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Donegal House Kaikōura - restaurant, bar, accommodation, function venue, campervan sites.
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Donegal House History

Donegal House takes its name from County Donegal, Ireland


It was from this place that (former owner) Murray Boyd's great-grandfather, Davy Boyd, and Davy's brother Richard (Dick) set sail in 1861. After prospecting together for gold in Ballarat and Bendigo - Australia, and on the western and southern gold fields of New Zealand at Gabriel's Gully, Central Otago, they settled here in Kaikōura in 1896, and then set about the work which would earn them the land that neither they, nor their ancestors to this day, would ever leave. Together they toiled relentlessly and determinedly to transform what was then almost impenetrable swampland into the rich and productive property which, today, is still a productive dairy farm milking 150 cows.


Throughout the course of their mission was woven a history as rich and as fascinating, as warm and as relevant today as it ever was, of toil, determination and success, of family and kinship, hospitality and, of course - what made everyday life sparkle - that good old Irish humour!


Today's members of the Boyd family (and there are many) are lucky in that their family history has been well recorded and documented.


The following story sums up quite well the kinship and hospitality of the early Boyd pioneers in Kaikōura...


"On Sunday, just after lunch, friends, neighbours and relations would start arriving for the afternoon; up to twenty or more horses, gigs and carts would be scattered amongst the trees on the western side of the house. The house would be full of people with kids everywhere, always someone coming and a family due to leave. Peacocks strutted around the house calling out to every stranger; pigeons sat, squawking in the high trees.


People who were there remember that one of them was always peeling potatoes on an outside bench, another girl constantly making tea, and a third buttering scones and pikelets. By the fire, in the kitchen, a large boiler always had thirty or forty hard boiled eggs available for eating - this was practiced back in Ireland. There was always boiled meat on the stove, and many times a day oatmeal scones were made. Provided the weather was good, each Sunday was similar; people enjoyed going there, and they were made very welcome".


Also, this one...


"At night, during the week, most of the Boyd families from Mt Fyffe Road and from down Schoolhouse Road, would all walk to one another’s homes to spend the evening. 'Maggie Guy' Boyd and Milly Billingsly described in humorous detail, the evenings at Guys' and Carrickfinn, and we can picture, from these ladies descriptions, that they were great nights of fun and not to be missed. The word would go out "party tonight!" Everyone was welcomed at the door and made to feel so much at home. After talking for a while, meeting one another, the chairs and mats etc. in the sitting room would be cleared back, and Susan, the youngest, would get on the piano and 'damn near make it talk', which would start the dancing and singing.


The most popular dances were the step dances which had been brought out from Ireland. The 'Ross' Boyds would all arrive, usually together, and were great at joining in, and having a good time. Between dances, someone would sing a song standing in the middle of the room, everyone would listen and enjoy it. David's nephew, Sandy, always liked to sing 'I met her in the garden where the praities (potatoes) grow'. Brother Tom would sing 'I am a wee boy from Athlone, deep in my heart I wish I had never left home'. Long Davey always chose 'The Mountains of Mourne', which included his own wording about Mangamaunu (a Kaikōura settlement).


As well as the piano, there were accordions, concertinas, violins, Jews' harps and mouth organs. Most could play something; if the odd mistake was made, no one seemed to mind. When everyone was singing the old Irish songs, the children would be dancing up and down the veranda in their own style. Other children had fun chasing up and down the stairs. In the kitchen, several people would be having a yarn, sitting around the large wooden table. The older Irish Boyds would sometimes have a couple of whiskies, and then do an unusual jig in the middle of the floor by themselves as they had done in Ireland; with a hand holding a glass up high, they would flick one foot up behind and do a sort of a skip, often with tears of homesickness in their eyes. Even if not many turned up, music and dancing would still take place, but mostly those few present would yarn about the farming scene at the time. Around 10.30 to 11 o'clock, a cup of tea was served, with many plates of cake. On the way home, they would walk in groups four or five wide, and sing as they went along the old shingle roads."


Source: Murray Boyd “From Donegal to Blackguard's Corner". This book is a history of the Boyd family from their early roots in Scotland and Ireland, and it is from this source which the following anecdotes, accounts, stories, legends, chronicles or yarns have all been plucked. (Of course, there are many more that have not been included here!). Feel free to browse through a copy of the book during your stay.

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