MUSICIANS OF PUHOI (& AHUROA)

The following is a transcript of the speech given by Mervyn Bayer at the unveiling of the plaque to 
The Musicians of Puhoi held at the Puhoi Hall on 24 March, 2001. 
Merv is the eldest son of Sylvia and the late Ben Bayer of Ahuroa and an ex pupil of the Ahuroa School. 
(It first appeared in the Ahuroa Community Newsletter).


"A few weeks ago Kristine came home from work and told me she had had a visit from Maureen and Dave re this musical evening and yes, she was sure that I wouldn't mind saying a few words about the origins of the Bohemian/Puhoi old time or traditional music. Why me? I asked her.  Ah well, she said, they reckoned that if anybody should know about it I should.  Ben Bayer's son and all that. Your dad played it all his life.  OK she had a point but I didn't know a hell of a lot about it all.

True enough, as far back as I can remember they always had some sort of musical instrument laying about the house. We were brought up with it alright.  Mum tells of father playing her babies to sleep with his accordion or violin or something.  Somebody was always trying to squeeze some sort of noise out of some instrument or another but as for knowing where it all started, zilch.

But then mostly everybody back then had an accordion or violin or some musical instrument at home. People in my world seemed to have anyway.  Joey (Joe Tolhopf) said Johnny Paul even had an accordion that Bill Tolhopf had broken in half while playing at a party, stored in his front room for some obscure reason.

Uncle Jim and Aunty Annie (Rauner) had violins and at least one accordion and that dudel sack of course.  Securely tied up in a sack pikau made with leather straps and hanging behind the living room door, and we weren't even allowed to look at the bag it was in, let alone the thing itself.  I did have a try of it once when Dad was entrusted with the delivery of it from Uncle Jim to Bob Wech or Joey when Uncle Jim left the district.  I remember all the awkward comers and pipes and things seemingly forever sticking into my stomach or ribs and I couldn't even get the bloody thing to squeak.

When I was very young I remember seeing bits of a dudel sack along at Johnny Paul's shed laying on the ground in the dust. Herbert Paul told me that he remembers his grandfather, "Fotter" as he called him, making new bits for it and he using the old bellows to start a fire in the copper. Tony Bayer told me of John Paul, Byron Honse he called him, tuning the thing with bees' wax sort of filling in the holes and boring them out to create the right noise or something.

Tony said both Ted (Edward) and Fritz Rauner played it - Fritz played it very well he said. It sort of fell into disrepair when he had it and his brother Jim then took it over and got it going again. Joey has told me how difficult it had become to play partly due to the lack of good bag materials and probably the lack of an instrument maker.


Puhoi Hall and Church

There had been some talk of relegating it to a museum or something, but Bob Wech had other ideas and come hell or high water one of his family was going to play it. Philip obviously drew the short straw.

According to Jim Smith and Herbert Paul the Pauls swapped the dudel sack for a violin with the Rauners or it was the other way round or maybe within the Paul family themselves way back in the piece, anyway the violin used in the swap was supposed to be the one that the Pauls-Rauners brought with them in 1863, which is still with the Smith family. Dad played it for a while but found it hard to keep in tune for some reason. It looks just a very ordinary sort of violin to me.

Anyway after a lot of ringing around bugging most everybody I could think of and a bit of reading, mostly thanks to Mrs. Krippner and her "Homeland News" (a lady whom I have never met) also Maureen here whom I rang several times, I have come to the conclusion that while mostly every family seemed to own or play a musical instrument, the main thrust of the Bohemian/Puhoi music related back to the Paul & Rauner families.

Most of the musically bent folk appear to be related somehow. My dear Aunt Lizzy Remiger, for instance, her mother was a Paul. Joey told me how he visited her in her advancing years to discuss music that she wrote. Schollums from Omaha, Bayers of course, Wechs, Bechers, and so on. Charlie Becher wrote music too. His granddaughter told me that he evidently tried to compose a new piece for every musical evening they had. Joey's grandmother was a Rauner - and so it goes.

Then there was this Yesenksy chap of Fiddlers Hill fame. He arrived along with the first wave of settlers in 1863 and took up his allotment on what is now known as Fiddlers Hill. One story I read, that he entertained fellow passengers on the voyage out with his fiddle. Maureen tells a story how he walked cross country with his violin to Schischka's Hill opposite Arthur Dunn's on the Ahuroa Road to play at parties that lasted three days. Must have been some parties.

The story that caught my rather warped imagination was where Paul Straka used Yesensky's violin bow to stir Granny Schollum's soup after somebody threw a boot in the bowl at a dance or party in the hall just down the road somewhere near where the shop is now. It is thought he returned home to his home country around 1900, selling his land to Wenzl Schollum. I wonder what happened to his violin?

There is no doubt that the first settlers brought out their music with them, but there doesn't seem to be any way of finding out actually who brought what or how many instruments they brought out with them.

One could only imagine oneself leaving your home, country, for good, that you would want to take along one or two of your prized possessions. Just imagine the clash of cultures a flash expensive violin in its case laying along with the other possessions, outside a nikau whare on the edge of the Puhoi creek in the middle of winter.

Music has been the lifeblood of the settlement of Puhoi people, despite the excessive struggle for survival, particularly in the early years. Music was to the fore on every occasion and probably the biggest single factor in helping them through what must have been some pretty wretched times.

There have been other music and musicians in and around Puhoi over the years. I've been told of one and possibly two brass bands and I would like to make mention of the Jackson family in particular. Apart from their music I was told a Mrs. Jackson taught music to a goodly number of young folk in the early 1900's.

Well, I've just used up my allotted two minutes on my musical journey through the years. I must thank everybody who helped me put this together. And thank you for your time."

Mervyn Bayer.