22 December 2016

The Mayor of Thorndon

This Film Unit news clip from 1957 illustrates (from 2:03) a Wellington charity drive based in the Railway Hotel, an inn formerly situated in a prime site in Thorndon Quay now occupied by the fire station (an earlier incarnation, I think, built before the 1926 fire - see Lawlor quote below). The Railway was marked with the required legal notice: 'CJ Dealy, licensed to sell fermented and spiritous liquors'.

The Mayor of Thorndon Appeal, a mock election charity drive to raise funds for 'blind kiddies', was run by Bill Henderson 'full-time for five weeks of the year'. It aimed to collect even more in 1957 than the £5000 collected in 1956, which is an impressive sum given the charity election only cost a penny per vote. (Given the population of the whole country was around 2.2 million in 1957, this is an impressive return of around 1d for every two New Zealanders, despite being an event concentrated in the lower North Island).

Each candidate had a comical single-issue election platform ('so the voters won't get confused'):

  • Merve Kenny (Maori, for 'pipi, kina and paua for counter lunches')
  • Keith Bartlett (Transport, for 'rubber-filled potholes')
  • Frank Miles (Hotel worker, for '10oz beers, 10 o'clock opening & 10 o'clock closing')
  • Danny McLaughlin (Wharf, the incumbent, for 'one big happy family')
  • Erle Taylor (Hutt Valley motor industry, for 'safety first despite your thirst')

And remember, 'If you know of any blind kiddie needing assistance, ring 74-934'.

The Evening Post of 14 May 1889 contains an informative ad from an earlier stage of the Railway Hotel's history, 68 years before the events of the Pictorial Parade clip, when an earlier Mr Dealy was in charge of proceedings. In that year there were two trains per weekday to Masterton, four to Upper Hutt and an impressive 10 per day to Lower Hutt. Each passenger was entitled to take up to 112lbs (50kg!) in luggage.
Proprietor Daniel Dealy, late licensee of the Cricketers' Arms, having purchased the above-named Family Hotel, begs to inform his numerous friends, old customers, and the travelling public that he has refurnished the house right through, and intends to leave nothing undone on his part to promote the comfort of his patrons. As this hotel is within two minutes' walk of both railway stations, it affords all the comfort that travellers by rail need require. Guests' luggage delivered to and from both stations free of charge. Free Stabling for country farmers. Passengers called in time to have breakfast before first train leaves in the morning. Hot, cold, and shower Baths. All Ales, Wines, and Spirits of the choicest brands only kept. Staples XXX Beer always on tap. One of Alcock's Billiard Tables. Night porter in attendance. Travellers to Napier, Wanganui, New Plymouth can receive all information in regard to coach and rail fares, and time of departure by applying at the above hotel. D. DEALY, Proprietor.
Wellington diarist and beer enthusiast Pat Lawlor recorded the Hotel in a brief entry in his comprehensive 1974 survey of the capital's watering holes.

In the days when the old Thorndon Railway Station was operating, thirsty travellers loved to call on Jim Dealy for a quick one. The hotel, which dates back about 90 years, is not so handy these days to our central railway station. Within recent years it has become a tavern. It was destroyed by fire in 1926, was rebuilt and had several transformations under the notable Dealy family regime. There was a time when the trains from Thorndon Station puffed their way past the hotel on the way to Te Aro Station, the smoke giving the hotel a delicate greyish tinge. Today the Railway Tavern ministers to the wants of lower Thorndon.
- Pat Lawlor, Old Wellington Hotels, Wellington, 1974, p.54.
Thorndon Station closed in June 1937 when the current grand station opened, and by July 1937 demolition was well underway. I've yet to determine when the Railway Hotel was knocked down. Leave a comment if you have any clues!

See also:
History: 'Looking for old Thorndon', Evening Post, 3 July 1937
History: The Thorndon Summer Pool, 6 July 2016
History: Ans Westra - Wellington 1976, 30 June 2013
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