Friday, May 18, 2012

Another lady taxidermist in Auckland: Jane Greacen

Quite by chance the other day, I came upon Jane Greacen -- a lady engaged in her trade in the shadow of Partington's Windmill, apparently living in a red brick house from around 1905. Then, engaging in the fur and feather cleaning trade from 1908.

Auckland Star 29 February 1908

Then, in 1909, announcing that her maiden name was Yandle, and that she was a taxidermist (dealing with birds as a side to fur and feather preparation). Which intrigued me no end, considering the earlier blog post here on Jane Yandle, one of Auckland's earliest taxidermists.

Auckland Star 3 July 1909

William and Jane Yandle did have a daughter named Jane in 1871, according to the BDMs. Robert Greacen married Jane in 1898 -- however, the BDM transcription has her maiden name as "Gaudle". Perhaps Jane Yandle, by then separated from her husband since 1896, had taken her daughter into the trade, and Jane Greacen then took over her mother's business from 1908? Jane Yandle must have been getting on in years by then -- she died in 1915.

As it happened, Jane Greacen's life seemed to mirror that of her mother, unfortunately. Late April 1910, she shifted her premises to Avon Street, off Symonds Street (now part of St Martin's Lane). In 1911, domestic violence in her household was brought to the public's attention.
Jane Greacen brought a charge of alleged assault on the 16th inst. against her husband, Robert Greacen. She alleged her husband continually struck and kicked her, and she could not stand it any longer. The lady, who cleans feathers, renovates furs, etc., said that she had always kept herself, and could make up to £3 a week. Her husband lived in the same house, but would do little work. He slept half the day, and every two or three days he assaulted her. She wanted defendant bound over to keep the peace, and support her. The lady had no evidence to support her contention that defendant assaulted her, but she wanted to know whether she could get a separation order.

She had lived a terrible life with him for 10 years, she said. Defendant, who described himself as a wharf-labourer, said he came home on the night of the alleged assault, and had to make his own tea. His wife bullied him so much that he could not eat any food, and he went out for a time. He returned and went to bed, and about one o'clock got up, and found his wife with another man. His wife hit him on the head, and then fell down, and that was all the assault.

In dismissing the case his Worship said there was nothing before him on which he could act. He advised the woman to take advice before bringing any further action. Mrs. Greacen: Then are you going to let him come home and murder me?

Court Orderly: Silence! 
Auckland Star 1 July 1911

And later that same month ...

"My husband is continually drunk, and I have never seen him sober for the last month," complained Mrs Jane Greacen, who asked for a separation and maintenance order against her husband. Defendant made no appearance, and Mr Kettle remarked, "He seems to be a fit subject for Rotoroa."

The wife: "Yes, I think it would be a good thing for him."

Mr Kettle: "Well, there is a vacancy down there, I believe." (Laughter)

A separation order was made, and the defendant ordered to contribute £1 a week.

Auckland Star 14 July 1911

And still later that month ...

It was stated against Robt. Greacen, charged with drunkenness, that on Friday night, after his wife had obtained a separation order against him he went to the house and terrified his wife. She was so frightened that she wanted him put away. Accused, who was a second offender, was fined 10/ or 48 hours, and warned against worrying his wife.

Auckland Star 17 July 1911

 Robert Greacen breached a prohibition order in August 1911, and was fined £2.

Jane, meanwhile, had moved back to Mill Street by February 1912, then to Khyber Pass, just below Grafton Road, by March. Robert appeared yet again before the bench in April that year for breaching the prohibition order, saying that he had been drinking because he had "got hurt a day or two ago, and that caused him to go to the hotel to cure a feeling of pessimism." He was fined £4 this time. (Star, 26 April)

Jane appealed to the courts again.

At the Magistrate's Court this morning Mrs. Jane Greacen, who was represented by Mr. F. Stilling, applied for a separation order against her husband, Robert Greacen, on the ground that he had failed to maintain either herself or her children, that on a previous occasion she had obtained an order for separation and maintenance, but there was such difficulty in getting any money from Greacen, and so much scandal among the neighbours through the necessary invocation of police aid in the matter, that she took him back on his assurance that he would reform. Drink was his trouble, and after a brief spell of sobriety he took to it once more, and then left her. He was now earning good money on the wharf, and living at the Salvation Army Workmen's Home, but for two months she had not received a penny from him. From all she could hear, he was drinking again, though there was a prohibition order against him. She asked for no maintenance for herself, but only for the children. Mr. Kettle, S.M., suggested that the police should investigate Greacen's habits, and then made orders for separation and guardianship of the children, with maintenance at the rate of 15/ a week. 
 Auckland Star 22 November 1912

And, again in 1913 ...

Jane Greacen asked for a separation order against her husband, Robert Greacen, wharf labourer. She said she had obtained a similar order twelve months ago but as there was difficulty in getting money through the Court she had decided to take her husband back. The experiment was not a success, however, and for the last five weeks Greacen had been drinking more or less. less. In answer to Mr Kettle, S.M., the complainant admitted that the present would make the third separation she had obtained. His Worship in granting a separation and making an order for the payment of £1 a week expressed the hope that the present arrangement would be more lasting than two previous ones. 
 Auckland Star 13 June 1913

There is a Robert Greacen buried at Waikumete Cemetery in "SOLDIERS BURIAL A Row 3, Plot 2", died 1932 aged 61, a labourer (which would put him as being born c.1871, around Jane's age) but whether this is the same man, I don't know.

Jane Greacen, by the time she died (1940) a widow, is also on Waikumete's records, but with no grave. Her ashes were scattered.


  1. Thankfully now we have so many reality shows (and ironically no time for so-called "real life") that there isn't a need to have all our personal business splashed through the media. It seems that every little thing ended up in the papers in those days, from what I read!

  2. But, such makes family and social historians very happy ...

  3. Fab post and nice tie in with the earlier one Lisa :)