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Official launch .. Julie Brown signs her book, Hooked on Motunau, for Mary Hamilton, a Motunau resident, who has a long history with the North Canterbury beach settlement. ROBYN BRISTOW

By ROBYN BRISTOW

The children of Motunau ran free in the 1930s and beyond. The beach, the cliffs, the sea and river were their playground.

A whistle was used by one mum to summon her brood when it was time for lunch.

The beach settlement was home to only a few in the early days, a second home to many bach owners and campers, and a popular fishing spot.

Julie Brown, in her 20th production as a ghostwriter, has captured the culture and history of the settlement in a 410-page album, Hooked on Motunau – a work with art-infused pages of photos and material from 1840 to 1980.

Life-long connection . . . Richard Walker (Auckland), left, Pamela Irvine, and Bill Clarke spend hundreds of hours as children at Motunau. They were some of the oldest guests at the launch of Hooked on Motunau, a book written by Julie Brown. Photo: Robyn Bristow

It was launched on the beach at Motunau on Sunday before about 150 guests who all had links to the beach settlement. They eagerly snapped up a copy of the album.

Julie, a writer and fourth generation bach-holder at the beach, was commissioned by a pioneering family to write and compile the album from archived material, anecdotes and verbal accounts of the settlement and its history.

She was humbled by the support for the album, which contains history sourced from many pioneering families, current residents and bach owners. She thanked a multitude of people who had helped her gather the information. Photos and watercolours were provided to bring the album alive.

“This is your place. This is your story,” retired Hurunui mayor Winton Dalley, said at the launch.

Mr Dalley was left in no doubt when approached by Julie Brown, that she was already hooked on Motunau, and was the person to bring its history to life.

Several of those turning up to the launch were in their 90s. They had come to relive their childhood, swap yarns, enjoy meeting people they had not seen in years, and secure a copy of the book.

Alma Calder, the granddaughter of James and Jessie Henderson, the first residents at Motunau Beach, spoke of a carefree childhood staying with her grandparents.

Richard Walker, who had travelled from Auckland, first came to the beach in 1943 and camped “right here”, where the marquee stood for the launch.

Pamela Irvine, Julie Brown’s mum, spoke of spending time at the beach where her father bought a property.

“As children we ran free. It was just amazing and later, when my children came to the beach, they did the same,” she says. “We ran free in the hills and all over the place and never came to any harm.”

Tom and Joan Burrows farmed near the settlement, and their daughter, Belinda Symon, has not gone far from her roots.

Her parents bought a bach in 1945 and, while she was born on the farm, the bach was part of her family life.

When the farm was sold and Belinda shifted to Christchurch with her husband John, their ties to Motunau remained strong. They have a bach at the beach and bring their two children, Angus and Aleisha, up every weekend to their “spiritual home”.

“They absolutely love it up here, just like us. They learn practical skills and about making do as there are no shops to run off to, and cellphone coverage is iffy,” she says.

“They get out and do stuff and learn by their mistakes,” she says.

Helen Robertson (nee Walker) met with Pamela Irvine for the first time in 50 years at the launch. They were great mates as kids at the beach, with Helen camping with her family and Julie spending time at the family bach.

Artist Lissa Holland, who has a strong association with Motunau, said it was lovely to be able to paint watercolours especially for the book, and capture the many happy hours children and their families spent enjoying the beach and its scenery.

Mary Hamilton, who lives in Motunau, has family connections with the Fosters and
Hamiltons, who have a long association with the settlement.

Her husband Andy fished for many years and now farms nearby.
“I got hooked and can’t leave,” Mary says.

For an album price, contact Irene by emailing admin@ghost-writer.co.nz
or phoning (03) 3143545.