Memorial Service, Knox Presbyterian Church, Morrinsville, 1 December 2007.
A good friend. A lover of children, books, gardens, genealogy and intrepid journeys.
Thanks to Wilson Orange and the good folk of Knox Church. It is over 55 years since Mum began an association with this congregation. Thank you for the gift of your fellowship and support today.
And I would like to thank you all for being here today. As Avis Ellison said, "we must make our last goodbyes" and so we have come. Many have made a special effort – I am especially grateful to Cathy Mackinlay coming up from Queenstown to bring Cathie Sale. Jeff Hobbs, with Jack and John; your names roll back the years. Your presence means a great deal.
There were those who would like to have been here and who have sent their greetings; Mum's granddaughter and son-in-law and great grandchildren, Rachel, Grant, Douglas, Peter and Hamish in Oxford, and also Katie in Korea who had wanted to introduce her boy friend Owen to Mum next year, though Owen will not have to look much further than Katie to see a lot of what Cathie was like. Katie has sent her own tribute to her Grandma, which Jenny will share with us shortly.
Don and Rosemary McKenzie on Waiheke Island, whom Mum and Barbara McKee discovered on the McKenzie family tree some 20 years ago, also send their love. Like many, they were people Mum brought into touch with relations and relationships they did not know they had, bringing people together as was her life-long gift and habit.
A while back among Mum's considerable collection of papers Rachel found a notebook Cathie had used in 1992 when she was not particularly well, and feared she might be dying. Well, the Lord gave her and us another 15 years. Among the arrangements she had noted for various pall bearers, most of whom are not with us, was the request that Don McKenzie should speak at her funeral.
Yesterday Don sent an email:
Cathie's life , , , has been rich and fulfilling, lived in the service of others through her teaching, love of learning, insatiable curiosity, insistence on accuracy and an overall gentle spirit that was present in everything she did. May it be of solace at this time of grieving for you to know that Cathy has lived a good and productive life and has left an indelible impression on those of us who came to know her through her research of the family history and its codification.
Cathie, it is a matter of huge regret that I am not with you to say a final "goodbye" and a big thank you for being what you are; a wonderful lady, generous, kind and patient of spirit who has given our wider family a sense of where we fit into the grand scheme of Scottish and New Zealand history. Through your scholarship, you have given your wider family an enduring sense of heritage, belonging and connectedness that can only come from patiently eking out the facts and weaving a clan story together with clarity and sensitivity.
What a privilege it has been to walk on the croft my great grandfather tilled, to have visited the beach seven miles away from which he gathered seaweed to fertilise the land; to have sat in his small Highland school where he picked up the rudiments of learning that you in your life took to such great professional heights.
Cathie, you have lived a selfless life of service and been an exemplar of the virtues so precious in these days where much progress is deceptive. Your spirit will live on in the hearts of those of us you touched during your fruitful and loving life. Your quiet enthusiasm for all that you did, your love of simple pleasures and constant encouragement of those about you, will be traits we shall never forget. Thank you for being who you are. God Bless. Don McKenzie.
As many of you know, the family history project Don referred to remains for me to finish on her behalf.
Cathie had long been conscious of her great grandparents and the family of McKenzies who migrated to New Zealand in the 1870s from Achindrean north of Ullapool in the North West of Scotland. They drove cattle and sheep, and farmed in Apiti and Waipukarau and the Rangitikei. The interplay between the Gaelic speaking McKenzies and Robertsons, and her "English" father from the borders of Devon and Cornwall where horses were bred for the royal family and the old farm house and buildings are still in use, led her in a search which became life-long for relationships and explanations which were easily being forgotten.
Cathie herself was born in Morrinsville 9 February 1921, and with her brother Doug was brought up on the farm at Tatuanui, playing near the river, sharing in family occasions on other farms through to Ngarua. She went on horseback to school from an early age and showed an aptitude for books and learning, understanding and remembering things which she disciplined herself to right through life. When she sat her proficiency examination in 1933; the teacher refused to tell her where she came in the class or what the results were, but he did buy her an ice-cream. Sixty years later as a retired school inspector and formidable researcher familiar with archives, she successfully dug out the results from the Education Board papers in Auckland to find out her marks and which boy she beat and why she got the ice-cream.
The farm and the family survived the Depression, but the habits of keeping everything in case it might be useful one day never left her. When Cathie had her fall a few weeks ago and I was tidying her room, I forget who it was at Kenwyn warned me about throwing anything away. I have had a life-time of experience negotiating what little I can get away with in that regard.
By 1937 Cathie Matthews was going to Hamilton High School by train and had met up with the two Jackson sisters Cathie and Betty - beginning an extraordinary open friendship which was a huge support to each other, and to many many others. It was one of the most stable and important set of relationships in my life.
Shortly before her 17th birthday, Cathie received a letter from the Auckland Education Board asking her to consider Training College instead of going back to school for a final year. The family overruled her tearful objections and so joining 300 other first year ATC students her course was set for life. The neat legible handwriting, still impressive at 86, got her the role of writing out monthly allowance cheques. Memories and photographs of the red-headed young woman excited by new adventures still remain, including of a boat trip to Rangitoto. An Infant Mistress on section convinced her that she might like to be a teacher after all and by the time the War had started she was facing a class of 35 students in Morrinsville. After a few short appointments elsewhere she returned for 10 years and the class room in Lincoln Road is still there where she experimented with advanced ideas of classroom management and child-centred learning - to the alarm of headmaster and inspectors alike. Some of you may have been in those classes.
During the War years Cathie had met up with the charming Bill Roxborogh, and they were married in the Registry Office at Te Aroha on 4 January 1944. I was born 14 months later, but the marriage struggled and Bill had left home by the time I was 4. Many years later it was with Mum's help that I was able to put together the puzzle of the name Roxborogh, and the criminal career of Bill's father whose real name was actually Chapman. It was a story Bill himself knew little about, but it explained a lot. Cathie could not really cope with Bill, or I suspect for a long time, Bill with himself, yet she made contact with the children from his last and eventually happy marriage, and shared my joy in forming a friendship with Bill's youngest son, Philip and his wife Tania in recent years. Without Cathie, Bill's family and I might never have got to the story of the things which explained so much of the pain they and others experienced.
I realise now more of how important the support was that Mum received through these years from Cathy and Betty and their families, and especially from her favourite uncle "Robby" his wife Anne, their daughter Joan, and Tuck and Terry. Joan's husband John was especially important to me in the years ahead.
In 1957 Cathie was appointed as an exchange teacher in England and she and I travelled on the SS Rangitata across the Pacific through the Panama Canal to Southampton. It was a year rich with history, travel, and renewed links with Mum's father's family in Plymouth. When we returned just over a year later through Suez she went to Fairfield primary and I to St Kentigern College. In 1960 Cathie became SJC at the newly opened Hillcrest Normal School; another place I cannot drive past without seeing Mum in her office surrounded by young children sitting on the floor, all of them reading from books, aloud, at the same time.
In a few years another adventure beckoned when Cathie received a Fulbright Scholarship which took her to Hunter College New York specialising in teaching gifted children. As she had fallen in love with England, now it was America, though it was not always easy to communicate the sense of excitement to her friends at home. She just missed being at Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech, and remembers looking after children in school on the day of the assassination of President Kennedy. She seemed to have a knack of being around when things happened. She was there in Wanganui when Snell broke the 4 minute mile. She really was in a plane to Honolulu which saw the re-entry of Apollo 8.
Re-entry to New Zealand however was not necessarily easy, but in 1967 she became a lecturer at Dunedin Teacher's College, a year before the main administration building was destroyed by fire. I still have the ODT photo of her wearing a hard hat and sorting through the charred papers from her office. In Dunedin further intellectual excitement came from finishing her BA by her 50th birthday and becoming a grandmother. Cathy Sale pointed out at the time that being a "B.A." grandmother, was a little ambiguous, nevertheless having a grandmother who meticulously tracked their speech patterns for scholarly and teaching purposes did not seem to do either Rachel or Joanna any harm. Both having been born in Dunedin while I was studying for the Presbyterian ministry at Knox College. As a grandmother to all our children, Mum has been outstanding.
In 1977 Cathie returned north as a School Inspector. I remember people commenting to me how she would be appreciated by young teachers in their first placements needing encouragement. Fellow inspectors from that time spoke highly of her, and again of her red hair! Jenny's brother Brett remarked to me how observant she was. She was careful, consistent and non-judgemental. She saw the complexity in people, but also their potential. She always took children seriously, and children have continued to gravitate to her as someone who listened to them, believed in them, encouraged them, and remembered their names.
Mum's exposure to things Maori was not huge but it was significant. One of my early memories is of the Ngaruawhaia regatta and of visits to Rotorua. She had Maori friends in teaching and at TC. She was pleased with herself meeting Northland School Committees in pubs in the far North, and sitting on the steps of the Nottingham Castle Hotel talking with other old kuia after a tangi. She saw through the unconscious racism of pakeha legal process. Just last Saturday she picked up the paper and saw a picture of Tame Iti. "Ah, Tame Iti. I think they are being a bit rough on him. I would not mind if he came to live in my street! Then I would feel a bit safer!!"
Cathie was furious at having to retire after 40 years service before she was 65, but Morrinsville became her home again and proved its value as an extraordinary caring community. She ran a stall for World Vision, even if it could not keep up with input from other people's garage sales. Her friendship with others in Park Street, the Browns next door, Pat Allison down the road, Barbara Carey on the other side, and Helen Stone a fellow traveller in the adventures of genealogy became deep and occasionally mischievous. Gradually Tony Tissing worked miracles and renovated the house. She worked on the garden and on the family history. Her work in making the connections led to a remarkable family reunion in Feilding, and if anyone still has not got a copy of the cookbook let me know!
After 1992 she was not able to drive again, but the exercise and sociability probably saved her life. From time to time she would confess that she had adopted another cat, and her 4 well fed tabbys were definitely on to a good thing. By 2003 various aches and pains started to get to her but to her disappointment Dr Fay refused to prescribe marijuana and put her on prednisone instead. After several spells in Rhoda Reid, Cathie tearfully accepted that the time had come to move into care.
During 2004 Barbara, Allison, Kathlyn, Leonie, Peggy and the other staff at Kenwyn did a heroic job of getting her through the months of feeling sorry for herself. The grief at doing what was not in her plan focussed on the one cat Camy that came with her and then ran away. But one day the grief was gone. Friends and family, Desma, her brother Doug, Pat, Lorraine, Dorothy, Leijn van Wijk, and Helen Stone up occasionally from Ashburton, the Hope Family from Hamilton, are only some of the many people who visited and kept returning. Her annual birthday parties at Mokena Restaurant in Te Aroha were great family occasions which she loved planning. She rang up frequently to confess she had invited someone else to add to the list and to ask with guilty pleasure whether "we" had enough money and whether there was enough room for them all.
When I visited Kenwyn and Mum wanted to go out, often it was to Te Aroha Cemetery where many of her relatives lie, including her beloved brother, Doug. When Betty died earlier this year, Mum managed the trip to Auckland. I was not sure of her own intentions about what she wanted to happen when she herself died, and I took a bit of risk to put the question: "Well Mum, what about you? Do you want to be buried or cremated?" She replied: "preferably neither!" - I took that as a preference for burial.
And so we come to the last intrepid journey. And in a short while Cathie will be piped from this place and then laid to rest with her parents and relatives.
Te Aroha will always be for us a spiritual place, as well as a place of love, and of healing waters, and a mountain which overlooks the Hauraki Plains where Cathie was born and spent so much of her life.
"I to the hills will lift my eyes. From where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
Katie really spoke for Rachel, Joanna, and Tim as well as herself when she sent this email to be read at Cathie's service:
In recent years I find myself talking about her more and more. The significance of her achievements has grown in my own understanding over time. As a child I knew she was a brilliant gardener, and that she was particularly interested in how I was doing at school. I knew she had been a teacher, and was well travelled, and I enjoyed learning from her, but there were a lot of things I didn’t really understand about my Grandmother Cathy Roxborogh.
Over time, and in teaching myself, I have appreciated more and more that she was a gifted and passionate educator, as well as a truly interesting and sensitive person. The more I learn about education, the more I go back over things she had said and done and appreciate that even the way she organised Tim and I into small gardening projects as children, or encouraged me to pursue various interests was driven by her particular passion for learning.
The more I learn about the world, the more I am impressed by the way she raised my father, the way she managed as a single mother, the way she lived, her generosity. While there is always more I wish I had asked her and talked to her about, I have realised that as time goes on I will continue to learn from her in the way one learns from the best teachers, something said or done, each time remembered, offers something new.
I am sorry I am not here today with the family, but I know also that Grandma, as much as anyone, understood why I am off doing the things I am. I know she always enjoyed hearing about our travels. Not everyone has such a grandmother, and I certainly will always appreciate what a blessing it is to be Cathy Roxborogh’s granddaughter.
New Zealand Herald, Friday, November 30 2007
Catherine Isabel (Cathie). Peacefully on 27 November 2007 at Waikato Hospital. Dearly loved mother and motherinlaw of John and Jenny. Loved grandma of Rachel and Grant, Joanna, Katie, and Tim. Greatgrandma to Douglas, Peter, and Hamish. Loved aunt to Desma Craw and lifelong friend of Cathie Sale and the late Betty Mansell. Sister and sisterinlaw of the late Douglas and Ellen Matthews.
A good friend. A lover of children, books, gardens, genealogy and intrepid journeys.
Thanks to Barbara Carey and the Staff of Kenwyn Home and to the Staff of Ward 6, Waikato Hospital. In memory of Cathie, donations welcomed to World Vision, Private Bag 92078, Auckland or these may be left at the service.
A service for Cathie will be held at Knox Presbyterian Church, Canada Street, Morrinsville at 2pm Saturday 1 December 2007 followed by burial at Te Aroha Cemetery. All communications to The Roxborogh Family, PO Box 5523, Frankton, Hamilton. Sadliers Funeral Services.