Amy's Levin's Life History
Amy Levin wrote this history in ink, in a small, black? covered, exercise book. This, I inherited from my Mother, Mona Hawkins, Amy's second daughter.
I think the history will be of great interest to the family. It would be difficult to photograph a number of copies of the book and also it is very difficult to read the writing. I have therefore written out the whole text in longhand and had it typed and photo?copied. If I have made any errors with words, I am sorry. The punctuation differs only slightly from the book. Basically. I have ended sentences with a full stop instead of a dash and I have substituted "and" for "&". I have not corrected spelling mistakes. I remember coming back from New Zealand with my Mother, Father, Brother and Nanny. John, Nanny and I Stayed in December I924, while Mother and Father rushed to England to see Granny, who was gravely ill.
Granny died on the I8th March, 1925, aged 73, at Angle House, Molesey, Surrey. This was the house of my Aunt Elsa Vogel.
The funeral was at Old Maiden Church, Surrey. Granny is buried in Old Maiden Cemetery. I have a photograph of her grave and remember visiting it with my Mother when I was a boy.
Mona B Hawkins with all love from her Mother
I have been asked to write my life's history ? but that has not been in any remarkable or interesting, but beyond that, the one who asked me, wanted me to put down my ideas and conclusions on life, and that again would be of no interest, or only to a few people for I suppose most people have their own ideas and conclusions. And yet, did they think more of the probable results arising from their words and actions, would they alter or restrain them?? I think not, but that as a rule, we act and talk first and think afterwards ? if we ever remember to~ at all. We often I fancy act and speak in a way absolutely contrary to what we really, in our hearts know and feel would be right ? maybe if we remember it later we are sorry and would recall our words or actions.
I ought to have made a better use of my life than I have done, for I have had the example before me of two noble people, my father and my mother ? they were both of them, brilliantly clever ? a fact I never realised until after I was married and away from them, when I began to think that all the people I meet were very stupid. This of course was not the case, only they were usual people and my parents were very unusual!
They were married in August 1850 and sailed within a day or so of the wedding, for Canterbury, New Zealand. My father was very busy arranging for the departure of the four ships that were to leave England on the same day for Lyttelton, the port town of the Canterbury province, which boasts of a very fine and safe harbour. They were all sailing ships, no steam, no refrigeration room or ice in which to keep fresh meat for the voyage ? as now ? a few live sheep were taken, but they soon had to be killed and after that, it was salt meat all the way.
There were many other inconveniences that had to be put up with which have now been quite forgotten, but I well remember the sailing ships and the different interests we had on board. For instance, when we came on deck in the morning, ones first glance was aloft, to see what sails were up and what wind there was ? that is all over now, for there is nothing to see but a huge funnel or maybe two, sending out a long train of black smoke. One of the most lovely things you can meet on the ocean is a three or four master sailing vessel ? going before a wind all her sails set. She looks like a great bird
When they were married my father and mother went down to Plymouth from where they were to sail, and my mother waited at a friends house while my father busy about the departure of the ships, each one carrying many emmigrants, and there were of course many things to be attended to, and so busy was he and interested in his work that when evening came and he wanted to "retrieve" his wife, he could not remember the number of the house at which he had left her and had to apply to friends to help him to find her!
My mother was a woman in a thousand ? up to the time of her marriage she had led a society life in London, was a accomplished musician, both playing and singing well, far beyond the average amateur. She spoke both French and German fluently and a little Italian, and in her youth Russian ? but the latter she had quite forgotten.
Her father, G. Draper had been British consul in Odessa where she was born.
It seemed a pity to waste all this in a new country, where she found at first that the most useful accomplishments would have been a knowledge of cooking, washing, baking, house cleaning etc, but as she had put her mind to learning her first accomplishments so she did to learning and doing those required in her new life, and that on the top of having a large family of thirteen children, of who I was the eldest, but before I arrived a general servant had been procured who had come out with them in the Charlotte Jane" as an emmigrant and who was with my mother for some years till she married.
My people lived in Lyttelton for some time after I was born and then moved over the hill onto the great plain of Canterbury, where Christchurch was just being formed.
I remember fields where now the Cathedral stands and now it is all a town, fine streets and good shops and offices.
I look back and realise how interesting it all was 7 always making and building and improving, and watching it grow and prosper. Anyone who has once experienced the life will understand how dill it is to come to a place where all is made and in order ? and hence, one is often driven to invent new forms of excitement, that is if you are full of the energy and joy of life, and I can truly say that I never was left idle or at a "loose end" in youth (or age) that I did not dig up some form of amusement or excitement for myself. As to whether it was good or naughty depended entirely on my surroundings at the moment. I don't mean that I had a weak nature, far from it, but it does mean a Irish nature but with all my love of excitement I can honestly say that whenever I have accepted a position of trust, I have stuck to it and carried it through ? I was never a "quitter",to My first remembrance of our life at the Springs where we went after my fathers term of office as Superintendent of Canterbury expired, was to dash wildly and joyfully into a large field of lucerne near the house which was just ready for cutting ? and that did not go off well in the eyes of my enraged father, who hastened, with much abuse ? to "Call us off".
The Springs Station was a large property which my father three Partners leased from the provincial Govt ? and used for cattle breeding and a small amount of corn growing. It was sixteen miles out of Christchurch and the township of Lincoln is now built on part of it and the rest is all cut up. and no. doubt built over. The area was on a perfectly flat plain covered with tussock grass and the under growth of grass was short and dry, but good food and the young horses who grew up from foals on it used to look as if they had been corn fed.
It was a cattle station and my mothers brother, George Draper was the Stockman, and he it was who took me out with him and taught me to ride, at least he said "If you fall off I won't take you out again" So I stayed on! ? and my father said "If you don't sit straight in your saddle (side Saddle) you shan't ride at all" So I carefully attended to that instruction, and so grew up to ride really well. But with a bad tricky horse, I always believed in "hands", I mean handle and humour him in such a way that he is not encouraged or tempted to try and get rid of you, if he does, stick to him and fight him of course, but I always found that the best thing was to prevent him getting nasty, if possible, and then in time he would forget and get over his evil habits which are often started in consequence of the carelessness or stupidity of some one who rides badly and does not try to understand what the horse is feeling or thinking about, and to feel that is half the battle with a young horse. Before saying more about myself I must speak of my father and mother. He was an Irishman, James Edward FitzGerald ? I do not know where the first part of his education was carried out, but he went up to Cambridge where he failed to take his degree as his eyes broke down. But he was a wonderfully brilliant man and should have shone in the English Politicle world, only weak lungs forbade him to live in England ?threw himself heart and soul into colonization. For some years he was in the coin department of the British Museum but as his health made it impossible for him to remain in England he became a Member ,of the Canterbury Association which was formed by many prominent men of the day to found the Canterbury Province in New Zealand. When New Zealand was first founded it was divided into?provinces, each Province governed by its Superintendent and Provincial Council, who dealt with all the local matters, but all of whom were under the General Govt or Ministers elected by Parliament. My father was twice a member of a Ministry, but on each occasion the Ministry did not last long and the opposition recalled in its stead. Later on the house created the office of Comptroller and Auditor General and appointed my father to fill the position as being a man whose uprightness and honesty were above reproach. The object of this office was to see that all money voted by parliament for a certain purpose, was used for that purpose and for no other therefore all money voted by parliament for railways, roads, bridges, etc was passed into the care of the Comptroller, who would only pay each sum out again for the purpose for which it had been voted and FOR no other. This often lead to the most amusing war between my father and the Govt. in power, who, from time to time wanted to divert money for other things according to their discretion, but who always found they had come up against a brick wall when they tried to extract any money from my father except for the exact purpose for which the house had voted it and who sometimes to their supreme disgust, replied to their appeals in verse!
But I must go back if I am to write about myself ? I must have been a horrid imp of a child for Mr ? afterwards Sir Charles Bowen used to say that when we lived in Chch and I was about eight, he rode up To the house one day and as I loved horses, I asked him to let me hold His while he went in to speak to my father ? he supposed he did not stay There long enough to please me, for after he had mounted and turned Round to go ? I called out "Mr Bowen your horse has a stone in his Shoe". He got off and picked up one leg after the other to find Nothing and when he came to the last one ? I gave a shout of joy And rushed into the house! I don't remember this but Mr Bowen Swore it was true.
My memory only takes me back as far as the time we were in England For three years. My father had a rather bad illness after his term of office was over and, as usual, was advised to take a sea voyage so we returned to England. The only vessel leaving Lyttelton then was a small sailing one ? very small ? no other passengers but ourselves ? no stewardess, and just one black steward, and we had awful weather and were three weeks in reaching Sydney from where we got a sailing vessel, the "Speedy" in which we came home. Canterbury at that time was encouraging people to come out ? working people? and giving them free passages and my father was appointed Emmigration Officer or Agent, which office he held for three years. His duties were to select only suitable people out of 4II those who applied to him for passages ? that is domestic servants, married couples, farm hands, in fact any of the working class, men or women 0 who were likely to "make good" in a new country and my father had to see all applicants and accept those that he thought suitable to a new and maybe harder life.
I don't remember much about our life in England ? but I do remember with dread my awful chilblaines during the cold weather on the voyage out again.
Other things there were to bear, very different to what the voyage is now. There was no fresh meat most of the time, some live sheep used to be taken, but had of course to be killed pretty soon and when they were done it was salt or tinned meat for the rest of the way, and mostly ships biscuits or very uninteresting bread, and it must have been nasty as I remember so well when we arrived in Lyttelton, how joyfully we wellcomed Mrs Gresson, Judge Gressons wife, on board. Matauha? She had ridden over the hill from Chch to meet the "Matauha" and brought us a loaf of bakers bread and some fresh butter and I quite remember the tea we ate.
We went up to the Springs Station, of which I have spoken, and while there my life was a pure delight and very free. Lessons? were had when my mother time to give them, but not many and I often wonder how I know all I do, when I think of the scanty real lessons I had. Tecnecally now I am very ignorant really, but in general knowledge better informed than many women who have an ordinary life and learn in the ordinary way, but that is owing to the companionship of my parents.
While we were at the station my father conceived the idea of starting a paper. At that time the Lyttelton Times was the only paper and my father started "The Press" which still exists. In those days there were no cablegrams ? no cable having been laid and no telegraph between Lyttelton and Christchurch and all the English news came out by sailing vessel ? each of the papers ? L Times and Press, kept a man and horse in Lyttelton ready to start over the hill as soon as they could get hold of the letters etc for their paper and it was a ?race between them as to which would get into Chch first and enable his paper to get out their "extra", just a column printed off and sent round the town by the paper boys. At this time of course we were living in town my father having Cashel decided to edit the paper himself, and our house was in Cashel Street adjoining the Office.
We children hated the town life after our free one on the station, but we got used to it and took a keen interest in all that concerned "The Press" and childlike thought it our duty to hate the owner of the Reeves? Times, a Mr Reeves but the Reeves were very nice people and later on when I had arrived at "years of discretion” they were great friends of mine.
I missed my riding more than anything else when we came to town but people were very good to me ? and several gentlemen most wonderfully kind in lending me horses and taking me out riding.
Lake.~? Among these men was George Like ? afterwards one of the professors at Otago University, one of the most charming men I have ever met and with the purest and most simple mind and with a laugh which alone made you love him!
My father was at this time in Parliament, or General Assembly as it was called, and as the sessions were held in Auckland, then the seat of Govt it meant that he was nearly as much away as at home, and another unfortunate thing was that about this time large gold discoveries were made on the West Coast, at Hokitika and elsewhere and my father, thinking that the gold rush and consequent business would come through Chch spent a great deal on enlarging "The Press" out put, and so when no extra business came overland, but all went by sea the other way, he found he was very much involved and in debt and so it was that we was persuaded to accept the Office of Comptroller General, which office he held for many years.
I find I am saying nothing of my own life now, and at that time it became a rather hard one, but really, it did my character a great deal of good,
When we first came up to Wellington we lived about four miles out of town, at Karori ? then a very small village arrived at by a very bad road among the hills.
We brought two of our ponies up with us and my Father got a rather fine bay horse call Forrester and used to drive himself to and fro his office in a pony carriage.
Karori was a cold bleak place and I as a young girl found it very dull I "came out" about that time and through the loving kindness and help Of Sir Francis and Lady Bell, managed to have a fairly good time, during session, when Parliament met, for Lady Bell took me to all the balls with her own daughter and also gave me a lovely ball dress each year and all other dresses I had to make myself, but many people were very good in giving me things and luckily I was able to do them up myself.
When we first came to Wellington my father was hampered by the old debts from Chch, so we sent away all the maids but one and I did the cooking and made all the bread for the family for a whole year ? it was very hard work, but as I said before, now that I look back on it, I think it did me a great deal of good and made me more considerate to those who served me later on in life.
The boys used to ride into town on the ponies to their tutor every day. After a few years my father decided to build a house in Wellington and Whi?? bought some land on a point of the hill whi? the inner signal station Mt Victoria, and I lived there until I was married. I first became engaged to the best looking man I have ever seen I will not mention his name, it would not be fair. He was an absolute gentleman and charming in every way ? but he had an unhappy failing and that was that he was always falling in love ? and ? he equally easily fell out of love again. I was one of the girls to whom he was engaged and that lasted about two years, there was no prospect of us getting married. He had no money, nor had I, and it was broken off and although I felt it bitterly at the time it was a very good thing for me and later on I married W.H.Levin who was quite one of the best men who ever lived, good in every way and to everyone, and after that my life, except for troubles and deaths in my own family was one long happiness, all surrounded by love, no money troubles, which weigh so heavily on one or any other troubles that he could save me from.
We came to England to see my husbands people a few months after we were married and while there our eldest child ? Elsa was born. It was very good of the old people to let the event take place in their house, for it must have made a great upset for them.
I was unlucky enough to get a vile woman as nurse for Elsa she was an R.C. recommended by the Lady Superior of a Convent, a dear woman, a Sister of Sir Francis Bell, very good ? but no judge of Character I should imagine from the woman she recommended to me ? who pretty time left out nearly killed the baby. I took her out with me but some (time) after our arrival at our home in Wellington, on the advice of the Dr I got rid of her and packed her back to England. She was a red haired female and I have since that time found out, by experience that it is on the whole unwise to trust that colouring, though of course there are exceptions, but I was unlucky.
We settled down to a happy life in Wellington and in course of time My two sons were born ?Bob and William FitzGerald, whom we called Bootie.
I had many sorrows for my family were in great trouble, several of them died of diptheria and Maurice ? a truly beautiful young man ? if one may use that expression about a man. He was six foot two in height and besides being very handsome, his expression was really beautiful ? and after diptheria he went into a consumption.
The FitzGeralds were all prone to lung trouble, which was in those days treated by keeping the patient out of the fresh air, instead of in it, with fatal results. My father had a threatening of this trouble and that was one reason for his leaving England.
I had one other son who only lived a month and after that my health broke down and my lungs got slightly affected.
Whether it was instinct or "pure cussedness" I don't know, but I fought against the shutting up treatment and felt I must have plenty of air. My husband bought me a sweet little place out of town away from the sea, in the Wairarapa Valley, near the township of Featherstone and there I used to spend the greater part of every summer with the children, out all day riding or driving and very often sleeping in a hammock hung in a roofed balcony on to which my bedroom opened. The childrens old nurse used to say "You'll be the death of yourself you will" but so far from this being the case the lungs got quite healed and I have been a fairly strong woman ever since. During this time my youngest daughter, Mona was born who has ever since been the most sweet blessed daughter a mother could have.
We lived on happily in Wellington and a great part of my life there was spent in music. My father and mother were both musical and my mother did a great deal of singing in Chch with the Choral Society, mostly oratorios in which as a rule she did the soprano solo parts, as I did later on in Wellington after I was married.
My husband was ever so good in letting me leave him alone every Friday evening for the practice night and the only time he used to rebel was sometimes when the week in which a concert was to come off, if I were taking the solos I was away rehearsing with the orchestra for one or two evenings, but he knew what a joy my music was to me, though sometimes he used to say, with perfect truth 'I can't quite see where your pleasure comes in, all the day before a concert you are in a state of nerves for fear you should not do the music justice, and when you come home you weep because you have not sung as well as you hoped you would, but I suppose you have got some pleasure out of it or else you would not go on doing it".
We lived on in our happy life, but Willie was working?too hard at his office ? he loved it and was proud of it and rightly so, proud of the name it had in the business world, but he took no exercise to speak of and that really was the cause of his death in a way. He had a cough and one morning after a fit of coughing I found he was very dull and did not seem to understand what I said to him and as this continued I sent for the Dr and he called in another, but they could do nothing,They thought it was a clot of blood on the brain, but in a few hours he passed away ? and I was left. A short time before the end as I was holding his hand he seemed to be trying to speak and I said, not trouble you want to tell me to go to England and comfort your father and mother and send the boys to the "Versity" and he just squeezed my hand in answer ? and I said I would do so ? and so I left my home and came to England. Friends advised me not to do so, and on looking back I think they were right, but a promise is a promise and so I came and left my home and country and friends to begin life again and now? as it were ? ? ? although some things might have worked out better had I stayed there, I could not know that and I had promised him. Barkston?
I took a house in Barkston Gardens, thinking I ought to be near the old people, but neither the children nor I could bear the town life and I found a nice house at Worcester Park, from where I could come into town in quite a short time and we moved out there, delighted to get back to a garden and green fields once more.
Later on, as my landlady was a quite impossible person to work with and the children were all scattered, except Mona ? I moved to a smaller house in Malden Elsa had married Harry Vogel eldest son of the late Sir Julius Vogel and lived in Molesey and Bob after his term at college was up ? Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he did no good at all, returned to N.Z. and Bootie went into the Army getting a commission in the K.D.G's, but he married a New Zealand girl and to my sorrow, she made him resign his commission and take her back to N.Z. ? so he went out and took up land as Bob had done. They would neither of them go into the old business though they held shares and a position had been kept as their father had wished. Mona and I were now alone and we lived an ideally happy life, such a life as few people have. At first she had a governess who lived with us, a dear girl I who better than all else she taught, kept Mona a most perfect little lady and I have found concerning the governess class ? that that part of the education is neglected. I don't mean Bage? in manners, but in thoughts and ideas. Madame Bage a French lady came twice a week for French, and once we went to Paris, with Madame to look after us as I could not speak French.
Madame was a widow and had known better days, poor lady, Her husband had been an officer in the army, but after his death she had to earn her own living and so had come to England to teach french. Madame thoroughly enjoyed her trip with us and living again as she used to ? we stayed at "The Grand" and saw as much of Paris as we possibly could in three weeks.
When Mona's education was done, as my lease of Voewood was up we thought we would like a larger house so that we could entertain more and we took Netley Park, at Gomshall, a quite lovely spot and there we were for some years, going each winter, at first to the South of France and then to Egypt which we both loved and the people nearly all were charming. We stayed at the Savoy Hotel in Cairo, and when we first arrived I was suprised and delighted to find as secretary there a little man who had held the Algiers? same post at the hotel we had stayed in in Algiers and this of course was most convenient to have someone in the office who could in a way vouch for me, and be willing to accept my cheques instead of my always having to go off to Cooks Office to change them.
We made many friends in Egypt, both in Cairo and Khartown. I wish I could remember, so as to describe them well, all the pleasures we had in our time there but the war put an end to them and all of most things for everyone. We had to stay at home and do what we could to help. Mr. Strackey, at Newlands Corner had a hospital for wounded men and Mona used to go up and nurse there, sometimes all day and sometimes on night duty.
Our lease of Netley was nearly up and as Mona got married then to Capt Hawkins I decided to give it up and take a smaller house in Guildford for myself as I should in future be alone. Mona's eldest boy John?was born at Netley ? the war was going on and Jack Hawkins was at the front and one lived in a state of awful anxiety, too acute to be described, but all the time Mona was as brave and splendid as she could be.
When John was born she had an incompetent nurse who had been recommended by the Dr and was in consequence very ill, but we were able to get Nurse Apps after a little, to whose skill I almost think Mona owes her life. All this anxiety and worry had been too much for me and I was taken very ill, being unconscious for some time and during that time being put in an ambulance and taken over to Angle House where I still am and where I receive all the care and kindness possible from Elsa.
Mona stayed on at Netley to pack up the house and store all the furniture and Jack came home and they took a house at Blackheath where their second boy Rollo was born and where Mona had Nannie Apps to look after her, so all was well. I went to live with them for a long time at Blackheath but I was old and I feared to bother them, not that they in any way showed or allowed that and were as good as good could be to me ? but it was thought better that I should move back again to my old rooms at Angle House and here I am.
There is no more to write, I am 72 and shall not be much longer in this world, but Mona is in New Zealand now and I just want to live long enough to see her dear sweet face again. I think my work is done here and I hate to be a bother, though that I am one is never shown me and I am blessed with a good kind maid. I think I have put down all the out?lines of my life ? the inner life will die with me, better so ? but it has been a vigerous and active one and I could write much on some?subjects that would help some wandering soul, if they ever took the trouble to read it ?but others, better able than I am have down so and no one attends much to them, so why should I suppose my words would carry any weight
Most people pay no heed to the experiences of others, they read and forget and hurry on in their own way until they find things have got rather tangled up and then, too late, they say "What pity I did not remember what I read in "so and so"
and after all ? perhaps it is as well for if we all ran along one track generation after generation there would be no progress. I have not said anything g about my music and that was for years my very great joy and privilege, to be allowed to sing that lovely music to the accompaniment of a string orchestra. I had the honour of singing the solos in the Elijah Messiah, St. Paul ? Acis and Galatea and many cantatas and though my best was far below what the works demanded, still I did my best and it was a great joy to be allowed to do so, and in my old age it is a joy to have it to think over.
I am putting with this two accounts of life we had, one when Willie and I went to the continent, leaving Mona with Beatrice and the other, and account of the trip Mona and I had to Norway with the Beethams. I had another book of the trip Willie and I had to the Fiji's etc, but at the moment I can't find it, when I do I will put it with this.
October. I find so many things rise up in my mind I would like to have said, but I shall add them from time to time. One thing I would like to put down, but it is pure and simple conceit that makes me do it! One night when I had taken the solo part, (soprano) in some big work ? one of the audience who was a member of the musical society in Melbourne or Sydney ? I forget which, asked Mr Parker, our conductor, if the lady who took the solo parts was a professional, and would she be likely to accept an engagement to sing the work in Australia!!