Saturday, December 20, 2008

More on the ostriches

My good friend from Back Roads wrote in comment to the first ostrich post:
"Dick Scott contended in Seven Lives on Salt River that Nathan was not the first to import Ostriches into New Zealand. However I'm still looking into the Bickerstaffe Ostrich Farm on the Kaipara started by Victor Nissen. According to Dick Scott Nissen basically went broke and sold the birds to Nathan. He maintained that Nathan had been credited instead of Nissen. Hard to know really I found quite a few articles from the beginning of 1887 about Nissen and the Ostriches at the Kaipara. Otago Daily Witness also had published a great photograph of the farm Nissen owned."
I responded:
"Edward Waters who died in 1898 also owned ostriches which went to the Nathans (Observer, 3 September 1898). The Evening Post has articles on Nissen bringing in African ostriches to the Otamatea district in 1887, yes, but the Nathans were hatching eggs at Whitford in 1888 (under Nissen's management.) I think that Nissen and the Nathans had a dead-heat in the case of ostrich cultivation."
Well, not exactly, but sorting this out is why I'm doing this post.

The government apparently offered a bonus in 1882 for the successful importation of ostriches into New Zealand. (Te Aroha News, 21 May 1887) An early contender was J. T. Matson of Canterbury, who hatched seven ostriches by 4 January 1887, and apparently they weren’t his first brood. (Evening Post, 4 January 1887). The barque Johanna Broderson, with 49 ostriches, was towed into Kaipara Harbour later that same month, the birds destined for Victor Nissen’s farm at Otamatea. (Evening Post, 27 January 1887). However, by March, he was selling the birds, business, kit and kaboodle. (Taranaki Herald, 14 March 1887) Enter the Nathans – by 30 June, Nissen was working for them on his Wairoa farm (now, probably, theirs as well). (Poverty Bay Herald, 30 June 1887). The rest would be as per the Lawrence Nathan history, with the flock headed to Whitford.

According to Dick Scott in Seven Lives on Salt River (p. 38):
“Nissen’s efforts were not given recognition. And by 1900 when the flock had increased to 500 birds (and a half dozen women were employed dressing feathers for export and making fans) Nathans were claiming the credit for having imported the ostriches – a claim repeated in Lawrence D. Nathan’s recent history of the company. The name of Victor Nissen, the man with a great idea gone wrong, deserves a better fate.”
As do the other ostrich contenders, like Matson and Waters. Would make an interesting topic for an article, I’d say. Don't get me started on it just yet, I'm still recovering from the menageries!

An additional -- looks like Matson from Canterbury was the first to make something of a go of farming ostriches, with an importation of two birds from Australia in 1883.

Another post here.


  1. Thanks Ice so I wasn't talking through a hole in my head then thank goodness. I remembered reading what Dick Scott had said - not the exact words you've kindly reproduced from his book but I think you knew what I was getting at. One think I wasn't going to say was that the history you did was wrong. No way. I know your research well enough to know it's spot on. Nissen certainly didn't last long. Nathan was a clever enough to know a good thing when he saw it.

  2. Mad Bush, you quite rightly piped up and said the equivalent of "Lawrence Nathan may have said one thing, but I have another source that says something else." And you were dead right and spot on -- Nissen did have the idea for an ostrich farm up there in the Otamatea, whether it lasted long or not, and the Nathans bought it from him instead of take the initiative themselves. That's good history to point it out, my friend. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for that Ice. I've been trying to comment but google has decided to play nasty beggars and do wierd things. Heh must be the silly season. Liked the sheep one too. And The other Ostrich post as well. Since I'm in here....might as well comment on all of them.