Archivist Gareth Winter has a long-term interest in the Ruamahanga River. A couple of summers ago he walked the length of the river, from the headwaters high in the Tararua Range, down to the outlet at Lake Onoke.
One of the interesting sites on the hike was ‘Mahaki’ farm, just south of Martinborough, where an extensive flax growing industry flourished in the first half of the 20th century. The Wairarapa Archive had little documentation of the growing and processing exploits on ‘Mahaki’ until recently, when the granddaughter of farm hand Fred Small presented us with a set of over 30 photographs. It shows the entire process, from raising the young flax plants, right through to loading the finished product onto a ship in Wellington. A remarkable addition to our collection.
EMBARKATION: The scene at Masterton Railway Station on August 13, 1914, as the first Wairarapa volunteers left for training prior to going to war.
As the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I looms, a group of Wairarapa people have banded together to plan for its centenary and events that unfolded over the duration of the war.
Led by war historian Neil Frances and Masterton RSA president Bob Hill, the group called WW100 Wairarapa involves the RSA, Wairarapa Archive, Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa district councils, Anzac Hall Society, Featherston Heritage Museum and Red Cross.
It will span the major events of the entire war that lasted from August 1914 until early November 1918 and is not designed to shut out others who may want to commemorate events.A search for locally collected war souvenirs and records is planned for early next year and several groups are looking at musical and dramatic depictions of the war. Mr Frances said World War I inspired lots of music, drama and literature “much of which is virtually unknown now”.The planned recognition of the war dubbed “the war to end all wars” will extend to the centenary of the Soldiers’ Club in Masterton, now Wairarapa Services and Citizens Club, in August 2018 and beyond to the Armistice and the influenza epidemic that followed.
Mr Frances said there were almost 600 names on Wairarapa memorials with some names appearing more than once. Wairarapa Archive and Carterton District Council are working on identifying and obtaining service records for those commemorated on the memorials.
Among the recent arrivals at the Wairarapa Archive have been papers from the family of early pakeha settler George Smith.
Smith, who farmed to the east of Masterton before settling in the town in the 1870s, had four children – two sons, two daughters. The unmarried daughters Margaret and Gladys, befriended a Wellington-based World War One soldier, William Dobson, who sent them a variety of cartoons from Featherston Military Training Camp, and from his service overseas. Dobson survived the war and became a successful tiler and, in the words of his son, a “frustrated cartoonist”.