Ethel Barr as a young girl. She was born in Masterton in 1894. PHOTO/WAIRARAPA ARCHIVE
Ethel Barr was born in Masterton in 1894, the illegitimate daughter of Alice Braggins, thus granddaughter of Edward Braggins, an early Masterton publican, and his wife Sarah Sayers.
For her first eight years, she was brought up by her mother and her maternal grandparents.
She later recalled that as she was growing up she was teased about the circumstances of her birth.
Ethel left day-school when she was 12, working for James Sillars in his confectionery store across the road from the old Central School, but continued to attend night school until she was 16.
By that time she had met George Barr, and in 1915 they married.
Their son, also called George, was born the following year – by then George Sr was not living at home.
George Sr joined the New Zealand Army in 1915, and was quickly promoted from private through the ranks to become a sergeant.
He was further selected for officer training and ended the war as a 2nd lieutenant. He served in the Middle East and on the Western Front.
Ethel had a young baby and no husband to take care of her. She and the baby went to live with a friend of her husband’s family, then with her mother-in-law.
She was to have a surprise when George returned from the war.
She was excited about his return, and took the baby down to meet him.
But when she met him, he had bad news for her – he told her he had met someone else in England and asked her for a divorce.
She told him that she was not going to allow that.
Her grandfather talked to George and in the end he decided he would stay with Ethel.
Their whole family was together for the first time.
Ethel later recalled that they had a beautiful life together.
George Sr owned a cycle and motorcycle business, and Ethel worked in hotels for many years, including running the ‘Tin Hut’ when she was 71.
George Sr died in 1962, Ethel in 1988.