Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 5, May 1966


I was interested to see in the September Journal Mr L. Morgan's mention of Mr Charles Harley. Here at the Ford we live on a section that once belonged to the Harley family. Indeed some of the pitsawn timber and hand forged nails are still in the house though it has been added to and altered since then. Traces of long occupation remain. Where a smithy stood bits of old iron and rusty horse-shoes turn up, and a subsoil like rock follows the track that vehicles used on their way to the smithy. The old well is still in use and has never failed in the driest Summer. An amusing tale about this well was told us by Mr. A. Thompson, a partner in "Thompsons' Prams". He came as a farm cadet in 1894 to work for the Harley family. The two boys, Fred and Harry were about his own age. He had happy and nostalgic memories of the two years he was here. He loved the carefree outdoor life; he enjoyed riding along the sandhills rounding up cattle which roamed as far as Waihi Beach and the bush behind. "The Harleys treated me well", he said. "They were fine people to work for."

He was a spry and jolly 86 when he dropped in here, entertaining us with anecdotes of the old days. He chuckled over the story of the well. Harry was down below sending up buckets of earth to the young cadet at the top. By some mischance he dropped one on Harry's irate head. Pandemonium ensued. Loud yells and curses followed him as he took to his heels with Harry in hot pursuit. He fled for his life and didn't return till the storm had blown over late that night.

At 86 he still had zest in life, enthusing over the crisp lettuce from the garden, and the Scotch shortbread I produced. Alas we read of his death last year.

This was the place where Captain and Mrs. Hugh Stewart stayed when they arrived in New Zealand in 1878 - in the boarding house kept by a negro. A two-storied house, Mrs. Stewart dubbed it "Tinpot Castle." I imagine there were few comforts then. The Captain and his wife trekked up the hills through the tea-tree to their homesite overlooking the sea and the rugged countryside. Thus "Athenree" was established, named after the village in Ireland they had left - Athenrey.

Bowentown, or Katikati Heads, as it was called then, was an important centre. Its harbour was the gateway to the district until the Tahawai and Tuapiro rivers were bridged. It had a trading centre and a boarding house. Its telegraph station received and dispatched all messages to and from Katikati. When the Katikati post office was established in 1879 the Government stipulated that if enough business didn't go through the telegraph office would be closed.

It was rumoured that a settler, General Stoddard, used to send batches of unnecessary telegrams just to keep the office open!

Another old landmark here is our "Kitty" gate. This stout old gate has weathered the storms since last century. The tale is that Kitty Harley and her lover were leaning over the gate saying their last farewell before he went off to the South African war. He took out his pocket-knife and idly carved her name on the top rail. And there it is to this day - upside down! When the Tauranga Historical Society visited this area last year, Mrs. E. Hawkins was so intrigued by the sad tale - for he didn't return - that she took a photo of the gate and entrance. Later she made a charming little sketch from the photo. She sent it to us, with a poem she composed. I will enclose it.

It is twenty-five years since we came to live in the district, and there have been many changes in that time. The Ford was a windswept spot with few trees for shelter. There were only one or two houses, but at Bowentown there was quite a large Maori population. Perhaps sometime you would like to hear about the fairly recent past. Time slinks by so unobtrusively, that before you know it, present happenings are far behind us entangled in the past, and themselves already history.

(Mrs. Jean Goodyear was born in Scotland and was already widely travelled before coming to N.Z. During the first World War she served in the British Land Army which helped to prepare her for a career as a Landscape Gardener when she moved to California, and later to N.Z. Here she married a man of the land, Mr. S.J. Goodyear of Maketu, Tauranga, son of Canon Wm. Goodyear of the Church Missionary Society, and Minister in charge of the Tarawera area at the time of the l876 Eruption.

After years of farming the family moved to Athenree in 1940 and have converted a wilderness into a veritable "Garden of Eden", where exotic fruit trees and flowers now grace the scene in which a few old Karaka and Fig Trees still bear witness to an earlier story.

Mr. & Mrs. Goodyear have a son with U.N.E.S.C.O., a Civil Engineer now stationed in Bagdad after being in Canada; a daughter who is a Horticulturist in Australia, and another (Mrs. Smith) who lives on the old Athenree Estate.)


1) The gate swings wide 'twixt hedges green,

Beyond it glow the garden flower,

The low house gable frames the scene

All sunlit in those noontide hours.


2) But ere you through the gateway go,

Just pause to view the gate's top-bar;

Where carven symbold in a row

Raise wonder as to what they are.


3)"Letters-?" you ask. "A name maybe".

You try in vain to read it; but

At last with some surprise you see

'Tis upside down the name is cut.


4) "Kitty." Across the gate he leant -

That lad who kept his love-tryst here-

And, working with his head down-bent,

He carved the name he held most dear.


5) Then at the sound of footsteps light-

The busy knife aside he threw,

While in a world grown glad and bright,

They greeted as true lovers do.


6) Their story's end I do not know.

He went to fight across the sea.

That was o'er sixty years ago,

And time has veiled their history.


7) And yet I feel that when this place

Lies tranquil 'neath the moonlight beams,

From gate, from flowers there breathes the grace

Of old-time love and happy dreams.