Monday, January 31, 2011

Research into the family of Robert Charles Greenwood

Further to my earlier piece on Robert Charles Greenwood, I received the following email a few days ago, regarding research being done into the Greenwood family. I promised Tom Greenwood to post this up here. If any readers have more information to hand, please let Tom know.

I have just found your blog on Robert Charles Greenwood – he was my Great great uncle and I have been undertaking genealogical research of him and his family “ The Greenwoods Theatrical and Comedy Company”.
I am now in the process of trying to follow the family members – I think they seem to have all gone to Australia but if you have any more information  I would be very pleased to hear!
Tom Greenwood

Living Halls: the Second World War Memorial Community Centres of the First Labour Government

Bill McKay is doing research into the Second World War Memorial Community Centres of the First Labour Government (1935-1949). He'd love to hear from anyone with information about these halls, anywhere in the country. From the introduction to his paper with Fiona Jack (with permission):
Throughout New Zealand, in nearly every city, town, district and settlement there stands a war memorial. Few commemorate the New Zealand Wars of the Nineteenth Century or the Boer War; most memorialise the two global conflicts of the Twentieth. New Zealand, although a nation remote from Europe, was still diligent in its duty to England and Empire and deeply involved in these conflicts. Both World Wars are said to have played a significant role in the development of a sense of national identity here.

Many of these memorials are cenotaphs or statues, some are arched gateways to domains or sports grounds but often one will see a small town or country hall or even a library inscribed with the words War Memorial. Few realise the extent to which these War Memorial buildings were the result of the First Labour Government’s policy to financially support the construction of community centres as official war memorials after the Second World War. And few realise the number erected throughout the nation: over 400 including meeting houses and dining halls on rural marae; a chain of community spaces constructed throughout the land that are a significant legacy of the Second World War and new Government policy.

Contact Bill at, or 09 3737599 ext. 88891.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Connecting Waterview

Just had an email from Bill McKay of the North-Western Community Association, letting me know about the Connecting Waterview site, regarding State Highway 20's Waterview extension and its effects on the local community there.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Another Browns Bay mural

I'd missed this one when I visited Browns Bay a few weeks ago, but whe I told my friends Bill and Barbara Ellis that I had an interest in murals (well as control box art!) for Timespanner, they sent this image through to me. Thanks, Bill and Barbara!

The Piha astronomy plaque

Further to the previous post.

I asked a friend, Arnold Turner, if he wouldn't mind taking some photos of the plaque as it was unveiled yesterday. He was very kind, said yes, and sent the following through today.

Above is Auckland Councillor Sandra Coney, and Professor Miller Goss,  formerly director of the Very Large Array in New Mexico.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

These Four Walls at Lopdell House

Genevieve McClean emailed me this afternoon regarding some of the history of Lopdell House in Titirangi. Her team are preparing:

An Historical Show
for these times,
An Experimental and Avant-Garde Work
suitable for the whole family,
and with a particular modern style
that utilizes a theatrical soundscape
including aspects of improvisation!

I'm all for anything which helps people appreciate our history in new and wonderful ways, so -- visit the These Four Walls blog, and keep up to date with their preparations and the dates for the performances.

Leo O'Malley's store

Last week, while I had started my photo-odyssey that day looking for a good shot of the Beresford Square buildings, I noticed again the 75th anniversary posters in the windows of the Leo O'Malley's menswear store on Karangahape Road -- and decided to pop in there to ask if there was any history to share.

Leo O'Malley's reminded me very much of some of the clothing stores we used to have here in Avondale -- Fowlers, Gardners. Places where the shirts were neatly folded on shelves, and the measuring tapes were only just out of sight behind the counters. As with the art gallery later that day, I didn't get any odd looks when I explained that I had a local history blog, and was looking for information to post up. Instead, they hunted up a copy of an article done specially on the store in the trade magazine Apparel (May 2010), and helpfully pointed me in the direction of a surviving piece of old advertising across the road (see below).

Info on John Patrick Leo O'Malley (c.1888-1960) is a bit thin on the ground. I've been able to find his obituary, and some tantalising snippets from Papers Past. He was born in New South Wales, and was educated at the Christian Brothers' school at Lewisham in Sydney. His obit says he came to Auckland about 1911, but it may have been slightly earlier.“Prompter”, of the Observer in April 1909, wasn’t impressed with what seems to have been an early performance by Mr O’Malley, in “Sixes and Sevens”:
Mr Leo O'Malley was not particularly convincing as Jack Warrender. It would be preferable also if he was a little more sparing with the rouge, or whatever he makes his countenance up with. From the dress circle it looked as if be had done the job with a trowel, and what it must have looked like from the orchestra stalls is a problem that is too vast for the mind of man to grapple with. Mr O'Malley's singing was out of tune.
 It looks like he may also have started out working for John Courts Ltd. In October 1909, he approached Auckland City Council on behalf of the John Courts employees regarding tennis courts at Victoria Park (Observer, 2 October 1909). By 1911, he was a traveller for the firm – and ran foul of shop opening regulations.
At the Police Court at Paeroa yesterday, Leo O'Malley was charged with failing to close his business premises at Karangahake on the half-holiday. Mr Porritt, who appeared for defendant, pleaded guilty on his behalf, explaining that defendant, who was a traveller for J Court Ltd, of Auckland, had opened the shop on the Tuesday, and had been under the impression that as he was not open on Monday that he could keep open on the half-holiday on Wednesday. The firm knew nothing about the matter, and did not encourage its travellers to unfairly compete with local business people. Defendant was fined 20s and costs 7s.
Ohinemuri Gazette, 7 April 1911

The Observer’s 1909 opinion of him aside, if that was the same Leo O’Malley – he started signing baritone in radio performances broadcast on Auckland’s 1YA station from around February 1928, and became a solid hit through the 1930s.

In April 1935, he opened a women’s clothing store at 254 Karangahape Road, next to what was once the Norman Ng Building. This is where the earlier shop sign was when I photographed it in 21 January.

Six months later, a men’s clothing store followed, at the Pitt Street – Karangahape Road corner, in the  1904 Pitt Street Buildings. 

The ladies’ fashion store was sold in 1945, but the corner business remained and is still there, though under different ownership. Three generations of Leo O’Malleys were to manage the store until 1999, when it was sold to the Eggleton family. David Eggleton had worked there from 1982. The same family also owns Suits on Broadway at Newmarket, which David Eggleton manages, while his brother John is the K’Road store manager as at last year and sister Carol works on the shop floor.

Back to the first Leo O'Malley. From his obituaries in the NZ Herald and Auckland Star (15 and 16 July 1960):

He took a lively interest in amateur dramatics and was an early member of the Auckland Operatic Society and Little Theatre. He was a past president of the Retailers Federation, past rangatira of the Auckland Savage Club, and past president of the Holy Name Society and the Karangahape Businessmen's Association.

The church on Beresford Square

When the Auckland Congregational Church members wanted a new home in which to worship, they went all out to make as much an impression on the neighbourhood as they did to show the strength and durability of their faith in God. The pillars design wasn't the first seen in a Congregational church in New Zealand -- the first one, in Wellington, dated from 1849. The first Auckland congregation dated from 1851, in Pitt Street, then at Shamrock Cottage, corner of  Albert and Victoria Streets, former home of architect Walter Robertson. By 1875, they needed a new home.

We have received from the pastor of this Congregation a circular stating what has been done by the Congregation in the matter of providing a new church to worship in. After occupying the Albert-street church they found it necessary, in consequence of the dilapidated state of the old buildings, and the insufficiency of the accommodation provided therein, to undertake the erection of a new church. After considerable delay and difficulty, a site has been found (in Beresford-street) which is central, commanding, and ample, having a frontage of 100 feet to Union-street, of 236 feet to Beresford-street, and having an approach of 30 feet from Pitt-street.

A portion of the ground, measuring 100 feet square, has been reserved for a Minister's house, to be erected at some future time. East of this a permanent building measuring 57 feet by 25 feet has been erected, for school and other purposes, which is at present used as their place of worship. Next to this the church is being built. The material used is concrete. The dimensions of the building are 87 feet by 45 feet, outside measurement; accommodation is provided for 420 persons on the ground floor; with a front gallery for 100 more; and provision has been made for seating ultimately 700. It is expected that the church will be completed within a few months.

The total cost of the site, hall, and church will be, as per last estimate, £4,200. Of this large amount £3,250, or more than three fourths, have been already provided by the congregation, leaving £950 still to be raised in order to open the building without any encumbrance; and of this amount £300 has been already promised by members of the Building Committee. To enable them to open their new building free from debt, they have made an appeal to the citizens of Auckland for help. The new building will be of a permanent character, and will be an ornament to the city. The congregation have done what they could to open the building free from debt, which may be surmised when it is stated that eleven gentlemen have contributed a sum of £1,128 6s. Captain Daldy, treasurer, has been appointed to receive contributions for the above purpose.
Southern Cross, 2 June 1875

The new church, in 1876, was described in almost loving detail by the Southern Cross reporter.

The inaugural services on the completion of the new Congregational Church, Beresford-street, will be held to-morrow, the officiating clergyman being the Rev T. W. Davies. Hitherto the services have been held in a brick building adjacent to the new church [Beresford Hall], but the attendance had long ago outgrown the accommodation which that building was capable of affording, and now that the larger church has been completed, the building formerly occupied will be available as a schoolhouse.

The new church is one of the most suitable and handsome of its kind in the city. The movement for its erection commenced some fifteen months ago, when, upon the recommendation of Mr J C Firth it was decided to use concrete as the material, as was used in building the dwelling-house of Dr. J L Campbell, and that of Mr Firth. The material is formed of six parts of scoria ash and one of Portland cement, mixed to a proper degree of consistency. This material is easily moulded, and, when hardened by exposure to the air becomes as hard as stone, and of great strength and durability. Its surface may be rendered smoother than chiselled stone, and its appearance is superior to any of the ordinary kinds of building stone.

The church was designed by Mr. P. A. Herapath, who adopted a pure Grecian Doric style, which gives an appearance of massive grandeur and solemnity to the structure, keeping with the purposes for which it was designed. Work was commenced about 14 months ago, Messrs Rose Bros being the contractors for the entire building. The foundations are of solid masonry, and the work of erecting the walls has been carefully super intended at every stage, so as to render the experiment as successful as possible. The thickness of the walls— from the foundation to the top of the floor joists — is 2ft , and thence upwards, 16in. The exterior appearance of the facade of the building which faces Beresford-street is striking in the extreme, the six massive fluted columns in front giving a very impressive and classic aspect to the structure.

The site is eminently suitable for devotional purposes, being removed from the noise and bustle of the main thoroughfare while, at the same time, the Church is easily accessible from the more populated parts of the city. The southern end or front of the building consists of a large portico, the floor of which is 21ft. 9in. by 14ft. 10in , flanked by two lobbies, each 14ft. 5in by 9ft , from which access is gained direct to the aisles. The two main entrances are thus completely sheltered from the wind. The interior floor measures 72ft. in length by 42ft. in width, the height of the walls being 25ft. 6in. The appearance of the interior is handsome and effective, without being showy. The architect has succeeded in producing a simple chaste style of ornamentation, exactly in keeping with the classic style of the architecture, and in strict accordance with its devotional purposes. The ceiling is composed of coffered panelling, the moulding being ornamented with gilding. The walls are relieved by ten blue pilasters running half-way up the walls, and set off by white vases; these pilasters being utilised as air shafts, to prevent draughts and assist the ventilation. The ceiling is further ornamented by three large ventilators, from which depend handsome gilded star-chandaliers. The interior is also well lighted in the day time by six large windows on each side.

The minister's platform is at the north end of the building, which is slightly indented, a design which favours the acoustic properties of this part of the Church, and renders the minister easily audible to the congregation at the furthest end of the building. The platform is tastefully ornamented with railings and red hangings, the short flight of steps on each side being carpeted. At the north-west interior corner, close to the platform is the entrance to the minster’s vestry, and on the other side another entrance to the deacon’s vestry. The sittings for the choir are at the south end of the building. The church affords comfortable accommodation for between 400 and 500 persons, the sittings being roomy, and convenient of access. The floor of the aisles is covered with matting, and the folding-doors, opening from the lobby, are covered with red baize. The seats arc arranged in a semi-circular form, the arc diminishing fron the front to the back.

The entire cost of the building is about £3,000, but the cost of the site and other etceteras will bring the total outlay up to about £5,000. As we have already stated, Mr Herapath was the architect, and the building is so admirably designed and finished, and so excellently adapted for the requirements, that it reflects the greatest possible credit upon his professional skill and superintendence. Messrs Rose Brothers have executed their contract in a very faithful and painstaking manner. The painting and varnishing, being done by Mr. LeRoche, is very artistic, and the plastering (by Mr Kelly) and gas fitting and plumbing (by Mr. Parker) are likewise creditably executed. We understand that there will be a debt of £1,100 on the building. Of this, Captain Daldy and J C Firth, Esq , have generously promised to contribute £550, and it only remains for the congregation and friends to exert themselves in freeing the building from all encumbrances.

Southern Cross 19 February 1876

The galleries were constructed in 1881, and in 1884 came a further enlargement for the organ loft, vestries for the pastor and deacons, and classrooms. As at 1902 (year of the Auckland volume of the Cyclopedia of New Zealand), the church seated 850 people, and was described as "one of the prettiest places of worship in the Colony." The organist at the time, W J Hookey, served as a draughtsman for the Auckland Gas Company.

Things were not going so well just two decades further on. In August 1922, a meeting of the congregation presided over by Rev Frederic Warner, voted to close the church and sell the property, in the light of declining attendances. The motion had been put by George Fowlds. Rev Warner resigned soon after, whether because of the decision or not, I don't know. He was found dead the following year.

AUCKLAND, 8th February.
A tragic discovery was made in one of the rooms beneath the Beresford Street Congregational Church this evening, when the body of the Rev. Frederick Warner, formerly pastor of the church, was found after a search had been in progress since the previous day. Deceased retired at about 11 p.m. on Tuesday, there being nothing to indicate an unusual state of health. On Wednesday morning he was missed. The Rev. Mr. Warner was about 60 years of age, and at one time was in Sydney, and then at Newton, Auckland, for six years, returning to Australia in 1900 and serving in Melbourne and South Australia. He accepted the charge at Beresford Street seven or eight years ago, resigning about six months ago. At the time of his death he was chairman of the New Zealand Congregational Union, and vice-president of the Congregational Union of Australia and New Zealand. He leaves a widow, son, and two daughters.

Evening Post 9 February 1923

Around this time, though, the church began to pick up again.

(By Telegraph.) (Special to "The Evening Post.") AUCKLAND, This Day. The decision to accept a permanent pastorate of the Beresford Street Congregational Church was announced by the Rev. Lionel B. Fletcher at the morning service yesterday. The announcement was made in response to a unanimous, call by the. congregation for him to remain indefinitely as pastor. As the result of his three years' work the church has been crowded out, and it had been necessary to use the Majestic Theatre for the time being. Under the supervision of Mrs. Fletcher, a great deal of social work was being done among the poorer classes, and during the past three years the attendance at the Sunday School had trebled. The roll now numbered 750. 

Mr. Fletcher said that he therefore felt it would be a serious mistake for him to leave at the present stage. He had never enjoyed three years in a pastorate better than those spent in Auckland. Both lie and Mrs. Fletcher loved the people and the city of Auckland, and felt that they should remain until they had reason to depart.

Evening Post 22 November 1926

From that point, the church went from strength to strength, until the motorway developments of the 1960s, cutting off this part of Beresford Street (now a Square). The congregation dwindled once more, and it was purchased in 1994. Today, it is a facility for hire called Hopetoun Alpha (for more information, see the K'Road heritage site.)

A post on a post in Parnell

(Left) Artist's impression of the hitching post, c. 1944, by Liz from Mad Bush Farm.

This is the story of the journey through time of a piece of wood which at some point was transformed into a hitching post. Hitching posts and rails were a common sight in an Auckland where horse transport dominated the roads.

This particular hitching post ended up situated on Parnell Road. If Marnie Spicer's childhood recollections (see below) are correct, the post probably dates from at least the late 1870s, if not before. It remains on the footpath directly opposite Cathedral Place; behind it, at one time, was the vicarage for St Mary's church. It seems that this humble hitching post has long survived the vicarage at least, the latter well gone by the time the post was noticed in 1944.

The chief librarian at Auckland City Library, John Barr, started things off toward recognition for the post's heritage associations with a letter to the City's Acting Town Clerk dated 4 April 1944.

"An old hitching post stands on Parnell Road near St Mary's Pro-Cathedral. As this relic of the past should be preserved, and if possible retained in its present location, I suggest that the City Engineer be requested to report on the best means of insuring that the post will be retained in its present position, and not interfered with should road works of any kind be undertaken in its vicinity. I would further suggest that a description of the use of the post should be attached to it or placed nearby."

This was followed a week later by the resolution of a meeting of the Library Committee, which instructed Barr:

"to co-operate with [Council staff] in having an inscription attached to, or placed on, this hitching post, so that it would be preserved as relic of the pre-motor car days."

A suggested text for the interpretive plaque was submitted to Barr for checking, and he wrote back to the City Engineer on 19 July 1944 with a change of wording. On 25 August 1944, Parker & Payne, an Albert Street engraving firm, submitted their estimate of £10 (later reduced on actual quote to £8 5/-).

The City Engineer had the site measured up that month, and worked out specifications for the total project. The post, 6" square, needed to be lifted up from the ground, have rotted portons removed (so that it measured, in 1944, 46" high), then seated in a concrete block 12" high and measuring 18" by 18". A creosote coating was to be applied to the timbers as protective preservative. The total cost of the work, as at 6 October 1944, was given as being £14 -- a project worth $1,100 in today's terms. On the same day, under their "Local and General" column, the NZ Herald announced to Auckland that the Auckland City Council had made the decision the night before to preserve the old post, and mark it with an "inscribed bronze plate."

This report sparked off two reactions. The first came from E Bowden, District Officer for the Department of Industries and Commerce, Tourist and Publicity, drawing the attention of the Auckland City Council to the (wartime) regulations then in effect -- that the Council could not have a bronze tablet made for the post without the prior consent of the Factory Controller, a Mr G A Pascoe.

Now there's something I didn't know about until this, but I'm not surprised given the era. This business about Factory Controllers stemmed from the very start of the Second World War, amid the perceived need for regulations controlling the supply of materials.

The Minister of Supply, the Hon. D. G. Sullivan, states that the Factory Emergency Regulations are an essential part of the Supply Control Emergency Regulations and that they provide for the regulation and control of factory production in those instances where such action is necessary in the public interest during a period of war. "Manufacturers will be only too well aware of the many difficulties which may arise not only in supplying many essential requirements for defence purposes but also in providing the needs of the civil population without interruption and in maintaining continuity of employment," said the Minister. "... Under certain conditions which might develop it would be necessary in the public interest for some classes of materials to be conserved to the utmost degree, with the additional possibility of devising the use of alternative materials or substitutes from domestic sources."

The regulations invest the Factory Controller acting under general or special direction from the Minister of Supply, with the necessary powers to control production according to the necessity of public interest, and to direct the use or substitution of materials. The Factory Controller is also given powers to enable him to obtain full information concerning stocks of materials. The Minister states that the emergency powers contained in the regulations will only be put into force in those instances for which such action is vital to the needs of the country ...

Evening Post 4 September 1939

The City Council went ahead and applied for permission from the Factory Controller for the hitching post plaque, and received approval by 24 October 1944.

Then, Marnie Spicer wrote a letter to Auckland City Councillor Joan Rattray, 14 December 1944.

I saw in the Herald one morning lately that the City Council intend to preserve the "hitching post" in Parnell Road near the gate of what used to be St Mary's Vicarage. As a child I used to visit there with my mother, and have often seen the late Dr. Maunsell (the Vicar) tie his horse up to that particular post. He was a great favourite with young and old parishioners, and we loved his Irish tongue.  It would be nice if the plate had his name inscribed as he was one of the early missionaries sent out from England by the C M Society.

Marnie Spicer was the daughter of Archibald Hitchins Spicer, who had for a time lived in Avondale in the early 1860s. Marnie herself wasn't born until 1872, a time when Robert Maunsell was Archdeacon of Auckland. This dates her memories as anywhere from 1875 to 1883, when Maunsell retired, although he still kept contact with the Parnell district for years after that.

By December 1944, though, it was too late to alter the wording on the plaque. The following was what was prepared, and still exists out there on the post on Parnell Road:




Ah, but the story of the Parnell post does not end there. In January 1949, it had apparently taken  quite a hit, perhaps in a motor accident. The Town Clerk advised the City Engineer on 19 January that the post had been damaged, the foundations loosened. The City Engineer reported two days later that instructions had been issued for the post's repair.

Then on 19 August 1952, the post vanished entirely.

A relic of the horse and buggy era, one of Auckland's few remaining hitching rails, that in Parnell Road, has disappeared. The whereabouts were unknown last night. Affixed to the footpath near an empty section where once stood the house in which the novelist Hugh Walpole was born, the rail was discovered on Tuesday to have either fallen down or been knocked down.

NZ Herald 21 August 1952

The day following the Herald report, the post was reported found -- at the Council works depot.

After the post had been knocked out of position early this week an Auckland City Council foreman too it to the depot. There the base is being cleaned. It is not badly rotted and is expected to remain for a long time as a reminder of Auckland's horse and buggy days.

NZ Herald 22 August 1952

The post was reinstalled later that same day.

The post continued to remain despite the dangers of Auckland's increasing motor traffic -- but it couldn't withstand the effects of time and the weather. Rot set in, despite the wartime creosoting, and in March 1966 the secretary of the Auckland Regional Committee of the NZ Historic Places Trust wrote to the Town Clerk advising that the top of the post had cracked, and the post itself was opening up, with evident signs of rot. On 25 March 1966 A J Dickson, the Director of Works and City Engineer at the time, replied that the post would be capped to correct the deterioration.

And so the post went through another transformation, losing the metal hook on the side by which the good Rev Maunsell had secured his horse all that long, long time ago, so that the rotted part of the post could be removed, and a copper cap installed. The prominent base, at some point, was also lost.

Today -- this is the last hitching post in Auckland.

On 23 September 2010, the hitching post was scheduled as category A under the old Auckland City isthmus district plan, despite the fact that the rot, the oldest enemy of the post's continued existence, seems to be continuing unabated, and also the fact that it has been chopped about and great reduced in size over the years.

I can't believe that this part of the footpath has remained just as-is,  not maintained since early 1966, so the cement around the base of the post today has to be relatively recent. The inscription carved into the then-wet surface when it was laid, a phrase already with its own associated poignancy, has meaning for this poor old post as well:

Lest We Forget.


Carolyn Cameron of Parnell Heritage who told me at the Auckland Research Centre last Friday that the hitching post was still there -- thus sparking off a Timespanner blog post hunt for the post and my scramble that afternoon to get on a Link bus to go photograph it.
Liz Clark -- thanks, my friend, for helping this obsessive history buff with your art.
The staff at Auckland Council Archives for retrieving the file on the hitching post.

Council file: ACC 219 44-227/1/123
NZ Herald. The best image of the post as it was is from the issue of 23 August 1952, p. 10.
Auckland City Council District Plan

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A replacement planned for an old mural

Off Huia Road at Pt Chevalier is a wall, between the supermarket carpark and the local community centre. While yes, I do photograph murals, fading and otherwise, and hope they don't vanish, truly -- this one has seen much better days.

So, the good news is that a special arts project is underway, with artist Zoë Nash seeking local community input as to what makes up Pt Chevalier, and how to express the essence of "Point"; not in traditional muiral form, but with images as art, fixed to the wall, like tiles of metal sheets. The final details as to how the work will be achieved are still to be worked out. From her email to me:

Creative Project in Pt Chevalier Needs Your Help

In conjunction with Creative Communities NZ and the Auckland Council, the Pt Chevalier Community Centre is creating a brand new, permanent public artwork to run along the wall between the centre and Countdown supermarket. Facilitated by local artist, Zoë Nash, this six-month project involves lots of community input and participation, and will culminate in an exciting collaboration with a public celebration towards the middle of June. The work will commemorate the Pt Chevalier area and explore its history, landscape, architecture, culture and heritage. Any local residents who wish to participate in the creation of the work are very welcome. No artistic experience is necessary. There will be a series of open, public meetings held at the community centre to provide overview about the project and explain how you can become involved. There is also a public questionnaire which will be available from both the community centre and the library that you are encouraged to fill in. Zoë is keen to hear from anyone who would like to take part or who has interesting photographs, stories and memorabilia about Pt Chev. 
For more information please contact the Pt Chevalier Community Centre on 846-1094 or contact Zoë on 021 175 3713.

Readers -- please feel free to pass the questionnaire link, and anything else in the post, to your networks.

A plaque to be unveiled at Piha

 The Crab Nebula, from Wikipedia (image from NASA).

I see by today's Western Leader that there's great excitement at Piha in West Auckland. A plaque is to be unveiled on Friday 28 January in Te Ahuahu Road.

"Sixty-three years ago high on the hills above Piha two men made a discovery that revolutionised astronomy. New Zealander Gordon Stanley and Englishman John Bolton came to Piha in search of radio stars -- stellar objects that release radio frequencies ... The pair arrived on the West Coast in May 1948 after their search for the stars in Pakiri near Warkworth proved unsuccessful ... 'Bolton and Stanley's discovery revolutionised 20th century astronomy' [so Professor Miller Goss, former director of the Very Large Array in New Mexico, is quoted as saying]. 'This was massive -- the first discovery of a celestial object that was not the sun or the moon.'"

Now, the object "discovered" was Taurus A, otherwise known as the Crab Nebula, the remains of a super nova the explosion of which was observed by Chinese and Arab astronomers in 1054. The nebula itself was observed by John Bevis in 1731. According to Ken Kellerman, Wayne Orchiston and Bruce Slee, in thir paper "Gorden James Stanley and the Early Development of Radio Astronomy in Australia and the United States" (2004), Taurus A's radio source had first been detected near Sydney on 6 November 1947, along with that of others at that time. Bolton and Stanley came over to two sites here, at Leigh and Piha to obtain a more accurate position for the sources --  like triangulation.

I really hope Professor Goss was grossly misquoted. "The first discovery of a celestial object that was not the sun or the moon"? Come on, Western Leader. Surely you know better than to print something like that? That sentence pretty much tosses out all the observers back to pre-history who have watched the stars or the Milky Way galaxy. I'd term that sentence a major howler -- and hope it was taken out of context.

If any readers get a chance to pop out to Piha to photograph the plaque, please do let me know -- I'd love to see it.

Update: thanks to Arnold Turner, here are the photos of the plaque.

At the end of Oliver Street

At the end of Oliver Street, Pt Chevalier, today there is a boat ramp. Back in the 1860s, this was a reserve area, possibly already by then a landing place, especially in view of the military training grounds in the area.

But what really intrigues me about the end of Oliver Street -- is this.

Welcome to Watercare's Oliver Street Wastewater Pumping Station No. 5.

This is a small yet quite beautiful (considering its purpose) example of municipal architecture. Apparently built sometime before 1940 (it shows up in the aerials of that time), it may be part of the overall engineering of the old Auckland Drainage Board, long since replaced by other bodies. It is definitely a room with a view.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Avondale Spiders defined

A new book I spotted in the library today, and borrowed: Tony Deverson's The Oxford Dictionary of New Zealandisms. Something made me flick it open, and look for Avondale Spiders. Yes, I found them.
Avondale spider noun (also Avondale elliptical) an introduced (harmless) Australian huntsman spider, Delena cancerides. [chiefly found in the Auckland suburb of Avondale.] (p. 9)
About the book, from here:

A landmark contribution to New Zealand English, The Oxford Dictionary of New Zealandisms is the most up to date and comprehensive work of its kind. The Oxford Dictionary of New Zealandisms is a collection of entries for some six and a half thousand distinctive New Zealand words and usages, with around half of that number shown in actual use by way of one or more illustrative quotations from written publications. The dictionary’s contents encompass the full range of New Zealandisms, drawn from a wide variety of domains and areas of New Zealand life, and including items both current and disused, contemporary and historical in reference, colloquial and non-colloquial in style, and borrowed and internally sourced in origin.

The Oxford Dictionary of New Zealandisms is the first to represent the entire spectrum of New Zealand English vocabulary since the publication of the late Harry Orsman's monumental Dictionary of New Zealand English in 1997.
As for the cover illustration? "A box of birds."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Claiming links to Captain Cook

Auckland Weekly News, 28 September 1922. Ref AWNS-19220928-38-5, Sir George Grey Special Collections, 
Auckland Library.

Readers of the NZ Herald in September 1922 would have probably been quite intrigued to read of the passing of someone in the Borough of Avondale who appeared to have a distinguished set of links to our past.

Mr. William Cook in whom was centred a most interesting link with the earlier history of New Zealand, passed away at Avondale to-day, at the age of 97. Mr. Cook was a grandson of the youngest brother of Captain James Cook, the great navigator, and his mother was a sister of Sir George Bowen, who was Governor of New Zealand from 1868 until 1878.

Mr Cook was born near Portsmouth, England. From his early boyhood he wished to be a soldier, and while still in his teens he joined the volunteers. This did not prove exciting enough, and he went to Ireland and joined the 47th Regiment in Richmond Barracks, Dublin. While there the Crimean War broke out, and young Cook exchanged into the 13th Regiment, which was ordered for active service. A period of training with the regiment at Colchester followed, and arriving at last at the Crimea, Mr. Cook had a year and eleven months of an existence which could hardly be called life. Speaking in after years of the unsatisfactory conditions that existed during that strenuous time, Mr. Cook stated that so inadequate were the arrangements that he and many of his fellow-soldiers went a full twelve months without a change of clothing. It was not until after the arrival of Miss Florence Nightingale that matters were put on a better footing. Mr. Cook frequently came into contact with Miss Nightingale, and he always retained a kindly remembrance of the change that her arrival brought to the soldiers.

While he was still in the Crimea, the news was received of the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny. Though the siege of Sebastapol had not yet been effective, troops were rushed from the Crimea to India, among them being Mr Cook. His regiment landed at Karachi, and from there they journeyed up the Indus to Mooltan, a distance of over 1300 miles, in flat-bottomed boats, which often stuck on mudbanks. On arriving at Mooltan, they disembarked and marched to Lahore, where fighting was proceeding, Lahore is. 900 miles from Mooltan, and the greater part of the route was covered with dense jungle; through which the soldiers had to cut their way. They often had to fight for their lives, as the Sepoys were constantly on their tracks.

Mr. Cook was stationed in India for three and a half years, when trouble having broken out with the Maoris in New Zealand, his regiment (the 70th) was ordered to embark for Auckland. That voyage Mr. Cook never forgot. India had not been left far behind when cholera broke out on the ship. The crew numbered 18 all told, and a shipwrecked crew of a similar number was picked up near the southern coast of India. So virulent did the epidemic become that on arrival at Auckland there were only two of the combined crews of 36 alive, and in addition 200 of the soldiers died. The captain and first mate of the ship early succumbed, and the only persons on board with a knowledge of navigation were the boatswain and his mate. Some of the soldiers were told off to do duty as sailors, among them being Mr. Cook, and he was wont to relate with pride that on his arrival at Auckland he was given £3 10s extra pay for his work as a seaman.

The trouble with the Maoris was steadily coming to a head, and the 70th Regiment was marched from Auckland to Drury, stopping on the way for a while at Otahuhu. The Great South Road from Drury to Mercer was constructed by the regiment, and various other public works were undertaken. In 1863 the regiment saw plenty of active service, especially near Shepherd's Bush.

In 1865, when the war had ended, Mr. Cook left the army and received a grant of 60 acres of land at Whangarei for his services. He bought an adjoining block of ten acres for 10s an acre, and intended to take up farming for a change. However, his plans were changed. Contracts were let by the Provincial Government for railway construction works, and Mr Cook entered into partnership with Messrs Dawson and Elliot, and undertook the construction of the railway from the Parnell tunnel to Penrose. The first engine was sent from England in parts, and Mr. Cook assisted to assemble it at Newmarket. Unfortunately, however, Mr Cook lost £400 on the contract, and as [the] Provincial Government …was short of funds, there was no chance to recoup himself by entering on another railway contract. Mr Cook afterwards entered into the employment of the late Mr. Alfred Buckland, senr., and remained with him until early in the seventies.

Mr Cook, ever a man of many parts, subsequently engaged as a quarrying contractor, and he often stated with pride that he personally quarried many of the stones used in the construction of the original Bank of New Zealand, the Bank of Australasia, and the Bank of New South Wales, and also for the Shortland street Post Office and the Supreme Court. Road contracts were afterwards taken up, and among the streets constructed by Mr. Cook was a large portion of the Manukau road between Parnell and Remuera. Mr Cook, who had been a widower for some years, leaves a large number of descendants. He enjoyed good health until two or three months ago.
Evening Post 12 September 1922

Well, unfortunately in terms with this stirring tale of British Empire and the colony's development, all was not what it seemed.

Received 27th September, SYDNEY, This Day.
Mr. James Watson, Research Secretary of the Royal Australian Historical Society, in a letter to the "Morning Herald," referring to the recent New Zealand cable message reporting the death of William Cook, grand-nephew of Captain Cook, aged 97, says:”As to the relationship claimed, it is extremely doubtful and quite unknown to any of Captain Cook's biographers. Captain. Cook himself had no descendants of the second generation, nor to his only brother John—born 1727, died 1750—can any son be traced, nor does it seem at all probable, calculating from these dates, that such a relationship existed."

[Mr. William Cook recently died in Auckland at the age of 97. He always claimed descent _ from the navigator.]
Evening Post 27 September 1922

Watson was correct, as can be seen from this family tree. Captain Cook had two brothers -- John, older than him, who had no issue, and William, younger than him, who died at the age of three. The William Cook living in Avondale at the time of his death couldn't have been a descendant from one of Captain James Cook's brothers.

His other claim to have familial connections with Sir George Bowen, I am unable to confirm at the moment.

If William Cook had a large number of descendants when he died -- I wonder how many of those still living think or have thought that they, too, had a link back to the Endeavour?

A gateway pier at Parnell

On Parnell Road, at the former site of St Mary's Anglican Church, at least some of the church's history on the original site is preserved: a single surviving gate pier, with a heritage plaque on it.

The original St Mary's looked like this, and then this, and then like this.

Initially there was a wooden church on the old site, dating from 1860 and designed by Frederick Thatcher. But, it was inadequate in size, as St Mary's was the only Anglican church in Parnell, which was a focus of diocesan activities right from the days of Bishop Selwyn. It was effectively the pro-cathedral  church for the Anglican Diocese. Christchurch architect Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort was appointed in February 1885 to come up with a design for the replacement church, built by W Rosser and consecrated in September 1888. The old church was still used until its demolition in 1898 to make way for “four complete new bays to the nave, with a vestry for the clergy, baptistery, north and south porches, on the same level as the present nave, and a lower vestry and verger’s store, in the basement, which extends partly under the west end of the church”according to the NZ Herald, 11 January 1898. Mountfort was again the architect, but he died before the completion of the work.

Today, St Mary's looks like this, across the road from the old site, now part of the Holy Trinity Cathedral complex:

Discussions on proposals to move St Mary's across Parnell Road to the always-intended cathedral site began in earnest from 1938. The Bishop at the time in 1961 had said that it wouldn't be moved, that the church would go ahead with plans to build a cathedral on the intended site anyway. Holy Trinity was dedicated in 1973, and from that point St Mary's ceased to be the Cathedral Church. But, the cathedral complex remained still unfinished by 1980; moves began again to arrange to shift St Mary's. Two years of debate ensued, especially involving the local community, and many were dismayed by the prospect of the shift. However, in 1982, it took place. Today, St Mary's serves as a ladies' chapel.

There's an image at the Auckland Library's site of the former interior, and here is today's (via Wikipedia).

Flowers in Silverdale

My friends Bill and Barbara Ellis sent through these photos of a lovely mural (2010) on the side of a toilet block in Silverdale. School children painted flowers on tiles, which have been fixed to the wall, with leaves and stems painted on the wall itself. A beautiful idea.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Myers Park

One of my favourite spots in Auckland is Myers Park. If you walk through St Kevin's Arcade in Karangahape Road (site of St Kevens, the home of the Nathan family in the 19th century), down sets of wide stairs which still give me pause (I'm sure each step slopes downward a little), you will therefore start from the top and be able to see wonderful views of the paths, green and public art in the park.

Much of the land was donated to Auckland City Council by Sir Arthur Mielziner Myers (1868-1926), with the rest bought up and taken over by the Council from private landowners. It was a slum area; from the 1880s, intensive and totally unplanned residential development in the valley of the Horotiu Stream (Ligar Creek) gave the city fathers much cause for concern. Particularly when bubonic plaque outbreaks seemed imminent.

So, from 1914 the park was cleared, and a design by Thomas Pearson, Parks Superintendent for the City, was put into effect. The park opened 28 January 1915.

The park which has been donated to the city by Mr A M Myers, MP, was auspiciously opened this afternoon in delightful weather and in the presence of a large gathering of citizens. Among those present were representatives of the State, the Legislature, the City Council, the Harbour Board, the Board of Agriculture, the Hospital and Charitable Aid Board, and various other local bodies. The proceedings were marked by sustained cordiality and occasional enthusiasm. The park comprises about 8½ acres behind the Town Hall, which was previously slum area. This has been transformed into a park and playground for children. Mr. Myers donated the £9000 necessary for the work and in addition is giving the funds for the erection of a free kindergarten and school for backward children to cost another £4000.

Evening Post 29 January 1915

The statue of Moses is the first thing you see in the park from the K'Road entrance.

Milne & Choyce imported this copy of Michaelangelo's statue to New Zealand for general display. In 1971, the business donated it to Auckland City Council, on the occasion of the city's centenary. According to the K'Road Heritage site, this statue was said to have been carved from marble quarried from the same spot where the real statue's marble came from.

The early 16th century original, from Wikipedia.

As mentioned in the Evening Post report above, Sir Arthur Myers donated money to establish both a kindergarten here and a "school for backward children".According to the Council's interpretive signage, the building was designed by Benjamin Chilwell and Cyril Trevithick, influenced by both the English Arts and Crafts movement, and California bungalows.

"On the ground floor was a large 'circle' room which opened to three classrooms and other facilities.Wide verandahs ran around two sides on both levels, while folding doors provided for open-air classrooms. The use of the relatively new structural steel beams gave the interior an uncluttered look, and corners were curved for hygenic reasons. There were also 65 small flower-beds -- one for each child -- as part of the original kindergarten philosophy, to encourage spiritual and social development."

It was officially opened 15 November 1916. The Auckland Kindergarten Association appointed Mrss Fendall as the first in charge of the new school. Under her was an assistant teacher and three student teachers. (Evening Post & Colonist 19 October 1916)

According to the signage: "Arther Myers intended it as a Christmas present to the children of Auckland, and his family also donated a large box of toys for the first intake. By 1923 the kindergarten had 40 pupils. Milk and biscuits were served every morning, and the children were required to do their own washing up."

The school served as a training centre for kindergarten teachers until 1958, a school for deaf children, and offices for the Girl Guides Association. It operated as a kindergarten right through to 2000; today, it serves as the head office for the Auckland Kindergarten Association.

With all those associations, is the building registered with NZ Historic Places Trust? Yes, as Category II.

View of one of the sweeping stairway accesses out of the park.

And now -- old loos. Back in August last year I photographed this one at Ponsonby's Western Park.

Just about the only thing it seems to be good for these days, sadly, is sport grey anti-graffiti paint and one of Auckland City's heritage plaques, this one just for the park in general, not the poor old loo (that's just about the only thing the anti-graffiti team won't cover with their grey on a paint-out -- but as you can see, the brush strokes come close ...)

... and here's the rather beautiful, but rubbish-strewn locked interior.

Yesterday, in Myers Park, I found another forgotten rest stop.

It seems to be under seige from recent landscaping decisions in the park, seemingly set to be swamped and buried in time. The palms around it appear to be of fairly recent origin.

Can't be sure if this has been subject to the anti-graffiti paintbrushes or not -- but it is a pity the lower brick has been painted over.

On the grubby tiles inside the locked gate, a message to the world from someone armed with a permanent marker.

It was certainly, in its heyday, a loo with a view.  But Myers Park has a reputation today, nearly a hundred years from the slum clearances, of attracting society's detritus and debris at night.  Perhaps this corner of the park attracted too much trouble. Perhaps that's why no one wants to mention the old loos in our green spaces, even though they were an integral part of layouts and architectural developments here.

A lady, a bit worse the wear for life and all it does, came up to me and asked me what I was doing. She was friendly enough, as were her companions occupying a nearby seat under the trees. When I told her that I like to photograph old things, even forgotten loos, she smiled, and said,that was good -- because such things might go in time, and photos would be all we had left. Then she smiled, wished me a good day, and went on with her afternoon.

The council hasn't swept the paths in front of the loo clear of those same leaves about to engulf it for some time, but cracks in walls have been seen to. In this one, Peter Chapple of Waiheke has left his mark on the park.

The last thing of note in the park, is this -- a gift from the city of Guangzhou in China to Auckland, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Sister City relationship between Guangzhou and Auckland in November 1999.

It is called, officially on the plaque, the "Five Rams Sculpture."

This goat, knows that isn't exactly correct ...

... because she is definitely a nanny.

The K'Road heritage web page quite wisely just sticks to calling this five goats, symbolic of an old story from China about goats bringing fertility to a bleak valley. Update, 24 January 2011: Guangzhou, amongst it's nicknames, is known as the Five Goats City, according to Wiki. Perhaps, if someone has a bit of spare cash in the budget, the plaque might be amended?

In terms of that, though, I reckon Myers Park was over any bleak period long before the granite goats got here. I'm still opposed to anyone's ideas to move the Khartoum Place Suffrage Mural here, though. Myers Park is just nice enough now, thank you.