31 January 2017

Tucker ground & homeward bounders

How many diggers made good on the goldfields? The typical digger, as we have seen, nursed no foolish fancy of finding enough gold to fund a life of idle wealth, but hoped more wisely to grubstake himself into a farm or shop or workshop. He spoke of four classes of ground. Tucker ground kept the digger fed without earning anything more. Wages ground paid the digger something like a labouring wage. Riser ground earned well, allowing the digger to build up savings. A piler or homeward bounder was so rich that the digger after a few weeks or months could sling his hook.

Golden Bay gave many men risers of £20 weekly. A farm labourer lucky enough to work six days a week for all four seasons in Britain, meanwhile, could only hope to earn about £30 yearly. Francis Flowers won £250 above costs in seven weeks, while 'considerably more' was won by others of his party. Another party washed gold worth about £300 in only three hours of work. Wages and tucker claims were widespread too. A weekly wage of about £5 was reckoned as average on the field by a writer looking back over the first four years of Golden Bay.

'Of course, like other gold fields,' he added, 'ours have partaken in some degree of the character of a lottery'.

A digger who won good gold from a riser or homeward bounder headed away to the settled districts or his homeland, few staying in Golden Bay. Heinrich Wilhelm Roske bought a farm on the golden banks of the Wangapeka. John William Bain, who had landed in the colony as a labourer and said proudly with his broad Scots accent that he was on 'the fust of the diggings', was one of the few who bought land in the bay. Lively, joking, a violinist, he owned about sixty hectares by his middle years. George Pickett Graham, a former bricklayer, won enough gold to buy nearly as much land which he planted with hops and hedged with barberry. A thriving family was founded by each of the two former diggers. Graham was well-to-do enough late in life to be able to travel by ocean liner and visit his kin back home in England.

- Stevan Eldred-Grigg, Diggers, Hatters & Whores, Auckland, 2008, p.471

See also:
HistoryThe inimitable Thatcher, 22 March 2014
History: Gold has been all-in-all to us, 4 October 2011
History: 'Austrians' on the gumfields, 14 July 2011

28 January 2017

Debating the Porirua Asylum

The Porirua Lunatic Asylum, to give it its original name, was founded in 1887 to care for the 'incurably' mentally ill and to provide space for an asylum farm, both for economic and recuperative reasons. Much like the grand Seacliff Lunatic Asylum north of Dunedin, the idea was to house the patients in a rural setting as far away from the main urban centres as possible. The construction at Porirua was not cheap; below are the debates from Parliament on 16 December 1887 on the £11,000 spending appropriations set out in the Public Works Estimates:

The Porirua Asylum, £11,000, excited a spirited discussion. Dr. NEWMAN created some amusement by asserting that Dr. Grabham was an excellent authority on Asylum buildings "from a lunatic point of view." Mr. ALLEN strongly advocated a reduction of the vote. The COLONIAL SECRETARY expressed the opinion that the item could be reduced by £400. Mr. ALLEN moved that the vote be reduced by £100. Mr. FISHER reminded the Committee that Wellington had to provide Asylum accommodation for Wanganui on the one side and Hawke's Bay on the other, and therefore Porirua Asylum was a necessity. Dr. NEWMAN gave it as his opinion that the time had arrived when harmless lunatics might be boarded out. This raised a laugh, and Dr. Newman went on to explain that in many Continental countries the experiment had been successfully tried. Mr. Valentine condemned any niggardliness in providing suitable accommodation for the poor creatures confined in asylums. The amendment was lost by 30 to 15.
- Hansard, reported in Evening Post, 17 December 1887

In 1887 and 1888 New Zealand was suffering from the Long Depression, and the 'Scarecrow Ministry' of Premier Harry Atkinson was desperate to cut spending and raise revenue wherever possible. Even so, Parliament authorised the Asylum's £11,000 appropriation.

15 January 2017

Cindy Sherman: chameleon, comedian

The City Gallery's current exhibition of the post-2000 photos of New York artist Cindy Sherman is a fantastic opportunity to see the work of a world-renowned photographer in Wellington. Like many people, I first came across Sherman's work through her justly famed Untitled Film Stills sequences taken from 1977 to 1980, featuring Sherman portraying dramatic - or perhaps cliched - moments from imaginary films. Building a surprisingly engrossing narrative out of single frame, untitled photographs, Sherman displayed a rare talent for reinvention and a compelling visual imagination. The photographs in this exhibition come from her second period of self-portraiture from 2000 onwards, and display Sherman's confident self of humour and unselfconsciousness in portraying characters who are fashion victims, clothes-horses or just plain odd. From Upper East Side millionaire matrons to sunburnt Californian stoners, Sherman exhibits a tremendous talent for reinvention on what could be a relatively limited range of material.

In an accompanying video interview the surprisingly down-to-earth Sherman explains her process much the same as an actor preparing for a new role. Often the inspiration comes from the costumes she digs up in Manhattan's op-shops, but also recently she has been commissioned by fashion houses to portray characters using their wardrobes - which I would've thought was a slightly risky affair, given Sherman's satirical intent.

An excellent sample of the Sherman exhibition can be seen in this Guardian post from March 2016, and if you're in Wellington you have until 19 March to catch the exhibition just off Civic Square.

See also:
Photography: The City - Becoming & Decaying, 23 March 2014
Photography: Dark Cloud White Light, 22 September 2013
Photography: Sukita-Bowie: Speed of Life, 16 September 2012

14 January 2017

1st test v Bangladesh, day 3

On day 3 of the first test at the Basin Reserve Bangladesh continued its excellent batting effort for another hour, extending its overnight score of 542/7 to a declaration score of 595/8. Neil Wagner ended up with the least mangled bowling figures, with 44-8-151-4. Then it was New Zealand's turn at the crease, although Friday's perfect weather wasn't replicated - Wellington was clear but chilly for most of the day, with a high of around 18 degrees diminished by wind chill. All the batsmen got a start, with opener Tom Latham displaying the most stickability, batting for the remainder of the day to close undefeated on 119. Williamson (53), Taylor (40) and Raval (27) also helped the score along but failed to preserve their wickets in a lengthy chase. Bangladeshi test debutante Taskin Ahmed will be pleased with his first test wicket: that of the captain, Kane Williamson. At the close of play New Zealand were 292/3, still 303 runs behind Bangladesh, with Henry Nicholls on 35 batting with Latham. 

Latham ducks one

Waiting for Taskin's autograph

Latham's fifty


08 January 2017

Balaena Bay mural

Mr Church, the Jeweller

Former Howden Jeweller's, Victoria St, Hamilton
On a recent visit to the centre of Hamilton to admire the new statues, I passed the building that hosts my cousin's Nimbus Media (upstairs) and the Scotts Epicurean cafe (downstairs). The building still displays the name of its founder, the long-standing Hamilton jeweller Herbert Henry Howden, who had it built in 1902. Threatened with demolition in the greedy 1980s, the building was saved after a public outcry, and was most recently put on the market in 2014.

Keen to investigate the history of the site, I checked out Papers Past to see if anything interesting had been reported over the years. Nothing cropped up for the building in my brief search, but one of Howden's employees did prove noteworthy: a minor military hero from World War 1.

Duncan Macdonald Church was born in Ashburton in Canterbury in 1884, to Duncan and Florence Church. His father was born in Tasmania and died in Ashburton in 1909, while his mother was born in Kaiapoi in 1859 and died in Ashburton in 1941.

Church became a jeweller by trade, and married Vera Condon in Feilding on 4 October 1916. He was working for Howden in his Hamilton shop when he enlisted on 2 February 1917. At the time he was nearly 33 years old, which is old for an enlistment this late in the war, but his military record revealed that he had previously been rejected for service due to haemorrhoids. (His enlistment medical inspection must have been favourable, because it listed his 'apparent age' as 24).

He departed Hamilton by train for Trentham on 6 March 1917 to join the 27th Reinforcements. Later that year on 2 September Vera delivered the couple's first child, a son, Duncan Macdonald Brownell Church (1917-95). By that time Duncan senior was safely in England, having travelled on the Willochra to Devonport and then on to Sling Camp. Leaving for France in late September 1917, he joined the New Zealand Division at Etaples, being posted to the 2nd Battalion of the Auckland Regiment on 11 October.

Almost a year later Church would display acts of gallantry that earned him the Military Medal. His citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During the operations at Grevillers on the 24th August and at Bancourt on 30th August and 1st September Private Church acted as company runner and displayed great courage and resource under very heavy fire. On the 1st September when not required as a runner he voluntarily carried out wounded men under very heavy machine-gun and sniping fire.
The 24th was the beginning of the New Zealand Division's involvement in the 2nd Battle of Baupaume, which saw heavy fighting to push the Germans out of the town. It was one of the Division's most costly engagements of the war, with over 800 deaths and 2300 wounded. 

According to the Waikato Times of 3 December 1918, Church was 'well known in Hamilton, where for some years he was in the employ of Mr H. Howden, jeweller, [and] has been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in action'. He was later promoted Corporal in January 1919 (with a temporary promotion to Sergeant for few weeks), and was eventually discharged from the Army back in New Zealand in July 1919 after two years and 15 days of service, to reside at 6 Rostrevor St, Hamilton, just around the corner from Howden's Victoria St jeweller's shop.

Corp Duncan Church MM (source)

Church and his wife would go on to have four sons. Duncan Church died in Hamilton on 6 April 1937, aged 53. His obituary from the New Zealand Herald of the following day reads:

The death occurred this morning of Mr Duncan Macdonald Church, of Hamilton, in his 54th year. Mr. Church was born in Ashburton and came to Hamilton when a young man. He served in France during the war with the Waikato Company of the Second Auckland Battalion, and was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in the field. Mr. Church was a keen cricketer and was well known among Hamilton players. He is survived by his wife and three sons.