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Sarau band also known as the "Bensemann Band"


This photograph, part of the Motueka and Districts Historical Association collection, has been copied with their kind permission. As a guess, based on the hand-writing and comments, the picture may have come from the collection of Adelaide Bensemann, a daughter of Adolph Bensemann shown standing third from left.


The band was sometimes called the Bensemann Band not only because most of its members were Bensemanns but because nearly all were Bensemann relatives - for example Joseph Heine pictured fourth from left at the back was the youngest child of Anna Heine nee Bensemann (see Anna).


According to Leone Morris-Bensemann in her book "Escape from Sarau", published in 2006 by Scholastic NZ, the band members had to send to Germany for their instruments and learned to play them months later when the instruments arrived by sailing ship. Leonie is the great grand-daughter of George Bensemann; the imposing figure standing third from right at the back. George and Cordt's other sons are pictured also on this website's homepage. Although it is difficult to tell in the above photo, George has only one arm. In her book, Leonie said George lost his hand in a sawmilling accident and because Sarau was so isolated in those days his family tried to treat the stump themselves. Two days later they were forced to take George to the doctor at Motueka, who had to cut the arm off above the elbow because of infection. It was done without anesthetics. The Bensemann family, devoutly religious people, believed God would reassemble George's arm with his body on Judgement Day, so buried the arm in Sarau's Lutheran churchyard.


Fred Bensemann, standing far left, was Adelaide's grandfather. He is remembered today most of all for building the now historic mud cottage which is still standing at Mahana and has been preserved as a tourist attraction by Thawley, Bensemann and Harvey descendants (ie descendants of people who lived in the house).


George and Fred's youngest brother Dick (of course all these names became anglicised - he was christened Johann Diedrich) is standing at the far right. Dick is quite legendary in the family oral history. The web author's uncle Hans and father Ranginui proudly told a story of how Dick in effect defended the family honour against anti-German prejudice during the First World War.  Even though three of Dick's sons - Lawrence, Norman and Albert - were sent to war to fight for the British (they all returned) the family was still abused for its German ancestry. According to a story told and retold by his relatives, Dick in his 60s, a heavy-set 6'6" (1.98m) Golden Bay blacksmith and wheelwright, became so sick of this that he picked up a man in a Takaka bar, held him horizontally over his head and threw him through the hotel's front window. The local police decided there was no case to answer - the other patron had called him a "dirty Hun".

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This site was last updated 06/23/10