Thursday, September 10, 2009

Of the first baker, and stray pigs in old Auckland

Another excerpt from G. T. Chapman's tales -- this one "Old Identities No. 19", Southern Cross, 30 October 1875.

Speaking of the camp-oven reminds me of the first baker's shop opened in Auckland about this time. It was a tent— rather a swellish affair — having been imported along with the baker from Adelaide, regardless of expense; it was erected near the Government store mentioned in a previous paper. But the baker himself  [in a later letter, his name was revealed as James George -- no. 45, 14 October 1876] was quite a curiosity, as crusty and independent as a Scotsman, or as if he had been head-baker to the lord lieutenant in Sackville or Dame-street, Dublin; to the Marquis of Lome in Princes-street, Edinburgh; or to her Majesty the Queen in Regent-street, London. It was quite a favour to be supplied by him with the staff of life.

His oven another original — was a large three-legged pot; and when he managed to get a small bag of Hobart Town or Sydney flour he would make a few dough-nuts, or loaves as he called them, and was as proud of them as a hen with one chicken. He would only sell bread to special customers, not that he demanded a large price for his nuts: the price asked was fair and satisfactory, for our first baker was honest as steel. What he demanded from his customers was a certain amount of civility, or "if you please, sir," and without this you could get no bread from him; and sure enough, once or twice, as old hands will still remember, he actually shut up his three-legged pot, because the police Magistrate's lady asked him to send home the bread to her!

About this time, pigs were a great pest in the little township; and as Goldie, our Nuisance (of an) Inspector, had not aimed from Aberdeen, the cooks in the Crescent in their al fresco kitchens were sadly tried with these vagrant cattle. Amongst other delinquents, our friend the baker had a few porkers of the pure racehorse bleed; and, you may believe, they were troublesome customers. One old sow, in particular, was always in the way of mischief — so glaring, that the baker sold the animal for thirty shillings to a reverend gentleman living in St. George's Bay.

The sow was removed to the residence of his Reverence, and peace was proclaimed among the cooks in the Crescent for a few days, but only for a few days for, about the end of a week or so, the sow returned to her old haunts, hungry, and as full of mischief as ever. But this time she was accompanied by six or eight young ones This was by the cooks at once declared emphatically to be a causus belli, the sword of vengeance was unsheathed (metaphorically), and justice was demanded ; but justice has never, so far as I have found on consulting history, troubled herself with either pigs or cooks. So, like Alexander tho Great with the Gordian knot, Mr. Watson's cook like a second Macedonian came to the rescue, and he killed the old troublesome sow with an axe.

Our friend Doughnuts went over to his reverence with a sad and melancholy countenance and reported the disaster. A Maori was sent with a gun and a bag to the Crescent. With the gun he shot the young pigs, and with the bag he shouldered the pork and carried it over to his Reverence.

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