Friday, 11 January 2019

Taffy Davies

Taffy Davies. Interviewed by Peg Cummins in 2007.

Taffy Davies (Senior) brought his family to Mount Maunganui in 1930 when Taffy (Junior) was 6 months old. The family had been living in a rehab. house in Ngaruawahia but the father’s quality of life was being adversely affected by shrapnel damage in WW1 and a move to the milder coastal climate was advised.

The Davies’ Donkeys, Mount Maunganui's Main beach, circa early 1950s.
Photograph by Alf Rendell, Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection
Mr Davies was on a War Pension and had the mind of an entrepreneur. He conceived the idea of running donkeys on the beach at the Mount as was done on the beaches in England. The Chamberlains of Ponui Island in the Hauraki Gulf had donkeys that were running wild. Four jacks had their legs tied up and were put in a long boat before being loaded on a 500-ton Northern Steamship Company boat. They were hoisted on and off with derricks.

Greg Oliver in donkey cart at Mount Maunganui c. 1962.
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 02-260
They were named for four of Mr Davies’ war cobbers. Snowy was the leader and light in colour. Next came Smithy who was light grey, then Murphy who was dark grey and Brownie always brought up the rear. The turning place was Donkey Rock, now covered by sand. The other donkeys always went around the rock abut in an attempt to keep up with the rest, Brownie would never go around the rock, no matter what anyone did. The cost was 3d (threepence) per ride so that each time the four donkeys made a trip 1/- (a shilling) was made. The price of a ride never went up over the years but the ride was shortened to accommodate the crowds. One of the donkeys once walked into the family’s kitchen and ate a ration book which was lying on the table. Disaster! Mrs Davies had to go to the Post Office to explain what had happened in order to get another one. That was one excuse they’d never heard before.

The donkeys took very little caring for. Now and again their feet would need clipping and they were brushed down from time to time. They ate grass and bread scraps in the main. However, every now and then they would go walkabout and walk through the tents in the camping ground fossicking for bread. Taffy commented that the campers never got annoyed about this but took it rather as an amusing part of camping at the Mount. Not so tolerant however, was the lady whose garden the donkeys would make for when given the chance. One can only imagine her fury to see her carefully tended vegetables being munched and trampled by four donkeys. The donkeys also ate cardboard and one Maori chap who saw Taffy feeding the donkey in this way said he bet they wouldn’t eat red paper and held out a ten-shilling note. He found they did!

When Murphy died in 1943 it was decided to send for replacement donkeys. The first four donkeys had cost £5 but the next two cost £20. Two donkeys were duly despatched on the Northern Steam Ship line again and the Davies decided to take the other three donkeys to meet the boat to make the job of bringing the new ones home easier. The boys set out on their bikes, leading the donkeys to the wharf not suspecting what was in store. No-one had told them that the new donkeys were jennys. Suddenly the jacks began behaving strangely, pawing the ground and hee-hawing, looking as if they were going to dive off into the water to meet the incoming boat. Having lived like monks for the last few years they were not about to let a stretch of water deter them. The journey home was a nightmare, with the jennys in the lead and the jacks following. From then on, the three jacks fought to establish who was the top donkey. They kept the whole village awake, causing the proprietor of the hotel to complain because his guests were leaving on account of lack of sleep.

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