Doug Wright documents his life with Bertha

Doug Wright home on compassionate leave, baby Barry aged 3 weeks and Bertha1. Doug was born in Glenavy, Oamaru, and was brought up on the home farm of the Wright family in Owaka. He was the third son of James and Margaret Wright (nee Falconer), the others in the family being, Gemmel, Ira and a sister, Beulah.
2. Bertha was born in Ashburton at home, being the fourth daughter of Tom and Hannah Cone (nee Snell). Her father had two sons from a previous marriage, Joe and Claude, then he married Hannah and they had a family of 6 girls and 2 more boys - Ruth, Leah, Mary, Bertha, Iris and Eunice (twins), Stephen and Edward (Ted}.
3. Bertha's father worked in forestry as well as working around. They lived next to the school and he was caretaker for that as well. The family were able to use the school swimming poo1......the school burnt down when Bertha was 9, and the family were blamed for this. Her father became half blind.
4. The Wright family milked 17 cows by hand. Doug left home at the age of 17... he and Ira travelled to Ashburton to work in the harvest fields with the wheat and oats crops. They used horse mower and binder combines, and made the sheaves into stooks to dry. They originally intended to stay only three weeks, and Doug ended up staying with the same farmer for two and a half years.
5. Doug and Ira, with another boy, were on their way work for Mr. Chapman at Willowby for their next job. They got lost on the way, and stopped at this house (Cone's) to ask the way. They had just come in from the meeting, and these six girls (with their cats) went out to peep at these boys who were asking the way to Chapman's. The Cone's farm was a mile off the main road up a farm drive-way. Doug ended up staying for another two and a half years at the Chapman's. Ira found work close by, and the two boys would often go up to the Cone's place after the meetings for sing-songs.
6. Doug would double Bertha home on his bike the six miles from the meetings, but she thought he was a bit "slow" at first, and went out with another guy for a while. This made the old ladies start to gossip about her. It also made Doug a bit wary of her after that too. However, he eventually popped the question while they were at a conference one Saturday..... he took her for a drive to an old disused quarry in his old Chev car, and popped it there, then they went back for the next session of meetings. Her mother wouldn't allow them to be married before Bertha was 21. Bertha was working for an old lady with a broken hip for a while and stayed on looking after both her and her father - Mr. and Miss Suttey.
7. Bertha had her swimming accident while she was working for the Sutteys. They had all gone down to the river for a picnic, and she dived into the swimming hole, going deeper than she thought. She got tangled up in the roots of the willow tree, and cried to the Lord for help. She distinctly heard a voice telling her to "kick against the roots" which she did frantically, and came up bursting for air.
8. Doug meantime, was called up for war service, and they decided to get married before he went as Doug wanted to come home to a wife, and not merely a girl friend. He was sent off for his training, and Barry was born while he was home for further training. Bertha's war effort was to work on a farm at Rangiora as a land girl while Doug was away. She would do her farm chores, pushing Barry over the paddocks in his pram, and also push him to the meetings three miles down the road on Sundays. Doug served in the Pacific, fighting against the Japanese, for three long years.
9. Doug's first job after the war was a milking job which he had for two months, and then went to work on a farm station driving a bull dozer. Four married couples worked there altogether for the Turton family. Lyn was born while they were there. They stayed at the Turton's for three years - one thing they remembered vividly was a huge snow storm while they were there. Three feet of snow fell and covered the place completely.
10. From there they moved to Ashburton, and bought a house. Doug went carpentering for four months, and then got a job as gardener at the local hospital. Bertha worked at the hospital as relieving cook. Two more children were born while they were doing this. Doug then bought a milk run, which he ran for three and half years. He held down two other jobs at the same time trying to make ends meet, but it was a losing battle. They couldn't make a do of it, and he had to give the milk run up.
11. By now, their family was completed with the birth of Rosemary. But it soon became apparent that Rosemary had something very wrong with her. She would cry for hours and scream with the pain of her little tummy being so sore. From the time she was three, she gradually got more and more of these bouts. The doctors decided that she had contracted an "H" bug in her blood stream from when her cord was cut at her birth. There didn't seem to be anything that could be done for it. Abscesses would form on her liver. She had operation after operation to let the pus out of the internal boils that grew inside her. The poor child suffered tremendously, but bore it all with a smile and trust in Jesus that put many adults to shame. Doug and Bertha suffered along with her.
12. Doug meantime, was working at the Te Kau Woollen Mills on night shift as foreman keeping an eye on the large knitting machines as they worked around the clock. Then about this time, the family moved to Dunedin, so Rosemary could be closer to the specialist who could help her the most. Doug was able to get work at the Mosgiel Woollen Mills there, and others of the family including Bertha, started to work there too. Rosemary's health deteriorated, and they were visiting the specialist every week for some of the time. Huge abscesses would form inside her, and her tummy would swell until she looked like a little pregnant girl. She would then be cut open, and the abscess be drained out. She had thirteen major operations altogether, and the scars criss-crossed her body. The poison in her system was too much for her in the finish, and she died when she eleven, and was buried in the Anderson Bay cemetery in Dunedin. It was Rosemary's death, that caused Doug and Bertha to think seriously about going into children's work full time they never asked "why did God allow this to happen to us?” but rather, "What does the Lord want us to do with the time we have left?" Because of this, they became interested in the C. E. F. work, starting it while in Dunedin.
13. 1969 was an eventful year for the Wright family. A friend was getting married and they were just leaving for the wedding when the hospital rang to say that Rosemary had died. Needless to say, that dampened the day for them all. Then Lyn married John Garea in Auckland; Jill married Kelvin Gardiner in Dunedin ( and that is a story in itself! briefly, Kelvin had been married and had taken his wife for an evening drive to the end of the wharf, when something happened, his foot slipped or something, and the car shot over the wharf into the tide. Whether the children were in the car or not, whatever happened, they were O.K. but Kelvin's wife was drowned. Jill took pity on the bereft family, and looked after the little girls, and then some months later she married Kelvin and became their step-mother); Barry married Kathy Hamilton in Kaikoura, and Murray married Glenda in Dunedin. This meant that there were five weddings in the Wright family within eleven months, and little Rosemary's death as well!!
14. Doug had been working in the Mosgiel mills for about eight years, when he was sent overseas to have further training to learn how to repair and service the huge knitting machines which knitted twelve garments at once on them. He was sent to England and Scotland to learn this, and found it to be a wonderful experience. He came back to his job, stayed there another three months and then left to go into full time C.E.F. work in the north.
15. The C.E.F. directors needed someone to work in the Whangarei area, and asked Doug and Bertha to do this. So they cut their ties with the deep south and moved north. They went to Auckland first for further training, and then moved up to Whangarei with a caravan which they lived in at Hikurangi, living on Morris Moffat's place there ( about May 1978). This was where the Frears first came into contact with the Wrights, when Doug and Bertha went north with the caravan for a few days look around. They were given some meat by Don Currie at Paihia, to take to Neville Frear, and found their way up Keith Frear's drive way instead by mistake. They knocked on the back door, and after a while, heard a scrabbling sound, and looked in to see a man crawling on all fours down the passage towards them! Now if we had been told that it was the other way around, it might not have seemed so strange !! But Doug, being Doug, was able to take it all in his stride. Keith couldn't walk at the time as his back was so sore, (he was on his back for six weeks) and Gwenyth had gone to the girl's camp at Cooper's Beach for the day as cook, hence the crawling man! So that was the Frear's introduction to the Wrights. As for Gwenyth, she saw this strange couple in the kitchen at the camp and was not particularly impressed as she was flat out getting the meal ready, and here were these strangers cluttering up the kitchen, making silly jokes all over the place about taking meat to a crawling man!
16. Later on, the Wrights moved their caravan to Rita Young's lawn in town which was more convenient for their Bible in School's work which they had started doing. They eventually serviced twelve or more classes between them a week, reaching about four hundred children in the process with the Bible Story. They then moved to live with Geoff Rout who had a flat in Donald Street, and Bertha housekept and fed him for free rent. This continued for twelve months until Geoff was married in August 1980. Doug then bought the unit in Dakota Place that they lived in for the rest of their time in Whangarei.
17. They celebrated their Golden Wedding in Auckland with their family in 1990 and some of their Whangarei friends were able to attend.
18. Doug and Bertha started to slow down in the number of classes they were taking for Bible in Schools about 1988-89, and the classes gradually got less as they felt the load was too heavy for them. Then about 1993, Doug's memory began to fade, and he became very forgetful he would forget that he had been asked to relieve at certain classes at school, he would forget his keys, he even began to forget where he had parked the car down the street! The crowning forgettery came though, when he couldn't find the Whangarei Primary school one Thursday, relieving for someone! After driving around fruitlessly, until it was almost too late, he decided to go home. Suddenly he saw the school he was there this time! So he went into the class, and then couldn't find where his story was that he had prepared all he could find was Job in his Bible. He kept looking to no avail, so he decided that he had better tell them about Job instead of Joseph which was what he was looking for!! Poor Doug! It really began to sink home with everyone, that it was more serious than merely being forgetful.
20. Before that happened, Doug was able to take Bertha on his long promised overseas trip, He had been to England on his job trip all those years before, and Merv Malcolm had taken him on a trip to Israel, leaving Bertha home (although she had gone with Myf on a brief trip to Australia). They had also gone to Melbourne too, for a couple of weeks some time in the mid 1980s. But this was to be the BIG trip, and they finally made it in mid 1994 to go and stay with Kelvin and Jill who were living in Seattle at the time.

Bertha and Doug Wright "From Doug and Bertha Wright 20th June 1979."
Dear Neville and Carole, Keith and Gwenyth and offspring,
I am writing this letter in red because I want to say Howdy to you in red and I'm going to be very careful what I say because in fact I don't know what to say.
They say my letters from off the top of my head are not the same as letters from off the bottom of my heart, so I am going to try and keep this one about half way, i.e. around about from off my collar in order to try and avoid that situation where it is said his sanctimonious letters show a different side of his personality from that which shows in his un-sanctimonious letters.
Now I'm not sure what that means but it could mean that there is two of me, and that's enough to frighten both of us, what to think I don't know; one thing I DO know is that if there is two of me then from here on it's us that's writing the red letter, both of me, and that suits both of me good because it means that from here on of all that we have to say you can be sure that it means twice as much as we say!
First we want to say thank you so much (I'm moving out of the red into green for "GO") for all you did for us when we were with you a few weeks ago, the old "Kingswood" looks very nice after getting a cut and polish; the boss man at one of the Kamo caravan centres had a good look at it and was quite impressed, None of the saints have commented (except those in the know) because the colour being the same as before it had not caught their eye, and then of course some of them are a bit like the fellow who wanted his girlfriend to tell him she loved him….he had to squeeze it out of her!
One thing is for sure, we are very pleased with it and we think we are extremely fortunate that we got the kind of service you gave, far we are not only happy with it but we estimat the same service here in town would have cost us more than the $500 mark. We would like to be able to do something for you in return but what we do not know
Our house is making slow progress and by the look of things it will be a while yet before we will he able to occupy it.
Did you know that Bertha and 1 have just celebrated our thirty eighth wedding anniversary. We went to the doctor that day and asked him if he had a cure for it but he was as dumbfounded as we are! It sounds a long time, but when we look back the time has certainly whizzed by, we could tell you some stories but they wouldn’t be good for giddy youmg things like you, except to say that the reason why of all of Bertha's admirers I got her because all the rest got knocked out in the semi finals!
I am not sure which of the two categories mentioned on page one, this letter falls into, but in order to save writing a special category letter, I may take the liberty here to say that we are kept fairly busy with our work and we have next weekend booked for Kaiwaka and one shortly after for a family service at Snell's Beach out from Warkworth. I am endeavouring to keep Labour weekend free for Cooper's Beach and I think something was said about January, I will need to get the details again in order to know what is what, so you will need to let me know
Well, I must close and write to someone else, my next letter will need to be serious so I had better get that look on my face, for if it has gotta be serious then it's gotta be serious and that's it.

Lots of love and thanks for both of us plus my extra shadow makes three of us…..
Doug and Bertha

Xmas Magic! Iris, Edward, Douglas and Bertha
Xmas Magic! Iris, Edward, Douglas and Bertha

Website address -