Friday, 14 June 2019

The Te Puna Patriotic League stands up for itself – Mary Munro and Florence Lochhead

Plummers Point. Image courtesy of WBOPDC
Uncertainty, fear and controversy characterised not only military issues during World War I.  They were at work on the Home Front as well.

Men of the Farmers’ Union, galvanised by Te Puna settler Tom Lochhead, were not slow to review their stocks of “waggons, horses, and forage” [1] in August 1914. The townspeople of Tauranga, however, seemed reluctant and slow [2] to commit to putting civilian society on a war footing. Ad hoc activities – local committees [3], private donations [4] - got under way, but it was not long before these voluntary efforts came under scrutiny from central authority. Against a background of increasing pressure to recruit volunteer soldiers, and then conscripted ones, the powers that be also bent their attention to the proper regulation, control and “unification” [5] of volunteers running patriotic funds. The War Funds Act 1915 constituted the National War Funds Council to supervise the process.

While the realities of war became starker [6], so the practical energies of the community gained focus. As another Te Puna settler, Mary Munro, was later to say in public, the work of the patriots at home came to be a curious mixture of jollity overlaying more sober emotions, including the constant threat of bad news. In July 1916, the same month that Mary’s son Niol was wounded and her second son Robert went to camp, the Te Puna Patriotic League announced its intention to have regular socials, “as near as possible to the full moon each month”.

Mary became President of the League. The socials took place in the Te Puna Schoolroom, by permission of the School Committee (Tom was its Chairman). Tom’s daughter Florence, known to her family as Flo, became League Secretary. Two of her brothers were now at the Front. And due to the status of the Lochhead home as Te Puna’s Post and Telegraph Office, Florence and her mother Elizabeth were always the first to know of telegrams. The solid community network that existed in Te Puna was put to work, not only on the emotional drain of sustaining morale among its families, but also on maintaining the League’s independent existence.

For the forces of centralised bureaucracy were gathering. In November 1916 a charm attack from a pair of Auckland ladies - Mrs Gunson, Mayoress of Auckland and President of that city’s Patriotic League, and Secretary Miss Spedding - had their invitation to ‘affiliate’ the Tauranga League as a branch of a larger, Auckland, whole accepted after some misgivings [7]. But the Te Puna League was less easy to convince. They were in any event deeply involved in organising their first, very successful, Monster Picnic and Sale of Work on Mr Plummer’s paddock at Te Puna Point (now known as Plummer’s Point). It will have done their cause no harm to show that they were capable of a feat of organisation on a scale that involved stalls, games, raffles, competitions, refreshments, at least one bag-piper, and a launch service from and back to Tauranga [8].

Pressure to ‘affiliate’ continued through 1917. Poor Florence battled gamely on, sometimes calling Te Puna a branch league in advertising its meetings and fundraisers, other times not; a third brother, Tom Junior, went to war in April. By August she had had enough. Te Puna farmer A D Bear took over as secretary of the League.  But by then the implications of s. 40 of the War Legislation Amendment Act had filtered out to Te Puna. This allowed the Minister of Internal Affairs to approve separate, stand-alone funds rather than compelling them to be part of a larger whole.

No doubt impressed by the joint efforts of Mary, Florence, and possibly Mr Bear, the Minister issued the Te Puna Patriotic League with just such approval in October 1917. This was in good time for the organisation of a second Monster Picnic six months later, along similar lines to the first, but bigger and brighter than ever.

Image courtesy of Papers Past
At some point during the tumult and the shouting, Mary Munro was invited to speak. With still a trace of a Tyneside accent [9], she thanked “those present both for their attendance and for the manner in which they had contributed to the sale. All had hoped last year that it would not be necessary to hold another sale, but unfortunately it was still necessary, and maybe again next year. They had to blend pleasure with duty and she felt sure all would help to make the effort a pronounced success.”

Mary’s point was entirely lost on the editor of the Bay of Plenty Times. Without apparent irony, he congratulated her League on exceeding the total raised at the previous event, abjuring them: “Keep at it Te Puna! Next year we shall not let you off with less than £150, so save up your pennies.

It proved, after all, to be unnecessary to hold another sad gala. About June 1919 the Te Puna Patriotic League wound up, as all the other Patriotic Leagues were doing. Work on hand went to local hospitals and homes for the returning servicemen. Niol Munro’s wounds never healed, and both William and Tom Lochhead died in France.  Both Niol and Norman Lochhead died young. Robert Munro was not demobilised until 1920, and he stayed on the farm at Te Puna for the rest of his life.

Florence married George Chapman at the Te Puna Memorial Hall in 1931. Mary Munro was a wedding guest; A D Bear played the music for the ceremony.

References

[1] Meeting at the Farmers’ Trading Agency,  https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/BOPT19140812.2.6
[2] Letter to the Editor, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/BOPT19151014.2.6
[3] Tauranga Ladies Hospital Ship Committee, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/BOPT19160117.2.15
[4] Close Bros of Te Puna’s donation of horses, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/BOPT19160122.2.4
[5] Speech by J H Gunson, Mayor of Auckland, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/BOPT19151027.2.13
[6] Letter from hospital ship “Lan Franc”, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/BOPT19160422.2.5
[7] https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/BOPT19161117.2.14
[8] Advertisement, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/BOPT19161120.2.3.6
[9]  Mary was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne on 26 June 1865.  She died in Tauranga in 1951.

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