Friday, 26 October 2018

The House at 30 Cameron Road

Mirrielees home in 1997
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 00-554
The house on the corner of Monmouth Street, Tauranga and Cameron Road has gone through several transformations, from a family dwelling to flats to commercial premises. In 1910 Alexander James Mirrielees (1897–1972) arrived in Tauranga from Johnsonville and bought a chemist’s shop on The Strand that had been G Allelly’s business and, at one time, Woods'. As a newcomer he was surprised to find that on days when there were no boats berthed at the wharves, locally known as ‘no boat days,’ the businesses in The Strand closed their doors and the proprietors went fishing. However, the town and harbour suited him and he lived here until his death, aged 95.

Joan Mirrielees, teacher, jouralism, local historian outside their house on Monmouth Street
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 99-853
Mirrielees bought two sections in Cameron Road on the corner of Monmouth Street for £200, and built the weatherboard house with a corrugated iron roof for £3275. This part of Tauranga was known as The Camp. He built the house during or after 1917 as by then he was paying rates on the property. His wife and three children Joan, Ronald and Elsie lived there. Joan Mirrielees, teacher and journalist became an enthusiastic local historian. She was a member of the Tauranga Historical Society and a recipient of the Tauranga Heritage Award. Ronald kept pigeons in the loft of the house. Mrs Violet Mirrielees predeceased her husband by many years and it may have been then that he divided the house into two flats.

Captain Alexander Mirrielees of the 6th Hauraki Regiment
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 99-934
Known generally by his military rank, Captain Mirrielees led the local territorial company of the 6th Hauraki Regiment. He was prominent in local politics and organisations, chairing the Tauranga Harbour Board for many years, and was instrumental in locating the industrial area to Sulphur Point. A life member of the Rifle Club he was a champion shot. By 1947 he practised as an optician, which was not unusual for chemists of that time.

Notes by Joan Mirrielees in VF Tauranga City Library, Jinty Rorke, and Tauranga Borough Council rates books.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Book Review: Greerton Township and Surrounding Farms, by Robert Craig Scott

Greerton Township and Surrounding Farms: Early Settlement on Confiscated Land
Written and published by Robert Craig Scott, 303p, 2017
Reviewed by Lee Switzer

Greerton Township and Surrounding Farms is thoroughly researched, despite lapses, covering a huge number of families and individuals in the district. Numerous streets are named after local farm owners who nurtured the land. Other land owners developed businesses in Tauranga and elsewhere. This is not just a list of names, however. Scott provides genealogical backgrounds of residents. They came from other parts of New Zealand, Australia, the Greater Empire and other countries.

Scott makes great use of land survey and lot maps highlighting various sections in multiple colours with good explanatory text. As expected, families were involved in businesses throughout the region, not just Greerton.

There is a Table of Contents, an index but no dedication, acknowledgements or bibliography. Photos generally are not attributed to any source. There is very little information about the village’s namesake: Col Greer who fought in the NZ Wars. And on whose property Maori signed documents accepting the Crown’s dominance. Greer had one of the two Pakehas, who spoke te reo Maori, jailed because he was not collaborating with the Government’s line of seizure and bequest (Stokes, Evelyn, 1980, A History of Tauranga County, p80.)

Scott uses NZ Government online data for some of his research. He notes errors in the site when dates are listed. He too makes errors with dates and misspells names from time to time. Sentence structure is a little awkward in places.

On page 138 is a photo of a headstone, again not attributed, with the appellation Peter Allan Grant. Beneath the name is Patrick Allan Bannerman on the headstone.  Scott says "I am not sure what the significance of Patrick Allan Bannerman is."  A quick internet search established that Mr Grant's full name was Peter Patrick Allan Bannerman Grant. It is his baptism name. References can be found on the Tauranga Memories page and a genealogy web page.

Of the Kerr family, John Andrew Bathurst Kerr, member of the Camel Corps died in battle 19 April 1917. Scott says the forces "lost 6,444 men in battle." The figure may have come from this wiki summary, "509 killed, 4,359 wounded, 1534 missing."

It is apparent Scott spent a huge amount of time and diligence writing the many short bios of numerous people who often began their lives in England, Scotland or elsewhere. Some who joined the 1st Waikato Militia in Australia were shipped to NZ with the promise of land when the NZ Wars ended. Greerton being part of the lands given after hostilities ended.

Greerton Township and Surrounding Farms is a comprehensive, very useful addition to the expanding shelf of local history monographs.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

White Crosses on the Waterfront

The first of one hundred and nine white crosses were installed on Tauranga's waterfront this morning. The crosses are being progressively installed between October 17 and November 8, each new group representing a month of the four-year war and the soldiers from Tauranga who died during that time. The public is invited to join cadets from the Western Bay of Plenty Cadet Unit in bringing the crosses out at dawn. On November 11, Armistice Day, there will be an 11am centenary service at Memorial Park marking the day and time the war ended in 1918.

All images Copyright and courtesy of Fiona Kean

Raymond John Baker (1890-1915)
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Frederick Hugh Dodson (1891-1915)
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Ronald Tracey Matheson (1874-1915)
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Friday, 12 October 2018

New Tauranga Street Names

Tauranga is growing more rapidly than ever, and this means new subdivisions and new street names. Areas on the outskirts of the city are being filled with housing to cope with the increasing demand. In Pyes Pā, the new streets have some interesting names: Te Ranga Memorial Drive, Puhirake Crescent, Penetaka Heights, Materawaho Way, and others. The choice of these names reflects a new determination to commemorate some of Tauranga’s most important – and tragic – history. It acknowledges tangata whenua in a way that was very rare until recently.

Image courtesy of Stephanie Smith
Te Ranga Memorial Drive – At the battle of Te Ranga, on 21 June 1864, Tauranga Māori were crushed by a British force anxious for revenge for its defeat at the Battle of Gate Pā or Pukehinahina on 29 April 1864.

Image courtesy of Stephanie Smith
Puhirake Crescent – Named after Rawiri Puhirake Tuaia, Ngai Tukairangi leader from Matapihi. He was mission-trained and reluctant to take up arms, but the arrival of troops in Tauranga spurred him to action. After a victory at the Battle of Gate Pā, he was one of the 103 Māori killed in 1864 at the Battle of Te Ranga. As a tribute to his chivalry and courage he and other leaders were later buried in the Mission Cemetery.

Pene Taka Tuaia, Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library
Penetaka Heights – Pene Taka Tuaia, a cousin of Puhirake, was the military engineer who designed the complex earthworks of Pukehinahina or Gate Pā. He probably learned his skills in the wars in Northland in the 1840s. Unlike his cousin, he survived the 1864 battles to fight in the Tauranga Bush Campaign of 1867. He died at Te Puna in 1889, still conscious of the land grievances that resulted from the conflicts of his youth.

Image courtesy of Stephanie Smith
Materawaho Way – Te Materawaho was the name of the historical hapū, a subtribe of Ngāti Tapu, that occupied the Otamataha Pā at the north end of the Te Papa Peninsula when the missionaries first visited Tauranga in the 1820s. 


Jinty Rorke. 'Puhirake, Rawiri', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 July 2018)

Alister Matheson. 'Tuaia, Pene Taka', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 July 2018)

New Zealand Mission Trust Board (Otamataha) Empowering Bill

Monday, 8 October 2018

The Bay’s First Foreign Settlers – Part One, The Tattooed Men

When Tauranga’s first ‘respectable’ pre-Treaty settlers arrived during the 1830s, they found the district already settled by Pakeha-Maori or ‘white men gone native.’ A mix of runaway sailors, fugitive convicts, adventurers and trader go-betweens, they were seen living among Maori in local pa tuwatawata (pallisaded fortresses) and kainga (unfortified villages). Predominantly Anglo-Irish with a scattering of continental Europeans, Americans, Asians and Negroes, these adventurous men (and a few women) had been welcomed by Maori or captured during clashes with ships’ crews. Integrated into Maori communities, often through marriage to local wahine rangatira (chieftainesses), they honoured Maori customs and were bilingual. Three of New Zealand’s 48 tattooed Pakeha-Maori lived in or had links with the Bay of Plenty.

Tauranga was an important pre-treaty reprovisioning port and our first European resident may well have been ‘Robson,’ a fugitive convict who fled ashore from the pirated brig Mercury. Aboard the Caroline, the whaling sailor James Heberley reported in 1826: ‘We touched at the Bay of Plenty. There we traded for pigs and potatoes. Our trade with [Maori] was muskets and lead. There was a man living among the natives… a convict… He went in the name of Robson. He got tattooed like the natives.’ [1] Robson’s eventual fate is unknown.

George White (Barnet Burns)
Image courtesy of Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin c/n E926/15
Barnet Burns, a Poverty Bay trader go-between and Ngati Kahungunu Pakeha-Maori, was captured by Ngaiterangi raiders from Tauranga when they clashed with his Maori trading party near the Motu River mouth in 1833. Burns survived by agreeing to be tattooed and to fight for his captors, but escaped back to his tribe where his half finished tattoo was completed.

Burns eventually returned to England and gave public lectures on his ‘Maori experiences.’ [2] Some tattooed Pakeha-Maori would not or could not rejoin the new colonial society. Evangelizing among Maori at Opotiki in 1843, the Catholic missionary J. Chouvet was surprised when approached by a Pakeha-Maori who lived out his life as a recluse among Te Whakatohea.
He is covered in moko, and lives like a real New Zealander. It is possible that he is a convict or sailor escaped from his ship, who wished by this method to remove himself from the cognizance and persecution of English justice... There he is then condemned for ever to a sort of imprisonment. He says himself he will never make himself known to the settlers. [3] 


[1] Bentley, Trevor,  Pakeha-Maori, Auckland, Penguin, 1999: pp 38-39.
[2] ibid, pp 165-9.
[3] ibid, p 32.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Recollections of Wynnton Poole in 1997

Holy Trinity (Anglican) Church, Devonport Road, Tauranga, built 1875
Photograph taken c.1902 by unidentified photographer
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 04-443
Wynnton Poole came to Tauranga when he was four months old in 1908. His family were considered pioneers of the district and Pooles Rd in Greerton was named after them. Mr Poole senior was a dentist and had ‘rooms’ on the Strand. In 1997 Wynnton, then approaching his 90th birthday, claimed to be the last person alive who remembered Rev. Chas Jordan who died in 1912. He’d been the first  Anglican vicar in Tauranga and was also Mayor twice. Another interesting connection is that in 1911 Wynnton’s future father-in-law Mr Lysaght had the first car registered in Tauranga, with the licence plate TA 1.

Looking west up Spring Street, Tauranga from the Triangle, c. 1900
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 99-1310
Tauranga had about 1800 residents around that time and the present Mid-City Mall was actually a small inlet where dinghies were stored. There was a spring under our State Insurance building; the whole lower Spring Street was swampy. A trough provided water for the horses to drink.The above photo (taken circa 1900) shows the Star Hotel on the left, the town pump visible at centre, on the left side of the road. St Peter's Church is at the end of the street, and Springwell Brewery buildings (demolished in 1912) are on the corner of Willow St (west side).

Interior of Holy Trinity chursch, c.1920s
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref.04-446
Poole was a farmer until 1959 when he and his wife took over the care of Holy Trinity Church in Devonport Road. In those days it was common to have 150 people attend the morning service and 200 or so in the evening. He also served in the Waipoua district, near Gisborne. Retirement finally came when he was 80 and needed to care for his ill wife.  A past president of the Tauranga Historical Society, from 1977-78 and 1982-88, he was quoted as having said, ‘We look at the past and examine it so we can see where to go in the future.’.

This information has been gleaned from a 1997 Bay of Plenty Times article. Wynnton was interviewed because Cedar Manor Rest Home, where he was resident, had contributed a sum of money towards technology to facilitate the digitising of paper records in the Tauranga Library.