Desperate measures.

One evening in 1849, a British soldier stationed in Wellington, New Zealand, robbed a man at gunpoint. The villain, strangely, did not run off with his booty, which amounted to little more than loose change, but insisted – at gunpoint – that his victim report him to the authorities immediately. The soldier was arrested, tried, and sentenced to 17 years transportation to an Australian penal colony.

We could assume the soldier had a mental breakdown and this outrageously disproportionate sentence was the tragic result. But then it happened again. Different soldier, similar crime.

From the New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian. Wednesday 4 July 1849.
On Monday night, Connolly, a private in the light company of the 65th regiment, having armed himself with his musket, proceeded about 10 o’clock to Mr. Townsend’s house on the Tinakori Road and having obtained admittance demanded money from the inmates. With the view of intimidating them he discharged his musket, and eventually obtained from Mr. Lowe, a lodger at Mr. Townsend’s, a coat and the sum of four shillings.

He then went to Te Aro, between 12 and 1 o’clock to the house of a carpenter named Levy, in the neighbourhood of the barracks on Mount Cook where he obtained a pair of trousers and two shillings. Information was given to the police the next morning at daylight, and on sending to the barracks it was found that Connolly, who had committed the offence for the avowed purpose of getting transported, had given himself up and was in custody of the guard.

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Te Aro Flat with army barracks on the hill in the background.
Stock, Arthur Henry (Rev), 1823-1901. Te Aro, Wellington. Crawford family :Photographs of James Coutts Crawford and family. Ref: PA1-f-019-17-3. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23023083

It appears that some months ago some soldiers belonging to the regiment were transported to Van Diemen’s Land [Tasmania, Australia] and shortly after their arrival received tickets of leave ; these men have written to their comrades representing their present way of life as being in every way so preferable to their former condition, that several soldiers have lately committed offences with the express intention of getting transported.

This is a subject of grave importance and one that calls for strong representations from the proper authorities to the governor of Van Diemen’s Land. In the administration of convict discipline, it is understood that tickets of leave are usually granted to criminals who, after having served a portion of their time, have shown themselves, by their good conduct, deserving of this indulgence. But if convicts are to receive tickets of leave almost immediately after their arrival in a penal settlement, transportation ceases to be a punishment, and in cases of this kind the practice becomes subversive of military discipline by holding out a premium on insubordination and a temptation to the commission of crime.

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Early Wellington. Perhaps not the most popular outpost in the British Empire.
From Hobson Street, Wellington. Crawford family :Photographs of James Coutts Crawford and family. Ref: PA1-f-019-13-3. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23071258

 

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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.

The Basin Reserve

How New Zealand’s oldest cricket ground got its name…..

“Basin Reserve” is the name given many years ago to what is the principal cricket-ground of [Wellington] City. There is no resemblance to a basin about it, nor does it seem as if there could ever have been any; but old residents can remember when it was a large waterhole. The earthquakes of 1855 raised it a few feet*, and in common with the swamp above and below, it has been drained and converted into valuable and dry land. The area of the reserve is ten acres, about half of it being turfed, and the remainder grassed and planted. There is a very large Grand Stand, a band pavilion, and an elaborately pillared and domed drinking fountain.
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1897.
*Magnitude 8.2 earthquake raised the ground about 6 feet (2 metres)

Basin Reserve

An Edwardian postcard.

….mention may be made of Kent Terrace, after the Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria, and Cambridge Terrace, after her uncle, the Duke of Cambridge.
B_TerracesThese two terraces form the right and left sides of what is one of the finest thoroughfares in the Dominion, occupying the site of an early project of the settlement, namely, the construction of a canal to lead from a proposed dock, now the Basin Reserve, to the sea. The great earthquake of 1855….transferred the dock site into dry land, leaving the Basin Reserve, and incidentally the dock scheme, high and dry.

As the result of the earthquake, the Provincial Council in 1857 acceded to a petition to set aside the “basin,” as the swamp was called, for a public park. Dock Street, bordering the south side, was accordingly changed to Rugby Street. The clock in the grandstand was the gift in October, 1890, of the family of the late Mr. Edward Dixon, cordial manufacturer and enthusiastic supporter of cricket ….. The clock is now transferred to the new pavillion.
‘The Streets of My City’, F.L. Irvine-Smith. A.H. & A.W. Reed Ltd. First published 1948.

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Kent Terrace with Cambridge Terrace at right. The area was often referred to as the Canal and Basin Reserve into the early 1870s.
Creator unknown :Glass negatives of Wellington. Ref: 1/2-230265-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22303054

Basin Reserve crowd

Now exclusively a cricket ground, the Basin supported many codes in it’s early days. These subdued soccer fans are some of the estimated 1300 people who turned out on a Tuesday afternoon for a provincial match in June 1913. Maybe they were Canterbury supporters. Wellington 10, Canterbury 0.
Te Papa collection.

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The Basin Reserve at left, c.1937. Kent and Cambridge Terraces are obscured by buildings but they run from the edge of the field to the right of the picture.
Te Papa collection.

Source for the vertical image of Kent and Cambridge Terraces in the 1930s – Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/2-090001-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22433150

 

And the winners are….

A Friday Flashback to 1983 and those golden days when New Zealand was part of the World Rally Circuit.

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Winners Walter Rohrl and Christian Geistdoerfer on the finish podium at Wellington. Rohrl was so famous he had a minion in the background to spray the champagne for him. (Just kidding, Walter).

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Fans get a close look at Rohrl’s favourite rally car, the Lancia Rally 037, between stages.

Images © Mike Warman.

 

 

Wellington whales

Matariki, the southern right whale that’s been entertaining the population of Wellington for the past week and making headlines around the world, is lucky to be living in the 21st century and not the 19th or 20th. Back in the early 1840s, when the fledgling settlement pinned its economic hopes on becoming the port of choice for the whaling industry, he or she would have met with a very different reception.

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Wellington in September 1841 drawn by Charles Heaphy, “draftsman” to the New Zealand Company.

New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator. Saturday 30th July 1842.

During the past week, more than one of the cetacea have entered our harbour. They were mostly considered by those who saw them, to be young, or small species of the common or black whale. In one case a female followed by her cub were distinctly made out. The appearance of these strangers in Port Nicholson is by no means a common occurance, and all the spare hands and boats went in pursuit, but hitherto without success.

With the knowledge that most of the species of true cetacea frequenting the South Seas are by no means satisfactorily determined by systematic naturalists, we feel as strong a desire to see a specimen, for the sake of science, as the practical whaler can for the oil. The crania and imperfect skeletons of many of the larger cetacea are to be met with on the coast, and although the crania are in themselves of high prize to the comparitive anatomist, it yet does not, as we have distinctly repeatedly shewn, enable him to distinguish species.

The living specimens now in the bay, are said to have had no appearance of protuberance or fin on the back, and consequently must belong to that species possessing the elongated baleen, but all measurements which are simply comparitive, however they may differ, will not determine species – without the number of vertebrae composing the spinal column were at the same time given.

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Port Nicholson as British settlers found it in 1840. They could never have imagined a time when a right whale would be allowed to roam their harbour unmolested – and stay long enough to start its own Facebook page.

The last shore-based whaling station in New Zealand closed as recently as 1964.

(Images from the Te Papa collection).

The Wahine Storm

The storm which led to the drama of 10 April 1968 was born far to the north of New Zealand as a tropical depression. Eventually, on the morning of 10 April, it was to give rise in and around Wellington Harbour to the most severe weather conditions that have ever been instrumentally recorded in New Zealand.

….at about 0610 hours, …. t.e.v. Wahine, …. after an overnight voyage from Lyttelton was entering Wellington Harbour. The wind from SSW had a velocity of about 50 knots. As Pencarrow Head was abeam, or nearly abeam, her radar installation ceased to operate. Shortly thereafter the vessel, which to this point was on a correct course, suddenly sheered to port. At this time the wind, still from SSW, increased greatly, the sea was in a state of great turbulence, visibility was reduced to zero, and Wahine was unresponsive to her helm and became virtually out of control. Her master sought to regain control by use of helm and engines for the next 28 minutes but was unsuccessful. At about 0641 hours the starboard quarter of the vessel struck, or was flung upon, the southern extremity of Barrett Reef where the vessel grounded, and then, and shortly thereafter from further contact with the reef, suffered severe damage to her hull under water whereby sea water entered certain parts of the ship. Upon impact her starboard motor failed, followed within a few minutes by the port motor, whereupon Wahine was without propulsive power.

Wellington harbour, Point Dorset middle distance, Breaker Bay Road foreground.

Wellington Harbour. Follow the ship’s course on this diagram map in a separate window.

Wahine came off the reef, both anchors were dropped, and she dragged her anchors into the eastern entrance to Chaffers Passage, and thence along and close to the western shore north of Point Dorset with her head to the violence of wind and sea. At about 1315 hours the vessel, in the vicinity of Steeple Rock Light, and under the influence of a prematurely outgoing tidal flow, swung with her port side to the wind, and a list to starboard, which had already appeared, increased.

Wahine list

Short, Jack, active 1977. Ship Wahine sinking in Wellington Harbour – Photograph taken by Jack Short. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: PAColl-7796-85. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23198846

The order then being given at about 1320 hours to abandon ship all persons aboard left the vessel alive, but of those 734 persons 51 lost their lives thereafter.

Wahine rescue

Policeman Ray Ruane holding a young survivor of the Wahine shipwreck. Ref: EP/1968/1574/26a-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22508739

The list increased rapidly from the time abandonment was ordered and at some time after 1400 hours (this time not being precisely fixed) Wahine sank to the seabed, coming to rest upon her starboard side, …. and became a total loss. The top of the front of her bridge was distant 805 feet from Steeple Rock Light….

Wahine aerial

Aerial view of Wahine shipwreck with Seatoun in background. Dominion post (Newspaper) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP/1968/1571/25-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23053881

Above text extracted from the Court of Enquiry report, November 1968.

The Wahine, 8,948 gross tons, was a roll-on, roll-off ferry built by Fairfields of Govan, Scotland, for the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand. She was less than two years old at the time of her loss. The wreck was cut up where it lay over the next five years.
The Wellington-Lyttelton ferry service ended in 1976.

Read survivor stories in their own words.

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The inbound Wellington-Picton ferry Kaitaki passing Barrett Reef, February 2009.

Trouble with Trams 2

RUNAWAY CAR ON THE BROOKLYN LINE.
WILD PLUNGE OVER A BANK.
A PASSENGER KILLED.
FIVE OTHER PERSONS INJURED.

Brooklyn, in this case, is a suburb of Wellington, New Zealand, not New York. The Evening Post report of 4th May 1907 continues….

A “roaring noise”, a rumbling, and finally a tremor of the earth made householders near the tramway line on the Brooklyn heights fear that an earthquake had visited them last evening, at about half-past five. The cause of the disturbance was a large electric car, of the new palace pattern, which left the rails while it was whirling down at terrific speed and plunged over a bank.

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There were only four passengers, including one woman, Mrs. Eliza Bell, wife of Mr. Thomas Bell, a sheep-farmer of Murchison [South Island]. She was crushed under the frame. Her husband and the other passengers were cut and bruised, but were not seriously injured. Mr. Bell was taken on a stretcher to a neighbouring house, and received attention from Dr. Hogg, pending his removal later on to a private hospital. The other passengers dispersed, and were soon lost from view. The motorman, John Rea, and the conductor, Arthur D. Perkins, were dazed by knocks on their heads, and were taken home soon after the accident.

After rounding a curve….[the tram] swept along a straight strip for some distance, and then forsook the metalled way. The outside wheels scoured out a deep groove in the ballast for a dozen yards, and then the rear bogie was left behind. At this moment the car must have been turning on its side, on the slope of a bank, and after skidding about ten yards, the body was jolted from the front bogie, and the whole of the car body was pitched on its side, with the bottom towards the rails. Fragments of the lower woodwork were left along the hillside as the vehicle plunged over the earth.

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A distracted driver, experienced but unfamiliar with that particular route, incorrect settings on a complicated triple braking system, damp rails on a steep incline, all combined to produce this result. It could have been worse. The Brooklyn line had a single track with sidings to allow trams to pass. Unable to stop and back up to the nearest siding, John Rea’s runaway was hurtling towards an “up” tram with forty people on board when it jumped the track. An inquest a week later, when the crew had recovered from their concussion, returned a verdict of accidental death on Eliza Bell.

The photographer here was Joseph “Zak” Zachariah (1867-1965), a man with the instincts of a photojournalist before the word was invented – “Things would happen at eight o’clock in the morning, and “Zak” would have the photographic record of it staring at you from his window before noon.”

Brooklyn Road has been widened and the corners modified but, for those of you who know Wellington, I think this spot is opposite where the Renouf Tennis Centre stands today.