Topic: Roddy Thomson

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In the mid-1900s a well run family farm
was a very powerful unit. It had to run as
a family to be run successfully and women
played a huge part in it. Roddy Thomson,
now 91, recalls the importance of women
on the farms.
Mr Thomson and his wife Christina (Chriss) farmed
Auchtercairn, Culverden, for 55 years, before retiring
to Amberley in 2004.
"I was around 27 when my wife and I went farming.
The women's major work was in the home, looking
after the family and cooking for the workers that
were on the farm. That was their major role - a big
They were bringing up the children as well.
"Neighbours were very supportive of each other
and if a neighbouring farmer had a daughter that
he thought could help the next door neighbour's
wife with bringing up the family or helping during
the day, they would come for the day to help them.
Women were the back bone of the farm''.
Shearing was a massive operation and the women,
often by themselves; saw to the welfare of their
husbands, the shearers and anyone else who was
assisting, while continuing with their own work.
Bigger farms had station cooks but on the moderate
sized farm, a woman did most of the cooking herself.
"Women played an important role with their influence
on the family in work such as teaching them how
to do the gardening, to feed pet lambs and how to
milk a cow and encourage loyalty to family life - even
amongst their other work. With larger farms too far
from school, children would have correspondence
work and the mother would have to teach them
that,'' says Mr Thomson.
Besides keeping the house running with the children,
farming women also laboured in the paddocks and
helped with lambing time, often in bad weather.
"The role of farming women cannot be praised
enough. Often they were left alone for long periods
and they had to take charge''.
Mr Thomson insists on praising the immense value
of farmer's wives. His own mother and wife faced
loneliness, hardships and long hours of what was
often unrecognised work.
which covers three generations of farming, Mr
Thomson says, "women on farms kept things ticking
over under difficult conditions. They were not given
enough credit for the work they carried out. "
When Mrs Thomson came to the homestead,
conditions were still primitive by today's standards
and her working day was long and hard.
Now with modern day farming and, "the present set
up with large dairy farms and irrigation, women still
play a big part in running the dairy operation. It is all
very much a joint team operation", says Mr Thomson.
Mr Thomson was born in 1920 and was the eldest of
three boys. He and his wife served in the armed forces
during the Second World War, with Mr Thomson
serving as a radar operator in the Royal New Zealand
Air Force while Mrs Thomson became part of the
Women's Auxiliary Army Corps and nursed with the
2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force in Italy. Sadly
in 2010 after 62 years of marriage, Mrs Thomson (nee
Black) passed away.
Mr Thomson's farm was started by his father, Thomas
Thomson from Scotland, who had driven the number
76 Hansom cab in Christchurch before receiving the
land in a Government ballot. Tom Thomson served in
the Second Boer War and the First World War before
marrying Anne Maclennan in 1919.
In 1949, the farm was eventually passed onto to Mr Rod
Thomson, and as his and Mrs Thomson's children, Rod
and Sarah, grew older, they helped out on the farm,
just as Mr Thomson and his brothers had, and just as
Mrs Thomson had on her parent's farm. Mr Thomson
says that in a way it was part of training them for their
In 2004 the, ‘changing of the guard'' occurred again
with Mr and Mrs Thomson's son, Rod, taking over the
With over three generations and over 102 years of
farming, the Thomson's of Auchtercairn certainly put
much of the significance of their farming success
down to the women's role on the farm.
A short history about RODDY THOMSON'S life on the farm
and the role women played....... by Chris Willocks.
"When I was asked to participate in this
project, I realised the value and potential in
recording the experiences of people (like Mr and
Mrs Thomson) who live among us.
They have been a part of events that will
probably never be repeated in the same way
It is important we hear and learn from them,
enjoy their presence and the wisdom they can
offer us. No-one will be around forever, so we all
must utilise the time we have with each other.
I recognise many of those who will be interviewed
in this project will have contributed enormously
to their communities and society on an everyday
basis and yet not been acknowledged as they so
readily deserve - we cannot forget these people.
By being a part of this project, I knew that I
could greatly enhance the Hauora (Wellbeing)
of at least one person simply by meeting and
listening to them, so that they knew they were
still a valued member of our community - which
they are.
I certainly came away with a great sense of
enjoyment and satisfaction.
While I admit, I was very apprehensive at first, Mr
Thomson was a wonderful man to talk to, and
Bronwen Byers has been so helpful in guiding the
I also learnt a great deal from Mr Thomson as he is
a very intelligent man.
As part of the Hurunui District Council's Community Development programme, Community
Development Advisor, Bronwen Byers, initiated an oral history project designed to bring elderly and
youth together.
The project involved working with local school teachers and students to capture the stories of
Hurunui identities to ensure their life experiences are recorded for new generations to enjoy.
In the first of these stories RODDY THOMSON,who has lived in Culverden for 55 years, talks to year
13 student, Chris Willocks, about the value of women on farms.
JUNE 2011
I suppose it was partly a great personal family
related experience for me as my grandparents
used to own and run a farm in Riversdale, so I was
very curious when we discussed farming and I was
able to draw many comparisons from what my
grandparents and mother had taught me.
At the same time, I also was instructed in ethical
considerations while conducting such processes
and even enhanced my interviewing skills.
It was undoubtedly a superb lesson for me, a
wonderfully unique one. "
Hurunui Oral History Project
Christopher Willocks: "I love history - it is fascinating
and the reason why I want to travel the world, to visit all
the places I have read about and studied.

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