Martin KRIPPNER, a Bohemian born in Mantau, met well educated English woman, Emily LONGDILL while she was living in Frankfort (Frankfurt), with her sister who had married Friedrich PFEFFEL, a friend of Martin. He was a dashing Captain in the Austrian Army, one of four Adjutants of the Commander of the garrison and they married in 1851. Her brother, who had already taken his family to New Zealand in 1859, urged the KRIPPNER's to take the same step which they did by arriving in Auckland in 1860 with their 4 children on the ‘Lord Burleigh’. This was the starting point that led to the Bohemian settlement of Puhoi.
The Puhoi Bohemians who seldom had contact with others, spoke Egerlander, a gutteral regional German dialect. The lack of English was a tremendous handicap in communicating with outsiders. On rare forays into Auckland to buy essentials which involved a 30 mile (50 km) trek along bush tracks, sour faces were used to indicate that vinegar was wanted and when trying to sell eggs in Auckland a cackling sound was made to attract attention.
Some years after the first arrivals, Martin and Emily KRIPPNER joined the settlers in Puhoi for a time and were invaluable as translators. Emily set up a school as a lay teacher in part of one of the vacated arrival whares that was no longer required as by then the families had moved out onto their own land. In particular she set about teaching the children English. However not long afterwards the KRIPPNER's left the district and an Irishman Mr. WALSH took over the schooling by giving lessons in the Priest’s slab shanty. This setup was again not particularly satisfactory but was a start.
1st State School
In 1871 John SCHOLLUM along with John WENZLICK presented a petition to the Authorities and were able to secure an 80 pound grant on condition that a further 160 pounds be raised locally but few families were able to donate more than just one pound. There was still a shortfall of 15 pounds so he appealed to his father Johann SCHOLLUM in Bohemia and money was sent to close the gap. An immediate start was made on a 34 foot by 18 foot (10m x 5.5m) simple wooden structure. The KRIPPNER's at that stage decided to come back to Puhoi and Martin had himself appointed Head Teacher with his wife Emily as Assistant.
There were 73 children on the 1880 register ranging in age from 5 to 14 years. Of these barely half were recorded as attending ‘regularly’ or even ‘fairly regularly’. The rest were labelled as being ‘irregular’ or ‘absent’ all together. This was more than just an aversion to schooling as they were sorely needed to assist their parents wrestle out a living from the inhospitable land and additionally to look after young children or keep house while their mothers had and cared for new babies.
Although there were doubts over Martin’s suitability for the Headmaster post, he was a very persuasive man. He at least spoke in their language and probably it did not occur to him that the brand of English he taught was so heavily accented. Two years later in 1884, Martin KRIPPNER retired from the school and moved further north to Warkworth but for the rest of his life remained very interested in all that was going on in Puhoi and also with the other Bohemian settlement at Ohaupo some 130 miles (210 kms) to the south.
During construction, 1884
Puhoi State School
Along with a Headmaster’s house, a proper two classroom school was constructed in 1884 on a rise between the Store and the Church again using locally sawn kauri.
The Headmaster generally taught from Standard 3 upwards leaving the Assistant Teacher, usually a female, with the juniors. However within each grade there were widespread age differences as many had been left well behind by those who had attended regularly and so were put into classes with much younger children. Most walked long distances without shoes to get there in all weathers. Hardly any family could afford more than one horse and this was needed for work on the farm. However a few living a long way away came bareback on a horse with just an old sack for a saddle more often than not with a brother or a sister clinging on behind.
State School pupils, 1913
It is an interesting insight that a 1919 School Inspector’s report written a full 56 years after the initial arrivals, after listing the 67 children on the roll, concluded that “Satisfactory progress has been made, reading being still weak as in many cases English is not the language in the homes”
This highlights the extent to which many of the old time Puhoi people hung onto their roots and ethnic origins throughout their long lives.
Convent School after completion, 1923
Strong support emerged in 1923 for the idea of setting up a Convent School on land close to the church. Although State assistance was not available for such projects, John SCHOLLUM, by then affectionately termed ‘Father of Puhoi’, aided by the parish priest Father SILK, once again set about raising just over 1,000 local pounds (on a par with sterling). A further 1,340 pounds were needed for the adjacent Convent for the Nuns who were to teach in the school. Raising this money was less of a hurdle than 51 years previously as by then most of the settlers had established themselves and had relatively prosperous farms.
Not surprisingly, as most were Catholics, the majority of the State School pupils immediately moved over to the new Convent School. The 17 left behind were too few for the State School to continue so it closed and they had to cover the extra distance to attend a State school in Waiwera or Ahuroa.
Convent School class
Convent School, now the museum
There is no denying that devoted education followed and continued until the Convent School finally closed in 1964 when the number of pupils dropped away.
Footnote: The State School building was dismantled after it closed and the site is marked with a commemorative plaque. The Headmaster’s residence (‘KRIPPNER House’) is still there and is the oldest building in the district.
The Society’s Bohemian Museum is now housed in the front portion of this historic Convent School while the rear is currently used by the Puhoi Play Group for pre-school children.
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1891 WEDDING OF James TITFORD and Mary SCHOLLUM
The following newspaper report gives a fascinating insight. Just about everyone in the village was there and others came from far and wide as the entire village population was far fewer than the 800 who attended the ceremony.
“A most fashionable and choral wedding took place at the German (sic*)settlement of Puhoi on Tuesday, 20th January 1891, Mary SCHOLLUM the bride being the eldest daughter of Mr John SCHOLLUM (an old and much-respected resident of that district), and the bridegroom Mr James TITFORD, (a resident of Upper Waiwera). It was a gala day for the Puhoi and surrounding districts, as there were about 800 people present at the ceremony.
The bride was given away by her brother, Mr Joseph SCHOLLUM, accompanied by the following bridesmaids - Misses A (Annie) and E (Elizabeth) SCHOLLUM (sisters of the bride), Dora SCHOLLUM (cousin), M (Mary) LAMBERT, B (Barbara) REMIGER, G (Gretchen) CHRISTMANN, and Hilda STEWART. The bridesmaids wore pretty dresses of white Indian muslin and wreaths of white jessamine (sic). The bride's dress was most exquisite, being of white Pongee silk orange blossoms with a tulle veil covering.
The bridegroom was accompanied by the following groomsmen - Messrs W (Wenzl) LAMBERT, W (Wenzl) SCHOLLUM, C (Charles) STRAKA, M (Martin) SCHEDEWY, J (John) BAYER, and Master Joe STEWART (a little boy of six), who attended dressed as a page and as the German custom on such occasions, the groomsmen wore a sprig of rosemary, decorated with ribbons.
The following visitors were also present - Captain KRIPPNER (Warkworth), Mr and Mrs CONNOLLY, Mr and Mrs CARR, Miss SOUTHGATE, (Auckland) Mesdames BRIGGS and PINK, Misses STEWART and McPHERSON (Waikato), Mr and Miss KARL. The officiating priest was the Rev Father MAHONEY who is stationed at Puhoi. He heartily congratulated the bride and groom on this auspicious event, and dilated (sic) on the good qualities of them both, especially the former, who was ever ready in case of sickness to walk through hail or sunshine to relieve the needy. It was a most impressive sight to see several octogenarians shedding tears of intermingled sorrow and delight at the loss of their favourite. Mrs BRIGGS of Auckland supplied the musical part of the service. The church was decorated as only can be done in a country district, and the ferns being interspersed with flags made the effect simply lovely. The ceremony being over, a passage was made by the spectators outside the church, and headed by a band everybody marched to the hall, where it is the custom for the bride to dance with the groomsmen and the bridegroom with the bridesmaids, after which an adjournment to the residence of the father where a sumptuous repast was laid out in a spacious hall, over 500 partaking of the good things provided.
To give some idea of what an extensive affair it was, there were over 100 head of poultry and a whole bullock in joints, besides the desserts and a plentiful supply of wines. There were three sittings, occupying from one til six in the evening. The old people being left to further enjoy themselves, the "light fantastic toers" adjourned to the hall (which was also nicely decorated), and dancing was kept up till seven o'clock next evening.”
Sometimes during receptions a plate would be dropped to the floor and the number of fragments was taken as an indication of how many children might result from the union. When the newly weds finally left, the guests again formed in procession behind the bridal party with the musicians in front to escort them to their home. They had neither the money nor the opportunity to go away on a honeymoon.
*(At the beginning the Puhoi people were most often referred to as ‘Germans’ and the Puhoi Hotel (Pub) opened in 1879 was originally called the ‘German Hotel’.)
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The 1901 Triple Wedding
The 16th April 1901 was another memorable day in Puhoi as three weddings united the SCHOLLUM, BECHER, KARL, LAMBERT and REMIGER families. Charles BECHER married Catherine SCHOLLUM, John KARL m Elizabeth REMIGER and Joseph SCHOLLUM m Mary LAMBERT.
After the service, as was tradition, these couples, headed by the three musicians playing the dudelsack (central European bagpipe), fiddle and an accordion, led the guests towards the reception only to be stopped by a cord stretched across the small bridge just below church. Here a man (photo left) yielding a shotgun demanded that money been passed over for the celebratory “shout”. Guns were then fired into the air to announce the betrothals to one and all and the wedding parties were allowed to proceed.
Music and dancing, along with their faith, hard work and love of the land and animals, were a major factor in the successful development of the Puhoi settlement. It brought them together, lightened their spirits and let them forget their hardships for a time.
The men camped out in the bush all week and almost everyone played the accordian around the fire at night while others sharpened axes or whittled. Music was in their blood and many could play any instrument on which they could lay their hands - violin, mouth organ, cornet, piano.........
Michael is legendary for his stamina in playing his violin as long as anyone was still dancing, travelling over the hills and gullies and rivers, for get-togethers in shanties. In 1884 the first school building became a hall so a more central place for dancing was available.
Michael JESENSKY (early photo)
After Mass on Sundays the congregation moved to the hall for dancing.
The dudelsack and another violin were brought by the PAUL family who intermarried with the RAUNERs, and almost all public players of the oldtime music have descended from these families.
Of the most recent players, Joe TOLHOPF, Laurie and Fred RAUNER, Phillip WECH, Dot BERGER, Linda HILL, Ben and Simon BAYER and Ben LAMBERT, sadly only Fred and Linda are left to carry on the tradition with Dianne BARNES and Coralie TOLHOPF. For dancing, aprons and petticoats were worn, which were perhaps all they brought of the costumes worn in the Homeland. The 1923 Diamond Jubilee social was begun with twenty of the original pioneers dancing an old Bohemian dance to the dudelsack.
Charlie BECHER, who could write music, compiled a manuscript of the old tunes and composed many himself, naming them after the pioneers - Martin Fritzch Waltz, Schedewy Polka, Joseph Russek Waltz.
The Puhoi people enjoyed all types of music – Father SMIERS' brother conducted a choir to sing Mass, Mr BINSTED recruited a Brass Band, Miss JACKSON taught piano and the people embraced the music and dances and instruments of the times, forming orchestras and travelling to all the dances in the area.
Phillip WECH playing a dudelsack
When the Convent School opened the Sisters developed another generations' talents with piano lessons, operetta and choir. A second Brass Band followed the first and for about thirty years these entertained at all occasions in Puhoi, played for dances, raised money for various projects. During both World Wars, Queen Carnivals were held to contribute to War Funds.
Puhoi Town Band 1913
The Puhoi Hall Committee ran dances for fundraising on New Years Eve, Easter Monday, Anniversary Weekend and Boxing Day and the Catholic Balls were famous for their decorations and supper as well as the dancing. In one era, supper was barely more than a bucket of water and a cup passed round! Later it was "Bring a plate". Basket socials were held where girls would make up a supper basket of goodies. These would be auctioned to the men and the highest bidder won the right to share supper with the owner of the basket.
Entertainment Puhoi style
Many of the old dances and words to songs have been forgotten but the Finger and Sprat Polkas, Prince of Wales Schottische (composed for the English Prince of Wales and his bride Alexandra who were visiting Hamburg at the time the Pioneers were passing through in 1863), Umadum and Hamichl are still danced on Anniversary Day. In 1988, a Dance Group was formed to welcome a group of Egerlanders. From them they have learned newer dances while remembering the old. They wear updated versions of the old costumes and entertain visiting groups.
The original dudelsack can still make a tune and joins with fiddle and accordion on special occasions.
Puhoi Dance Group
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