Eulogy by Tony Watkins
ImageDeath is only an horizon, and an horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. Lift us up that we might see further.



Around the turn of the century Michael Pierce Butler left his father's mail run from Auckland to Albany and Puhoi, and went to Morrinsville to establish a flax mill. It thrived and soon employed a dozen men. It was in Morrinsville that Percy met and married Elizabeth Turnbull, daughter of John and Jane Turnbull, who were among the earliest settlers of the Morrinsville district.

ImageBeatrice Ena Watkins, their eldest daughter, was born on 13 October 1907. At that time there was no maternity hospital in Morrinsville, so she was born in the Te Aroha Maternity Hospital.

When she was 5, in 1911, the family moved to Mercer. the whole town was flooded when they arrived. For two weeks they lived in one of the two cottages opposite the Town Hall, because the house which Percy was building for them was not quite ready. Bessie kept her cow in the yard. these two cottages remained until 1986, just across the railway line up the Koheroa Road. The family then lived further up the Koheroa Road, where Percy operated a quarry. the strong room which housed the explosives for the quarry was eventually moved to the centre of town to become a monument, which still remains.

Thomas John Butler was born in 1909, and Dorothy Frances Butler was born in 1914. John Turnbull died in 1917, and Jane died only six months later.

Bessie purchased six acres and the fine old homestead in Papatoetoe, and the family moved there in 1918. Ena was 10. Percy worked at installing milking machines, at Waiuku and Patamahoe.

This was the time of the flu epidemic and Sam Smith, who had a place at Tuakau, and had carted metal from the quarry, used to bring food to the house each day tobe hauled up on a basket. He milked the cows, refused to come in, drank whiskey three times a day for medecine, and never caught the flu.

The first Mass in the district was celebrated in this homestead, and Ena was present. The nearest church at this time was at Otahuhu. The homestead remained until it was demolished to make way for the present shopping complex.

Ena attended the Papatoetoe Primary School, and then from Form One she went to Otahuhu Convent School. After three years she graduated from Standard Six with proficiency.

In 1922 Butlers Garage was established on the still metal Great South Road. At that time petrol was sold in cans, and the cans were packaged in wooden boxes, with two to a box. Bessie kept fowls on the six acre block, as well as a house cow.

Ena went on with Katie Daley to Brains Commercial College to leasrn book-keeping and shorthand typing, and she qualified for these exams, even though her studes were interrupted when her mother became sick, and Ena had to spend some time nursing her mother.

Katie Daley went on to work at John Courts, while Ena worked at the seed merchants, W.S.Laurie and Co. They were in Customs Street in a very narrow office close to John Burns at first, but then moved to Fanshaw Street by the city markets, opposite the Tepid Baths.

After a year Ena moved to the solicitors Kavanagh, deCough and Boylen, where she met Gladie Sturm, who worked across the corridor for Pethwicks. Mr deCough was the French consul, so that letters had to be typed in French, although Ena did not understand a single word. Mr Kavanagh did all Bishop Cleary’s work.

Ena was then forced to leave her job to work full time for her parents, looking after the homestead. By this time her mother spent her days at the pumps of the garage, and “housework” for ena included cooking for 22 people for morning tea, and 22 people for afternoon tea, every day.

In 1926 the ships were immobilised by strikes so Viv took the chance to furtively depart in the night cleaning the boilers and working a passage to London. Ena met Viv when he came back from Europe.

They became engaged, but it was three years before they married on Boxing Day 1931, in the middle of the depression, at St.Benedicts Church, Newton. Gladys Sturm was their bridesmaid. Their honeymoon took them in a Baby Austin, which cost 55 pound, to Tauranga and Opotiki where they stayed a night, and on to Wairoa. In those days roads such as those from Opotiki to Wairoa were single lane, and if you met another car it was necessary to back up to the nearewst passing bay. They reached Napiert in the aftermath of the earthquake on3 February 1931.

They had bought the section at 238 Great South Road, next door to the old homestead, from Roy Gubb. (at that time it was 108) Byron, who was boarding at Ellen Watkins’ in Carruth Road, and Viv built the house. For a brief period Ena and Viv lived at the old homestead until the house was finished. This was not a problem as Ena went to the work camps to act as cook. Viv would catch a pheasant, and she would pot roast it.

By now Viv was working for the Leyland O’Brien Timber Company, and went to Albany to stay on the Seay’s property. They were stacking six foot lengths of timber onto barges in Lucas Creek, and supplying the firewood for the Leyland O’Brien mill.

It was at this time that Percy was badly burned, grease got into the burn, and it turned septic. A telegram from her mother asked Ena to come home urgently, and she began the routine of putting a fresh poultice on the burn every two hours through the night, and every hour through the day. She saved the arm.

In 1935, on her own birthday, Clive was born. When she was expecting Clive Viv was working at Mangatangi in the Hunuas. Clive was six months old when taken to Waiheke Island where Viv worked for six months. The old house at Kennedy Bay echoed, Clive howled all the time, and there was no alternative but to come back to Papatoetoe.

In 1938 Tony was born. At this time Viv was working at the farm of Mavis and Archie Wall at Omokoroa. When Tony was six weeks old Ena moved back to Tauranga. Work continued at Cooneys, Crapps, Titertons, Athenree, Old Bob’s Point, and Rappleys, making a total of six years there.

It was at Athenree that the family lived in the house of Browns. It had a coal range, and when the door was opened the ceiling used to flap up about three feet and then come down again depositing a shower of dust and grime over everything in the house.

Ena, Clive and Tony returned to Papatoetoe so the children could go to Papatoetoe Primary School. Viv came home for weekends, and school holidays were spent wherever Viv was working.

Percy died in 1948, and Bessie died in 1959. By this time Clive had qualified as a pharmacist, and Tony was completing his architectural studies.

Those were heady times. Jim Baxter used to visit the house at Papatoetoe, along with all the other university people of the day. What weas probably the first Mass in the vernacular in New Zealand was said at the Papatoetoe house, by Harry Haas, without the Bishop’s knowledge or consent, in those days before the Vatican Council. It is only looking back that we recognise this as a time of great change, great faith, and truly great people.

Clive went to Europe and Tony followed in 1962. Ena became the mailing box, keeping in touch with all the network of parents and relations and exchanging news. There was the time when she wrote to London to ask if she had offended Clive, unaware of the arrangement that Clive would cook the meals if Tony would write the letters.

There must have been plenty of anxiety as letters drifted in fromPersia, Afganistan, India or Japan, but she never complained, as she wanted her children to love life, just as she loved life.
With time the family was reunited at Papatoetoe, and as the world around changed the house finally became the only one left in the street. Ena was nothing if not tenacious, appearing in courtrooms and fighting for her rights. She had an astonishing ability to read newspapers with missing a single relevant fact, and so no public notice ever escaped her eye.

Viv was now no longer working in the mill at Leyland O”Brien, having moved to Odlins at Otahuhu. Finally he retired, but within the year he was dead. After devoted nursing by Ena over a long period of illness he died in her arms on the way to Middlemore Hospital. It was 1972.

Life was lonely without Viv, but she kept in touch with her many friends. No one in need was left un-noticed. Many a bottle of sherry was taken to the sick. Many must have been the people who opened an envelope to find a neatly folded dollar bill to pay for the spectacles they needed or to thank them for some kind gesture.

It was typical of her that when she knew she was to die, she sat down even though she was very exhausted, and sent a Christmas card to her many friends. Most included a brief letter. She never mentioned that she was sick in case it would worry anyone. An avid writer of notes, always in copybook script, she cautioned in one note “Don’t say I am as bad as I am, and I don’t feel like visitors.”

She was from a strong willed generation, who lived through wars, and had the courage to marry in the depression. She knew great faith, reat hope and great love. She was a woman of her time. The likes of her will not be seen again.

When she felt she could no longer give to others because shen was so weak, even though she was as alert, sharp and perceptive as ever, it seemed as though she chose to die, at a time which would cause the least inconvenience to everyone.

There is always more that could be said. There is always more that should be said. Perhaps there are some things which are better left unsaid. It is in the nature of life that relationships between people are always unique. I invite you to think for a moment in silence about your own memories of Ena.

We seem to give them
Back to thee, O God, who gave
them to us. Yet, as thou did not
lose them in the giving, so do we
not lose them by their return.
Not as the world gives, give
Thou, O lover of souls – what
Thou gives thou does not take
Away, for what is thine is ours
also if we are thine. And life is
eternal and love is immortal and
death is only an horizon, and an
horizon is nothing save the limit
of our sight. Lift us up, strong
Son of God, that we may see
further, cleanse our eyes that
we may see more clearly; draw
us closer to thyself that we may
know ourselves to be nearer to
our loved ones who are with
thee. And while thou does
prepare a place for us, prepare us
also for that happy place, that
where thou are we may be also
for evermore.

FrBede Jarrett, O.P.