Topic: Bonar Farquhar

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Bonar Farquhar was born in 1924 at Clarksville. Their farmland at Clarkville often became flooded from the
overflow of the Waimakariri River. After water came lapping under the floor boards in 1928 Mr Farquhar's father
decided it was time to move and bought a farm in Amberley.
Mr. Farquhar was enrolled at Amberley School at 6 and a half,
so his days of running around in the paddocks came to an end.
On his first day Mr. Farquhar and his friend Chook sat at the back
of the class. Being new they didn't realise if you misbehaved
you got told off. They fooled around hitting each other, laughing
and talking until the teacher told them to come to the front of the
class. Not knowing what was going to happen Mr Farquhar was
told to put out his hand, and a leather strap came down very hard
across his palm in a loud whack. It really hurt and he cried. When
he could get out of the school he went home and didn't return for
about a week. He was very unhappy and didn't enjoy school for
a while.
In the days when Mr Farquhar was young there were no TVs,
computers or space station games, so kids played outside making
their own fun, bows and arrows, marbles, fighting, hunting eggs,
climbing trees doing things kids don't do so much of today. So
kids got up to pranks to amuse themselves; it was not considered
bad behavior, just kids filling in their days.
Mr Farquhar recounts his stories:
"A favourite pass time of some of the lads was baiting the local
policeman, who was real hands on, he even tied up his own
young son to the tank stand behind the police station for a short
time, after he had been naughty.
To bait old Jim as he was called, the lads sometimes would paint
his front gate a different colour. One evening the lads decided
to sneak up and take this little gate off its hinges, but old Jim
was hiding behind the fence with a stock whip. Just as they were
about to lift the gate old Jim pops up, the kids took off down
Markham St some to the sale yards, but when they got there one
got stuck in the rails and he got to feel the whip. He is still alive
today and has never forgotten it.
Around Amberley there were a lot of crops grown, mostly oat and
wheat to feed the horses which pulled the farm implements in
those days. This resulted in lots of birds so many, the Council
decided to control the numbers by providing poison wheat, so
the birds would eat it and die. The Council would also buy eggs
that residents could recover from bird's nests. Some kids in order
to make more pocket money would climb the trees to get birds
eggs, and then reuse the eggs by putting a hole in them and
blowing out the insides and selling them again. They got away
with it at times; it certainly helped to reduce the bird population
even if it was not really the right thing to do.
My Dad and I one day went to Christchurch and bought a bike.
Dad paid 9 pound 15 shillings for the bike, which is about $20
now. When I rode it to school some of the bigger kids stole it and
were racing it up and down the road outside the school. Two had
a crash and damaged the front spokes, I was very upset with this,
my nice new bike was damaged I couldn't ride it for a while as
it had to get fixed. So I was back to walking to and from school
again.
Things were very hard for some families, who couldn't afford to
buy food to feed their large families, jobs were not easy to get.
Because of the hard times, with few jobs and little money thieving
went on. In one case, the owner of the local drapery store had
been robbed several times, he noticed a woman with a pram and
after she left there was always something missing. The owner
knew she had put clothes items under the baby's blanket, but he
couldn't bring himself to ask the mother to remove the blanket,
and search around the baby to find the stolen goods. So it just
kept happening. Things also started going missing at night when
the shop was closed. After many items disappeared, the shop
owner decided to stay overnight in the store with his 22 rifleand and catch the thief.

During the night he saw a silhouette appear
outside the window trying to break in, so he shot the rifle in that
direction. The next day a man turned up at the local doctor with
a piece missing out of his ear, it could only be assumed that this
man was the one who had been stealing, but nobody accused
him of this as they knew he had a large family, and had resorted
to stealing. Residents knew those who were hard up and helped
them by keeping quiet when sheep and cattle that went missing,
as they knew some people sometimes needed to steal to feed
children, a very sad and difficult time for many residents.
I was a teenager in the early 1940's and joined the Home Guard.
The Japanese were advancing down the Pacific and had become
a threat to NZ, so the Home Guard was formed in 1942. Those
men and young boys who hadn't as yet gone to war for various
reasons met up to practice shooting at a rifle range they developed
near Waipara River at Greenwoods Bridge. They were given
boxes of rifles from the Boar War; they were all packed in thick
grease in large wooden boxes. The rifles had either one white
strip on the butt which meant it was obsolete, or two which meant
it was defective but could be used, this was very dangerous as
they could have gone off in the young men's faces, but they used
them anyway. I took one of these rifles pig shooting up Mount
Grey, but I didn't get a pig!
Whilst in the home guard we were taken down to Saltwater
Creek, where we made defenses and fox holes. The authorities
had a drag line to deepen the creek as part of the coastal defense
system, so tanks couldn't go through. I was chosen to be a
company runner, which meant I had to take messages for about
one mile either side of Saltwater Creek. I used to get really tired
with all that running. Then one day I noticed a bike on a veranda
of an old house. I thought it would be quite a good idea to use
it, so off I rode. After I had finished I dropped it in some gorse
bushes, but the next day I saw someone had put it back on the veranda,

so I made use of it again, but this time put it back on
the veranda in case I was spotted using it and got into trouble.
In those times Amberley, as did most of the rural areas had a
night soil man. These were men employed to come around at
night and take away the toilet waste that had collected in the
buckets of outside toilets. They would empty these into their
tank on the truck and go around the town. The man who had
the Amberley run had a 400 gallon tank on a very old truck.
One night his truck slowed down to walking pace as it came up
to the railway line on Douglas Road. A local lad ran up behind
his truck and opened the gate valve. What happened then was
not pleasant, all the sewerage came spilling onto Markham St,
as the truck gathered speed towards the main road the local
lads took off laughing on their bikes. But the smell and stains
of the waste stayed there for days. These may have been the
first road markings Amberley had.
There were no boy racers in Amberley in those days, but one
boy call Pat had an old stripped down Model T Ford, which
he used to give some of the lads a ride at times. He was a
bit of a dag; he had a nut holding the steering wheel loose on
the steering shaft, so he could take the steering wheel right
off. One day he was going down the main road just south of
Amberley with a load of the lads waving about in the back. He
decided to take the steering wheel off; they are going flat out atabout 20miles per hour.

To every ones horror when he tried to
put it back on the spline he didn't quite make it. The car ended
up through the gorse fence on its side in a paddock. No one
was hurt, which was good. But these pranks had taught the
young fellows a thing or two about looking after themselves in
the wider world".
As the war advanced and the call for more servicemen
came out, these young men along with others signed up to
go overseas on duty, including Mr Farquhar, they went into
the army navy and air force as Mr Farquhar did. They took
with them the memories of the silly pranks they did as young
kids and teenagers at home. The average age was around
eighteen, when these young men became soldiers, defending
their county, who had enjoyed playing pranks around the
Amberley Township, some only a couple of years previously.
These young men became part of the history of the horror
of warfare, from which many did not come home. From the
Kowhai County seventeen young lives were lost in the Second
World War.
These reflections of Mr Farquhar are a small commemoration
of those young men who played around the Amberley Township
and who so bravely signed up to defend their country.
We remember you.

2011
Hurunui Oral History Project
Stuart Hunter
"I enjoyed listening to all the amusing
stories Mr Farquhar told about the silly
pranks of the local lads before the war."
Stuart Hunter
I am currently a year 8 student at Amberley School. I play football
(soccer) for the Amberley football club and play basketball for
Amberley School. I enjoy living in North Canterbury and when
I was asked if I wanted to take part in this project I thought it
would be good chance to get to know the district's history, its
people and what life was like for the previous generations, first
hand. I thought it would be interesting to gain more knowledge
about wartime in New Zealand.
Although I was a bit nervous about interviewing someone I
didn't know and had never met before Mr Farquhar was really
great to talk to and soon put me at ease. He was really patient
when I needed some time to write down notes. I EVEN found
out that he knew my great grandfather. This link with my own
family was really special and made it very interesting. I enjoyed
listening to all the amusing stories Mr Farquhar told about the
silly pranks of the local lads before the war.
A big thanks to Bronwen Byers (Community Development
Advisor at the Hurunui Council) for making this interview
happen. She helped and guided me through the whole
interview process, which has taught me a lot and will be of
help in the coming years.

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