Margaret Ana Louise Harrison was born 27 September 1916 in Hawera, South Taranaki District, Taranaki Region, New Zealand to Frederick Louis Harrison (1873-1945) and Anna Gordon Forlong (1873-1926) and died 24 April 1999 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand of unspecified causes. She married William Gibson Patterson (1915-1974) 1 September 1939 in Whanganui, Whanganui District, Manawatū-Whanganui, New Zealand.


Offspring of Frederick Louis Harrison (1873-1945) and Anna Gordon Forlong (1873-1926)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Houlton Henry Shafto Harrison (Harry) (1906-1992)
Frederick Nevinson Harrison (Tubby) (1912-1995) 26 May 1912 Whanganui, Whanganui District, Manawatū-Whanganui, New Zealand 13 May 1995 Lower Hutt, Lower Hutt City, Wellington Region, New Zealand Nora James Ractliffe (1909-2000)
Margaret Ana Louise Harrison (1916-1999) 27 September 1916 Hawera, South Taranaki District, Taranaki Region, New Zealand 24 April 1999 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand William Gibson Patterson (1915-1974)

Notable relatives

A notable first cousin on her mother's side is Bruce Houlton Slane (1931-2017).


Offspring of William Gibson Patterson (1915-1974) and Margaret (Gretta) Harrison¢
Name Birth Death Joined with
Robin Forlonge Patterson (1940) December 1940 24 River Bank (Somme Parade), Whanganui, Whanganui District, Manawatū-Whanganui, New Zealand (Cairnbrae Maternity Hospital) Julie Mary Carrad (1950)
Ian Gordon Patterson (1946) Brenda Janette Palmer (living)

(Two sons, living, each with two children)

Taranaki and Whakatane

Gretta was born at either Hawera, New Zealand or Patea, New Zealand (the family were living at Patea, where her father was an engineer looking after machinery at the freezing works, but Hawera possibly had better maternity facilities). Later another engineering job took them to Whakatane.


A final move by her father returned him to Wanganui (now officially called "Whanganui" though in the local dialect the pronunciation is virtually identical), near most of their close relatives. She lost her mother at age 9 or 10 but was well looked after by aunts in Wanganui and had two older brothers at home for a while. She joked that she and a girlfriend had fooled the census-takers by being off on a high-country tramp and missing a census, with the result that Wanganui and Invercargill had been declared to have exactly the same population, but she knew better.

Later she got a teaching job in Wellington.

Bill and Gretta Patterson's life together


Bill Patterson, whose ancestry was virtually all Scottish and whose parents had emigrated to Dunedin as children, met Gretta Harrison, who was about half English and half Scottish if her grandparents' birthplaces were considered, around the time when she was teaching at Clifton Terrace (Kindergarten?) in Wellington and living nearby on the eastern side of The Terrace. Bill sent his oldest sister, Grace, a photo of Gretta saying that Grace would be hearing more of Gretta. The photo is now possibly with their great-niece Cathy Allan, who is planning a biography of Grace.

Fiji and Wanganui

They were married on 1 September 1939. Best man was Bill's cousin on his mother's side, Rob (or Robert or Robin) Wood (who later had a celebrated escape from Italy and much later - in 2014 - celebrated his 100th birthday in Queensland). The newlyweds spent a little time together teaching in Fiji, getting to know the country/colony quite well. Gretta used her knowledge of Fiji to explain to Robin many years later that Fiji couldn't hold the Empire Games because Fiji had a colour bar.

Back to Wanganui in time for Robin's birth in December 1940. His first name was probably in honour of the aforementioned cousin Rob Wood, because there are few Robins or Roberts in his ancestry, and his second name was the traditional surname of Gretta's mother's family, generally losing the final "e" in recent generations although probable relatives in Australia retain the "e".

Home was at 19 Kawakawa Street in Wanganui East. Robin (then known as "Bobs") remembers nothing about the property itself except one occasion when out the back he looked at a plane flying above the eastern hill and asked whether that could be a Japanese plane, receiving reassurance from Mother that it couldn't. His other few memories of the suburb include going to the shops and watching the progress of a house construction over the road (annoying the builder by "improving" some new concrete and seeing and hearing an older child get injured playing on the floor joists). There were also visits to widower Grandpa Harrison in Gonville Avenue, where Robin annoyed Grandpa with some irregular lawnmowing; there's a photo of the three on the front steps.

Memorable friends who lived quite close were the Nielsen-Vold family, who were said to be so poor that the children could have either butter or jam on their bread but not both. Children were Barbie (later resident in Mosgiel married to Bob MacAnally - spg?? - with eight children) and Noni, and others whom Robin doesn't remember. Another family of friends were the Robertsons, who much later lived in Trentham, Upper Hutt, and had a talkative budgie named Binky; a birthday party at their Wanganui home featured pear slices shaped like fish.

World War II took Bill to Bourail in New Caledonia with the Medical Corps. Robin remembers him going off, jumping into the back of an army truck to join his mates. That may have been after a homecoming rather than at his first departure. Dates could doubtless be obtained from his army records. Bill was chief mosquito-catcher (for research, you understand!) because he seemed to be immune to whatever their bites inflicted on ordinary people. He said he used to sit out in a swamp with his sleeves rolled up waiting for the little blighters to alight and be caught.

Dunedin North and Waitahuna

Bill decided to train for the Presbyterian Ministry, so in 1945 a move to Dunedin was made, for him to attend Knox College Theological Hall. First address was 442b King Street (later Great King Street). It was down a lane beside a dairy, where Robin committed his first crime (if you don't count the wilful damage at Kawakawa Street) by sneaking in and helping himself to an ice cream. There was a tree with a swing near the south-west boundary. Bad news came one day - the death of Grandpa Harrison. The winter was one of Dunedin's snowiest. The 4-year-old from Wanganui had never experienced snow and was distressed to see boys along the road throwing things at each other until Mother explained that they were snowballs and didn't hurt. Robin did a bit of wandering (as an only child is perhaps more prone to do); one day he had to be brought home from somewhere near the quarry (past Logan Park).

Over Summer 1945-46, Bill was posted to Waitahuna in South/West/Central Otago as a fill-in trainee minister. The large property that came with the manse was ideal for Robin to wander over! He didn't drown in the river. The only Waitahuna family Robin remembers was the McCorkindales.

17 Hereford Street and Orawia

Soon the family moved to Roslyn: 17 Hereford Street, a big 2-storey house on the western corner of Ann Street, within smelling distance of Laurenson's bakery (yum!) when the wind was right. There were huge laurel hedges and a big lawn. The family owned that house for several years, welcoming baby Ian shortly before Robin's 6th birthday. Robin had had a year at Kaikorai School, making a few local friends, including Diane Taylor, whose Ann Street house, with a big macrocarpa hedge, was close to the bakery and had access also to Highgate, and whose rocking-horse he once fell off (permanently scarring the inside of his lower lip).

Separate from the house, against the Ann St frontage, was a washhouse, complete with copper. Such washhouses are perfectly described - along with the bee-sting remedy - on page 62 of Bronwyn Elsmore's novel Backwards into the future (2015, Flaxroots, Auckland).

A 2-year posting to Orawia, in Western Southland, from around February 1947, gave Bill more of a challenge. He was "Home Missionary" (another term for "trainee minister") - and Gretta was the organist. Bill played in the local rugby team as Full Back. Another big property for Robin to explore, with the creek not too dangerous but a little frightening when a team of workers widened it and threw eels onto the bank near the unprepared older son of the manse. There was a cow in residence. Robin discovered cowpats; Ian probably did too, perhaps less cleanly; instructions were to rake them so as to spread the manure thinly over surrounding grass. The aforementioned Auntie Grace was in residence briefly as a housekeeper while Mother was in hospital (for what Robin much later learned was a hysterectomy). On one occasion, big brother crept into an evening service to advise Gretta that baby brother was sick, and the organist abandoned her post. Robin spent his Standard 1 and Standard 2 years at the two-room school (since closed). He and his pals sometimes played in the railyard at the local (long-since closed) terminus.

Later years at Hereford Street included the hosting of boarders using the north-east-facing gabled room at the top of the house. One of the boarders, Bernard, was a bank officer. Gretta joked that "he works in a bank but he ain't no change!"

Milk deliveries were still from a lorry carrying cans. When the milkman sounded his arrival, Gretta took a jug or two and went out the back gate, where the vendor decanted the required amount from the can using a dipper.

School friends, the Dunbars, used to walk past on the way to school. One morning a puzzling sound was heard outside - was it hysterical laughter? No. The twins' older sister, Margaret Dunbar, had fallen and hit her mouth on the kerb. Gretta took her in and cleaned and comforted her.

After the Pattersons sold the house it was demolished and replaced by a pair of flats. One of Robin's University friends lived there for a while.

53 Highgate

Next move was up the hill, almost to the top. Corner section with old single-storey house. High brick wall to the west (useful for sitting on when contemplating the night sky). Big lawn on the Delta Street side, good for learning bike-riding, with several mature trees including a cabbage tree and a kowhai. Denser stands of trees in north-east and south-west corners. Olearia hedges.

Neighbours at 51 were first the Carroll family, nice Catholics. Later came the Kelletts, Presbyterians, whose son Bruce eventually became Robin's flatmate first at 78 Albany Street then at 136 Albany Street. Neighbours on the Delta Street side were the Mullengers.

Across Highgate lived some of the Ellis family, owners of Arthur Ellis and Co, who or which had a flock mill down in Kaikorai Valley next to Ellis Park. (Another grand old Dunedin business that got bought out later.)

Fruiterer/greengrocer, in Chinese ownership, virtually just across the road; the lady used to smile and say "one eachee!" when Gretta bought four of anything. Nearby at the Ross Street corner was the block of shops including grocer and butcher, and there was a dairy a block further north and another a block further south.

Trolleybuses turned around on a widened Belgrave Crescent. Later replaced by diesel buses and eventually merged into the Maori Hill route, Robin thinks.

Roslyn Presbyterian Church, just past the top of the hill, became a focal point of the family for many years (being much closer than Kaikorai), particularly after the next move.

Some time after the Pattersons sold the property, the house was demolished and the property was subdivided.

16 Beta Street

Halfway along Beta Street on the downhill side at the bend, No 16 had a narrow frontage and a wide rear, with a good view of developing Brockville and the whole skyline from Flagstaff to the south-west. Laundry and dirt-floored basement below the main level. Bill constructed a chute from the kitchen so that used clothing could be dropped into a cupboard in the laundry.

Easy access to the rear entrance of the church nearby. Bill was an elder and Gretta was a choirmistress. One of the memorable secular songs she taught the choir was the early version of "Country Gardens" - "Rosebud and lily, pinks and Sweet Willy, the country gardens come to town...".

Nephew Archie Kerr was an occasional visitor during his medical school period. At Gretta's suggestion, he eventually got used to calling her "Auntie Gretta" rather than "Mrs Patterson".

From 16 Beta Street they watched the development of Brockville.


A memorable part of family life for the males was the games. Canasta, Mahjong (cards instead of tiles), a cheap toy? billiards table (only about 80cm x 45cm) and home-made Monopoly (with 4 utilities, including Western Southland's Lilburn Sawmill, 44 spaces in total). Rather tattered, this game still exists with Linda Patterson and family. Bill put some wood and nails together to make a very serviceable pinboard game.

Bill's death

Gretta was a solicitous "back-seat driver" from the front passenger seat of whatever old cheap car they owned. Cries of "there's a chappie" could be heard occasionally as warnings of another vehicle's presence. However, it was not enough to stop Bill pulling out from a George Street kerb one day into the path of another car in 1974. He faced a driving offence court case. He nevertheless went north on holiday to visit siblings and Robin and Julie. He and two sisters travelled to Plimmerton to visit Robin and Julie at their 34 Ogilvy Terrace flat. Julie offered to take him to see the newly-purchased bushclad section in Motuhara Road. After walking to the top of the section, Bill came down and climbed a bank to examine a boundary peg then staggered down the path a short way before collapsing backwards in front of Julie. Ambulance crew took him to the nearest hospital but it was too late to save him from the effects of what was not his first heart attack.

Gretta and Ian came north for the funeral. After the Kelburn (?) ceremony, Gretta stood with her two sons and pointed to the north-western hills, where she said she and Bill had often gone hiking. She said that his death had at least one good point - he would not have to face a court appearance, the thought of which had been troubling him.

(to be continued)

During her long association with various Presbyterian churches, Gretta played piano and organ and led choirs and promoted support of missionaries.

Her sons always called her "Mother". She was a wonderful formative influence on Robin, encouraging his interest in theatre, music, astronomy, trees, and genealogy, as well as finding him the holiday job as a survey chainman in 1961 that turned into half a career.

She was a member of the Otago Art Society.

She was a keen gardener until her hands were no longer able to cope. She did considerable planting at 20 Pitt Street in Dunedin when Robin and Julie lived there from 1969 to 1971; many of those plants were still flourishing at the time of her death.


As a widow Gretta remained at Beta Street for many years before moving to more maintenance-free accommodation in the south-east of the city.

She died in 1999 at Dunedin, New Zealand at age 82, after a peaceful few years at McKenzie Nursing Home on Musselburgh Rise, where she had seen much of her younger son and his former wife and their daughters.

Funeral 27 April 1999 at First Church of Otago, Dunedin, conducted by Rev Alan Kerr of Anderson's Bay, followed by cremation. A lovely calm, mild sunny day. Pallbearers were son Robin, grandson Jonathan, three staff of the McKenzie Nursing Home, where she had spent some years, and her former gardener. Also in attendance (in addition to numerous friends) were Robin's wife (Julie), Ian's former wife (Brenda), and two granddaughters (Annabel and Claire). Linda lived rather too far away, in Napier. Ian was in Dunedin but decided not to attend. See death notices, Otago Daily Times, Dominion, and Evening Post, 26/4/99.


See also

External links

Footnotes (including sources)

‡ General
Ω Birth
  • NZBDM 1916/24927 Harrison Margaret Louisa Ana Anna Gordon Frederick Lewis
¢ Children
  • Family sources
¶ Death
  • NZBDM: 1999/8675 Patterson Margaret Ana Louise 27 September 1916

Robin Patterson