Shadows beneath the mountain: Jack and Ted in the 1920’s


The Osborne brothers were born in Canterbury in the late nineteenth century. Ted was the older of the two, and in their twenties they made their way to the North Island, where Jack worked at an old creamery in East Tamaki (pictured above). This perhaps is the site of the Tip Top factory today. Like many men their age, they were drafted into the First World War. Ted went to Egypt and Gallipoli, Jack to the Somme – one of the bloodiest battles in history.

Fortunately, both brothers made it home safely, and when they returned they established two dairy farms next to each other, in a newly formed district called Hora Hora, or The Hora Hora Estate.

Hora Hora, or Horahora, means ‘to spread out [washing]’. Legend has it that the regal Mahinaarangi was on a journey to the Waikato with her newborn son. When she arrived at Hora Hora she waded across the water and breastfed the baby, laying out his clothes on the bank to dry.

The district is planted 20 km south of Cambridge and nestled beside Maungatautari and Karapiro. To quote local historian Beryl Judd, ‘Hora Hora district as we know it is a fertile, highly productive piece of land, roughly triangular in shape with the natural boundaries of Mount Maungatautari with its bush-clad slopes lying to the south, and to the east and north the cool, placid waters of Karapiro Lake.’

Although Tirau ash soil provides a fertile base, the farms were in a poor state, with scrub and gorse and even rabbits blanketing the paddocks. On the first day Hora Hora School opened, it was stated that there were more rabbits than children. Continuing to break in the farms during this time took grit and guts and a very long stint of gruelling work.

In these days, milk from the farms was taken to Hora Hora Creamery, which opened in 1909, and the skim milk was then returned to the farms to feed the pigs. Harry Osborne (Jack and Ted’s cousin) moved to Hora Hora to manage the creamery in 1917 and went on to farm in the district himself.

Every activity was a community effort because it had to be – none more so than shopping. Supplies from Cambridge were few and far between, and a gig going from farm to farm would take the orders and return a few days later with the goods. Haymaking would also require neighbours to gather together to operate the machinery, and even the roads at this time were the settlers’ shared responsibility to maintain.

But it wasn’t all hard work. The community also came together to have fun, and one farmer took it upon himself to create a golf course on his farm. Dances were held at the Hora Hora Hydro Village, a settlement surrounding the then hydro power plant. People would ride down on horseback, walk across the headrace to the hall, dance to the wee small hours of the morning, and then climb back on their wet saddles to ride home and do the milking.

NOTE: The title of this post and some information within it come from Shadows Beneath the Mountain by Beryl E. Judd. Written in 1986, at the time of Hora Hora School’s seventy-fifth Jubilee, it is a considerable authority on 90 years of the district’s settler history. A subsequent blog post will explore preceding Maori history in the Waikato region.