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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 3 (June 1, 1936)

Variety In Brief

page 61

Variety In Brief

Tangiwai's article in the November issue of the “N.Z. Railways Magazine” reminds me that it was at the stockade on the hill mentioned in his article, that the women of the settlement often donned men's clothes during the day and did sentry duty, to relieve the men for the more dangerous night work. This was when all were keyed up, in hourly expectation of an attack. My grandfather, Thomas Frederick Goddard, who arrived in New Zealand in 1854 in the ship “Joseph Fletcher,”’ built the first hotel at Bell Block, and my grandmother, Victorine Palmer, or Tirini Katiti as the Maoris called her, though only five feet in height, was among those women who posed as men and carried a rifle at times. She was six feet high in spirit. Often she acted as, nurse (and no questions asked) when Maoris came to her with bullet wounds. Later, when her husband died and the Maoris were troublesome again, the authorities insisted on her returning to New Plymouth, in spite of the fact that the Maoris were providing her and her eight children with food and looking after her generally. In typically Maori fashion, they would not say that it was in return for kindnesses received—kindness cannot be paid for according to the Maori way of thinking—but said that as she had no man, someone had to look after her. Being provided with one room only for self and family) in crowded New Plymouth, “Tirini” slipped away and returned to her Bell Block home. The authorities finally sent her to Sydney where she remained till the Maori troubles ended. One of the wonderful pioneer type—which seemed like a special creation for the work they had to do—Victorine Goddard (or Palmer, for she remarried) died a few months ago in Hawera.


Those travellers lucky enough to have time to travel through the King Country during the summer season by slow train (the only way to truly see and enjoy the wonders of that journey) may view around Rangataua and onwards the magnificent sight of the New Zealand mistletoe in bloom. The English mistletoe of Druid and Cupid fame is a comparatively smallish plant with white flowers. The New Zealand mistletoes—there are many species—are much larger, fairly leafy and brilliantly flowered. All mistletoes are, of course, more or less parasitic, and the popular host plants favoured around the Mt. Ruapehu area are the beeches (“birches” if you like). Many species of native beech abound along the railway track past Mt. Ruapehu and they are mostly enveloped in “flames” which show up brilliantly against their own dark green foliage. The “flames” are the massed flowers of the crimson loranthus or mistletoe. The species growing there is probably the showiest of all. The actual bushes, high and low on their hosts, must range up to twelve feet in spread. The individual flowers, on closer examination, are long, tubular, fourpetalled gems of colour beginning with yellow at their base and merging to scarlet and carmine at the petal tips. Loranthus flowers in our summer, and it is legend in the district that they flower only once in eleven years. When the flowers fail, small berries which turn golden hued, take their place. The berries provide excellent food for birds, which transport them to the leaves and branches of another host.


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Dogs have often been known to adopt ducklings and to make excellent foster-mothers; but Wellington can boast of knowing a collie dog which has a strange affection for a kennelmate. This dog adopted no less than a young opossum! Recently several workingmen waiting for their early morning tramcars, were treated to the unusual sight of a large collie trotting alongside of its master with a young opossum serenely nestling on the dog's neck.

To show the interested men the ‘possum and dog's paces, the owner took the ‘possum oft his perch and placed it on the footpath. The little nocturnal visitor to Wellington City immediately climbed, via the dog's hind leg, back to his perch.

“When young,” said the owner in explanation to his audience, “we took the opossum from his dying mother's pouch and now it is undisputably the dog's family.”