Archive for the 'Malcolm McKinnon' Category

Another island’s stories

Confidence trickster Amy Bock – an early Tasmanian import

Confidence trickster Amy Bock – an early Tasmanian import

Have you ever seen those postcards with a map of New Zealand – showing the North Island, the South Island, and the West Island (Australia)? In Tasmania I saw postcards with Australia identified as ‘North Tasmania’. As this suggests, the attitude of Tasmanians to the mainland is not so different from the New Zealand attitude to its bigger brother.

But what about the relationship between New Zealand and Tasmania? In a tour of Te Ara I found many links. In the animal world, the forest-loving black possum is a Tasmanian import; and so is New Zealand’s most common frog.

Abel Tasman himself provides a first human link, sailing as he did between the island he named Van Diemen’s Land and the west coast of the South Island – he took 19 days.

Tasmanian aborigines had an even tougher  time of it than Māori in New Zealand once Europeans came to stay. But it’s striking to see parallels to the Ngāi Tahu experience – intermarriage, and the survival of muttonbirding on offshore islands through many generations. Those offshore islands also drew sealers and whalers – many of whom worked in both Tasmanian and New Zealand waters.

The convict experience differentiated the two colonies. For convict-free New Zealand, self-government in 1854 was a fairly easily gained status. However, for Tasmanians 1853, the year the transportation of convicts ended, was fundamental. Even the colony’s name was changed – from Van Diemen’s Land – as a way of burying the convict past.

Through the later 19th century, the human traffic went both ways. Tasmanian-born Gabriel Read, who made the first important gold strike in Otago in 1861, in fact spent most of his life on Tasmania, apart from four or so years in Otago.

Cross-dresser and confidence trickster Amy Bock also hailed from Tasmania (born in Hobart in 1859), as did trade unionist Stephen Boreham (born 1857). Retail baron John McKenzie was in business in Tasmania when he came on a motorcycling tour of New Zealand and decided to migrate, opening his first store in Dunedin in 1910.

People who crossed in the other direction included missionary son and New Zealand official George Clarke Jr, who was a church minister in Hobart from 1851 and, at the turn of the century, chancellor of the University of Tasmania for nine years.

Both premier Frederick Weld and governor Thomas Gore Browne did tours of duty as governor of Tasmania, the latter from 1861 to 1868, and the former from 1875 to 1880.

A more unusual ‘crossover’ was that of W. B. Perceval, New Zealand’s agent general in London from 1891 to 1896. Replaced without warning by William Pember Reeves, he served as agent general for Tasmania for another two years.

For the contemporary visitor to Tasmania there are reminders of New Zealand links. The British 99th Regiment, based in Hobart from 1846 to the 1850s, erected a memorial, still in the grounds of the Anglesea barracks, to the 24 of its number who died in fighting in New Zealand in 1845–46. (Jock comments: it’s Australia’s very first war memorial.)

There are Mawhera and Waimea streets in Hobart – and at the top of the latter a Waimea Heights primary school. Otago Bay is at one remove – named after the only ship ever commanded by mariner and novelist Joseph Conrad, which was broken up at the bay in 1931.

Tasmania, like New Zealand, has a settlement called National Park. When the park – now called Mount Field National Park – was established in 1916 it was the only one, just as Tongariro once was in New Zealand.

A recent theatrical link was Wellington actor Stuart Devenie’s performance in Geoff Chapple’s play on Joseph Hatch‘s controversial exploitation of Tasmania’s remote Macquarie Island (1889 to 1920), which was performed to acclaim in Hobart in April 2009. A few months later, when I visited, a television reviewer was recommending the ‘quality Kiwi series’ Go girls, whilst a dress shop owner’s favoured label was that of Trelise Cooper of Auckland. And everyone seems to be wearing Kathmandu branded clothing – there are three outlets in Tasmania and countless others through the mainland states.

But one New Zealand product that you can’t find in Tasmania are our apples – though that’s not too surprising in this, the biggest apple-producing state in the Commonwealth.

Otago launched into cyberspace

Te Ara’s latest regional entry was launched at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery on Friday, amidst a crowd of enthusiastic locals. Author Malcolm McKinnon takes you on a tour of the entry in his launch speech.

It’s usual in these circumstances to express one’s pleasure at being here, but this would be far from the truth – asked to write on Otago solely because of the accident of my names, I’m now asked to introduce that entry to a room full of Otago experts – museologists, archivists, politicians, lifetime Otago residents – good grief, there are even historians here. So I’ve taken precautions – I’ve invited all my Otago relatives – they’re distributed around the room, you won’t know who they are because, by lucky chance, they aren’t McKinnons. But they assure me – well they did – that they would ‘take care’ of anyone who was critical in any way of my efforts. And we’ve got a military tradition in our family so this is no joke. Though I’m flying out tomorrow, just to be on the safe side.

Dramatic landscapes

Otago's dramatic landscapes

That said, I’m in fact going to concentrate tonight not on my words but on Otago’s – your – images. And if there’s one justification for having an outsider do this it’s because these images, while of and by Otago, are not primarily for Otago. Such is the exhilarating nature of the web, even now someone in Dundee, Donetsk, Dalian or Dunedin, Florida – where when last I checked it was 29 degrees, dry and sunny – could be looking at the site.

Those images aren’t just pictures, if you know what I mean. Yes, Te Ara is an intellectual site, not a plaything, and challenges you with a variety of resources. And there’s an additional ‘trap for young players’ – the entry is in fact two entries – one which looks at the province as a whole and one – we call it amongst ourselves a gazetteer, although turns out no one under 25 knows what that means – that tours round the many places that make up the province.

Main entry

I start with the overview maps that allow you to match up topography, settlement, vegetation and landforms. And I’ll let you in on a secret here – we wrested back the upper Waitaki Valley for Otago. So if you’re wondering why the population gives an extra few thousand more than you expect – well that’s why.

From maps of the landscape to the landscape itself – what part of the country does it better? From the dramatic faulted landscape of central Otago, to the heights of Mt Aspiring, to the striking configuration of peninsula and harbour.

A key moment in Ngāi Tahu history in this part of the world was the signing of the deed of sale. You can ‘zoomify’ – is that a wonderful word or what? – to look at the detail, and there’s a translation as well. And while we’re talking about this toy, and moving on to the consequences of that sale, what about this map of the New Edinburgh block. Close up the peninsula and harbour, as in the photo we’ve just seen, are clear as anything.

And another map – because I have a liking for maps, but I promise this will be the last – a quixotic miner’s guide to the diggings from around 1863. And I can see you’re wondering about that thumbnail in the corner, so we’ll take a quick look at that too.

Well you don’t need me to tell you that gold helped make Dunedin and Otago rich and famous … and with it came rich and famous people. This Jewish family – the Hallensteins – are indelibly associated that era and were long afterward influential in Dunedin and indeed New Zealand life. The richness, even the exuberance, spilled over into the public building, and is there any building more exemplary of that than Dunedin railway station, and especially some of its stained glass. While, at the same time, we know that most people were not rich or famous, and maybe not even very exuberant, such as these women workers in 1921

Graphs are another way we test the intellect of our visitors, and this graph on town growth is interesting mostly because it reminds us that province’s towns did have a buoyant time in the decades after the Second World War, even if they weren’t growing quite as fast as their counterparts in the North Island. They were certainly growing a lot faster than remote Queenstown at the same time. That would all change of course, but here are some more mementos from those mid-century years: Joe Brown and his high stepping entertainers, and an interestingly multi-racial crowd outside Carisbrook, that temple to Otago rugby

I now move out of the era where I’ve been completely dependent on Erik Olssen’s History of Otago to the period where I’m only partially dependent on it – if only because the history is now a quarter century old! What about an update Erik?

And here’s one phenomenon of that last quarter century – well a little over in fact – Dunedin musicians, some of which feature on this double EP.


Long lost relatives?

Long lost relatives?

Now on to the gazetteer. As you can see from the index map, we cover the entire province and I’m going to dart around more or less in similar fashion, starting in the far north at Kurow, where Janine (our resources team leader) found these long lost relatives of mine.

On to Ōamaru, where this picture of bikes askew outside the town swimming pool gained poignancy from it being the pool where Janet Frame’s sister drowned, probably at a time not so far from when the photo was taken.

Skipping over many renowned towns, the new carvings at Puketeraki marae just south of Karitāne were worth a glimpse.

Then southwards to the peninsula and one of Otago’s most celebrated citizens – the albatross.

From living birds to dead bards: Thomas Bracken and a poem which my father could recite in full, ex tempore and unprompted. The northern cemetery, where he is buried, is a jewel in Dunedin’s crown.

And skipping through the rest of Dunedin and on to another family’s history, this time the Tsukigawa and particularly K. K. Tsukigawa, one of whose descendants is I believe here tonight.

And we don’t just have happy stories – the landscape and ecology of Otago is contested ground, and nowhere more so than in the Lammermoors, as this protest picture indicates, with an artist as renowned as the landscape he’s passionate about preserving

You may get the idea that this driving around looking at sights is fun – well not always and the Crown Range at midday in early September last year was no place for sunbathers.

Warbirds over Wānaka (click for video)

Warbirds over Wānaka (click for video)

Whereas Warbirds over Wānaka had pulled in the crowds earlier in the year

That’s a quick survey folks but it’s all there for you to sample at your leisure and it’s free for the price of a broadband connection.

I’d like to thank those repositories – North Otago Museum, Early Settlers Museum, Hocken Library, South Otago museum – who were so enormously helpful, to Stephen Jaquiery of the Otago Daily Times and the many images – not to mention information – that we garnered from that estimable source, and many individuals throughout Dunedin and Otago who were hospitable, friendly and informative to either me others in our team. Thank you all.

One of the great things about the web is the way that it allows juxtapositions, allows you to play with time and place. If you ever thought Otago was unchanging – and I’m not sure that would ever have been true of anyone in this audience – think again. What on earth would Thomas Burns’ four daughters, photographed here around 1900, have found to say to Candy Box and Polly Petrie – photographed on the slopes of Coronet Peak around 2006 – if they’d chanced to meet?

Southland: coming soon to Te Ara

Outside the Eastern Southland Gallery in Gore

Outside the Eastern Southland Gallery in Gore

On 19 June the weekly newspaper The Independent featured an unusual image of New Zealand on its front page – it was upside down and had Southland at the top, crowded with buildings and general busy-ness. The rest of the country was shrunken and empty.

This tribute to recent boom times in the southern province is very timely for Te Ara, as we’re now in the final stages of preparing our entry on Southland and Fiordland – the 11th out of 22 regions.

Southland has had a long history. In the early 19th century the shores of Foveaux Strait were one of the first meeting zones between Māori and Pākehā – mostly sealers and whalers.

The Wakatipu and other gold rushes in the early 1860s prompted a short-lived boom, as did Vogel‘s immigration and public works programme in the early 1870s.

In the late 19th and early 20th century the province grew rapidly as swamps were drained, forests cleared, and dairy factories and meat freezing works thrived. Invercargill grew apace to match.

The 20 years after the Second World War was another golden age for farming, when Gore was reputedly the country’s richest town and Invercargill one of its most prosperous and established cities.

To help us in preparing our entry, we’re calling all Southlanders, past, present and future (more people are going to live in Southland than leaving). We’re looking for pictures and other resources about Southland and Fiordland, to bring the entry alive.

We’ve created a Te Ara group on Flickr, which anyone can join and contribute photos to. You can also contribute personal accounts or family stories about Southland or its history, by filling in a ‘Your Stories’ form online.

So help us make sure ‘our’ Southland meets ‘your’ Southland.

Otago Anniversary Day

A dog and his miner

A dog and his miner

March 24th is Otago’s anniversary day holiday, but this year it’s also the Monday after Easter, so a holiday for everyone, not just Otago. I’m pleased therefore to learn that the anniversary holiday’s still being observed – on the immediately following Tuesday. Nice work Otago.

I’m presently researching and writing the encyclopedia entry for Otago, but browsing round Te Ara it’s already easy to find lots of Otago angles.

An obvious place to start is with the Scots, given that Otago originated as a Free Church of Scotland settlement in 1848. Though it is interesting to learn that Otago was never completely Scottish – even in its first years Scots accounted for only just over half of the settlers.

And from a few years before, in the European Exploration entry you can find Te Huruhuru’s 1844 map of the Otago lakes Wakatipu, Wanaka and Hawea, at that time unsighted by any European.

From 1861 the search for gold in the interior brought many miners across the Tasman from Victoria in Australia. News of the bitterly cold Central Otago winter of 1862 didn’t deter everyone, as is evident from this Melbourne Punch cartoon.

And if that doesn’t make you feel cold, read Alphonse Barrington‘s 1863–64 journal of his abortive six-month gold-seeking expedition into the country between Lake Wakatipu and the West Coast. After about five months of travel he writes ‘this is the most miserable day of my existence’. Barrington and his companions made it back to Wakatipu in the early winter, not much more than skeletons, but alive.

Central Otago can of course be very hot as well as very cold. Dunedin residents will undoubtedly use this holiday weekend to enjoy its fine, warm and calm late summer weather. Have a great time.