Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 46, September 2002
Contributed by the Eccles Family
George (Hori) Foote grew up in the Thames Valley at Orongo until he was approximately nine years old when he went on holiday with the Eccles family in Auckland. He refused to come back to the home farm, possibly because the lifestyle was too hard as he would have been helping to milk the cows by hand, and all the other chores associated with dairy farming in those days. He stayed in Auckland, taking the Eccles name and, after leaving school, worked in a laundry for a few years. He then moved back down to the Thames Valley area to his mother and father's farm where he worked until he met and married Doris Celene Taipari from Thames.
They moved into her parent's farm cottage, working on the farm until he got a job at the Lime Works in Turua, while still milking the cows morning and night, at the Taipari family farm. They produced three children, one boy, Robert Eccles and two girls, Florence (Beckingsale) and Barbara (Johns).
During the Second World War George was unable to go because of a foot deformity but, not wanting to shirk his duty, he enlisted in the "Mounties" instead. The Mounties were the NZ Mounted Police on horseback and were equivalent to the Home Guard, but with horses.
George and Doris's main livelihood during their lifetime was farming at Turua, but his two main loves after the family, were fishing and cooking. He did do a lot of cooking, and was a wonderful cook, cooking up to three or four course meals and, in latter years, inviting his children and their families around for meals quite often. He used to make trays of lollies for the Turua School Gala days and also for the Thames Police for their fundraising.
He always told Mum that if she died first he would go to sea as a chef, therefore combining his two greatest joys. However this was never to eventuate, as they were both retired when Mum died in 1980, and Dad was too old by then to do it. He also achieved another ambition when he bought a charter boat to take people out fishing. This turned eventually into a commercial fishing venture, which he did for four years, until just before retiring.
After retiring from the commercial fishing venture and with Robert running the family farm, he and Mum had some very long holidays in the North and South Islands. When they sold the farm he was going to live down the Thames Coast but, on finding that Robert was moving to Paeroa, they decided that that was where they wanted to live as well. They then bought Bill Linn's house in Station Road, Paeroa, in 1976. After retiring in Paeroa, he started collecting the Royal Albert Old Country Rose china in 1977.
He had always been a very keen collector; his first attempt was New Zealand stamps. It took him forty years to do it but he managed to collect every stamp produced in New Zealand.
Then he became a very keen photographer, learning developing and photographing techniques. He later earned awards and sometimes won prizes for his photographs. Sometimes Dad would have the camera outside, facing a small flower and, after setting the time release to take a photo at certain time periods, he would leave the camera taking the pictures for the next twenty-four hours, catching the flower slowly opening and closing. It was quite amazing to see.
Another interest was the collecting of fine crystal and this was displayed in several china cabinets around the walls of their lounge. Mum used to say, "Look at all the fine glasses we own and here we are drinking out of Marmite jars", and then she would laugh at her joke.
It was on a trip to Takapuna that really aroused Dad's interest in collecting the china. They already had the tea set and Dad saw a dinner set in the window of another shop. He paid a $10 deposit on the set, went away to have lunch and then returned to pay the remainder of the $1100 price tag. The shop owners were really pleased with the deal and gave him an Italian-made wine jug worth about $100 as a bonus. The collection grew from there. He once said, "I like the thing and just seem attracted to it".
When travelling away from home, the first priority was to visit gift and china shops, although the major source of items for the collection was Flora Cameron's gift shop in Te Aroha. She had a good idea of what they'd already collected and telephoned when she'd get in something they didn't already have. Parts of the collection were bought from Australia and around the North and South Islands. Dad even sourced the china dialling telephone from England, having it especially sent out for him.
The Royal Albert Old Country Rose china is edged with 24 carat gold and included in the collection are two porcelain dolls, hand made and painted in four colours and a 1980 calendar plate, to list just a few of the pieces.
Dad and his new partner, Lorraine, carried on collecting and, a few years before they stopped collecting the china, it was conservatively valued at $30,000. They had a security system put in to protect it.
Bus loads from Tauranga and Auckland used to visit and also individuals and groups travelling by car would call in. All visitors were encouraged to make a donation to IHC.
A few years before he died, Dad asked his children if they would like to have the collection shared amongst them, but they had no wish to see the set broken up and when Dad suggested giving it to the Paeroa Museum they all agreed that it was a great idea. It was then that the whole collection was donated to the Paeroa Museum.
George Eccles died in October 1995.