Topic: Our Children's Homes: Abbotsford Home at Waipawa 1926 - 1986

Topic type:

This booklet by Kay Morris Matthews is a companion to her book 'Who Cared? Childhoods within Hawke's Bay Children's Homes and Orphanages 1892 - 1988'

If you are interested in reading this book in full, CHB District Libraries have a copy avaialable to borrow.

Excerpt from 'Preface and Acknowledgements'

The two Anglican run homes for children aged four to fifteen were both located in central Hawke's Bay: St Hilda's at Otane, and Abbotsford at Waipawa. Both admited girls and boys, 'so as to provide a natural home atmosphere in each home'. (Waiapu Church Gazette, Volume XII, Issue 9, 1 March 1922, p.354.) The locations were not specifically chosen, but arose from bequests to the church, which provided solutions to housing orphans as quickly as possible. However, their shared purpose and close proximity would make it even harder for the far-flung diocese, which spread from Tauranga to Woodville, to raise funds to support them. Over time, the main regular providers would become the smaller parochial parishes of central Hawke's Bay with generous support from other parishes of the Diocese, local individuals, families and community organisations.

Excerpt from 'Childhood at Abbotsford'

Although George, who was twelve, understood why he was being sent to Abbotsford, it was nevertheless a big shock. He spent the first weeks with his head under the blankets crying, because he was homesick. The thing he hated most was that when he went to Abbotsford, there was already another child with the name 'George', so George Morris was called by his second name, Edward.

Mrs Williams was the Matron at Abbotsford when George arrived. On holiday at coastal Aramoana, one of the things she got the boys to do was collect enough supple jack to last the year. These were the sticks she used for corporal punishment. Mrs Williams was recalled (as a stern lady, but good) and Mrs Absolum (who lived in the historic house by the Te Aute hotel). Mrs Absolum would play the gramophone to the children, and George remembers a song, 'The Stein'. At one point Mrs Williams was matron, with Miss Johnston as sub-matron. In George's final year, Miss Johnston was matron, and he thought 'she was marvellous... a wonderful woman. She was a real mother and cared for us.'  In George's autograph book, she wrote: 'Life is one darn thing after another - he has always to remember that.'

Excerpt from 'The good times'

It was the tradition for Abbotsford children and staff to go out to Aramoana Station on the coast for a few weeks after Christmas. Like the St Hilda's children who went to neighbouring Pourere Station, the children stayed in the shearers' quarters.

At Aramoana, the McHardy family hosted Abbotsford children and staff for many years. The children loved these holidays and became fond of their hosts. When Mr Forbes McHardy was killed in action in Italy in 1945, Abbotsford was devastated. Matron Johnston placed on record her gratitude to him and to Mrs McHardy, explaining that through his generosity, the children had enjoyed wonderful holidays by the sea:

There everything that can be done has been done for us. Milk and meat all supplied free, and all our daily wants attended to. ...Always at the end of our holiday Mr and Mrs McHardy have treated the children to a party at their homestead, and it was after that party two years ago that we last saw Mr McHardy, when he said good-bye to us all so light-heartedly that neither he nor we knew it would be the last farewell.

However, during the war there were 'black outs' in place and Abbotsford children and staff went to stay at Hukarere, Napier, for the summer holidays. During one visit there was an outbreak of diptheria, and most of the senior girls became ill. George recalls that he and two others were persponsible for the washing - and on one occasion, all the sheets came out pink, as the dye had run in a girl's nightie. While at Hukarere, the children went out on trips of all sorts, and George remembers that 'these were good times'.

Excerpt from 'The bad times'

When Miss Johnny became matron, she did not like the children being hit. In George's time, however, Harry Bolton the gardener would deal to the boys with his belt. There was discipline, and the children were taught to know their place; consequently, they were 'backward in coming forward'. By the time the Rees sisters were at Abbotsford it was usually the assistants who would emte out the punishment, but Miss Johnny also 'had a whacking stick and would use it'. However, it was her novel form of 'time-out', a more modern child rearing practice, that is particularly recalled. This meant 'having to lie under your bed on the cold floor boards until you were told to come out'.

Another policy was to have plenty of fresh air circulation in the dormitories. Even in the winter, the top louvre windows in the dormitories were left open. The combined effect of open windows and no carpets meant that the children were often cold. This state of affairs led a visitor´╗┐ to Abbotsford to write a letter to the editor of the diocesan newsletter in 1928. 'I asked how many blankets each child had on its bed. The Matron replied that they had two, and that they often complained of the cold: She had got and made some bed socks for the little ones. Can we allow this? ...I am sending over a pair of single blankets at once. Who else will do so? But let it be at once.'

If you are interested in reading this book in full, CHB District Libraries have a copy avaialable to borrow.

Discuss This Topic

There are 12 comments in this discussion.

Read and join this discussion

join this discussion

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License
Our Children's Homes: Abbotsford Home at Waipawa 1926 - 1986 by jochubb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License