upload image

Down from Marble Mountain

Privacy Level: Open (White)

Location: Takaka Hill, Motueka, Nelson, New Zealandmap
Surnames/tags: Knight Takaka_Hill
Profile manager: John Mayes private message [send private message]
This page has been accessed 66 times.

Henderson, Jim. Down from Marble Mountain pp 42 to 45. Hodder and Stoughton, Auckland, New Zealand 1983.; The Nelson, New Zealand Public Library has a copy.

Transcription: The construction company built huts for the workers, numbering now about five families. Chunky boxes, identical, ugly, took shape, unpainted or dabbed with creosote, shoddy, very badly built, thin malthoid roof, very draughty, but at least giving more room. The beating rain backed by wind seeped in. Cuttings infiltrated into the valley, planted by doorsteps; geraniums and daisy bushes: imperturbable grannybonnets, a daphne bush, bulbs, roses, watch out for those damned sheep, and the comfort of cosmos. The wild foxgloves up the hill smiled. Esta's hut on a slight rise stood a little above the others, and the dag of the colony, Mrs Jonesey, was quick to call the Duncans "The nobs on the hill." "Nothing further from the truth," Esta insisted. Fully alert to the absurdities of life, prepared for the uncomfortable if not the inevitable, Mrs Jones was a happy soul, despite a distressing injury to her face. Esta found her ready sense of fun and Lancashire wit a wonderful asset to the little shut-away community. She had a family of five, daily threatening to "completely annihilate the lot." The kids, swift as goats among the logs and rocks, couldn't have cared less. In times of stress, with much satisfaction, Jonesey quoted her fond old slogan: "Thanks to our neighbours' misfortunes, life is tolerably bearable." That was her lifeline, felt Esta, who for a score of years later could still hear distinctly her cheery ringing call, wet or fine: "Away down for your cup of tea, lass." The leaves fell and renewed three times in the old rhythm, three breaths of Nature, then no more teacup talk, for ever, with Jonesey about Manoys and Vickermans groceries, recipes, knitting patterns, man's inhumanity, woodhen fat. The quarry families at this time were the Pattersons, Packwoods, Mr Ross, Mr Cooper, the Bob Clarkes, Jones and Duncans. Mr Ross, who had been a ship's engineer roving into many strange places, was a gentle, almost wistful man, seemingly bewildered to find himself berthed in this weird harbour. Consoling himself, with infinite patience and spare time, he made beautiful pink-tinged marble clocks. What in the name of ten thousand cats could they possibly do in their spare time, with not even radio, and the boss Mr Cooper about the only one with a portable windup HMV gramophone, a dark snake coming out by the tone arm, to plug into an almost extinct ear, to hear his great love Toti del Monte, Gilbert and Sullivan, and, swaying, the edge of his affliction slightly eroded by song, his favourite, "Ramona". An atheist, firm in his non-belief, Mr Cooper later bought a little farm down below at Sandy Bay, and sad to say, shot himself. February 1920, came in sizzling heat. "Hop it, luv," suggested Jonesey. Heavily pregnant, Esta got ready to leave for Miss Rumbold's Home at Motueka. Flatly refusing to ride up on old Dick the white horse who grazed dreamily round Kairuru's woolshed when not wanted, she gamely started toiling up the now wellknown goat-track leading to the hilltop. An other¬wise useless father-to-be, dazed in anticipation, offered a very acceptable arm at slippery places, and when his love became overbreathless. "If it's two, I'll help, luv," Jonesey had called, Esta thinking poorly of this but hoping she could still take a joke. Twin sons! Twin sons, for the hills of the outbacks! "How all too prophetic Jonesey had been!" Esta told admirers. Dear old Doctor Deck claimed he'd got the biggest shock (no clinics in those days). Down to Motueka from the hill came mum and Nen, like two Wise Women to the shrine, to call, congratulate in delight, and bring a parcel of clothes for the double event. They smiled a little, saying, "Of course we quite understand. Of course, of course," when the 24-year-old mother surprising herself with a few totally unexpected tears, pointed out she hadn't wanted two babies all at once. As for the brand-new father: "Hubby remarked, when he was quite sure that there were twins, 'I'm glad there were two.' "Rather a witless comment, I thought, feeling as I did then," according to Esta, "but bless his heart, he really meant it. He didn't seem to notice that they looked like nothing more than a pair of plucked pigeons." His promise "to the boys back at the works" seemed a matter of pressing urgency, and he departed to collect and deliver the doings. Back blearily to mother and his two sons next day, he soon sensed his popularity was zero: no hero this, just very small fry indeed. "Quarry bound, down the goat-track, I wasn't worried now. I knew if there was any anxiety, the Kairuru folk would know . . . "Jonesey was very good. We were able to cope. The many sleepless nights, and miles of washing dragged into a routine. We managed to keep them alive . . . but tired. That is scarcely the word." My own dad Herbert, I'm pleased to record, on his way round the hills, often stopped at the door of the Duncans' hut, and a trifle apprehensively - was he almost afraid of them? - asked: "And how are the Bawling Beauties today?" "I assure you at least they are still bawling," Esta would smile back. The Parliament Valley twins lived long enough to survive four years of war overseas. The irrepressible Jonesey died. Dad died, another family bereft. Then, almost simultaneously, Esta's husband died, she thinking and wondering: "Where is the reason of it all? They could be so ill-spared."

Gratefully used by her grandson John to illustrate the character of Ellen Jones nee Knight in the face of unrelenting hardship and pain.

  • Login to edit this profile and add images.
  • Private Messages: Send a private message to the Profile Manager. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)

Leave a message for others who see this profile.
There are no comments yet.
Login to post a comment.