Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A visit to the Titirangi Ranges in 1876

From the NZ Herald, 30 December 1876


On Boxing-day the new 'bus made by Messrs. Cousin and Atkins to the order of Mr. F. Quick, for the Auckland and Whau line, made its maiden trip, having been chartered by Mr. B Gittos to take a party of friends to his kauri bush in the Titirangi ranges. The vehicle —which has been named “Carryall"—is licensed to carry 24 passengers, is built in Messrs. Cousin and Atkins' best style, and will prove a great convenience to the settlers of Morningside, Mount Albert, the Whau, and also to other residents on the New Great North Road.

There are evident signs of progress and prosperity in these localities, and the cosy villas nestled at the foot of Mount Albert, with their ornamental pleasure grounds and shelled carriage drives, would not do discredit to the more aristocratic suburb of Remuera. Business does not seem to be overlooked in the pursuit of pleasure, for across the valley, on the boundary of the Whau district, are the brick and tile works of Mr. Boyd; further west, those of the Hon. Dr Pollen, the Whau tannery of the Messrs. Gittos and near the Whau bridge the fellmongering establishment of Messrs. Bell and Gemmell —evident tokens that our local industries are being diligently cultivated and developed.

On of the latest improvements added to this section of the Whau is the Presbyterian manse, occupied by the Rev. Robert Sommerville, the esteemed pastor of the district. For years the Lunatic Asylum has stood in desolate grandeur on the northern side of the plain, but it will now have to divide the honours with the pile of buildings known as the Auckland Waterworks —the tall chimney-stalk of which struggles skywards, as if bent on keeping its head above and beyond the fragrance of the passing night-carts. Shortly the many hundred-armed machinery of that establishment will send streaming down from the Khyber Pass and Ponsonby reservoirs the sparkling God-given water that shall rush under our roadways, dash out of the hydrants, toss up in our city fountains, and with silver note, and golden sparkle, and crystalline chime, say to thousands of our population, in the authentic words of Him who made it, “I will: be thou clean!”

It needs but a glance at the configuration of the country to see that the payable line for the Auckland and Kaipara Railway is by Morningside, Mount Albert, and the Upper Whau. A large suburban population is rapidly settling on the volcanic slopes and patches along the New Great North Road, which in addition to the yearly increasing number of manufactories in the valley, will form no unimportant "feeder" to the through traffic of the Kaipara line. The route via Ponsonby and Point Chevalier, with two trains per day, will never have a "show" for the suburban passenger traffic against Quick's buses running to and from the centre of the city every quarter of an hour. After getting out of Ponsonby the character of the country will prevent settlement in a westerly direction to the sea, unless departures for the projected cemetery at Point Chevalier, and brickdust and pipeclay are regarded as factors in the computation of the anticipated traffic.

After passing the Whau Bridge the character of the country greatly changes, but not for the better, and the eye turns with a sense of relief from the dun coloured interminable waste of fern stretching away south, to the alluvial bottom lands of the Whau Flat, clothed in emerald green. Here may be seen what agricultural skill and science can effect in the land farmed by Mr. Bollard, whose experiments in utilising the night soil of the city are, after a very heavy expenditure of capital we are glad to learn, likely to prove remunerative and successful. On the fern plain above alluded to, for many miles, the only indications of human industry and skill are the little pipe clay mounds which betoken that the irrepressible gum-digger has been "cavortin' around."

On the Titirangi Ranges things are but little changed, during the past fifteen years—the roads are greatly improved, and speedier access is obtainable to the city for stores; but not a few of the settlers have one by one given up the struggle to wring a bare competence from, in many instances it is to be feared, indifferent soil. The staple of the district is its timber. A pleasant feature in the landscape is the pretty little schoolhouse (also used as a place of worship), shewing that the settlers value that best of blessings for their children—a good education—though removed from the advantages and pleasures of town society. From the top of the mountain at the back of Bishop's clearing could be seen the ranges trending away to the waters of the Manukau and the West Coast, with shelving, precipitous banks, while from base to summit the watershed on both sides was clothed with forests of magnificent kauri—some of these giant monarchs of the forest rearing their bare trunks, straight as a gun barrel, sixty and seventy feet into the air, and a horizontal section of the "stump" of one of them would form a commodious "round table" for King Arthur's Knights.

From the hill above alluded to is obtainable one of the finest views in the province—a panorama of mountain, and forest, sea and plain, which is only distantly approached by the view to be got from Maungarahe, above Tokatoka, on the Northern Wairoa; and one can readily understand how such ardent admirers and students of nature as Governor Gore Browne and Sir George Arney should have frequently repaired to this spot. Even “the Earl and the Doctor" had heard of its fame, and on the summit stands a fragment of a pole planted by the Earl of Pembroke, in token of his visit. How the pole came to its present condition is a moot point; on the one hand, it is asserted that Young New Zealand "went for" that pole in order to shew his contempt for the "bloated" British aristocrat, while on the other hand, it is cynically suggested that colonial snobbery was rampant, and the pole handled by "a real live lord" disappeared by inches in the manufacture of relics.

From the staff, facing westwards, the spectator views the Waitakerei ranges, with the Big and Little Huia, piled tier above tier heavenwards, on any principle, or rather, no principle, but just looking as if they had been "hove" there by the gods during some Titanic rumpus. Carrying the vision to the right are seen the Helensville, Wade, and Tangahua ranges; then in succession the Kawau, Great Barrier, Cape Colville, and the Thames mountains dying away towards the Ohinemuri country. In the more immediate foreground, looking east and south, are the Wairoa and Hunua ranges, the Pukekohe and Bombay settlements plainly visible, Awitu, Waiuku, and the Waikato Heads. Following the coast line to the starting-point, the drift-sand, which is steadily advancing inland and encroaching upon settlement in that quarter, can be plainly seen at a glance. The panorama closes with the South Head of the Manukau, its front—scarred and gashed by a thousand tempests—frowning out on the Pacific, which, with eternal refrain and "immeasurable laugh," dashes itself into foam on the sandbanks at its base—while the Paratutai semaphore, standing out in bold, relief against the western horizon, gives token that “A sweet little cherub sits up aloft and looks after the life of poor Jack." The Manukau basin—an inland sea only inferior in extent to the noble estuary of the Kaipara—stretches away from the feet of the spectator to Drury and Waiuku, and on Boxing-day mirrored on its bosom the noble mountains on its northern margin, under a sky

“So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful,
That God alone was to be seem in Heaven.”

The only incident worthy of special record during the trip was the advent in that truly rural district of an officer of H.M. Customs. The wild and sequestered ranges of Titirangi and Waitakerei have long lain under the blighting suspicion of a “private still” but as the contents of certain hampers of the tourists had duly paid toll to Her Majesty, the Volscians were not fluttered. The officer in question "tooled" his four-wheeler up the ranges in the rising morn, only to find that there are exceptions to the old adage touching “the early bird getting the worm.” The solution of the mystery turned out to be that, instead of “bulling or bearing" in the Custom-house, he had taken advantage of the holiday to refresh his spirits by getting a sniff of the Titirangi ozone, in preference to “guaging" those of other people. Both parties of tourists returned to town wiser, in some respects, and certainly not sadder, by the trip.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Kiwi soldier in the Easter 1916 Uprising

A Kiwi soldier during WWI finds himself in the middle of the 1916 Easter Uprising.
Image from Wiki -- Sackville Street, Dublin, after the uprising.


A vivid description of the exciting time when the Sinn Fein riot was in progress in Dublin is given by Bugler J G Garland in a letter written to his father, Mr Thomas H Garland, of this city. Bugler Garland, it may be mentioned, was formerly a member of the Grammar School Senior Cadets and left with the Expeditionary Force for Samoa. Having been invalided back to Auckland, he was subsequently appointed to a hospital ship. Having a few days' leave he ran across to Dublin, and happened to be in the thick of the fight, but escaped with a spent bullet wound in his ankle and a clean cut in his hand from a bayonet thrust.

"We arrived in England the day before Good Friday," writes Bugler Garland, “and were given railway concession by which we could get return tickets for single fare. Sergeant Nevin, of Christchurch, and myself took tickets for Dublin. On Easter Monday we left the hotel at 8 am., and went by tram to Killiney Park. Half an hour after we were clear of Dublin the rebellion started. Our first intimation of it was when we were half-way back, and the electric power was cut off. We walked back to our hotel.

"We were standing in the main street (Sackville) about 2 p.m., just about 100 yards from our hotel. Shots were being fired, and a soldier from the Dublin Fusiliers was killed while walking with his young lady. There were thousands of people in the streets, and all of a sudden a large motor-car whizzed past us. In it was the noted Countess, dressed in a green uniform. As she went past she fired two shots at us. One went above our heads; the other caught an elderly man in the arm. It seemed to be a signal to the other Sinn Feiners, for bullets started to whizz all round us. As we were unarmed, and had our Red Cross badges on, we went for our lives to the Soldiers' Club. The proprietor of the place told us that all the soldiers had gone over to Trinity College, which is the headquarters of the Dublin University Officers' Training Corps.

“We reported there at 3 p.m. There were only about thirty of us, and we filled sandbags from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. By that time our strength had grown to nearly sixty, including five New Zealanders, one Australian, five from South Africa, and two Canadians. At 11 p.m. they woke us up and took the colonials, whom they called Anzacs (although there were really only six Anzacs), up to the roof, where we were to snipe. We remained on that roof from midnight Easter Monday till midnight on Thursday without a wink of sleep—exactly 72 hours. From the roof we could command a view of the main streets—Sackville, Grafton, and Dame. Four of us were on the front parapet commanding Dame Street, also part of Grafton Street.

"We got our first bag on Tuesday morning at 4 a.m., when three Sinn Feiners came along on bikes, evidently going from Shepherd's Green to the GPO. The men on my left, as soon as they saw them coming, told us to mark the last man and they would get the first two. We all fired at once, killing two and wounding the other. When they were brought in the chap we killed had four bullet marks in the head which meant that we all got him, and that he must have been killed instantly. A peculiar thing had happened. After he was killed he still sat on his bike and continued on for about 30 yards on the free-wheel. In fact, we thought we had missed him, when all of a sudden the bike swerved and he came off. This chap was a platoon leader, and on him they found a list of the names and addresses of the members of his platoon, and two dispatches, together with some money that he had evidently taken from the GPO.

"On Wednesday we got two more in Sackville Street. They were armed with double-barrelled fowling-pieces, and had taken the small shot from the cartridges, replacing it with four slugs of lead about three-quarters of an inch by a quarter of an inch. We were troubled by a sniper on our left in the direction of St. Andrew's Church, but as we were not quite sure we did not like to fire on that building. On Friday, after we had been relieved from the roof, a man living opposite the church came over and said he had seen the rifles pointing out of the belfry, so we six Anzacs were sent across to his house, and from his kitchen window we put about 100 rounds into the small triangular window they were firing from. Half an hour after they had ceased firing we decided to climb the tower. On the way over we were fired on by our own men, who mistook our slouch hats for those of the Sinn Fein. When we got to the belfry we found two men. One was already dead, the other so badly wounded that he died an hour afterwards.

"On Saturday morning we killed a woman who was sniping from an hotel window in Dame Street. When the RAMC brought her in we saw she was only about 20, stylishly dressed, and not at all bad-looking. She was armed with an automatic revolver and a Winchester repeater. Altogether we Anzacs were responsible for 27 rebels (twenty-four men and three women).

“On Saturday afternoon the colonials were given the honour of capturing Westland Row station. We entered the Grosvenor Hotel which faces the station, and by means of a ladder climbed over the Railway Arch and then over to the station. We got four there, and I had a narrow squeak. Two of us were going through the ticket office, and as soon as we entered the Sinn Feiners tried to bayonet the chae behind mc. They just missed him, and caught me in the hand—just a mere scratch. Then we both got him together with our bayonets. The same night we were on duty on the roof doing two-hours on and four off and I had just taken my boots off and was going to sleep, when a ricochet bullet caught me just below the left ankle. It only went in a little over half its length. The doctor pulled it out with a pair of forceps.

"Of course by this time the town was in ruins, and bodies of soldiers, horses, civilians, and Sinn Feiners were lying about Sackville Street until Saturday. The looting that was going on was simply terrible. Small boys of 10 to 14 who were brought in and searched had cameras, watches, diamond tiepins, etc. The rebels themselves did not do much looting. Several of the chaps from Gallipoli reckon that one had a far better chance of getting off with his life there than in the Dublin riot, for the reason that these rebels were posted in twos and threes in almost every house and shop in the city. As it was, there were 700 casualties on our side, while there were only about 500 on the other.

“My chum left on Monday night after the rebels were supposed to have surrendered. I waited till the next day in order to get some of my effects replaced for the ones that went up in smoke when Wynn's Hotel was burnt. The next night (Tuesday) I left the College at 6 p.m. in a motor-bicycle side-car. On our way three shots were fired at us, but no damage was done. I left Dublin at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, after doing nine days' duty, living on biscuits and water the whole time, and only having about twenty hours' sleep. At the Custom-house there were about 300 refugees who had been burnt out of their homes, including two theatrical parties. All they had to eat for six days were hard biscuits and water, with tea occasionally. There was also an opera company at the police station. Amongst the actors was a Christchurch man named Hobbs. Of course it was a great experience, but I was not sorry when I left Dublin."
Auckland Star 28 June 1916.