Settler Kaponga 1881–1914 — A Frontier Fragment of the Western World
Sports and Recreation, April 1908 to April 1909
Sports and Recreation, April 1908 to April 1909
We now look in some detail at the rich tapestry created by the activities of one winter sports season, the following summer season, and the range of other recreations offered during the year. Timetabling a complex programme, arranging the travel and providing the necessary venues and equipment made heavy demands on this little community's limited pool of talents, funds and facilities. Folk differing in national, religious, economic and social interests and backgrounds had somehow to reach agreement on allocating resources and shaping a local programme that fitted into the regional one. We must be alert for planning constraints, for social differences in the clientele of the various activities, and for the manner in which conflicts were resolved. Over the winter one major crisis was to develop. Its resolution, and the reasonable harmony that was in general maintained, seems to have owed much to several key leaders who made good use of their public standing and strategic placing among the various groups. To grasp some of the dynamics involved we will give special attention to Dr Maclagan, the Rev Bramwell Scott and A. H. Guy throughout the year, and headmaster Peter Matheson over the summer season.
One obvious constraint, that Victoria Park had only a single playing field for team games, had to be related to another constraint, the local and page 288 regional weekly calendar. Saturday afternoon was the favoured time for sporting fixtures, with the two regional half-holidays of Wednesday and Thursday afternoon as the other main options. (Sunday sport was quite outlawed.) Thursday was the half-holiday for Kaponga, Eltham, Stratford and New Plymouth; Wednesday for Manaia, Normanby, Hawera, Patea and Opunake. One could expect a good supporting crowd for a home game on a town's half-holiday. Getting free on a work day to play on a rival's ground for their half-holiday may have had its problems, but the strength of local loyalty seems to have smoothed away most difficulties. It was not easy for Kaponga teams to meet commitments at more distant venues. It was difficult to make a timely appearance in Hawera on Kaponga's half-holiday, and a round trip for a game in Patea was apparently not possible within the one day.
On 30 March 1908 Kaponga's rugby management committee met, chaired by the new club president, the Rev Bramwell Scott (taking over from Peter Matheson), to begin their planning for the season. Kaponga's 'one ground’ constraint was on the agenda in the form of a letter from the local soccer management committee advising that they had asked the trustees for Victoria Park to play a Wellington team on Saturday, 18 April. This placed the rugby committee in a quandary as their union had not yet announced when the season's competition would start and they knew it was absolutely opposed to clubs making representations on the drafting of fixtures. Believing that they had a prior claim to the ground on Saturday afternoons they resolved, after long discussion, to reply to the soccer club that this action was a breach of etiquette, and that all the rugby club could offer was to request its union to schedule only one match at Kaponga on this date, so the two clubs could play successive games. In the event the rugby season did not begin till 25 April.
The short period of uncertainty should surely have been handled with a little quiet diplomacy but instead the opening of the local winter sports season was marred by an angry clash in the Star's correspondence columns between Charles Betts and rugby club secretary Charles Crawford. Crawford, watchmaker, jeweller and optician, had come to Kaponga only a year or two earlier, and had been appointed Kaponga's town clerk only the previous month. He was also the current ‘Our Own’ and so it was he who had rushed news of a soccer/rugby clash to the Star. Part of the feeling apparent in Betts's response seems to be that of an ‘old hand’ angry at a newcomer throwing his weight around in apparent ignorance of local history and sensibilities. But there was more to it than that. That there were two minds about the establishing of the rival codes in Kaponga is shown by Betts's first letter:
Will you kindly allow me … to assist to clear the 'slur’ which has been cast upon the Kaponga Association Football Club by your correspondent … It appears to many that your correspondent, with the assistance of one or two page 289 others, is trying to do his utmost to injure Soccer in this district…. as for the prior right of the ground on Saturday, the resolution of the Board extended only over last season. I may say also, in conclusion, that I have done my utmost for Rugby in Kaponga, as well as in other places, and still hope to do more … If ‘Your Own’ will take the trouble to look into things a little more he will see plainly that the Kaponga Rugby Club owes the existence of its district to the Association football. (Star, 2/4/08)
In replying, Crawford belittled Betts's assertions, concluding with the remark that ‘his name does not figure as a member of the Rugby Committee this season’. This led to Betts enlightening the public that Crawford was the rugby club's secretary and that he (Betts) had been a rugby union delegate for many years both for Kaponga and Okaiawa, and accusing Crawford of causing friction between rugby and soccer the previous season. Crawford determinedly ignored Betts's long struggle to get Kaponga rugby on the map, maintaining that Kaponga's rugby and soccer teams had both started in 1906 and that he (Crawford) had been rugby secretary since the club was formed. It was perhaps fortunate for the rugby club that Crawford asked to be replaced as secretary at its next AGM.
Over April 1908 most of the social and sporting features of a Kaponga winter made their appearance. Freed from the milking sheds, farming folk flocked to the playing fields and the dance floors, and attended socials to farewell settlers whose moves or retirements followed the close of the dairying season. While winter set the settlers free from their farms, townsfolk were rather more ‘at home’ at this season. Weekly euchre parties got under way, various groups held their AGMs, and spade-work was undertaken by various organisations. The dancing season began, apparently a little prematurely, with a rather poorly attended ball in the Athenaeum on 31 March. Perhaps it suffered from the competition of a well-attended Rowan social farewelling three settlers.
Two activities that went on all year round were the brass band and the rifle club. On Saturday evening, 4 April, the band showed a special readiness for winter when it gave a programme from the hotel balcony illuminated by two recently acquired gas acetylene ‘lamps or torches’—‘a great improvement on the old style of kerosene torches' but perhaps one not quite so welcome to the young boys who had enjoyed the honour of holding the old torches for the band.15 The rifle club had a shoot against Eltham in mid-April and a shoot for their president's trophy on Easter Monday, the 20th. On Thursday evening, 9 April, the Horticultural Society held its AGM, and the Oddfellows held their first euchre evening of the season in their hall. That they were catering for both town and country, and male and female, is evident from the night's two prizewinners, Miss D. Briggs from the town and Rowan Road farmer George Hill. On the 14th the rugby management committee made further arrangements for the new season. In the interests of its widely scattered players it arranged for Thursday evening practices page 290 week about in the Kaponga and Riverlea halls. The cricket club's shed in the park would be hired for the season. Entertaining of visiting teams would be limited to those who intended to return the compliment. A team was picked for the Easter Monday tournament at Eltham.
Easter Saturday afternoon, the 18th, must have seen the soccer match Kaponga v Wellington Diamonds, but although ‘Our Own’, Charles Crawford, had earlier reported that Kaponga shops would close for two hours for the match, he did not dignify the occasion with an account of the game in his column. What had brought this Wellington club team so far afield is not recorded. (Perhaps their Easter expedition included a visit to Dawson Falls Mountain House.) Also over Easter Taranaki soccer's district union held its AGM in Eltham, with Charles Bates and baker Francis Oliver as Kaponga's delegates. Maclagan was one of three doctors in the four vice-presidents elected. Of the six affiliated clubs four (Hawera, Eltham, Kaponga and Auroa—which joined halfway through the 1907 season) were in south Taranaki, and the newly formed Stratford club was on the north/ south border so Eltham was nominated the provincial headquarters.
A few days at the turn of the month saw valued community leader John Frethey farewelled and evidence of the rising star of the Rev Bramwell Scott. On Tuesday afternoon, the 28th, headmaster Matheson took the school's upper classes to Frethey's upper Manaia Road home to farewell their departing school committee chairman. The following evening 150–200 settlers arrived at the Athenaeum to the music of the band for a farewell social to the Fretheys on their retirement to New Plymouth. Speaking for the Methodist Church, Scott said that the Fretheys ‘had been his right hand’. Others made it clear that besides the school and the church, they would be missed for their contributions to sporting, horticultural, civic and social affairs.
In a surprising number of areas it was to be the Scotts who took up the load being laid down by the Fretheys. That very evening (29 April) Scott's apologies and offer of support were received at a meeting in the Oddfellows' Hall. This was a meeting of men, A.H. Guy, the band committee's chairman, presiding, to follow up a move already begun by the women, to help the band by holding ‘a monster bazaar and fancy fair in aid of an instrument fund’. The meeting agreed that the band, which had so far been financed by its own members, merited their solid support in fundraising for urgently needed new instruments. So intensive bazaar preparations, including weekly women's working bees in the Oddfellows' Hall, were a significant feature of this Kaponga winter.
Saturday, 2 May, was a big day for Bramwell Scott in his role as rugby enthusiast. Not only was the first senior ‘home’ match of his club presidency being played, but he also appeared for the first time as a competition referee, having been nominated by his club and accepted by the referees' association. He was in charge of the third-grade game between Waimate (i.e. Manaia) and Kaponga. Waimate started shorthanded and had page 291 to be filled out with Kaponga boys, and Kaponga won 11–0. Victoria Park's main game on this beautifully fine Saturday afternoon was an exciting nil-all draw between the Kaponga seniors and ‘the redoubtable Waimate’, written up at length in Monday's Star. Kaponga was captained by F. Eggleton of Rowan, and A.H. Guy was in the team. This start to Kaponga's 1908 rugby season was only seemingly auspicious as the senior game was shortly awarded, on protest, to Waimate.16 A period of ill-feeling and poor behaviour, which over the next few weeks was to see Kaponga sink to a humiliating nadir, probably had its beginnings in the events of this afternoon. It says much for the leadership of Scott and other Kaponga worthies that the club extricated itself from the abyss before the year was out.
On 13 May the ‘Southern Division’ soccer competition got under way, with Kaponga, Hawera and Auroa each fielding two teams and Eltham one. Eight games, seven of them on Wednesdays or Thursdays, were scheduled up to the end of the month. Unlike for rugby, the press gave the games little notice, but there were good words for Kaponga in a report of a 2–1 victory over Eltham at Eltham on 16 May. On Thursday, 14 May, the Pihama Rifle Club visited for a shooting match at Kaponga. With no team names listed it is not known whether Maclagan competed in either the soccer or shooting, but he certainly was involved as a performer in a ‘Grand Concert and Dance’ in aid of the band, held in the Athenaeum on the evening of 21 May. William Swadling presided and added to the contributions of individuals and of the band by playing phonograph selections. On 26 May Maclagan chaired the tennis club's AGM and was re-elected president. Mrs Maclagan was relieved of her secretary/treasurership but continued on the committee, which Bramwell Scott joined as a new member. Reports showed that levelling and making an asphalt court had cost £46, half of it borrowed. Business included organising a working bee and planning the opening of the court. The Awatuna club was to be invited to send a team for this event and a concert and dance were planned for the evening.
Before we follow the rugby club's debacle it will be useful to sketch the social setting. Rugby first appeared in New Zealand in the 1870s, soon outdistanced the other football codes, and was established as the colony's most popular game and the predominant winter sport by the 1890s. The basis of its triumph and its social significance in the New Zealand context are ably traced and discussed in Jock Phillips's A Man's Country?17 The game was well suited to the wet climate and could be played with a minimum of equipment on rough rural paddocks. In its early days it had a bad name as a ‘rough-and-tumble hoodlum amusement’ associated with filthy language and carousing. But civilised by referees enforcing improved rules that made more room for skill and less for sheer bullocking, it won its way as an activity that fitted the values of a pioneer male culture. Rugby spread through the English public schools because ‘They wanted a “manly” education tempered by civilising restraints.’ As Phillips points out, ‘This was page 292 exactly the mix of concerns that helps explain the receptivity of New Zealand society to rugby football in the nineteenth century.’
New Zealand rugby received a tremendous boost from the victorious 1905 tour of the British Isles. Taranaki had six players in the team, including J.M. O'Sullivan of Okaiawa, W.S. Glenn of Waimate, F.T. Glasgow of Eltham, and James Hunter of Hawera, one of the stars of the tour. Hunter captained the very successful 1907 tour to Australia. This team also included O'Sullivan, and Hawera's J.T.H. Colman. These were days of glory for Taranaki rugby. It is easy to see why Kaponga was so desperate to get in on the action in which neighbouring districts were winning national and international fame, and why, once in, its teams had to face tough competition. Team lists published in the early weeks of the 1908 season give the names of 46 players in Kaponga's three competition teams. Of the 32 whose homes can be located with fair confidence, 27 lived on the farms. In contrast, of the 25 players listed for soccer games, 12 are known to have been townsfolk and only two country. By moving to soccer these players had not only reduced the pool from which good rugby teams could be drawn, but had also siphoned off almost all the potential town players, the ones best placed to get regularly to practices, to fill last-minute gaps in teams, and to help with administrative matters. Kaponga rugby supporters could not have been blamed for feeling that soccer was sabotaging their cause.
We will now follow the Kaponga senior rugby team through to their crisis. On Saturday 16 May they put on a creditable performance against the Hawera seniors at Hawera. With a strong wind blowing the Hawera team elected to play the first half against the wind. At first ‘Kaponga's big lot of forwards' were able to concentrate the play in Hawera territory, but experience soon told. ‘The Hawera backs threw the ball about, Hunter appearing at his best,’ according to the report in the Star (18/5/08). Though ‘for a spell Kaponga shook things up’ they failed to make good the advantage of the wind. ‘The Hawera backs continued to make the play, and passed the ball about with more or less success.’ By half-time Kaponga had not scored; Hawera had two tries. In the second half Kaponga put on a much better performance. Twice they broke away and looked like scoring, but the Hawera backs were too good for them. It was Hawera that made the only further score:
Within five minutes of time Hunter, who had been playing a sterling game, demonstrated that he was still capable of the ‘corkscrew’ runs that made him famous in England by running clean through a team of strong tacklers.
The reporter admired Kaponga's spirit but found them lacking in skill.
The Kaponga team played up, especially in the second spell, in really fine form. There are one or two well-known players in the forwards, but generally it may be said that the team lacks cleverness, although it may be proud of the vim which characterises practically all the players. Guy was the leader.page 293
The following Saturday, 23 May, was the Kaponga team's ‘Black Saturday’. The game was against Okaiawa, at Kaponga. Kaponga do not seem to have taken Okaiawa as seriously as they ought. They were playing one of their thirds as a substitute and one of their players took his place on the field about 10 minutes late. Within two minutes of the start Okaiawa scored a try from a forward rush led by J.M. O'Sullivan and Jeremiah Crowley. The scene rapidly became ugly. The referee was neither prompt nor firm in his decisions. The teams' jerseys were similar, which confused him, and he made some unfortunate decisions. He had had an earlier connection with the Okaiawa club, and this led both Kaponga spectators and players to believe he was being unfair. They made their feelings loudly known. Following its usual Monday report on the game the Star carried another on the Thursday, by its occasional commentator ‘Scrum’. He gave details of one of the more unfortunate incidents.
… about half-way through the second half Eggleton was ordered off for threatening to strike an opponent. Eggleton had been playing a splendid game and this undoubtedly caused the visitors to give him extra attention. When he was unnecessarily knocked down, the ball being about a dozen yards away, he was naturally irritated, and held his fist up to the offender. The referee at once ordered Eggleton off the field; but in justice the Okaiawa man who caused the trouble should also have been sent off. Neither the game nor the players were under control, and the language to be heard was decidedly un-English. (Star, 28/5/08)
Kaponga succeeded in equalising the score with a drop-kicked goal, but they left the field embittered.
At the next meeting of the Taranaki union's management committee, the referee appeared to support his reporting of Kaponga's A.H. Guy, match player and management committee member, ‘for using disparaging remarks prior to and after the match’. He gave evidence that
… He cautioned Guy for appealing too frequently during the game. After the match he went into the bathroom and heard Guy complaining that he had been unfair and should never have been allowed to take the game, as he had been connected with the Okaiawa Club. Guy continued to make disparaging remarks after he had spoken to him. (Star, 12/6/08)
Okaiawa players O'Sullivan and Crowley appeared with supporting evidence. Guy had questioned the referee's fairness before the game, and had continued to make disparaging remarks about him in his presence after the game, even after O'Sullivan asked him to stop. After lengthy discussion the meeting expressed its displeasure at Guy's action and desired him to resign from the committee. It backed up the referee's caution to Crowley for swearing. It resolved to inform the Kaponga club that ‘a repetition of the conduct of the spectators at the Kaponga-Okaiawa match will lead to the page 294 disqualification of the ground’. One can understand why the referee, O'Sullivan and Crowley took the matter seriously and why the committee responded so strongly. For Taranaki rugby to continue to flourish and hold its place in public esteem, games would have to be firmly under the control of referees. There were acceptable ways of responding to unsatisfactory refereeing, but public abuse and the threat of mob rule were not among them. The decisions were a humiliation for both Kaponga and its rugby club, but they showed their metal by re-establishing their reputations by the end of the season.
Meanwhile there was much to be proud of in Kaponga's other sporting and recreational activities. Sunday by Sunday the band continued its tour of the surrounding settlements, while committees and working bees pressed on with mounting the grand bazaar in its aid. This great occasion came at last: three days (20–22 August) of trading, treasure hunts, sideshows, drawing of raffles and other entertainment, including contributions by the Eltham and Manaia bands. A total of £179 11 5d was raised. Diverse groups added to the winter round of dances and socials. A Catholic social and dance on 24 June was ‘perhaps the most delightful and successful function of its kind held in Kaponga for years’. Next evening a dance associated with the Oddfellows' weekly euchre party was also well attended. On 9 July there were plenty of Kaponga visitors at Riverlea's Farmers' Union social. In very wet weather on 16 July the bachelors' ball drew a moderate attendance to the Athenaeum. When the ladies responded with their ball on 5 August they too struck an ‘exceedingly rough night’, but nevertheless drew a large attendance.
The rugby ball on 2 September saw 52 couples on the floor. It competed with a well-attended smoke concert at the Oddfellows' Hall to farewell Norman Eccleston, bandmaster, lodge secretary, cricketer and soccer player. Those giving valedictory speeches included A.H. Guy and Dr Maclagan. There were other farewell occasions, the Methodist Sunday school concert and anniversary on the weekend 10–12 July, and on 23 July the tennis club's great day, the opening of its court. Kaponga won the competition with Awatuna six sets to two. Bramwell Scott and the Maclagans were strong contributors to Kaponga's win, and the Maclagans both sang in the evening concert. But the tennis club had had strong competition for public attention this Thursday afternoon. On the school's rugby ground the local boys defeated a Stratford XV 21–6 in ‘a well-fought game’, and on Victoria Park the Auroa soccer team had a 4-1 victory over Kaponga B. Overall Kaponga soccer had a satisfactory season. The Star of 21 July showed Kaponga A as leading in south Taranaki, having won five and drawn one of its seven games. But this was deceptive: Hawera was close behind, had as yet only played six games, and went on to win the south Taranaki competition.
At the end of May the points table for southern division senior rugby ran Waimate 7, Hawera 6, Patea 5, Kaponga 1, Okaiawa 1. Kaponga's humiliation had further depths yet to plumb. On Saturday 6 June their senior team was comprehensively defeated 40–0 by Waimate on their page 295 Manaia ground, and Eggleton, probably their best player, received a knee injury that was expected to sideline him for the rest of the season. Meanwhile back at Kaponga Waimate II defeated Kaponga II 11–3. On 13 June Kaponga II lost 0–3 to Patea II in a ‘tired feeling’ game in which both sides fielded only 13 men. On 20 June Kaponga seniors forfeited a game scheduled against Patea at Patea, and a Hawera II v Kaponga II match set down for 1pm at Hawera was abandoned as the first Kaponga player did not turn up till 3pm. A short scratch game of assorted players was played instead.
The following Saturday, 27 June, Kaponga began to claw their way back, with an 8–0 win over the Hawera seniors on Victoria Park. A test against the Anglo-Welsh visitors was being played that day in Wellington, in atrocious mud, and Hawera's key man, Hunter, was in the New Zealand team. Hawera played substitutes for several others who were probably in Wellington to see the test. But Kaponga was also without its best man, Eggleton, and played six substitutes. On a fine afternoon, with the ground soggy from a week of heavy rain, Kaponga won the toss and elected to play downhill on their somewhat sloping ground. In the first half they scored two tries, one converted, and they were able to grimly hold the Hawera team at bay throughout the second half. The day brought further encouragement, with Okaiawa II forfeiting to Kaponga II, and Hawera III v Kaponga III at Hawera ending in a 3-all draw.
A crucial game for Kaponga's reinstatement in public esteem will have been the senior match against Okaiawa played at Okaiawa on 11 July. Not only was there the feeling from their last game and its aftermath to be overcome, but an Okaiawa win would put Kaponga at the bottom of the points table for the southern division, while a Kaponga win or a draw would put Okaiawa there. It was a hard, fast game in which ‘both sides came within an ace of scoring on several occasions', ending in a nil-all draw. But the crucial words in Monday's Star report (13/7/08) were its last phrases: ‘… there was an entire absence of anything objectionable and the best of feeling prevailed throughout’. One can imagine that this outcome owed a good deal to activities of community leaders such as club president Bramwell Scott, previous president (now vice-president) Peter Matheson, Dr Maclagan (also a vice-president), and club captain A.H. Guy (an able and responsible public leader despite his blunders of 23 May). But perhaps Kaponga was still showing a little resentment when it ignored the rugby union's request that it close its shops on Wednesday, 15 July, for the Taranaki v Anglo-Welsh match in New Plymouth, which Taranaki won 5–0.
Kaponga players enjoyed two further rugby outings before being tied down by the new milking season. Many of them will have been among the 600 spectators at Manaia who watched Waimate defeat the northern division winners 20–0 on 30 July; and on 15 August the club's season ended pleasantly with a Kaponga XV travelling to Mangatoki for an invitation game, which they won 11–9.page 296
With the passing of winter there was a tendency for town and country to go their separate ways. Only three or four rugby players were involved in summer sports teams. By contrast, about 10 soccer players joined the cricket teams and two or three played tennis. Spring and summer saw one notable area of town/country co-operation—horticulture. In the opening week of September the Methodists held their second annual spring flower show, the band enlivening its first evening. Of the 48 places in the prize list, rural settler Charles Hollard and his wife took 17, Riverlea farmer Robert Gibson* took 10 and Bramwell Scott and his wife took eight. The versatile Scotts were keen gardeners; Gibson went on to win New Zealand fame as a daffodil grower, and Kaponga's Hollard Gardens are today an important south Taranaki tourist feature. The only significant non-Methodist exhibitor in 1908 was an Anglican, the wife of builder C.S. Walker.
But the ecumenically minded Scott was working to broaden the show's
appeal beyond a few Methodist families, enlisting the support of headmaster
Matheson, a Presbyterian, who brought the school to visit the show as
guests of the school committee. Scott told the children that he and Matheson
were donating special children's prizes for the next year's show. The
following Monday saw the AGM of the Kaponga Horticultural and General
Produce Society, of which Dr Maclagan continued as president, with
Bramwell Scott and Peter Matheson on the committee. Its 12th annual show
on 9 March 1909 was a great success. A record number of entries overwhelmed the committee, and the show opened late as they struggled to pack
exhibits into the Athenaeum and a supplementary marquee. Town and country were both well represented in the wideranging display of farm and garden produce, honey, preserves, pickles, dairy produce, bread, cakes, cut flowers, sewing, needlework, craftwork, handwriting &c. The first contest for a silver cup, presented by ‘Kickapoo’ Hunter for the largest number of points at the show, was a marathon battle across a range of sections between the Anglican Mrs C.S. Walker (139 points) and Mrs Bramwell Scott (124).
The cricket season began with a practice match on Thursday afternoon, 24 September. Charles Betts was having a year off from the captaincy, with butcher's assistant G. Trower taking his place, but it was Betts who represented the club at the association's AGM in Hawera on 5 October, and was put onto the three-man selection committee. The affiliated teams (Hawera, Manaia, Kaponga, Eltham and Toko) proceeded to play out a low-key competition over the summer. Typically scores were low. The games were or afternoons only and were often ended by fading light or by the visiting team having to leave for home. The winner was the one with most runs at stumps so the toss often decided the match. Kaponga residents would have been pleased that their team won about half its games, but no one either on or off the field seems to have taken the competition aspect seriously. Rather, matches were friendly social occasions, without the tension of the fiercely fought rugby competition. Maclagan and Betts played regularly this season, and Matheson appears in three of the published team lists.page 297
There was a low-key flavour to various other summer activities. A Catholic social on 24 September was not well attended. The Caledonian Society showed a little life with a poorly attended concert of songs, reels, step-dances and sketches on 30 October, in aid of funds. The Oddfellows held an athletics sports day (also poorly attended) on King's Birthday, 9 November. And on 6 November the Athenaeum and library AGM failed for the fourth time to achieve a quorum, so through ‘Our Own’ Peter Matheson made known his intention of resigning as secretary/treasurer, published the financial reports of the two institutions, and began moves for their transfer to the Town Board. Fortunately the school gave Matheson more encouragement. Its annual picnic and prizegiving, well attended in pleasant weather on Thursday 17 December, was a great success. It began at 11 am on the school grounds, of which ‘Our Own’ wrote
… the Kaponga school grounds are among the most up-to-date in New Zealand, and include football ground and a fine grass tennis court and three croquet lawns, all of which are tastefully surrounded with flower gardens, which at the present time are in full bloom and make a beautiful spot in which to pass away a few hours. In a great measure the master (Mr Matheson) is responsible for the school possessing these fine grounds …
Besides the picnic and presentation of prizes, parents watched the children enjoy tennis, croquet, races, skipping, lolly scrambles &c, with the Kaponga Brass Band enlivening the occasion. This was indeed a busy afternoon for the weekly half-holiday. The cricket team began playing Hawera in a championship match on Hawera's Bayly Park at about 2.45pm. Kaponga batted first, scoring 71, to which Hawera replied with only 43. At the end of their second innings Kaponga led by 77 and with only about 20 minutes left their win looked secure. But Hawera went on a scoring spree and by stumps at 6.30 had reached 115 for only two wickets, in reply to Kaponga's total of 120—a championship win to Kaponga but a moral victory to Hawera. Meanwhile on Kaponga's Victoria Park the rifle club held its annual parade with the army's Sergeant-Major Dodd present. The date may have been chosen so that parents and children could move on from the prizegiving to watch the parade.
So the busy summer months were enriched by various recreations. It was a good year for fish in the rivers.18 The band played around the township each weekend. Many Kaponga folk would have enjoyed Eltham's famous two-day Axeman's Carnival just after Christmas. The tennis club held a local tournament and visited the Opunake club. Opunake returned the visit on Saturday, 21 February. Maclagan, Matheson and Scott were prominent among the local players. Gray, Opunake's headmaster and a tennis enthusiast, also brought a school team to play the local children. Kaponga players did quite well but Opunake won at both levels.
Kaponga soccer team, Taranaki championship winners, 1909. Standing: C. E. Betts (referee),
J. Law, J. Bowie, M. Bates, T. Winters, H. Barnsley, A. Melville (secretary). Seated: F. Bertie
(manager), J. Sweatmore, T. Preece (captain), D. Kelly, J. Beeby, E. Foreman (selector). In
front: H. Faull, N. Nicholls