Dance hall girls

Frontier towns all over the world had their saloons and dance halls where cowboys, miners and railway gangers could let off steam, and the dance halls needed dancing girls. The gold rush settlements of New Zealand’s South Island were no exception, although civilization caught up with them in the end.

Robert Gilkison in his ‘Early Days in Central Otago’, published in 1930, wrote –
At those places young women were paid by the hotelkeepers to dance with the men, and they generally received a commission on the amount spent on liquor by their partners. The girls had little chance of keeping their positions unless they encouraged their partners to drink freely. Nor would ordinary beer suffice. The lucky digger loved to ‘shout’ champagne, not only to his friends, but for all in the house. Old ‘Champagne Bill’ (William Adams) ….. earned his soubriquet from the fact that he once spent £200 in one grand ‘shout’ of champagne, and insisted on bestowing a share on the horses.

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Queenstown in the 1870s. The gold prospectors’ tents are gone and civilization has arrived. Photo by Burton Brothers of Dunedin from the Te Papa collection.

The practice of employing dancing girls …. eventually was prohibited by Act of Parliament. The penalty for a first offence was twenty pounds, and for a second fifty pounds and forfeiture.

In a case at Queenstown in May 1863 a hotelkeeper (Cameron) sued a Miss Williams for fifteen pounds damages for breach of contract, inasmuch as she had received her coach fare and had undertaken to sing at the All Nations Hotel, but only sang once. The girl said she went once and sang but was compelled to dance with everyone against her will. She heard the house did not bear a good name and left. Wood, the magistrate, said: ‘Quite right, too. Case dismissed.’

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Queenstown beside Lake Wakatipu. Another view from Burton Brothers.

Cameron was back in front of the magistrate at the end of the month charged with keeping a disorderly house, and not for the first time. He was fined £5 and warned that the next offence would result in loss of his license.

In early June his hotel roof was “split” in a devastating storm that roared down Lake Wakatipu and caused havoc in the young settlement. By 8th July the All Nations Hotel was advertised for sale by auction – “A Sure Fortune” for the lucky bidder. Two weeks later the license was held by a Mr Arthur Simpson.

Modern Queenstown (link)

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A one horse town

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St. Bathans, 1879. Photo by Burton Brothers of Dunedin from the Te Papa collection.

St. Bathans, in the Central Otago district of New Zealand’s South Island, was one of the towns that sprang into life after the discovery of gold there in 1862 and it soon held a population of 2000. By the time this photograph was taken, it seems the “rush” was over. A sign painted beside the window of the Montezuma Hotel advertises a “Horse for Hire”.

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Note – “horse”. Singular. One only.

On the left of the photograph is the Vulcan Hotel, a typical “tin” accommodation house for travelers in the ’60s and ’70s. It comes from what the English novelist, Anthony Trollope, called the “corrugated iron period” of New Zealand architecture.

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Writing about his winter visit to the region in 1872, he observed –
Corrugated iron does not make picturesque houses. It is very portable; very easily shaped; capable of quick construction; and it keeps out the rain. It is, however, subject to drawbacks. The rooms formed of it of course are small, and every word uttered in the house can be heard throughout it, as throughout a shed put up without divisions. And yet the owners and frequenters of these iron domiciles seem never to be aware of the fact. As I lay in bed in one of these metal inns on the road, I was constrained to hear the private conversation of my host and hostess who had retired for the night.

“So this is Mr Anthony Trollope,” said the host. The hostess assented, but I could gather clearly from her voice that she was thinking much more of her back hair than of her visitor.

“Well,” said the host, “he must be a — fool to come travelling in this country in such weather as this.” Perhaps, after all, the host was aware of the peculiarity of his house, and thought it well that I should know his opinion. He could not have spoken any words with which at that moment I should have been more prone to agree.

Several websites will tell you that the Vulcan Hotel was built of mud brick in 1882 and was previously known as the Ballarat, yet here is photographic proof that it was known as the Vulcan before that date. The brick version, now a Category 1 historic building reputed to be haunted, is still in business and attracting tourists and ghost hunters.

The permanent population of St Bathans today is 6 to 10, depending on your source. No figures are available for the number of horses.

The evolution of Oriental Bay

Oriental Bay 1

Oriental Bay, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-140283-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22857401

The only piece of beach available anywhere near the city is the small strip in Oriental Bay, and in the summer time it is constantly thronged with juvenile pleasure-seekers, and on fine Sunday afternoons it forms a pleasant place for their seniors to stroll to. The original design of the city contemplated the formation of an esplanade along the edge of this bay, and there is no reason why this design should not be carried out. The bay might be made a lovely spot, by a little planting and other not very costly improvements.
Evening Post, 18 July 1884.

Oriental Bay 2

Oriental Bay, Wellington. Price, William Archer, 1866-1948 :Collection of post card negatives. Ref: 1/2-000528-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22907525

Sir,— Having read the Harbour Board agreement re boatsheds, I did not see anything distasteful to a person who really requires a boatshed. I think the Board is quite right in enforcing their regulations, which will put an end to any more eyesores being erected such as we see in Oriental Bay….
Evening Post, 17 Oct. 1885.

Oriental Bay 3

The bay would no doubt be made more attractive if the City Council would provide seats at intervals along the road. NZ Mail, 10 Dec. 1896.

Fast forward this scene by about 75 years.

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1981

Oriental Bay 5

2006

Oriental Bay 6

2016

The Oriental was the second ship to bring immigrants to the new settlement at Port Nicholson in 1840.

Terra Nova part 2

Captain Scott had re-joined his ship at Cape Town for the voyage to Australia but, as the expedition was always short of money, public speaking and fund raising took priority. Second-in-Command, Lieutenant “Teddy” Evans continues….

Scott left us again at Melbourne and embarked on yet another begging campaign, whilst I took the ship on to Lyttelton, where the Terra Nova was dry-docked with a view to stopping the leak in her bows. The decks, which after her long voyage let water through sadly, were caulked, and barnacles six inches long were taken from her bottom and sides.

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Lyttelton dry dock with the mail steamer Aorangi** taking up much more room than Terra Nova would have. Photo by Burton Brothers of Dunedin from the Te Papa collection.

Whilst in New Zealand all the stores were landed, sorted out and restowed. On a piece of waste ground close to the wharves at Lyttelton the huts were erected in skeleton in order to make certain that no hitch would occur when they were put up at our Antarctic base.

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Instruments were adjusted, the ice-house re-insulated and prepared to receive the 150 frozen sheep and ten bullocks which were presented to us by New Zealand farmers. Stables were erected under the forecastle and on the upper deck of the Terra Nova, ready for the reception of our ponies, and a thousand and one alterations and improvements made.

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Lawrence “Titus” Oates taking care of the expedition’s ponies in the forecastle. Neither Oates nor his ponies would return from “The Ice”.

We spent four weeks in Port Lyttelton, four weeks of hard work and perfect happiness. Our prospects looked very rosey in those days, and as each new member joined the Expedition here he was cordially welcomed into the Terra Nova family.

Mr. J. J. Kinsey acted as agent to the Expedition, as he had done for the National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-4, and, indeed, for every Polar enterprise that has used New Zealand for a base.

New Zealanders showed us unbounded hospitality; many of us had visited their shores before and stronger ties than those of friendship bound us to this beautiful country.

We sailed from Lyttelton on November 25 for Port Chalmers, had a tremendous send-off and a great deal of cheering as the ship moved slowly away from the piers. Bands played us out of the harbour and most of the ships flew farewell messages, which we did our best to answer.

Some members went down by train to Dunedin and joined us at Port Chalmers. We filled up here with what coal we could squeeze into our already overloaded ship and left finally for the Great Unknown on November 29, 1910.

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Terra Nova about to leave Port Chalmers.

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Capt. R.F. Scott. 1868-1912.

Lady Scott, Mrs. Wilson, and my own wife came out with us to the Heads and then went on board the Plucky tug after saying good-bye. We were given a rousing send-off by the small craft that accompanied us a few miles on our way, but they turned homeward at last and at 3.30 p.m. we were clear with all good-byes said – personally I had a heart like lead, but, with every one else on board, bent on doing my duty and following Captain Scott to the end.

There was work to be done, however, and the crew were glad of the orders that sent them from one rope to another and gave them the chance to hide their feelings, for there is an aweful feeling of loneliness at this point in the lives of those who sign on the ships of the “South Pole trade” – how glad we were to hide those feelings and make sail – there were some dreadfully flat jokes made with the best of intentions when we watched dear New Zealand fading away as the spring night gently obscured her from our view.
‘South With Scott’, Edward R. G. R. Evans, 1921. (Abridged)

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Terra Nova in the Antarctic. Photo by Herbert Ponting.

** Just over two years later Scott’s wife, Kathleen, was a passenger on the Aorangi, (pictured at top in dry dock). She was on her way to New Zealand to be reunited with her husband. The ship was in mid-Pacific and out of radio range, so she hadn’t heard the news of his death.

From the New Zealand Times of 28th February 1913 – Lady Scott, widow of the late Captain Scott, arrived at Wellington from San Francisco by the Aorangi last evening. She was met by her brother, Lieutenant [Wilfred] Bruce, and came ashore in the Janie Seddon. The Aorangi left Papeete about 6 p.m. on February 18th, and at midnight a wireless message was received from the Talune, which was on her way from Auckland to the islands, and some 500 miles distant, that Captain Scott had perished in a blizzard after reaching the South Pole. Captain Stevens broke the news to Lady Scott next morning at breakfast time.

According to Lady Scott – ‘The poor old chap’s hands were trembling when he said, “I’ve got some news for you, but I don’t see how I can tell you.” I said; “The Expedition?” and he said, “Yes.” “Well,” I said, “let’s have it,” and he showed me the message.’
‘Scott of the Antarctic’, Reginald Pound, 1966.

There was a sad sequel to this episode two months later, with parallels to Kathleen Scott’s personal loss. On 30th April 1913, “poor old” Captain Stevens’ wife, Catherine, died aged 46, in Auckland – while he was on the Aorangi in San Francisco.
There were no headlines. We can only hope he met with a messenger as empathetic as he had been.

Terra Nova

Captain Scott’s Discovery (previous post) wasn’t available for his second, fatal, Antarctic expedition in 1910, forcing him to find the best ship he could afford from a very short list of suitable vessels. He chose the Terra Nova. The expedition’s Second-in-Command, Lieutenant Edward “Teddy” Evans, recalled that – She was the largest and strongest of the old Scotch whalers, had proved herself in the Antarctic pack-ice and acquitted herself magnificently in the Northern ice-fields in whaling and sealing voyages extending over a period of twenty years.

Commander_Evans_5126121136_99388b2868_o-2I shall never forget the day I first visited the Terra Nova in the West India Docks : she looked so small and out of place surrounded by great liners and cargo-carrying ships, but I loved her from the day I saw her, because she was my first command. Poor little ship, she looked so dirty and uncared for and yet her name will be remembered for ever in the story of the sea, which one can hardly say in the case of the stately liners which dwarfed her in the docks.

I often blushed when admirals came down to see our ship, she was so very dirty. To begin with, her hold contained large blubber tanks, the stench of whale oil and seal blubber being overpowering, and the remarks of those who insisted on going all over the ship need not be here set down.

Months of hard work delivered Terra Nova – cleaned, disinfected and refitted – ready to depart from London on 1st June 1910.

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Photo, Canterbury Museum.

What a change from the smudgy little lamp-black craft of last November – so much for paint and polish. All the same it was the Terra Nova’s Indian summer. A close search by the technically expert would have revealed scars of age in the little lady, furrows worn in her sides by grinding ice flows, patches in the sails, strengthening pieces in the cross-trees and sad-looking deadeyes and lanyards which plainly told of a bygone age. But the merchant seamen who watched from the dock side were kind and said nothing.

Terra Nova progressed down the Channel coast to the Welsh port of Cardiff where the crew were “endowed with all good things” and welcomed…..with enthusiasm. Free docking, free coal, defects made good for nothing, an office and staff placed at our disposal, in fact everything was done with an open-hearted generosity.

Overloaded with supplies and coal – the little ship settled deeply in the water and the seams, which had up till now been well above the water-line, leaked in a way that augured a gloomy future for the crew in the nature of pumping. With steam up this did not mean anything much, but under sail alone, unless we could locate the leaky seams, it meant half an hour to an hour’s pumping every watch. We found a very leaky spot in the fore peak, which was mostly made good by cementing.

On 15th June we left the United Kingdom after a rattling good time in Cardiff. Many shore boats and small craft accompanied us down the Bristol Channel as far as Breaksea Light Vessel. We hoisted the Cardiff flag at the fore and the Welsh flag at the mizen – some wag pointed to the flag and asked why we had not a leek* under it, and I felt bound to reply that we had a leak in the fore peak! It was a wonderful send-off and we cheered ourselves hoarse.

Captain Scott remained behind to squeeze out more subscriptions and to complete arrangements with the Central News [agency]…. He also had finally to settle magazine and cinematograph contracts which were to help pay for the Expedition…
[Scott would join the ship later at Cape Town]…. we in the ship were much better off with no cares now beyond the handling of our toy ship and her safe conduct to Lyttelton [New Zealand].

In spite of her deeply-laden condition the Terra Nova breasted each wave in splendid form, lifting her toy bowsprit proudly in the air till she reminded me, with her deck cargo, of a little mother with her child upon her back.
‘South With Scott’, Edward R. G. R. Evans, 1921. (Abridged)

*The Welsh national emblem.

Next post – final preparations in New Zealand.

 

Captain Scott’s ‘Discovery’

Today’s post was prompted by an excellent set of images of R.R.S. Discovery by Mark Simms on his blog last Monday. The ship, which is now a museum in Dundee, Scotland, took Robert Falcon Scott‘s first Antarctic expedition to the Southern Continent in 1901.

Like the old whalers before her, the Discovery was built for her purpose down to the last plank. Her designer was W.E. Smith, one of the Chief Constructors at the Admiralty. Nearly all his working life had been spent in building wooden ships. He was one of the last two men in the Service of whom that could be said. The Discovery’s frame of solid English oak, twenty-six inches thick, was made to resist tremendous side stresses. Her bows were fortified to a degree beyond anything known in wooden ship construction. Some of her bolts were eight feet long, running entirely through wood. She was considered a masterpiece of specialized shipbuilding, a verdict that time was to modify.

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Image from a postcard in the Te Papa collection.

Her overhung stem ensured that when she charged into pack ice it was lifted two or three feet until the ship’s weight acted with a downward force that cracked the floe and made a passage for her to move forward to the next obstacle. There was less enthusiasm among the shipyard critics at Dundee for her peculiar stern, intended to buffer the rudder in heavy ice. Some were prepared to bet that it would collapse under stress; in fact, it served the vessel well in several seaward crises.

Early in June 1901, the Discovery was towed to London to be berthed in the East India Dock.

Visitors to the ship who asked Scott to face their box Kodaks observed that he liked his pet terrier Scamp to be in the picture. Scamp was sailing with him. No such favour was shown to the East End cats that had taken up quarters in the ship. A last-hour count revealed the number to be thirty-two. It was reduced to one by a ruthless concerted drive organised by the stewards.
‘Scott of the Antarctic’, Reginald Pound, 1966.

When the expedition returned to England in 1904, Discovery was sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company to cover expenses. She carried munitions to Russia during World War I and, with peace restored, spent several years on charter work. A refit in the 1920s revived her career and she was lent to the BANZARE expedition at the end of the decade, which took her back to Antarctic waters.

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Discovery in Cape Town in 1929 for the start of BANZARE’s two seasons of Antarctic research. (Te Papa collection)

Discovery-3She was laid up in London as a training ship for Sea Scouts by 1936. Taken over by the Admiralty in the ’50s, she became a familiar sight berthed in the Thames at Victoria Embankment (at left in 1970) but her condition declined over the next 20 years. The Maritime Trust saved her from the scrap yard, restored the old ship, and added her to their vintage collection at St Katherine’s Dock. Unfortunately that venture was a finacial failure and the fleet was dispersed around the country in 1986. Discovery, quite rightly, went back to Dundee where it all began.

The Conventions of High Society

In 1932 Mary, Countess of Lovelace shared her memories in an essay for the Times of London.

For a picture of social life fifty years ago I can only draw upon a limited experience, first as a girl before 1880 and as a young married woman after that date. I can, in short, only give the youthful feminine point of view.

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…nearly every social custom which applied to ordinary intercourse between both sexes was based on the idea that every young woman, and especially every inexperienced girl, was a sacred thing to be carefully guarded from any possibility of insult or undue temptation. The well-guarded girl of the years 1870 – 80 could not walk alone in the street or drive alone in a cab or in a railway carriage. To any sort of entertainment she must be accompanied by father or mother or by some married woman. At a ball, the place where her chaperon sat was a kind of home to which she was supposed to return after every dance. Of course, she did not always do so; and the wise mother knew when to be lenient and when to enforce the rules. All dancing partners are not equally attractive, and the necessity of “going back to Mamma” provided a by no means always unwelcome end to a tete-a-tete. Looking back I cannot recollect ever feeling my chaperon to be an irksome restraint, and she was often a most welcome protection and adviser.

The real drawback to the system was the fatigue and boredom that it imposed on the older women. How well I remember the rows of weary faces on the benches against the wall, and I wonder if they always got the loving gratitude from their charges which was certainly their due.

Now and then there would appear a male chaperon – a kind father or uncle – who took his turn at the social treadmill. He got his reward in extreme popularity, and as he was in great demand for taking dowager after dowager down to supper, he did not suffer from inaction.

I am told that there are still some chaperons, though not nearly so many as in the old days. For dinners and entertainments other than balls, apparently the girls now do not need any female protector whatever. They go about anywhere and everywhere with any male friend whom they chose. In fact, they “walk out” and “keep company” just as our friends in the servants’ hall do.
‘Society and the Season’, reproduced in ‘Fifty Years’, Thornton Butterworth, Limited, 1932.

Rotten Row 1913

Rotten Row and Hyde Park in 1913, when standards were beginning to slip – there are unaccompanied women in the street! Perhaps they’re from the servants’ hall.