I just can’t help myself as far as laundry goes – it’s something I just have to do regularly, even while on holiday. While travelling around the South Island with our caravan companions I mentioned jokingly that “doing the washing was my hobby”. The look on one of the men’s faces was priceless!
A visit to the old coal mining town atop the Denniston Plateau showed just how hard life was for the families up there. While the men laboured long and hard working in dirty and dangerous conditions, the lives of the women folk were not much easier. At 2000ft atop a cold, wet, windswept plateau, life was difficult, to say the least.
Former resident Abbie related: “We had to boil up the copper and then rub the clothes on a wash board with a bar of soap that we had usually made ourselves. The clothes were rinsed twice in double tubs and then put through the mangle. In winter it was so cold the clothes were freezing before we finished pegging them out. Ironing took a long time as everything was starched in those days. To make sure the washing did not have any soot on it we rubbed it with salt. I usually had to iron 20 or more shirts a week and I dared not get any soot on them from the iron or else they would have to go back in the wash”.
A memorial to honour the wives and mothers of Denniston stands high on the windswept plateau. It says:
“In honour of the wives and mothers of the hill. They endured atrocious weather, hard work, economic hardship and isolation. Few women have been asked to do more and none could have given more for husband and children. From the children.”
Life is relatively easy for most of us these days, with plenty of labour saving devices and especially washing machines. To all those hard working wives and mothers from Denniston, I salute you. They just got on with their lives and made the best of it.