History never repeats itself?
Try telling that to Vicki Pratt, owner of one of the country’s most isolated pubs.
The Whangamōmona Hotel publican has unearthed information in her family tree which reveals that her great aunt was “mine host” of the historic Taranaki hotel more than 100 years ago.
It was a piece history Vicki, brought up in South Auckland, had been totally unaware of.
When the 110-year-old hotel’s doors shut for seven weeks of the Covid-19 lockdown, Vicki and her husband, Richard, had time to examine storage boxes not opened since they came to the district nearly eight years ago.
Among the boxes belonging to her late mother, Ivy, Vicki found genealogical documents detailing her family tree.
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Tracing down the lineage she found her great aunt, Caroline Vince, had married James Rothery.
Richard remembered James Rothery had been a past proprietor of the hotel.
“Hospitality must have been in the blood,” Vicki said. “Caroline was known as a good cook, and James as hospitable and outgoing – all of which you need to be to run a hotel.
“I’ve always felt I’ve belonged here in Whangamomona and I enjoy the countryside and living rurally.”
Caroline, born in 1871, was one of a family of eight children whose parents, William Vince and Jane Prior, had married soon after arriving in Auckland on the ship Bombay in March, 1865.
Her sister, Lily Vince, was Vicki Pratt’s grandmother.
Caroline married James Rothery in 1906 in Auckland and the couple made their way to Whangamōmona in 1912.
The town, on State Highway 43, the Forgotten World Highway, was attracting work at the time with a new North Island rail link being pushed from Taumarunui to Stratford.
Caroline and her husband ran the rebuilt hotel from 1912 until 1918 when she became sole owner after James, and his brother Frank, died from the influenza pandemic, or ‘Spanish flu’.
Two weeks before their deaths the two men had paraded down the town’s main street holding the New Zealand flag to celebrate the end of World War 1.
The flag is on display inside the hotel.
“It was a strange coincidence that here we are in a pandemic and one of my relatives died of another global pandemic 100 years ago,” Vicki Pratt said.
“My great aunt Caroline carried on with the hotel ownership until 1921, which was unheard of in those days when women were not allowed to own pubs, or even be seen in a public bar.”
Vicki Pratt was three years old when her great aunt Caroline died in New Plymouth in 1964.
“I never met Caroline but it is coincidence I now own the hotel that she once owned.”
The family connection with Taranaki extends with Vicki’s great-grandmother Jane Vince, and two great uncles, Charles and Ernest, all buried in the province.
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