Friday, January 27, 2012

The many names of Herald Island

  
 Detail from "Waitemata", 1840-1841, NZ Map 3566, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Updated 29 January 2012.

There’s an island in the Upper Waitemata which I’ve often wondered about. Seeing an article about a now-vanished small cinema of all things, I decided to look into the records. 

Right from 1840, the island between Hobsonville and Greenhithe on the Waitemata River has been known as Herald Island. But it had, of course, a Maori name (Pahiki), and since 1840 has gone through a series of other names before the second name, possibly applied in honour of a ship the HMS Herald, stuck. John Logan Campbell and William Brown were almost the first purchasers of the island from Ngati Whatua – if not for a bit of miscommunication between one of Campbell’s companions and Te Hira of Ngati Whatua over the remains of a meal in a pot. The chief was accidentally accused of being a thief, due to the other man’s lack of accurate Maori language, and Te Hira remembered the slight when Brown & Campbell later expressed interest in the island. 
“ … we came to an island called Pahiki … with only a narrow boat channel to get at it, and this choice spot Te Hira would sell. But it was ourselves, and not the land, he was ‘selling’; for Wepiha, getting hold of some of the other Orakei natives who had come with us, soon found out that Te Hira was in the sulks. He had been called a tahae (thief), and he was only leading us a dance, and he would not consent that any land should be sold, and it would only be a fool’s errand to go any further.” 
 (John Logan Campbell, Poenamo, p. 71, orig. pub. 1881, 1973 edition.) 

Detail from OLC 390 (1845), LINZ records, crown copyright

According to a letter from National Archives (now Archives New Zealand) to a Mrs M H Brands (dated 4 December 1981, lodged in Auckland library scrapbooks) Herald Island was subject to an Old Land Claim (No. 1198) by businessman Thomas Weston, as trustee for the infant Ellen Maria Wood (claim actually for S A Wood):
"Samuel Wood purchased the island for his daughter then still an infant, on 28 September 1844, and made Thomas Weston her trustee ..." 
See the map above, showing "Maria Island".

The first house on Herald Island, along with its landing place. Detail from OLC 390.

"The land", the letter goes on, "was purchased from chiefs of the Ngati Matua [sic] tribe resident at Orakei near Auckland for the sum of £22 10s. The native deed was dated 12 days prior to the date on which Wood claimed to have purchased the land which led to some difficulties in the giving of a government grant. By 29 September 1849, Mr Wood had spent some £250 on building a cottage, laying out a garden, an orchard and several paddocks, sinking a well, erecting a landing place etc. Mr Wood indicated his willingness to purchase the grant at the cost of £1 per acre -- of the area claimed, 87 acres 3 roods 7 perches, only 20 acres were granted on 6 November 1849." He got the rest in 1853, for around £38. 

According to a chronology by Diana Masters and Margaret Edgcumbe, Samuel Allan Wood was born in Dublin in 1813, had arrived by 1836, and was in the Bay of Islands by 1837. He was one of the first purchasers at the Auckland land sale in 1841 and ran a number of hotels until the early 1850s, including the Royal Hotel on Princes Street, then took on a land agency business. He died in 1884.



In 1845, one John Weavell was resident on the island. Weavell is still very much an unknown. Was he involved with timber milling undertaken by Wood on his nearby land claim at Paremoremo alongside Lucas Creek (Wood was unsuccessful with that claim, receiving only £45 compensation -- OLC 316). Or was Weavell simply on the island, at the house which existed in 1845 on the north-eastern point, keeping up some show of residency for Wood's claim to it? That year of 1845 is where we see the earliest references appear to “Wood’s Island”, anyway. According to Archives New Zealand, Weavell applied for a bush licence for the island in 1845 (again, why? Because of nearby timber milling just across at Lucas Creek?) Two years later,  a “bush licence” or license to sell liquor, was reported to have been granted to someone on the island. (Advertisement, SC 16.12.1853, see below) 

As for little Ellen Maria, whose name was not to be fixed to the island after all (another Maria Island, in Tasmania, was at that stage a prison, so perhaps Wood had second thoughts) was to marry into the Kinder family, be accused of murdering her husband in Australia, and become the subject of scandal sheets and Victorian-era gossip in the middle of the century. See Diana Master's booklet,  Maria Ellen -- The Other Mrs Kinder (2008).

Somehow, the Western Leader in 1969 obtained information that “Henry Charles Holman, a timber merchant” milled on the island under lease from Wood from 1847 to 1850. The only Henry Charles Holman I’ve found is a man who lived in Whangarei, but visited Auckland around this time with his ideas on preparing NZ flax for export (New Zealander, 7.11.1849) I’d say that from 1845 through to the 1870s, anything could be said about what happened on the island. It’s a wonder there aren’t more legends attached to it than there are already.

Updated (29 January 2012): Margaret Edgcumbe sent through the following passages from The Journal of Elizabeth Holman published in Tales of Yesteryear: including Oral Histories of Northland, ed. Madge Malcolm, Kororareka Press, Russell, 1994, pp. 18 & 20

About this time a Mr F A Wood (sic) wanted to let Wood's Island (Pine Island), up Riverhead. My husband leased it for 3 years and we went up there to live. In a few months I became quite strong. At that time the island was prettily laid out. Mr Wood had spent a lot of money on it. He bought some land in Lucas Creek, opposite, which was covered with bush. My husband leased this along with the island. He also put men to cut this for firewood, and he built a big boat and used to take the wood to Auckland, sold it and made a lot of money out of it. All the people for the Wairoa, Kaipara, came to the head of the river and made a smoke signal to my husband to send his boat and take them to Auckland. This paid him well.
He also built a number of small boats and sold then very readily to people about there. And the Deborah, Capt. Wing's brig, came up to Wood Isle and my husband loaded him with sawn timber, which we got from Lucas Creek. The vessel took this cargo to Sydney. With one thing and another, we did not do badly ... 

Mrs Ford and her children often came to the island to visit me but I did not go to Auckland all the time I was on the island. I did not like boating and unless it was a fine day, it was too far for me to return the same day, and I did not like to stay anywhere but the Fords...... I felt very lonely when my husband was away at night, I felt nervous about people landing on the Island. There were a number of sawyers around about us, they were a drunken lot. A man killed his wife in a drunken spree just opposite us. I did not like my neighbours....   etc etc etc .....so we went back to Auckland to live.
As Captain Wing only had the Deborah to 1846, and the Holmans would have spent some time after evacuation from Whangarei in April 1845 in various homes in Auckland, it is likely that the period Mrs Holman referred to, from her recollections put together when she was quite elderly and in 1897, was from c.1846-1848, with the Holman's reinstalled at Whangarei by 1849. If Henry Holman had a boat, it may have been the Charles, plying between the Coromandel and Auckland, 1845-1846. Margaret advises that one of the Holman children was born on the island in 1847. Holman may have succeeded Weavell as lessee, all while the island was profitable as long as the Paremoremo timber held out and Wood was still able to contend for title there. Once the Holmans returned to Whangarei, there they stay. Their brief break in Auckland was missed from Holman's obituary.

THE LATE MR H. C. HOLMAN.
Mr Holman who passed away at his residence in Auckland, on the 21st inst., after a long and eventful life, was a very old colonist, being one of New Zealand's oldest pioneers. He arrived in the Bay of Islands on the 29th of January, 1840, with Governor Hobson and Lieut. Shortland, and held the position of Government architect for a number of years. At the time the natives in the Waikato threatened to destroy Auckland if Governor Hobson hung Makito (the first native hung in. New Zealand) for the murder of Mr White and family of the Bay of Island, Mr Holman had command of the fortifications in Mechanic's Bay, also took a prominent part in saving the lives of the inhabitants of Whangarei, during the Hone Heke War. Excepting the last six years of his life he had resided in Whangarei, and his last remains were brought up from Auckland by the Wellington, and interred at the cemetery in Kamo, according to a wish expressed by him before his death. Mr Holman leaves a widow, two sons, and two daughters; his eldest son Mr H. R. Holman, still resides at Kamo and the remainder of his family are well known to the oldest inhabitants of Whangarei district. 

Northern Advocate 9.12.1893
TO BE SOLD, OR LET, HERALD, OR WOOD'S ISLAND. 
THIS beautiful ISLAND is situated about 7½ miles above the town, and comprises 100 acres of almost level land, part of which has been laid down in grass. The resident, some six years ago, held a very profitable Bush License, and was much resorted to by pleasure parties, and invalids, as also by the farmers and sawyers of the neighbouring mainland. And there remains a long neglected Garden and Orchard, formed walks, &c. Its waters abound with fish, and its adjacent deep creeks, and timbered lands with pigeon and duck. To a retired person of means, it offers a delicious, and salubrious retreat, with delightful water and forest landscape;— an ample field for floral and botanical pursuits, and the never-failing resources of the fishing-rod and the fowling piece. It is eminently fitted for sheep farming, as it would need no fencing, and would be easily covered with English grasses, which thrive well. To a person of enterprise and tact, willing to hold a Bush License, it would be a speedy fortune. For plans and particulars, apply to S. A. Wood. 

(SC 16.12.1853)

Margaret Edgcumbe also found the following on the ENZB site, from Overland from Auckland to Wellington in 1853, by Lt. F W MacKenzie, p.3.
We took a boat to-day and went ten miles up the river. We landed on an island called Wood's Island  --a pretty spot, where there had been a garden. There were a great many rose trees in full blossom, and also an immense quantity of strawberry plants in flower. The place was also covered with fine English grass, and there were a great many wattle trees, but all in confusion. It had evidently been allowed to run to waste for years. The boatman told us the island belonged to a person of the name of Wood. He thought it had been given to a Native half-caste daughter of his by a Native chief, and although he wished to sell it, he could not. 
This garden may well have been the work of the Holman family.


Detail from chart, "Waitemata River from Kauri Point, Auckland Harbour to its sources", 1954, NZ Map 3909, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Wood sold the island to master mariner Hugh Clark for around £800, according to the Western Leader (4.11.1969). The only master mariner I’ve found around this period is a Captain Hugh Clark – who drowned in July 1857, along with his wife, daughter, and five of his crew (Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 5.9.1857) when his ship, the brigantine Helen, was wrecked off Pitt Island in the Chathams. Three young children were left behind in Hobart, Tasmania (Melbourne Argus, 14.9.1857). 

If so, this means Herald Island was probably leased out. Exactly who the lessees were is at this point unknown. But -- we do see the start to the island's reputation as an excursion destination.
A group of Aucklanders who didn’t quite make it to the opening of the Wade Presbyterian Church in May 1860, seem to have been early excursion visitors to Wood’s Island instead. A party of friends in town interested in the prosperity of the Wade district, had chartered the steamer Emu for the purpose of proceeding thither to take part in the services advertized for Monday, the 30th; but owing to the boisterousness of the weather the steamer could not venture outside the North Head. A considerable number, however, resolved on not being wholly baffled by the winds, engaged the steamer to go up the Waitemata as far as Wood's Island, where they spent the day very pleasantly, reserving their purpose to visit the Wade on another occasion. (May 4.) 
(SC 25.5.1860) 

A correspondent suggests that amongst the very many places near Auckland whose natural beauties point them cut for pleasant sites for picnic and pleasure parties none could be rendered more attractive than Wood's Island in the Waitemata, about seven miles; towards Riverhead. This beautiful little Island is, we believe, the property of Mr Stebbing, of Queen-street, who may perhaps think the suggestion which is now thrown out, worth consideration to improve its natural capabilities of a fruit orchard and pleasure ground, to vend milk, tea, coffee, lemonade, and non-intoxicating drinks there, and to make arrangements with the river steamers and other craft to call there at frequent intervals during the summer. That it would soon become a favourite resort of holiday-makers there can be no doubt whatever, and the public and the proprietor might be both mutually benefited by adopting some such course pointed out. All who know the locality are aware how well adapted and situated Wood's Island is for the purposes indicated. 

(AS 10.11.1873) 

(Update 19 February 2012: Margret Brands, Herald Island's current historian, pointed out to me two days ago that there is a family connection between Hugh Clark and Thomas Maxwell Henderson, of Henderson's Mill fame. According to Rootsweb, Hugh's wife Jane Jean Clark, nee McArtney, was the daughter of Ann Henderson of Dundee, who in turn was the daughter of James Henderson of Dundee, the father also of Thomas Henderson. So Jane was Thomas Henderson's niece. He must have felt the loss of his niece and her husband in 1857 as a blow.)

The Clark family’s agent F E Compton advertised that the island was for sale from 1872, for £150. (SC 17.9.1872) In May 1873,  Henry William Stebbing purchased the island by "agreement" for around £110 – a bargain price. The Stebbing family apparently came from Charleston and Mokihinui, according to one birth notice before the sale, and seems to have arrived in Auckland in 1868. Initially a storekeeper, Stebbing then became a publican, operating the Globe Hotel at Wakefield Street in 1868, then the Coach and Horses Hotel, Queen Street, from 1870. From 1873, he ran the Cosmopolitan Hotel, also in Queen Street, then the Eagle Hotel in Albert Street until September 1875. There followed a period of bankruptcy, from which he was discharged by June 1877. (AS 25.6.1877) By September 1879, he was mine host at the Oratia Hotel at Henderson (now the Falls Hotel). It looks like Henry W Stebbing died the following year. (AS 28.6.1889) 

Whoever he had as resident on the island, it seems to have lost its charm to visitors.
Yesterday the members of the various Masonic Lodges in Auckland had a water picnic …it was decided by the committee of management to abandon the trip to Motutapu, and turn the bows of the steamer up the harbour instead of down. This was clone, and the boat steamed up the Waitemata, until itarrived off Wood's Island, belonging to Mr H. Stebbing. Here the party landed, but the spot not being so attractive as could have been wished a move was proposed to the grounds of Mr Fordham, a gentleman living on the other side of the creek. Permission first being asked for and obtained the move was made, and the change proved most acceptable … 
 (AS 9.12.1873) 

In 1876, the Bank of New South Wales sold the island to Thomas Francois Gerard Constantine De Leau. (NA 8/225) One resident on the island around 1880 was identified in the newspapers as Mr Demoidrey, who assisted some whale hunters from Auckland with hospitality at his home there (AS 8 June 1880). De Leau himself was naturalised in 1871 (SC 30.11.1871), and was apparently a “French Shirt Manufacturer” based in Mount Street from c.1870, and corner Durham and Albert Streets from c.1875. He was president of the French Literary Association in Auckland in 1881. Ill-health led to him selling his shirt making business in 1888. He had died by May 1890. But, he seems to have had something to do with an immigration scheme aimed at attracting French speakers from Europe to Auckland province. 
The Provincial Council will be asked this evening to consider a message from his Honor the Superintendent in relation to the proposed settlement of people from Belgium, Alsace, and Lorraine, in the province of Auckland … A special settlement is not a heap of incongruous materials thrown together by chance, but the transplanting of a young shoot full of life and vigor. There is, however, one aspect of the subject which we think ought to weigh in this evening's debate. Mr De L'Eau, although occupying in Auckland a far from prominent position, is, we are informed, a man of liberal education and of good position in his native land. He is, it is certain, a man of considerable ingenuity and intelligence. Among other discoveries made by him is that of cheaply reducing the phormium tenax to a pulp suitable for the manufacture of all classes of paper, and by advices lately received by him from Sydney and Melbourne it is certain that, once properly introduced to the notice of paper manufacturers in Europe, this discovery will provide a new and profitable market for all the flax of New Zealand. He is at the present time in correspondence with scientific men in Europe as to more than one of our natural productions, concerning some of which he has received favorable replies … 
(AS 15.6.1874) 

The Provincial Council decided to back the scheme. (SC 29.5.1875) 

A sample of dried pulp, the product of New Zealand flax … manufactured by a process discovered and applied experimentally by Mr. De L'Eau of this city, lies before us … We undertake to say that if Mr. De L'Eau, with a couple of his bricks of white pulp in hand, were in London now, he could raise a company with any amount of money to supply the market. It is shown to be worth in England £25 to £30 per ton, and these figures are given guardedly, and merely on the evidence, not of a large quantity to test it fully, but of a very small sample, merely to show what it is … 

(SC 8.7.1875) 

Whatever he was doing on Herald Island -- De Leau didn't appreciate visitors. Once again, the excursionists were turned away.

Auckland Star, 24 December 1877

His plans must have fallen through, for De Leau had the island back up for sale in 1882. 

 Auckland Star, 20 March 1882

It was around this time that around 6000 shelter trees were planted all around the edge of the island's coastline. (Sales ad, AS 8.3.1889) 

WANTED, a Man, with or without family, to take charge of Wood's Island eight miles from Wharf.- Apply W. L. Roth, Victoria-street East.
(AS 22.5.1883) 

From now on, the island with its 6000 trees was called Pine Island -- and would remain so in the popular mind for the next 65 years. Even though, officially, it was Herald Island.

The most striking feature is the island formerly known as Wood’s Island, now known as Pine Island, which seems to block the entrance to the river, leaving it a matter of surmise to the visitor whether that forms the termination of the harbour, or whether it can be passed. This is a question which for us was soon set at rest, for our smart little yacht passing through a narrow entrance now rounded the end of the island, and were once again in wide waters heading up the river … 

The island contains an area of 100 acres, and a portion of it has for some time been under cultivation. There is a fair landing wharf alongside, and the steamers can come at low tide, and on proceeding up this we soon found ourselves in cultivated lands and an orchard, in which there were some splendid varieties of apples. It is needless to say that these were tested by the visitors. Proceeding further we found ourselves amongst newly-planted fruit, a fine crop of maize, and shelter trees of growth varying from three to one year of age. There was also a considerable crop of vines. These, I learned, had been planted for some years, and the vines had been fruitful. I can only say that such is not the case now, and it bears out my pre-conceived opinion that this place is not favourable to the growth of vines outdoors. So far as the apples were concerned, however, they were excellent, and there are some good pears, although it seemed to me that more attention might have been bestowed on this fruit. There were also some peach trees, but the fruit, like all others in the province for some years past, showed a marked deterioration. Proceeding about a quarter of a mile, we reached the homestead of Mr and Mrs Heims, pleasantly sheltered and surrounded by a belt of high tea-tree. Included were a poultry yard, with some choice fowls. 

We then took a tour of the island, but beyond what I have mentioned, and the fact that a double row of shelter trees has been placed around the island, there was nothing to specially attract attention. The soil, especially on the flat table land in the centre, seemed to be well-adapted for the growth of cereals. It was tea-tree land, and a recent fire which, unfortunately, in its progress had destroyed a number of shelter trees, laid it pretty bare. There are, however, numerous little bays, nooks and crannies in the island eminently adapted for picnic parties, and its admirable situation for marine residences should soon bring it into prominence. I was informed that since its last purchase for £450, £1000 has been offered for the island, and I can quite believe it, for the situation is unique. 

(NZH 16.3.1885) 

 Auckland Star 26 November 1877

In November 1887, the island up for private sale by George Cozens, after transfer from William Boylan. It was the start of a long process to find a buyer during the country's Long Depression -- but it was also the start of the main period of Pine Island summertime excursions and picnics.
Messrs Brown, Barrett, and Company entertained their employees on Saturday afternoon last, when they proceeded to Pine Island in the steamer Maori. The owners of the island kindly threw their house and ground open, and good sport was enjoyed by all. An excellent spread was provided by Messrs Brown and Geddes, and the party returned to town about 8 p.m. On the voyage down some singing and other amusements were indulged in, and cheers were given for Messrs Brown and Geddes (coupled with the names of Mesdames Brown and Geddes), for the liberal manner in which the entertainment had been carried out. Messrs Brown and Geddes responded, and the singing of "Auld Lang Syne" brought a very pleasant party to a conclusion. 
 (AS 9.1.1888) 

Messrs Tonks and Co. offer for tomorrow at noon the property known as Pine Island. It is in a splendid position and contains 100 acres, on the upper waters of the Waitemata. It is in close proximity to Auckland, being about an hour’s sail from the wharf. There is a good house, two orchards and garden, and about 6000 shelter trees. 

(AS 24.1.1888) 

The sales and auctions didn’t work. Cozens decided to try simply leasing the island for a period from February 1888. He tried selling it again in March 1889. Then William Boylan came back into the picture, offering to sell or lease the island in September 1889. (Ad, AS 14.9.1889) In June 1890, Cozens finally did sell the island, to builder Alexander George Lee (with the title in his wife Eliza’s name). 

According to a letter written in 1949 by Auckland City Library (lodged in their Auckland scrapbook collection), Lee “built a large house, introduced sheep and commenced a profitable business in giving permission for excursions to be run up to the Island.” 

 Auckland Star 22 December 1894

Indeed, in the early 1890s, the island became a popular spot by which to hold organised rowing races. But, there were also tragedies. 

BOY DROWNED AT PINE ISLAND. 

A sad bathing fatality occurred yesterday at Pine Island, which cast quite a gloom overall who had gone to that locality to spend the holiday. Amongst the excursionists by the Stella and Invincible were Mrs Reston (wife of Mr G S Reston, chief gaoler at Mount Eden Gaol) and two of her sons, one being James Mather, 16 years of age. After dinner the last mentioned, in company with two of the sons of Mr Smith, of the s.s. Clansman, went to bathe in the sea, but after he had swum out a little, he cried out that he was getting cramped, and he appeared to be sinking. The other lads not being able to render any assistance immediately raised an alarm, which brought some persons to the spot, unfortunately, however, too late to be of any use in preventing the lad from being drowned. The accident took place, it is stated, only a short distance from the shore. As soon as it became known, Mr Christian, mate of the Stella, and several others went to the spot and dived for a considerable time trying to recover the body, but without success. The vicinity of the accident was dragged for some hours, with the same result. About 7 o'clock, however, as the steamers were leaving, two young men cruising about in a boat, noticed the body lying on a ledge, washed in by the tide, and it was then brought along the beach to the steamer, and brought to town. On its arrival at the wharf, it was taken in the Ambulance waggon to Mr Reston's residence, pending the customary inquest. A singular coincidence in connection with yesterday's accident in that three years ago yesterday the deceased was in company with a son of Mr Flannery, chief warder at Mount Eden Gaol, when the accident occurred by which young Flannery was run over by a dray near Helensville and killed. The inquest on the body will be held tomorrow, commencing at 10 a.m. at the deceased's father's residence at Mount Eden. Two other inquests being held by the coroner to-day prevent it being held any earlier. 

(AS 27.12.1895) 

After the Lees took out three mortgages between 1890 and 1896, all three were discharged when the Lees sold the island to the Devonport Steam Ferry Company Ltd in 1897.


Group portrait of the teachers from Holy Trinity Church school, Devonport on a picnic at Pine Island (Herald Island), 1897, ref 4-3062, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

Other uses were thought of for the island, with a sudden downturn in excursions by the ferry company. For a brief time in 1898, it was proposed that the island could be used to store explosives. (AS 20.4.1898) L L McDermott, nightsoil contractor for Auckland City, made an appeal to the council for another depot – and suggested the island. He had “… made inquiries from the owners of Pine Island with a view of securing the same as a suitable site for a depot, with the result that the owners are agreeable to lease for a period of 10 years. If your council are favourably impressed with the above-mentioned site, the cost of erecting a new depot, including steaming plant and water carriage, would have to he considered.” (AS 3.10.1902) The council later declined. (AS 31.10.1902) 

 
Herald Island, 5 October 1902. Amalgamation of images 1-W1534 and 1-W1535, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

According to a Mr F Tubb, writing to the Auckland Library in 1949, a man named Bill Marsh “lived on the point facing Albany Creek in 1908.” 


In 1926, the Devonport Steam Ferry Company subdivided most of the island into 246 lots, with reserves. The following roads were dedicated in 1928 (NA 416/40): The Terrace, Coleman Avenue, Duncan Avenue, George Avenue, Holgate Avenue, Alison Avenue, and Ferry Parade.

The progress of development for the island after the Ferry Company sales was slow. The company laid out all the roads and named them (with associations back to the company and the Allison family of Devonport); shell footpaths were laid down (apparently all gone by 1970) and simple surface drains. Even so, according to resident P D Buffett (Western Leader, 17.12.1970), there were only two houses on the island when he and his wife bought their section in 1942 (price, possibly £30). Within two years though, more houses had spring up, along with a store. Buffett claimed he required a building permit for an old army hut he relocated to his section in 1945 (around £15), even though at the time there was no territorial authority governing Herald Island. 
“A number of other houses and baches were already on the island and none of them had been required to gain permits. However, the authorities somehow got wind of my building and I was asked to explain my actions. I was issued with a permit for the hut, which was already sited, and there was no further trouble. Funnily enough, other buildings still continued to go up without permits. The next permit was not issued until around 1950 when the Pine Island Boating Club was erected.” 
The island's first territorial authority of sorts may well have been a Pine Island Domain Board, apparently gazetted as being in control of part of the foreshore from 1949 (Note on DP 31409, LINZ records)

As at 1950, the island had around 100 permanent residents none of whom paid property rates, as Herald Island had not been included in the boundaries for the Waitemata County Council, all the way back to 1876. With no building permits required, development was “haphazard”, with no water reticulation, no electricity, and no drainage. They did have however two stores, a post office and a school, and a lot of community awareness. (AS 7.7.1950) They were finally incorporated into the Waitemata County 20 September 1953, with 198 residents. (“Boundary Changes Since Census 1926”, Auckland Scrapbook May 1966 -, pp. 160-161, Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries) Electricity was switched on for the islanders in 1955. (WL, 17.12.1970) The cable laying had to be done in the mud of the mangrove swamp separating the island from the mainland by workers from the Waitemata Electric Power Board, all pre-causeway; “a particularly muddy task” says the caption to an image of workers picking their way along the line of cable in Northwards March the Pylons (1975) p. 81. 

What started my journey into the background of Herald Island’s story was a couple of pages from the late Jan Grefstad’s unpublished Cinemas of Auckland (2000), where he wrote about “the only little island in the Upper Waitemata Harbour with its one small cinema.” This was the Harmony Theatre and Hall, made from a Nissen hut on property owned by Cyril and Hazel Thickpenny, owners of the Snug Harbour Store. It included a small projection room, with vestibule beneath, and took local residents six weeks to build. This was 1952, before electricity had come to the island, so the Thickpennys relied on a power generator – with the audience bringing along their own seats for the show from their homes. Thickpenny received an exhibitor’s licence a year and a half after opening. 
“Enthusiasm and excitement usually overcame any problems, like the time the full reel of the film fell off the projector and rolled down the floor, down the stairs and into the hall, startling the people in the back rows, a stream of film following the reel. Mr Gary Thickpenny, son of the proprietors, remembers with fondness a certain Mr Nitty Whiskers who was something of a hermit who lived on the island and loved cowboy movies. He always attended every one screened and usually sat on his own and talked or muttered to the actors on the screen.” 
The inside of the hall was decorated by artist Rix Carlton. In 1956, 100 dancers crowded the hall, moving to the music of Len Larigan’s Band. Hank Nabor purchased the hall and took over the licence in 1961, but the licence was cancelled in 1963, and the hall dismantled and relocated to a farm in Kumeu. Some of the Carlton murals ended up at Te Rangi Hiroa Park, Massey. (Grefstad, Vol II, pp. 147-148) 

Another hall, probably on the island's Domain, burned down before 1971. Residents complained that year of the sad state of The Terrace, the main access to Christmas Beach, while the Waitemata Council did say that they were working on things, and building a new $14,000 hall on the domain. Upgrading The Terrace though, they advised, would require a "substantial rise in rates." (WL, 4.5.1971)

The Herald Island Ratepayers Committee campaign long and hard for a causeway to be built connecting the island with the mainland. Eventually, in August 1957, came the news that they had been successful. A short causeway, a couple of hundred yards linking them with Hobsonville, was built for £9000. Their hope were at the time that there would be two causeways – the Hobsonville one, and the other linking them with Albany and the northern motorway. Only part of that dream was ever completed. State Highway 18, part of today’s ring route, spans the Waitemata River to the south of Herald Island. 
Situated only about 200 yards or so from the mainland and approached by a causeway wide enough for two cars to pass each other, Herald Island will now no doubt attract motorists as their goal for a pleasant Sunday afternoon drive … A road circumnavigates the island, which is still pleasantly wooded, and in summer its beaches will probably attract picnickers. 
 (AA Official Bulletin, July 1958) 


Proof that the island's community spirit is not yet faded into the background came when Herald Islanders campaigned alongside Whenuapai residents against Waitakere City Council's suggested airport idea for Whenuapai airbase in 2003 (WL 5.6.2003).

And lastly -- Herald Island and its shipping graveyard.
The shallow water round Pine Island covers the shattered hulls of another half-dozen or so old-timers. There lie the ship America, the barque Tobias, the barquentine Retriever, and the steamer Senator. Of the Senator it has often been said, that she carried more than her weight in gold from Sacramento down, to San Francisco in the old days. 
(EP 5.5.1934) 

The Herald Island Residents and Ratepayers Association lobbied for years for the removal of the wrecks off the coastline of the island. In 1991, the ARC finally did the clean-up.


 Western Leader 3 September 1991
A slave-trader and a former brothel are among the historic ships being dredged up from around Herald Island. Auckland Regional Council is "cleaning up" the graveyard of ships in the upper Waitemata Harbour. Some of the old wrecks dumped at the island have lain close to shore for more than 90 years ...

One of the wrecks is believed to be the Principe de Lucideo, built in 1876. She was probably dumped in the 1900s between Herald Island wharf and Christmas Beach. The barquentine Retriever is thought to lie in the same area. She was abandoned in the mid-Pacific in an insurance scam before being towed to Herald Island in the 1920s.

Mystery surrounds two of the most interesting ships off Christmas Beach. One may be the Columbia, also called the Showboat, which was a "den of iniquity" at Auckland's waterfront in the 1920s. She had three decks, one for gambling, one for drinking, one for "loose women". The Showboat was sunk by unknown saboteurs in the early 1930s then raided and dumped at Herald Island.

Contractors have found kauri timbers and copper sheathing during their clean up operation. this suggests the America also lies off Christmas Beach. She was an Oregon schooner built in 1868 and weighed a massive 1345 tons.

(Western Leader 3.9.1991)

I doubt that Herald Island's stories have ended, or that this piece of the Auckland Region will ever be quite like the rest. The island, I reckon, will always be unique in its own way.

From Auckland Council aerial, GIS website, 2008

22 comments:

  1. I just have loved this post and you've given me a few more ships to dig into and to add to the list I'm compiling of the vessels dumped up by Herald Island. Told my Mum just now about your journey into the history of the Island. And Link has been sent over to her to read.

    I still remember when they first opened the cause way over to the island. Our entire family was packed into a holden station wagon and on a Friday afternoon we went for a drive around. Good memory.

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  2. I was intrigued and had to look it up on a map. As soon as I saw the area, I remember once we were driving back from the north shore and my mother took a quick detour into this area. I'd never heard of it before nor had I been there. She remembered something about going to dances, when she and my father were "courting" (how quaint a term). Possibly she mentioned the Whenuapai airbase holding dances on Herald Island. My father was a purchasing officer in the Airforce there at the time. This would be some time between 1959-1964.

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  3. Thanks, Darian. That would have been just after the causeway was completed and opened, 10 May 1958.

    I have still not been there myself. There's a bus on weekdays, but I'd have to pick it up from Westgate in Massey, and its two-hourly. I'm hoping one of my friends with a car might be heading there at some point. Would love to post images of what's on the island today.

    More info has come through from Margaret Edgcumbe, so I'll be updating the post soon.

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  4. I'll have to check with her tomorrow when I call, and see how much of the story I got wrong this time.

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  5. Well, it seems like I may have got it wrong - After raising it with my mother she believes they were for the most part at a hall in Hobsonville. She's not ruling out Herald Island completely though.

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  6. Hello. I'm still working on my history of Herald Island. I enjoyed reading your work and for the new ideas you have given me. I did do a phone interview with Mr Grefstad on picture theatres; the Harmony Theatre had gone before we moved here in 1979.. If you want to visit, I live on Ferry Parade. Margret H. Brands, 09-4167452.

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  7. Stumbled on your article today and as yet have to read it in entirety. You are right about Henry Charles Holman who originally emigrated from a place called Topsham in Devon in UK. The Holmans were a very well known ship building family and there is a small museum in the town dedicated to them. Henry Charles had a very varied career in NZ which is explained very well in the 'All our yesteryears' book which is basically a reprint of Elizabeths memoirs. Henry's gravestone can be found in the Kamo graveyard. One of his sons William was the architect for amongst others the Rendalls building in K Rd and there are relatives by the same surname living in Coromandel, Taumaranui and the only junior male in Dunedin.

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  8. Thanks for that, Richard. The connections fascinate me -- there are other references to the architect member of the family elsewhere here at Timespanner.

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  9. Excellent article on the history of Herald Island. Hugh Clark is my husband's great great grandfather and we have written his story in "Clark Kiwi Clan", published in 2010. In it is noted that, "On 6 Nov 1849 and on 5 Nov 1853 two Crown Grants on Herald Island, County of Eden, Auckland, were conveyed to Hugh Clark for the sum of 800 pounds. The two sections were 20 acres and 80 acres, Conveyance no. 4929 & 7698. This property was bought from Samuel Woods. Captain Hugh Clark stated his intention to retire there. His son John Angus Clark sold the property to Henry Stubbings on 16 May 1873." After the Hurricane of July 1857 that sank his ship the "Helen" off Pitt Island, the 3 orphan Clark boys were brought to Nelson by their mother's sister Mary McArtney. The McArtney letters are in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Including one from Capt. Hugh Clark's wife Jean describing his purchase of Herald Island. One of his ships, the "Sisters" had been lost and while trying to purchase another vessel he wrote to Jean, "I bought some land up the River for there was none more to be had in town, (Auckland), there is so many people buying land just now."
    Very interesting to get more detail on Herald Island. Thank you!
    -Lisa Clark

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  10. Thank you very much for the additional info on your husband's family and their connection with the island, Lisa. Much appreciated! Always great seeing comments here which add a bit more to flesh out the story. Cheers!

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  11. Thanks very much for the very interesting blog you have put together! As a long time resident of Herald Island I have found it fascinating and it's lovely to daydream back to those days of 100 acres of bush , orchards and gardens! Herald Island is still a magical place........Dawn

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  12. Thanks for that, Dawn. It definitely is a great place. Cheers!

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  13. What an interesting article, my daughter and husband live on Herald Island in Duncan Rise, they love it there and when i visit i often take thier dog for a walk, everyone is friendly, and yes it has a holiday atmosphere. Last Christmas i went to the Christmas parade where all the neighbours gathered on the street corners to welcome the floats,classic cars and horses was a great time.

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  14. Wonderful read, thank you! I was just thinking how I'd really like to know the history of Herald Island and came across this. I moved here 3 years ago, my father has lived on the Island for about 15 years and we grew up in Whenuapai, so it's nice to finally know some background! My grandmother said in her day they used to have functions here and would boat over - something about alcohol being freely available!

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  15. I wouldn't be surprised! Thanks for your comment -- I'm glad this post has proved so popular. Cheers!

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  16. Thanks for a great bit of "filling in" I spent my adolescence on the Island in the '70s.We lived on Hollgate Ave on top of the hill and could see the 'ship wrecks' from our main room window.As you can imagine there was all kind of speculation amongst us 'Island Kidds' about those wrecks and the wispers of sunken tresure etc....So Its great to get some real info. I was back in NZ feb 2012 and the Island still felt the same but it was strange not to see the wreck skeletons at low tide. I remember the night the HALL burnt down as our section backed on to the Domain and we kids woke in the night to the sounds of the asbestos and timber exploding it seems. We had all been at the hall earlier that evening as it was 'Table Tennis' night...Tuesday? The Mister F Tubb mentioned earlier in your article was still there then, I still remember him catching the free bus to Henderson.
    My grandperants origanally bought the Hollgate Ave property in the '50s or 60's as a holiday Batch and Dad bought it from them and added extentions in 1970....Such a great place to grow up.So many rich memories filled with with so many 'characters' in the saftey and freedom so sadly lacking in a lot of kidds lives these days.
    Thanks again you have got my day off to a lovely start.

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  17. Just to add...My family Name was Bartle... My grand father latter bought a house on ferry parade just around the corner from Hollgate Ave

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  18. It must have been great seeing those wrecks out in the water. All part of the magic of the place. A pity they're gone. Thank you very much for commenting, Rose! Glad this has helped. :)

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  19. Nice article. Just to add that the original Te Kawerau a Maki name for the Island is 'Motu Pakihi'. The island was an ancestral home of Te Poataniwha the eponymous ancestor of the Te Kawerau hapu Ngati Poataniwha.

    Nice to read some of the history of this interesting island.

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  20. Thanks very much for that info, Edward -- very interesting! Cheers!

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  21. Hi, Lisa:
    Loved this post, and have hyperlinked to it in my blog.
    As you mentioned, the area around Herald Island was used as a dumping ground for unwanted ships. I spent some time sloshing through its muddy mangroves, trying to find the remains of the paddle steamer Tongariro, reputed to be there. It was eventually located about 5km south of the island - at odds with a few other local history articles.

    [http://yardyyardyyardy.blogspot.co.nz/2011/10/what-hulk-on-herald-island.html]

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