UK. I would be delighted to buy it…good for our grandchildren to read…now we are beginning to amass great grands!!! …

Grandfather came from Scotland in 1851, first to an Uncle, who I believe raised horses for the Australian Constabulary (Mounted Police) in New South Wales.  Sir Charles (Gairdner) may be a grandson of his?  Then, when 21 years of age, came alone to Otago, New Zealand where he managed a large sheep farm in Southland (53,000 acres) of which my father purchased 5,000 acres in 1903, grandfather being a half-share farmer… neither had much money, about five hundred pounds. The same land is now worth nearly $800 per acre on the river flats…arable land and about half that on the hills. The property was divided into three lovely farms and our old farmstead was sold for $65,000.  Modern sciences and mechanical aids!  Dad used to employ two shepherds, a ploughman, a rouse-about fencer, a milkman etc.  Grandfather, brought up as a Unitarian, suddenly saw the light and became a fanatical Calvinist…learning dancing, which we all did, was paving our way to hell. A rich man couldn’t get through the needle’s eye, so he gave all his money away to found a Book and Bible Society, which now has shops in every city, designed to screen literature for the good folks children.  My father, a cavalry major before the 1WW couldn’t play toy soldier and went to the Great War for 3 years, leaving my mother with 5 young children, and his farm in the hands of elderly managers which resulted in the ruin of his breeding stock etc. and final bankruptcy in the Depression…a sad and health destroying story for both parents.

Talking of family trees…much of the fruit has been exported, hasn’t it?  Especially from the early days… lots of seed has fallen into the hedgerows at home and abroad and the offshoots are perhaps lacking in lustre, though I assure you, lovable people and quite nice manners!

It was nice of dear Irene[9] to send me your letter and I hope to hear what a contact with Marshall Howard will yield you.  John Gairdner M.D. prepared the copy I possess in 1869 and since then grandfather Gairdner compiled a black notebook of further material, but it has had milk spilt into it and is irretrievably damaged and stuck together.  Sorry about that.  How jolly it would be to gather the Clan for a good “up the lum” chat.  It would be nice to know you Cousin Charles Tennant.  Are you related to the notorious Margaret?[10]

Sincerely     Mona (Gairdner) Kent

[1] Betty Howard was Mona Kent’s sister. Betty had married a Canadian and lived in British Columbia.

[2] William Tennant Gairdner was Mona’s younger brother. Charlie, the co-correspondent, has two of the same patronymic names as Mona’s brother, and perhaps this coincidence peeked his interest.  The connection between the Scottish Tennants and the New Zealand Gairdners is one of the threads of this conversation

[3] Irene Gairdner was Charlie Tennant’s 1st cousin and it was through Irene that the connection between Charlie and Mona had been made.

[4] Robert John Gairdner was Mona’s eldest brother

[5] Temple Sutherland was a Gairdner cousin of Mona Kent He had immigrated to New Zealand from Scotland after1WW and was a life-long friend of Mona.

[6] Robert Gairdner, the Indigo Planter of Bengal, India, Mona’s Great Grandfather

[7] Grizel Cochrane was the daughter of Sir John Cochrane and niece of the 1st Earl of Dundonald.  The Adventures of Grizel Cochrane were written up as a children’s story by Sir Arthur Quiller Couch, a well-established Victorian novelist.

[8] Thomas Cochrane was a colorful naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars around whom the fictional character, Horatio Hornblower was built.  After the war, he served as a successful Admiral of the Navy to a number of emerging Latin American governments seeking independence from Spain around 1820.  Cochrane’s statue and street name can be found in many cities in Chile.

[9] See Footnote 3

[10] Mona is making reference to Margot Asquith, the daughter of Sir Charles Tennant, a 19th century Scottish business tycoon whose three daughters married into the English aristocracy and political establishment.  Sir Charles Tennant was the majority partner in the large chemico- industrial firm Charles Tennant & Co. founded in Glasgpw in the early 19th Century.  The firm moved its headquarters to London and under his leadership, Charles Tennant & Co., became an industrial dynasty with offices around the world. Charlie’s forebearers, the Tennants of Ayrshire, were minority partners in this family business.

#2     February 9, 1975

Charles Tennant
Perthshire       PH10 6LW

 (History: Margaret Thatcher became leader of the British Conservative Party)

Dear Cousin Mona:

It is nice to know that, as well as having a sister (Mona Wylie Moore), I now have a Cousin Mona even if 5 or 6 times and a few thousand miles removed.  Your family has been much more world-conscious than mine which has never ventured far from Ayr since our mutual ancestor Robert Gairdner (3rd Son of Captain Robert Gairdner) took the inexplicable decision of joining the Bengal Artillery.  Luckily Macrae Smith (his mother) must have influenced him to come home sharp and settle down with her at Mount Charles but how they could afford to buy an estate in the country is a matter for speculation.  You will know that he (Captain Robert Gairdner) sired 5 sons and 1 daughter in rapid succession and then died suddenly and sadly from the kick of his favourite mare in the paddock of Mt. Charles – half a mile away form the birthplace of Robert Burns.

I am enclosing an abstract genealogy and sending a copy of this letter to your cousin, Marshall Howard[1] because that is the easiest way to explain relationships and I should like to know for sure about your ring and the likeness of Marion Smith. (Macrae Smith Gairdner, daughter of Captain Robert Gairdner).  Can you be sure that it is the likeness of Marion Smith born 1747 who married John Gairdner the merchant soap boiler or Marion Smith Gairdner who married my great grandfather (William Dalrymple Tennant)? I would say, at this stage, to Marshall Howard, if he would like to have it, I can send him a spare copy of the “Bailey Book” [2]which gives the most comprehensive account of the Gairdner family connections but I will not post it until he asks for it as the surface letters take ages to reach Canada nowadays.

On the abstract, I have shown how General Sir Charles Gairdner[3] the Governor of New South Wales, fits into our Gairdner line.  His father, always known as “Charlie Arthur” was a favorite cousin of my aunts and uncles and constant visitor at Broom, where Charles Dalrymple Gairdner lived.[4]  I have never met Sir Charles but I understand that he lives in Tasmania and is a bit crippled.

It is interesting to learn about a possible connection with Admiral Cochrane and hope that Marshall Howard may tell me about this.  I know little about Cochrane because he was a radical pal of my wife’s great great grandfather, Sir George Kinloch.  Cochrane is mentioned in the only book that I have ever published “The Radical Laird”.[5] This is quite a different story and I doubt whether the Admiral ever had much to do with Dundonald or Ayrshire.

Governor Macrae of Madras (1675-1742), and the romance of his life from orphan waif in Ochiltree to returning tycoon in 1730, is the start of my story about the family fortunes.[6] Whether his mother Isabella or “Bell Gairdner” was any blood relation of our family has not been established but it is fair enough to speculate that he may have been the inspiration that induced many of our forebearers to seek fortunes overseas. The fortune, which he brought home and with which he provided dowries to his mother’s grand nieces, did not produce much happiness, except the Dalrymple marriage and this marriage between the youngest of “Bell’s” granddaughters, who took the Christian name of Macrae, and Charles Dalrymple may have affected our family history more than is apparent from the genealogies.  Besides the inspiration to adventure abroad which shows itself in your family, the interest in religion seems to have come from Dr. William Dalrymple, who baptized Robert Burns and lived at Mt. Charles before our ancestor Robert (Captain Robert Gairdner) moved in.

 …I should like to learn more about the rises and falls of the ‘Indigo Planter’ branch[7] which must have had a more thrilling experiences than our thoroughly decent, hard-working, dependable and occasionally slightly distinguished branch.

 The scope of what I am trying to do is to start from Governor Macrae, then show the branching out of the Gairdner family in the post-Robert Burns generation.  My material is probably inadequate for a book but I am trying to put something together from the autobiography of Sir William Tennant Gairdner by Gibson[8], my Aunt Lucy Gairdner’s reminiscences. If you can help me with your family’s story, it would be gratefully received.

 …I talk as if I was writing another book but I am really only playing at it in case one of my grandchildren may care to take it on.

Signed Charles Tennant

[1] Marshall Howard was Mona’s nephew and lived in Calgary, Alberta in 1975.  We learn later that Howard had joined the Church of the Latter Day Saints which may have sparked his interest in charting the Gairdner genealogical tree.

[2] For more information about the “Bailey Book”, return to the Gairdner New Zealand Menu Page “Genealogy”.

[3] Sir Charles Gairdner was Governor of Western Australia (1951-1963)

[4] Charles Dalrymple Gairdner of Broom was Charlie’s Grandfather.

[5] Charlie’s book “The Radical Laird” was published in 1970. It deals with the life of his wife Barbara’s, Great Great Grandfather, Sir George Kinloch of Kinloch (1775 – 1833)

[6] Charlie would later author an article on “Macrae of Orangefield”, The Scots Magazine, February 1982.

[7]  Robert Gairdner, the ‘Indigo Planter’ was the 3rd son of Captain Robert Gairdner was Mona’s Great Grandfather.

[8] Life of Sir William Gairdner Tennant, George Alexander Gibson, Maclehose, 1912

#3     March  7, 1975

Mona Macquoron Kent
10 Wicklow Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

(History: US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site)

Dear Cousin Charlie,

What fun to make this contact!  I was delighted to receive your letter and expect we will have several letters dashing across the stratosphere before we solve the mysterious ramifications, fact or fictional, of the Clan Gairdner. It will be most interesting. Not that I am passionately attached to the Stars hanging on our particular tree… tho’ I am romantic enough to find a little glamour shining through the twigs.  I believe there is a spiritual aspect to the genetic stream, which is pre-eminently qualifying of the culture and behavior patterns still discernable, after all these generations.  There have been so many adventurous men and women, who braved the West Indies, India, Canada and later on Australia when it was still a savage land indeed, and New Zealand, when the Maoris would cook and eat us, as well as our enemies!   Seems impossible that they should do (have done) so, as we know them today!

I have always loved history, not for the chronicling of kings and parliaments, but as the unfolding of a national psyche… the constitutive factors in wars, in revolution, in emigrations etc. are the fabric of nationhood, don’t you agree?  Have you read the several books by E.V. Timms about Australian pioneering? When one reads these, there is the background to the adventures of the Gairdner who raised horses for the Constabulary, his lands on the shores of Lake Gairdner (don’t know his name, or what happened to him, or whether Sir Charles Gairdner may have been one of his family), but our grandfather, Robert John (son of Robert the Indigo Planter) came first to that Uncle (in Australia), then three years later to New Zealand where he was employed as a farm overseer or manager of 5,000 acres in South Otago[1]…”Castle Rock”.  He was fifty-three miles from the South Coast and used to take the wool clip down dirt roads and across wide rivers, to load it on barges when the tide went out, and then return to that terrible loneliness for another year…he was only 21 years old.  I can’t learn whether he had any money at all at that stage, but later when he went into partnership on Beaumont Station, he was thrilled to have the satisfactory sum of five hundred pounds to invest!  Another enormous station, with hope of one day owning it. However, his sleeping partner wanted out and Grandfather didn’t have enough cash to buy his share, and that also was folded up. How much he emerged with is difficult to ascertain, it couldn’t have been very much.

Sometime along the line, he came to “see the light”…he wrote a book about it later…and decided that literally, as the word had said, a rich man couldn’t possibly get into heaven! He put all his money into the New Zealand Book and Bible Society, founded by himself and John Burns, and acted as the manager of a shop in Dunedin until his retirement well into his sixties. Poor old boy was heartbroken because we young infidels were allowed to go to Picture Shows, learned dancing and played card games! He was a complete pacifist, and it was an appalling experience when our father volunteered for the Boer War, which luckily finished just as he was to leave the country. He (my father) was one of the Foundation officers of the newly inaugurated New Zealand Territorial Forces and as he couldn’t (any longer) play Toy Soldiers when WW1 broke out, he went overseas for the duration, from Galipoli to the Battle of the Somme, leaving Mother with five children, myself 13, and Tennant, 5 months old. No doubt about it, the Gairdners are people with a strong sense of DUTY.

My Aunt Betty Gairdner (Lavie), 18 months younger than Daddy, lost her husband George Lavie on the Somme…he was in the same unit as Daddy.  (My) Aunt Daisy, Margaret Jane Gairdner kept house for my grandfather from the age of fifteen, when her mother died.  She was dominated by her father’s thinking and was full of frantic prayers and tears over the rest of us misled Anglicans. By the time, I was 18, having been tearfully prayed over for so long, I became a stiff-necked rebel to say the least! I began to see religion as a sadistic hypocrisy…couldn’t accept that kind of God and felt ill about the whole thing.

Now… well I have broken new ground as far as this family is concerned! To start with, I firmly believe in re-incarnation as a just and immutable law. I have studied philosophy and comparative religion and decided that the same Creator has moulded each racial psyche so that it can find its potential eventually, in spite of the propensity for the minds of men to come to conclusions both separative and contradictory!  I believe that the Good Law quite infallibly works out in our individual lives and in those Group Lives, which are the Greater Man.  Poor Aunt Daisy’s prayers may or may not have brought me to such little enlightenment as I have gained.  Now that I am nearly 74, I can say I have no fear of dying and I trust that my consciousness will not only survive but will Get On with living without its physical incubus! Come dance with me on my golden cloud. Am a Co-Freemason…Code that! Organizes New Zealand lodges!

Back to the Gairdner roots!  Grandfather’s black notebook, which came to such an unfortunate end, had a table of names that included Henry Cochrane, Earl of Dundonald, Culzean Castle, Ayrshire. His brother, Sir John Cochrane, the Covenanter, whose daughter Grizel, disguised as a farm lad, rode into the New Forest and robbed the King’s Messenger of her father’s death warrant, whilst their friends busied themselves in London seeking his pardon.  In Henry Cochrane’s biography[2] in the Auckland Library, there are photographs of both men, most handsome, red haired, elegant with strong faces. I have not remembered whether Grizel, who was I believe fifth great grandmother back along the line, the daughter of Henry or John. It was Henry, who was Admiral, took Malta and Cyprus for the Crown and fought battles along the coast of France.  He was the reformer who fought, who fought Pitt and Jardine, in the House of Commons over the use of iron nails in ships, which meant great loss of ships and men.  He insisted on the use of copper rivets, but was unable to get the matter resolved; too much money in Lloyds Insurance!  The next move was to stand for Parliament and he won the seat for Westminster, but he was smartly sent to fight the Spanish and the Portuguese in American waters, till, through his becoming Earl, he was removed from the Lower House!  The Esmeralda’s descendant ship…beautiful barquentine, comes to Auckland about once every three years.  It is the training ship of the Chilean Navy.  They struck a tri-centennial stamp some years ago with Henry Cochrane’s portrait on it, with his sails set.  He discovered coal oil as a fuel in his own lab.

The story of Grizel has been written in long poems and a novel, but I have not seen them in print since I was a child.

I must get hold of the “Radical Laird”…will phone and ask the main branch of the Library whether they have it. Shall enjoy reading it if it is available.

You are first cousin to Lal Buchanan,[3] are you not?  She told me Irene was her cousin, Clarice as she was called when young. Did you by any chance meet Temple Sutherland [4](William Temple Gairdner Sutherland, bless him!) when he and his wife were home in the old country last year?  I was quite enchanted by Lal…to my mind she is the perfect exemplar of female wit, beauty and graciousness.  Our mutual mothers corresponded for twenty years or more; from the time Temple arrived in New Zealand actually until Helen Sutherland died in Nairobi many years ago.  Time is a vanishing commodity, isn’t it? Mother died about 1948…seems such a short time ago.

Again books…we had a copy of Sir William Tennant’s biography[5] in the house when it first came out and I believe John still has it, or perhaps William Tennant, our youngest brother and his namesake.  Our romantic mother had fond hopes of this baby of hers being a doctor and emulating his noble namesake!  ALAS AND ALACK, the depression was at its worst when he left school and no work drove him to join the army in order to at least keep and clothe himself! He was still in the Pacific when WW2 broke out and he served all through the Pacific…he would be about 26 then.  Difficult to realize our littlest brother is coming close to his 60th birthday.

I have heard from Marshall Howard, (prefers to be called David, as the Marshall, after whom he was named, turned out to be a rather sordid person in his middle years!), just today.  He is re-marrying between now and July and is doing lots of things about settling down in Calgary. I have asked him for any Gairdner details which we may not have and told him there was no urgency as far as I am concerned. He has become a Mormon and their religion demands a great deal of daily study. What with that and the business of courting, he doesn’t have much time to write notes for us! He is a very sincere young man and though his parents, who are deep-dyed Baptists, are horrified that he should join such a “way out” religion, they recognize that he is very happy in his faith and just ask him not to CONVERT anyone in the family!  You will agree with me, that the joke will no doubt be recognized when he has them both (his parents) posthumously baptized so that they can all be together in heaven! He has written me a charming letter and mentions your letter to him and his intention to answer it promptly. No doubt we will be able to share what he sends us.

I should be delighted to hear all about you Tennants.  Are you proud or ashamed of the notorious Margot Asquith?  She and her daughter are rather fond of shocking people, aren’t they?  I have Dr. John Gairdner’s “Account of Family Connections” published in 1869…it is very clearly set out and I would gladly have the 8 pages Xeroxed for you if you would like that. He was the F.R.C.S of Edinburgh one.  Would you trust me with a copy of the Bailey Book?  I should take the best care of it and send it back in good order and after a brief period.

Can you give me details of the next three generations of Gairdner marriages and children, if you would like to have that. Get me busy before I do gaga!! Shall be 74 in July…no it doesn’t dismay me, I am really enjoying my senility! A very loving and concerned family of five, fourteen grandchildren and one great grands keep us involved in living, write lots of letters and invite us to all their celebrations. My husband is like a happy boy when he talks cricket and football with the younger generation and I can still coo over “Meat Dollies”.

Please forgive typing of a personal letter.  Was always taught that it is in very poor taste to do so.  But, poor man, you would be glad not to be asked to read my shaky hand script!  Irene says she is looking forward to our excursion round the family records…perhaps you will share this with her?  I would love to have a photo, snapshot or something like that, so that I can picture you when I write.  Also tell me about your sister, Mona… am very interested.  Doubtless we will never meet, but we can do a nice haunt sometime.  That would be fun, wouldn’t it?

Yours sincerely                      Mona Kent

PS.  Another Scottish Link:  Grandfather’s cousin, Cuthbert Cowan, came to New Zealand and farmed at Winton, South Otago, back of the same hills managed by Grandfather.  Dear old Cousin Cuthie, as we called him, put me in a state of traumatic shock when I was three years old by insisting I should be able to tell the time! I managed the quarter and half hours, but the rest gave me hysterics! I can still feel myself sitting on his boney knees, his stern beard waggling with disapproval by my ear, and the exhortations in good Scots burr!  He looked like George Bernard Shaw whom, I think, was just as intimidating.  He had a darling, gentle, little wife, Henrietta. How the name became her with her soft white curly hair, little lace cups with violets and ribbons for wearing in the house forsooth! 4 children…two sons, Bertie and George, both farmers in the district, Hannah (very beautiful and spoilt who married Dr. William Dunlop had one daughter and was crippled with arthritis for many years…died about ten years ago.) Darling Cousin Tilly, the (other) daughter Matilda, was the family slave, never married and took care of her martinet papa till he died in his 90”s.  I loved her and used to visit them in Invercargill when I was teaching at a Boarding School in 1922-23.  Cousin Cuthie was a Member of Parliament in the rambunctious days of John Seddon…one of the heroes of the Freedoms beloved by a country filled with pioneer stock…this was why they were pioneers wasn’t it? 

[1] An earlier letter (#1) speaks of 53,000 acres!   Perhaps it doesn’t matter, it’s a lot of land and numbers only provide emphasis.

[2] See footnote in Letter #1 earlier, Mona is writing about the colorful career of Thomas Cochrane, 1Oth Earl of Dundonald who went by many nicknames including the Wolf of the Seas.  Whether his name was Thomas or Henry is not important, other than to say that Cochrane’s life has been well-documented in both fact and fiction and now belongs to the “Great Men” school of history.

[3] Amelia Sutherland Buchanan lived in England and was a third cousin of both Charlie and Mona through Captain Robert Gairdner’s first son, John Gairdner

[4] William Temple Sutherland was Lal’s brother and settled in New Zealand after the First World War

[5] Sir William Tennant Gairdner M.D. (1824-1907) was a distinguished 19th century physician, again related to Charlie and Mona through Captain Robert Gairdner.

#4  March 18, 1975  

 Charles Tennant
Perthshire       PH10 6LW

(Penultimate Month of the Vietnam War 1963-75)

Dear Mona:

Thank you for yours and all that it says and I will follow your example by replying in type.  Some of your stories are more interesting to me than others but please go on writing as I may pick some missing links from the “black book” however illogical.

Please excuse me if I concentrate on the connections that start from (Captain) Robert Gairdner who married Macrae Smith (1755-1819) whose ring you keep.[1]  I will send off the “Bailey Book” to you as soon as possible and much of the following may be unintelligible to you until you receive Bailey.  I should very much like to receive photo-stat copies of any pages of Dr. John Gairdner’s “Account of Family Connections” and, if this is expensive, please let me know and I will refund you.  This Dr. John appears in the Dictionary of National Biography but there might be some more about the family in your “Account”, I hope so.  Of course the five sons of Captain Robert and Macrae Smith never knew their father as the eldest was only 6 when he died – but still the “Account” might help to solve the problem of why Captain Robert went out and joined the Bengali Artillery (in the mid 18th century) and whether Macrae Smith summoned him home after inheriting some money from her Dalrymple cousin or possibly being offered Mount Charles.

It must all tie up somewhere with Governor Macrae of Madras whose mother, Belle Gairdner, the washerwoman, you will know about.  I am starting my story about the Gairdners with the Governor’s attempt to perform an “Eliza Doolittle” on the 3 grand nieces and nephew of his mother.  The only success, which he had was in the marriage of one niece who was given the christian name of Macrae in his honour and married Charles Dalrymple.  We both have the blood of Charles’s (Dalrymple) father James in our veins and that is the tie-up unless we can also establish that Macrae Dalrymple (nee MacGuire) was also related to our Gairdner ancestry. Anyway Charles and Macrae were the only happy marriage that transpired from all the vast fortune of the Governor and they, although living at Orangefield, which is now Prestwick Airport, bought Mount Charles and gave it to Charles Dalrymple’s brother William (the same Rev. William Dalrymple named “The D’rymple” Mild in Robert Burns “Kirk’s Alarm”) to live in.  How then did Mount Charles pass to our Captain Robert Gairdner?  Rub your ring carefully and ask it to tell you the answer.  Anyway please be sure that whomsoever receives this ring from you treasures it, just as my double first cousin Margaret Birley treasures the necklace of Scotch Pearls, which came from the Covenanter “Bass John” (Spreull). The other necklace was given to Queen Anne and belongs in the Royal Collection of Jewelry.

The other matter that particularly interests me retrospectively from your letter is your acquaintance with Cuthbert Cowan, which takes one back a long way in history. … I once met his daughter, a Mrs. Chalmers of Kipp, Kirkcubrightshire.

Agnes Cowan, an aunt of (Cuthbert Cowan) was my great grandmother and her portrait hangs on my staircase. It is a copy of another by McNee. I also have a cut-down portrait of her husband, Charles Dalrymple Gairdner sitting at his desk at Auchans.

My grandmother, Hannah, widow of Charles Gairdner of the Union Bank of Scotland, decided when I was a small boy that I should be the next (family member) in the bank.[2]  I did as I was told and found myself as a very young man Manager of the Ayr branch of the Union Bank, which had once been the Head Office of the Cowan Family bank, “Hunters and Co’s. Bank”.  Even back then in 1925/30, old people remembered the Cowans of Ayr, pronounced Cooan. I was told of a local going into the bank in the early 19th century and saying he wanted to see Mr. Cooan. “It’s not the Mr. Cooan who stands ahint to the counter, and it’s not Mr. Cooan who wears a wig, but it’s the Mr. Cooan with side whiskers who sits in the back room”.  There is a story for you and any of the New Zealand Cooans still alive.

If you are asking the library for my book on the life of George Kinloch, it is called the “Radical Laird”, published by the Roundwood Press in 1970.  Another book about the family (tree) of Tennant in which our family gets a chapter is “Tennant’s Stalk” by Nancy Crathorne published last year by MacMillan.

Yours with cousinly love,   Charles 

[1]  Identification of the ring portrait was the quest that initiated the correspondence between Charlie and Mona.   So far, this is the third named  “Macrae Smith” with a Gairdner connection.

[2] Charlie Tennant was born in 1903 into a privileged family.  His grandfather was the General Manager (CEO in today’s nomenclature) of a Scottish Bank and his father was a Stockbroker (Investment Banker) in Glasgow. He was educated at Eton College near London, then and now, a private school for sons of the establishment  Properties like schooling, family lineage, inherited wealth defined this privilege.

The properties that constituted “privilege” changed dramatically during his lifetime. At least in his pursuit of genealogy, Charlie admired and nostalgically valued these connections.  

His wife, Barbara, was more down to earth.  While she came from an aristocratic family and was proud of her roots, her life was mapped out less by privilege than by providence.

#5  – March 28, 1975

Mona Macquoron Kent
10 Wicklow Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

(Film: Monty Python and the Holy Grail Released)

Dear Charles

I was pleased to receive your letter on the 18th and hasten to let you know that I will take Dr. John’s “Account of Family Connections” to be photostated this coming week and enclose it with this letter for posting.  We have a small house and at the moment, it is bulging at the seams with family visitors…daughter, Margaret, her husband and one of the their four daughters.  Today, they are sailing with friends who own a beautiful ocean-going yacht and I am stealing a few hours…here are three grandchildren, just “out of the blue”.  Later having had coffee and a chatter, they are on their way! Easter weekend with lots of comings and goings.

Notes from glancing through Dr. John’s Account.

Archibald’s widow married Thomas Blane.  This is interesting, Blane’ story is written by Shirley Murrell, “Physician Extraordinary”.  Most interesting story if based entirely on fact.  He was a Scottish lad who had a real struggle to become a doctor (no money), joined the navy as a naval surgeon on a ship fighting the French and Spanish under Admiral Rogers, I think.[1]  Married and had seven children…keen on the work of (Dr. Joseph) Lister[2], he vaccinated his pregnant wife and children and walked them through the hospital wards full of epidemic cases of smallpox. He was screamed at with horror…”his wife’s baby would be born with horns”.  Because of this notoreity, he was called to become physician extraordinary to George IV (I think), who also insisted that his beautiful young daughter become Lady in Waiting to the Queen.  His lecherous intentions to the daughter so infuriated Dr. Blane that he took his daughter out of the Royal Household and the suffered the natural retriburtions…defeat of all his ambitions.  He was a character of great personal integrity…my favourite human quality.

Dr. James…Grandfather’s first cousin[3], kept the Crown Archives for over thirty years during which time he wrote a History of England which was never allowed to be published for general reading.  Three copies were allowed and Grandfather had one, unfortunately destroyed in a house fire around 1907.  Many textbooks say: “See Gairdner and his “History of England”. 

The little ticks (in Dr, John’s Account) were made by my Grandfather when he was making notes…(e.g. he notes) on Page 2…”record of Mt. Charles being bought from Dr. Dalrymple in 1817…on Page 3, there is the birth and death of Macrae Smith (1856-1819)…the tiny date engraved inside my ring[4] made me read the 9 for an 0.  Your dates are correct.  My eyesight is really shocking these days.  I am going to enjoy reading the Bailey Book when it arrives…thank you very much for sending it.

I recall that Grandfather spoke of Robert Gairdner the Indigo Planter farming a property called Torhousemuir (in Wigtownshire, Scotland)…which name he gave to his own farm, joint property of my father and himself in 1903…my father bought it in tussock hill country…five thousand acres of it and a made a beautiful sheep run from what had been part of Castle Rock, one of the large runs of pioneer times.  The land was taken by what were termed “squatters”…they had to buy about 600 acres for the homestead block and could rent thousand of acres at a peasant rental, about two shillings a year per acre on  99 year leaseholds.

On the death of the owner or owners of Castle Rock, which Grandfather had managed since he was a very young immigrant to New Zealand, he was attracted to the property when it was cut up into five-thousand acre blocks, knowing its potential.  I was three when my parents went to Torhousemuir…situated on the rise above a beautiful river (marvelous for trout angling! Just like Scottish trout rivers and very dear to his kind!) There was only a tiny shepherd’s hut built of roofing iron, and plenty of rats under the floor.  My mother, a gentle city-bred maid from Melborne was quite terrified.  She was taken in by neighbours plus me till Dad could rip out the floor and rid the place of rats! By 1901, he had done very well with 5,000 breeding ewes, a good number of black Angus cattle, 150 acres of cropping land (river flats and an escarpment in the foothills of the tussock ranges.

He employed a ploughman (usually a Scottish immigrant, whose fare was to be worked off as part of his wages, and sometimes married with several children, who were given their own cottage and wages.), a gardner-cowman, a shepherd, and often casual labourers, rabbitting and fencing etc.  In 1909, I came home from Boarding School to the lovely new two-storey home he had himself built with the help of one retired carpenter…a very nice home to this day.

1913, and as Captain of the Territorials, he decided that he couldn’t play toy soldier and volunteered for the 1WW.  He left my mother with five children…a five month old son, Tennant, myself 13 and at boarding school, John aged 10 and also at boarding school, and the three youngers ones (Betty, Gretta and William Tennant). She worried so much about us away at school that we all were brought home to live for the duration and lived at Riverton, a small town  (now with a very fine fishing and oyster industry.)  Dad came home after the Somme on leave.  But we think that the Government was getting low on funds and were recalling men with large families.  He was notified a couple of weeks later that he would be transferred to Headquarters in Dunedin with the rank of Major. 

By 1918, he was utterly sick of red-tape and uniform, and also horrified at the mess several elderly and inadequate managers had made of the farm!  Threw in his nice comfortable military life and returned to the farm.  It was a heart-breaking mess and he was persuaded by neighbours who were doing likewise to sell out and come to the North Island, where one boy could run as much stock on 1,300 acres and have no cropping to bother about as no winter feeding would be required.  Then, as today, prices for wool and meat were sky-rocketing and he had to pay exhorbitant amounts for everything on the farm that he bought..18 months later, the bottom dropped out of the British markets and after a seven-year struggle against mortgages and damaged health (he was twice gassed in France), he had to go bankrupt and walked away from his life’s work. Their tragic experience was shared by 50% of our farmers and only those who had no heavy mortgage commitments survived.  The same situation is coming in right now, and one can’t help feeling for those enthusiastic and dedicated men of the land who just can’t survive.

 I have a long time felt that no one should buy land but lease it as a national commodity for no one ever gains but the big land agencies and banks.  If there were only fluctuations in markets to deal with, one could better survive.  Our only Kent grandson is determined to farm…no matter what happens!  They are a breed of men, aren’t they?

Some friends and I were talking about the desperate situation of humanity at this time, seeing the Western nations choked with goods they can’t use, while two thirds of the world population is starving to death, literally! One friend remarked that here we seem so out of touch with human misery…they have 2 daughters, Jennifer, who married a Jew, surely breaking with Scottish tradition.  She has been accepted into the Jewish faith and seems extremely happy in it…strange to our Christian attitudes.  They have a baby daughter and expecting another child in November, bless them. Idea they want three, close together.  Then the second daughter, Vivien is working at Town Planning doing stints with the Borough Surveyor at times, but mostly office work and polytechnical lectures which she must attend twice a week.

Thomas Lawton (Kent), our only son, has inherited our family’s sense of adventure and has always charged into enterprises, often taking a tumble!!! Coming to his senses, he has settled down in a very good Engineering job, having qualified himself for the position, and is earning a very good salary doing a very monotonous job watching complex machinery do its job.  However, he has developed building skill and has actually built himself a beautiful house, saving a great deal of money on wages, and completed it has cost him $22,000 just for the materials. His insurance company have suggested $65,000 value for insurance.  He has loved every moment in the building and it has rather got him! He says the answer to monotony at work “make something”!! He has plans for another house , this time to sell…but the job spells financial security. He and Audrey have a son , Warick, aged 18 and Susan, 15 in her last year in school …nursing or occupational therapy planned at the moment.  She has inherited Aunt Daisy’s[5] gift for art, and draws and paints very skillfully. However there isn’t a liveliehood in art, and it will always be a fine hobby.  She is also quite gifted musically, but goes cold on practice!

There we are…all of the Kents…lots of Gairdner break-outs in the generations, both in characteristics and appearance. Tom (Kent) is ridiculously a Gairdner, very like our father, Robert McQuoron Gairdner as well as my brothers, John and Tennant.  They get on famously together, love doing the same constructive things and are confident in their atttitudes to life. My husband, son of an English agriculturalist in Suffolk, is a very fine and upright man, but lacks that sense of adventure which makes the Gairdners tick. His god is a straight furrow…plus the ritual of Soccer, Cricket and Tennis!! VERY ENGLISH  He is a most devoted father, though and immensely proud of his young people of both generations and they all love him dearly.

Robert John, my elder brother went with Bill and me to Canada, and returned to New Zealand when our father when our father became increasingly ill (gassed on the Somme), his lungs packing up like a bad case of asthma and taking toll of his heart.  He was on the verge of bankruptcy and needed John’s practical help at the time.  John married Molly (Mary Cartright Harden) of Wanganui about 1932 and had two daughters Margaret and Judith Emely.  Margaret married a Dutchman, now a New Zealander Theodorus Maria Syben and they have five sons.  He is a dairy farmer with a herd of over 200 cows.  The eldest boy is nearly 14, the youngest 2.  Judy married a farmer’s son , Peter Cox, who is determined to succeed at acting of all things! He is in theatrical and radio work in Auckland and they seem to be getting along alright.  Perhaps he will get it out of his system and go back to the beautiful sheep farm he will inherit!

In the 1950’s, John went off the deep end, like so many passionate business men do, with his secretary…such a help to the business of course!!! He deserted Molly and the 2 girls and went off with Yvonne, finally, when legal procedures permitted, marrying her. Actually she has been happier than Molly and able to take our temperamental brother in her stride and not dissolve into tears at his rages and frustrations.  They have three children, Robert John, again, Elizabeth and Temple (called after Temple Sutherland).  It has been a most curious relationship in every dimension …John believed he could stay beloved by his deserted daughters, and they wouldn’t forgive him, but were kind to him, as he became an increasingly sick man (emphysema…his lungs flooding).  His children were teased because they were the same age as his grandchildren and really played up like nobody’s business!  It has been an incredibly difficult situation with Yvonne, who adored John, trying to save him from stress by appeasing the children and taking the backwash! Bob is nearly 6 ft. and looks 18… not good for a boy of 14. He drifts towards bad company, because the mature youth of 18 couldn’t want him and the younger boys wouldn’t want him because he didn’t seem one of them. Tom has been made guardian to the children and he will have a few problems.  Yvonne fortunately admires and trusts him and I hope everything will work out for the best.  Elizabeth, aged 11, is going to be a very accomplished musician…has passed all the intermediate exams already, sits at the piano like an adult and is fortunately keen on her practice.  She has also won a lot of cups with her singing.  It will be interesting to watch her progress, though it is difficult to find an accomplished teacher now that she has gone beyond the juvenile status.  Yvonne is a really fine dressmaker and tailor, and gets more work than she can accommodate, so she won’t want for money.  The home is hers and a lovely one for the youngsters to grow up in.

Bill and I went down to stay a week in Tom’s new house…it was well-timed as John took to his bed the night before he arrived and I helped Yvonne and our sister, Gretta (Margaret) to nurse him for three days. He passed away the Wednesday night, quite peacefully and it was a blessed release from an increasingly distressing illness and frustrating life.

Betty (my other sister) married William Harding Howard and went with him to Canada.  The details about the Howards you will eventually get from Howard.

Gretta married Frank de Laurier…son of an American who came here after the American Phillipines campaign (2WW) and took out New Zealand citizenship.  Frank was a good looking rogue and Gretta fell in love with him when he nursed him in hospital.  Single, he couldn’t get unemployment relief and would be directed to tree planting camps.  He decided if he could get himself married, he could get the relief payments and she fell for him! It was a tragic and disastrous marriage and they had four children, five actually one died at 3 years of dyptheria. He deserted Gretta, who worked to keep her family , first running a residential nursery for infants whose fathers had deserted them and whose mothers had to board them their babies while they worked, and later, when her own children were grown up, a geriatric hospital, where she had seven patients.  She has become a wonderful woman with the joy of having a loving and devoted family, security for the rest of her life and the most original way of spending it!  Selling her little hospital, she gave her children interest-free mortgages on their homes and then bought a caravan in which she lives…literally moving from place to place.

Tennant has just stopped work in order to look after a delicate wife…the complete hypochondriac who bores us to tears! He is patient and kind…very like our father in temperament…more gentle and plodding than brother John who had a hurricane mind and temperament.  This is Tennant’s second marriage and fortunately there are no children. He married, still only 21, a girl who was really incompatible and he was glad to be in the armed forces, home artillery and leave her to look after the three little boys, one a small infant.  He was sent up into the Pacific sector and came home after Guadalcanal having his share of war nerves and shock.  He and Jessie managed to live under armed truce (verbal ammunition) till the boys were in their teens and then they decided to have a legal separation.  This was amicably arranged and they found that outside marriage, they could be very good friends!  The boys and their father have remained on very good terms and everyone was happy.  Lonely, as a strayed husband, Tennant married the widow of one of his friends who was killed up in the Pacific and they contrive a little happiness by mutual determination. Tennant to be forbearing and Win to get all the attention she can squeeze out of the relationship.

Tennant and Jessie (Ward) had three sons…Robert John (AGAIN), William Tennant (AGAIN) and Anthony Robert.  They are all married and have children,  Jessie being a most happy grandma sharing their family lives in very sweet accord.  There is no doubt about it, the deserted mother who does well raising her family is rewarded in every sense as the family grows up …

To go back to your letter…Grandfather was in partnership with our father Robert MacQuoran on “Culzean” where I was born.  When I was three, my father with (grandfather as still partner) took up 5,000 acres of land of the original Castle Rock Station, which Grandfather managed as a young settler.  “Culzean” was in Canterbury, much more settled than the Southland area, it was beautiful rolling sheep pastures , while the Southland farm was mostly silver tussock hills, one nearly 1,000 feet and alluvial river flats, which broken became good cropping land. “Culzean” must have been taken over by George Lavie when he married our Aunt Elizabeth, known as Bessie or Betty, on what terms I have no idea.  The Southland sheep station became registered as “Torhousemuir”, and in the “little black book” that has been the name of a farm taken over by the Indigo Planter when he left India.[6]  Now, Charlie is there no mention of that in your records, or in Aunt Margaret Jane’s?  And just when did his wife die, and where and when did he go to Ontario…where he was buried at Hamilton.  My nephews have seen the grave, I believe…the Howards.  Not sure!  And can you spot the Gairdner who pioneered to Australia, an uncle to Grandfather, to where he came in 1851 only a boy of 17.  He apparently raised  horses for the Australian Constabulary and the property was on Lake Gairdner, named after him. Grandfather’s only sister, Alice, he communicated with till her death in Scotland.  What happened to his mother (Corinna) MacQuoron McHaffie?  Did she die soon after the return to Scotland, or did she get to go to Canada… Do you know?

Greetings to our cousin, Barbara[7], of whom it is most pleasant to hear, also of your kinder… they sound interesting and proud making. Congratulations.  I do envy your task of writing this record, adding the romantic touch to the genealogical tree…as you say, without it, we might well be Aberdeen Angus.  But it is difficult at centuries and global remove, to not get too carried away by the romance!  If I could come by the filthy lucre, I would be hovering about looking over your shoulder!  Have always wanted to get to the UK. But I think my excursions must be by TV and grateful for those.  Ask your daughter Vicky if she attempts New Zealand to let us meet her? She would find the Gairdners down here, still very much part of the clan.

Isn’t it amusing to have these interests in our aging estate?  My great-grandchildren are amazed that I am interested in so many things…expect me to have given up thinking into the future, or involving myself in the changing patterns of all our lives, domestically and socially.  At least we don’t have to wear little lace caps on our hair or the other outward paraphernalia of senility! My dear little doll of a grandmother! [8]I never knew her, as she died at the age of 39. Nothing could make her look a matron, yet she wears a black silk crinoline with high lace-covered neckband and frilly jabot, and her hair is drawn tightly back behind her ears…pathetically middle-aged dress on the sweetest little girl body. I imagine she was petitie, judging by the size of her rings and by her head halfway up Grandfather’s arm in photographs…he was only 5 feet six (and nearly as broad!!!) He had a Gairdner head …one of the “muckle heids” in his school days.[9]I really seem to have written everything that I can think of, but your letter stimulated memory and what will come next?  One lives in anticipation of further stimulating ideas.

Sincerely Mona   PS.  Clickety-click…the memory bank!  When we each received the few bits and pieces from Grandfather’s estate, Tennant was given a set of half a dozen forks…enormous things…what mouths our ancients seem to have had; or were they merely adjuncts to the human hand? On the forks was the crest of the Duc du Guise, whence could these have come into the family possession?  Have you any clues?

[1] Most likely, Mona is talking about Sir Gilbert Blane, a naval physician during the late 18th century who was recognized for his efforts to improve hygiene on ships.

[2] Perhaps Mona is confusing Lister with Dr. Edward Jenner, the pioneer of smallpox vaccination using cowpox tissue. Jenner would have been a contemporary of Blane.

[3] James Gairdner (1828-1912) was a Doctor of Literature worked in the Public Record Office, London and his life is recorded in the DNB.

[4] Mona and Charles are now understanding that Mona’s ring belonged to the widow of Captain Robert Gairdner, Macrae Smith, their mutual great great grandmother.

[5] Margaret Jane Gairdner, born 1880

[6] See Letter #3

[7] Barbara Kinloch Tennant was the wife of Charles Tennant, the letter recipient/addressee

[8] Emily Agatha Sievwright died at Dunedin in 1900.

[9] meaning “Big head”. Scots language of Robert Burns

#6  13 April, 1975                 

 Charles Tennant
Perthshire       PH10 6LW

(Americans evacuate Cambodia)

Dear Mona

Thank you very much for your letter of March 28 sending printed copy of the John Gairdner’s “Account of the Family Connection” dated 1867.  I am gradually getting to understand how you New Zealand cousins fit into the picture (family tree) but I must first apologize for troubling you over the above John Gairdner as I find I have a typed copy of this with my other family papers but I have compared your printed copy with mine and am now returning it to you.  Secondly, I should remember that I have a copy of the “Genealogical Tree of the Gairdner Family” compiled by your Aunt Margaret Jane under supervision of your Grandfather RJG.  I could never make sense of this but it fits into the picture.  I wonder whether one of your cousins have a copy of this (tree) – I think that you must—which appears to have been completed about our mutual birth date, 1903, as my elder brother William was born in 1901 and he is included but not me.  It tells a short story of your great grandfather Robert Gairdner on Page 8 and a longer story of the life of your grandfather on Page 12 & 13.  Your Aunt Margaret’s story ends and I quote:

“In April 1900, thinking that his increasing years rendered him unfit to do justice to the Depot and his son Robert having qualified himself at Lincoln Agricultural College and a year or so as Cadet with Mr. Chewings, and having arranged to get a portion of the Trust Capital into his hands, he entered into partnership with Macquoron in the property called Culzum with two leasehold properties besides the freehold.  On his retirement from the Depot Management, he went up to the farm and remained there for three years.  Then he determined to retire altogether from business, and leased his share of the farm to George S. Lavie on his marriage to his elder daughter (Elizabeth Jessie) and took up his abode in Dunedin with his younger daughter. And so matters stand as so written.”

You take up the story from this point in your last letter but you speak of “Torhousemur” which was possibly part of “Culzum” and you do not go on with the Lavie family story.  It is all most interesting and I do thank you for making it clear.

By comparison, my branch of the Gairdners have been routine-ridden or un-adventurous.  I type in the shadow of my great grandfather’s portrait (Charles Dalrymple Gairdner of Auchans) below which the inscription reads “presented to CDG by his friends as a mark of esteem for his unwearied benevolence and extensive usefulness in Kilmarnock and neighbourhood for a period of 30 years. Kilmarnock, August 1849.  Such virtue is typical of the Dalrymple branch of the Gairdners.

You ask about me and my kinder.  Yes, my wife Barbara is still alive  – very much so – much more alive than I am, being ten years my younger and, after my sunstroke in Portugal last September, I am much less active and more easily tired than before.  Tom, my eldest son started life in the Navy where after being one of the most enthusiastic cadets who ever went through Dartmouth, he got bored with the routine and cocktail party life of the peace-time Navy and came out with no idea what to do.  By good luck, he seems to have settled down to routine[1] in the (banking) profession of five generations going back to the Cowans of Hunter & Co and married two years ago, the charming love of his Dartmouth days.  He and his wife Finella are expecting their first child in June and live in Nice where he is on the staff of Barclays Bank France.   Tanera, my next, married young and has three sons of whom I am a most proud grandfather.  They live near Huntingdon, her husband in textiles and Tanera is a student at Open University.  Ted, my second son, unmarried has become a Canadian.  He is so involved with Health Service of Toronto that he has no time to explain what he does. It is something on the social science side and may do for Toronto similar work to Sir William Tennant Gairdner in Glasgow, a century earlier.  Vicky, my much younger daughter, is a great character. The globe is her territory.  She was out in Hong Kong for two years and has been in the Alps this winter as a ski representative for a travel firm.  What next?  We live extremely comfortably here, with a heather garden and near to the golf course.  We miss being so far away from our children but they all keep in touch with us and come and stay.  My wife and I have always lived in Scotland and in spite of the Reds under our Beds, we hope to be allowed to finish our days here.

Now what I am trying to do as far as the family history and connections are concerned is this:  William Henry Bailey, father in law of my cousin Robin Gairdner, did a great job as a memorial to Robin, who was killed in the 2WW, producing the Bailey Book, but unless the names in the genealogy are related to the story of their lives, it might as well be an Aberdeen Angus stud book.  Of course, this is not a fair criticism of Bailey, as a good deal of detail is given, but my idea is to insert pages right through Bailey referring to all the written material that I can find about each and everyone (named).  Your note, for instance, about Thomas Blane will be most useful in that I would refer on Pages 29/30/31 to Shirley Murrel’s book which I must look at and, as appropriate, make references to Charles Dalrymple Gairdner’s autobiography where it can be seen and details such as the ring in your custody and the pearl necklace of “Bass John”, all the books and manuscripts which have been written and where they can be seen.  I will never get it done but, with Bailey as the basis, I am not doing any harm and It might have some use for future generations.

If you felt inspired to do so, I should be delighted to have a short sketch of the family tree that followed your grandfather Robert John in continuation of the story that ends about 1900 as told by Margaret Jane. I would keep such as a numbered manuscript referred to in Bailey Book

[1] Is there a value judgment behind the word “routine”?

#7 April 23, 1975

Mona Macquoron Kent
10 Wicklow Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

(UK Yearly Inflation Rate reaches 24.2%)

Dear Charlie:

This becomes more exciting, for you seem to have a copy of our family record as written by Aunt “Daisy” Gairdner in 1900…this was obviously done from the notes in Grandfather’s little black book of which I remembered odds and ends, plus, of course, the usual family gossip! If you still have Aunt Margaret Jane’s contribution, I should love to have it copied, or do it myself… it would be of interest to the younger Gairdiners, of which I should say Whom!, there are quite a number. The marryings and begettings after 1900, were as follows:

Grandfather and his beautiful little Alice Maud (Barker) had three children …Robert Macquoron, Elizabeth Jessie, and Margaret Jane.

My father, Robert Macquoron married Emily Agatha Sivewright of Melbourne in September,1900 at Dunedin. Their children were Mona Macquoron (seems to be the correct spelling?), Robert John Macquoron, Elizabeth Macquoron, William Tennant and Margaret Macquoron.  William Tennant being the youngest.

 Elizabeth Jessie married George Lavie and they lived on part of the farm called “Culzean” (after the castle in Scotland).  By the way, the signet ring handed down from the Great Grandparents of several generations bore the Culzean crest…the dove with an olive branch in its beak, poised before flight, and on a scroll across the bottom of the shield, the motto “Jovi Confido”.  Does that make a clue useful to your researches?  John still has the ring till his death a couple of weeks ago It was a fob[1] ornament and was used as a seal for documents, but mother had it made into a ring…very heavy but rather gorgeous!!!

To return to our moutons…George Lavie seems to have farmed part of the land on which I was born and actually to have lived in the house… it was called “Culzean”.  He went to the 1WW and was sniped (6’ 4”) in the trenches on the Somme front.  Aunt Betty was left with two children, Phillip and Gwendoline…Phil has one child, Elizabeth, having married a widow with two young sons.  Gwen married Dr. Gordon Findlay, a gynecologist in Wellington.  They have three children… Margaret, Peter and Frances…all married and several grandchildren around…could get details for you. Gordon went to Edinburgh to do his F.R.C.S.  after graduating from Otago University.

Margaret Jane did not marry having been left to care for her father at the age of 15, when our Grandmother died after a long illness

Now for our family.  We have five children: Moana (a Maori name pronounced (mo-ah-na) Lawson Kent; Shirley Kent, Margaret Kent, Diana Kent and Thomas Lawson Kent.  Moana known as “Billie”…her English relatives didn’t like her having a Maori name and christened (gave) her a nickname after her father William Henry Kent!  Everyone calls her “Billie”!! She married Joseph Francis O’Beirne of Nelson.  Joe is great grandson of Captain John Cargill, the founder of Otago.  A Scot with pioneering ambitions founded on FREEDOM, sought settlers in the Ayrshire county who would like to live in a new land where they didn’t have to pay rents for pews in God’s house.  He brought crofter farmers and all of several shiploads of immigrants settled in Otago. The book, a centennial novel, “Grand Hills for Sheep” tells of their adventures and hardships. Captain Cargill built a stone castle-like house called Cargill’s Castle by the Dunedin people because it had a lookout over the ocean like a Scottish keep!  Its name was simply…Hilltop… but who would believe that?  He married a beautiful young woman, whose name I can’t recall and who was a wonderful musician, having all her Royal College degrees in pianoforte. She had a large family…can’t remember how many…seven, I think. Her name, I think, was Winter…can’t recall definitely…Their eldest daughter, like her mother, was a real musician and won all her letters at an early year, going to London to the Conservatory.  She, the famous Marguerite, married a handsome Irish architect named Henry Francis Petre who was responsible for building all the Catholic Cathedrals in New Zealand but somehow never made any money. He and Marguerite had thirteen children and lived on the hillside at St. Clair, below the Cargill mansion…I can still remember hordes of young, rather neglected, really noisy and some very beautiful…Marguerite played her piano and the Petres grew up naturalibus!  Some of them had very gifted careers, one became an Italian Countess, one Mother Superior at a very select convent in New Zealand, one brother did something important to do with railway engineering and was decorated, and the eldest daughter Isabel, left on the shelf by the diseases of so many of her generation in the 1WW, married (an act of despair) Wilfred O’Bierne…a scion of the last Kings of Connaught!  Poor old Papa O’Beirne, a most charming gentleman, had not come to New Zealand to work but to play landed gentry stuff!!! Isabel married thousands of pounds of debt and 1,800 acres of good pasture gone to gorse and blackberry.  The house, built in 1841 and added to in 1881, is still lived in by Joe and our Billie…she is working hard to restore it to its original Victoriana, earning money by nursing.  Joe, like Papa, is incapable of the responsibility of work, and they don’t make a living off their 1,800 acres…they live on Billie’s wages!! The rest goes to wallpaper etc!! We could rather see a match set to the place, but we recognize that she is doing what she wants and she certainly gets great joy out of her terribly hard work, for she does it all herself…12 and a half foot studs too!!!  Joe and Billie have four children…Derek aged 23; Rodrick 22, married last year with a new baby son; Brigid 21 next month, the tragic victim of the royal blood (thyroidal imbalance causing her to be born blind), a very beautiful girl but no life worth the living; Kathy Mary…the youngest, 14.

Shirley Kent married Frederick Smedley, a naval officer in the New Zealand Royal Navy, who retired from the service 15 years ago.  They have two sons…fine boys of 24 and 23…William Kent Smedley and Richard Lambert Smedley.  They are rather wary of marriage, so many of their friends are going through the unsettling experience of broken marriages. This generation won’t stay with any condition that turns sour on them!!

Margaret married Norman Leonard Foster, a returned airman from 2WW and headmaster of a school in Hamilton. They have four daughters … Elizabeth Margaret, 21 in May; Alison married recently to David Porter (both teachers) 20; Diana, a 7th Former, specializing in languages…training college and university next year; Helen, 13, also keen on languages, is at College still of course.  Elizabeth Margaret, the eldest is a Research Scientist in the Dairy Research Division of the Department of Science Investment and Research (D.S.I.R) and is still completing her science degree (forgot to mention that Margaret was a qualified nurse, and runs a Pathological Laboratory in Hamilton).

Diana, also a working mum teaches at a high school. She is a qualified designer and cutter and teaches girls everything to do with dressmaking etc. Her husband, Austin James White, is in the Animal Division of D.S.I.R… his special study is Opossums.

…despair, and somehow unable to think clearly about world conditions.”[2] My answer to these complaints is that our grandparents came to these far off places so that their children and children’s children might know freedom from the pressures of the Old World, might carve for themselves a peaceful and untroubled land, and enjoy its blessings. At great effort and selflessness, through hardship and difficulties they could never have foreseen, they succeeded in their aim, and we do tend to take all our peace and plenty for granted.  On the other hand, good neighbourliness of pioneer days, has inculcated helplessness and openhanded generosity, and no disaster occurs around the world, than New Zealand immediately acts in some measure of relief and succor. Food, medicines, tents, blankets by the thousands, windmills, tractors, people with skills and know how, are all brought into service.  Already, there is a tremendous amount of practical relief ready for Vietnam.

I believe our forebearers chose to come away from the Old World in order that a fresh spirit might flourish. Our distance from the events of the Northern Hemisphere assures an innocence of outlook and a renewing faith in mankind.

Those of us who suffered the frightening years of the Depression and two World Wars should be able to come to terms with whatever changes MUST be made in the “Money Powers” of the world, the distribution of mounting food stores, and the curbing of the cyclical exploiters of human miseries.  In our own experiences, we discovered that all the best things in life are simple and uncomplicated, and can sympathize with the young who are living in communes, going barefoot, refusing to use electricity etc. etc. though we do think they are going a bit far OUT of line! It is a brave gesture anyway.

Life is full of busy-ness just now, when I can get a little more leisure I shall get someone to psychometrise our little ring and see what they can tell us!  Have been able sometimes to do it myself, but haven’t for years.

I don’t know whether it reached the U.K., but there was a Centennial Book written about Captain Cargill’s ships and the settling of Otago.  It was called “Grand Hills for Sheep”…can’t recall the author or publishers, but will look for that at the Library for you… it may be in the Central Branch in Auckland.  We live across the harbor and enjoy peace and quiet and very lovely sandy beaches, water views and all those blessings one can treasure.  Had a glorious swim this morning, but the water is getting colder as the days begin to shorten.  I shall send you a picture of New Zealand… it is a truly beautiful little country.  Have always hoped that Irene might come again, but she says not now!  Her little flat is delightful, isn’t it and with her love of gardens, it is the more gracious to live in.

Is your wife still alive Charlie and how many children and grand-kinder have you?  My Bill is home from his Bowls and gasping through the house about cuppas!  Shall leave this open for the John Gairdner paper… perhaps add a few lines later.     M

[1] As in fob key, an ornamental position on the ring

[2] This sentence had no beginning., which suggests that a thought or text has been lost.

#8    11 May,1975

Charles Tennant
Perthshire       PH10 6LW

(Bill Gates creates Microsoft)

Dear Mona:

Thank you for your interesting letter of April 23 with details of your own family.  I have taken a lot of notes from this besides keeping your letter as an original.  I think I must restrict my records to the past rather than the present and future so will not ask you for any further details about your children and children-children etc. but I have got the picture.  You have done better than me in the reproduction business and must have married much younger than I did.

I am sending you Photostats of my copy of your “Aunt Daisy’s Log” which I am sure that you will find interesting if you have not seen this chronicle before.  You should have received the “Bailey Book” by this time and with this and Aunt Daisy, the characters become clearer although you have a well-organized pigeon-hole brain to remember who is who.  The pencil jottings on Aunt Daisy are mine but the pen alterations which have come through on the Photostats were made by some person unknown.  (these corrections are correct)

It is good to know that your New Zealand cousins are still conservative in the use of the old Scottish place names and stick to the traditional family names of land and people.  Torhousemuir, you will see from Bailey, was the McHaffie property in Wigtownshire, not a part of Scotland that I know well but I know all the Ayrshire names like Auchans and Seafield House on the Racecourse Road.  Culzean, of course, has nothing to do with us at all.  It is the castle of the Kennedy Family, now National Trust (property) with beautiful grounds which I hope to visit this summer if I go south to play golf at Prestwick in the Veteran’s Cup.

Till I re-read your Aunt Daisy, I did not appreciate that your grandfather had joined up with two of the sons of Charles Dalrymple Gairdner of Auchans in his farming operation in Victoria, (Australia). I am particularly interested in the line which comes from Charles, being my great Grandfather, as, I think I told you, his portrait hangs in my dressing room and a portrait of his wife, supposedly by McNee, hangs on the stairs.  Charles’s portrait has, I am afraid been cut down to size to get it into the house as it was originally 8’ by 7’6” with a huge gold frame and showed him sitting at his desk at Auchans looking across the Firth of Clyde to the Holy Isle. Even with the 8’ canvas, the artist did not have room for Charles’ twelve children or your great, great grand that finished his days there.  It used to sit “ahint the counter” of the Union Bank in Kilmarnock where generations of disrespectful bank clerks threw darts at it until a few years ago the bank was modernized and the bank could think of nothing better to do with Charles than to offer him to (me) Charles Tennant.  He is slightly part-worn but I have preserved the “Jovi Confido” crest that you can read about in the early pages of the Bailey Book.[1] Your brother John, as you will realize, owned a Gairdner signet ring and the name given to your property at “Culzean” must have been chosen from the Kennedy stronghold in which the Gairdners had no interest other than living in the same county (Ayrshire).[2]

[1] In the Bailey Book, if known, details of the arms, crest and motto of each family tree named.  Heraldry and coats of arms go back many centuries.  Besides marking inherited family lineage, they signified that once upon a time, the family had been honoured and had respectable standing in society,

[2] No more copies of Charles’ correspondence with Mona were found after May 11th.  However, we know from Mona’s correspondence that the two kept on writing and Charlie kept on sending Mona “Gairdner Memorabilia”.

#9   Aerogramme  May 20, 1975

Mona Macquoron Kent
10 Wicklow Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

(New Zealand: Disappearance of Mona Blades of Hamilton)

Dear Charles:

As my sister Gretta is taking the log supplied by Aunt Daisy across to be photostated this afternoon, I hasten to answer your letter of May 11th.  Thank you so much for sending me her work; it is obviously the little black book I’ve so often mentioned and which we mourned as our only source of information.  I was born at the farm, part of Grandfather’s estate, part leasehold and I believe portion of the original Beaumont Station.  This sheep farm was called “Culzean”! Nostalgic stuff? “Torhousemuir” was the South Otago farm my father owned later. …1904, to which we moved when I was three years old.  George Lavie was killed on the Somme, not far from where my father was entrenched…both 7th Otago Mounted Rifles (dismounted in Egypt after Gallipoli). Uncle George was 6’ 4”… scarcely the build for trench warfare and victim of a sniper’s bullet.  Aunt Elizabeth Jessie (Betty to us all) left the farm and lived on her war widow’s pension in Christchurch, marrying again, a farmer neighbor of ours on the North Island.  She inherited quite a fortune from the Lavie estate on the death of Uncle George’s mother, and invested the money in numerous properties in Auckland, the rents of which gave her a very good income during the last fifteen or so years of her life…d. 1948.  Her daughter Gwen married a young doctor, and they went to Edinburgh together, where he did his F.R.C.S., the goal of most successful Otago Medical School students who wish to specialize in surgery. He has retired after many years as a specialist gynecologist…much more interesting than a plain G.P. baby-snatcher?  They live in Wellington and have quite a family or grandchildren handy. The only son, Phillip, lives in Northcote, not far from us, but he is rather a stick, and we never see him. There is no sign of the Bailey Book yet but expect it will arrive shortly. It will be interesting to study.

Can you pour any light on the romantic tale of Grizel Cochrane, daughter of Sir John Cochrane?  He was the brother of the famous Henry Cochrane, the Earl of Dundonald, and is said to be a “ggggg” grandmother.  Grandfather used to tell us about her heroic exploits to save her father from execution as a Covenanter.   Also…somewhere there is a hark back to Rob Roy MacGregor.  That is where my mention of the “Esmeralda”, the flagship of the Chilean Navy to this day comes in.

I have made enquiries at the libraries even the Government Lending Library for your book “The Radical Laird”. May I ask you to purchase me a copy in the U.K.? It is quite easy for me to send postal orders to cover the cost whatever it is.  I would be grateful if you could do that for me, perhaps by mail order direct to this address?

Gretta and Tennant’s wife are having Aunt Daisy’s record photostatted, copies of each of the Gairdners of the younger generation, also your letters to me, which with the John Gairdner records give a pretty comprehensive account the “stud”!!!  John’s family (her brother) have a beautiful sword with the wide and ornate hand shield of the Napoleonic era. …they are very proud of it, but it will mean much more to them when they read his life story.  So our poor little great grandmother Corrina Macquoron McHaffie died very young, along with her little daughter Margaret.  How many died before they were forty, and how many little children.  Scarlet fever, diphtheria and immunization.  It is sad to read the inroads of disease implied in the birth and death dates through the records.

Irene Gairdner says we are known as the Irish Gairdners…2 brothers having married 2 sisters…can’t spot it from the list, but it takes a bit of careful analysis, and I’ve not spent much time with it. Robert the (Indigo) Planter married Corrina Macquoron McHaffie, and then there was a Gairdner in Dublin…perhaps they were brothers. I must take a proper look. If you are still going down to Edinburgh when you receive this, would you please see what you can discover about the signet ring… dove with olive branch in its beak, just about to fly off, and on the scroll “Jovi Confido”.  It would be interesting to discover whence it came into our possession; plenty of romantic conjecture around it!

I am amused at the forks bearing the crest of the Duc de Guise…no doubt the junk shop may have been their source, I wonder how long?  They have been in a bank vault for at least fifty years!  Solid silver, too!

I can understand your concern about the Common Market issue.  It seems to me Great Britain must be part of Europe to survive.  There seems no other possible future, and as part of the once proud Empire, 80% of our produce still goes to Britain. As she declines in purchasing power, we are sliding into a really grim recession. Isn’t it so dreadful, when the majority of humanity are starving! One can see the real necessity for a completely new world system of distribution of food and raw materials, and the ways and means are exercising the best brains of our economists and scientists…the sense of urgency is intense. Too much money, worthless almost! Too much food! Too many cars and fridges! Let’s turn on the hot water and have a good soak while we can have electric power to heat it! I wonder what our grandchildren will do to cope with the massive problems they will inherit…such darling young people too! I believe, here, and more so in crowded industrial countries, there will be no solution until the common man (especially the sheep-like unionist, wakes up and thinks beyond his weekly payroll.  The average man is good at heart, but he has become too selfish and small-sighted for his own good, and can be easily fooled by glib and power-crazy unionist leaders. Our free education has been too much for the making of a livelihood, and not enough to shape a quality of life.  Platitudes?  We fall back on them! Am falling off the paper I see, so will close with thanks again for your helpful mails.

Sincerely Mona

#10     14th June, 1975  

Mona Macquoron Kent
10 Wicklow Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

(Indira Ghandi convicted of Election Fraud) 

Dear Charlie:

It is pouring the proverbial cats and dogs outside and the lawn is under 2” of water. There will be some areas of flood in parts of the City for sure. Rain from the North and right off the Tasman tends to downpour and our warmer winter temperatures have to be paid for in WATER!  Have just unstuck a packet of airmail envelopes, all glued-up with the dampness of the atmosphere. My poor little organ, in the same room, needs a heater for a few hours, or it will get asthmatic wheezes in the tubes.

The Scottish Rugby League team is playing New Zealand side in Auckland this afternoon and the forecast is for changing winds and breaks in the rain…certainly it is a little lighter now. It will be a real sloshing about with a greasy ball!  Rather comical and a fine atmosphere in a rather too competitive struggle of bra’ laddies. Bill and I will have a nice viewing on TV. Already at 11.00am, the cars are parked up to half a mile from the grounds and the supporters garbed in oilskins and plastics vying for position outside the gates. My appreciation of games falls short of such enthusiasm but Bill is as keen as he was at ten years of age; leaps out of his chair and shouts the usual “Come Ons” and rages at the fumbled balls or groans at the missed goals! He is as entertaining to watch as the match so I get my money’s worth.

Jessie Gairdner[1], mother of John, Bill and Tony, has been most enthusiastic about our project and has done a lot of photostatting on Bill’s office machine.  She could only do a few pages at a time because it gets over heated poor thing! However, there are copies for all the family of Aunt Daisy’s Log (Margaret Jane Gairdner who died in 1971 at the age of 92). She (Jessie) and I have been trying to find Shirley Murrell’s “Physician Extraordinary”, a novel about Gilbert Blane, but though the librarians remember the book, it is no longer on the shelves.  We are trying the outlying suburban libraries, but so far without success. I am sorry about that; should have bought a copy had I known its significance to our research.

She was a delightful writer, bringing these men of great personal integrity alive for us.  She also wrote “The Rock”, about one man’s fight to get a lighthouse built to save shipping, fought for years because of the money made from flotsam.  Reminded me of “Jamaica Inn” by Pamela Frankau (hope I have the author correct?) Next week, I shall try to get lists of paperbacks from a bookseller and see if her book is listed in the U.K. or here.

Jessie has been delighted to read your letters to me and has added copies of these to the “Stud Record”. She has found a line of approach to the Duc de Guise silver…which she will follow up. It is almost an intangible thread, but rather amusing implications might arise from it!  In 1871, the Hon. W.J.M. Larnock, built himself a replica of a medieval castle in Scotland, known in Dunedin as the Edinburgh of the South to all Scottish migrants. It is now developed as a tourist attraction and hired out for conferences, balls etc. The University of Otago uses it for Capping Balls and dinners and our granddaughter, Elizabeth Foster wrote and told me about its beautiful ballroom, foyer and staircases, reception and banquet halls.  She was romantically impressed and has a great love for Dunedin, rather shabby and down at the heel, but with its special cultural tone, being the first and main University in the country.  There are ten thousand students…quite a goodly number of the bright and intelligently forward-looking youth of the country. My own memories are keyed to the same situation…all my friends were students, my fun centre was the University, and my memories are shared by quite a number of “stiff fronted shirts”…even the Governor-General with whom I often danced. I often giggle to think what a lark it would be to walk up to him and say “Hi, remember me?” Protocol demands a formal recognition as the Queen’s representative is just not available to the Hoy Polloi!!

I have a very nice book of pictures of this country to send to you, and in it is one of Larnoch Castle. I shall put some little notes through the pages about spots familiar to me, which might interest you. Will post it surface mail, but it will eventually reach you, I guess.

I have a postal note for the two pounds I owe you…am delighted to know your “Radical Laird” will be on his way to my bedside table. One of the joys of being retired from life’s competition, I take my tray, set up the night before, back to my bed and I do more serious reading before I rise and involve myself in the chores of the day. This is especially luxurious in dark winter mornings, and I become completely sunk in lovely sloth, thinking I earned it over forty years of really hard toll and a good measure of deprivation, while other pensioners (beg their pardon! Senior citizens!) grumble about their means, I am completely and happily secure on the same money, and able to count my bawbees[2] and smile. I admit I have a daughter who sews for me beautifully, and that saves me buying clothes at the awful prices of the day…bless her! I never sit idle, just gazing into the goggle-box, but keep my knitting needles or crochet hook busy, making all the woolies we need for ourselves and gifts for the “generations” and friends, for birthdays and Christmas. Thrifty ol’ girl! At the moment, I have only one row to finish a shawl, and then have three baby jackets to make for our third Great Grand due in November. Great Grandpa is hooking another rug for Margaret this time.  We give them to our children as 25th wedding anniversary gifts and they love them, particularly because their dearly loved father is able to make them in his 80th year.  It is always a chuckle to sense the young’s appraisal of anno domini, isn’t it?  They are so wide-eyed to discover we still enjoy some capacity for living and doing!!  The time will doubtless come to “sit and stare’, God help us!  Hope we will develop the patience for that episode of experience.

Summed up, life is just a symphony of experiment, expediency? And experience, isn’t it?  What a conglomerate our generation has faced…candlelight and clippity-clop to moon walks and atomic energy! I should like to write about it for my children, but I doubt whether it would have any real significance for them. It would seem that what is not related to individual experience has small impact, other than romantic generalities.

I love to write…but I can’t spell! I’m spellbound by beautiful language, the artistic use of words is pure joy, but even Shakespeare’s spelling is better than mine. It was agony to be in spelling bees in boarding school; I was always knocked out early in the piece. I adored writing letters, always got high marks and longed for a literary career of some sort….SPELLING!!!!  My destiny didn’t shape that way. As you see, I count on your tolerance, and enjoy writing to you.

I have also tried to find “Tennant’s Stalk”…it has not had a New Zealand market yet.  I should love to read it, and I am sure the rest of the Gairdners would as well.  If it is not too costly an edition, would you arrange another order for me, as you have done for the “Laird”?[3]

It is amusing to know the rights of the Irishness of the Gairdners…a bell rings for me…Bailey Rae? One of the Irish Baileys connected with the Gairdner marriages?  Jessie says she wants to know…where does Rob Roy come in? That we have always understood to be a scion of the House of Gairdner, somewhere along the line.  I wish we had been able to ask our Grandfather about these matters, but he married at 42 and I didn’t see him again after I turned 20 and then only for brief holiday visits when I was teaching at a boarding school in Invercargill.

Amongst the bits and pieces handed over by the Trustees was a little book by Dr. William Dalrymple,[4] a photograph in him in his clerical robes on the cover and wearing a pince-nez. He was remarkably like Temple Gairdner of Cairo in features…the Gairdner face does keep on showing up doesn’t it … and the muckle heid!!

My, oh my, I went on rambling about Larnoch Castle and forgot to say what we had learned about the silverware with the De Guise crest. Larnoch’s daughter married the son of the Duc de Guise…whence the eight forks and spoons and the little stands for a set of carvers? Somehow, they must have arrived in Dunedin via the Larnochs, but how to Grandfather Gairdner’s estate? As you suggest…the junk shop; yet they are solid silver and very fine specimens of silver design. Perhaps the New Zealand born duchess brought them back with her after her husband’s death? Even so …it is still a mystery about our having them today.  Bill Gairdner, Jessie and Tennant’s son, is going to write to the Public Relations Office in Dunedin, and see whether he can get any details of the Larnach family.

Congratulations on your new granddaughter…you have waited a long time for one haven’t you?  Emma Claire…how charming a name![5]  Beauty seems to be a prerequisite to delightful naughtiness, doesn’t it?  Plain Janes like me find it much easier to be goody little girls and exemplary grandmothers! 

Are you not thrilled about the referendum results regarding the E.E.C?[6] I thought of you when I got the news here. It seemed to be a tremendously important choice for so many reasons, chiefly, I feel, the real danger of Communism overtaking the U.K. if it was not still part of the true European tradition.  We have reason here for rejoicing because 80% of our exported produce goes still to Britain.  We cannot tell, yet, how our markets will fare because there is sure to be terrific barriers to contend with, particularly from France. In the meantime, we have just made significant deals with Iran…mutton in barter for oil…and now with Russia and Indonesia. We dare not leave ourselves without alternatives, and Australia and New Zealand are really food baskets for the Pacific, much of which is hungry.

 If I can discover a paperback edition of the Murrel book about Gilbert Blane, I will let you know at once. Share my view? Outside this window, there is a tree laden with huge golden grapefruit and across the other side of the garden, one of mandarins…our winter fruits.  Wish I could pass you a basketful!

 Thank you again for the “Radical Laird”.    Mona…the other!

[1] Jessie Gairdner was Mona’s sister in law, William Tennant Gairdner’s first wife.

[2] Scots halfpenny

[3] “Tennant’s Stalk” written by Nancy Crathorne was an ironical look at how an Anglo-Scottish family can rise to power and then squander its wealth within the time span of a few generations.

[4] Rev. William Dalrymple (1723-1814), his grandson married the daughter of Captain Robert Gairdner.

[5] Emma Claire Franchi (nee’ Tennant)

[6] Entry to the European Common Market

#11   14th August, 1975

Mona Macquoron Kent
10 Wicklow Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

(New Zealand: John Walker is 1st Sub- 3:50 Miler in World)

Dear Charlie

I simply can’t recall whether I have answered your letter of July 14th…I think, not, for life has been pretty hectic and there is quite a lot to remark upon in it.  Also, the Bailey Book arrived, and I wanted to study that before writing.

You will be interested to hear that the Gairdner boys (Tennant’s three sons) are very interested in it, and their mother, Jessie, finds she can Photostat, page by page, there are 29 pages of Gairdner record plus excerpts about the Cowans and the Tennants. The rest are too remote, though interesting to read about…Temple Gairdner of Cairo’s family is near to our hearts, as Temple Sutherland[1] is well known and loved, not only as a very dear cousin, but as a writer.

 I shall answer your letter as it reads…..

  •  Nancy Crathrone’s “Tenannt’s Stalk” is not available here as far as I can discover. I searched through the tomes of book lists at the Central City Library and also asked in Hamilton, the headquarters of the Government Library Service.  Could I perhaps borrow your copy?  Jessie may contrive to make copies.
  •  I have not received back the Bailey Book yet, as the boys are reading it, and (my) brother Tennant would appreciate a look through it too.  But it is being well-cared for and will be returned safely.
  • As to Marshall Howard…I will send him one of the copies we made. I chuckle about his interest because it is rather peculiar to say the least.  He has become a Mormon and I am of the opinion that his real purpose in doing this family tree is actually for the Mormon Church and that he will have the poor ancestors baptized in the Mormon Heaven to make sure they are all there!!! I have a lot of time for their disciplines, but I back off from their superstitions!

I am so glad that you enjoyed your golf at Prestwick and the adventures in the Burns Country. It will seem strange to you to wonder the lack of “roots” in the traditional sense of the third generation colonials. It is romantic to say the least to read of Mount Charles, particularly to we Oldies who knew our Grandfather personally. To our children, he is only a name rarely remembered, a few old photographs of “a funny old boy with a spade beard, very white and fuzzy”.  He was obviously a very gentlemanly figure, with his grey striped trews and morning coat…none taken with his topper! His wife’s photograph, which I have put into a small bronze miniature frame, is rather lovely, and with her engagement ring, will be given to my youngest daughter (Diana), with the proviso that it will be passed onto our first grandchild, Jenny Goldman.  She will be the one to treasure it, I know. I received it from the estate because I was the first grandchild, so Jen, as mine, will get it before long.  Di loved the little five-diamond ring and she shall wear it till Jen’s Silver Wedding Day. I passed it over to Di on her Silver anniversary, which fell on our Golden Wedding Day!

The few little photographs from Grandfather’s legacy, I gave to my sister Betty when she returned to Canada…one of those impulses that beset my Cancerean temperament.  Betty would send them to you I am sure, if you would like to see them. I believe they must have been portraits photographed because of the period of clothing etc. They were made in Scotland. Names are on the back in Grandfather’s handwriting.

I am highly amused by your backdoor invasion of the Records Office!!! Far more exciting than front-door entrances? Do please excuse my typing, am trying to hurry, and an injured finger makes tip tapping haphazard. I look forward to your work on Governor Macrae of Madras… thank you for sharing it with me.

Yesterday, the copy of “The Radical Laird” arrived, and I managed to get time to read the first two chapters. Quite delightful stuff…I am going to love reading it. I do appreciate the use of personal correspondence with its genuine period expression and idiom; so much more intimately evocative of personality.  I know how you feel, as a writer, that you are, as you say, “less crazy” when you are writing. I am the same, though not a real writer in the professional sense, I write a lot of Masonic speculative essays and a lot of personal correspondence…you should see this table.  I have to be occupied mentally or with my hands…I dread the time when I must “sit and stare”. Isn’t it extraordinary how taking a pen in the hand bridges a gap between two worlds of being?  A different ego comes along and borrows the “think tank” for a while and one becomes involved in a separate experience.

You speak of Great-Grandfather Robert (the Indigo Planter), living with his brother at Auchans.  Did he return to Canada and die at Hamilton, Ontario, as we have understood?  Perhaps only his wife and daughter are buried there?[2] We are full of curiousity since a report of accounts came to each of the beneficiaries in the name of C.L. Gairdner…we know of no such person, and that he, or she, should be a joint sharer of Grandfather’s estate is really intriguing.  I am going to write and ask for an address and see what comes to light.

We discover, or should one say Uncover, other members of the Gairdner family coming to New Zealand, one a Barrister practicing in Dunedin, Grandfather’s hometown, yet we never knew of such a person.  Religion, no doubt made him an outcast!  We will try to unravel the C.L. mystery anyway.

For Marshall, I shall ask Jess to make a copy of pages 33-42 of the Bailey, and add those to the Canadian packet. Bill or John Gairdner are allowing us to use the machine and supplying all the paper we require…very generous of them, as usually each page costs 10 cents, 1/-.  Can you guess what my shilling was meant to be?

Life is sleepless making turmoil these days.  We are trying to sell our house with the prospect of buying a delightful unit in the sunny side of the street and with much less garden to care for. This is not only cold in winter, but there is too much for Bill to do with his increasingly painful arterial sclerosis in the legs. He will launch into his 80th year on Sunday and I am most anxious to change our way of life before he suffers too severely and gives in because it is a MUST. This is a bad time for money and things are very slow and difficult.  Am in a tizzy in case we miss the purchase of the perfectly lovely little flat….it would be a dreadfully disappointing business.

Must close… my neighbor is wafting me to Devonport in her car and I want to post.

Yours ever                Mona

[1] See footnotes Letter #1

[2] Aunt Daisy’s Log indicates that Corrina McHaffie Gairdner and her daughter Margaret died in 1848 and were buried near Hamilton, Ontario

#12    October 6, 1975

Mona Macquoron Kent
10 Wicklow Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

(New Zealand: Waitangi Tribunal to hear Maori Land Claims)

Dear Charlie:

Your letter of July 14th has waited a long time for its answer…sorry, but the chaos of moving has taken all the time and energy Great Grandmother Kent could summon!  I was waiting, also, to read “The Radical Laird”, also the copy of Tennant’s Stalk (which I managed to borrow through the Government Library Service) and tell you what I thought about both books. It has been adventurous reading, to say the least!

I love your Radical Laird.  What a wonderful character, particularly a man of his hour…most needed in suffering Scotland. I loved his integrity and courage, and was tickled by his little wife’s unobtrusive cooperation. I think the use of his actual letters, quite the most delightful way to write his biography…the man shines through every line of them. What appalling times in history, and what appalling cruelty of political pundits! It is a revelation. Having loved history in my school days; the old Queen Victoria was swallowed whole, and Rule Britannia, a flag-waving inspiration. When one reads these books and realizes the struggle towards the first steps in democracy, one realizes the tremendous risk taken by the enlightened few.  Deportation…so aptly illustrated in the books of E.V.Timms, the Australian novelist etc…hung over the heads which dared to think and act in the liberalization of humanity. 

We have been seeing “The Churchills”; “The Regiment”; Edward V11… “Upstairs and Downstairs”, and now “The Pallisers” on T.V. These are visualizing the background to the two books most aptly. I do congratulate you on your biography, it has been good reading, and is now passing around the young Gairdners. Tennant and Win came unexpectedly this afternoon, and we rushed down to the local library, where I renewed “Tennant’s Stalk” for another couple of weeks, so that they could read it. Jessie and sons John and Bill are applying for it when it returns to the Government Library, based on Hamilton. They are finding it very exciting.

How kind of you to Photostat the first two chapters for us… there are numbers of copies coming forward to be shared around with the other papers.  It will be most interesting and a privilege to read your manuscripts when they are available. The tea chest is a true family treasure chest! So glad you enjoyed your golf and had a back-door entry to the Archives…Good hunting! I shall follow the research with delight. Re: the Cochrane history… did you unravel the mystery of Grizel, daughter of Sir Henry’s brother John and the saving of her father’s life by robbing the King’s mailbag? I have wondered if it could have been through her, there is some connection …Dundonald-wise. We are suddenly having summery weather after a terrible wet winter and it is a joy to shed wintery clothes and get out the bathing suits…NOT our bikinis!  Our granddaughters are dieting to look their best in the bikinis that enhance their sun-bathed beautiful young bodies. With their long, straight tresses and lovely young bodies, they are a joy even to our square-eyed vision!

I understand how you feel about writing. I love the feel of the pen and paper, too, and can relax in thought better with pen in hand…the most frustrating condition of age limitations, as far as I am concerned, is shaking hands! No one can read my squiggles, and my handwriting was once thought very pretty! Ha Ha!!! I write shopping lists and when I take them out to read, I wonder what they are all about!

Well, here we are in our beautiful little brick and tile flat, with lovely appointments, outlook, privacy of a small garden behind a trellis and after ten days, feel quite AT HOME. We have been clearing masses of overgrown creepers off fence and trellis, and have planted vegetables, so Bill is feeling more established too.

Regarding Marshall Howard, don’t worry about the Bailey Book for him, as I shall send him a full set of all the papers we have been doing with instructions to copy them for himself and send them onto sister Betty.  She was delighted to hear that you had a son in Canada and was going to write to you regarding meeting you should you get across to visit him. Two of her family live in Toronto and she could visit at the same time and would really enjoy meeting you. Lal Buchanan was breaking her return journey from New Zealand at Toronto with a nephew Dr. William Tennant Gairdner…how we crop up, don’t we?

A couple of years ago, the family wouldn’t have dreamed of discovering so much history about themselves, and they are very excited about it all. John’s widow (Molly) handed me the famous fob (ring), with the Gairdner crest about three weeks ago, and John Gairdner (Tennant’s son) thought he would try to get it copied. However, the stone looked too vulnerable to risk a stylo stencil, and he rejected the risk. It is the actual fob handed down over all the generations… from Charles of Auchans, through Robert, to our Grandfather. With it was a copy of a notepaper crest and John is having a stencil made so that the male Gairdners can get prints from it when they desire.  The dove and scroll is very dainty.

As I address your letter, I feel such a sense of time and continuity…Blairgowrie is so often featured in the books just read. There must be a real sense of stability along with the evolved history of your home and family.  Here, as in Canada and Australia, there is still a good deal of pioneering spirit abroad, especially in the country areas. But what tremendous effort it has taken to transform a mountainous and forested country into rich pasturelands and fast-growing cities!  Before I drop off the page…I posted your precious Bailey Book last Friday, and registered the parcel to make certain it would not go astray. You should receive it before Christmas.

I hope you have lovely big fires to sit by as the cold snow settles about you.

Once more                            Mona

#13      28th November, 1975    

Charles Tennant
Perthshire       PH10 6LW

Charlie’s Letters of July 14 and November 28 are currently missing. 

 END OF 1975


#14    January 18, 1976

Mona Macquoron Kent
10 Wicklow Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charles,

It is more than time that I answered your letter of Nov. 28th, if only to acknowledge the laughter it engendered! What a character to research, your “Henwife”…delicious stuff. And they talk about permissive society in the 1970’s…history does repeat itself in attitudes and actions, DON’T IT? Our poor Governor Macrae playing second fiddle to such a wanton![1] She was no doubt a really fascinating personality…must have been to attract such adventures to herself…the temptation to give it precedence to John Gairdner M.D.’s biography is understandable.

What an amazing family he begat! We had a copy of the biography of Sir William Tennant Gairdner[2], but its demise from old age ensued around 1945 and it was given rueful cremation in our incinerator. The book is in our Libraries, also Temple Gairdner[3] of Cairo’s “Letters to his Friends”, and are in most church libraries throughout the cities of New Zealand.  I remember the feeling that I had for their dignity and integrity in their individual professions, and always deemed them exemplary human beings…human with a plus quality. Meeting Temple (Bill)[4] and Lal Sutherland, one feels the same impact of something extra-special in personality…ability, humour, wide interest in people, and places, the gift of words in writing and speech, graciousness towards children however precocious, gentleness of manner and a vivid sense of rapport with all people. I have received a copy of Lal’s Christmas letter which recounts the year’s happenings, quotes some clever poetry, and leaves one feeling happy and blessed to have met her.

Irene wrote in her large Christmas card…what a deal can be said in a few inches! She is enjoying life in her lovely Unit, and I am glad of that, because she was a passionate gardener and loved to share the space at Holland with a large dog. 

The Cowan family have not been contacted by any of us since we left Southland, but there is one connection that I can make for you regarding the discoveries or should one say UNcoveries regarding their family in Scotland? Margaret Thompson, Hannah (Cowan) Dunlop’s daughter of Dr. Frank Dunlop, lives in Dunedin, and I have had a Christmas letter from Aunt Daisy’s companion[5], now 88, who says she has just been taken to see the beautiful home Mrs. Thompson has built on a return from a world trip. I can send her word of your discoveries and your address, so that, if interested, she can write to you herself. Winnie will send on my letter.

Bill and I are most comfortably settled in our lovely flat and feel as if we have always been here….picking veggies from the garden helps!!  We have had lots of visitors… two daughters and their husbands, three grands, and a sister-in-law to stay for a week in turn and they all agree we have made the best move in our lives, and should be very well able to carry on here through our tottering years.  I apologize for wrong information…senility, of course! But Dr. William Tennant Gairdner is in Winnipeg, not Toronto. Lal broke her flight back to the Old Dart,[6] with him in Winnipeg. You write of hard frosts and snow closing your golfing stints and instead of my writing about roasting on the hot sun and dunking ourselves in the warm sea, I can only report the worst summer on record.  It has been a case of a few fine days, interspersed by weeks of rain…WET, HUMID and decidedly UNHOLIDAY weather.  Thousands of campers flooded out, serious damage to fruit crops throughout the whole country, and doubtless pretty serious spoilage of grain crops, though they have another six weeks to improve before harvesting.  Peaches, nectarines, plums etc. are bursting and rotting on the trees, and even the freshly dug potatoes won’t keep, they have such high water content.

North and South Island rivers have burst their banks and inundated large areas of farmland. It is quite a record, since records have been kept…1910!  Anyway the drought has broken!  That has been the problem of the past four years!

Thank you for your lovely card…can imagine the geese and other water fowl invading it as a sanctuary… the countryside is like Otago…lovely rolling hills for stock farming… grand hills for sheep as Captain Gairdner[7] reported to the crofters of Ayrshire when he was settling Otago with worthy Scots; so they have proved.

1976 has been promised as a year of blood, sweat and tears by our newly elected Prime Minister. I am glad we are not young and with a family to bring up these days… lots of useless money, in so far as it is of less and less worth when exchanged for property or goods. Unemployment seems to be going to be a major issue and it has been the opening gambit in the election campaign speeches…”do us good”!!! All subsidies have been removed and tea, sugar, flour, milk, butter, coffees are all doubled in price while postal charges are to double on February 1st!  Hope our pensions will meet the difference!

Queer condition world economists have landed us all in, don’t you think? One has to live, somehow, without apprehension, and not meet troubles before they meet us! Having measured ourselves through the Great Depression, we surely would find it possible to take whatever circumstances arise without too much foreboding? I feel positively glad I have no investments to worry about! At least, things can’t get much worse before they begin to get better. What a commentary on world politics that the three super powers (Germany, Japan and the USA) are seeking ways to rescue the world from its state of impossible inflation! Who’s a friend of whom? As for the situation in New Zealand, our new P.M. sees himself as another Winston Churchill, wrote a biography of his own life which he called “The Rugged Turk”!  We distrust his egotism, and the pose of “strongman”…and can’t see him being tolerant of any opposition even in his own party, and wonder just how he will perform when Parliament opens in March. Pendulums swing both ways….he may have to watch his step. Both parties are committed to a socialist, welfare state, and the image of a beneficent government!  The Trade Unions are the big problem and will not take naked punches on the nose kindly!  End of space…best wishes for 1976 and may the pen flourish! 

Sincerely Mona

[1] At this time, Charlie was researching two stories for publication in the Scots Magazine; the first, “The Henwife” would appear in 1980 and the second, “Macrae of Orangefield” in 1982

[2] See footnote Letter #2

[3] The Reverend Canon William Henry Temple Gairdner born in 1873 in Ayrshire was Sir William’s second son. He worked in Egypt for the Church Missionary Society.  Temple Gairdner of Cairo by Constance E. Padwick (1929)

[4] See footnote Letter #1

[5] Mona’s Aunt Daisy died unmarried in 1971.  Mona does not provide the companion’s name but it was British custom for unmarried women to share their home with a friend or companion.

[6] The “old dart” refers to the “the old country”, as in the old dirt.

[7] It is more probable that Mona was referencing Captain Cargill, founder of the Otago Settlement.

#15    By Aerogramme        December 6, 1976

Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charlie,  

I can’t let Christmas go by and not send you greetings and good wishes for Christmas and 1977.  Just when I should have been purchasing pretty cards and posting overseas, a beastly flu bug bit me rather and gave me the wafflies for several weeks…didn’t manage to cope with any mail. Found these Santa aerograms and decided they’d be better than nothing!

How has 1976 flourished with you…did the writing go well? I will be interested to hear about it all.  Missed our cheerful correspondence over the months.

Had a nice family gathering for Bill’s eightieth birthday…32 of us counting the three little great grandchildren…who were utterly good for the long weekend at Tom’s…not a cry from any of them.  The weather was kind, though it had been a dreadfully wet winter…wettest in 100 years. Always seems we get more rain when Europe suffers drought. It must have been ghastly for the cropping farmers, especially in Suffolk, where Bill’s nephew grows the fodder for 2,500 pigs. He must have had a fearsome year. We sympathize, having suffered crop failures in Alberta and having to part with stock because we couldn’t feed them.

Have enjoyed Sutherland’s Law and Oil Strike North[1] the past few months, made me come over all ancestral genes!

Have, we think, solved the mystery of the de Guise silverware. Found the daughter of the Hon. William Larnach, who built the replica of the Larnach Castle on the Otago Peninsula, just opposite Dunedin city, had married the son of the Duc de Guise, and we can only surmise that the silver was put into the wrong strongbox with our Grandfather’s things by the Trustees. Not a junk shop!! Have not found any trace of the family left in Dunedin, and Bill Gairdner still has the wretched silver! Crest and all!!

Have just read again your letter of November 28, and questions arise regarding some of the romances handed down to us. Grizel Cochrane, daughter of Sir John Cochrane, brother to the Earl of Dundonald, seems to have been a great grand in the background of the family…we were frequently regaled with the story of her gallant saving of the life of her father by disguising herself as a farm boy and robbing the mails of his death warrant…know the story? There is the connection with Dundonald, I gather.  Books and poems abound apparently.

Have done some reading of Unitarian literature from the Library and I find it much more acceptable than poor Grandfather’s breed of “Light” which cast such a narrow beam, and saw the whole world as WICKED AND HELLBENT!

All the family wish me to thank you for the adventure, they have enjoyed reading the history you have made available…they are sure their children will appreciate it in turn. Australians dread family data…too many remittance men and convicts arrive in the early days and for the most part they preferred to make a new start in every sense!

Greetings to your wife and very best wishes for a Happy Christmas, and a 1977 filled with nice surprises and good health.    

Sincerely Mona

[1] Mona is referencing Scottish TV shows that she has seen.

END OF 1976


#16    By Aerogramme      December 9, 1977

Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charles

Have been sending out Christmas good wishes etc., and have remembered you! All the very best of Christmas blessings with nice big fires (bet you haven’t gone “all electric”) and family gathered around. 

I have missed our amusing correspondence this past year…it was shared with the Gairdners here and gave them a lot of interest, three generations of us!  Gwen Finlay has my copies of the “tree”, and is copying out her personally interesting items.  In an earlier letter to me she happily recalled her visits with Lal (Buchannan)[1] and her mother while she and Gordon (Finlay) were in Edinburgh for his postgraduate F.R.C.S. course. He has been one of New Zealand’s leading gynecologists and is now in the process of retirement.

Sister Betty Howard and her husband are coming all the way from New Brunswick in time for Christmas and will remain here through January. It is an unexpected happy visit, because we had all said goodbye for “the last time” five years ago.  Their daughter, Kay, came to teach in New Zealand for two years and married here.  She and her husband have given Betty and Bill this trip and we are all sharing the happiness.

Bill and I are sharing our daughter’s family Christmas this year and will not go out of Auckland while the Howards are here. However, in February, we plan to go down to Wellington for a week with one daughter and across to the South Island to visit another in Nelson.  We will see Temple Sutherland while there.  Temple had some health problems last year at this time, but have not heard news of him since.

TV program a few months ago gave me a giggle! A curling tournament played in a snowstorm at BLAIRGOWRIE! I thought of you, of course, and the card you sent me with pretty little lakes (lochs) and rolling green hills. Said hello and cheerio!

I toyed with the idea of a trip to the United Kingdom and got quite excited about actually meeting relatives I had corresponded with over most of my life.  Sister Gretta said she would come and keep house for Bill so that I wouldn’t worry about him, and it was very tempting.  THEN…I remembered I was nicely over 76, that I would find more than half the people that I would have liked most to see gone from this world, and that, though I might manage to visit some places of great interest there would be no one to say oohs and aahs to, and I decided I had better do my travels on TV with a geographic magazine in my hand.  Much less exhausting? My enthusiasm petered out quite quickly. Find I can walk, but I cannot stand about without feeling limp and feeling limp in strange places just isn’t on.

How has your writing come along this past year?  It is a good time consumer, isn’t it?  I enjoy writing papers for my Co-Masonic Study Group…not for publication, of course.  But I find writing very good exercise. Of course, like Will Shakespeare I’m a poor speller, and the keys of the typewriter make a fool of me quite often!

A very happy Christmas to you and your family.

Sincerely yours, Mona

(1)  Gwen Finlay was Mona’s 1st Cousin.

 END OF 1977


#17    By Aerogramme    January 6, 1978

 Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

 Dear Charles

It was so nice to hear from you again and I thank you for your nice little heffalump Christmas card (Christopher style?) and the enclosed Photostat of Cuthbert Cowan’s resignation letter, with its charming 19th century manner of expression.  His writing could well be that of my own Grandfather who no doubt knew him personally.  I have tried to find some Cowan connections to whom I could send it, but so far, without success.  Margaret. Hannah Dunlop’s daughter ignored my letter telling her of your Cowan researches so is quite uninterested. Dear old Cousin Cuthie, of whom I was quite terrified, left indelible impressions on my childhood, by scolding me in true Scottish burrs because I couldn’t tell the time at three, not between the quarters and half-hours anyway! I blame him for my mental blocks when faced with a mathematical problem! Cousin Tilly I frequently visited when off duty as housemistress at a boarding school (for Young Ladies please!) in Invercargill, where Cuthbert, at ninety, broke his hip getting out of his habitual hipbath at 5 a.m.! Poor old boy never really recovered, and died of rage and frustration in hospital. To be at all dependent was more than he could bear. Only after his demise, did the loving and dutiful Matilda ever have a life of her own to live…she was one of the Bronte types, of completely selfless women.  She was always bright company, and at eighteen to twenty, I really loved visiting her.  Are there (any Cowans) still living in Scotland?

Thank you for the kind thought to send us your chapter, “the Dalrymple Connection”, later…will enjoy it I’m sure, and the Gairdner lot will enjoy reading it.  Sorry I have no further items regarding Robert, the Indigo Planter, having learned more from you than from our own records or gossip.  He must have been a courageous man to try to recoup his fortunes as a pioneer in Canada, with its fearsome six-month winters, especially after years in the heat of India.  Betty, my sister, is here from Canada and tells me she has visited the grave of his wife and the children who died of European cholera after surviving the diseases of the tropics…poor man! I did not know that he had returned to Mt. Charles, only that at nine years of age, he had taken his son Robert, our Grandfather, to Scotland where he lived with his Rankin cousins to attend school, leaving for Australia at the age of seventeen with two cousins.  An Uncle had established a great New South Wales horse ranch, where he raised horses for the Australian constabulary, the police force rather similar to the Canadian Mounties. Lake Gairdner was named for him.[2]

Grandfather didn’t like Australia and came to New Zealand after a few months.  Didn’t marry till over forty, a timid little governess from England, who had been raised in an Anglo-Indian school, and who, with her sister, helped care for children on the dreadful sailing ship, which took six months to reach Dunedin.  Barely 5’ 2”, she was twenty-two when he met her, and couldn’t persuade her to marry him because he was a Unitarian. Poor man…doing nothing by halves, he read his “eye of the needle” so seriously that he emerged a Plymouth Brethren plus his Scots fundamental and undeviating adherence to doctrine. How the poor man sorrowed when his grands learned to dance, entered picture theatres and played cards! His one unmarried daughter, extremely gifted artist, dressmaker, singer and pianist, was kept in the same mould, and though we adored her as infants, found her very trying at the age of ninety, when she still tried to save us from damnation! The WICKED WORLD would surely break their hearts today, wouldn’t it? Yet…the breaking of the crystalized attitudes can surely be seen as a vivid flowering of newer and better private and national relationships, and one prays for the success of Sadat and Begin’s dramatic efforts at this time. Humanity is alert everywhere to its import, whether informed, or just somehow caring. Have just read Golda Meir by Marie Syrkin…the first really informative book about Israel, which has come my way…not just reports of visitors, but the living experience.

One item you have not unearthed for me as yet, is the mystery of Grizel Cochrane, Daughter of Sir. John Cochrane, and whether she were one of the Gairdner Grandmothers? That has been assumed by us all for our lifetime! Her rescue of her father’s life, by robbing the King’s Mail, one of the heroic tales of our early days.  Book,“The Broad Highway”, I think, and a long ballad type poem about her, were once in our home.

I’ve had none too happy a letter from Irene, who seems to be suffering with some leg trouble and unable to work in her garden which means so much to her.  She seems to be very troubled about becoming dependent or senile, poor dear. The more independent spinster Oldies have been, the more age terrifies them!  Those of us who have three-tier families are very blessed!  She thinks you are rather tired with your chase after Tennants and Gairdners all over the world? Have not heard from Lal Buchannan this year. Hope to see Temple and Gwen in February.  Bill and I are going down to Wellington for ten days with our daughter Diana, and then across to Nelson to our O’Beirne family for a week…will see the Sutherlands then.

I hope 1978 will still give you time for writing and the enjoyment of doing it. My little contribution of music, as organist in three Co-Masonic Lodges keeps me practicing and in the flow of something outside of the four rooms of our little flat and that is something to be very grateful for. Too many of our contemporaries are folding their hands and contemplating their deaths! I visit these old friends who are just losing all interest in life, and it makes me sad, and not a little impatient!  I am sure that their tiredness of life stems from self-centredness and boredom…both fatally morbid attitudes of mind.

Lovely to hear from you dear Cousin Charles.    

Affectionately yours  Mona Kent


[2] This attribution, while interesting, is not reliable.

#18     By Aerogramme  15th March, 1978  

 Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charles

Thank you very much for the manuscript which arrived a few days ago. It has been most amusing to read; and throws much light on the mysterious name, Macrae, so persistently handed down for several generations.  Romantic indeed! It makes me still more curious about Grizel Cochrane, whom I believed to be one of the Grandmothers of the Gairdners…Grizel was the daughter, not of Henry Cochrane, but of his brother John.  Arrested as a Covenanter and sentenced to death in Scotland, his death warrant had to be signed by the King in England, and the messenger rode with it from London to Edinburgh.  Grizel, disguised by her old nurse (cut off her red hair and dressed in rough farm clothes) rode down into the New Forest where she robbed him of his two pistols while sleeping, which she emptied of charges, and then rode back to Scotland and waited for him to appear. She held him up at pistol point, demanded his courier bag from which she extracted her father’s death warrant, gave him back the bag, and whipped his horse back along the London Road, leaving him on foot and far from anywhere from which he could obtain help.  She galloped many miles, and rested only in a farm cottage on her return to Edinburgh.  By the time, the authorities could obtain another warrant from England, friends of her father had managed to prove his innocence and obtain a reprieve. A long story…poem… ballad was written about her escapade, which I once read also a novel called “The Long Road” but I can’t remember the name of the author.  Sir John’s as well as Sir Henry’s biographies are still in the Library in Auckland and make most exciting reading…both were delightful and courageous characters and quite outstandingly handsome, especially in their best duds! There are beautiful portraits in the two books…nothing about Grizel!!!

I hope when you’re book is printed you will send me a copy? I shall look forward to reading it because, if it is as good as The Radical Laird, it will be a REAL book.

Bill and I have had a very bright and enjoyable summer. My sister, Betty Howard and her husband came from Canada for a 45 day visit. One of the special flights.  Their daughter, Kay Follas presented them with the fare bless her.  We had real family get-togethers with our sister, Gretta De Laurier and William Tennant Gairdner, of course, joining us for several occasions. When she returned to Canada, where they were spending the rest of the winter in Victoria, B.C., (this they have done for the past six years to escape from the bitter temperatures of the Bay of Fundy). I am uncertain whether they have returned to Rothesay, New Brunswick just this past week, but I have written and asked her to let me know by return mail. I will send her your manuscript to read and she will post it directly to you. I know she will love reading it and that it will be safe in her hands.

I have been looking at it sadly, because, had I the energy, I would make a typed copy for myself to keep. However it will be worth having a Photostat copy done.  I will retype the first page, which is very faint, and then it will be quite clear.  Can’t read the title at all…what did you call it?

When Betty and Billy Howard returned to Canada, Bill and I went down to visit our two daughters in Wellington and Nelson and had a most delightful holiday with them. Granddaughters rallied around too, and we were thoroughly picnicked and dined and made a big fuzz of. The cricket tests (England and New Zealand) were on, and Bill had a transistor with him wherever we went! The amusing part of the story for me was that we got him flying! He has one of those height complexes (acrophobia) that keep him off ladders (shakes like a leaf and turns green once he reaches his own height from the ground), and the thought of flying was not on! Railway strike made us either fly to Nelson or miss our visit to the O’Biernes…Yes, we flew! And what was more, we returned to Auckland by plane, 40 minutes from tarmac to tarmac, instead of 11 hours sitting in the train…he didn’t enjoy flying, but he realized its convenience.  We told him he just had to try flying before he died, and there was no better time than now!  We have heard about the deaths of his last remaining brother and sister, and he is very conscious of being the last of his generation of Kents.  He has one grandson and one great grandson called Kent after him, so he won’t be forgotten.

I had a nice long telephone conversation with Temple Sutherland while in Nelson…didn’t see him personally because he and Gwen were off on a fishing trip early in the morning…caravaning of course…their favourite holiday. I had been anxious about Temple’s health, but he is well again.  He told me his sister, Lal Buchanan had had a hip replacement operation and was slowly becoming mobile again, though she couldn’t ride her bicycle yet.  Irene sounded in trouble in her Christmas letter to me…leg not permitting her to garden and a note of anxiety about what she might do should she not be able to maintain her flat. Many blocks of flats built for senior citizens here, have a geriatric ward where they can be taken care of, but it is a worry when there is no such facility.  Her family won’t allow her to be on her own when she needs care, I’m sure.  I imagine she should be much loved, because she has worked so hard for others all through the years. Reaping and sowing…that is largely what life is about, and we have to be humble and happy on the receiving end too.

End of the page so will close with affectionate regards and good wishes. Mona

#19     1st December, 1978

  Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charles

Christmas is beginning to pick its way along the dateline once again and our goodwill broadcasting begins to beat the air!

I trust you’ve had a very satisfying year, and health and happiness along with the other rewards? Is the biography finished and printed?

Your contribution about the Macrae influence on family fortunes has been a great interest to the family…a real Romance! What a strong character he must have been to accomplish so much from his humble beginnings…The Empire Building opportunities were a great spur to adventure at that moment in history, of course.  How different to the difficult time which sent our grandparents to remote corners, not just to make a new life and settle a new colony, but to escape a grim and unhappy condition in the homeland. When I personally remember my Grandfather, the perfect Victorian demeanour, the striped pants and frock coat for business, the top hat for Sundays, the conservative (as well as Calvinistic) attitudes, it is amazing to think of the courage necessary to face a new world with a mere fifty pounds. Even after twenty years here, managing large estates, he was hard put to find £500 for the purchase of the farm in Canterbury on which he put my father, a young agricultural college graduate, as manager-partner. To think, a farm could be purchased and stocked with so little asset.  Today, the same land is fetching $1,000 an acre (£500) and it is becoming virtually impossible for the pioneering settler to farm here at all. To commence farming, dairying is the best venture, and share-milking the most popular means of getting onto a farm, eventually, where the milking is done on half-shares with the owner, the herd belonging to the contractor. Cows are averaging $100 to $150 each.  The only farmers who are really secure these days are formed into companies for mutual protection from tax etc.

A great change all the world over. With Heads of State rushing about for confrontations or reconciliations, some of them up to no good at all, one suspects.  Perhaps man’s extremity force humanity to face up to more moral values?

Affectionate greetings and best wishes     Mona

 END OF 1978


#20     19th February, 1979  

 Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charlie,

Thank you ever so much for the trouble you have taken over the Grizel mystery…a nice tale anyway! The novel, “The Open Road” about her ride towards London to accost the courier and rob him of her father’s death warrant, was one of the Scottish stories our Grandfather loved to tell us…her Titian hair, part of the romance, especially when she had her old nurse shear it off and disguise her as a lad! The book was loved by all of us. There was also a ballad and I can’t remember the author of either. We understand Grizel to be the daughter of Sir John Cochrane, brother of the Earl of Dundonald, imprisoned as a known Covenanter, but later pardoned or reprieved, There are photographs of portraits of him and Sir Henry, the 11th Earl in the Biography of Henry and they were extremely handsome men. In describing Sir John being taken to prison, it said “he steppit lightly, withal”…the gallant man! In his portrait, he is garbed in white satin breeks with a jeweled garter, and dressed in a lovely brocaded jacket with a lace jabot. His hair is dark brown and falls in curls tied back at the nape of the neck. It would be interesting to learn more of the Scottish history of the period, and I shall look for books in the reference library in Auckland.  At the moment, I am doing a lot of reading about the ancient Maori culture, and discovering a great deal not written about in our accepted historical records…there were indeed noble savages, with a strict code of behavior, and were ruled by chiefs who were at the same time Tohungas, wise in esoteric religion they brought with them from their several places of origin…Tahiti, Egypt, the Ganges valley whence they were driven by the invaders from the North, the Dravidians. Some seem to have crossed from Egypt to South America, particularly Peru, and, as in the Indian worship of the South American peoples, the sun was the giver of life, vitality, essence…the manifestations of spiritual deity, the Maori IQ, the “Parent and the Parentless”.

They had schools of learning, which were, not open, to the common people, but to which the rangatira class sons and daughters were sent for instruction. Their three graded courses were of wide interest, the genealogical line of existing families, the genealogical line of the ancestors (the Chiefs who had passed on into the Higher World and whose Mana[1] they sought in ritual) and the ancient astrology, which was common to the Polynesians, generally a navigating people.  You would enjoy the book by Peter Buck, “Vikings of the South”…it gives a record of some of the migrations. There were many canoes coming to New Zealand from 1300 A.D. with seven known as sacred canoes, in which the Tohungas arrived to establish their mystery schools, and with them they brought carved stones which were hidden carefully so that no profane hand might touch them, the most famous of which was the “weeping dove”…something of the tradition of Noah’s Ark about their history. I have also discovered several of the ritual chants, which give their spiritual aspirations and their commands…very interesting. I have known some wonderful Maoris, and our father commanded the Maori Battalion in France on the Somme, and loved his warriors, who were frustrated deeply by their first experience of trench warfare, their hand to hand combat with mere (greenstone axe), and spear being their age long tradition.  There were principles laid down for the Maori warrior, which demanded that the chief be dispatched with his own mere and as the struggle was always man to man, that was observed by every warrior. There were also Chiefly Daughters accepted into the schools of learning, and their training in the magical arts was equal to the men’s.  Every facet of life in the whare (dwelling place), in planting crops, in preparing food, in childbirth, in marriage and in death, had its karakias (chants), and nothing was done without correct ritual practice. Like the ancient Egyptian,  Sound was employed as an anaesthetic, and to knit broken bones.

They still quietly practice healing with Maori rites, particularly in the Ratana Church…a completely undenominational Christian Church, built in the form of a square cross inside a round wall (an ancient symbol of Life), in which any denominational priest can preach and which refuses to “divide” God’s Children into sects. I have visited the Ratana Pa and found it most inspiring, and one can see why they are loved by the Maoris.

The Maori Christian has the usual burial service at his church, but (just to make sure?) the women wail and chant his soul on a safe journey through the underworld for three days, then have a tremendous feast or tangi, in which they share the food of the tribal relatives, sing the praises of the departed, and recall in eloquent and poetic language, all the things they loved about their dead. They believe in the after life, not in a heaven far above the earth, but in their midst, in a spiritual body, loved and loving as ever, until having learned through retrospect, the lessons of the lifetime, they can pass on into higher heaven worlds and wait for the rest of their dear ones. This whole philosophy seems to give the Maori particular serenity. There is a quiet strength in their women, and in the men, though I have known it best in women, personally and a beautiful dignity.

My family have loved your script about the family contact with Robert Burns and loved the story of Macrae. John Gairdner (Tennant’s son) thinks it would make the central theme of a wonderful novel…have you time to write another?  I had a copy of Lal’s delightful Christmas letter…did she have you on her mailing list? Her gift with words is sheer delight, and what a charming and gifted family she has. Her family gatherings and their music remind me of my father’s memories of the after dinner musical hour in Temple Gairdner’s home in Cairo. Each played an instrument and Temple excelled at the pipe organ for which he composed a special Communion Service in Arabic melodies (believe he got into hot water over that!)

I also had a pathetic letter from poor Irene. She must surely suffer terribly from her arthritic spine, and is so unhappy not to be able to garden or go to beautiful concerts…her two loves.  Irene tells me your sister Mona’s husband (Norman Wylie Moore) has had failing eyesight and that he is a wonderful artist…Life seems to ask renunciations of us as we get older, doesn’t it? I recall that Beethoven was totally deaf when he composed his wonderful symphonies…he must have been able to hear his heavenly music in his inner hearing, and was able to transcribe it for humanity. Perhaps the less of the physical senses gives us compensatory insights? It is remarkable how many of the great geniuses of the world were physically handicapped…forcing them to concentrate on their particular abilities, and enriching human culture through their sufferings. How many of the great artists starved?

Dear cousin, I have chattered on…do hope it has amused you a little? How nice if we could draw up our chairs and have a crack up the lum!??  Once more thank you for sending me all the interesting bits and pieces which I happily pass on to the family,

Sincerely, Mona

[1] Maori word for prestige

#21     By Aerogramme      10th December, 1979  

  Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charles,

Difficult to access the flight of time? Christmas upon us again!  I have just written to Lal and Irene and it is your turn for hallohs and good wishes for Christmas once again. Halloh, Charles, Merry Christmas! And all kinds of pleasant surprises and successes for 1980.

With such shocking crises around the world, one yearns for the spirit of goodwill to overcome the ghastly shadow of war and persecution. Here, in the South Pacific we are horribly aware of the Kampuchean horror, and see the little boat people with their children abroad in the street…met a mother with two little boys shopping, and all she could say was “Happy”, in reply to my greetings and good wishes. Pathetic little smile seemed to rise up through layers of pain.  She has four children, two at school with our great-granddaughter Jillian, who says they are nice at school and they are all trying to teach them English. Infant room level no doubt the best approach for them?

I expect you have completed the biography you have been working on, Charles?  Are you putting up your pen, or dreaming up another LAST book? An absorbing way to spend your retirement…I envy you. Would wish myself more talent in words and music…they are my joy.

We watched Golf from Gleneagles on our new colour T.V….what a lovely course it is Charles? Is that where you play? Also, were delighted with the programs about Robbie Burns, delightfully produced with song and ballet, readings and recitations by Iain Cuthbertson. The setting was at the ancient keep, the old castle stronghold of the Macraes!  Beautiful scenery around Ayrshire stirred my more ancient genetic memories!

Our daughter, Margaret Foster, and her husband plan a trip to the U.K. and Europe next May, and will take all my addresses, and where possible call and see my relations and friends.  They are booking on Eurorail for the continent, and will hire a car for freedom of movement round Britain and Scotland is a MUST.  Four of the grandchildren are abroad…no one wants to settle down and get married these days, and our girls despair about ever being Grannies!  They are throwing away the idea of amassing money, and proclaim that “life is for living”, and the world their scene! Girls, as well as boys are in flight, even these wingless Kiwis!

I trust you are keeping fit and well and that this winter will not be quite such a freeze-up as the last one. We had so much rain we were nearly web-footed when the late spring burst upon us…now we are re-watering our gardens again! But the sun is hot, and we are tanning nicely thank you! We shall have some delightful family gatherings about New Year, when three of our married and their spouses come to be together in Auckland. They don’t seem to see one another very often, and make exceedingly merry together when opportunity offers.  Lovely for us Oldies…we do enjoy it all , and are made part of the whole show.  As Great-Grandmama, I should have a walking stick and a shawl, shouldn’t I?  Our times are very youthful-making! 

Very best wishes to you and yours dear cousin cum cousin, with affectionate regards,           Mona

END OF 1979


#22       Undated, Autumn, 1980                 

  Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charles,

At the end of the month, our Prime Minister, who is always out for “grabs” is adding 40% to our already high postal rates, and being of thrifty disposition, I’ve decided to write my Christmas letters rather earlier, and beat the exchequer to the post. Have been reading “Johnson by Johnson”…a selection of the writings of Samuel Johnson, edited by John Wain, and in the chapter “A Ship with a Wide Sail”, have read his report of his trip to the Hebrides and the Highlands, and thought of you as I read of the two, old and new Aberdeens, of St. Andrews, as a seat of learning (thinking of David Tennant![1]) and of the Macraes, the description of whom is riotous reading, bearing out our friend Iain Sinclair’s remarks about their reputed fierceness, and their escutcheon, a log of driftwood.  It has made me determined to write your letter first!

I trust you have enjoyed the best of health, and had satisfaction from your writing?  It would be nice to hear about you again.  Our family, particularly the “grands” have been eschewing the professions for which they have university degrees and scampered off to the wider world on “working” holidays…quite happy to waitress or wash cars, take laboring jobs or any other occupation offering to keep themselves mobile. Two granddaughters and three grandsons are currently overseas, and loving their adventures. Dick Smedley was married in Sydney last Friday, and our daughter, Shirley and her husband flew across to Sydney to the wedding, taking with them Dick’s glad-rags, suit, tie, shirts etc. so that he could do justice to this bride’s white gown!! They set out with changes of jeans and T-shirts, sandals and work boots…travelling light!  Dick is a qualified architect, but prefers to build a house from foundations to finish…he seems to fall on his feet with jobs. Is building a luxury mansion ($250,000) for his boss, a developer, and is given free rein on design and materials! His little bride is a qualified Orthodontal Nurse, and is taking two weeks off for the honeymoon!  I find the whole attitude to life casual and trusting!

All our travellers write to me, and I enjoy their letters immensely…they are doing what I longed to do at the same age.  Bill and I set forth to see the world too, but being my generation, I became pregnant immediately, and kept on being pregnant for four years! Our only hope was to return to New Zealand, broke!

It was a delight to see Lal Buchanan in January, when she made a nostalgic trip to see Temple “once again”. She was the same delightful friendly Lal, but I was shocked to see what the few years had done to her since we last met. She had become slightly stooped, and definitely needed her lovely daughter with her, and I think the feeling of rapport was mutual. Gay is a beautiful woman…I expect you have met her? Unfortunately we had a shockingly wet summer, which made travelling rather unpleasant, but they did have an opportunity to have a look at the lovely lakes and mountains while in New Zealand.

I gave our daughter Margaret Foster, your address with the hope that she might be sufficiently far North on their car and camp holiday to say halloh for me.  They had a wonderful Eurorail tour of Europe, the Norway-Sweden area, and over to Athens and the Aegean Islands…were unfortunate to have their suitcases stolen in Hamburg, meaning no clothes other than what they were wearing, and the cost of replacements curtailed some of their plans.  Their letters have been quite exciting to read, and we are going to meet them at the Airport on the 19th,when they return.

I had a little legacy ($500) left for me, especially for a trip, but my plans to go to British Columbia and spend a month with Betty next March, came to naught!  I phoned about fares, and it would have cost over $2,000 just for the base airfare, without travel tax of another 10%, plus the sightseeing etc. en route. I was disappointed, but thought it not common sense, when I could not have stayed longer…can’t leave Bill easily these days.  Had decided to have him abducted by the family!!  He couldn’t manage alone, being unable to walk to buy food etc.  My travels are satisfied by T.V., right in the sitting room, and in a comfortable chair!!

Amusingly the family are planning to celebrate my 80th birthday during the Christmas Holiday period…it isn’t until July!  It is easy for the working members to come to Auckland during their holidays, and much pleasanter than in mid-Winter. The lovely beach here offers swimming every day and it is a perfect sport to enjoy a gathering of the clan. With a nudge here and there, we can sleep them all around three houses. Mattresses on floors and sleeping bags! We all cook, and thankfully freezers hold all we will need for a week.  Our youngest, Tom and his wife Audrey, celebrate their Silver Wedding at the end of this month, so there is a lot of foregathering coming up…seems to be that kind of year! Great-Grandma hopes she might get some knitting to do before too long! Our daughters despair of rocking babies, what with the travel bug and the pill dealing with the population explosion!

Have you finished and published your book.  Do tell me its title etc. Your book “The Radical Laird” has been widely enjoyed by my friends.   Every good wish for a happy Christmas celebration, Charles, and may you have continued health and inspiration to carry on with your writing in the coming year.

Affectionately                         Mona

[1] David Tennant (1734-1823) was Rector of Ayr Academy.

END OF 1980


#23   By Aerogramme     21st February, 1981

 Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charlie,

I have just re-read your little bits and pieces received with your birthday greetings and good wishes…thank you for them all. The correspondence of Charles G. let in little memories which were amusing….Cuthbert Cowan[1] must have been father to Cousin Cuthie of Winton, our Great-Grandfather’s cousin. His wife, Henrietta, was a darling little Victorian…corseted and bustled, with a tiny lace cap on her white hair and jet beads dangling, always very quiet and gentle. Perhaps from self-preservation, Cuthbert’s sparks flew readily, and I was terrified of him!  Hannah, the second daughter married a doctor, Frank Dunlop, and was a very charming and beautiful young woman who became a very badly crippled arthritic.  I think he lectured at Otago University in his fifties…not certain now, but he definitely didn’t practice medicine as a General Practitioner.  “Tilly” was the devoted daughter all her life…never had a life of her own.  She was completely unselfish and kindly woman and very good to me when I had days off from teaching at a boarding school in Invercargill.  I used to love visiting her, and old Cuthbert (in his 90’s) in a lovely little house which they actually won in a raffle for Patriotic Funds or the Red Cross!

John Burns…could he have been the founder of John Burns, an importing firm of hardware goods and farm machinery?  He was my grandfather’s close friend, and I have been in his “carriage and pair” from tiny childhood to about ten, when cars took over.

Charles Tennant, presumably Margot’s father, writes of business with the bank…all becomes very “family”!  And I’ve read again “The Henwife”, which is so full of enterprise, and actually typical of the pioneer Scottish who came out to this country and tackled all sorts of “new ways” of living under unimaginable conditions. If you can get books from a library on request….try to obtain “Married and Gone to New Zealand” by Gillian Drummond.  It comprises letters from pioneer women to their relatives in England and Scotland, and just speaks of day to day events and familial conditions. You would enjoy it. I’ve tried to purchase a copy, but they are out of print. I do think that the best way to understand any period in history is to read its correspondence and biographical books.

As an octogenarian (ha! ha!!), I haven’t enough energy left for many activities, but I find myself involved in the vexed question of Race Relations.  I have rather a good rapport with the Conciliator’s Office in Auckland, and do a lot of writing for them.  Bitterness and the angry looking back at the past, is a poisonous habit, and the young Maoris have chips on the shoulder attitudes, which are difficult to deal with at school or socially.  There are wonderful men and women who are really working tirelessly to over turn the present set up, and it is fine to meet them and give any possible assistance.  Generally they have one Maori grandparent or parent, and are able to see both points of view. Our father was Officer Commanding Maori Battalion on the Somme, our vicar was Hoani Parata, our very dear friend and support while Dad was overseas and Mother alone with five children. All my life I have had meaningful friendships with Maori men and women, and their love and interest has enriched my humanity. I have even dreamed Maori dreams in which I’ve slept in their beds…three to a bed! The awful percentage of unemployed Maori and Island youth is causing great trouble here these days, with quite vicious gangs reverting to savage inter-gang confrontation, and behind these largely youthful “Goodies and Baddies” exhibition, there is a shocking neglect of small children by working and drinking parents, who have suddenly found themselves in the money…the step from the bush to the large city has been disastrous to family life.  Neglected children are not good school pupils, and it becomes a viscous circle. To bring the Maoris back into their own style of society, Maraes (sacred places) are being opened in the precincts, and they are responding to the sense of belonging…many don’t even speak their own language, and are able to communicate only in a bad English…pitiful because they are born orators with beautiful voices.  When one looks at the worldwide human situation…one realizes that the only possible choice is to participate, in whatever small capacity, in the things close by.  It is no time for shrugged shoulders.

Irene said in her Christmas letter that she hoped to see you over the Christmas period. She sounds a very handicapped woman these days, and I am so sorry…she has lived with such enthusiasm and accomplished so much.  A lovely round-robin letter from Lal…she is a darling person, and at our age we can still find life such a good adventure…I loved meeting her in Auckland last year.

I have decided to pop this into an envelope and enclose Margaret’s letter[2] sent to us from Scotland… it will show you how her genes clapped their hands up there?  Will most certainly steer my grands your way, if they get to Scotland. Five of them overseas at the moment…four in Australia, two in U.S.A…that makes six out of fourteen doesn’t it? Another two are sitting their nursing finals the next few months, and are determined to take off.  With university degrees under their belts, they are happy to waitress, wash cars etc. to keep on the wing! Our graduate architect prefers to work as a tradesman carpenter so that he won’t be stuck in the office. He and his brother love the work and have no trouble getting jobs overseas.  What a generation…the world is their orange.

Our lovely beaches are crowded this summer…have been enjoying swims (Old Lady Style! Bobbing Up and Down!) Very hot, and I hope you are not snowed in too heavily? Nice log fires??? There are compensations in every sort of climate, are there not?  But, oh my goodness! Canada’s six month long winters are strictly for the Canadians??  Six years was enough to cure us![3]

All the best wishes for another good year, Charlie… hope you are keeping well and that all the family are prospering.                

Cousinly affection                  Mona

[1] Mona’s grandfather, Robert John Gairdner and Cuthbert Cowan were double first cousins; their mothers were McHaffie sisters from Wigtownshire, Scotland

[2] Mona’s eldest daughter, Margaret and her husband Norman had visited Scotland in 1980.

[3] Mona and Bill Kent farmed in Alberta between 1925 and 1930.

#24     By Aerogramme    2 December, 1981

 Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charles,

Another Christmas upon us, and time to say Halloh and a very happy Christmas to you!

I have read again the bits and pieces you sent me last year…The Henwife is delightful!  And also the story of the Great Grand who was manager of the Union Bank…can just picture him…rather like my Grandfather Robert…striped pants, morning coat and bell topper; all very CORRECT! Grandfather has a curly beard…rusty brown in his forties, but snowy white as we remember him.  While he dosed, Aunt Daisy, who kept house for him from when her mother died, had an impish impulse to plait it in two side whiskers tied with pink wool. The old man, dressed for business, awoke and quietly departed for the city! Aunty had to dash along the street to un-embarrass him…imagine his wrath when the plaits were undone!! And he literally never swore…not even a damn in a whisper! “Bother you, girl!” was the measure of his chagrin and the hours it took to simmer down!

I am going to celebrate my second childhood by taking a trip to Singapore. I wouldn’t dream of a tour, with hotels and that sort of thing to cope with.  But shall be stopping with our granddaughter Jenny Goodman, and shall be taken care of!! The house is a real Somerset Maugham example…thatched roof and all. The photos are beautiful. Jen’s husband is Officer Commanding the RNZEME and Jen is one of thirty-one wives having a taste of luxury living.  There is a school for 37 children, which has one New Zealand teacher and one Australian, both under the New Zealand Education Board. I daren’t let myself think about snakes and creepies with nippers! They have only had geckos in the house so far…perhaps they are lining up for great grandma’s arrival?

Bill won’t fly…hates it!  So he is having a freezer stacked well with cooked meals, batches of scones and loaves of bread, and our daughter will phone him night and morning, and take him home for weekend dinners.  She is working…Doctor’s Receptionist…and is a busy housewife who also loves gardening.

We have seven grandchildren abroad, and two more saving up after completing their nursing training…what a generation of footloose and fancy-free youth.  We would have been the same if we had had the means, no doubt.  Better late than never…I’m off in January! Only three weeks but time enough no doubt.

Have just written to Irene, and wonder what her health is like this year. Have you recent news of her? And Lal…must write to her too. Her Christmas letters are sheer delight, and I always look forward to them. How goes the scribe’s progress? Interested to hear. I have just lent “The Radical Laird” to a friend…everyone loves it.

Every good wish Charles for a lovely family Christmas and all good fellowship that ensues, and for a rewarding and enjoyable 1982. 

Affectionately,            Mona

END OF 1981


#25      20th March, 1982

Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charlie,

I have two letters from you to acknowledge. Your Christmas letter of December 10 and the latest, February 16, which arrived just before we went to Wellington to our granddaughter’s wedding.  Bill is so lamed by arteriosclerosis that he has had to make the journey in easy leaps, and our son Tom collected us from here.  We spent four days at his home in Te Awamutu, and then drove right through to Wellington, with stops for coffee and scenery, choosing a lovely spot overlooking Lake Taupo, where the lake was steel grey under grey cloud, with a yellow glow of early sun breaking through the water, (an enchanting sight!), on from there to Taihape where we lunched, and then right down to our destination. Left home at six a.m. before sunrise, that is why we had the unusual view of Taupo. We arrived at our daughter’s house at two p.m. and there plunged into pre-wedding family gathering. We took our grandson Warick, and his very delightful Dutch wife Rita, with us, and it was good to see the instant rapport established with the rest of the cousinry. Two granddaughters from Nelson, and the bride and her sister, the groom and his best man brought a lot of fun to the party! 14 of us slept in the house, with camp beds strewn through living rooms and hall, which made for much merriment. New Zealand houses are reputedly elastic-sided!

Diana and James live across a mountain range at Wainui-o-mata, a beautiful valley surrounded by birch-clad hills, where house sections are hacked out of the forest. It is fifteen minutes across to the City where the wedding was held. The arrangements were interesting, as the marriage was performed in a beautiful garden at the back of the house where the Reception was held…a beautiful Edwardian mansion with lots of paneling downstairs, a balcony around the foyer, and lovely carpet and furnishings. Rooms had been opened upstairs to make a good dining area…three b’rooms joined into one oblong…plenty of space. The buffet was laid down the centre and tables for four were arranged down the sides of the room…we shared our table with Bill’s niece (Ray) and her husband whom we had not seen for five years. They are delightful company…Ray raises hunters and trains them as jumpers with great success, exporting them to the U.K. and the U.S.A. and Australia.  Fred is going in for deer now, handing over his sheep and cattle to his son. He also has about 9,000 acres in forestry, but won’t mill it himself. They are 65 and 67 years of age.

Our darling bride, Vivienne, with her sister Jenny looked beautiful, wearing lovely gowns Diana had designed and made. Di is a teacher of dress design and sewing, and is always thrilled to have the challenge of wedding garments. We were very happy to meet our new grandson in law, David Clark. Vivienne is at the training school hospital, Kimberly, where there are psychopedic patients, and David is Personnel Manager for Kimberly and three other hospitals. They have basis for good fellowship in shared professional interests, which is promising.  Marriage seems to have become tongue in cheek these days!!

After the wedding festivities, Tom drove us Audrey (Tom’s wife), Bill and I to the Airport, where we waved Audrey out of Wellington.  She had to be at work in the morning. Then we took Warick and Rita up on top of Mount Victoria, where they have a wonderful birds eye view of the city and harbor, looking its sparkling best on a clear, sunny day. Drove down the winding roads with cliff-hanging houses, many of them with hand-controlled lifts for tradesmen or Oldies who wanted to dodge steep steps and through the city to see the Beehive and Parliament buildings…Warick and Rita’s first trip so far South. Arrived back in Wainui-o-mata about 7:45 and though still satisfyingly stuffed with wedding cake etc. we were glad of cups of tea or coffee.

Missed the “campers”, who had gone their several ways, about the house. But the O’Beirnes were still with us, and we had another merry evening with them.  We took off about 7:30 next morning on a different route, across the Rimutaka range, up through the Wairarapa Valley, where I had taught when I was young, and out through the hills to Tinui, near the famous Castle Rock lighthouse. We had gone that way to see Ray and Fred Maubsell’s new farm, the deer and the horses. Had lunch with them and left about 2:45, making for Woodville, Pahiatua, where we had a cup of tea, and a walkabout for Bill, then on again up the Western Highway…ranges of steep hills ahead, and Taipape for steak dinner and another walk-about. We struck drama in the hills above Pahiatua, with fog coming down, and rainclouds back on the horizon. When we came to the Mangaweka Gorge, with cliffs above and below us, visibility was about three yards! That would not have daunted us too much, but we struck earthworks for about three miles, with muddy topsoil spread across the road, and had to squeeze past monstrous earth-moving machines on the OUTSIDE of the road.  Hair-raising in the fog! What loud signs we all gave when we came through onto firm tarmac again! But then fog stayed with us all the rest of the way, and we didn’t arrive home at Te Awamutu till after 10:00pm. Quite a day’s drive from 7:30 a.m.!!

We spent four more days with Tom, waiting for him to be free to take us to Auckland…nice restful days after all the activity. Now that we have been home a week, I am beginning to get my heels down on the carpet again, and have been answering piles of letters that were waiting for my return…indeed, some of them since I arrived back from Singapore, three weeks earlier.

Yes, Charlie, I had a magnificent holiday there. Could not have made a hotel staying holiday…would have been boring…but Jenny and John from the moment they met me at the airport, till they saw me fly out again, gathered me comfortably into their lovely home, took me here, there and everywhere of interest, and gave me the holiday of a lifetime.  All my previous “holidays” had been to assist the stork with new babies arrived or some such caper!

The nine and a half hour flight was not as tedious as I had thought…films, movies reticulated through earphones, reading, crosswords…the hours passed quite pleasantly. 36,000 miles of cloud scenery…didn’t even see it when we passed over Bali!…But Singapore sparkled in the evening light and was a joy. I kept a diary and brought home dozens of colour prints…so have no need to forget any of it.

First day there, went to a Muslim wedding, and the last week to a Chinese New Year dinner…165 guests…charming hosts.  Ate squid…and no, it didn’t wiggle! Found Asian food interesting and enjoyed the many meals eaten at the Makans…eating houses in the villages with rusty iron sheds, long trestle tables covered with vinyl, plastic chairs to match. There would be side stalls where Chinese (chefs) cooked most interesting dishes while one waited, sucking cold Pepsi Cola out of a bottle with a straw to pass the time away!

Another favourite place to dine out was the Mess…a lovely Officer’s Club, though today, quite democratic and open to all the (ranks of) personnel. They had Chinese staff there too, and one could have Asian or European food.  At the back of the building, lovely verandas overlooked a large swimming pool, and one could sit at a table there too and watch the fun and games at splashing level, or go beyond the pool to tables with easy rattan chairs and large umbrellas.  Beautiful lawns and trees, flowering shrubs, and through the treetops, the spars of ships in the dockyard which was once the British Naval Base…that impregnable one we used to be so proud of![1]

The modern Singapore is a magnificent example of concrete and glass architecture, the shopping emporium, some eight and eleven floors of shops, quite magnificent.  We visited them all, poked around to compare prices, but didn’t buy.  Back in the village shops…rusty iron roofs, goods piled ceiling high on counters and hanging on wires across the ceilings, spilling onto the pavement…we would find exactly the same garments or electrical gadgets for half the prices asked in the city, and even then, subject to price haggling! I bought a beautiful crocheted (linen thread) Chinese jacket for $42 (Singapore Dollars = $1.80 for each New Zealand Dollar) which had been priced at $90 in Bukhit Timah…one of the lovely shopping plazas.  For each of the girls, both generation(s) of the family, I decided to bring back clothing, because it was definitely duty free and easily packed. Lovely Asian cottons and silks, and beautiful batik designs, which would not be seen here and costing much less than our materials for the making. I found a very nice jade necklace which matched my greenstone ring…and replaced my lost diamond engagement ring…with a Zirkon…a man-made diamond made in Russia.  An expert could tell the difference, but no one else, and it only cost me $25 Singapore…about twelve dollars New Zealand money…It was a delight to wear my only diamond ring, again!

Now, I must stop babbling on and answer your letters.  I was sad to learn about Irene’s deterioration…had sensed it over the past years and realized she must be getting difficult. My dear cousin Peg Brett and her blind and handless husband drove across to see her and she was not very welcoming.  She said she appreciated their calling, but Richard’s blank eyes upset her. I can understand a little. Peg married him when he was apparently going to spend the rest of his life at St. Dunstan’s.  He can’t do very much for himself, as you can imagine, and she has been quite wonderful with him. With his two claw hands, he makes stools in his little workshop, even though he is quite sightless. Shell-hole blast from a mine!  Your sister, Mona, seems to have been her mainstay, poor Irene.  I did like her when she came to New Zealand and went to several meetings and a reception at the Mayor’s office with her.

I have done so much gallivanting the past three months, that I am still rather disorientated!  Have not done anything about the Scots Magazine, I shall phone booksellers’ tomorrow and ask whether they have it in stock. Have not seen a copy anywhere, but then I am not a magazine hound. If they have it, it should be in the shops by now, though it takes six weeks at least to come to New Zealand and be displayed. Will leave this unsealed till I make enquiries…should very much like to have a copy.

Now, about the letters from Australia. I know that Grandfather, Robert John, of course, came out with his cousins, but (I) didn’t realize that they were McHaffies. Heard about his return to Scotland to bring back his inheritance…£500 I believe…which he used to buy a share in a Canterbury sheep farm, but really don’t know anymore about that.  When we were growing up, we were never told anything about his youth…his bereavement when our grandmother died at 39 years of age, leaving three teenaged children seemed to shut him up within himself. He was extremely Calvinistic in his religious attitudes, and was appalled that we learned to dance, were permitted to enter dens of iniquity like cinema houses, and grieved his last twenty years to the grave over his “godless” family.  I can well imagine him being called Jack when he was young and adventurous, and before he saw the “light”!  Early photographs portrayed a reddish-brown hair with streaks of grey in the beard at the time of his marriage (he was 42), his tiny bride, only reaching to his shoulder, was a little mouse in bonnet and cape, with huge brown eyes and pleading expression.  She was only 20 or 21 old and quite alone in a raw economy…had come out helping with a family of children and then left adrift.  Quite a story, if one could get all of it put together? The Races…what a laugh! I have been told that he had owned tow racehorses, but couldn’t believe my ears. That must have been before the conversion.???

The letters you have are dated 1838-50 and he came to New Zealand in 1851.  If I can get hold of it, I will do some photocopying of the journal, he kept on his way out from Scotland on a sailing ship…I think Mollie or her daughter has it…will see what I can do about it.

Are we not blessed to have interests that keep us busy mentally? I have been saddened by friends who are dreadfully introverted and self-centred as they get older, and wish they had wider concerns to occupy themselves with. They forget that life is for living while they have life to live! I may be plunging into my second childhood, but I find it more and more interesting!  Thanks to our children and our grands, I am not allowed to sink back into an octogenarian role…must skip with the lambs, even if I fall flat on my face! Thanks be to Telly where Bill is concerned. He glues himself to it for all the soccer matches and tennis matches, bowls, billiards or whatever…keeps him from boredom. I write dozens of letters, and keep myself obliged to play the organ in four co-masonic lodges…all to the good, for that gives me an excuse or a reason? For going out several times a month. No time to rot, or even sit and stare!

My brother John remarried at 55, and had three children, the girl, Elizabeth is a very successful singer and pianist.  At eighteen, she has been picked for the National Youth Choir and they are touring the U.K….U.S.A. concert in Los Angeles en route…singing in seven English Cathedrals, also King’s College, Cambridge, with a week in Strasbourg and a week in Paris, and one night concert in Singapore.

Your grandson, William, might enjoy hearing them? Sorry my typing is getting ragged, please excuse its clumsy antics? I have heard a recording of them, and they really are good. Was struck by the depth of the baritone-base voices in such young singers…they have a lovely rounded quality of tone.  Elizabeth Gairdner is lead soprano, and really has an outstanding voice.  She is going to work for her letters when she returns and hopefully will apply for a scholarship to take her overseas for further training. Would be nice for her if William made himself known to her…a VERY distant cousin!  The singers are aged from 18 to 24…and are chosen from all over the country. Godfrey is a wonderful choirmaster and will be travelling with them.

I am sure you must be tired of my ramblings and will close with best wishes for a rewarding year with your pen and for continuing interesting research. 

Affectionately Mona

P.S.  The issue has just arrived today.  Will be able to order a copy of the  , Hurrah!

[1] For the non-historian, an ironical thought. Mona is probably making an historical reference that in 1942 the “great” Singapore Naval Base was attacked and quite easily captured by the Japanese.

#26     By Aerogramme     16th May, 1982

 Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charles,

Charlie has comic overtones in my experience…”Proper Charlie” being a common expression for idiot, and our rather boorish ploughman was also named Charlie, so that the family seemed far removed from anything less than Charles or Chas.! Charlie sounds fun, though, but still doesn’t seem to FIT!!!

I picked up my copy of “Scots Magazine” last week, and thoroughly enjoyed your article about the romantic James Macrae[2]. Am puzzled as to how, as an illegitimate son of Bell Gairdner, he should have the name Macrae. There could have been a marriage of consent perhaps, like Burns’ marriage to Jean Armour?  One not recognized by the family?  Were records of birth usually kept of that type of union? He must have selected some pretty canny genes, must he not?  His driving spirit and adventure must have been his outstanding quality. Isn’t it amazing that with Clive and Hastings, both impeached, his hands should be so clean??? It was typical of a CANNY SCOT that he should distribute his wealth between the cockleshell ships of the time for safekeeping.  Can you imagine his wait in London for their arrival!  We have the “Onedin Line” programme on T.V., which is even later in seagoing adventures…things were surely risky!  Makes me giggle that my Grandfather wanted me named Macrae or Macquorn… doesn’t it?

I have lent a copy of the magazine to a Scottish friend, Alan Sinclair, whose mother was a Macrae, and will Photostat the article when he returns it to me for the young Gairdners who are interested.  Alan tells me that the Macraes are, or WERE, a wild clan, whose cattle raids were dreaded, and that they were originated from sailors who were able to reach the shore from wrecks, their crest being a log of driftwood…how appropriate to our James!

This has been quite an opening year for my second childhood…really adventurous for an octogenarian!  First, the delightful three weeks in Singapore, where I was given the only REAL holiday of my lifetime (had always been working holidays, “granny” stuff, flying around with the stork etc., being my excuse for change of scene.  Home for three weeks, trying to get my roots settled again, then to a wedding in Wellington…granddaughter’s …which was enjoyable, because Tom took us all the way by car, and we took different routes going and returning, and called at Bill’s niece’s farm in the Wairarapa to see their new deer farm set up. It was interesting, and dear old Bill forgot how painful his knees were when a stag came at him…he found he could run after all!  Drama provided by a pea soup fog on a steep gorge, with road works spreading clay across parts of the road to widen the corners…600ft. drop if the car slipped…shudders, when at last we reached tarmac again! We spent a week in Te Awamutu with Tom and Audrey, then home for two weeks before Easter, when Margaret and her husband visited us, taking us home with them to Tauranga, where they have a beautiful new house set against a steep hill, and where they have done a lot of terracing and planting, which is a great joy to them (being much younger than us!) The house is on three levels, nearly as bad as the section!  STAIRS from here to there, whenever one decided to move, and Grandpa had to go down sidewise, holding firmly to the rail and keeping his walking stick from tripping him into space! It was a delightful experience of modern architecture, but we were delighted to return to our more ground level residence, and we are entirely pleased with our lot in life!

The thing we remember most is the marvelous view across the Bay (of Plenty) with Mount Maungatapu reflected in the water, with sandbars covered with seabirds when the tide emptied the bay, and the lovely sunsets and reflected city lights. Water views are enchanting aren’t they? I love mountains too…all my childhood, mountains ringed the landscape, and turned mauve in the evening, with white caps on their heads for most of the year. Poor Bill hates mountains, coming from Suffolk’s flat fields, he can’t understand their thrills. Perhaps because he can’t climb a ladder without turning giddy??  Guess so!

I do not remember whether I told you that the New Zealand choir was to tour the U.K. in July-August?  Elizabeth Gairdner, 18 years of age, is the lead soprano.  They participate in a Festival and sing in six cathedrals. You will doubtless hear them on T.V. and I am sure you will enjoy their outstanding talent.  Kiri Te Kanawa is singing with them in London…they are terribly excited about that.

I would love to see some of those Australian letters…I recall Grandfather having been with his cousins in Phillip Island, and having returned to Scotland to get his inheritance, about £500, which enabled him to farm with a partner. He had managed as a young man, a 50,000 acre station inland from Invercargill, 5,000 acres of which he and my father, after he graduated from Lincoln Agricultural College, purchased.  I was then about two and a half years old, but I still have vivid memories of my mother’s screaming terror of the rats that infested the cottage which had been a shepherd’s hut for 40-50 years! They had to take up the floorboards and set terrier dogs onto the rats to clear them out.  Poor mother, pregnant with John, nurtured in a Vuc. household in sedate Melbourne. No wonder she was scared nearly to death! Our brother, Robert John the umpteenth, was also called Jack when young. I loved the name John, and called him that when we were older. The Races would have been taboo by the time Grandfather “saw the light” at forty…none of us ever knew of his interest in horses!  Can well imagine his pleas to God to forgive his equestrian sins! OOOOH LOURD…in deep groans! It was indeed a Wicked Wooorld that he became aware of, poor soul.

Au’voir, love from Mona.

[2] James Macrae of Orangefield had made his fortune working for the  East India Company.

#27     13th June 1982

Dear Charlie,

Thank you for your letter and the photocopies or rather your typed copies of the old letters from the Gairdners in early Australia….part for the jogging of odd memories and the glimpse of our grandfather and his cousins youthful adventures, or rather ventures, for to begin to farm in those days was quite a risky business, especially for those who were unaware of the climatic hazards.

Grandfather went across to his cousins to see for himself the conditions and decided he would be better off in New Zealand. Could not feel confident about alternate droughts and floods, and the consequent cruel losses of stock.

Here, at that time, there was a serious depression following the Gold Rush, which brought thousands to the country, which could neither house nor employ them when the Gold Rush ebbed. It was a terrible time, and even I can remember “swaggers” coming through asking for work in return for a bunk for the night and a meal. It lasted till about the outbreak of 1WW when the demand for wood and meat lifted the country out of the depression.  Either Ernestine Hill or Eleanor Dark wrote a marvelous trilogy about early Australia, which I am sure you and Barbara would enjoy reading.  “Storm of Time”, “Timeless Land” and “No Barrier”.  The second is the first, if you know what I mean?  They tell of the dreadful penal colony at Botany Bay, the free slave labour (convict) which were taken on by the settlers and worked to death. The governorship of Bligh (after the famous Mutiny of the Bounty episode) and the general grassroots development of New South Wales and Victoria.

My mother’s Sievewright family arrived in Melbourne in the 1850’s and Grandfather was a junior partner in a Land Agency firm.  A very successful  and bright young accountant, he went on a hunting trip in Queensland, got an infection in his eyes, and was completely blinded within three years, losing his livelihood. He had seven children, five of whom grew up, his only son dying at 21.  The aunts had to take positions as governesses, and two married very young, one going to Madagascar where her husband was a gold mining engineer, and later to live in England, the other marrying a friend of Harrison Smith’s, and living in Madagascar until her husband’s death from malaria in his late thirties.  She came to New Zealand and trained as a nurse and later opened a maternity hospital in Dunedin. The older sister never married, looked after her Victorian parents till they died…DUTY was the code in those days.  She taught the Queen of Tonga’s children when she was young and loved the Islands.  5’ 2”, she was an indomitable walker, and the natives gave her a name that meant “the woman that walked”.

There is a very good book about the settling of Otago by Captain Cargill, a pioneering sea captain who had three sailing ships, and who dreamed of a Free (Presbyterian) Kirk settlement, where people were not forced to pay rent for a pew in church. A centennial book, “Grand Hills for Sheep” was very well written with vivid descriptions of the sailing ships, which took six months to reach their destination and the types of people who chose to come. Their reaction to the untamed land and loneliness, dreadful privations…well, water, wood for cooking cut from the scrub, no medical service, often no schools…are well-written from several viewpoints. Can’t remember the author’s name, but will look it up at the library for you.

Barbara would enjoy Eileen Drummond’s “Married and Gone to New Zealand”…edited letters and diaries of women who were prominent pioneers in the early 1840’s.  Bishop Henry Williams wife, Marianne; Bishop Selwyn’s wife, Sarah Selwyn; “Kitty Sullivan”, an orphan girl of thirteen who was taken care of by fellow settlers on arrival in Nelson; Lady Arthur, who started the first maternity hospital in Auckland…a raupo hut and tents, where she taught the rudiments of hygiene to the ignorant midwives of the period… seven women altogether in this book.

I don’t know whether it will have been purchased for libraries in Scotland, but Una Platts has written a wonderful book about Auckland called “The Lively City” which she has illustrated with lots of pictures covering from 1841-60 modern times. The script has been a wonderful piece of research, which took her seven years, I believe. She is an artist by profession, but has enjoyed doing her book immensely.   Bishop Henry Williams Diaries are a very good illustration of pioneer days in this country, especially regarding the Maories, which both her and his brother William, made tremendous efforts to portray fairly. Marianne’s relations with them are amusingly tolerant, as you would read from her letters.

Back to the letters which you sent me…it must have been the McHaffie cousins whom my grandfather used to refer to frequently.  His mother was Macquoron McHaffie, and each of us are bearing her name as a family name…three generations of Macquoron Gairdners…Mona Macquoron, Elizabeth Macquoron, and Margaret Macquoron, while the boys were spared the Irish nomenclature.  Robert John (7th in a line, I believe) and William Tennant…guess who that was for??? Grandfather was very proud of his cousin William Tennant Gairdner, and had his biography on the shelf, and for years, the beautiful handwriting of James was treasured in correspondence.  He was a most revered historian…”according to Gairdner” often found in University history books. My dear maiden aunt, Daisy …Margaret Jane was very proud to use the family crest on her letterhead, and wore a signet ring which was quite a large seal with the crest on its topaz. She would remind me that I would not be permitted to use it when I married! It was originally on a fob, but our father had it converted into a ring for mother…looked so huge and clumsy on her thin little fingers! John’s wife, still has it, but can’t wear it since she divorced John. She has passed it on to Tennant’s son, John Gairdner, who is very proud to own it. John restores old furniture and lamps etc. and loves the traditional.

It is amusing to read of the oyster beds on the floor of the tidal streams…delicious just plucked from the water. Oysters abound here, but unfortunately for us, are “protected” from our poaching fingers, and far too expensive for us to buy! One has to be Oliver Twist and point at the bottles when looking in the fish shops!

I hate to read about the seal clubbing…they are such adorable creatures. Don’t know whether I should feel so badly about shooting the large and ferocious tempered sea lions.

Paddocks for the sheep…just imagine trying to handle them without! I remember what a major enterprise it was fencing our farms in New Zealand and what a lot of maintenance they required.

The prices of cattle are reminiscent of the slump here in 1921, when cattle for which my father had paid £15 per head, were lucky to fetch 14 shillings and sheep for which he had paid £5 were unsaleable, while wool, which in 1920 had been sold for 4/11 per pound, sold for 1/1 per pound.  It ruined him, because, having sold the Southland farm, and moved North and buying at top wartime prices, he couldn’t meet his mortgage repayments. Talk about rags to riches…the return from riches to rags was imminent. With his health destroyed by gas attacks on the Somme, and his farm bankrupting him, his fate was horrendous poor darling. The rest of their lives, with shocking ill health and lack of money was one long struggle.  None of us could be of much assistance, because John had also bankrupted himself with farm machinery and was trying to manage a small petrol station for a living.  Bill and I were actually on relief with five children after our return from Canada, and Tennant was in the army, for “food and clothes”!  Gretta was training as a nurse, and Betty in Canada, where she and Bill (Howard) were struggling to raise their six children on half-pay teacher’s salary.  We were all in the same dire mess. 

Took the Second World War to give us a shoestring to pull ourselves up with!  Farmers so often have no skills or trades to which they can turn for a livelihood, and poor Bill was driven to swatting up on explosives for a quarryman’s license, with which he managed to get the management of a quarry run by the Borough Council which he held till he retired…a dreadful job, but you know about beggars and choosers?[3]Our own children are enjoying gracious living by both of them working…nursing/ teaching great standbys professionally, and always in demand. Their young are all independent, and they love their professions.

What a rambling and disjointed letter! Have just tacked where the wind suggested in the letters you sent me. John Gairdner wrote of the fences being liable to get burned down in the summer…it is still true. Fires are rampant in Australia when there is hot dry weather, and the stock losses are quite terrible.  Seems Phillip Island was liable to fires too…Sydney is often ringed by raging fires and water is a great problem…swimming pools are regarded as a safe water storage tank.

I am proud to say New Zealand’s tie with Britain is, as strong as ever[4], and Mr. Muldoon’s immediate offer of the loan of a frigate was in character, even when his timing was suspect. He is a crafty politician, and makes the most of every possible ego trip. It was deplored that the action was not discussed before the offer was made, even in caucus, but it is typical of his arrogance. The country is continually being handed facts as status quo, and there is no doubt that he is a pretty little dictator. The whole Falklands business is tragic…what a dreadful display of shocking weaponry that can penetrate a dreadnought and actually melt the aluminum of its casing!  And the fact that these new missiles can seek out and hone in on a vessel from 29 miles away…it is appalling. One wonders whether NATO is proud (including Britain) of selling such weapons to a diabolical dictatorship, just because we’re scared of Cuban Communism.  And now, Castro has come smiling to Argentina promising his full support. Chile is just as vile[5], but we are sending them aircraft…several million dollars worth, and opening trade doors to them after several years shutdown.

In the Middle East, Iran and Iraq will stop fighting one another in order to make a joint offence against Israel…who is friend and who is foe in wars?  Germany is our prized ally now and we owe her millions of dollars on Think Big projects[6], and Japan also, their money being poured into tourist hotels etc…Friends??  Could gobble us up any time, because our slender islands are indefensible.  It seems quite ludicrous to have three and a quarter million (New Zealand) people owing two thousand billion dollars to German, Japanese and Swiss banks, and the Think Big project has begun to look sheer glamour.  Aluminum smelters are losing on the world market yet the government is borrowing to start a second one costing at least two hundred million!  How appalling!  One wonder’s whose tail is being twisted and by whom! Typical of the dire confusion of mankind, confounded by the brightest of its specialists in every field.

And as you can guess, I am as confused as everyone else! I am sending you a photo of Bill and me taken at Margaret’s home in Tauranga at Easter time. The two shorty octogenarians greet you with a smile and hallo! Sorry to have rambled so, but you might get a chuckle out of it, as well as the typing blunders,

Affectionately,                        Mona

[3] A colloquial expression– beggars can’t be choosers

[4] Mona is referring to the Falkland Wars

[5] The Pinochet military was still in power in Chile.

[6] Mona is talking about the “Think Big” energy projects undertaken by the New Zealand government in the late 70’s.

#28      15th November, 1982  

  Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charlie,

Yes, Charlie will do!  Reminds me of the Scottish songs round the piano when we were little: “Charlie is me darlin’, me darlin’, me  darlin’!!” Nice to chant in a happy mood.  No you are NOT a “proper Charlie”!! Whatever that may be?

How good that you can still enjoy a game of golf. Poor Bill, with this arterial sclerosis, has not had a game of bowls for eight years, and all his beloved games are vicariously enjoyed in front of the T.V. Soccer, cricket, tennis, bowls…he plays every ball and praises or chides the players. Quite a participation! He was captain of the First Eleven and the First Fifteen at Grammar School in Norwich, and Sports Prefect, and spent far too much time organizing games to do any swot…sports were much more important than scholarship to the Kents.

This has been quite a year of happenings for us. My holiday in Singapore was a memorable one, felt as though I had really lived it up as an Octogenarian! In March, our grandson, Warick Kent, married a very nice Dutch girl, and they are very happy farming their leasehold property. Warick bought a herd of 157 Jersey cows and is thrilled with their production. He hopes at the end of the three-year lease to either renew it for another three, or buy his own farm. He is much safer leasing a good farm than buying land at over a thousand dollars an acre we feel.  Perhaps we can’t ever throw over the horrors of the last slump when 50% of our farmers walked off their farms when prices collapsed. Inflated prices and killing mortgages! Indeed, our overseas markets seem to be in very great danger this year. Millions of tones of produce involved of wool, butter, and cheese, as well as beef and mutton. 35 million carcasses of lamb for Iran, but Iran isn’t paying up!  Hundreds of farmers are turning to cropping, seeing the necessity to diversify. A few years ago there was a rush to plant trees, and forestry became a major industry. Marvelous use of steep country, which erodes readily. Now it is kiwi fruit and other exportable fruits like boysenberries. Funny business farming with an eye to a fluctuating market scene.

Two months ago this week, I did the responsible granny act, and tried to scrape broken bottle glass off the footpath where the little tots run down the hill after school, lost my balance and broke my silly arm. Snapped the radius out of its little wrist socket! Plaster for a month, then bandages and careful movements which still hurt a little. I have at last been able to thump the typewriter keys, and this is my third letter. Thanks be to Allah!  No one could read my dreadful scrawls! 

Have just been reading your last letter and looking at the map of Phillips Island.  Our grandson’s wife was interested, as she comes from Melbourne and knows the Island…a place now for holidays. I bought a copy of “Scots (Magazine” and read your Macrae article with interest. Found it puzzling that he may have been Bell Gairdner’s illegitimate son. His father may have been gentry, of course, and given him a good education, otherwise he could scarcely have done so much with his life! I lent it to a Scottish friend, Iain Sinclair, who was most interested, as his mother was a Macrae. Did you know that the clan were involved with fighting off the Danes, and that they were wrecked off the Coast, many drifting ashore on drifting logs?  He told me that the crest on their flags etc. was a piece of driftwood.

Christmas is getting uncomfortably close and I don’t seem to be the least inspired about it. I imagine we shall be going to the Waikoto to spend Christmas and New Year with Tom and Audrey. Bill looks forward to visiting Warick on his farm of course. From there, we will go across the Kaimai Range to the Bay of Plenty (the place where the sun goes for the Winter), and visit Margaret and Norman. By then, there will be worried foreheads about our lawns at home, and Bill will become homesick!

I am enclosing a photograph of Bill and me taken with Margaret at Tauranga last Autumn. Am refusing to pay at least 70 cents for printed cardboard greeting cards and will send my friends snapshots instead. The whole price range on paper goods is quite ridiculous…monopoly stuff of course. Thrifty? Yes, when not madly extravagant! Like to buy well when things are nice to treasure, but certainly resent exploitation of rubbish.

Our weather is getting warm, suddenly, after more than usually cold winter…have just had the dreaded chore of switching clothes and linen press…cotton sheets can be surprisingly heavy! Have a garage equipped with a lovely roller door ‘n all, but no car. Marvelous place for storage chests! These units are very conveniently planned, but there could always be more storage space. I love my garage!! It also houses the laundry, with the clothesline right outside the entrance at the back.  Couldn’t be more convenient, especially in wet weather, when the lines in the garage can take the whole laundry. The freezer sits comfortably down there too.  Handy to tuck away batches of scones and bread, the Christmas puddings and the ham…”till the day”? If we go away, we’ll take them with us.

An old Irish blessing for Christmas:

May the sun ever shine in your faces.

May the wind ever blow at your backs.

May God hold you ever in his hand.

May your hearts be ever warmed at your own hearthstones

Every good wish for a Happy Family Christmas, and lots of blessings in 1983,

Affectionately             Mona

END OF 1982


#29     By Aerogramme     January 16, 1984  

 Mona Macquoron Kent
#3 – 34 Old Lake Road
Auckland 9
New Zealand

Dear Charlie,

I am delighted to hear that you are working on your autobiography, and I trust I shall be one of your first readers. Promise you will have a copy sent to me?  How many of my friends have urged me to write mine! But who wants to read about the traumatic shock of prairie farm life, with its hand-pumping of every drop of water, its dependency on poor pine wood from the Foothills of the Rockies[1] for heating and cooking, (no coal for those who had no cash to pay for it!), annual crop failures, and continual pregnancies…Marie Stopes[2] was no friend to Bill and me! What was acknowledged to be a perfectly normal existence to the Canadian woman, was a regression into peasantry for a “Boarding School for Young Ladies” spoilt brat. The lesson for me was to face realities, whatever those might prove to be, and to grit my teeth, dry my eyes and plug along. The fact that our performance was essential to the very life of four adorable baby girls gave us both the incentive we needed. Back here in New Zealand…where we were in fact classified as “vagrants”, having only £34 in the world, four children, no job or home of our own, we were blessed indeed to have my parents to come to our succour. My father, by then, suffering dreadfully from the effects of gas on his lungs, and having lost his sheep farm, was managing Motuihi Island (farm) Park for Auckland City Council, and we lived in tents on the property by the house, while Bill applied for the few available jobs. He went to see the Acminister General of Lands Development about a fencing contract on a large development block 35 miles from Roturua and was offered instead, the overseer’s job on the whole project. His angels were beginning to look after him, no doubt.

We lived for 3 years in the outbacks with a camp of 230 men, some of them married and in tents with small children…unemployment was a crisis situation in 1930, as you will recall. Government money ran out, and we were actually unemployed for three and a half years, living in a derelict farmhouse on a few acres, where we could run a cow for milk, grow a good veggie garden, have our own eggs etc. and keep the wolf from our larder. We couldn’t have born living in a city street! Bill passed tests in the use of explosives at a friend’s suggestion, and landed a job as manager of a quarry, and held that till he retired at 60. It was terribly hard and responsible work, but his lack of training for any other occupation other than farming, left him no real choice. His education opportunities had been squandered (the fashion in pre-war England?) for prestige soccer, paying his mates to do his homework, while he organized the school teams. He was Captain of the 1st Eleven at Norwich Grammar when he was fifteen, and one of the “greats” in the eyes of boys and masters, God help him!  At almost 88, his interest sits him in front of T.V. watching English Cup matches, Cricket and Tennis…we are watching tennis professionals in action here this month! 

Me…well I’ve had to make a life for myself, escaped from utter boredom and despair in Canada, by taking a course of lectures at Edmonton University[3] (not as a qualified student, because I muffed maths and couldn’t do university entrance) but as a gift from the registrar and students, who recognizing my plight, sent me books and copies of lecture papers, bless them. It was a course in Home Science, much appreciated by a young mother with absolutely NO domestic conveniences…not even a kitchen sink or washtub!) because it kept the dream alive! I’ve never had money…being more affluent on our superannuation pension than in all my life, but we have never gone without necessities, and have managed to own our own home and to furnish it graciously and comfortably to eat good food and to dress with enough dignity (not for the social scene!), and could not have found life more fulfilling. Our generations…FOUR of them now…surround us with love and draw us into all their lives.  We are enjoying our second childhood, and are still blessed with remarkably good health in our 80’s.  Plenty of pills rattle around in bottles by the table! But speaking of autobiographies, it has all been said and written too often, and it would be an Ego Trip for old Mona! Actually I love writing, and have done a lot of essays for Race Relations…a significant problem in our multi-cultural society. With a small population like ours, it may be possible to soften some of the indifference and contempt that is poisoning our thought stream. I have had wonderful contacts and deep friendships with several Maoris whose friendship has built special values into my life…some when young, and others today…old Chiefly men and women, and young and brilliant students with their hearts set upon healing of the wounds of colour-bar and discrimination.  It is evident that Government legislation against discrimination won’t change innate intolerance or apathy. It is a grass roots problem and an eye-to-eye exercise. Wish I were twenty years younger! Can but hope to get me out of the limitations of this mortal coil, and come back before too long and get on with the job? Shall need, at least a Maori grandmother to qualify for the job? This world provides me Arohanui…the love that gives insight.

Have recently read Temple Sutherland’s autobiography…you MUST read it. I could wish he and Gwen were more accessible…a lovely character comes through his writing, and we all love him. He has the “common touch” which is the true Scot’s gift, and makes his relationships rewarding and widespread. I am sure that Lal will already have a copy and let you read it …if copies are difficult to obtain in the U.K. , Philip Mason’s “Shaft of Sunlight” speaks of Charles Gairdner in the Indian Army….interesting, haven’t placed him yet.

Best wishes    Arohanui                                Mona 

[1] A small coincidence but Barbara Tennant’s Uncle David immigrated to the Okanagon Valley, British Columbia in 1905 with the purpose of farming.  He had a similar rough ride after the 1WW making ends meet, he gave up farming and turned to selling farm insurance.

[2] Dr. Marie Stopes was an early pioneer of family planning and her book “Married Life” (1918) was well known to both Mona and Charles’ generation.

[3] Mona was most likely referring to the University of Alberta, then about 20 years old, where there was a School of Household Economics

#30     By Aerogramme   19th November, 1984 

 Mona Macquoron Kent
c/o 51 Rewi Street
Te Awamutu
New Zealand

Dear Charlie, 

I received your Christmas letter with its very interesting bit of family lore about Bass John…thank you for including it. Isn’t it interesting to use one’s talents rather than buy conventional pieces of cardboard with other people’s messages printed on them? I should perhaps send you some of my scribblings but they have mostly been Masonic (I belong to the Co-Masonic Order), or philosophical appraisals of Race Relations on such matters. Have done quite a bit of writing for the Race Relations Conciliator’s office. Have had wonderful friends amongst the Maori people throughout my life, and am sickened by the clever dickies, who with honours in Sociology and Anthropology, use their talents to stir up racial feelings and bitter political stances.  Injustices abound, but one can’t undo the mistakes of a century ago, must rather grapple with the situation of today with good will and understanding. The Maoris who grasp those opportunities are outstanding personalities, just as are the Blacks and the Asians, of course. One should not expect the less evolved of the race to have the capacity. Illiterate parents are unable to inspire their children to reach beyond the norm…couldn’t do it themselves. The intolerance is shocking and the apathy discouraging…youth are promising though.  After all our own teens don’t shine brightly these days. Noisy escapism seems to be the pattern for them.

To cheer us, we have just had a Young Musician’s Competition, with a first prize of $12,000 and a return fare to the U.K. The last six or eight musicians have been sheer joy to listen to. A youth of 22 played the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3…a most difficult composition, quite brilliantly, to win 1st prize.  A young flautist, girl, 2nd prize. Such a nice change from just NOISE. T.V. is good value for us Oldies, isn’t it? Bill has his English Soccer religiously every Sunday morning, and plays every ball himself throughout the winter. Switches to cricket and tennis for the summer. He was a very good sportsman from his schooldays, spoiling his chances by immigrating to New Zealand. Played soccer for the Yeomanry, and had been Captain of the First Fifteen and First Eleven at King Edward VI Grammar School, from where he went to Gallipoli…18 years old…Egypt, Palestine, Somme…right through to Armistice. What a way for a young man to spend his youth!

We have been to Te Awamutu three months, living with our son Tom until he builds our house, which he hopes to get busy with in January.The plans are lovely, and it will be interesting to shop for carpets and drapes etc. it has been a delightful change for Bill, for he is a lands man, and always interested in country affairs. He looks ten years younger, just to be freed from boredom!  I will ask Tom for some of the brochures describing his electronic calf feeding machines on which farmers are raising thousands of young stock…calves, angora goats, deer, even sheep, while the milk from several farmers are raising up to 5,000 head of cattle. A large shed like a Nissan Hut and three machines. Most interesting enterprise. Tom is beginning to flourish after buying out two partners…has taken several years.  Seasonal demand for his machines, so he also does fiberglass moulds of various types to keep the men occupied, and a lot of house building during the rest of the year.  Keeps us entertained! Our attitude: whatever’s next!  

Wish you all the best for 1985…lots of inspiration for the biography and continuing good health.  Best wishes to the cousinry.               

Love Mona

END OF 1984


#31     By Aerogramme   12th August, 1986

 Mona Macquoron Kent
2b Christie Street
Te Awamutu
New Zealand

Dear Charles,

I have had little taps on the shoulder for some time, reminding me that I have not written to you for a very long time and have missed the contact very much. I repent me of the neglect!

THINGS have happened in a big way since I last wrote.  Our son Tom persuaded us to sell our flat in Auckland, and come down to this delightful country home to be where he could keep an eye on us, and the plan was to build us a very nice house here. There were all sorts of hold-up to the building, first the sudden expansion of his business, which involved moving into larger premises, and lots of work to be done on the building which Tom did himself. He manufactures a calf-feeding machine…completely automatic…which services forty calves at a time. It mixes the milk powder, and the vitamin additives etc., keeps the mixture at the correct temperature night and day, and replenishes it when it is running low. It even recognizes special animals from a tag in the ear, and rations them according to instructions on the ear tag….Magics! Things went into a rush situation, involving thousands of dollars for equipment and more staff, then, with the fall in prices for stock, the farmers were unable to market the veal, and the sale of machines slumped badly. His business, like all those catering for the failing farm community, could fall flat on its face.

With all that happening, he had to employ a builder to do our house, and it required more capital than we had available…a mortgage was not planned!  There were months of delay, but we have been resident in our lovely home since just before Christmas…central heating has been a real luxury this winter. But in the joy of being settled again in a home of our own, Bill contracted a beastly chest virus, which left him dehydrated, which was even worse. He struggled for five weeks and died on June 5th at Tauranga, where our nurse daughter, Margaret took us to help care for him. It was wonderful to be able to be with him at the end, which he actually welcomed, for he had a horror of the thought of dependence. We could only rejoice for his escape from the indignities of advancing age…he did not like to face turning 90 this month.

So here I am, rattling along in a large house on my own, and trying to rationalize my situation after 62 years of marriage. It is strange to have no one to cook meals for!

Have you written your biography, and will I be able to buy a copy? I should very much like to have it to read. My nephew in Canada is trying to finish, or rather, bring up to date, the family tree of the Gairdners in this part of the world, and it is quite exciting to see their multiplication in New Zealand and Australia.  Would you like a copy of what the family come up with…would be amusing to tuck it into the back of the Bailey Book?

It has been interesting to watch the Edinburgh Games…what unkind weather!  But it was good viewing in spite of the rain. Little New Zealand did quite well, didn’t it? Do write and tell me how you are, and whether you are still enjoying writing, and still taking your morning swim?

Best wishes!  Affectionately and sincerely Mona

P.S.  I was able to spend an afternoon with Temple and Gwen Sutherland, when Bill and I stayed with our daughter in Nelson for a month. Temple is frail…strange in so big a man!  He walks carefully peers at one through thick glasses, but is still the gentle and delightful Temple one always remembers. He tells me that Lal Buchanan is losing her eyesight…what a pity. She is a gifted woman artistically, and a wonderful writer of letters, her love of music in the lives of her gifted grandchildren is full of happiness. Have not heard from Irene for ages[1]…hope all is well, at least as well as can be expected for us Oldies!


[1] Irene Gairdner, who had back in 1972 connected the genealogical interests of Charles and Mona, had died two months earlier in June 1986.

#32    By Aerogramme    September 3rd, 1986

Mona Macquoron Kent
2b Christie Street
Te Awamutu
New Zealand

Dear Charles,

Thank you for your welcome letter. I was delighted to hear that you are still fit and actually still playing golf. You make me feel lazy…I don’t play any games and spend too much time sitting knitting for my great grands, typing letters etc. I do all my housework, dodge the gardening, but walk the mile to the Post Office and shops, thankfully on the level. No steep hill to climb as in Auckland! Have felt frustrated the past few months by a developing rheumatic condition in my back and legs…shortens my stride and slows me up a bit. Having my shank’s pony[2] to drive save me taxi fares…I had had Irene Gairdner on my conscience, thinking it time I had written to her, when your news of her death came. It was strange how we met her, when she came on tour to New Zealand to do with the founding of the Epilepsy Society here. Her photograph was in the newspaper, with an article about a lecture she had given in Invercargill and the name being unusual AND familiar, my brother contacted her and as she progressed to Auckland, we carried on making contacts with her. She was remarkably like my father in colouring and features, and we were interested to know her. How sad that she had such skill at pianoforte without the necessary feeling which is at the heart of music…I do feel for her.

Once rode 28 miles back into the foothills of the Rockies to what I understood was HELP with a concert to raise money for another room to the local vicarage, only to find I was the whole show! I used to sling my music in a sugar sack on my back, and fortunately had quite a lot with me to choose from. Imagine the way-backs people listening to Chopin and Beethoven…Ha Ha! They loved my Maori songs, and I used to wear the piupiu (flax skirt) which was an interest.  But, imagine how I would feel to be the only ARTIST! Had them singing folksongs…Scottish and Irish, like we sang round the piano on the farm in New Zealand.

To return to Irene…I feel she was a troubled and unhappy personality and that her successful work for Epilepsy had given her a fulfillment. I am glad about that.  Your sister Mona seemed closest to her from her letters to me. Sorry about Mona’s sight problem. I have glaucoma in my right eye, but fortunately the left one is still pretty good…helped with specs and on occasion a magnifying glass. Worst handicap is shaky hands…awful. Have to drink from a cup held by both hands and couldn’t manage soup if dining out. I drink my broth from a coffee mug. My most frustrating task is to sew on a button. Can see the eye of the needle, very well, and then my right hand won’t make the thread go into it…takes ages and makes me want to swear like a fishwife!

I shall very much look forward to reading your biography Charlie…I’m sure it will be most interesting. Our generation has lived through so many physical changes, so many social upheavals and reversal of attitudes, we couldn’t possibly have lived boring existences in any part of the world.  Personally I have seen childhood on a way-back sheep station, lived in a boarding school from the age of eight, educated prettily in English, French, embroidery and all the graces but emerged without any skills for earning a living when hard times came in the 20s and 30s…lived like a Russian peasant on a prairie farm with water from 75’ deep well, no bath or sink, a wood range, and four babies under school age. Now I play “ladies” in a beautiful modern home with every luxury including central heating and a waste disposal unit in the kitchen sink and wonder just WHO I am!!  I have ten great-grandchildren, four at school and keep my knitting needles busy.  Can’t sit with my hands on my lap and read my good eye to death! On the whole, I find it difficult to take when my daughters say “Go and sit down Mother, we can do this”!!!…feels awfully difficult not to be involved in the busyness of domestic life as I have always been. Feel I should be wearing a shawl and using a stick to fit the role. Mind you…a glance in a shop window as I walk by makes me hurry on…that stooped shouldered old girl shouldn’t be me!!!

My sister, Betty, turned eighty last March, died about ten days ago in New Brunswick, Canada. She has had wretched health and a lot of pain, so one can only rejoice at her passing. This leaves Tennant, William T. after the great pathologist of the family and myself, but we have three generations established to take our places.  Jessie, Tom’s first wife, is coming to spend a week with me on 13th September and bringing all the birthdates etc. with her. I shall certainly send you copies of all the records from New Zealand families. May take a little while to get it all assembled. Meanwhile, enjoy your golf! I think those little runaround cars that take the golfer and his clubs round the links are simply wonderful. Happy days! The spring bulbs and a lot of flowering trees and shrubs tell us the winter is behind us, but we are still getting frosts some mornings. The trees will burst into leaf in the next week, most of them. Lovely!

Love to you and your Barbara   Mona 

[2] An old Scottish expression for one’s legs.

#33a    By Aerogramme     30th September, 1986

Mona Macquoron Kent
2b Christie Street
Te Awamutu
New Zealand

Dear Charles,

I am afraid that I was pretty gormless (?) when I answered your last letter and forgot to acknowledge your inquiry whether I would like copies of the two tapes you have made. Yes, indeed! I should find them very interesting, plus the bonus of hearing your voice… the pen friend becoming articulate??? It is very kind of you to think of it. Have no tape player but can borrow Tom’s. He uses tapes a lot for his business, and finds it a wonderful way to keep records of transactions…taped interviews etc. What with a tape recorder and a telex machine, he is just what Alvin Toffler described in his books…the modern business executive in the age of the silicon chip!

What a long way our generation have travelled through changes…candlelight and kerosene lamps, followed by gas, then the marvel of electricity. We had our first family car when Gretta (my sister) was a baby…about 1910… the first telephone in our farming valley in Otago, which made us a sort of unofficial? telegraph station office, taking telegrams for neighbours and hanging sheets out of the windows to alert the recipients several miles away. They used to keep watch with binoculars!

One dear old Scottish immigrant farmer down our valley, refused to ride in that “divil buggy” that made dreadful noises and went without benefit of a horse. Even when he broke a leg and the nearest doctor was 32 miles away, he would not let Dad take him in the car, and lay on the mattress on the floor of his wagon, with draught horses to plod their way to and from his home, and across a bumpy, stony riverbed, nearly a mile wide!

At boarding school, I used to kneel on the end of my bed to watch the lamp lighters with their tapers, lighting the gas lamps down the street…no centrally controlled  main switches for the city in THEM days! And to hear a radio in Alberta in the 1920’s, then to see our first colour film on our return to New Zealand in 1930 were further thrills. We had our first radio in 1932.  How long ago that seems.  Remember how one was given spectacles to wear to see the first colour films?  Forgot what they were called.

And our grandchildren and infant great-grands are entertained by all the wonders of satellite borne programming, have watched men, actually walk on the surface of the moon and can watch live processions of royal occasions as they happen!  Of course man has become too clever-dickey for his own good, and has put the planet in jeopardy these past few years.  Is his heart good enough to control his egotistical head??? I look at my truly beautiful Littlies, with their bright and intelligent eyes and trusting little faces, and just have to put my trust in the human conscience.  Obviously God doesn’t interfere…his gift of freewill and conscience may not be infringed, whatever fools we make of ourselves…don’t you agree?  The reaping and sowing goes on, and demonstrates in famine and other horrors, even in our clever-dicky age.

My, oh me! What a soapbox I’m making of this letter! But the history of our generations wide sweep does become mind boggling, doesn’t it? I have worked and lived like a Russian peasant on the Canadian Prairies, when instead of corn we harvested babies, struggled through the world-wide slump in utter penury with five children, and now here I sit in a sumptuous home, replete with push-button gadgets, central-heating and velvet curtains…What more am I going to do about living …???? Am enjoying my second childhood on the whole, though I am not enjoying the aloneness part. Terribly boring not to have somebody to smile with or snarl with? We are warming up with fruit trees in blossom and lambs and calves on the grassy acres round about. I hate to think of your Northern winter coming on you…good for curling??? I am plotting a holiday in November…down to Nelson perhaps for three weeks with Billie and Joe (O’Bierne), then up to Wellington for a week with Di and James (White) who will fetch me home with them by car, and visit their family in Auckland. Tom is taking Audrey with him on a month’s business trip to Australia, so I plan to take off rather than be lonely here.

Will get all my Christmas letters written this month…useful dodge post dating and holiday without my typewriter.  Too early to say Happy Christmas,isn’t it?  Or can I get away with it this time?

Two sections have been sold next door to me, and a couple of enterprising nurses are going to build a village type of rest home for frail Oldies and it will be interesting to watch it grow and establish itself. When I get too helpless, I will simply crawl under the fence!

I am so looking forward to reading your biography! Will be like reading John Buchan’s (Memoirs) by son William, which I have just enjoyed immensely. Loved his books, and never dreamed the tremendous personality of the author.  Have just read a biographical book about (Arthur) Koestler[3], in conjunction with his secretary Celia, whom he married after many years. Wonderful mind, forged in tremendous experiences as a Jew in the dreadful thirties.

Au’voir!  Love Mona

[3] Most likely talking about “Stranger in the Square (1984) written by Arthur Koestler and his wife, Cynthia.  Their double suicide in 1983 has been well recorded.

#33b   27  October, 1986

Mona Macquoron Kent
2b Christie Street
Te Awamutu
New Zealand

Dear Charles,

I am getting all my Christmas letters typed and tucked into cards before leaving for two months safari around the family. I don’t want to take the awkward typewriter with me…slippery gadget.

Am leaving here on Friday, taking the delightful electric train through the countryside to Wellington…a lovely sight with the country emerald green and abounding with young stock.  Spending a month in the Wellington area, then flying across to Nelson to spend a month with Billie and Joe O’Bierne on their farm.  Will be visiting Temple Sutherland of course.

Diana and Jim will bring me home from Wellington by car and spend a short time with me before picking up two grandchildren for a camping holiday in the Coromandel Ranges…a beautiful mountainous peninsula on the East Coast.  They are wildly keen on bush walks, all of them.  The steep hills daunt my aging spirit!

My dear old Bill decided not to reach his 90th Birthday. After a nasty bout of influenza, he took the chance to get himself off…wouldn’t eat and got weaker and weaker, and died on June 5th.  It was a determined effort!  One could only rejoice for him, when he finally died, because he was determined never to become dependent upon me, or anyone else. It was a strange experience to live through with him.

No, I am not enjoying my “single” estate.  After 63 years of planning meals, seeing about clothing and all the little domestic attentions of marriage, it is a strange emptiness and lack of purpose.  The silliest little things, like no one to play a game of cribbage when time has to be killed! Have had to resort to patience (solitaire)…really Old Maid stuff!!!

I have a wonderful Library Service, like Meals on Wheels! The Red Cross brings me three or four books every second Friday and the ladies who choose them soon get to know one’s preferences. The family keeps multiplying, so there is always a baby to knit for…really a great grannie occupation.

This is a glorious spot this time of year…lovely flowers, ring trees, emerald grass, beds of glorious colour with the first roses budding.  I walk along the edge of the 22 acre Memorial Park to go to town and enjoy every inch of it.  The tui…our most outstanding songbird, abound in the trees and the ducks are nestling along the riverside.  Rather a doubtful temperature at this time of year, but we are beginning to wear our summer pretties after the wintry woolies.  And as we warm up, you are probably getting your first snowfalls??  Had enough of that chilly white stuff in Alberta!  Trouble with the Canadian winter was its tedious length!! November to May

I trust you are still fit and well, as well as young in heart?  Still Writing?  With all good wishes for Christmas and New Year

Love               Mona

P.S.  Have opened my letter to you, because you asked for information in yours delivered yesterday…Auspicious!  When I receive the data from Canada, which my nephew has promised…he is a very diligent researcher, using the archives of the Mormon Church…I will have his papers photocopied for you.

Meantime, just some small corrections of what you have sent me. Will write up a much deeper account for you shortly of the family history in New Zealand.

  1. The two young men with whom Grandfather Robert, son of the Indigo Planter, immigrated to Australia were not McHaffies, but were cousins.  They were the young men who wrote home from Phillips Island (off the coast of Melbourne) for iron fences, because the fires used to destroy their brush fences, and let the stock out…remember sending me copies of their letters.  Think, but have holes in the memory tank, their name was Rankine.  Grandfather lived with those cousins till he migrated with them, first to Australia, but he hated the climate and came across to New Zealand when he was still very young. Managed a large sheep farm in South Otago then being settled by the famous Captain John Cargill whose recruitment of SUITABLE good Presbyterian settlers was an ardent mission in Scotland!  Our daughter, Moana (Maori name pronounced MO-AH*na) married his great grandson, Joseph Francis O’Briene, a devout Roman Catholic!!! But she has abducted him from that, and brought up the family non-Catholic.

Back to Robert…he didn’t marry until he was 42, when he fell desperately in live with the tiny Alice Maud Barker, petite and brunette, she was only twenty and been brought out on the sailing ship to help care for a large family of children, and then abandoned…Her parents had died in India and she was at a relative’s home in England when it was suggested she make the journey.  Poor little girl…how different, the independence of our young people, and how unequipped for life.  She and her middle-aged husband, who for all his Calvinistic exhortations about the WRATH OF THE LORRRD, was the gentlest tempered and kindly man, adored by those who remember him.  They had three children, my father and his two sisters, Elizabeth and Margaret Jane, named after (his own) little sister buried in Canada.

Alice Maud died in her thirties, after back injuries sustained when she threw herself across a little rail track when some naughty children set a little foal truck running downhill towards a wharf where coastal vessels refueled.  She saved her children from being pitched into the sea, but was painfully crippled for the rest of her life…which was soon to end her agony.  I think she was 39 when she died.  Aunt Daisy (M.J.) was only fifteen and my father, 19…and at Lincoln Agricultural College.

Grandfather, involved with his Scottish patrons, retired from farming activities at forty, and was Manager of the British Book and Bible Depot, designed to keep unwholesome literature out of the country and managing their very nice shop in Dunedin until his retirement in his late sixties.  He spent his retirement years, after Granny’s death, writing theological treatises to his cousin Bishop McLaggan of York…went on for at least twenty years!!! These were preserved for posterity in black students’ notebooks, which we finally, after his death, gave to a young and early blind Methodist parson who was most GRATEFUL, bless him! Only after my Grandfather’s death of course.

Poor old man, and his devoted daughter were deeply anxious for our souls, poor dears…we were taught DANCING, and allowed to visit picture houses – halfway houses to Hell itself!  Oh and we played euchre… the worst sin of all!!! They were Plymouth Brethren but our father and his sister Elizabeth went frequently to the Anglican Church with their mother and escaped the harshness which poor Daisy ENJOYED devoutly.

Grandfather named his Dunedin house, Culzean, after the castle he so loved as a child… used to tell us of the exploits of Earl of Dundonald with his private navy and of Sir John, the Covenanter, whose daughter Grizel’s exploits saved her father from a death sentence.  All excitingly romantic.

Aunt Elizabeth married George Lavie, born in Ayrshire, and killed on the Somme… six foot four, the trenches were not much shelter for snipers!  Two children.  Aunt Daisy (Margaret Jane), marvelously gifted…watercolour artist with exhibited works in City Art Gallery, fine pianist and Spanish guitarist, wonderful contralto voice, exquisite needlework and able to tailor her own suits, fine cook who, health conscious, milled her own wheat for her home-baked bread…a woman of parts.  She was a wonderful aunt to me… took me on painting trip when on exeat from my boarding school and was an inspiration for my love of literature and music. Her life was sadly curtailed by varicose veins that stopped her going to China as a Missionary, her special hero was Temple Gairdner of Cairo…they had a long correspondence and we read all his books, letters etc.  Our father stayed in his home in Cairo when on leave between Gallipoli and France and loved the music which was such a great part of the family life… all played an instrument and formed an orchestra which enjoyed an hour playing together every evening after dinner.  Dad, on leave from France, visited Scotland staying with Temple’s family…a most happy memory cherished on his return to New Zealand.

My father…Robert McQuoron, graduated from Lincoln Agricultural College and first farmed in Canterbury on a farm he shared with George Lavie, but there was not a good living for the two families, and he and mother moved South to take up a 5,000 block of the Avondale Station which grandfather had managed as a young man…a shepherd’s hut, rat infested, was my mother’s poor home…she was terrified.  They took up the floorboards and set the terrier amongst the vermin…just imagining the scene.

Dad, whose education at Lincoln Agricultural College included building skills, soon built them a little Victorian cottage still extant in the early settlers’ streets here and in the UK. Like a child’s drawing…a square box with a door and two little windows in front of a veranda a cross like an eyebrow and a smokey chimney. That was in 1904 when I was three years old…born July 12th 1901 and just managed to be a Victorian!!

In the next ten years, the farm’s low lying riverside areas were drained of swamp and converted to grassy paddocks, the gorse fences (shades of Scottish immigration) were replaced by wire fencing for sheep control (#5 wire), and a lot of farm buildings erected, sheep and cattle yards constructed, and in 1909, a very nice storey and a half American bungalow replaced the early cottage, which was a tight squeeze for five children…There was a shepherd, fencer-cowman, and a couple of ploughmen…one for the bullock team which drained the swampland and one for horses and general cropping of oats fodder for eight draught horses and five or six hacks an buggy horses; turnips and rape for fattening up lambs after winter months on the tussock hills; and the supplying of horse feed, oaten chaff to the farmers down the valley.  We were physically isolated by a big and sometimes mile-wide flooding river (snow melt from the mountains), 15 miles from the railhead, 53 miles from Invercargill, 32 miles from the doctor. No telephone until 1910 when we used to take messages for neighbours three miles away, and hang sheets out of the designated windows to alert them! No car until 1909, when there was a little two-seater Rover, which had to be “stabled” across (the other side of) the river.

Farmers in our position had to know their first aid and had a huge Doctor’s Book as we called it from which to diagnose symptoms and work out treatments. On the pantry shelf was always a supply of iodine, Vaseline, castor oil, Epsom salts and mustard for plasters on chests. There was a homeopathic chest of the magic drops used in our favourite Naturopathic practices.  Light was from candles and kerosene lamps…we love the huge painted glass shades with sparkling crystal drops that hung from the living room ceiling.  1910, when the nice big house was built, we had an acetylene gas system manufactured on the end of the coal shed, downstairs, but still candles in the bedrooms above.

Cooking was done daily, bread baking for a family of seven plus four to five farmhands, scones for smokies etc. in a huge black iron range, daily polished with black lead. Hot water from a cylinder heated from the range. Irons, Mrs. Potts, also heated on the range… simply stifling in the summertime! Ladies worked like the horses, struggling with the daily chores and having their babies gave them the only possible REST! (Hm.! No birth control and no pushbutton gadgets!). Dad, with his agricultural training, was a pretty good engineer, and he brought water to the house and to other buildings from the river… a marvelous help, where takes on the house were the norm.  Had to so arrange the watercourse that the often-changing streams were prevented from deserting our side of the valley.  No schools…hopeless succession of governesses… boarding schools when we turned eight…to Dunedin, John to a Boy’s School and College in Otago…”Waitaki”

Robert McQuoron (Mona’s father) had trained to go overseas to the Boer War, but it ended before his unit of mounted rifles was ready to embark.  He and other young officers were involved in establishing the Otago Mounted Rifles, and camps were held on our farm. The Officer’s Mess was our house (Mother Queen Bee at the table of course!) and the men in the loft in the woolshed or set up their tents in the vicinity.  There were shooting galleries, horse drills with jumps over hedges etc. All great sport as well as serious business.  Always ended with a Ball…in the house for the Officers and their womenfolk and in the woolshed for the men and theirs.

Come 1914, Dad, not able to play Toy Soldier anymore, felt he must enlist for overseas.  Served in Gallipoli and on the Somme till 1917, then on the staff in Dunedin till 1918 or early 1919.  Captain’s rank, because ungazetted, acting Major throughout.  Badly gassed twice, lungs packed up after about four years when he had been discharged as A1 FIT!  Should have had a pension to live on which would have been security for him when he had to walk off his farm following the post-war slump.  He and mother were most unhappily reduced to ill health and penury from their early sixties…and felt life to be very unjust.  He died just before he turned seventy, having been an invalid for about seventeen years, gasping for breath.

This seems to be going on forever and getting where fast!  John (Mona’s brother), unfit for overseas duty, was in the Home Guard through the Second World War, while Tennant served in the Pacific.  They being the Gairdners are being properly researched and have asked for dates of marriages and births from both families. You will be sent a copy in due course.  They are procrastinators!!!

Now about the Kents…Bill, having been on Gallipoli and Palestine and then on the Somme…full duration of the First World War, came to New Zealand in 1921. Things were getting quite bad here by then, and there was no job on the farms, which could have given him a start and he didn’t have enough money to buy one.  We married in 1924 and decided to go to Canada, where we could be settled as a Returned Soldier without money…had six years on a nice piece of land, but the climate destroyed all our crops, except the human, and we sold everything but silver and blankets to get a third class fare back to New Zealand.  Had years of struggle with all sorts of contretemps, as you can imagine…another long story. I made a tape and so did Bill, with our grandson in law…will see if I can get copies from him and will send one to you to listen to.

Last evening, Yvonne, John’s brother, came for dinner and we listened to your tape, which arrived in the morning. Her daughter is making a copy for them to keep.  We did so enjoy listening to both sides…Grandfather had a beautiful book of Robert Burns poetry with a tartan silk cover and a copy of a very fine portrait in the front…he used frequently to quote his verses. I always enjoyed the Flea!  What a lovely character David Tennant was:

It was most interesting to hear your speaking voice…all very English till you quoted Burns…reminded me of Grandfather who did likewise.  BUT, you pronounce Gairdner – Gardner!!! Dear oh dear!!! Simply not done down this way!

One piece of information please… where does the name Temple arise? Temple Gairdner of Cairo, Temple Sutherland, Temple James, John’s second son and none of us know how the name became so traditional in the Gairdner family.  Strange to be the last remaining Gairdner daughter in New Zealand. Tennant has three sons and they have boys galore…John had two daughters by his first marriage and two sons and one daughter by Yvonne…all married.  It is quite something being great grandmother to a multiplying family…there are eleven great grands. One gets used to it BUT when one’s daughters become Superannuitants one begins to feel an OVERSTAYER!!   Signing off!!

Love to Barbara and yourself.  Mona

I make careless typing mistakes, but can’t bear to read it all through… please excuse my senility!!!

END OF 1986


#34    7th February, 1987

 No Address

Dear Charles,

My apologies for the dreadfully faint script which I simply can’t face re-typing…have managed to get a ribbon on a wet and cooler day, when walking in the heat was not beyond me!  It was pleasant to walk through the rain in my plastic coat…had not had a good walk since my return home on the 18th….”terribly hot”…I do apologize for the poor readability…just hope you will be able to read it without too much bother. I was most interested in your manuscript: “My Mules, My War and Me”…loved reading it.

Bill was too old for 2WW, or he would have been off again! He was on Gallipoli for his 18th birthday, and was after that in Palestine before going to the Somme, where he was still in the trenches when the Armistice was signed.  A ghastly bout of enteric sent him from Lemnos Island to Manchester Hospital, but he was back in the trenches within two months. Some “Leave of Absence”?? Norman Foster, Margaret’s husband, was in Africa and Italy with the New Zealand Air Force and was shot down over Romania and taken prisoner by the Russians, spending over two years in their ghastly prison camps…they were terribly short of food, as you can imagine, with the scorched earth policies on that Front. Finally, when the Armistice was signed, they were freed into the geographic void and told to fend for themselves…no Red Cross food parcels! They managed to get down to Constantinople, where they were succored by International Red Cross and sent to England, from whence they were eventually re-patriated to New Zealand. He was very interested to read your story.

The Romanian memories are gruesome, and the word “Russian” evokes no particle of happiness… he loathed their peasant savagery. One would wish for redeeming insight but there is none. He and Margaret were married in 1951 and even then he couldn’t sit still…nervous foot wagging and hand movements still took over when he wasn’t physically busy.

I am sending your Mules book down to Temple Sutherland because I am sure he and Gwen will very much enjoy it. Dreading my first Christmas without my Bill, who had shared the past 63 with me, I fled abroad, first to Diana in Wellington, then across to Nelson, where I spent a month with Moana (Maori way of spelling my name to distinguish us!) and her husband Joe O’Beirne.

They live in the family home, “Hillwood”, eight miles from the City along a lovely harbor road, with glorious views of the Tasman Range, white capped in winter.  Their house, built in the 1840’s, with an addition in the ‘50s,is like an English Manor, and is set in a basin surrounded by steep hills, fronted by about 30 acres of pasture opening into the Bay, and the perimeter of the grounds planted in redwoods, sycamores and poplars bounded by a curving stream. The lawns in front of the house cover two and a half acres, and on them are held Fairs each Summer, with about fifty stalls set up under the shade of the trees. The Fair ends with barbecues and the children and their Dads play cricket till dusk. It was fun to be there at the time.

While in Nelson, I spent a nice afternoon with Temple (Sutherland) and Gwen, whom I had not seen for some time. Dear Temple was a frail shadow of his enormous robust self…had had quite a lot of surgery, which had really depleted him.  Gwen is a marvelous wife, and takes great care of him. I had not written to Lal until I had seen him, and must still get a letter off to her. Temple tells me she is nearly blind, but still moulds her little nativity figures and dresses them for Prisoners’ Relief funds.  Dear Lal!! What a darling family they are!  My father was tremendously impressed with Temple Gairdner when he visited him in his home in Cairo during 1WW and we had all his books in our home. A most interesting personality.

Do please excuse my frequent errors in typing both this note and the family record I have attempted. No good trying to correct the errors with my shaky hand…the blobs would be horrific!

Warmest regards to Barbara and yourself, the Ancient Cousinish Old Duck,

Affectionately   Mona

#35       31st March, 1987

Dear Charlie,

Your welcome letter to answer, and quite a lot to write about. You are naturally amazed at the different life experiences, we, Colonials face, compared with those of the stay at homes in the Old Dart. I am often thought provoked with regard to the exodus made by our grandparent’s generation…to America’s vast and often hostile provinces, to Canada’s near Arctic winters, to Australia’s ghastly floods and droughts, its immensity, its Penal Colony syndrome. I sometimes think it must have been pretty unpromising for the young in the U.K. for them to have faced such unknown and savage conditions. I enjoy reading the diaries of our New Zealand pioneers, and have also read lot of the Maori side of the “Pakiha” invasion, which for the most part was not resented. There are nowadays a few “stirrers” who keep telling their Maori brothers (AND sisters!) that they were cheated out of their lands, but on the whole, they only treasured the sacred burial grounds of the ancestors, and fiercely defended the traditional fishing grounds, for they had no animals for red meat.  As you know, like other native races who lacked red meat, they practiced cannibalism. This is rationalized by the claim that they ate their powerful enemies so as to absorb their MANA…their chiefly spirit. I have had some charming Maori friends…most loving and lovable. Our vicar Hoani Parata, we all adored, and was most loving and supportive friend when our father was at the First World War…1915-17.

Hoani, as a young curate, was taken by Archbishop Bennett to London, where he preached in St. Paul’s Cathedral…the Maori is an orator by nature. They had no written language; their oratory grew from the habit of reciting their tribal history and genealogy…some for hundreds of years.

The seven year old son of a chief, I knew, had been taken from his father’s whare (home) by a Tohunga (priestly) uncle to be educated in the tradition of the tribe, and with his wonderfully rich speaking voice, became famous at Huis (tribal gatherings, as the spokesman for the Ariki (aristocratic elders).  I have a paper I wrote many years ago on my research into this side of the Maori people, and will let you have it to keep, as there are two copies. I hope you and Barbara will enjoy reading it.[6] An interesting response to my paper was one middle-aged Maori asking if he could keep a copy. I loaned to him, claiming it was just what he had been looking for for years. Off he went, and never a line to say whether it really was what he supposed…Maoris DO NOT write letters!  It was a mental block with them, as they say interesting topics should be discussed face to face, so that they may be agreed to or argued about…they say you can’t discuss with a letter![7]My paper gained me more than on Hongi (grave nose to nose, forehead to forehead greeting), which is an acknowledgement of understanding and respect, bless them. Try it, you two, and look into one another’s’ eyes…what a SQUINT!!!

Our father, for the Otago Mounted Rifles, commanded 2 Squadrons of Maori Battalion in Egypt, but was terribly sorry for them when dismounted and sent to the trenches in France…they could not bear the trenches…want to be UP and at ‘em!  They came into their own at EL Alamein[8]… the desert suited their sense of free range pursuit.

Our farm in the North Island was called “Patuanga”…hacked out of the forest, a Maori mere (greenstone battle axe) was found buried in the trunk of a tree and word, patuanga, meant “hit him!”  We moved to the North Island in 1921, chiefly because the vast areas of forest land was being opened up, and its carrying capacity was so much greater than in the south…five times the amount of stock to the acre! Also, the warmer climate meant there was no necessity to grow winter crops…no ploughman to drive it!!! As I told you the slump in stock and wool prices crippled my poor father’s ability to run the farm, and he had to walk off bankrupt, losing all his life’s gains.

I’m off the track again!!!

I will do you the “tree” you ask for, but haven’t the dates in my aged head…however the names are all there, and some of the Gairdner boy’s dates which are the one that “count”??? I remember Aunt Daisy’s pride in wearing the ring with the dove engraved on the yellow agate…”Jovi Confido” beautifully etched on the shield shaped stone, and telling me that if I were to marry I would not be entitled to wear it.  Almost made an old maid of me!

Our grandsons and granddaughters have had, like most of their generation, had itchy feet, and have seen a lot of the world. Their genes must have clapped their hands over the Scottish scene, for they found it very appealing, particularly Ayrshire. They didn’t go to the Highlands.

I don’t know about my grands generation…they have not for most part entertained the idea of marriage…seem to have an inbuilt sense of independence which is afraid to commit itself to relationships.  Typical of their generation! I wonder what the twelve great grands will make of it!  The times are so different to our own youth, with girls often more able to find interesting employment than their male counterparts.  n my age group, there were so few avenues for a woman to use…nursing, teaching if she could make it intellectually, or the doubtful career of governess, mother’s help or just plain skivvy!  I longed to attend Otago University, but couldn’t make the Entrance Examinations because I was a mathematical no-hoper!!!  Still am!! Thank goodness for pocket calculators.

I am so interested to envisage your visits to the cousins Margaret Birley and Nancy Tennant, and you will be amused to hear that I have from the Library “Margot” by Daphne Bennett. Quite a tomb…her friendship with royalty and political leaders, her pet causes and hates, and her passionate enthusiasm for reformed social conditions…I loved her!  And as I read the book, I recall her own background as told in your own book “Tennants Stalk”.[9]

“Every dog has its day” of course, and really this old dog “bitch”? is having quite a weekend! I have a granddaughter and her two children, aged 11 and 13, for the weekend and we have thoroughly enjoyed one another’s company.  Jenny and I have always had a wonderful rapport…perhaps because she came to live with us when she was four, while her father was seriously ill for about two years (leptospirosis infection), and Di went to her dress designing business for the period to support them. It is always a lovely feeling of reunion when they visit me.

On April 5th, I am going to Auckland to spend a week with daughter Shirley Smedley, and to catch up on my dear friends and neighbours in Wicklow Road, Devonport who complain that they almost forget what I look like. It may be a shock to find out…the wrinkles and white hair of the moment are not an improvement!!! I find being so much alone, with only thoughts for company that my voice fades out and I develop a cross between a gurgle and a whimper!  After talking with Jenny for a couple of days, it developed some tone again! Will have to make a habit of reading aloud for a while each day! To think I used to be active in drama and enjoyed singing…CORRR!

I sent your delightful tape down to Temple Sutherland (Lal’s brother) who simply loved listening to it, with all its references to well known and well-loved spots in his loved Ayrshire. I shall let him have it to keep, as it really has no personal links with my “colonial” family.  He and his wife will treasure it.

The earthquake was one of the usual about 80 year old events, which hit this country. The area is close to the fault lines of the North Island. Fortunately, though the damage was very widespread, it didn’t damage a large city. The area is shown on the maps as the Bay of Plenty, and Kawarau-Edgecombe-Wakatane are the three main townships…about one to two thousand population.  Edgecombe was the most severely damaged, houses being jolted off their foundations, brick chimneys tumbled, dishes and glass jars etc. thrown off shelves…general chaos, but not too much shock as it happened in daytime, not in the darkness of night. The most disruption was in the rural area, where water supplies were demolished, the pipes being twisted and wrenched from the concrete tanks on the farms, where up to 250 cowherds had need of water. Lots of the cows quickly died off!!  Sheds were rendered unusable, milk vats holding up to 1,000 gallons were toppled off the stands. The railway lines were twisted in U turns, and some wagons tipped off the tracks.  Fortunately one large dam (hydro electric) was a worry, but was found to have taken the strain.

Great trenches opened across over 200 farms, and would have to be filled, as they were three metres deep. About $8,00,000 estimated destruction. Thank goodness it didn’t hit a large populated area! The last nasty one to hit a city hit the capital, Wellington, which is steeply hilly, and was a horrifying at 3:00am.  Wardrobes toppled over children’s cots, doors jammed so that anxious parents couldn’t get to infants, and yet no loss of life!  Actually, one gets well acquainted with tremors and pays little heed…not even noticeable when walking about!

Tom has just popped in with a lovely flounder for dinner…he and Audrey will join me to enjoy it…I mean one each!!  Some of his friends have been fishing on the coast, bless “em.

I will do the best I can with the Tree…tuck this in with it.

Love and best wishes to you and Barbara

[4] The “he” to whom Mona is referring is Mona’s father Robert Macquoron Gairdner.

[5] For those with a culinary vocabulary, hundreds & thousands are “multi-colored sprinkles”.

[6] This copy has not yet been found among Charlie’ papers.

[7] Interesting reflection on communications

[8] North African battle during the 2WW

[9]See Footnote Letter #3


#36 –  Mona’s Family Record @ February 1987 (11 Pages)

Dear Me!! How little I am able to contribute to the Gairdner archive…have little holes in the memory tank in my old age, but will contribute what I can. I remember my Grandfather, Robert Gairdner, only as white haired, balding, very silent…sitting for endless hours writing in his student type black notebooks…long dissertations on his interpretations of the scriptures…an extremely awesome hellfire and damnation interpretation of the “wrath of the Looord”…none of the love one prefers to believe in and trust.  He had a delightful way with his grandchildren, however, and we all loved him. Marrying at 42, he was always elderly to his grandchildren.

His adored wife, Alice Maud Barker, whose photograph I have always loved, died in her thirties. I believe she was terribly injured, when she threw herself in front of a coal truck which would have tipped her three children into the sea at the end of a long jetty at Moeraki Beach, where she had taken them for a holiday.

My father was at Lincoln Agricultural College, Aunt Bessie training as a nurse and Aunt Daisy (Margaret Jane), still only fifteen, was left to keep house for her father, which she did most devotedly till he died at the age of 83.

To go back to Grandfather’s migration…he came to Australia with, I understood, his two McHaffie cousins, not uncles as your records state. They farmed Gilbert Island, 40 miles off the coast from Melbourne. Remember copies of their letters home which you sent me, in which they asked for iron wire to be sent to them because of the fires which destroyed their brush fences? Grandfather loathed the Australian climate of droughts and floods and constant fires, and came across to New Zealand when he was still in his early twenties…only 21, I believe. He obtained the management, first of Castle Rock, a 50,000 sheep run in Southland. If you have a map of the country, you will see it, 50 odd miles north of Invercargill, a rail link with Lumsden, on the way to lake Wakatipua and Queenstown.  Lumsden is on the northern end of that old Castle Rock run, and if you go back down the railway line to Winton, you will be a few miles from Rey’s or Rae’s Bush, which was the southern boundary. No rail in those days…transport was by wagon, and his wool was taken all the way to the coast at Riverton (20 miles west of Invercargill), where it was loaded onto barges on the beach at low tide, and taken, precariously out over the tidal bar, to be loaded onto ships.  When it tipped into the tide, it was opened up and dried on the sandy beach.

I don’t know when he left Castle Rock for Canterbury, but I understand that for some time, he managed Beaumont Station, another enormous sheep run, in Canterbury for some years.  Both these runs were cut up into holdings of 2-3,000 acres. I was born on one of these at Pleasant Valley about 17 miles from Timaru.  It was on the rolling foothills of the Southern Alps. My father and his brother-in-law, George Lavie farmed it between them…don’t know whether they owned or leased the land. It was not sufficient, as the stock and wool prices of the time, for two families to make a decent living, and my father and mother moved onto a 5,000 acre block of the old Castle Rock station, 12 miles South of Lumsden or Mossburn, and 53 miles inland from Invercargill.  Poor mother, who had had a beautiful house in Canterbury, was terrified to find herself arrived at a shepherd’s hut of roofing iron with a chimney at one end and RATS under the floor!!!  I can imagine her Victorian shrieks!  I was three and a half, and she was pregnant with my brother John, poor dear.

They built a cottage…there are lots still about like them…two front rooms, bedroom and living room each side of a narrow passage, and on the back, down some steps, a kitchen and scullery, of which would be a tiny bathroom with a tin bath. Water for bathing was pumped from a well by hand and heated, in a wash copper, and bucketed into the bath or tubs as required. That was in 1903, and in 1909 they built a beautiful storey and a half, American bungalow, which is still lived in. Dad had done some carpentry and cabinet making as crafts at Lincoln (Agricultural College), and with the help of an elderly carpenter, built the house himself. He also built his woolshed with its shearing board for ten shearers, holding pens for a couple of hundred sheep, a stable for hacks and buggy horses, and a loft above for feed, but extensive yards and the swim through sheep dip, 20 yards beyond that, was a barn and loft for the draught horses and an implement shed for all the heavy machinery.  He drew all his own plans, and my brothers have the same skill and delight in building their own homes etc.  Tom, our son, has inherited the gift and does a lot of plans for his friends, as well as building when he has the time. He did the plans for this lovely house, but had to employ a builder and bricklayer, because he was too busy to do the job himself. A nos moutons!

Grandfather joined up with the Plymouth Brethren sect when he gave up farming…must have been in his early sixties…and managed the New Zealand Book and Bible Depot, established by John Roberts and John Chambers and himself… all unco’ guid and extremely narrow Scots. His beloved Alice Maud was an Anglican, and my father used to attend the Anglican Church with his mother…saved him from getting into the same mental groove as his elderly father.  Alice Maud was only 21 when she married grandfather and he 42!

When my father was at Lincoln College, his father bought part of the original Beaumont Station, as I said, and he and George Lavie decided it wouldn’t yield a decent living for both of them and then bought 5,000 acres in Southland, where we grew up. It was the farm he and George Lavie farmed together that was affectionately called Culzean.

Grandfather retired to Dunedin, before he married, to run his book and bible depot, and they opened a beautiful shop in the main street, which I knew well during my school days at a boarding school in the city…Braemar House, which later was taken over by the Presbyterian Board and renamed Columbia College, which is still one of the finest boarding schools in New Zealand. Sorry…I am rather jogging about!

Grandfather wouldn’t allow his children to go to school…didn’t want them contaminated by the wicked WORRRD! He had governesses for their primary school education and a tutor when they grew older.  Aunt Daisy was permitted to attend as a day girl at Girton College a private school for girls, with a very STARCHY headmistress! She was a very gifted young woman…a lovely contralto voice, well-trained, but was heard most on the street corner singing hymns with the Brethren! She was well trained in painting, and exhibited her lovely watercolours and portraits, winning awards. She was a meticulous housekeeper and cook, sewed like a tailoress making all her own clothes, even Sunday ‘go-to-meeting” suits.  She loved cabinet making, and made most of her furniture and upholstery herself, and did exquisite embroidery. When I had exeats from school…8-13 years of age, she always gave me a birthday party…can still see the bread and butter sprinkled with hundreds and thousands![5]… to which I brought about ten of my friends from school.

When 1WW broke out, our father was a Captain in the South Otago Mounted Rifles, decided he couldn’t be a toy soldier, and volunteered for active service. It was a crazy decision, for they were badly needing training officers in the camps at home, and he could have done his BIT for King and Country very usefully at home. I think he had always felt guilty about not going to the Boer War, and that had something to do with the impulse. When Tennant was five months old, he volunteered for service abroad, and was on Gallipoli four months later. The three and a half years he was away included the Gallipoli Campaign, followed by the Somme’s ghastly trench warfare, when he was Acting Major in command of the first Maori Battalion to serve overseas. Poor dears…their way of war was ambush and surprise…they were ill prepared for the “keep heads down you fools” of the Somme. In 1917 he returned to New Zealand and served on the staff in Dunedin till 1919. He could have remained in the Army till retiring age, but he longed to return to his farm. A ghastly mess waited to shock him…his sheep breeding programmes entirely upset by incompetent managers, thousands of pounds spent on fencing material which lay in heaps on the hillsides to rust unused, and the lovely grounds round the house opened to sheep.

After the drain of the war experience it was a terrific blow, and he did, what many South Island farmers did at the time, sold out, and came to the North Island.  That was a time full of encouragement…wool fetching 4/11½ a pound, cattle round $15-20, and he bought a farm that had been chopped out of the forest 16 years before, stumps and fallen trees over much of the hillsides, but lush grass, and no big bills for labour. In the South, there had been a shepherd, a cowman rouseabout, a ploughman, all getting high wages.

That was April 1921, and that year the bottom dropped out of the markets…wool dropped to 1/- for the finest grade, sheep that had cost £5 per head, didn’t fetch 5/-, cattle were down to 14/- -IF they could be sold.  He owed a mortgage with high interest that should have been covered by the wool sale, and he couldn’t meet his obligations. After seven years, he had to declare himself bankrupt, and walk off with what he and mother stood up in, literally.  He had twice been gassed badly on the Somme, and when he left the farm it had already affected his lungs…he sat on the bed and gasped for breath most of the night. NOTHING could be done for him, having been discharged from the Army as A1 fit, he was not eligible for War Pension, which would have given them a good living wage for the rest of their lives. It was decided it couldn’t be proven to be the result of the Gas attacks, but a civilian disease called emphysema…lung cancer.  No farm, no income, no home…nothing for them but for mother to take housekeeping jobs for their keep for as long as she was able, and that was till, in her late sixties her heart played up.  Bill and I took them to live with us the last three years of their lives.  Daddy had a whopping heart attack on my birthday in 1945…I was with him thank goodness…might have been out shopping or something.  Mother lived till 1951, living with me or my sister Gretta till she died at Gretta’s house, and once more I was there to help look after her last days. Gretta was a trained nurse, but had four children school age…she was over 10 miles from the doctor.

Having laid our parents to rest, I must return to my own generation.  John, not fit enough for overseas service in 2WW, served on the staff of the Home Guard in Auckland. He married in his thirties (Mary Cartright Harden on the records) and they had two girls, Margaret and Judy, ten years apart.  Mollie was not fecund like me.  After the war ended, he (John) came to Huntly, in the Waikato, where he ran a Petrol Pump and Garage on the main road. A pretty horrible night and day rush.  Sold that, and took over a farmer’s carrying business at Putaruru. It was a truly bad life for Mollie, a rather delicate mother of 42 with a small baby, with men in and out for meals at all hours when they were busy, which was nearly all year round. He had a very efficient secretary, who ran his office schedules with Germanic precision, and would pop her head into Mollie’s door and haughtily demand whether dinner was ready for a driver. Poor little Mollie had no practice with clock-watching, and very little with small babies, was devastatingly unhappy.  She did her little best.  My stupid brother, couldn’t see what was happening, and fell for his capable helpmate in the office…they left Mollie and went off, leaving her the house, and half the business, which of course she couldn’t manage, and was forced to sell. I loved Mollie dearly, for we had been friends as teenagers, and I didn’t want ever to have anything to do with my brother again.  Of course, I did, but that was later in the story.

Mollie bought a very nice house overlooking lovely countryside overlooking Putaruru, where she has many loving friends. Taught pianoforte for years, and did a lot of accompanying for singing groups, operas etc. and played the organ in the Anglican Church. Her daughters are both married with nice families.  Margaret married Theo Siben, a Dutchman who came after the war to farm in New Zealand. They had five boys, one infant died at five months. They own a very good dairy farm, and one of the sons now milks the 250 cow herd on contract to his father. He and Margaret still live on the property because they love the country life.  Judy, the younger sister travelled overseas and married Peter Cox, a very brilliant artist (interesting steel engravings his chief interest), is a fine dramatist , takes part in local drama productions, and also writes plays for radio.  They are on his father’s beautiful farm five miles out of Putaruru, where there is a lovely home and garden, complete with swimming pool, and filled with antiques.  Peter and Judy are mad about horses, and have established a fine equestrian course for annual sports. This year, Captain Mark Phillips and his secretary (and bodyguard) were guests. They held a week’s events with great success. They have one little boy about twelve…clever, handsome, and rather delicate to look at.

Meanwhile, John and his runaway secretary made quite a life for themselves…or rather she made it for them.  John had become terribly thin and looked ten years older than his age, and she worked very hard to help establish him in a new life.  They took on a motel in Invercargill, and that was profitable, but terribly constant work, with the phone one person’s work, and the constant turnover of bed linen, trays, and daily cleaning to be seen to. They did very well actually, and came back to the Waikato when the climate became too severe for John’s chest…he had actually developed emphysema. They had three children…Robert John (again) who now lives in Perth and runs a video shop. Has a little son whom he brought across to show us all last year…Brian John.  Bob (Robert John) is a charming young man to meet, and wonderful with that infant. It appears his wife Debbie didn’t want him and walked out on them and went home to her indulgent Dad. Bob has to let his mother care for him Monday to Friday, but takes him every weekend. These young ones and their marriages! They are either completely selfish, or very over confident. And the poor infants!

One daughter, Elizabeth, has her degrees in pianoforte and singing…was in the New Zealand choir, which toured Great Britain about five years ago. She married Wayne Cooner who also sang in the choir, and have involved themselves in church music…two of his brothers are parsons in the Church of Christ, and the whole family are closely knit in its affairs.  (Shades of Aunt Daisy, whose piano Elizabeth owns and treasures). The third child is Temple, now eighteen, who is doing an apprenticeship in cabinet making…like father and grandfather, loves doing things with wood.

Now for Betty (Elizabeth Macquoron Gairdner b. 1906), who married a Canadian teacher, on a two-year teaching job in New Zealand, Billy Howard (William Harding Howard, whose ancestor was the Harding who shot President Lincoln because he thought the freeing of slaves would destroy American society}.  They married before they returned to Canada in 1927, and taking over a Returned Serviceman’s Farm, settled in Northern Saskatchewan. Crop failures, year after year, and four babies to boot, drove them to pack themselves and their families into the Ford car, and set out to travel the three thousand miles across Canada to New Brunswick, where Billie had been born, and to take up a teaching again where he had left off. They had seven children, losing one baby at a few months.  The family are John, Beth, Marshall, Ngaire (a Maori name) and Kay, and a few years later, Lorna.  Kay came across to New Zealand to teach, as her father had done, and married: Has two bit sons, Howard and Harry, Howard 21 shortly , and Harry starting at university shortly, forget which course he is taking.

Gretta’s disastrous marriage I lamented in my last letter to you…don’t want to say any more about that. Poor darling, Gretta died of brutal bone cancer about five years ago.  Betty Howard also died last year…very ill and much pain over a number of years.  She had been treated with indications for rheumatism, and it had given her appalling ulcers…several stomach operations, and the last few heart outbreaks on her calves and ankles…so severe they had suggested amputation. Dreadful suffering because of those cursed drugs and their side effects.

Tennant (William Tennant of course! Reflected glory???) went to 2WW serving in the Pacific Islands…army. Had married Jessie Ward, and they had three infant sons when he joined up. They separated after the War and Jessie brought up three very nice young men, Robert John married and has three children, William Tennant who has two and Anthony Charles, who had two or three…there are several grandchildren but Jessie is letting me have all the matches and hatches for Marshall, and I will give you the details.  Poor Tennant whatever he has a gift for, it has not been for marriage…has had two broken marriages, and now at 71, he has gone and done it again! Needed somebody to care for him, or to care for…haven’t fathomed which. Both Jessie and Win, his second wife, were independent and self-sufficient…he probably needed a clinging vine with frail tendrils, and perhaps this new wife will fill the bill…hope so! Dreadful to watch him being a “stray” hanging on as his families lives.

Now I guess we’ve got around to Mona Macquoron. Strange Tale!

Boarding schools for young ladies didn’t educate me for life, or for making a living…all the pretties, and none of the substance upon which to earn a living.  Grim! Where was the good of French that wasn’t spoken or written; or the elocution or singing without a diploma which made a career when needed, or pianoforte without a degree? Wanted to go to Otago University to do Home Science, but crashed in Maths for University Entrance and scotched that.  Alternative, Mother’s eldest daughter, dutifully keeping house while Mother played “ladies and waiting” for a suitable man to come into mama’s orbit?

Thought of  nursing and couldn’t face the knives or needles, much less the smells of sickness…hopeless!  Went governesing to a Hawkes Bay family where I met Dora Parker and her children (Bill (Kent’s) sister), though I didn’t meet Bill who had taken himself off threshing grain through the South Island. Couldn’t bear the petty snobbery, which sent me to the kitchen with the children when visitors came for lunch…silly of me, but I hated it. Wondered whether I should have handed the lady a copy of the family tree!

Went to visit a friend in the term holidays in Wangamui, and met Bill at a morning tea party to which I wasn’t at all keen to go.  “But Mona, he’s coming with an old beau of mine, and I want to be able to talk to him”…Mona gave in, and met him “for better or for worse”. Poor soul, had never had a girl friend, much less an affair, and nearly went mad trying to push me out of his system, but he was hooked.  Me?  No, not me, alas, but thereby hangs a pretty sad tale.

I fell in love…right off the deep end, when I was sixteen, and alas, the student I loved so desperately, married somebody who went through university with him.  Bill offered me an escape route, for he was going to Canada from New Zealand. I recognized in him steadfastness and honesty, a reliability that, though lacking in imagination, would stand the ups and downs of emotional things I was unable to cope with. He showed me an escape route from my duty to my mother…my selfishness!…and an escape from the bluff of trying to teach without diplomas or other qualifications. I looked at the marriage with open eyes…sharing life with an Englishman whose one aesthetic interest was cricket and soccer, who never read a good book, whose letters were tiny face-saving notes to his mother and father, who was tone deaf to music! He was a Suffolk man…bred in the bone over hundreds of years. His heaven would be a pair of Suffolk Punch horses, a plough, and the pride of a straight furrow…perfection to this soul. His family was gentleman-farming class; the girls well educated, the boys, as well as they cared to be. Born in a beautiful mediaeval brick house, with glorious grounds, there was plenty of pride of place, but coming to New Zealand with practically empty hands, he was ready to drop all that and get on with living, using what opportunities offered.

The depression had hit New Zealand very badly, and Billy Howard, teaching here for two years on exchange, had all the Canadian Settlement literature with him, and we saw our chance for independence on the Prairies, where Bill could realize his greatest dream, growing acres of waving corn for a living. That is how we came to get married and go to Canada, and to live on the Prairies in a little wooden shack, not even properly lined, with bald prairie like an ocean as far as the eye could see to Nova Scotia and East, and a fringe of the Rocky Mountains in the West…about forty miles away. Scenery devoid of trees, therefore of birds, except for a few barn swallows and the ubiquitous sparrow. A golden world when the ocean of green ripened, a black world when the snow thawed, a white world with deep snows for six solid months of the year.

The Canadian Settlement Board welcomed us with open arms. Alas, we were married in March 1924 and sailed for Canada on April 13th, arriving on the Prairies in May, we should have been a month earlier, to be settled on a farm in time for the thaw, and the rush of getting a crop planted…a month later would mean grain frozen in the milk stage in October, or even snowed under. Not time to get us into a place, and get our stock and equipment.  Bill had to work on the farm jobs available, plenty of those, but I was pregnant, and had to board in Innisfail, with Bill joining me for weekends. In October, the Board settled us on a farm, and we (fabulously rich as Canadian Settlers went) with £600 capital, were overjoyed buying our horses and plough, five cows, so that cream cheques might pay for our food, harvester, rollers and harrows etc. We set up house in our paintless prairie shack…only one house in hundreds boasted paint…the barns were treated better!!! 3,500 feet above sea level every humble flower was a hothouse plant, even a daffodil would be grown in a pot indoors. No trees, no birdsong, only water, pumped by hand from a well 75’ deep…took a lot of pumping to bring the water up, and then three strokes to fill the bucket… darned hard work, when not only the household water must be pumped and carried indoors, but the stock as well, the trough pumped full when the horses were brought in from the ploughing or whatever, the cattle, the pigs etc. PUMP, PUMP, PUMP!!! Great work for a preggy mum: And I carried on as I began, pregnant year after year, with four babies in five years.  Marie Stopes was no friend to me.  And while the baby crop flourished, the fields let us down…hail, frost, snow…there was not one crop to harvest in the almost six years.

Looking back, I realize that I, the spoilt little boarding school miss was a darned fool of a woman! I didn’t have any doctor’s advice about birth control even and poor Bill, after being through the 1WW …Gallipoli, Palestine, France…all those years of it, when he had been on Gallipoli at eighteen years of age. It must have been quite horrific to go through year after year of crop failure, and increasing debt for seed grain. In 1929, we decided we had had enough. We got a job, through friends, managing a fox farm in the Rockies, at Levesque, in case our stock and equipment didn’t fetch sufficient for third class fare back to New Zealand. We just made it…landed as “vagrants” with only £34 in world, no job and no home. Would have had to report to the police each week, if we had not had my parents to shelter me.

Then, we knew the joy of knowing friends of the family, my father’s generation, who knew the right people for us to see. The depression was terrific, with thousands unemployed and homeless. Knowing those right people, Bill was given a job managing a Land Development Camp, with a cookout and tent camp for about 200 men. They put up a Public Works cottage for us, and we had three years on that sort of job…brought in over 3,000 acres of crown lands.

The Government ran short of money, and then it was closed down, and we actually had to join the ranks of the jobless and seek unemployment benefit…the princely sum of £3-5-6 per week, with six of us to house and feed. Bill wished we had stayed in Canada!  They wouldn’t have pushed us off the farm!

That lasted for three terrible years, but then the Mayor of Birkenhead (Auckland) suggested Bill swot for a quarryman ticket, and promised him the management of a metal quarry from which the whole North Shore was served. That led him to managing the quarry till his retirement at 60. It was not a big salary, but we lived decently, and actually bought a nice house with about two and a half acres of flat garden, pasture and a lovely bit of native bush. The house was old and roomy, and we had a nice homelife, and best of all, could run a hot bath after 17 years.

The girls grew up, through nursing training, were independent from eighteen years of age. Tom, younger, went through college. The house was full of their friends and life was livable again.

After they had married and we felt we were rattling around in such a big house, we exchanged with people who wanted pasture for two horses, and who took over my two hundred hens and the house, the cow, for a nice little two bedroom house over in Devonport, near a beautiful beach, perfect for our infant grandchildren’s holidays. There we stayed, till Bill’s part immobility made me think about a sunnier situation, where sun shone into the living room all day for him and we once more moved. This time, just across the street!

Our nice brick unit, one of three, gave us the utmost comfort with a lovely little lawn at our end of the section, with the privacy of a trellis fence for Bill to potter behind. There we stayed until two years ago, when Tom persuaded us to come down here, where he could keep an eye on his Oldies, and take his lame Dad for country drives. Here we have been, and have just loved the comfortable home we’ve built, and the magnificent environment.  The house still sits in a paddock , but there are $2,000 worth of lovely trees planted round three parts of the boundary which is a winding river. There is the magnificent War Memorial Park just across the road, and it is a twenty minute walk, even for me, to town on the level.

Sadly, Bill only enjoyed it for six months, but it was a real joy for him. He used to walk through the baby trees, checking their growth, sit on a nice wooden seat by the river for the rest before walking back…it was really a happy time for him. In June he got a flu which really knocked him and he determined he had had enough….just determined to take himself off!!! He always said we could celebrate his 90th birthday if we liked, but he wouldn’t be there, and so it was. He simply refused food, wouldn’t take his medication, and only complained that it took a darned long time to die…can you imagine?

Thinking I couldn’t face Christmas alone in the house without him, after 63 years, I took myself off to, first, Diana in Wellington for a month, then across the (Cook) Straits to Nelson for a month with Billie (Moana) and Joe, and have been back just 12 days…glad to be in my own home again.

What now??? After all that, I often wonder what challenge just might offer, but don’t see any on the horizon. I hate “killing time”…fortunately enjoy knitting for the numerous and multiplying great-grands, and T.V. offers some rather good programmes if one is choosey.  There are some nice neighbours in the Avenue, and the lovely walk through the park for the “dozen”…I don’t take everyday, as ordered.

I know there will be lots of horrid mistakes in typing, but if I start correcting them there will be a real mess, so I beg your forbearance and patience?     MMK


Five Generations of New Zealand Gairdner Tree Per Mona Macquoron Kent

  1. ROBERT JOHN GAIRDNER (1834 –1921) married in1876 Alice Maud Barker (1853-1890). They had three children: Robert Macquoron, Elizabeth Jessie and Margaret Jane (Daisy).

1.1 ROBERT MACQUORON GAIRDNER (1876-1945) married in 1900 Emily Agatha Sivewright of Melbourne, Australia.  They had five children: Mona Macquoron, Robert John, Elizabeth Macquoron, Margaret Macquoron and William Tennant

1.1.i           MONA MACQUORON GAIRDNER (1901-1993) married in 1924 William Henry Kent of Suffolk, England. They had five children Moana Lawson (1925), Shirley (1926), Margaret (1928), Diana Margaret (1929) & Thomas Lawson (1933)

1.1.i. a MOANA LAWSON KENT (1925- ) married Joe O’Bierne, son of Irish Family very proud to be descended from the last King of Connaught!! Devout Catholic family until contaminated by the Kent connection!!

They had two girls and two boys…one son married with 2 children, farmer in Westland.

Hereditary thyroidal trouble for generations, the others vowed not to bring children into the world to suffer what they call the O’Beirne curse!  It is quite shocking, having persisted for nearly 400 years.  Two of Billie (Moana’s) family are seriously afflicted, one beautiful girl practically Albino with about 4% sight, and having had a serious thyroidectomy.  A lovely young woman of thirty, handsome and attractive, simply won’t risk marriage.  Son, Derek, free himself, is marrying at 36, a trained nursing sister, and thanks to God for the PILL! Rodrick, married with two children, has had dreadful surgery and his eyes hardly stay in their sockets, they are so ophthalmic. It really is a family curse.

1.1.i.b             SHIRLEY KENT (1926- ) married Fred Smedley…English of the English Smedley family…very stuffy until Shirley shook him about a little, but a dear. No sense of humour!

They have two sons, William and Richard, and three lovely infant grandchildren

1.1.i.c              MARGARET KENT (1928- ) married Norman Foster, a school teacher who had been right through 2WW in the New Zealand Air Force…action in Egypt, Cassino, Italy and over Greece.  Shot down in Roumania, and in a Russian POW camp for nearly three years…one doesn’t even mention Russians to Norman!

1.1.i.d             DIANA MARY KENT (1929- ) married Austin James White. They have two daughters: Jennifer (1951) and Vivienne Anne (1960)

1.1.i.e             THOMAS LAWSON KENT (1933- ) married Audrey Robina Wilkins.  They had a son Warick Allen (1957) and Susan Audrey (1959)

Ideas from the Family Tree compiled by John Gairdner F.R.C.S.   Edinburgh, 1896  (currently attached to Letter #11)

Page 1

  • Sir William Tennant Gairdner (Grandson of Captain Robert, See Page 15 Bailey
  • James Gairdner (Brother of Sir William above, See Page 18, Bailey Book
  • Archibald…was he not father of William Temple Gairdner of Cairo? (Ans. No) perhaps thinking of Archibald mentioned Page 14, Bailey Book

Page 2

  • Helen Gairdner…a photo of her evidently from a portrait, but no information regarding her  (Ans.  Page 17 – Bailey Book)
  • There were also photographs of 7 and 8 …Robert Gairdner and Macrae Smith
  • Tragic Story of Marian Smith, who married William Tennant – born in 1817 and who died along with her four children by 1825 …no antibiotics in the 19th Century
  • McFadzen …which?… became Archbishop of York. How our grandfather wrote long ecclesiastic treatises on questions of theology… our great grandfather was an extreme fundamentalist… If it wasn’t the Word of God it wasn’t true!!  This went on for over twenty years and we used to have copies of this correspondence in little black notebooks, which filled shelves. Suddenly there would be a summons to Dunedin; grandfather had had another heart attack! I can still see my mother packing suitcases, while my father read aloud the latest little black book.  They were terrified about the questions that they might be asked! In 1918, when our Southland sheep farm was sold, and all the family goods and chattels packed up and sold. What to do with the blessed black books? Glory be to Allah!  There was a local Presbyterian minister, who used to hold a service in our billiard room, to which all the neighbours for ten miles around used to be invited, and the poor man had appalling bad sight (his name, appropriately was Mr. Sleep), and he was overjoyed to take grandfather home with him… wouldn’t have to blind himself making up sermons for years.  We never forgot his pathetic gratitude…don’t know whether this blessing would tend to fill his church, though!
  • It was I imagine Agnes McFadzen who married a Cowan, who was probably the mother or the sister of the Cowan who came to New Zealand and lived 8 miles from us, across the hills of our own farm

Page 3

  • Smiths: The date of the ring is B. 28-10-1756 D. 18-10-1810.  It evidently was the memorial ring of Macrae Smith, not Marian Smith.  She married Captain Robert Gairdner, father of the Indigo Planter, so must have been Grandfather’s Grandmother.  Robert, the Planter, it was he who married Corinna MacQuoron McHaffie, whose name we have been given as a family name (included in the names of all five siblings except William Tennant)
  • No wonder we became known as the Irish Gairdners!  (Irene tells me that two Irish Sisters married two Gairdner brothers… can’t spot them in this compilation of connections, can you?

#37 – The Magic of Masonry


Mona Macquoron Kent 18’.   Luxor Study Group.   April 1974

The R.W.M. has invited me to write something of the Magic of Masonry…she has chosen a subject very important to me as a Mason for to my mind, the power of thought is the essence of human nature and the fulcrum of evolution itself.  As Freemasons, we exercise our inherent creativity, not only in our ritual workings, but in their application in our personal and public lives.

When in our Invocations we appeal to the Head of all True Freemasons, we are “about our Father’s business.” The V. S. L’s of every great religion teach us that man (manas, mind) is made in the IMAGE and LIKENESS of God; that is heirs to his creative thought, we become through the activity of thinking and speaking, creators or destroyers according to the quality of our thinking and its manifestation as speech.

Life, as we live it, is essentially experiment and experience, and our way of life is the manifestation of individuality; our wisdom or our folly, our characteristics, all the demonstration of thought actively expressed in speech and action.

Thought itself is unlimited, but its demonstration is determined by individual concepts of truth.  The will-to-be, the will0-to-good, are defined for us in our Masonic rituals, not only in personal involvement but in the tremendous power of group consciousness, group intent.

Thought, limited by individual concept, is nevertheless attractive or repulsive, positive or negative, electrical or magnetic energy , and creative according to its KIND. Thought, based upon an enlarged concept of truth, motivates corresponding manifestations on the physical plane.

The prophet Isaiah wrote: (51-11) “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth, it shall not return unto me void, but it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it.”

Jesus warned us: “And I say unto you, that every idle word that you shall speak they shall account thereof.”

Surely here we find that the V.S.L. directly places the history of humanity in its own hands?  When a man “knows himself”…learns his potentiality as a son of God, he becomes a healer or dangerous.  His responsibility as a creative intelligence is challenged and channeled in  our Masonic Ritual workings.

The enlargement of vision…the Light of Freemasonry conferred upon us in our Initiation, may well make us conscious of our inadequacies as individuals, but we are bound by our sacred Obligations to an undeviating effort.  The inspiration and strength we need is inherent in our Order, for never are we alone, but surrounded by the Brn. Of our Lodges, supported by their intelligent love, and their loving intelligence.  Enlarging vision of the Plan demands expanding awareness of Human Necessity.  Let no sense of personality limitation mar our work…Soloman and Hiram, Martha and Mary each have their individual role in the building of the Temple of Humanity.  “What shall I do, Oh Master of my heart?”  The answer comes: “That which before thee lies.”

Never have so many human beings been as educated to the point where they can think as individuals.  Propoganda streams into their lives which, over the decades of the Dictators, brought them two World Wars, and through pain and terror, to the deeper consciousness of responsibility of man for man.   Today, as Freemasons, we have our greatest opportunity to serve the Plan of the Great Architect of the Universe, to invoke the sacred Principles laid down in our rituals on behalf of suffering and faltering humanity, to demonstrate the magical power of Creative Thought, to speak on behalf of our brothers in Freemasonry, as in outer darkness, the WORD that was with God, and that was God…the White Magic of Masonry.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s