Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Sergeant-Major Michael Stevens, 1823-15/7/1887.

I've not found much about the early life of Sergeant-Major Stevens.  He was an Irishman, born in 1823 and joined the 70th (Surrey) Regiment of Foot in about 1840.  He would have spent time in India with the 70th on its posting in Bengal, 1857-1858.

The 70th Regiment came to New Zealand for the "Maori Wars" in 1861 and left in 1866.  Presumably Stevens had finished his period of service and chose to be paid off in New Zealand and settle here.  He joined the Otago Volunteers - he is reported in 1864, with the title of Drill-Sergeant, escorting Captain Graham, Adjutant of the Otago Volunteers, in his satisfactory inspection of the Caversham Contingent, prior to their election of their officers.

In 1866 the Otago Daily Times reported: "On Saturday afternoon last, as Sergeant-Major Stevens, Volunteer Drill Instructor, was returning from the Kaikorai Rifle Butts, in an express waggon driven by Mr Morton, storekeeper, Richmond Hill, the horse, while passing the latter place, suddenly took fright, causing the vehicle to upset and its occupants to be violently thrown out. Dr Crawford was soon on the spot, and by his advice the Sergeant-Major was conveyed to the hospital, where he was found to be suffering from concussion of the brain, and that a rib was fractured, and one shoulder dislocated and both the fore arms broken. Drs Hunter and Crawford visited him yesterday, and up to last evening he was progressing favorably. Mr Morton was severely cut and bruised and a little boy who was with him received an internal injury which, is likely to prove dangerous. The two latter sufferers were taken to their own homes."  At the end of that year Michael Stevens was back of parade with the Volunteers, being presented with a gratuity to acknowledge his "assiduous attention to the interests of the company and the care he had given to the guns while in charge of them."

"B" Battery, Otago Volunteers.  Date unknown.  The soldier second from left wears a Sergeant's stripes with an embellishment above - he is identified as James Niven.  Hocken Library photo.

In 1868 his name appears on a list of Volunteers who will have served (by the end of the then current financial period) the prescribed five years and to thus be entitled to remission of monies for the purchase of land. He was announced in the Otago Daily Times, January 1872, as being promoted from Quartermaster Sergeant to Staff Sergeant-Major.

November of 1877 saw a big review, demonstration and "sham fight" of the Otago Volunteers.  Men from all around the Dunedin area were involved, as were some from Invercargill.  A Queenstown contingent were unable to make it owing to the Mataura River being in flood.  Staff Sergeant Stevens served on the staff of the Division Commander, Major Stavely.

"Volunteers left for Forbury Park (from the Exchange) at half past 11 o'clock, and a very large number of persons followed them along the line of march. Others went to the scene of the Review and Sham Fight in vehicles, and a very large number availed themselves of the special trains run on the Ocean Beach line of railway. Altogether between five and six thousand persons must have been present when the sham fight took place.

"The sham fight was looked forward to an the great event of the day, but the arrangements made by the Volunteer authorities were somewhat marred by the action of several hundred spectators who wholly disregarded the reasonable request that had been made to the effect that they would keep clear of the Sandhills where the volunteers were manoeuvring. Long before the arrival of the main body of the force on the ground the Naval Brigade had erected batteries on the Sandhills, and mounted their howitzers and six pounder guns there, a work of no small difficulty. In a short time the batteries were thronged with people, and when the hour arrived for the fight to commence, all the efforts of the volunteers to induce the public to retire to a respectful distance were futile, and the services of two or three policemen had to be called into requisition. Even then the spectators could only be persuaded to retire to a distance of a few yards from the battery, and all the sandhills immediately adjoining were crowded with men women, and children. The sham fight, regarded as a spectacle, was far from being successful. It was impossible to note with any degree of accuracy the movements of either the attacking party or the defence force, owing to the dense crowd of outsiders, but the spectators on the Grand Stand were good humoured, and being quite willing to take a great deal for granted, regarded the sham fight as a remarkably good piece of mimic warfare. Had the hills been left clear the mock engagement would have been a very interesting sight, but it required a strong imagination to enable the most enthusiastic admirer of the citizen soldiers to picture to themselves a real battle while the batteries were surrounded by picnic parties, and the skirmishers compelled to pick their way among groups of women and children. Before commencing an account of the sham fight we may mention that the enemy were represented by the Dunedin and Port Chalmers Naval Brigade, the Naval Cadets, and the Invercargill contingent, under command of Captain Goldie, Captain Heywood as referee. They were supposed to have landed in the night, and taken up an almost impregnable position on the sandhills. Their main position was on a commanding hill within a short distance of the ocean, where a battery had been erected, and several hundred yards in advance of this, and also on commanding hills were a central battery and two flag batteries, armed with six-pounder guns. The attacking force consisted of three battalions — the first under command of Major Wales, forming the right attacking column, the second battalion under Major Jones, forming the left attacking column, and the third battalion under Captain Murray, forming the reserve of the attacking force. A division of the Artillery and Artillery Cadets accompanied each of the attacking columns. At the command of Major Stavely the attacking column moved to the assault, after which they were left in the hands of their commanding officers. The assault was commenced first by the right column, with Artillery and skirmishers, the left column quickly following suit. The right flank battery of the enemy was soon silenced, and taken, and after the one on the left had shared a similar fate, the attacking forces moved towards the central battery, pouring in volley after volley of musketry, while the enemy responded with three six pounders. The enemy in giving way carried with them their right and left flank guns, but abandoned the guns of the central battery, and fell back upon their main position in the rear. The men of the left attacking column were the first to get into tho central battery when the enemy had been driven out, and when the officer in command jumped over the breastwork, gallantly waving his cap and followed by his men, there was loud cheering. After being driven back to their main position, the enemy were reinforced, and the attacking party, who had followed them up to the foot of the hill upon which the main battery had been placed, were repulsed and driven back on the first line, where the three batteries were, after a hard struggle, recaptured by their former occupants. The position in which the attacking forces discovered the enemy was one from which, in the opinion of military critics, it was next to impossible to dislodge them, the nature of the ground favouring the defending forces in every respect. All credit must be given to the men and officers for the way in which they worked. Ancle deep in sand, the condition in which many of them came out of the sham fight proved that they had been engaged in no child's play. They showed remarkable activity, and in their eagerness to get to the attack several of them were well marked with powder, and one private had his neck artistically ornamented with scratches inflicted with the points of his comrade's bayonets." -Otago Witness, 17/11/1877.

The Evening Star of 23 June, 1886 reported that: "Several Otago petitions were presented to Parliament to-day. Mr Bradshaw presented one on behalf of Michael Stevens, formerly in Her Majesty’s 70th Regiment, serving in the New Zealand War, and afterwards in the Militia as drill-instructor. As he was injured while on duty as a drill-instructor, he prays for some consideration. The petition was informal, as there was only one signature to the petitioner’s mark, but the House waived the informality."  Michael Stevens was not to enjoy his "consideration" for long.  In 1887, at the age of 64, Staff Sergeant Stevens was buried in Dunedin's Southern Cemetery.

NZ402844 Flight Sergeant Stuart Corliss Black, 14/12/1914-12/12/1941.

BLACK — Sergeant: Pilot Stuart Corliss, NZ402844, killed in action December 12, 1941, dearly beloved husband of Dorothy Black, Wellington, and elder son of Mr and Mrs, T. M. Black, 33 Meadow street, Mornington, Dunedin: aged 27 years. "He died that we might live.” -Otago Daily Times, 22/12/1941.

Southern Cemetery, Dunedin

I am always made a little sad to read an epitaph like "He died that we might live."  Stuart Black's death did not win the Second World War.  His was merely one of the millions which occurred during the conflict.

The NZ Wargraves Project describes his early life:

"STUART CORLISS BLACK born on 14 November 1914 at 115 Stafford St, Dunedin. A clerk, he lived at his parent's residence in Dunedin in 1938. In 1940 Stuart married DOROTHY WYON COLLINS, and joined the State Fire Office in Wellington. They lived in Seatoun. When war broke out, after aircrew training, he joined No. 49 Squadron of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command. (No 49 Squadron, although a line RAF unit, was also described in official records as No 49 (R.A.F.) Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.)"

There seems to be a slight discrepancy in the NZWP details - Stuart and Dorothy were engaged in March 1940 and  were married in 1941.  For what it's worth, Stuart is mentioned as being in the RNZAF at the time of his wedding but not at the time of his engagement.

A wedding of local interest took place at St. George's Church, Seatoun, recently, when Dorothy Wyon, second daughter of Captain and Mrs. F. W. Collins, was married to Sergeant Pilot Stuart Corliss Black, R.N.Z.A.F., elder son of Mr. and Mrs. T. .M. Black, Dunedin. Archdeacon Jermyn officiated. The bride, who was escorted by her father, wore a slim fitting gown of white satin, soft tulle forming a long train. Her beautiful veil of Brussels lace, which had been worn by her maternal grandmother at her own wedding, was held by tiger lilies, which also formed the bridal bouquet. Miss Cicely Collins attended her sister. Her frock was of powder blue taffeta and she carried a posy of flowers in soft pastel shades. Second-Lieutenant Leonard Sharpe, of Dunedin, was best man. A reception was held at the Empire Hotel, the guests being received by Captain and Mrs. Collins, assisted by Mr. and Mrs. G. C. Black, of Christchurch (uncle and aunt of the bridegroom) in the unavoidable absence of his parents. The beautiful floral decorations were carried out by Miss Black, the bridegroom's aunt, and a special feature was the blue bird of happiness formed from hydrangea petals. .Mrs. A. Thomas sang at the church and reception. The bride left for her honeymoon in a smart petrel blue ensemble worn with a brown hat, fox fur, and accessories to tone.  -Evening Post, 8/3/1941.

The Squadron History of No.49  describes Stuart's last flight:


Shortly after 10.00hrs, the unit dispatched 2 aircraft for daylight sorties against targets in Germany. The Robinson crew (AD979) of Black, Price and Mossop were detailed to bomb the barracks at Cuxhaven. These could not be located, so the crew then went on to bomb and strafe the local aerodrome.
Facing intense ground fire Sgt Pilot Robinson took his aircraft down to 100ft to carry out the attack. During the assault, one hangar was seen to blow up and 2 aircraft were set on fire on the ground; the town was also machine gunned. Inevitably the Hampden sustained numerous flak hits and was severely shot up. Sadly, F/Sgt Stuart Black RNZAF, was struck by fragments from a cannon shell and killed. The pilot now had to get the battered aircraft back to England. Making landfall over the Norfolk coast, the aircraft made for Bircham Newton, where without the use of hydraulics (rendered useless by cannon shells), he managed a successful crash-landing; timed at 16.35hrs.
F/Sgt Black is buried in Great Bircham Churchyard in Norfolk."

Handley Page Hampden.  A pre-war design lauded by the government as a "fighting bomber" due to its manoeuvrability and a single forward-firing machine gun.  49 Squadron replaced them with the Avro Manchester in 1942.

An interesting detail above is that Stuart, although a pilot, was not piloting the Hampden and was flying as an air gunner.

Misshipman Duncan Boyes - a VC and two graves.


Sir, — Are you aware that young Duncan Boyes, who is referred to in the article under above heading in a late issue, died in Dunedin about 28 or 30 years ago and was buried in the Church of England Cemetery (South), just inside where the old gate was, on the left hand side, where may be seen the headstone, inscribed, "Duncan Gordon Boyes, V.C.  died . . . 1869"? — I am, &c, J. F.  -Otago Witness, 5/8/1897.
Duncan Boyes no longer rests in the Church of England Cemetery (South), although his rare double gravestone is still there.

Duncan's (empty) grave - the headstone.

The Lake Wakatip Mail described the medal-winning action in a laconic, manly, Victorian way:

"We had a little war with Japan in '67.  A combined fleet of English, French,and Dutch undertook the little job.  A force was landed which destroyed the Japanese batteries whereupon the French and Dutch returned to their ships.  Hardly had they done so, when a strong body of Japs fell upon the British contingent.  They were repulsed, and took refuge behind stockades, whence they poured on our men a murderous fire of old nails, and even stones from their muskets.

"The war in Japan.  The Naval Brigade and Marines storming the stockade at Shimononseki September 4th. -From a  sketch by our special artist." (Illustrated London News)

"Then it was that a middy of H.M.S. Euryalus, young Duncan Boyes, showed his metal. He was carrying a colour with the leading company. Both his Colour-sergeants were shot, but he rushed on twenty yards ahead, and, as his commander afterwards said, appeared about to attempt the capture of the Japanese defences single handed. Indeed, no doubt he would have done so had be not been called back by the captain. His uniform was cut by the bullets, and no less than six had pierced the colours he was carrying. Well did he deserve the reward of valour." 

For some reason, the Mail gets the date wrong here.  The "little war" with Japan was in 1864.

Duncan's (empty) grave - the footstone.

Duncan was only seventeen when he won the VC.  It was not long after that he was court martialled and dismissed from the Royal Navy for breaking into the Naval Yard in Bermuda after being refused admission due to not having a pass.  It is possible that this crime was one of many, hence the severity of the punishment.  Duncan never recovered from the disgrace.  He became depressed and, as they say, took to drink.  He went back to the family home at Kawarau Falls near Queenstown to try and get his life back in order.  In 1869, he broke down completely and fell out of a window to his death in Dunedin.  His death certificate states the cause of death as "delerium tremens."  

Victoria Cross (Naval Ribbon)

Duncan was buried at the Southern Cemetery in a grave which is notable in Dunedin for having a footstone as well as a headstone. His remains were exhumed and transferred to Andersons Bay cemetery when the servicemen's section was established in 1954.  He must be unique in Dunedin in having two graves.  His VC is in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery in the Imperial War Museum, London.

Andersons Bay Cemetery

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

NZ412719 Pilot Officer William Alfred Moore, 1922-18/3/1944.

From "the community archive"

Peter Moore (as he was known) was born in Dunedin in 1922 and went to John McGlashen College and Otago University. He enlisted in the RNZAF in 1941 and trained at Taieri, Wigram and in Canada. On arrival in the UK in December 1942 he continued training before being posted to 88 Squadron RAF operating Douglas Boston III aircraft over Europe. After only four operations he was killed on 18 March 1944 when his Boston crashed on a night navigation training flight. He is buried at Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey.
Douglas Boston bomber of RAF 88 Squadron.

Southern Cemetery, Dunedin.

From the NZ Wargraves Project.

Sir James Mills of the "Southern Octopus"


Sir James Mills, whose death has occurred in London, will be remembered as one of the chief builders of New Zealand's economic structure. He took his part in public affairs also, devoting 16 of the best and busiest years of his life to service in Parliament. But his chief achievement was the founding and vigorous development of the Union Steam Ship Company from small beginnings to the largest and most powerful shipping concern in the Southern Hemisphere. In serving this creation of his active brain and steady will, Sir James also served New Zealand well. New Zealand's passengers, mails and trade were carried in her own ships to most parts of the Pacific and into the Indian Ocean. The colony and later the Dominion was thus saved from a limiting dependence on the enterprise of other countries for ocean transport; her needs in this department were considered by a New Zealander and from a New Zealand point of view. Not only that, but from the Rotomahana of almost 60 years ago to the great motor-ship Aorangi, Sir James kept his fleet in the van of progress. Although he lived to be 88, he never became too old for new ideas; he was ever ready for experiments, although he brought to bear on them the practical gift of insight as well as foresight. He watched the development of the internal combustion engine and helped to put it to work in road as well as sea transport. More than that, he had great faith in its future harnessed to the aeroplane, and before he died had the satisfaction of seeing his company launched into the new world of air transport. New Zealand is the poorer for his death, but the richer for his full and constructive life. -NZ Herald, 25/1/1936.

James Mills was brought up in Dunedin, the son of a customs officer (the first in Otago, starting at Port Chalmers in 1849), and worked for Johnny Jones, starting as a shop assistant.  Eventually he was the manager of Jones' Harbour Steam Company and, on his death, the main trustee of his estate.  By 1871 he was the main shareholder of the Company and floated the Union Steam Ship Co in 1875 in partnership with a Scottish shipbuilder.  The USSCo achieved a near monopoly of trans-Tasman trade and owned 75 ships by 1914, earning it the nickname of the "Southern Octopus."  He spent his later years, before retirement to England, in local politics, representing the Port Chalmers electorate from 1887 to 1893. He was knighted in 1907 and made a KCMG (Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George) in 1909.

Harry Smith, miner, 1913 "a good son and a loving brother"

The District Coroner (Mr C. C. Graham) held an inquiry at the Dunedin Hospital yesterday afternoon into the circumstances touching the death of Harry Smith, who died as the result of a blasting accident in the Chain Hills tunnel on Friday evening. Senior-sergeant King represented the police, Mr J. F. M. Fraser appeared on behalf of the department, and Mr C. J. Payne on behalf of the relatives of the deceased. There were also present Messrs Green and Thomson (Department of Mines) and Mr John Wood (Railway Department). The first witness was James J. Owen, a miner employed in the Chain Hills tunnel, who appeared with his head bound up, the result of a fall of timber which occurred since the accident. He had been working with deceased on the night of the accident. Deceased was placing the gelignite plugs in position in the hole, and Gardiner was using the tamping rod. He was pushing a plug into place when the explosion occurred. The gelignite was in the usual cartridge, which was to be ignited by a cap and fuse. The deceased had the cap and fuse hanging on his arm. The fuse was not attached to the charge, and witness could not account in any way for the explosion. The first thing he saw after the explosion took place was Stanley Simons, one of the men, staggering towards the schute. Witness caught him and put him to one side. The schute was about 7ft from the blast. He then rushed round and got hold of the deceased who was lying huddled up, partly on his face. He showed no signs of consciousness, and they carried him on to the scaffolding. His injuries were principally on the jaw and forehead. The deceased was kept there until the stretcher came, when they carried him from the tunnel to the changing room. A wire was sent to have the express stopped, and deceased, along with the other injured men, was taken in to the Hospital. The accident occurred a few moments before 6 p.m. 
To Mr Fraser: They were using the copper tamping rod provided for the purpose. 
To Mr Payne: The boring was being done 23 chains inside the tunnel. Gardiner was doing the boring with a machine. Deceased's duty was to hold a bag over the drill hole to keep the dust from their faces. Douglass, the permanent ganger, was ill, and Gardiner was acting in his place. He had been so acting for five days. Joyce, the permanent machine man, was also off work ill. When both Joyce and Douglass were away Gardiner acted as ganger, but he had to work with the rest of the men. One could not be too careful in using the gelignite cartridge, and only a thoroughly experienced person should be allowed to use it. A man must have a certificate before he could be allowed to charge a bore with gelignite. 
To Mr Fraser: Gardiner was always a careful man, and he used every possible care on the night in question. 
To Mr Thomson: The hole was on a slight incline, almost horizontal. It was rough, and the plug evidently did not go to the bottom of the hole when it was put in. The tamping pad was applied gently to the cartridge, and at that moment the explosion occurred. The gelignite was always more dangerous when frozen, and they had instructions to warm it in a special pan for the purpose when it, was frozen. 
Herbert Warner Gosling, machinist, employed at the tunnel, said that he was about a chain further in from where the accident occurred. He had occasion to see Gardiner, and he had just got back to the heading when he heard the explosion. He heard something like a groan, and he and his mate ran out and saw the deceased, Gardiner, and Owen (the last witness). Deceased was propped up on the stage. Witness went and telephoned for a doctor and brought a stretcher to carry the deceased out. When he came out after the explosion he saw the fuse which deceased had had, with the cap attached. Both were unused.
Dr Stewart, resident house surgeon at the Hospital, said that the deceased Smith was admitted to the Hospital at 7.20 p.m. on the 9th inst. He was quite dead, but warm. There were several deep lacerations on the head down to the skull. His right collarbone 'was fractured. The cause of death was severe concussion of the brain.
Charles Robert Gardiner, miner, also employed at the Chain Hills tunnel, said that he himself, the deceased, and some others were completing a blasting hole in the tunnel. Witness was acting ganger, and deceased was placing the gelignite cartridge in the bore for him to press home with the ordinary copper tamping rod used for the purpose. The first cartridge was a little tight, but he got it to the bottom. The second cartridge seemed to go down all right on being gently pressed with the tamping rod. Just as he felt that he had got it home the explosion occurred. Where the tamping rod went to he did not know. He was lifted right off his feet and thrown back two or three yards, his arms being badly injured. The lights went out with the explosion, and when they came on again he noticed the deceased lying on the ground. Witness had had a good deal of experience in tunnels on the Midland railway, the Otira tunnel, and other places as well, and held a certificate for using gelignite. He used the utmost care on the evening of the accident, and had there been any carelessness on anyone's part he was sure to have noticed it. He could form no idea of the cause of the explosion. The gelignite was kept in a warm place, and had no chance of being frozen. 
To Mr Payne: There was no occasion to examine the cartridges. To his knowledge they were not examined at all. Douglass and Joyce being away, he took both their places. They were thus working one man short.  This was all the evidence. 
The Coroner said that there seemed to he no evidence of want of care on the part of anyone. He found: "the cause of death was concussion of the brain caused by the premature explosion of a blast, there being no blame attachable to anyone." -Otago Daily Times, 13/5/1913.
Harry was single and lived with his mother in Caversham.

John Ritchie Caldwell Laidlaw of the "RNFC," 7/1/1892-17/3/1916.

Mistakes on gravestones are perhaps more common than you might think.  John Laidlaw's commemoration in Dunedin's Southern Cemetery shows him as belonging to the RNFC - presumably the "Royal Navy Flying Corps."  This unit never existed; there was the Royal Flying Corps, part of the British Army, and the Royal Naval Air Service.  The two arms were combined to become the Royal Air Force on (to the delight of the pilots) April the first, 1918.

John Laidlaw's rank of Sub-Lieutenant is a naval one.


John Ritchie Caldwell Laidlaw, the aviator whose death was announced in yesterday's cablegrams, was a son of Mr R. Laidlaw, who was until recently in the ironmongery business in Dunedin. He was 24 years of age. He proceeded Home last August at his own expense, and entered the aviation school. Cabled advice to his relatives informed them that he received his pilot certificate on March 2, and had been accepted by the Admiralty for active service with the rank of sub-lieutenant. In Dunedin he attended the High Street School, the St. Clair School, and the Otago Boys' High School.  -Otago Witness, 22/3/1916.

Southern Cemetery, Dunedin

"After four months of training he was judged a careful and steady pilot.  On this day, however, his Caudron G-2 aircraft left the ground and climbed at a very steep angle until it stalled, nosed over and crashed from 250 ft., the engine never having been switched off.  As these aircraft tended to climb when the control stick was released, witnesses said that it appeared that he had lost consciousness and, when the stall began, he fell onto his stick, aggravating the dive.  He was 24."
-The life and times of RNAS bomber pilot Donald E Harkness.  By House of Harkness.

Caudron G-3, a development of the G-2.

Monday, 25 June 2018

"killed by a fall of dirt" - Robert Woodhouse, 1875-22/2/1897

(lake countv press correspondent). Tuesday,. February 22. A sad accident happened here yesterday, Robert Woodhouse, son of Mrs Woodhouse, Carrick Range Hotel, while at work in his claim, was killed by a fall of dirt. His brother was down the tail race, and on returning to the paddock noticed the fall. He at once gave the alarm, and after about five hours work the body was recovered. Death must have been instantaneous. The face was about 20ft high and full of large stones. Much sympathy is felt here for his mother and relatives. Bob was a fellow that was well liked here. One and all always had a good word about him. He was a member of the Football Club, and was considered the teams best forward. It seems hard for a young man of 24 years of age to be cut out, but such is the uncertainty of life.  The funeral will take place to-morrow. -Lake County Press, 25/2/1897
Cromwell New Cemetery.

"A river of blood" - John Hosking, 1868-13/7/1905

A fatal accident occurred on the Rising' Sun dredge, Cromwell, about three o'clock on Thursday afternoon. A young man named John Hosking, who has been fireman there for about two years, was caught in the screen rollers and killed instantaneously. He was a native of the district, and was about 35 years of age. He leaves a wife and three children.  - Tuapeka Times, 15/7/1905.

Fatal Accident on the Rising Sun
On Thursday afternoon a fatal accident which cast a gloom over the whole district, occurred to John Hosking, one of the firemen, who become entangled in a driving belt. The deceased, who was only three days short of 37 years of age, was a native of Cromwell, was universally esteemed throughout the district. He leaves a wife and three young children. His parents have been residing at Quartz Reef Point since the early sixties. An inquest was held on Friday evening, Messrs Green and Mcintosh, mining inspectors, being present. A verdict of "Accidental death, no blame attachable to anyone," was returned. Deceased was buried at 2 p.m. on Sunday, and without doubt, the funeral was the largest attended of any held here. The loyal Cromwell lodge, deceased belonging to the M.U.1.0.0.F., preceded the hearse, and numbered 64. Mr J Kane, dredgemaster, and crew of the dredge acted as pallbearers. Thirty-four vehicles, and numerous horsemen and pedestrians formed the mournful cortege. The Presbyterian minister, Mr Warne, conducted the funeral service at the grave, and preached a forcible and impressive sermon. Bro. Charles Ray permanent secretary of the lodge, read the beautiful and touching Oddfellow's service.  -Dunstan Times, 17/7/1905.

Cromwell New Cemetery.

Sir, — With respect to the widows and orphans left desolate and fatherless by the above fatalities, it has been suggested that if an opportunity were given most of the men employed on the dredges would be only too willing to aid the families of their comrades, who have been suddenly stricken in the grim battle of life. One of the poor fellows — John Hosking, of the Rising Sun dredge, Clutha — was literally demolished in the whirring, whirling machinery of the dredge, leaving a wife and three children. Alas! their sun has set. The other — Alexander Macgregor, of the Golden River dredge, Alexandra, Coal Creek Gorge — was, by the collapse of a handrail, thrown into the relentless clutch of the cold, boiling undersuck of the Molyneux: and there he sleeps. He also leaves a widow and three orphans. The kiddies are still waiting for "daddy" to come home. Golden River, indeed! A river of blood. We have been thinking the matter over, and feel confident that, with the assistance of the Otago Daily Times, the local papers throughout the dredging districts (who might kindly copy this letter), and the dredgemasters of Otago and Southland, a very decent sum might soon be gathered for the immediate assistance of the families of the victims of these dredging horrors. What we suggest is that the dredgemasters consent to receive subscriptions from their respective crews, thus subdividing the work of collection, stimulating the scheme by their prestige and support, and obviating the expense of preparing and sending out subscription lists. With respect to the division and distribution of the fund, we wish it distinctly understood that all moneys sent to us for the relief and support of these families shall be sent on the following conditions: — 1. That on Monday each week the amount subscribed, name of subscriber, and name of dredge be sent by us for publication to the Otago Daily Times. 2. That on Monday each week the full amount subscribed, less only cost of money orders and registrations, be divided, and an equal portion sent to each of the widows, the recipients to acknowledge direct to the Otago Daily Times, giving date and amounts received. This is our plan, and we trust it will meet the approval of all parties interested. Dredgemasters in remitting will please give names, amounts, and name of dredge, and should remit by P.O. money order, addressed "J. H. Davidson, secretary R.S. and G.R. Relief Fund, Alexandra, Otago." In conclusion, Sir, we trust you will give the desired space, and thus help in cheering the cheerless. The world will be the better and brighter and nothing the poorer, and we sincerely trust the gloom of those now burdened and stricken will be lightened and softened by a comprehensive, generous expression of sympathy. — We are, etc., Wm. Noble (10s), M. Hydraulic. J. A. Peterson (10s), Perseverance. Geo. Fisher (10s), Earnscleugh No. 2. J. H. Davidson (10s), Secretary Otago and Southland Gold Miners' Union. -Otago Witness, 9/8/1905.
The Rising Sun gold dredge.  Hocken Library photo.

Sir, — Your last Thursday's issue contained a letter from Mr Davidson, secretary of Dredgemen's Union, and others, embodying the laudable suggestion that all dredgemen should contribute towards the support of the two widows and families bereft of their breadwinners by the late double fatality. Considering the uncertainty of the dependents of the victims receiving compensation from the accident insurance companies, and the length of time that elapses before all the legal formalities are complied with if compensation is paid, the idea that every dredgeman give one day's pay into a fund, to be divided between the widows, is a happy one, and I feel certain will be liberally responded to. May I suggest that the dredgemasters of every dredge in Otago and Southland start a subscription list among their respective crews; the amount so raised to be equally divided between the poor widows. Should this be done it will in a small degree provide them and their fatherless children with the necessaries of life until the compensation is awarded. 1 understand that the dredgemasters of the Cromwell district have already taken steps to fall in with the happy suggestion of Mr Davidson and his colleagues. — I am, etc., Lewis Mauris, Secretary Rising Sun G.D. Company. -Otago Witness, 9/8/1905.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Murder and suicide on the Carrick Range - John McKersie (1847-20/10/1894) and Archibald Blue (?-20/10/1894).

Cromwell New Cemetery.

There was great excitement at Bannockburn, on Saturday afternoon, when the sad news came in that Mr John McKersie had been found murdered in Archie Blue’s hut on the Carrick Range, about four miles from Bannockburn. The terrible news, which was brought in by Hugh Robertson, quickly spread and Constable Mulholland, who had been sent for from Cromwell, and a number of the residents of Bannockburn, on horseback and on foot, were soon at the scene of the murder. On arriving at Blue’s hut, poor McKersie was found with a fearful shot wound in the right side of his face, near the ear. From his position, and appearance it would seem that, fortunately, death must have been instantaneous. Search parties were at once started to find Blue and Wright, McKersie’s partner. Although diligent search was made, no trace of either man could be found. While search was being made Wright turned up at Mr Horn’s store at the Bannockburn, some hours after he had discovered the murder. It appears that Wright, being very much upset by the murder, went some distance out of his way to avoid the murderer as he was afraid that Blue might shoot him, as he had shot McKersie. 
Inspector Pardy and Sergeant McLeod who left Clyde on Saturday morning last for Cromwell, hearing on arrival that the murder had been committed, immediately went out to Bannockburn. On arrival there they were met by Constable Mulholland who had just brought the body of McKersie into the township. After dusk Inspector Hardy sent out Sergeant McLeod, Constable Mulholland, and two men named Maider and Maher, to Blue’s hut to watch all night and secure the murderer if he should turn up. The party watched the house and patrolled all night, but as there was no sign of Blue at five o’clock on Sunday morning, they left and reported to Inspector Pardy. After a few hours rest, the Inspector arranged that Sergeant McLeod and Maher should start in search of Blue from the scene of the murder, along the top of the Carrick Range, down to the head of the Fraser, on to Switzers, which locality Blue was thoroughly acquainted with while Constable Mulholland, Robertson, and Lawrence were sent out to search for Blue in the tunnels and mining shafts of Carrick Range. While the previous party was just starting, for the head of the Fraser River, Robertson coo-eed wildly, up the hill from the hut, at the month of an old tunnel. On Sergeant McLeod and party going up Robertson cried out, “I have found it.” On going to the mouth of the tunnel they saw Blue's body lying in a pool of water, as described in the evidence below. The tunnel, which is about 50 yards from the house, is a very old one, and is now filled with water. It is surmised that Blue was talking with McKersie about mining matters, and that he ran into his bedroom, got the gun, and shot McKersie, that after doing the deed, he realised the awful crime he had committed, and putting the gun back in his bedroom, rushed up to the tunnel in a frantic state, determined to end his life by drowning. On entering the tunnel from the position of his body, it is evident that, he must have deliberately plunged into the water and kept himself under the water until he died by suffocation. 
During Saturday evening all sorts of stories were current at Bannockburn The most fanciful one being that on Friday night Blue, McKersie, Wright, and Robertson had tea together, and after tea all were seized with cramps in the legs, the inference being that Blue had attempted to poison the party. 
Archie Blue, who committed the murder, and afterwards drowned himself, had been living on the Carrick Range for the past 20 years, and was always thought, by those who knew him, to be a little off his head. For years past he has been a hatter, and, doubtless, his solitary life led to the unhinging of his mind. For a long time, he had thought he had a right to a monopoly of about a square mile of ground, where his claim was situated, and was very jealous of any miner working near him. Although he never offered any objection to McKersie and Wright taking up a claim near his, it was well known amongst miners, at Bannockburn that he was very much put out by their doing so. His peculiar views on this subject, doubtless troubled his weak brain, led to insomnia, and finally to the awful tragedy of Saturday morning last. Blue was a man of 60 years of age, of swarthy complexion, with full beard turning grey, He was a short, but well built man, very energetic and active, and of the most abstemious habits. As far as can be ascertained he was never married, and was & native of the Isle of Skye. 
Mr John McKersie was well-known in the district, where he had resided for a number of years, following the occupation of miner. He was unmarried, and was about 48 years of age. John McKersie was a straight forward, good-hearted man, who would do .anything to help anyone along the rugged paths of life. He was a man who took a keen interest in politics, and often cornered candidates for Parliament, by his pertinent questions, at political meetings, on the questions of the day. In all public matters he took a leading position at Bannockburn, and lent his abilities without stint to everything having for its object the welfare of the community in which he lived. Take him for all in all, John McKersie was a man who always tried to do his best for his fellow men, and Bannockburn, for many a day, will miss him as one of the best residents that has ever lived in that locality. 

The funeral of McKersie left the hotel at a quarter past three on Monday afternoon, and was followed by a large number of people, many coming long distances to attend. The funeral of Blue left the Bannockburn about an hour later. Many people returning from the first funeral turned, and followed the second one. Both bodies were interred in the new cemetery on the Cromwell flat.
An Inquest before acting-coroner, Mr J. Horn, and a jury of six — Mr N. McLelland, foreman — was held on the body of the late Mr McKersie, at the Bannockburn Hotel, Bannockburn, on Monday afternoon, 22nd instant. The following evidence was given: 

Hugh Robertson, sworn, said he was a rabbiter living on Garrick Range, knew John McKersie and A. Blue. He last saw John McKersie alive on Friday about 10 p.m., in his house on the Carrick, near Bannockburn, Wm, Wright and A. Blue were also present. He left the place about 10 pm. A. Blue also left at the same time. He parted with Blue directly he left the house. Blue resided close to McKersie’s house. Did not see Blue or McKersie again that night. Started to go to McKersie’s between 11 and 12 a.m. next morning, went by main road and being close to Blues’ hut, and noticed the door was wide open, and on looking in, saw two feet just inside the door. On walking in he saw the body of John McKersie lying on the floor, saw a big hole in the side of his head. He was quite dead. On turning round he noticed the bedroom door was shut, the door leading to the back room was open. Looked in this room and found it empty. He stepped back and caught hold of the handle of the bedroom door, and at once stooped down holding on to the door, after listening a short while he stepped out of the door and crawled under the bedroom window, stood a little, after going about three steps, then went down the hill as fast at he could towards Bannockburn, for the purpose of informing people there. He knew Archie Blue well, and thought him peculiar. One night in his house he said he had to bury his clock at night because it ticked. The same night he stated that he had split his dog's head open. Witness considered him a peculiar man. By the jury: “Did you feel bad the night before you found McKersie in Blue’s hut? Witness: Yes I did, and I attributed my illness to some sugar I had taken in McKersie’s hut.”
Wm. Wright, sworn, said: He was a mate of John McKersie’s and resided with him him in a hut at Carrick Range. The last time he had seen John McKersie alive was on Saturday morning, October 20. About half past 11 o’clock McKersie left the hut to go down and see how Blue was because Blue was unwell, having recently come out of the hospital. Stayed in the hut for some time, and then went to look for McKersie, went to Blue’s hut, found the door wide open and body of John McKersie, lying on his back, dead. On looking at him saw a big hole in the upper part of his face. He saw no one about, and as soon as he “saw how it was,” he returned to his hut, changed his slippers and went down to Bannockburn to give information. Knew Blue had a double barrelled gun. Did not return up the hill again that day. Last time he had seen Blue alive was in their hut on Friday night, they parted very good friends that night. He had been alone with McKersie some seven or eight weeks, and had always been on good terms with Blue. Believe Blue has lived there for 10 years. Have heard Blue had objections to people working or living there but he never showed any to them. He had noticed Blue strange at times: had seen him the evening became out of the hospital, and on the following morning the 18th, went down to his hut and noticed he looked excited and nervous, his eyes looked wild. Have occasionally noticed him peculiar at other times. Could give no reason why Blue should injure McKersie, they were on the best of terms. 

By Foreman: ‘'It was on the 18th, that I noticed he looked wild.” 

John Ryde gave evidence as to seeing the body, and stated he had known Blue for 25 years and that he was always peculiar in his manner. In his opinion it would take very little to cause Blue to become insane. 

Constable Mulholland gave evidence as to finding the body of McKersie. He also gave evidence showing that he had found the gun in bed room, one barrel having been discharged. 

George Alexander Morris, sworn, said he was a duly qualified surgeon, in charge of the Cromwell hospital. Had made a post mortem examination of the body of John McKersie and had found a large wound in the right side of the face between the eye and the ear. Found two fragments of lead in the wound. Found in the brain the pellets of lead and paper produced from the direction of the wound he considered the shot was fired straight in front of McKersie from a distance of three or four feet. Thought McKersie was standing when he was shot, as the wound had an upward tendency, and Blue was a shorter man than McKersie. Knew Archie Blue. He was in the hospital under his (witness’) care for three or four days, suffering from insomnia, and left the hospital on Tuesday or Wednesday last week. Did not notice anything of a homicidal tendency. He was an eccentric man, but did not think him dangerous to himself or others. When he left the hospital, he (witness) gave him a bottle of medicine containing sleeping draughts, with directions, on the bottle, for taking same. If he took double the quantity it might excite his brain slightly, if it did not take the soothing effect intended. Did not know McKersie’s age but knew he was a native of Fenwick. Scotland, and has sisters living there. 

The finding of the jury was —“ That John McKersie came by his death from a gunshot wound wilfully inflicted by Archie Blue.” 
INQUEST ON A. BLUE. An inquest was held at the Garrick Range Hotel, before the same jury as in above case. The evidence was to the following effect: 

Hugh Robertson gave evidence. (The greater part of this witness’ evidence was the same as that in the previous inquest.) He also stated that the last time he had seen Blue he thought Blue was more sensible than he had ever seen him. Had met Blue coming from the hospital, when he appeared alright. Did not think any ill feeling existed between Blue and Wright and McKersie, Blue had said "they were nice chaps."

Wm. Wright also gave evidence. (The chief portion of witness’ evidence was the same as in the previous inquest.) 

By the jury: “I did not know anything about Blue having said that he had a secret to tell McKersie. He had said to McKersie that he (Blue) was not going to work any more, and not to argue with him as he did not like it. I never noticed anything that would lead me to think Blue was dangerous, and frequently saw him.  McKersie had no fear of him.”
Hugh Mulholland, police constable, Cromwell, sworn, said he was present when the body of Blue was found in the pool of water. Had been searching for him. He was lying with his face in the water which was one foot deep where his feet lay, and from 18in to 2ft where his head lay. He brought the body out of the tunnel into Bannockburn, where it was received by the jurors at the Carrick Range Hotel. There were no marks of violence on the body of any description. 

By the foreman: Could not say whether the tunnel, where the body was found, was searched on Saturday. 

George Alexander Morris stated he had examined the body of the late A. Blue, and had found no external marks of violence. Believed him to have been drowned, as the symptoms corresponded to death by drowning. Blue left the hospital on the 16th or 17th of October. During his stay he slept fairly well, six or seven hours a night, with the aid of sleeping draughts. While he was under his (witness’) care he had seen nothing to lead him to think him dangerous.
By the jury: ‘ I would have preferred to have had him in the hospital for two or three days longer, but his wish was to return home. I am not aware that he told the wardsman that he was afraid his claim would be jumped if he did not return home.’'
The jury’s finding was — “That Archie Blue was found drowned, and in the opinion of the jury the deceased committed suicide while in an unsound state of mind.” -Dunstan Times, 26/10/1894.

Cromwell New Cemetery


Dunedin, this day. At the inquest held on McKersie, the jury found that the deceased has been murdered by Blue. Wright, deceased's partner, went out of his way, occupying four hours in reaching the township, fearing he might be overtaken by Blue. Wright states that McKersie on Saturday morning said he would go down to see how Blue was getting on, Wright told him to be back by twelve for dinner. McKersie not coming back, Wright went down to see what was keeping him, and saw him lying on the floor. McKersie, Wright, Robertson, and Blue had had tea together, but thought there was something the matter with it, and, having thrown out one lot, tried another, which was good until sugar was put into it, when it tasted bitter. Guilford on Saturday had a drink of tea up there, and he was affected by cramps. Blue had been bad for some time, and for the past fortnight had had very little sleep. He had been in the hospital and came out last Wednesday, bub it is the general opinion he should not have been allowed to go alone, as he was not capable of looking after himself. He cut off his dog's head before he went to the hospital. McKersie and Wright had been looking after him, sowing his seeds, cleaning his race and attending to him in the house, besides giving him his medicine, etc. It is evident Blue had a grudge against two of the men for going to work near him, as he thought it was his property, they having to cut through one of bis drains to construct a tail race. Blue himself was found on Sunday in the old Elizabeth tunnel. The body was in water between two and three feet deep. -Auckland Star, 23/10/1894.

(PER PRESS ASSOCIATION.) DUNEDIN, October 22. Blue, the murderer, was a lunatic.  McKersie was shot in the upper part of the skull, it being lifted clean off on one side. The charge of shot never scattered, being found in one solid lump at the base of the brain. Blue was only discharged from the hospital a couple of days ago suffering from insomnia.  McKersie had gone to his hut to attend to his wants. Having done so be began to pan the prospect. Blue seeing an opportunity arose from bis bed, and seizing a gun discharged it full blank at the deceased. The motive appears to be that McKersie's partner bad taken up an adjacent claim which McKersie held belonged to him. October 23. Wright, partner of the murdered man McKersie, went oat of his way, occupying four hours in reaching the township, fearing that he might be overtaken by Blue. Wright, Robertson, and Blue bad tea together, but thought there was something the matter with it, and another man who drank of it was affected by cramp. Blue had been bad some time and had little sleep. He came out of the hospital last Wednesday, but was not capable of looking after himself. He had cut off a dog's head before going in. McKersie and Wright had been looking after him, cleaning a race, giving him medicine, etc. It is evident that Blue had a grudge against the two men for going to work near him, and they had to cut through one of his drains to construct a tail race. Blue'himself was found on Sunday in two or three feet of water in an old tunnel.  -Hawera and Normanby Star, 23/10/1984.

Jack McKersie, murdered at Garrick Range, is described as one of those bigbearted, strong fellows ever ready to give help to others—one who would rather cheat himself than do a “ smart trick ”; who was never afraid to express his opinion; and who never shirked anything that he undertook to do.       -The New Zealand Times, 27/10/1894.