Thursday, June 13, 2024

Marking three generations

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HTC Life Members was taken at the club’s centenary celebrations in 2002. Mary McCarthy is third from the right in navy blue trouser suit.

This year marks the 175th anniversary of Howick and Pakuranga and districts which presents a wonderful opportunity to feature people from the area and their memories of their past. This is the story of third-generation Howickian Mary McCarthy.

Long-term Howickian Mary McCarthy’s great-grandfather George Wagstaff was amongst the first to settle in Howick, having travelled to New Zealand with the Fencibles as a farrier.

He settled on the corner of Wellington and Howe Street. His son, also named George, carried on the business as a farrier. The Wagstaff Forge can be seen in the Howick Historical Village.

The first tennis court in Howick was on the Wagstaff’s property.

Having been born in 1934 on what is now known as Gulf Views Rest Home in Selwyn Road; Mary grew up on a farm.

“I can remember walking from Howick Intermediate through to the village and passing about eight houses,” Mary says. “Everybody seemed to know one another.”

During the war, Mary and her classmates would be given cotton wool and a cork for school practices for air raids.

“The idea was that so you wouldn’t bite your tongue, you’d put the cork in your mouth, and so you wouldn’t be hearing gunshots, you’d put the cotton wool in your ears!”

Mary remembers the grand parade of Howick’s 100th anniversary in 1947: every club had their own floats, and there was quite a big entry of horses driven in tandem in wagons and carts by pairs and fours and horse-drawn gigs [carriages].

In 1949, Mary’s family subdivided their farmland into quarter acre sections for sale. “Word got around (about sale),” she says. “My mum took the main road, I took Vincent Street, and my brother took Elliot Street. We sold 15 sections in one day from 60 pounds to 260 pounds.

“It was all grass from Union Road to Nelson Street. We used to walk the cows along the grass roads, and the cows would graze from it as we were walking.

“I suppose what has changed the most is the whole building of Howick. You used to all sit on your quarter acre sections, now there are about three houses on each one.”

Mary’s father, Bert Brickell, was a farmer and her mother, Evelyn Wagstaff, was an organist for the local churches and an avid tennis player, an interest that her daughter carried on.

Mary remains a life-long member of the Howick Tennis Club. She was a co-founder of the Howick Badminton Club.

The Howick Leisure Centre was the result of a range of different clubs, all under one banner, campaigning and raising funding for a sports facility, Mary says.

“A lot of people don’t know that’s how (Howick Leisure Centre) came about. It was all raising money.”

In 1987 Mary, her husband George and two children moved to Warkworth before relocating to Snells Beach. She is currently living in a local retirement village.

“I loved my life being brought up in rural Howick.”

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