Feathered Friends

New Zealand journalist Pat Lawlor (1893 – 1976) remembers the old days in Wellington, with prompts from his childhood diary.

May 30 1905….. Heard Mrs _____’s cockatwo swearing…..

It is in no spirit of charity that I leave out the name of the owner of the swearing cockatoo; and there were not ‘two’ of them as suggested by my diary entry. The plain truth is that the name of Mrs_____ is written in pencil, smudged with the years and unreadable. I would surmise that the worthy owner wished at times that the shrill declarations of her pet, when in anger born, were smudged or entirely obliterated.

cockatooThe famous cockatoo, white in colour and assertive in mien, was brought up in a bar-room, where he learnt his ABC (with an accent on the B), and was later acquired by the owner of a crockery shop…… On fine days cocky’s cage would be placed on the edge of the footpath, and it was then that he really performed if small boys annoyed him. I hope I was not one of them but I do know that whenever I was in the vicinity I always stopped to listen to him – just in case.

Mr L. C. Smith, who has many wonderful memories of Wellington, relates that once when Mrs_____ was in hospital a police sergeant from the station nearby agreed to look after the bird. When the Inspector of Police arrived one day, cocky took violent objection to him and poured out a torrent of the kind of abuse that is generally written on paper and handed to the magistrate. The inspector was shocked. He averred that capital punishment was too good for the bird. Another day the cockatoo mimicked the growl of a passing dog, who, resentful, tried to get at cocky through the wire cage. Mr Smith declares that it took two policemen to separate the screeching, swearing cockatoo and the snarling bulldog.

cuba street

December 4 1905…… Saw the penguin at Hurcombes swallow a fish and not be sick…..

Hurcomb the fishmonger in Cuba Street could have given points to a modern display merchant. There was always something doing at his shop. In this case it was his penguin, who, in between other displays, was on duty at the front door, wandering occasionally on to the footpath. Every now and then Hurcomb would appear and give him a fish which would disappear in one neat swallow, causing me to wonder why he was not sick.
‘More Wellington Days’, Pat Lawlor. Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd; 1962.

Lawlor didn’t mention the type of penguin Mr. Hurcomb fed but it was probably a little blue, found all around the New Zealand coast including Wellington harbour.

A road sign near Wellington airport warning of penguins crossing.

This warning sign is only a few hundred metres from the end of Wellington’s airport runway. Why does the penguin cross the road? To get to its nest burrow on the other side.

Here’s a quote from New Zealand Bird’s On Line
“As their name suggests, the little penguin is the smallest species of penguin. They are also the most common penguin found around all coasts of New Zealand’s mainland and many of the surrounding islands. Primarily nocturnal on land, they are sometimes found close to human settlements and often nest under and around coastal buildings, keeping the owners awake at night with their noisy vocal displays. They live up to their scientific name ‘Eudyptula’ meaning “good little diver”, as they are excellent pursuit hunters in shallow waters.”

Follow the link to this excellent site for more information and some excessively cute photographs.

Cockatoo photo credit: lwolfartist DSC04118 via photopin (license)

Postcard politics

This postcard from the 1930s is for all those British subjects who will vote in the General election today – or not, as the case may be.

Vintage Bamforth comic postcard.

I suspect this might be a rare Bamforth card because it doesn’t involve sex, large middle-aged women and their henpecked husbands, or Scotsmen, their kilts, and speculation about what lies beneath. Those were simpler times!

On the Road Again

Commercial travellers, the company rep., travelling salesmen (and women) – do they still exist, or have they been made redundant by on-line ordering? If they’re still in business they probably announce their next visit by text or email but in 1906 their customers would have received something like this in the mail

calling card

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Otago and Southland edition, 1905) tells us that The firm of Messrs. Briscoe and Co., Limited, is an offshoot of the old house of William Briscoe and Son, which was founded in Wolverhampton [England] about the year 1768.

The large business conducted from Dunedin …. [opened in 1862] is confined chiefly to the South Island, where seven travellers are steadily engaged in visiting the customers; but the North Island is left to the Wellington and Auckland houses of the firm.

This particular “traveller”, W. G. Macindoe, was based in Auckland and, even at this early date, seems to have had a company car to drive around his commercial territory. Lets hope it was more practical than the steam driven fantasy on the postcard! It seems that Mr. Macindoe used both card and car for something other than company business. This was posted to a young lady in Paparoa and the single sentence at the bottom says Will you come for a drive to Whangarei and is signed Your boy. The journey from Paparoa to Whangarei would have been more than just an afternoon jaunt on the roads of 1906.

Moving forward to 1909, The New Zealand Herald of April 10 noted –
Mr W. G. Macindoe, traveller for Briscoe and Co., was the recipient of a handsome cabinet of cutlery from the staff on Thursday evening on the occasion of his marriage. The manager (Mr. A. G. Graham) made the presentation.

The cutlery was also a leaving present because, on 26th, the Auckland Star announced – Mr W. G. Macindoe, of Messrs. Briscoe and Co. (Ltd.), having been transferred to the firm’s Sydney warehouse, leaves by the Maheno this evening. He will be accompanied by Mrs. Macindoe.
I haven’t been able to find any details about Mrs. Macindoe so far. I wonder if she lived in Paparoa?

(Although the company began as a wholesaler, Brisoes is now a high-profile retail chain with their advertising slogan “You’ll never buy better”).

Back to the future

flying-wing

Northrop’s Flying Wing

In 1949 the aircraft designer and engineer, John Northrop, gave a lecture on aviation history at the Library of Congress and finished by looking forward to developments in the next decade. After predicting that guided missiles would come into military use within two years and “form the backbone of the Air Force’s offence and defence by 1960”, he went on to say this –

If our development of atomic power plants for aircraft is vigorously pursued, we can probably have large aircraft driven by nuclear energy in service well before 1960. They will have unlimited range and very high speeds, but will be enormously expensive and therefore comparitively few in number. Except for specialised service they will be inferior to the guided missile in their ability to deliver a warhead to enemy territory at the lowest cost to our country’s economy.

Source: ‘New Zealand Flying’ magazine May 14, 1949.

doc-brownIt could have worked, with the right development team, but Doc Brown wasn’t available.

“You want to put a nuclear reactor in a flying wing? Great Scott, Jack! Do you realize what this means?!”

Cooktown

May 31st, 1897. Captain Joshua Slocum, on his epic single-handed voyage around the world, called at Cooktown, on the Queensland coast of Australia, only to find that some of the locals had a less than perfect knowledge of the man for whom their town was named.

j-slocumTacking inside of all the craft in port, I moored [the Spray] at sunset nearly abreast of the Captain Cook monument, and next morning went ashore to feast my eyes on the very stones the great navigator had seen, for I was now on a seaman’s consecrated ground. But there seemed a question in Cooktown’s mind as to the exact spot where his ship, the Endeavour, hove down for repairs on her memorable voyage around the world. Some said it was not at all at the place where the monument now stood. A discussion of the subject was going on one morning where I happened to be, and a young lady present, turning to me as one of some authority in nautical matters, very flatteringly asked my opinion. Well, I could see no reason why Captain Cook, if he made up his mind to repair his ship inland, couldn’t have dredged out a channel to the place where the monument now stood, if he had a dredging-machine with him, and afterwards fill it up again; for Captain Cook could do ‘most anything, and nobody ever said that he hadn’t a dredger along. The young lady seemed to lean to my way of thinking, and following up the story of the historical voyage, asked if I had visited the point farther down the harbour where the great circumnavigator was murdered. This took my breath, but a bright school-boy coming along relieved my embarrassment, for, like all boys, seeing that information was wanted, he volunteered to supply it. Said he: “Captain Cook wasn’t murdered ‘ere at all, ma’am; ‘e was killed in Hafrica: a lion et ‘im.”

Sailing Alone Around The World, Captain Joshua Slocum, Rupert Hart-Davis, London, 1948.
Original publication 1900.

spray-2l

The Spray