Topic: Maureen home from Valley

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MAUREEN McCollum was born in Paeroa in 1938, the granddaughter of former mayor William Marshal. Her story, as told to reporter Jill Cleave, was published in the Hauraki Herald on 22 July 2011.

She remembers going up to the Maratoto Valley with her father during her childhood and thinking what a beautiful place it was. ‘‘I said to my father I am going to live here one day. When he asked how did I think I was going to do that I had no idea. I just thought it was the most beautiful place on earth,’’ she said.

Maureen attended what is now Paeroa Central School and Paeroa District High School. She remembers turning 15 and looking forward to her summer holidays. ‘‘I arrived home when school finished for the year to have my father say ‘your school days are over, you start work on Monday morning for Mr Carden the accountant’ and that was it. In those days you did what your parents told you to do,’’ she said.

Maureen worked for the accountant for a year before going into nursing and meeting her future husband Bob. They married in the winter of 1959 and moved into the cottage on his parents’ farm in the Maratoto Valley where they worked for wages. The McCollums had three children – Deneene, Jacqualine and Andrew – before Bob’s parents retired and they moved into the homestead.

Maureen fondly remembers thinking she had a valley at her door. There were definitely challenges – in the early 1960s the McCollums lost their entire herd to tuberculosis. She said it was not compulsory to test back then but Mr McCollum senior wanted it done. ‘‘We lost all the cows, calves, everything. As the vet marked each animal Mr McCollum senior thought these were okay but no, they were the ones to go,’’ she said. There was no compensation in those days but the family soldiered on and rebuilt their herd and continued farming.

‘‘I loved that my children had the chance to grow up on the farm. It was a lovely life,’’ Maureen said. The next near tragedy to strike the family was 10 years later when Bob went down with viral myocarditis, the same virus which claimed the life of Green Party co-leader Rod Donald in 2005. Maureen remembers nursing him for five months, running the farm and being a mother to three children. ‘‘It was hard going at times. I remember one day I had had enough, I packed my bag and went home to mother,’’ she said. ‘‘Mother made me a pot of tea and buttered me a scone and when I had finished she said ‘now, pick up your bag and get off home, you have a sick husband to look after’. I couldn’t believe she would be so mean to me,’’ she said. So she did return and after that a farm labourer was hired to help out.

Maureen also remembers her children worked ‘‘like little slaves’’ during that time. ‘‘They were wonderful little helpers,’’ she said. The next decade brought Cyclone Bola to the valley with five days of flooding and no power. ‘‘We had to run the stock to a neighbours’ shed as he had a generator,’’ she remembers.

During all this Maureen took a keen interest in her garden and started the Hikutaia Garden Club which is still running. She was involved in the local school and home nursing and was often called on when there were accidents as it took 30 minutes for an ambulance to get to Hikutaia.

Later in life Maureen took up piano lessons. ‘‘It was one of the most rewarding things I have done although I think my teacher took a tranquiliser before my lessons,’’ she said. She has also collaborated on a book of the history of Hikutaia which sold 3000 copies.

Maureen has now retired to Paeroa and lives overlooking the home she was brought up in as a child. ‘‘It is good to come home to Paeroa, I enjoy church and my music club with the choir and sometimes I enjoy doing absolutely nothing too,’’ she said.

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Maureen home from Valley

First Names:Maureen
Last Name:McCollum (nee Marshal)
Place of Birth:Paeroa N.Z.