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.

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ANNIVERSARY FETE, 1850.

Under the Patronage of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor.

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


TE ARO FLAT,

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.


PROGRAMME

First Day.

Aquatic sports.

SAILING MATCH.


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.

DINGIES OR SKIFFS.

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

ROWING MATCH.

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.

CART HORSE RACE.

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.

HACK RACE.

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.

GINGLING MATCH.

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

GREASY POLE.

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

SOAPED NECK GEESE.


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

FOOT RACE.

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

WHEEL-BARROW RACE.

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

GRINNING THROUGH HORSES' COLLARS.

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

DONKEY RACE.

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

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Second Day.

CANOE RACE.

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.

BULL AND BULLOCK RACE.

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

WAR DANCE.

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

JUMPING IN SACKS.

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

THROWING THE HAMMER.

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

PUTTING THE STONE.

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

GINGLING MATCH.

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

GREASY POLE.

Prize 15s. Committee as on first day.

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

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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,

DAVID SCOTT
Secretary

Wellington, January 19, 1850.


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

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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
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