The following is a copy of an article published in an Auckland newspaper in August 1925.

It tells of an interview with Lydia Hawkes, aged 89. years, who married Thomas Robert McLarnon in 1861.


A Pioneer Mother


Few records of the lives of Aucklands pioneer fathers and mothers hold such elements of tragedy and absorbing human interest as that of an aged lady, Mrs. Thomas McLarnon, of Clarence Street, Ponsonby, who sat in a snug corner of her little verandah last week, and talked reminiscently of days long gone by.

Mrs. McLarnon, who was one of a family of six, was born at Maidenhead in 1836, her father being Mr. Benjamin Hawkes. They came to New Zealand on the ship Louisa Campbell in 1842, and Mr. Hawkes obtained employment with Mr. Mason, a farmer who lived in Aucklands first "milk walk", as it was known in those days, in Mount Eden.

Within a few short weeks of landing, dire tragedy darkened the lives of this pioneer family. A baby boy, who had suffered greatly as a result of the rigours of the long sea-voyage, died a day or two after landing. Soon afterwards a twin baby girl died in a tragic manner, through a poisonous beetle falling into her mouth from the roof of the "whare" while she slept. A week or two later, the mother, while doing the family wash in one of the old fashioned three-legged iron pots, was fatally scalded, and within a very short time the other baby girl was dead too.

Housekeeper at Eleven

Mr. Hawkes laid his wife and three children to rest in old Symonds Street Cemetery, Mrs. Hawkes burial being the second that took place there. "I shall never forget the night he came home after my mothers funeral," said Mrs. McLarnon. "He was stricken to the heart with grief, and I remember how he took we three children in his arms and knelt and prayed to God to sustain him in his sorrow and help him to be a father and mother to us. I was six then, and the two boys were a little older. It was a terrible time for him, for he was a stranger in a new land, almost friendless, and he did not know what the future might hold in store for us all."

The little girl was sent to Mrs. Woodleys boarding school, in Victoria Street, near Queen Street, and here she remained until she was eleven years old, when she went to keep house for her father, who had taken over Major Bunberrys farm at Tamaki, near old St. Thomas Church. Speaking of her schooldays, Mrs. McLarnon chuckled reminiscently as she spoke of the long walks out to the wilds of Ponsonby, and the excitement of seeing the boys of the district chasing wild goats and pigs through the tea-tree that covered the hills.

Out at Tamaki, which in those days was considered the very heart of the wilds, the little orphan and the widower came under the notice of the good Bishop Selwyn and his wife. Mrs. Selwyn "mothered" the little girl with loving care, and Mr. Hawkes did a good deal of work for Bishop Selwyn at St. Johns College. For thirteen years little Lydia Hawkes kept house for her widowed father and two brothers, undergoing all the privations and hardships that were the common lot of the pioneers of those early days.

Walking to the City

There was no road to Auckland, of course, the only means of access being a clay track, and with her father the little girl walked the eight miles in to the city many and many a time, carrying a basket of eggs and bringing back groceries in their place. "We used to think nothing of it" declared the old lady with a glint of the old time fire shining in her dim eyes. "Why, many and manys the time I plodded along what is now Remuera Road through mud almost up to my knees, and when it got too deep we used to turn into the flax at the side of the track and get along that way! There was only one horse and cart in the district, owned by Mr. Atkin, at Kohimarama, and sometimes, when father could afford it, he used to get the cart for work on the farm, but we always went into Auckland afoot. And we were none the worse for it, either, for it made us strong and healthy. Look at me, the mother of fourteen, and all Ive been through, and here I am nearly ninety!".

It certainly seemed a wonderful record, especially when the valiant old lady went on to speak of the breaking up of the Tamaki homestead, and a new trip out into the back blocks, this time into the wilds of Pokeno. Then came the Maori War and fresh adventures and excitements, but no further harm came to the Hawkes family. Finally Mr. Hawkes settled at Papatoetoe, and his daughter married Mr. McLarnon of that district. For a few years the father, who had never re-married, lived with the young couple; then one day, just after the birth of Mrs. McLarnons second child, his horse bolted with him and he was thrown. Thus ended tragically, at the comparatively early age of 52, the life of a man who had known more than his share of sorrow.

Twelve Children Still Living

For many years Mrs. McLarnon lived in the Papatoetoe district, rearing a family large even for those days of large families, eight sons and six daughters. Twelve are still living, all being married with the exception of one daughter, who is the stay and comfort of her mothers declining years, Mr. McLarnon having died over 20 years ago.

There are over 30 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and when this valiant old lady celebrates her ninetieth birthday next January, there will be a memorable foregathering of her descendants. Mrs. McLarnon, although slightly deaf, is still able to read the papers and takes interest in all that is going on around her.

But of one things she is convinced- the present generation does not come up to the past! "Too much pleasure" she said with a shake of the head. "Too much excitement and not nearly enough thanking God for His blessings. They dont know what theyve got to be thankful for, especially those with mothers."


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