Letter, Evelyn May Charlotte Smyth

Smyth, Evelyn May Charlotte

Object detail

Brief Description
A three-page letter written by Evelyn May Charlotte Smyth, about her memories of the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. Evelyn has headed the letter: A Survivor, and writes that she was born in 1914, and was four months away from her seventeenth birthday at the time of the earthquake. She lived at Ferndale Station, sixteen and a half miles inland from Raupunga at Putere, but was on holiday at her grandparent's home, Lambton farm, in Pukahu when the earthquake struck. Her grandparent's names were Charles Lean, born in Cornwall; and Augusta Johanna, born in Denmark of Danish and Swedish descent. She describes them as good pioneering people who loved children, having had seven of their own.

At the time of the earthquake, Evelyn was with a young aunt, sitting at the kitchen table. She recalls that it was hot, that there were no birds anywhere, and that it seemed to be very quiet. She remarks that the sunshine was a strange colour and that there was an uneasy eerieness. When the earthquake struck they had to scramble over broken jars of jams and pickles, and broken crockery. Bricks from a chimney fell through the roof, narrowly missing a sleeping cousin. Evelyn writes of there being a glorious full moon that night, and that in the distance they could see the Grand Hotel burning.

Evelyn's parents took the family to Hastings where they saw the devastation. A week later they went to Nelson Park in Napier, and as refugees from Wairoa and Gisborne, were evacuated on the coastal vessel KOAU. They were met by the manager of the Hawke's Bay Motor Company who took them as far as he could by car, with them having to walk the final two and a half miles by bridle track. They slept in the orchard for six and a half weeks before rained forced them back into their wooden house.

Evelyn writes of her marriage to Bob Smyth and of her children, and that she continued to have an ongoing fear of earthquakes. She writes of her grandparents and in the letter says that she has included a photograph of a hillside that collapsed.
Production period
Production technique
Media/Materials description
Handwritten in blue ink on lined paper.
Height x Width: 295 x 210mm
Subject person
Subject date
03 Feb 1931
Post 03 Feb 1931
Other number(s)


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