The Warkworth Museum has diaries from many local families. During our latest lockdown, I wondered whether it might be interesting to look at the restricted lifestyle of some of our early pioneers, especially around Christmas time activities. This is what I found.
Joseph Gard, an early settler on the Mahurangi River (his home was near the mouth of Duck Creek), writes in his diary of 1856 that on Christmas Eve he and his worker made some egg flip and drank to the health of dear friends at home in England. Christmas Day, however, sounded just like an ordinary working day. His 1857 Christmas was very different as he had started courting Captain Grange’s daughter, Jeanie, who lived three kilometres away. He went with her and her parents to Auckland by steamer (a very rough trip) in mid-December and they all spent several weeks in Auckland conducting business, visiting friends, attending amateur concerts and a special picnic on the North Shore. They had a very pleasant return trip on New Years Day, with the Mahurangi Regatta in progress at the mouth of the river. But when Joseph got home, he found that the pig had managed to destroy his potato garden.
Charles Clarke, from Leigh, writes in 1866 of Willie Greenwood coming to spend Christmas. They tried unsuccessfully to catch a goat at Goat Island, but managed to come home with a bucket of cape gooseberries instead. Of Christmas Day he says “nothing particular to record – we kept it as a holiday and regaled ourselves with Christmas cheer.” Another year, he records they killed a lamb for Christmas dinner and the Wyatts came for the midday meal. That Boxing Day there was a cricket match at Matakana to attend.
Tom, one of Nathaniel Wilson’s five sons, wrote of family Christmases in the 1880s at his Grandmother Snell’s place at Long Beach (since named Snells Beach). The children would look forward to this for weeks, as it would give them several days at the beach and a chance to play with various cousins. Sometimes around 50 relatives would gather and camp there for Christmas. Nathaniel would row his family of 10 children five kilometres down the Mahurangi River to Dawson’s Creek, then, with everyone carrying something, they would walk the two kilometres across to the Snell’s homestead and set up camp. There they would spend many happy days playing games, sailing with uncle in his boat or fishing, gathering pipis and oysters and strolling the beach. There was usually a patch of strawberries that the children would have enjoyed helping themselves to.
In 1912, Isabella Hamilton, Nathaniel Wilson’s daughter, records a very quiet Christmas Day at her parent’s place, Riverina, in Warkworth (her mother died the following year). However, on Boxing Day, she, her husband Willie and their four children rowed 10 kilometres down river from Hamilton’s Landing to Sullivan’s Bay. There they picnicked with family and friends, who had camped there. Hopefully, the tide was with them both ways or it might have been a long trip.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas!