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Becoming a Centenarian

Granddaughter of one of Pukekohe’s first Irish settlers turns 100

by Toni Reid

In winter of 1864 the three masted clipper ship the ‘Ganges’ set sail from Cobh, Ireland for a 12,000 mile journey to Auckland. Amongst almost five hundred passengers and crew onboard the 192 foot (59m) ship were newly married couple, John and Sarah Fausett from Fermanagh County.

Over the next three months they would brave the perils of putrid food, overcrowded and poorly ventilated accommodation, sea sickness and in Sarah’s case, morning sickness. There were only seven toilets to service the 500 onboard and four of them were on the deck. Disease was rife: fifty three children and four adults would perish before the ship tied up at Auckland’s Queen Street wharf in February 1865.

Upon arrival in New Zealand the Fausetts expected to occupy the land at Pukekohe promised to them by the government immigration scheme but the surveyors had not completed their work, so the couple were sent temporarily to Queen’s Redoubt at Pokeno. Here they were housed in a tent, where amid fearful mid-winter weather in June 1865 Sarah gave birth to their first son.

In summer they travelled to Pukekohe, making their way along the narrow bush tracks carved by centuries of use and overhung with wiry mangemange vine and supplejacks. Eventually the family arrived at a 50 acre clearing set amidst dense forest where a handful of dwellings marked the beginning of the town. Known as ‘the Paddock’ the clearing was thought to have been cultivated by the prior Maori owners of the land. John built a ponga whare for the family on the ten-acre grant and Sarah gave birth to their first daughter in January 1867. The original Fausett grant has become Bledisloe Park and where Pukekohe High School now stands was the second property bought by John. On this land he cleared a patch to build a more substantial house and the remainder of the fifteen Fausett children were either born here or on the 90-acre farm at Pukekohe hill, purchased in 1877. Surprisingly, the children all grew to adulthood – quite a feat at a time when surgery and medicine were in their infancy and antibiotics were unknown.

The youngest son was born on the Hill in autumn of 1887. Although he was christened George Edwin, everyone knew him as Ted. He matured into a tall, strong, good looking man with an aptitude in the new field of machinery and vehicles. Around 1910 Ted gained a certificate for locomotion and traction competency and by 1912 he was a certified engine driver and co-owner of a traction engine. He was also a talented musician, playing as part of a group providing music at the local dances and events which is where he may have caught the eye of Hilda Svendsen, the daughter of a Danish sea captain. Hilda and Ted’s first meeting was said to be at the local roller skating rink, possibly the ‘Glideway’ at the Masonic Hall. Skating was a popular past time in Pukekohe, held three nights a week during winter, featuring fancy dress and theme nights often accompanied by music.

By 1913 Hilda and Ted were married and their first two children, Geoff and Rona were born at Pukekohe. The family moved to Papakura where Ken and Thelma Joyce (Joyce) were born. When the business hit hard times in 1921, the house at Papakura was sold and the family relocated to rural Ararimu, living in a rented cottage behind the school. This area contained the last large stand of millable native forest and Ted’s Robey traction engine powered a sawmill to take advantage of this.

Around 1922 Ted found a good business opportunity in the form of a bush clad 250acre property for sale at Ararimu. Although the contour was steep and hard to access in places, there were plenty of mature trees to provide an income for the family and once the land was cleared, they could graze cows. The 1880’s kauri house was less appealing as it had been abandoned for so many years that blackberry and ferns had made their way inside the building. With help from his brothers and two years of hard work, Ted was able to make it habitable once again.

At the new farm the Fausett children played for hours in the bush, climbing across the waterfall, negotiating steep gullies and swinging on supplejacks, returning only when they heard Hilda ‘cooee’ to them. The youngest child, Joyce, who has just turned 100 years of age on the 26th April, has happy memories of these days in Ararimu. Her earliest recollection is riding high on her father’s shoulders as a toddler when he walked around the property. She thrived in the country, enjoying riding her pony, milking the cows and looking after all the farm animals. There were games of rounders and table tennis with the neighbour’s children, the latter taking place on the large dining room table, where sometimes the ball would end up in the wood stove if the top was left open.

Joyce enjoyed helping her mum with the chores, like using the flat irons heated on the stove top to press the clothes and embroidering garments by lamplight of an evening. There was always plenty of ‘women’s work’, everything was done by hand as there were no luxuries in the Fausett household. It was lit by kerosene lamps, the toilet was outside and the bathtub had to be filled by buckets of hot water carted inside from a boiling ‘copper’.

Despite the amount of work to be done, the family made time for outings – driving the winding gravel roads to Papakura for the Saturday night pictures, camping holidays at Muriwai beach with friends, attending football and tennis matches. Ted would often take on extra work so they could afford to do these things.

Music was another pastime the whole family enjoyed. They were very musical, singing and playing the violin, the banjo, mandolin and piano. Ted and Hilda played violin and piano at dances around the Franklin District and Joyce still remembers the beautiful harmony of their two voices together.

At a 1936 military ball in Papakura, Ted and Hilda provided music during the band’s break. Both of the Fausett brothers were in the Territorials and sixteen year old Joyce had an invite as well. She was supposed to be escorted by her brother Geoff, but at the door he asked his friend ‘Cookie’ to take her in. And the rest, as they say, is history. Ray Cooke and Joyce became a couple but had to wait until she was twenty before they could marry.

Around 1937 Hilda’s health became very run down due to managing the farm plus all the household chores. Ted and son Ken worked out of the district during the week and eldest brother Geoff had left home. Hilda was hospitalized and Ted was told if he wanted to have his wife for much longer, he should sell the farm and move into the city. So late in 1937 the Fausett family swapped country life in Ararimu for the big smoke. In Ponsonby they discovered the convenience of electric lighting, flush toilets and a gas califont for hot water. The sisters enjoyed the novelty of having their own beds, after sharing a single bed since they were children.

World War 2 was well underway when Joyce and Ray were married in July 1940. At the time Ray was training in the tank brigade at Waioru and Joyce was earning £8 per week sewing khaki battledress uniforms. Both of Joyce’s brothers served in the military, Ken in the RAF, 70 Squadron and Geoff in the Territorial Special Reserve and the 24th Infantry Battalion. Both went missing in action – Ken’s Wellington Bomber was shot down over Libya and Geoff fought in the battle of Sidi Rezegh – but after a torturous wait for the family, they were found to be prisoners of war.

As Ray wasn’t able to serve overseas during the war, he remained in New Zealand and by 1943 they had their first child, Garry and in 1947 they welcomed a daughter, Raewyn. By 1950 they had left Auckland for the beaches of Mt Maunganui where they initially lived in a sturdy little wooden caravan on the sand dunes for a few months until their rental house became available. During the 50’s Joyce was doing the family washing in a copper, much the same way her mother had but by the end of the decade she had a washing machine. When they bought their first refrigerator, Joyce remembers being excited about making ice cream at home.

Late in the 50’s Joyce began driving the old Bedford ambulance for St. John’s after learning there was a shortage of daytime volunteers. She gained qualifications in nursing and first aid to become a Cadet Officer and then a Nursing Cadet Superintendent. Joyce enjoyed this work very much and it only ended when Ray’s employment necessitated a return to Auckland in 1962. At her farewell Joyce received her five year service medal which she still treasures.

Living in Auckland once again, Joyce was able to re-join the rag trade as a machinist, working for companies like Silk Knit and Lane Walker Rudkin. She always made her own clothes, stopping in her 60’s due to eye problems but continued to work in the trade as a supervisor until the early 1990’s.

The children were now grown and married with families of their own. Garry had trained as an electrician and started his own business ‘Cooke Electrical’ and Raewyn worked as an entertainer, dancing and singing throughout New Zealand and overseas.

Joyce and Ray celebrated their Golden Wedding in 1990, the same year Ray was diagnosed with cancer and sadly he passed within two years. In 2002 Joyce’s son Garry began to have health problems which were eventually diagnosed as multiple myeloma. He received a transplant and competed at the transplant games, winning medals for swimming. Garry hoped to be around to watch his grandchildren grow up, but it was not to be and he passed in late 2012.

These were dark days for Joyce but she soldiered on, bolstered by visits from family and keeping up with the exploits of her grandchildren.

In 2020 Joyce still lives independently and on April 26th she was thrilled to receive her telegram from the Queen. Although plans for a party were put on hold due to Covid-19, there was a birthday cake with friends and family gathering outside to celebrate the amazing milestone of becoming a centenarian.

“Late in the 50’s Joyce began driving the old Bedford ambulance for St. John’s after learning there was a shortage of daytime volunteers. At her farewell Joyce received her five year service medal which she still treasures.”

“Sixteen year old Joyce had an invite to the 1936 Papakura Military Ball. She was supposed to be escorted by her brother Geoff, but at the door he asked his friend ‘Cookie’ to take her in. And the rest, as they say, is history. Ray Cooke and Joyce became a couple but had to wait until she was twenty before they could marry.”

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elocal Digital Edition – June 2020 (#231)

elocal Digital Edition
June 2020 (#231)

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