The Bashford Story

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Outstanding Educational
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Cutting Edge
Farm Management Two

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Flexible and
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Social and
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The Bashford Story

Kaupokonui farmer James Dawson Bashford was a big man with a lasting plan.The former publican-turned-farmer left a legacy to help Kiwi boys get an education in agriculture.

Known by his second name, and called Dawes by those who knew him well, he had a dream that when he died, his 66-hectare farm on Rama Rd would become a place of agricultural learning.

In his last will, dated 15 May 1962, he asked that it be called the Margaret Bashford Memorial Home For Boys, in remembrance of his late wife.

The couple had never had children.

The document outlined his wish that the home be for boys aged under 21 “who being orphans or needing assistance for any other reason are willing to live in a home where they can learn practical farming out of school hours”.

Dawson was born on 1 June 1880 and died on 9 June 1963.The Public Trustee of New Zealand became executor of his will, which instructed that a trust board be set up to administer the boys’ home in south Taranaki.

Dawson asked that the trust board become an incorporated society. He also suggested that it should include the chairman of the Farmers’ Co-operative Organisation Society (FCOS) and a farming friend, Thomas Bromley, of Otakeho.

His will had a proviso that if, after 10 years, the incorporated trust board was never formed then the estate should be transferred into the care of the Anglican Diocese of Wellington.

Dead Man’s Wishes Difficult

A decade after Dawson’s death, the Public Trustee followed his wishes and approached the Anglican Diocesan Board of Trustees to take over and manage the farm lands for the purpose of setting up the boys’ home.

They declined. In a letter dated 13 March 1973, the trustees suggested approaching the Anglican Boys’ Home Society (Diocese of Wellington) Trust Board, which might be willing to take on the job.

That same month, the Public Trustee received letters from Thomas Bromley and the FCOS chairman saying the boys’ home plan was not practical and that the estate be used to provide bursaries for students to attend various farm training establishments.

In 1979, the Public Trustee applied to the High Court to change the terms and conditions of the will, so the farm income could be used to provide scholarships for Kiwi boys wanting to further their education in farming or veterinary science.

That change was granted on 7 March 1984.

At the same time, the Anglican Boys Home Society took over the Bashford trust and Donald Hastie and John Parker were appointed as advisory trustees.

“Very fortunately, it came over with $300,000 in cash, plus the farm,” Donald says.

Interest from that provided enough money to build a new rotary cowshed without dipping into capital.

Flowers, Upholstery and Demolition

In the meantime, life and business had been continuing on the Rama Rd farm. There were two houses on the property – the original homestead and a house for the sharemilkers. Both were lived in.

The will allowed for Dawson’s niece, Rhoda Lenora Lister, to remain living in the homestead until her death. She had moved in as Dawson’s housekeeper after his wife, called Madge by the family, died in 1952.

The will clearly stated that Rhoda did not have to pay for any maintenance on the property, that the land continue to be farmed by sharemilkers and she be given an annual allowance of £400. That became $800 when decimal currency was introduced in 1967.

“The will didn’t allow for inflation,” Donald says, explaining how the advisory trustees had tried to increase her allowance. But Rhoda fended for herself.

Donald says she had a “marvellous garden” and she sold flowers. She also took in upholstery work to make extra money. Rhoda had a relation, Robert John Inverarity, who played test cricket for Australia. “We offered her money to fly to Australia to see him play, but she turned it down.”

Rhoda stayed living in the Bashford family home until she went into a Hawera rest home, and then on to Taumarunui, where she died. The last payment given to her by the Bashford estate was in 1996.

After she left the farm, the homestead was sold for removal. However, when the movers began taking it away, they discovered it was so badly deteriorated underneath it was only fit for demolition. It was pulled down instead.

Families Do Their Share

About 300-metres away, the sharemilkers’ house was the only home left on the farm.

There has been a succession of sharemilkers on the property, beginning during Dawson’s time with the Chubb family and then the Chamberlains. They lived in a cottage, which was later demolished.

Dawson died in 1963, and after his death the Public Trustee initiated the building of the sharemilkers’ house.

The Vanner family, who worked on the farm from 1965 to 1971, was the first to live there.

Next came the Johnsons (1972 to 1985) and then the Moir family, Bill and Hilda, and then their son, Billy, were employed as sharemilkers for the next 10 years. In 1996, Raymond and Dianne Muggeridge took over, again spending a decade on the land.

In 2007, Brett and Liddy Harvey became the sharemilkers. They are still there now and are milking 230 cows.

The Bashford property hadn’t always been used for dairying. When Donald Hastie was a kid in the late 40s and early 50s, he remembers it being a dry-stock farm.

Birds and the Bees

Dawson also used to graze Southdown lamb rams for a man named Cedric Best About 800 metres up the road, a young Donald Hastie used to rear pet lambs.

“One autumn afternoon I went looking for my lamb – I couldn’t find her anywhere. She’d been spirited down to Mr Bashford’s to get in lamb. So I had to learn a bit more about the birds and bees,” he says, laughing.

“Mum used to come down with me to bring the ewe home and after talking with Mrs Bashford and a few sherries, I’ve been told later, she had trouble walking home sometimes.” Donald’s first recollections of the man he always called Mr Bashford were of a “big bloke” – he was 6 feet 1 inch (1.85m) – standing at his gate waiting for the newspaper.

Baking Cakes

Later on, Donald and three boys who lived close by used to go eeling and take their bounty to the Bashfords. “Mrs Bashford was a marvellous cook, and consequently, most Sundays we ended up with a great big square of cream-filled sponge for taking our eels down,” he says.

“One stormy night there was a knock on my parents’ door and Mr Bashford was outside.” Margaret Bashford had been halfway through baking a cake when the power went off, and they were wondering if the she could finish cooking it at the Hastie’s place. Of course the answer was yes.

“Quite a few hours later the cake was cooked, but in between times I think quite a few whiskeys were drunk.” Dawson was an affable man and a common sight at stock sale yards throughout Taranaki. He was also a member of Federated Farmers and belonged to the National Party. “But he’d only pay his National Party sub the day before the annual meeting, so he could go along and stir, whatever,” Donald says.

War, Love and Revelations

Dawson Bashford also fought in World War I.

He was posted to the Wellington Mounted Rifles at the Suez Canal in January 1916. In March the following year he received a gunshot wound to his right arm and was admitted to hospital in Alexandra, Egypt.

His time as a trooper with B Squadron 7th Reinforcements earned him three medals – the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

The war injury was enough to sideline him for the rest of the war. Later in 1917, he was sent home to his wife, Margaret.

Dawson married Margaret McLachlan (nee Massey) on 20 August 1902 at St Luke’s Anglican Church, Oamaru, in the South Island.

He was a 22-year-old Anglican and she was a 28-year-old Catholic. While Dawson was not a strongly religious man, Margaret remained “a good Catholic” all her life, Donald says.

But there is a surprising revelation in the Marriage Certificate – she was a divorcee.

Margaret is also described as a barmaid and Dawson is listed as a bachelor and a hotelkeeper. Both were living in Eltham, so it appears they fell in love while working together.

Donald recollects his dad saying that Dawson was the publican of the New Commercial Hotel in Manaia at some stage.

Land Legacy Continues

Just when he brought the Rama Rd property is not clear, but it’s not the only land he had.

Dawson also owned a 7-hectare (18-acre) run-off on Dingle Rd. Donald believes it is leased in perpetuity to a farmer in the area and administered by the Public Trust, with income divided between the Sedgley Family Centre (Diocese of Wellington) Trust Board (50%), Catholic nuns in Wanganui (25%) and St John’s Anglican Church in Otakeho (25%).

“But that has nothing to do with us,” he says. The Bashford Scholarship Trust is his domain. Since its inception in 1984, it has been run in the same way as the Nicholls Scholarship Trust, and has been through many changes, particularly at the start of the 21st Century.

Changing Faces

In 2001, the Sedgley trust board (mentioned above) took over administration of the fund, and Donald’s fellow advisory trustee, John Parker, became ill. Donald visited him in hospital and assured him not to worry about the scholarship trusts, saying he would look after them.

He then visited the Parker home, where the family had boxed up all of the Bashford and Nicholls documents, including chequebooks, ready for him to take away. At the time, John, who was a retired accountant, had been operating four chequebooks, so Donald went to his own accountant for assistance.

“We had to get a tally with what was in the bank, so we sorted it out,” he says. “Our books had never been audited.” This has changed since the trust was taken over by the Bishop Action Foundation in 2008. After John Parker became ill, Donald asked for help with running the funds and Hawera accountant Dean Pratt was appointed as an advisory trustee.

Highs and Lows

Two other major changes happened in 2003.

Both trust schemes were altered to allow females to apply for scholarships and the age of applicants was extended to 30.

Donald says including young women has been one of the highlights of his years as an advisory trustee.

“We are now able to distribute more financial assistance,” he says.

Plus, he was able to answer the critics.

“I have been abused over the years (by) mothers not able to get financial assistance for their girls doing exactly the same course as boys.”

Over the years, the advisory trustees have also faced frustrations, mostly over planned land purchases.

On 20 March 1991, the advisory trustees bought the 21.4-hectare (54 acres) Hutton farm, adjoining the Bashford property for $29700 or $550 per acre.

However, just two days later they missed out on another prime piece of land neighbouring the Bashford place because, at $5000 an acre, it was over the trust’s budget.

Trust Under Fire

Another frustration occurred during the 12-month changeover period from the Sedgley trust board to Bishop Action Foundation Trust Board in 2008.

During this time Donald and Dean Pratt had wanted to buy another piece of land neighbouring the Bashford farm.

“It was a prime opportunity lost because nobody was the boss at that stage,” he says.

But for Donald his voluntary role as advisory trustee has been extremely rewarding overall.

“I have enjoyed doing it. I get quite a bit of satisfaction giving out the money to these students. It gets better when you get response,” he says.

From 1998 to 2003, the trust recorded a cash surplus of $924,162, while the total grants made for the same period were $273,770.

At the start of 2008, the trust gave out $92,500.

Opportunity Lost

Two other major changes happened in 2003.

Both trust schemes were altered to allow females to apply for scholarships and the age of applicants was extended to 30.

Donald says including young women has been one of the highlights of his years as an advisory trustee.

“We are now able to distribute more financial assistance,” he says.

Plus, he was able to answer the critics.

“I have been abused over the years (by) mothers not able to get financial assistance for their girls doing exactly the same course as boys.”

Over the years, the advisory trustees have also faced frustrations, mostly over planned land purchases.

On 20 March 1991, the advisory trustees bought the 21.4-hectare (54 acres) Hutton farm, adjoining the Bashford property for $29700 or $550 per acre.

However, just two days later they missed out on another prime piece of land neighbouring the Bashford place because, at $5000 an acre, it was over the trust’s budget.

Educating Farmers

Donald says that the scholarships have only been advertised within Taranaki. “We can advertise throughout New Zealand, but we have chosen not to over the years.”

However, applications have come from out of the region via the agriculture training institutions themselves.

The places students are most likely to attend, include Massey University, Lincoln College, Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre in Masterton, Telford Rural Polytechnic in Balclutha, Otago Polytechnic, a vet nursing course at Wanganui, and industry training organisations in Taranaki, including WITT.

As well as helping students, Donald has enjoyed working with the sharemilkers.

“I’ve had a good relationship with all the sharemilkers. It’s helped them to grow,” he says.

Billy Moir learnt how to become a farmer while growing up on the property and took over as sharemilker from his dad. He went on to buy his own farm.

In many ways, the Rama Rd farm has become a de facto version of the boys’ home Dawson Bashford had dreamed of.

Contact Information

Please contact is with any queries or questions you may have

PO BOX 547, New Plymouth, 4340

+64 6 759 1178

bashford-nicholls@baf.org.nz

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