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Abstract of Avis Jennifer McDONALD, 2020

 Item — Box: 18
Identifier: H00860002


Avis Jennifer McDonald

Interviewer: Sandy Eggleston

Abstractor: L Marion Hawkes


00:00 Interview identification

00:38 AVIS JENNIFER MCDONALD born 2 December 1938

00:45 Interview agreement

01:39 Maiden name Avis Johnson

01:44 Born Invercargill Private Nursing Home NURSE COLLIETTS (sp?)

02:00 Parents lived at REDAN Father was ANDREW JOHNSON born 10 June 1905 Born in GRUTING SHETLAND ISLES

02:20 Information about father came to New Zealand when he was 9 years old [1914] attending REDAN school and then MIMIHAU school. Description of incident at school

O3:35 Grandfather worked as in MERCANTILE NAVY in Scotland when married changed to being fisherman before coming to New Zealand in 1912 prior to World War I

04:43 Grandfather came to REDAN to start working at Flax mill. Eventually father and brothers bought same Flax mill and became known as ‘Johnson Bros’

05:06 Grandfather’s name is ROBERT JOHNSON

05:15 Mother’s maiden name BUELLER [sp?] PARK [sp?] FINLAYSON born 5 May 1906 died 18 August 1985. Mothers occupation prior to marriage - trained as nurse Became a ‘Sister’ and then went on to train as psychiatric nurse

06:21 self middle child of three siblings sister [older] DIANA FAYE JOHNSON born 2 October 1935 died 9 November 1976 [41y] brother [younger] ROBERT ANDREW JOHNSON born 5 July 1941 still farming on original farm - no longer flax farm

07:16 attended REDAN PRIMARY SCHOOL attended SOUTHLAND GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL [Invercargill] was a boarder [Monday to Friday] at the GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL HOSTEL

07:42 Worked at family Flax mill for a year after leaving school. Then went nursing DEE STREET MATERNITY HOSPITAL; became Shop Assistant

08:09 married RUSSELL at Wyndham purchased their own garage 5 years later KERSEN MOTORS [sp?] GORE. Worked in office after children grew up – served petrol

08:31Father and Uncles purchased original 500 acre flax farm and later bought another 500 acres. Family members worked in flax mill after leaving school. Flax also came from other farmers who paid for this. Flax work seasonal through summertime then closed

10:18 family members went to GRIGGS STATION at Longbeach outside Canterbury for off season work. Father worked as Chauffeur. Other family members worked in various farm jobs – other information about GRIGGS STATION

11:17 Flax farm was purchased 1935/36 end of Depression

11:31 Grandfather and Grandmother arrived in New Zealand with six children oldest child 11 years; youngest child 2 years - two more children were born after they arrived. Grandparents worked on dairy farm at Waianiwa. Other family members worked on Flax mill at NEIDERERS GORGE ROAD.

12:05 Only three Flax mills in Southland when they closed in 1972 – JOHNSON BROS; NEIDERERS; TEMPLETONS – other information about DES TEMPLETON’s flax mill. Information about goods relating to flax.

12:53 Flax mill work was considered essential service during SECOND WORLD WAR. Rope was used for boats. None of the men who worked in the flax mill went to war.

13:26 Bought land 1936 Grandfather continued to work at flax mill - nearly retired. Father Was 31 years old [approximately in 1936]

14:05 Grandfather married in 1905 born approximately 1878

14:15 1936 brought 500 acres farm purchased another 500 acre farm [farm on opposite of road]. Both farms have been returned to sheep farms. Three men owned it CHRIS JOHNSON [died 1952] never married; ANDREW JOHNSON [father] married had three children brother only male; BILL JOHNSON [Uncle] four children – 1 died as baby 1 girl and two boys. Youngest boy [Ray] took over 500 acres other information and [Rob] had other 500 acres

15:46 Self worked in flax mill 1954 [approximately] at that stage family at Mill for 19 years Started work in flax mill 7.30am finished at 5,30pm. Drove trucks worked in paddocks Flax mill very noisy. Some flax mills in New Zealand were mobile

17:22 Flax mill was called ‘Madron Bros’ [sp?] before purchased by Johnsons. Flax mill was permanent. Information about how flax mill worked

18:14 Information about process/production in flax mill – describes.

25:09 When processing complete flax was taken to Wyndham railway went on trucks to DONAGHUE BROS in DUNEDIN. Flax mill. Produced best fibre throughout whole of New Zealand

25:30 Self relates restrictions on carting rather than using railways – describes

27:18 Self relates what life was like while working at flax mill. Quite a few ladies worked in Flax mill – information. Pay was minimal hard work

28:58 Self shares social and spiritual life – taught Sunday School – parents did not attend

29:44 Flax production stopped 1972 no demand.

30:52 Self’s parents went over to England in 1960 to a ‘Coming home’ in Shetland Isles. Mother went even though fourth generation New Zealander.

30:15 1960 South African Government had people going round flax mills in New Zealand Visited REDAN and asked father if he would return home from England via SOUTH AFRICA describes 31:33 Flax mill was powered by electricity. Homes powered by electricity. Telephone also [party line]. More description of how electricity worked in flax mill

33:00 Self remembers power cuts during SECOND WORLD WAR

33:23 Flax mill ran all the time – was seasonal when Father was young. Describes more flax harvest production

34:42 Self relates about Uncle Bill rolling trucks and story relating to using horse

35:39 Self describes what flax was like to handle

36:31 End of Track


  • 2020

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Part of the Southland Oral History Project Repository