21 September 2012

Ronald Charles Whitney – My Father


My father – Ronald Charles Whitney – the first six years of his life he grew up with the surname of Linklater, his mother’s maiden name, as his parents weren’t married. Thereby hangs a tale that took me a few years to unravel!

I didn’t know who Dad’s father was as he had never wanted to talk about him when I was growing up, he said he’d tell me about him one day but Dad died suddenly at the early age of 55 without ever revealing (to me) who he was.

Mum had told me a few little bits & pieces but as I was never really interested in my roots in those days I never did take notes or remember much about what she’d told me, except for two little snippets – Dad’s mother, Olive Wilson Linklater, had been a housekeeper for his father & his two children and during that time had bore him three more children, Dad being the second one, and that they had never been married. I also remember that although Dad’s hair was quite fair whenever he grew a beard it was red, he told me that it was because of his Danish heritage.

I didn’t have a clue as to how I was going to find out who his father was, I had asked his younger half-brother, Gordon, if he knew, as by this time Uncle Gordon was the only family member left, but he said he didn’t know (he had a different father), although his wife, Williamina Mercia nee Lakey, told me she thought she knew but would only confirm it if I found out first. Dad had listed his step-father’s name as his father when he married Mum so that didn’t help me at all.

So I set out by purchasing the birth certificates for Olive’s three children:-


1907 26 Dec, 46 Essex St Linwood, Marion Enid not present, female, illegitimate, Olive Linklater 19 born Kaiapoi, E Hewes Authorised Agent Linwood.
1910 23 Oct, Arch Hill, Ronald Charles not present, male, illegitimate, Olive Linklater 22 born Kaiapoi, Charles Schade Authorised Agent Auckland.
1912 17 May, Stanley St Arch Hill, Raymond Stanley not present, male, illeg, Olive Linklater 24 born Kaiapoi, C Schade Authorised Agent Auckland.

So far that’s all I had to go on, little did I know that the answer was staring me in the face!

I knew that Marion Enid (known as Enid) had died at age 28 before I was born and that the youngest, Uncle Ray, had never married so I decided to see what I could find out about Enid. In those early days of my research I didn’t take proper notes or get photocopies, much to my chagrin years later! First I visited the Auckland Research Centre in the Central Library to see if I could find the address given on Enid’s birth certificate – 46 Essex St, Linwood – in the Street Directories for 1907. I can’t find any notes I might have taken about what it actually said was at that address although I can remember thinking it sounded like a home for unmarried mothers. More recently I was able to find out for sure when I searched in Papers Past and found the proof that the E Hewes who was the agent giving the information for her birth registration was in fact the Matron of the Female Refuge in Linwood:-


Then I looked for Enid’s marriage which I had found out from Uncle Gordon was to Walter Duncan. However, the first marriage I found for Enid was to Christopher John Lennox, a 21 yr old boilermaker from Dundee Scotland, Enid was aged just 15. They were married on 20 Jan 1923 at the residence of the Rev A S Wilson in Mt Eden, Auckland. Unfortunately there is no father’s name listed on the certificate and she signed her name as E M Linklater, but stamped right across the page was the information that the marriage had been dissolved by Decree Absolute granted on the 22 Feb 1928.

One would probably presume that Enid had been pregnant seeing she was so young and being married at the minister’s home with her mother present but I have not been able to ascertain with any certainty that she gave birth to any children during that five year marriage, at least none of them were registered if she did. Dad had only ever spoken of an adopted son she had with Walter Duncan. Uncle Gordon was 10 yrs younger than Enid & when I told him about her first marriage he was as surprised as I was, he had never known about it!

I then searched and searched from 1928 for her marriage to Walter but I just could not find one, at first I presumed that they hadn’t legally married then one day I decided to search backwards from 1928 and surprise surprise I found it! I’d found Walter Banks Duncan married to an Enid Schade but who the heck was Enid Schade? After purchasing the certificate I found out! Marriage dated 24 Mar 1927, so now I have a bigamist in my family and my own father was one of the witnesses!


However, I will forever be indebted to Enid because if she hadn’t told (what I thought was) a pack of lies when she married Walter I would never have found out who my real paternal grandfather was.

dads-siblings dad-siblings

Dad with all of his siblings, from back left - Wally Duncan, Ray, Ron, Enid, Gordon. On the right is Dad with his two brothers and his cousin Desiree Linklater, and yes Dad was still wearing the one piece bathing suit that men wore back in the early part of the century, I vaguely remember it!


She said she was a spinster & that her mother was Olive Wilson Schade nee Smart – which wasn’t true because it was Olive’s mother who had married Amon Smart after her first husband died and it was never Olive’s name, her maiden name was Linklater, Olive didn’t marry until she married Uncle Gordon’s father, George Edward Whitney.  Enid listed her father as Charles Schade and wonder of wonders it turned out to be correct although I didn’t realise it at the time! It wasn’t until much later I noticed that was the name of the agent on my father’s and his younger brother’s birth certificates. (Aunty Ina confirmed that was the name she had for Dad’s father, but more about Charles Schade later).

Dad was the cutest baby imaginable, a boy with such gorgeous curls, it’s just not right!dad-baby-half-brother


I was surprised recently when I found the following article in the local newspaper of 1930, I had no idea that Dad was into cycling as a sport when he was a teenager, he was mentioned in a lot of other articles as being a member of the Manukau Cycling Club. I should have realised though because I’ve had this bicycle registration for many years and this photo of Dad on his bike:-









Journalling reads:- The first driver licence in NZ was issued in 1912 but it wasn't until 1930 that the maximum speed limit of 30 mph was introduced. 1936 saw the first appointment of 12 new traffic inspectors and the first edition of the Road Code was published in 1937. In 1948 the speed limit was increased to 50 mph, compulsory stop signs were introduced and the publication of the first Bike Code. So imagine my surprise to find this Bicycle Registration (for his younger brother Gordon) dated 1936 amongst my father's possessions after he died. I had no idea that bicycles had to be registered at any time in NZ. The idea seems strange to me now but I love having this little piece of the past.  -------->>>>>>>>>>>>>



Dad married Mum, Gwendoline Eleanor Parks, on 12 Apr 1940 in the front garden of her parents home in Browns Bay.  About Aug 1941 they moved to 42 Wellpark Ave in Westmere where Dad lived for the rest of his life.

             On their honeymoon in Rotorua.













passionfruit wine

Dad was a hard-working man all his life but he & Mum still loved to socialise with the neighbours with parties, card games & darts, as you did in those days. Above is a photo of Dad playing at barman at my 21st Birthday party along with some of his wine & beer recipes I found inside Mum’s old Edmonds Cook Book! I will never forget the year he made that passionfruit wine, ‘open like champagne’ he said – it sure did, all by itself!

He was a cabinetmaker & worked for many years for the Buoyant Chair Co, 79 Vermont St, Ponsonby, as I was growing up. I remember sometimes I went with Dad to work for the day, I was made a fuss of by all the men who worked there, I was spoilt rotten, that was when I learned how to drink tea without sugar in it, it was probably near the end of the war, or very soon after, & we were still on rations & sugar was a luxury they couldn’t afford, to this day I don’t take sugar in my tea, good one Dad! This is a photograph of Dad at work, another photo we found after he died, no names written on the back of course, Dad was the foreman & is the one in the middle, nearly bald, with his hands in his apron pocket. The man in the jacket two away from Dad is I believe Samuel Darbyshire, his boss. Mr Darbyshire would drive to our place every morning and Dad would drive them both to work & home again everyday. Later on when I was a teenager Dad went to work for the Farmers Furniture Factory in Mt Eden.


buoyant-fireIt seems the factory was completely gutted in a fire when I was just over two years old so it must have been rebuilt because they were again advertising for apprentices by Jul 1943. I don’t think I would have had memories of going to work with Dad when I was less than 2 yrs old. However, it is no longer there so it must have been pulled down, or maybe even had another fire since 1945 which is when the newspapers in Papers Past stop.

jewellerybox-use table2-usedad-furniture

This is a lovely jewellery box that Dad made for Mum and a small table, both of which I still have. He was a fine craftsman and also a very good needleworker! He was quite sick once (I think from Scarlet Fever) & had to stay in bed for six weeks, so he worked a whole lot of needlework tapestry scenes and later when he was well again he made them all into firescreens, one of which can be seen in the photo (taken 1956) of him in our lounge. I remember the lounge being full of paint pots and all sorts of carpenter tools and nothing much 40-42-wellpark-aveelse for the first 10 or so years of my life, he also rebuilt the whole outside of our house. He did it on weekends and week nights, changing the outside into the style of the day, absolutely spoilt it as it was a lovely Victorian Bay Villa built about 1850 originally – this photo was taken about 1958, the house next door is built in the same style and that’s our place on the right, as I said, totally spoilt! The photo underneath is as it is today.42wellparkave

Dad also made all of the furniture in our house, built in all our beds & wardrobes and after the above photo was taken built cabinets either side of the fireplace one of which held the new stereo gramophone, the loudspeaker was a large stand alone cabinet that sat at the other end of the room & which could be heard at the other end of our street when turned up to full volume! This of course was the start of the Rock & Roll era, parties would start after an afternoon of darts & continue well into the weekend! No complaints from the neighbours either, they were all there!

dadcalledup nz-war-service-medal

In Dec 1940 Dad was listed in the first ballot for service in the War, in the newspaper report his address was  8 Margaret St, Ponsonby. That was a month after I was born and I always thought they were living in Grafton Rd then. His Army papers show that he didn’t enlist until 23 May 1945 & was discharged on 10 Sep 1945, being a married man with children he was one of the lucky ones that weren’t called until near the end of the war. He told me they were getting ready to be shipped out overseas when the war ended. Even for that short time he received the NZ War Service Medal. Mum, my sister & I went to visit him one day when he was in the Army & we had to have a sleep in the barracks in the afternoon, my sister used Dad’s bed so I had to sleep in someone else’s, I remember not liking that very much!  















me-with-dadDad’s left arm inside the elbow area was badly scarred from boiling water when he was a child, it was quite a large scar that puckered up the skin, just discernable in this photo of him & me, I wonder if that was the reason his left arm is quite a bit shorter in the above photo of him in his army uniform or if it was just the way he was standing?

Dad & Mum weren’t rich but we lived fairly comfortably, with a lot of scrimping & saving no doubt, I was oblivious to all of that as I was growing up, I never wanted for anything. I remember every payday Dad would put a threepenny piece (3d) into my piggy bank for when I grew up! I wonder what happened to all the millions! We had an old car called the ‘Continental Beacon’ when I was very young, I remember falling asleep on the large back seat many a time on the way home from visiting our grandparents who lived in Browns Bay. In those days it was a day’s outing to visit so far away, we had to catch the car ferry, no bridge then, these days you could drive there in 20 mins. We didn’t have that car for very long as the son of one of our neighbours became interested in it and Dad sold it to him. We weren’t to get another car until I was well into my teens, this time it was a Vauxhall Cresta, second-hand hardly used, it was like new and Dad was very proud of it, every weekend he’d be out there washing and polishing it, making it gleam! It was almost impossible during that time in NZ to purchase a new car as you had to have overseas funds, so second-hand it was, he waited a long time before it arrived too.

vauxhall-cresta mum-cresta-car mum-car


The 1933 four-cylinder L-head Continental Beacon, which sold for as little as $355 on the right. The car above, with Mum in the driver’s seat, is the only photo I have of another car, it’s quite different to this one so obviously not the one I remember we had for a short while.

From what I can gather from Dad’s old photographs he was a bit of a tear-away when he was younger but when I knew him he was a real family man, proud of his three daughters & was always pottering around at home, we always had a large vegetable garden, the lawn always mowed, the fruit trees, especially the passionfruit, were ever prolific, except the plum tree, much to we kid’s dismay it never did fruit as long as I can remember! He was always building something with his hands, making home brew or just plain fixing something! I don’t remember ever seeing him read a book & he didn’t seem to be that interested in playing sports although I did go to a rugby game with him once, he never took me again, was probably too frustrated at all the questions I asked him! Every Christmas we found our stockings stuffed with all sorts of lovely handmade toys, dolls with complete knitted outfits, rocking horses & all sorts of wooden toys, one year there were dolls beds complete with bedding, a little dolls wardrobe with a door one one side & drawers on the other & a dolls chest of drawers, another year a small child’s table with little chairs. My own children still had the table & chairs when they were growing up, I finally had to get rid of them when we shifted to a smaller house 13 years ago, the chairs had disappeared one by one but the table was still as strong as the day it was made, albeit lots of marks all over it! The two toys I remember were the little wooden men who toppled over & over down a wooden ladder (seen here is this photo, you can just make out one of the little men in Karin’s left hand)  and the Jig Doll with loose limbs that 'jig' on the end of a vibrating board, sit on the board and the doll would dance, just fascinating. Then there was the swing he built for us in the backyard, we were the envy of all the kids in the neighbourhood, no one else had one of those at home (barren plum tree in the background).

our-toys-1944 jig-dolls swing

Well, that’s Dad’s life in a nutshell, there was obviously a whole lot more to him than I ever knew but there’s no one left to tell me about it now! Here’s a few photos from what he left behind, mostly with nothing written on them. Please don’t let this happen to your photos, go and name them all now before it’s too late!

dad-groomsman-alonequeenst mywedding don-dad-robin withsandra-zoo unknown

1) Groomsman at Ray Blundell's wedding
2) Queen St with brother Ray & friend Jack Dunn
3) My wedding
4) Don, Dad & Robin
5) At the Zoo with Sandra
6) Dad & Ray with unknown women


                  Our Little Family                                                                                         


Dad passed away suddenly from a myocardial infarction on 5 Mar 1966 aged just 55, three months after his first grandchild was born and 5 years short of retiring. RIP Dad.



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