Born Dec.26.1911 in Southsea, a suburb of Portsmouth in Hampshire, Southern England, to a father from "unknown" and a mother from Ryde in the Isle of Wight. The eldest of the family was Amy, followed by Albert, Leopold and a half sister, Peggy. There were two other children, Douglas and Minnie, who died very young.
His father was a Corporation Electric Wireman working for Bendell & White, contractors, but after years of bad health, he died of tuberculosis on the Thirteenth of October 1916.
His mother, a small-built woman of four foot nine, came from a family of two boys and two girls. At the time of her husband’s death, she was working in a munitions factory. She arranqed for Leo and Albert to be admitted to a Catholic boarding school in Reading, Berkshire until 1923 when the school transferred to Southampton.
In 1925, the School Board ‘decided’ that the two boys should become priests and they were sent to St. Mary’s College in Twickenham, London. After disagreements with the hierachy, they left the college and made their way to their mother’s home where they were not exactly welcomed. Their mother had visited them only a few times over a period of twelve years and didn’t seem able to contend with two young men in the home.
Leo joined the 1st. Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers in December 1926 ( Reg.No.3127006 ) at Winchester and although only five foot tall, he was accepted mainly for his ability to play the trombone which he had learned in the school band.
After nearly a year, he decided to buy his discharge but as this would cost thirty pounds or almost two year’s wages, he feigned growing deafness and supported by the scars he carried from a mastoid operation performed when he was a child, he was ‘invalided’ out in November 1927.
He worked at miscellaneous jobs before signing on as a Pantry Steward on the Curard Line vessel ‘Aquitania’ bound for New York in June 1930.The advent of 'The Great Depression' found him without employment and on the dole. When even this ceased, he stowed away on the ‘Aquitania’ to New York and landed with only the clothes he wore and a bottle of whisky liberated from the First Class lounge of the ship and this he sold for US$15 once ashore. After eighteen months of being a hobo, he stowed away yet again on the ‘Empress of France’ in Quebec , Canada and returned to England.
In 1935, he signed on as a Bedroom Steward on the Shaw Savill Line vessel, ‘Mataroa’, bound for New Zealand and after several trips, met his future wife, Hannah Macnaughtan.
Born in Govan, a suburb of Glasgow, Scotland on Oct. 14. 1911 to William Macnaughtan, a Shipwright with William Symonds & Co in the River Clyde Shipyards and Annie Brodie nee Macfarlane.
Deciding to emigrate to New Zealand, her father left on the delivery voyage of the dredge ‘Canterbury’ for Lvttelton, the sea - port of Christchurch, a couple of weeks after she was born and the rest of the family followed a year later.
Living at 38 Cornwall Rd. she attended the Lvttelton District High School. She was prominent in the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade and taught Sunday School at the local Presbyterian Church.
After leaving school. she was employed at Aulsebrooke’s Chocolate Factory in Christchurch until shortly after her marriage.
She was very fond of picnic outings and hiking around the Port Hills with her friends.
A close friend, Muriel Malins, threw a party one evening and her brother who was also a steward on the ‘Mataroa’ brought a friend, Leo, and introduced him to Hannah. On March 5, 1936, they became engaged and were married at the Lyttelton Presbyterian Church on December 5 of the same year. Hannah’s sister, Pearl, was the Bride’s - maid and Terence Kennedy was the Best Man.
They rented a two room flat in Cashel St. Christchurch which was owned by Mrs. Kennedy and where Leo had previously boarded. They counted their total assets at that time, of fifteen shillings!
This was at the time when the Depression was coming to an end but there was still massive unemployment, so Leo worked digging tree stumps out of the Waimakariri River and Hannah continued at Aulsebrooke's. In the evenings they framed pictures of chocolate box lids and sold them around the neighbourhood.
In May 1937, their first child was born, ( Irvine Douglas ) and Hannah gave up employment and being unfamiliar with babies, was helped by another tenant, a wonderful Maori lady known as Nana Adams who also became their first baby-sitter.
In 1938. Leo obtained work with Eric Boyce Ltd. as a Cabinet Maker, rising to the position of foreman. By the time their second child was born in 1939, ( Carol Angela ) they had rented a house around the corner at no. 16 Essex St. owned by Mr. & Mrs. Messina. Among their neighbours, were Peggy Smith their son’s Godmother, and the Tini family whose daughters. Una and Betty. were frequent play-mates of the two children.
One of the curious features of the house apart from the outside toilet and wash-house ( laundry ), was the bathing arrangement’s. At least the bath was inside but the water was boiled in the wash-house 'copper' and then carried by the bucket-full to the outside house wall, where it was poured into a funnel and went from there by pipe to an outlet over the bath!
One night, a large Oriental face peered through the bedroom window. Hannah. being naturally alarmed, cried out to Leo using his nick-name of ‘Wag’ . It seems that the Chinese chap may have heard this as ‘Wang’ and, with a great beaming smile, he headed round to the back door. Intercepted by Leo, he stood there with a large cabbage under his arm and declared, "I come to see big lady. I have something big for her." He was probably referring to the cabbage but was sent scurrying off poste haste! The previous tenants of the house must have been interesting!
Leo and Hannah won £100 first prize in a ‘Name the picture’ competition, a very large amount of money in those days. They invested it in a section of land in Butterfield Ave. intending to eventually build a new house.
Incidentally, next to the section was a small dairy farm supplying the locality with milk which was delivered during the night by Mr. Thorpe, his churn laden cart pulled along at a walking pace by one of his cows! At that time, one put a 'billy', a metal can with a lid and handle, out in the letter-box before going to bed and the milk was ladled into that.
By 1942. there were now four children ( Barrie Philip & Malcolm Bruce ) and as the present house was small, they looked about for a new home and settled on no. 75 Norwich St. Linwood and the economics of a large family and mortgage, meant that their section had to be sold. With the change of address also came a change in employment for Leo. World War II was at it’s peak and being found unfit for military service due to perforated ear-drums, he was drafted Into ‘War Work’ at Price Engineering making wooden butter churns for dairy factories as well as being an E.P.S. Warden in the evenings.
The new house was larger and two small rooms were added as well. Oddly enough, it also had a ‘strange’ bath-room. Obviously not part of the original structure which had been built in the days of gas lighting, (the fittings were still installed), it had been formed by partioning a section of the kitchen / dining room, resulting in a windowless triangular space, six feet wide at the doorway sloping to about one foot at the other end.
At war’s end, Leo started his own cabinet-making business in a workshop that he had built behind the house. He also dabbled in short-story writing for magazines and published two books of his own. They were only moderately successful and the unsold copies provided fuel for the 'Copper' in which the washing was boiled clean.....
In 1946, Leo turned his hand to Show Business and toured New Zealand and Australia as "Leopold Levarre, Hypnotist Supreme", with some success. Poor Hannah of course, was left home raising kids, patching pants and skinned knees!
The family shifted to Auckland in 1950 to no.9 Leighton St. Grey Lynn. After renovations and converting it to an ‘apartment house’, another shift was made, this time to no.1 Risk Rd. Remuera, a much nicer part of the city. Leo now worked as a salesman for Young & Fortune Ltd.; ( Symonds of Symonds St. ), and Fairmarket Auctioneering.
Leighton St. was sold and two more apartment houses were bought at no.51 Middleton Rd. Newmarket and no.14 Gibraltar Crescent Parnell. The children now numbering six, ( Leopold Vernard & Stephen Roderick ), gradually left home, to marry or go flatting and perhaps for the first time in many years, Hannah was able to have some sort of life of her own and had great enjoyment going to Old time Dancing. Even this was cut short by her late pregnancy with her last child ( Peter Andre ).
In 1964, their final house move was to no.6 Okewa Rd. Titirangi. At last Hannah had a home she could call her own, where she could indulge her passion for gardening and entertaining her large circle of friends.
Although diabetic in later life, she had always enjoyed remarkably good health until a heart attack in 1973 followed by another the next year proved too much, even for her.
An ever present sense of humour, kindness and an abiding interest in her children and grand-children, was reciprocated by their love for her. An understanding, sympathetic and gentle nature, made her a perfect balance for her husband, who was at times, domineering and autocratic.
After Hannah’s death, Leo belatedly discovered what a treasure he had lost and despite a trip back to England to see his family, resisted all efforts by his children and their spouses to assist him in adjusting to his changed circumstances. He continued to find fault in them and persisted in his attempts to manipulate them. His health and disposition deteriorated, leading to hospitalisation and death in 1980.
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