February Pānui, 2018



Whakapapa Mary Jane Wilson (nee Mahuika),

Mary Jane Wilson nee Mahuika 

Mary Jane Wilson (nee Mahuika), was born in Westport on 10th of February 1908, ten minutes before her twin sister Sarah (who in later years married Leslie Addison). The second eldest daughter of Te Ahuru and Hinepare Mahuika (nee Bannister), her interests were tennis, swimming and badminton and she also played the banjo mandolin in the family band. As a young girl, Jane, along with her sisters, learnt to weave and make palala or paraerae (flax sandals) for the whānau. She was educated at Jacobs River School in South Westland. Her grandfather, a colonist named William Bannister, was headmaster of the school. He was one of a number of immigrants, who literally beat the māori culture and the reo out of his students - despite being married to Hera Te Koeti, a local māori woman and daughter of Chief, Te Koeti Turanga. Mary Jane left school when she was 12 years old to work for Condons, earning 5/- or 50 cents a week. She married William ‘Bill’ Wilson in 1926 at Hokitika. 

Jane and Bill lived at Kotuku for a short while before moving south where Bill was employed by the Public Works, working with several of his brothers on road construction in South Westland. They lived in a tent for some years at various sites until Bruce Bay opened up. They were the first couple to move there when Bill took up the position as manager of the local mill. Jane often re-counted the gatherings on the beach, to meet Captain Mercer, who landed his plane on the beach, flying in supplies for the locals. On one occasion Jane wasn’t present and when Captain Mercer enquired of her whereabouts, Bill replied “Oh she’s up home having a baby”. 

Jane and Bill became the proud owners of the first electric radio in Bruce Bay which they traded for a horse. Fifteen children were born to Jane and Bill and with such a large family, Jane became a very competent dressmaker. The boys also wore shorts made by mum, which included re-using flour bags for lining. She also mastered the crafts of hand knitting and crocheting, handing the art down to her kids (including several of her sons) and the kids partners. 

Following the closure of the mill at Bruce Bay, Jane and Bill moved to Rimu then Kaniere and finally to Hokitika where Bill managed Butler Brothers Mill at Mill Town near Lake Kaniere then the Three Mile Mill just north of Hokitika. 

Bill along with a number of his sons, was a member of the Kokatahi Band and also had his own dance band. Jane played the violin for the dance band. As well as regular dances at the Kaniere Hall, the band played for many whanau weddings and 21st’s. Bill passed away in 1967 and Jane continued to live in Hokitika. 

Jane was a life member of the Hokitika Netball Association, Kia Toa Netball Cub and the Māori Women’s Welfare League. In 1990 Jane received a national award from Te Waka Toi for her contribution to Māori Arts and Crafts which she did voluntarily for years, passing on her knowledge and skills to her whanau and community. 

She was actively involved in many pursuits during her life including dressmaking, whitebaiting in the Haast area, netball, gardening, Māori culture and the Māori Womens Welfare League. She enjoyed Housie, playing lotto and spent many long evenings playing cards with the whānau.

Back: Ronnie, Brendan, Melvyn 

Middle: Lorna, Lesley, Anthony, June 

Front: Val, Barbara, Mary-Jane, Iris 

Note: (Trevor was away, and the other siblings/children of Mary-Jane, had pre-deceased her (Fayne, Monica, Keith, David)

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