Sun, Fern and Kangaroo

Sun, Fern and Kangaroo: My great grandparents Alexander and Ada

My great grandparents Alexander and Ada
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If any ordinary couple who aren’t celebrities deserve a documentary series written about them, it’s my other maternal great grandparents Alexander and Ada Tatana, my mother’s grandparents. Love story for the ages, much triumph and tragedy and everything else in between. This is the story of my Nana Merlin and Koro Farmer


My great grandfather Alexander


Alexander, or Koro Farmer, would be born in January 1935 in Rotorua, New Zealand to Mac Tuhaha Tatana, a Māori man of the Ngati Raukawa people and Florence Lillian Tatana, an Englishwoman from Essex. He would attend school at Poroutawhao, a small settlement in the Manawatu region of New Zealand.

Siblings included brothers Nick, George, Doughy and sisters Florence, Patricia, Joyce and Maxine. Childhood was a tough time for Koro, where society was still very much against interracial marriages and plenty of hard work was required for all the mouths to feed.


My great great grandparents Mac Tuhaha (Koro Mac) and Florence Lillian (Nanny Lillian) Tatana


Ada, or Nana Merlin, would be born in May 1935 to Kawaurukuroa Hanita Paki and Ritihira (Rita) Tukapua in Levin, New Zealand. She was of the Muaupoko People, whom have a very complicated relationship with the Ngati Raukawa tribe, both pre-colonial and post-colonial times. Much land was stolen and atrocities committed on both sides to the point a murky and shaky relationship between to the two peoples would exist.

According to my Uncle Brad, when my great grandparents met and got together, Koro would have to sneak Nan in through the window and likewise when Koro would attend Nan’s house in secret.


My great grandmother Ada


One day, my Nan’s father would say to her one morning “I know that boy is here, bring him out of the bedroom please”. Both sets of parents disapproved of the relationship, but my great grandparents would marry anyway and set the foundation stones for creating their amazing legacy.

If anyone in my life complains to me about love and not being able to find it, I tell them my great grandparents story- the best love story I’ve ever known.


My great-great grandfather Kawaurukuroa, Nana Merlin’s father


After becoming newlyweds, my great grandparents would set about making their legacy for themselves. Koro would regularly be seen on the tractor, doing the back breaking farm work and getting into the dairy farming business. Nan would raise their giant family, which had ballooned out to 14 kids at its peak.

Several moving around later, they would settle into the current family empire at Himatangi. Houses, flats, a wharekai (dining room), a chapel, a wharemoi (sleeping room), toilet block and family cemetery would be built over the years. For all their descendants to enjoy whenever they returned home to New Zealand


My great great grandmother Ritihira (Nana Lissy) on the left, Nana Merlin’s mother


The family and Tatana name would continue to grow over the years. Like all families, they experienced highs, lows and almost everything else you can think of. Koro even used to say they could write a period drama about us and it would gain millions of viewers. Whilst the legacy my great grandparents set out  has definitely been tested and put through hot water multiple times, it will never die cause the legend is just too great and renowned for it to ever disappear.


Koro Farmer’s siblings and mother Florence Lillian


I always enjoyed my visits to the Himatangi Farm as a little boy and I will go into detail in further chapters. Nan and Koro were both gentle souls towards me and despite being one of many great-grandchildren, I always felt the deepest love from them the most out of any family member there and will always hold them close to my heart.


My great grandparents dancing on Nan’s birthday, 2013


Koro Farmer would pass away in May 2016. Nan is still kicking on well at the time of writing, and I’m privileged to enjoy a special relationship with her. Many in my life say I resemble these 2 in many ways, and that is an absolute honour to be compared to 2 amazing heroes of mine.


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