The Cry of A Morepork – Writings of Evelyn Parkes
Edited by Anne and Leonie Hayden
The Cry of a Morepork is a collection of clippings, letters to editors, essays and observations written by Evelyn Hilda May Parkes over her lifetime; a shy but vibrant farmer’s wife, mother, church goer and community volunteer. Each excerpt was taken from Evelyn’s ‘book’ – a fragile, yellowing old exercise book in which she proudly pasted her clippings – or from her personal journals.
Anne and Leonie Hayden are her daughter and granddaughter, respectively, and with this labour of love they have paid tribute to an unassuming but extraordinary woman.
This book provides a rare insight into the life of one woman whose life was impacted by the Great Depression, a suppressed mother, a father who was a veteran of WW1, her two daughters and her marriage to a Waikato farmer. Evelyn’s writing, much of which was published in farming periodicals, local papers and the New Zealand Herald, with one piece broadcast on radio, portrays with unsullied honesty and humour her life and development as a writer and observer of life. Implicit in these pages is a story which tells why and how feminism came about and what has been achieved individually and collectively by rural women of New Zealand.
Evelyn’s stories are not grand adventures or fairytales – they are real life and real love and family. They are a peek into a bygone era and the lives of your own parents and grandparents.
“In 1947, during our honeymoon, I visited the Mount for the first time. It was a holiday weekend and we saw many people. In particular, one family we saw fascinated me with some indefinable quality of their own. The parents appeared to be in their 30s. The wife was a small brown mouse of a person and it was easy to see that the focal point of her life was her husband. Pale, prematurely aged, he had the face of one who had endured some terrible experience, but had won through. I believed them to be Continental folk and wondered whether they were Jewish.
Suddenly I realised the difference between them and the other holiday makers. Happiness is something that New Zealanders wear casually as a cloak thrown about our shoulders. But this family wore theirs hugged tightly about them. They appeared so devoted to one another in a quiet and rather special sort of way. One day while sunbathing, I saw the unusual sight of a man in a towelling beach robe walking toward the water. Then I noticed how pitifully thin were his legs. As he slipped off the robe before striding into the surf, I saw his terribly scarred back and dropped my eyes, an intruder on his privacy. Here was an individual result of the maelstrom of fury and violence that had shaken the world. Here, too, we had witnessed the spiritual victory of one family over mental and physical anguish. The experience left a tremendous impact on me, as vivid today as it was then.”
– Evelyn Parkes, New Zealand Herald, February 1969
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