Joining the dots: the charm of primary sources

Thursday, February 28th, 2019 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post researched and written by Jennie Henderson, Hocken Collections Assistant  – Publications

As a researcher, the promise of what might be hiding in a primary source can be irresistible.  Primary sources can convey a sense of time, place, and personality like nothing else. There is a great satisfaction that comes from connecting the dots between sources and watching a narrative rise up from your research.

Recently, some staff members at the Hocken were invited to take part in a research project. The aim? To hone our research skills and to learn about topics and sources that were unfamiliar to us. My chosen topic was ‘Surveyors and surveying’ – an area with a massive range of possibilities.[1] After I had spent some time floundering about in the worthy deeds of New Zealand’s pioneer surveyors, one of our knowledgeable archivists pointed me towards the John Reid and Sons collection.

In the 1870s and 1880s, when suburban growth in Dunedin was expanding rapidly, surveying and civil engineering firms flourished. One such firm was Reid and Duncans, established in 1876 by engineer George Smith Duncan, his brother James Duncan, and John Reid. Reid was a farmer and storekeeper who had also worked as a draughtsman under John Turnbull Thomson in the Survey Department in Dunedin. G.S. Duncan had trained as an engineer, and worked for another Dunedin firm before going into partnership with his brother and Reid. Duncan was particularly well-known for his work on the Roslyn and Mornington cable tramways. The Duncan brothers moved to Melbourne to work for the Melbourne Tramway Trust in the mid-1880s, and John Reid’s son Henry William Reid joined the company in their place. The firm changed its name to John Reid and Son, and when Edward Herbert Reid joined the firm three years later it became John Reid and Sons.[2]

Their collection (ARC-0704) is a mixture of business records – contracts, diaries, plans, and correspondence – some of which were purchased at auction, and some of which were donated. Knowing nothing about the firm, I requested the first diary on the list: Diary of John Cunningham.[3]

Cunningham was a Dunedin-born surveyor who worked for Reid and Duncans in the early 1880s. His diaries provide the bare bones of his day-to-day work: ‘In office took parcel up for Mr Duncan to Roslyn’; ‘Wet in morning in office levelling in afternoon’; ‘cleaning theodolites’.[4] And in the early stages of my research I noticed (to my amusement) that Cunningham’s particular style of handwriting made his many references to a ‘wet day’ look like ‘wet dog’, as on 4 April 1879:

Diary of John Cunningham, MS-3801/002, John Reid and Sons Limited: Records (1873-1915, 1929-1930), ARC-0704, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Reading through his diaries gave me a sense of just how busy urban surveyors were – working on several jobs at a time, travelling considerable distances, juggling weather and the field/office requirements of their job. Cunningham refers to jobs in Opoho, Roslyn, Sawyers Bay, Otakia, Halfway Bush, Kaikorai, Blueskin, Glenleith, Princes Street, and Green Island. These men were often civil engineers and land and estate agents as well as surveyors.[5] They would not only survey blocks of land and the roads providing access to them, but work with the road boards and borough councils to select contractors for building the roads, and sell off the blocks of land they had subdivided for their clients.[6] Their work was checked for accuracy by the Chief Surveyor’s office, who would not hesitate to send plans back if they did not meet the standard.[7]

Cunningham made many references to working on the Roslyn tram project, which reflects the importance of the project to the firm, and particularly to the Duncans. He often worked with John Reid and George Duncan (as well as other staff members) which suggests the company’s partners remained actively involved with the business, in the field as well as in the office. But it was Cunningham’s references to working at Littlebourne which particularly caught my eye. Littlebourne, that grand house which sits in a back corner of Dunedin’s memory – what would Cunningham’s diaries reveal about its past?

Littlebourne was the name Charles Kettle, Otago’s first Chief Surveyor, gave to his hand-picked 20 acre property: Sections 1 and 2, Block 1, Upper Kaikorai. On some early maps, this area is called ‘Kettle’s Township’.

Wise’s New Zealand Directory map of the City of Dunedin, N.Z, 1875, Dunedin: Henry Wise & Co, 1875. Hocken Maps Collection, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Detail of Kettle’s Township.

Kettle settled there in 1860 and built a home on the land after several years of farming in South Otago. He died of typhoid in 1862, and parts of his estate were leased and sold off in the 1870s.[8] John Cunningham’s involvement began with the purchase of the property by local businessman J.M. Ritchie around 1880.[9] Ritchie planned to subdivide the land and engaged Reid and Duncans to survey the sections and mark out the roads. Cunningham’s first mention of working on the property is on 31 January, 1881. He refers to being in the field at Littlebourne, and ‘plotting and calculating Littlebourne’.[10] He mentions ‘...attending City Surveyor and Mayor to get there [sic] signatures attached to plan of Littlebourne’and ‘chaining ajoining [sic] boundarys [sic] to Littlebourne to see whether encroaching or not…’.[11] He also refers to taking levels for ‘Mr Ritchie’s propsed Township Moari [sic] Hill’, which suggests Ritchie had bought much more land in the area.[12]

The John Reid and Sons collection holds other diaries, and I was interested to see if I could match Cunningham’s experiences with the colleagues he mentions in his entries. Sure enough, A.J. Duncan’s diaries (George Smith Duncan’s younger brother Alfred John) are peppered with references to Kettle’s, Littlebourne, and Cunningham.[13] From the end of 1880, and right through into 1882, Duncan worked frequently at Littlebourne and in the Roslyn/Maori Hill area for Mr Ritchie: ‘Fine day. Up at Kettles with G.S.D. and J. Cunningham and J. Reid in the morning.’;[14]Up at Kettle’s for about 2 hours’; ‘Up at Kettle’s (Littlebourne Estate) with J.C. and J.R. all day’; ‘At Littleburn estate all day with JR and JC. Finished today’.[15] Even when the bulk of the field work was done, there were plans to be made in the office: ‘Calculations connected with Littlebourne estate all day’; ‘Fixing up litho. of Littlebourne Estate 3 hours’; and regular trips back up to the site for smaller details: ‘Up at Littlebourne for 2 hours defining line for contractor for wall on [?] section.’[16] Like Cunningham, Duncan also refers to working for Mr Ritchie on other jobs in the area: ‘Up at survey for Mr Ritchie Bk VIII Upper Kaikoarai [sic], part of sects 1 2 3 half day’; ‘At Mr Ritchie’s survey (Maori Hill) all day’; ‘Finished sketch plan to day and handed it to Mr Ritchie’s (2 hours).[17]

Slowly, a narrative was beginning to form: of urban surveyors working six days a week to meet the needs of an expanding city and its wealthiest citizens, of an area of town opening up to new construction, of the changing shape of Dunedin, of the influence of religious interest groups in deciding the layout of the town.[18] I wanted now to connect the dots of the human story underneath the blocks and sections as well, and helpfully the Hocken’s photograph collection provided an idea of what working on the Littlebourne site may have been like.

“Ferns in Littleburn Bush”, from album 114, W. M. Hodgkins “Dunedin & Otago”, page 09. Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago [S18-029a].

This image gives us an idea of the density of the bush in the Littlebourne area. It is undated, but photos of the Littlebourne bush in the same album are dated as 1865.[19] Although this is sixteen years before the subdivision, an 1875 etching of the area shows Kettle’s Littlebourne House still in semi-isolation, with only the Lunatic Asylum, the Otago Boys’ High School Rectory, and Cranmore Lodge in the area, so we can assume there was still plenty of native bush on the estate when Cunningham and Reid were working there.[20] An 1881 advertisement for the sale of the subdivisions emphasised how ‘clumps of native bush [had been] carefully preserved for thirty years.’[21]

Could I flesh out Cunningham’s and Duncan’s personal stories even more? Would we have any of the Reid and Duncans material to which they contributed? Yes! In the John Reid and Sons collection are plans relating to ‘Littleburn Estate’ and ‘Township of Cannington’ (c.1881).[22] These plans show road levels for the subdivision. A.J. Duncan specifically mentions ‘working at plans of Road through Littleburn Estate’ and being ‘up at Littlebourne Estate taking levels of part of road.’[23] Finding the actual plans that Duncan referenced in his diary provided another layer of substance to the surveyors’ experiences, and brought me a delightful moment of connecting the dots.

The Hocken Maps collection also held some treasures connected to the subdivision and the surveyors. Reid and Duncans’ finished ‘Plan of the Township of Littlebourne’ (1881) shows the Kettles’ house, and the Otago Boys High School Rectory.

Plan of The Township of Littlebourne: being subdivision of part 09 sections 1 & 2, Block 1, Upper Kaikorai. Reid & Duncan, Surveyors Hocken Maps Collection Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago [S18-519a] (For interest, compare this to George’s Key Map of Dunedin and suburbs with calendar for 1884, where the different parts of the subdivision and the eventual route of the extension of Stuart St through Albert St and up to Highgate can be clearly seen.[24])

Detail of George’s key map of Dunedin and Suburbs with calendar for 1884, Dunedin, Thos. George, 1884. Hocken Maps Collection; Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Another copy of this plan was used to advertise the sale of the subdivided sections in 1881, and Papers Past provides details of the auction and the buyers.[25] Successful businessman John Roberts, previously affirmed as a part-owner in 1874, purchased the house and section for £2700. Roberts had married Kettle’s daughter Louisa in 1870. Together, they built the world-famous-in-Dunedin Littlebourne House in 1890. Their mansion, gifted to Dunedin City after Roberts’ death in 1934, was demolished in 1949 to make room for the Stuart Street extension, and the remaining land made into sportsfields (just above Moana Pool).[26]

We can also flesh out our Littlebourne surveying story by taking a little time for J.M.Ritchie. At the time of his purchase of the Littlebourne block, Ritchie was a managing director of the National Mortgage and Agency Company of New Zealand (N.M.A.). He was known as an astute and successful businessman, owning rural land worth £29,000 and urban land worth £9,000, which goes some way to explaining how he could finance such extensive land purchases and development.[27] The Hocken holds the N.M.A. records in a restricted collection, in which some of Ritchie’s private letter books are included.[28] Ritchie’s Cannington Estate Letter Book 1877-1885 provided several connect-the-dots moments with its frequent references to Littlebourne, including to Park and Bradshaw (buyers of sections 16 and 28 respectively in the auction). It made me smile to find, in the letter book, Ritchie’s 1882 ‘Rough Statement’ which included an unpaid account to Reid and Duncans – beautifully concrete evidence of their relationship in this business endeavour.[29]

Cannington Estate Letter Book 1877-1885, N.M.A. Company of New Zealand Limited : Records (c.1861-1960), Box 6, UN-028, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

And what of John Cunningham? It seems that he may have left Reid and Duncans soon after, because in the Stone’s Trade Directory for 1884, he is listed as an independent surveyor. Hocken Collections holds some maps attributed to him alone, the earliest being from 1885:

Plan shewing part of allotments 35 & 36, township of Hawthorndale, being part of original section 13, Block IV, Upper Kaikorai District, surveyed by J. Cunningham for Roslyn Borough Council. Instruction from Mr. Collinson at Haggitt Bro’s & Brent, Nov. 1885. Hocken Maps Collection. Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

I took particular joy in seeing Cunningham’s writing and hand-drawn plan here, especially as my research began with his references to a ‘wet dog’.[30] John had married Elizabeth McKay in 1880, and they had five children. He and his wife lived in the Wakari/Halfway Bush area for the rest of his life, and are buried together in Andersons Bay cemetery. In the course of falling down a genealogical rabbit hole at the very end of my research, I found this photo of him on Ancestry. The girl is simply named ‘Betty’, and I wonder if it was John’s granddaughter Mary Elizabeth Thomson (1919-2014).

John Cunningham with Betty, posted by mtate76 in the Furneaux family tree on Ancestry, accessed 1 March 2019. https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/17373132/person/28043342587/Gallery?_phtarg=yNA12

One of the biggest challenges with researching primary material is when to stop. There is always further digging to be done, and it feels as if the connection you are seeking could be just over the page. The matters touched on above would benefit from further investigation in the land records, contemporary newspapers, biographical details of the people involved, looking into the Road Boards and Roslyn/Maori Hill Borough Council Records, and of course, more trawling through Papers Past. There are also many more employee diaries in the John Reid and Sons archives, and plenty of scope for research into their work on Dunedin’s tramways. From the people perspective, there are many more personal stories to be told from these sources.

The unfinished lead from this research that has stayed with me the most is a reference from A.J. Duncan in November 1880. In the section of the diary that is used for ‘Remarks on the week’, Duncan wrote ‘Baby Betsy, splendid.’ It was the only truly personal reference in his diaries, and I felt certain that he was referring to the birth of a daughter, or perhaps the daughter of one of his 14(!) brothers and sisters. But after spending more time than I really ought to have tracking down his family members on genealogical sites, it seems unlikely that Betsy was a relative, unless he was referring to his sister Isabella’s daughter, Elsie Barbara (could her nickname have been Betsy?), who would have been turning one soon after that entry was made. Nor did John Cunningham have a daughter Betsy or Elizabeth. Perhaps Betsy was the daughter of another colleague whose diary I did not get to. But from this final piece of research I have had a taste of what draws genealogists back, again and again, to find their people: – the essence of past lives lived must be there, just around the corner, if only the researcher can pin it down. And that is the charm of primary sources: they promise to illuminate the human experiences beneath the ‘facts’ of history, if only the researcher is canny and determined enough to find them.

Diary of A.J. Duncan (1880), November 1880, MS-3801/004, John Reid and Sons Limited: Records (1873-1915, 1929-1930), ARC-0704, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

To uncover your own narratives, join us at the Hocken Collections, Monday to Saturday, 10am-5pm (Pictorial Collections open Monday-Friday, 1pm-4pm). Our staff members are impressive repositories of knowledge in their own right. Please feel free to ask for assistance or guidance.

[1] To save the researcher some time, brief biographies of 450 early surveyors can be found in Charles Lawn, The Pioneer Land Surveyors of New Zealand (Wellington: New Zealand Institute of Surveyors, 1977). Published more recently, Janet Holm’s Caught Mapping: the life and times of New Zealand early surveyors (Christchurch: Hazard Press, 2005) is another excellent source on the challenges of surveying New Zealand in the earliest days of Pākehā settlement. In September 1994, the Friends of the Hocken Collections published an extensive bibliography of the Hocken’s surveying sources as part of their regular bulletin. See Welcome to the Hocken: Friends of the Hocken Collections—bulletin (Dunedin, 1991), September 1994.

[2] ‘George Smith Duncan’, in Jane Thomson, ed., Southern People: a dictionary of Otago Southland biography (Dunedin: Longacre Press, 1998), 141; ‘John Reid and Sons’, The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Wellington: Cyclopedia, Co., 1897) 275-6.

[3] Diary of John Cunningham (1879), (1881), (1882), MS-3801/001-003, John Reid and Sons Limited: Records (1873-1915, 1929-1930), ARC-0704, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

[4] Diary of John Cunningham (1879), 9 January 1879; 3 June 1879; 13 August 1879.

[5] Stone’s Directory for 1884 lists eleven civil engineers/civil engineering firms in Dunedin (including George S. Duncan of Reid and Duncans), and 32 surveyors. Ten of the individual surveyors were also listed as civil engineers. Four of the commission / estate agent firms listed also employed surveyors.

[6] For example, see the letter from the Maori Hill Town Clerk in a Reid and Duncans Inward Letter Book discussing the offer to form and metal roads in Sections I, II, III, Block VIII, Upper Kaikorai. Letters in this book are addressed to Reid and Duncan as ‘Engineers and Surveyors’ and ‘Land and Estate Agents’. Inward Letter Book (1879-1884), 2 February 1882 MS-3801/028, John Reid and Sons Limited, ARC-0704, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.  See also Reid and Duncans’ call for tenders ‘for construction and metalling of streets through the Littlebourne Estate’, Otago Daily Times (Dunedin, New Zealand), 10 February 1881, 1.  The tender was presumably won by road contractor James O’Connor, who, six weeks later, was advertising topsoil for sale from Littleburn Estate. Evening Star (Dunedin, New Zealand), 28 March 1881, 3.

[7] Inward Letter Book (1879-1884), 14 February 1882 MS-3801/028.

[8] There is more digging to be done in the Land Records on this matter, but in 1873, five 21-year leases on two-three acre sections were offered for auction. Otago Daily Times, 30 September 1873, 4. In 1874, Kettle’s widow Amelia, Edward Bowes Cargill, and John Roberts (husband of Kettle’s daughter, Louisa) applied to have their ownership confirmed under the Land Transfer Act of 1870. Otago Daily Times, 20 July 1874, 3. In 1875, an ad appeared in the paper offering a long lease of the house and 15 acres. Evening Star, 26 November 1875, 3. The property must have been bought eventually, as in 1878, Mr F. Wayne and three partners offered all or some of the property to the Anglican Church as a bishop’s residence or cathedral site ‘on the same terms as those on which they recently purchased it, viz., £400 per annum rental for three years from 1st March next, and £8000 purchase money on the 1st March 1881.’ Otago Witness (Dunedin, New Zealand), 2 March 1878, 4. Despite a report recommending the purchase, the proposal was voted down at a meeting of the members of the Church of England. Evening Star, 10 May 1878, 4.

[9] According to Neighbourhood guide: Melrose Street, Avon Street, 23-55 Littlebourne Road, 53 Garfield Avenue, 1-12 Wallace Street (Dunedin, 199?), 1, the Kettles retained around four acres when the property was sold to Ritchie. However, the long trail of newspaper advertisements offering the property for lease or rent, and an 1881 article regarding the sale of the subdivided Littlebourne sections show that the house and 3.5 acres were also for sale, and that John Roberts bought them at auction. See Otago Daily Times, 9 March 1881.

[10] Diary of John Cunningham (1881), 31 January 1881, 4 February 1881, 4 March 1881, MS-3801/002.

[11] Ibid., 23 May 1881, 25 May 1881.

[12] Ibid., 14 November 1881. Maori Hill had been proclaimed a borough in 1876, and Roslyn in 1877. Albert Green, ‘A necklace of jade: the Dunedin Town Belt 1848-1903 (M.A. thesis, University of Otago, 2003), 24.

[13] Duncan also refers to surveying the land for the Synagogue in Moray Place with J. Reid and J. Cunningham. Diary of A.J. Duncan (1880), MS-3801/004, 23 July 1880, John Reid and Sons Limited: Records (1873-1915, 1929-1930), ARC-0704, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

[14] Ibid., 29 October 1880.

[15] Diary of A.J. Duncan (1881), MS-3801/005, 29 January 1881; 7 February 1881; 18 February 1881; 12 September 1881;

[16] Ibid., 28 February 1881; 8 March 1881; 12 September 1881.

[17] Ibid., 19-25 September 1881. Duncan also mentions working at a survey for Mrs Ritchie, although it seems this may have been at a property at Port Chalmers.

[18] While urban surveyors were instrumental in the growth and shape of the city, a substantial discussion of their role is noticeably missing from much of the dialogue about early surveying. As Ben Schrader notes, New Zealand’s urban landscape and the role of cities in our national development has been largely overlooked by New Zealand historians, who prefer to focus on the impact of rural lifestyles on the development of New Zealand’s national identity. See Ben Schrader, Big Smoke: New Zealand cities, 1840-1920 (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2016), 15-20. One could argue the same bias affects the study of surveying: surveying the wild, untamed landscape has been considered a more valuable contribution to the colonisation of New Zealand than the surveying of spaces already under Pākehā control.

[19] Two other Littleburn images can be seen here on Hocken’s site for digitised images: Hocken Snapshop.

[20] Etching reproduced in Neighbourhood guide, 2.

[21] Otago Daily Times, 29 January 1881, 4.

[22] Plans relating to ‘Littleburn Estate’ and ‘Township of Cannington’ (c.1881) MS-3968/001, John Reid and Sons Limited: Records (1873-1915, 1929-1930), ARC-0704, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

[23] Diary of A.J. Duncan (1881), 3 February 1881; 2 April 1881, MS-3801/005.

[24] The Stuart St extension was built in 1949, and was one of the reasons for the demolition of Roberts’ Littlebourne House.

[25] See plan of the Township of Littlebourne, being Subdivision of Part of Sections 1 & 2, Block I, Upper Kaikorai, Dunedin: McLandress, Hepburn & Co., c.1881, Hocken Maps Collection, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago. Advertisements for the sale emphasising the quality of the area, the access roads, and the proximity of the Roslyn Tramway can be found in Otago Daily Times, 29 January 1881, 4; 3 March 1881, 4; 9 March 1881, 2. Following the sale, calls for tenders for the erection of villas, gentleman’s residences and tennis-lawns at Littlebourne appeared in the paper. See ODT, 2 May 1881; 20 April 1882; 29 August 1882.

[26] See Hocken Snapshop’s image of Littlebourne House here.

[27] Jim McAloon, ‘Ritchie, John Macfarlane’, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2r24/ritchie-john-mcfarlane (accessed 23 April 2018)

[28] N.M.A. Company of New Zealand Limited : Records (c.1861-1960), UN-028. Access to this collection requires the permission of the Fletcher Trust Archives, Wellington.

[29] Cannington Estate Letter Book 1877-1885, N.M.A. Company of New Zealand Limited: Records (c.1861-1960), Box 6, UN-028, Hocken Collections, University of Otago, Dunedin.

[30] See also Plan shewing subdivision of original section 23, Block IV, Upper Kaikorai District: the property of Presbyterian Church Trustees / John Cunningham, surveyor, Oct. 1887, Hocken Maps Collection, Hocken Collections – Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago. The land he surveyed in this map belonged to the Presbyterian Church Trust, whose land can be seen adjacent to the Littlebourne subdivision on the Reid and Duncans’ map. An 1874 amendment to The Presbyterian Church of Otago Lands Act, 1866, had made provision for the Presbyterian Church Trustees to sell Trust lands to the Crown and reinvest the proceeds for the Church’s benefit. The sale of Church Trust land was a factor in Dunedin’s increasing suburban spread in this period.

Mourning cards at the Hocken

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019 | Hocken Collections | 2 Comments

Post researched and written by Ali Clarke, Collections Assistant (Archives).

One of the more poignant collections held in the Hocken archives is a small number of papers relating to the Kaitangata coal mine disaster (Misc-MS-0840). On 21 February 1879 a miner entered some old workings with a naked light and the firedamp (methane) within exploded. 34 men and boys underground died, some from the explosion and others from the afterdamp (the toxic gases left in a mine after a methane explosion, including nitrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide). It was, at the time, New Zealand’s largest mine disaster; sadly there have been larger ones since, at Brunner in 1896 and at Huntly in 1914.

The collection includes some newspaper clippings and photographs, but perhaps most interesting are the mourning cards for nine of the people who died in the disaster. These small cards (around 115 x 75mm) each bear the name and age of the person, along with a memorial verse; the verses vary slightly. Five of the cards are for members of the Beardsmore family: James Beardsmore senior, his sons Edward and James, his son-in-law Caleb, and his brother Joseph. Two other men in the family were also miners, but off work at the time of the accident. The Beardsmores had arrived in New Zealand as assisted migrants in an extended family group of 22 aboard the ship ‘Oamaru’ just two years before the disaster; they hailed from Lancashire. Four of the family were left widows with young children through the mine explosion.

James Spiers, who died in the mine disaster (left), his widow Elspeth Spiers (right), and mourning cards for their son James. Misc-MS-0840-1.

The Clutha Leader reported that, overall, the disaster left 25 widows and 105 fatherless children. Another of the men for whom we have a memorial card, and also a photograph, is James Spiers, who was a father of eight. His youngest was just a baby who died himself soon before his second birthday; the collection also includes memorial cards for that child. The community raised funds to support the families bereaved by the disaster, but it was not easy for a widow to support a family in an era before government social support payments. Many remarried fairly quickly. Joseph Beardsmore’s widow Caroline married Harry Denson later that year – he subsequently died in 1896 in the Brunner mine disaster.

The oldest mourning card identified at the Hocken. Ephemera collection.

Preston family papers, MS-1272/039.

The Hocken also has a wide variety of other mourning cards, or in memoriam cards as they were sometimes known. Some are in family papers and others are in our ephemera collection. The earliest I have located is dated 1859 and is for Hannah Longfellow, who died in Yorkshire. It has an elaborate cutout design and is mounted on velvet fabric for framing. The earliest card for a New Zealand death that I have located so far is a much simpler design, for John Edward Preston, who drowned in a creek on his family’s sheep station on the Maniototo in 1877.

Lyttelton Times, 1 December 1855.

Northern Advocate, 24 December 1898.

New Zealand Tablet, 19 August 1920. Clippings from PapersPast, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/, courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

Quertier family papers, MS-3001/062.

Quertier family papers, MS-3001/062.

From the Blue Spur House of Treasures photograph album no.1, AG-683/056.

Mourning cards were popular in Britain from the early 1800s, and there is advertising for them in New Zealand papers from the 1850s. The cards were imported into New Zealand, with local printers – often newspaper offices – supplying them and adding the personal details required. Embossed flat cards, like those from the Kaitangata disaster, were common at that time, but during the 1880s and 1890s small folded cards became more common, with decorative covers and personal details inside. Another style of card popular during the 1890s and early 1900s was a large flat card in black, with text and decorative features in gold. Some, like the Arthur Brook Quertier card shown, were manufactured in Australia by the Memorial Card Company; the personal details would have been added locally. Occasionally memorial cards included a photograph. A rather unusual one in our collection is a 1901 card for Fred Hancock of Lawrence, produced by Wellington photographer David Aldersley, with a photograph of Hancock and a flower border. Most cards carried some sort of imagery, and many were beautifully designed.

A selection of In Memoriam card covers from the H.S. Tily papers, MS-3153/005.

Frank Tod papers, MS-3290/114.

The messages on cards varied between people and through time; many carried religious messages such as Bible verses, hymns, or poems with a spiritual flavour reflecting on death and the afterlife. Twentieth-century Catholic memorial cards frequently included a prayer readers could offer for the deceased person. The simple verses on the cards for the Kaitangata mine disaster victims reflected the shock of their sudden deaths; they refer to their grieving wives, children and friends, and some referred to the hope “we’ll meet in heaven again”. Today, exactly 140 years after the mine disaster, we remember the victims and their families.

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Reading between the lines in Blighty

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post written researched and written by Kari Wilson-Allan, Collections Assistant – Archives

‘Blighty’, New Zealand YMCA booklet of advice for soldiers on leave in London (c.1917), MS-1474/143 in Dr Aaron Fox Military history collection.

Blighty is a tiny (72 by 124mm) pocket book, published by the New Zealand Young Men’s Christian Association.  Despite its diminutive size, it contains worlds of insight into respectable expectations of service men on leave. Judging by its condition, our copy has certainly seen some sights. Throughout the lightweight guide, soldiers are encouraged to seek out wholesome entertainment, to take advantage of British hospitality, develop friendships and make the most of their leave in London.The text suggests itineraries for touring the city or venturing further afield, to Scotland, Ireland, or Wales.  It advises of ‘host families’ throughout the British Isles who welcome Kiwis into their homes; declaring that ‘hundreds have already availed themselves of this privilege,’ it then asks the soldier ‘is this not just what you are wanting?’

The YMCA was widely considered during wartime to be ‘practical Christianity.’[i] This booklet supports that. Along with all the tips on where to go, what to see, and how to get there, there is plenty of detail about the various churches in London that a soldier might wish to attend.

Yet, towards the end of the guide, the reader is returned to thoughts of New Zealand. Nostalgia is provoked with a map, and a verse, schmaltzy to modern eyes, reminds the soldier what he is fighting for: New Zealand, ‘the fount of pure freedom.’

While the booklet itself is undated, and was originally catalogued as such, this verse, by Lt. A.H. Bogle, has been the clue to determining its age.  A bit of research showed up Bogle as the winner of the National Song Competition, held in 1917. His success was announced in various New Zealand newspapers from September of that year.  Therefore, the guidebook dates from late 1917, or perhaps early 1918.  Based on its content, this does not seem surprising.  By mid-late 1917 enthusiasm for the war reportedly had waned significantly,[ii] and I wonder if the song competition, and the booklet itself, were intended to boost flagging spirits.

Although it is interesting to see what soldiers were encouraged to do, I found myself reading through the book feeling that there was a massive gap in the useful advice proffered. Nowhere was there guidance on avoiding venereal disease, the scourge that, at a restrained estimate, infected twenty percent of our troops.[iii] As a Christian publication this isn’t too unexpected, but then I read closer.  The guidance is there, if veiled.  Just as we might read between the lines to the inferred homoeroticism in the Village People’s 1978 hit, YMCA, we can read through the lines here, and find delicate guidance in the art of maintaining one’s honour.

First the soldier is met with an image of a woman and two young girls ‘awaiting your return.’ Surely these are proxies for the soldier’s wife and daughters, or other family members. This visual representation prompts the soldier to remember the faces he holds dear.

Then there’s the text itself. Recall the VD statistics, and you’ll see what’s being underlined here; it’s certainly not just monogamy:

‘soil not her faith in you by sin or shame’

‘when base temptations scorch you with their flame’

‘O keep for her dear sake a stainless name’

These matters were presumably too indecent for an organisation such as the YMCA to broach directly. That was more the style of Ettie Rout, the celebrated and reviled campaigner for safer sexual liaisons in wartime, yet they still found a way.  Regrettably, we cannot know how many men took heed and brought ‘back to her a manhood free from shame!’

[i] Evening Post, 26 September 1917, p.7

[ii] https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/first-world-war-overview/defending-our-shores

[iii] Tolerton, Jane, Ettie Rout – New Zealand’s safer sex pioneer, 2015, p.19.

Murder on the Maungatapu

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post researched and written by Jennie Henderson, Hocken Collections Assistant  – Publications

In 1866, a gang of four goldfield criminals murdered five men (and their horse) on the Maungatapu track near Nelson. The subsequent search for the bodies, trial, and execution of some of the murderers seized the attention of the nation. Newspapers were full of the events for weeks and even years afterwards.

At the Hocken Collections, tucked away in the middle of a bound volume of pamphlets, are three letters from the accused to legal officials in the trial, which provide an enticing window into the case…

But first, some background:

The accused men were labelled ‘The Burgess Gang’: Richard Burgess, Joseph Sullivan, Philip Levy, and Thomas Kelly.

Photos of Burgess, Levy, Kelly, and Sullivan taken during the trial (from “A full history of the Maungatapu murders: including a narrative of the events preceding the murders, confessions of Sullivan & Burgess, a corrected report of the trial, detailed particulars of the execution of Burgess, Kelly and Levy, and lives of the murderers, with portraits, and plans and sections of the road”. Nelson: 1866).

Burgess and Kelly were both transported convicts, who had lived a life of crime on the Australian goldfields and been in and out of gaol there, until following the gold to Otago in 1862.  They served three years in gaol in Dunedin for theft and attempted murder, before travelling to the West Coast and forming a new gang there with Sullivan and a former acquaintance, Levy.[1]

In the course of numerous robberies and assaults on the West Coast goldfields, Levy heard talk of a party of businessmen planning to travel from Canvastown to Nelson to deposit their earnings in the bank.  Excited by the rumour that the businessmen would be carrying up to £1000, the gang made a plan to rob them.

On June 12, 1866, they positioned themselves on the track, by what would later become known as Murders Rock.  A flax grower in his fifties, James Battle, travelling along the track, was stopped by the gang and initially they let him pass. They later decided that he may be able to identify them, and some of the gang chased him down and killed him, robbing him of his wages of £3.17s.[2]

The attack on and murder of James Battle (as reproduced in Hill, Richard, Policing the Colonial Frontier: the theory and practice of coercive social and racial control in New Zealand, 1767-1867. Wellington: Historical Publications Branch Dept of Internal Affairs, 1986).

On June 13, the party of four businessmen – George Dudley, James de Pontius, Felix Mathieu, and John Kempthorne, and their horse – named Old Farmer – were held up, robbed, and murdered by the Burgess Gang.[3]  They burned the men’s’ clothes and other evidence, and hid three of the bodies, leaving the fourth in a manner intended to suggest he was the culprit, if the bodies were ever found.  The gang then returned to Nelson, to spend their ill-gotten gains of just over £16 each, nowhere near the amount that they had hoped for.[4]

Caption: Burgess shoots Kempthorne on Maungatapu Mountain (as reproduced in Byron, Ken. ‘Guilty wretch that I am’: echoes of Australian Bushrangers from the death row memoirs of Richard Burgess. South Melbourne: Macmillan, 1984).

In Nelson, a friend of the businessmen was waiting for their arrival in order to take Old Farmer back to Canvastown.  When the party did not arrive, he raised the alarm.  Police began to investigate the matter on June 18.  Suspicion fell quickly on the Burgess Gang, who had been seen by a number of witnesses heading in the direction of the Maungatapu track, and had been spending money in Nelson over the last few days.  The four men were arrested on June 18 and 19.  The citizens of Nelson were horrified by the apparent crime, and a large search party was formed, finding Old Farmer’s body and a gun on June 20.

While the search continued in the difficult terrain, Sullivan took advantage of an offer from the Governor of a pardon to any accomplice to the murders who gave information resulting in a conviction of the murderer(s).[5] He gave a full confession, implicating his three partners in crime (but not himself), and directing police to the bodies, which were found on June 29.  Sullivan also later disclosed to the police the location of James Battle’s body, as his disappearance had gone unreported.

The victims were all buried together in a mass grave at Wakapuaka Cemetery, their bodies escorted by a massive procession of the citizens of Nelson.[6]  A monument to the victims was erected after a public collection, and its inscription conveys a strong sense of the outrage of the local people at these events:

This monument was erected by public subscription in memory of five late residents of the province of Marlborough who are interred here. They were waylaid, robbed, and barbarously murdered by a gang of four bushrangers, on the Maungatapu Mountain, in this province, June 12 and 13 1866 / Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath for it is written. Vengeance is mine: I will repay saith the Lord. Romans XII 19.[7]

While in gaol awaiting trial, Burgess wrote a now infamous confession/autobiography that contradicted Sullivan’s confession, and claimed that Levy and Kelly were innocent of the actual murders. Burgess’ confession is long and written in an attractive literary style, and is considered a classic of crime writing.[8]

The trial ran from September 12-18.  Despite Burgess’ counter-confession, Burgess, Levy, and Kelly were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.  They were executed at a specially-constructed gallows on October 5.  Levy went to his death protesting his innocence.  Sullivan was tried for and found guilty of the murder of James Battle.  He was sentenced to death, which was later downgraded to life imprisonment. He was sent to Dunedin gaol for a time, and then released on the condition he left New Zealand.  After some time in England, he travelled to Australia where he was arrested by Australian authorities while trying to make contact with his wife and family. It seems he may have been relocated by the government, and then passed into legend somewhat with no confirmed sightings after this time.[9]

The pre-meditation and cold brutality of the murders, and especially the controversy of the competing confessions, seized the imagination and fired the indignation of the New Zealand public. Newspapers at the time were full of the story, following every twist and turn in the search and the trial.[10] A ‘grand moving diorama of the Maungatapu murders, occupying 2000 feet of canvas’ was touring the country by November 1866.[11] The local Nelson paper, the Examiner, printed a booklet covering the details of the case and the trial, and providing much desired detail about the chequered pasts of the accused.

An original 1866 copy of this booklet, with maps and photos, was bound with other pamphlets by Justice H.S. Chapman and gifted to the Hocken.[12] In the back of this pamphlet are secured three letters: one from Burgess to Mr Adams, a prosecutor; one from Sullivan to Mr Sharpe, a Nelson Court registrar; and one from Levy and Kelly to Sergeant-Major Shallcrass, a police officer who was involved with the case.

The letters highlight how important the finer details of the case were in determining whose account was correct: Burgess or Sullivan.

Nelson Gaol
Sept. 1th 1868, Saturday night
To Mr Adams,
Respected Sir,

I forgot to mention in my previous requests for your official aid and furtherance one item of importance, to the carrying out of justice to all concerned, so I have taken the liberty of again intruding myself on you, to see that my application to you is attended too, it is this. If you remember Sullivan stated, the balls we had with us, and some of which were drawn from the gun he threw away, were stolen from the Grey[?], no such thing, they were purchased. Now I wish that you Telegraph, the authorities at the Grey, and cause them to make inquiry at Mr Helier’s shooting gallery, next door the Star Hotel, whether he remembers the night of Friday, the first of June, selling five shillings worth of balls to anyone, on the same night, the ramrod was [?]. With this being sent through the Government it will be sufficient proof, without issuing subpoenas for their attendance, note the address Mr Eli Helier next the Star Hotel.

I remain your ever obliged and humble servant,

Richard Burgess.

*******************

Mr Sharpe

Sir

I would thank you if you would have a Summons served upon the Witness Harvey to attend in the case of James Battle.

For in Burgess’ confession he says that Kelly & Levey left us at the Bridge to proceed into Nelson Mr Galloway can prove that there men Harveys party where but a short distance ahead of us.

My statement is this that at the time Burgess & Levey where securing the man Battle there was a gun discharged and I went up the road and I heard the Report of another gun and then I observed three men upon the road near Franklyn’s Flat.

If I could see these men where was Kelly and Levey at this time for by the statement Burgess has made they left us at the Bridge and it appears that Harveys Party never seen them upon the road. Suppose they must have hid themselves upon this occasion as Burgess states they did on the following day.

If it is Convenient to would thank you for the Different Distances of the road that bears upon my case.

I am Sir your Most Obedient Servant

Joseph Thomas Sullivan

*******************

And Levy’s and Kelly’s attempts to be tried by Special Jury:

Nelson Gaol

To Mr Shallcrass, [Sergeant-Major]

Sir this if to inform you that it is Our wish, as we are going to be tried for Our innocent lives, that if the laws of Our Country allows us to be tried by a Special Jury, by making application that you will Please to grant Our request, and your humble servants will for Ever Pray.

Signed Thomas Kelly

Phillip Levy

Recd 30 Sept [JWA]

*******************

The 1866 pamphlet was revised and reprinted many times due to ongoing interest in the case.  The Hocken holds issues of The Maungatapu Mountain Murders from 1890 (a Hocken original), 1909, and 1924.

Also in 1866, the murders were the inspiration for a sermon delivered by the Bishop of Wellington on ‘Ahab’s crimes and the Maungatapu Murders, treated on the principles of the new school of morals and religion.’[13] The Bishop reflects on how he would deal with communities rife with criminal behaviours such as those on the West Coast, and what message the Gospel truly brings regarding criminality.

An interesting additional layer to the case, the Hocken holds a photocopy of ‘Practical phrenology: a lecture on the heads, casts of the heads, and characters of the Maungatapu murderers, Levy, Kelly, Sullivan, and Burgess’  by A.S. Hamilton; delivered in the Provincial Hall, Nelson, for the benefit of the Maungatapu Monument Fund, October 8, 1866.

A phrenologist, Hamilton, had met with the accused before their execution to interview them and take measurements of their heads.  Casts were also made of their heads (before their execution, as there was a concern that their faces may be distorted after the hanging). The lecture, of which the Hocken item is a transcript, was given three days after the men were executed, and was intended as a fundraiser for a memorial in the cemetery. Hamilton makes bold claims about the men and their characters based on his studies:

The basilar phrenometrical angle in Kelly, marked A, is forty-two degrees. This is greatly in excess of common murderers…Kelly’s angle is of the very worst murderer’s type…

…the middle basilar section, the seat of the organs of Destructiveness, Vitativeness, Secretiveness, and Acquisitiveness [is large]; hence the terrible power of this portion of the brain in influencing his conduct for evil…[14]

From Hamilton, A. S. Practical phrenology: a lecture on the heads, casts of the heads, and characters of the Maungatapu murderers, Levy, Kelly, Sullivan, and Burgess. Nelson: 1866).

Levy’s temperament is coarse, and the bones of his skull are thick…These measurements speak in plain language, and show the moral imbecility of the man; and a glance at the deficient development of his reasoning powers, and at the great size of his organs of secretiveness and acquisitiveness, combined with the small endowment of his benevolence and conscientiousness, will at once warrant the conclusion that, in bad hands, Levy would become a willing tool in the perpetration of the foulest deeds…[p.11] Levy, in my company in prison for more than an hour, tried hard to enlist my sympathy, by crying and protesting his innocence; and it was a terribly humiliating sight to witness the idiotic efforts he made to disguise his true character…[15]

More modern authors continue to be intrigued by these events, and the Hocken holds a number of interesting sources.

  • Clune, Frank. Murders on Maunga-tapu. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1959.

Clune wrote historical novels, travel books, and histories of scandalous events in early NZ and Australia. This work provides a “grim account of a callous crime committed on the New Zealand goldfields in 1866… [and] an unusual study of the mental make-up of the four lying brutal Londoners who were responsible for the crime…”.

  • Burton, David, ed. Confessions of Richard Burgess: the Maungatapu murders and other grisly crimes. Wellington: Reed, 1983.

Burton gives an account of the murders, as well as a transcript of Burgess’ famous confession.

  • Byron, Ken. ‘Guilty wretch that I am’: echoes of Australian Bushrangers from the death row memoirs of Richard Burgess. South Melbourne: Macmillan, 1984.

Byron looks at Burgess’ confession in the context of the bushrangers and his criminal upbringing.

  • Hawes, Peter. Outlaws and Rogues. Auckland: Whitcoulls, 2003.

In this illustrated book for tweenagers, the Maungatapu murderers take their place beside other notorious rogues in history, such as Billy the Kid and Al Capone.

  • Martin, Wayne. Murder on the Maungatapu: a narrative history of the Burgess Gang and their greatest Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2016.

Martin re-examines the case with new eyes, using little-known primary sources, and suggests an alternative narrative.

  • Rosanowski, John. Treachery Road: a historical goldfields murder mystery. Christchurch: Cornwall, 2017.

Rosanowski approaches the case as a journalist in the 1890s reinvestigating the murders. He claims to have uncovered new information about Sullivan which suggests Kelly and Levy were innocent, as Burgess claimed.

Some of the Hocken Collections’ resources on the Maungatapu murders.

The fascination with this case has continued in other formats as well. In 1972, a radio play ‘Death at Murderers Rock’ was produced by the Overseas Programme Exchange Service.[16] In 2016, the Nelson Provincial Museum put on a two-part exhibition about the murders and the trial.[17] A play about the murders, by Nelson playwright Justin Eade, was performed in the Nelson/Marlborough area and later at the Arts Market in Wellington in 2016/2017.  In 2017, Burgess’ story was included in the ‘Black Sheep’ podcast.[18]

If you wish to view any of the books referenced above, or any of the Hocken Collections’ other fascinating resources, the staff here at 90 Anzac Avenue are more than happy to help.  Visit us between 10am and 5pm, Monday – Saturday. Please bring photo ID with you to register as a reader.


Footnotes:

[1] Burgess had earned something of a name for himself in Dunedin’s gaol: ‘Early in 1863, Burgess once or twice caused great danger in the Dunedin gaol. Once, he contrived to communicate with the notorious Garrett and others, so as to concert a breaking out; and he contrived to break through a thick stone wall and enter the adjoining cell.  On another occasion, he and Garrett each barricaded the door of his cell, and set the officers at defiance until the doors had been battered down. Those doors, and the others in the gaol, then opened inwards – a stupid arrangement, which was speedily altered. Burgess was flogged, and he bore his punishment with seeming indifference.’ Otago Daily Times (Dunedin, New Zealand), quoted in “A full history of the Maungatapu murders: including a narrative of the events preceding the murders, confessions of Sullivan & Burgess, a corrected report of the trial, detailed particulars of the execution of Burgess, Kelly and Levy, and lives of the murderers, with portraits, and plans and sections of the road” (Nelson: 1866), 15.

[2] Ken Byron, ‘Guilty wretch that I am’: echoes of Australian Bushrangers from the death row memoirs of Richard Burgess (South Melbourne: Macmillan, 1984), 98.

[3] The men were strangled, stabbed, and shot. For a comprehensive account of the attacks, see Wayne Martin, Murder on the Maungatapu: a narrative history of the Burgess Gang and their greatest crime (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2016), 131.

[4] Martin, 132.

[5] For the poster stating the conditions of the offer of immunity, see Martin, xix.

[6] For a map of the cemetery, including the location of the monument, see http://nelson.govt.nz/services/facilities/cemeteries/cemeteries-in-nelson-2/wakapuaka-cemetery/

[7] From Wikipedia’s page on the Maungatapu murders: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maungatapu_murders#/media/File:Maungatapu_Monument_02.jpg

[8] Mark Twain described Burgess’ confession as: ‘…a remarkable paper. For brevity, succinctness, and concentration, it is perhaps without its peer in the literature of murder. There are no waste words in it; there is no obtrusion of matter not pertinent to the occasion, nor any departure from the dispassionate tone proper to a formal business statement—for that is what it is: a business statement of a murder, by the chief engineer of it, or superintendent, or foreman, or whatever one may prefer to call him.’ Mark Twain, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World (1897), ch.XXXIII.

[9] See Martin, 249-262.

[10] A quick search of Papers Past reveals dozens of articles about the investigation, the trial, and the execution, and the backgrounds of the criminals. Even in 1935, an obituary for Alfred Mills references that he was in Nelson at the time of the Maungatapu murders. Otago Daily Times, 10 October 1935, 9.

[11] Otago Daily Times, 2 November 1866, 1. Admission was 1s.

[12] “A full history of the Maungatapu murders” is bound with Chapman Pamphlets v.14, no.13.

[13] This pamphlet is bound in Hocken Pamphlets v.79.

[14] A.S. Hamilton, “Practical phrenology: a lecture on the heads, casts of the heads, and characters of the Maungatapu murderers, Levy, Kelly, Sullivan, and Burgess” (Nelson: 1866), 4.

[15] Hamilton, 10.

[16] https://www.ngataonga.org.nz/collections/catalogue/catalogue-item?record_id=179001

[17] The Nelson Provincial Museum holds a number of items related to these events, including the head casts of Burgess, Kelly, and Levy. http://www.nelsonmuseum.co.nz/

[18] http://www.radionz.co.nz/programmes/black-sheep/story/2018617776/outlaw-the-story-of-richard-burgess

 

Cataloguing Charles – interning at the Hocken

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Blog post researched and written by Lakin Wilton, HUMS 301 Intern

I have had the fantastic opportunity of interning at the Hocken through the University of Otago’s Humanities Internship, which offers students the chance to be placed in an organisation in Dunedin and undertake a project in place of a paper. The internship counts towards your degree, which is absolutely fantastic and I strongly encourage any student of Humanities to sign up.

Charles Brasch, MS-0996-012/094/010

Before starting my internship, Charles Brasch was a name I had heard, but not a name I knew anything about. I started at the Hocken at the beginning of August, and though I have only spent a short time here, I feel as though Charles Brasch and I have become great friends.

My project was a continuation of the project started by last semester’s intern, which allowed me to jump right in and get started. I worked with the Charles Brasch Literary and Personal Papers Collection, cataloguing photographs that he donated to the Hocken when he died in 1973. The background to the collection and how it has been catalogued is interesting, and it is amazing how archives can evolve over time when new developments come about.

The photographs in this collection were originally repackaged and catalogued in 2003. While they were listed on the Hocken database, not all of them were able to be identified. Now, there are more resources available to help with identification, such as Charles’ published journals, which have comprehensive biographical notes on many of Charles’ friends, family, and people he met during his life. The power of Google is another useful tool that can be used to identify people and places.

Some of the photographs in the collection are used frequently for publication, which is one of the reasons why the curator of the collection decided to add more detail to the catalogue. Having a more detailed catalogue improves findability, which for such a vast collection is extremely helpful. For example, I found a photo of Charles with authors C.K. Stead and Janet Frame looking more relaxed than the commonly published version of the photo.

Charles Brasch, Carl Stead, and Janet Frame MS-0996-012/159/001

Further, some of the photographs are already digitised, and having a more detailed listing will allow online access to those photographs. There is also potential for the further digitisation of images.

In terms of my project. I quickly learnt that cataloguing is not a matter of simply entering data into a spreadsheet…

Charles Brasch was an avid photographer and was something of an archivist himself. Charles’s photographs span decades, and the collection consists not only of his personal photographs, but also of family photographs handed down to Charles. Cataloguing such a mammoth collection is no small task, but it is an enjoyable one.

I quickly found that the most frustrating aspect of cataloguing photographs in this collection was trying to figure out who the people in the photos were. Charles did not inscribe all of his photos; in fact, finding one with an inscription that I could actually read was a feat in itself!

Thankfully, Charles kept personal journals, which the Hocken also has in its Collections, and some of these have been transcribed and published by the Otago University Press.  These have been essential in my quest to put names to faces. Charles was very detailed in his journal entries, and it was rare that I could not name someone. However, when I couldn’t name someone it was quite frustrating! On one particular occasion there was a woman who I could not identify, but later in my cataloguing journey she showed up again and Charles had inscribed that later photo so I could go back and name her in the photos I had previously seen. Being able to do so was extremely satisfying.

The woman who was hard to identify was Aunt Loulu (Louisa Hart, Charles’ Great Aunt). MS-0996-012/175/002

Tangible photographs are something we sadly rarely see anymore, so working with ‘proper’ photographs has been fantastic. Charles travelled often, and documented both the big and the small things. For someone such as myself, who has never travelled either the South Island nor ventured over the Pacific, these photographs allowed me to travel alongside Charles, and see things as he saw them.

I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to work with the Charles Brasch photographs. Having never done any archiving before, my eyes have been opened to a whole new world, and I am genuinely amazed at how much work goes into archiving. I have a whole new appreciation for archives, and I strongly encourage everyone to utilise them where they can. I am extremely grateful to both the University of Otago and the Hocken Library for allowing me to work with such an amazing collection.

International Archives Day 2017

Friday, June 9th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Today (9 June) is International Archives Day. Created in 2008 to raise awareness of the importance of archives, and of what archivists do, the date was chosen to commemorate the establishment of the International Council of Archives (ICA) on 9 June 1948.

Archives and archivists across the world use the day as an opportunity to promote what they do, and to promote the use of archives.

I thought I would take the opportunity to write about an interesting archival volume I looked at recently. This volume encapsulates for me what is so interesting about working with archives and how researching the stories documented in archival items can lead us down many different narrative pathways.

The volume originally caught my attention on the Hākena catalogue because the name in the title was clearly unusual and to my eye looked just wrong! A spelling mistake maybe? Making sure the description of archives is correct or as correct as it can be is one of my responsibilities here so I decided to have a look at it.

Port Moeraki day book, Misc-MS-1513, Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena

The title was “[Tubinanini], Robert George : Port Moeraki Day Book (1858 – 1873)”. The titles of archival collections are constructed with the name of the creator of the collection first, and then a brief descriptive title. This is in accordance with the standards set by the ICA.

So in this case the archivist had (not unreasonably) taken the most obvious name that they could find on the volume, and decided to use that as the creator portion of the title. They had enclosed this portion in square brackets to show that they were unsure of the correct spelling and that this was their interpretation of the hand writing.

It is a tall 19th century volume bound in white velum, looking a bit like Harry Potter might have doodled in it with some odd notes and diagrams in one section. Some pages have been cut out towards the end of the volume.

The front of the volume, note how carefully the words Day Book have been drawn, along with the image of waves at sea.

It clearly started life in October 1858 as a day book (sometimes called a cashbook) – a book that records financial transactions in date order. The front of the volume seemed to have been labelled in a couple of different hands and at different times. The words included “Trigonometry”, “Day Book”, “Robert Geo. Tubmanini” (my reading of the problem name), “Port Moeraki”, what looks like the initials “B. F.” and a doodle of waves. Perhaps the doodler spent a lot of time at sea?

“Tubman” with the letters “ini” seemingly added later in darker ink.

Despite being acquired in 1974 the volume was not catalogued until 1998 when it was added to the online catalogue Hakena, things have changed since then and it is a lot easier to quickly research names and places by a quick “googling”.

I started with the name Robert George Tubinanini – the reason I have noticed the record on Hākena in the first place.

My googling quickly told me that a Robert George Tubman was the Head Master of the Moeraki School between 1890-1895 and that he died serving in the Boer War. There is a nice biography of Robert available from the Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust of New Zealand website, that includes a photo of his family’s gravestone in Dunedin’s Northern Cemetery. http://www.cemeteries.org.nz/stories/tubmanrobert181012.pdf

Robert Tubman’s trigonometry notes?

It seems likely that he is the Robert Geo. Tubmanini named on the cover of the volume and that the  Harry Potter doodles are his trigonometry notes. What is not clear is why his name has the extra “ini” on the end (another idle doodle perhaps?) and why he had the day book and used it as a notebook.

Typical entries in the volume, note Hertstel shipping 3 boat loads of timber for [North Otago?]

Back to the daybook portion of the volume. This is a particularly detailed example of a day book, and list transactions in date order, with the person’s surname, the goods purchased, shipped or received and the cost. I noticed that there were regular entries under particular names, clearly the store was a key institution in this community. Some names were European but there many Maori names as well. A keen researcher of Moeraki history is sure to find much of interest.

The luxuries of life in the Moeraki in 1857

The names Wi Te Pa, Pokuku, Riruha, Pita, Hokopa, Rawiri, Ohua, Karauria all appear regularly but there are many others. European names include McGlashan, Haberfield, Hastie, Hopkinson, Adam, Thomas, Mason, Tom and more.

Several entries under local Maori names

One name that stood out was Hertslet, it is unusual and cropped up almost daily. This time I headed straight to Papers Past, the National Library website which has revolutionised access to the myriad information contained in early NZ newspapers. I found that Henry Charles Hertslet regularly advertised the services of his store at Moeraki as well as other business ventures. He was also a Justice of the Peace for a time. An entry in the Otago and Southland volume of the 1904 Cyclopedia of NZ which revealed that Hertslet had a background in the “Public Records Department London” in the early 19th century before migrating to NZ. This was a nice serendipity as the Public Records Department is now known as the Public Records Office, and is the national archives of the UK. I guess you could say he had worked as an archivist, like me!

From what I found online, Mr Hertslet clearly had a long and varied career as an early settler in several parts of NZ but is mainly associated with Oamaru, Moeraki and Naseby. According to C.W.S. Moore’s book, Northern Approaches, and Gavin McLean’s Moeraki 150 years of Net and Plough Share H.C. Hertslet was landing agent for Moeraki from 1851, and later purchased a schooner, Queen, to run a service between Moeraki and Oamaru employing Maori from Moeraki to man the boats.

Wages paid to Fitzgerald in 1867

At the back of the book are further dated lists of payments but these appears to be wages paid to a number of workers including Fitzgerald, Frederick Cockerill and Joe. Thompson. The work done was activities like delivering firewood, ploughing, harrowing and draying.

To sum up, this volume is a record of the transactions of the Moeraki store kept by either Mr Hertslet himself or one of his employees, sometime later it came into the hands of Robert Tubman, who seems to have taken advantage of some blank pages to write up his trigonometry notes. Later again it was acquired by the Hampden Historical Society which donated this volume to the Hocken along with around 40 others when the Society was wound up in 1974. In archivists jargon it has multiple provenance, it was created and used by more than one creator but is all the richer a source of history for that. It leads us to several narratives – the lives of Henry Charles Hertslet, and Robert Tubman, and to the broader social and economic history of Moeraki in the mid 19th century. Family historians may be interested to find references to the day to day dealings of their ancestors.

New Zealand Archaeology Week 2017

Monday, April 3rd, 2017 | Anna Blackman | 2 Comments

Post prepared by Jacinta Beckwith, Kaitiaki Mātauranga Māori 

Each of us is an epitome of the past, a compendium of evidence from which the labours of the comparative anatomist have reconstructed the wonderful story of human evolution. We are ourselves the past in the present.                                                           

H.D. Skinner, The Past and the Present

This year’s inaugural New Zealand Archaeology Week (1-7 April) offers an opportune moment to highlight some of the Hocken’s archaeology-related taonga. Examples include the Otago Anthropological Society Records (1960-1983), Anthropology Departmental Seminar flyers (most dating to 1997), and a wide variety of archaeological reports, notebooks, diaries, letters and photographs including papers of David Teviotdale, Peter Gathercole and Atholl Anderson. More recently, our collections have been enhanced by the ongoing contribution of local archaeologists such as Drs Jill Hamel and Peter Petchey who regularly submit their archaeological reports, for which we remain deeply grateful.

One of our largest collections relating to the world of archaeology and anthropology are the Papers of Henry Devenish Skinner (1886-1978). At 3.14 linear metres in size, this collection comprises folders full of handwritten research and lecture notes, letters, photographs, scrapbooks and newspaper clippings pertaining primarily to Skinner’s archaeological, anthropological and ethnological work with the Otago Museum and the University of Otago, and also to his school days and military service. It includes personal correspondence detailing the collection of Māori artefacts, letters with Elsdon Best, S. Percy Smith, Willi Fels, and other notable anthropologists and collectors. Skinner’s papers also include a significant series of subject files relating to not only Māori and Pacific archaeology but also to that of Africa, Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

H.D. Skinner is fondly remembered as the founding father of New Zealand Anthropology. He is particularly known for his development of the Otago Museum, for his pioneering work on the archaeology of the Māori and for his comparative studies of Polynesian archaeology and material culture. He was the first Lecturer of Anthropology in Australasia, appointed Lecturer in Ethnology at the University of Otago in 1919 (where he lectured until 1952). He was appointed assistant curator of the Otago Museum in 1919, later becoming Director of the Museum from 1937 until 1957. Skinner was also Librarian of the Hocken from 1919 until 1928. Much of the collection expansion in the Otago Museum, and the importance placed on the collection and display of Māori and Polynesian artefacts can be attributed to him. He also expanded the Hocken’s collections, most notably in New Zealand paintings and drawings.

Skinner’s research on the Moriori represents a milestone in the history of Polynesian ethnology as the first systematic account of material culture of a Polynesian people. He set new standards in description, classification and analysis, and he demonstrated how ethnological research could contribute to important historical conclusions. Professor Atholl Anderson, Honorary Fellow of Otago’s Department of Anthropology & Archaeology, describes Skinner’s analyses of Māori material culture as prescribing the method and objectives of the discipline for over 50 years and his teaching as inspirational for several generations of archaeologists, especially in southern New Zealand.

References:

Anderson, A. Henry Devenish Skinner, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography Volume 4, 1998

Skinner, H.D. The Past and the Present – Popular Lecture, in Skinner, Henry Devenish Papers, Hocken Archives Collection, MS 1219/071

Wells, M. Cultural appreciation or inventing identity? H.D. Skinner & the Otago Museum. BA (Hons) thesis, Otago, 2014

ITEMS ON DISPLAY

HOCKEN FOYER

Anthropology Department Seminar flyers from the late nineties. Hocken Ephemera Collection

DISPLAY TABLE

  1. Skinner, H. D. 1923. The Morioris of Chatham Islands. Honolulu, Hawaii: Bernice P. Bishop Museum. Hocken Published Collection
  2. Letters from Elsdon Best and S. Percy Smith to H.D. Skinner, and envelope addressed to Corporal H.D. Skinner containing further letters and clippings relating to Moriori in ‘Letters, extracts, notes, etc. relating to Morioris’, Skinner, Henry Devenish Papers, Hocken Archives Collection, MS-1219/169
  3. Letter from J Renwick (1925) to H.D. Skinner in ‘Technology and Art of the [Moriori of the Chathams]’, Skinner, Henry Devenish Papers, Hocken Archives Collection, MS-1219/160
  4. Photos of Chatham Island artefacts in ‘Moriori Photos’ (n.d.), Skinner, Henry Devenish Papers, Hocken Archives Collection, MS-1219/168. Stone patu, bone fishhooks, blubber cutter, stone adzes and postcard map of Chatham Islands.
  5. Syllabus of Evening Lectures on Ethnology 1919 & University of Otago Teaching of Anthropology (n.d.) in ‘Anthropology at Otago University’, Skinner, Henry Devenish Papers, Hocken Archives Collection, MS-1219/022

PLINTH

  1. Freeman, D. & W. R. Geddes, 1959. Anthropology of the South Seas: essays presented to H. D. Skinner. New Plymouth, N.Z.: T. Avery. Hocken Published Collection
  2. Dr Henry Devenish Skinner at the Otago Museum (1951). D. S. Marshall photograph, Hocken Photographs Collection, Box-030-013
  3. Dr Henry Devenish Skinner and others get aboard the ‘Ngahere’ for Chatham Islands (1924). The others are identified as Robin Sutcliffe Allan, John Marwick, George Howes, Maxwell Young and Dr Northcroft. Photographer unknown, Hocken Photographs Collection, Box-030-014

PLINTH

  1. The Dunedin Causeway – archaeological investigations at the Wall Street mall site, Dunedin, archaeological site 144/469 (2010). Petchey, Peter: Archaeological survey reports and related papers, Hocken Archives Collection, MS-3415/001
  2. Beyond the Swamp – The Archaeology of the Farmers Trading Company Site, Dunedin (2004). Petchey, Peter: Archaeological survey reports and related papers, Hocken Archives MS-2082
  3. A smithy and a biscuit factory in Moray Place, Dunedin… report to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (2004). Hamel, Jill, Dr: Archaeological reports, Hocken Archives MS-2073
  4. Otago Peninsula roading improvements – Macandrew Bay and Ohinetu sea walls, report to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (2010). Hamel, Jill, Dr: Archaeological reports, Hocken Archives MS-4174/001
  5. Album of photographs accompanying Otago Peninsula roading improvements – Macandrew Bay and Ohinetu sea walls report (2010). Hamel, Jill, Dr: Archaeological reports, Hocken Archives MS-4174/002

 

Sketching a past : Susan Downing, Sister Mary Genevieve

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post researched and written by Debbie Gale – Archivist

The exciting discovery of an accomplished watercolour sketchbook within the archives of the Dominican Sisters of Aotearoa New Zealand held by the Hocken, was first assumed to be the work of a pupil at one of the Dominican Schools.  Instead, it has been found on closer examination to be that of one of its Sisters, Mary Genevieve.

Front page & Text knitted

Hocken Collections, Natural history work book, Susan Downing, Upton Hall. Records of the Dominican Sisters of Aotearoa New Zealand. AG-264-A-019/002. To see detailed image, right click, open in new tab and zoom in.

The first ten Dominican Sisters arrived in Dunedin from Sion Hill Convent in Dublin in 1871, accompanying Bishop Moran.   Under the conditions of the agreement, those chosen to move to New Zealand needed to be qualified to teach in both ‘A High School’ and ‘A Poor School’.  Sister Mary Genevieve’s maternal aunt, Charlotte (professed as Sister Catherine Hughes in 1857), was part of this first contingent.  Indicative that the Sion Hill community sent some of its outstanding members to New Zealand, Sister Catherine had studied under a pupil of Chopin and was a highly gifted musician.  She was sister-in-law to Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, Irish Nationalist, journalist, poet and Australian Politician (8th Premier of Victoria 1871-1872).  Duffy married her sister Susan Hughes in 1846[1].

The High School, opened very shortly after the Sisters’ arrival in 1871, accepted pupils from all over Dunedin for pianoforte lessons, singing, harp lessons, painting, flower making, art, needlework and languages such as French, Italian, German and Spanish[2].

By 1971, the number of Irish sisters who came out to New Zealand had risen to 80.  Like the first contingent, most were from privileged backgrounds, daughters of wealthy landowners who had received an education.  Dunedin’s successful immigrants sent their daughters to the Dominican Sisters for two reasons – to receive a good Catholic education and to acquire the ‘accomplishments’ (cultural studies of music and art and modern languages)[3].

Susan Downing appeared to fit the mould of a Dominican Sister perfectly.  She had an educated, upper class background and she was accomplished in the arts.  These attributes are evidenced both through her beautiful sketchbook, and from information held by the Dominican Sisters themselves.

By accessing genealogy resources, making enquiries about Downing from the Dominican Sisters’ Archive and following up on clues in the sketchbook, we can piece together some of Susan’s early life in England.

England Census 1861:

Six-year-old Susan J. Downing is listed in the Downing household in the Parish of Birkenhead.  Her estimated birth year is 1855 and her birthplace is listed as Birkenhead, England.  She appears in the England and Wales birth index as Susan Jane Downing.

Father Samuel was born in Ireland about 1820, he was a physician, surgeon and general practitioner.  Mother Marianne was also born in Ireland about 1819. The family appears to be prosperous, with the household consisting of five siblings and two household staff whose occupations are listed as ‘domestic servants’.

England Census 1871:

There are two entries for Susan. She is listed within her household census, and also as a scholar at Upton Hall.

Upton Hall, then a Catholic convent school in Wirral, Cheshire, lies about 10kms away from Birkenhead. It was ‘designed to produce accomplished young ladies’.  This is where Susan would have begun her sketchbook, in 1876, at the age of 21.

Illustrations knitted

Hocken Collections, Natural history work book, Susan Downing, Upton Hall. Records of the Dominican Sisters of Aotearoa New Zealand. AG-264-A-019/002. To see detailed image, right click, open in new tab and zoom in.

The Downing household now has three domestic staff whose occupations are listed as ‘groom (domestic servant)’, ‘cook’ and ‘housemaid’.  Their immediate neighbours are an attorney and broker. William, the eldest son, is a merchant’s apprentice and two further sons a medical student and scholar.

No record of Susan is found in the 1881 or 1891 England census returns so we may assume that she had left England by this time. Susan’s personal record held by the Dominican Sisters indicates that she had been educated in Holland, France and in Dublin at the Dominican College, Sion Hill and arrived in Dunedin directly from Dublin in 1892.

Sadly, no Irish census information for these years survives as the original returns were pulped during the First World War, probably because of the paper shortage.  She left Upton Hall at some point after 1876 and moved to Dublin, but without the Irish census returns it is difficult to pin dates down.

Moving to the other side of the globe:

Downing passenger list

Archives New Zealand Passenger lists from 1892 show that Susan made the long voyage to New Zealand at the age 37, by herself, on the ‘S.S. Kaikoura’.

The journey was not without incident. Both the Otago Daily Times (15 July 1892) and Hobart Mercury (11 July 1892) reported on the ‘Kaikoura’ embarking passengers of a ship wrecked on its voyage to Melbourne, as well as the terrible weather conditions encountered by its passengers:

On the 6th June at Cape Verde, Africa, the ‘Kaikoura’ embarked passengers of the liner ‘Port Douglas’, which had been wrecked on the voyage to Melbourne. The passengers also encountered ‘terrific seas’ and ‘rain, hail and sleet were frequent…traversing the Southern Ocean’. However, ‘The usual concert balls etc., were organised to enliven the monotony…they were entered into heartily by all on board’.  I wonder, did convent girl Susan join in these proceedings?

Received into the Dominican Sisters on 15th January 1893, Susan took the name Sister Mary Genevieve and was professed on 8 November 1894. Dunedin electoral rolls of 1893 and 1896 list her teaching at St Dominic’s Priory on Dowling Street. Records show she eventually reached the rank of sub prioress in 1910.  Her death is given as 19 September 1923 aged 69.

For all that we can piece together the recorded fragments of Sister Mary Genevieve’s early life; there are a few questions that will remain unanswered:

What made Susan decide to move to the opposite side of the world, on her own, at 37 years of age? It seems likely that she decided to follow in her Aunt Charlotte’s footsteps and join her as a Dominican Sister, but what was her spur? Her parents would have been in their 70s at this point, maybe they had died and she wanted a fresh start?

According to her death notice, her forte was music, and information from the Dominican’s own records describes her as an ‘excellent linguist, speaking and reading several tongues’.   There appears to be no mention of her artistic gifts, however, and her sketchbook remains sadly unfinished.  Did she simply decide to discontinue her art once she arrived in New Zealand, or maybe she was just too busy with her teaching and religious duties?  This seems a shame, when we consider how evidently she was once attached to her sketchbook, so lovingly crafted and cherished, a travelling companion on her long journey overseas.

[1] McCarthy, 19-20

[2] Collins, 78

[3] Collins, 81-82

Sources:

Collins, Jenny.  Hidden lives : The teaching and religious lives of eight Dominican sisters, 1931-1961: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Master of Education at Massey University, Palmerston North. 2001

McCarthy, Mary Augustine. Star in the South : The centennial history of the New Zealand Dominican Sisters. Dunedin St Dominic’s Priory, 1970

New Zealand Dominican Sisters Archives

Rombouts. Michael : Death notices in the New Zealand Tablet May 1873 to Apr 1996. Dunedin N.Z. : M.J.Rombouts 2000

Rombouts. Michael : Catholic death notices in the Otago Daily Times 1861-1950. Dunedin N.Z. : M.J.Rombouts 1998

Upton Hall School Census 1871. (Retrieved August 2015 ‘http://history.uptonhallschool.co.uk’)

Upton Hall School website (Retrieved August 2015, ‘http://www.uptonhallschool.co.uk/’)

England census returns (Retrieved August 2015. ‘Ancestry’)

England and Wales birth index (Retrieved October 2015 ‘Ancestry’)

New Zealand Tablet, 1923

New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, Passenger lists 1839-1973 (Retrieved August 2015. ‘familysearch.org’)

The Mercury, Hobart 11 July 1892 (Retrieved September 2015. ‘Trove’ http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/13295915)

Otago Daily Times, 15 July 1892 (Retrieved August 2015. ‘Papers Past’)

New Zealand Electoral Rolls, 1893, 1896

 

On the cover

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post by Dr Ali Clarke, Library Assistant – Reference

We’re always pleased to see images from our collections featuring on the cover of new books! Each year we put together a list of published items – from books to theses, blogs to journals, television series to exhibitions – which have made use of Hocken resources. Some of them relate to research carried out on our archives or publications, others have used our pictorial collections, and some have done both. So far we have tracked down over 200 items published in 2015 for our list, including 69 books. The variety of topics covered is remarkable, as demonstrated by the few examples featured here.

S15-533a MS_0975_234

MS-0975/234

The very handsome 4-volume set of James K. Baxter’s complete prose, edited by John Weir, involved lots of digging through Baxter’s archives, which are held here. The cover of the first volume features an amusing photo of Baxter with his coat on backwards in Cathedral Square, Christchurch in 1948, sourced from his archives. Another particularly handsome book that has drawn heavily on the Hocken Collections is John Wilson’s New Zealand mountaineering: a history in photographs. including many from our holdings of the New Zealand Alpine Club’s archives. Among them is the great cover shot of Syd Brookes and Bernie McLelland descending North Peak in the Arrowsmith Range in 1939, from an album compiled by Stan Conway.

011

We can’t claim the splendid cover picture for Simon Nathan’s biography James Hector: explorer, scientist leader – that comes from the Alexander Turnbull Library – but he has made very good use of Hector’s papers, held at the Hocken. Hector’s notebooks are notoriously difficult to read, thanks to faint pencil combined with illegible handwriting, but some of the sketches in them make very effective illustrations in the book. Simon has also done splendid work transcribing various Hector letters in recent years, making them accessible to others.

013

Hector’s sketches of Parengarenga Harbour and his Maori campanion, January 1866

007

Another 2015 book which brings previously unpublished work to light is New country, a collection of plays and stories by James Courage, with an introduction by Christopher Burke. Some have been previously published, but one comes straight from Courage’s papers at the Hocken. The book also features some fascinating photographs from Courage’s papers. Genre Books, the publisher, also made good use of Hocken material in a 2014 book, Chris Brickell’s Southern men: gay lives in pictures. This includes numerous photographs from the archives of David Wildey, held in the Hocken largely thanks to Chris. On the cover is one of Wildey’s photographs, recording a visit to Waimairi Beach, Christchurch in 1960.

015

Lest we leave you with the impression that all material from our collection is about recreation and enjoyment, another cover from 2014 shows a sober purpose. Presbyterian Support Otago’s report Out in the cold: a survey of low income private rental housing in Dunedin features one of our old photographs of the crowded suburbs of southern Dunedin. The Hocken really does have material for all sorts of purposes.

What’s that thesis about?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Blog post prepared by Dr Ali Clarke (Reference Assistant)

University of Otago History theses at The Hocken Collections

University of Otago History theses at The Hocken Collections

It’s always encouraging to see the final results of research carried out at the Hocken, from books and interpretation panels to newspaper articles and television shows. But undoubtedly one of our favourite things is to see the dissertations that post-graduate students have been sweating over, often for several years. 2014 was a stellar year for graduations of people who spent many hours poring over the treasures of the Hocken for their dissertations. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, some of these can even be read on-line.

Nister Kabir came all the way from Bangladesh to study at Otago. He made extensive use of our newspaper collection for his PhD thesis, New Zealand media constructions of Islam and Muslims: an analysis of selected newspapers between 2005-2006.  Also from the Department of Media, Film and Communication at Otago was 2014 PhD graduate Donald Reid, who made good use of our serials and books collections for his thesis Solid to liquid culture: the institutional, political and economic transformation of New Zealand state broadcasting. He also found the Hocken a peaceful place in which to write! Another PhD graduate who made good use of our serials collection was Trudie Walters, of Otago’s Department of Tourism. Her dissertation, An analysis of media representations of the luxury in and of second home ownership in New Zealand 1936-2012,  revealed the value of all those old home and building magazines.

Archaeologists dig out information from archives, books and pictures as well as from the ground, and a couple of 2014 graduates from Otago’s Department of Anthropology and Archaeology used the Hocken while completing their dissertations: Peter Petchey’s PhD was titled The archaeology of the New Zealand stamp mill  and Megan Lawrence’s MA was Backyard historical archaeology: unraveling past lives through analyses of the archaeological remains from 26 St David Street, Dunedin.

Unsurprisingly, some of our biggest users are the post-graduate students of Otago’s History and Art History Department. We were delighted to see the completed PhD theses of Grace Bateman (Signs and graces: remembering religion in childhood in Southern Dunedin, 1920-1950),  Sarah Carr (Preserving decency: the regulation of sexual behaviour in early Otago 1848-1867), Daniel Davy (Lost tailings: gold rush societies and cultures in colonial Otago, New Zealand, 1861-1911),  Jill Harland (The Orcadian odyssey: the migration of Orkney Islanders to New Zealand 1949-1914 with particular reference to the South Island)and Jane McCabe (Kalimpong kids: the lives and labours of Anglo-Indian adolescents resettled in New Zealand between 1908 and 1938) last year, and also the MA theses of Nic MacArthur (Gold rush and gold mining: a technological analysis of Gabriel’s Gully and the Blue Spur, 1861-1891)  and Christine Mulligan (The Dunedin Hospital art collection: architecture, space and wellbeing).  All delved into our archives and publications collections – we saw a lot of Daniel, Jill and Nic in particular. Then there were all the BA (Hons) dissertations. History and art history students found material in our collections on a wide range of topics for these in 2014: pensions, shipboard writing, Smithells and physical education, women in the police, Philip Trusttum, Maori divorce, surveyor John Turnbull Thomson, US intelligence, female assisted migrants and Robin Morrison.

Of course, not all our student researchers are from the University of Otago, or even from New Zealand. We have met postgrads from Canada, the United States, Japan, England, Australia and the Czech Republic over recent times. In 2013 Hocken researchers completed dissertations in several Canadian and Australian universities. We aren’t aware of any who graduated in 2014, but we’re keeping an eye out!

Several students from other New Zealand universities completed theses based on significant research at the Hocken. Genevieve De Pont read lots of Hocken diaries for her Auckland PhD, ‘Tourists like ourselves’: New Zealanders’ international travel diaries and their journeys, 1919-1963,  and Joanna Bishop used our archives for her Waikato PhD, The role of medicinal plants in New Zealand’s settler medical culture, 1850s-1920s.  Claire Le Couteur also delved into our archives for her Canterbury PhD, Dentist, doctor, dean: Professor Sir Charles Hercus and his record of fostering research at the Otago Medical School, 1921-1958. Rachel Patrick of Victoria University of Wellington based her entire thesis – An unbroken connection? New Zealand families, duty, and the First World War  – on our large collection of archives of the Downie Stewart family. We’ve seen quite a bit of Vic post-grad students in recent years; others who graduated in 2014 were Nicholas Hoare (New Zealand’s “critics of empire”: domestic opposition to New Zealand’s Pacific empire, 1883-1948) , Erin Keenan (Maori urban migrations and identities, “Ko nga iwi nuku whenua”: a study of urbanisation in the Wellington region during the twentieth century),  Rebecca McLaughlan (One dose of architecture, taken daily: building for mental health in New Zealand)  and Richard Thomson (At home with New Zealand in the 1960s).  Material from the Hocken also appeared in the dissertations of a couple of Massey University graduates, Tupu Williams (Te Poihipi Tūkairangi: te poutokomanawa o Ngāti Ruingārangi/the central support post of his hapū Ngāti Ruingārangi)  and Annabel Wilson (From Aspiring to ‘Paradise’: the South Island myth and its enemies. A critical and creative investigation into the (de)construction of Aotearoa’s Lakes District).

Our hearty congratulations to everybody who graduated in 2014! We salute your hard work, your contribution to knowledge and the creative use you have made of our collections.