9 Rose Street

From: Jemima
To: Jan
Subject: 9 Rose Street

Hi Jan,

I just stumbled upon your website after looking for the seahorse farm at Napier on a whim and I was impressed and amazed by the work you have done and the passion you have for Waipawa and its history which is so intertwined with your own family history.

I grew up in 9 Rose Street in the 1970s from when I attended preschool until I was about nine and I have very fond memories of a wonderful childhood in that magical place running free and the beautiful gardens and Victorian architecture creating a kind of fantasy world of imagination.

One of my special memories was of Miss Bibby and her beautiful house with the crunchy gravel drive. I distinctly remember seeing her comb out her beautiful long hair and dry it in the sun before wrapping it back up in her traditional bun. I recall knocking on her door with my baby teeth in a jar of water occasionally and my visits were always received with grace. Mr MacGregor who is referred to by one of your correspondents, was the real Mr McGregor as far as I was concerned, digging in his vegetable garden with the possibility of Peter Rabbit hiding nearby.

As the house I lived in was burned down in a terrible fire one night it means a lot to me to see the photos and read the descriptions of a place that was very real to me as a child but is a distant jumble of memories – some dark and many delightful.

Like you I never had a fixed address for long and Waipawa was probably the longest most stable time in my childhood so it holds a special place for me. As someone indigenous once said to me, childhood is everyone’s country and I feel blessed to have experienced that special time however brief and to have some happy memories.

I came back to Waipawa and drove past the site of 9 Rose Street when my youngest daughter was a toddler in about 2004 while visiting family members. It was a gloomy day and I thought it was just a one-horse town – well one-sheep town actually and couldn’t believe how different it seemed from my wonderful childhood memories! But I can see from your website that there is a richness to the town which is obviously a great community and if I’d taken the time to explore I might have found something different. It’s wonderful to hear someone else affirm that it really is a special place, especially Rose Street.

I remember forget-me-nots growing in front of one of the beautiful churches, the orphanage where I received French lessons from one of the staff and swimming in a tiny whirlpool in the Waipawa River. I still remember my first day of school and my teacher who was wearing a very fetching 1970s bright yellow mini dress complete with beehive. Even the childhood diseases I suffered seem a bit old fashioned and slightly romantic in hindsight – painful mumps and scabies from the local shearing probably.

I also vividly recall a few years later the kindness one night of another teacher who lived diagonally across the road from us and who sheltered me and cared for me with some kind words the night our house burned down. I never forget looking around and seeing the house burning in the bedroom where I would have been sleeping. I am not usually superstitious but I believe a divine force was protecting me and that night I refused to sleep in my bedroom and insisted my parents let me sleep in their bed on the other side of the house. I remember seeing a ghost or angel in the house in the past and had a terrible fear of ghosts and spirits that was perhaps founded in some sort of reality. Who knows the difference between childhood fears, rationality and superstition but on an intuitive level something saved me. Maybe I do have an angel or spirit protecting me as I’ve certainly led a charmed life and triumphed over tragedy and more than my fair share of despair at times in my younger days.

It was a difficult time and as you would know my family moved to Australia and began a different life with no further connection to Waipawa although I believe my father might have visited there in recent years with his second wife. I am now in my 40s and live in Canberra with two beautiful daughters and a wonderful community of friends who have become the stable family I never had and I adore living in the same place and knowing everyone. Where we live is like a village and would have a similar community feel to Waipawa although we are in the middle of a capital city.

It was lovely to see the fireplace in your photos – although probably not as grand I recall the beautiful drawing room in 9 Rose Street and the ornate fireplace where on cold winter nights I would stare into the coals and see all sorts of creatures while rain drops pattered on the roof.

I love your sculptures and that you are living a creative life. It rings a bell now but I didn’t connect the artistic heritage of the name Bibby but I will read more on your site and find out!

Thank you again for doing something very special that is making a difference to many people and connecting lives. I am planning to scan some photos that I found in my grandmother’s house which show me as a very adorable little girl in the beautiful garden and some features of the original house. When I find the photos I’ll send you the scanned images for reference. I have a story to tell you about the orphanage but will leave that for another instalment.

Jemima Walsh

From: Jan
To: Jemima
Subject: 9 Rose Street

Hi Jemima,

I really enjoyed reading your email – I could relate a lot to some of your memories – although I have never lived through anything like having my house burn down – and I hope I never will.

Aunty Nan was a very special person to my family – especially to my mother, who boarded with her when she went to High School. So she was like mum’s second mother – or a very, very, very  special favourite aunt.
We used to come and visit Aunty Nan every holidays on the way to the beach – and I remember the crunchy drive – and the plum trees laden with plums too. Us kids used to go out to the back of the house and play with the tin soldiers while Mum and Dad had a cup of tea. And one really dramatic visit to Aunty Nan’s was caused by our family’s combie van having a petrol leak and having to stop in Waipawa for the night before the van erupted into flames.
My older brother thought the house was haunted, because it was big and dark and it creaked in the night. But I always loved the house and never felt scared like he did – but thought of it as an exciting place to explore.

When she died Aunty Nan left the chattels of the house to mum – who I think felt a bit guilty that she was the only niece or nephew to inherit anything – so she sent a list of furniture, paintings etc to her brothers and sisters and cousins. So it got distributed all over the place  and unfortunately we don’t have Nan’s lovely old furniture (apart from one or two pieces which people didn’t want. Mum also inherited a fair few of her granny’s paintings  – which we put into an exhibition recently along with a few others from extended family. (you can see a bit about Mary Glover Bibby on the website)

My parents actually bought your section next door (no. 9) back in the late eighties and built there retirement house there. Unfortunately Dad finally retired in the 1990’s and died only a few years later leaving Mum living there on her own (although I pop in at least once a day for a cup of tea and a catch up).
The concrete steps, are about the only thing that still remains of your house – and the grapefruit trees which Aunty Nan planted next door, still bear the scars of being burnt from the extreme heat but they keep on fruiting regardless of their scars. You were very lucky to have got out of there and maybe your guardian angel was working overtime that night.

Anyway I better slip off to school as I have this terrible habit of checking my emails before I leave and then finding something interesting there – then getting myself late answering them    .
I would love you to tell your story – and share any photos

Thanks so much for writing
🙂 Jan

From: Jemima
To: Jan
Subject: 9 Rose Street

Dear Jan,

Thank you very much for posting the photo of your beautiful aunt ‘Nan’ Bibby on your website last year. It was wonderful to see her very much as I remembered her and to hear about the family holidays in the camper van.

I promised to send you photos of 9 Rose Street – after moving house several times due to renovation I finally found the photos today and enjoyed scanning these precious memories as they are all I have from my childhood. When my parents divorced they threw away all my toys and I have never seen any family photos. I found these in my grandmother’s drawers when she was transferred to a nursing home and they show some of the original features of the house and garden at 9 Rose Street.

I am going to post on my blog about this garden – my mother was quite a gardener and this is evident from the photos which are very faded.

I was thrilled to see that my father must have made me a swing.

He definitely made me a cubby house in an apple tree which I fell out of once!

The mushroom in the Brownie photo is particularly special as my friend Rosalie and I used to find fairy rings in the woodland on the hill of 9 Rose Street. Rosalie is pictured in the Brownie photo and I recall attending her first communion at the local Catholic church.

The story I wanted to share with you is this:

When I lived at 9 Rose Street as a child my mother was a bit vague – things must have been tough being a young mother at times.
She organised for me to have French lessons from a French-born woman who was working at the local orphanage – a mysterious building on the hilly side of Waipawa.

My mother forgot to tell me that the French teacher had gone on holidays so one day I walked to the orphanage from Waipawa school at the tender age of seven or eight.
The caretakers at the orphanage asked me to stay and play with the other children so I didn’t go straight home. When I arrived home to 9 Rose Street there were police cars outside my house and what seemed liked hundreds of people gathered outside the house. My mother, who was rather eccentric to say the least, thought I had been abducted – at the time there must have been some unfortunate incidents in New Zealand.
I remember clearly my childhood sense of indignation when she insisted I apologise to the police officer even though it was her mistake for not telling me the French lesson was cancelled. I made a point of driving past the ‘orphanage’ when I visited Waipawa very briefly a few years ago.

I’m sending you a link to my gardening blog. I would very much like one of your sculptures one day and to meet you in person and hear the story about your dad and the relationship you had including the inspiration for stone carving! It is a wonderful and inspirational story.


Jemima Walsh

Post script: That’s my mother in the Brownie photo – she was a groovy Brown Owl for a time and put on a production of Jesus Christ Superstar. She would have been giving me my toothbrush badge which is funny as I remember getting all my teeth covered with mercury fillings as part of the school dental program at Waipawa School.

My grandmother is pictured in some of the photos – she visited us from Wagga Wagga, Australia which is my mother’s home town. My father Terry grew up in Havelock North and his brother Barry and my Aunt Denise still live locally. They are a wonderful couple and it has been a great joy for me to build a relationship with them in recent years. I plan to visit them soon as Barry has been very unwell and quite a few grandchildren have been born.

The blurry shot is us watching television (Channel One) in the front room – probably the only photo I have of my parents with me together. If there were photos they would have been burnt in the fire.

From: Jan
To: Jemima
Subject: 9 Rose Street

Hi again Jemima,

It was great to hear from you again and that is a very funny story –
probably very scary for your mum though. She was probably going out of her
mind with worry!

It was interesting looking at your photos.
It looks so different at 9 Rose Street now. – but its funny because in one
of the photos you are standing beside an old bird bath – and my Mum (who
lives in the new house on number 9) still has it – or at least the base of
it. She found it amongst the rubble at the bottom of the section and she
thought she might use it somewhere in the garden but since it doesn’t have
the actual bath bit on top it sort of looks like a forgotten orphan of days
gone by.

My mum loves to garden too – and she was thankful for some of the trees that
were planted presumably by your mum at the bottom of the section.
When they bought the section in the late 1980’s the whole place was
overgrown with blackberries, perriwinkle, wandering willie and all sorts of
weeds! and some helpful bulddozer had pushed a lot of the concrete bits and
pieces from your house down into a hollow in the bottom corner.
It took Mum and Dad years to sort it out – and of course they have planted
their own things in there too.

Now Mum, who is into her 80’s lives there alone since dad has died, and she
is in the garden every day. She has her little treasures that she carefully
tends, quite a big vege garden, and has an increasingly large area down one
side where her ‘wild garden’. I actually find that one of my favourite bits
of her garden as field poppies, cornflowers, echium, and all sorts of free
seeding annuals run riot. The gold finches love it too!

I was telling Mum this morning about your email and she said she had a
couple of photos of your house. The first two were taken by her Uncle Ron
(Bibby) who was the chemist in town at that time. They show your house in
full blaze… taken from just behind Nan’s car shed.

And then the house from the same place but in the light of day showing the
ddevastation the fire left behind.

You were so lucky to get out safely! /p>

I’ve also attached another photo of Aunty Nan and my Dad looking over the
section before the building of Mum and Dad’s retirement home started in
December 1987. You can see there some of the trees that remained at the
bbottom of the section – presumably planted by your mum.

You gardening blog looks amazing. I don’t know if my garden quite comes up
to that standard, but I like it. It has a very strong NZ native bush thing
going on down one side, but also has the old orchard of plums trees and
daffodils which Aunty Nan and her father before her first planted here
around the back, and around the other side of the house I caretake an old
‘heritage’ flower garden – full of many old plants planted here well before
I moved in. The front lawn is a little different because it’s a bit cluttered
with sculptures of mine.

If you do come back to Waipawa, you should drop in and say hi. I would love
to meet you in person and show you my house, garden and sculptures.

🙂 Jan