Dannevirke: Family history linked to pioneering bullock teams

By Christine McKay

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Former Dannevirke man Ron McIntyre now lives in Taradale and is the grandson of bullocky Walter Plowman. Photo / Christine McKay
Former Dannevirke man Ron McIntyre now lives in Taradale and is the grandson of bullocky Walter Plowman. Photo / Christine McKay

For former Dannevirke man Ron McIntyre, his family history is forever linked to that of the Akitio bullock teams.

Mr McIntyre, who now lives in Taradale in Hawke's Bay, has told the Dannevirke News of his grandfather Walter Plowman who lived at Akitio for some years in the 1920s, working the bullock teams.

"He drove the bullock teams with 10 bullocks hooked on, and I have shared the fantastic history of those days through a unique photo of the teams at work off Akitio Beach as a giant mural across the back of my motorhome," he said.

"It's a wonderful photo, one not many will have seen of the bullocks up to their neck in the water as the bales are loaded on to the boat before they're taken to the steamer standing off."

Mr McIntyre said most of the bales loaded from Akitio were double-baled. "They were double-baled to save space on the boat and because the big bale would drop dead into the boat.

But single bales had a habit of bouncing out of the boat and into the sea, and the bullocks would have to turn around again so they could be retrieved."

Mr McIntyre said the double-bale machine was built into the woolshed at Akitio Station and he believed it was driven either by water or steam.

"We are a big family with a lot of history associated with Akitio and Pongaroa, and I'm proud to be associated with those early days," he said.

A rare photo from the 1920s of the double-baled wool being loaded into the row boat to be taken to the steamer at Akitio Beach.
A rare photo from the 1920s of the double-baled wool being loaded into the row boat to be taken to the steamer at Akitio Beach.

His grandfather, Walter, married Daisy Meech and the couple eventually moved to a 485ha farm at Toi Flats.

"When they arrived it was all in standing scrub and my grandfather Walter and my father broke the land in," Mr McIntyre said. "From about 7 or 8 years old, I sat in the tractor with my granddad."

Toi Flats was eventually split with 243ha farmed by Doug Plowman and 243ha by Walter.

From 1958 to 1980, Mr McIntyre had his own business in Dannevirke, East Coast Excavators, which he eventually moved to Hawke's Bay.

Walter Plowman stands on the back of the bullock wagon at Akitio Beach as wool bales are moved to the row boat before being loaded on to a coastal steamer in the 1920s.
Walter Plowman stands on the back of the bullock wagon at Akitio Beach as wool bales are moved to the row boat before being loaded on to a coastal steamer in the 1920s.

"I operated for 22 years in Dannevirke with a workshop behind what is now RCR, and then for another 30 years in Hastings and Napier with a fleet of 17 excavators and 100 trucks.

"My father was a contractor in Dannevirke for 50 years operating 10 Caterpillar bulldozers."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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