|As the brochure wrote:
"Near the mouth of the Waitake River, Glenavy is named after the Irish birthplace of one of New Zealand's first Prime Ministers, John Ballance. It is a small farming community, but also accommodates visitors who want to fish the Waitake River."
That's it. That's all we could find before arriving in this tiny wee village. The story goes, Brian and his family are related through marriage to John Ballance, and Ballance House is in Northern Ireland as a memorial and information centre for his life and the connections between the two countries. He was a very Liberal leader and was influencial in getting women the right to vote - NZ being the first country to allow this. They now have a female PM, Chief Justice and Foreign Minister...hmmm, imagine that!
Anyways, we arrived to hopefully find out more about the link between the two towns and see if we could locate a plaque or memorial to John Ballance. Unfortunately, we didn't find much in the way of these things. Rather, we found that most people were realitively young to the village - only 20-25 years living there. The lady in the garage sent us to the lady in the hotel who sent us to the old lady up the road whose neighbour told us she was away on holidays and who then took us to the retired University professor who was also away but alas, we were welcomed by his wife who invited us in for tea and Anzac biscuits (a mix of oatmeal, coconut and golden syrup cookies used in wartimes for the soldiers). Yummy. She unfortunately knew very little about the links between Northern Ireland's Glenavy and their village but proceeded to chat about her life growing up in the Waimate District. A very astute lady who had researched her own family history back to the 1500's. She took great delight in sharing the "skull duggery" that happened in her own family tree with us.
An interesting adventure it had been to Glenavy, New Zealand!...
PS we found out later on a map we discovered that before NZ created it's current provinical names, regions were called: New Ulster, New Munster and New Leinster. For those of you who are familiar with these names, you'll recognise them as the current provinces of Ireland (minus of course, Connaught). Interesting. It seems from our travels that there was more of a Republic of Ireland influence from immigrants in Southern Australia while New Zealand (South Island at least) has more of a Northern Irish and Scottish influence. We can sense the cultural differences in these places according to this trend too. Of course there is also English influence in both places.