• Rosie Stewart Selwood (1889-1965)

    Reminiscences from daughter Florence Pullar in 2003, recorded by Grahame Walton

    Born:  Windley, Burwood Station, 19.1.1889.

    Schooling:  Admitted to Lumsden School 21.1.1895.  Transferred to Athol School 22.8.1898 to infant’s class.  Rosie was still at Athol School (Standard 3) in 1901, but there appears to be no record of anything further.  However it is unlikely that any of the family had any secondary education after finishing primary school.

    Childhood:  Rose (Rosie) was my mother, and looking back I realise that she seemed to inherit the reticence of her mother (Helena) about her personal life when she was young, and seemed to have mentioned very little about it, in the hearing of her family at least.  However just from little things she said from time to time I think the Selwood life when the children were small must have been fairly spartan; for example, they were allowed butter or jam on their bread, but not both, and sometimes there was bacon fat instead of either.  Not a meal likely to have acceptance with modern health officials, of course.

    I don’t know where Rose learned to cook, because I don’t imagine there would be cooking classes in the schools of those days, but when she married and our family came along the meals she made for us were always good and nourishing and there was never any shortage, though for a good number of years things were hard, economically.

    I do not know if the family ever had holidays when they were small.  As far as I can remember Rose never mentioned any.

    I can remember hearing of one incident that remained in her memory of her childhood, though.  She told me that one day when she was small she and one of her brothers (I don’t remember which one) were out in the country and came upon a hut owned by a Chinese goldminer.  There was nobody about, so with childish curiosity they decided to explore the place!  Inside, they found lots of strange things they had never seen before, and were busily examining them when suddenly there was a great noise from outside, of horses racing over a stony road.  Knowing that they ought not to have been there and not wanting to get caught they hurried to the door of the hut and looked out – and there was not a soul in sight and nothing that they could see that would explain the sound of the horses!  It was apparently quite eerie and they were badly scared and fled-but were even more scared a little later when they learned that the owner of the hut they’d had been in was killed and that the wagon bringing his body home that afternoon had been involved in an accident on the way – the horses had bolted and the coffin had been tipped out.  No doubt there was a perfectly rational explanation of what they’d heard, of course, but a wild childish imagination (and maybe the fact that “conscience doth make cowards of us all”!) convinced them at the time that the Chinese miner’s hut they’d been in was haunted!

    During their early childhood Rose and Tot (Hilda) her youngest sister were close to each other and got on especially well together.  Tot had health problems at the time and never went past Standard 2 at school, but Helena had her taught some handicrafts including painting for which she seems to have had considerable talent, though she didn’t carry on with it in later life.  I remember she painted a large picture of white lilies and gave this to Rose.  It is still in the family in the possession of Dulcie and Joyce in Dunedin.

    Early Adulthood:  I do not know what Rose did after she grew up and before her marriage except that apparently she worked as a housemaid for a period in Invercargill, but I do not know for whom, or for how long.

    Marriage:  Rose married Joseph Pullar in Stobo hall, First Presbyterian Church, Invercargill on 29 May 1913.  He had been born at “Springfield” Pukerau, but worked as a salesman for a mercantile firm in Gore after leaving school, then later was transferred by its firm to its Invercargill head office where he remained for the whole of his working life.  It was while boarding with Helena that he met Rose, and after they were married set up home in Sydney Street.  Of their marriage there were six children, one who died at birth and another who died in infancy.  Theirs was a very happy marriage and they made a good home for their remaining family of four daughters.

    Family and Family Life:  The first family home that Rose and Joseph had was in Sydney Street, Invercargill.  By today’s standards it was inconvenient and cold with only one window (that of a bedroom) facing north to get the sunshine, and the kitchen, which was also the living room, facing south with no sun.  As was the custom in those days the front door faced the west which was where the street was and thereby caught the force of the prevailing winds.  It must have been a difficult place to work and live in, but we were happy there and it was always a good place to come back to.

    Most years we went off for a summer holiday, and one year it was to Christchurch to stay with Helena and Tot, and we also visited Lyttelton where Eva and Bobby Kirk and their children lived at the time.  I don’t remember much about that holiday, except that we were there at one of the nearby beaches on New Year’s Day (1923?) when there was a large earthquake which broke off the spire of the Cathedral and brought down every chimney in the town of Cheviot a little way to the north.

    But most of our holidays were spent at the farm at Pukerau where Joseph had been brought up, and while his three sisters (considerably younger than himself) were still there, it was able to be holiday time for Rose two.  But later when they had all married and gone away and Joseph’s father had a housekeeper (his wife having died many years before), it was really no holiday at all for Rose because the housekeeper always went away while we were there, which left her with all the work to do, at a specially busy time of the year when the shearing was in progress!

    Meals had to be on the table in time and baskets of food sent out to the shearing shed for morning and afternoon teas (also “on time), so there must have been little time for relaxing during those “holiday times” in later years for Rose.  There were no “mod cons” at the farm and the only hot water was from a tap at the side of the iron range in the farmhouse kitchen – and that had to be filled up quite frequently with buckets of water from outside tanks.  Just the same it was a wonderful place for a holiday and the smell of lignite and stored apples, carnations and honeysuckle always bring back some special memories.

    We always travelled to Pukerau by train, that is until 1925 when Joseph bought a car – a Ford New Beauty sedan that was his (and our) pride and joy!  He needed only one lesson to be able to drive it, and from then on we went to Pukerau “in style’!  Though the farm was just 51 miles (83kms) from Invercargill we used to think that we’d made pretty good time if we did the trip in a couple of hours!

    Sometimes, too, on Saturday afternoons, Joseph would drive the family to one or other of the rivers out from Invercargill and while he went fishing Rose kept a watchful eye on the family floundering about in the river trying to swim!  If it was a “lucky” afternoon we would have trout for tea, or for breakfast next morning.  Rose never learned to drive (very few women did in those days) but she loved to get out and about to places she might not otherwise have visited.  Eventually at the start of the war years the car was sold and my parents didn’t have another until I purchased mine sometime in the 1950’s, and was able to take them for holidays as well as picnics and weekend trips.

    Working Life:  Apart from the housemaid’s job when she was young, Rose never worked in the community as far as I know.  But she was always “there” if she was needed.  There was a time after the house next door was burned down, and we had 16 for breakfast that Sunday instead of the usual 6. – and no corner dairies in those days!  She took in and looked after one of the little girls of the family until they were able to get other accommodation and were on their feet again.  Sadie was in the same class as I, and I can remember the teacher we had saying, with a singular lack of tact, that “Sadie’s work had improved since she went to stay with Mrs Pullar”!  No doubt that was because Rose insisted on homework being done each night, something Sadie, apparently, hadn’t been used to doing.

    Then there were Alan and Gordon, the small sons of a friend of hers who was ill for a long period.  Rose cared for those for several months until their mother was fit again.  They were both a real delight, but sadly both of them died in their teen years.

    On another occasion Rose took in Leslie the son of our next door neighbour who was ill for a while.  At age 7, he had never been to school because of some health problem, and consequently had energy to burn which would otherwise have been used up in class.  Alas, Leslie had her thinking “dark thoughts” of small boys who go marching round the house making merry with all the noisy toys his mother had given him inadvisably to keep him amused while she was ill!

    Rose wasn’t someone who went out much but she was a member of the Ladies’ Guild of the church we belonged to.  That was about the only organisation she did belong to, though she always took a great interest in the ones to which the family belonged (Guides, Brownies etc).

    Retired Life:  Sadly, in her early 60’s Rose developed a heart problem (maybe inherited from Helena who also had a heart condition) and spent the rest of her life (15 years) as a semi-invalid.  I looked after her for four years, and then when Joseph retired he cared for her for the rest of her life.  However, though she had indifferent health she still loved to travel and was able to do that from time to time. When Joseph retired they went far and wide, mostly on coach tours, but at least once travelled to Australia.  Rose also did a lot of crochet work, not liking to have “idle hands”.  At some time about 1940 Joseph built a new brick house in St Andrew Street, Invercargill, and that is where most of their retirement years were spent, and all the remaining years for Rose.

    Death and Burial:  Rose died on 22 May 1965 and is buried in the Eastern Cemetery, Invercargill.  After her death Joseph moved to Oamaru where he lived for a few years at 5 Arrow Street then moved out to the North End at 973 Thames Highway.  He died on 1 August 1980 and is buried beside Rose in the Eastern Cemetery, Invercargill.

    Children:  Florence (born 1915 died 2004); Dulcie (born 1918 died 2009); Gwen (born and died 1920); Marjorie Joyce (born 1921 died 2014); Phyllis (born 1924, died 1990). [No known marriages, partners, or descendants]

    Pullar children Phyllis Joyce Dulcie and Florence