A transcript is an exact copy of the things said during an interview.
What was the Birkdale area like in the 1900s?
The farm of Margaret and Henry Beer covered the area we now know as Birkdale Intermediate School. Their house was built on Tiri Tiri Road and the farm ran down the hill and ended close to what is now the southern boundary of the school. The house is still at No. 12 Tiri Tiri Road although over the years it has undergone many changes and no longer looks like this photograph which was taken around 1910.
This is an Interview with Mr Peter Beer, grandson of Margaret and Henry Beer.
This was the first house. This was a pioneer’s cottage. Most houses were built like this of kauri slabs and had gable ends and a lean-to on the back and you will see them everywhere in the old towns. It’s a typical pioneering cottage and there’s my grandmother standing there and here are flowers, looks like daffodils and stuff, hydrangeas (unknown man in photo). In the background you can see the hill at Greenhithe and a glimpse of Hellyers Creek, you are looking down the hill looking north where Birkdale Intermediate School is now.
They were market gardening and orchardists. The Beer family owned the largest block of land about 18 – 20 acres, that’s 7.7 hectares about these days and it was a block of land in two sections, bounded by Tiri Tiri Road and Birkdale Road. The land was the beginning of two streams, there were two gullies (These were all bulldozed away when the school was built) and at the far one there was a spring where a cabbage tree grew and a creek, a stream started which joined up with the big creek down there. All of that stream went out to Hellyers Creek down the bottom.
My grandfather’s name was Henry Beer here they are, a very old photo of my Uncle Fred, my grandfather Henry, my grandmother Margaret and their friends on the farm at their house.
All the land on the North Shore was originally covered with native forest. There was a fair proportion of kauri forest the large trees were milled by the early settlers. In the 1880s and 1890s kauri gum became valuable. The land was dug over by the gum diggers. It had been dug over and spoilt and this all became Crown (Government) land. Nobody else wanted it and it was terrible land and it all reverted after the gum diggers to tea tree. manuka scrub. My grandfather bought the land from a company which the Crown had allowed to subdivide these sections. The company was called the River Plate Company. He just made a clearing in the tea tree and they pitched a tent. He bought some chooks, some fowls and he wove the tea tree that he cut down into the edge of the tea tree that was still standing and made a fence and then to keep the fowls from flying away they clipped the feathers on one wing so they couldn’t get airborne. That was the way to keep the chooks in. So from then on they had boiled chickens, eggs. They could live.
My grandfather planted Australian wattle trees. Do you know why? Because he wanted to grow grapes and he needed to shelter them quickly. Wattle trees grow while you watch them, very fast growing and a hedge of wattle trees makes a very good wind break. He had seen vineyards in Australia. He terraced the sides of the two gullies and planted grape vines. He grew small Isabella grapes and produced red wine. In 1908 he produced 2.5 thousand gallons of wine. He sold the wine in a little shop up from the Birkenhead Wharf. The wine label was Beers Wine. This is where Birkdale Intermediate is now.