In 1903, the Whau Canal tour stopped off at Mr. Keane’s brickworks – Keane or Cain being one of the names which keep cropping up in the Whau River bricks story, as perennial as the grass.
The 1903 party from the Waitemata-Manukau Canal Promotion Scheme, alighting from the steamer at Keane's Brickworks, during the 1903 inspection of the proposed canal route. From The New Zealand Graphic, 25 July 1903.
But, to what extent and when did anyone named Keane have brickmaking associations with the Avondale side of the Whau River? He's still in the "obscure" part of my files, unfortunately. Hopefully, as more early newspapers are uploaded online for us to peruse, the murk at the bottom of the river's waters might get a bit clearer regarding this.
The main presumption at this stage is that the Keane link comes from Barnard (Barney) Keane. He appears in Auckland reports from the end of 1862, with the occupation of brickmaker, living in Albert Street in the city. His house was broken into. (Southern Cross, 7 November 1862) However, later reports push back his involvement with the brickmaking trade to c.1858. By 1866, he lived at Hobson Street (SC 8 May 1866) and by October that year was advertising for the purchase of a cutter.
Southern Cross 1 October 1866
It looks like he diversified into trade with the Thames goldfields. By 1867, he had the cutter Catherine regularly plying the Auckland-Thames route. The main cargo from the Coromandel area, it seems, was lime. By January 1868, he had a office on Customs Street -- there, he lost his cool with a man named John Thomas Brown, striking him on the face and calling him "a rogue", and was later fined 5s by the courts. (SC 7 January 1868) From March that year, the Catherine began to carry sawn timber up from the Coromandel to Auckland, along with bricks going the other way. Cattle were conveyed to Auckland in the cutter as well, from Great Barrier Island. By September 1868, he also ran the cutters Rosina and Wahapu. His son Bernard attended the Auckland Western Academy and did well in grammar and geography. (SC 22 December 1868)
By the end of 1869, he had at his disposal a sizeable fleet of cutters conveying goods between Auckland and the Coromandel area -- Janet Grey, Catherine, Diamond, Sydney, Wahapu, Hope and Rosina. His gamble, taking advantage of the opportunity of the goldrush, had paid off. A launch, dubbed the Janet Grey, was launched for him in the middle of that year.
It appears he operated a brickyard somewhere close to the Auckland docks. Perhaps, even, at Brickyard Bay, part of what is now the Freemans Bay reclamation. He leased land from the Auckland Harbour Board. In the main, however, he was first and foremost a trading agent in construction material -- as such, he became involved, briefly, in the Whau Brickmakers affair of 1872, where the brickyard owners in West Auckland wanted a fairer deal for their wares with Brogden and the contracts for bricks that were on offer at the time during the Vogel push to build railways linking Auckland with the Waikato hinterlands.
A meeting of the Whau brickmakers was held on Thursday night last in the Whau Hotel at 7 o'clock. Mr. Kirby, of Auckland, bad been specially requested to attend, the object of the meeting being to appoint him as the sole agent for the sale of the brickmakers' goods. A little discussion took place whether it would be better to appoint Mr. Keane or Mr. Kirby. Most of the brickmakers were in favour of the latter gentleman, on the ground that Mr Keane is making bricks and buying at the same time, so that he was in opposition to a certain extent to other brickmakers. The question of appointing an agent was not finally settled by the meeting on Thursday, but a vote of confidence was passed in favour of Mr. Kirby.
Southern Cross 21 May 1872
Bolding mine. This article has been misinterpreted in the past by those looking for signs of early West Auckland brickmakers to mean that Keane was one of them. At this stage, considering the context of his business activities before the meeting, I think that is unlikely. He was trying to act as agent for the Whau yards, while actually competing with them to a certain extent from his own yard in the city. No wonder they went with Kirby to be their man at the negotiating tables.
But, hey -- Keane by name and keen by nature, he had another go at a piece of a lucrative part of the market. He knew, full well, that from the early 1870s onward, West Auckland looked set to dominate the brick making trade.
MEETING OF BRICKMAKERS.A meeting of the above tradesmen took place on Monday evening, at the Whau Hotel, according to advertisement. At the hour appointed all persons interested in the business were present, and I noticed Mr. Kirby and Mr. Keane. After partaking of an excellent supper, provided by Mrs. Poppleton, the cloth was removed and the business of the evening commenced. Mr. John Malam, being called to the chair, in opening the meeting, said that the object of the meeting was to take into consideration the high price given for coal and the scarcity of that commodity, and to decide whether it would be advisable for that meeting to raise the price of bricks. It was unanimously agreed to raise the price 5s per thousand, on account of having to use the Newcastle coal, which costs 10s. per ton more than Bay of Islands coal. After the business of the meeting was concluded, some hot discussion took place between Mr. Keane and Mr. Kirby. The former gentleman said that Mr. Kirby would never make any money in the business he has undertaken, but would lose. Mr. Kirby said if it was a business of that sort Mr. Keane ought to draw out of it, as he must have been losing money the last fourteen years in the business, and he thought it was time some one would step in and relieve Mr. Keane from his losses. On the whole all parties present seemed to enjoy themselves, and the meeting broke up at 12 o'clock. — [Whau Correspondent.]
Southern Cross 6 June 1872
He was certainly "exporting" via schooner (his stock part of others' in the hold) medium quantities of bricks, between 400 to 2000, along with pipes and lime, to places such as Poverty Bay, along with his old Thames trade via the Catherine.
He was doing something "in the bush" in September 1872, advertising for labourers. Exactly which bush, I don't know. Considering his trade links, it could have been anywhere. (Auckland Star 7 September 1872) He applied for six men to dig clay in January 1873. (AS, 15 January 1873). By February 1874, he seems to have been dealing with "Clark's flanged pipes" (I wonder whether this was anything to do with the Hobsonville Clarks? -- AS 20 February 1874) and applying to "two good carpenters for Tauranga" in April 1874.
He had a new cutter, The Evening Star in September 1874.
A cutter was launched this morning from the yard of Messrs Henderson and Spraggon. She has been built for the builders and Mr B Keane. Her dimensions are as follow :— Length of keel, 42 feet; overall, 47 feet; breadth of beam, 14 feet; depth of hold, 4 feet 4 inches. Tonnage: 18 tons register. She is intended for the brick and sand trade, and will be captained by Mr Hutley. The new cutter has been named after this journal, "The Evening Star," and in return for the compliment we can only wish her a similar share of prosperity to that which has attended our own career. The vessel was launched complete in every particular, with her sails bent and her crew on board. She went off beautifully, and sail was made within a minute of her settling on the water. Under canvass she appeared to great advantage, and she is undoubtedly a useful little boat.
AS 14 September 1874
Reclamations by early 1875 caused him to move his business to allotments next to Holdship & Co the timber merchants at Custom Street west, but 10,000 bricks still went down to Thames on the Catherine later that year.
He produced lime there as well, but by March 1877 he had finished a new lime works at Whangarei, producing "Whangarei Stone Lime in any quantity", and "Mahurangi Hydraulic Stone Lime ... adapted for Concrete Work. Will set hard under water, as foundations belonging to Messrs Combes & Daldy, Fort Street, will amply testify ..." (AS 2 March 1877) Keane was certainly on a roll, and looked to be on a roll with his business.
The Reclamation Nuisance.—A letter was received from the Auckland Oil Company, denying that their mill was the cause of the nuisance complained of by the residents of Graham and Hardinge streets, and suggesting that it was produced by the "suffocating fumes " from Mr Keane's limekiln, and the volumes of smoke emitted from the respective sawmills of Messrs Holdship and Co., and Messrs Jagger and Parker.—Mr Keane also wrote, promising to abate the lime-kiln nuisance.
AS 10 December 1880
William Carder and Bernard Keane were involved with bankruptcy in 1883. Again, I wonder if this was anything to do with a Hobsonville connection. (AS 25 May 1883)
PETITIONS.—Cr Garrett presented a petition from the residents of Clarence-street, Ponsonby, praying that Mr Barney Keane should be ordered to either remove or abate the nuisance caused by his brick kiln...
AS 24 August 1883
A lad named Bowden, resident in Ponsonby, and employed at Mr B. Keane's lime-kiln in that district, met with a painful accident this morning, which may involve the loss of one or more fingers. He was busied about some of the machinery when his right hand was caught in one of the cog-wheels and the fingers terribly lacerated and torn before he could be released. Dr. Knight having been sent for, dressed the wounded member, affixed a compress upon it, and had the young sufferer removed to the Hospital, where it was found necessary to amputate the injured hand, the operation being performed by Drs. Haines and Bond. His father works at Vickery's foundry.
AS 8 July 1884
His son Barnard, now married, lived on St Mary's Road in Ponsonby by December 1885.
Then, the one clear connection between Barnard Keane senior and the making of bricks in the Whau district.
BRICKMAKERS.—Tenders are invited for Making Bricks at the Whau. Tenders returnable by noon of 10th September. Lowest or any tender not necessarily accepted. For full particulars apply to B. KEANE, Customs-street.
AS 6 September 1886
But ... where exactly? By now, Avondale had been so-named. It could have been anywhere, even up as far as Hobsonville at a stretch. Without more information, there's little to link Barnard Keane senior with an Avondale brickyard enterprise.
And then, two months later, he died.
The remains of the late Mr Bernard Keane were conveyed to their last resting place,the Symonds-street cemetery, yesterday afternoon. The cortege left the residence, Hobson-street, and the body was first conveyed to the United Methodist Free Church, at the junction of Pitt and Vincent-streets, where a short service was conducted by the Rev. Mr Worboys, and the Rev. Mr Macfarlane delivered a feeling address, in the course of which he made reference to Mr Keane's sterling merits as a man and a Christian.
AS 1 December 1886
His business kept going for a while, probably as executors sorted out debtors and creditors. Then his widow's residence at Hobson Street was sold, and that was that.
What of Barney junior, the man who, as a lad, was a good grammar and geography scholar. It might have been him who ended up with the Auburn Dairy on Hobson Street by April 1895. (AS 19 April 1895) Then, maybe, as a carter from May 1899. No sign found, as yet, that he was connected with Avondale. But who knows what might be around the corner?
Meanwhile -- that caption in the NZ Graphic. I have a bit of a wild hypothesis, here. Perhaps the NZ Graphic had a mix-up of names, and instead of hearing "Keane's", they heard "Cairn's". Seeing lots of bricks littering the landing, and signs nearby of former brickyard workings, they may have presumed it was a brickyard owned by Mr Keane in 1903, but -- what if the yard had not been in use for some time prior to 1903 (which is likely), and it was "Cairn's landing". An Edwin James Cairn had a market garden and orchard along Riversdale Road, a fair distance away further down river, but -- he also had an interest in a yacht, the Poneke.
FOR SALE, Yacht Poneke. 30ft, all gear new this season, well found, dingy, etc. —E. J. Cairn, Avondale.
AS 2 March 1903
There are references in the papers later in 1903 to Messrs Best and Cairns in connection with the Poneke, and the Best family in Avondale did have links with boats and boating on the Whau River further in the 20th century ...
Just speculation on my part, and it can't be taken seriously as a solution just yet. I'm chasing info on Edwin Cairns as well, as an early Avondale gardener ... which is probably why I'm unlikely to be bored with local history research any time soon.
But is there a connection between the Barnard Keane family and Avondale? At this point -- not substantiated.