Life in Early Poverty Bay
Days that are Past — Mr. H. J. Clayton In Reminiscent Mood
Days that are Past
Mr. H. J. Clayton In Reminiscent Mood
The dust nuisance was so bad in Gisborne in the 70's that it was almost impossible to go anywhere when a nor'-wester was blowing. On race days everyone, men and women, wore blue gossamer veils, and I have known the leaders in the five-horse brake turn round and refuse to face the blinding dust storm on the road to Waerenga-a-hika course. Gladstone Road was like Waikanae Beach for cutting sand. But, soon after the Borough Council was formed, it was decided to try and keep down the dust nuisance and punts were built and were towed up to the “Island” up the Waimata river and there loaded with papa which was brought down and the muddy papa placed on Gladstone Road from the Post Office to about Grey Street. That was all right in the summer but, when winter came, it was awful, for the cure was as bad as the disease or worse. Stone crossings were then made of flat stones from the other. ‘Island”—Sponge Ba—one crossing from the Albion to Williams and Kettle's corner, one from there to the letter boxes at the Post Office, one at the Masonic corner, and one at Townley's corner. If you saw a friend “over the road” whom you wanted to speak to, you whistled to him and walked up to the stone crossings and met on one side or the other of Gladstone Road. It is said that a man was thrown off his horse opposite the N.Z. Clothing Factory's premises and he was never seen again. I was not there, so I cannot vouch for this.
Gisborne to Ormond in Seven Hours.
The country districts had no roads—only tracks. My first trip to Ormond in September, 1872, took from 1 o'clock till dark. Leaving the old Argyll Hotel in Bidgood's coach, a light three-horse vehicle, we rode as far as Makaraka along the sandy ridges. Then we came to the clay and we children got out and walked and ran along the roadside, while the three horses plodded through the mud till about King's Road, when we got into the coach again but had once more to leave it and walk. The late Arthur Cuff, who lived at Mangatu, had a pack of mules that carried in the tucker to the station. My cousin, the late Alfred Hatton, had a butchery business at Patutahi where he killed and then carried the meat to town for delivery. It took from 2 a.m. till 6 a.m. to get the meat to the Bridge Hotel, where it was transferred to the lighter carts and reached town about 8 o'clock. So you see, we are not quite so badly off for roads now as then.
Burning of Makauri Bush.
The Makauri bush supplied us with white-pine for building. Shingles were used then, not iron, for roofing and white pine split easily into the light shingles. We also had kauri from Auckland, also from as far as “Hobartown” (Hobart now). I remember well the hot Sunday the bush was cleaned up by fire. It was an awe inspiring sight to me as a child, and I shall never forget it.
Oldest Business Place in Town.
The kauri timber came from Auckland in schooners and was rafted ashore here on to the mud flat where the old slip used to stand. The schooner, after being lightened, then came into the river. One shop still stands to-day that was built of kauri by my father for the firm of Robjohns, Teat & Co. It is on the Lowe Street corner and is now occupied by Mrs. Gunn as a ladies' supply store. I think it is the oldest business place in Gisborne to-day.page break
Local Marine Disasters.
The first wreck I remember was the barque “Lochnagar,” 444 tons, which vessel took our total shipment of wool Home in those days. The next was the “Arcadia,” a schooner which put in here dismasted. The U.S.S. Co.'s s.s. Taupo got on the rocks on Kaiti Beach one misty night, the lights of the Maori pah being taken for the town lights. I also saw the wreck of the s.s. Sir Donald on the Wainui Beach. She was blown away from Napier in a southerly and all hands were lost. Of course we often had the Pretty Jane, the Go Ahead, and other small vessels holed on the bar. I was on the beach having a dip when the s.s. Wairarapa landed our little launch the s.s. Snark. I was also on the beach when the Wairarapa came in on fire and was gutted. The fire broke out in the linen locker just after leaving Napier. All her cushions and movable fittings were jettisoned and she was filled with water by our fire brigade and her own pumps. Our old manual was taken out on the “cattle punt.” The steamer later left for Auckland under her own steam but all her passengers remained here.
The wreck of the Tasmania, which occurred one night off Mahia, near Table Cape, will not be forgotten by those old residents of the day—September, 1897. My brother Walter was a passenger and he was landed with others at the boat harbor, near Cook's monument, at daylight the next morning. All were saved except one boat load, which tried to land over near Whareongaonga, the boat being upset in the surf, and I believe all were drowned. As I was not here at the time, I am not too sure of the details. I have my brother's boat pass, which was handed to him that night when the steamer anchored in the Bay, but as a s.e. moderate gale was blowing the tender did not go out. The “Tasmania” slowly steamed out of the Bay on her way to Napier, but was wrecked later in the evening and went down in deep water. The owner of a hand-bag containing some diamonds worth several thousands later engaged a ketch and diver to try and recover the bag, but it was never found. Capt. McGee was master of the “Tasmania” and I have heard that the night of the wreck his wife in Sydney was awakened by a crash and, on rising to find out the cause, found that the cord holding an enlarged photo of her husband had broken. The picture fell and was smashed by the fall; next morning she heard of the wreck.
The Union Company's Arahura was also holed in the roadstead and beached near the groyne, eventually getting away all right. An old ship's boat that lay at the wharf bottom up was bought by two men who went fishing in her and never returned. The small barque Rio Grande became a total wreck near the groyne, also the cutter Spray near the end of Grey Street. I remember the loss off Waipiro Bay of the Aotea with all hands. Capt Nicholas was in command. Also the upsetting of the surf boat belonging to the s.s. Australia with loss of life off Tolaga Bay. I was present at the City Rink when Constable Stagpole received the R.H.S. silver medal for bravery in saving life on that occasion.
I must not forget to mention the s.s. Star of Canada, whose bones rest beneath the waves off the Kaiti beach.
Du Verney.—A man who was well connected at Home and had been in the Horse Guards. He used to drive a dray for John Bidgood. I saw his sword, which Uncle Blair held for him and, boy-like, enjoyed looking at the same very much.
Geo. Williamson, who lived where the Wi Pere monument now stands. I remember him as the man who used to bite off the terrier dog's tails.
“Dusty” Stevenson.—Who was always prominent at election times. He named the bullocks in his team after the rival candidates and would give the one “McDonald” all the whip and “Locke” his own favorite candidate no whip at all.
“General” Chute—An old chap who lived around the Riverside Road.
Charlie Peterson.—Who carried the mail from Muriwai once a week.page break
Some of the Old Hands.
Captain Read, Mill, Williamson, John Harvey, Chas. Gilman, Joe Kennedy, Old Mackay (the ferryman), Geo. Nesbitt, Tim Reardon, Dr. Nesbit (first Dr. Magistrate, and who took the church services in the old Court-house), John Bradley (of the Albion Hotel), Wi Wharekino, Andrew Park (fisherman), Sam Stevenson, Matt Hall, Jas. McCaffery (saddler), Skipworth, J. H. Stubbs, M. G. Nasmith, John Maynard, John and Peter Breignan, Joe Hamon, George Bruce, Geo. Scott, Ewen Cameron, Fred. Hardy, Alex. McKenzie, W. H. Horsfall, John Ferguson, Henry and Edward Harris, W. W. Smith, Wm. King, A. Kempthorne, John Parsons (Matawhero), Larry Dunn, Tarr family, Wm. Walsh, Espies, Jas. Dunlop, Finucanes, Peter McFarlane, Martin Casey, Joe and John Kennedy, Capt. Porter, Edwin Bourke, Brooke Taylor, Barsdell, Bob Cooper, Bedford Sherriff, John Brodie, Johnstone, L. McIntosh, W. Byrne (boot repairer), Edward Burch, Parkhouse, Caulton, Blair, Arch. Gray, Mickey and Jimmy Mullooly, Andrew Reeves, Wm. Milner (Tuparoa), Edward Murphy, Andrew Reeves, A. Y. Ross, W. Dean Lysnar, Capt. Tucker, J. B. Poynter, A. C. Arthur, David Dobbie, John Clark, A. Bruce, Newman, A. M. Newman, Benson, J. Bidgood, T. Cahill, the Harrises, Oyigons, John Dick, John Robert Forbes, R. M. Skeet, Wyllie and family, Fred. Allwood, Chas. Evans, John Villers, Albert Pentford, Edwin Webb (Gisborne Standard newspaper), W. H. Turner (Bank of N.Z.), Rushbrook, Alf. Tibbles, C. Ferris, C. D. Pitt, W. E. Gudgeon, Major Westrupp, John and Tom Uren, John Wall, O. L. W. Bousfield and family.
Old Commercial Travellers
Of great interest to me are the glass cases containing the photos of the old-time commercial travellers who visited this district many years ago. Every one of those same photos recalls the days that are gone never to return. There is Salmon of the Kaiapoi; Waters, of Wellington; D. Jones, Levisohn, etc. Old “Kiltie” Smith of the Masonic Hotel, Napier. is also there. There are so many faces there that I knew intimately, but time has obliterated many of the little incidents and jokes connected with each one.
Photography in the Early Days.
To get or have your photo taken fifty years ago was no joke and was not an amateur's job. My first photo was taken when five years old by Sammy Carnell of Napier, and it took all day to do the trick. My mother left home with four of us at 10 a.m. and got home again at 4 p.m. The light, the long exposure, the arranging of us tour in the correct positions was not the work of an instant. We had to stand so long in the one position that iron stands were required to prop up our heads and hold them in a fixed position. We were all very tired, not forgetting poor mother, when the job was over. The old photographer had to make his own “plates” in those days, and many a time I have watched the late C. P. Browne and his wife at work in their studio, which stood on the site of Mr. J. D. Harries' boot shop of to-day. Photography was then only for the professional.
My Boyhood Days.
My boyhood from the age of six was spent in Gisborne. My first school master was Mr. W. Dean Lysnar, father of Mr. W. D. Lysnar, M.P. The school was on the corner of Lowe Street and Childers Road, opposite the R.C. church. The hotel opposite, now the “Gisborne,” was then the “Shamrock” kept by Tom Scrivener. Next to the school in Lowe Street was John Dick's shop, where he was blacksmith and wheelwright. We loved to gather round the forge to watch “the many sparks that fly like wheat on a threshing floor.” One day, whilst watching the process of shoeing a horse, my earthly career was nearly ended. After the farrier had fitted the shoe to the foot, he threw down the fitting spike and a boy picked it up and threw it at me. Fortunately, it only hit me a glancing blow on the head, or my “lights” would have been out.