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  • Keith Newman

Long life on Cape Coast A vitalised atmosphere

Fred Butcher and his wife Mabel (nee Sommerville) were told by Dr Reeves in Havelock North that because of the weakness in their infant son Jack’s lungs, they should move to Haumoana if they wanted him to survive into adulthood.

Jack Butcher, who turned 99-years in 2017, was the oldest resident in Haumoana and glad his parents followed the doctor’s advice, believing “the ozone wind…the pure wind off the sea” made all the difference.

Rumours persist that the Cape Coast; where ozone charged breezes vitalise the atmosphere in the mornings and the setting sun reflects shades of red across the windswept cloudy sky on lazy evenings, is among the healthiest places on the planet The Pacific Ocean, unobstructed for endless empty nautical miles to the coast of Argentina, charges the atmosphere as it licks and at times batters itself against the stony east coast beach aptly named Haumoana, the breath of the ocean or sea breeze. Perhaps the longevity and health of some of its residents adds credence to the claims of an “elixir vitae (elixir of life) for which the district is renowned,” according to the Hawke’s Bay Daily Telegraph in July 1961.

The claim persisted that Haumoana was one of two places in the world where seven air streams met, the other being Rio de Janiero. It was allegedly this convergence of air currents which weave clouds into endless patterns, sea breezes and the smash of the ocean on the stony beachfront, bought health to Haumoana residents. In today’s terms perhaps the Cape Coast is ‘a blue zone’, a term coined by National Geographic where people tend to live the longest and healthiest lives, places where people have struck a healthy balance between modern lifestyle and technology and healthy happy living. The Butcher family moved from Otane to Grove Rd originally, when most of the local homes were holiday baches and people flocked to the domain by the river in summer to fish and swim. Young Jack aged 6-years attended Clive Grange School (later named Haumoana School) at a time when the Tukituki and Cape Coast area was being cut up into smaller lots.

His father, a fencing contractor and shearer worked on the large Gordon and Neilson properties and helped put up the fences and plant grapes at the pioneering Vidals vineyard.

Butcher beginnings

In 1878 John and Lavina Butcher, aged 32 and 33 respectively, left Gloucestershire where they were born and had married. to sail across the world to Napier, New Zealand. They boarded the Bebbington with their four young children, John, Mary-Ann (Polly), Henry and Elizabeth.

The decision was made to move to Takapua where sawmills and flaxmills were operating and the Napier-Takapau railway was almost completed. The family lived in the township for about 25-years, where John was employed by the Railway Department as a platemaker, adding Fred, Emily, George, Eva and William to their number.

With the older children now married, John and Lavina moved to Havelock North where their son Fred married Mabel Sommerville, moved in next door and started a family. Fred and some of his brothers took on fencing and shearing work around the district, and when Havelock North established its own sewage system, Fred and his brother Bill became sewage inspectors, testing the pipes by fanning smoke into them with sacks to look for leaks.

Fred and his brothers had a strong interest in sports, especially football (rugby) and boxing. The next move for Fred was to Haumoana where the shearing work continued. After five years Fred and Mable took over a small dairy farm backing on to the Tuki Tuki river with their children Lewis, Peter, Ossie, Jack and daughter Mary. Jack Butcher who was engaged in shearing and crutching around the Haumoana and Tukituki area, met his future wife Joyce Hawkins at one of the regular dances at the Haumoana Hall.

Around 1946 the couple moved back to Haumoana, having built a small cottage on the Haumoana-Te Awanga Rd, and handing the farm over to youngest son Jack.

Jack Butcher who was engaged in shearing and crutching around the Haumoana and Tukituki area, met his future wife Joyce Hawkins at one of the regular dances at the Haumoana Hall.

Jack’s maternal grandfather, John Sommerville, was the first manager at Clifton Station. His daughter Mabel Sommerville grew up at Clifton Station in the manager’s home at Haupouri, on the southern side of Cape Kidnappers, where the sheep yards were. Fred lived in Haumoana until he died aged 81-years.


Notes from family memories written by Bill Growcott Senior and Peter Butcher provided with comments by Delwyn Hall (nee Butcher)

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