Author(s): Suzanne Singleton
MELLONS BAY is a story of relationships and family.It depicts life in colonial Auckland, change and adaptation in a new land, heartache, hope, love and loss. It is also a fictionalised account of the author’s great-great-grandparents.
The book traces the story of a 19th century Irish family affected as so many were by famine and poverty. In 1849 Harriet and William Mellon arrived in New Zealand on the Oriental Queen, one of ten ships which brought a detachment of mostly pensioned soldiers, the Royal New Zealand Fencibles, to Auckland. They settled in four villages then lying on the outskirts of the settlement: Howick, Panmure, Onehunga and Otahuhu.
The Fencibles constructed houses, roads and bridges and gradually schools, shops and churches. Initially, they were granted an acre of land. After seven years the Mellons purchased a five-acre block of land in a bay near Howick, later called Mellons Bay. Here they built a sod cottage which was still visible in 1977. William Mellon worked as a surveyor for several prominent Auckland companies, while his wife produced homegrown goods for the market.
William was born in Dublin in 1807 and as a young man joined the Royal Engineers and worked as a surveyor on the Ordnance Survey of Ireland.
Born in Belfast, Harriet (nee Hennessy) married William in 1837 in County Cork. Less is known about her. The family stories claimed that she had red hair, had been ‘on the stage’ and was ‘flighty and frivolous’. The few stories of her were dismissive. She had become the invisible woman who left her husband for another man. As a result of careful research Mellons Bay adds details to her story, giving Harriet strength of character and solidity – a more deserving place in the family history.
William prospered in New Zealand. He bought fifty acres on the Mangamangaroa Creek in Pakuranga. He later bought farmland in the Waikato where he lived during the 1870s with his daughter and son-in-law.
The farm was bequeathed to his daughter, Mary-Anne on his death in 1880. Mary-Anne and George Floyd had fifteen children. The youngest son was the author’s grandfather, born in 1878.
Suzanne Singleton was born in Otorohanga in the King Country. She attended Otorohanga College and in 1962–1963 trained as a schoolteacher at Hamilton Teacher’s College. In the late 1970s she returned to Hamilton to study at the University of Waikato where she obtained a B.Soc.Sc. and M.Soc.Sc. in Psychology. Her career as a psychologist has given her a variety of experiences in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, in tertiary teaching and in private practice.
Suzanne resides with her husband at Tindalls Beach on the Hibiscus Coast north of Auckland. She has three children and eight grandchildren. As well as writing she reads widely and is interested in gardening, genealogy, classical music and ancient history. She has published four books previously – The Promise, a collection of short stories, Boundary Flat Flounders, a children’s picture book, The Koneke and Hugo’s Gift, both novels.