Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ostriches again

Following on from this earlier post.

I woke up this morning, and wondered, "Well, if Matson from Canterbury was the first successful ostrich farmer in the colony, what happened, and why have the Nathans now got the limelight?" Back to Papers Past I go (hey, Mad Bush? This is all your fault, my friend ...)

In 1881, the fact the Cape Colony had been so successful in farming ostriches drew the attention of the Australian colonies (a businessman in South Australia imported them by the flock, which may have later been the main supply for the Nathans) and even America (importations were reported to California.) Sir George Grey thought this might be a great stimulus for an economy which was already starting to have the wobbles after the Vogel era. In 1881, he suggested an incentive package for the first 50 ostriches landed in the colony. (Tuapeka Times, 14 September 1881) The government had a few thoughts, and by 1882, this had been boiled down to "a bonus of £5 per head for healthy ostrich chicks landed in New Zealand for the purpose of being reared and maintained in the Colony; the number of any importation to be not less than 10 and not more than 50." (Bay Of Plenty Times, 4 September 1882)

J. T. Matson was the first to import ostriches in 1883, and by 1886 he was shipping 2000 feathers to London. Two of his ostriches in 1889 had names: Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone. (Poverty Bay Herald, 17 December 1889) Over the course of 1891-1893, he planned the setting up of the Ostrich Farming Company, but unfortunately died in 1895 before this could be fully realised. What happened to his ostriches is unknown as this time.

Meanwhile, up north, the Nathans made arrangements to transfer their birds to Pukekohe in 1902, and the Helvetia Ostrich Farm was fully set up by 1905. I guess the ones who kept things going the longest get the limelight.

By the way, there's a site online about the history of Whitford which states:
"Ostriches on Nathans “Whitford Park” estate provided feathers for the fashion trade from 1869 until the 1920s."
This has even been passed over to the Wikipedia page on Whitford, the writer using Alan La Roche's marvellous book The History of Howick and Pakuranga (1991) as a source. Unfortunately, the writer didn't read the source properly, for Mr. La Roche actually wrote:
"In 1869 Mr. Kennedy sold to Messrs L A & N A Nathan who in 1887-1888 imported ostriches. The first came from the Kaipara and from Queensland. The second flock came direct from South Africa, many dying on the trip."( p. 195)
So, the early 1869 date appears to be an error of quick-reading.

1 comment:

  1. Okay so you're on a roll here. this is cool. I'll keep causing trouble shall I? Cool post Ice. Catching up with everyone finally. Been a