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One Lifetime is the story of Joan Robinson, growing up in New Zealand, and her life with husband, Frank Robinson. Joan’s family from Switzerland immigrated to New Zealand in the 1880s, purchasing 500 acres near the country town of Pukekohe, 30 miles south of Auckland, calling their property Helvetia, their name for Switzerland. Frank’s family emigrated from England about the same time, settling on the Coromandel Peninsular.


The Second World War intervened in their lives by bringing Joan and Frank together, and so their adventure began. Frank had the desire to succeed, which led to all sorts of adventures from farming, engineering, moving to Australia and sailing to Europe on Tangier, the 86-foot steel yacht they built.


Their life was never dull. Joan and Frank worked together, complementing each other; he was a constant tireless worker, whilst she kept the books, the home fires burning as well as everything else.


Also included is Joan’s Aunty Nellie’s story that she wrote in 1977, which provides a comprehensive insight into the background of the family in the early settler days.


Joan and Frank had trials and tribulations along the way but overall it was a wonderful, adventurous life compared to most people, and she was truly grateful for that. 

In Store Price: $23.95 
Online Price:   $22.95



Ebook version - $AUD9.00 upload.


ISBN: 978-0-6482780-6-1
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 134
Genre: Non Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

Tony Robinson, Joan Robinson and Nellie Quinn
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2018
Language: English


     Read a sample:    


This book is dedicated to my parents:

I am forever thankful

for their hard work, guidance and love

that shaped who I am today



 It wasn’t until my Aunt Nellie passed on that I became fully aware of the legacy she had left us; the complete history of our family dating back to the late 1800s. I realised then, because of my interest in writing, I should follow in her inkblots. Also I give thanks to my nephew, Milton Kayes, who, in the early 1980s, did considerable research into the paternal side of the family. Hopefully, when one of the baby-boomer generation within the family reaches the latter stage of their life, they too will be inspired to put pen to paper, or should I say keyboard to floppy disk.
Joan Robinson


Family History


I was born on 18th September 1923, (Virgo – pig), at the Shirley Private Hospital, Pukekohe, New Zealand. My European ancestors came from the small village of Teufen in the Appenzell Mountains in Switzerland. My great-grandfather, Johann Konrad Schlaepfer, (born 1831), was the Chief Magistrate and ran a successful lace manufacturing business with his wife, Anna Kathrine, nee Meier; (they had 12 children).




(Postcard 1903)



Two of his sons, Jacob, my grandfather (born 1858), and John, his younger brother, heard about New Zealand from a fellow countryman and decided they would like to go and see it for themselves. Jacob suffered from asthma and Konrad was a bit hesitant to let him journey so far away, but the local doctor said he would not live to an old age in Switzerland’s severe climate so suggested Konrad let him go as maybe the five-week sea voyage would help him.

On reaching New Zealand in 1884 his health improved, so they bought 500 acres near the country town of Pukekohe, 30 miles south of Auckland, calling their property Helvetia, after their homeland. They returned to Switzerland nine months later, where Jacob married Johanna Zuercher, (born 1863), the daughter of Yohan Jakob Zuercher, (born 1830), and his wife, Katherina Barbara (nee Bruderer). He and his wife and John returned to Helvetia to start a new life. My grandfather, Jacob, and his wife, Johanna, (Zuercher), went on to have six children, my mother, Johanna, being the eldest born on 8th December 1886.

My father, George Walter Kayes’ family, originated from France. During the French Revolution they escaped to Dartford, Kent in England. They became shopkeepers and had a plumbing establishment in London bearing a sign displaying the Prince of Wales’ feathers, by appointment. My great-grandfather, Charles Kayes, recorded his occupation as Gentleman, and liked to build an inflated image of himself. His son, Henry, my grandfather, married Ellen Jenner at the parish church in Dartford, Kent on 23rd December 1860.

One of my grandmother’s ancestors stands out: Edward Jenner. He was born on 17th May 1749 to the Reverend and Mrs Stephen Jenner, vicar of Berkeley and rector of nearby Rockhampton. As a youngster he liked natural history and collecting fossils and dormice nests. He became apprenticed to Mr Daniel Ludlow, a surgeon, and during this time he became fascinated by the disease of smallpox. At the age of 21 he studied medicine under John Hunter. They collected animal and fauna specimens for research.

In 1771 Captain James Cook returned from the first of his explorations of the South Seas. He asked Jenner to go with him on one of the later expeditions, but he declined, as he wanted to study medicine, so Joseph Banks, a friend, bought back many specimens for him to experiment with. As a country doctor Jenner had to treat people for smallpox. He noticed the unpoxed faces of milkmaids, which was a remarkable sight in those days, so thought there must be a connection between the work they did and the unusual lack of smallpox victims.

On 14th May 1796, Jenner, had the opportunity to put his theory to the test. He decided to inoculate a person with cowpox and then gave them smallpox to study the effects. He took some cowpox matter from a large sore on a milkmaid’s hand and inserted it into the arm of a healthy eight-year-old boy. Later he infected the lad with smallpox. He became restless with headaches and fever, but 10 days later he was perfectly well. Jenner suffered a lot of opposition but in 1800, he received a grant of £10,000 from the government to support a vaccination program. In 1806, he was given a further £20,000. He died in 1823.

In 1865, Henry and Ellen Jenner immigrated to New Zealand on the Lancashire Witch, settling in Pukekohe on a farm. They had 10 children, George Walter, my father, being the youngest. Both families – the Kayes and the Schlaepfers – became a part of the district community. My mother, Johanna, married George in 1908 and raised a family of five children, myself being the youngest. George, my father, was a dairy factory manager at Papakura. He was a musician and played in the local brass band till 1923 when he finally became deaf. In 1919 they took over a part of the Helvetia property.

We lived on a branch line, so only one train left every day at 9.30 am to the junction with the mainline, returning again at 6.00 pm. A big treat for us was to catch the train and go into Auckland to the biggest department store of those times – The Farmers Trading Company. We had a wireless that was powered by battery. Our local radio station, 1ZM, would announce birthdays and give messages to the whereabouts of your hidden presents. My friends and I would dash around the garden hunting for them.

Christmas was the highlight of the year; all the extended family would gather together. After dinner my uncle would have a lolly scramble for us kids with a kerosene tin full of sweets.



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