Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Ah Chee family in the 20th century

Avondale market gardens

From 1905, Avondale market gardener William Knight appears to have had issues with regard to Ah Chee’s Avondale business. On Sunday 12 February, he watched workers at Ah Chee’s gardens tending the crops and harvesting. Obviously incensed, he wrote the following letter to the Auckland Star, published 14 February.

“Sir,—Will you kindly allow me to refer to the closing sentence of your sub-leader on "Alien Immigration" 'in Thursday's "Star," which says: "But the tendency of such movements of population is always the same, and if we wish to escape the attendant evils we must look to it that our workers shall not be subjected to unfair competition at the hands of aliens content with a lower wage or a lower standard of comfort., be they Oriental or European." Now, sir, this is the very state of things that exists at the present time in the market gardening in and around Auckland. On what is commonly known as the Avondale Flat, or North Avondale, there are now a large number of Chinese working. The long hours which they work, the low wages they get, the insanitary conditions under which they live, and their being allowed to work on Sunday as on any other day places them in a position that it is almost impossible tor the European to successfully compete with. Quite a number of white people have been replaced by Chinese. In one instance recently a Chinese gardener was advertised for, a white man being discharged, and a Chinese taken on in his place, and some others are thinking of doing likewise. Now, sir, these long hours, low wages, insanitary conditions, and Sunday labour enable growers who have the advantage of them to secure the contracts for the supply of vegetables to the many steamboats that are constantly leaving Auckland and Onehunga and in other ways undersell us. Our sons, as they grow up, are compelled to leave the home and district and seek work elsewhere, while Chinese come and take their places: and they are bold enough to say that we cannot stop them from working on Sundays because they have to supply the boats. —I am, etc, W. KNIGHT, Avondale.”

In March that year, he appeared as a witness for the prosecution at a police court hearing where ten Chinese gardeners at Ah Chee’s property were charged with “following their calling within the public view” on Sunday, 12 February. Their names, as reported at the first hearing on 22 February, were given as Ah Lee, George Duck, Ah Sun, Hing Yong, Kam Wah, Ah Ping, Ling, George Ling, William J Linton, and Alfred W Linton, Knight testified that he’d seen them “pulling and hoeing vegetables on Sundays” many times. W J Napier, defending the gardeners, raised an interesting point.

“Mr. Napier submitted that the defendants, who were employed by a contractor named Ah Chee, only pulled and bagged vegetables on Sundays which were required early on Monday mornings. It was impossible to deliver them in time on Mondays unless this was done, as Ah Chee undertook to supply a large number of steamers leaving at that time. He contended that merely pulling and bagging vegetables was not following their ordinary calling, which was that of hoeing and manuring the vegetables, and that it could be regarded as a work of necessity. He called Ah Chee to produce vouchers, showing that on the morning following the particular Sunday he had to supply fresh vegetables to seven of the Northern Steamship Company's steamers. The practice now complained of had gone on without question for twenty years.

“Mr. McCarthy, S.M., who heard the case, decided that Mr. Napier's contention was correct. He remarked that on the score of health vegetables must generally be freshly pulled, and it was a necessity that people in hotels and on steamers should be fed. Taking all the facts into consideration he found that the Chinese came within the exception allowed by the Act, and he dismissed the information.” 

(Star, 2 March 1905)

But, the campaign against the Chinese working on Sundays at Avondale campaign didn’t stop there. Eight of Ah Chee’s workers appeared at the Police Court in November 1907 to answer charges. Mr Napier, once again defending, told the court that Ah Chee “had something like 50 contracts to fill every Monday morning to various steamers and clubs”, so the men had to work on Sunday to pull the vegetables fresh from the ground. The men were also charged for tending and weeding the potato crop, in clear view of a country road on a Sunday – in this case, Rosebank Road. The second charge was dismissed by the magistrate at the end of November, who viewed that the law allowed for the work of tending the potatoes seeing as the weather had been extremely wet, and that weekend was the first fine break in quite some days. But, the magistrate disagreed with his colleague’s 1905 decision, and ruled that the vegetables for the steamers and hotels should have been pulled up out of the ground on Monday, instead of Sunday, so declaring that the workers had broken the law, the Police Offenses Act 1884. They were fined 5/- with costs, each. (Star, 4 and 30 November, 1907)

The newspapers periodically reported more cases of Chinese working down Rosebank Road on Sundays – and being fined – who may or may not have been connected with Ah Chee’s Avondale gardens.

In 1920, however, it appears the workers went on strike for better pay – and took the train to most likely Ah Chee’s store in the city to express their views.

"Hoolahi whampoa mukka hilo, mo tenksch!" At least it sounded like that, and there was a good deal more of the same sort of thing from the band of Chinamen (all in their best bib and tucker, clean boots, and collars, with no sign of the market garden about them), that invaded Auckland yesterday by train from Avondale, the home of the early cabbage and giant turnip. Various surmises were for this Celestial irruption, from the finale to a social "dust-up" in suburban tiding circles to a fete day in connection with one of other of the two bodies politic into which the Flowery Land is at present divided.

“When the voluble party reached the Auckland railway station it made for the premises of a well-known Chinese firm, and later the deputation emerged with the ghost of a smile flickering round its various features. It turns out that there was nothing political or of a festive nature connected with the visit. The Celestials were merely in the fashion. They were on strike. Hanging up the hoe, and placing the long-handled shovel in the corner they bought second-class return tickets, and seeking out the "boss" explained that they wanted more pay, and until the matter was settled the lettuces and cauliflowers had to look after themselves. There was no question of hours, so fortunately the dispute was not double-barrelled —that bug-bear of the Court and Council. After a full explanation of the position the terms of the agriculturists were granted, and it is stated they now draw from £2 to £2 5/ a week, have quarters free, and food thrown in.

“This makes the third time the gardeners have been out, and about the only thing left that will not strike must be the Japanese wooden matches now on the market. The Chinamen don't bother about registering under the Arbitration Act, but have their unions nevertheless; probably all the stronger because they are more or less secret. The Chinaman has always had a predilection for the secret society, and adopts the same procedure in his labour agitations. He doesn't worry the Press with reports of his meetings or pass resolutions demanding the intervention of the Minister of Labour, but achieves his object all the same. Anyhow for the present peace once more reigns in the potato rows at Avondale, and John is this morning once more hoeing into it again with very nearly a grin on his inscrutable "dial." 

(Star 16 March 1920)

Mechanic’s Bay market garden

In January 1916, the Hospital and Charitable Aid Board were approached by a deputation from the Northern Union Football League regarding the hospital land at Mechanic’s bay, at that time leased by Ah Chee for his market gardens.

“The chairman of the Board (Mr Coyle) said the land in question was at present leased to Mr Ah Chee. The lease would expire next June, but Mr Ah Chee had an option of renewal for another fourteen years by paying 5 per cent upon the capital value of the property. Some two or three years ago the value was fixed at £5,000, but now it would be more than that amount.

“Mr E H Potter said he was glad the club wished to get this site for a sports ground. It was an ideal property for such a purpose.

“Mr Wallace said the club was out to encourage clean sport. It was the Board's duty to do all it could to help the club. Mr G. Knight said all of them were in sympathy with the deputation in the request made, but the ground was leased at the present time, and that might be renewed. At this stage the Board went into committee, and upon resuming, it was announced that the question had been referred to the Finance Committee to report.” (Star, 26 January)

The Board decided to offer a 15 year lease to the Club for the ground in May 1916 (Star, 5 May), and Ah Chee called for a conference on site that August “to deal with several matters in connection with the taking over of the property.” (Star 31 August) In July 1917, Ah Chee applied to the Board for an extension of his lease, clearly not about to part with his first gardens just yet. The Board referred the application to the League Club. (Star, 26 July)

The end of Ah Chee's first Auckland market garden, and the foundation of much of his business portfolio, came in 1920.

Auckland Rugby League hae now acquired the playing ground for which it has been negotiating for some considerable time. Last evening the Auckland Hospital Board granted the League the lease of the land now occupied by a Chinese gardener. The property, six acres in area, is situated in Stanley Street, immediately adjoining the Domain, and the rental, on renewable Glasgow lease, has been fixed at £140 a year for the first four years, and £320 a year for the balance of the first twenty-one years.
(Star 22 September 1920)

The end of Ah Chee's garden, the beginnings of Carlaw Park. Images 7-A13262 and 7-A13263 joined together, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

Poll Tax evaders

Ah Chee’s tobacco farm at Mangere belonged in the 19th century. In the 20th century, the firm was back at Mangere, this time with a more conventional market garden. Two Chinese labourers were arrested there, apparently after having been smuggled into the country in April 1919. Ah Chee Bros. denied knowledge of them. (Star, 26 April) By May, the case had expanded, after the two labourers were fined £10 “for landing in New Zealand, for evading the poll tax.” Now, the defendant before the Police Court was Ah Chee’s nephew Sai Louie.

“The offence went back to the night of March 15 last, when two young Chinese were landed from the steamer Atua at Chelsea, and brought over to Auckland on the ferry boat by the bo’sun. On landing, the guide took them across the dark locality abutting from the wharf to Little Queen Street, and to near the rear of the promises of Ah Chee. There Sai Louie met them, and when the bo’sun departed they were driven by motor to the ginger factory in Rutland Street, and later taken to the gardens at Mangere, where they had remained until discovered by the police. They had been paid no wages.

“Sai Louie's connection with the matter dated from the time the Atua's mail was landed, when he received a letter. Defendant had told the police that he met the two men in Queen Street, and he merely gave them a job. That was on April 26. After that defendant gave several conflicting statements to the Customs Department. On April 30 he admitted he had done wrong. He said that prior to the Atua's arrival he had no knowledge that the two men were coming to New Zealand, but from the mail that day, he had received a letter requesting him to look after them, which he had done. On May 5 defendant informed a Customs official that he told the two Chinese that they had better return to the Atua, go back to Fiji, and go to school until they could pass the education test and pay the poll-tax. They replied that they could not do this as the Atua was returning to Sydney, where they would be certain to be found as the officials made a strict search there. They also said that if they went back, the bo’sun, from fear of being caught, might throw them overboard at night. They would rather jump from the wharf than go on board again.

“He then took them to the ginger factory, and to the gardens after deciding to give them work. He gave them £10 to buy clothes with. He had nothing to do with ringing-up a relative in Ah Chee's store when the storeman said two men were waiting outside for him at the back of the building. He went out and saw the bo’sun of the Atua, who beckoned him over. He asked the men what they wanted, and then the bo’sun departed. He wrote to Sang On Tie, a big merchant in Fiji, warning him of the seriousness of the offence of smuggling men, and telling him not to do it again as it would ruin his (defendant's) good name in New Zealand, where he had been for 25 years. Besides that, the Chinese here might get jealous of him and get him into trouble. He informed the officials also that he had several times intended to tell the truth, but was afraid. He knew he had done wrong, and intended to ask only for leniency.

“He knew of two other Chinese smuggled in, and he would endeavour to locale them, and advise the officials. He had not received any money for helping the Chinese. Mr. Mays added that defendant, on May 3, again altered his story, saying he did not see the Chinese the night they arrived, but the day alter, and that he intended to plead guilty, but his solicitor later said he was foolish to do so, as he thought he would be able to get him off if he did not know the two Chinese were coming to New Zealand, and if he did not receive part of the £91 paid by the man in Suva. He intimated his intention to plead guilty to aiding and abetting, but not deliberately.” 

(Star 6 May)

Sang On Tie in Suva was a businessman with whom the Ah Chee family had business connections. Eventually, Sai Louie was fined a total of £48 12/-. (Star 9 May)

Marine Store (scrap metal) business

Ah Chee was still engaged in accepting scrap metal at his marine store in 1908. In January 1909, he was caught up in a police case against Gustav Solomon, accused of stealing copper cable from the Ponsonby tram barn run by the Auckland Electric Tramway Company. Ah Chee was approached by Soloman to buy the cable in August 1908, with Solomon telling Ah Chee that he had a contract with the tramway company to take their waste copper. Ah Chee bought several lots from Solomon, and in turn off-loaded to another firm. Solomon was convicted. (Star 13 January 1909)

The family fruit and vege business

Ah Chee apparently had premises on Manukau Road, Parnell as at 1906.

A fire broke out in a stable at the rear of Ah Chee's premises, Manukau-road, about ten o'clock last night. The Parnell Fire Brigade were quickly on the spot, however, and reduced the flames before much damage had been done. The extent of the damage to the stable did not exceed £5. 

(Star 7/6/1906)

In August 1913, Ah Chee’s flagship store at 11 Lower Queen Street was up for a 6-year lease, the firm apparently having moved out. (Star, 25 August) The business appears to have moved to a new Queen Street address. By December 1914, the business became known as Ah Chee Bros. (Star, 10 December). The main shop’s lease was advertised by William Ah Chee again in 1917.

Queen Street, from Quay Street looking toward Customs Street. The Ah Chee family business was on the right side, where today's Downtown shopping mall exists today. Postcard (c.1911) from my collection.

Somewhat ironically, considering the protests from Europeans previously faced by Ah Chee and his fellow Chinese businessmen, Ah Chee was elected to a committee of a fruitsellers association in March 1914 which protested against fruit auctioneers who had signed application papers for Hindu hawkers to obtain licenses. They also called for a rescinding of a Council by-law that fruit sold in the shops had to be covered against dust and flies. (Star 20 March 1914) The firm was fined £1 and costs for a breach of the by-law in May 1915, and again in December that year (20/- and 7/- costs). Clement Ah Chee seems to have been sole Chinese member of the Fruitseller’s Association in 1916.

The Ah Chee family’s fungus business from the 19th century had a slight sideline by 1919: they advertised for mushrooms, “fresh picked”, “highest prices given”. (Star, 17 April 1919)

“The premises in Queen Street in which All Chee started business some forty years ago was a much less imposing building than the fine shop opposite the G.P.O. which is now his headquarters. Two or three assistants were then able to cope with the business that now employs about one hundred hands. Mr. Ah Chee claims that he is the largest fruit and vegetable trader in Auckland, if not in New Zealand. He transacts a large retail business, a big wholesale trade, and carries on an extensive shipping connection: while the fresh vegetables and fruit that appear on the tables of many hotels, boarding houses, and public institutions come from the gardens owned by Ah Chee.

“He grows the greater part of his huge supplies in his own gardens, which cover some two hundred acres through the suburbs. These gardens supply his shop daily with immense quantities of fruit and vegetables, ensuring the freshest goods. The local markets supply him with such produce as does not come within his scope, while every Island boat that comes to Auckland brings great cargoes of oranges, bananas, and pineapples for his store. Australia also yields some of her choicest fruits to his market.

“An interesting side-line, within Ah Chee's scope, is the gathering and the export of fungus. This vegetable matter, to be found in decaying forests throughout the country, has more honour outside New Zealand than within it; it is highly valued in China as an article of food. Although great quantities of this toothsome dainty are exported to China every year, the supply does not cope with the demand, and Ah Chee is anxious to buy as much as he can. He claims, further, that he exports as much as 80 per cent of the total fungus export of New Zealand every year. His prices, too, are well-known amongst many Maoris in the North Auckland peninsula, who say that he pays more for his supplies than any other merchant with whom he has dealings. Farmers and settlers, too, do not disdain to pack up and send to Ah Chee any fungus that they may run across in their travels.” 

(Star, 18 December 1920)

From 17 March 1921, Ah Chee & Co took over the lease, at an annual rental of £325, of part of the Auckland City Market site at Sturdee Street, after Turners & Growers surrendered their lease over the site back to the City Council. (Public notice, Star, 1 October 1921)

November 1922 is the first sighting or advertising for an Ah Chee fruit and vegetable store at Newmarket “at Railway Entrance, Broadway”. (Star, 28 November)

During the 1923 Auckland Summer festival at Calliope Dock, Clem Ah Chee provided a “special Chinese junk” upon which “a Chinese orchestra will be stationed to render ‘romantic’ music, and which heads the procession across.” (Star, 19 March 1923)

In August 1923, 688 acres of land at Marua near Whangarei owned by William Ah Chee and Ivan Black from Matamata was sold at mortgagee auction. (Star, 3 August 1923)

The Ah Chee family take to motoring

The first report showing that members of the Ah Chee family had shifted from 19th century to 20th century means of personal transportation came in November 1913 when William Ah Chee was fined 10/- and costs “for motoring round the Queen and Customs Streets corner at more than a walking pace.” (Star, 3 November) He was fined in April 1916 10/- and 7/- costs “for leaving his motor car unattended in Queen Street for more than quarter of an hour.” (Star, 4 April) In October that year, it was Clement’s turn before the bench, caught in a police speed trap along New North Road along with 30 other motorists on an Avondale race day, he was convicted of travelling at up to 42 mph, and fined £2 and 7/- costs. (Star, 11 October 1916)

William Ah Chee appeared again before the court in January 1918 for not sounding his horn on approaching the corner of Queen and Customs Streets (Star, 17 January).

Ah Chee Bros. entered a Hudson motor car in the 1921 New Zealand Motor Cup race at Muriwai Beach (Star, 1 March). William Ah Chee won a stock car race at Muriwai 5 March 1921, and Clem Ah Chee came third out of four in the cup race. For the races at Muriwai in February 1922, the Ah Chee brothers used a Cadillac as well as a Hudson. The Ah Chees made several appearances at Muriwai during the 1920s.

Meanwhile, William Ah Chee’s traffic violations continued.

“William Ah Chee, the well-known Chinese merchant, pleaded not guilty at the City Court this morning when charged with two breaches of the traffic regulations—having permitted a cut out to be used in the motor car he was driving along Manukau Road on the 7th inst., and with driving his car in a manner dangerous to the public. As this was by no means the first time that Ah Chee had been prosecuted for offence against the traffic regulations, considerable interest was manifested in his case. The defendant did not employ a solicitor, but argued his own case.

“The evidence of police witnesses state that the car was making noise like an aeroplane, and that he was driving at a speed approximating 40 miles an hour.

“Defendant denied the cut out, there was no unreasonable noise, and declared that his speed had not exceeded 25 miles an hour.

“The Magistrate convicted on the first charge and ordered defendant to pay 15/- costs of prosecution. On the charge of dangerous driving a conviction was also recorded, and Ah Chee was fined £5, with 15/ costs, and £1 10/- witnesses' expenses.” 

(Star, 26 April 1922)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sir John Logan Campbell, and his statue

June 2012 marks the centenary of the death of Sir John Logan Campbell (1817-1912). There are a number of events and commemorations happening this year -- but I wonder if they're going to all the same effect again in 2017?

Anyway, this 1906 postcard of Campbell and his statue came up for offer on TradeMe, so I thought -- why not?

On 26 August 1903, as he declared Cornwall Park open to the public, Edwin Mitchelson (then Mayor of Auckland) suggested that a statue of Sir John Logan Campbell be erected while he was still living, to perpetuate his memory as benefactor and the donor of the park. An appeal was started, supported by the Auckland Agricultural Association and the New Zealand & Australian Natives Association.

Henry Alfred Pegram took part in the 1904 tenders for the statue, offering £1180 for marble, and £1130 for bronze, including both statue and base (Star, 10 June 1904). The organising committee accepted his bronze statue price.

Sir John himself was believed to have preferred the Manukau Road entrance to the park as a preferred site, and said he would provide the statue’s base. The statue foundation base, designed by Charles Arnold, was prepared by Mr D Fallon, with a gang of workers dealing with rocks blasted from quarries, ranging from 1 to 7 tons. The height of this foundation was planned as 17 feet, with a 30 feet base. Three altar stones on top would support the rose-coloured polished Aberdeen granite pedestal, which in turn would support the statue. A water basin was constructed to surround the statue, supplied by fountains in the rockery base. Macrocarpa trees around the site were planted previously by Sir John. (Star, 27 June 1905) A number of concrete pillars were added all around the statue base.

Pegram worked on a clay model of Sir John from photos provided, and even the mayoral robes were loaned to him to work from (Star 27 June 1905).
Mr W. R. Holmes, secretary of Campbell Statue Fund, has received the following letter from the sculptor, Mr H Pegram, of London, in which he states, that the pedestal and statue were delivered to the shippers, Messrs. Westray, for shipment on the s.s. Rakaia at the end of February. He hoped the work would arrive safely. He asked Mr Holmes to convey to the committee his extreme regret for the delay in delivery, which bad caused him much trouble and annoyance.

The statue was cast into bronze by the end of December, and the pedestal should have been ready by then, but the masons have been very busy, and did not keep their agreement. He had had the inscription gilded, and hoped that the committee would be pleased with the general effect. He regretted that he could not see the work placed in position.

"I have kept the bronze its natural colour, which will harmonise better with the red granite than the artificial green "patina," and in the beautiful climate of New Zealand, with the proximity of the sea, it will gradually develop a very fine colour such as these natural conditions will alone produce. Please convey to the committee my appreciation of the honour they have conferred on me in entrusting me with the commission." 

(Star, 9 April 1906) 

Auckland Weekly News, 27 June 1912, published on the death of Sir John Logan Campbell, six years after the statue was unveiled. Ref. AWNS-19120627-9-2, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.

It was decided that the statue should be unveiled on Empire Day, May 24.
The manager of the Auckland Electric Tramways (Mr P M Hansen) wrote offering to place at Sir John and Lady Campbell's disposal on the day of the ceremony the first electric car built in Auckland. The company would have the car suitably decorated and fitted with armchairs. It was decided to acquaint Sir John with Mr Hansen's offer and ascertain his views.
(Star 19 April 1906)

The statue arrived at Auckland and was unpacked on 30 April, and duly unveiled on its base on Empire Day. The cost of the statue came to £1360. (NZ Herald 25 May 1906) 

"Like a streak of phosphorus": Pelorus Jack

This is a postcard image of an image. If "F Duncan" is Frank Duncan, he did quite a bit of that. According to the Auckland Library's photographer database, "Frank Duncan first came into contact with postcards as a commercial traveller for Tanner Bros. Around 1915 he moved to Auckland and established the firm Frank Duncan and Co, which produced huge numbers of postcards using images supplied by photographers F G Radcliffe and T M Hardy, amongst others. The company went into receivership in 1931." 

The white lettering is overwritten, the fin is a hasty sketch onto the image, and although the story of Pelorus Jack appears to have started in 1888, going on for 24 years until around 1912, the card talks of the "fish" being around for 30 years. So, the provenance is dubious.

Still ...
"Does he come always?" 

"Without fail, night and day (at night he is like a streak of phosphorus); he meets every steamer, though this is his favourite. He has done so for many years. Lord Onslow, when Governor hero, had him gazetted, and he is now safe from human enemies; at least, I hope so. We are all quite fond of him." 

He lifts his cap, and moves away, and we stand and wait eagerly. 

Presently, about a hundred yards away, a darker streak comes on the violet sea. 

"How does he first appear?" asked a lady, breathlessly pointing at it. But no one answers her. Then the streak moved; a great, glistening, brown fin broke the water. 

"There he is," shouted a dozen excited voices, as Pelorus Jack swam alongside. He made straight for the hull; shouldered it in a friendly way and then went merrily along with us. 

We watched with delight his white shapely body, clouded by the deep water to a pale-green color. Sometimes, with a flick of his tail, he shot across the bows but, preferring the sunny port side, he always returned, every now and then rising to blow, shooting again into the water with arched back, through a rainbow edged dazzle of foam, and delighted shouts of appreciative laughter from the gallery. At other times he would swim on his side, his cunning little eye cocked up at the ship's company, as who should say "Take a long look, you won't often see a whale like me. I'm little (only about ten feet in length), but I know a lot." He was indescribably comic as he swam there, his brown dorsal fin stuck out like a short coat-tail, his excellent stomach curving as a city magnate's waistcoat curves. 

Suddenly, after about half-an hour of his interesting company, this friendly fish turned, with arrowy speed, disappearing into the foam which curled from the bows. 

"He's gone!" we sadly exclaimed in chorus. We saw his glistening fin break the water far behind us, and the crowd dispersed, but a few minutes later the pale green shape swam swiftly along our starboard side, as if loath to say farewell; then turning again, he finally left us. 
 Helen M Spencer, from the Australasian, via Marlborough Express, 1 February 1902

New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, 1 December 1902

From the 1966 Encylopedia of New Zealand:
"Pelorus Jack, whose sex was never determined, was identified from photographs, probably correctly, as a Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus), a species not common in New Zealand waters. It was his habit to meet the steamers near Cape Francis and travel with them (playing about the bow and in some accounts rubbing against the plates) as far as Collinet Point near French Pass; or likewise in the opposite direction. In spite of his name he did not frequent nearby Pelorus Sound, and local residents familiar with his habits assert that he never went through French Pass."

Dolphin Pelorus Jack, between 1904-1912 Reference Number: 1/2-026542-G The dolphin Pelorus Jack, photographed by Frederick Nelson Jones between 1904-1912. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Pelorus Jack was one of New Zealand's super stars. Even though he/she (gender was never determined) was protected, there were no further sights beyond the end of 1912. The name, however, has lived on in our folklore.

Auckland's Customhouse

From out of the TradeMe lists: this card, filled out on the back in February 1917, and showing Winkelmann's view of the Auckland Customhouse.

According to Les Andrews, in his book Auckland's Old Customhouse: How It Was Saved (2004), the Customhouse site was once Point Stanley, the western tip of Commercial Bay before the harbour side was changed forever by reclamations. He adds that it was once a pa site, Te Ngahuwera.

Come the dividing up of the city area for sale in the early 1840s, the government kept Lot 15, Section 17 (the part fronting Customs Street West, and site of the Customhouse today, as a reserve. (DI 1A.128) Just to the south, Lot 16, was sold, and the series of owners form a list of familiar names: Dudley Sinclair, Whitaker, Smale, Graham, and finally Newton. That part was, according to the deeds index (1A.129) privately-owned until proclaimed under Public Works in 1948; however, sometime before that the government took it over anyway.

In 1866, according to Vercoe & Harding, the two lots were bare ...

... and remained so when Hickson drew up his city plan in 1882.

In January 1887, the Government approved plans drawn up by Mahoney & Son for Auckland's government building on the site, intended for not just the local customs branch, but also ultimately for the Native Land Court, Survey Department, Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Audit Inspector, Sheep Inspector and Government ministers.
Beyond seeing the announcement in the Star that their design for the new Customhouse has been accepted, Messrs _E. Mahoney and Son have received no intimation regarding the work. The building, which will occupy (he large vacant allotment at the earner of Customs-street West and Albert-street, adjoining Messrs A. Heather and Company's premises, is to cost about £12.000. Originally the Government intended that, besides the Customs Department, the Native Lands and Crown Lands Departments should be domiciled in the building but now we understand that it is proposed to locate the office of the Registrar of Deeds there also. If this is decided on, it may necessitate a modification of the plans. We have been favoured with a cursory inspection of the prize design. It provides for a building in classic style with a frontage of 150 feet to Customs-street and 80 feet to Albert-street; three storeys high, and surmounted by a tower and clock. The design is a beautiful one, a novel feature being the introduction of slight wing projections on the Customs-street frontage, with pavilion roofs.
Star, 13 December 1886

There was an outcry from timber merchants over the architect's specification calling for Baltic wood for the outer doors and sashes, rather than local timbers, especially kauri, (Star 10 March 1887) but four days later, tenders were advertised. Charles M Newson won the tender for constructing the new government office building. (Star 12 January 1888)

The foundations were laid after a considerable amount of fill was taken from the site and dumped at Freeman's Bay (probably assisting reclamations there.) By August 1888, progress up to the second storey was reported (Star 7 August). In February 1889, more grumblings -- the local Trades and Labour Council complained that Newson was subletting his contract piecemeal, labour only, "getting men to work at starvation wages." (Star, 23 February 1889) Still, the work proceeded, and in mid July 1889 Newson took down his hoardings from in front of the building, but the job was still not finally finished until around February 1890. Lands and Survey moved in around that time.

According to the NZ Historic Places Trust, "French Renaissance in style it bears a strong resemblance to the Marshall and Snelgrove building in Oxford Street, London, which must have influenced [Thomas] Mahoney when on a trip to Britain in the 1880s."

The Customhouse, with additional government buildings at rear (right), February 1921. Ref. 1W-1751, 
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.

By the 1960s, the Customhouse and associated buildings were surplus to requirements.

In 1972, Les Andrews began a campaign to save the older building on the site, and have it converted into a centre for the Performing Arts in Auckland. In the end, he was successful, and so Auckland is just that much richer in terms of the Downtown streetscape. A hotel occupies the remainder at the rear.

I recall going to a cinema there in 1986, to watch Back to the Future. The cinema didn't last very long, however. Pity -- I enjoyed the atmosphere.

Abel Tasman: 370 years on

Penny Griffith provided a link in her comment to this post for the website set up for the 370th anniversary of Abel Tasman coming to our shores. 

"This year brings the 370th anniversary of Tasman’s 1642 exploration and first meeting with Maori. It’s a good time to reflect on what discovery has meant to us, and how our history continues to unfold ...

"Around the country we expect the Tasman 370 commemoration will be marked by walks, talks, sailing trips, art and music–something for all ages! Some places along the coast are already known for their Tasman connection, and some groups, especially those representing modern Dutch residents, proudly acknowledge the long-standing connection.

"This Tasman 370 website brings together information on events and places that will encourage us to think about our country’s place in the world and our shared history."

Auckland Zoo History Timeline on Scribd

Ref. 35-R160, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

Just putting in a head's-up for my friend Liz's Auckland Zoo Timeline. She's put in a lot of work so far -- and of course, there's a ton to come, especially as this is, of course, a zoo still existing.

Murals at Drury, and celebrating an early tramway

The Farmers' Hotel, Drury, late 1860s to early 1870s, 4-RIC314, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

"Drury was selected as a settlement early in the history of Auckland. It is connected by rail with the city, from which it is distant twenty-two miles southward, on the sea coast, and in the county of Manukau. The district is agricultural, and dairying is carried on by the settlers with much advantage. Flaxmilling, too, is successful as a local industry. Game abounds in the district, which has a public school, a post, telegraph and money order office, and a daily mail service." (Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902)

My good friends Bill and Barbara Ellis popped along to the 150th anniversary celebration for the Drury Tramway, held on 6 May this year. These are their images.

While there, they took some shots of murals on the Drury Community Library, and nearby.

The tramway was built to service coal mining operations at Drury -- but it was also the first step toward Auckland's rail network.
 It is our pleasing duty to record in to day's issue the first great step towards developing the coal-field that exists near Drury, in the province of Auckland. In our last we reported the very successful result that attended the operations of the Bank of New Zealand, since its establishment a few months ago, and the notice of the opening of the tramway connecting the Waihoihoi coal mines with the sea at Slippery Creek, following so soon afterwards, shows that at least our fellow-colonists are actively persevering in their endeavours to advance the material prosperity of the province. It is only a few years since the existence of coal was verified in the Drury district ... But owing to the want of roads, and the cost of transit, it was not possible for the directors to continue their operations until something had been done to lessen the cost of production, and accelerate the delivery in Auckland of the produce of the mines ... it was wisely determined to lay down a tramway, thus lessening the charge for carriage to one-sixth its original cost, and ensuring a regular supply of coal to meet the demand of the market ...

Having these objects in view the Waihoihoi tramway was commenced about twelve months ago. For six months the works were suspended owing to the bad state of the roads during the winter and spring seasons, which rendered the carting of timber all but impossible. At length, however, the line was completed and on Thursday last, the 1st of May, it was formally opened by the directors. 

The entire length of the line is 3 1/4 miles. The gauge is 4 feet 8| inches, and the rails are of rimu, which is a timber admirably suited for this purpose. In the construction of this tramway 105,000 feet of sawn timber has been used besides which the following go to make up the total of the materials, and will give some idea of the magnitude of the work:
45,000 sleepers of puriri, rata, and mati 
6,000 puriri trenails 
20,000 feet squared timber for viaducts, &c. 
4,000 split slabs for covering ditto 
200 short and 40 long puriri piles 
2 tons nails and spikes 
2 tons iron fixings. 

There are about 1,000 feet in length of bridges and viaducts, which is occasioned by the swampy nature of the ground. Upwards of 3,000 yards of earth cuttings have been executed, and 10 miles of drains formed. 

At present the rolling stock consists of eight trucks, each carrying 1 ton coal, but these will be increased as he business requires extension. Mr Vickery, of Auckland, did the castings for these trucks, Mr. Young, of Drury, supplying the remaining iron work. The works on the tramway were let in sub-sections, the whole being carried out in a most creditable manner under the direction of Mr. Thomas Hyde, the manager, whose practical talents are well attested by the stability and completeness of the line. This tramway cost the company about £400 a mile and will be worked by horse power. Owing to the incline from the mouth of the pit, which is a drive into the side of the hill, the trucks laden with coal will run half the distance to Slippery Creek 'most easily, so that the horse labour will not be so much as at first sight may appear. The cost of carriage from the pit to the landing at Slippery Creek will not exceed 1s. per ton hitherto it was nearly 6s. The directors have therefore determined on reducing the price of their coal, fixing the rates at the Great South Road, Drury, 15s. per ton at terminus of tramway, 15s at Onehunga, 25s. and in Auckland, at 32s. 6d. If in large quantities for steam purposes the Drury coals will be sold at 30s. per ton in Auckland. The company now possesses facilities for meeting the demand...
Southern Cross, 6 May 1862

From 16 March 1905: "A new coal seam is now being opened up and worked a short distance from Drury. And a railway line is being laid down from the Drury Station to the new mine." Auckland Weekly News, AWNS-1905-0316-12-3, 
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

Stories of Boyd's zoos updated

Animals in J J Boyd's Royal Oak / Onehunga Zoo. Auckland Weekly News, 19 March 1914, AWNS-19140319-51-1, 
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Ah, the joys of plowing through new online pages from Papers Past whenever National Library upload more on their site. Thank you, to both National Library and our own Auckland Library, for all the work involved with providing the Auckland Star, currently available down to the end of 1926 -- and, hopefully, down to end of 1945 by the end of this year.

There is a lot of content on Timespanner and on Scribd which I've published that now needs updating and revision due to the Auckland Star's availability -- the saga of J J Boyd, his zoos at Aramoho and Auckland and menagerie at Wainoni is a case in point.

So, I've renamed and updated the Zoo Histories collection on Scribd:
  • Added Paw Prints into the collection (it attracted some attention on Facebook this week),
  • Updated The Aramoho Zoo, and added it to the collection (why I hadn't done that before, I don't know. Must have missed it)
  • Updated The Legacy of Boyd's Zoo -- here, I added a 29 December quote from the Auckland Star about the lion cub who got out from the zoo at Royal Oak, only to take fright when menaced by the neighbour's cow (the origin of the myth of the lion rampaging down Queen St Onehunga ...)
  • And, most updated of all -- J J Boyd's Royal Oak Zoo. It was 32 pages, and now numbers 46. Some dates corrected (I had July in one case, and it should have read June), info on the animals added, including a grey-coloured seal captured at Waihi Beach which later died, more on the confrontations between Boyd and the Onehunga Borough Council, other venues where Boyd had his travelling zoo on wheels during the summer of 1921-1922, and the earliest of his ads for the zoo once it had opened, from early November 1911.
I'll be giving a talk on Boyd's zoos before the Otahuhu Historical Society on 25 June.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Papatoetoe: 150 years of civic life

From Auckland Weekly News, 6 May 1909. Ref AWNS-19090506-4-6, 
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.

Bruce Ringer, at the Manukau Research Centre for Auckland Libraries, has put together Papatoetoe: 150 years of civic life, an online timeline history for the area. Worth a look.

A postcard from Auckland Girls Grammar

Came upon this postcard the other day -- showing the rear (north facing) side of the 1909 main building at Auckland Girl's Grammar, Howe Street in Ponsonby.

Judging by the King Edward VII stamp, and what can be seen of the postmark, I'd estimate the card to date from c.1910.

Katie, the writer, was in the thick of exams at the time.

Auckland Girls' Grammar School, Howe Street, Auckland, ca 1909 Reference Number: 1/1-002925-G. Exterior view of Auckland Girls' Grammar School, Howe Street, Auckland city, circa 1909. Auckland Star photograph. Alexander Turnbull Library.

The first Auckland Girls’ High School in Auckland began in January 1877, but it was always seen as merely a temporary measure by the Auckland Education Board. In 1886 the Government gave the Education Board the land in Howe Street where the current school is located, along with the then-ramshackle former immigration barracks there. The school however had no land endowments to maintain it, so in 1888 it was closed and amalgamated with the boys’ Grammar School in Symonds Street.

In 1906, plans were made by the Education Board to separate the girls’ school from the boys’ grammar school. Plans were drawn up, designed by architects Goldsbro’ & Wade, and W A Cumming. The foundation stone for the new school at Howe Street was laid by the Hon. George Fowlds, Minister of Education, in December 1907. The project was described at the time as the building of “the most commodious and best-equipped school of the kind in the Dominion.”

Work proceeded over 1908-1909; the school was finally opened in February 1909, and formally opened in April that year. The builder was John Davis. According to Heather Northey in her book on the school’s history, Auckland Girls Grammar School the First Hundred Years 1888-1988, “The move to new, roomy premises came just in time, and the girls revelled in their bright and spacious classrooms after the cramped, cold conditions at St. Paul’s. The red brick building was an imposing sight, even though it was still surrounded by mud and clay. Perhaps most impressive of all was the School Hall, a lofty, beautiful place, large enough to hold the entire School.” 

Auckland Girls' Grammar School, Howe Street, Auckland, [ca 1916-1920] Reference Number: 1/2-001195-G. View of the school and established grounds. Shows an ivy-covered front facade and entranceway. 
Photograph taken by William A Price ca 1916-1920. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Another lady taxidermist in Auckland: Jane Greacen

Quite by chance the other day, I came upon Jane Greacen -- a lady engaged in her trade in the shadow of Partington's Windmill, apparently living in a red brick house from around 1905. Then, engaging in the fur and feather cleaning trade from 1908.

Auckland Star 29 February 1908

Then, in 1909, announcing that her maiden name was Yandle, and that she was a taxidermist (dealing with birds as a side to fur and feather preparation). Which intrigued me no end, considering the earlier blog post here on Jane Yandle, one of Auckland's earliest taxidermists.

Auckland Star 3 July 1909

William and Jane Yandle did have a daughter named Jane in 1871, according to the BDMs. Robert Greacen married Jane in 1898 -- however, the BDM transcription has her maiden name as "Gaudle". Perhaps Jane Yandle, by then separated from her husband since 1896, had taken her daughter into the trade, and Jane Greacen then took over her mother's business from 1908? Jane Yandle must have been getting on in years by then -- she died in 1915.

As it happened, Jane Greacen's life seemed to mirror that of her mother, unfortunately. Late April 1910, she shifted her premises to Avon Street, off Symonds Street (now part of St Martin's Lane). In 1911, domestic violence in her household was brought to the public's attention.
Jane Greacen brought a charge of alleged assault on the 16th inst. against her husband, Robert Greacen. She alleged her husband continually struck and kicked her, and she could not stand it any longer. The lady, who cleans feathers, renovates furs, etc., said that she had always kept herself, and could make up to £3 a week. Her husband lived in the same house, but would do little work. He slept half the day, and every two or three days he assaulted her. She wanted defendant bound over to keep the peace, and support her. The lady had no evidence to support her contention that defendant assaulted her, but she wanted to know whether she could get a separation order.

She had lived a terrible life with him for 10 years, she said. Defendant, who described himself as a wharf-labourer, said he came home on the night of the alleged assault, and had to make his own tea. His wife bullied him so much that he could not eat any food, and he went out for a time. He returned and went to bed, and about one o'clock got up, and found his wife with another man. His wife hit him on the head, and then fell down, and that was all the assault.

In dismissing the case his Worship said there was nothing before him on which he could act. He advised the woman to take advice before bringing any further action. Mrs. Greacen: Then are you going to let him come home and murder me?

Court Orderly: Silence! 
Auckland Star 1 July 1911

And later that same month ...

"My husband is continually drunk, and I have never seen him sober for the last month," complained Mrs Jane Greacen, who asked for a separation and maintenance order against her husband. Defendant made no appearance, and Mr Kettle remarked, "He seems to be a fit subject for Rotoroa."

The wife: "Yes, I think it would be a good thing for him."

Mr Kettle: "Well, there is a vacancy down there, I believe." (Laughter)

A separation order was made, and the defendant ordered to contribute £1 a week.

Auckland Star 14 July 1911

And still later that month ...

It was stated against Robt. Greacen, charged with drunkenness, that on Friday night, after his wife had obtained a separation order against him he went to the house and terrified his wife. She was so frightened that she wanted him put away. Accused, who was a second offender, was fined 10/ or 48 hours, and warned against worrying his wife.

Auckland Star 17 July 1911

 Robert Greacen breached a prohibition order in August 1911, and was fined £2.

Jane, meanwhile, had moved back to Mill Street by February 1912, then to Khyber Pass, just below Grafton Road, by March. Robert appeared yet again before the bench in April that year for breaching the prohibition order, saying that he had been drinking because he had "got hurt a day or two ago, and that caused him to go to the hotel to cure a feeling of pessimism." He was fined £4 this time. (Star, 26 April)

Jane appealed to the courts again.

At the Magistrate's Court this morning Mrs. Jane Greacen, who was represented by Mr. F. Stilling, applied for a separation order against her husband, Robert Greacen, on the ground that he had failed to maintain either herself or her children, that on a previous occasion she had obtained an order for separation and maintenance, but there was such difficulty in getting any money from Greacen, and so much scandal among the neighbours through the necessary invocation of police aid in the matter, that she took him back on his assurance that he would reform. Drink was his trouble, and after a brief spell of sobriety he took to it once more, and then left her. He was now earning good money on the wharf, and living at the Salvation Army Workmen's Home, but for two months she had not received a penny from him. From all she could hear, he was drinking again, though there was a prohibition order against him. She asked for no maintenance for herself, but only for the children. Mr. Kettle, S.M., suggested that the police should investigate Greacen's habits, and then made orders for separation and guardianship of the children, with maintenance at the rate of 15/ a week. 
 Auckland Star 22 November 1912

And, again in 1913 ...

Jane Greacen asked for a separation order against her husband, Robert Greacen, wharf labourer. She said she had obtained a similar order twelve months ago but as there was difficulty in getting money through the Court she had decided to take her husband back. The experiment was not a success, however, and for the last five weeks Greacen had been drinking more or less. less. In answer to Mr Kettle, S.M., the complainant admitted that the present would make the third separation she had obtained. His Worship in granting a separation and making an order for the payment of £1 a week expressed the hope that the present arrangement would be more lasting than two previous ones. 
 Auckland Star 13 June 1913

There is a Robert Greacen buried at Waikumete Cemetery in "SOLDIERS BURIAL A Row 3, Plot 2", died 1932 aged 61, a labourer (which would put him as being born c.1871, around Jane's age) but whether this is the same man, I don't know.

Jane Greacen, by the time she died (1940) a widow, is also on Waikumete's records, but with no grave. Her ashes were scattered.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Zealand's first electric tram

My thanks to Dave Hinman in Christchurch for his kind permission to have these images and the text from his email published here. Also thanks to Andrew of High Riser for the heads up.

The restored body of Roslyn No. 1, dating from 1900 is today on its way back to Dunedin, having been restored for the Otago Settlers museum by the Heritage Tramways Trust, Ferrymead. It will be on static display once the museum reopens on its site which includes the former Art Deco NZ Railways Road Services Depot near the Dunedin Railway Station. Some before and after photos:

1. As new in 1900.

2. As a "crib" near Dunedin in 1968.

3. Body restored, painting under way, March 2012.

4. Just about ready for its trip south, May 2012.

The tram has had a long history between 1968 and now - obtained by the now defunct Dunedin Museum of Transport and Technology, outside storage and vandalism, acquisition by OSM and a partial start made on restoration. Then to Ferrymead and a period of waiting its turn until funding available.

More images here, and here.

A tram bound for Avondale

Purchased via TradeMe -- Tram No. 93 of the Auckland fleet, looks like a DSC, Cousins & Cousins-built (Auckland) tram, c.1909 (compare with No. 89 at MOTAT). I wanted this for two reasons. 1. The tram is heading to Avondale (which is of course the core interest for me and Timespanner). 2. I've identified where this was taken -- outside what is now Pigeon Park in Karangahape Road, with the Caledonian Hotel on the left (built c.1870, demolished 1980), and the tram stop toilets to the right on Symonds Street. So this tram's route was up Queen Street, past the Town Hall to K'Road, then along to Symonds Street, up to New North Road, then along New North through Kingsland, Morningside, Mt Albert to Blockhouse Bay Road, along to Rosebank Road, and down to the terminus just before Great North Road and the shops.

MOTAT apparently also have No. 91 (just two numbers away from this one) -- on the grass beside Cropper House Restaurant.