When the boys came home

Lambton Quay

Dear Kid
This is a view in our capital. It is a fine town, plenty of hills and good Bays not far out to take on the sea bathing. I am going to go down to Dunedin on Sat next and start work the following week. They don’t want me to start for awhile at home but it is nearly a case of have to. I want to make some dollars you know if I am thinking about that trip to U.S.A. What do you think. I have not met my mate yet to give him your friends address but I will write to him one of these days. How is your friend, give her my best wishes. I have been very crook [ill] this last few days. I caught a bad cold coming over from the North Island the other night on the ferry steamer. Our boys are still coming home in great numbers. I suppose it is the same with your boys.
Alex.

This postcard from New Zealand to the United States has no date or post mark but the last lines about the boys still coming home suggests it was written a hundred years ago in 1919. It’s a reminder on this Anzac Day that, although the shooting stopped on 11th November 1918, the peace treaty wasn’t signed until the following June and the business of returning troops to their homeland was a long, drawn-out affair.

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Fear of The Other

In June 1853, a settler from Tasmania, Australia, called Edwin Meredith scouted the Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand for suitable land to graze his sheep. June was the first month of winter and he was forced to take shelter from the rain wherever he could find it.

I had only about 20 miles to ride to reach Waipukurau but ….. my poor horse was completely knocked up as the result of his previous day’s experience [stuck in a bog and dragged out with difficulty]. There was nothing for it but to put my saddle and bridle in a flax bush and walk on in the hope of finding shelter before dark, for I was wet through.

It was raining steadily and the country around did not afford a tree or bush to break the wind and rain, or fuel for a fire. With my rug on my back I arrived at the Waipukurau Pah. Having satisfied myself that there was no European habitation in the neighbourhood, I had no alternative but to take refuge from the rain and cold of a winter’s night in one of the many whares* within.

Maori Pah

I made for a large one, about the low entrance to which I saw a number of men standing or going to and fro. It was my first experience of being in a large Maori Pah [fenced or fortified village] and I can hardly recall the circumstance without a shudder. Not that I feared any evil treatment but to be the only European in the midst of about 300 savages, the majority of whom were, or had been, cannibals and whose every feature was made hideous by tattooing – to witness the gesticulations which accompanied loud and rapid utterances in harsh gutteral tones emphasised by savage excitement might, or might not, be the prelude to something still more exciting. I was subsequently informed that there had been a pig-hunt that day on a large scale, and in all probability I had been listening to a somewhat theatrical recital of the adventures of the day’s sport.

I sat crouched upon my rug and, though occupying a conspicuous position near the doorway in a large room occupied by perhaps 50 men, none appeared to take the slightest notice of me – till my eye lighted on a man who had been especially voluble and, from the time he subsided and sat down, never took his eyes off me. Every atom of his face was tattooed and I could not help tracing in the expression of his disfigured features something malignant. I had remarked, while he was tossing his arms about in delivering his address, that he had only one hand.

Having scrutinized me long and intently, to my great relief he disappeared. I hoped that he would not return and, as no one seemed to notice me, I was about to roll myself in my rug, wet and cold as I was, when suddenly I was startled by a tap from behind upon my shoulder. On looking around, there stood the man whose gaze had been so repulsive to me, holding in his hand a clean new shirt and a pair of trousers. With the stump of the other arm he touched my wet clothes, motioning to me by signs to take them off and put on those he had brought. Never in my life had I been so rebuked for my misjudgment.
‘Reminiscences and experiences of an early Colonist’, Edwin Meredith, 1898.

*whare = house, building, residence.

There is a town at Waipukurau today but there was only the Pa in 1853.
Follow the link to learn more about Ta moko – Maori tattooing.

Parcel Post

Ellen Hawley’s post “A quick history of the Royal Mail” had me digging out this old cigarette card about a delivery experiment from the late 19th century.

parcel delivery

British Post Office Centre-Cycles

A number of Centre-Cycles (five-wheeler carrier machines) were used by the Post Office in the Horsham area in 1883, about the time of the introduction of the parcel post.

Above the small wheels of the Centre-Cycle were brackets supporting large baskets for carrying correspondence and parcels. Because of the arrangement of its four small wheels clustered round the centre big wheel, it was familiarly known as the “Hen and Chickens.”

These Centre-Cycles were not generally successful and their use was discontinued.
(Number 11 in a series of 50 cards issued by John Player & Sons in 1939.)

Can’t imagine why they didn’t catch on. They look so light and manoeuvrable!

Australian invasion

This piece was written in 1850, at the height of the Californian gold rush, but the rhetoric seems oddly familiar.

Immigration from New South Wales – A paragraph in our last paper, in reference to a late arrival from Sydney, and an intimation of the disreputable character of a large portion of the passengers, seems to have produced no small excitement in certain quarters; and any quantity of indignant comment has been made thereupon by those who are supposed to have decided preferences and sympathies for the people of that celebrated locality.

Now, we hold it to be the duty of the press, as the conservator of the morals, and defender of the rights and interests of the people, to throw its vast power and influence into the scale in favour of whatever is beneficial ; and to expose, fearlessly, and without regard to threats designed to intimidate or restrain it from the fulfilment of that duty, whatever is detrimental to the public welfare.

sailing shipIn the case alluded to, we had reason to believe the statement made was correct ; — for the facts came to us from the most reliable and different sources. Subsequent investigation, however, showed that our paragraph was premature, — that we were entirely in error, in regard to the character of the passengers in the vessel in question, who are represented as of the most respectable people in Sydney. To the females, whom our statement was calculated to injure, it is due that the amende honorable should be made, and we cheerfully make it. We have much too high a regard for virtuous and respectable females, to wantonly cast an imputation upon their reputation ; and regret that in the present instance, we were led to do so unintentionally.

In regard to the foreign immigration now daily landing upon our shores, it is not to be denied that there are many persons of individual excellence ; and it would be strange indeed, if this were not so in relation even to individuals from Sydney. But while we welcome to our State “all good people,” to whatever nation they belong, we confess to the entertainment of fears that a sufficient watchfulness is not exercised to exclude the hordes of scoundrels who are tempted by the prospect of gold or plunder to crowd upon us from the world’s ends, making California the receptacle of the stews of every nation.

We said that our paragraph was “premature;” but that an importation of persons of the very character depreciated is daily expected to arrive from Sydney, we have good authority for believing. That British colony contains a population of about 150,000 persons, of whom over 10,000 are convicts, and nearly 60,000 are unable to read. It is not the place, therefore, from which we can hope to receive the most intelligent class of immigrants, notwithstanding the respectability of those who have arrived during the past week from that port, numbering over five hundred persons. It behoves all good citizens to see that we are not overwhelmed by the tide of corruption that thirst for lucre is hastening to our shores, and to frown upon those shipowners who are willing to become the agents of spreading moral disease and crime into the young State, whose welfare we have so much at heart. — Pacific News, February 21.
Reproduced in the ‘New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian’, 29 June 1850.

Hordes of scoundrels, tide of corruption, moral disease and crime. Maybe they should have built a wall along the Pacific coast.

Temple Church

The Temple at the gate of the City [of London] lies in the historic Square Mile but is not of it. As the City belongs to itself, like a kingdom within a kingdom, so it is with the Temple, the sanctuary of the legal world. It owns the land it stands on, it governs itself, it gives the police no trouble, and it allows us all to enjoy its beautiful domain.

It was the home of the Templars who formed themselves into an Order of Chivalry 800 years ago to guard the Holy Tomb and protect the pilgrims. It was granted to the knights of St John in 1324, and in turn they left it to the lawyers, who hold it in perpetuity. It is now the home of two Inns, Inner and Middle Temple, the rough dividing line being Middle Temple Lane, which runs from Fleet Street to the Thames Embankment. The Inner Temple Gateway stands close by and leads us to the famous church.

Temple churchExcept for St. Bartholomew’s and St John’s in the Tower, Temple Church is the oldest in London, the finest of the five round churches left in England from the days of the Crusaders, who built them in the style of the church they loved in Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulchre. Only a few steps from Fleet Street, this little round church has looked much as it is since the day it was consecrated by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem [in 1185]. Half a century more and the choir [Chancel] was added to the nave (the Oblong to the Round), and through all the changing centuries these walls have stood while all around has changed.

The porch has been refashioned and has one round and two pointed arches, but the doorway within it is a gem of Norman building, with a fine array of recessed shafts and mouldings and the flower of Norman ornament is in its lovely decoration… In it hangs a massive door about 400 years old, covered with scrolled hinges and ironwork ornament; it swings to our touch yet weighs two tons and a half, and is opened by a key which weighs five pounds.

Round church Cambridge-2

Round church at Cambridge

It opens on to a forest of clustered columns and an arcade of pointed arches circling round us in the nave……. The mosaic of red and blue glass shining in the triple east window is a delightful vista from the west doorway.

A small Norman doorway leads to a stairway at the top of which is a tiny cell in the thickness of the wall, four feet long and under three feet wide, lit by two slits in the stone. It is said to have been a place for solitary confinement in the days when the Templars were extremely strict. Here refractory brothers were confined in chains and fetters, and it is said that Brother Walter le Batcheler, who bore the standard for King Richard into Jerusalem, was here starved to death for disobedience to the Master of the Temple. [The crime was embezzlement and the year was 1301].

But it is on the floor of the Round that the eye of every visitor falls. Here lies an impressive array of Templars [in stone], perhaps the best preserved collection anywhere. Most of them wear chain mail and coats, with shields and swords, as on their crusades.

Under the floor are the remains of a 13th century chapel.
‘London’, Arthur Mee. Hodder & Stoughton, 1937.

Round church-3

Little Maplestead Church in Essex, one of four medieval English round churches still in use today. The fourth is in Northampton.

London’s Temple Church was badly damaged by fire during World War II and its restoration lasted until 1958. The conical roof seen in the first postcard above was a Victorian addition and was not replaced.

Nostalgia for the open road

W. MacQueen Pope, in ‘Give Me Yesterday’ (Hutchinson, 1957), remembers the transport of his youth before World War One.

cycleCycling ran through several crazes but it never died out. It had come to stay. And it was a very pleasant exercise indeed, in those now seemingly distant, quiet and peaceful days. One skimmed along, almost without effort; one coasted downhill and even on the flat when speed had been attained, and later one free-wheeled. One was carefree, death did not lurk at every corner, at every crossing. There was space, there was room, there was freedom.

You rang your bell, a musical enough little chime, when you went round a corner and only the very careless pedestrian who had not yet got bicycle conscious or a yapping dog who had aversions for bicycles, or who had been taught to attack them, could do you any damage. And very, very seldom could they do it. You got very expert in dodging aged ladies and gentlemen who stepped off the kerb right in front of you and, if only a moderately good rider, you could land that dog a fine kick if he came too near, without dismounting, and send him off howling.

In the country the main danger came from chickens, who never will get traffic conscious…… And in the very unlikely chance of running someone down, well nobody got hurt much and little harm was done. True, you did not cover anything like the distance a car will take you to-day or a motor-bicycle. But you did not want to do it. The country was very near to London then. Places which are now vast teeming suburban towns were little old sleepy villages clustering round the church and a forge and with old inns where beer which was nectar could be obtained. Those who did not know beer before 1914 have not the slightest idea what it was really like.

Cartbridge, Send

The “little old sleepy village” of Send in Surrey, England, with the New Inn at right.

The roads were clear. There were wagons which lumbered along, vast haywains, with a fragrant load aboard which you could smell because petrol fumes did not pollute the air. You got the scent of the fields, the woods, the hedgerows. There was a good deal of dust but nobody minded that.

You got a welcome in an inn; and if you could not get a cocktail or a coca-cola, you could get an honest ale, gin and ginger beer, the ginger beer out of stone bottles and delicious, and any of the old-fashioned drinks you wanted. I don’t remember tonic water being in demand, but maybe it was and I missed it.

You could have a little country run and cycle home in the twilight and the gathering dusk of the pre-Daylight Saving period and really get fresh unpolluted air. You might stop and sit on a gate. There would be peace all around; no noise of grinding machinery, no roar and explosions from motor-bikes, no sound of violent gear changes and rumble of great lorries. Only perhaps in the distance, a train whistle. You would hear the owls, and high overhead the faint screaming of the swifts – who seldom seem to sleep – and you might glimpse a bat weave by. But you would smell the Land; you would get a breath of Nature.

(Retrieved from ‘They Saw It Happen’, Editor, Asa Briggs. Basil Blackwell, 1960).

Royal gossip

Edward VIIThe trustworthiness of the batch of scandalous items about the Prince of Wales and Royal family, which are retailed by the Press Association on the arrival of each San Francisco mail, may be gauged by that of the abominable story that Miss Mary Anderson, the American actress, had refused to be presented to the Prince of Wales for fear of being talked about. At the time we scouted this assertion as very improbable, and now it turns out to be one of those half-truths which is ever the blackest of lies.

The Prince and Princess sent for Miss Anderson to come round to their box between the acts during the performance of “Ingomar” [at the Lyceum Theatre]. The actress respectfully declined, on the ground that she never left her retiringroom between the acts. At the end of the piece the Prince and Princess went behind the scenes, and Miss Anderson was presented to them. Subsequently Miss Anderson and her nieces went to stay with the Princess. Out of such materials is the scandal which fills the American papers composed.
‘Otago Daily Times’ (Dunedin, New Zealand), 5 January 1884.

The photograph, from a postcard by Rotary Photographic, shows the Prince of Wales in later life as King Edward VII (1901-1910). It was loyal and patriotic of the writer to defend him against fake news but history tells us that the Prince and his many mistresses were capable of creating enough scandal already without the Press Association inventing more. When he died, his long-suffering wife is alleged to have said “Well at least now I’ll know where he is.” Although that might just be gossip.