Prepared by grandson, Grahame Walton and based on reminiscences by daughter Gladys McDonald
Charles Clifford Selwood was born on 26th August 1887, the seventh of eleven children born to James and Helena Selwood. He was the third of four boys, and one of seven children born at Windley, at the junction of the Oreti and Windley Rivers in Northern Southland, New Zealand. There are no houses or buildings at Windley now but in the 1870s to 1890s period it served as a small out-station to the large Burwood Station, and an overnight stop over for bullock trains travelling the northern side of the Oreti River.
Young Charles would have had, like his brothers and sisters, a very rural outdoors upbringing. His father was a rabbiter on the large Burwood station and would have spent many a night away from home.
He would not have remembered it, but as a two year old he did get mentioned, albeit unnamed, in the regional newspapers. To quote in part the Southland Times of 18th April 1889 under the heading of Fire at Windlay: “Mr Selwood, occupier of the house on Windlay property owned by the Hon. R. Campbell, reports the total destruction by fire of the residence and a building used as a kitchen about 11am on Monday last. Mrs Selwood was making the house tidy previous to going to the creek to wash, when she heard a scream in the front room where a fire was burning. She ran into the room and found her little boy, aged 21 months in flames, he having knocked a kerosene lamp off the mantelpiece into the fire with a broom. Mrs Selwood had the presence of mind to seize a blanket and wrap around the child, thus stifling the flames; she then carried the boy outside”. Fortunately that little boy survived, otherwise I would not be here to write this!
The Windley fire prompted the Selwood family to move to Lumsden and it was there that the Selwood children came to appreciate life in a small rural town, with shops, a bustling railway junction and exciting steam trains. It was at Lumsden where the Selwood children went to school for the first time. Charles’s father was manager of the Royal Mail Hotel for two years, but by the end of 1891 he ran into financial problems and he and his family shifted to Parawa Junction Hotel, at Parawa, 27 kilometres to the north of Lumsden. Here at Parawa James and Helena built a successful business.
It was from Parawa, from October 1882, that Charles attended the Lumsden School, this meant travelling on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday train from Kingston, departing Parawa at 10am; and returning from Lumsden at 4.40pm.
From August 1898 the Selwood children shifted from the Lumsden School to the Athol School, which was only 6 kilometres north of Parawa. It remains a mystery as to why the children did not attend the Athol School earlier, rather than spending 6 years travelling to the Lumsden School to the south.
It was while at Parawa that father James’s health deteriorated and he died in April 1899. It must have been a most stressful time for mother Helena and the whole family. The Selwood family, sans Dad, shifted to Kingston in August 1901, Charles having completed standards 3 and 4 at the Athol School.
It must have been an exciting time at Kingston, at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu. The Selwoods lived in the two storied Lake Wakatipu Hotel, the only hotel in the small railhead town at that time. Lake ferries were regularly plying the waters between Kingston and Queenstown. Passengers were connecting with the newly introduced Kingston Flyer daily train service providing a rapid service to Lumsden, Gore and Invercargill to the south.
The Selwood children all helped their mother in the hotel and Helena soon became a popular hostess and proprietress of the hotel. But adversity struck the family, guests and staff of the 18 room hotel when in August 1904 fire destroyed the whole building, and adjacent out-buildings. With the help of an insurance pay-out Helena quickly moved to replace the hotel with a single story 17 room hotel on the same site adjacent to the Kingston railway station. While it was being built restaurant and bar services were provided from temporary premises.
There was no school at Kingston so the children travelled daily by the Kingston Flyer train to Garston 18kms to the south and only 5kms north of their previous school at Athol. The six youngest children attended Garston School from September 1901. Charles completed his schooling in 1903 at the age of 16.
Because of deteriorating health, probably accelerated by the cold, damp, winter climate at Kingston, Helena Selwood and her family moved to Invercargill where she took up the lease on the Victoria Private Hotel on the south side of the city. Most of the tenants were long-term boarders, so this made life easier than the day to day running of the Lake Wakatipu Hotel, for which she retained ownership.
Living with Helena at the Victoria Hotel in 1906 would likely be daughter Helena (Nellie) aged 25 who married Norman Calder the following year. Also with mother Helena would be sixth born Albert aged 20, seventh born Charles aged 19, eighth born Rosie Selwood aged 17, ninth born William, tenth born Evelyna (Eva) aged 14 and the youngest, Hilda (Tot) aged 12, who attended the Invercargill South School.
In September 1908 Helena Selwood was forced to return to Kingston and repossess her Lake Wakatipu Hotel property as a result of a lease agreement failure, and remained there until 1913.
Eldest daughter Edith, now married to George Garrett took over the management of the Victoria Private Hotel. For the next few years the Victoria premises, now classified as a boarding house, was managed by Ellen Groves, the wife of George Groves. Charles Selwood remained at the boarding house and obviously took a fancy to the Groves’ daughter Kathleen, for he married her on 1st February 1911 at the Roman Catholic Church in Invercargill.
Charles quickly obtained himself a job in Invercargill and proved to be a reliable consistent worker. He was employed in 1907 as a bottler by the Southland Brewery at 37 Mary Street, Invercargill. By 1916 he was general manager of this brewery.
Charles and his newly married wife Kathleen lived at 71 Mary Street Invercargill. They had their first child, Lilian Agnes, my mother, born on 30th April 1912, and their second child, Cecil Charles born on 25th January 1914.
In 1918 this young Selwood family took the bold move to resign and shift to the North Island; the first of the second generation Selwoods to do so. He took up the position of tallow department foreman at the New Zealand Refrigeration Company’s freezing works at Imlay, Whanganui. In making the shift the Selwoods sold up many of their home assets at Mary Street and these were advertised for auction in October 1917. Sale items included a piano, a 7 piece leather suite, settees, crockery, and a pair of canaries!
The family initially lived at 57 Campbell Street, Whanganui then moving to adjacent 118 Bell Street. Charles and Kathleen’s third and last child, Gladys Kathleen, was born at Whanganui on 4th February 1923.
After seven years in Whanganui Charles was promoted in 1925 to the Company’s Smithfield works at Washdyke, Timaru. Then after seven years in Timaru he transferred back to Whanganui in 1932 where he remained until he retired in the late 1950s.
There were difficulties in the marriage. Kathleen did not like Whanganui and in 1933 took her three children to live in Christchurch. Charles financed the home and regularly travelled south to see his children. On retirement Charles returned to Christchurch and the couple lived independent lives in their 27 Glasgow Street, Linwood home.