Monday, December 29, 2008

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)

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