Johnny Tahu Cooper, QSM, (1929-2014)

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Anna Blackman | 3 Comments

Blog post prepared by Amanda Mills, Liaison Librarian – Music and AV

Johnny Cooper (the ‘Maori Cowboy’) was a local rock’n’roll hero.

Cooper grew up on a Te Reinga farm in the 1930s, becoming a fan of Gene Autry during his childhood. While living with his aunt and uncle, he listened to their 78rpm disc collection, his favourites being Autry, Tex Morton, and Wilf Carter. Cooper learnt to play the ukulele along with the records, soon performing to shearing gangs.

After gaining a scholarship and attending Te Aute College for two years, he went to Wellington and found work as a gravedigger. Not long after, he formed a country and western band with Will Lloyd-Jones on slap bass, Ron James on piano accordion, Don Aldridge on steel guitar, and later, Jim Gatfield on guitar. They called themselves Johnny Cooper and the Range Riders.

 

Johnny Cooper Rock and Sing

Rock and Sing With Johnny Cooper and his Range Riders. His Masters Voice, 1956. Hocken Sound Recordings. HRec-M 697

The band entered talent competitions, coming first in the talent quest at Wellington’s Paramount Theatre, winning £20, and an audition with HMV. In 1954 Cooper went to Korea to entertain the New Zealand troops, and on returning, HMV asked the band to record with the label. This resulted in their first hit, a duet with Margaret Francis of a cover of One by One, backed with Cooper’s own song Look What You’ve Done – a song that found another life 40 years later when it featured in ‘Once Were Warriors’. HMV then approached Cooper about recording a new genre: rock’n’roll. HMV were keen for Cooper to cover Bill Haley and the Comet’s smash Rock Around the Clock, though Cooper was sceptical, and didn’t really like the genre. However, he recorded it (and the b-side Blackberry Boogie), and it became a hit. Interestingly, Cooper’s version was released locally before Bill Haley’s version.

In 1956, HMV released its first New Zealand rock album, ‘Rock and Sing with Johnny Cooper’, a 10” compilation that placed his country recordings with Rock Around the Clock, and Blackberry Boogie. Cooper also released a second rock’n’roll cover by Haley – See You Later Alligator in 1956 (this time on 45prm as well as 78rpm disc).

Cooper’s third single made him a significant name in local music history. Pie Cart Rock’n’Roll (1957) was (as the story goes) about the Whanganui pie cart, where Cooper and the band would get their ‘pea, pie, and pud’ meals. Pie Cart Rock’n’roll was considered the first locally written rock’n’roll song. However, this is thought to be incorrect – Sandy Tansley’s 1957 song Resuscitation Rock (according to researcher John Baker) was released a few weeks before Pie Cart Rock’n’roll in September 1957.

Cooper and the band kept their audiences broad by appearing in variety shows. In the late 1950s he began the ‘Give it a Go’ talent quest, with musicians such as Mike Nock, John Rowles, and Midge Marsden appearing. The talent shows ended in 1968, and Cooper released his last single, Break the World in Two / Cold Cold Heart on Impact. He continued to perform in the 1970s as The Johnny Cooper Sound, and in the 1980s as part of the Original Ruamahanga River Band. He retired in the 1990s.

Johnny Cooper was 85 when he passed away last week at his home in Naenae.

Winifred Betts – botany pioneer

Monday, September 8th, 2014 | Anna Blackman | 2 Comments

Post prepared by Dr Ali Clarke, Library Assistant (Reference)

This year the University of Otago Department of Botany is celebrating its 90th anniversary. In honour of the occasion, I’ve been looking back at the beginnings of botany, as revealed in the university’s archives here at the Hocken. Although the “department” is generally dated from 1924, when John Holloway began as lecturer, botany was taught as early as the 1870s. In the university’s early decades, when student numbers were small, there were very few teaching staff and they had a wide brief. The first professor of “natural science” – F.W. Hutton – taught geology as well as biology. The 1877 University Calendar offered a general introductory course called “Principles of Biology,” as well as papers in zoology and botany. This pattern was to continue for several decades. The 1877 botany course covered “the structure, functions, and distributions of the orders of cryptograms, and the principal orders of phanerogams,” as well as “the use of the microscope.”

Geology and biology were separated into two positions after Hutton left in 1880. Thomas Parker held the chair in biology from 1880 to 1897 and William Benham from 1898 to 1937. Both were brilliant scientists, but their chief research interests were in zoology rather than botany. As the university grew, the workload of teaching all aspects of biology to science, medical, dental and home science students became increasingly burdensome. Professor Benham managed to get an assistant – Winifred Farnie – to help with biology teaching from 1916 to 1918. In 1918 he suggested that it was time for the university to appoint a lecturer in botany, but the Council decided to delay for a year. The 1919 calendar notes that instruction in botany “is not provided at present” – presumably Benham had decided he was over-stretched and could no longer offer the course. He repeated his request for a botany lecturer to the council that year, and this time approval was granted. Benham already had somebody in mind for the post – his former student Winifred Betts.

OU Review 1917

Otago University Graduates of 1917, including Winifred Betts and Winifred Farnie

Rather than simply appointing Betts, the council decided to advertise the post of botany lecturer. Were they, perhaps, reluctant to appoint a woman? As it turned out, they received three applications, all from women, and selected Betts as Otago’s first botany lecturer. For Benham, this was a long overdue development. In 1919, writing in honour of the university’s jubilee, he commented: “It is a curious fact that in each of the four colleges in New Zealand it has been expected that one man shall undertake to teach efficiently those two subjects [zoology and botany], which in England, even in fourth-rate educational institutions, have for many years been entrusted to two distinct individuals.” He was happy to report that Otago had now “set the example to the other University Colleges by appointing a lecturer in botany”.

Winnie Betts was just 25 years old when she commenced her new position at the beginning of 1920. Born in Moteuka, she was educated at Nelson College for Girls, receiving a University National Scholarship in 1911. She then came to Otago, graduating BSc in 1916 and MSc in 1917. She was clearly one of the more capable students of her era, and by 1915 Benham had selected her as a demonstrator in biology. On completing her MSc she received a National Research Scholarship – one was awarded at each university each year. This provided her with an income of £100 a year along with lab expenses so she could carry out independent research. In 1919, at a lecture to an admittedly partisan audience in Nelson, distinguished botanist Leonard Cockayne described Betts as “the most brilliant woman scientist in New Zealand.”

S14-586a

Winifred Betts

 

In December 1920 Winnie Betts married another brilliant Otago graduate, the mathematician Alexander Aitken. Aitken, whose studies were interrupted by war service (he was badly wounded at the Somme), was by then teaching at Otago Boys’ High School. This was an era when most women left paid employment when they married, so it is intriguing that Winnie Aitken continued working as botany lecturer for some years. She joined a handful of women on Otago’s academic staff. As well as the women of the School of Home Science, there were Isabel Turnbull in Latin, Gladys Cameron in Bacteriology and Public Health and Bertha Clement in English; others came and went during Winnie’s years at Otago.

Winnie Aitken’s career as botany lecturer came to an end in December 1923. Her husband had been awarded a scholarship for postgraduate study and they moved to Edinburgh, where he had a long and distinguished academic career as a mathematician. Alexander died in 1967 and Winnie in 1971; they had two children. Various women have since taught botany at the University of Otago; indeed, it has been one of the more gender-balanced of the academic departments. As the department celebrates its 90th anniversary with Prof Kath Dickinson at its head, it seems an appropriate moment to remember the woman who pioneered it all!

Missing; stolen; drunk: perusing the Police Gazettes

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post prepared by Kari Wilson-Allan, Library Assistant (Reference)

To open a volume of The Otago Police Gazette is to enter into a colourful world that warrants investigation.  What follows is a series of observations based on issues from the early and mid-1870s.

The Gazette served as a key communication tool for the police force between stations and regions.  Without photography or modern electronic communications, police work would have been very different in the late nineteenth century to how it is today.  Nonetheless, their reliance on the circulation of written material is part of what makes for such a fascinating document now.

Willisford 15 May 1877 p.62

15 May 1877, p. 62.

The mug shot was not yet employed as a means of recording appearance.  Consequently, vivid textual description is used, often offering more information than what a photograph could ever provide.   For instance, a group of wanted felons were described variously in the 30 November 1872 issue: Thomas Sheehan had a “dirty sulky appearance, [and] speaks with a broad Irish accent;” William Walsh “always keeps his mouth open;”  James Cummins was of a “coarse Yankee appearance,” and Thomas Howe had “thin features, Roman nose, smart appearance, [and was] fond of horse-racing.”

McLennan 31 Aug 1874 p. 70

31 Aug 1874 p. 70

Edward Chaplin was described in the 30 September 1871 issue as “a clerk and mining agent, below the middle height, broad shoulders, stooped and awkward gait, fresh complexion, grey hair, grey prominent eyes – occasionally bloodshot – very short sighted, Jewish appearance; he usually keeps his hands in his trousers pockets and looks on the ground when walking; he was dressed in a black sac coat, dark grey overcoat, dark striped trousers, and black silk hat; addicted to drink.”

Throughout the yellowed pages, charges for larceny, lunacy, vagrancy, disorderly conduct and habitual drunkenness abound.  Other cases illuminate societal concerns: “furious riding” and “sly grog-selling” were both frowned upon, as was “occupying a house frequented by reputed thieves.”

Apprehensions 30 April 1874, p. 33

Apprehensions list 30 April 1874, p. 33

Anxiety for the wellbeing of citizens is also apparent, with men charged for deserting their wives and for failing to support their mothers.  Children, too, could find themselves arrested for “being neglected,” or for “being a criminal child;” the usual outcome of this was a sentence of some years at the Industrial School.  Women tended to attract charges of vagrancy and drunkenness, whereas men were the usual perpetrators of a wider range of offences.  Serious and violent transgressions also arose, among them assault with intent to commit rape, attempted suicide and murder.

Brody 31 Dec 1873 p.80

31 Dec 1873 p.80

Māori appear infrequently over the period surveyed, but Chinese names are occasionally interspersed amongst those of British and European origin, both as perpetrators and as victims of crimes.

Ah Yeu 10 Jan 1876 p.3

10 January 1876, p. 3.

Wehi 2 Oct 1876 p.96

2 October 1876, p. 96.

The pages are filled with reports of items stolen (watches, horses and money dominate), warrants issued, and inquest findings.  Lost and found property is recorded, as are “missing friends” such as Edward Chaplin described above.  Offenders apprehended are listed alongside their punishments, and further tables record those arrested, tried, and discharged from prison during the past weeks.  Descriptions of former prisoners are provided, with notes made of any distinctive features such as tattoos or physical abnormalities.

Return of prisoners 10 May 1876, p. 51

10 May 1876, p. 51

Submissions to the Gazette range from the mundane through to the grim and distressing.  Some cases appear trite or even comical to the modern eye.  Yet, on reflection, they show us the anxieties, concerns, and troubles of those living in the earlier days of our province.

Moir 31 Dec 1873 p. 80

31 December 1873, p. 80.

Every entry in the Gazette hints at a richer story on the part of both victim and perpetrator.  I can’t help but wonder at the implications and outcomes of certain cases, and if those with missing friends were ever reunited.

Verchere 15 Dec 1876, p.125

15 December 1876, p. 125.