The first Hector McDonald Ran the Cobb & Co Stage Post at Hokio

Hector McDonald was a very early settler in Levin.

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The first Hector McDonald Ran the Cobb & Co Stage Post at Hokio.

When he landed at Rangiuru Beach he was met by Te Rauparaha with the whole of his Ngati-toa warriors, stripped naked for battle. Hector wanted to buy pigs and vegetables from the Maoris, who welcomed whalers with whom they could trade for firearms. With the establishment of settlement in Wellington in 1840, Hector began buying pigs and potatoes in Otaki from the Maoris and sending the produce to Wellington for sale in his two schooners. His business grew into a large concern. In the 1850s he leased all the coastal strip of 12,000 acres from the Ngati-Raukawa and Mua-Upoko tribes from the Ohau River to Poroutawhao and commenced sheep farming. 

In 1854, Hector married his second wife, Agnes Carmont, in Wellington. Hector Hugh was born in 1856. Two other children were born at Otaki. In 1858 Hector moved to Hokio and built a coach and accommodation house with a bush liquor licence. This was prompted by the start of a Cobb and Co. coach service from Wellington to Wanganui. The Cobb and Co. coaches were introduced to New Zealand by Charles Cole from Victoria.  They were of the American Concorde pattern, slung on wide leather straps of six to eight thicknesses. The coaches were drawn by six horses which were grey or bay of 17 hands capable of doing a ten mile run along the beach, from a trot to a canter. The horses were changed at the accommodation house. 

Hector and his wife were highly respected by the Maoris, especially his wife who had nursing experience in Scotland; European diseases, mild to Europeans, caused great havoc among the Maori people. 

John Roderick McDonald was born at Hokio in 1859, making him the first European born in the district. Six more children were born at Hokio including Roderick Allan. 

In 1869, Hector leased the accommodation house and moved inland to beside where Moutere Rd is now, close to the Hokio Stream on the south side. All the children were fluent in the Maori language, as except for their siblings, Maori children were their playmates. Later, the second generation obtained large areas of land just north of Levin. 

Hector Hugh became a native interpreter, working in the Maori Land Courts.  He died young at the age of 46 in 1902. In 1890, Roderick Allan built the first store in Levin combined with a house, where the north part of Carpet Call and Chainey Bros. are now. He married Hannah Cameron and their eldest son, Hector Roderick was born in this house in 1892, said to be the first white child born in the Levin township. 

In 1892 the store was sold to B.R.Gardiner and Rod, as he became known, moved to Ihakara.  After a horse accident, he took over the Temperance (private) Hotel, just north of the original store about 1903.  The hotel was then said to be not so temperate. Later, he farmed on 100 acres of land bounded by the railway, Roslyn Rd and at least nearly to the now MacArthur St and Fairfield Rd.

Hector the 3rd was educated (when he was present) at the early Levin schools and attended St. Pat’s College in Wellington. He was fluent in both languages and a well-known orator and was very close to the Maori people. Work was never popular with him and after the family ceased farming in the mid 1930s, casual droving was about his only occupation. It is persistently and so far as is known, incorrectly, said he was a reporter and even the Editor on The Chronicle for a short time pre -1920.  It was said he used the Maori oratory manner to suit the then conservative publishers.  No doubt he was a letter writer and correspondent of note. He had a natural wit and always seemed to have a bottomless fund of anecdotes and stories. Hector served overseas during World War 1 and is said to have been gassed and wounded. His sister thought this affected his attitude to life afterwards. He was a keen sportsman, especially rugby and a noted horseman in early life. A radio quizmaster found his match in Hector.  I saw this myself in the Regent Theatre. His contributions of letters, stories and poems to The Chronicle were considered gems. Some people think he saved the lake for the Mua-Upoko tribe with his rhetorical writing to Members of Parliament. His mastery of the use of words was exceptional. Hector married, but with his carefree attitude to life, the marriage did not last long.  His preference was for the road and the open sky. Overseas during his war service, he is said to have been with the Diggers, an entertainment group and was a terrific entertainer. He was said to have been able to put his hand to any art work, but his hand did not stop there long. There will be many people who will disagree with this assessment of Hector and what his use to the community was, but he was the greatest “character” that Levin ever had. Hector died in 1974 at the age of 82 in the Awapuni Home and was buried in the family cemetery at Moutere Rd.



Hectorisms : Stories of Hector Roderick McDonald 1892-1974, Hector III.

Written for the opening of Cobb & Co (previously Grand Tavern burnt and demolished 1981, previously Grand Hotel).

One day during his schooldays Hector was humping his horse in the Park Domain with other children. The horse fell and rolled on him and he was knocked unconscious. Dr.MacKenzie came in his car and took Hector away.  Hector was unconscious for several days and when he came back to school he said “I saw the devil” About 1900-03.

In 1935 when election results were being shown on the result board on the front of The Chronicle Joe Logan was posting up the results and speaking too.  He asked the noisy crowd to be quiet.  Hector shouted “If you will stand aside, Joe, we might be able to see The Chronicle office. (Joe was rather wide).  At the same occasion, Hector called out “Have you plenty of pipes in your shop Mr. Wilkinson”? (hairdresser). He replied “Yes”. Hector then said “Mr – ( a well known businessman), will be in for one on Monday.  He has just chewed the stem off his pipe.  Labour was winning. 

Hector said “I like driving stock in the back roads of the Hawkes Bay.  I can have a sleep on the side of the road”.  It has been said that the stock he drove always arrived fatter than when they started.  Plenty of time to graze. 

In the hotel one day, some strangers were talking to Hector and, of course, treating him, asked him where the best restaurant was.  He said the best restaurant was a little out of the way. The directions he gave the strangers would have taken them through side streets into Queen St and up into Denton Rd. 

At a baby show once while the mothers were at their afternoon tea, Hector switched the babies around in their prams. 

George Short said he used to go out to Hokio Beach with the Vickers boys and camp at their parents’ house.  In no time, Hector would be there.  He would always take over the cooking.  He would catch  whitebait buy stretching scrim across the creek and would often have caught a snapper and have it cooked for breakfast by 6.30am. 

Somewhere up country Hector met a swagger on the roadside.  The swagger asked him where he thought he could get a meal.  Hector told him to go over the road to his house and cook a meal and he would be home soon. The swagger did so and when the real owner, parson, came home, he wanted to know what the swagger was doing in the house. When he told him, the parson asked that the generous stranger be described and the parson said: “I thought it would be him.” 

At an election meeting in the Century Hall in the 1920s Johnny Taylor, Labour candidate was answering questions. Joe Logan asked if he was in favour of cultivating the foothills and what would be grown there. Hector piped up “Loganberries of course.” 

Joe Linklater M.P. was addressing an election meeting in the Century Hall during the 1920s, Hector asked: “Was he in favour of increasing the poll tax on Chinese immigrants.”  Mr. Linklater replied: “If they were all like you I would double it.”  Hector was beaten for once. 

Hector once said politicians were like a bunch of green bananas. They went into Parliament green and came out yellow and not one of them was straight. 

At the Wanderers Jubilee Dinner, Hector speaking the toast of the ladies said he loved a certain lady: he loved her hair, he loved her hands, and he loved her feet and even the ground she walked on, especially the 120 acres she owned over the Manawatu River. 

One morning Hector arrived at a certain lady’s house.  She asked if he had had breakfast, but of course he had not.  She cooked him a meal.  He sat on a chair on which she had draped a towel in readiness to bath the baby. After Hector had gone, she noticed the towel was very black.  Later the lady asked how he had got so black. He said he had slept the night in the gasworks and had slept on coal sacks. 

At one time, the Borough Council was discussing the problem of the Oxford St pit.  Hector’s suggestion that it should be cut up and sold to farmers as post holes was not acted upon.

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The first Hector McDonald Ran the Cobb & Co Stage Post at Hokio

Creator:Corrie Swanwick
Creation date:02/08/1982
Publisher:The Chronicle
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License
The first Hector McDonald Ran the Cobb & Co Stage Post at Hokio by Pippa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License