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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Leithfield beach: a family day out

It seems to be agreed that this Irish mother and son were filling the sack with sand, although we don't know what for, or how they would have managed to carriy it away, unless perhaps they were able to drag it to a waiting cart nearby. If it had been kelp they were gathering, that would have been much easier to carry home and use on the garden as fertiliser and mulch, but they may not have had a garden.

My Morrison family in New Zealand enjoyed going to the beach for a day out, specifically to Leithfield Beach, on the east coast, a little to the north of Christchurch. These days on modern highways Leithfield is only about a 45 minute drive from where they lived in Aylmer St Sydenham, but back in the 1920s the cars and roads were not so flash and no doubt the trip took considerably longer. There were closer city beaches such as Brighton and Sumner, but Mona and Jack Morrison seem to have favoured Leithfield, possibly because both Mona's maternal grandparents and her paternal grandmother lived up that way, in Kaiapoi, so she may have known the beach as a child. Her father's half sister Mary Shaw lived at Leithfield with her husband David and their large brood. The Shaw children would have been Mona's half cousins on one side, and her second cousins on the other, but I won't go into that here!  


Here 's Jack posing proudly in front of the new car he purchased in 1926, with his son Ken on the running board, ready to drive to the beach for what may well have been the car's first outing.

After winding through the countryside and down the hill to the beach, Ken and his big sister Pat were no doubt keen to kick their shoes off and play in the grey sand with their bucket and spades.

Either before or after the children played on the beach, they enjoyed the attractions of the nearby playground. Here they are with Jack, perching on a seesaw, and it looks like there's a double or maybe triple slippery dip in the background.
 Mona and the children on a family-sized swing, which I am told is still there today

Someone else must have been present to take this family shot on the seesaw again. Both Mona and Jack remain quite formally attired, in a dress and a three piece suit with tie. No casual beachwear for them!

I'm not sure what Pat and Ken are up to here, but whatever it is, they look very interested!  From the sign in the background, it seems Mona and Jack would have been able to enjoy a nice hot cup of tea with the picnic lunch they had no doubt brought from home for their day out, the first of many over the years in their family car that would eventually accommodate all six children. Mona might have made bacon and egg pie, a great picnic staple and a tradition that has carried on down the generations. I know it was one of Jack's favourite dishes, but in his opinion it had to be accompanied by tomato sauce!

Moving on to February 1956, and here are my parents Jean and Ian Cruickshank with yours truly, relaxing after a swim at nearby Waikuku Beach. This was probably the last time my parents would go there, as we left NZ for Australia just a couple of months later, in April that year. My baby brother would have been about 5 months old, but as there's no sign of him, so perhaps he was left at home with grandparents Mona and Jack.

I took the following photograph of nearby Pines Beach in 2006.  It doesn't look too bad here although I think these beaches are all fairly isolated and windswept, and the sand is rather gritty, at least in comparison with most Australian beaches, but my mother still retained fond memories of her beach days in NZ. I don't remember them, but then I was only three, and at least I have the photos.

For more photos of sandy beach goers, just pick up your buckets and spades and go fossicking at

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