Case study - A child’s life on Uretara Island in the 20th century
A child's life on Uretara Island
Leo Ducker was the first pakeha child to be born at Ohiwa, on 24
June 1906. He was the fifth of seven children, and was born
prematurely to his mother, Lily Eyes. His father Frank Ducker was
away at sea working as a steward on ships travelling between
Auckland and Australia.
|The Ducker home circa 1906
A local Maori woman delivered Leo in the unpainted shed on the
hill behind Ohiwa that was the Ducker home. Lily was not able
to able to feed Leo and so a Maori wet nurse was found to feed him.
Leo graduated to Highlander condensed milk and then cow's milk when
the family cow had calved and her milk came in.
In 1911, at age five, Leo started school at Ohiwa with his
classmates from the Crowther, Black, Reid and Holiway families. The
children mostly rode to school across the mudflats on horses or
ponies, sometimes as many as four children to a pony!
Leo's only sister, Olive, left the family to live with her
grandparents and attend school in New Plymouth and only visited
with the rest of her family twice, so Leo's childhood was spent
mostly in the company of his brothers. The brothers would regularly
play at the Ohiwa Wharf, even though this activity was strictly
forbidden by their parents.
One day, while at play at the wharf when Leo was just five, he
missed a plank and fell from the wharf down into the sea. It was
lucky that Leo was wearing a large straw hat tied to his head as a
local man, Mr Morrison, saw the straw hat floating towards the
Ohiwa bar. Mr Morrison dived in, swam to Leo and pushed him to
shore, saving him from certain drowning. When Leo's mother and
father got home that night there were 'spanks all round'!
Read more about Leo Ducker's
life on Uretara Island (128 KB, pdf).