26 January 2015

The arrival of an English mail is an event of lively, never-failing interest

Auckland in 1853, via NZHistory
Author William Swainson, writing in 1853, describes how the young colonial city of Auckland is gripped with excitement at the prospect of news, letters and parcels from England, and how frustrating it is when that mail was delayed by bureaucratic tomfoolery in England:

[T]he arrival of an English mail is an event of lively, never-failing interest. Let those who are accustomed to penny-postage and hourly deliveries, imagine, if they can, the non-delivery of letters for a period of three weeks; they may then form some idea of the eagerness with which letters from England are received by the dwellers in this distant quarter of the world. 
To receive English letters on an average about once only in three weeks - letters which, under the most favourable circumstances, are at least four months old - is generally complained of as one of the most serious drawbacks to a residence at so great a distance from home. Bad as it is, however, the evil would be tolerable compared with the aggravation of it, to which the public here are subjected in consequence of the ignorance of the Post Office authorities in England of the topography of New Zealand, and of the unfrequent and irregular means of intercommunication between its several settlements. Instead of sending all Auckland letters either by vessels direct to this port or by way of Sydney, mails for Auckland are not unfrequently despatched by vessels bound for Canterbury, or Nelson, or Wellington; the consequence is that letters and newspapers frequently arrive here six, seven, eight, and nine months old: in the mean while, later dates have been received direct, and the newspapers, when they do arrive, are put aside unread, having become but records of old news; and private letters are deprived of nearly all their interest. Upon inquiry into the cause of the delay, it is found that the letters in question were sent by a ship bound for Canterbury; that they remained in the Post Office there for a fortnight, waiting for the next opportunity to be forwarded; they were then despatched in about ten days by the overland mail; and that, after an overland journey of about a month, they reached Auckland six or eight months after date. 
- William Swainson, Auckland, the Capital of New Zealand, London, 1853, p.75-6.

The 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand notes that at least for Aucklanders, some of the above frustrations were alleviated in the year following the publication of Swainson's book, when in 1854 the provincial government established a monthly steamer service to Sydney. The William Denny exchanged mails there with ships on the Sydney to London run, thereby speeding the mail to Auckland, if not to the other New Zealand ports. The terms of the William Denny contract were not cheap: the province had to agree to an annual subsidy of more than £5000, according to the Daily Southern Cross of 28 July 1854. But luckily when making the decision 'very few explanations were required - the general feeling being to get steam communication established at almost any cost'. (As it happens, the William Denny didn't last too long on the route; on 3 March 1857 under the command of Captain Robert Taylor it went ashore near North Cape and became a total loss apart from the crew and cargo).

Swainson's book, which was published anonymously at the time due to his position as Attorney-General of the new colony, was the subject of a small advertisement in the publishing section of The Times in November 1853, between advertisements for Table-Turning Not Diabolical (subtitled 'A tract for the times') and Clouded Happiness, a novel by the Countess D'Orsay (nee Harriet Anne Gardiner):


The GOLD DISTRICT in NEW ZEALAND - Now ready in post 8vo [octivo], price 6s, cloth

AUCKLAND, the Capital of New Zealand, and the Country adjacent. With a View and Coloured Map. London, Smith, Elder, and Co., 63 Cornhill.  

- The Times, 3 November 1853, p.11.


Smith, Elder & Co. were most notably the publishers of Jane Eyre (1847) and the Cornhill Magazine (1860-1975). My undated soft-cover facsimile reprint of Swainson's book by Wilson & Horton lacks the View and Coloured Map, sadly!

See also:
HistoryCount themselves richer for the playground, 26 April 2014
History: McLachlan's gift, 28 March 2010
History: From sea to shining sea, 20 July 2009

25 January 2015

Frank Kitts Shark

Sighted along the promenade at Frank Kitts Park this afternoon at 2.10pm, this cruising shark was longer than a metre - perhaps 120cm? I've seen plenty of stingrays loitering around the lagoon, including a couple this afternoon, but never a shark. A little boy next to me shouted 'Mum, a shark! I could kill it!' Huh. I thought young people were all supposed to be environmentalists these days? I blame Far Cry.

Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow

Hugh Dennis: Earlier this week the media reported an apparent victory for the power of protest, when it was widely headlined that the Sun had dropped Page 3 and moved it behind an online-only paywall. A shrewd move, given how notoriously difficult it is to find pictures of topless women anywhere on the internet.

Steve Punt: Yes. But it turned out, confusingly, that nobody had bothered to check this with the Sun, and that it wasn't actually true.

Dennis: In fact, the whole 'breasts in public' thing is confusing. So to help you out, it's time to play the 'hilarious' panel game we like to call 'Have I Got Boobs For You!'

[Theme music]

Punt: Let's get straight onto the round we like to call 'Good Boobs, Bad Boobs'. Now we need our teams to tell us when the breasts are acceptable and when they're not. We'll start with: at a service in the Vatican?

Contestant: Good boobs.

Punt: Is quite correct, yes. Pope Benedict says it's fine to breast-feed in church. What about in Claridge's Hotel?

Contestant: Bad boobs.

Punt: That's right, put 'em away. Next, on Silent Witness, Ripper Street or True Detective?

Contestant: Is it 'good boobs'?

Punt: Yes! Autopsy boobs, always artistically justified. Next: on Game of Thrones? Yes, man at the back with a box set?

Contestant [in a sinister fashion]: Ooh, that'll be good boobs.

Punt: Yes, Sky Atlantic or BBC4 boobs, always acceptable. Next up though: in American films?

Contestant: Bad boobs.

Punt: Exploitative and unnecessary. How about in French films?

Contestant: Good boobs.

Punt: Le boob tres bon! Yes of course, middle class arty boobs, positively healthy. Next, in Nuts magazine?

Contestant: Bad boobs.

Punt: Obviously. In any pre-Raphaelite painting?

Contestant: That is good boobs.

Punt: Of course, pre-20th century boobs always acceptable!

- The Now Show, BBC Radio 4, 23 January 2015.

See also:
Comedy: Somewhat proud to be British, 24 April 2014
Comedy: Breaking the glass ceiling, 13 April 2014
ComedyMock the Week, 20 February 2010

22 January 2015

Wellington Anniversary Day 1850

Image via NZETC

The city of Wellington turns 175 today. On this day in 1840, the New Zealand Company-hired ship Aurora arrived with the first batch of settlers from England. Things didn't get off to a good start (which wasn't unusual for the Company's plans). The official survey party hadn't had time to complete its examination of the proposed site, and soon enough a flood drenched the chosen site at Pito-one (Petone). But at least by the year 1850 the city of Wellington was well established and celebrated its anniversary as we still do to this day.

By that year the population of Wellington was a respectable 5479, compared to the capital city Auckland's 8301. The colonists celebrated the 10th anniversary of Wellington with an impressive anniversary fete full of sporting endeavour. Below is the advertised programme for the two-day fete, as published in the pro-Company newspaper, the New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian. The original spelling and a few typesetting errors have been retained.



Under the Patronage of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor.

The usual sports hitherto celebrated on the Anniversary of this Settlement will take place on


On the 22nd and 23rd days of January, Instant.

The Committee appointed to carry out the Sports beg to assure the Public that arrangements have been made for celebrating

The Tenth Anniversary

with the usual honours.


First Day.

Aquatic sports.


For decked boats. To start at 10 o'clock. Post Entrance - 20s. Prize, £15. Entrances added. Three to start or no race. The second boat to save its stakes.


Three to start or no race. Prize £10. Entrances added. Post entrance - 10s. The second boat to save its stakes.


For Five Oared Whaleboats, and any other boats not being whaleboats, without limit as to number of oars. Entrance - 10s. Prize £10. Entrances added. Three to start or no race.

Committee - Capt. Sharp, Capt. Rhodes, Mr. Carkeek, Mr. Cemino, Mr. G. Young.

Entrances to be made at Capt. Rhodes' on or before TUESDAY, the 22nd instant, at 9 o'clock, a.m.

Horse Races.


Prize £4. Entrances added. Post Entrance - 10s. 6d. Three to start or no race. Horses to be brought to the course harnessed to carts. Heats. To start at 2 o'clock, precisely.


For untrained Horses, and Horses not entered for Races elsewhere. Prize £4. Entrances added. Post Entrance - 10s. 6d. Heats. Three to start or no race.

Committee - Mr. St. Hill, Mr. Thelwall, Mr. G. Hunter, Mr. J. Wade, Mr. G. Moore, Mr. Tankersley, Mr. Murch.

Rural Sports.


First prize £1. Second prize 10s. Committee - Mr. E. Roe, Mr. Marriott, Mr. Davis.


Prize 15s. Committee - Mr. J. Dean, Mr. Piper, Mr. Docking.


Committee - Major Baker, Mr. Docking, Mr. H. Allen.


Prize £2. Committee - Mr. Crowther, Mr. E. Catchpool, Mr. Davis.


Prize £1. Committee - Mr J. M'Beth, Mr. Dean, Mr. Roe.


Prize 10s. Committee - Mr. Marriott, Mr. Heese, Mr. Davis.


Prize £2. Entrance 5s. Committee - Major Baker, Mr. Marriott.


Second Day.


Prize £5. To start at 11 o'clock. Entrances to be made at Capt. Rhodes' on the 23rd inst., before 10 o'clock, a.m.


Heats. Prize £2. Entrances added. Entrance 5s. Committee - Mr. J. Wade, Mr. Crowther, Major Baker.


Prize £5. Committee - Mr. Marriott, Mr. Davis.


Prize £1. Committee - Mr. Docking, Mr. Heese, Mr. Catchpool.


Prize 10s. Committee - Mr. Roe, Mr. Davis.


Prize 10s. Committee - Mr. Marriott, Mr. Docking.


First prize £1. Second prize 10s. Committee as on first day.


Prize 15s. Committee as on first day.

Each day's entertainment to conclude with a display of FIREWORKS, under the superintendence of Mr. Heese.


A meeting of the General Committee will take place at Mr. Allen's Commercial Rooms, on Monday next, the 21st inst., at 4 o'clock, to make final arrangements in connexion with the above mentioned Sports.

The attendance of Members is particularly requested.

By order of the General Committee,


Wellington, January 19, 1850.

- Quoted from The New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian, Saturday 19 January 1850


A few notes on the events described above. It's interesting to note the hierarchy of prizes awarded in the competitions, which denote the relative importance of each event for the colonists. Clearly nautical pursuits were paramount, while fairground-style novelties attracted much smaller winnings. There is almost nothing referencing the local Maori population, aside from the 'war dance' event and a mention in different newspaper of Maori (running and horse-back?) races.

There are also some now-obscure events that might require explanation. A 'Gingling Match' is better known as a Jingling Match, whereby blindfolded participants chase a runner whose clothes are festooned with jingling bells. (Here English comedian Alex Horne demonstrates the game in a clip from 2010). 'Soaped neck geese' may refer to the barbarous and now strictly verboten activity known as Goose Pulling, but may also refer to a somewhat more innocent game of chasing free-running goose targets, like this report of chasing a soaped-tailed pig in Taranaki in the same year. (Well, at least I hope it does). And 'Grinning Through Horses' Collars' is the age-old face-pulling tradition of Gurning, in which the greatest advantage often lies with competitors who have lost all their teeth.

See also:
History: Anniversary Day report, Wellington Independent, 26 January 1850
History: Shipping in Wellington, 1850-70, 12 June 2009
History: Pencarrow lighthouse, 20 January 2014

20 January 2015

Chaffers Marina

Chaffers Marina from Clyde Quay Wharf, 19 January 2015

19 January 2015

'81 Springbok tour paraphernalia

From the collections of the Waikato Museum in Hamilton, which I visited on 31 December 2014, a collection of anti-Springbok tour posters and badges. For more background, see NZHistory on the events in the winter of 1981 in which 'more than 150,000 people took part in over 200 demonstrations in 28 centres, and 1500 were charged with offences stemming from these protests'. I was only eight at the time, and my only memory of the tour protests was sitting up in One Tree Hill watching the stolen plane flour-bombing Eden Park during the final test of the tour (12 September 1981).