Mataroa is a tiny settlement just north of Taihape, about 5km off State Highway 1. I called in there today, just to have a look, because my grandfather grew up there in the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th.
I thought that I might be able to find traces of my family in the cemetery, and as I was making my way towards it, I met a local farmer, Dave Coogan. I asked Dave if there were any Murphy headstones in the cemetery, but he said there were none. But he advised me to go and call on Barry Cleaver, just down the road, who knew a lot of local history.
So I did. And what a good thing that turned out to be.
Mr Cleaver has assembled photos of all the families who were part of the district. He made me a cup of tea, and found his album, and let me look through it. And there I found my grandfather.
The family home was just down the road from where Mr Cleaver lives. It’s not there now, but I was able to find the site.
I didn’t think that my grandfather had served in World War I, but there was a photo of him in uniform, with his brothers Gus and Gerald.
And there was a photo of my great-grandmother, as a very elderly lady.
I was astounded to see all these photos, and to get a sense of my grandfather as a boy, and the district where he grew up. After the war he moved away, and with his brother Gus, settled land at Aotuhia, about 100km away as the tui flies, but more than 300km by road, thanks to the narrow valleys and high hills of the dissected hill country between coastal Taranaki and the central plateau. Later on they moved to Whangamomona, where my mother was born, and so was I.
It was a great pleasure to find this old connection with Mataroa, in the heart of the Rangitīkei electorate. I’m very grateful to Mr Cleaver for being so hospitable and so generous with his knowledge, and for allowing me to take quick snapshots of the photos.
(If any of my Murphy cousins are reading this, e-mail me and I can send copies of the snapshots to you.)