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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 9 (January 1, 1934)

Variety in Brief

page 44

Variety in Brief

Mr. R. A. Loughnan, the doyen of journalists as well as of Rotarians—the Wellingtonians put ninety-two candles on his birthday cake recently, is one of the very few newspaper men in the world who have had a genuine interview for authorised publication with Rudyard Kipling. It occurred during the Anglo-Indian author's brief stay in Wellington on his world tour. Mr. Loughnan was then editor of the “N.Z. Times” (he had come up from the “Lyttelton Times”). The interview took place in the Wellington Club on the Terrace. R.K., wise to newspaper ways, made it a condition that he should see a proof of the interview. He did-at 1 o'clock in the morning. He wrote a par at the opening of the interview and another at the end. I know—for I was proof-reader on the “Times” and I cut the Kipling M.S., off that revised proof the notable one sent back to the office at 2 a.m.

* * *

Black pine beer used to be the favourite drink of all bushmen and bush children. A common sight was to see the saw dropped and all mouths applied to the sawcut. Immediately the tree fell, the children licked the stump eagerly. A favourite prank on a school holiday was to borrow or steal father's auger, choose a likely looking black pine, and bore into the heart. When the beer poured out, it was turn and turn about with mouths to the hole. Another drink—but less popular—was from the “milkwood,” a tree with a diameter of about one foot; soft white wood, which on being cut, yielded a white sweet fluid. Young fern shoots, hot as cayenne pepper, were also meat to the children. Strange tastes! — T.L.M.

* * *

I read with interest an account by “Tangiwai” of the Puhoi settlers, which appeared in your issue of September last. I may say it interested me greatly because, for two and a half years, I taught in the State School there. In comparison with the settlers of Waipu, judging by “Tangiwai's” account, the life of the early pioneers of Puhoi was quite easy. Perhaps “Tangiwai” is not aware that the Rev. Father D. V. Silk has had published a history of the people of Puhoi, which puts a far different light on the matter. In conversation with the older residents I find that, if anything, the history is inclined to understate the case.

With absolutely no money in their pockets they settled upon a Government grant of land of which very little is level, most of the hillsides being very steep. There they carved out for themselves the farms that can be seen to-day. For years they lived in nikau whares, slab huts, and “wattle and daub” shanties, making tea from the seeds of the bidibidi, and eating the tender shoots of the nikau for a vegetable. They split shingles for a miserable pittance—so small because the market was already glutted. In fact some of the settlers say that if it had not been for the long credit extended to them by the Auckland firms—all of whom finally received payment in full—they would not have been able to exist at all. Clothing was at a premium, much of it being made from sacking and flour-bags. One of the greatest historical events of the district was the arrival of the first cow purchased from a farmer for 30s. in what is now Silverdale, and paid for on the instalment plan over a period of months. One young surveyor mentioned that the local road upon which the younger men worked would ease the burden of abject poverty by bringing £200 a year into the district—£200 a year among roughly 200 people! What is that in wages?

For other examples of the troubles of those early settlers, well read the book. The Rev. Father Silk can be found, I think, by inquiry at the Catholic headquarters.

Tangiwai” mentions the fondness for dancing displayed by these people. I think it is well illustrated by the following remark by Mr. John Schollum, the local postmaster and storekeeper: “Dancing! Do you young squirts know anything about dancing? You get to the hall about eight in the evening and dance till four or five in the morning and then think you have been to a dance! When I was your age we started our dances on Wednesday so as to have them over by Saturday night!”—R. E. P.

* * *

For sheer beauty and aptness of nomenclature, I submit the name “Falling Mountain,” a peak of some 6,150 feet in the Arthur Pass National Park. Great masses of rock have been riven out of the sides of this imposing mountain, so that at one point, while looking up the sheer walls to the summit, the impression (commonly felt when gazing on high buildings) is conveyed of the whole peak careening over.

It was the beauty and originality of the name that first attracted my attention, and I then took some pains to discover the author of same, finally tracing it to a Mr. R. S. Odell, member of a Canterbury Tramping Club. The name is entirely original and superbly euphonious.—“Tanitu.”