History of Wainui
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A Life in the Valley
Compiled by Linda Hennessey
Brian Donovan reminisces about what it was like back in his day in the Wainui Valley.
Brian, we discovered, came into this world on 12 August 1925, the only boy in the Donovan family, to Ronald and Avis Donovan . A bouncing 9 lbs and much looked forward to son.
Ronald had returned from the war where he served as an engineer in the infantry and then as a truck driver for the Engineers. He hadn’t seen a lot of fighting but was pleased to be home safe, get working and start his life on the land. They had two children, Brian and a daughter Rayma who was born in Little River Hospital on 6th Nov 1932.
When Brian was born his father and mother were living on a small farm at French Farm. Brian was born in the then new Akaroa Hospital and later went to school in Barry’s Bay, then followed on to Akaroa High School at the age of 12. The little school was filled with local families.
Ronald had bought the farm in Wainui from Burt Idle when Brian was 20 years old around 1945 and the family moved to Wainui to start dairying. The land was up the valley on what is now Donovan’s Road. The property was called Glenroy (after two of Ron’s very good farm dogs), and was around 200 acres. This later became known as Kahikatea.
Brian met his wife Marion at a local dance and after some eager courting they married. Brian and Marion later bought the farm off Ron and Avis when Ron retired and Brian joined the two properties (French Farm and Wainui) by purchasing a piece of land in between off Cracroft Wilson, effectively doubling the size to 400 acres in total with dairying and sheep.
Brian and Marion did this for a while but then decided to make life easier by going into fat cattle. The cream run had by now stopped, and Brian had to give up the dairying. The milk and cream was picked up by Cooks Freight Limited and taken to Tai Tapu. It was a sad day that last milking day.
(Photo of Visitors book with school trip to farm 2nd May 1977)
Brian and Marion’s first child Susan was born on May 30th 1953 in Akaroa Hospital and followed a few years later by son Ian in March 8th 1957.
Ron and Avis are by now living at the house in French Farm. Brian and Marion’s children were all brought up on the farm. It was a lovely rural existence.
(Local farmers helping bale the hay at Glenroy) Brian Donovan Centre, Ian MacPhail looking forward, Brian’s dad Ron with cup, Ian Donovan with sandwich, Alex Stewart and Jim Burnett on the left.
Life was full in the valley. Brian had a fairly busy schedule what with belonging to the Cricket Club, the Tennis Club, the Rifle Club, he was on the Cemetery Board, a fire officer, a dog ranger and on the school committee. It’s a wonder he had time to farm! Not to mention the dances that were held on a regular basis over in Akaroa. The launch “Orari” owned then by Billy Poole, would do the rounds of the Bays and pick up the good folk of the Peninsula and for one shilling return, would see them safely back around midnight blowing his big horn on arrival to let everyone know they were back.
Good neighbours provided lots of memories of fun times. Dave and Rosie Wright at Blawlown were famous for their home brew, everyone crawling home after one Christmas dinner.
Laurie Hooker gave the occasional “swan dinner” at the Hilltop and would regale those present with his antics getting the odd bite on the lip by the goose.
Laurie gave the land where the YMCA now stands to the YMCA. Laurie was deaf and dumb – he lived with his brother Mick up in the house opposite the Evans. The whole camp was on the right hand side going up the valley. Laurie loved his gin.
The Wahine storm of April 1968 kept the local community busy as they cleaned up the beach road, it was covered in boulders and debris but with local help was cleared away quick smart.
Brian moved away from Wainui in 1990 after many long and happy years. The farm went on the market on Friday and was sold by Sunday – lucky Neil Smith! He now lives in Christchurch high up on the hill but stays firmly in touch with the goings on over in our sleepy hamlet.