Characters of Mangawhai

By: Bev Ross

Bullocks in front of courthouse, policeman’s house and chandlery.

The courthouse being demolished.

In 2013, I recorded a group of friends – Paddy Whynn, Judith Brown, Ivan Urlich and Jim Woods – who were descendants of early settlers in the district. This column contains snippets of that recording, which were published as Reminiscences of Mangawhai:
Walter Lawrence had his launch and a ‘slip-way’ for the dinghies that he built. He also had a large Chandler shop. It had nothing much in it but tins and ‘stuff’, and fish hooks, so was popular with the kids when buying their fishing gear. He also made spade handles. The friends all agreed that he had the largest counter in his shop that they had ever seen, before or since. It was a slab of timber that they estimated would have been about eight feet across. A memorable old clock hung on the wall, and on the face of it was written “NO TICK”. Mr Lawrence used to smoke a pipe, which had a chain on it, and a bottle top to put over the pipe in wet weather.

The Lawrence house was next to what was always known as the policeman’s house on Moir Street, in the village. A little further along the road was the courthouse, which was pulled down in 1939. The building had been left unlocked, and Paddy, as a child, recalled seeing a lot of papers strewn about the building after it was deserted, and remembered reading one which was a fine of 2/- (shillings) for someone! And after being demolished there were papers strewn all over the paddock. Documents hadn’t been collected or burnt or looked after. Timber from the courthouse was used to build Tommy Chappel’s house.
Near the junction of Insley Street and Molesworth Drive, a fisherman, Freddie Franich, lived. He caught hapuka, snapper, and netted for other varieties. He had a smokehouse, and his smoked fish was popular. His family ran a tea rooms from his home on Insley Road. He had a 30-foot launch, which he named Marina. This was prompted by the royal wedding of the Duke of Kent, George, to Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, creating headlines all over the world. He is given the credit for naming the area for boats to moor as being a ‘marina’. He was commercial fishing for 25 years, before retiring to Leigh.

Cliff Bowmar also did a lot of fishing from his boat and would take his catch around the roads in his truck for locals to see and choose from his offerings. Eddie Watts sold his boat to another fisherman, Asa Francis. During the years prior to rail reaching Kaiwaka, Mangawhai had to rely on sailing vessels and steam ships to bring in their cargo and take out their exports. Locals were able to let everyone know that an expected vessel was coming up harbour by using a flag system. One flag was hoisted on the top of a large macrocarpa tree, at the corner of Wood and Robert Streets. (Those streets weren’t developed at that time.) That flag was seen at Claude Wintle’s place up at the Tara, he then hoisted his flag which was sighted at Dan Bowmar’s old stone building, and the process repeated for those at Kaiwaka who let Baldiston, Donaldson and others know that they could go to Mangawhai to collect their supplies. That system was possible due to there being no trees left on hill or dale after all bush had been cleared for the timber trade.

Bev Ross, Mangawhai Museum


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