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East Cape 3: A few churches and the family heritage trail begins

Bleary-eyed, I poked my head around the curtains. Upon seeing the light and early morning colours I went scrambling for my camera. It wasn’t exactly ‘sunrise’; the big golden ball was seemingly as enthusiastic to get out of bed as I was.

Early morning light, East Cape

Early morning horizon, East Cape

One very unspectacular self-catered breakfast later, I checked out and got underway.

‘Underway’ is sort of an overstatement: I drove about 200m away to St Paul's Church up on the hill above where I stayed. Churches would be one of the themes of the day

‘Underway’ is sort of an overstatement: I drove about 200m away to St Paul’s Church up on the hill above where I stayed.

Headstone for a young local man killed on the Somme

Headstone for a young local man killed on the Somme

A tree near the church got my attention, and the sight of a strange woman craning weirdly upward at a dead tree got the attention of the neighbour towing out his boat

A tree near the church got my attention, and the sight of a strange woman craning weirdly upward at a dead tree got the attention of the neighbour towing out his boat


There's a family connection with Cape Runaway so when it came into view I stopped. The chewing cows were less impressed.

There’s a family connection with Cape Runaway so when it came into view I stopped. The chewing cows were less impressed.

Once upon a time this was a motor camp. Now it's for sale as a lifestyle block.

Once upon a time this was a motor camp. Now it’s for sale as a lifestyle block.

The Church of St Peter at Raukokore came to being in the early 1930s after a local man gifted the site to the Catholic Church. Services were held up to the late 1970s after which it lay empty... though there was the time a police raid found 65kg of marijuana spread across the floor! In 2002 the property was returned to the man's family. A large whale jawbone arch that stood outside the church can be found in the Whakatane Museum.

The Church of St Peter at Raukokore came to being in the early 1930s after a local man gifted the site to the Catholic Church. Services were held up to the late 1970s after which it lay empty… though there was the time a police raid found 65kg of marijuana spread across the floor! In 2002 the property was returned to the man’s family. A large whale jawbone arch that stood outside the church can be found in the Whakatane Museum.

Initially I walked around the exterior and peered through the windows. The noise this created against the glass freaked out a bird that had been trapped inside and the poor bird resumed attempts to get out - by flying into one of the windows, enough times to eventually kill itself. It was a bit distressing to see and hear - especially when I got back to the door and saw that I could in fact open it. Just a couple of minutes too late :(

Initially I walked around the exterior and peered through the windows. The noise this created against the glass freaked out a bird that had been trapped inside and the poor bird resumed attempts to get out – by flying into one of the windows, enough times to eventually kill itself. It was a bit distressing to see and hear – especially when I got back to the door and saw that I could in fact open it. Just a couple of minutes too late 😦

Across the road is the very beautiful Anglican church.

Across the road is the very beautiful Anglican church.


It was built at the end of the 19th century and thanks to a restoration in recent years, is still in use (as evidenced by the dried rose petals on the ground).

It was built at the end of the 19th century and thanks to a restoration in recent years, is still in use (as evidenced by the dried rose petals on the ground).

Anglican Church, Raukokore

I continued my journey south but had to stop before the church disappeared out of sight. It's such a distinctive landmark!

I continued my journey south but had to stop before the church disappeared out of sight. It’s such a distinctive landmark!

Cape Runaway was getting closer but wouldn't stay in full view for much longer. My grandfather worked on Cape Runaway Station.

Cape Runaway was getting closer but wouldn’t stay in full view for much longer. My grandfather worked on Cape Runaway Station.

I drove down to Waihau Bay, made somewhat famous by the movie 'Boy'.

I drove down to Waihau Bay, made somewhat famous by the movie ‘Boy’.


From this point the family heritage trail began to crank into gear.

Potikirua Station, where my grandfather first worked after emigrating to NZ and going to farming and agricultural school. From here he moved on to Cape Runaway Station.

Potikirua Station, where my grandfather first worked after emigrating to NZ and going to farming and agricultural school. From here he moved on to Cape Runaway Station.

Potikirua Station

Not sure if these yards date back to my grandfather's era, but their construction from wood and railway iron is unusual. The rugged land here would have made for a tough introduction to working life.

Not sure if these yards date back to my grandfather’s era, but their construction from wood and railway iron is unusual. The rugged land here would have made for a tough introduction to working life.

From here Gisborne is about 200km away. Also roughly here is the Ngāti Porou tribal boundary, which my father, brother and I are affiliated to.

From here Gisborne is about 200km away. Also roughly here is the Ngāti Porou tribal boundary, which my father, brother and I are affiliated to.

A few minutes later, and on time I might add, I met up with my parents and cousins at the intersection of the highway and the road down which my father lived after he was born. It was time for an excursion on gravel.

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12 Comments Post a comment
  1. The photos of the churches are right up my alley. I really, really like pic of old churches and barns, and old houses too. The pic of the church that you did in B & W is the prettiest. Teh tree at the back of the church adds so much to the photo. Fascinating family history that you were able to document.

    28 May 2014
    • Thanks very much Yvonne. I’m enjoying revisiting the trip through committing it to blog posts, though progress is never as quick as I’d like mainly due to the number of photos to be sifted through, then edited etc. The family history aspect really gave the trip added meaning, knowing they weren’t just any old buildings. My father’s old house, coming up in the next post, is an excellent case in point.

      29 May 2014
  2. The churches are beautiful and the landscape, out of this world and I enjoy reading your descriptions of everything. I wish I had a better idea where about’s in NZ this is. I’m going to get a map up and try to get my bearings. Hayley it’s so good to be following your adventures, I’m always thrilled when I see another post from you in my in-box. Looking forward to the next instalment and learning more about your family history.

    30 May 2014
    • Thanks so much Lottie! And for being curious enough to consult the map. Your comments made my day. (Whoops, almost published that as ‘made my dad’ 🙂 .)

      2 June 2014
      • hahahaha!! ‘made my dad’….don’t worry, I’ve made some right proper clangers in my posts.
        In regards to maps, I do like to get my bearings – it helps me visualise where I am or, as in the case of reading your posts, where I am reading about. In the UK we have very detailed maps covering the whole of Britain called Ordnance Survey maps. I’m hoping that there is something similar here in Spain. I’m a bit of a map nut! 😀

        2 June 2014
  3. I found it! Now I know where you are. Thank heavens for Google Maps! 😀

    30 May 2014
  4. Ali #

    And again, that Anglican church…so beautiful.

    23 June 2014
  5. Gorgeous photos, and even better with your family connection.

    27 June 2014
  6. Great post. I love Your church photos and I am very happy that You presented them. They differ from those we have in our villages, because many of our churches have a separate bell tower. I started my digital photographing by shooting photos from churches and now I have more than 430 church photos. They are real treasure trunks as also cemeteries.

    Thank You for this wonderful post.

    30 June 2014
    • Thank you Matti. I’ve seen many of your church photos! Comparing church architectures in different countries would be an interesting exercise I think.

      19 July 2014

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