Sunday, May 29, 2011

Guest post: Lord Auckland and his hat

This image gave me a fit of the giggles tonight, I must admit. It was sent to me by Claire Gummer from A Latitude of Libraries blog, who wrote:

Your 'Aspiration' piece was fun. Have you seen Lord Auckland (outside the Auckland Council admin building) wearing a traffic-cone hat? Here he is - see attached file - as I saw him some weeks ago.

I was fascinated to learn this, albeit far too recently, about the man for whom our city is named:

Auckland, George Eden , 1st earl ( 1784 – 1849 )
Auckland was a Whig who served as president of the Board of Trade under Grey and as 1st lord of the Admiralty under Melbourne. In 1835, he was appointed governor‐general of India. Auckland pursued commercial expansion from India into Afghanistan and central Asia and was responsible for undertaking the first Afghan War, which initially was prosecuted with success and gained him an earldom. However, incautious policies towards ‘the tribes’ soon stirred revolt. In the winter of 1841 – 2, British forces were obliged to retreat and were shot down or frozen to death. Of 16,000 men who set out from Kabul only one, Dr Brydon, survived to proclaim himself, famously, ‘the army of the Indus’. Lord Auckland was recalled in disgrace in February 1842 .

- Oxford Dictionary of British History
Best wishes,
Claire G

Thanks, Claire!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dennis Gunn and the tell-tale fingerprints

Pop across to Writer of the Purple Sage's blog Yardy Yardy Yardy for the noting of today's anniversary: Dennis Gunn, sentenced to death 28 May 1920, convicted on fingerprint evidence.

Fingerprints were first used within the British Empire as early as 1905 to convict murderers -- in that case, it was the Stratton Brothers. But as far as I've been able to find out at present, the Gunn case was the first use of fingerprints in a capital trial in Australasia.

Image: NZ Truth 27 March 1920

Friday, May 27, 2011

Looking for the beach

Ah, if this was Summer, what a welcome sight this sign would be. Beach Access!  The way to the beach! Quick, get your togs, towels and sand buckets ...

Except ... maybe not. I spotted the sign today while going past in a bus (hence the blurred result). The late autumn setting for the Beach Access sign is Constitution Hill, beside Alten Road ...

... and if you take a look at Google Maps, you'll see its a fair way to the beach from Constitution Hill (marked by the "A"). I think they meant to say on the sign "Beach RD Access", as Beach Road winds its way past the bottom of the hill. If you want to find the beach, the nearest was Mechanics Bay. The original version.

You'd be about 100 years too late.

Update 12 August 2011: This week, I picked up an info card on "Learning Quarter Micro Sites" -- and this Beach Access sign is one of a set of three artworks by Asumi Mizuo. The others are signs reading "No Swimming" and "Lookout", all pointing toward the old coastline of Mechanics Bay, pre-reclamation. So -- the sign is quite deliberate. It certainly caught my eye!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Aspiration III

First, there was a single beer bottle on Aspiration's fingers in 2009 ...

... three bottles in 2010 ...

... and for 2011? To heck with beer bottles: Aspiration's going for the traffic cone look.

30 May 2011: Yesterday, the final indignity for the season, perhaps -- they've put a traffic cone over Aspiration's head, alongside the one on the arm.

A clock from the past

I attended the AGM of the Birkenhead Historical Society last Saturday, and listened to the stories of Keith Peachey who had, during his career, served in the engine rooms of one of Auckland's last vehicular ferries, the Alex Alison.

During the course of his talk, he carefully took out of a bag the clock you see above these words, and gave it to the historical society for their museum. He said he had taken it off the ferry as it was being prepared for being towed to Tasmania. It hadn't come with a clock when it had initially come from Australia -- this one was, he said, bought in Auckland when the crew realised they needed to know the time.

David Balderston's book The Harbour Ferries of Auckland is part of my reference library. His chapter on the vehicular ferry era of 57 years on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour is entitled "The Floating Bridge", which sums that time up nicely. There were vehicular ferries just before there were vehicles in the modern sense of motorised transport, an answer to the problem of how to covey live animals such as horses across the waters. After the opening of the harbour bridge, ferries with magical names to the memory like  The Goshawk, The Sparrowhawk, The Mollyhawk and The Eaglehawk ended up, after their decades of service, broken up and then towed, as hulks, to "a quiet corner of the upper harbour", and burnt.

The Alex Alison was to have a different fate.

She was originally the diesel-powered Frances Peat serving  from Kangaroo Point on the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales from 1931. This is her, armoured during World War II as an American vessel AB 422, serving during that conflict in the Pacific Islands. After the war, along with her similarly-armoured sister the George Peat, the Frances Peat was purchased by the Devonport Steam Ferry Company, and made it across the Tasman under their own power, arriving in May 1946. Once here and refitted as vehicular ferries, the George Peat was renamed the Ewen W Alison, while the Frances Peat received the name Alex Alison.

Come the harbour bridge, there was no longer a need for the redundant and at times troublesome vehiculars. The Ewen W Alison and the Alex Alison were sold to the Tasmania Government in 1960 for £12,000, who budgeted £60,000 for reconditioning them for a career as vehicular ferries between Hobart and Bruny Island. The 1524-mile tow was expected to take eight to nine days, back across the Tasman .

The Alex Alison never made it. On the fifth day out on the high seas, she took on water. The next day, the Kaitoa towing her had to cast off the tow line, the situation became that perilous, and then monitored the last hours until at 1.15 pm on 30 April 1960, the Alex Alison sank.

The Ewen W Alison was more fortunate, making it across later that year. She served as the renamed Mangana until the 1980s, then as a reserve until 1991.

So Mr Peachey's clock, generously given to Birkenhead Historical Society, is likely one of our last links to the lost vehicular ferries period of our city's maritime past. 

I've held it (carefully) in my hands. It's quite a weight. Oh, and the bit of wrapped up paper sellotaped to the face? That's the key.

Grafton dramatic: the former Grafton Library

Claire in A Latitude of Libraries last Sunday posted a wonderful article on the former library for Grafton in Mt Eden Road, just down from Upper Symonds Street. A rather sumptuous Edward Bartley design, who won the competition held in 1911, just a few years before his death. It was the second branch library for Auckland City from March 1913, trumped for top title by the Leys Institute in Ponsonby -- but it was also a political statement in favour of the concept of Greater Auckland.

All the recent breast-beating about Super City and ultra-amalgamations ... as with so much in history, we can say "we've seen it all before" even if we weren't even twinkles in our parents eyes. In my case, there might have only just been the start of a twinkle in my grandfather's eye on my father's side, during the period when Auckland City mayors promoted the joys of being part of a cleaner, better organised, better watered city to the scattering of boroughs, town boards, and road board areas surrounding it.

In the case of Grafton's library, it wasn't built to serve Grafton, exactly -- the main residential centre for Grafton was back across the Grafton Bridge, to the north-east -- but it was a dangling carrot, in brick and stone, to the good folk of independent Mt Eden and Eden Terrace. Mt Eden people used it quite a bit.

It was also not simply just a library. In those days, libraries had to be multi-media centres, much like today. This one opened with a lending department, reading room, committee meeting room and a lecture hall to hold 200, capable of hosting lectures on current events during World War I. The hall was one of the headquarters of the Emergency Precautions Service during World War II.

It also served, from 1913, as the base for the Grafton Shakespeare and Dramatic Club. The club, formed in 1912, was apparently the country's first amateur dramatic societies. One of the club's members, Helen Stirling MacCormick, also a member of the Auckland Repertory Company, went on after leaving the country in 1938 to British stages and a part on the first British radio soap opera of its kind, Front Line Family. Some of her documents and keepsakes are at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

They tried to close the library in 1954, in 1960, in 1978, and succeeded in 1990, just after the last great municipal amalgamations. Just as Mt Eden finally joined the city -- it lost its library.

Since 1996, it's been an alehouse named Galbraith's -- still a place, in a way, for a sharing of the minds.

Soapy legends

(Updated 14 March 2015)

I've been meaning for ages to take a photo of this restored Sunlight Soap ad on the side of the Corner Store, Mt Eden and Nikau Streets, Grafton/Eden Terrace. A couple of days ago, I made my way down Mt Eden Road from the Upper Symonds Street shops, and finally ticked this off my inner "to-do" list.

The shop's been around for ages, probably turn of the twentieth century, perhaps before. This part of Mt Eden Road was, until they opened up the rest of the Western railway line to link with Newmarket in the early 20th century, the route travellers would trek up from Mt Eden Station towards Symonds Street and the waiting trams and horse buses to take them further into the city. Haven't seen a contemporary photo yet showing the original ad on the side of the shop yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was, indeed, that same Sunlight soap one, with its "£1000 Guarantee of Purity" plug.

Evening Post, 18 September 1909

My mother's mother's family came from Leeds in Yorkshire, the Killerby family of William son of Charles, himself descended from tailors, cloth drawers, weavers, and others associated with the Leeds wool industry going back to at least the 1650s. William married Martha Watson 23 December 1854 -- and that sparked off a family legend, involving Sunlight Soap, which lasted clear through to the early 1980s. There may still be relatives of mine, out there in the world, who still believe it, because it had been told to my grandmother Elinor, and she told all her four children.

Grey River Argus, 13 August 1912

The legend was that Martha's father invented Sunlight Soap.

Poverty Bay Herald, 31 December 1920

A lot of families have legends like this. You get little kiddies sitting around the knees of grandparents, this sort of thing takes root and becomes an oral history hand-down through the generations. In my family's case, I think it happened when Grandma Elinor was a kiddy herself (born 1892), and although living in London with her father and his second wife (Grandma's mum died when she was three), she was sent to north to stay for a while with Great-great grandma Martha. Who told her something about the family on Martha's side ...

Evening Post 29 August 1922

Well, come the early 1980s, and my mother and I decided to go looking into the family background. Whatever Martha Watson had told the young Elinor, it had been so convincing to Elinor that the family name Killerby had been wiped out in her memory; Elinor thought that Watson was her mother Emilie's maiden name. Mum and I did some checking, hired researchers in England, and found out the truth.

William Killerby, born around 1829 and a cloth-drawer by occupation, married Martha Watson in 1854. She was the daughter of John Watson, a chemical manufacturer in Leeds. William eventually rose to become a wool merchant, perhaps with help from money from Martha's side, but most likely I now find thanks to his close associations with his brother Frederick, who in turn worked his way up from being a warehouseman to a director of a woolen clothing company -- but Martha, it seems, was vastly more proud of her own side of the family than that of her late husband.

Then, Mum and I contacted the makers of Sunlight Soap, who very kindly sent us a pamphlet explaining the history of the product, first marketed in England in 1884. Sunlight Soap, back then, was an amalgam of a number of soaps and chemical processes from all over England. Firms like Knights Castile, for example, contributed to the manufacture. Another to contribute toward the making of Sunlight -- was a firm of Yorkshire soap manufacturers and tanners named Joseph Watson & Sons in Leeds, dating from around 1820. Lever Brothers, Sunlight's makers, bought out the Leeds soap factory around 1912.

Evening Post 28 March 1925

That line of Watsons went on to be Barons from the 1920s, but there's no indication so far that Martha's father was a member of that family.

Meanwhile, what is now known about John Watson (1808-1854) is that he started out as a stone mason in Woodhouse, Leeds, married Mary Spenceley in May 1827 (daughter of a prominent cow-keeper, later church warden, named Simeon Spenceley), and was in a partnership with a Joseph Watson as "manufacturing chemists" around 1851. The partnership was dissolved then, but it began sometime between 1844 and 1851. Then my ancestor was in partnership with a William Watson, "prussiate of potash manufacturers". This partnership dissolved as well, in 1854. He died in October that year, after a long illness. His daughter Martha married William Killerby two months after that.

Evening Post 22 August 1940

So -- t'was merely family legend about the Sunlight Soap. I have no idea at the moment if the Joseph Watson John had his first partnership with was the same "Soapy Joe" who is said to have developed his soap as a by-product of his tannery business. But, the brand, above all others, does still mean a lot to me. Mum would swear by its wonderful ability to get at tough stains in the hand-wash, and I still use the bars today (even though, for a while, it looked like they'd go off the market, here).

Oh, and if anyone reading this finds a John Watson, chemical manufacturer in Leeds, in amongst the genealogy or the story for the Barons Manton, do let me know ...

Civic Trust Winter Series 2011

The Civic Trust and Kinder House have issued their leaflets publicising their Winter Series of talks for 2011.

June 12 - John Gundeson
Waterfront Auckland Project Overview

"John will provide an overview of the old Tank Farm project plans, timeframes, etc, now known as the Wynyard Quarter, together with the Queens Wharf RWC projects. He will cover the approach to and consideration of character buildings within the area of control or influence of Waterfront Auckland."

July 10 - Peter Reed
Restoration of an Organ

A talk on the restoration of the south transept organ from St Matthews-in-the-City, the organ rebuilt by Henry Willis and Sons Ltd, Liverpool. Peter Reed is with Salmond Reed Architects.

August 14 - Lisa Truttman
Timespanner Stories

"Her illustrated talk will discuss the creation of Timespanner, a weblog of stories about Auckland and NZ heritage, and how information for the website is prepared and then displayed to the world."

September 11 - Graeme Burgess
The McCahon House - A Conservation Challenge

"Colin McCahon moved to Auckland in 1950 to take up a position with the Auckland City Art Gallery.  By 1951 he was living with his wife Anne and their four children in Titirangi, where they remained until the end of the decade during one of the most productive periods of his career.

"The tiny house is set well below the road in the kauri. By the end of last century the house was partially decayed and much of the detail added by McCahon had been obscured by layers of paint, dirt and added materials.

"The restoration took over two years. Retaining the authenticity of the place was paramount. Graeme will describe his experiences during this project and show photos of the work."

Entry to the talks is by koha ($5 suggested), with refreshments at conclusion. Plus, of course, you are visiting one of Auckland's heritage landmarks while attending.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The old Onehunga Post Office

£2000 worth of Edwardian red-brick glory, opened 14 February 1902 -- a considerable Valentine's Day gift to the community of Onehunga back then if ever there was one! Surrounding buildings were festooned with flags as the townspeople listened to Sir Joseph Ward as he made his commemorative speech. The red bricks are now covered with modern paint, but the old Post Office still stands. Today, it serves as a Columbus Coffee place. One of the better ones, I might add. Very good English Breakfast tea in a pot.

This was another of Onehunga's landmarks where the people battled to save it from being considered for demolition -- and I thank them, for they've left all of Auckland with another of our treasures from the past for the future to enjoy. It has a category 2 listing with the NZ Historic Places Trust.

Hartigan's Colony

This is one of those things which I would swear was around on my familiar landscape a lot longer than it actually has been. That's the way memory goes, I guess. But Paul Hartigan's neon sculpture Colony has only been in place since 2004. It is the often-viewed sight, lit up in red on dark nights as my bus trundled up Symonds Street through the University Quarter, past the lecture lecture at the School of Engineering which is Colony's home. It basically means to me that I'm on my way home (except yesterday, when I photographed it, as I was still heading to research places and libraries, nearing the end of the day.)

It always struck me as resembling something like a bull figure, especially towards the left -- and if so, something like Picasso's work, Guernica. My mind, therefore, says silently as I pass it by, "Oh, there's the red neon broken-up bull."

So it's really called Colony, and not "bull-pieces". Something new for me to learn.

Sidney Weetman's survey of the Auckland Railyards, 1882

Survey Office plan 3006, LINZ records, crown copyright.

In July 1882, Sidney Weetman surveyed the land along the eastern waterfront for Central Auckland designated to become the second of Auckland's so-far four main railway stations. In 1872-1873, the first one was laid out and completed alongside Beach Road. From 1882, construction was underway for the Queen Street Station, which ended up behind the Central Post Office, and which is where the Britomart Station is today -- but over-ground, not underground. Then, the the 1930s, the move back towards Beach Road, finally reversed yet again by this century's Britomart development.

Sidney Weetman was born in Rio de Janiero in 1841, and educated in England. He was working in Auckland from 1865 to 1887, so this is one of his later plans while working in this city. He died in 1912, a Remuera resident.
The death took place on Friday last at Remuera, Auckland, of Mr Sidney Weetman, an old and respected resident of Auckland. Mr Weetman, who was born at La Gloria, Rio de Janiero, was the son of Mr Carter Weetman, of the firm of Hopkirk and Weetman, bankers and merchants, of that city, and was educated in  England. Having taken up the profession of a surveyor he, on his arrival in New Zealand as a young man, took service under the Provincial Government of Southland; he afterwards removed to Auckland, and later became district surveyor, which position he held for many years. He was then appointed in charge of the Gisborne district, and afterwards, in turns, as Commissioner of Crown Lands and Chief Surveyor of the Taranaki, Marlborough and Canterbury districts. After nearly 40 years in the public service, he retired on superannuation,, and has since lived privately in England and Auckland. Mr Weetman. being a man of many attainments, took a keen interest outside his profession, in affairs. He was a member of various societies, and for many years a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Marlborough Express 28 February 1912

So, to the plan. Above can be see the present site of the Britomart Station. I actually came across this map while trying to work out where Edward Wall's hulk had been discovered in 1904, and came to the conclusion that it was right opposite the end of Fort Street, at 52 Customs Street East.

I do like one little touch to Weetman's plan -- the shading around the stump of Point Britomart. That was where Customs Street came to an end in the days before they blew the point up for reclamation in the 1870s. Fort Street was a "Jacob's Ladder" away (and a heck of a climb) from the foot of Princes Street.

This part shows the layout of the 1872 station, which was halted from further development for a time by the bulk of Point Britomart.

Mechanic's Bay in 1882. Already, its fate is sealed. Weetman's plan shows the area of the remaining bay, already reclaimed around the western, southern and eastern edges, was just over nine acres, a considerable investment property for the Auckland Harbour Board. At the far right, partly obliterated by a tear in the plan, is a boiler house of some kind. Further down, jutting onto the bay itself, a jetty then a large timber jetty. The sea wall existed from at least the 1870s, formed out of the remains of Point Britomart. Weetman's view of the 1880s Mechanics Bay would have been like this (from beside that boiler house, looking westward toward the railway station):

Photograph attributed to James D Richardson, reference 4-609, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Council Libraries. By kind permission.

A new Doug Ford box

Spotted this power box yesterday on Wellesley Street East, just outside AUT -- a 2011 Doug Ford work.

My guess is that it reflects on Albert Park, just across the road.

I carefully watched the traffic as I got this shot from the roadside.  The vehicles, including buses, come down the hill at speed. Still, the best bits are safely at the side. Good to see the signature so prominent this time.

Onehunga's (former) Carnegie Library

Yesterday, I had my first opportunity to visit and see the interior of the former Carnegie Library at Onehunga, a building with a category 1 registration with NZ Historic Places Trust.

The trustees of the Onehunga Library, itself a body set up by the Borough Council in 1901, wrote to Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1909asking for financial support toward the building of a large library in the township. He contributed £2000 of the total £2675 cost, and attached some basic requirements, that the library was both free and public, and that the Borough Council provided the site and undertook ongoing maintenance.

Although the date 1911 is prominent on the front of the building, it was actually opened 11 September 1912. The architect was John Park, a later Mayor of Onehunga, and the builder was W Maud. The design is that of a 19th century athenaeum

It served the Onehunga community until 1970 when it was replaced by a newer complex close by. Whether or not it could be preserved as one of only twelve remaining Carnegie-funded library buildings in the country, and the only one in the Auckland region was up for debate through to 1987 when it was restored by the Onehunga Borough Council, and 1998 when it was finally sold by Auckland City Council.

Four Corinthian columns grace its facade, each bearing a different face. Janice Mogford in her book on Onehunga's history had only three names beside that of Andrew Carnegie, but he is above the entry door itself (see second image). The other three are John Park, John Rowe (Mayor at the time) and the builder, W Maud.

But I think the other one is either that of a youthful Queen Victoria. Someone definitely wearing a royal crown atop her head.

Inside is a reading room -- still! -- to the left, where you can read one of the books lining the walls, and have a quiet cuppa. To the right, a dining room, dark wood floors and furniture, all topped by wonderfully -patterned pressed-steel ceilings. I do quite like the new Carnegie at Onehunga, called the Library Cafe. The fates were especially kind yesterday -- the first bit of music I heard playing in the background as I awaited my lunch inside, soaking in the atmosphere, was Little River Band's Reminiscing. How, very, very apt.

A memorial amongst the lizards of Albany

Back in March this year Bruce Comfort (who works in with the NZ Memorials website) contacted me regarding a war memorial in Albany comprised of trees planted for each of those past pupils of Albany Primary School who had died during World War I. The memorial, now in the grounds of Albany Senior High School (the primary school moved due to space and traffic problems, seeing as it was sited alongside what is now a busy highway) is hard to get to.

I offered to ask my friends Bill and Barbara from Torbay Historical Society if they would mind venturing into Albany to see what they could do in the way of images.

Well, it's still a difficult place to capture. For one thing, it is fenced off, as a native lizard conservation area. There really is no going onto the site itself anymore, without disturbing the habitat set up for the reptiles.

 Bill and Barbara's notes from their email to me: "This is taken from the path behind the school  main block  ie.  nearest to the road."

 "This is a close up of the plaque from the other direction."

"From the same place as the previous photo.  The plaque is in the shade."

 "Showing 4 trees with the carved one near the palisade surrounding the lizard colony."

"The tree on the right might be one of the memorial ones?"

The earliest school in Albany, according to AMR Dean in The Schools of Albany (1976) was one run by the Presbyterians 1865-1866.  In 1876, the second school was constructed on land "between the two bridges". It remained on that site until 1975 when it relocated to the site of a former "clay quagmire" in Bass Road.

As for the memorial, here's what the book has to say:
The World War took its toll from most communities in New Zealand and Albany was no exception. Mrs. Boscawen left at the end of 1917 when her husband was killed in action. The following ex-pupils of Albany School gave their lives in the War:

  • Corporal William Wright Gibson: attended the school between July 1899 and September 1907; served with the Auckland Mounted Rifles, was wounded in action in November 1917 and died in hospital in Cairo soon afterwards.

  • Trooper Joseph Clifford Low; attended the school between October 1902 and September 1906; served with the Auckland Mounted Rifles and was killed in action at Gallipoli in August 1915.

  • Private Edward Quentin Low; attended the school between October 1902 and July 1908; served in the 1st Battalion of the Wellington Infantry, and died of his wounds in France in October 1918.

  • Lance Corporal Henry Peter Nelson; attended the school between December 1898 and November 1904; served with the 4th Mounted Rifles, and was killed in action in France in June 1917.

  • Trooper William John Wright; attended the school between November 1899 and September 1907; served with the Auckland Mounted Rifles, and was killed in action at Gallipoli in August 1915.

In 1918 a grove of six memorial trees was planted in the school grounds and each tree bore the name of a soldier who had not returned from the war and who had spent his youth at the school. Shortly afterwards, a protective fence was erected around these trees. There has been considerable confusion about the number of trees that were originally planted, but we believe that we have sufficient evidence to show that it was six and not five as several people have suggested. The reason that six were planted was that the extra one was for Edward Monstedt who died as a result of his activities in the South African War in 1902.
According to the Cenotaph database, Trooper Edward Charles Monstedt served with the 10th New Zealand Mounted Rifles and embarked on 14 April 1902 on the Drayton Grange, but died 9 August 1902 of measles and septic pneumonia on Somes Island in Wellington Harbour. He was apparently not the only death from disease at that time. There were dozens sick on the Brittanic which was used to bring the troopers home, many with measles, and an inquiry was held in 1902 as to the lack of healthy accomodation on board that ship which carried 1005 troopers from Durban. Complaints were made by those who survived the quarantine at Somes Island that men suffering with measles and pneumonia were left out on the deck in the cold, and given only cold water to drink. The report on the inquest by the Transport Committee was a lengthy one. (Otago Witness, 1 October 1902)

Poor Trooper Monstedt's service had barely begun before he was forced to head back home -- and to a lonely, cold death on Somes Island. I hope his tree is among the possible four survivors there at Albany, amongst the lizards.