Celebration in the backblocks
The wedding of Daniel Eli WELLS to Violet Linda FOOTE
Wilsons Bay, Pelorus Sound, Marlborough, New Zealand --- January 1906
Let me take you into another time and a location most of you will be unfamiliar with. Timewise it seems very much in the mists of history, but because I married a man 20 years my senior, it touches upon my own life. The bride was my mother-in-law, an old lady in her eighties, when I met her. The youth is her younger brother Alf, who claimed his privilege to "kiss the bride" when I was married. The wee flowergirl was a delightful, little old lady whom I met at my mother-in-law's funeral, and I met the bridesmaid and her family socially, several times.
I did see the old homestead --- just --- before it was demolished to make way for a modern home. At the time young Alf's grandson's family was camped in a back bedroom and wedged into a garage, as they took down the place piecemeal. Sad really, and the sitting room still showed much of its past grandeur. However it needed too much to be done to consider restoration. Its successor is very nice and fits comfortably into the hillside.
Finally --- I have drawn upon my own years of living in the Sounds to embroider the account, a little. Now to begin!
The bridal group
Everyone was stirring early to complete the morning chores on their farms on this summer morning. Today they had much to do before they could embark on their "oil launches", (the old name for diesel powered ones), to travel to Wilson's Bay. The wedding was to be at the bride's home. It was a location only accessible by boat. The lucky ones had a wharf, but many had to row out to climb aboard their launches. Picture their concern for their best clothes, and the scrambling aboard of the children, the handing up of many packages and final flurries before they were off! Maybe many breakfasted en route as their progress was steady, but slow, and some had a fair way to travel.
Meanwhile at the bride's home the usual preparations would ensue, and if the reputation of Violet's mother was to be believed, (and I have no reason to doubt it), everything was well in hand! Her housekeeping skills were well known and she was very house-proud, as well a being "green-fingered". She had small gardens wherever there was a suitably flat space on those steep hillsides!
The Vicar of Havelock would be coming to take the service. I'm sure that the food would be laid out in a cleaned and suitably decorated woolshed. All the arriving families would also be bringing their own contributions to the wedding breakfast as with the large settler families there would be many attending.
The wedding group
(You can see more details of the wedding group photograph here - this is a much larger image so it may take longer to download than normal.)
The WELLS contingent is to be seen on the left of the photograph, and their outfits are suitably somber as they were still in mourning for the bridegroom's mother, who had died the previous year. The brothers of the bridegroom are easily identified, because of a family resemblance. To the right of the photo are the FOOTE/HARVEY families. There is a family nose which identifies many of the bride's sisters! The bride's mother, by repute a formidable lady, and her sister, can be seen sitting on the front row. Inter-marriages between the large families had created some convoluted relationships within this group over the past 50 year or so. I know more about many of those who attended, but had better not digress further.
After the ceremony and the wedding breakfast I am sure that there would have been a dance, as these were frequent and popular happenings in the Sounds. The WELLS family was very musical and Daniel Eli was sought after as an accompanist. No doubt he was soon at the piano! A very elderly neighbour of mine had also told me that many of the ladies of that time, as well as the menfolk, were fond of their beer --- and of Sounds men secreting stronger stuff to have "nips" during their working day! Some would be making their way outside surreptitiously, now and then! At any rate I am sure a good time was had by all. Tired and sleepy children would subside onto something soft --- hay, a pile of coats, or maybe a wool bale, and soon be fast asleep, oblivious to the revelry.
With the dawn light of a new day creeping into the sky a procession of launches would make their way homeward, in time to see to the livestock or attend to their set-lines.
Another "Sounds family" was launched on its way!
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