Skip to content

East Cape 7: More small town ghosts and picking up the family trail

We were on the downhill run now to Gisborne but the car detoured off again, this time to Tokomaru Bay. Originally named for sandflies, there’s a bit more going for it these days – in the East Cape sense at least.

Sorry for the big interruption in this series – work has been relentless the last few weeks.

Driving through the small quiet township, we carried on a few more minutes, over a one lane bridge with an extremely vicious speed hump, and out to the old wharf.

Tokomaru Bay wharf operated from 1911-1952 and mainly handled produce from the nearby freezing works.

Tokomaru Bay wharf operated from 1911-1952 and mainly handled produce from the nearby freezing works.

I watched as three drunk friends gave support to a fourth as they weaved down the wharf, leaving behind the dregs of their beer and cask wine on a picnic table.

We watched as three drunk friends gave support to a fourth as they weaved down the wharf, leaving behind the dregs of their beer and cask wine on a picnic table.

This northern end of bay is called Waima. The jetty and sheds were here first, the freezing works up on the hill were added later.

This northern end of bay is called Waima. The jetty and sheds were here first, the freezing works up on the hill were added later.

Short on time (not to mention disinclined to navigate around drunk people) we gave a wharf walk a miss and explored the freezing works instead.

Fantastic place. This was it back in the day.

There’s an abundance of history at this end of Tokomaru Bay as just along from the freezing works is The NZ Shipping Company building, former home of the Harbour Board. It’s far from being an abandoned ruin based on the reasonably good exterior and the equipment being stored inside, though the weathertightness leaves a lot to be desired.

NZ Shipping Company, Tokomaru Bay

NZ Shipping Company, Tokomaru Bay
NZ Shipping Company, Tokomaru Bay

Driving back through town, I couldn’t resist a few quick snaps of derelict buildings.

Pointed back toward Gisborne again we stayed on course until half an hour out, where one final deviation was planned. Down this side road we picked up the family trail again, with two more places of interest from Dad’s childhood.

Panikau Road

The house where my grandparents moved the family to after leaving the old cottage we saw earlier in the day. They stayed here six months before moving to another house back on the main road (now very difficult to see, possibly because of a road re-configuration).

The house where my grandparents moved the family to after leaving the old cottage we saw earlier in the day. They stayed here six months before moving to another house back on the main road (now very difficult to see, possibly because of a road re-configuration).


Between 1932-72 this was the site of Mihiwhetu School where Dad and siblings went for two years.

Between 1932-72 that was the site of Mihiwhetu School where Dad and siblings went for two years.

Nikau trees were dotted around - I assume they are partly attributable to the name of the road (Panikau).

Nikau trees were dotted around – I assume they are partly attributable to the name of the road (Panikau).

A fairly common site around the region - a logging truck off to the port in Gisborne.

A fairly common site around the region – a logging truck off to the port in Gisborne.

We reached Gisborne where the family gathering part of the weekend began. I’ll cover that next time, but there’s one final part to the heritage trail to round out this post.

On the drive back to Wellington a couple of days later we passed through the blink-and-miss-it settlement of Bartletts where the family moved to in 1954. It was a little bigger back then, certainly big enough to require a postmistress which became Nana’s occupation. Here in Bartletts the last of the 10 children was born.

My grandfather died in 1964 (a young 57, and eight years before my arrival into the world) and within a few months Nana moved into Gisborne along with the last of her children still at home. Eight years after my arrival into the world, she passed away. Yesterday was the 34th anniversary of her death.

They are buried together in Gisborne’s Taruheru Cemetery.

Advertisements
17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tawai Thatcher #

    hi Hayley, got on to your blog and enjoyed it immensely. what great trip you all had. I will get Ian to have a look at it. Great to have insight, to the Grace family,and their earlier lives . Thanks for thatXX

    2 August 2014
    • Tawai, thanks very much – I really appreciate it! Mum and I would like to produce a Grace heritage trail leaflet to send out to family, so that everyone has the info if they ever feel inclined to drive the East Cape. Hopefully we can get onto that in the next few months. x

      2 August 2014
  2. Hayley, love the photos of the derelict buildings (and Wool Store sign), as well as the nikau tree – is that a local term for palm? Nice to see you back in the blogosphere 😉

    2 August 2014
    • Thanks Amit! Good question – the nikau is NZ’s only native palm. I hate letting a week go by without doing something constructive on the blog but I just had to put it on the backburner. I also have a massive backlog of blog reading to do, including yours – hopefully August will have better work-life balance!

      2 August 2014
  3. Janice Strong #

    Really interesting Hayley loved learning about your family even if I am going backwards with the blogs but couldn’t resist to start reading this one. I know what it’s like when work takes over these things. Loved the Caution sign. I can see the family likeness with your Grandfather. The Nikau Palm is brilliant and all those old buildings not in use! These towns were such busy places and now so empty.
    Will continue reading now.
    Janice
    xxx

    3 August 2014
    • Thank you Janice! Dad looks the most like his dad than any of his brothers (and I think I got my grandfather’s chin/jawline!). The East Cape has so many interesting things and places – it was fun uncovering them and I can’t wait to return with a bit more time. x

      9 August 2014
  4. It has been such fun going on your family adventure with you – I’m fascinated by the landscape, the plants and THAT tree – The nikau palm, what a beauty. Your pictures ooze atmosphere, really making it real for us, the reader. Fantastic job, Hayley, thank you! I especially love the old buildings with the graffiti paintings. 10 children, can you imagine? 😀

    3 August 2014
    • No I cannot imagine having 10 children! 🙂 Especially seeing how mischievous those brothers are when they get together even now. Thanks so much Lottie for your support and comments.

      9 August 2014
  5. Ali #

    Another great post. Love your photos. Shame that work has been interrupting your blogging. I don’t know how people find the time to blog daily (or even weekly, for that matter!)

    3 August 2014
    • Gawd I know, some people are blogging machines. I’m a blogging tortoise :). Many thanks Ali. Your recent posts are in my big backlog to catch up on.

      9 August 2014
  6. A real ghost town. And I think it’s very quaint in its own way. I am astounded to see there is no trash aong the roads. People there clearly don’t throw our their trash. In my town there is trash along the streets and out on the highways. It is disgusting.

    The sign that said, “SLOW” for children ,stock, and old people made me smile. I don’t think one would ever find a sign like that in the US. Great to see that New Zealand cares.

    3 August 2014
    • Hi Yvonne, lovely to get your comment. The Tokomaru Bay township does still have a pulse, albeit a slow one, but is most definitely a shadow of its former self. You do get people littering and whatnot here (I’ll never be able to understand what compels this behaviour), but on the whole it’s not too bad. What has been getting a bit of media attention in the past few years are the freedom campers: tourists in their cars or campervans who rock up to places which aren’t sanctioned camping grounds, and hence don’t have any facilities, but where they’re usually able to park overnight free of charge. However, if their vehicles don’t have toilets, they do their business outside in nearby bush or whatever, leaving behind their waste and toilet paper. Now that is disgusting.

      9 August 2014
      • Oh gee that is not good with the illegal campers. Trashy folks for sure. I supppose it is happening world wide.

        10 August 2014
  7. I’ve missed your posts! Hope work slows down for you … eventually. 🙂

    That image of the less-than-steady friends was priceless. I hope the bridge wharf stopped spinning for them! 😉

    The slow down because of “Children — Stock — Old People” made me almost spray my laptop screen with coffee.

    As always, I really enjoyed traveling through your family’s history with you!

    3 August 2014
    • Hi Cindi, great to hear from you and I’m sorry I’ve not yet been able to catch up with your posts. I was actually amazed those blokes on the wharf managed to stay on the wharf, given it’s not especially wide. Next weekend we have four days down in Queenstown where I Shall Not Be Taking Any Work – can’t wait!

      9 August 2014
  8. I love those shots of the weathered buildings, especially that door (9419)

    8 October 2014
    • Thanks Tim, it’s a marvellous part of the world for that sort of thing.

      8 October 2014

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: