The (summer) weather continues to be so horrid and not particularly suitable for walks around Karori Cemetery. However, there's sometimes a gap between rain storms and wind gusts, when a walk in the fresh air in the beautiful surrounds of Karori Cemetery is entirely possible. There's a surprising range of sheltered spots to keep out of the wind, and as long as shoes are suitable for soggy conditions underfoot, a tour of this interesting heritage site is entirely possible. I am happy to be flexible about times of tours, and number of people who want to walk, so give me a call on 021 065 3778 to discuss arrangements that suit you, or email me on email@example.com
Apologies to those of you who noted the item in the DomPost this morning (2 January 2017) about Karori Cemetery Tour and want to make a booking to join me on a walk.
The request to insert a notice in the DomPost was made before Xmas, and Capital Day followed through in good faith. However, an urgent family matter in Auckland just before New Year saw us depart Wellington in haste, and there was no opportunity to cancel the notice.
I will be away for another week (until about 10 January) by which time care for my 94-year old mother-in-law will have been stabilised.
Please accept my apologies for not being available as advertised. If you email me on firstname.lastname@example.org I will contact you on my return to Wellington to make arrangements for a tour.
This simple rock headstone adorns the grave of one of New Zealand’s greatest early geologists – Alexander McKay. He was a Scotsman, born in Carsphairn, Kirkcudbrightshire, on 11 April 1841. He had to leave school at the age of 11 to help support his family, and had no formal qualifications but his self-taught scientific competence was enhanced by his quite exceptional creative insight and inspiration. His natural enthusiasm and energy equipped him for extensive field work all over New Zealand, over many years, and many of his professional years were spent as government geologist.
McKay arrived in New Zealand in 1863 and tried his hand at gold mining, including across the Tasman on the goldfields of New South Wales and Queensland. In about 1871 he met Julius von Haast who at the time was the Canterbury provincial geologist, and started working for him. He later also met James Hector, director of the Colonial Museum and Geological Survey of New Zealand, and therefore had key relationships with two of New Zealand’s outstanding scientists. With a fierce independence of spirit, McKay was unafraid to question the views of his more highly educated colleagues, which led at times to some bitter conflicts between them.
“On several occasions he showed quite exceptional creative insight and inspiration. This ability, together with the perceptiveness and reliability of his field observations and his flair for finding fossils, made him a legend in his own time among geologists. Having had no formal education in science he was not constrained by many of the conventions in geological thought as were his European-trained colleagues; and he had confidence in his own judgement. Several of his most important field observations and conclusions, which were to be verified by subsequent investigation, were quite controversial at the time they were proposed, some not until more than 20 years after his death in 1917.“ (extracted from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2m12/mckay-alexander)
In his private life McKay married Susannah Barnes in Dunedin on 24 August 1868, and they had two sons, William Alexander in 1869, and John Henry in 1872. Susannah was six years older than Alexander and little is known about her or her background. She was 71 years old when she died in May 1906 and was interred in Plot 56K in the first Anglican section of Karori Cemetery.
13 months later Alexander married his housekeeper Adelaide Dootson, who was 45 years old and may have been working for McKay and his late wife as a housekeeper or in some other domestic role. The marriage may not have found much favour with Mckays sons and their families, but was supported by Adelaide’s family. While the second marriage may have been one of convenience and for social decorum, it had the advantage of ensuring McKay was able to continue his many scientific interests until his death in July 1917, Adelaide providing the domestic security needed.
McKay was cremated at the Karori Cemetery crematorium which had opened in 1909, one of the earliest to do so in Australasia. His ashes were interred in the plot where Susannah had been buried.
Adelaide too was cremated when she died in 1927, and her ashes too were interred in the McKay plot, though there is no reference to her on the headstone. The inscription reads:
Sacred to the Memory of
Born April 22nd, 1835 Died May 14th 1906
And Alexander McKay, F.G.S.
Late Government Geologist
Born April 11th 1841 Died July 8th 1917
Fittingly the headstone is a lump of rock with a flat ground face into which the lettering has been inscribed. The lettering remains clear but is un-enhanced by paint or lead inserts so appears to be illegible, though this is not the case.
McKay’s name is perpetuated in the Alexander McKay Falls on a tributary of the Shotover River, Otago; in the Alexander McKay Cliffs, Antarctica; in the McKay Building at the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Gracefield, Lower Hutt; in the McKay Geology Museum at Victoria University, Wellington, and in the McKay Hammer Award of the Geological Society of New Zealand.
A biography of McKay was written by Graham Bishop and published by Otago University Press in 2008: The Real McKay; The Remarkable Life of Alexander Mckay, geologist.
Now how did that happen? Like Xmas, it looms for months on end and then suddenly there's no time before the occasion is upon us. the weekend of Labour Day signals the real start of the walking tour season for Karori Cemetery - daytime temperatures are rising, there's more hours in the day since daylight savings started last month, spring is well underway. and there are fewer days when it's too cold, wet and/or windy to enjoy walking in the cemetery, even in the most sheltered areas.
To launch this seasons tours there's a new themed walk - SAILORS & SHIPWRECKS.
Even if you're someone who suffers from seasickness in a pedal boat on a pond you'll be safe on this walk, which keeps to dry land at all times!
Find all the details here and make a booking as soon as you can.
I was recently cleaning a grave in order to photograph it for someone on Find a Grave. There was a plaque lying loose on the top of the grave under vegetative detritus and years of accumulated grime. A quick wash and light scrub revealed the inscription
In Loving Memory
Harry Escott, M.P.
There was no obvious connection to the occupants of the grave upon which it rested, A quick search of newspapers of the time revealed that Harry (Henry James) ESCOTT had been an active and respected parliamentarian for seven years prior to his death, entering parliament as Reform member for Pahiatua in 1911. He had also fought as a trooper in the 2nd Contingent with the New Zealand forces in the Boer War from January 1900 until May 1901. When WW1 started Harry decided he had to sign up for more action, so he enlisted and was about to go into training camp at Trentham when he took ill and died at Bowen Private Hospital. He was 44 when he died so would have been born about 1872. He was a single man.
Although he had been farming in Woodville prior to entering parliament, his remains were interred at Karori Cemetery, in Plot 57N in the second Public section. His sister Harriet (Hetty) RUSSELL, who had died on 8th June 1911, was already in Plot 57N. Hetty was “the beloved wife of George RUSSELL” who owned Palmer’s Café at 168 Lambton Quay, almost opposite Stout Street. The headstone is very decorative, with a pretty wee angel standing guard, mounted on an elaborately draped and decorated rectangular column. There's a slightly alarming cavity under the structure but that's not unusual in Karori Cemetery.
The death in France in 1916 of Hetty and George’s only son George Burton Escott RUSSELL is commemorated on the plinth below the headstone.
Harry’s plaque has now been returned to its rightful place, resting at the foot of the headstone in the grave of his sister and nephew. And thanks to that wonderful online facility PapersPast it was quick and easy to get some facts together and sort out why Harry's plaque should be with Hetty Russell's grave.
The only mystery now, which I will never solve, is how and why the plaque got moved onto someone else's family plot.
Last week's free local paper, an excellent source of local information and items of interest, featured the Empire Box Factory in their "Street History" item on page 7. Douglas Street in Mount Cook was apparently named after "Robert Douglas Wallace who was granted the land deed on March 14, 1856". Charles Edward ROTHERHAM died in an accident at the Empire Box factory in August 1930, and was buried at Karori cemetery three days later, joining his brother Edward who died in a completely different sort of accident three years previously. As if this was not enough, their father too died of an accident, in 1931. Lying not far from them is the equally sad story of Fanny Phillips's three young sons. Read about how these deaths led to the proximity of, and connection in death of the two family graves.
When Edward ROTHERHAM and Dennis PHILLIPS were working together on the Nelson railway line being built south of Glenhope in 1927 little did they know they would end up lying only feet from each other in graves in Karori cemetery. The gelignite they and George Gillespie were placing in holes for blasting rock, under the supervision of Mr Russ, an experienced foreman, went off unexpectedly, killing them both almost instantly. George suffered serious injuries and was taken to hospital for treatment.
Edward and Dennis were both Wellington boys. Edward’s family lived at 175 Taranaki Street, while Dennis’s family lived in Karori. Arrangements were rapidly made for their bodies to be transported to Nelson by train, and then on the ferry across Cook Strait to Wellington. Edward was buried first, on 30 September, in a multiple plot in the Anglican section not far from the Standen Street entrance. Dennis was buried the next day, a few plots along the other side of the same row.
Dennis’s family had already been devastated by the early deaths of two brothers, whose names and details are inscribed on the headstone where they are described as “The Beloved Sons of Fanny Phillips”. Private Charles William Phillips had been killed in action while serving with the Royal Warwickshire regiment in France in 1918. He was only 18 and a half years old. More misery came to the family two years later, when another son, Sidney Christin Victor, died in India in 1920, aged only 20. Perhaps Charles and Sidney were twins. Sidney is described as “DVR” and the initials R.F.A. after his name suggest he was a driver in the Royal Field Artillery. The death of Dennis, who was still only 24 in 1927, must have been an extraordinarily grievous blow indeed for Fanny.
The Rotherham family suffered another terrible tragedy only three years later. Their older son, Charles Edward, who was working as a printer at the Empire Box factory in Douglas Street, Mt Cook, was found lying unconscious on the concrete floor of the factory just before 5 o’clock on Friday afternoon, 29 August 1930. His skull was fractured and he died two hours later at Wellington Hospital. No-one had seen him fall, but the inquest held a week later concluded he had climbed a ladder standing against a shaft nearby “for the purpose of oiling or otherwise attending to a machine, and while doing so fell off”.”
Charles was buried alongside his brother on Monday 1 September 1930.
His parents, Charlotte and Charles, would have been devastated by the death of another son. But only 13 months later Charles (snr) also died, in yet another accident. Aged 77 he was still working, as a labourer on the wharves. The work of watersiders was hazardous in the extreme, and the rate of injury and death was high for many years. Unusually there was no report in the Evening Post of the time about Charles’s accident so the details are not known. The headstone inscription however states “Born at Liverpool and died as result of accident on wharf”.
There is no record of Charlotte being buried in the same plot, and although it is in reasonable condition there is no evidence that any family have visited for some years.
The Rotherham family plot is CH ENG2 15J, and the Phillips plot is CH ENG2 50J. They both face towards the Peter Fraser memorial, and are alongside the road.
Recent local newspaper items about the discovery of some Olympic memorabilia from 1932 in a house in Lyall Bay piqued my interest, and sent me off on the trail of the owner of the documents. Here's what I've found out about him.
Theodore Wright LESLIE was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1870 to Jane and James Wright. He married Rebecca Ann GOER in 1896 and they had 5 daughters and one son during the next 11 years.
Theodore, known to all as Dorrie, initially worked as a bootmaker, and the family lived at 10 Epuni Street, just off Aro Street. Dorrie had made a name for himself as a sportsman in his chosen sport of walking and he became a champion distance walker. He equalled the world record for the one-mile walk in 1893, becoming the fastest walker in Australasia.
By the time 1905-06 Electoral Roll records were compiled Dorrie and his wife were both registered as resident at the Town Hall, Lower Cuba Street, where Dorrie was custodian. He remained in this role, and living at the Town Hall, until his retirement in 1935.
On 23 January 1915 Rebecca died, and was buried in the newly opened section for Anglican burials at Karori Cemetery. In an odd little item in the Evening Post in October 1915 there was a report of a party at Dorrie's house, a celebration of his daughter's first birthday, attended by a Mrs Goodwin, of Timaru, who had adopted the baby. it seems Rebecca had a last child in October 1914, though there is no birth registered for a Joyce Louvain Leslie in that year. Registration records for adopted children are not usually published on the NZ BDM records available online. Obviously the adoption was an open one, and there may have been a family relationship to Mrs Goodwin.
Dorrie was keen on all sports and developed a reputation as the “go to” person for handling the start of athletic events, withholding the shot from the starter's pistol for 2 seconds after “Ready, Set”. He also started races from behind the competitors, rather than alongside, which was apparently unusual. He was a popular attender of sporting events of all kinds, to which he was generally accompanied by his fox terrier. He also ran and managed sporting events, such as boxing and wrestling matches, and developed skills as a sports trainer and masseuse.
Two years after Rebecca died Dorrie married again, to Jessie Ann TURFIS, who was born in Edinburgh about 1873, and had a 13 year old son James. Jessie had been widowed about the same time as Dorrie. They had no children together.
In 1932, with preparation for the 10th Olympic Games to be held in Los Angeles underway, Dorrie was invited by the International Amateur Athletic Association to be one of the official starters for the athletics events. This was of course the era of the worldwide Great Depression and many nations and athletes were unable to pay for the trip to Los Angeles. Fewer than half the participants of the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam returned to compete in 1932. Even so New Zealand managed to send its largest team to date, with 21 members comprising 11 rowers, 6 athletes, 3 boxers and 1 cyclist. The officials were: Manager, P N Rundle; Boxing and Athletic coach, W J Heenan; Rowing coach C A Healey.
However, the New Zealand Olympic Council was unwilling to pay Dorrie’s expenses, so a fundraising committee was formed - the Leslie Testimonial Fund – and £70 was raised. Dorrie and Jessie set off on the SS Monowai, departing Wellington on the 14th of June. Also on board were most of the New Zealand Olympics team, including officials. The Monowai arrived in Los Angeles on 1 July, in plenty of time for the team to acclimatise and prepare before the opening ceremony on 30 July. According to the passenger manifest, the Leslie’s were treated as if they were part of the Olympics team, and their fares had been paid by the New Zealand Olympic Association.
Jack Lovelock was a member of the team, but travelled to Los Angeles from England where he was studying medicine at Exeter College, Oxford. Lovelock was placed 7th in the final of the 1500 metres event. The following year he set a world mile record of 4:07.6 when running at Princeton, and of course in 1936 in Berlin his record time of 3:47.8 in the men’s 1500 m final ensured he won a gold medal. In 1932 New Zealand won only one medal, when the rowers Cyril Stiles and Fred Thompson came second in the men’s coxless pair.
Dorrie reported in letters home that he had been the official starter for various athletic events, and claimed to have been starter for both the first and the last events on the programme.
An innovation for New Zealand during the 1932 Olympics was the daily one-hour radio report on the Olympics for New Zealand and Australia by the film actress from New Zealand, Nola Luxford who had been living and working in Los Angeles for some years.
Dorrie continued his sporting activities after returning to New Zealand, and after his retirement in 1935, when he and Jessie moved to 284 Queen’s Drive, Lyall Bay, where they lived for the rest of their lives. Jessie died in 1945, and Dorrie in 1950. Both were cremated and their ashes interred in the family plot, joining his daughter Dorothy Victoria (died 1947) and her husband James Cassey (died 1940), and Emma Iremonger (nee Leslie) who died in 1918. The following year Dorrie’s son Cyril Theodore was also interred, and another daughter Gladys Sylvia (Hendry) was interred in 1961, followed by Dorrie’s stepson James Turfis in 1966. Altogether there are nine names on the headstone.
Dorrie’s family plot is easy to access on the left of the main road through the cemetery just before what is known as the “Three Vaults”. It is in reasonably good repair, but the concrete top is broken and looks very fragile - step on the stronger side concrete strips if you want to read the inscriptions on the headstone.
In 1951 the City Council was petitioned by the Lyall Bay Resident’s Association to name a small park area at the southern end of Lyall Bay after Dorrie. It still bears his name today – the Dorrie Leslie Park – and is a well-used boat launching ramp adjacent to the intersection with Hungerford Road.
Passenger transcript for SS Monowai - http://home.ancestry.com.au/
Evening Post, via https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/
I thought I'd write about something completely different I did when in London. I visited this amazing place down river to view a gem of Victorian engineering design and heritage.
The CROSSNESS PUMPING STATION is a heritage site most people have never heard of. I knew about it from watching programmes like “Seven Industrial Wonders of the World” which include Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s intercepting sewer system, installed in the 1850’s, encompassing a network of new drains throughout London, feeding effluent into vast sewers made of bricks. Sewage ran through these large tunnels with the aid of gravity, along both sides of the Thames, travelling eastwards to Crossness on the south bank, and to Barking on the north. The banks of the Thames were reclaimed and enclosed by these engineering works, creating today’s Embankment and South Bank areas.
This massive engineering project converted London from a filthy, stinking, disease ridden cesspit, and contributed a great deal to cleaning the Thames, which had until then been used as an open sewer for all the waste flowing out of London.
At Crossness, on the Erith Marshes, about 15 kilometres downriver from Westminster, the two-storey (3-level) brick building dominates the flat countryside around. Although the building itself is a splendid example of the engineering design and the brick builders skills, it is the restoration work inside that is stunning.
The whole complex comprised an engine house 150 feet long with a boiler room housing 12 boilers to raise the necessary steam power. There was also an engineering workshop and a valve house to control the flow of effluent through the site. A detached chimney, 208 feet high, sadly, was long ago demolished.
The four giant engines were built in Birmingham and transported in sections to London by canal. They were each given a royal name – Victoria, Prince Consort, Albert Edward, and Alexandra.
The pumping station was designed to receive up to 17 million gallons of sewage each day, which was pumped into an adjacent reservoir with a storage capacity of 25 million gallons. When the tide was flowing out to sea, the effluent was discharged from the reservoir into the Thames, to be carried a safe distance from the city. The reservoir is subterranean, and covered in soil and turf. 28 houses for workers were built around the edges of the reservoir, as well as a slightly grander one for the Works Superintendent, and there was also a school which catered for other children in the area. None of these are evident today.
To the uninformed, non-technical visitor such as myself, the engines are works of beauty, awesome in their size and impressive in scale. The beams above capture this sense, providing a useful measure of scale. The cast-iron work surrounding the octagonal area between the four engines has also been painstakingly restored, and the paintwork reveals a strong colour palette favoured by the Victorians.
More information about the site, the Crossness Engines Trust, visiting hours, steaming days etc. is available here.
You may think Wellington's weather is so unpredictable and so likely to be horrid throughout the winter months that there is no point arranging to take a tour of Karori Cemetery. Let me assure you, this is not the case. During the past 18 months I have only cancelled four tours because the weather was awful. On the other hand, 60 tours did proceed, throughout the year. Those taking a tour arrived ready for whatever the conditions were on the day - sun hats and shorts in the summer, and rain jackets, gumboots, and gloves in the winter. The central parts of the cemetery, which the themed tours traverse, are really sheltered, and I have become expert at finding the best spots to keep out of the wind, or in the shade on hot days. I have been impressed by the determination of those who have done tours with me to turn out even when conditions have seemed marginal. Vehicle tours have also been a great way of seeing the whole cemetery, no matter what the conditions - if it's hot it's too far to walk around the perimeter of 100 acres, and if it's freezing the views from within a vehicle are still great.
So, gather your friends, get your walking or other interest group geared up, and make a booking for a tour during the next few months. email@example.com or 021 0653 778