The lives of my maternal great grandparents Ngatihaua and Agnes Murray were certainly an interesting one. Two Northland Māori, whose early lives were merely separated by a dirty, dusty track road between their respective home settlements of Whangape and Panguru. This is the story of my Poppy and Nana Murray.
My great grandfather Ngatihaua, who went by the anglicised Charlie in later years, was born in 1923 in Whangape to Reewe and Hera Mare (Murray), the seventh child of 15. It is rumoured the true number of children could’ve been a lot higher, as three of the siblings are known to have died in early infancy.
The Murray line itself stretches back a couple of generations to the town of Moffat, Scotland and its ancestor John Alfred Borrowdale Murray. He married into the pure Māori line of Kataraina (Katherine) Te Koni. They are my 4x great grandparents. Ngatihaua was named after the local sub tribe of the area, Ngati Haua and would be raised in the Ratana Christian Faith.
My great grandmother Agnes Ada Kendall goes by many surnames, depending on who you ask. She’s also written down as Kanara, Topia, her two first names even switch between Ada and Agnes. There’s of course her married name of Murray too. But we will stick with the above, as she was born to William and Ada Kanara-Topia in 1927 in Panguru.
She is the fifth of around 9 children. Her paternal line consists of the Butler Family, whom were Irish Catholic migrants. And just like my Poppy, her maternal side was Māori, descending from the Wharetohunga family, whom were the first non-white New Zealanders to build their own Catholic mission. This explains my great-grandmother’s very stanch Catholic faith.
According to my late mother Elsa, who did a great deal of family research for this line, my great-grandparents would marry on the 4th of April 1948 in Manakau, a small settlement near Wellington. Their first born Stewart would enter the world only mere months later. 7 other children would follow in the 1950s and 1960s, including the tragic tale of Uncle Thomas, who died in infancy in 1955. There’s also the story of Aunty Barbs born before the rest, but that’s a story for another day.
In the years to come, grandchildren and great grandchildren would follow. My mother remembers both her grandparents as having Māori as their first language – they’d speak it to each other before English.
Poppy was a family orientated man who loved to involve all his family in everything they did- a hard working man on the sheep farms and in the milking shed where he had a deep love for all his tools. Nana Murray was a kind but stern woman, and you never wanted to be on her bad side like some family members found out.
Tragedy would strike when they lost their youngest son Charles, my Mums favourite uncle in 1992, only 30 years of age. My great grandmother would pass prematurely at 67 from diabetes, in 1994. Two more sons would be lost in 1997 and 2005 respectively. I don’t know how my great-grandfather did it, but my Mum said the grief got to him by the time Uncle John had gone in 2005.
Despite the setbacks life threw at them, my great grandparents were always determined to make the most out of what was given to them. My great grandfather would even travel over to Melbourne for my parents wedding in 2001, where a small sampling of Macedonian Mastika forced the poor fellow to trip over the stairs leading to the main table.
I was honoured enough to meet him a couple of times in his nursing home in New Zealand, but I can’t say I enjoyed the same with my great grandmother..
If you had to sum up the lives of Ngatihaua and Agnes Murray, I’d say it was a great one. They accomplished much in their 67 and 85 years with us on Earth, and left behind a deep legacy in the esteemed Murray Clan of Far North New Zealand.
We will learn more at a future date of what their children and other descendant’s lives looked like, but until now – love for you always Poppy and Nana Murray.