Home' Greymouth Star : May 19th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - 5
PICTURE: Paul McBride
Tom Manera at home in the Totara Valley near Ross.
The Manera family is synonymous with Ross and Tom Manera is its patriarch. The 90-year-old is also the recognised
elder statesman of the Totara Valley and nearby Ross that his family has called home since 1865. PAUL McBRIDE
om and Margaret Manera
still live in the family
farmhouse at Totara Valley,
following the Manera
bloodline tradition of living
off the land.
“Margaret and I have been living in this
house for 61 years. The home has been in
the family for years. My mother’s side of the
family, the Moyes, came out in 1865 and
had a house basically on the same site as
this one. My grandfather Jackamo Manera
migrated from Italy and came out for the
goldrush in 1887 — he was a cobbler by
trade. He and his mate Gullie Hardie found
the gold reef on Mount Greenland at the
back of Ross, but Hardie put it across him.”
Tom directs a sharp whistle to a huntaway
and a border collie across the yard and in an
instant both dogs heel.
“Dogs have been regular residents on this
farm over the years, a key part of the overall
farm operation, I would have to say. I won’t
allow 1080 on the farm but a farm nearby
did and I found two of my dogs dead in the
shed. They had suffered a horrible death
— they picked up one of the neighbour’s
poisoned possums. I won’t have the stuff
(1080) near the place. ”
Tom has a lifetime of memories of Ross
township and the characters who lived there.
Tom was born in Hokitika, the only son
of Jack and Norah Manera, and was raised
in Totara Valley along with his two sisters,
Zeta and Monica.
“I was born in 1925 and I’ll always
remember the time of the big (Murchison)
earthquake in 1929. I was pretty small but
I remember crockery falling off the shelves
and smashing, and next minute I’m flying
through the air. Mum had picked me up and
fired me out the door.
“I went to the Convent School in Ross,
which was up on the hill behind the
Catholic Church, up where the old hospital
was. There were a lot of kids going to school
back then as Ross had a lot of people then
— families of mill workers, miners and the
lime works, as well as the nearby farms.
There were three classrooms, and they
weren’t small ones either.
“I left school when I was 12 years old and
went to the ‘university of life’. I had a choice
of going to boarding school at St Bede’s in
Christchurch or milking cows — I opted to
milk cows,” Tom muses.
Tom’s father had a small dairy farm
operation and ran sheep across the river and
a few pigs, too.
“ We had an old milking machine and used
to separate the cream from the milk. A lorry
from Westland Dairy would com e three
times a week and pick up the cream in the
large 10 and 12-gallon cans. We used to feed
the skim milk to our pigs and used to rear
the calves on skim milk as well.
“ We always had a couple of bulls on the
farm, which we got from the Williams farm
in Fox Glacier, and had a few beef as well.
We had ground on the Hokitika River bed
and would rear the beef and sell at the Ross
When World War Two broke out, as
a young lad Tom was asked to work at
the Higgins sawmill down the road, but
returned to the farm again when it was over.
“ When the war started, young fellows
were going away and a lot never coming
back. I did a lot of deer hunting during the
war years, there were a lot of deer around as
there was no one to shoot them, everyone
had gone overseas to the war. Deer skins
fetched a good price then, for the skins —
venison never came into it. There was good
money in possums, as well.
“I remember the time Stan Graham cut
loose, too. My father knew him pretty well
and used to say he wasn’t a bad fellow. Stan
and his brother used to stay on our land, in
our hut along the Hokitika River. ”
Memories of early Ross are fondly kept by
“The mills employed a lot of workers,
especially the Stuart and Chapman mill,
which was down towards the beach. There
were four pubs in Ross when I was growing
up — the City and the Empire, which still
operate, and then there was the Commercial,
which used to be across from the hall, and
the Clydsdale Hotel towards the top end of
“ When I was young it was during the
Depression times and a lot of prospectors
were looking for gold, basically fossicking.
The two main stores were Mackay ’s and
Houlihan’s, general purpose stores which
sold most things, and Houlihan’s had a
bakery, as well.
“Jack Hansbury had a coach with a horse
and cart and had his stables down by the
City Hotel, across from his home. He later
got a taxi and had the contract to pick the
mail up from the rail and take it to the Post
Office,” Tom reflects.
The cattle yards and railway yards were all
down by the beach and sawmill.
“All the stock would come from down
south, stock drives from the Whataroa sales
and a lot of Nolans’ cattle from Haast. Jim
Thompson and his brother Dave used to run
the yards and load the stock on to the rail
wagons. Some of the cattle from down south
were pretty toey, but Jim had good dogs
with him and big sticks, as well. ”
It was at once of the many local dances
that Tom met his future bride, he says with
“There were numerous balls and dances
in Ross and Waitaha. Rene Jacobs and her
band played all the time and later the Cook
and Acker band, as well. I met Margaret
(nee Foster) at a barn dance — she was a
very good looking girl and really caught my
eye. We have seven children — Michael,
Elizabeth, Peter, John, Robin, Christopher
and Suzanne. Peter and Chris help out on
the farm, but all the boys are there when we
do the hay. ”
These days Tom runs mainly beef up the
valley farm, saying he adjusts the farming
operation with the times.
“ I used to have sheep but they got too fast
for me and prices for wool went down, and
there’s not so much work in beef. We run
about 140 hereford and Aberdeen angus-
He chuckles as he recalls the time he gave
fellow farmer Jim Rea a hand to drive a herd
of cattle to the Hokitika abattoir and the
mayhem that ensued.
“ Jim Rea was up the road and there used
to be pockets of wild cattle all over the place.
That was Jim’s pastime, chasing wild cattle.
He would put them in with his normal
herd to settle them down a bit, but it didn’t
“ We were herding a team across the old
Hokitika bridge and there was an old fellow
on a bike, smoking a pipe, riding towards us.
One of the wild bulls broke free and charged
ahead. The old fellow jumped off his bike
and jammed it in front of the bull but it
rammed its horns into the horn-like handle
bars and tossed his bike over the bridge
into the blackberries. The fellow stood there
traumatised — he was mesmerised, never
said a word as the rest of cattle walked past
him, and he had his pipe still stuck in his
“That particular bull charged into Hokitika
and took off down Weld Street and around
the Town Clock. It took off into the Road
Ser vices depot across the road, with the
pack of dogs chasing it. There was a hell of
a commotion, people shouting, barking and
roaring . . . and next minute Frank Carter
came flying out down by the butcher shop.
The bull eventually ended up on someone’s
As Tom leans across the side fence he grins
about having recently celebrated his 90th
“ I think we have longevity genes. I enjoy
working and look for ward to getting up in
the morning and working — but I’m semi-
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