Family Gathering 2019

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Our Journey Back In Time
By Stephanie McCallum nee Butcher

My Great grandparents, Thomas Brandon Wooster and Mary Ann Ridley were married in Napier N.Z. on the 13th October 1875 by officiating Minister Joseph Smoult Smalley.

After their marriage celebration they set off by horseback to Waipawa, Central Hawkes Bay to their new home in an area known as The Bush, their luggage arrived by horse and dray six months later a distance of 40 minutes or less in a car today. My mother Francis Alice {Jack} Butcher, daughter of Alice Roberts nee Wooster, always spoke of her time in Waipawa as a child and The Bush was always highlighted in her conversation and storytelling of her early years and that of her grandparents and other family members.

My sister Delwyn and I have often recalled the stories as we remember our family life and the wonderful upbringing that we had. For some time we have been curious about "The Bush" and have asked ourselves and others, "Where exactly is it?" but to no avail. We decided to get to this place by hook or by crook. So my search began. I must acknowledge the following social media sites. Wooster Family Tree Australia and New Zealand, Old Hawkes Bay, Advancehavelock, The Waipawa Museum, John Reid and special thanks to Melanie Whyte who had the expertise to search old documents and maps.

Whilst all the searching was going on we posted an invite online for interested descendants to join us on a journey of discovery. Although there was much interest it wasn't convenient for some. However my brother inlaw Roger Jarman and two sisters, Cecily and Delwyn and I were real keen. My brother Ken in Australia voiced his interest and desire to be there but couldn't due to a recent knee operation. We were delighted when two g.g. granddaughters Jo Emslie nee Ward, who came up with meeting as a group, and Ruth Reid nee Hampton and her husband John were able to join us. It was great as John had skills with maps, history of the area and could fine tune our day.

Our plan was to visit the Museum, then pay our respects to a soldier and uncle, may he Rest In Peace, at the Monument where his name Thomas Wooster is inscribed, {he was KIA on his first day on the battlefield at the Somme.} then we would visit the cemetery and pay our respects and deliver flowers. Jo and Ruth were well prepared and arrived looking like a florist shop, it was very moving to share such a moment.

This headstone was erected by Mary Wooster and her daughter Maggie (Holleron) as a remembrance to their son and brother Thomas Wooster, killed on his first day on the battlefield at The Somme.
He is also recognised on the memorial at Waipawa.
The Wooster family grave

Erected by Mary Wooster in memory of her beloved husband Thomas Wooster son of the late Henry Featherstonhough and Henrietta Wooster. Died 26 March 1910 aged 66 years.
Also of her brother William Ridley died 4 December 1909 aged 63 years.
Also Samuel J Wooster died 9 September 1915 aged 29 years.
Also Mary Beatrice Clabby (nee Wooster) died 20 August 1935 aged 80 years.
The cenotaph with Thomas's name at the bottom on the right. Standing in respect of him are three of his great nieces and two of his great great nieces.
Rest in peace soldier. Lest we forget.

We had planned to meet for an early lunch at the Paper Mulberry cafe and wait for Jo who had a family funeral on the Ward side to attend first.

Left: The group at the cafe

Below: The group at the museum and some Wooster photos at the museum

A couple of days before we started our journey news came through from Melanie that the property had been traced but it wasn't what we would be expecting to hear. We now had an address as Johnstone Street, but the actual 2 acre property was now part of the Borough Council erosion scheme. Moons ago a flood from the bordering river had washed a large part away and today a big stop bank is clearly visible. On the higher part of the land stands two water reservoirs which obviously supply the local area.

At the edge of the property there is a style that must have been a sight to see as we or should I say me scrambled over it.

Stepping on to that land was nostalgic and we had a real sense of calm. It was lush and tranquil, the native birds were singing and we felt the Wairua {Maori word for spirits.} It was like a coming home.

Delwyn shared mum's story of the Wooster boys playing a prank on their mum Mary. They found a pair of her big baggy pantaloons of the day and put their horse's front legs into the legs of her undergarment and fastened them around the horse's neck. When she went outside in the morning the horse was prancing around the paddock in her underwear. She was definitely NOT amused. We laughed and imagined the scene and said, "That happened right here." We retold the story about Thomas Brandon Wooster accidently setting fire to their longdrop {outdoor lavatory.} and it made the newspaper.

Quote: 17th September, 1886 Waipawa correspondent telegraph as follows.

The premises of Mr. Thomas Wooster, of the Waipawa Bush, had a narrow escape from destruction by fire last night. Mr. Wooster was sitting up nursing himself, having an attack of bronchitis, when he heard a roaring sound outside. On going out he found the closet and the fencing connecting it to the house, in flames. With a plentiful supply of water he succeeded in subduing the flames. The house was only partially insured. The fire was caused by ashes from a wood fire having been thrown in the midden. Haha!! They couldn't have had much news that day.

Although the old home was no longer there we knew that we were walking where our g. and g,g, grandparents and other ancestors footsteps had tread, even old Uncle Charlie from Nabiac had visited there. We think that it is even better the way it is now as anyone has access and we came away thinking how great it would be for a family picnic without the fear of being moved on. The photos of family in the museum photo displayed on the wall was photographed here where the old homestead once stood.

Left: Driving down Johnstone Street.
Below: This is it. The land which the property was built on and a sign for The Bush - The neighbour's, not taken from Thomas's fence since the tool used for carving wouldn't have been used back then.

What would our ancestors be thinking of our journey of discovery?? Their journey of discovery was huge and amazing. We respect and value their curiosity and endurance arriving and making their way in a new country, what incredible pioneers they were. We thank them for OUR lives. Because of their adventurous nature we were standing where they had stood, miles and years from their beginnings. The expression that, "Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth," is so true.

Thank You Dear Grandparents, your ticket has been passed down to us and we are blessed because of it.

Some of the group outside the property at the end of the day                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

  Page last updated

  19 December 2019