Saturday, February 28, 2009

Whau Canal post used on Campaign for Better Transport site

Link here. Interesting where my stuff ends up! Check out the link for an image of the other prosed canal site for the isthmus, at Otahuhu.

Pt Chevalier Times, No. 3

Latest newsletter for the Pt Chevalier History Group here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Proximidade is Portuguese, and means "vicinity" or "nearness", even "neighbourhood." Jayne from Our Great Southern Land has greatly honoured me and this blog by including Timespanner on a list for this award over at her blog (thank you most deeply, Jayne). Usually, I don't accept such awards, because of my concerns that, hermit that I am, I don't know enough of other blogs to pass this on to (and, generally, those I do know already have said things). This, though, I'll accept (even though it will take some time for me to fulfill the conditions) because it came from Jayne and her wonderful blog on Australian (and a bit of Kiwi) history.

The conditions:
The Proximidade Award is described as: ‘This blog invests and believes in PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes for self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!’This blog award should be sent to your favorite eight bloggers and they, in turn should forward to eight of their favorites. You should include the text for Proximidade (above) in your announcement blog.

The Crudge family of Mt Eden and Blockhouse Bay

Recently, Blockhouse Bay's Newstalk paper asked me to pull something together on the Crudge family who settled there early last century. The folllowing text is what I sent (all bar a small bit was published). Writing up local history is usually a three-stage thing, I find. Stage 1 is the research and gathering, followed by collating and seeing if all the pieces to the puzzle, or as many as can be found, are there. Next comes the writing, which tends to be a tad more screed than proper sentences and paragraphs. The stage after that, editing and proof reading, knocks it into shape. For wee pieces in newspapers, there's a further stage, and that is deciding which sentences are absolutely essential, which aren't, and how to limit the number of words used to a target figure. Newspaper pieces like this will almost always appear to be stilted and "just the facts, ma'am, just the facts," mainly because of that last restriction. Still, the editors published it (unfortunately, my name was left off the published version due to lack of space. That's how tight things can get.)

A mural at 1 Donovan Street, Blockhouse Bay features three people walking along Donovan Street from the area now occupied by the shopping centre some time in the early 20th century. Robert Henry Crudge (senior) and his wife Janet are shown, along with another man (the Blockhouse Bay Historical Society have identified him as Joseph Morey, but he has also been identified as Mr. Oxenham.)

Details on the life of R. H. Crudge remain sketchy. It appears that the Crudge family hailed from a town called Bampton, in the county of Devon, England. R. H. Crudge was born there c.1859, but by 1881 he was already living outside his home county, lodging at Lambeth, London, before boarding the Victory in 1884. He first arrived in New Zealand at Wellington on 25 May, and by 1887 he had reached Auckland, settling at Mt Eden. In 1887, he married Janet Whytock at Mt Eden Baptist Church. Janet had arrived in Auckland with her family on the Hermione in 1881. R. H. Crudge would come to serve on the Mt Eden Borough Council from 1906 (topping the first poll), while he was a saddler operating from Symonds Street.

The Crudge family had a holiday home at the top of Lewis Street in the early years of last century, and built the brick house at 102 Donovan Street a little later. R. H. Crudge himself lived at Mt Eden until after his wife's death in 1923. He died in 1937. His sons engaged in strawberry growing on their sizeable landholdings at the Bay after World War I.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Anzac Jack and the Turkish shin bone

Once in a while, something historical will come along and make me say (usually to myself): "Huh?"

Like the reference in an email today from about a knife handle said (during WWI) to have been fashioned from the shin-bone of a Turkish soldier.

You'll see the knife here. The truth, however (and perhaps, thankfully) is not as grisly as the legend.
"New Zealand-born, 'Anzac Jack' served with the AIF at Gallipoli and later on the Western Front. He made the knife while recuperating from wounds received at Gallipoli and sent it home to his mother in New Zealand. Supposedly, the handle of the knife had been made from the shinbone of a dead Turkish soldier. It was enclosed in an ornate wooden case bearing the inscription 'Te Pohutukawa, Knife made by Sapper J.H. Moore. Handle from Shin Bone of Turk'. His mother used it to raise funds for war-ravaged Belgium.

In July 2007 the Army Museum Waiouru hired a forensic anthropologist to examine the knife's handle. They concluded that the bone was the wrong shape to be a human shinbone and that the light flecks of grain in the bone were more typical of horse and deer. It is most likely to have come from one of the many donkeys used to carry supplies at Gallipoli. It would have been easy for Sapper Moore to have come across mixed bones and picked up one believing it to be human."
More exhibits from Objects of War here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blockhouse Bay's bard, on the smells of rail travel

William Cooper, an early 20th century Blockhouse Bay resident, was somewhat of a bard and a poet in his own neck of the woods. In 1907, he turned his sights on the state of the railway service between the city and Avondale. From the Observer, 25 May 1907:
"In a letter written by me, and published in the New Zealand Herald in April, I endeavoured to express my thanks to the Railway Department for the improvements effected during the last two years between Auckland and Avondale. I proposed to follow that first letter with a second and concluding one, and did so, but, alas! that second epistle does not appear to have found favour in the editorial sight, and it has been suppressed.

"The subject, however, is an important one, and here is " The condemned thing," as a Yankee would say, as near as it is possible to reproduce it:—

To the Editor. Sir, —In my previous letter, I specied some of the improvements recently effected on the Auckland - Avondale railway, and I purposed completing the enumeration in a second letter, but I find, on consideration, that the only additional improvements consist of certain public conveniences erected at Kingsland and Morningside. In this connection, it will be gratifying to many good people to learn that the use of the establishment of this nature at Mount Eden station is regulated on strict Sabbatarian principles, it being religiously placed under lock and chain every Sunday. The ladies' waiting-room at Mount Eden appears to be so insanitary that even in the most inclement weather the ladies are constrained to occupy seats in the open portico, and frequently trespass even on the one solitary garden seat generally supposed to have been supplied "for men only," as A. J. Black says in his advertisements.

"At Avondale itself, insult is added to suffering by the frequent appearance of trucks laden with crude fertilisers, the pestilential odours of which are a sickening outrage on the nostrils of waiting passeugers, and a menace to public health. But there the trucks remain, hour after hour, while cheerful, chattering Chinkies leisurely discharge the reeking contents into their carts, apparently keenly enjoying what is to others a filthy, loathsome nuisance. Protest and complaint have been ignored by the high railway officials, with that ineffably supercilious contempt for the public, of which they are such thorough masters.

"The train service is still spasmodic, inconvenient and insufficient ; while the time-table often tells the most atrocious falsehoods concerning the arrival and departure of trains. The long-promised fast, furious and frequent motor train service has not yet eventuated, and, though there were exciting reports lately of the motor having been actually seen in the rails, it seems to have "mysteriously disappeared," as the newspapers remark, when a defaulting bank manager, sharebroker, or government official takes a sudden and regrettable departure. But "I will pursue this subject no further," as the King remarked when, after a long chase, his fugitive High Chancellor fell over a precipice. "
And so the bard continues, paragraph after paragraph, dragging Pelorus Jack into the discussion (although what a dolphin has to do with the railway, I'm not quite sure), Sherlock Holmes, St. Dunstan, Auckland Mayors C. J. Parr and Arthur Myers, and finally, after slipping from prose to poetry and back again, concluding:
"Sir, I have no wish to trespass further upon your columns," as the great Napoleon said to Wellington, after the battle of Waterloo. I am, I regret to say, still -- William Cooper, Avondale South."
No wonder the Herald refrained from publication of this piece of Cooper's creative outpouring.

A year before, however, Cooper did pen a quite good poem for Richard Seddon, published by the New Zealand Free Lance, 30 June 1906, for Seddon's birthday but, as it turned out, it became an obituary for the late Premier. Worth checking out on Paper's Past.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

An Avondale memorial to Lt. Wesley Neal Spragg

I referred to the memorial, in the George Maxwell Cemetery on Rosebank Road here in Avondale, in my earlier post on such war memorials at the cemetery. As I recall, it is a raised stone monument, horizontal, with the inscription etched in stone on one of two sloping sides to the top. The plot, No. 145E, is shared by Charles Robert Dearnley Spragg, born 3 June 1892 and died 4 March 1893. This was Wesley N. Spragg's full brother (he had half-sisters by his father's first marriage).

Wesley N. Spragg's story on the Cenotaph database at the Auckland War Memorial Museum's website, along with a photo.
"He was an Armament Officer and was believed to have served operationally in France. Spragg left Heliopolis in a Maurice Farman S11 on a training exercise. The plane dived into the ground at Heliopolis after the plane's port wings collapsed while passing overhead and to the rear of the Aotea New Zealand Convalescent Hospital. The pilot, Lt A. C. Upham, was pinned under the wreckage and seriously injured. It took 12 men to lift the plane clear of him. Spragg was thrown clear but suffered a head injury from which he died a few minutes afterwards without having gained consciousness."
There is the main Spragg memorial, an obelisk at Kaitarakihi on the Manukau Coast near Huia. That's the only one mentioned either in articles on Wesley N. Spragg, or on the Museum's website. The Avondale memorial is forgotten.

The story of Wesley Spragg, his father, is summarised fairly well here.

Question is: if Wesley Spragg senior lived in Mt Albert both before and after his last son's death, (close to today's Mt Albert shopping centre, between the shops and McLean Street) and he went to such trouble and expense to erect an obeslisk memorial to him on the West Coast -- then why have a memorial stone in Avondale? He himself was buried at Waikumete in 1930.

Hopefully, more information comes to light as to the Spragg family's connections with our district.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Who invented Weet-Bix?

Image from Wikipedia. Link below.

It's a classic breakfast food here in Australasia -- but who actually invented it?

The Wikipedia article is a bit of a muddle.
"Sanitarium's wheat biscuits originated in the form of a product called Granose which was created as early as the 1900s. In the 1920s a company called Grain Products created a new sweetened biscuit by the name of Weet-Bix. In 1928, Sanitarium acquired Grain Products, which like Sanitarium had ties with the Seventh-day Adventist Church and made Weet-Bix a Sanitarium product."
and ...
"Weet-Bix was invented by Bennison Osborne in NSW, Australia in the mid 1920s. Benn set out to make a product more palatable than "Granose."
So, while something called Granose has been around for a hundred years, and a Christchurch Company named Grain Products created Weet-Bix in the 1920s (later taken over by Sanitarium -- Australian Bennison Osborne has the credit for inventing Weet-Bix in the mid-1920s? Something here doesn't quite sound right.

Neither the Aussie nor the Kiwi sites for Sanitarium mention Osborne in their Weet-Bix history. References to him in Google seem to point either to the Wiki article or just repeat the article verbatim.

What brought all this up? I'd found an article I'd filed ages ago as being from the Auckland Sun, 21 December 1921 (but, chances are high that I put the wrong year in the margin from tiredness. The Sun operated from March 1927-1930 ... so the date is more likely December 1927 or something like that.)

"For years doctors, school-teachers and business men have been urging us to 'start the day right.' They recognise that the man or the child who has the right kind of breakfast -- is properly nourished, without being too heavy -- will do the best work.

"Two of three years ago the 'Weet-Bix' people attacked this problem and by careful work found out the right way to make wheat -- the most nourishing grain in the world -- as tasty as possible. The result is 'Weet-Bix', which contains nothing but wheat, and New Zealand-grown wheat, too, which is so tasty that everyone in the home will eat and even demand it for breakfast.

"Further 'Weet-Bix' is proved to be an ideal and pleasant food every day of the week. Young and old enjoy and clean their plates with zest. It is nourishing, too, because people last until lunch time without a worry, yet do not jave that heavy, over-eaten feeling.

"Almost every day the 'Weet-Bix' company, which is a New Zealand concern, received quite unsolicited testimonials from people telling how convalescents 'picked up' with Weet-Bix, how children like it in the hot weather, and so on.

"So, widespread is this feeling of satisfaction that the demand for Weet-Bix is growing fast and the company is making plans to double their plant! This fact surely speaks for itself."
So -- who is Bennison Osborne? Any further info on this would be gratefully appreciated, but so far, the documentation points toward a Kiwi Weet-Bix inventor rather than an Aussie one.

Update 24 September 2009: After heaps of comment discussion: the sequel.
Update 6 August 2012 - finally fixed up the error in the Sun ad date.

Signposts - a blog about Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Another NZ heritage blog, this one from Te Ara called Signposts.

Elihu Shaw: a saga from Sussex to Northland to Cabbage Tree Swamp

I first cottoned onto Elihu (pronounced e-LIE-hew, a Biblical name said to mean “My God is Yahweh”) Shaw when doing some digging for information to give to the Mt Albert Historical Society, in terms of the “Shawville” estate. Elihu himself had a fairly ordinary colonial-era career. What happened around him and on his journey from Sussex to Cabbage Tree Swamp, however, was a tad out of the ordinary.

He was the fourth child out of eleven, born 7 June 1806, to Richard and Hetty Shaw of South Malling, in Sussex, England. South Malling is a parish in the district of Lewes, located on the River Ouse. In 1830, Elihu was employed by a distant relative, Squire John Shaw of West Heathley, as a gardener. He ended up marrying the squire’s daughter, Mary, after eloping with her to Lewes, in May 1831.

After making an effort to make ends meet, the couple decided to emigrate. They boarded the Coromandel 14 June 1838 – possibly with the intention of settling in Sydney, the ship’s destination. This was a ship bearing assisted immigrants sponsored by various agents. One was John Marshall (associated by the Shaw family historian with Elihu and his family). Another was a Mr. Beanard, who was presented with a silver snuff box on the ship’s arrival at Sydney by the grateful passengers under his name. Amongst the non-assisted passengers was a trader and timber merchant named Thomas Spencer Forsaith, who apparently accompanied a cargo of trade goods and lumber making machinery on the ship. His business, it seemed, was the provision of kauri spars for the Government, and the source of these was the Hokianga in New Zealand. A partner in this enterprise may have been Rev. William White, who was also on board, with his wife, and bound for the Hokianga with the same spar-provision business in mind.

The Coromandel arrived at Sydney on 2 October 1838. While the family history states that there was a delay due to crew desertion before the ship continued, chartered by Forsaith, to New Zealand, I found by looking at the early Sydney newspapers online that the delay was likely for other reasons, one major reason being Captain Thomas Neale’s declining health. He had consumption, and was too ill to captain the vessel until 16 November when it finally left. (He died at the Hokianga 6 February 1839, and was buried at the Wesleyan Mission Burial Ground).

Along with this, there was a small desertion of crew members (two) who stole one of the ship’s boats while they were at it; Neale, operating the Coromandel on “the Temperance System”, had a shipload of crew who had not had a drop of liquor to drink from June until October, and so ran riot more than a tad once they reached Sydney ("the day after the ship cast anchor, nearly the whole crew abandoned the ship and gave way to the utmost excesses" said the Sydney Gazette); silverware was reported stolen from the Coromandel, ending up in a local hotel called the "Rum Puncheon"; and Capt. Neale warned the Sydnersiders, by public notice, that he would not be responsible for debts run up by the crew. Perhaps, tied in with the captain’s ill-health, it took a while for Neale to find enough sober crew members again to take the ship across the Tasman for Forsaith and White.

The Shaw family history says that Elihu Shaw spent the brief few weeks in New South Wales working as a sawyer. He and his family sailed on the Coromandel finally to the Hokianga on 16 November, arriving 2 December 1838. Once there, they stayed nine months at the Wesleyan Mangungu Mission Station (again, pointing to a possibly Rev. White connection with Forsaith’s business dealings). Rev. White had been recalled to England in 1836, stripped of his mission in Northland, and had been accused of business trading and adultery. Still, he returned to New Zealand regardless. From Murray Gittos’ biography on White:
“The Wesleyan authorities decided in March 1838 to dismiss White from both the ministry and the mission, on the grounds of excessive commercial activity and misapplication of mission property. These activities, although not strictly in accordance with his standing instructions, were probably those least open to criticism if regard was had to Maori interests. Criticisms of his personal temperament were endorsed; on the adultery charges the evidence was persuasive in some cases, though inconclusive.

"While in England awaiting a decision on his future, White was taken up by the New Zealand Company as an expert on emigration prospects. He warmly supported the company until he perceived what he believed was Edward Gibbon Wakefield's hidden agenda of self-aggrandisement and separation of the Maori from their land. On his return to New Zealand in December 1838 White did all he could to discourage the sale of land to the company, including an unsuccessful attempt to forestall the Taranaki purchase.

"Back at Hokianga, White took up residence next to the mission, continued to preach, and remained a figure of considerable consequence to the Maori at Hokianga and Kaipara as both consultant and trader.”
So, it is possible that Rev. White fostered Forsaith’s business, providing accommodation for the Shaw family until Forsaith and Shaw had established a trading post at Mangawhare, Northern Wairoa by 1841. A mill was erected there to produce the spars, and by 1841 Elihu had cleared and fenced 12 acres of 2 blocks purchased by Forsaith. The set-up appeared to be that while Forsaith travelled back and forth across the Tasman, handling the business from Sydney, Shaw and his family managed the trading store.

It was this store which became the catalyst for a grievance by local Maori which was to last over 160 years.

There are two near-contemporary sources for the story of the Skull in the Trading Store: Elihu Shaw’s obituary in 1895, and James Buller’s narrative from 1878, Forty Years in New Zealand. The Waitangi Tribunal in the Kaipara Report this century, also enlisted testimony from the government hearings at the time into the incident.

The Shaws themselves appeared to have a good rapport with local Maori, a vital skill to have while a trader in the area at that time. (Forsaith himself was said to be fluent in both Maori language and customs.) One time when a boat Shaw was using to ferry provisions capsized on a river, it was local Maori who came to his rescue.

The Mangawhare store had previously burnt down, according to Shaw’s obituary, but Forsaith arranged for it to be rebuilt. No one knows exactly how a skull came to be placed in the store. One story says a local Maori found it in a flax bush, and Mrs. Forsaith placed it in the store “out of pity” by hanging it in a kit bag on the wall. Another story about the incident claims the skull was spotted by local Maori in the potato store, even more injurious to the skull’s mana. How the Forsaiths, who were supposed to be familiar with Maori protocol, could have made such an error regarding the placement of so sacred a relic as a human skull has never been determined.

A Maori chief of the area, Tirarau, asked Shaw who put the skull there, and Shaw told him it was Mrs. Forsaith. A raiding party returned shortly after to carry out a taua muru, destroying everything identified with the Forsaiths, including the store itself. The Government enquiry, for what it was (the Waitangi Tribunal have since criticised it for procedural errors) was held at Rev. Buller’s station at Tangitiroria, and the Crown ordered that some of the Maori land be officially confiscated in punishment for the destruction of Forsaith’s store. This land, at Te Kopuru, was a source of local Maori grievance for the next 160 years or so, due to lack of recognition of local iwi land interests, and errors regarding the initial survey by Charles W. Ligar.

Forsaith benefited greatly from the compensation: he went to Auckland, and by 1843 had set himself up as a draper and merchant in the city. From there, he progressed to politics, almost becoming one of the colony’s early premiers.

Shaw, meanwhile, remained in Northland until the Northland War in 1845. The family left the area, travelling by boat (one for the family, towing another for their only cow) to Helensville, then walking the rest of the way to Auckland. They are said to have resided first somewhere in Avondale, then Onehunga, before Shaw finally purchased his Cabbage Tree Swamp land off Sandringham Road in 1851. He followed a number of occupations, apparently. One may have been as a road-maker, like his near-neighbour Mr. Walters at what is now Eden Park, quarrying the necessary rock out of his own landholdings. There are one or two quarry-like depressions close to present-day Shaw Street. Eventually, he turned to his first occupation – gardener – and ended his days market gardening in what is now the Morningside-Kingsland area of Mt Albert.

One of his grandsons, Charles T. Shaw, lived in the New Lynn Hotel for a time, before shifting to Avondale’s Rosebank Road. He was a musician, a member of the Oratia Band, and ran a store in Avondale with his wife for a number of years, close to today’s Ray White building (former National Bank). Another grandchild was Mrs. J. Capes, also of Avondale.

Gwen P. Howe, The Gardener and the Squire’s Daughter, 1988
Deeds Indexes for Allotment 153 and 154, Section 10, Suburbs of Auckland, LINZ.
Obituary for Elihu Shaw, NZ Herald, 13 July 1895
Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser, 1838-1839
James Buller, Forty Years in New Zealand: Including a Personal Narrative, an Account of Maoridom, and of the Christianization and Colonization of the Country, 1878, pp. 84-88
Kaipara Report, Waitangi Tribunal

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Crystal Palace Theatre

Odd, sometimes, what crops up when I do a Google vanity search. Seems, for now, I have a mention on Facebook at Incredibly Strange, where a history summary I completed on commission in 2006 for the Crystal Palace Theatre in Mt Eden has been published (scroll down). Awesome photos the site's owners have provided to go with the piece -- I like it!

Street Stories 8: A street with a bit of a kink

Burnley Terrace is in the old Mt Albert Borough area from Sandringham Road, and Mt Eden Borough from Dominion Road. The border between the two boroughs is smack dab in the middle, based on the old survey lines between the farms along both main roads. Burnley Terrace is also quite obviously kinked.

There are other streets in Auckland with kinks for various reasons, but this one is because two separate landowners (Henry Hirst in Mt Eden 1887, Thomas Runciman in Mt Albert 1886) did two separate surveys and subdivisions, along with two separate road dedications., and didn't match up the line of road. Both ends were dedicated before either Mt Albert or Mt Eden had left their early Road Board status, and so probably couldn't do much about it. Henry Hirst, of Mt Eden by the way, was the father of Samuel Luther Hirst of Gribblehirst Park fame.

Surely, though -- seeing as the subdivisions were within a year of each other, even the surveyors would have alerted their clients to the possibility that the through-road they were each including to service the new sections didn't exactly match what was going on just across the way.

Do a virtual trip down Burnley Terace using Google's street view, and you'll see what I mean.

Update, 17 March 2013: Apparently, Henry Hirst had a large vineyard on his land which became the eastern part of Burnley Terrace, off Dominion Road.

As our small community is increasing in number and wealth, the culture of the grapevine is being extended. There are several places in the neighbourhood of Auckland where grapes are grown for table purposes under glass to a considerable extent. The other day we visited the vineries of Mr Hirst, Mount Roskill Road. For several years Mr Hirst has devoted a good deal of attention to grape culture, and fair success has attended his efforts. The vineries are situated in a small hollow, some distance off the line of road on the western side, and though Mr Hirst's residence is visible from the road, only a part of the top of one of the glass houses can be noticed from the same place. They are situated in a small sheltered hollow among the scoria land, and the vines apparently delight to send their roots down among the underground stonework of that region. Had the vineries not been so favourably situated in respect to underground drainage no doubt Mr Hirst would have been compelled to adopt more elaborate means than he has to prevent an undue state of moisture in his glass houses. The structures are very simple in character, but under their protection, and in the porous soil on which they grow the grapes are attaining a degree of perfection and vigour far exceeding that we have seen at places where much more care was taken, and when a vastly heavier expenditure was incurred.

It is evident that when grown on very porous soil, such as is found in so many places in the neighbourhood of Auckland, the warmth and evenness of our climate are such that the grape vine needs little protection or forcing to bring it to the highest state of perfection. Mr Hirst's vinery consists of four separate houses, one upwards of 50 feet long, two each 84 feet long, and one 24 feet long. In width they generally range from 14 to 16 feet. The roofs are not high, so that the vines do not require long rods to reach the summit. Three of the houses are fitted with appliances for artificially heating. This is generally done only during the night time, and throughout the day the fires are allowed to go out. Though this early in the season, the grapes in all the houses are not only set, but generally about half their full size. Only one of the houses has been heated, and in it some of the branches are beginning to colour. The others will supply fruit at a later period in the season.

The variety of grape grown is chiefly the black Hamburg. There are a few of the muscat of Alexandra, a few golden champions, and a sprinkling of mill hill Hamburg, but, like others, Mr Hirst has found by experience that the black Hamburg is a grape that surpasses all the others for a sure general crop of excellent quality. Mr Hirst prunes his vines on the spur system, and allows only one branch to hang from each shoot. The bunches are of good average size, with here and there some with indications that they could have been made into very large bunches if the grower so willed it. The vines are all planted inside the house, but not in prepared borders, and are not at equal distances from each other. The large blocks of rocks in many instances prevent this being done, but where large spaces exist he has allowed his vines to carry two rods from near the surface of the soil. The vines in all the houses show a remarkably even distribution of fruit, and the lower bunches appear to be swelling as rapidly and satisfactorily as those growing higher up. In stiffer soils the degree of moisture in the atmosphere of the vine houses could scarcely fail to develop various forms of fungoid disease, but here, in the open land thoroughly drained by nature, the effects of the heaviest rain disappear at once. This kind of soil the vines evidently delight in, and it is a long time since we have seen healthier looking or more abundant fruiting vines.

Judging by the manner in which the vines are planted, we think Mr Hirst will have about 190 bearing vines, from which he expects to harvest this year over two tons of marketable grapes. Last season he cut his first bunch on the 1st December, but this year he will be at least a fortnight late. To amateurs, an examination of Mr Hirst's vineries cannot fail to be a source of real pleasure, for the sides of each house are covered with a solid mass of fruit. He has constructed a large reservoir in the immediate neighbourhood of the vineries, from which an abundant supply of water can always be obtained, should the dryness of the weather reader watering necessary. This season, however, the natural moisture has prevented the necessity of applying to the reserve store at hand.
NZH 27 November 1883

Hirst won second prize for his black graps at the Horticultural Exhibition in March 1881, (NZH 28 March) but 1883 appears to have been his last hurrah. By 1887, his land was subdivided, and became the eastern part of Burnley Terrace.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gribblehirst Park -- a reserve without a history

Welcome to Gribblehirst Park, Mt Albert, here in Auckland. This is one of two signs which describe what you can and can't do there. Not much in the way of information for the heritage tourist, though.

It is a very, very nice place, especially today, a sunny February Sunday afternoon. The road (right) is used by drivers as a shortcut between Morningside Drive and Sandringham Road, but some do stop here, let the kids play at the playground, perhaps exercise the dog (it's an off-leash area). There's tall trees and pretty roses to admire.

The rugby club has a building set nicely amongst the verdancy of the green playing fields which dominate this park. The signs pointing to the sports grounds are a bit elderly, mind.

I came up to this pile of volcanic rock, expecting -- with hopes rising -- that there would be some kind of a plaque telling the casual visitor (like me) just what was the story of Gribblehirst Park. Instead, it bore just the park's name, and this (still, quite interesting) coat of arms of the now defunct and replaced Mt Albert Borough Council. This dates from before 1978 -- that's when the Borough became, for a short span of 11 years, a city before amalgamation with Auckland's council. The 1911 date is when the borough succeeded, in turn, the road board before it.

Gribblehirst Park is named after the Gribble and Hirst families. James Gribble died 1886 but owned quite a bit of this part of Auckland, and Samuel Luther Hirst was his son-in-law who inherited the estate. The families gave 11 acres of the estate to the borough council in 1930, according to Dick Scott, and the council purchased another 3 acres to make up today's total of 14 acres. That's just part of it -- Gribblehirst Park was cleared of rock, levelled, and drained (much of the surrounding area flooded rather badly for the first quarter of the 20th century) by depression-era unemployment work gangs. Scheme No. 5, as one was called, did much during the 1930s to form many of the recreation areas we know and love today in Auckland, through subsidies from government cutting council costs and providing employment during hard financial times.

Something along these lines would be, I think, interesting for those who would like to know the story behind a pretty park like this. I don't live in the ward (Eden-Albert; I'm in Avondale) but hopefully someone will get the idea to put something forward as a project. Pending budgetary constraints and that recession thing, of course.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Street Stories 7: Children's names in Morningside

Images are details from DP 4163 and DP 4806, LINZ records.

It never pays, in local history, to just assume and not to check.

Dick Scott in the classic local history In Old Mt Albert (1961, 1983 and reprinted 2006) wrote this about one of Morningside’s early landowners:

“There was Elihu Shaw, another Hokianga pioneer who had been driven out by Heke’s war in the north. He bought 16½ acres at Cabbage Tree Swamp in the late ‘forties and then acquired larger areas as he prospered. Shaw Street is named after him and Collin and Ethel Streets and Leslie and Kenneth Avenues after his children.”

John Davenport in another classic, Street Names of Auckland (1990) went ahead and used Scott’s paragraph in his book. The Auckland City Library’s very good “Auckland City Street Names” database has:

Collins Street: (Named after Collin Shaw, son of subdivider Elihu Shaw.)
Ethel Street: (Named after Ethel Shaw, daughter of subdivider Elihu Shaw.)
Kenneth Avenue: (Named after Kenneth, a son of the subdivider Elihu Shaw.)
Leslie Avenue: (Named after Leslie, a child of the subdivider Elihu Shaw.)
Shaw Street: (Named after the subdivider, Elihu Shaw.)


McDonald Street: (Named after a local early settler family.)

These are streets in Morningside, between Morningside Drive (formerly Argyle Street) and Sandringham Road (formerly Kingsland, then Edendale Road).

There’s just one slight problem with Scott’s book, Davenport's book, and the library database: Elihu Shaw didn’t subdivide Allotment 153 where McDonald, Shaw, Collins and Ethel Streets were dedicated, nor did he subdivide Allotment 154, where Kenneth and Leslie Avenues were dedicated. In fact, he never owned Allotment 154 in his lifetime, and Allotment 153 was subdivided as “Shawville” well after his death.

I’ll go more into Elihu Shaw’s story in another post when I can, but … here’s the gen. He died in 1895, and the executor of his estate was his son-in-law Alexander McDonald. It was McDonald who subdivided Shaw’s farm at Morningside (he himself was a market gardener as was his father-in-law in Shaw’s latter years). Another son-in-law was Mr. Collins. The McDonald, Shaw and Collins families are each memorialised in “Shawville” streetnames (the subdivision taking place in 1910, 15 years after Elihu Shaw’s death.) It’s not certain who Ethel was, but I reckon she was either a McDonald or a Collins.

As for Kenneth & Leslie Avenues, these streets are on a farm formerly owned by James Gribble until his death c.1886. In 1891, his son-in-law, S. L. Hirst, had the title, and in 1906, 20 years after Gribble’s death, the allotment was subdivided and the roads dedicated. Who were Kenneth and Leslie? Probably either from the Gribbles or the Hirsts. Hopefully, more info will come to light.

For the record, the names of Elihu Shaw’s children were: John, Silas, Emily, William, Mary, Martha, Elizabeth and Reuben. Nary a sign of an Ethel, a Kenneth or a Leslie. To Scott’s credit, however, he may not have thought to check the subdivision plans at the time, and wouldn’t have had ready access as we have today to the Shaw family history. His book, though, is still a classic.

The Gardener and the Squire’s Daughter, Gwen P. Howe, 1988
Deeds Indexes for Allotment 153 and 154, Section 10, Suburbs of Auckland, LINZ.

An update -- and likely answer as to who Kenneth and Leslie were -- here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bird in a box

From Auckland Evening Star, 6 August 1875.

"Some time ago a large case conveyed an emu to Ellerslie. at the top of the box was a hole large enough to allow the huge bird to put his neck through.

"It happened that at the time of the arrival of this emu there arrived also at Ellerslie an ancient sort of a lady who had travelled all the way from Howick to take a look at the gardens and to see the wonderful train. As the latter came in sight the dame put down her umbrella, and with her elbows resting on the case, held a pair of spectacles with a form grasp on her nose, and gazed earnestly at the wonderful sight.

"On came the engine, puffing and whistling, and roused the slumbering giant bird up through the hole in the box, and actually brushing the old lady's face, suddenly shot head and neck of the emu, who also gazed steadfastly at the approaching train.

"But the old lady had seen enough; she waited to see no more but flew from the spot in great affright. She was, like Mrs. Gamp, of a class who never taste a drop of drink, excepting when they "feel so disposed," and to quiet her nerves she was disposed to take a gentle stimulant, after which she departed, and has not since been known to leave those peaceful glades of Howick, where neither frightful apparitions nor the bustle of the train disturb the rural solemnity of the place."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Flight of the goose

From Auckland Evening Star, 19 July 1875.

"A gentleman in Symonds-street bought a goose on Saturday, and the goose was brought by a boy in a cart secured, it was thought, in a wicker-work frame. The arrival of Sunday's dinner was announced, and the purchaser came to the door, waiting while the little boy ran down the steps to fetch up the goose. While doing so, the goose as if anxious to be eaten by the purchaser, flew out of its cage towards the house. The boy made a plunge to catch it, when it rose on its wings, soared over the boy's head, over the cart, over the house of its purchaser, over in fact everything which could have any claim to it.

"Then, without further delay stretching its broad pinions, "Sunday's Dinner" swept down the valley towards the Domain, wheeled round in the direction of Fraser and Tinne's Foundry, and though still to memory dear was lost to sight.

"A gentleman on horseback who was standing by the cart was asked by the boy if he would mind galloping after the goose and catch it, but as the horse could not fly, nor follow after the goose up sewers and drain pipes or where ever it might choose to run, the horseman declined the chase."

A very rare photo of Timespanner ...

Courtesy of the photographer, my good friend Bill Ellis. Bill and Barbara were the ones who gave me a lift to Glenbrook on Saturday. You won't find many images of me around, they're usually right shockers -- but this one I absolutely love. And what was I doing between two locos, you might ask?

Taking this shot:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Update on the Woes of Mataura

Further to my earlier post here, here's a comment posted tonight by kiwimeg:
"Thanks for spreading the word about the problems we are having in Mataura.

Prior to Christmas Jack Phillips put several buildings up for sale in the town. Some of the shops in the main street, the movie theatre, an old church (as featured on Campbell Live!), the squash club and the old Masonic Lodge.

So we are currently looking for investors, or funding, so we can buy some of our town back and get our community moving again. If you or your readers have any suggestions for us here, please don't hesitate to contact me!

In the meantime, there are lots of fantastic projects underway as we do our best to rebuild our community despite Dr Phillips. From our successful community market to free community events in our beautiful new community centre!

Thanks again for spreading the word!"
Thanks for letting me know, kiwimeg. Much appreciated.

Railway gauges again

Jayne in her comments to my earlier post, It's all in the gauge, posted an interesting link to comments on the difference between states' gauges in Australia, while I found this in response from the NZETC.

But, think not that it was just an Australian thing, with division between states and whatnot. Gauge problems were also had by Americans, as this blog post illustrates.

My word, Sir Julius Vogel has been somewhat pilloried by history for his borrow now, spend lavishly, worry later policies and their contribution to the effects of the Long Depression -- but he was on a winner when it came to the gauges caper, all right!

More on J. S. Macfarlane

John Sangster Macfarlane. I’ve said before that his career here in New Zealand is a truly intriguing one. To date, I’ve written about the accusations made against him regarding incitement to have one sawmill owner murder another sawmill owner in the Coromandel district, and his revenge campaign against the Auckland Star in creating the competing Auckland Echo in late 1874. Then, there’s the Waitemata election of 1874 which he caused to have re-run because he had lost, and the winner was (in his opinion) a non-British alien. What else could this man have done to cause consternation in the young city of Auckland and environs?

The answer? Plenty.

We know from his obituary, that he is said to have been a commissariat officer in New South Wales before coming to New Zealand. The earliest record I’ve found to date for his activities here was as master of the 78 ton Joseph Cripps as at October 1845, so he seems to have come here during the Northland War, but probably not because of it. Up until 1852, he was a master of a number of vessels: Iliomama, Arabia, and the barque Daniel Webster. After this, he became a shipping agent, based at Auckland, but headed to Sydney to marry Marianne Browning at Trinity Church on 13 January 1853.

That year, he was the owner of a racehorse named “Flatcatcher”, and in 1856 he was appointed as a Justice of the Peace. That year the Saint Martin sank off the east coast near Hawke’s Bay, 15 May. It was a schooner, 58 tons, built of oak at Jersey and owned by Macfarlane. All passengers, crew, and “a considerable amount of property” were saved, however (according to NZ Shipwrecks), so Macfarlane’s loss was restricted to the schooner alone, which he doubtless had well-insured.

His career as an influential Auckland businessman during the 1860s appears to have been fairly standard for the time. Apart from a court case in 1861, where he was accused of reneging on a bet as to who would win the Provincial Superintendent’s position (his pick lost, but he won the case, on the technicality that the other bettor hadn’t deposited his part of the stake with a designated third party), he remained as a JP, was a member of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and a shareholder of the Bank of New Zealand from 1862, and entered into a business partnership with Thomas McHattie around late 1863. Their store was burned down in January 1865, but the partnership survived until later that decade.

Then came Macfarlane’s dealing with Thomas Craig and family, and with Christopher Atwell Harris over the Whangapoua sawmills and timber on the Coromandel. His assertions, made public in the numerous trials, and especially when he was accused of inciting Craig to shoot Harris, that Macfarlane was somehow above the law and able even to bend Parliament to his will earned him the enmity of lawyer W. L. Rees (who would, himself, later gain a seat as M.H.R.) Macfarlane campaigned hard to get his Waitemata seat – against Gustav Von der Heyde twice in 1874, only to lose. In 1875-1876, he had no intention of losing again.

His Riverhead scheme was revealed by Rees at a Court of Revision hearing in May 1875, where Rees contested the inclusion on the Waitemata Roll of over 100 names. The charges flew thick and fast. Macfarlane was accused of bribing a man named Brodie not to contest the names in court. Macfarlane was said to have subdivided his Riverhead holdings and “sold” small pieces to known supporters for pittances, just to have them recorded on the roll. Rees said “he was prepared to prove that Mr. J. S. Macfarlane had gone about boasting that he had made the next Waitemata Election safe enough.” (Star, 28 May 1875)

Employees of Macfarlane’s short-lived newspaper the Echo were signed on as electors. An employee named Carr was said to have scurried around at Macfarlane’s behest gathering false voters. The Star was appalled, and said so in its editorials, calling the affair “one of the most scandalous attempts at stuffing an electoral roll that has ever come before the public eye in any colony of Australasia.”

A meeting of electors at the Whau Public Hall in January 1876 proved almost riotous.

“Mr. EYRE : Did you not say to me the other day that you could poll 140 dead-heads at Huia?


Mr. EYRE : And did you not say that, if there was any opposition by the scruitineers, you would have them thrown into the creek ?

Mr. MACFARLANE: Yes; of course I did. What is the use of asking me foolish questions like that?

Mr. REES: I should like to ask Mr. Macfarlane if he did not put 160 dummies on the roll for Waitemata, persons who never had any qualification whatever, in order that they might vote for himself.

Mr. MACFARLANE: I believe there were 60 put on the roll, and everyone was properly qualified, and that Mr. Rees and Mr. Brookfield succeeded in getting them struck off by false means, by false representation, and false law, and that everyone will be put on again I will stake £100 on that. They shall be put on again. I have ascertained that 60 was the correct number, and that included eight men at Riverhead. The whole number struck off was 60, and every one had as good a right to be on the roll as I have, or anyone here, and they shall be put on again.

A VOICE:. I was one man struck off last election, and one as had as good a right to be put on as any man; and I was struck off by your party, Mr. Macfarlane.

Mr. MACFARLANE: Well, that is very likely.

The VOICE: That was by Mr. Lamb, one of your party.

Mr. MACFARLANE: I asked for all the names of the men who were dead and had left the district, and I got them, and sent them in a letter to the Returning Officer. I was leaving the country, and I had no time to go round, and I said, "Send me the names of everyone who is dead or has left the country, as I am going to Sydney." There is not a single thing that I have done that I am ashamed to stand by.

Mr. REES: I ask Mr. Macfarlane if amongst those names that were struck off, there were not two or three persons who are here tonight, also Mr. Carr and Mr. Allender, and if, when they knew that their names were objected to, they did not go out of the room in order to avoid costs.

Mr. Carr: No, I tell you Mr. Rees is telling an untruth. (Uproar )

Mr. MACFARLANE: I can state that Mr. Brookfield is ashamed of his action in the matter, and says that every man shall have his name put back on the roll without a farthing of costs to them.

Mr CARR: And out of the men who were complaining, put 40 or 50 names on who had no legal claim. Mr. Eyre's son was put on, and he had no qualification.

Mr EYRE: That is not my son.

Mr CARR: He is your relation.”
(Southern Cross, 14 January 1876)

Thomas Henderson, who had retired his Waitemata seat in 1874 so that Gustav Von der Heyde could replace him, now came back out of his retirement primarily to oppose Macfarlane in 1876. His decision was unfortunate; the 1876 election ended up being a four-horse race, with vastly more electors against Macfarlane (343) than for him (163) but as this was first-past-the-post, and his nearest rival, Hurst, received only 147 votes, Macfarlane finally won the seat he coveted. Henderson received only 68 votes.

Macfarlane was, by and large, an uncontroversial MHR – but from some instances that come from the newspapers, it seems he wasn’t liked by all his colleagues in Wellington.

Evening Post, 2 October 1877:

“Upon resuming at 7:30, the Speaker read a communication he had received from Mr. Macfarlane stating that Mr. Lusk had been paid £50 for preparing a bill for the Auckland City Council. — Mr. Stout asked whether it was right that such a letter as that of Mr. Macfarlane should be published in an evening paper before it was brought under the notice of the House. The letter in question had that evening appeared in a local print. He moved that the action of Mr. Macfarlane was a breach of the privileges of the House.— The Speaker said the publication of such a letter was highly improper.— Mr. Stout said he would withdraw his motion for the present. — Mr. Macfarlane said he had shown that letter to several members of the House, but had not furnished any copy to the paper in question. — Mr. Reynolds stated that no such letter had been published in the paper named, and Mr. Sharp confirmed this. — Mr. Stout rose to a point of order. The letter, so far as related to its publication, was not now before the House. —After some further discussion, Mr. Lusk complained of the indefinite nature of the charge, but so far as he could see, Mr. Macfarlane was only giving another instance of his unfortunate faculty for discovering mare's nests.”

The Wanganui Herald’s editor (12 December 1878) was obviously not a fan.

“The speech with which Mr. J. S. Macfarlane recently favoured his Waitemata constituents is certainly one of the most extraordinary political deliverances we ever met with. Judging, however, from the applause with which it is said to have been received, it must be allowed that the hon. member fairly represents the views of the Waitemata electors. Certainly Mr. Macfarlane is not an orator— it is in fact rather painful than otherwise to have to listen to him when making a speech— and therefore none of the glamour of manner can have been cast over the electors— their applause and approval must have been won by the solid matter of the speech.

We believe there are few other constituencies in the Colony which would have listened to such a speech with any other feeling than one of shame. Mr. Macfarlane is known as a shrewd and successful man of business, and with an innocence worthy of the Heathen Chinese he carries all his business instincts into politics. To make a hard bargain is evidently his highest idea of statesmanship, and votes in his eyes are fair articles of commerce. When he entered Parliament at the last election he was almost the only member returned from Auckland who was not an out and out supporter of Sir George Grey. While the Atkinson administration was in the full bloom of power, Mr. Macfarlane supported them, and by the means which he has now openly disclosed, got as much out of them as he could. When they became shaky, and Sir George Grey was in the ascendant, Mr. Macfarlane evidently thought more was to be got by changing sides than by remaining constant, and he changed accordingly. How he attempted to make the most of this change is told in the speech before us.

“He gave Sir George Grey, Mr. Sheehan, Mr. Macandrew, and Mr. Ballance an enormous amount of good advice. He told the first how to revise the tariff, the second how to draft a Native Lands Bill, the third how to administer the Public Works Department, and the fourth how to frame a proper scheme of finance and taxation. Singularly enough all four Ministers proved deaf to the disinterested advice so given. Sir George Grey did not see the timber and flour duties question from the stand-point of the Auckland saw-miller. Mr. Sheehan could not see the, advisability of framing a Native Lands Act which would enable Auckland land-sharks to acquire enormous blocks of land on their own terms. Mr. Macandrew betrayed a consciousness of the existence of other railway lines than those of Auckland, and an absurd determination only to make lines which were likely to pay, and to carry those lines by the best routes irrespective of private interests; while Mr. Ballance willfully shut his eyes to the injustice of imposing any direct taxation on the wealthy classes whose properties have been enormously benefited by the expenditure of money raised by the Colony at large.

“Mr. Macfarlane "lobbied" most energetically. No one probably had any idea of the extent of his exertions until he recounted their history to his admiring constituents the other day. He seems to have tendered his advice to Ministers upon every imaginable point, not openly in the House, but privately in the Ministerial room -- where arguments could be used which would scarcely bear being recorded in Hansard, it says a great deal for the firmness of the members of the Ministry that they were able to resist such importunacy, but they did so, and now Mr. Macfarlane has formally shaken the dust of the ministerial camp from his shoes, and denounced them and all their works. It must not, however, be understood that Mr. Macfarlane contemplates a return to the position of a volunteer counsellor of the party which he deserted the session last. He evidently aspires higher now. The leadership of a new party is what he aims at.

“With this object he has boldly challenged comparison personally with Sir George Grey."The Premier," he says, "can make eloquent speeches on constitutional quotations and about the rights of the human race, but he does not get the money. Now speeches without money are very little use. What we want is the money, we want a man who can get the money for us, and I'm the man to do this." Such a policy is of course a delightfully simple one. The new party could explain their political faith in their name if they were to call themselves the "Grab-alls," but we fail to see how Mr. Macfarlane can possibly hope to secure a sufficient following to give him the power of carrying out his programme. No doubt after the experience of last session, Nelson and Marlborough would heartily approve of the general principle of Mr. Macfarlane's policy, if carried out under local leadership. A fellow feeling might for a time make Nelson, Marlborough, and Mr. Macfarlane's Aucklanders wondrous kind to each other, but even if they were to conjointly realise Mr. Macfarlane's ambition and get the money, they would certainly fall out over its distribution.

“Mr. Macfarlane's idea is that Auckland should be bolstered up at the expense of the rest of the Colony until its rich men can get richer still and then clear out. No matter whether expenditure is necessary or likely to prove profitable, so long as it takes place in Auckland, is what Mr. Macfarlane practically says, and the rest of the Colony may, we think, fairly be congratulated on the fact of the terrible disappointment which he has evidently suffered at finding that the Premier, although an Auckland member, utterly repudiates such mercenary and narrow views, and, even at the risk of losing Mr. Macfarlane's confidence, has resolutely carried out with his colleagues a policy of fair justice to all parts of New Zealand.”

Macfarlane, apparently originally professing support for Sir George Grey and provincialism, changed his horses mid-stream and voted against Grey’s administration in 1879. This did not sit well with his Waitemata constituents, who voted a motion of no confidence in their elected representative (August). Macfarlane was also still hounded in his last year of life by a “fool” (his words) who supported Grey – his old enemy, W. L Rees.

To the end, Rees kept at Macfarlane. Macfarlane sued Rees for £10,000 for libel in April 1879 concerning the estate of a settler named Captain Reed; Rees issued writs against Macfarlane for charges of conspiracy and libel in Gisborne in October 1879 over the same matter. Macfarlane counter-sued in December to the tune of another £10,000. Suits and counter-suits were still before the courts when Macfarlane died, painfully but still litigating, in February 1880.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Speaking about external links ...

I've just noticed this on Archaeopedia.

"Timespanner - A journey through Avondale, Auckland and NZ history - has lots of West Auckland historical material - much of archaeological interest."
I've had the Archaeopedia site on the heritage links list for some time now. Really neat seeing a link to Timespanner over there, considering I have a great interest in archaeology, especially where it comes in tandem with history. Many thanks to the team running that site, from a grateful local historian.

NZ and Australian history blogs on US website

Many thanks to my friend Liz from Mad Bush Farm who spotted that her own Back Roads, Jayne's Our Great Southern Land and Timespanner have been included on a regional history blog roll at a site called History News Network. Extremely cool to see Australasian history highlighted in this way.

Litigation from the maritime highways

The highways connecting the main centres of Auckland and Onehunga in this region for the early decades of European settlement were the two harbours, the Waitemata and the Manukau, and the tributary rivers. Transport of goods by sea didn’t always go smoothly, however. Mishaps happened, some due to sudden changes in the weather, some due to overloading or general poor seamanship. The following instances both ended up in the courts – and thus, we have the information on the circumstances today.

John Thomas and the foundering of the Mount Eden – November 1863

(The following adapted from part 1 of Terminus.)

John Thomas, first proprietor of the Star Mill on the banks of the mouth of the Oakley Creek, in Waterview, had for some time regularly used the services of Jeremiah Casey and his 20-ton open cargo cutter Mount Albert to convey supplies of wheat to his mill at Oakley Creek before early November 1863. That year, the Waikato War began in earnest. Auckland’s fleet of small cargo boats were pre-empted and occupied with servicing the needs of the military, while the fleet’s crews and owners were called into part-time militia service (Casey testified at the hearing that he told Thomas “that had it been at any other time I would have gone myself; but I had been carrying a gun all night.”) With certainty of supply for the mill in question, Thomas was even at the point of deciding whether he would build his own boat.

Thomas purchased 14 tons of Adelaide wheat at this time from John Sangster Macfarlane – only to find out that Casey, his usual means of conveying the bags to his mill back at Oakley Creek, had two boats both already occupied with carrying coals to the troopship Himalaya, including the cutter preferred by Thomas, the Mount Albert. Outside the Waitemata Hotel, Thomas secured an offer from Casey to lend Thomas the services of the Mount Eden, an 18-tonner, if Thomas could find men on the wharf that day to crew her. This Thomas did – only to lose much of the valuable cargo to the waters of the harbour when a squall blew up close to the shoreline by Low & Motion’s property at Western Springs and swamped the Mount Eden, ultimately sinking her. Thomas did get as much of his cargo back as could be salvaged, but tried suing Casey for the total cost of the consignment, plus damages; he ended up losing the case heard before the Supreme Court in June the following year. It was a mix, the jury decided, of an unavoidable Act of God, plus the lack of a written contract between Thomas and Casey. I wouldn’t be surprised if Casey had refused to carry any more wheat for Thomas ever again. The Mount Eden was salvaged by Casey, and continued in service on the harbour for some time afterward.

The Gittos Tannery at the Whau and the overladen Scotchman – October 1874

In 1874, the Whau River was still a preferred means of conveying bulk goods to businesses such as the Gittos Tannery, even though the carriage of bulk bark for example most likely meant a bit of a gut-busting haul for horses drawing the carts from the bridge up St Judes’ hill to the tannery next to New North and Blockhouse Bay Roads.

For ten years, Benjamin Gittos, a little later with his sons John and James, had used the waterway’s sole bridge as their off-loading area for bark used in the preparation of tannic acid. When he purchased 600 bags of bark (weighing 50 tons) from off the Tien Tsin out from Launceston, John Gittos contracted the use of John Lamb’s steamer Scotchman to convey the bark from the wharf to the Whau Bridge. Trouble was, the Scotchman was registered to carry only 30 tons (although Lamb would testify that he had conveyed 60 tons in her hold just before the bark incident with no mishap, and could carry up to 70 tons); her engineer suggested carrying only 400 bags as a first of two loads to save a tide at the river, but this was overruled. The steamer left the city wharf on the afternoon of Friday 2 October. Even before reaching the mouth of the Whau River, her master, Frank Hodges, noticed leakage into her cargo hold. Her load had set the Scotchman so deep in the water, that it was lapping six inches over the vessel’s watertight copper skin. At the mouth of the river, with darkness falling and awaiting the incoming tide, the master anchored the Scotchman, and proceeded to pump water out of the hold.

They set off the next day on the tide, but there was further calamity; somehow, the steamer missed the winding channel in the centre of the river, and hit mudbanks. More water sloshed into the hold. The pumps were set going again, and the vessel made its slow way upstream to the bridge landing. 97 out of the 600 bags were found to be in a damaged condition, the salt water having leached much of the valuable tannic acid out from the bark. The Gittos family were livid, left the cargo of damaged bark at the landing place under tarpaulins, and demanded compensation. John Lamb denied all liability, and so it went to court on 27 October 1874. In early November, the tanners were awarded £56 11s 8d in damages.

The Scotchman, by the way, went on to become a long-lasting cargo and excursion steamer on the harbour.

Aside from court cases, another of my favourite sources of detailed information, even if coloured by opinion and often over-the-top description, are letters written to and published by newspapers of the time. While all the argy-bargy was taking place legally between Lamb and the Gittos family over the damaged bark, a short series of letters appeared in the Auckland Evening Star that October.

21 October 1874:
“To the Editor: Sir, -- Allow me to draw your attention to an intolerable nuisance, a nuisance although the party causing it has been frequently expostulated with, remains in all its danger. Close to the Whau Bridge, and tied to the bridge itself, is a large quantity of bark piled, covered with a tarpaulin, which flaps up and down with every gust of wind. Mr. McLeod, of Henderson’s-mill, had a very narrow escape of his life through it a few days back – not only him but the life of a valuable horse as well that shied at it. As the settlers of the Whau are treated with contemptuous indifference when they expostulate with the owners, I have thought it as well to bring it under the notice of the authorities through the Star. – I am, &c., T. B. HANNAFORD for ANDREW DILWORTH.”

McLeod was a well-known Henderson settler, associated in the early 1870s with the establishment of the first hotel in Henderson township, now known as The Falls Hotel. Andrew Dilworth was a settler at Waitakere since the mid 1860s or so.

The Gittos family, Benjamin, John, James (and Francis, who wasn’t part of the firm at that point) weren’t exactly well-known for being difficult people to get on with. Granted, they were strict Methodist temperance believers, but they had friends in the local community and in the city. The firm responded to Hannaford and Dilworth’s criticism thus:

22 October 1874:
“To the Editor: Sir, -- In your columns of yesterday appeared an offensive letter signed by “T. B. Hannaford for Andrew Dilworth” having reference to a quantity of bark, piled in bags, lying near the Whau bridge, and covered with a tarpaulin. We may say that the bark is on private property; not on any public landing-place or near to one; also, that it is not a nuisance of any kind whatever, and that during the last ten years no complaint has ever been made. In fact the settlers at the Whau are only too glad to see the bark so landed for manufacturing purposes. We have no doubt Mr. McLeod can take care of himself without the kind interference of “T. B. Hannaford for Andrew Dilworth”; and would respectfully suggest to the writer the propriety of attending to his own business. Trusting you will kindly insert this, We are &c., B. GITTOS and SONS.”
This further attracted Andrew Dilworth’s ire. Dispensing with his intermediary, he wrote a letter himself to the Star, and laid down West Auckland’s claim to the Whau Bridge and happened to its surrounds over any by the folk at Avondale. (This wasn’t a groundless opinion on Dilworth’s part – from the 1850s to the early 20th century, Avondale-side local authorities left most of the decision making and financing of upkeep and replacement of the bridges to either provincial authorities or the later Waitemata County Council.)

24 October 1874:
“To the Editor: Sir, -- It is only at intervals that I visit Auckland, generally on market days, and have therefore few opportunities of writing to the newspapers were I so minded. I did empower Mr. T. B. Hannaford to write you with reference to what I again repeat to be an intolerable and highly dangerous nuisance at the Whau bridge. I have read Messrs Gittos and Sons letter which appeared in Thursday’s Star, and unhesitatingly denounce it as false. They well know when they wrote that letter that the bark complained of is not that which had been stacked there for some eighteen months past, but a lot that was brought down by the S.S. Scotchman some three weeks ago.

“I have this morning (Friday) been to the Waste Lands Office and inspected the map, and positively assert that they aver that the bark is stacked on private property. It is nothing of the sort; it is stacked on the Queen’s highway, fastened to the Whau bridge, and to the annoyance and positive danger to life and limb of Her Majesty’s subjects.

“Messrs Gittos say the Whau people do not complain about it, but are, on the contrary, pleased to see it there as it betokens vitality in the district. What have the Whau people to do with it? They have nothing in common with the settlers further North, the Whau township being considerably away from the bridge; indeed, many of the Whau residents, whose business journeys are confined between the City of Auckland and their homes, don’t see the bridge from one year’s end to another. It is the settlers from Albertland, Wangarei, Matakana, Mahurangi, Waitakerei, and places adjacent who are affected by the illegal and dangerous obstruction, and who are determined by every legal means to get it removed. To show you the importance, Mr. Editor, of keeping that bridge free in every way for traffic I may tell you that during this spring alone upwards of 900 head of cattle have passed over it. – I am, &c., A. DILWORTH.”
Well, he was right – in the early 1870s, traffic was predominantly from the west and north-west, rather than from Avondale and the rest of the isthmus over the bridge. (This, of course, was to change markedly from the mid 1880s, with the development of Waikumete Cemetery, the Kaipara Railway, Binsted’s abattoir at New Lynn, and increased job opportunities in agriculture and industry out west.)

The Gittos firm closed the correspondence with this letter.

26 October 1874:
“To the Editor: Sir, -- In reply to a letter in your issue of Saturday, signed “A. Dilworth,” we beg to say that although compelled to differ from some of the statements in it, yet we trust Mr. Dilworth will no longer feel sore on the subject when we tell him the bark in question will be removed in a day or two. It is not our practice to store bark at the Whau bridge at all, and this would not have been placed there either if it had not been for a dispute with the owner of the “Scotchman”, and pending legal proceedings. Trusting you will kindly insert this, our last letter on the subject, -- Yours, &c., B.GITTOS AND SONS.”

Glenbrook visit 2009: last post

Some of the cars on display this year:

A NZR road services bus. Replaced these days by InterCity coaches. Bus history is another interest of mine. Probably tacks on from my general interest in the horse-drawn mass transport (omnibuses) which buses replaced. Be warned -- if I get a chance to visit MOTAT again and I have a camera with me, you folk could be facing a blog post full of old buses ...

An "1898 Columbia Shaft Drive", according to the hand-lettered sign resting against the wheel. Other early bicycles here.

A "White Steam Carriage" or steamer -- a car powered by steam engine. Oddly enough, the firm who built this around the turn of the 20th century was originally a sewing machine manufacturer. More on the company, and the cars, here. The firm still exists, apparently -- making trucks and buses.

Below are photos from the 2007 visit to Glenbrook's open day: