Topic: Violet Adela Marie Macmillan (1902-1981)
Violet Adela Marie Macmillan was born in Katikati on 3 June 1902. Her parents were Charles Edward Duncan Angus Evan Ewan Macmillan (1872-1941) who was Mayor of Tauranga from 1915 to 1917, and Ethel Louisa (nee Latham). Violet never married. In 1930 she gained her BHSc from Otago, and was also awarded a QSM. She died in Tauranga on 2 March 1981 and was buried in the Tauranga Anglican Cemetery.
Notes taken during a visit to Miss V. A. Macmillan, 34 Fraser Street, Tauranga, on 16th September, 1976. The notes have been scanned from material in the Biography File in the New Zealand Room, Tauranga City Libraries. Note that some contemporary references are now out of date. Miss Violet Macmillan is pictured on the right (c1970s).
Present with Miss Macmillan were Mr W. E. Morris and Mrs D. van Oorde. A newspaper cutting, from the Bay of Plenty Times of 4 January 1964, was shown, giving many details of Miss Macmillan's life and activities.
Miss Macmillan was born at Katikati on 3 June 1902, and mention of her christening at the No. 1 School in Katikati is made in Adela Stewart's My simple life in New Zealand, the authoress acting as godmother to the baby.
At that time there were already two schools serving the area; later No. 3 School was built at the turn-off to Tanner's Point.
Miss Macmillan attended the No. 2 School, where Mrs Atkinson was teacher. The latter had been a Miss Gledstanes, and was connected with the family of George Vesey Stewart. Mr Gledstanes owned a beautiful home in Beach Road where the Katikati College is now situated.
No. 2 School is to celebrate its centenary next year; a photograph of the teacher and pupils shows only a handful of children, and Miss Macmillan mentioned that the school seemed to consist of few children other than the Macmillan girls and four Louch girls.
During the family's stay in Katikati, Miss Macmillan's father purveyed food to the mining town of Waihi. However, when the butter factory began operating in Tauranga, a qualified man to keep the books was required, and Mr Macmillan applied for and obtained the position. He moved his family to Tauranga in the winter of 1907; although they at first lived at Greerton, he bought five acres of land not far from the factory in 11th Avenue, and a house was built in 1910. There were then only two other houses nearby, one belonging to Mr Weston which is still standing and owned by the Capamagians.
Holy Trinity Church fair c1913. Violet is the second from the left.
The Macmillans' house stood on the highest point, commanding beautiful views. It was built by Mr Macmillan and Mr Cary Gore Robinson, whose own house still stands in Willow Street, between Park and McLean Streets. Mr J. C. Adams, who also helped to build the Macmillan house, liked to use timber, etc., taken from other demolished buildings, and the stairs, for example, were bought ready-made, together with the banisters, and had to be put in at a slight angle to fit. They date from 1862, and came from the Mission Institute which later was turned into the Military Hospital. The Mission Institute was built to train the soldiers stationed in Tauranga for farming, and proved very successful; Sir George Grey donated a team of horses and also the salary of an instructor in ploughing.
The Macmillan house originally consisted of two bedrooms downstairs, living-room, sitting room, kitchen, and (a luxury then) a bathroom, with one bedroom upstairs. In 1917 the house was enlarged, the architect employed being Mr H. H. Clemson, while Mr Arthur Brewer was the builder. The half-timbering and Tudor beams are noteworthy, and Mrs Macmillan carved the embossed ornamentation herself. About 1970 the roof needed replacing, so the opportunity was taken to install a spacious studio upstairs.
The gardens were designed by Mrs Macmillan; hedges were grown to protect the property from the wind, and many trees were planted. A long drive wound up to the house. In those early years Fraser Street had not been formed, and the only access to the property was to follow 11th Avenue to the beach and then double back along a track up the bank.
The Cross family had a property nearby, where they grew lemons, and Mr Crump, who built the Town Hall, also owned some land in the neighbourhood.
During the period that the Macmillan family lived in Greerton the girls attended the local school, and Miss Macmillan was able to relate a good deal of the history of that district.
Amongst the many settlers brought out to the Tauranga district by George Vesey Stewart was Miss Lucy Mansell, who arrived in 1884 with four young sons of her brother, a former naval officer who had retired to South Africa with poor health and there died. To assist his widow Miss Lucy had taken the boys into her care, they being Herbert, Charles, William and Ernest Mansell. On board the ship Miss Lucy had made the acquaintance of Captain Kerr and Mr H. Lever. She took them under her wing, and on arriving in Tauranga bought the 300-odd acre Yatton Estate from Mr John Chadwick and crammed her protégés into the little four-roomed cottage which was there. In time Captain Kerr bought his own property, paying eleven pounds an acre for it, a high price for those days.
A large barn on Yatton Estate, which had been built from the timber from a barracks that in earlier times had accommodated two hundred men, was renovated and became the scene of numerous balls and social gatherings; the four-roomed cottage was enlarged to the extent of fourteen or sixteen rooms, and two or three outhouses were fitted out to accommodate guests. Yatton Estate under Miss Lucy Mansell became a focal point for Tauranga and in fact the whole district, becoming famous for its social and cultural gatherings; and many a picnic party drove out to enjoy the beautiful grounds. Miss Lucy planted there every kind of fruit tree; the flower beds were edged with box, and the shady park gave the appearance of an old English country estate. Unfortunately the big house was burned down in 1918 (some years after the death of Miss Lucy), due to the negligence of the caretaker, and many of the magnificent trees were felled and the flower gardens ruined. A small look-out in the present Park marks the site of the house, as also does a bay tree planted by Miss Lucy. In 1969 Miss Macmillan gave a series of talks about the development of Greerton and about the Yatton Estate; the notes were written up by Mrs K. Hawkins but unfortunately many inaccuracies crept into the text. The articles concerning the growth of Tauranga, written and published by Miss Macmillan, appear in the Tauranga Historical Society Journals Nos 17 and 18; another article she is at present working on concerning the street names is not yet ready for publication.
Miss Macmillan recalled a number of the families who lived in Greerton at the time of her residence there, and also some names associated with the area in much earlier times, notably Mr John Chadwick, who had acquired much land, a large part of which extended from Courtney Road to the Waimapu River, this being known as his Yatton Estate and being the property sold to Miss Lucy Mansell in 1884. He also owned land from the site of the Gate Pa Church down to the present grounds of the Tauranga Girls' College, known as his Gate Pa Estate; and a strip of land bordering the present race-course, on which the transformers are now standing.
Miss Macmillan spoke of Mrs Reeves, wife of Sergeant Reeves on whose orchard the Golden Queen peach was first produced; Mrs Reeves kept the little post-office at Greerton, which was the first stopping-place for the coach to Rotorua. The Reeves' orchard was on land leased from Mr Dickie, who owned all of the rise as far as St George's Church at Gate Pa. Miss Macmillan recalled the macrocarpas and the orange trees, and her first taste of this fruit. Sergeant Reeves also ran a piggery, which in time was taken over by the Fountain family, and later by the Christmas family. Near the Reeves, the Colletts had a property; and on the other side of Cameron Road, along Kent Street, the Tuthill family owned land, also the Olivers, who had the distinction of running an ostrich farm in Tauranga (The Katterns, of Katikati, also had an ostrich farm, but both these projects ceased when the fashion for ostrich feathers went out). Round Hynds Road (although it was not known by that name then) a number of old regular troops owned small allotments. Also living here was the Eyre family, Mr Eyre having been a marine sergeant on the "Rosario" and having settled in Greerton on retirement. Mrs Eyre was a grand cook, and did the baking for Miss Lucy Mansell; one day she baked big cakes, the next day she baked small cakes, and the next day Miss Lucy was "at home” to visitors. Miss Mansell and Captain Kerr were the most influential people in the whole district, preserving high Christian standards and being responsible for the establishing of a Sunday school at Gate Pa.
On the high ground above Shepherd's Road lived Dennis Kennedy, who liked to dress in his military regalia and parade up and down as though at battlements. This part was well known then as Kennedy's corner. Edward Reeves' father lived at the end of Shepherd's Road, and Mrs Reeves acted as midwife for the district. Continuing down Greerton Road one passed Mr Willie Mansell's property (formerly Harding's) on the left. Eventually Mr Vic Mansell acquired several unclaimed allotments in this area, it being the practice that if soldiers did not wish to take up their grants of land, any person willing to pay the rates over a certain period of time could in due course make claims to them.
Greerton as a district was exclusively reserved for providing land for discharged imperial troops, many of whom had been through the Crimean War and the Indian Rebellion before being posted to take part in the Maori Wars, and were only too pleased to receive their discharge in New Zealand. The district was named after Colonel Greer, who was in command after General Cameron left Tauranga.
Aerial view of Greerton, Chadwick Road left to right across centre,
Mansells Road bottom left joining Chadwick Road,
Oropi Road visible top left. c.1949
The district round 11th Avenue, known as the Quarter-Acres, was also set aside for soldiers' grants, but primarily for members of the militia (the Armed Constabulary). Under the command of Colonel Harington the enlisted men were paid so much per day and provided with quarters. In troublesome times the soldiers' families also were brought into the safety of the camp. The Durham Redoubt was situated where the Museum buildings are at present, at the corners of Harington Street, Durham Street and Cameron Road, while the Camp itself with its bell tents was on the high ground where the Domain tennis courts now are. The Durham Redoubt was intended to protect the town from any attack from the Otumoetai side. The Monmouth Redoubt, still in existence at the end of The Strand, was responsible for protecting the harbour and the approaches eastward. It was to the building which stood on the site of the present Commercial Travellers' Club (formerly called "High Trees") that the Maori leaders came after the defeat at Te Ranga to lay down their arms. Miss Macmillan also mentioned that The Gate (hence, correctly, The Gate Pa) and the ditch divided Church Missionary Society land from Maori land, the Mission owning all the Te Papa peninsula, but not the swampland running alongside.
Returning to the residents of the Greerton district, Miss Macmillan mentioned that Mr H. Lever, grandfather to the present generation, owned the property running along the ridge between Greerton Road and Cameron Road. Chadwick Road was known at that time as Oropi Road, and at the junction with Cameron Road fingerposts stood showing the way to Oropi and Rotorua. Beyond the fingerposts was a strip of land which in part had originally belonged to the Maori, but was later acquired by Mr John Chadwick. Beyond this lay a stretch of land set aside for the recreational use of the public, and this was eventually developed to become the Bay of Plenty Racecourse and the Tauranga Golf Course.
At the junction of Hynds Road and Oropi Road Mr and Mrs Moon owned property - five acres belonging to Mr Moon, on which he lived, and the adjoining five acres belonging to Mrs Moon, on which she lived, this being her own grant because she had served as a Florence Nightingale Nurse at the Crimean War. Mrs Moon was a local "character," the Maori being in awe of her forceful personality and believing her to be a witch. She lived in a little cottage under a massive magnolia tree, which unfortunately was destroyed when the site was eventually cleared for the building of the Greerton Hotel.
After the confiscation of the land from the Maori, the Kirk family came into possession of 600 acres lying opposite the present race-course. The Kirks were purveyors of meat for the Armed Constabulary, and produced the chaff to feed their horses.
Colonel Harington had authority over the whole of the Greerton settlement, and the men living on their allotments were still at his disposal.
Miss Macmillan mentioned at this point that her mother, who had been a Miss Young, was connected with Captain Tovey, and it was this fact that had originally brought her to Tauranga.
It was also mentioned that Sergeant Sam Reeves and Captain Kerr (who was a retired Royal Naval officer) were instrumental in the formation of the committee responsible for the building of the Gate Pa Church.
The Reverend Grace was spoken of, who built a house known as Te Ranga Ranga (the site of the present Norfolk Hospital) and a school for the Maori; also a finishing school for boys, which young Herbert and Ernest Mansell attended. Mr Grace was deeply concerned with the needs of the Maori people, and undertook a journey into the King Country, where no white man at that time dared to show his face. There he found the Maori living in abject and hopeless poverty, and realised they needed desperately spiritual help and encouragement. He did everything for them that he could, but was virtually alone in this work because by this time most of the missionaries were tending to gather in the white settlements and were there instructed by the Church Missionary Society to work, fulfilling the role of parish priests rather than that originally intended as missionaries to the Maori. Bishop Selwyn had lost his standing with the Maori when he accompanied General Cameron's troops in the war against the natives in the Waikato, and the fine progress made by the missionaries was undone. Mr Grace put it most strongly to the Church Missionary Society that the time had come when they must appoint a Maori bishop to gather the Maori people together and give them spiritual leadership. Unfortunately, the Society failed to act on this earnest recommendation, and as a result the Ratana, Hau-Hau, and later the Mormon, sects moved in and came to exercise a powerful influence over the people. On the Reverend Grace's headstone is written "He was a missionary to the Maoris," which is a true recognition of his deep spiritual concern for them throughout his years of service.
The story of the Tauranga butter factory, built by Fred Blomquist, was written up for the Katikati Centennial Celebrations. The site chosen on 11th Avenue was serviced by a fine spring, and Mr Blomquist canvassed the dairy producers of the district to supply him with their milk. The milk had to be separated and then made into butter; then Mr Spratt offered to separate the milk at his home and bring down only the cream. Mr Blomquist agreed to this proposal, provided the proper standard for the cream was met. In due course many farmers did their own separating, and sent in the cream, a procedure which cut out double-handling and proved much more satisfactory. When Mr Blomquist sold out to Mr L. Tollemache, originally chairman of directors of the factory, the latter approached Mr Macmillan to become secretary, and hence the Macmillan family's move to Tauranga.
Mr Blomquist realised that the Waikato would become the centre of the dairy industry, and together with Mr William Goodfellow he started a factory in Hamilton, again employing the home-separating method.
Meanwhile Mr Macmillan, who had been both director and paid secretary of the Katikati Butter Factory, continued to have a close interest in it, and in time came to know all the dairy farmers of the two districts personally.
Eventually the Tauranga factory closed down, and the dairy produce goes now to Te Puke for processing, except for some manufacturing of dried milk which continues to be done at Katikati.
The big spring that served the old Tauranga butter factory in 11th Avenue kept the lower reaches in swamp. Up on the hill above 11th Avenue, the land was owned by the Church Missionary Society, the Reverend Rameka, a properly ordained clergyman, having his home there, marked out as usual with Norfolk Island pines. It was later occupied by the Reverend Waaka; and later, towards the end of the First World War, it was bought by a teacher from Rarotonga, who converted the mission school into fowl runs, pulled down the house and felled the trees. The old Smith family homestead, nearby, was recently removed from, its foundations and transported elsewhere, in spite of a warning from a Maori woman that it was tapu and endless difficulties would be - and in fact were - encountered in its removal.
The Grace family's home, Te Ranga Ranga, was later owned by Mr V. J. Scantlebury.
Opposite the present R.S.A. grounds, which belonged originally to the MacNaughton family, was a very large block called the Experimental Farm. Here experiments in fruit producing were carried out, under the management of Mr Berridge. Peaches were mainly grown, and also avocado pears. Mr Berridge planted a row of chestnut trees which continued past the present schools area; behind these trees the first state housing scheme was established, and the beautiful chestnuts were eventually cut down. On the other side of Cameron Road was planted a row of lindens, which in time suffered the same fate. It was from the NacNaughtons' property, known as "The Green Hill," that General Cameron watched the progress of the Battle of Gate Pa. Cameron Road was originally laid down as a wide road, in order to allow General Cameron's troops to march two companies abreast.
Aerial view of Tauranga South, showing the experimental farm area.
Cameron Road cuts the top right corner diagonally; Courtney Road runs
through the houses at the top of the photo. c.1950
Mr Davidson, a Canadian, took over the Experimental Farm after Mr Berridge, and children from the High School were taken there to learn to bud and graft, some of the pupils working on agricultural plots. Agricultural and dairy science was taught at school. Mr Davidson managed the Farm until the time it closed down.
The first canning project in the district was carried out at Colonel Mayfield's orchard in Bethlehem. It was a small plant for canning peaches, to which several of the young girls from the town drove out by buggy to help in the season.
Obituary, January 9, 1941 - Mr C. Macmillan, father of Miss V. A. Macmillan.
Obituary, July 22, 1942 - Mrs Macmillan, mother of Miss V. A. Macmillan.
Article, January 4, 1964 - Miss V. A. Macmillan.