Saturday, September 25, 2010

The First Air Mail flight to Australia

Faith in Australia on the beach at Murawai ready for take-off with First Official Airmail from N.Z. to Australia, 17 Feb 1934

Article below from The Evening Post 16 February 1934




The Faith flew from Muriwai Beach on 17th February 1934 taking mail to Australia from New Zealand. This was the first official trans-tasman airmail flight the forerunner of our air mail service today.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The North Kaipara Lighthouse - built 1882 to 1884

(image from papers past - Otago Witness 1901)

On my search tonight in Papers Past for anything to do with the Kaipara I came across a few snippets about the North Kaipara Lighthouse. The photo above clearly shows the lighthouse with a small house behind it whereas current photos show the lighthouse standing by itself with nothing but bush, beach and sand surrounding it. The history on this lighthouse was found at Historic.Org.NZ which says this:
The Kaipara North Head Lighthouse is one of only a small number of remaining timber lighthouses in New Zealand. Constructed in 1883-84, it was erected to guide shipping across the treacherous Kaipara bar. The Kaipara, on the west coast of Northland, is New Zealand's largest natural harbour and became the focus for the widespread exploitation of kauri timber around its shores in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Such timber was a major construction material, exported throughout New Zealand and overseas. Erected on a sandstone outcrop, the structure lay some 8 km from the nearest settlement at Pouto, in an area dominated by large drifting sand dunes. It was part of a larger complex, which included residences for the two permanent lighthouse keepers and their families, as well as a signal station and other ancillary buildings. Earlier Maori occupation had occurred in the immediate vicinity, reflecting an ongoing relationship between human settlement and the maritime environment.

The lighthouse was originally 13.4m tall, with a tapering six-sided tower, three storeys high. It was topped by a large lantern, and erected with a small basement in its concrete footings to allow a weight mechanism for the clockwork light to be used. Unlike other similar towers, prefabricated and imported from Britain, the structure was constructed of local materials. Most notably, the walls of the tower were designed with an external and internal skin of local kauri, while the core was erected of basalt rubble from Mt Eden, Auckland. This has enabled the building to withstand extreme winds. The structure was designed by John Blackett (1818-1893), an important individual in New Zealand's nineteenth-century engineering history, possibly assisted by Captain Robert Johnson. Johnson had put forward the earliest scheme for national lighthouse coverage of New Zealand's shores in the 1860s, stimulating a major programme of lighthouse construction by the colonial government that lasted into the 1880s. Timber structures allowed such work to be carried out at a lesser cost, and the Kaipara light proved to be the last of the coastal lighthouses erected during this period. The lighthouse and its auxiliary buildings were built at a cost of £5,571.

The light in the lantern was imported from Britain, and was first exhibited in December 1884. The cramped interior of the lighthouse was mostly used for storage and also contained trap doors in its centre to accommodate the weights associated with the operation of the light. Although the light was visible for up to 37 km in good conditions, crossing the bar remained treacherous, and within a few months of it starting operation the lighthouse keepers played host to shipwreck victims from three vessels: the Anabell, Mary Annison and Mathieu. Extreme conditions were suffered at the station as well as at sea, with shifting sands and erosion being a major problem. This eventually led to the keepers and their families moving to nearby Pouto from the early 1900s, with an extra keeper being taken on to allow two keepers to remain at the station on rotation. Many of the station buildings succumbed to the wind or were relocated at this time.

At the outbreak of the Second World War (1939-1945), the light - which was by then of gas automatic type - was extinguished, and in 1944 the original lantern was removed and eventually set up at Cape Saunders, where it remains. A smaller lantern from Cape Foulwind was subsequently installed on the top of the tower, incorporating a new automatic light. The light was relit on the same day in November 1947 that the Kaipara was formally closed as a port of entry, although the harbour still remained open for local traffic. The lighthouse was finally closed in 1955 or early 1956, after which it became derelict. A preservation society was formed in the early 1970s to restore the building, supported by the local community at Pouto. The building and the associated station site were subsequently placed under the management of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, who still operate the place as a historic property. The lighthouse remains popular, with an estimated 35,000 tourists visiting the site annually in the late 1990s, in spite of its remote location.

The Kaipara North Head Lighthouse is historically significant as a prominent reminder of the role that shipping and coastal transport has played in the social and economic development of New Zealand. It has archaeological value as the site of an associated lighthouse station. The place has considerable architectural significance as one of few remaining timber lighthouses in New Zealand, as the only 1880s example believed to be constructed locally of New Zealand materials, and for its association with John Blackett - an important nineteenth-century engineer. The Kaipara North Head Lighthouse has cultural significance for its close connections with the local community at Pouto.

What happened to the little houses around it? Doc.Govt.NZ says that when the lighthouse was automated in 1952 they were all barged to various other locations. I wonder if the current owners of these houses realize their history?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Adult entertainment ferry stripped for restoration - National - Video - 3 News

Adult entertainment ferry stripped for restoration - National - Video - 3 News

Posted using ShareThis

By Bob McNeil

A century-old steamboat that once provided adult entertainment for lonely fishermen is being restored in Northland.

In its time the SS Miverva has hauled kauri logs across the Kaipara Harbour and has been used as a platform for viewing America’s Cup races.

Now it is being restored to its original self as a steam ferry – minus the brothel onboard.

With at least 100 years behind her, the Minerva is a shipload of stories to tell. Originally built to ferry more than 200 passengers between Auckland and Clevedon, the ship eventually became one of the largest pleasure launches on the Kaipara Harbour.

“It’s fairly well authenticated that she stayed out there [the Chatham Islands] as an entertainment centre for horny fishermen,” says shipwright John Clode.

Now the Minerva has been stripped back to her hull. The timber is in surprisingly good condition, but the wheelhouse and bridge will have to be re-built.

The plan is to have the old ferry linked with the Kaw Kawa vintage railway, where steam – rather than steamy excursions – will be unrivalled anywhere else in the world.

3 News

Monday, April 5, 2010

Historical engines given new life in Karaka

Thought this was worth posting about even though it's just out of Auckland not Northland :-)

Vintage engines, antique motor mowers and historic aircraft will be brought to life next week in an interactive experience for the Karaka Museum.

The Karaka Historical Society, along with the Vintage Engine Restorers Auckland (VERA), will host the Karaka Vintage Day on March 28 to showcase the machinery used to shape New Zealand during the last century.

Money raised from the event will be donated to the Karaka Museum’s building fund to help house the artifacts previously on display at the Karaka War Memorial Hall.

As well as engines and equipment, historical buffs will have the opportunity to view classic cars, military vehicles and even a vintage Tiger Moth aeroplane flyover at the biennial event.

Iconic Kiwi brand Masport will also be represented with an impressive array of machinery, from milking machines to lawnmowers, manufactured by the company over the past 100 years.

The spokesperson for the Karaka Historical Society Rob Higham says the Vintage Day event, which started in 2000, attracts a large number of people from around the country.

“We try and ensure there is something for the whole family. The vintage displays are a real draw card along with the parade of vehicles, machinery and tractors. Children can enjoy horse and wagon rides while their parents can spend time perusing the vendor stalls for books, jewellery, clothes, art and collectibles.”

Higham says the new Karaka Museum is being constructed to display much of the vintage memorabilia, as its former home at the Karaka War Memorial Hall was too small to display the large collection.

The General Manager of Masport, Steve Hughes, says the company is proud to be showcasing products from its 100 year history at the Karaka Vintage Day.

“Partnering with the Karaka Historical Society and VERA was an obvious connection,” he says. “We are looking forward to contributing and celebrating our rich Kiwi history with both groups and the public on this great occasion.”

The Karaka Vintage Day 2010 will be held on Sunday, March 28th at the corner of Linwood and Blackbridge Roads, Karaka. Gates open at 9.30am.

(story from 3 news)

Friday, April 2, 2010

All Saints Anglican Church - Northern Wairoa

While I was in Dargaville yesterday I popped up a side road of the highway to take photos of this little church in Mititai along the Northern Wairoa river.

Does anyone know any history about it?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wellsford's Heritage Rest Home

Last week on my travels through Wellsford I was driving along Station Road when I spied this large old looking building which is now used as a rest home. After searching through google I was sad to discover that there really isn't much background history except this tiny gem I found:

We meet Isabella Matheson-Curry. The formation of the Parish owes so much to her and her husband Phillip Edward Curry, that any history must include a tribute to them. Isabella's first husband was John Gilmer Matheson, who settled in Wellsford in 1885, on a block running approximately from what is now Batten Street, down Rodney Street to Station Road, and roughly up a line ending below the present town water supply reservoir.

John Mateson was then a single man, but married Isabella Kirton in 1891. The couple had five daughters. The youngest, Linda, is now a resident of Heritage Rest Home which was once the farm house where she was born more than 90 years ago.

John died in 1902, and Isabella struggled along, managing the farm and her five children, until 1908, when she married Phillip Curry, an Australian working on the railway project which was by the underway. Isabella and Phillip had three more daughters. The names of the Matheson girls appear in the roll of the Old Wellsford School: Ida 1898, Thelma 1900, Edith 1902, Ettie 1906 and Linda 1909. They were not then Catholic; it was Phillip Curry who brought the Catholic faith to the Matheson household.

At that time Wellsford was mostly farmland. There were no railways, shops or public hall, and virtually no roads - just a handful of farmhouses, and the Curry house, important to this story, was one of them. It still stands where it always did, but today we know it as the heritage Rest Home. Between times it had other owners, notably Fred and Aileen Preece and their family, staunchly Catholic.

Over the years, Isabella and Phillip donated or sold land for several community projects, especially the public hall now called the Community Centre. More important to this story was the gifting of two lots of land to the Catholic Bishop of Auckland. the first gift was made in 1918, and a further block, intended for a school, was donated in 1925.


(information here - photo by M Brookfield)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Yates Landing - Kate Stirling

Recently I've been getting into historical books about the early settlers of New Zealand. One that I've just finished reading is "Yates Landing" by Kate Stirling, and ok it's a historical romance but it's got a good storyline and quite a bit of action.

It's about a young lady called Chloe Mainwell who lives in England during the Victorian era who travels to France to stay with relatives so she can make her debut into society but an incident with her uncle leaves her parents with the impression that she has been spoiled and therefore they push her into a loveless marriage with Thomas Yates who has recently bought land and has a farm in New Zealand on the Kaipara.

Chloe starts off as a somewhat spoiled girl without any idea of how difficult life can be but gradually through circumstances that happen she grows up and learns how to be tough and eventually learns to love the land she once hated.

Kate Stirling has also written another novel which is vintage rather than Victorian in nature called Thunder Children also about early life in the Kaipara - if you can I urge you to see if your library has a copy of these books as they are well worth reading.

(image from coolslaw)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Captain John Austen goes through a hurricane



As per the previous entry about Captain John Austen here he is in the Schooner "Marion" sending a letter to a friend about his experience in a hurricane. He hasn't had much luck with shipping vessels has he?

Article from Evening Post 10th April 1880 - Papers Past.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Captain John Austen - 1823 to 1899

I've been doing some research lately into the various sides of my family tree. One of which is my grandmothers family who are Austens originally from Suffolk in England. Back about 4 generations is a sea captain called John Austen born 1823 died 1899. Here's what I found out about him:

John married Anne Willcox on the 12th October 1858 in the St Barnabas Church in Auckland. Anne was 17 years old whereas John is listed as 28 on the marriage certificate but was actually 36. He is also listed as a "widower". The marriage seems to have been a happy one and they had 9 children, 5 boys, and 4 girls, (information from Capt Austen's blog) one of which was my great grandfather Alfred Edward Austen.

John Austen is listed in paper's past as being a well known sea captain and various advertisements for cargo proves this, however one particular article from NZ Historical Data states that the ship Sea Breeze was wrecked through fault of Mr Austen:

Ship "Sea Breeze"

AJHR 1872 Return of Wrecks

Date of Casualty : 25 Oct 1871
Name of Master : John AUSTEN
Age of Vessel : 10 years
Rig : Schooner
Register Tonnage : 70
Number of Crew : 6
Number of Passengers : 1
Nature of Cargo : Guano
Nature of Casualty : Stranded; total loss
Number of Lives Lost : None
Place of Accident : Reef at NW end of Staarbuck Island
Wind Direction : ESE
Wind Force : 5

Finding of Court of Inquiry
Master blamed for wreck. Loss believed to have been caused either by drunkenness (as in case of "Marwell", lost by him on Tiri Tiri
about 3 years ago, and for which his certificate of service was taken away) or from a desire to show off the capabilities of his
vessel, which had the reputation of a smart sailor.

However the West Coast Times 24th January 1872 at Papers Past says this:


It sounds like Captain Austen is free of blame and that the heavy rollers on the starboard side of the ship were so huge that they rocked the vessel over which cause it to shipwreck.

In fact several newspapers such as the Evening Post 1880 state that Captain Austen went on to take charge of other vessels like the Schooner "Marion" and the Wanganui Herald says as captain he left for Onehunga in the boat "Glenelg". Back then I would've thought that if he'd been found responsible for drunkenly wrecking a boat thereby endangering lives and cargo, he would have been fined and/or jailed.

There are more newspaper articles and journeys by Mr John Austen but I will share those in another post.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Review - The Castaway

Another book review - this time it's The Castaway by Aaron Fletcher - another one from the Maungaturoto Library.

Australia and its surrounding islands were settled by colonists from the British Isles in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, beginning with a penal colony established on the site of the modern city of Sydney in 1788. Tasmania (known as Van Diemen's Land in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and now part of Australia) was also established as a British penal colony in the early 1800s. Transportation of convicts continued through the mid-1800s. Many free immigrants also settled in Australia and Tasmania, especially during the 1850s when they were attracted by the wool industry and a series of gold rushes.

The first Europeans to settle in New Zealand were Christian missionaries who came in the 1800s to convert the native Maori. The Maori initially welcomed European settlers, but as more and more flooded in, displacing the Maori, conflicts erupted into the Land Wars of the 1860s and 1870s. Native Australians, dubbed Aborigines by European settlers, did not fare well as colonization spread, but modern novelists recognize the positive aspects of their culture.

- Quote from Historical Novels.

My personal review is that I really enjoyed this book. I've been researching my family tree for a while now and found it interesting to know that my immigrant ancestors could have or would have lived similarly in early New Zealand. I liked reading how the main character William Pollard, an escaped convict escaped from the ship he was being transported on and swam to the nearby Bay of Islands - back then was called Kororareka, met up with the local Maoris and married one of them. Although this is a fictional novel the author captures the history well.

This is definitely worth reading and is one of my favourites - I highly recommend it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Very Old Settler - Obituary of Alexander Chapman Hokianga

I came across this interesting obituary amongst my many delvings into Papers Past on the National Library site. The names of many of our early settlers have all but vanished. I'm also mindful that Northland History goes beyond that of the settlers. Without local Maori to help them in those early days many a settler would have perished. Northland Iwi have their own rich histories as well to share. As I can I will include these - it's important that they are. This obituary is from The Evening Post 4 April 1889

The late Alexander Chapman of Hokianga, a notion of whose decease appeared in our issue (N.Z. Herald) of 16 March, was one of the few remaining who were contemporary with the earliest settlers in New Zealand.

He was born at Dunbar, Scotland, on the 2nd of February, 1805. His father was a lieutenant in the navy, and died in India when Alexander was quite a child. His mother with her two sons, then removed to London.

At the age of eleven years Alexander went with Sir Edward Parry's expedition to the Arctic regions, and retained some lively recollections of the severity of the cold there.

After his return he was indentured for seven years to William Yateman, shipbuilder, Deptford. About 1828 he arrived in Sydney, N.S.W., and in 1830 came to New Zealand with the late Mr. G.F. Russell to superintend, at Horeke, Hokianga, the construction of the first large ship in New Zealand, viz, the Sir George Murray, of 400 tons. When completed, Chapman along with several Ngapuhi chiefs took passage in her to Sydney. Shortly afterwards he returned to Hokianga and returned to his trade.

Being of frugal habits, Chapman saved enough money to enable him to live in easy circumstances in his old age. In 1858 he took his daughter (his only child, now the wife of Mr. George Martin, pilot of Hokianga Heads) to Scotland to be educated, returning himself to New Zealand the same year.

Chapman had vivid remembrances of the "early days' if Hokianga, and among his papers is a very interesting account of what he calls "The Battle of Pork."

It appears that some natives on the Mangamuka River had looted the house of a European named Ryan. Mr G.F. Russell, at the head of fifty Europeans and about 400 natives, armed with muskets and a small cannon from Te Horeke, started for Mangamuka to punish the offenders..

On arriving near the pa of the offending natives, the latter, frightened at the formidable appearance of the attacking party, fled, leaving behind them their canoes, two muskets, a quanity of potatoes, and 150 pigs. So the whole affair was accomplished without bloodshed, save that the pigs killed to satisfy the whetted appetites of the triumphant warriors. Would that subsequent battles would be no more sanguinary.

For the last 20 years Mr. Chapman lived with his daughter at Omapere, surrounded by his grandchildren. About a fortnight before his death he caught a severe cold, which with natural causes hastened his decease. The Rev. T.A. Joughin was with him just before he died, and to him Mr. Chapman expressed the happiness he experiences through faith in Christ. Thus, his end was "quietness and assurance." He was interred in the Pakanae Cemetery on Sunday afternoon, 10th March. Of the two 'old hands" in this district only two remain now - R. Hardiman, over 80, and Frank Bowyer, nearly 100 years.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New blog for Maungaturoto history

Just to let you know Liz has created a new blog for Maungaturoto history over here at Maungaturoto Memories. This one will be kept for Northland history only. See you there :-)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Under Northland Skies - Florence Keene

If you're like me and you are interested in the early settlers to Northland you're bound to enjoy this book found at the Maungaturoto Library last week. It's called Under Northland Skies by Florence Keene and features information on some of Northland's fairly well known and unknown first European and Maori women in the region.

Here's some of the names you can find in the book along with stories of how they came to be in the area they lived in.
  • Yvonne Rust
  • Sister Ivy Driffill
  • Ethel Maude Sands
  • Iritana Rangi Kamara Randell
  • Mary Ann Matthews
  • Daisy Schepens
  • Dame Whina Cooper
  • Violet Pau
  • Caroline Bedlington
  • Marie King
  • Hannah Chiffinch Hare
  • Susannah Cullen
  • Anka Matich

If you're looking for photos you can find some here at the Whangarei Library website, the book has been privately published.