Sunday, July 5, 2009

The riches of the Whau River

Audrey from West Auckland, a fellow history researcher, emailed this wee gem to me this morning, from the Bay of Plenty Times, 18 May 1880.

I'm not surprised Gittos may have found pearls -- in much more recent times, if I recall correctly, a hunk of serpentine was discovered by those engaged on a Friends of the Whau organised clean-up of the river's banks. Lots of stuff ends up in the Whau River, which is tidal for much of its length. But the clipping doesn't say it's the Whau River, or even that it's the Oakley. It could have even been a creek somewhere in the city, where their warehouse was based.

When I can, I'll see if more comes to light.


  1. Mr Gittos had land in Blockhouse Bay. You may find out more about him at the Blockhouse Bay Historical Society.

  2. Be careful which Mr Gittos you're talking about, Helen. In this case, it wasn't Francis Gittos, who ended up in Blockhouse Bay (see other posts on the blog), but his father Benjamin (who never did live in Blockhouse Bay).

    And -- it also turns out it was the Oakley Creek, not the Whau River.


    Mr Benjamin Gittos, who for many years has retired from active commercial pursuits, occupies his leisure in rumblings about the country, and in particular the Whau district, where the firm of Gittos and Sons have their extensive tannery premises. Mr Gittos is an artist of no mean distinction, but his paintings from Nature are never paraded for public show, and some of his choice productions are done for the love of painting, to be distributed amongst his friends. In keeping with his passion, he visits creeks, rivers, and landacape scenery, far and near, in quest of something new and wonderful.

    "A few days ago, he had been wandering along the banks of the Oakley Creek, close to the Whau tributary, pursuing his usual searchings. The water was extremely low, as for a great distance the bed was just covered, and no more. He was attracted by a peculiar-looking shell-fish in one particular sand deposit. He had never seen in the whole of the district (during a period of nearly 20 years) any such shell. He made further search, and to his astonishment, fonnd a large quantity of the fish, varying in size. On opening a few of them, he found that the inner coating of the shell was beautifully covered with mother-of-pearl. He extracted several of the fish, and in those of the larger size found several pearls loose in the shell. They have a strange formation aud colour, not perfectly round, but far more brilliant than those found in the South Seas. He has 10 in all, which has been pronounced by connoisseurs as being of great value iudeed. The opiniou of those who know vary as to what they really are, but the majority of adepts call them pearls.

    "Mr Gittos is still prospecting, but the recent rain has covered the bed completely over, and those that can now be brought to the surface have to be dived for. The spot is only known to Mr Gittos, aud in a few days he will exhibit his findings. We may just add that the shell has a similar appearance to some few found in Loch Lomond."

    Auckland Star 15 May 1880