Friday, 24 January 2020

Tauranga Representatives

Tauranga Representatives, c. 1898
Mounted albumen print by F.W. Edwards, Auckland
Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0104/10

This team photograph is of Tauranga’s rugby representatives and although it is not dated it is likely to have been taken around 1898 as many of the players are mentioned in reports of rugby matches in the Bay of Plenty Times.

The names listed are (left to right):
(Standing, Back row) S. Darragh (Wing Forward), A. King (Forward), A. Mathias (Wing Forward), D. Brown (Forward), G. Brown (Forward), Taikato (Forward)
(Seated, Middle Row) Mr C. Hulme (Hon. Sec.), A. Matheson (Threequarter), J. Jordan (Forward), I. Vercoe, Capt. (Five-Eighths), D. Thom (Threequarter), J. Cook (Half-back), W. Darragh (Line Umpire)
(Seated, Front Row) H. Asher (Forward), J. Peter (Forward), Kauku (Forward), R. Hoyte (Full-Back).

Friday, 17 January 2020

John Welsh, Photographer and Impresario

Ocean Beach, The Mount, Tauranga. Mirrielees No. 39. Welsh Photo.
Glass plate negative, Tauranga City Libraries Image Collection
In the Tauranga Library’s collection of glass plates are a series which appear to be the original negatives for a series of postcards published as the Mirrielees Series, well known amongst local deltiologists, which record various scenes and events in and around Tauranga from the late 1910s to 1920s. A.J. Mirrielees was a chemist who arrived in Tauranga from Johnsonville in October 1910, where he purchased R.J. Allely’s pharmaceutical business. He operated first from temporary premises in Devonport Road, then on the Strand, for almost two decades but, although he sold cameras and photographic equipment throughout this period, there is little direct evidence in the local newspapers of his photographic output. A number of the Mirrielees Series postcards, such as this view of people frolicking in the surf at Ocean Beach, Mount Maunganui, also have the inscription “Welsh Photo.”

S.S. Ngakuta clearing the Tauranga Heads, View from the Mount. Mirrielees Series 31.
Glass plate negative, attributed to J. Welsh, Tauranga City Libraries Image Collection
There are other glass plates carrying Mirrielees’ name which, on further research, seem likely to have been taken by Welsh too. So who was the enigmatic Mr Welsh? John Welsh was born in 1891 in California and arrived in New Zealand around 1902, presumably with his family. His first appearance as a photographer was an advertisement in the Te Puke Times from November 1916 until February 1917 announcing his willingness to pay visits “to any part of the District.” His burgeoning career was then interrupted by his service in England and France with the 1st Battalion, Auckland Regiment during the War.

Ocean Beach, Mount Maunganui. Welsh Photo.
Glass plate negative, Tauranga City Libraries Image Collection
Returning home after his discharge in July 1919, Welsh reopened the studio next to McDowell’s Hall, Main Street, Te Puke offering “photography in all its branches,” with “photos of live stock a speciality” as well as picture framing. He operated the Alma Studio from the Alliance Hall, Te Puke from October till December 1920, but it seems unlikely that there was enough business to keep him occupied locally. He took a series of ten views in Katikati in 1921 and 1922, and was on hand when an aeroplane arrived to give joy rides at the Mount in April 1922. He was probably the photographer responsible for No. 48 in the Mirrielees Series, the well known photo of the Peace Monument erected on the summit of Mauao in 1920.

S.S. Maindy Court 7.700 tons & H.M.S. Veronica in Tauranga Harbour (Oct 1922) Welsh Photo
Glass plate negative, Tauranga City Libraries Image Collection
When the S.S. Maindy Court and H.M.S. Veronica paid visits to Tauranga Harbour in October 1922 as a result of significant development of the port, Welsh was on hand to record their arrivals. Then in September 1923 he opened the New Strand Studio in Tauranga, taking portraits on Fridays and Saturdays, specializing in children’s portraits. With his brother Paul he took a lease on the Town Hall in April 1923, operating it as the Cozy Pictures Opera House, presenting films, dances and orchestral entertainment until June 1925, when the business was sold as a going venture to Mr F. Fowler.

View of Mount Railway Workshops from Haymarket Stores. Welsh Photo
Republished as Christmas Greetings card by Frank Duncan & Co., Auckland
Glass plate negative, Tauranga City Libraries Image Collection
The burgeoning Mount railway workshops also merited a series of views in the early 1920s, including some deemed worthy of republication as greetings cards.

John Welsh was a keen cricketer and became a devotee of motorcycle-riding, a pursuit which was accompanied by some misfortune. When he knocked over a pedestrian in Spring Street in 1920, it turned out to be attorney F.W. Shortland, who pursued him vigorously in court. Five years later, in October 1925, he was involved in a collision with another motorcycle on the Te Aroha traffic bridge which luckily resulted in neither serious damage to the bikes or more than light injury to the drivers.

Opening of the Ongatoro (Te Tumu/Kaituna) Cut, Maketu, 3 Nov 1927
Auckland Weekly News, 17 Nov 1927, Photograph by John Welsh
Image courtesy of the Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Ref. AWNS-19271117-37-1
It appears that Welsh may have moved away from Tauranga around this time, and was certainly living in Te Aroha in 1929. He became an intermittent contributor to the Auckland Weekly News, recording local events in widely flung locations around the North Island:

•    Oct 1926 – Consecration of St Mark’s Anglican Church, Te Aroha
•    Dec 1926 – Show at Te Aroha
•    3 Nov 1927 – Opening of the Kaituna Channel, Maketu
•    Nov 1928 – East Coast Railway construction, Waiora-Napier
•    Jan, Jul & Nov 1929 – Hydroelectric scheme construction, Lake Waikaremoana
•    Jan 1930 – Railway Bridge construction, Wairoa & Harbour development, Waikokopu
•    Sep 1931 – Port reconstruction after the earthquake, Napier

John Welsh died at Rocky Bay, Waiheke Island in 1964.

The provenance of the glass plate negatives has been deduced from records in the Tauranga Library collection. They appear to have arrived in the library’s collection in 1975 by former Tauranga chemist Leslie Woods, originally as a loan, but later probably ended up as a donation. Woods had taken over Captain Mirrielees’ pharmacy in 1929, and almost certainly inherited the glass plates along with the business.


Many thanks to staff at Tauranga Library, including the library’s former Heritage Specialist Stephanie Smith, for facilitating access to the glass plate negatives and helping to unearth information relating to them.


Auckland Library Photographers Database
Auckland Weekly News, in Auckland Library Heritage Images
Papers Past (Te Puke Times, Bay of Plenty Times)
Glass Plate Collection, Ngā Wāhi Rangaha, Tauranga Library
Various registers, newspaper cuttings and letters, Tauranga Library vertical files
WWI Nominal Rolls and Service Records,
The Port of Tauranga, by Barbara Oram, in Tauranga 1882-1982: The Centennial of Gazetting Tauranga as a Borough, Bellamy, A.C. (ed.) (1982), Tauranga City Council, p. 232-238.

Friday, 10 January 2020

The Bungalow

A bungalow can be described as a single-storied house with a sloping roof, often surrounded by a veranda. The name derives from a Hindi word ‘bangla’ meaning “a house in the Bengali style,” and came into English during the era of the British administration of India.

California bungalows, Alameda, 2016. Photo Shirley Arabin
The 20th century bungalow became a popular house style in North America, Australia and New Zealand. It could be built of timber, plaster, brick, stucco or stone or a mixture of them all. The roof generally sits at a lower angle than the preceding villa style, and roof framing could be exposed at the eaves. Windows were smaller and hinged rather than hung sashes. The big bay window at the front was modified and often curved and clad in shingles on the exterior and inside a window seat. The shingles were very much an expression of its American roots. Decorative touches emerged from the British Arts and Crafts movement and from the American west.

Californian bungalow, Berkeley.  Photo DJ Grubb
The essence of the bungalow in New Zealand was the low roofline and the deep verandahs. There was a move away from the over decoration of the Victorian villa into a plainer and more practical style. In Britain a bungalow was usually a one story seaside house expressing the Arts and Crafts style, while in America it is known as a Craftsman house and often two storied, but the relationship still existed in the different locations. The roof and verandah were supported at the front of the house by sturdy piers of timber and often stone. Lead lights and stained glass featured in the windows and the interiors frequently had substantial varnished timber panelling in the major rooms, with plaster ceilings divided by boards. Door plates and handles could be copper or bronze in Art Nouveau or Art Deco motifs, and a copper hood over an open fire could be another feature. Modern facilities like electric power and indoor plumbing improved on the simpler villas. In Australia the Federation houses incorporated the bungalow style, generally with more decoration on gables and roof lines. The extent of the decoration depended on the original price of the house.

Fairview, Matheson homestead, Otumoetai. Photo Gainfort collection
A good example of a Tauranga Arts and Crafts house, Fairview the home of the late Alister Matheson in Matua was demolished some years ago. Alister's grandfather, Robert Matheson, made three purchases of land on the site of Ōtūmoetai Pā and established a 123 acre block. The Pā was originally part of the Tauranga land raupatu (confiscation) by the Government following the Tauranga battles of the New Zealand Wars in 1864, and the Matheson homestead was built in the 1920s.

The farm extended from the seashore to Otumoetai road, and the boundary with the Tollemache farm. In 1999 Alister Matheson received the Tauranga Heritage Award for his contributions to preserving and documenting Tauranga's history. He was a prolific writer for the Historic Review, The Bay of Plenty Historic Journal and published two books. The remnants of Fairview were sold to the Tauranga City Council in 2004 and became the Otumoetai Pa Historic Reserve.

Mr D G Jack's house , The Camp, Tauranga. Feb 1922. Photo Brain Watkins House Collection

Stock N & Reynolds P, Bungalow: from heritage to contemporary, Random House NZ. 2014

Note (27 Jan 2020): This article has been amended to reflect that the Otumoetai Pā was not deserted after the New Zealand Wars in 1864, but that it formed part of the raupatu (confiscation) by the Government following the Tauranga battles.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Fascinating Aerial Photo from 1972

Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. N2D5F18

This fascinating aerial photograph was taken by Aero Surveys Ltd. in 1972. It shows the Council’s administration building under construction. It also reveals the size of the old Town Hall on the corner of Wharf and Willow Streets.

Sandwiched between the two buildings was the town’s library, which opened in 1930. It was later demolished along with the Town Hall. It is also interesting to note the large number of wooden houses still occupying the area at this time.

Friday, 27 December 2019

Putting Matters Right

How W.P. Bell was elected as a Dairy Co-op Director, 1933-34

It’s possible that in 1933 William Pool Bell of Townhead Farm on Cambridge Road stood for election as Director of the Tauranga Co-Operative Dairy Association expecting merely to fill his father’s shoes. Walter Common Bell’s ill health had led to his resignation in 1925 after fourteen years’ service, and he died the next year. [1] But those eight short years had seen a collapse of butter prices and increasing anxiety about New Zealand’s sensitiveness to “external conditions.” [2] W.P. Bell, elected third on the ballot on 8 August, was in for a bumpy ride. [3]

William Pool Bell, June 1943. Image collection of Margaret Mackersey, nee Bell
The usual fuels for anxiety – rumour and controversy – were already at work. Well ahead of the 31 May 1932 balance date, the possibility that suppliers would be paid a mere seven pence per pound of butter was scotched by a statement in the Bay of Plenty Times. [4] The same statement, however, confirmed the gloomy reality that the payout would remain at ninepence-ha’penny. Later that year L. Tollemache stepped down as Chairman, a post he had held since 1927. [5] And at the 1933 meeting, chaired by his successor P.T. Keam, he was asked to publicly explain why, back in 1930, he had turned down the opportunity to improve the Co-op’s books by the sum of £2000.

The question turned on a lease of just over an acre of land owned by the Church Mission “under the old Military Cemetery.”  The 1930 Directors explained the rationale to the Co-op shareholders: they had “planned out a suitable area for a future factory [3 roods, 15 perches] when increase warrants it; the intention is to sublet the balance [1 acre 1 perch], which part we anticipate will practically leave us rent free. The site is adjacent to both deep water and the railway and will be a considerable saving in cartage of cream and stores.”[6]

None of these plans came to anything. The Board was still paying out £100 a year in ground rent when Tollemache was challenged at the 1933 general meeting by G Chapman of Te Puna, who asked “... if Mr Tollemache had received an offer for the land on the waterfront ... [and] if Mr Tollemache had advised the directors of any offer.”[7]

Tollemache averred that he had received an unspecific offer (from a Mr Green on behalf of the Shell Oil Company, to use as a depot) and had advised the Directors of it. All this occurred shortly after the lease had been taken. But now, one by one, the Directors told the meeting that they either were not aware of the offer or had not been on the Board at the time. We can only infer that this ambush affected his chances in the ballot. 

The votes were cast as the meeting traversed district meetings (fruitful opportunities for the exchange of rumour and opinion), the price suppliers paid for their butter (a loading of 2d. per pound!), and a break for lunch. They were counted after the appointment of scrutineers (and a wrangle over ballot closing time and methods), an address by the local MP (and former Chairman of the Association), C.E. McMillan, and discussion of several sundry items including a vote of thanks to the Dairy Factory manager and his staff. And Tollemache came narrowly fifth in a four-horse race [8] behind W.P. Bell [9] and C.O. Bayley.

Advert from Dairy Exporter's edition of the 1934 Report of Dairy Commission, p.19
All directors were present at the Board meeting on 9 September, the first that William Bell attended.  No mention of the recent general meeting appears in the Minutes. He successfully moved that a response to a letter of complaint from Mrs Kelso of the Womens Institute, seeking correction of a flawed advertisement, be made. [10] This was to introduce him early to anxiety levels in the dairy industry; even this small gesture had consequences.

Meanwhile, Tollemache had his champions. The adverse implications of his treatment of the Shell offer could not be allowed to stand. His supporter J. Hopkins lodged notice of a motion to remove Messrs Lever and Keam from the directorate. Keam chaired the extraordinary general meeting called to deal with this on 23 September, an unruly affair of claim and counter-claim, bearing a remarkable resemblance to twenty-first century website comment strings. Even a direct quote from the 1930 Minutes [11], confirming that on 12 April of that year the Chairman had not only received an offer (price not stipulated) and had advised the directors that he had turned it down, but also had had this decision endorsed by the Directors (moved Keam, seconded Lever) did not settle things down.

It comes as no surprise that the row descended into a procedural wrangle about the use of proxies in a proposed poll on the motion, vague references to legal opinions and “see you in Court” remarks.
At the Directors’ next meeting, on 14 October, William was prominent in support of moves by another Board member, Mr W.J. White, to regularise the stand-off between Chairman and former Chairman. [12] White wanted an opinion from the Board’s solicitors and preferred not to rely on Mr Keam’s own lawyer’s opinion. He moved accordingly. William seconded. Keam bristled. He considered this a personal, not a company, matter. "He had a perfect right to receive and pay for advice from whom he pleased." [13]

White got testy. This was a slight on the Company’s solicitors. [14] Would the Chairman indemnify the Company for costs entailed in a Court case? William temporised. "If the Chairman was prepared to get a written opinion from his Solicitors ... he would be perfectly satisfied. He would like also, as a matter of courtesy to have an opinion from the Company’s Solicitors, as he considered they were slighted.”

The move to avoid potential discourtesy to Sharp, Tudhope & Auld did not succeed, but the Chairman assured the meeting that a written legal opinion "as asked by Mr Bell" would be obtained. [15]

White, not yet placated, aired two further points of displeasure. He wished to correct a statement of the Chairman’s that was contrary to fact: he had not taken round the ‘Requisition’ to remove Messrs Keam and Lever. The Chairman conceded that he had relied on hearsay. White also pointed out that not only had no reply yet been made to Mrs Kelso; the Chairman had breached Company confidence by handing on her letter to “a third person”. The Chairman conceded again. He explained that an organiser of the Institute, visiting recently, had expressed concern that Mrs Kelso’s letter contained statements which (again) were contrary to fact. The Chairman had given her a copy in an attempt to help "put the matter right."

The energetic local atmospherics of Tauranga’s dairy industry of the 1930s illustrate, as well as desperate financial strain, a deep sense of concern for fair treatment that found immediate expression in the 1934 Commission and the (quite prompt) rehabilitation of L. Tollemache in the opinion of Tauranga farmers. [16] This concern continues to reverberate today.  Co-operatives rely on a sense of justice, driven by economics as well as social conscience. The long tradition of "putting matters right" can be aligned with modern anxieties about attitudes to dairying and a sense of division between country and town.  Tauranga dairy farmers were a spirited lot, but they ultimately stayed very loyal to a practice of sharing the risks of commodity production - and staying on side with the urbanites who bought their butter.

[1] Obituary, Bay of Plenty Times, Vol LIV, Issue 9262, 16 August 1926,
[2] Report of the Dairy Industry Commission, H-30 of 1934,
[3] Acknowledgements are due to Bell’s daughter Margaret Mackersey, who kindly allowed access to his small archive of Minutes and associated papers from his time as Director of the Tauranga Co-Operative Dairy Company.
[5] He took over from C E McMillan, MP who held office until 1926:
[8] Ibid: It seems to have been a preferential voting process: total votes cast were significantly fewer than votes enumerated for the seven nominees.
[9] Ibid: Bell may not have been present when the results were announced.  The BP Times records thanks to supporters being offered only by Keam, Clarke and Bayley.
[10] Bell archive, Minutes of meeting of Board of Directors 9 September 1933, p.2., Collection of Margaret Mackersey, nee Bell
[12] Bell archive, Minutes of meeting of Board of Directors 14 October 1933 p.4., Collection of Margaret Mackersey, nee Bell
[13] Ibid: all further quotes are from this source.
[14] Sharp, Tudhope & Auld, a firm still practising in Tauranga.
[15] Op. cit: Bell archive, 14 October 1933. Perhaps indicating that the legal opinion had yet to be put into writing? Collection of Margaret Mackersey, nee Bell
[16] He was re-elected in 1934 (W. P. Bell did not stand) and was still being elected to the Association in 1945: