Beatrice Ivy FOLEY (nee GATTON)

Nominated by: Marjorie Sotheran (nee Foley)

Beatrice Ivy FOLEY was born in Palmerston North on the 4th of September 1889. She was the eighth child of Sarah Ann and Charles Stepney GATTON.

Ivy, as she was called by her family, was three years old when her parents moved to Stratford in 1893.

For several years the Gatton family lived on a farm about three miles south of the town. Charles Gatton worked here gaining valuable farming experience before taking up his bush farm east of Stratford. Ivy started school while they lived here. She and her older brothers and sisters walked each day to and from the primary school.

On Christmas Eve 1896, when Ivy was seven years old, the Gatton set out to travel the twenty-six miles to their new home, the bush covered farm at Puniwhakau.

Ivy vividly remembered this journey. A wagon, loaded with all the family possessions, including fowls and their cat and dog took them as far as Taihore Road, about a mile short of Strathmore. From here onward there was only a bush track, so everything was taken from the wagon and piled on the side of the road. Charles Gatton and Fred, the eldest son, rode out on horseback from the farm to meet the rest of the family here. They had been in the bush for a few weeks preparing a camp where the family would live when they all arrived.

The night before Christmas was spent in a tent on the side of the road, and at daylight the next morning everything was loaded onto the two horses and the children. Everyone had to carry something. Charlie, the one year old baby was pushed in a pram until it bogged down in the mud. After that he was carried by his mother. The two cows, Rosy and Roonie, and the calf Bunty that had been driven in from of the wagon from Stratford now trailed along behind the two packhorses. The fowls were tied in pairs by the legs and hung head down over a pole. The cat and Rover the dog followed everyone else.

The journey took all day. It was almost dark when the Gatton family reached the clearing in the bush which was to be their home for the next sixteen years. The younger children immediately lay down and went to sleep . Four of the seven were under ten years of age, and the track through the bush had been long and rough. Later they were woken by their mother and given some bread and milk. Christmas dinner 1896 style.

For the first two years of their life in the bush the Gatton family lived in tents, and a house made out of Manuka poles, with Manuka branches packed in to make walls. The roof was of canvas stretched over a ridge pole. A fireplace and chimney was made of corrugated iron. Meals were cooked in tins hung over the open fire, or in camp ovens.

As there was no school in the area the children were taught by their mother , who had received a good education during her youth in England. Everyone was expected to help with the preparation of food, the washing and the care of the younger children. One day when Ivy was minding Charlie, the baby, a blanket, which was airing by the fire, was blown into the flames, and the house caught fire. Ivy dragged her little brother outside, and Nellie, an older sister who had been doing the washing in a stream nearby, ran in and saved a few possessions. Their parents, who had been planting a garden some distance away, saw the smoke and came running, only to find their home a pile of ashes.

Over the years more bush was felled and more cows milked. Ivy and her two older sisters did most of the milking. They also separated the milk and made the cream into butter which was packed into boxes and sold. A few years later a factory was build a short distance away, and the milk was sent there. One day when Ivy and her sister Annie were milking, their father, who was in the cow-yard, was tossed, and badly gored by a bull. The two girls were able to drag their father to safety, and chase the bull away, but he had been badly injured, and had to be taken to hospital on a wagon. The girls were only fifteen and seventeen at the time, and an aunt in England, on hearing of the girl's bravery, sent them a beautiful pearl, ivory and gold coronet as a reward. Both of them later wore this at their weddings.

Although he recovered from his injury, Charles Gatton's health began to decline. Some of the family married, and some were away working, so a year or two before the beginning of World War I, the farm at Puniwhakau was leased and a smaller property at Omata purchased.

On 24th September, 1913, Ivy Gatton married William Richard FOLEY at the Catholic Church in New Plymouth. Like Ivy, he had been born in Palmerston North. His parents had also drawn a block of land in the Puniwhakau area, and had moved there a few years after the Gatton's. The families had attended school when it was built in 1904, and had grown up together. After their marriage the young couple went to live at the Foley farm at Makahu.

The following year, 1914, war broke out and William Foley joined the army, and that farm was also leased. Ivy went to live in Stratford with her mother, who by then had been widowed, and with her husband's parents who also lived in the town. On 26th January, 1915, her first child, a girl, Marjorie, was born. Later that year her husband was posted overseas. In the next four years he served in France and the Middle East. He fought with distinction, was wounded and awarded the Military Cross.

In July, 1916, Ivy's second child, a son was born. He was named William after his father. On his return from Egypt at the end of the war, William Foley and a partner opened a land agency in Stratford. The Foley family settled in the town, and during the 1920's three more children were born, another girl and two more boys.

Throughout the depression years of the late 1920's and early 1930's Ivy Foley worked hard to feed, clothe and educate her children. By this time her husband had taken a position with the Public Works, and was often away from home on jobs. Ivy, like most of the Gatton family, was a keen gardener, so vegetables from her large garden, and fruit from a small orchard were plentiful. A house cow was milked to provide milk and butter, and as a skilled dressmaker Ivy was able to make most of the family's clothes.

Despite the hard times when the Foley children were young, and perhaps because of the erratic nature of their own formal schooling, Ivy and Will were determined that their children would receive a good education. The two girls, as well as their three brothers completed primary and secondary schooling. Later, the two daughters, Marjorie and Noreen, and the youngest son, Pat, trained as school teachers. Pat, some years later was appointed Superintendent of Education for the Northern Region of New Zealand. The eldest son, Bill, was one of four school leavers selected from throughout the country to attend Duntroon Military College in Australia, and Cyril, the middle son studied at Otago University to become a physiotherapist.

Among Ivy Foley's fourteen grandchildren are several who work in the field of education, and some in television and computers. One is a senior pilot with Air New Zealand, one a vet and one a doctor. Another is the recently appointed Chief Executive of the Museum of New Zealand, Cheryll Beatrice Sotheran.

In the later years of her life, her garden, reading and handwork occupied most of Ivy's time. She had a great knowledge and love of plants and flowers, and spent many happy hours 'pottering about' in her colourful back yard. Towards the end of her life her eyesight began to fail.

Ivy Foley died in Stratford on the 7th August, 1978, aged 88 years. All but three of those years were spent in the Stratford area.

She is remembered with love and gratitude by her family, and their families, as kind, generous and hard-working, with the self-reliance developed by many of the women who grew up on the back-country farms of Taranaki during the early days of this century.


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