Well who would have thought it?

I know your parents tell you I was 19 when your Great-Grandfather and I had married, but I was in fact only 16. Your Great-Grandfather and I became betrothed and married in town called Cranbrook in Kent. It’s a lovely place and the parish church, St Dunstan, was built way back in the Fifteenth Century, would you believe it! The 19 comes in because that’s how old I was when we set sail in 1840 on the Martha Ridgeway for Port Nicholson (that’s in the north you know, and they call it Wellington these days my dear).

That was a hard journey that was. My first child, bless her soul, was just three years old, and I was not long pregnant as well, so you can imagine my discomfort. But we don’t complain, do we now?

Yes, a very hard journey. Although I was pregnant on the voyage I gave birth to twins with the help of the ship’s doctor, twins boys, both stillborn. That was a sad time… But how were we to know then that we would go on to have another 12 children! And a blessing that was too, for not long after we arrived at Petone my eldest daughter also died.

How I hated this place when we first arrived… My next child was stolen by the Maoris after her birth, for they’d never seen a white child before! The first white child in the district she was thought to be, and they took her with them up to the pa to show her off. My goodness how James was angry and frightened! There was talk of them eating her (for the Maoris ate a lot of people in those days don’t you know), but as it happens they were just curious.

There was a great show when James turned up to collect her, for he was never a small man, as you know! There was a time there at Akaroa where they laid James and your nine Great-Uncles out head to toe, head to toe, for a lark mind, and they were the full length of a chain!

What?

Oh, that’s 66 feet my dear! A chain is 66 feet long.

They certainly were a big set of lads my boys. And they certainly took some feeding, let me tell you! They’d come in from the whaling and they’d empty the pantry the lot of them. My word we’d be cooking for days to prepare for them coming back.

Hmmm? Yes. Yes it wasn’t an easy life out there. We left Petone only two years after we arrived, James had been working for the Governor trying to intervene in the musket and liquor trade, which was terrible, and we travelled again, this time to Akaroa. There James got work for Paddy Wood, but this didn’t last long, thank goodness, for Paddy was a brawler, and a drunk. And there I was, the only woman in the whole world it seemed…

It was a relief when we moved and finally settled in Whakamoa Bay, let me tell you!

F, FLP

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