Family connection to Howick stretches back to the first arrival of the Fencibles

By Jan Steiner

Our mother Valerie Drewet (nee Paton) was proud of her heritage as a Fencible descendent, though there was little mention of them in history books.

Her father’s Fencible forebears, John Paton and his wife Jane (McInroy) Paton, arrived in October 1847 from Greenock, Scotland, on the ship the Minerva.

They settled in Howick and surrounding areas.

In our mother’s view, the Fencible settlers were housed in the various locations of Howick, Panmure, Onehunga and Otahuhu, according to their ethnicities, so as to control fighting between the groups.

As we understood, many did not read or write and very rarely got to return to their homeland.

Jan Steiner’s great-grandparents, Benjamin Paton and Maria (Wagstaff) Paton, were both born in New Zealand. Ben was a builder, constructing several houses around Howick. Photos supplied

This was certainly the case in our family. As kids our understandings of our history started when we (they) arrived in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

We had little knowledge of anything or any connections beyond these shores.

In Howick Pakuranga, however, we seemed to be related to many people.

The annual Pakuranga School picnics in the 1950s and 1960s were almost an extended family affair for our mother – meeting up with cousins Olive and Evelyn and others, and her many uncles and aunts still living in the district.

Festivities were repeated at this yearly event, with mountains of sandwiches being made by the women, and very large pots of tea.
Hammering the six-inch nail into a block of wood with the least number of hits was one of the highlights, as was the egg and spoon race.

The Patons farmed down Patons Road off Bleakhouse Rd.

Our grandfather Charles Paton inherited part of his father’s farm. He had 40 acres and 40 cows.

It was said “only a Scotsman could make that work”. It was enough to live on.

My grandmother had to run the farm for several years while grandad was away at World War I or recovering from being wounded, and then having tuberculosis after the war.

The land was at a later time subdivided and a quarter acre was given to each of the three siblings.
Eight years of saving for a deposit and a State Advance loan at 3 per cent allowed our parents to build a small two-bedroom house on the section.

We grew up just up the road from Patons Rd on Bleakhouse Rd with Granny on the corner, Uncle Dennis a bit further up, Aunty Beryl next door and then us.

We had a great life with one row of houses on either side of the street and cow paddocks to wander in and with blackberries and mushrooms to collect.

Grandparents Charlie and Muriel Paton farmed on the corner of Patons Bleakhouse Roads.

We had lots of kids to play with – new housing lining what was once metal roads and farming areas.

Slowly more and more housing filled in the green areas around Howick, Pakuranga and East Tamaki.

Mum lived much of her life on the farm she loved. Our house is still there, to remind us of the lovely times growing up there, but will most likely soon be pulled down and no doubt replaced with multiple houses.