Words by Yvonne Riddiford

As you can appreciate, now in my hundredth year, I arrived well before the technology did … but I can see that there are advantages to it. One of these arrived the other day when Jane and I received an email from somebody quite unknown. She was an artist called Hiria Anderson. It turned out that she is writing a history of Otewa pa to mark their 100th anniversary . Her particular interest was that her great grandfather Te Ngoi Maika was the head of the pa in the early 1900’s.

Te Ngoi Maika

As soon as Hiria began her research into the name Te ngoi maika, another name kept cropping up and that was Spencer Westmacott who was my father. It was technology that enabled her to discover that Spencer was one of four young South Island men; Roly Hill, John Rolleston and Stanley Britten, who had come North in 1910 to find land in the King Country at a more reasonable price than it was at that time in South Canterbury. Spencer became a lessee of the Māori King Mahuta taking up a piece of land on the side of Rangitoto mountain. Otewa pa lay on the route between Otorohanga and Rangitoto. Of course there was no road and it took the better part of two days and so my father was happy to accept the invitation to stay the night in the pa. Te Ngoi Maika became a good friend of my father and my father lent on him heavily when he needed extra hands in clearing the bush and so on.

Spencer Westmacott on the right ( unclear which of his South Island friends are on the left)

The remarkable thing for me is that Hiria found the mention of the relationship between my father and her great grandfather in my ‘Turning of the Wheel’ blog post that first  appeared last year on this website. I know that in setting up the website and the associated Ruamāhanga Farm Foundation my daughters have spoken about connecting and growing community. Of particular interest to me is restoring relationships with Māori which as far as I was brought up to understand were very good for my father when he was a young man in the King Country. Unfortunately as a little girl growing up I had very little to do with Otewa Pa. Hiria contacting me and having a zoom call with her and her Auntie, Lorraine Anderson, not only brought those early years very much to life in my mind but also filled a gap in my own history and my experience now

Also on the call was Liz Cowan who works at the Otorohanga Museum. A few days ago I received a parcel from her including photos of my father and one of my mother Jean Westmacott’s recipe books; The Up-To-Date Cook’s Book (Miss Mildred A. Trent, MCA) published in New Zealand. One of my roles on our volunteer planting days is to make the soup for lunch. Hence I looked at the soup section of Mum’s recipe book with great interest and was disappointed. I thought by today’s standards, the soups looked pretty disgusting; lard, flour and even sugar seemed to be the main ingredients. On reading a draft of this post Hiria’s mother Dallis reported on a version of Māori porridge from around the same time; just flour and water. As Hiria said, “Not so appealing either … those women of that era sure made do with what they had.”

Jean Westmacott and her recipe book, Circa 1927