Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mt. Avon -- Avondale's new landmark

Thanks to the railway reconstruction work taking place right now -- Avondale has a new landmark: Mt. Avon, so dubbed by a good friend of mine, Duncan Macdonald, chairman of both the Avondale Community Board and Avondale Business Association. It's actually the largest of three new (and temporary) hills on the old 3 Guys site in the centre of the township, opposite the primary school. Mt. Avon is ballast, another is scoria and the third clay. The trucks between this site and the railway area run non-stop. Avondale township is now a haze of clay dust, covering roads, footpaths, shop fronts (and people if we don't move quick enough).

Could the below be a new postcard view for Avondale? "Come to Avondale, and see the ballast pyramids"? No? Oh, okay, then ...

New Avondale Railway Station earthworks

More photos today, this time of the southern end of the works at hand.

The view above is from the Chalmers Street crossing. The old clay bank is cut into (and this, folks, is the same seam of clay William Hunt used to kick-off his brickyard and potter works just to the south in 1882), likely for the second track to go in.

Compare with a shot from roughly the same position on 6 February this year. (below)

Then, I walked back up Chalmers street, and stepped onto the unformed part of Layard Street for the first time, and took a shot looking down at the St Judes crossing. (photo of this part of the road reserve from November this year at the link). Ontrack's contractors had used the old paper road as an accessway to the St Judes part of the construction -- to the chagrin of local residents who live alongside the once verdantly green reserve according to one who spoke to me today down in Avondale township). Deep vehicle tracks have been left, turning more than half the area into a bog. The residents there take enough pride in the reserve that they keep one strip mowed more often than the Council's mowing crews come out, so there's at least one manicured lawn section to the reserve.

Below, a close-up from distance of what's happening between St Judes Street and Crayford Street -- a general levelling and cutting into the clay bank to widen the line for the double track.

And what we have today as the crossing over the railway lines at Crayford Street -- but it is no longer a crossing (for the moment) while work continues. Bit of a pain in the rear having to detour either via Rosebank Road or St Judes Street to get to the central township area and the buses, but -- it has to be done.

And this, folks, is where the new station will ultimately be located. The "before" shot from late September this year is at the bottom.

New Year's Eve - 1858 & 1908


It is a good old custom to wish friends at the close of the old, a "happy new year" and in a young country like this, where year by year changes so important occur, the wish is both significant and suggestive. We wish this cordially to our old follow colonists, who long have sojoured and long intend to sojourn amongst us ; but no less cordially do we give those Stammverwandten who are visiting us, and who we only fear will leave us too soon, nach alt-vaterlœndischer Weise a hearty prosit neu Jahr.
(Southern Cross, 31 December 1858)


Oh, whither away, old year, old year,
So swift do thy footsteps flee;
Wilt thou not wait till the paling flowers
Of the autumn hours go with thee ?

What tho' the flowers, with their thousand dyes,
Earth's bosom still festoon o'er,
I may not linger for these, but haste
To my kin that have gone before.

Adown the waters of time I sweep,
Those waters for aye that flow ;
To the scenes of my youth I return no more,
I have gone where thou must go.

What hast thou left, old year, old year,
Mementoes that yet may be ;
Oh, what that oft in the after time
May speak to our hearts of thee ?

I have left a story to teach thy soul
How the sand in thy glass doth run —
How each year, as it cometh, away shall speed
As quickly as I have done.

Whence dost thou come, new year, new year,
With thy joyous smiles that greet,
With the ripe ear binding thy tresses brown,
And thy breath with the fresh fruits sweet ?

From the Mighty, the Gracious Hand I come,
From whence flows every good,
Whose seasons unswervingly round have rolled
Since the pillars of earth first stood.

What hast thou brought, new year, new year,
What gift on thy glittering wing ?
Heaven's richest blessings around thy steps,
Wherever they roam, I fling.

I have bow'd the plumes of the trees with wealth,
Made golden each mead and field ;
Thy heart is cheer'd and thy home made glad
With the fatness the earth doth yield.

With sunshine and dew I come, I come,
Of goodness a tale to bear ;
Then let, oh, mortal, the firstling fruits
Of thy spirit be praise and prayer.
(Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 1 January 1859)



With the perfection of the telegraphic system, which gathers its daily news from every part of the globe, the years appear to become more and more destitute of striking "landmarks." In the days when our fathers were young the receipt of a mail containing important information made a strong impression on the memory. Nowadays, be a crisis ever so far-reaching, so much detail comes to hand that the real principles involved are not infrequently obscured, and to a corresponding degree the force of the incident is lost. Thus, it happens that in mentally reviewing the past twelve months a year of great political and scientific significance may appear more or less colorless.

The year was entered upon with the commercial world shaken to its foundations by the American panic and the back-wash of that great money smash reached New Zealand at a later date. Whatever ill effects accrued it is pleasing to notice that they are practically removed now. There has been a recovery from the big drop in the price of wool and it fortunately happened that contemporaneously with the slump in wool and hemp, the values of butter and cheese rose to a high point of' profit and were splendidly maintained.

Throughout the year there has been a clatter of scabbards and the world has stood on the brink of calamitous war. Morocco (more especially over the Casablanca affair) and the Balkans, have been perilous storm-centres. In the former country a sanguinary and prolonged struggle has ended in Abdul Aziz surrendering his sceptre to his brother, Mulai Hafid. . The Moroccan embroglio was not merely a local affair; it held the elements which might at any moment have bathed Europe in blood. The clash between America and Japan for a long time threatened to end in an appeal to arms. First there was the alarm caused by the report in January of a new distribution of the Japanese fleet which was followed by the transference of the United States navy from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean. Happily the clouds cleared away and now the great white fleet is making a triumphal return from what proved to be a mission of peace. Persia and Turkey have both passed through political crises of the first importance, while Venezuela, Hayti, Brazil, and other of the smaller republics have been engaged in sword sharpening. More serious than all other events likely to produce international complications was the action of Austria in annexing Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bulgaria's bid for independence. What the outcome of the situation will be cannot even now be indicated. But if danger threatens on some hands it is gratifying to remember that the foreign policy of the Imperial Government has been to strengthen friendship with France, Japan, and America, and that the King's visit to the Czar hastened the rapprochement with Russia. The ebullitions of the German Kaiser have kept the European atmosphere a-simmer but the outbursts have apparently harmed their author more than anybody else. The "danger incidental to the profession" has been emphasised by the assassination of the King and Crown Prince of Portugal and the attempts upon the lives of the King of Spain, the Shah of Persia, and the Sultan of Turkey. In India cold steel and explosives have been used as argument, and sedition has been preached from the house-tops.

At the close of the year, however, the prospects have brightened very considerably and influential natives have thrown in their lot on the side of reform and for the maintenance of law and order. The industrial world has borne witness that publicists and political economists have still before them some giant problems. Coming more directly, to New Zealand we must write 1908 down as a fat year. In January bush fires swept Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Manawatu, and parts of Southern Taranaki. but the immediateness is said to have ended in a substantial gain now. With the brighter outlook for wool and the record out-put of dairy produce the present benefits and future prospects are altogether satisfying. The country has passed through a general election and although the Government has been weakened we think it will be agreed that Parliament itself has been greatly strengthened. On the whole New Zealanders may enter upon the coming year with cheerful confidence. With a period of prosperity just ended and the outlook so bright there is justification for the pleasure we take in wishing our readers — A HAPPY NEW YEAR.
(Hawera & Normanby Star, 31 December 1908)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Carder Brothers' Waitemata Potteries, Hobsonville, 1872

An article from the Evening Star of 18 December 1872, which I've put up on Scribd.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Founders of the Avondale Jockey Club: The Philanthropist

Image: Auckland Star, 3 January 1933

You may think it quite odd that I call this post about Moss Davis “philanthropist” instead of “brewery owner” or “merchant”, but aside from the neat tying in with the previous two posts, The Promoter and The Publican with the same letter P – Moss Davis in death was known and lauded more in obituary for his philanthropy than any other facet of his career.

In terms of the Avondale Jockey Club's origins, he was the silent partner behind the two more public figures of Harry Hayr and Michael Foley. He knew both of them, considered them friends, and when it came to putting two players in a business deal in the right place at the right time, Davis knew exactly what he was doing. With the financial backing of Hancock & Co, of which he was effectively managing director in the increasing absence of the then-owner, Samuel Jagger, he first saw detailed agreements of trade made with John Murdock, the last publican in Palmer’s ill-fated hotel which burned to the ground in April 1888, then arranged the purchase of the hotel and valuable adjacent paddocks from Robert Dakin, and the building of a finer, grander brick hotel. Come 1889, all that was needed to give the Avondale Hotel an edge over, say, those at New Lynn or Henderson was to set up a fine and enviable racecourse – and another market for his company’s wares. This, with Hayr and Foley, he achieved in 1890.

Moss Davis was born in London on 3 April 1847, but taken as an infant with his parents to Australia, then returning to London with them in 1855. He returned to Sydney in 1861, and came out to New Zealand on the brig Wild Wave, landing at Wellington.

He then headed to Lyttleton, joining his uncle who was a merchant there. The already well-travelled Davis returned to Australia in 1870 to marry his wife in 1871, before crossing the Tasman again to live in Nelson, and then Auckland. After taking over his father’s own merchant business, he was able to retire in comfort by the age of 36 – but, instead, he joined the firm of Hancock & Co in 1885.

Image: Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Vol II

The firm was an old one, founded originally in 1859 when Thomas Hancock purchased the Captain Cook Inn in Khyber Pass Road from Thomas Roche. The site had a plentiful supply of spring water, with which Hancock made his brews. A substantial brewery was built in 1862, and in 1868 Hancock took his son-in-law Samuel Jagger in partnership. Hancock retired in 1876, and sold his interest completely over to Jagger. Hancock died in 1885, Moss Davis entered the picture, and became a partner. Then Jagger died in 1890, Moss Davis completed a buy-out of Jagger’s shares from Charles Spooner, the executor of Jagger’s estate, and Hancock & Co was entirely in Davis family ownership.

Davis left New Zealand to live permanently in England in 1910, but every so often he’d come back to visit, and also every so often he’d buy up cultural and artistic treasures and ship them back to Auckland as gifts to her citizens. The Auckland Art Gallery apparently abounds with the proof of his generosity. He died in London , 2 January 1933.

His son Eliot, in his memoir A Link With The Past, recalls how his father died.
It so happened that it was my turn to be in London with him when he passed away on the 2nd of January, 1933. All the details of his illness are too harrowing for me to recount. I would just like to mention the fact that I was with him on the afternoon of the 10th of November, when he was taken ill. He had an appointment with his tailor at 4 p.m. He left at 3 p.m. to go to his hairdresser in Bond Street. He had a haircut and shave every Friday afternoon for as long as I can remember. While having his haircut on this occasion he was also being manicured. As he got out of the chair he turned around in his usual jocular manner, and said to the girl, “that ought to fetch them.” He hardly had his hat on when he was seized with severe pains and groaned in agony. With assistance I got him into the car which was outside and we reached home. Evans, the butler, and I carried him upstairs and got him into bed, where he suffered intense pain for seven weeks. We had all the medical advice possible, and Dr. Horder, one of London’s best physicians, told me after his first visit that afternoon, that it would be as much as we could expect for him to survive the night. Other doctors agreed, but, as I have said, he lived for seven weeks after that … He was just 86 years of age when he passed away.
The Cyclopedia of New Zealand had this to say in 1902:
Mr. Moss Davis … is one of Auckland’s most popular and highly-esteemed citizens. Though he is a prominent figure in business circles, he has not yet taken any active part in public life. He is an assiduous worker, and, having the responsibilities of a large concern on his shoulders, is necessarily a very busy man. Mr. Davis has assisted in improving the hotels in Auckland, and has also done much to raise the status of the trade by getting a good class of licensed victuallers into the houses, and securing a close observance of the licensing laws. He is assisted in the management of the business by two of his sons, Messrs Ernest and Eliot Davis, both of whom are popular in business circles.

Founders of the Avondale Jockey Club: The Publican

Michael Foley comes into the picture as effectively an employee of Hancock & Co, and therefore closely associated with its managing director, Moss Davis. Second publican of the new (1888) Avondale Hotel (after, briefly, Daniel Arkell), Foley was to be a signatory to land transfers from both Hancock & Co (1899) and Charles Burke's estate (1904) which saw the still-new Avondale Jockey Club gain much of its land for the racecourse. He was overshadowed, I feel, by the more flamboyant Harry Hayr. Still, he had four mentions in Eliot R. Davis' memoirs, A Link With the Past:
Mick Foley of the Avondale Hotel was the first man to form the Avondale Jockey Club. He was a great friend of the Dad [Moss Davis] and myself. I remember him teaching me to inhale when smoking cigarettes. He was a really good sort and after a Prohibition vote had closed the Avondale Hotel we sold him the Tuakau Hotel, very much to his advantage.
From his obituary, NZ Herald, 3 October 1922:
Mr. Michael Foley, who died on Sunday evening at his residence, Ardmore Road, at the age of 68, was well known throughout New Zealand. For some time he was the licensee of the old Avondale Hotel, and in more recent years of the Tuakau Hotel. Mr. Foley, who retired from business some years ago, was formerly a member of the New Zealand Armed Constbulary, and was present at the taking of Parihaka in 1881. He took an active interest in all forms of sport, excelling in his earlier days at tennis and cricket. He was the founder of the Avondale Jockey Club, and was its president at the time of his death. He also helped to found the Northern Boxing Association, of which he was one of the first presidents. Mr. Foley is survived by his widow and nine children.
He was buried, after Requiem Mass at Sacred Heart Church, at Waikaraka Cemetery.

Back in the late 1990s, when a large part of the former racecourse land was sold off and subdivided, a couple of new roads were formed. A member of the local community board at the time asked me for some options to forward to Auckland City Council for names for the new roads at the end of Wingate Street, and amongst the list I provided, with highest rank as far as associations with the racecourse was concerned, was Michael Foley. Michael Foley Place was formally so-named in 1998.

I didn't realise then that Foley had dual associations with both the New Zealand Armed Constabulary and what was basically the last major event of the Land Wars, the attack on Parihaka. We've since lost the names of other streets which had associations back to the Taranaki and Waikato wars of the 1860s (Cracroft, Blake, Browne, etc.) -- how odd that in 1998, we unknowingly name a street after a veteran from the 1880s conflict.

Updated: 1 June 2011.

Founders of the Avondale Jockey Club: The Promoter

Henry Henwood Hayr was born in Auckland 18 June 1859, his father probably James Henry Hayr, a farmer and stockowner on the isthmus. He was educated at Auckland College, and by the time he was 19 he was serving on the Union Steamship Company’s ship Taranaki when it struck off the coast of Karewa Island between Katikati and Tauranga, and sank (without loss of life) on 29 November 1878. He was next on the Wanaka as a purser in 1879. In 1881, he returned to Auckland, and then took up a position early in 1882 as a freight clerk on the RMS Zealandia, a name he’d use later in his career for his own land-based enterprises. He wasn’t with the RMS Zealandia long – in December 1882, he opened up his goods agency business in High Street, importing such items as cigars and lager, working in conjunction with W. J. Cawkwell of the Auckland Distillery. He called his firm the Zealandia Company, and was under this name that he advertised the taking of bets on the 1883 Melbourne Cup.

Alsoin 1883, he had a brief and loose association with the Avondale Athletic Sports Day, as one of the receivers of entries for the day.

By 1885, he added the business of tourist agent to his repertoire, organising trips to the Hot Lakes District. Another client, the American Burlington Railway Company, employed him to tout for rail trips across America.

In August, he had a major coup in terms of his own self-promotion – noted companies of the day, such as Hellabys, Masefield & Sons of the Kaipara, Bycroft & Co, and E. Levett Stonemasons employed him to be their agent at the Wellington Exhibition. On his company’s own behalf, he displayed honey combs and “honey extracting machinery.” His name appeared everywhere in the press. He had another interesting American client as well:
The Auckland firm of Hayr & Co., acting as agents for the maker, Professor Merritt Gally, of New York, have just unpacked a novelty in the shape of an “Orchestrone," a musical instrument of attractive appearance, in form and tone like an American organ. There are no keys to the instrument, and a child can play it, if sufficiently grown to reach the wind pedals. A handle is then turned, as in a barrel organ, and this causes a roll of perforated parchment to pass over the mouths of the reeds, which are then kept closed or opened according to the perforations, which represent the notes of music. It is a superior invention of its kind, and a novelty out here in that it has both handle and pedals. Either sacred or secular music can be performed upon it by changing the perforated sheets, and any music required can be obtained from the depot in New York on application. As Mr. Hayr, the representative of the firm here, intends to perform on the orchestrone, so as to display its qualities to visitors, it may confidently be asserted that the exhibit will receive a considerable share of public attention.
(Evening Post, 18 August 1885)

From 1888, Hayr re-entered into the field of the Sport of Kings, buying and then racing horses at venues such as Ellerslie. In January 1889, he was appointed secretary of Auckland Tattersall’s Club. Hunting dogs were also an interest – in May 1889 he became Secretary of the Auckland Coursing Club, a move which later (for a time) would bring the Auckland Plumpton Course to Avondale.

In June 1889, he was involved with his Zealandia cinder track for holding athletic matches at Mechanics Bay on Stanley Street. This venture didn’t seem to respond to his golden touch as well as others had, and seems to have been abandoned sometime after September that year. In October however, he became secretary of the Pakuranga Hunt Club races (they were later able to give him an honorarium of 10 guineas).

At some point, he must have been approached by those planning a new racecourse in Auckland, at Avondale. He was friends with Moss Davis, the director of Hancock & Co brewery, so this may have been how he became involved. He was appointed secretary, as he would be for a number of clubs in the region, and remained as Secretary until his death. He had purchased the printing press of Cecil Gardner & Co, and started to crank out the Sporting Review from 1890-1894 (selling it in turn to the Observer), so his opportunities to promote racing meetings and associated advertising increased.

In 1897, he ceased his horse-owning interests to go in for a more profitable enterprise – totalisator operation. His company H. Hayr & Co was to become a dominant force over much of the North Island, even after 1907 when new morals-based legislation limiting the numbers of totalisators on racecourses came into effect, and he was obliged in 1913 to leave the business on the Avondale racecourse to his son Henry James to manage (although on other racecourses where he wasn’t a secretary as well, he still ran the equipment and managed the staff. Still, from 1900 the Avondale Jockey Club paid him £150 honorarium.

He died two days short of his 64th birthday at his home in Ponsonby, and was buried at Waikaraka Cemetery. Among his proud possessions up to his death was a trophy he had won for a mile race at Robert Graham’s Ellerslie Gardens in 1877. Another may have been a certain gold watch:
If you want to know the time, don't ask but just step round the corner and gently breathe your inquiry into the shell-like aural appendage of Harry Hayr. For Harry has lately come into the possession of a gold watch, of which he is pardonably proud. The said watch was presented to him by a very large number of local sports, who have always looked upon the genial and debonair Mr. Hayr as their particular guide, philosopher and friend. And this is no empty phrase, for Mr. Hayr has always been an indefatigable worker in the interests of true and clean sport. Moreover, he is the soul of hospitality, as many a visiting sportsman to this city has found. It was in order to mark, in some tangible form, their appreciation of his many sterling qualities, that Mr. Hayr's friends, whose name is legion, last Friday mysteriously invited him to step round as far as Tom Markwick's Queen's Ferry Hotel. And Mr. Hayr, marveling muchly at the summons, complied with the request.

At the Ferry he found a mighty multitude of beaming faces awaiting him. The only trouble was that the available space was insufficient to accommodate all the throng that coveted participation in the proceeding. However, they crowded in as many as the room would hold. Mr. Hayr was still wondering what all these jubilant symptoms portended, when Mr. H. T. Gorrie enlightened him per medium of a neat piece of oratory. Mr. Gorrie's remarks cannot be reproduced in toto, but the gist of them was that they were proud of their Harry H. Hayr, and that, as an outward and visible sign of their inward and spiritual pride, they desired him to accept a gold watch, bearing the inscription:

“Presented to Harry H. Hayr by his Friends. October 29, 1909."

After the presentation, Mr. Hayr's health was drunk with an enthusiasm that caused passing pedestrians in Queen-street to wonder whether Mr. Wragg was unpacking a consignment of extra strong earthquakes in Vulcan Lane.
There were other orators who held forth in style ecstatic and eulogistic. Among them were Messrs Bob Duder, R. A. Bodle, " Charlie " Mark, F. D. Yonge, and, of course, the ubiquitous Mr. C. Brockway-Rogers. No shivoo would be complete unless it was blessed with the benign presence of Mr. Brockway- Rogers. Mr. Hayr had been so completely taken by surprise, and so overwhelmed by the prevailing enthusiasm, that he experienced some difficulty in returning thanks. But the donors of the gift weren't looking for any thanks. They reckoned that they were under obligations to Mr. Hayr that no number of auriferous "tickers " could repay. But, under the circumstances, Mr. Hayr replied eloquently enough for any thing. Several other toasts were honoured with acclamation and musical additions, and the function was marked throughout with the utmost enthusiasm. So, if you want to bask in Harry's sweet smile, ask him the time.
(Observer, 6 November 1909)

Offending George Hunt

I spotted the following from the Evening Star of 6 July 1876, and wondered what lay behind George Hunt's offended ire:
We regret that our reporter made an error in stating Mr. Hunt, of Albertland, to be an "hotel-keeper" instead of an "undertaker"; but it is difficult sometimes to distinguish words of witnesses in the Supreme Court. Mr. Hunt writes:- "Sir, -- Had I been a Hunter, as you named me in your last night's issue, I should have hunted you up last night, and perhaps upset the manufacture of your next leader. The idea of calling a settler from Albertland an hotel-keeper is a monstrous slander. You might have gone a step lower, and called me an editor. Bad enough to be summoned to town by a miserable Government without funds, without being slandered. -- TRY AGAIN."
Actually, the mistake was a rather silly one to make. Right from 1863, when the Albertland settlement was first established (and Thomas George Hunt himself arrived at the beginning, it would appear, on board the Matilda Wattenbach on 8 September 1862), it was noted as being pro-temperance, with nary a hotel to be had.

George Hunt appears to have been a man of decidedly and strictly non-conformist principles. Even at the trial, he had problems with swearing an oath, having "conscientious scruples", and made an affirmation instead. The trial referred to was that of gum-digger Jeremiah Payne who got into a heated argument on 3 June 1876 with fellow digger John Hewson, who struck Payne in the face. Payne retaliated by sticking his gum-spear into Hewson's left side. Hunt was called to Hewson's whare to help do something about the wound (an undertaker probably as close to a doctor as could be found at that point), and outside the whare made Payne give up the gum-spear weapon.

I can't find any further mention of George Hunt, but if anyone out there has further information, I'd love to hear it.

The (first) Whau Hotel

Updated 6 May 2021.

Avondale’s hotels have proved confusing to many historians who have attempted to unravel the tangle of contemporary news reports, photographs, land history and local traditions. Peter Buffet in writing about the hotels thought Palmer had rebuilt his new hotel in 1873 out of brick, and described the photo we have of his wooden hotel as being that of the earlier one at Rosebank and Great North Roads (today, we know this photo is of Palmer’s 1873 hotel, because the early Avondale School is visible in the distance). Challenge of the Whau in 1994 repeated Buffet’s idea of an early brick hotel. While I did discover the 1888 fire which destroyed James Palmer’s hotel built in 1873 (leading to the building of the brick hotel known later as a post office and the Avoncourt until it was demolished in 1967), I was confused and perplexed by the associations between Palmer, his first hotel which burnt down in December 1872, and the earlier Whau Hotel built by John and Charles Priestley in 1862. I had thought that there had been four hotels – but, this wasn’t correct. There were three, and the hotel destroyed by fire in 1872 was the Priestley hotel from more than 10 years before. I should have paid more heed to an unknown writer who recorded what he or she could recall of the early days of Avondale’s history, called simply “Events in the Early History of Avondale”.
“The first hotel – a wooden building – was built in the early sixties at the corner of Great North Road and Rosebank Roads. It was destroyed by fire early in the seventies. The license was then transferred to a building at the corner where the present post office stands. A new hotel was afterwards built also of wood and that building was burnt down … An hotel was then erected in brick …”
This is almost spot-on. The Priestleys and their own interesting background are covered in another post. They purchased the site at the corner of Rosebank and Great North Roads in July 1861, and in April 1862 obtained a bush license for their two-storey, 10-roomed hotel, complete with stabling, paddocks and outhouses, all rooms painted and papered, and complete with kitchen, bar and meeting room. No images of this, the first hotel in the district, have yet been found, but it must have been quite a landmark. Only the Presbyterian Church at the five-roads intersection would have rivalled it, but no other buildings in the central area of Avondale at the time are known to have been so large. Mortgage problems led the Priestleys to sell the hotel and surrounding 4 acres to Samuel John Edmunds in October 1863. He was an Auckland merchant and shipping agent who had been in the colony since c.1833, so he testified in 1865. The Priestleys still held the hotel’s license, however, and appear to have employed temporary managers: Henry Denyer around October 1863, and possibly someone called George Saunders early in 1864. Finally in March 1864, the license was transferred to James Nugent Copland. He remained the licensee until sometime between June and December 1865. Meantime, however, Edmunds sold the property to one David Henderson in May 1864. At the time, however, David Henderson was the proprietor of the Prince Alfred Hotel.

Despite the fact that Copland had long left to run the Waitemata Hotel, Henderson only appears in Whau district references from November 1866, and even then only relinquishes his license for the Prince Alfred to one Caroline North the following month. Perhaps he followed the Priestleys’ example of temporary managers, but that remains unclear. From May 1866, the main mortgage on the hotel site was in default. David Henderson probably called for help to Thomas Henderson, of Henderson & MacFarlane, the owner of the saw mills which were to give the township of Henderson out in West Auckland its name. While David Henderson had purchased the site in May 1864, it is Thomas who kept the wolves at bay by making a payment to the sheriff’s bailiff and bankrupt estate assignee Henry Vernon. The mortgage, however, ground on. In September 1868, another rescuer, this time hotelier James Palmer who paid the full principle of the mortgage -- £500 – to Auckland merchant and share-broker John Peter du Moulin. David Henderson remained as licensee under Palmer’s ownership, somehow. During 1869, however, he appears to have gone into the flax milling trade, backed up again by Henderson & MacFarlane. Perhaps he also employed temporary managers, for it wasn’t until March 1870 that his license was transferred to Edward Thornton (it is likely Thornton had already arrived – a child of his was born at the hotel in February). Thornton moved on to the Royal George Hotel in Newmarket from July 1871 – there, he tried to commit suicide by slashing his throat in a fit of delirium tremens, and was sentenced to hard labour for six months. We now come to what was a broken link in the story, and here is where I made the wrong assumption about the fate of Priestley’s hotel.

Edward Thornton applied in June 1871 to transfer his license from himself to James Poppleton. (NZ Herald, 8 June 1871) Poppleton appears in the story in April 1872, his license renewed. I had thought that perhaps Palmer, who had purchased the other site in 1866, at the corner of today’s Wingate Street and Great North Road, had finally decided to build his own hotel as the other was fading. But, Thornton clearly transferred his license, so Poppleton took over the old hotel built for the Priestleys. This was the license renewed a year later, and the first hotel was the one which burned down in December 1872. While the Southern Cross confused Palmer’s mortgage repayment investment as “costs towards building the hotel”, the NZ Herald clearly termed the hotel as “old”, compared to the 1873 or “new” hotel. Later that year, Palmer sold the site of the first hotel to a local settler, William Henry Harper.

Why, if he owned such a prime site as that of the second hotel, did Palmer wait until 1873 to build there? One reason is probably space. In 1866, all he had for his hotel site. If he intended it to be so (and there’s no clues either for or against), two other sections he purchased from Adam through John Buchanan (who was pro-temperance and anti-hotels) was quite a distance down the unformed Wingate Street – inconvenient for travellers. A 7 ¾ acre paddock lay alongside his purchase – but this had been sold before the Windsor Estate official sales to Rev. Andrew Anderson of the Presbyterian Church. I have wondered why, as Rev. Anderson lived in a house on another section of land which would, from 1869, become part of the local school property. One answer could be investment opportunity for Rev Anderson, but another may have been to block the establishment of a paddock area which could serve a hotel.

If that was the case, unfortunately for Buchanan Rev Anderson left the colony in 1867. His property went into default of mortgage – and Palmer snapped the property up, c.1869-1872. Certainly, by 1875 when Palmer leased his new hotel to Henry Leon, the large paddock was part of the agreement. That purchase ensured not only the existence of Palmer’s hotel from 1873 until it burned in 1888, but was also a cornerstone for the establishment in 1890 of the Avondale racecourse (the paddock is today the 1600m straight, behind a 1957 retail development, carpark and the Avondale Central Reserve fronting Great North Road). If transferring the paddock to a minister of the Presbyterian Church was part of a greater plan by pro-temperance John Buchanan – it led, ultimately, to the establishment of a long-lasting hotel, and even longer-lasting racecourse, complete with gambling.

Buchanan can’t have been amused.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ornament and pillar box

Outside Downtown shopping centre in the city just before the climax of all that Yuletide stuff, I spied the above. Now, I'm not a very Christmassy person myself, but I thought I'd include it because, well -- a big red ornament in the middle of the pavement is interesting (and a visible sign of my rates money at work, I suppose) plus: Santa's mailbox in front. Actually, this looks just like a mock-up Edwardian pillar box type of postbox. Looks much more interesting than the square things on a pole we have today.

More on early postboxes at Wiki.

Old Avondale Railway Station -- no more

No more platform, no more rails -- all pulled up and demolished over Christmas. For the first time probably since 1880, Avondale is cut off from the Auckland rail network.

Centre left are the remains, until removed like the rest, of the old walkway down to the now non-existent platform.

A shot of the debris. That was probably the last bit of the original 1913 railway bridge to go.

No more pedestrian access to the railway lines from the bridge. New metal marks where we used to head down a rough-tarsealed wooden walkway to a windswept platform.

Meanwhile, work is continuing apace on the Trent Street platform (city bound). Tait Street is to follow, and both are supposed to be complete by 19th January when the Western Line reopens for service, tracks relaid and all.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Cows of Hokitika

I spotted the following today in a 23 December 1872 edition of the Evening Star. Couldn't resist it, just couldn't. Some places have problems with flies, others with possums: for Hokitika, it was cows. If cartoonist Gary Larsen had been around in the mid 19th century, he'd have had a field day with this ...

No one (says the Hokitika Star) will deny that cows, when confined to their proper sphere of action, are most useful animals, and a majority of our readers will very probably concede that they are very pleasant objects to contemplate -- in a picture; but when a legion of these interesting animals degenerate into "stray cattle", their glory has departed, and they immediately become a nuisance and a grievance, things to be reviled by men, pelted by boys, chased by dogs, and finally handed over to the Inspector of nuisances, and impounded.
It has been decided by competent authorities that there are more stray cattle in the town of Hokitika than there are in all the rest of the Municipalities of New Zealand put together, and it follows as a matter of course that there is a corresponding amount of dissatisfaction expressed at the ravages committed by day and night upon the gardens by the mild and inoffensive looking animals which are to be met with in droves in most of our streets. Some portions of the town, however, are specially favoured by the perpetual presence of mobs of cattle, and whole of Hampden street has long been a cattle station, and also appears to be used for mustering the cattle from the more remote parts of the district.
The cows of Hokitika are easily distinguishable from the cows of all other districts by the fact that they are strictly speaking omnivorous, greedily devouring any known substance which comes within their reach, although they are said to prefer sweet peas or honeysuckle to turnips or mangold wurzel. They combine the appetites of wolves, with the digestive powers of ostriches, and the trenchant dentition of Bengal tigers. Nothing comes amiss to them, and although as yet it cannot be proved that they have consumed any pile-driving or tip drays, it is darkly hinted that such feats are within their powers, if their inclination leads them in that direction.

Reading the Maps blog

I look, now and then, for blogs to do with NZ history, but they are either hard to find or haven't been updated for more than a year. One that is still in action is Reading the Maps. The views expressed there are political (I've seen one commentator describing the blogger's view as "barking marxist"), but -- the entries make you think and analyse what is being said and why. They do indeed challenge. I like that. It isn't all history and politics -- there's other stuff in there that may interest even the casual reader.

Anyway -- the Discovery of Limestone Country entry is both beautiful (gorgeous photography), extremely well-written and very informative. Have a read -- I would seriously love to see that part of the country some day myself.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Scandal at the Whau Hotel

Updated 26 December 2013.

David Henderson (senior) was hotelkeeper at the Whau from c.1864-1868. Backed up by Thomas Henderson of Henderson & MacFarlane and Henderson's Mill fame (his brother), he later became involved in the flax industry. The following concerns "criminal intimacy" between his son, also named David, (aged 14-15) and a servant girl 6-7 years his senior.

Evening Post, 19 May 1879
DIVORCE COURT. This Day. (Before their Honors the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Johnston, and Mr. Justice Williams.) DECREES ABSOLUTE.

HENDERSON V. HENDERSON. This was an application for a rule nisi from Auckland. Mr. Bell, who appeared for the petitioner, stated that his client was married to the respondent at the Thames twelve years ago, he being then only 15 years of age. Petitioner was forced into the marriage owing to his having seduced the respondent, but he only lived with her for a night and a day after the marriage, and did not see her again until 1872, when he began to correspond with her. For some time past petitioner had been aware that respondent had been living with a man named Flynn, at Tairoa.

David Henderson deposed that he was a miner at the Thames, and was 26 years of age. In 1867 he was living at the Whau, Auckland, with his parents, who were hotelkeepers. He was then at school, and was between 14 and 15 years of age. The respondent at that time was a servant in his father's house. She was about 21 years of age. He had been criminally intimate with her before they were married, and she told him that in consequence of their connection she was enceinte. About five months after their intimacy respondent left Henderson's house, and went into service at the Red Lion Hotel at Auckland. He saw her there, and she said he was the father of her child, and asked him to marry her. The girl's aunt also asked him to marry the respondent, which he did on September 5, 1867, the Rev. Warlow Davies being the officiating minister. Witness had nothing to do with getting the marriage license, and the other parties looked after it. He did not tell his parents that he intended to get married, nor did he sign any certificate as to his age.

Mr. Justice Johnston — I cannot understand how any clergyman could go through the process of marriage between a boy of 15 and a girl of 21, without having a certificate of the date of the boy's birth.

Henderson's examination continued — A child was born three months after their marriage. He stayed with his wife on the night after they were married, but on the following day he went home to his parents at the Whau. He had had nothing to do with her since. He had no income when he married, and was only a school-boy at the time. About a week after the marriage he suspected that he had been "drawn into it." After the marriage the respondent went into service and maintained herself. His parents found out about the marriage three days after it had taken place, and condemned it. Respondent never claimed witness as her husband after they separated.

Mr. Bell submitted that the only object of the respondent in getting petitioner to marry her was to cover her shame, as she could not possibly expect to be supported by a boy 15 years old.

Henderson continued — He went to the Thames in 1869, and worked there as a miner until lately, but he was not in a position to support a wife until 1872. Witness further stated that he had heard that his wife had been married to Flynn. He made proposals to her in 1872 to go and live with him, but she declined to do so. He did not then know that she had misconducted herself. On 23rd September, 1872, he received a letter from the respondent, in which she said : — "I would not advise you to come down here, and I hope you will stay where you are and get steady work. Davy, I would like to see you very much, for I have a great lot to say to you which I cannot write as I am no scholar. I want to ask you one thing, Davy, and I hope you will answer me truthfully; I want to know whether you love me as you did before we were married or not, or if you have seen anyone else that you have liked better than me. If you have don't be afraid to say so, for you are but young yet, and you will see a great difference in me, for I am sure I look ten years older than I was when I was married. Remember I will be an old woman and you will be a young man, and, Davy, if you think you would change your mind in years to come, for God's sake do not let us go together, for no one knows but God and myself what I have gone through, and it was all for you. I would sooner work on my knees, and beg from door to door with my child all my life, than go through the same trouble that I have gone through these last three years. If you still love me as you did once, and it is God's will that we go together, I will do my duty to you as I would have done at first had you been true to me."

On the 20th of October, 1872, petitioner received another letter from the respondent. It was to the effect that since she had last written she had changed her mind, and had taken a solemn oath never to live with him again. She asked him never to trouble himself about her again, and if he wanted to marry anybody else she would never stand in his way. The last two years respondent and Flynn had been living together as man and wife, and they had two children living with them. Rule nisi granted, to be made absolute in three months.

The Village Smithy

"Blacksmiths played a very important role in Victorian times. Before the days of complex electrical machines the local blacksmith could mend most machinery. Farmers would bring their tools to the smithy to be mended, and many smiths were also farriers and would put horseshoes on the horses. With thousands of horses at work in the countryside this kept the blacksmith busy.

The wheelwright was the skilled man who made cart wheels. With horse-drawn carts and coaches providing most local transport this was an important trade."

In early Auckland, the blacksmith was just as important as he was in the Old Country. The forge was the only place, for example, where the quality of coal could be determined by the fire it produced.

In the 1870s, a Mr John White appears to have been a local blacksmith, featuring in the accounts kept by John Bollard for his Whau Farm from 1871 to 1878. To date, he’s the first known in the district, appearing in Wise's Directory for 1878-1879. He may have started a forge up Blake’s Street (St Judes Street), just down hill from the later Myer’s smithy from the late 1890s.

In 1874 there is a record of a James Owen, “Engineer, Millwright and General Smith”. [Bollard papers, held at Auckland War Memorial Museum Library] In 1878, in Wises, he appears as a storekeeper.

By 1890, George Downing appears. He's also in the Village in 1896. His smithy was beside the Primary School on Great North Road, site of the later Salvation Army Hall and video store.

Perry’s Avondale Shoeing Forge on Great North Rd had an entrance at Geddes Tce [Avondale Road Board minutes, 5/4/16]. This could have become Trigg’s garage [by 1920s], later Avondale Auction House and Avondale Spiders.
Advertisement in The News, 11 November 1916
“Before you let your gig or trap go too far, run along to W.B. Perry. He’s the cheapest and the best – yes, by far – Wheelwright, Coachbuilder, Agricultural, Shoeing and General Smith.”
Thomas Myers (c.1881–1967), the blacksmith in Blake Street was the rival:
“Since we commenced business in Avondale we have built over one hundred carts and sulkies for the district.; We guarantee you better value than you can get elsewhere. Horse Shoeing, Ploughs made to order. All Kinds of Agricultural Implements Repaired.”
Advertisement in The News, November 1916, Challenge of the Whau, p. 73

His father William Myers came to New Zealand c.1895, starting up the family blacksmith business in Avondale, while living in Avondale South (according to William’s grandson, Roger Myers, the family were the first ones on what was to become Myers Rd, later Margate St).

Thomas Myers went into the business with his father in 1908, and remained in business there until 1962-63. During that time, the original building was cut down, and part leased.

“I started work with my father, the blacksmith William Myers, in 1908. I had served my apprenticeship with Hughes and Donger in Eden Terrace.

From Memories of early Avondale, by Tom Myers, Avondale Advance, 21 November 1960
“We did a lot of work then for Charlie Pooley, who was the contractor. There was always plenty of work at our smithy. I started work at 7.30 in the morning and we worked long hours especially in the summer.”
Myers’ was more than simply a farrier (Thomas wouldn’t do a lot of work for the Jockey Club, his son Roger told me, as he considered thoroughbreds as “too flighty, a young man’s job”) – he also did a lot of work for market gardeners, both in Avondale and as far afield as Oratia and Henderson. He’d do repairs to plows, disks, harrows. Farmers would bring up to the shed 3 or 4 spades at a time, to have handles repaired. Thomas Myers also made up wheelbarrows.

He also worked for Odlins timber at Karekare, a day’s work shoeing 8 to 10 horses. As a wheelwright, he would repair wagons, virtually anything that could be drawn by animals, so his son says, including drays and milk vendors carts. Roger Myers described to me how wheel rims were replaced. In the days of harsh roads, cart wheels were rimmed in steel, that was forged at the local blacksmith’s.

The wheel was first dismantled, leaving only the hub, then completely re-spoked. The wheel would then be dropped into a hole dug in the ground to lie flat. The steel rim was then made up, and dropped into the hole around the wheel while still hot, then could water was poured into the hole to shrink the metal snugly around the wheel, and to stop the wood burning.

His son would ask Thomas Myers how he knew that the steel rim would fit every time. The answer, with a tap to the head, was simply, “Ah, son …!”
[Conversation with Roger Myers, 28 June 2001]

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Street Stories 6: Paper Roads

Might I point out to intending buyers of town sections in Avondale that they need to be very careful before doing so, or committing themselves by signing a contract, until they find out if the road mentioned is a legally dedicated road or street. There are several such supposed roads and streets, even shown on all maps, but they exist only on maps. Therefore, in these cases the owners cannot give a title. I think it is the duty of the Borough Council to let people know the actual position.
R. J. Burlton-Bennet"
(NZ Herald, 13 February 1923)

Over the course of development and subdivisions stretching back to the late 1850s in both Avondale and Blockhouse Bay, some streets grandly planned on paper for the auction sales never survived. Mr. Burlton-Bennet's gripe could have been about any number of the areas of Avondale's paper roads.

View Larger Map

In the late 1850s, a Mr. Stark drew up his grand scheme for an "East Whau" township (relative to the Whau South and Whau North townships already laid out -- on paper for the most part! -- by the Crown). What we now know as Blockhouse Bay Road from Terry Street down to Donovan Street had two names completely forgotten by the 1880s -- Commercial Road (to the Taylor Street intersection) and Sewell Street (to Donovan Street). Donovan Street itself was White Swan Road, but only from the roundabout area to around where Lewis Street is today (from that point on, it was "Auckland Road". Later, White Swan continued to include the long track up to Richardson Road by early in the 20th century, and then Donovan Street separated from it. Stories of White Swan Road being associated with a swan's neck may not therefore be correct.)

In the Google Maps image above, the only streets from Stark's design which have survived are: Blockhouse Bay Road, Donovan Street, Whitney Street (Whitaker), Terry Street (Thomas) and Exminster Street (Exeter). All others have either faded into the Blockhouse Bay reserve, or become stub access lanes. The vanished paper roads here are:

Gore Street, Browne Street, Steward Street, Ayr Street, Railway Road, Wynyard Street, Richmond Street, and Clifford Street.

Next came the planned township of Whau Bridge. Only Elm Street and possibly Racecourse Parade remain from that well-laid out township across the swamps leading to the river.

View Larger Map

The southern part of Layard Street is the obvious paper road in the above view. But, where we see St Judes Street, heading straight up the hill eastwards only to cut across in a diagonal towards New North Road -- before 1868, it continued straight up the steep climb towards Blockhouse Bay Road in a straight and unaltered line. The old Blake Street (as it was then, from 1863) track was used up to the early 20th century, as a shortcut for those who wanted to go to socials and meetings at the public hall. A dark and very slippery route in the winter, according to those who recall the journey.

View Larger Map

Directly linking the end of Chalmers Street with the Great North Road, there once was a road named Hamilton. Before the late 19th century, it may have been known as Melville, and was part of John Buchanan's estate subdivision from the early 1880s. Today, the road is just an angled boundary. On the other side of Great North Road, Pecan Place is, oddly enough, in the approximate location of another paper road, this one without a name so far as I know at present, which linked Wingate Street, angling to the south-east, with Great North Road, possibly for a subdivision either by John Potter or John Neale Bethell (who owned land on both sides of Great North Road leading to the bridge up to his death in the 1940s.)

View Larger Map

The above image shows the area which, to me, is where the oddest mystery still unsolved in Avondale's history continues -- why, in early references, does it seem that Taylor Street and St Georges Road were the same and linked together as one? The latest documentation I have is a letter from the Avondale Development Association (14 August 1931) suggesting street names changes in Avondale, "That the name of St Georges Road be deleted and that this highway be called Taylor Street for its full length." I look at old maps from that period, and still can't see just what they were getting at.

The Ambulance Station (misnamed New Lynn Station, although it's really in Avondale) sits right where the paper road part of Taylor Street once extended. Ulster Street to the bottom left also extended over present day Wolverton Street, meeting Taylor Street at an angle. Neither of them joined up with the line of St Georges Road, but a friend has suggested that old walking tracks between them, the most direct way between Blockhouse Bay and Avondale until the late 19th century, may have led people to think there was a connection. I don't know. But when you visit Olympic Park today (which includes the "Wolverton Esplanade") you're also visiting some of the now unseen paper roads of our past.

Highlander Condensed Milk

Image: Grey River Argus, 6 February 1919

While looking into what has become a more and more intriguing search for information on William Tullibardine Murray, formerly of 103 Avondale Road here in Avondale, one of the librarians at the Auckland Research Centre in the Central Library gave me a reference to a Weekly News piece from 1899 on the Auckland Exhibition and a display of condensed milk by W. T. Murray & Co. That led on (as always happens with me and diversions) to tracking down some information on one of New Zealand’s most well-known and enduring brands – Highlander condensed milk.

The beginnings – New Zealand versus the Swiss

In 1892, the main player of the New Zealand condensed milk market was the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company, the forerunner to Nestlé, under a number of brands including “Milkmaid”.

Image: Otago Witness, 1 September 1892

Image: Otago Witness, 25 July 1895

Later that year, Robert Blair started a new milk-preserving factory, based on the Swiss system, at Underwood, near Wallacetown. (Otago Witness, 24 November 1892) Unfortunately, he died on 27 January 1893.

Otago Witness, 9 February 1893
"The Southland Times gives some particulars of the death of the late Mr. Robert Blair, who will be widely remembered as the manager for some years of the New Zealand Meat Preserving Company's extensive works at Kakanui, Washdyke, and Woodlands. He subsequently erected on his own account large milk preserving works at Wallacetown, from which he has turned out an excellent article. Our contemporary says that on the morning of the 27th ult. Mr. Blair was in perfect health, and breakfasted heartily at 7 o'clock. He went immediately afterwards to his milk condensing works to superintend one of the many delicate operations in the process, and seemed to his foreman (Mr. McLeod) to be in excellent spirits. Suddenly he grew pale, complained of a pain in his head, and vomited, and Mr. McLeod was just in time to prevent his falling heavily. Mr. McLeod ran to the house, which is close by, for assistance, sending a man whom he met to look after Mr. Blair. The deceased's brother-in-law, the Hon. Mr. Wilson, of Queensland, who was sitting at breakfast, after procuring what he thought a suitable medicine, made for the works. Mr. Blair took the draught, and was placed in a chair, seeming to have got relief, though he again vomited. Suddenly he complained for the second time of severe pain in the head, lay back, and never spoke again. He was carried into the house, but it is thought probable that he died on the way. Dr Grigor had been in the meantime sent for, but on arrival found that all had been over for some time. Afterwards Dr Hunter, who also had been sent for, appeared. The cause of death was apoplexy. Mr. Blair's age was 44.

"The aspect of this event … from a public point of view … must be looked upon as calamitous. Mr. Blair had shown a spirit of patient enterprise that is exceedingly rare. His aim was to perfect a new industry, and for years he had been studying to this end. He had to master by persevering investigation the secrets of a very difficult process, and after much labour and some expensive failures was supposed to have succeeded. Mr. Blair had made a journey to Britain, and, we understand, to the Continent of Europe, in pursuit of his object, but was disappointed in his search after information, and was obliged finally to rely, as we have said, on his own efforts. …We repeat that his loss is not only irreparable to his family, but a public misfortune. Those whom he has left behind are a widow and three children."
It wasn’t the end of Blair’s factory, however. In October 1893, A. H. Highton, headmaster at the Southland Boys’ High School, resigned his position to take up the business of manufacturing condensed milk and butter. To that end, he purchased Blair’s factory. (North Otago Times, 27 October 1893) He launched the New Zealand Milk Preserving Company Limited, under the Maltese Cross Brand, producing 1000 tins of condensed milk per day, along with butter for the British market.

Image: Otago Witness, 26 April 1894

Otago Witness, 4 January 1894
“The premises are prettily and conveniently situated on a piece of cleared land alongside the road, about three-quarters of a mile from the Wallacetown station. Near by is the proprietor's residence, a large structure of handsome design in neatly laid-off grounds, and skirted by the native bush on three sides. The factory is a substantially built two-storeyed wooden erection, with iron roof and floor of concrete throughout. It contains quite a large number of apartments. On the ground floor there are the separating room, refrigerating room, two cool rooms, butter-making room, storeroom, and at the back a tinsmith's shop. In the upper storey the condenser is situated, and the other apartments are devoted to filling, soldering down, and storing the manufactured article. The machinery is all of the latest type and much of it very heavy and costly — the price of the condenser and appliances alone approaching £2000. … The tins used are made on the premises, five hands being employed in this department, turning out 1000 per day, and the neatness with which they are finished could not well be excelled. Water, which is an important factor in the business, is obtained from two large wells, as well as a dam, and is pumped up into tanks at about the same altitude as the building. “
The political climate in New Zealand for starting and operating a business condensing milk was a good one. The government had a tariff of 20% on imported tins, (Marlborough Express, 9 March 1894), Parliament even considered an incentive scheme for the local trade, and by late 1894, Highton’s business was so good he was seeking permission from the authorities in Victoria to establish a branch across the Tasman. (Hawera & Normanby Star, 29 October 1894)

Enter W. T. Murray and Co.

Meanwhile, at the Auckland Agricultural Show in November that year, the Zealandia Milk Condensing Company displayed their wares, “condensed milk of local manufacture and excellent quality.” (Observer, 24 November 1894) This was the trading name for the W. T. Murray & Company. Murray started this business near Auckland in 1893, initially making the standard condensed milk with refined sugar, then patenting a process for preserving milk without sugar, using pasteurisation to make unsweetened condensed milk, also known as Murray’s Concentrated Pasteurised Milk. (Weekly News supplement, 3 February 1899) From 1896, Murray’s company was to feature prominently in the “Highlander brand” story.

Image: Bay of Plenty Times, 2 June 1897

In March 1896, it seems that Highton’s plans had come to nought. W. R. Cook, an accountant from Auckland, arrived to find out from local farmers just how much milk they would be able to supply to make the factory a viable operation should he purchase it. Unfortunately, their figures didn’t match his, so the factory remained idle. (Otago Witness, 19 March 1896) Five months later, it was announced that W. T. Murray & Co had purchased the Wallacetown factory. (Otago Witness, 13 August 1896)

Timaru Herald, 22 October 1896

"Mr. W. T. Murray has successfully restarted the milk preserving factory near Wallacetown, Southland, which was established by a Mr. Blair three years ago, and was almost immediately closed owing to Mr. Blair's death. Mr. Murray already had two milk preserving factories m the Auckland district. He gave a Southland Times reporter some interesting facts concerning condensed milk, some of which we reproduce : — When I started, the condensed milk trade was entirely in the hands of the two well known brands. In Auckland nothing could be sold except Nestlé's Swiss milk, and in the South Island nothing but the Milkmaid brand. These practically held the market. Their imports into New Zealand are 500 cases per week, which amounts to 2000 dozen tins and represents nearly £30,000 a year which goes out of the country for this article. … I started another factory about 100 miles out of Auckland last year in order to try to get a winter supply of milk for both factories. At the end of last year I took up pasteurising or sterilising milk, and after three months' experimenting succeeded in so manipulating the milk that it would keep for almost any length of time, while still retaining the full flavour of new milk. However, I did not put it on the market until I had kept it for six months as a test of its keeping qualities. During that time it was placed just above the engine of the factory, so that the test was a thoroughly severe one, and at the end of the time it was as good as when I put it there. It immediately found public favour, and my own impression is that it will entirely cut out the condensed milk for household use, for the simple reason that it is not sweetened. Condensed milk consists of ordinary milk preserved with sugar. Pasteurised milk is simply pure milk so treated that it will keep good almost any length of time. … The capacity of the three factories is enormous. …”
Murray’s operation went from strength to strength. In 1898, W. T. Murray & Co became a limited liability company with a capital of £25,000, with the following directors: Colonel Henry Burton, Major. F. N. George, Messrs. Frank Jagger, James Macfarlane and C. V. Houghton. Murray remained as general manager, while H. N. Bell was secretary. (Weekly News, 3 February 1899) More dairy plants were purchased by the company. Business would have been boosted at the turn of the century due to two factors: an increasing public concern about purity and freedom from contamination in milk products, and the 2nd Boer War.

Image: Weekly News supplement, 3 February 1899

The “Highlander” brand was developed during the 2nd Boer War, appearing in advertising from c.1901.

Image: Otago Witness 22 May 1901

In 1904, Blair’s original 1892 factory burned down (Otago Witness, 27 April 1904), but “Highlander” condensed milk continued. In 1906, it was awarded a gold medal and special diploma at the Crystal Palace exhibition in London, (Otago Witness, 3 October 1906) and a silver medal in a 1909 exhibition also in London. (New Zealand Tablet, 11 February 1909)

In 1918, the W. T. Murray Company changed its name to New Zealand Milk Products Limited (Grey River Argus, 5 June 1918). Twenty years later, the company was taken over by Nestlé, with the factory at Underwood (apparently replaced after the 1904 fire) closing finally in the 1960s

Part of a new book called Made in New Zealand by Nicola McCloy goes into the story of Highlander condensed milk. Apart from the wrong date for the brand’s inception (she has 1890, while Robert Blair didn’t start his factory until 1892, and the brand itself appeared only c.1901), she does mention the theory as to who the Highlander on the ads and the tins was based on. She says that it is thought to have been based on Drum Major James Macgregor of the Invercargill Pipe Band. That is a possibility, certainly – the band was very prominent at the end of 1900, travelling to Sydney as part of the Commonwealth contingent to the Boer War.

Wanganui Herald, 21 December 1900
“A striking feature about the Invercargill Pipe Band, which has gone to Sydney with the Commonwealth Contingent is the fine physique of the members. One man (Drummer A. Thompson) stands 6ft 4in in his stockings, though only eighteen of age. All are of Scottish descent, but New Zealand born, except Bandmaster K. Cameron' and Drum-Major McGregor. The bandmaster came to the colony quite a youth, and learned all his pipeplaying out here. He holds ten gold and fifteen silver medals, one of the former being for the championship of New Zealand for pipe-playing, and another for the Championship Mile Race (open), the time being 4min 21sec. Some of the medals are for wrestling, rowing, running, and jumping. “
However, another contender is Peter Mackay, a former member of the 93rd regiment of Highlanders, who served in the Crimean War, India, and the New Zealand Land Wars. He died in Southland Hospital on 12 December 1900, and a subscription list was started up for a memorial stone in his honor. He was also a pipe band drummer. (Southland Times; Otago Witness, 2 January 1901)

What intrigues me

I’ll be checking two sources from here: an Archives New Zealand file (thankfully held in Auckland!) on the New Zealand Milk Products Limited, formerly W. T. Murray and Company, and the Cyclopedia of New Zealand, South Island editions. The latter I’ll see next time the libraries open up again (it’s Christmas, so things are shut up, of course), while the former will be part of my planned multi-topic trek to the wilds of Mangere’s farmland. (I’m building up a good list now of topics, so it will be well-worth the day’s trip). What has me scratching my head is this: is the “W. T. Murray” William Tullibardine Murray? I can see him being involved with the Avondale Supply Depot in 1891, but – milk processing? Then again, A. H. Highton was a schoolmaster who quit to own and operate Blair’s factory in Underwood. Avondale’s Mr. Murray may have done the same (but he still held his license to teach down to 1898).

If it isn’t one and the same man (and I wouldn’t mind if that was the case, I’ve quite enjoyed the trawl through Papers Past pulling together the Highlander milk story) – what about his son, Henry Lamont Murray? A Henry Lamont Murray was living in Epsom in Auckland during the 1930s, and taking out patents for dairy processing equipment and pasteurisation techniques not only here, but in Canada, the U.S. and Britain. One patent he’s particularly known for is the Vacreator Cream Processing Plant. If his father wasn’t the condensed milk businessman, then this is one heck of a coincidence.

More information and updates as they come to pass. (Update: 5 January 2009. W. T. Murray was William Tullibardine Murray, after all.)