Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Shining with The Shiner: Edmond Slattery, 1838-11/8/1927.

Edmond Slattery came to New Zealand from Ireland for the gold, like so many others.  When the gold ran out for the working man Slattery became a swagger.  Swaggers were not tramps.  They were the essential, moving seasonal workers who were vital to New Zealand farmers.  Woe betide the farmer who became known by the swagger community for breaking the tradition of always having a bunk and a meal for a man on his way through the countryside.  When harvest time came his farm would be shunned.

Slattery, known as "The Shiner" was a swagger like no other.  He was, as John A Lee called him, the "anti-dynamo."  His famed ability to trick hard-nosed publicans out of a bottle of gin or a half-crock of whisky made legends grow out of anecdotes and a myth grow out of the legends.  Lee's biography of Slattery is kept in the Fiction section of the Dunedin Public Library.  Many of the stories were told to John by his father, an old friend of The Shiner.

There's a reason why, in a university, the History Department is in the Arts and not the Sciences.

Ned Slattery and his dog - taken around 1920

Slattery's legend has been told by better writers than myself and much of interest is only a Google search away.  Here is just one:

On another occasion, when surveyors were busy in the country, and boundaries were not very clearly defined, it is related how "The Shiner" and a number of his mates imposed on a rather too credulous hotelkeeper, whose wit was not a strong point. One fine morning "The Shiner" manufactured a theodolite out of an old alarm clock and three flax sticks for a tripod, and explaining his intentions to his mates, they proceeded to make surveys in the vicinity of the hotel in question, driving pegs in in an indiscriminate way in all directions. When "The Shiner" and company commenced to drive pegs in his garden the hotelkeeper, who had been an interested spectator of the preliminaries, wanted to know what it all meant. 'I am the head surveyor for the Government for this district.' replied ''The Shiner," 'and I am defining boundaries, and I find your hotel is 4ft over the road line. There is no doubt but that it will have to be shifted.' This alarmed the landlord somewhat, and the whirr of the old alarm clock on three sticks, still further alarmed him. 'Is there no way of arranging things with you, Mr Surveyor?' Of course Mr Surveyor was very indignant at the suggestion of his palm being greased, but by means of a few liberal presents to the chief and the members of his party a fresh "survey" was made which was much, more to the satisfaction of the landlord. "The Shiner" is now an old man, but he is still very erect and young in appearance. He has a quiet, humorous look, and hours might be spent listening to his tales. ...

-Anecdotes of tramp life - A C Stevens

I am, however, able to add just a tiny bit to the story of The Shiner - or rather his final resting place. Ned died in the Benevolent Institution in Caversham, Dunedin in 1927.  He was buried in a pauper's grave at Andersons Bay Cemetery and a group of Dunedin journalists passed the hat around to raise money for a gravestone.  Gravestones are not permitted on paupers' graves.  Stories I've read from 2001 and 2009 state that there is no gravestone.  But a stone appears in the 2014 photos taken of Dunedin graves and and available on the DCC Cemeteries search site.

A visit to local monumental masons resulted in a consensus - it is a professional job done by none of the masons working today.  The installation is not professional.  I've read about "guerrilla gardening" - the stealthy adding of plants, usually edible, to plots in public places.  Shiner Slattery's stone is an example of "guerrilla monumental masonry."  The 2001 story in the NZ Geographic Magazine had the writer finding it appropriate that there was no stone on The Shiner's grave.  I think Ned might have chuckled at the thought of someone sneaking a piece of granite in at night.

PS: Since publishing the above, my techniques have changed and I thought it might be worthwhile to see if there was more of interest that I could find about "The Shiner."  There certainly was.

 At the Courthouse this morning before Messrs Grumitt and Meek, J.P.'s, James Slattery, alias "The Shiner," was convicted of drunkenness and fined 10s, or 24 hours imprisonment.   -Oamaru Mail, 22/1/1895.

Ned Slattery, a regular sundowner, who is familiarly known throughout the South Island by the sobriquet of "Shiner," is at present "honoring" Milton with a visit. He was arrested yesterday for drunkenness, and will be brought up at the local court this morning.   -Bruce Herald, 4/4/1905.

References in the papers to "The Shiner" have his first name recorded mostly as Edward, though, as can be seen above, he was also James, Edmond, Edmund and, of course, Ned.

CITY POLICE COURT. (Before H. Y. Widdowson, Esq., S.M.A Drunkenness. — A first offender, who did not appear, was fined the amount of his bail (10s). Another first offender was fined 5s. Edmund Slattery (who was described as a bird of passage, well known of people as “The Shiner”) pleaded guilty to drunkenness, and promised not to bother the police again. — He was convicted and discharged.   -Evening Star, 26/9/1910.

An interesting personality turned up on a charge of drunkenness at the Dunedin S.M.'s Court the other day, in the person of Edmund Slattery, better known as "The Shiner," who has a reputation throughout the country as a confirmed occupier of the dock. Edmund is now seventyone years old and is getting a bit deaf, which caused him to make a rather funny reply to Magistrate Widdowson. The S.M. asked Edmund what work he had been doing recently, to which the latter replied: "Oh, either whisky or brandy." Edmund was finally convicted and discharged, on the understanding that he would never come to court again.  -NZ Truth, 1/10/1910.

At the City Police Court, Dunedin, on September 29th, Edmund Slattery, who gives his age as 71 years, and who was described by Sub-Inspector Phair as a bird of passage, more familiarly known as "The Shiner," was convicted and discharged for drunkenness. Old Charlestonians will recollect Slattery as storeman for Hehir and Molloy in the sixties, and as a prominent leader at the agitation in connection with the prosecution of Allen, Larkin, Gould and O'Brien for the shooting of Constable Brett at Manchester.   -Grey River Argus, 3/10/1910.

Local and General
Edward Slattery, 76 years, familiarly known throughout Southland, Otago, and Canterbury as "The Shiner," appeared in Court at Invercargill on Tuesday to answer a charge of being idle and disorderly, in that he did solicit alms. Senior-sergeant Burrowes, who had known the accused since '76, led the prosecution in no uncertain manner by declaring that Slattery was a typical "sundowner" and a champion work-dodger. He had solicited alms of Constable Anderson on the East road the previous day, which action was what had brought him there. Defendant stoutly maintained that he never had begged. People frequently offered him money, but he refused it. Besides, he had £l4 in safe custody at Gore. The case was adjourned until the afternoon to enable inquiries to be made regarding the money. On resuming the police reported that the cash was nowhere to be found, and the Bench extended to the accused the King's hospitality over a period of three months "hard." Slattery confessed that be "didn't expect to have to do time," and asked if he could call at Gore for his money "on the way down." The presiding J.P.s jestingly gave the desired permission, and  added that if the defendant did have money it only blackened his offence of begging.   -Nelson Evening Mail, 1/12/1916.

Police Court
Edward Slattery, said to be eightyseven years of age, pleaded guilty to being found drunk. — The Senior Sergeant said that defendant had not been before the court since 1923. He was a very old man, and a tramp well known in the Taieri district as “The Shiner.” — The Magistrate: “There is nothing known against him?” — The Senior Sergeant: “No, sir; only drunkenness.” — Defendant was convicted and discharged.  -Evening Star, 27/2/1925.

 [Written by B. Magee, for the Evening Star.]
The death of Edward Slattery (better known as “The Shiner") aged eightynine years, at the Benevolent Institution, Dunedin, removes one of the most picturesque figures from the highways and byways of this province, and in an especial manner from North Otago. Men of middle age can look back to their boyhood and visualise the romantic personage about whom clustered many strange and humorous stories; while men in the sere and yellow leaf recall the handsome, upstanding, raw-boned Irishman in the heyday of his youth, when life was freighted with golden dreams and gay anticipations. 
“The Shiner’' apparently had in his complex an unexpurgated vestige of a race once regarded as a human institution in Ireland. Up to the middle of the last half century, newspapers were few and far between, and the conditions under which the people lived in Ireland made them dependent for news of how the world wagged on a race of nomadic men and women, who roamed about the Green Isle, conveying the news to the lonely dwellings scattered throughout the country and the mountain fastnesses.
It is quite needless to say that the tribe who lived by this means were welcomed with that cordiality for which Ireland is so famed. An honored place by the fire, an attentive audience, payment in the shape of a plethora of homely food, and a comfortable lodging for the night were the rewards those people expected and received. Readers of Will Carlton’s stories will recall the type in ‘Mary Murray, the Match-maker.’ For the arranging of matches between the boys and colleens widely separated by distance, came within the provide of the race’s activities. The kitchen of an Irish household is described as the shadows lengthen and the landscape is becoming veiled in sleep. In rushes one of the little spalpeens of the family, yelling:
”Mother, mother, here’s Mary Murray comin’ up the boreen (short road)!” 
“Get out awick: no she's not," replies the mother, with half suppressed pleasure.
“Bad cess to me, but she is; that I may never stir if she isn’t. Now!” replies little Patsy. 
The whole family are thrown into excitement by the welcome intelligence that Mary is coming up the boreen. When she arrives at the door she is hurried to the place of honor by the hob, to the accompaniment of such expressions as;
“A hundred thousand welcomes, Mary.” “Och, Mary, musha, what kep’ ye away so long?” “An’ what news, Mary? Sure you'll tell us everything, won’t ye, now?” 
Mary tells them everything that happened, and probably a good deal that didn’t. How death had overtaken this one. The intelligence received from faraway New Zealand or Australia, of how some of the young people who emigrated were rising in the world. How such a marriage she had brought about between a boy in one end of the country and a colleen in the other was one long unbroken honeymoon. How another — in which Mary had no hand - did not turn out well — besides, as she said, “there was always a bad drop in the Haggerties.” 
Nurtured in such an environment Ned Slattery must have aspired to join the tribe of news gatherers and disseminators, an indolent nature assisting thereto, for “The Shiner” was work-shy, though it is said, that when needs must, “The Shiner” was capable of rising to the occasion and doing good day’s work. In the early days of settlement in New Zealand he must have found conditions akin to those he had left in his native land — people living away from the means of hearing what was going on in the world outside. Apparently “The Shiner,” for a time, found his calling welcome in the far-scattered communities, and thus he continued a custom in the new land which was long established in the old. Time and a changed environment altered conditions to such an extent that he found his occupation, like that of Othello’s, gone, never to return. But his habit of wandering over the country on foot became fixed and unalterable as a primary law of nature. The vagabond life “The Shiner” led has a strange fascination to most of us, for we are all at heart vagabonds and have a hankering after the open spaces like Cavalier and Roland of old, with the sky for a tent and no other bed but mother earth. 
So what does it matter if time be fleet, 
And life, sends no one to love us? 
We’ve the dust of the roadway under our feet. 
And a smother of stars above us. 
“The Shiner’s” peregrinations took him at times beyond the bounds of Otago and Southland. He was well known on the West Coast in the early days, and many a good story is told of his stratagems to evade the primal curse. A strange trait in his character was his honesty — with qualifications. 
The Ten Commandments, in his philosophy, were never designed to protect publicans, and on occasions they might be waived where stony-hearted farmers were in question. Publicans had preyed on “The Shiner,” and logically he might prey on them. On one occasion he lived sumptuously for quite a considerable period at the expense of a West Coast publican. Posing as a Government inspector of buildings, he directed Boniface’s attention by measurements to the fact that his hotel was encroaching several inches on the road line. Much correspondence ensued between “The Shiner” and hard officialdom of Wellington, but despite the sympathetic attitude adopted by the pseudonym inspector, the authorities insisted on the building being shifted back to its proper alignment. 
During the negotiations “The Shiner" dined on rich fare and partook liberally of the copious libations poured out by the alarmed publican. Ultimately “The Shiner,” like Moses of old, struck the hard rock of officialdom, in Wellington, and there issued forth a stream of mercy for the distressed hotelkeeper. The “inspector” conveyed the joyous news to the hotelkeeper, and with many blessings on his head, “The Shiner” fared forth into the world for fresh adventures. 
No one ever saw “The Shiner” in a hurry. He moved along with dignified mien, arms folded or clutching a stick over his shoulder, to which was attached all his portable property wrapped in a colored handkerchief. Church functions had a great fascination for him, and the greater the display of ecclesiastical purple, the greater the magnetic power it exercised over the wanderer. Indeed, the last big function, at which the whole of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in New Zealand assembled, the opening of Redcastle College at Oamaru, saw “The Shiner” fraternising with the prelatical big wigs. 
Sports gatherings, too, had an attraction for him, and in the heyday of his manhood he was frequently a competitor in the Irish Jig, which he danced as only an Irishman could dance it, with refinements and embellishments that have been grafted on in modern times severely eschewed. His arms worked, hobnail boots beat a lively clatter, legs were thrown out at right angles to his body —  of course — and the vim he infused into his performance sometimes won the favorable decision of the judges. On such joyous occasions “The Shiner” sometimes let himself go, with the result that he spent a few nights under a roof that kept out the rain; his usual nightly bed being wherever he hung up his hat  at nightfall — in old disused buildings, in caves in the hillsides, under hedges, burrowed into haystacks, and out in the open fields. 
On one occasion, when he overstepped the bounds of strict sobriety, “The Shiner” found himself the following morning looking from the dock at a countryman of his — a member of the Great Unpaid — perched in the magisterial bench. The J.P. was a bit of a character in the small Otago town where he ran a fancy goods store. Among his stock in trade was a great assortment of dolls, and much of the J.P.’s business consisted in retailing those to the budding maidens. The J.P. looked very sage and important in his exalted position, as he viewed with severity the delinquent before him. He admonished him on the baleful effects of over-indulgence in strong drink, to which admonition “The Shiner” listened, with scorn governing the motion of his curling lips. Forty-eight hours without the option was the price “The Shiner” had to pay for his hectic night. 
At the expiration of his term, when a constable set the captive free, he marched round to the gaoler’s office with arms folded and head thrown back, and to that astonished official put the question in a contemptuous tone of voice:
“Can you tell me where John, the doll-dealer lives?’’ 
And without awaiting a reply, he turned on his heel and majestically strode out to freedom. Whether he looked up the J.P. doll-dealer to square accounts is a point on which history is dumb.
To “The Shiner” the past was an encumbrance, the future a superfluity. “Sufficient for the day.” was his philosophy. North, south, east, or west was all the same - his only concern was where his next meal was to come from. Many stories cluster round the nomad, perhaps not all apocryphal, but he was the type of man whom they fitted. On one occasion it is recorded that he was undecided the particular road he would take, as he sat in the public house bar. Taking off one of his boots, he pitched it through the front door. The direction the toe pointed decided the route for the day’s tramp. 
As has been said, “The Shiner’s” pet aversion was work. At times, however, when the fount of farmers’ and townspeople’s generosity would dry up, it was a dire necessity. He was reduced to seeking a job on one occasion. A “cockie” engaged him on contract to dig a well. The job was tackled manfully, and when he got down the required depth, he scrambled out exhausted to survey the job. While he did so the sides fell in, and he saw by the terms of his contract the necessity of repairing the mischief that a malign fate had done. “The Shiner” pondered the situation, and his mind reacted to the demand made on it. Placing his hat and coat carelessly by the side of the collapsed well, he retired to the seclusion of a clump of hushes. Soon a farm hand happened along, and, seeing the collapsed well and "The Sinner’s” habiliments lying alongside, he raised a hue-and-cry. From all parts men hastened and heroically put their best into the work of digging out the well in order to recover the body. Finding nothing at the bottom of the well the men got out and mopped their perspiring faces. The ruse having succeeded, “The Shiner” rose from his hiding place, went over to the well, inspected it, complimented the farm hands on the job, went to the farmer, collected his fee, and stately strode off to the next township. 
“The Shiner” appeared to have no relations. He was always a solitary individual. He knew thousands intimately, and almost everybody in the country he traversed for generations know him. Yet he was always alone on his tramps. For some time he had been in the Old Man’s Home, at Oamaru, but the ingrained spirit of restlessness would occasionally prove too strong, and he would forsake the comforts of the home for another hike across country.
For several years his friends saw the end of “The Shiner’s” long road growing nearer. The handsome and commanding figure had shrunk, and the buoyant step had long lost its spring. The bizarre modes of dress affected in his younger days persisted to the end, though they more resembled the dropping sails on a much battered derelict vessel slowly drifting to its last port. 
The burden is too heavy for the back, 
The road too rough for all my strenuous trying; 
And all along the worn and withered track 
The flowers I used to see are dead and dying. 
Peace to his ashes.  -Evening Star, 20/8/1927.

Sir, — I listened-in on the "Man in the Street" session a couple of weeks ago to a brief but deeply interesting review of old-time pioneers who built the roadways for others to walk on in comfort and security, but who themselves were hot successful in ambitious struggle for fame and power, and whose lot was cast in squalid and hopeless drudgery and weary, low-paid toil. As a farmer's son and later a farmer myself, "Uncle Scrim's" reference to some of these one time well-known wanderers of the road touched a chord of remembrance of youthful experience and personal contact with at least some of the names quoted. First and foremost, Ned Slattery, "The Shiner," a beloved memory in many a way-back home, with his fund of wit and humour, ever ready to regale his hosts with tales of his unique exploits, and able to discourse on almost any subject from the Koran to the Bible, from Aristotle to Shakespeare, from the sagas of Norway to the fairy tales of Ireland. He would hold his audience enthralled. A nobleman of nature, highly educated, deeply religious, clean living, masterless and unmasterable, loyal to his friends, who were legion, and loved by even the dogs who barked him a welcome as the farmers' children ran to meet him. 
Then there were the "Galway Blazer" and the "Prince of Wales," two other well-known and well-liked walkers of the roads, who, too, had many friends, friends who were real and could see deeper than the outer garb, the artificiality that so often cloaks a crooked, cowardly, cunning mind and soul in the body so impeccably and respectably dressed. 
What a pity we did not then have, as we have now, a humane government to tend for and care for these poor old worn-out toilers, who had laboured to fatten the rich, yet failed to enrich themselves! They lived a hard life of privation and neglect, toiling hard for poor pay and poorer fare. Who could blame them if, in their hopelessness, some of them lost a trifle of society's polish and veneer? Yet they each and all carried hearts of gold beneath their threadbare coats. Reaping and tying by hand, opening and delving in shingle pits; building sod fences — back breaking, body-racking, life-sapping labour in the rain and cold of winter (the only time it could be efficiently done) draining swamps, and felling bush, what chance had these poor human beasts of burden of amassing wealth or station in society, or fame in history's annals? Most of them who are still alive are to-day inmates of our old men's homes, broken wrecks of humanity, dependent on the charity of a generation who enjoy the comforts their sweat and toil provided for a people who know them not. Would it not be a Christian and humane act of justice on our part, we who have reaped the fruits of their labour, their sweat, and endeavour, if we this coming Christmas, say, see that they get gifts such as a little pocket money, extra tobacco, a trip to the seaside, the pictures, a picnic, or any form of change or amusement that would appeal to them, and make them feel in their already numbered days that life for them has not been altogether in vain? Should any public-minded, humanity-loving citizen or benevolent society be interested in my suggestion, I will be only too pleased to subscribe to such a worthy and worth-while cause. In conclusion, may I quote a few lines of a poem "The Shiner" taught me as a boy: — 
Speak history who are life's victors 
Unroll thy long annals and say 
Are they those whom the world calls the victors 
Who won the success of the day? 
The martyrs or Nero? His judges or Socrates? 
Pilate or Christ? 
—Yours, etc., LET US REMEMBER. Hornby, November 22, 1938.  -Press, 26/11/1938.

“Shining with the Shiner,” by John A. Lee, D.C.M. (Bond’s Printing Company, Hamilton; 5s, post paid.) — Reviewed by W. Downie Stewart
This is a new book by Mr John A. Lee, who has already written five books, the most notable of which was “Children of the Poor,” described by Bernard Shaw as a "whopper.’’ Another of his books, “Civilian into Soldier,” was declared by a leading English periodical as the “best war book.” In this new volume Mr Lee has sought to recreate in a series of anecdotal chapters the portrait of a famous New Zealand swagger known as “The Shiner,” who lived by his wits and whose exploits have become almost legendary. Many people still alive knew “The Shiner,” whose real name was Ned Slattery. Mr Lee, who himself as a youth tramped the roads of Otago and Canterbury in every direction, says in his interesting introduction: “I knew a lot of the men of the road. I walked 30 miles side by side with ‘The Shiner’ in South Canterbury, so I have footed it with one of the most glamorous of our vagabonds.” He is of opinion that the day of the swagger is past, and that he will walk no more, partly because of social security, and partly because of the disappearance of the big stations that required a seasonal army for harvesting, shearing, and rabbiting. He does not regard the thousands of men who tramped the roads “in the giant depression of 1931-33” as swaggers — they were merely men out of work. His conviction that the swagger and the man out of work are things of the past may be sound if social security is sound — but there is and can be no such thing as security in this world. 
Although Mr Lee's introductory sketch of the swagger as a figure in our social history covers only six pages, in my view it is one of the best things he has ever written and will be invaluable to any future historian who does for New Zealand what Trevelyan has done in his "Social History of England.” The chapters which relate humorous episodes in the wandering life of “The Shiner" and his mate, “the Honourable MacKay" McKenzie, known as "the Highland chief,” and others are all vividly written. Mr Lee knows how to make his characters talk in the true language of the back-block “pub" bar and the swaggers’ camp, and there is pathos as well as humour in his stories. The only unpleasant incident in the book is the Honourable MacKay's habit of dropping his glass eye into other men's beer glasses, knowing that they would then reject the beer, which he promptly drank. But Mr Lee has been wholly successful in re-creating "The Shiner" and the life of the swagger fraternity. He had the wisdom, when broadcasting some years ago, to give a series of talks about swaggers, and this brought him hundreds of interesting letters, which now form what he calls “an amazing record of pioneering and vagabond reminiscence." He is still collecting such letters for the use of future writers. How true it is that the artist finds rich stores of material wherever he looks, while some young writers complain that they cannot find anything to write about! For my part. I can acquiesce in Mr Lee’s exclusion from politics without any profound regret if it means that he is going to write more books; these will bring him more permanent fame than he can hope to gain by building his house on the shifting sands of politics.  -Otago Daily Times, 6/1/1945.
So much for "Papers Past" references to "The Shiner."  A search for "Edward Slattery" produced many results, though the young man from Palmerston North of that name who died while tree felling was obviously not our man.  Several court appearances for drunkenness in the Otago region in the 1890s and into the next century were more likely him, including one which made reference to one Edward Slattery being provided liquor while under a prohibition order.
Peace to his ashes.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Killed at the waterfall - Thomas Jenkins, -1/1/1895.

Thomas Jenkins was born in 1879 near Bristol and emigrated with his family to New Zealand in 1891.

They settled at Green Island and, on a fine January day in 1895, Thomas and his brother Arthur went to explore the waterfalls up Leith Valley.  They walked up to the first waterfall on Nicols Creek and climbed up the cliff to the side of the falls.  Nearly at the top, Thomas slipped and fell.  Arthur tried to grab his leg as he fell past but could keep hold.  Thomas dropped 30 feet, striking the rocks as he did and coming to rest, head down, in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall.

Arthur rushed down to his brother and saw that he was badly injured. Leaving two other tourists to look after Thomas, he ran up the path to the nearest house - the Finnerty's place perched on the hillside close to the falls.  Elizabeth Finnerty helped him make a stretcher to carry Thomas - still breathing but unconscious and badly battered - down the track to Leith Valley Road.  Thomas was dead when they got there.  Death was due to fracture of the skull and associated damage to the brain.

The Jenkins grave in the Green Island Cemetery has no headstone.  Perhaps that is because Thomas' father James was a bootmaker and didn't have the money.  I could put up a photo of the grass over the graves - instead, here's a link to photos of all the local waterfalls that I know of.  There are a few.

Waterfalls of Dunedin

The Waterfalls of Dunedin
One of the many privileges of living in Dunedin is the great variety of wild places very close to town.  Of Dunedin's many waterfalls, some are only a few minutes' walk.  If you want to see all five on Nicols Creek, though, you'll need all day and a change of clothes at the end of it.
There is one waterfall not on this page, the one on the track from Bethunes Gully to the top of Mt Cargill.  I went for a photo in heavy rain a few years ago.  The photos I took were just of a shapeless mass of light brown water.  Next time...
Nicols Fall, Leith Valley

Nicols Falls, during the 2015 flood.

Nicols Creek, 2nd waterfall
Nicols Creek, 3rd waterfall.  There was once a footbridge over the top of these falls, taking a track up to the next waterfall
Nicols Creek, 4th Waterfall
Fourth waterfall, National Library Photo

Nicols Creek, the "Cups and Saucers."
The "Cups and Saucers," Hocken Library Photo.
Nicols Creek, the 5th waterfall.

Nicols Creek, the 5th waterfall, from a nearby track.

 Ross creek, artificial waterfall from the reservoir bypass race, during the flood of 2015

Ross Creek, beside the old Pineapple Track
Stereoscopic view from the Hocken Library

Branch of Lindsays Creek, Bethunes Gully

Morrisons Burn, Leith Valley, artificial (though may have been one previously) old 1909 water supply intake.

Another view of the 1909 intake.

Morrisons Burn, Leith Valley, above the 1909 intake.

Morissons Burn, Leith Valley, "Bruce and Lyalls Falls."

Evansdale Creek, near Evansdale Glen.
Leishmans Falls, Silverstream Valley

Craiglowan Falls, McQuilkans Creek, Silverstream Valley

"Make way for the digger flag!" - 1734 Ian William Grant, 25/11/1921-13/12/1939.

Commemorative stone for Ian Grant, Northern Cemetery, Dunedin

Ian William Grant was born on the 25th of November 1921 and grew up on Cavell Street in Tainui, Dunedin.

He joined the NZ Division of the Royal Navy in 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II.  After training he was posted to the light cruiser HMS Achilles in August of 1939 just before deployment to the South Atlantic Ocean.

The Achilles was hunting for the German commerce raider KMS Graf Spee.  After a radio warning from the Doric Star just before the Graf Spee sank it, the Achilles and two other cruisers (light cruiser Ajax and heavy cruiser Exeter) positioned themselves off the River Plate estuary.  It was a tactical gamble - the Spee outranged all of the other ships, with its larger guns.  The cruisers had the advantage of attacking from different directions with the advantage of one ship being clear of enemy fire at any time.

At 6.21am on December 13, 1939, the Graf Spee was sighted.  All ships ran up their Battle Ensigns, not to be lowered until the fight was over - one way or another.  On Achilles a signalman ran to the mast, shouting "Make way for the Digger flag!"  The Royal New Zealand Navy Ensign was raised for the first time.

Royal Navy Ensign
Royal New Zealand Navy Ensign

Ian Grant's station in battle was at one of the four inch guns.  They were lighter than the main armament of six inch guns and had shields rather than turrets.  A near miss from the Graf Spee sent jagged shards of metal over the Achilles and killed four men.  In the words of Able Seaman Huia Beesley, also on the gun - "Unfortunately young Ian Grant who was alongside of me copped it in the chest. He died immediately. A chap…dropped to the deck [wounded]…there was no use leaving him there, we couldn’t do anything as far as firing was concerned. I picked him up, threw him over my shoulders…to get him down to Sick Bay."

One of the three cruisers facing the Graf Spee got a very lucky shot in.  It destroyed a vital piece of the Spee's equipment, the oil purification plant which was vital to operating the Spee's diesel engines.  The desalinisation plant, essential for drinking water at sea, was also destroyed.  When the Germans ran for the neutral port of Montevideo it was with very little usable fuel left.  The cruisers' crews weren't to know it but there was no way for the Spee to return to sea and the 72 hour period allowed by international law to stay in a neutral port was in no way long enough to make repairs.

While the Spee's Captain, Hans Langsdorff, communicated with his superiors in Germany the three cruisers kept watch in international waters.  Repairs could be made and the dead buried at sea.  The body of 18 year old Ordinary Seaman Ian William Grant was committed to the deep at 10am.  His was the first New Zealand death in uniform of World War Two.

The Graf Spee came out of port on December 17th and the three cruisers were ready for another fight. To the crews' amazement, the Spee stopped, the last of its crew left, and the ship blew up.  It burned for two days.  Captain Langsdorff shot himself, lying on the Spee's battle ensign.

HMNZS Achilles

The Grant family plot.

Ian William Grant...NZDRN No 1734...Killed in action...on...HMS Achilles...against..."Graf Spee"...River Plate Battle...Dec 13th 1939...Aged 18

Ordinary Seaman Ian William Grant

Note - The Achilles, although flying the "Digger flag" against the Graf Spee, was not officially a New Zealand ship.  It was on loan to New Zealand from 1936 and commissioned as a RNZN ship in October, 1941.  After return to the Royal Navy in 1946, the Achilles became the Indian Navy Ship Delhi.  When the Delhi was scrapped in 1978 one of the main gun turrets was gifted to the New Zealand government and now stands at entrance of the Devonport Naval Base, Auckland.

South Dunedin

Forbury, Dunedin
Abbotsford, Dunedin

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

"an illegal operation" - Helen Glegg, 1831-3/9/1924.

Mr and Mrs Charles Frederick Glegg lived in Smith Street, Dunedin.  Charles was a civil engineer and Helen was a wife and mother.  Both were originally from Scotland, arriving in 1880, and Charles had a strong interest in Scottish culture and knowledge generally, being a frequent writer of letters to various editors on a wide range of subjects - from effigies at Westminster Abbey to six-toed people.

They had three children - Henry, born in 1872; Frederick, born in 1883; and a daughter, described as being "of feeble intellect," born about 1884.  Helen took in boarders in their Smith St house.

Young Frederick Glegg died at the age of ten in 1893, and some time later the family moved to Lees Street.  Charles died there in 1912 at the age of 72 and it was not long after that tragedy that Helen Glegg's life took another direction.

Eight years after her husband's death, Helen and her two remaining children were in Philips Street, Kensington, in a three bedroom house containing the three family members and two boarders.  On March third, 1920, Helen's remaining son, Henry died and, three months later, tragedy struck the household again.

Shortly before 7pm on June 12th a Dr Lindon took a telephone call and a man's voice reported a very ill young woman who needed his help.  The same man called an hour later, saying that the case was urgent.  He arrived at Mrs Glegg's house in Philips Street just after 9pm to find a young woman in bed, dead and still warm.  As was his duty in such circumstances, Dr Lindon called the police.

Police Detective Hall, with Sergeant Thomson arrived at eleven the next morning and found the body of Olive May Pile.  Certain "instruments" were secured and, while searching the rest of the house, tried to open a door when Mrs Glegg held it shut, saying "There is no one in there."  Hall opened the door anyway and found a second young woman, alive but very unwell.  The second young woman was Rose Williams, an orchardist's daughter from Alexandra and she was suffering from septicemia caused by an illegal abortion.

Olive Pile's story was a simple one.  A fisherman's daughter from Karitane, she had recently left home and taken a job as a domestic servant in Oamaru.  She was 20 years old and had been seeing a young man called Thomas Burnett, a railway surfaceman.  Olive became pregnant and there was a meeting between the two of them and Olive's father - who shortly after called the police.  Olive and Thomas took a train to Dunedin and then the St Kilda tram to Kensington, to 15 Philips Street.

Philips St, with DCC gasometer.

There, they met Helen Glegg - though it became clear to Thomas that Olive had been to Philips Street before.  Thomas was asked by Helen - "What are you going to do?"  Thomas replied -  "I don't care what it is going to cost, I am prepared to pay  it."  He was told that the price to pay was twenty pounds. Burnett handed over the cash - a ten and two fives - and Helen Glegg left him and Olive alone in the sitting room.  Shortly after, Thomas left and returned to Oamaru.

A few days later, Thomas received a telegram which read "All well. M Pile"  The following Saturday Thomas returned to Dunedin, made his way to Philips Street and asked to see Olive.  It was around 10.15 pm on June 12.  "Are you the girl's boy?"  asked Helen.  Yes, replied Thomas.  Helen then told him the tragic news.

"What am I going to do?" asked Thomas. "What am I going to do?" was the reply.  Thomas was told what to do - leave, and tell no one of his part in the matter.

Helen Glegg was arrested on two charges of "performing an illegal operation," referring to the abortions performed on Rose Williams and Olive.  She was later charged with the murder of Olive May Pile.

The trial was, as you might expect, a dramatic one.  Rose was unable to testify initially, still gravely ill in hospital.  Thomas Burnett gave evidence as to his part, and police presented four pieces of wire, described as meat skewers, one of them bloodstained.  Other equipment was produced in court, described as "the favourite instruments used for abortion."

The Government Pathologist gave his verdict on the cause of Olive's death - septicemia.

Alfred Hanlon, Glegg's lawyer, successfully defended her by pointing out that, in order to commit murder, the accused would have to have intended to kill Olive May Pile, which was obviously untrue. 

The jury's verdict on the charge of murder was an easy one.  She was found guilty, however, of "performing an illegal operation" on Rose Williams but the jury recommended mercy from the court in view of her age and infirmity.

Helen Glegg was then tried for "performing an illegal operation" on Olive Pile.  The jury found her "not guilty" on the weight of previously presented evidence.  At her sentencing regarding Rose williams, Alfred Hanlon spoke on her behalf, referring to her advanced age (72) and the fact that she was left a widow seven or eight years before in very poor circumstances.  She had no way of making money for herself and her "mentally deficient" daughter and that was the reason why she had been  "tempted to follow the occupation that had brought her into the present position."  Hanlon expressed his fear that, such was her physical condition, any prison sentence would be a death sentence.

The Crown Prosecutor stated that since the death of her husband she had carried out abortions  "There had been some serious cases, but the corroborative evidence was not strong enough to bring her before the court.  She was looked upon as a very serious danger to the community."  The Gaol Surgeon reported that her health had been failing since her arrest.

She was sentenced to eighteen months in prison, without hard labour.

Helen did her time and moved in early 1923 to a house in Nairn Street, Kaikorai, boarding there with her daughter.  On September 3rd, 1924 Helen hanged herself with a jersey belt from a pedestal bed. She had been drinking heavily and worrying about her situation.  A coroner's jury returned a verdict of death by strangulation.  The fate of Helen Glegg's daughter is not recorded in the newspapers - even her name was not reported.  Perhaps, with her mother gone, she went to the Seacliff Asylum.

Rose Williams, if she is the same Rose Williams in the cemetery at Alexandra, died a widow at the age of 60.  The Philips Street house, if not demolished earlier, would have gone to make room for the new Southern Motorway from the Oval to Caversham.

The Glegg grave in the Northern Cemetery: mother, father, sons - no daughter.