Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Who had the first Publican's License for a hotel in New Zealand?

[Taylor, Richard], 1805-1873 :Kororareka. 1839.. Taylor, Richard, 1805-1873 :Sketchbook. 1835-1860.. Ref: E-296-q-171-1. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22388752

During the times of early settlement in Northland, New Zealand, the town of Kororareka (now Russell) in the Bay of Islands was known as "The Hell Hole of the Pacific". Whaling ships frequented the settlement well before the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. After annexation by the British, laws came into force requiring hotels to have a publican's license.

In reading the history provided as part of the Russell Bay of Islands website, I noted the following:

"New Zealand’s First Licensed Hotel After New Zealand became a colony in 1840 all hotels selling alcohol had to have liquor licences. The country’s first was granted to John Johnson of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Kororāreka. The hotel in Russell is the fourth on the site."

Indeed, John Johnson of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel was granted a publican's license, along with several others in the same settlement. Johnson and 8 others in total held the first Publican's licenses. On looking further into the granting of licenses for 1840, I found  in the New Zealand Advertiser & Bay of Islands Gazette (16 July 1840) the following had been granted Publican's licenses:

  • George Russell, Russell Hotel, Kororareka
  • Samuel Allen Wood, Wood's Hotel, Kororareka
  • John Johnson, Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Kororareka
  • Robert Edney and George Hemmings, Whale Fishery, Kororareka
  • Robert Evans, Commercial Hotel, Kororareka
  • Thomas Nolan, Mason's Arms, Kororareka
  • David Mason and James Stewart, Sailor's Return, at the Pa
  • William Tibbey, Russell Hotel, at the Pa
  • James Stiles, Eagle Tavern, at the Pa.

In fact, a total of nine publican's licenses were granted on the same day. However, according to the history of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel:

"After the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, New Zealands first government was formed just down the road in Okaito, and started treating to bring the famed lawlessness to an end.  With Johnny being so well known in the local area, it is no surprise that he managed to swing the very first licence for his establishment (the colonial treasurer was a close friend), so after 13 years of serving Whalers, traders and prostitutes, Johnny the ex con was now all legal. The licence now hangs proudly in a gold frame in the bar, where sharp eyed history buffs have pointed out a reference to the succession of Queen Victoria from her father. "
Sourced: "Duke of Marlborough Hotel - a place in history" 
Published Duke of Marlborough Hotel,
 Russell, Bay of Islands New Zealand
Retrieved 28 January 2014

Screenshot of the first Publican's license issued in New Zealand
Sir George Grey Special Collections Reference: NZMS 346 Auckland Libraries
Retrieved: 14 January 2014

Further research at last found the original copy of the license on Te Ara. Indeed. John Johnson was granted the first license, marked with a number 1.


Initially I questioned if Johnson was the first license holder in the Bay of Islands. While a total of nine licenses were granted on the same day and no number order given I assumed too easily. Lesson learned and this post amended.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The former Matakohe Post & Telegraph Office Building (1908)

The Matakohe Post & Telegraph Office was opened in 1909. The building is presently sited next to The Kauri Museum at Church Street, Matakohe, and is registered as a Category 2 Historic Place Register No: 3911 on the NZHPT Register.

Matakohe Post Office Tender Notice NZH 21 March 1908 Page 2

The building has been fully restored and turned into a museum display by the The Kauri Museum. Tenders were first advertised for the construction of the new Post office in March 1908 by the Public Works Department. The Auckland Star (13 March 1908) reported:

The building at Matakohe will be somewhat after the appearance of a villa residence, in wood, and, judging by the appointments provided for, should prove a most serviceable and useful office. The front elevation shows that the main entrance will be reached through a porch leading to the public space, 10ft x 9ft. A spacious counter on the left separates the public from the mail room, which will be 15ft wide by 21ft long. At one corner of this room a small compartment, 7ft x 4ft 6in, contains the telephone exchange, which is also reached by another door in the side of the building. At the upper end of the public space will be found the telephone bureau, while the receiving boxes have been placed in the front of the building, just to the left of the porch. The mail room has been provided with a fire place, as have also the parlour, and one of the two bedrooms at the rear. The remainder of the accommodation for domestic needs includes a kitchen, bathroom, and outbuildings.

In May 1908, the Government accepted a tender sum £749 by Auckland based construction firm Radcliffe & Burton.

 The Government has accepted the tender of Messrs. Radcliffe and Burton, of Auckland, for the erection of a post office at Matakohe. The price is £749.
Dominion, Volume 1, Issue 204, 22 May 1908, Page 6 

By June 1908, the New Zealand Herald (24 June 1905) had reported the building was well in progression towards its completion:
The erection of the new post office is proceeding apace, and it will be, a decided acquisition to the district, having been designed on the most up-todate style, complete with telephone bureau, private box lobby, living rooms, etc.

The Kauri Museum information states the building was constructed in 1909, however the research I've posted indicates a year earlier 1908, rather than a year later. I have no date of when the post office was officially opened for business. By 1909, however the post office was open for postal services.

 With a radical change of Government policy during the 1980s, the Matakohe Post Office became a victim of the the many postal service closures through out New Zealand. The building closed for good in 1988.

Further Reading:

"A posting back in time - but can I take my gadgets too?"

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The wreck of the yacht Ngahuia (1940)

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19400117-46-4

The B class keeler Ngahuia was launched from the Auckland yards of Lidgard & Sons in 1939, for Tauranga based garage proprieter Frank Gresham. Gresham sailed her to Tauranga to complete her interior. In December 1939, Ngahuia participated in the Auckland to Tauranga race coming in second to the yacht Ngahau. She was 38ft long, with a beam of 10ft 3in, and a draught of 5ft 6in.

In the race to Tauranga the starters were Ranger, Restless, Ngahau and Ngahuia, a Tauranga yacht of a very handy size and good lines, which made a strong bid for the cup and at one part of the journey looked like winning it. Off Karewha Island she carried away her spinnaker boom. The veteran, Ngahau, 50 years old this month, made a great race of it against Messrs. Tercel brothers' hanger, built only 50 weeks ago, and from the seven-hour mark Ngahau won with just 45s to spare from Ngahuia.
Auckland Star, Volume LXX, Issue 308, 30 December 1939, Page 11

On January 12, Gresham and four others sailed from Tauranga to White Island in the Bay of Plenty the journey there and back to Tauranga had been without any incident. On the 13th they had again left Tauranga for White Island in what had been good sailing weather. On the return journey she hit rough weather. On the evening of January 13, Ngahuia ran into a storm with heavy seas. Gresham decided to try to head for Motiti Island to find shelter. The winds however had reached gale force, which prevented the vessel from reaching the island. An attempt was then made to go on to Mt Maunganui, but the force of the gale continued to frustrate any efforts to reach that location. The men on board Ngahuia had also tried to spot the seaward beacon on the Mount, but failed to do so and headed back out to sea once more in a fierce rain storm.

At 3 a.m., on the morning of January 14, Ngahuia ran aground on the shore of Matakana Island, 2 miles north of Mount Maunganui. Gresham the only survivor out of a crew of five had stated that 50 yards of boiling surf had lain between the crew and the safety of the nearby shoreline. Gresham had handed the four other members of his crew kapok mattresses, to use as floats after abandoning the vessel in the breakers.

Gresham had managed to swim to shore and then alert a nearby local resident who had sent for help. Search parties were sent out to find the four missing crew, but only the kapok mattresses they had used to keep afloat in the water were later found washed up on the beach.

It is feared that four men lost their lives when the B class keel yacht Ngahuia was wrecked on Matakana Island during a storm last night. The missing men are:— Mr. Leslie M. Mellars, married, aged 38, recently of Auckland and now local inspector at Tauranga for the National Insurance Company. Mr. Phillip H. Nielson, married, aged 33, borough council employee, of 11th Avenue, Tauranga. Mr. Roy Tonkin, single, aged 23, second son of Mr. C. Tonkin, builder and contractor, of Grey Street, Tauranga. Mr. John Herbert Willcock, aged 19, only son of Mr. S. G. Willcock, secretary of the Bay of Plenty Racing Club. The owner of the yacht, Mr. Frank C. Gresham, of Tauranga succeeded in reaching the shore and, although injured, struggled to Mr. R. Faulkner's homestead for help. 

Auckland Star, Volume LXXI, Issue 12, 15 January 1940, Page 6

150 men were engaged in the search for the bodies of the four missing men. Matakana Island was thoroughly searched, but the crew were not found. Wreckage from the Ngahuia had started to come ashore;  half of the vessel being found 8 miles north of where she had wrecked, with no sign of the bodies the searchers had hoped to find. On January 21, 1940 the bodies of  two of the crew members  Leslie M. Mellars and Roy Tonkin were found on the shore of Matakana Island. On January 26, the body of  John Herbert Willcock was also found on the beach. The body of Philip Herbert Neilson was never recovered.

At the subsequent enquiry Gresham gave a detailed account of the events leading up to the tragic loss of four lives:

Frank Gordon Gresham, owner of the Ngahuia, slated that on their return trip from White Island they encountered bad weather, with poor visibility. About 11.30 p.m. he called Willcock on deck and they endeavoured to see the outline of the Mount or the North Rock light, but were unsuccessful. The boat, was handling splendidly, with no green water coming aboard.
At two o'clock they lowered, anchor with a 30 fathoms warp as a precaution. At 3.15 a.m. the yacht was knocked down by three successive curlers, but no damage was done. The next broke the mast. The hatches were torn off, the dinghy washed away and a hole made in the cabin top. The yacht evidently hit bottom. 
Left, on Mattresses. The crew decided to leave the boat on kapok mattresses. Tonkin was first away, then Willcock. The remaining three stayed aboard until the yacht sank, then left the yacht together. Witness lost his mattress but managed to make shore after about half an hour. He noticed that all the mattresses were ashore and thought the crew safe. The Ngahuia was a triple-skinned yacht, perfectly seaworthy. Trouble started when they were unable to see the North Light. Had the light been half-way up the Mount to give a landfall, they would have been in no trouble. All the crew were yachts men and could swim. 
Bay of Plenty Beacon, Volume 2, Issue 120, 7 February 1940, Page 5

In his conclusions the Coroner had noted that the "question of the light at the Mount would receive publicity. He would not add a rider, but would attach a note to the depositions suggesting that the Minister of Justice direct the attention of the Minister of Marine to the position of the light." (Bay of Plenty Beacon 7 February 1940)

Auckland Star, Volume LXX, Issue 308, 30 December 1939, Page 11
Auckland Star, Volume LXXI, Issue 12, 15 January 1940, Page 6
Auckland Star, Volume LXXI, Issue 16, 19 January 1940, Page 5
Auckland Star , Issue 18, 22 January 1940, Page 3
Auckland Star, Volume LXXI, Issue 29, 3 February 1940, Page 11

Bay of Plenty Beacon, Volume 2, Issue 120, 7 February 1940, Page 5

Evening Post, Volume CXXIX, Issue 12, 15 January 1940, Page 9
Evening Post, Volume CXXIX, Issue 18, 22 January 1940, Page 3
Evening Post, Volume CXXIX, Issue 29, 3 February 1940, Page 8