New Zealand

Hardworking pioneer will be missed.          By Nicole Smith

It is the end of an era for the pioneering Corban winemaker family.  Helena Ataya was the youngest of the 10 children of Assid and Najibie Corban who established a large vineyard in Henderson in 1902.  She died peacefully on December 6, aged 103 - the longest lived of her siblings.

Nephew Brian Corban said the family, originally from the Middle East, has lost a stalwart.  "She was one of the foundation stones of the family because in her life, and in her makeup and beliefs and support, she really imbedded the family's ethnicity and values - because she was a 100 per cent Lebanese."  Brian Corban said Mrs Ataya was a serious woman who also had a good sense of humour.  The mother of five was a practising Christian, spoke fluent Arabic, and was energetic and hardworking, he said.  "She came from very, very, hardy pioneering stock."

Mrs Ataya lived on Great North Rd for at least 100 years, first at the Corban Estate Homestead and then, when she married George Ataya, in the Mill Cottage when it was located across the road.

She'd just turned 100 when she told the Western Leader how she remembered racing to Henderson Primary School as a child with her siblings, seeing the train pass and knowing they were late.  "I can still see the teachers walking up the road," she said.

About 200 family members gathered in Henderson when she turned 103 this year for a reunion to mark her milestone and to celebrate the 122nd anniversary of her father's emigration from Lebanon.

Assid Corban is another of Mrs Ataya's nephews, and has the same name as his grandfather.  The former Waitakere City Council mayor said Mrs Ataya was like a second mother to him, as she was to many of the Corban family's young ones.  She treated him like her own child and would stand up for the kids against adults.  "My father wanted me to work long hours, day and night, and everything else but she laid down the law and said 'you can't keep your son working long hours'," he said.  "She'll be greatly missed by all of us, because even in her old age she used to have a twinkle in her eye whenever we went to see her."  Assid Corban said Mrs Ataya's contributions to the winery were often behind the scenes. But she did anything that needed doing from keeping the books, organising exhibitions and working in the vineyard and winery.  "Being the youngest of the family she played a major part in the company's operations right from day one," he said.

The Corbans' Mt Lebanon Vineyards was the first commercial vineyard in New Zealand, and the family pioneered many of the wine-making techniques that are commonplace today.  Rothmans purchased 25 per cent of the company in 1972 and bought out the ownership of AA Corban and Sons in 1978.

Today the original property is known as Corban Estate Arts Centre and is owned by the council.  Helena Ataya's funeral was held at Church Unlimited in Glendene on Tuesday.


Happy 103rd Birthday (Feb 28, 2014) Helena Corban Ataya
The last of her generation.

Per Gabi Ataya:  Sitty with her immediate family at the Corban family reunion 2014.

She has 5 children, 8 grandchildren and 5 great grand children 
 (spouses have also been included in this photo)

And photos below are from her visit to Shweir in 2001 -
Here speaking to thousands in classic Shweiry at Emigrants Festival in Dhour


Congratulations to Gabriel Ataya and Sally Kiryakos
 on their marriage on January 12, 2013

The wedding ceremony was held at St Michaels Catholic Church, Remuera , Auckland.
The wedding service was Byzantine and had the Melkite and Chaldean Catholic Priests officiating and giving their blessings.

Gaby and Sally at Bastion Point Memorial Park, Auckland,
with Waitemata Harbor and Mt Rangitoto Volcano in the background.


Happy 100 Birthday to Helena Corban Ataya  on Feb 28, 2011

  Patriotic Helena surrounded with Lebanese flags in New Zealand at left and in Dhour Shweir with family and former mayor Shawki Sawaya
Plans to celebrate Helena's 100th Birthday are underway at the Corban Estate Arts Centre in Aukland, NZ.  A few years ago, when Helena and her family visited Shweir, they walked over 2 miles all the way from near Ain El Hanoote to Dhour to attend the Emigrants Festival, they came well prepared with flashlights to walk back that night.  When Helena addressed the audience, she spoke with pride the classic Shweiry Arabic of yesteryears.
Congrats via Helena's daughter Miriam Downey:  Email in code:  jandmdowney (at) slingshot(dot)co(dot)nz

New Zealand, March 2, 2011: 
Here are a few pictures from Helena Ataya's 100th birthday party that we held last weekend. The photographer has post-processed these to bring them up to their best quality. You are welcome to use them on and the facebook group if you wish.  In the black and white photo, the images on the wall behind Helena are all ones that include her from childhood up till her wedding day. 

We had a great afternoon with around 300 family and friends attending.  Father George (Ihsan) Bosauder gave a nice speech in honor of Helena. I did not realise how closely we were related. Turns out he is the same generation in the family tree as Helena!   Helena of course is named after her paternal grandmother Helena Bosauder. Shweiry families there included Ataya, Corban, Matar, Khouri and Bosauder.

I was MC, so at the beginning I read out a lovely message from Theresa Kiame, the daughter of Helenas 1st cousin, also I gave greetings from yourself, George Matar and the team.
Later on after a government MP gave a short address I read out a nice letter from Ramzi Ataya in Shweir.  Following this Helena cut the cake and a few more speeches were given by family members.

On Monday night (her actual birthday) many family members came around to my home and I fired up the stone furren , making pizza, mana'eesh wa zaatar and a few other traditional dishes which were enjoyed by all. This was followed by fireworks.


Also, for more interactive experience, view on Facebook and posts by Gabriel Ataya.

Corban / Ataya Family Reunion in New Zealand - April 6, 2010

Corban Family ReUnion in New Zealand On Facebook by Gabriel Ataya

Corban Family ReUnion in New Zealand on Facebook by Paul Woodfield


Happy Birthday Helena Ataya

February 28, Helena will be 97 years young

From: Gabriel []
Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2008 3:37 AM
Subject: new picture

Hi Anwar,

I have a couple of pictures you might like.   I think you met my grandmother Helena Ataya in Shweir several years ago during Eid Al Mughtaribeen.   We had a Lebanese bbq at the beach today. I took the opportunity to get these 2 pictures. Helena is 97 years old on february 28th.  She still goes to all the gatherings that are held and is in great health.


Gabi Ataya




Great pictures.  Of course, who does not remember Helena Ataya?  She is an inspiration to the town and Shweirieh around the world.


Here is Helena in higher resolution:


Happy Independence Day 2005

From: Gabriel Ataya [mailto : kiwigabi {at] gmail [ dot] com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2005 1:39 AM
To: anwar2[ @ ]shweir [ ] com
Subject: Lebanese Independence Day celebration in NZ

Just thought I'd send you guys a few pictures from the final Independence Day event that we did. We had our big party on Saturday night and capped off with this early in the morning of the 22nd as the sun rose.  As far as we could tell we were the first in the world to be raising the flag to celebrate Lebanons 1st  True Independence Day for 30 years!  Through the help of the Lebanese Embassy in Canberra, Australia and with the permission of Transit NZ ,the Governments roading dept, we were able to remove one of the giant NZ flags on the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge and replace it with a giant Lebanese flag for the 22nd November.

 The flag was raised to shouts of "ya-aish Lebnan" ,followed by a singing of "Kolouna lil watan" and a few short speeches for the DVD.

 I will send you more pictures from the party and also from the flag raising event as time permits.  We are getting ready to edit the DVD we have made so maybe I can send one to you guys or to Shweir.  The only other person in these photos I am sending today who is from a Shweirie family is Philip Khouri. His grandmother was Zealandia, the sister of my grandmother Helena.  Regards

Gabi Ataya





Thanks to Sami Andre Khonaysser in Paris for forwarding the following message

  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                          22 August 2005

Corbans Viticulture aims to help New Zealand's wine marketing edge

Corbans Viticulture recently signed exclusive agreements with two leading European viticulture companies, Mercier Groupe and Worldwide Vineyards SARL.

 AUCKLAND, AUGUST 22, 2005 -- New Zealand winegrowers will benefit from faster, more direct access to new varietals, cutting-edge European clonal technology and vine management expertise, as a result of two recently signed technical co-operation agreements.

 Corbans Viticulture has forged alliances with two leading French organisations: Mercier Groupe and Worldwide Vineyards SARL.

Mercier Groupe is France’s oldest, largest, most technically sophisticated and progressive viticultural nursery. With an annual production capacity of 15-20 million highest-health grafted grapevine plants, Mercier is the preferred supplier to many of the Premiers Crus and Grands Crus chateaux of France.

 The company has its own clonal selection centre in France, to enable expansion and re-selection of new clones from both original French selections and those of other countries. Mercier supplies top quality varietal budwood worldwide, and is one of only four organisations in France licensed by the French authority ONIVINS to grow and dispense certified rootstock material.

Worldwide Vineyards SARL is Europe’s leader in the complex field of viticultural top grafting. Seeking to raise top grafting standards in New Zealand and help local growers succeed in adapting to new, market-relevant varieties, Corbans Viticulture has commissioned the company to carry out work in New Zealand vineyards, this spring.

 Interest in this service by the wine industry has been exceptional. This season will see a team of grafters from France, Mexico and Argentina working predominantly on vineyards in Hawkes Bay, Nelson, the Auckland region, Waiheke Island and Marlborough.

Most of the work will involve converting red varieties to whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, to address stronger current market demand in this category.

 Corbans Viticulture CEO Dennis Lunken said, “We are confident that these significant associations with two of Europe’s leading contributors to improved vine quality and choice will translate into valuable benefits for the New Zealand wine industry in terms of rapid global market responsiveness and reliable production.”

 For further information, please contact:

Dennis Lunken
Chief Executive Officer
09 418 8635 ext. 702 or 0800 VINELINE (0800 846354)

Mark Corban
Project Development Manager

09 4168635 ext. 704



----- Original Message -----
From: "Gabriel Ataya" <gataya at>
Sent: Sunday, November 21, 2004 4:58 AM
Subject: Independence Day Party in New Zealand

Hi Anwar,

I have attached for you some pictures of Shweireh taken at the Lebanese Society party for Lebanese Independence Day.

Families represented in the photos shweireh.jpg and shweireh1.jpg are :  Corban, Khouri, Ataya, Bosauder.

There are many faces there that you and others will recognize.

I want to thank Sandy Moujaes from the Baladieh in Dhour Shweir for the
flags which she gave me to use in our parties here in New Zealand. I have no
contact email to do this so can you pass this on please?

Also the other pictures are of various Shweireh. Names follow :

Benataya.jpg - My younger brother Ben.
Gabiataya.jpg - Gabi Ataya introducing guests
friends.jpg - Melita Woodfield, Paul Woodfield, Meesh Bosauder
philip.jpg - Philip Khouri (on right)
Shweireh.jpg - (L-R) Janice Ataya, Melita Woodfield, Naomi Ataya, Sarah
Downey, Gabi Ataya, Abouna George Bosauder, Mary bosauder, Helena
Ataya,Kaerna Woodfield (back), Michael Ataya (Abu Gabi), Hanane Ataya, Meesh
Bosauder, John Corban, Heather ataya (front by Helena), Miriam Downey (front
by Heather).

Abouna.jpg - (L-R) Mary Bosauder, Abouna George, Mick khouri, John Bassili,
Gabi Ataya, Hanane Ataya, Meesh Bosauder.

benjopaul.jpg - Josiane Younan, Ben Ataya, Paul Woodfield

benjo.jpg - Josiane Younan and Ben Ataya
cousins.jpg - Ben Ataya, Paul Woodfield, Gabi Ataya
elshabeb.jpg - (L-R) Shetaan, Ben Ataya, Paul Woodfield, Gabi Ataya, Hadi
broansis.jpg - Paul Woodfield and his sister Melita Woodfield
elshabeb2.jpg - (L-R) Paul Woodfield, Meesh Bosauder, Gabi Ataya, Alfred
meeshanmel.jpg - Meesh Bosauder and Melita Woodfield
sadyeanhelena.jpg - Sadye Ataya and Helena Ataya
arakandmelita.jpg - Kind of self explanatory but what would a good lebanese
party be without some Arak Baladieh?

All the best to other Shweireh round the world from all of us here in New

Gabi Ataya
Lebanese Society of Auckland Inc.

Independence Day

Thank you Gabi for such a great report and pictures.



Recent Lebanese Independence Day Pictures from New Zealand

From: "Gabriel Ataya"  gataya @ 
(Please note that this email has spaces before and after the "@" for privacy to minimize Spam, please delete those spaces in order to make it a valid email address)
Sent: Sunday, November 30, 2003 12:06 AM

Hi Anwar and George,

I have attached a zip file with some photographs from the recent Independence Day party held in Auckland New Zealand. Most of the people in these pictures are Shweireh. Below is an explanation of who people are in case some have not met them before.

This is usually the time where we get the most Shweireh together each year.  Regards

Gabi Ataya

Descriptions of photos are below:

Assidmiriam.jpg - Assid and Miriam Corban. Grandchildren of Assid Abraham Corban who started Corbans Wines.

benjonaomirebecca1.jpg - Ben Ataya, Josiane Younan, Naomi Ataya, Rebecca Owen. Ben and Naomi are Gabi ataya's brother and sister. Josiane is a friend from Mayfouq, Lebanon and Rebecca Owen is the grandaughter of Cedric Owen (Aoun).

gabialjoseph.jpg - Gabi Ataya, Al Haggar and Joseph Howley.

Meeshbosauder.jpg - Michael (Meesh) Bosauder. Youngest son of Ihsan and Mary Bosauder.

mikesittimary.jpg - Michael Ataya, Helena Ataya and Mary Bosauder. Michael is the eldest son of George and Helena Ataya.

paulmeeshmelitapaul.jpg - Paul Bosauder, Meesh Bosauder, Melita Woodfield, Paul Woodfield. Paul and Meesh Bosauder are sons of Ihsan and Mary Bosauder. Melita and Paul Woodfield are the Karena Woodfields children (grandchildren
of Helena Ataya).

SarahMike.jpg - Sarah Downey and her friend Mike. Sarah is the daughter of Miriam Downey ( eldest daughter of Helena Ataya).

sittimary.jpg - Helena Ataya and Mary Bosauder.





 Thank you Grace Halabi for sending the article below.

Corban, Assid Abraham   1864 - 1941
Pedlar, importer, viticulturist, wine-maker

The sturdy figure of Assid Abraham Corban, with his magnificent walrus moustache and trademark waistcoat and chains, gazes sternly down from a wall in the entrance to the head office of Corbans Wines Limited. For much of the first half of the twentieth century the winery Corban founded dominated the New Zealand wine scene.

Assid Corban was born on 25 August 1864 at Shweir, a Lebanese village perched on the flanks of Mt Lebanon. He was the son of Abraham Hannah Corban, a vigneron, and Helene Hannah Bousader. In his youth Assid worked principally as a stonemason but he also pruned and ploughed the family vineyard. On 22 October 1887, at Shweir, he married Najibie Tanyus Ataia, the daughter of another respected Shweir family. Their first two children were born in Lebanon.

In the winter of 1890 both of Corban's parents died. Spurred by tales of the riches amassed by Lebanese emigrants to the New World, he set out alone in 1891 for Australia. After roaming the outback as a pedlar he crossed to New Zealand in 1892 where, still carrying his pedlar's pack, he travelled around the mining towns of the Coromandel Peninsula, Waikato and Bay of Plenty. He then worked for a time as a haberdasher in Waihi, and later in Thames. In 1895 he opened a shop in Queen Street, Auckland, advertising himself as an 'Eastern Importer of Fancy Goods, Jewellery, Drapery, etc.' In the same year he became a naturalised British subject, and in 1897 sent for his wife and two children to join him in New Zealand.

The origin of Corbans Wines lies in
Assid Corban's purchase in 1902 of a 10-acre block of scrub-covered Henderson gumland. The property had a two-roomed cottage, an orchard and vines of the native American variety Isabella. His first 3½-acre vineyard was planted in a mix of wine grapes which included the classic red varieties Syrah, Meunier and Cabernet Sauvignon, and dual-purpose table grapes such as Black Hamburgh. The vineyard was called Mt Lebanon Vineyards and the firm known as A. A. Corban; Assid was generally known as 'AA'. Romeo Bragato, government viticulturist from 1902 to 1909, was very impressed with Mt Lebanon Vineyards, praising it as 'the model vineyard of New Zealand, and an object lesson to vinegrowers'.

A three-level wine cellar, started in 1903, was completed in 1907. The first grapes were crushed by hand with a wooden club, and an open hogshead was used as the fermenting vat. By 1908 Corban had a simple crusher and two small presses for his first commercial vintage. Winemaking, however, was an extremely precarious pursuit in early twentieth-century New Zealand. The industry's most formidable foe was the temperance movement. Henderson became 'dry' in 1909, forcing Corban to sell his wine a few yards away from his cellar on the other side of a railway line, which not only bordered his vineyard but also marked the Henderson no-licence boundary. His first recorded sale, in September 1909, was to James Cottle of Taupaki who purchased two gallons of wine in his own jar at 10 shillings per gallon.

Recognition of the quality of Corban's wines came swiftly. The company won first prize for unsweetened red grape wine at the 1910 Henderson show. At the 1913--14 Auckland Exhibition, competing against wines from other countries in the British Empire, it won gold medals for its sherry and port and silver medals for its claret and red wine.

Both the Corban family and its holdings steadily expanded. Eight children were born to Assid and Najibie Corban in New Zealand. In 1909 Assid bought a neighbouring 20-acre property, planting the first five acres in vines in 1912. Eight years later he opened a wine depot in Auckland city and in 1923 built a two-storeyed, 17-room family homestead on the Great North Road. By the 1920s the firm was called A. A. Corban and Company. In 1925 the Department of Agriculture's vine and wine instructor, J. C. Woodfin, wrote that in the previous year 'only twenty acres of vines were planted and one brave man was responsible for eight of these'. Corban's had clearly become the largest winery in the country. It was also very much a family concern and in the 1930s became known as A. A. Corban and Sons Limited.

Although the arrival of a rotary hoe in 1934, and a caterpillar tractor soon after, greatly eased the vineyard toil, by all accounts
Assid Corban remained a patriarch in the Old Testament mould and a strong believer in the virtues of hard work. Every day of the year was a working day - except Sundays. His son Corban later described him as 'well versed in the Scriptures and a staunch adherent of the Greek Orthodox Church'. He used to 'bring out his treasured Bible and read to his family in Arabic'.

Assid Corban never retired. He died in Auckland on 2 December 1941. His wife, Najibie, died in 1957. The business became a public company in 1963 and passed out of the family's hands in the 1970s. Nevetheless, the company founded by Assid Corban has remained one of New Zealand's wine-making giants.


Corban Family Reunion 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Gabriel Ataya" <>
Sent: Monday, November 04, 2002 9:12 PM
Subject: Corban family reunion pictures.

Marhaba, I have attached a zip file with a few of the pictures that were taken at the reunion. These are only the first ones, I will email more as I get them from my family.

Maybe Miriam Downey and Helena Ataya might like to write a bit about the re-union to go with the pictures? Regards


Thank you Gabi Ataya for the pictures.

Congratulations to the Corbans and Atayas on this momentous occasion

Hi, heres an explanation of the photo's.  (place your pointer on any picture and you can read its title on bottom left of your screen)

GabiVine - Gabi Ataya planting a vine in the Corban centenary vineyard. Each member of the family planted one in a special vineyard planted on the day.

najibgabi - Gabi Ataya and Najib Corban. Gabi is Helena Ataya's grandson. Najib is Helena's brother. He is the youngest of the sons of Assid Abraham Corban.

najibhatgabi - Same as before except najib was wearing a hat.

najibsitty - Helena Ataya, Gabi Ataya and Najib Corban. This photo was taken in the centenary vineyard.

scundaritchie - The man on the left is Scunda (Alex) Corban and the man on the right is Richard Corban. They are both sons of the late Annis Corban one of Assid Abraham Corbans sons.

sittymiriamnajib - Helena Ataya, Miriam Downey (Helena's eldest daughter, Najib Corban.

sittynaomi - Helena Ataya and Naomi Ataya. Naomi is the daughter of Michael Ataya, she is also Gabi's sister.

sittyvine - (L-R) Joe Corban, Helena Ataya, Miriam Downey. I am unsure who the young boy is. Miriam Downey may be able to tell. The photo was taken as Sitty planted a vine in the centenary vineyard.

sittyvine2 - Same as the previous photo.

-----Original Message-----
From: Matar, George []
Sent: Mon, 14 October 2002 03:39
Subject: Quick Update

Sabah il Kheir,  I had to come to my office in Houston this Sunday morning to do some work on another job and most importantly to get hold of my Shweir personal list so I can get in touch with you.

I had an open invitation to My daughter Leila and Alfred's son Chris Wedding on the web page to all the Shwierieh and friends, I will repeat it here for all of you that do not check your hometown web page often (pure Laziness).  Yes, I am Inviting you and specially my Cousin Saera and her Family in Canada.  The Wedding will take place on October 26th at 5 pm at the beautiful Moody Gardens Hotel in Galveston Texas with a reception at the Convention center (next door to the Hotel).

The web page was updated lately to include pictures from the " Award Night" that took place during Eid al Mughtaribeen to honor distinguished Shweirieh that served our beloved town.... Do you know who received the awards, I am not going to tell you who they were, you owe it to yourself to find out.

Our latest Proactive member Oula Aoun Moujaes is informing us about the remodeling of St. Tharez in Ain Sindiani, she says it is going to be beautiful.  If Oula says that then be assure it will be.

An Invitation to a Mouhadarat regarding Shweir past and Future probably took place today (Sunday 13th) in the Rahbat School meeting room, we'll be looking forward for information

Welcome out latest Member Roger Baaklini who is in Love with Zaytooneh (olive).  Very appropriate name since it is a known fact that all the Shweirieh are in Love with Zaytoon :-)

Nabil is back from Switzerland, see the pictures

Welcome to my Lovely Classmate Labiba, I just added you to my Shweir list, Ya Labiba I am not as active as I was before on communicating due to the new assignment, but I still do my part.  So good to have you join us

What is happening Down under?, where are you people, spring is in the air and we have lost contact with you, where are the pictures from the Corban big bash?  Edrick were you there?

Do you really want me to keep going on?  Wouldn't you prefer to see it all first hand on and its magnificent bulletin Board?  Leave me a just tiny short note, walaoo

Who Loves you?



-----Original Message-----
From: Downeys []
Sent: Monday, October 14, 2002 3:54 AM
To: Matar, George
Subject: RE: Quick Update

Our dear Mukhtar!

You definitely haven't been forgotten Down Under, but thought you'd appreciate an instant reply.  The Corban Big Bash hasn't occurred yet - that's on our Labour Weekend, which is weekend after next.  On the Sat. everyone attending will be planting a vine at Ngatarawa Wines, & there's a dinner at night.  Many of the family will be attending a concert on the Fri. night, altho' that's an annual affair to which people from within the wine industry & other streams of NZ life attend - Leza Corban is one of the guest
singers ... move over Farouz! ... Leza's got a fabulous voice & is well-known here.  Leza is the daughter of Richard & Elaine Corban, who've visited Shweir.  Ngatarawa Wines is owned equally by Alwyn Corban (4th generation winemaker who is the son of Richard's eldest brother Skandar or Alex) & Brian Corban (only son of my mother's sole surviving brother Najib).

It's been hard getting accommodation for the weekend as not only are there a large number of Corban rellies descending on the district, but it's a long holiday weekend in NZ & there are other big functions occurring in that region of the East Coast...  It's about 6 hrs drive from Auckland so we'll probably leave in the wee small hours of the morning...  A video will be shown of clips from films & videos of the family & their many gatherings, & I understand there are some hilarious occurrences amongst them!

Meanwhile, Mum (Helena Ataya) & her brother Najib Corban have been speaking at the old Corban Homestead on  their life in the early days on the vineyard, & been well-received.  The Homestead has been altered somewhat internally to accommodate 3 art galleries.  Until the end of this month there is also lovely display of Corban Family & winery memorabilia & a booklet has also been published by our Council (Waitakere City Council) which now owns the complex & some of the surrounding old vineyard land.  That's good, as it will never go out of the community's hands now & our whole community will benefit.  It's been used for theatre, indoor basketball, arts & crafts, ethnic groups, functions, studios (painting, potting, crafts, film etc.), the original St Michael's & All Angels Church hall (Anglican or Episcopalean) was moved from directly across the road on to the old Corban property for restoration - I have many memories of being in the hall as there wasn't an Orthodox Church around for us to attend -
weddings & functions are held in The Glade beside the river, including Corban do's.  (George, if you want a copy of the little booklet, pse send me your mailing address.  It's well presented, with a good narrative & plenty of pictures.  Mum & I had a lot of input into it as well as Assid & Brian Corban & we're all mentioned in the credits...  Also, if we were to send a copy for the library in Shweir, to whom do we send it?)

Last Fri. night (11th) Mum, Janice, Karena (our other sister) & I attended the Preview function for paintings done by Leila Ataya.  They were extremely good & quite a number were sold before the public had had a chance to look at them altho' they'll hang in the gallery until the end of the showing. Leila is a highly talented person & will go far.  In 2000 she won a contest run by Telecom & the front cover of last year's Auckland phone directory had her winning painting displayed on it.  Her father is Bassam Ataya, from Shweir, who lived in Russia many years & has a beautiful & talented wife from there & they have two lovely daughters - Leila & Chafica.  We visited Bassam's father Adib in Beirut - he only passed away this year.  Tongith Mum & we 3 girls called in to see Bassam's sister Sadie & her husband Emile Ataya - they live about 20-25 minutes away ... when it's not 'rush hour' traffic.  Emile's father Najib was a brother of Adib.

Mum is planning to go to Shweir next year.  She'll have the company of my sister Karena, my daughter Sarah, & my nephew Gabriel Ataya.  Don't know who else is planning to go, but you never know!  Mum says this will be her last trip.  Mind you, she will be 92 on 28 February next year!  I'd love to go, but don't think that will happen so soon as my husband John is also travelling overseas for a few weeks next year. 

John's business is really picking up & he's busy working from home plus around the country.  He's up at 5am tomorrow to fly to Wellington then travelling up the coast to participate in lecturing, before flying home at night.  Last month he drove to Wellington (8 hrs away), caught the Inter-Island ferry to the South Island, slept in the back of the van (got woken up about 5am by a couple of louts prowling around & gave them a fright by banging on the wall & yelling at them!!!), then drove straight thru to Dunedin, arriving at mid-afternoon.  He was away for a week & had a fruitful time business-wise.  It's not that New Zealand is a huge country, it's just that it's elongated like a drawn-out string of spaghetti!!! 

We're coming into our summer, & are really looking forward to that, espec. as it's been raining a lot the last couple of days.  And ... this summer has to be better than the last one for me & my family ... Sarah had a op on both hips & developed a massive haematoma on the right hip, & whilst we were camping at the beach that hip got badly infected & she ended up spending about 6 wks in hospital with me living in with her ... whilst still staying with her, on my 1st day back at work I walked up 11 flights of stairs
following a fire drill & had prob's with my heart so 3 days later ended up in the cardiac unit of another hospital, but thank God everything was normal & we think it was the stress getting to me ... then I had a graft to repair a torn ligament in my right knee - successful op but infection (cellulitis) put me twice into yet another hospital & off work for 6 wks - still having physio but it's great to be able to walk & be back at work again.  To overcome the constant pain Sarah suffers in her hips she can have another op
but the specialist wasn't keen to do anything for about 18 months in order to let the old infection site settle down... but when she sees her specialist next month she wants to have something done. 

Don't worry, it's not all doom & gloom here!  We're in God's hands & we enjoy our life & the great times with family & friends.  Hope you don't get eye strain reading this epistle!!! 

Now, when are you guys coming Down Under to visit us?  There's so much to see & do here, & you'd love it.  There's always a bed available.

Pse say hi to Janice from Mum, Janice & me.  You're often in our thoughts, & we appreciated the happy memories we have of our times together last year.

Warm regards,
Miriam Downey


-----Original Message-----
Sent: Tue, 15 October 2002 13:05
To: Matar, George; 'Downeys'
Cc: Riad Khunieser
Subject: Re: Quick Update

This is a great update.
Miriam, with your permission, I would like to post it on the New Zealand web page of unless you prefer to edit it for that purpose.  I do not know Riad's Address at the AUB, however, I can copy him and he can respond directly to you with his address.
Hope to see you and the family in the near future whether in Shweir, NZ or USA.
Best to all.

Hi George, Riad & Anwar,

Just love the instant communication across the miles (it certainly gives me lots of smiles!) - now that wasn't meant to be poetry...even tho' I occasionally write poems.  Never did send you the one I wrote when John (my husband) & I went kite fishing at Muriwai, one of the many lovely wild beaches on the West Coast.

George, I send you one of the Corban family booklets to your address - I know you'll enjoy it.  I'm sure you'll rise the challenges your new work is providing, but don't get so tired you'll have to have a holiday to get over any holiday you eventually take!  I'll certainly give your Godbrother a hug when I next see him - at present the most communication we have is when he sends the weekly Orthodox Church bulletin, but we do try to get across the city to see him & his family - the motorways get us to him in about 45 mins unless it's rush hour.

Riad, The Corban booklet will be sent shortly to you at the AUB, for the Shweir Library, rather than waiting until my mother goes to Shweir next year.  God willing, she wants to go around July & be their for the Eid Al Mughtarabeen.  I trust you're getting a good response with donations of books.  An update is being carried out on the Corban family history book ("A Stake in the Country") so perhaps we could try to get a copy for the library - I won't make any promises because I don't know if it will be a
limited edition like the original.

Anwar, You're welcome to put the update I wrote on the NZ web page of as it is.  I should have mentioned that Bassam Ataya's wife's name is Natalia.  I should send in more stuff to on a more regular basis.  You know, Janice & I still have to finish developing most of the films we took whilst overseas, but we'll get there.  Anyway, guess it's a bit late now to show last year's Festival photos when this year's Festival photos have been so ably displayed.  There were some good ones of you & George & Janice et al.  Paul Woodfield has just returned from a trip to Europe - he was in a group from University who won a trip to Amersterdam through a competition in their particular field of study, & he visited a number of other countries as well as staying with one of our cousins, Carla, who's now married & living in London - Carla's grandfather was David Corban, who was mentioned some time ago by someone who'd obtained a copy "A Stake in the Country" from him.

Well, folks, it's 20 minutes to 'pumpkin' time here in NZ (we went on to daylight saving a couple of weekends ago) so I'd better toddle off to bed as I'm temping in a job which is providing me with new challenges on a daily basis & I need to keep my brain clear!  I really hope it won't be too long before we all meet up again.  I'd really love to go to Lebanon again next year, but am busy saving to get our daughter Sarah there.  She's been job hunting but work probably isn't an option at present if she has her way about having another operation to alleviate the pain she is constantly suffering in both hips.  Think of her on 11 November when she sees the specialist...  Take care, & continue to enjoy life, family & friends.

Warm regards


-----Original Message-----
From: Paul woodfield []
Sent: Monday, August 12, 2002 7:52 AM
Subject: RE: Challange / a benefit to Shweir..... ideas

Just on the side. over the past few weeks I have been working towards presenting for NZ's first SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) competition.  I understand it is huge in the US and other places in the world.

Well, on the weekend we won! I will be going to Amsterdam next month with the team to present our ideas to some of the top business people in the world!  I have attached a press release sent out yesterday (photo has me slightly obscured-but who wants to see my mug anyway!!!!).  Will let you know how it goes, and maybe put something on  cheers




David Libeau, Qantas Marketing Manager New Zealand and Pacific, presents The Tindall Foundation trophy of the 2002 Qantas SIFE New Zealand National Championship to the UNITEC team: from left, Dione Schick, Ryan Paddy, Angel Jing Liu, Sharfuddin Siraj, Stephanie Quattrini, Paul Woodfield, Aaron Davey, Professor Peter Mellalieu.

Auckland, August 11, 2002 – A team of student entrepreneurs from UNITEC’s Master of Business Innovation & Entrepreneurship (MBIE) beat four other universities to win the SIFE New Zealand National Champion at the Inaugural Qantas SIFE New Zealand National Championship on August 10 in Auckland, qualifying to compete against 23 other teams from all over the world at the SIFE World Cup, 22-24 September in Amsterdam.

 The UNITEC SIFE Team competed against teams from Auckland University, Waikato University, Otago University, and Auckland University of Technology.  During the national competition, SIFE Teams presented their business plans for educational outreach projects, designed to teach basic business concepts and how market economies work.  They were judged by a panel of more than 15 top businesses including Qantas, KPMG, Pohlen Kean Ltd., National Business Review, The Tindall Foundation, and Tru-Test NZ.

 UNITEC’s team members included:  Aaron Davey, Angel Liu, Ryan Paddy, Sharfuddin Siraj, Dione Schick, Stephanie Quattrini, and Paul Woodfield, led by UNITEC’s Prof. Peter Mellalieu.  This “pathfinder team” was supported by the entire first-year, post-graduate MBIE cohort, who will now jointly develop the concept before sending another team to Amsterdam.  The new Auckland-based Onehunga High Business School is acting as their “client” for the pilot testing. 

 Professor Jens Mueller, SIFE's Executive Director in New Zealand, congratulated the team for their outstanding performance: "Using this 2-day action-learning event to teach high school children about entrepreneurship and business is creative and effective.  It reflects the SIFE’s purpose of educating the community about free markets and the opportunities for individuals."

Founded in the United States in 1975 and active on more than 1000 college and university campuses in 25 countries, SIFE is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with business and higher education to provide students the opportunity to make a difference and to develop leadership, teamwork and communication skills through learning, practicing and teaching the principles of free market economics. 

 The 2002 SIFE National Champions that will be competing in Amsterdam include:  Albania - University of Skodra; Australia - University of Southern Queensland; Belarus - Belarus National Technical University; Botswana - University of Botswana; Brazil - PUC-Campinas; Canada - Brock University; Chile - Universidad Andres Bello; China - Fudan University Shanghai; Ghana - University of Ghana; Kazakhstan  - Turan University; Kyrgyzstan - International University of Kyrgyzstan; Malaysia - Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia; Mexico - ITESM-Saltillo; New Zealand – UNITEC School of Management & Entrepreneurship; Nigeria - University of Uyo; Philippines - Divine Word College of Calapan; Poland - Gdansk University; Russia - Togliatti Academy of Management; South Africa - University of the Free State; Tajikistan - Tajik State University of Law Business and Policy; Ukraine - Kharkiv State Economic University; United Kingdom - Leeds Metropolitan University; United States - La Sierra University; Uzbekistan - Andijan State Pedagogical Institute of Languages. 

 For more information, contact Dr. Peter Mellalieu, Master of Business Innovation & Entrepreneurship Programme, UNITEC School of Management & Entrepreneurship, Post Office Box 92025, Carrington Road, Auckland, +64-9-815-4321 x 8108,, , or the SIFE New Zealand office c/o Jens Mueller, PO Box 11109, Papamoa 3003, New Zealand 025-516-326


Congratulations Paul.  Keep us posted.

Happy Birthday Helena

NZ Gabi bluecar4.jpg (30472 bytes)----- Original Message -----NZ Gabi bluecar3.jpg (35749 bytes)
From: "Gabriel Ataya" <>
To: <>
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2002 2:57 PM
Subject: Car photo's

Marhaba Keefak Anwar, Attached are a couple of photos of my car after its paint job on sunday.
 That is me sitting behind the steering wheel dreaming of actually driving  the car after a 2 year restoration project :)
On another matter,  it is Sitty's (Helena Ataya) 91st birthday on 28  February. Can you post a happy birthday or something on the site? She will see it as she reads the site every few days at Miriam Downeys house.  Allah Ma'ak

Happy Birthday Helena Corban Ataya

-----Original Message-----
From: Matar, George []
Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2002 5:56 AM
To: 'Ataya Helena'
Subject: Happy Birthday

 We heard through the grapevine that on the 28th you will celebrate your 19th I mean your 91st and you know it would be not write to if we don't celebrate it together so Happy Birthday young Lady, and many many happy returns.

I am attaching several pictures for the occasion.  The first is all of us
toasting the occasion the others are specially selected for you that we took last August.  It has been an honor and a pleasure meeting you this year.

From all the Shweiry Mughtaribeen:  
and God

Mukhtar Bil Mahjar
George Matar

George included few pictures which prompted me to copy and paste some select data below... 

Copy of a relevant section from the August 2001 Web Page

August 8:  Then on to a meeting with Adeeb Aoun. This meeting was facilitated by Beshara Abou Nakhle  Within minutes of meeting with Adeeb Aoun and his wife, we realized the wealth and depth of information they have.   

Shortly after we began discussion, George and I felt that this is too important that we would rather video tape it. P8080048.JPG (50001 bytes) Where can we get a video on such a short notice...???  I know, the Shwerieh from  Newzealand Janice, has a state of the art digital video camera and they live 200 meters away...  Thank you for trusting your camera to us. P8080047.JPG (56104 bytes)
Miriam, Paul, Helen & Janice

Meanwhile at Hotel Dhour Choueir... 
Second Meeting of Shweir Foundation...

What a great looking, intelligent and ambitious group... P8130197.JPG (43409 bytes) P8130196.JPG (39970 bytes) P8130198.JPG (37147 bytes) Speak louder, I can't hear you... 
It sounds like the youngsters in Saha know how to have a heck of a party, and we could hear them via speakers real well... too well in fact that we had to move to a quieter place... the Tantra Room... P8130199.JPG (47478 bytes) P8130200.JPG (55427 bytes) P8130201.JPG (27690 bytes)
Tantra Room is set up as a disco -bar - dance partly underground... (much quieter)  it is nicely appointed with cozy booths and decor... whoever chose that name chose well... in case you are curious, Tantra is a form of yoga practiced for centuries in the far east and has recently become popular in Hawaii, parts of U.S. and Europe.  It helps bring those in a relationship to a higher level of communication & intimacy... enough about Tantra... Now, where are the minutes of that meeting?  
 Helen Ataya and her support team...  


Tuesday August 14

Our First Computer workshop... was held at Toufic Moujaes computer center.  It is two doors to the left of the drugstore "Saydalieh".  The name above the entry says "Sat & Cell" but Toufic had another name in mind... He had a set of 10 computers connected on a local area network with 17" monitors... by the end of August he added a CD burner... 

Attended by Jeremy Sawaya, Janice, Helen & Mirriam Ataya, Nancy Korban, Issam Sawaya, Samer Moujaes, Najib Khnaisser and Lama Katoul.

P8130206.JPG (41475 bytes) Lama Katoul demonstrated posting entries on Bulletin Board P8130203.JPG (33129 bytes) P8130205.JPG (29361 bytes) P8130204.JPG (68171 bytes)
P8140207.JPG (47918 bytes)
Practicing on individual computers
And Anwar giving instructions on building your family tree P8140208.JPG (42376 bytes) The owner, Toufic Moujaes is a smoker.  He placed this sign >>> on the wall. 

Shortly before the workshop ended, Issam informed us that he arranged for our first meeting with Mayor Shawki Sawaya right after the computer session ended, so we took a brisk walk to the Baladieh (town hall)... youngest and oldest active members... P8140212.JPG (44168 bytes) with Mayor Shawki Sawaya and webmaster P8140211.JPG (43648 bytes) P8130202.JPG (22178 bytes)The Newzealand contingency with the Mayor
P8140213.JPG (42775 bytes) Helen Ataya with the guys...
Mayor Shawki Sawaya and the Matar Brothers 
P8140210.JPG (44430 bytes) With Mayor's blessings, Lama was assigned to design a banner for P8140221.JPG (29765 bytes)
4 hours later, this banner 5m x 1m was  displayed...




A Tribute to 
Jameli George (Corban) Ataya Honoree of the Month for September, 2001
by Paul Woodfield



Born in 1911 in Auckland, New Zealand, the youngest child of Assid Abraham Corban and Najibie Tanyus Ataya, Helena, like her nine brothers and sisters, grew up on Mt Lebanon Vineyards, Henderson, Auckland.  Her two eldest brothers were born in Shweir.

 Her parents were both Shweirie, and taught her Arabic, which she still speaks today.  She also learned a lot about Shweir and greater Lebanon, including the family history.  She tells her grandchildren stories of the Saliba family (her husband’s and her mother’s ancestry) as accurate as books written by historians in the United States, also many stories about her parents’ life and voyages to New Zealand.

 “The daily routine was getting up early to milk the cows before going to school and returning to continue working in the vineyards and cellars.”

 As a child, Helena was very sick with bronchitis up to the age of about 13 years and quotes she “was miraculously healed”.  Helena learned the piano when in her teens and went on to learn shorthand, typing and book keeping, in which she became proficient, enabling her to start her first job.

 She worked for a German employer as the secretary of a benefit society for 5 years.  Following that, she worked for her father managing the Corbans Wines office and depot in Fort Street, Auckland.  She would do this as a day job and continue after hours to work at home in the main office.  Helena also worked in the vineyard and the cellars, where she undertook such tasks as bottling wine, operating labelling machines for bottled wine, packing orders, making wine containers, and hostessing in the cellar bar.

 Marriage  Helena married George Elias Ataya in 1941 when both were aged 30 and had their first child 10 months later (Miriam Najibie), followed by Karena Helena, Michael George Elias, Janice Rose and Paul George Elias Ghotos.

 George was also originally from Shweir but was orphaned, and at the age of nine his grandmother in Shweir sent him to his grandmother in Damanhour, Egypt, where he attended the Engineering School.  “George graduated third for the whole of Egypt.  He arrived in Auckland in July 1937, where he worked for the Corban family as their Engineer.”

 Once married, the couple and the growing family lived in one of the houses on Helena’s father’s land.  They later bought six acres of land a couple of kilometres away from the winery.  Their property was turned into a market garden producing different vegetables and fruits, and also had a small poultry farm.  This is where Helena worked and grew fond of gardening, which continues to be her hobby.  The couple still continued to work at the vineyard during this time, George as the Engineer and Helena in the cellars.

 Helena and George were very much involved in the church.  She is happy to say that, “With George and my teaching, each of the children spent time on the mission field at some stage in their lives, and continue to serve in their respective churches.”  Helena and George were foundational to the church they attended for over 60 years, and to which she still belongs.

  Travel  Unlike most people who do their traveling when they are young, Helena and George went on a world trip upon his retirement in 1976.  This was their first attempt to visit Lebanon but, due to conflicts in Lebanon, they were advised not to enter.  They travelled all over the world, including Europe, Scandinavia, Britain, the Mediterranean, United States, Canada and Australia.  Since then, Helena has been to Lebanon four times, all after her 80th birthday.

Her most significant trip to Lebanon was travelling with her husband in 1994.  George had not been to Lebanon since just before leaving for New Zealand in 1937.

Helena’s trip to Lebanon in 2001 proved very enjoyable.  She travelled from New Zealand with her daughters Miriam and Janice, and one of her grandsons (Paul Woodfield) met up with her in Lebanon.  She attended all but two of the Eid Al Mughtaribeen and participated in the meetings for  Her hope is that the Eid Al Mughtaribeen will continue to prosper and many Shweirie from all parts of the world will appreciate their roots and attend the celebration.  She dreams of being able to return to Lebanon again.

Although 90 years of age, Helena walked up the hill from Shweir to the festival in Dhour Shweir, much to the amazement of various passers-by.  She appreciated meeting Anwar Kenicer and George Matar, because of the interest they showed towards making sure the Mughtaribeen had a good time.  The main touring highlights were visiting Baalbek, Khalil Gibran’s Gallery, the Cedars and Harissa.  However, most of the time was spent in Shweir visiting relatives and friends.  She only returned to New Zealand on 18 November 2001, after four months of overseas travel!

One of the key aspects of Helena’s life is her hospitality.  She has opened her home to thousands of people and still keeps regular contact with over 300 people in New Zealand.  “There is always a welcome.”

When asked what keeps her fit and healthy, she says the secret is, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.  I always thank the Lord for the bed He gives me to sleep in and for the roof over my head, and thank Him for keeping my heart strong.  I remember the promise in God’s Word that He will never leave nor forsake me.”

Ataya Helena & David W.JPG (40545 bytes) <  Helena with David Woodfield 

>  and with Karena Woodfield >

Ataya Helena & Karena W.JPG (38558 bytes) >  Helena with daughters Miriam on Left and Janice on Right with grandson Paul Woodfield in Shweir > P8080047.JPG (56104 bytes)

Thank you Paul for the above information

November 11, 2001  - - - 
10:00 a.m.  Ordination of Fr. Dcn. George Insan (Sam) Bosauder into Priesthood by His Eminence Metropolitan Paul Saliba, Archbishop of Australia and Newzealand... 

18:00  Dinner at Waipuna Restaurant "The Voyager"... To secure tickets ($25), call treasurer George Haidamous at 534-6735 or 278-0673

Congratulations to Abuna George Ihsan Bosauder... 
Don't forget to send to us a full report with photos...  



----- Original Message -----
From: Paul Woodfield <>
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 1:16 AM
Subject: From Lebanon to New Zealand.....

> Hello George, Anwar and the team
> I trust everyone is well and looking forward to the winter months.  Of
> course I'm looking forward to summer at this end!  New Zealand is fairly
> cold at the moment (7-18 degrees C) but at least its fine. 
> It was interesting to read Walid Samahas' detailed overview of the Corban
> heritage and my cousin Edricks response.      (Edrick is a grandson of
> Khaleel - the oldest child of A.A. Corban, and I am the grandson of Helena -
> the youngest.  Zhiddy (George Elias Ataya) is also related to the Corbans
> through Najibie Tanyus (Ataya) Corban my great grandmother).
> While I was in Shweir someone asked why my Great Grandfather, Assid Abraham
> Corban, chose to immigrate to New Zealand rather than America.  As Walid
> posted in February, the turning point for A.A. Corban was from time spent
> with Dr Carslow and his recommendation that Australia or New Zealand was a
> better place to immigrate than the Americas.  It wasn't until I heard the
> interesting stories about Dr Carslow and visited the Dour Shweir Evangelical
> Centre that I fully realised many Shweirie had some western influence from
> very early on. 
> A.A. Corban did travel to Melbourne, Australia first "But Australia was a
> disapointment; a vast harsh land, the deserts as unyielding as those at
> home, the people not at all soft-spoken and relaxed like the gentle Dr
> Carslow".  He may have changed his mind these days as some of the most
> beautiful wines in the world come from this region! He then made his way to
> New Zealand in 1892 where he first traded in Thames, Karangahake, Waihi,
> Tauranga and Te Puke (all in the Coromandel region, NZ).  He then moved on
> to Auckland  where he became a "naturalised British subject".  He went into
> partnership with his cousins Elias and Job (Ayoub) Corban, renting a shop
> with accomedation above.  Their signs proclaimed them "Eastern Importers of
> Fancy Goods, Jewelery, Drapery, etc. English, American and French Novelties,
> Wholesale and Retail".
> It wasn't until 1902 when his wife Najibie and sons Khaleel and Wadier had
> joined him and settled, that A.A. Corban found the piece of land he wanted.
> The rest, as they say, is history.  The Family is due for a reunion next
> year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the winery, which will have an
> impact on the Henderson district (where the Corban Homstead is, and the area
> where many of the family still lives) as it remains one of the first
> establishments in the area.
> This, of course, is a brief overview, and as Walid mentioned in his
> correspondence, the family book was limited to 1000 copies in which only
> family and close friends were able to obtain (as well as libraries around
> New Zealand), but maybe Shweir would like one??
> Walid, David Corban was a mentor of mine whom I often visited for his wisdom
> about business and life in general. He is greatly missed.  I still visit his
> wife Eva and grandchildren (who are more my age). Where did you know David
> from?  I gather you are not from New Zealand.  Would love to hear some of
> your stories of Shweir!!   
> Personally, I am inspired by my great grandparents, and the legacy they
> left.  There legacy consisted of strong will, vision, hospitality and
> commitment to God.  Visiting Shweir made me realise what a strong heritage I
> have, and in alot of ways feel more comfortable there than where I was
> brought up. Its good to see that this hasn't been lost through 5 generations
> in New Zealand.
> Regards
> Paul Woodfield



-----Original Message-----
From: Downeys []
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2001 5:34 AM

Hi, George, 
Yep, you did go away & we did miss you!
I think we're heading for Shweir sooner than you as we fly out of Auckland,
New Zealand on Wed. 1 August, arriving in Beirut the next day.  I think my
mother, Helena Ataya, will probably make something of a record in age and
distance when she travels to Shweir this year - she is 90-1/2 years old &
travelling from the other side of the world ("Down Under") from New Zealand!
My sister Janice and I are accompanying her - it will be great meeting you
and others face-to-face.
My nephew Paul Woodfield is also attending the Festival & arrives in Beirut
on Sunday, 5 August).
This is Mum's 4th trip to Shweir & her 2nd Immigrant's Festival, & yes, she
speaks her mother tongue of Arabic fluently.  Janice has been once before,
but this is my first time.

See you in Shweir!
Miriam (Ataya) Downey

-----Original Message-----
From: Downeys []
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2001 2:25 PM
 Kia ora (Maori greeting for hello), George,
Yippee, we're escaping the cold to enjoy hotter weather which will be more
like Auckland's sub-tropical climate (in summer parts of the locality we
live in reaches over 40!!!).  When I received your email then looked up the
Shweir website & saw the Eid Al Mughtaribeen, for the 1st time I felt really
excited about visiting my father's home town - I guess the reality that I'm
finally going is only now starting to sink in...
Mum (Helena (Corban) Ataya), Janice & I are being met by our cousin Rumzi
Ataya, who is driving us to stay in their family home in Shweir - sorry I
don't know the phone number.  Apparently the house is very close to the home
belonging to Tonius Ataya - Tonius' brother Elias lives in the upstairs part
of the home but doesn't have a phone.  Tonius & his family all live in the
States now.  The main bedroom in Tonius' home is the one in which my father
was born, & also my mother's mother (Najibie Tanius Ataya who married Assid
Abraham Corban from Shweir) - Najibie's brother Elias was my father's
Mum turned 90 on 28 Feb. 2001, her surviving brother Najib turned 92 on 9
July 2001, & her surviving sister Annisie turns 94 on 7 August 2001 - they
are the youngest of the 10 children of Assid & Najibie Corban.  The 2
eldest, Khaleel & Wadier, were born in Shweir.  Edrick Corban-Banks is a
grandson of Khaleel.  Edrick mentioned our cousin David Corban, who was the
only child of Wadier & Tagie Corban.  Tagie's younger sister Lesa married
Wadier's younger brother Annis - it was the 1st double wedding the minister
had conducted & he became so flustered that he asked Wadier if he would
"take Tagie as his lawful wedded husband"!!!!! - to which Uncle Wadier
smartly replied "No! I take her to be my lawful wedded wife".  Tagie & Lesa
were daughters of Salloum Mattar - one of their relatives, George Mansour
Mattar, was born in Shweir & married my mother's sister Zarefy in Auckland,
New Zealand.  George & Zarefy (both deceased) had a son (George) and
daughter (Nimnorm Rose).  I see Rose regularly - in fact, taking her
shopping today.  Rose lives in the street running parallel behind my home &
I can look out of my lounge & see the home her & her mother's homes.  George
lives only a few minutes drive from his sister.
We have our own little "Shweir Village" in our neighbourhood!!!  Not only
are Rose & her husband Terry Dezan nearby, but I live 2 houses away from Mum
& my sister, my brother Paul & wife Shulamit live behind Mum in my brother
Michael's home, while Michael & his wife Heather & son Gabriel (he's written
to the Shweir website) have moved into the unit over my back fence - their
daughter Naomi flats not too far away & their youngest son Ben recently went
to live in Christchurch in the South Island of NZ, my sister Karena &
husband Murray & son David & daughter Melita live about 400 metres up the
road (2 minute walking exercise!) - their eldest sons Paul & Jeremy are
flatting in Auckland City, & Paul will be in Shweir for the Festival too;
also I have a cousin Alex Khouri & his wife Joan living a few door up the
road from me.  My nephew Paul is President of the Lebanese Society of
Auckland (Inc.) & Gabriel is the Secretary - Janice & I have also served on
the Executive.  The Corban family is a very big one & although we are a bit
scattered now, a large number of us still live in close proximity & see each
other quite often.
Anyway, I'd better stop rambling as I've got so much to do on my last full
day in NZ, including picking up a laptop computer which my employers are
kindly lending me for my trip - I guess they're being generous as I am one
of their longest serving temps, having been with Drake Overload (a Canadian
firm) for about 10 yrs & associated with them for about 18 yrs plus being
their Fieldstaffer of the Year 2000 (believe me, my hat still fits my
head!!!).  While I'm away, I can be contacted on email: -
also, I'll have my cellphone 021-1942046.
Have a safe journey to the motherland.
Really looking forward to meeting up with you all in Shweir...
Miriam Downey

-----Original Message-----
From: Matar, George [
Sent: Tuesday, 31 July 2001 1:22 a.m.

Hellllloooooo Miriam
Last time I heard from you, you were heading into the woods camping.  Good
to hear from you again.
I am flying on the 2nd and will arrive Dhour on the 3rd at night.   My wife
will follow me on the 9th.  Looking forward to meeting with you all.
Where are you going to be staying in Dhour?  Just in case we miss each other
on the opening day. That way I'll be able to find you.
Our telephone # is 04- 990245, I am not sure if you have to dial the 04 if
you are in Dhour?????

-----Original Message-----
From: Matar, George []
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2001 3:46 PM

Miriam, Miriam, This is really impressive, somebody has had a tight grip on
where the family should stay, can't believe you all are so close to each
other..This has got to be in the Guineas Book of world records....Anybody
thought about Naming that area, "New Shweir".  I sincerely doubt anybody can
compete with these statistics.  Wow.
Miriam, if you haven't already, You need to do a family tree.  You got so
many resources available. I envy you.

Anyway I can feel you are excited about this trip, I will find a way to find
you there...
Nabil Do you know where the Atayas are staying?  These are some good clues.

Edrick you are going o miss all this...
The rest of you Kourban, I am copying you on this so you know your relatives
in New Zealand (Read Below), Celebrate Ya'll

George Matar

-----Original Message-----
From: Downeys []
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2001 5:36 PM

Well, George, I think I'm starting to follow my 16-year-old daughter's
example by saying I'm feeling hyper (about my trip)!!  (By the way, George
is a good name - I've still got it among my Christian names as I forgot to
drop my father's name of George & insert my husband's name John when I got
married!  I'd been attached to the name for a mighty long time by the time I
finally got married that I was reluctant to let it go - seriously though, I
did forget to change it.)

Believe me, I've got boxes of family history stored & am working on putting
it into some semblance of order.

There is a family tree on the Corbans in NZ (Mum's father's branch - there
are other Corban relatives here too, with whom we keep in contact, of
course) but hasn't been updated for around 5-10 years.  The Corban family
history in New Zealand is recorded in a limited edition book "A Stake in the
Country", & a while ago I read in the Shweir website where some had
mentioned receiving a book from my late cousin David Corban (his mother
Tagie was the Mattar I mentioned in yesterday's email).

Many, many years ago my father drew up a magnificent family tree for the
Atayas in Lebanon.  Perhaps I should take a copy over with me.  We Atayas
also have a family history book, which was produced by relatives in the
States.  It is called "A Brief History of the Saleeby Saliba Clan and Their
Branches" by Najeeb David Saleeby.  It is currently being updated, & my
nephew Gabriel Ataya (also mentioned in yesterday's email) is was authorised
to assist in putting it on the computer - this Aunt was called on to help
out with the typing.....  There is a Saleeby Saliba Association in the
States & we keep in contact with those heading it up.  Gabriel was invited
to become a Director of the Association, which he accepted.  When my father
was obtaining a passport in 1937 to come to New Zealand, he had a choice of
using either Ataya or Saliba - he kept the name Ataya.  I have the history
book in both Arabic and English but can't read Arabic!  I understand when
Mum speaks to me in Arabic but am not very good speaking it although I spoke
Arabic fluently until about age 4 years.  Maybe total immersion in Shweir
will set my tongue free as the language is certainly running around in my
head trying to get out!!!  I guess it's a confidence thing, as much as

My husband is just now on the phone finding out the number of my burial plot
at Waitakere City so that we can update my Will today!  About 20 or so years
ago I bought a plot on the sunny side of Zhiddy & Sitty Corban's mausoleum!

Better get moving as Mum & Rose are wanting me to drive them to attend to
some business.  See you in Shweir!
Kind regards,

A Message from Miriam (NZ.)

Posted by George Matar on January 08, 2001 at 08:56:33:

I want to share with you this a cute Poem sent to me by Miriam Downey in response to my very short email message "It's Coming". The Poem is followed by a "Wizz Ayenkum" here is what we are doing in New Zealand paragraph...
Miriam, good for you and have a great time camping. Please send us an article with pictures, that would be very appreciated.

A million thanks for your message.
Here is what Miriam wrote:

The suspense is a killer -
Hope the surprise is a thriller;
With baited breath we await
Our curiosity to sate.

The teasing is great fun
Definitely for the one
Who creates the mystery,
Making our puzzling blistery.

I’ll be away next week,
And in no computer can peek
Whilst a leader at a camp,
So my expectations I’ll revamp.

Maybe all will not be lost
If the info is sent by post,
By my understanding husband,
From the other end of New Zealand.

Here’s a poem I hurriedly penned as soon as I saw your e-mail! Even though I’ll be about a thousand miles from home, my husband John can give the e-mail to my mother (Helena Ataya) & I’ll hear about it when I return to Auckland on 18 January. Our daughter Sarah & I are participating in a Girls’ Brigade international camp in Queenstown in the South Island for 10 days, flying down on Tues. 8 Jan. On our return, we’re joining John at our annual beach camping venue in the North of the North Island! Like the majority of New Zealanders, we really love the outdoors & take advantage of the many & varied opportunities for outdoor activities.
No, I didn’t know Ihsan was your Godbrother, but I had realized you had a close friendship & know you were at school together. Two of his sons are in a well-known & successful Christian band in NZ - in fact, one of them was in the band which played at the last Girls’ Brigade int’l camp in Rotorua 4 years ago.
It’s possible you are related to some of my cousins as their father was a George Mattar who was born in Shweir. Uncle George married my mother’s sister, Zarefy Corban, & he died many years ago - Aunty died a few years later. His son George, & daughter Rose (married to Terry Dezan - a Canadian) both live near us. We see Rose often as she is in the next street from us - we can see the roof of her home from our home!
Mustn’t write any more as in about an hour my mother, sister & I are taking my sister-in-law to another camp about 3 hours south of Auckland - I need to complete the ‘running-in’ of our car engine before John can pull a heavy trailer to the beach, as we’ve had the motor completely rebuilt after I ‘cooked’ it on an extremely busy motorway a couple of months ago. We’ve only just got it back from the garage so can’t afford to wreck the good work undertaken.
Keep up the good work uniting the Shweireh - we enjoy the contact.

Congratulations to Ihsan (Sam) Bou Sauder on his Ordination 

Metropolitan Paul Saliba, Archbishop of Australia and New Zealand and their Dependencies visited New Zealand on 9th of June 2000. During that visit he spent time with Ihsan and Marie Bosauder and their family to celebrate their 28th Wedding Annniversary. In the evening he met with some of their friends, who expressed interest in having regular Arabic Services in Auckland.

In September Metr Saliba invited the servant of God Ihsan Bou Sader to visit Sydney in order to receive ordination to the Holy Deaconate. Ihsan made the trip on 20th of October 2000 and was ordained at St Nicholas ("Russian Church" that had joined the Antiochian Church) and Met Saliba was conducting a service there as arranged preveously. The Liturgy was conducted in Russian, Romanian and English with a strong mixed Choir. Met Saliba upon receiving responce "He Is Worth from the people proceeded to ordain Fr Dcn George "Ihsan Bou Sader" in accordance with the Orthodox Rite and clothed him accordingly.

The newly ordained Deacon lead the congregation with the requests and completed his parts in the service in the English language.  During the following week he underwent extensive training by V Rev Fr Nicola Haddad, ex Deir Albalamand and V Rev Fr Nicola Mansour the oldes Antichian Priest in Sydney culminating with an English Service on Saturday 28th of October and a full Liturgy on 29th October. 

On Monday 30th October Fr Dcn George returned to Auckland to start his mission work with recent immigrants and the decendants of earlier Antiochian Church immigrants to Auckland New Zealand.  After translating the Typica service to Arabic, the first Service was conducted at The All Saints Anglican Church "first to be erected in Howick"  Sunday 12 November and was attended by close to 10 people, then 19th 22 people and 26th November 26 People with many expressing interest and joy about hearing an Arabic service.

The Servant of Christ, 
Fr Dcn George

OK These are the photos, One taken in June 2000 at Marie and Ihsan's 28th Wedding Anniversary when Metr. Paul Saliba visited Auckland in his pastoral visit to NZ, (Standing Left to right Marie, Lisa Peacock "Paul's Girlfriend", Paul, Johnny, seated left to write Joanna, Michel, Metr Saliba and Ihsan), two from the ordination.   The top is during the ordination and the middle is while giving Communion in the second service in Howick.  

Meet the Corbans of New Zealand, 
The following are excerpts from the book:  Wines and Vinyards of New Zealand by Michael Cooper: The book is available in many U.S. bookstores if you are interested to purchase a hard copy.  Webmaster purchased a couple of them and is featuring these applicable pages.  

Click on thumbnail to enlarge photos below

Alex Corban

Corban_1.JPG (344238 bytes)
History of Corban
family from Shweir
Corban_2.JPG (337064 bytes)
Photos are of
 new winemaker
 & Manager
Corban 3.JPG (348772 bytes)
Corban 4.JPG (196209 bytes)

Name:Ihsan Hannah Jack Bou Sader
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Date: Sunday, September 10, 2000 at 04:38:10
Comments: what a great idea Anwar! If some one told us when we used to play marbles that one day we will be in opposit parts of the globe communicating on this media we would have laughed. Guys feel free to write to me I miss every Shweiri/eh If interested two of my boys have their own band and their home page is


Corban Wine follow up

Posted by Walid Samaha on February 12, 2001 at 10:37:48:

Dear George &

The article posted in "" about Corban's Wine was rather absorbing, especially to those of us who are, in one form or another, interested in: wine, grape varietals, wine making, mergers and acquisitions..
What is more to the point, as far the Shweiries in particular and the Lebanese in general are concerned, is the story of Assid Abraham Corban's venture into
New Zealand, and into the wine industry over there, and the problems he had to surmount on his way to create one of New Zealand's great wineries..
Being a wine amateur myself, I had written to Mr David Wadier Corban, ( a grandson of Assid ), in August 1995, requesting a copy by the book by Dick Scott
" A stake in the country,... Assid Abraham Corban and his family.. 1892--1977 " ( published by Southern Cross Books, 1977. 216p.)..
To my delight, I received a parcel from New Zealand in November 1995, in which, David W. Corban, very kindly, sent me a Limited Edition Copy (no. 112 of 1000), of the said book ... autographed by him with a very touching letter that I always keep in the book.
Incidentally, this was one of the last remaining copies...It was so very generous of him to give such a rare book to a complete stranger.. The book has taken its pride of place in my wine library ever since
Although my collection has a little more than three hundred books on wine, ( forgive my immodesty, only to underline a point.!! ),.. I feel that this single book, above all others, is my prize possession, I have read it and reread it many times, that I feel as if I know the Corbans of New Zealand as well as I know some of my close friends,... though I have not had the pleasure to meet any of them...!!
Interestingly, Assid Corban, started off in Shweir as a stonemason and was" employed by Dr.Carslow for two years in building schools and other mission works" ...Would I therefore be wrong in assuming that our High School was partly built by Assid Corban.?...maybe Carslow Hall.?? or Al Arzeh..??....".and when Dr Carslow recommended to the young Assid, Australia or New Zealand as a better place to emigrate to than the Americas, the young man was impressed...........and started his journey in March 1891."...( Dick Scott in his book )
In New Zealand Assid started off as a peddler and later on a haberdasher, and only in 1902, did he buy his first parcel of land in view to making wine...... I quote.. " half a mile from Henderson Station on the Great North Road,..... The 9 3/4 acre plot was for sale for £320.... he borrowed £220 from the Bank of New Zealand................ and planted four acres of grapes, and named his enterprise: Mount Lebanon Vineyards"... unquote.
He was married to Najibie Tanyus Ataya, and had ten children, two of them, Khalil Iblenn and Wadier Mesaef, were born in Lebanon before he emigrated, while the rest, Zealandia Helena, Corban John, Zarefy Pipiloupe, Annis Abraham ( died at nine months ), Annis Abraham, Annisie Mariam, Najib Muci, and Helena Jameli, were all born in New Zealand... Zarefy's second name was the name of the Orthodox priest who performed the baptism..... Most of his children, but not all, married Shweiries from the Khoury, Mattar, Ataya and Corban families.( from the Family Tree in the book.. )
His descendants, at the time Najibie died, numbered 32 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren, and twenty years later there were 67 great-grandchildren...
The story of Assid Abraham Corban, is the story of a Lebanese, :... I quote.." By the force of his personality, and by the certainty of his knowledge that he had God's blessing on earth and in heaven thereafter,created a remarkable human engine --- a family commune that swept aside all obstructions in reaching its goal. The target was two-fold : To make good wine in a land at best indifferent, at worst deeply hostile, to wine, and in making it to establish a migrant family as respected citizens of that land."..unquote..
I do, nowadays, drink some of Corban's Sauvignon Blanc, ( when I find it..!!) which, if left open for a short while would develop very nicely and would accompany white fish, or shellfish rather well.... or better still, one can sip it on its own before a meal.. a nice fragrant flavour of citrus fruit, balanced aperitif...Although it is not Lebanese any more, I still can imagine what it would be like if Assid was still around...
I could go on and on, but I think I should stop now... at least for a while....!!
I will try in the months to come, time permitting, to write some worthy highlights of this fascinating book, for you to post, as I consider that the story of the Corbans is that of great human endeavour, against unbelievable odds, culminating in outstanding achievements.


***Dick Scott has written an earlier work entitled.. Winemakers of New Zealand.. where Assid Abraham Corban was also featured..


Good Morning Walid

This so nice of you to share all this information with the rest of us. I am sending your message to Unwept to posted on the next update, I am also sending it to father Edrick who is a descendant Of Assid Abraham Corban.  Edrick is also close to you he is living on the Island of Ibiza of the coast of  Spain....Hell o Edrick, it has been quite some time since we communicated.  

Once again Walid thank you man, we'll be looking forward to more articles from the book. I hope to see you this summer.



Copy of e-mail response by  Chaplain. Reverend Edrick Corban-Banks dated Feb 17, 2001

Dear all especially Walid and hi George, I was thinking about you about three days ago and specifically about the article about Ibiza and how like Lebanon it must be. Further to that downloaded some photos of Shweir which are pure Ibiza countryside and architecture. Do you still want an updated version.?  I recently tried the local ibicenco local turron and if it wasn't halawi then it gave a pretty good impression of it. Also the local ibecinco drink hierbas ibecincas is arak through and through.  

Walid thank you for all your wonderful comments. We take the family for granted in NZ but I never really thought of what it could appear to be to someone else. I thought all Lebanese were great innovators. Especially tyhose from Shweir :-). The success of the family through to the fifth generation is astounding. but My great grandfather was a Christian and Godly man.  Honor your father and mother and live long in the land is a  scripture outworked in the Corban family.  His and Najibes Godly influence worked through the family so that now five generations later we are still a very, very close knit family.  That has got to be the Lebanese family concept. Family reunions are still happening. The last one i attended was only four years ago where I and two cousins... all clergy.... led the family service. Out of 300 people that attended the family reunion at the Hendersn winery at communion there were 180 family members all who came had a deep abiding faith and love of God.  A legacy from our grandparents.

The Corban family from small village beginnings is a very widely respected name in New Zealand. they prospered by fair and honest dealings, the pioneering spirit that carried through from our great grandparents, their love of God and firm conviction that God ordered all things ordered theoir lives on a biblical basis. This has manifested in each generation and left the Corban family a highly respected in NZ. Because of this Godly heritage and the prayers each generation has surpassed itself in outstanding achievements. In law, medicine, sports, music business education. local government. Christian mission work.

My uncle Assid was mayor of Henderson for 25 years None of which could have been achieved if a an ongoing sense of family pride (in the best possible way) had not been instilled by Assid Abraham. Certainly one could take this back to what Assid Abraham had instilled in him from his way of life in Shweir. So the Corban family success is in effect a reflection and product of Shweir.  I think that although few members of the later generations speak Arabic, our cultural traditions have been instilled into us and there is a driving desire for successive generations to visit the land of their Fathers....especially Shweir. Uncle David whom you mention he was a J.P a man of God a widely respected businessman ..a jazz pianist and people would regularly seek his counsel. He was for me a close and dear friend and someone I could trust always.  I had the sad but joyous honour of conducting his funeral.

My great Aunt Helena is still alive, and is traveling.. at 93 back to Shweir.  Her husband George died two years ago. Teijie is still alive and so is Annis.  the Corbans have all lived to great ages and have remained incredibly healthy.  

WE all owe a great deal to Assid Abraham his incredibly hard work. We the successive generations are reaping the benefits of his vision commitment to God. Perhaps it was as well the winery was eventually sold because it meant that the pioneering spirit could begin afresh but built on the shoulders and solid family foundation of Assid and Najibe Corban.


The Anglican Chaplaincy on Ibiza and Formentera 
Capellanía Anglicana en Ibiza y Formentera 
Intercontinental Church Society 
Sección Española de la Diocesis Anglicana en Europa 
Chaplain. Reverend Edrick Corban-Banks. 
C/0 Supermercado Magon, Port des Torrent 07820. San Antonio. Ibiza ESPAÑA 
Tf/fx 971 343 383 e-mail 


Thank you Edrick for taking the time to enlighten us about the Corban family History.  
Do you know when Helena is going back to Shweir?  
It would be nice for representatives from Shweir to give a special welcome to Helena.  Please keep us posted. 

The Team at


----- Original Message -----
From: <>
Sent: Thursday, May 03, 2001 5:30 PM
Subject: Helena Ataya

I was browsing through the website after my friend Ihsan Bosauder told me about it and noticed the following few lines posted after an email by my cousin Edrick Corban Banks.  (reference to the above communication).
> I am Gabriel son of Michael the eldest son of George and Helena Ataya. As you know Sitty is going to go back to Shweir, Lebanon this year. I was just speaking to her on the phone and she told me that she will at this stage be arriving
> in Lebanon on August 1, 2001.  I believe Edrick posted that she is 93, she actually turned only 90 in February. Her sister Annisie is 93.  
> I think Sitty would feel greatly honored if there was a special welcome for > her there in Shweir. I was going to be going with her, but unfortunately I have not been able to get the money together in time and will now look at going over next year or the year after.  
> Regards
> Gabriel Michael George Ataya


Dear Gabriel,

It is so wonderful to hear from you and to know more about when Helena Ataya is coming to Shweir.  Her timing is great because many of us Mughtaribeen plan to be there around that time or arrive late July or early August.  And that is when Eid Al Mughtaribeen will take place shortly after she arrives.  That Festival of welcoming al Mughtaribeen is the biggest of its kind in Lebanon.

Also, we plan to have in Dhour a Open House as a central place for communication.  We do not know where yet but we will post it as soon as we know.  We hope that a welcoming committee from Shweir would mobilize to and definitely, we would love to meet Helena Ataya and do something personal that is worthy of her visit.

Please keep us posted of where Helena would be staying and please tell Helena that she has an open invitation to stop by the Open House.

For the Team at,