Sunday, 29 November 2020

The Kitcheners of Cumberland Street

While looking for a certain grave in Dunedin's Northern Cemetery recently, I came upon a barely legible inscription on another grave.  At first I thought the family name was Mitchener, and what intrigued me about it was that three of the death dates were the same - and one was not long afterwards.  Later, at home, I looked for the name on the Council website but could find none in the Northern Cemetery.  I changed the first letter of the surname and found a story.


fire, unfortunately attended with fatal results, occurred shortly after midnight. By the time the fire-bells rang out an alarm a glare in the sky in the direction of the Water of Leith indicated sufficiently the locale of the fire. A large two-storey house in Cumberland street, immediately below Dundas street, proved to be the scene. The house was occupied by Captain Kitchener and his family. About 12.25 a.m., while on duty in St. David street, Constable Dwyer noticed smoke issuing from a house near Dundas street, and on arrival at the burning building found Mr Robertson, a draper, who carries on business in George street, with his daughter standing on the footpath. They were the only persons about at the time, and they were endeavoring to arouse the inmates of the house. The constable at once burst open the gate, while a young man named Colvin who had arrived went round to the back door, but no entrance could be effected there on account of the smoke and flames. Meanwhile the constable had burst open the front door and found the passage one dense mass of smoke, and that flames were coming through from the ceiling. At that moment Mrs Kitchener with a child in her arms appeared at the foot of the stairs. He took one in each arm and laid them on the grass in front of the house. The flames had spread so rapidly that when Constable Dwyer sought to re-enter the house he was compelled to beat a hasty retreat. Mr W. H. Ash, a boarder, then burst open a window in the upper storey, and jumped into the constable's arms. Two boys named Harry and Charley were thrown out of the window by Captain Kitchener, who then jumped from the verandah himself, and received severe injuries by falling on the asphalt. Bridget Mullins, the servant girl, slept on the ground floor, and escaped by the window. Captain Kitchener was removed to Hutchinson's hotel in George street, where he was attended by Dr Coughtrey, who ordered his removal to the Hospital. Mrs Kitchener and the three children were removed to All Saints' parsonage, where they were attended by Drs Copland and Gillies. Mr Ash was taken to the house of Mr J. W. Jago in Leith street. 

By this time the Brigade had arrived, and had thier hydrants in play on the burning building. It was soon reported that some children still remained in the house, and as soon as the flames were sufficiently got under to permit of a search being made this was done. By the aid of their lanterns the firemen came across what appeared to be the remains of a bed in one of the rear upper rooms, and after a little further search two bodies were found. Both were much charred, to such an extent as to render the bodies impossible of identification. It is surmised that these are the bodies of Susan, the eldest girl, aged eleven; and her sister Edith, aged six. These bodies were found in Mrs Kitchener's room, where the two girls, along with the baby who was saved, slept. The search was continued, for Sydney, aged eight, was known to be missing, and his body was eventually found on the ground floor beneath some sheets of galvanised iron which had fallen from the roof. 

The bodies were removed to the Morgue, where an inquest will be held at eleven o'clock on Monday. On inquiry at the Hospital this afternoon we learned from Dr Roberts, the resident surgeon, that Captain Kitchener is out of danger, and is in no way delirious. He is badly burnt about the body and legs. Mrs Kitchener and the surviving children are progressing favorably.

ADDITIONAL PARTICULARS. Mrs Kitchener was the first inmate of the house to detect the presence of fire. She, with two of her daughters and the baby, occupied one of the bedrooms, and Captain Kitchener, with two of the boys, slept in an adjoining room. Mrs Kitchener was wakened by a feeling of choking and by hearing her children coughing. She at once got out of bed and rushed into the passage, to find that the flames were making their way upstairs. She called out that the house was on fire, and enjoined the husband to save the children. To return to her bedroom was the work of a moment. She snatched the baby from its cot and took it in her arms; then, linking the arm of her eldest girl within her own, and taking the other girl by the hand, she essayed to fight her way through the flames. Her progress in the blinding smoke was naturally slow, and the flames were now creeping along the staircase. She had scarcely gained the stairhead when she felt the hold of her elder girl loosen, and she saw the poor girl drop to the floor suffocated. What the feelings of the distracted mother at this terrible moment must have been can only be imagined-they are beyond description. At a glance she saw that retreat was impossible; that the only hope of safety for herself and the other children lay in pushing forward. In truth it was a race for life. She managed to gain the foot of the stairs, dragging the other child after her. By this time the front door had been burst in, and a policeman entering the passage met Mrs Kitchener at the foot of the staircase. The constable noticed that the child she held by the hand was dead from suffocation, and, disengaging the mother from the dead child, hurried her and her infant into the street and consigned her to the attention of the few who had gathered in the street. The body subsequently found at the foot of the stair was that of the second girl, and not of the boy, as has been stated. Mrs Kitchener, who was very badly burned, was taken to the All Saints' parsonage, where she now is. She was there attended as quickly as possible by Drs Gillies and Copland, and later by Dr Coughtrey. She retains full possession of all her faculties, and, beyond severe burns, has sustained a terrible shock to the nervous system. The infant has been taken care of by Mrs G. W. Eliott, a friend of the family. 

Captain Kitchener, on being alarmed, took his two eldest boys to the front of the house, and, opening one of the windows facing Cumberland street, threw them into the arms of the people. He then endeavored to gain access to the room of his boy Sydney, who slept by himself, but the flames and smoke were impenetrable. Finding that any attempt at the child's rescue was hopeless, he returned to the window, got out on to the verandah, and jumped on to the footpath. Captain Kitchener has been severely burned, and is terribly bruised, whilst it is feared that he sustained severe internal injuries from his fall to the ground. He was conveyed first to the Prince Alfred Hotel, and then to the Hospital, but was delirious for some time. 

Mr W. H. Ash, late editor and proprietor of the 'Mount Ida Chronicle,' but who is at present attending the University classes, has been staying with the Kitcheners since he came to town, a couple of months ago. He was awoke by the smell of smoke, and on getting out of bed lighted a candle and saw what time it was. He then went into the passage, but a rush of flame compelled him to take to the front of the house. He made his escape by the front windows and the verandah. His hurts are confined to bruises and severe cuts on the hands. 

The servant girl, who got out of a window on the ground floor, and the two boys were not injured in any way. 

The flames spread with such rapidity that none of those who escaped except Mr Ash, who managed to get his overcoat on, and the servant, who secured her box, brought a vestige of clothing out of the house. Every article of furniture was burnt. The house, which contained thirteen rooms, was the property of Mr M. W. Green, M.H.R., and was insured in the National Office for L700. There was no insurance on Captain Kitchener's furniture or effects. 

Mrs Kitchener thinks that the fire orignated from a negligent use of colonial coal. On the other hand, the servant girl asserts that a fire was kept burning in the kitchen, and that last night some clothes were dried in front of it, and she surmises that these clothes ignited, the flames spreading quickly to the kitchen walls. The opinion of those earliest on the spot is that the fire originated in the kitchen or back part of the house. 

From Dr Coughtrey, who has been in attendance on the other surviving members of the family, we learn that Mrs Kitchener is in grave danger, but she has shown decided signs of improvement during the day. The children are progressing as favorably as can be expected, the boys particularly are severely burned. 

Captain Kitchener served for many years in the 41st Regiment, and during the greater part of that time was with his regiment in Jamaica, where he became acquainted with and married his wife (nee Land). In 1874 he was induced by his uncle, Colonel Kitchener, to sell out and come to New Zealand and settle. The family came to Dunedin shortly afterwards, and for some time Captain Kitchener managed his uncle's estate at Waihemo, near Palmerston. About two years ago he relinquished the management of the estate, and brought his family to town. At first they resided at Opoho, but about six months ago took the house in which the fire occurred. The only person who has resided with them is Mr Ash. Captain Kitchener has been exceedingly unfortunate since he came to the Colony, and this calamity not only deprives him of three of his children, but leaves him absolutely penniless. The deepest sympathy is felt for himself and wife in the terrible misfortune which has overtaken them.   -Evening Star, 1/7/1882.

Dunedin's Fire Brigade, 1880-1910.  Hocken Library photo.


A large sum was collected on Saturday for the assistance of the sufferers by the late fire. Captain Kitchener and infant are dangerously ill. At the inquest a verdict of accidental death was returned. The jury expressed an opinion that Constable Dwyer is deserving of praise for his exertions in saving life.   -Oamaru Mail, 3/7/1882.

DUNEDIN, July 2. 

Captain and Mrs Kitchener, who were severely burned at the fire on Saturday, are improving, and considered out of danger.   -Globe, 3/7/1882.

We are informed that the furniture of Captain Kitchener was insured in the South British office for Ll50.

On inquiry this afternoon we learned that Captain Kitchener was slightly improved. Mrs Kitchener continues in a very low state, and the infant is sinking rapidly.   -Evening Star, 4/7/1882.

We are glad to be able to report that the health of all the members of the Kitchener family who were injured by the late fire is improving.  -Evening Star, 6/7/1882.

The infant child of Mr and Mrs Kitchener died at half-past four o'clock this morning. This makes the fourth victim of the fire. The child, besides being terribly burnt, was cutting its teeth and had bronchitis. The wonder is that its vital powers lasted so long. The two boys have quite recovered, and Mr and Mrs Kitchener are progressing very favorably.   -Evening Star, 11/7/1882.


The vagaries of Mr Watt is a subject upon which I have formerly descanted. At the inquest upon the bodies of the unfortunate Kitchener children he out-Watted Watt. He told the jury they had nothing to do with how the fire originated; all they had to consider was how the children came by their death —accidentally, by murder, or by manslaughter. If the fire was an accident, death was accidental; if the house was purposely set fire to, death was by murder; if it was negligently set fire to, death was by manslaughter. How on earth the jury were, for instance, to bring in a verdict of manslaughter without knowing how the fire originated Mr Watt did not explain. Happily the occurrence was so patently accidental that the jury had no trouble to find a verdict. All the same Mr Watt in his charge once more has showed how perfectly unfitted he has become for the exercise of judicial duties.  -Cromwell Argus, 11/7/1882.


Captain Kitchener, who was injured by the recent fire is not now progressing so favorably as could be liked.  -Southland Times, 19/7/1882.


Another has been added to the number of victims of the Cumberland street fire. Captain Kitchener is the fifth who has succumbed. He died at 9.40 this morning at the Hospital, at the age of forty-six. For several days all hopes of his recovery had been abandoned, but it was hardly expected that the end was so near. He had been suffering considerably of late, though at the time of his death he did not appear to be in great pain. His death was a happy release. There is not much to be said at this juncture. The particulars of the dreadful tragedy are well known, but we may mention a few facts concerning Captain Kitchener's career. He was born in England, and it was first intended that he should follow agricultural pursuits. With this object be passed through a course of study in an agricultural college in England. He did not, however, carry out his idea, but entered the army. Shortly after joining he was ordered to Jamaica, where he remained for a number of years, and subsequently married there, his wife being a daughter of a planter on the island. Captain Kitchener also served at Gibraltar, in Scotland and Ireland, at Aldershot, and other places. He was never in active service. He remained about twenty-five years in the army, advancing to the rank of captain, and retired on compensation some seven years ago. He was extremely popular in the army, and was twice a recipient of valuable presentations. He was accounted a first-class drill instructor, and was for many years the adjutant of his regiment, the 6th Foot. On leaving the army he obtained from his uncle, Colonel Kitchener, the appointment of manager of the Waihemo station. As a sheep-farmer he was not, however, successful. Indeed, his whole life in New Zealand seems to have been a failure. He was essentially a soldier, and he could not adapt himself to colonial life and methods. His friends agree in the opinion that he should never have left the army. He was always a popular man, liked by everyone, and for some time he occupied a seat at the board of the Waikouaiti County Council. He has a large circle of friends to sorrow at his death. 

After the way in which Captain Kitchener and the baby have succumbed, it is not easy to acquire confidence in Mrs Kitchener's recovery, but we are informed that, humanly speaking, her recovery is really assured. She had been prepared for the possibility of her husband's death, and we are glad to hear that she bears her bereavement with considerable fortitude. It is satisfactory to know that through the liberality of New Zealand friends and the prospective, though certain, aid of others in England, Mrs Kitchener and the two surviving boys will be in fairly easy circumstances.  -Evening Star, 21/7/1882.

Funeral Notices.
FUNERAL NOTICE. THE Funeral of the late Captain KITCHENER will leave All Saints' Church for the Northern Cemetery THIS DAY (Saturday), the 22nd inst., at 4 o'clock. 

CRAIG & GILLIES, Undertakers, 18 George street and 11 Great King street.    -Otago Daily Times, 22/7/1882.

The Kitchener family's stone, enhanced as well as I am able. The inscription reads: "Henry Kitchener, Capt. 6th Regt, aged 45 years. And his children, Susan Mary aged 11 years, Frank Sydney, aged 8 years, Mabel Edith...

...aged 6 years, Harold Gordon, aged 6 months. Who perished by fire July 1882.
Also of William Henry Kitchener, son of the above, who died 8th Aug, 1895, aged 25 years.


Mrs Kitchener, who has lately lost her husband and four children by the disastrous fire at Dunedin, is the daughter of Thomas Land, Barrister, of Montego Bay, Jamaica, brother-in-law to the late James Coates, one of our earliest settlers, whose widow, with her family, now reside at Parnell.   -Observer, 5/8/1882.



Inspector Weldon wrote that the Commissioner of Constabulary had approved of Constable John Dwyer receiving the medal which the Council desired to present to him for his services at the fatal fire at the late Captain Kitchener's residence in Cumberland street. Constable Dwyer, who was present, was then called upon by the Mayor to receive as a gift from the Council a medal, and in making the presentation His Worship said: Constable Dwyer, on behalf of the City Council, representing the citizens of Dunedin, I have very much pleasure in presenting you with this medal for the valor you displayed on the occasion of the disastrous fire that occurred in Cumberland street in July last. Though a very handsome testimonial, its money value is not very great; but I trust you will receive it in the spirit in which it is given, not as a pecuniary reward for the very great service you rendered in saving lives, but as a mark of esteem and respect for the brave deeds you performed in risking your own life to save others. I believe I speak the feeling of every member of the community when I express the wish that you may long live to wear it, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you have earned the respect and admiration of your fellow citizens.— (Applause.) The medal was of silver, and in the form of a Maltese cross, the ends of which were united in a circle. It was inscribed as follows:— "For valor. The Mayor and Councillors, Dunedin, N.Z., John Dwyer, 1882." On the reverse: "For saving life from fire in July, 1882."  -Evening Star, 9/11/1882.


Kitchener — On the 8th August, at Dunback, W. H. Kitchener, son of the late Capt. Kitchener, 6th Royal Regiment.  -Otago Witness, 15/8/1895.





After dinner, we all went to the House, Mrs Parker being interested in politics; but at the supper adjournment we met again and chatted on till nearly midnight. I mentioned that, as a boy, I remembered the late Captain Kitchener, of the Grange, and had seen the charred remains of his four children taken from the ruins of his burnt house in Dunedin. This turned the conversation on the history of the Kitchener family — in many respects a remarkable and most interesting one. The Captain Kitchener I referred to was a cousin of the Sirdar. Mrs Parker told me the rest of the history of his family — a very sad one indeed. At the fire be bravely saved his two sons, but afterwards himself died as the result of the injuries he received. The mother and the two sons caught fever and died. The other son came to New Zealand, and secured an appointment in the Bank, through the kindly offices of Mr James Coates. One day he was found dead in the Bank, having shot himself, for no earthly reason, as far as could be found out, with a toy pistol. Now, only the widow is left, and her cup of bitterness surely must have been filled to the brim. Mrs Parker and her family have French blood in their veins from their mother's people, who came over to England with the Huguenots. The family name was Chevalier. Agriculturists have all heard of tthe famous Chevalier barley. Well, it was one of the Chevaliers, the Sirdar's great uncle, who first cultivated it. He picked up two or three ears and cultivated the seed in a garden in Suffolk. Mrs Parker was the only daughter in the family, but besides the Sirdar she has three other brothers. The eldest is also in the army. At present he has a staff appointment in Jamaica, being second in command. Another brother was, until quite recently, in New Zealand, looking after a station, but he is really a mining engineer, and hated sheep; so he left for Celebes, where he is now pursuing his profession. The third brother has some staff appointment under the General, and will now be at Omdurman. Lieutenant Parker, of whom we have been hearing some little time ago in all the newspapers, and who is about to be decorated for his work on the Indian frontier, is Mrs Parker's son. He is attached to the second battalion of the Royal Sussex, and as he appears to be taking after his uncle and is only 22, we may watch his future career with some degree of interest.  -Press, 12/9/1898.

The death in 1916 of Captain Kitchener's more successful uncle prompted a number of stories in the New Zealand press which included details of the local connection with the family.  From one of them we learn the fate of the Captain's surviving family.

Local and General

It may not be generally known that a tragedy in which members of the Kitchener family were concerned took place in Dunedin many years ago, says the Otago Daily Times. At midnight, on July 1, 1882, a fire broke out in a twostorey fifteen-roomed building situated in Cumberland street, near Dundas street, and three children of Captain Henry Kitchener, 6th Regiment, were burned to death. The children's names were Susan (aged eleven), Sydney (aged eight), and Edith (aged six). Captain Kitchener was also severely burned, and was removed to the hospital; and Mrs. Kitchener, who was badly burned altout the face, with her remaining two boys and a baby, were taken to Dean Fitchett's. A day or two later the baby died, and on July 21 Captain Kitchener succumbed to his injuries. Mrs. Kitchener remained for several weeks at the residence of Dean Fitchett, where she was attended to with the greatest devotion by the late Dr. Coughtrey. She was, however, disfigured for life. Mrs. Kitchener subsequently returned to Jamaica, where her husband had previously been stationed. Whether she is still alive is not known, but information was received in Dunedin some years ago that both of her remaining sons had died. A report of the inquest, published in the Daily Times, states that Captain Kitchener, in 1874, owing to changes made at that time in the army regulations, sold his commission, and was offered the management of the property of his uncle (Colonel Henry Horatio Kitchener), Waihemo. He accepted the offer, and came to the colony accordingly. About two years previously he had relinquished the management and brought his family to Dunedin. Colonel Kitchener himself lived in Dunedin for some time, but at the time of the fire his third son — Arthur Buck — who gave evidence at the inquest, was looking after the station at Shag Valley. Henry Horatio Kitchener, colonel 9th Foot (who was twice married), had four sons — Henry Elliott Chevallier, Horatio Herbert (Kitchener of Khartoum), Arthur Buck and Frederick Walter. At the inquest subsequent to the fire Constable Dwyer (now Superintendent Dwyer, of Christchurch) was complimented by the coroner on the good work he had done in helping the inmates out of the burning building.  -Taranaki Daily News, 19/6/1916.

The Russian Invasion of New Zealand, 1873.

In the early 1870s, Russian forces were at the border of the Khanate of Khiva, located to the south of the Aral Sea, having recently subjugated its neighbours, Turkestan, Bokhara and Kokand.  British Imperial forces had watched with interest the gradual advance of the Russian Empire, encroaching ever southwards towards the "Jewel in the Crown" of their empire, India.  New Zealand's population included many veterans of Britan's war with Russia in the Crimean Peninsula, with many tales to tell.

The news coming to New Zealand at the time depended on the arrival of the latest newspapers from Australia, then at the end of a recently completed (August 1872) electric telegraph cable which connected it to the rest of the world. A newly-employed editor of an Auckland newspaper decided to begin his term by highlighting the absence of fast communication with Australia and the possible danger of a war being declared between empires before New Zealand had been informed.

Consequences ensued...





Notwithstanding the telegraphic communication from England to Melbourne, and the periodical intercourse by steamer between New Zealand and the Australian ports, the sudden Declaration of War between Russia and England, arising out of the Central Asian difficulty and the dishonesty of the Emperor of Persia, was only made known to Auckland yesterday by one of the greatest calamities that over overtook the colony — an event productive of grave disaster to New Zealand, and destructive of the ancient prestige of England and her boasted supremacy as Sovereign of the Seas. That event was the sudden appearance of the hostile iron-clad man of-war, the 'Kaskowiski,' which took possession of the British warship lying in the waters of the Waitemata, seized our principal citizens as hostages, demanded a heavy ransom for the city, and emptied the coffers of the banks of all the gold and specie they contained. 

The consternation which for a time overwhelmed the people of the province who were made aware of this nefarious and barbarous transaction, which is utterly at variance with the laws and practice of modern warfare, may be understood by the reader, but cannot be described here. At this moment we are under the complete domination of Russia, our own guns in our own man-of-war being pointed against the city, ready to be opened on us at any moment that the barbarous caprice of her captors may select. A domiciliary visitation to the office of this paper for daring to publish this narrative is what will probably have taken place ere these lines meet the eyes of our more distant readers. Duty to the public, however, demands that we set down the particulars of this terrible visitation, regardless of any consequences or temporary loss or inconvenience to ouselves. Before describing the circumstances of this "untoward event," we must compare the action of the British cruisers during the Crimean war with this piratical proceeding which our Northern enemy has adopted, and which has degraded the chivalry of modern war to the level of mercenary robbery. In the Baltic and in the Black Sea, in 1854-5, no cannon of ours violated unfortified towns, no predatory visits were made by our warships, no blackmail was levied, our very provisions were liberally paid for when we landed at any part of the coast of Russia which was without fortification. It is true we captured Bomarsund, seized the Aland Islands, bombarded Sveaborg, and many other places; and sent a hostile expedition to  the Chernosesus. These were fortified cities and stations held for strategic purposes, and were fair marks for the guns of an enemy: but on no occasion was an unarmed town assailed. Even when bent on destruction our guns were carefully directed against fortifications and arsenals only; the civil quarters of a city were religiously spared; we never asked for ransom; we treated the people of the country with more kindness and consideration than they met with at the hands of their own troops. The Russian repays this forbearance by taking advantage of a few days of poor intelligence, under her superior force, suddenly displayed, committing robbery which civilised nations will denounce as soon as it is known. Bitterly do we now regret the absence of that telegraphic cable which should directly connect New Zealand with Europe. 

These considerations have, for a moment, delayed the narrative of events, which we now proceed to detail. 

The steamer 'Wonga Wonga' left on Saturday afternoon with a large number of passengers for Australia. On Saturday night, a little after midnight, three rockets were sent up from the vicinity of the North Head, their sticks, in a still fiery condition, falling in the neighbourhood of Devonport Hill. It is supposed that there was treachery on the North Shore, and that some spies had arranged this as a signal to teach the 'Kaskowiski' the proper time to enter the harbour. Of this there is no certainty, and the strict surveillance kept on the harbour prevents the possibility of inquiry. 

It should be mentioned here that this vessel (as we learn from the statement of one of the crew, a native of the United States, who was found by our shipping reporter on the Bastion Rock, which, it appears, was first taken for a fort, and which was reconnoitred by a boat's crew, who left the American behind by mistake), was built on the Alaska Peninsula. Alaska, as is well known, was sold by Russia to the United States some years ago; but, by a baseness of treachery which only the lax supervision of our consular agents could have rendered possible, the Government of Washington had permitted the secret construction of this ironclad in that remote region, so that, when the time came for action, she might enter the Pacific and, unannounced, pounce upon the unprotected colonies of the British Empire. She has a complement of 933 men and officers, all told, is provisioned for a year, carries twelve 30-ton guns, and has machinery for the manufacture of the deadly water-gas invented by the late General Todleben, and only now practically employed in warfare by Russia, the sole depository of the secret. This gas can be injected into an opposing vessel from a considerable distance, and so stealthily as not to be discovered until its paralysing effects have done their work. Its strength can be so modified as either to either ignite of its own motive, and blow up and set on fire all inflammable material with which it comes in contact, or it may be so diluted as to cause a mephitic vapour to overpower all the animal life within the range of its inhalation. This explains the easy seizure of our brave defenders in our warship into and over which this fatal gas was poured. But we anticipate. 

At 7 o'clock on Saturday, the 'Wonga Wonga,' while off Kawnu, descried a large vessel, hull down, steaming apparently towards her. After a short time darkness came on, and she lost sight of the ship. At 8.10 p.m. a shot was fired across her bows, she slowed her engines, and a boat came alongside. In preremptory tones its occupants demanded what she was, whither bound, and her cargo. On obtaining a reply, the order was given, in good English, to lie to as a prisoner of a Russian ship of war. On hearing this a gallant naval officer, who was on board the 'Wonga,' with the aid of some passengers and crew lifted a small cannon off the carriage, raised it over the bulwarks, and dropped it into the boat. A loud crash followed. The feat was successful. The gun stove the boat, and in a moment she sank, leaving the crew struggling in the water, helpless. All lights on board the 'Wonga' were immediately extinguished. She altered her course, and made for Auckland; but she saw, as the moon rose, that the great speed of the Russian ship, 17 knots an hour, was too much for her, and that, unless she sought refuge in some of the harbours on the coast, she would be inevitably overhauled and captured. Accordingly, she made for shelter to Mahurangi; and, a point of land intervening between her and her pursuer, she evaded the chase. The swiftsailing cutter 'Volunteer' was providentially in the river at the time of her arrival, and the captain of the 'Wonga' despatched her to Auckland, with a favouring breeze, to apprise the authorities of their danger. 

It was "too late!" The great speed of the Russian rendered these well-meant efforts fruitless, for the cutter did not arrive until yesterday morning, by which time the 'Kaskowiski' had done her work; had seized our war steamer in the darkness, arrested our chief citizens and bankers, left a prize crew on board the captured ship, and had gone off at full steam to resume the chase of the 'Wonga,' for the double purpose of preventing her carrying the intelligence to Australia and of avenging the destruction of her boat and crew, and at the same time making a prize of the ship and the treasure in gold dust which she carried. Heaven help the crew and passengers, and save our Australian towns from the power of this almost invulnerable vessel, and her scientific aparatus for dealing death and destruction! 

Arriving stealthily in our harbour, and without showing any lights, the 'Kaskowiski' sent her submarine pinnace, well-manned, and with the mephitic water-gas apparatus on board, towards our warship. This new invention silently proceeded, sailing six feet below the surface of the smooth water of the Waitemata, and, rising at the distance of a cable's length, projected the fatal gas on the vessel. Heavier than our atmosphere, this vapor speedily penetrated the interior of the ship, producing semi suffocation to all on board. The watch alerted those below, but it was again "too late." Six boats laden with marines surrounded the vessel, and she was boarded. The captain and some of the officers of our ship, with a handful of the crew, weak and almost breathless, attempted to face the boarders, but without effect. It was resolved to fire the magazine and prevent the foe from taking the vessel. Taking instructions from the captain, who was overcome by the vapour, one of the lieutenants crawled below. He was seen and followed by one of the Russian officers, who cut him down as he was about to fire a pistol into the magazine, the hatch of which was then closed. There was a brief struggle on deck; the fainting blue jackets were overpowered: the ship was in the enemy's hands, and she now lies with the hated double eagle floating at the mast above our loved "meteor flag ot England." 

Then came the extortion of the enemy. Detachments had been sent ashore during the night. These took possession of the armory and magazines, with all the arms and ammunition in the city. The telegraph office was occupied to prevent the transmission of the news of this disaster to other places in the colony, and particularly to the Thames. The telegraphic station at Onehunga, and all stations within 40 miles of Auckland, were occupied by strong guards. The steamer 'Golden Crown' was seized, and a body of 80 men armed with short repeating rifles, and strengthened with four rocket tubes, to fire the town if necessary, was sent to Grahamstown, in order to take the treasure from the banks in that town. There could be only one result, but we have heard nothing of it, as, although the enemy permit the passing of ordinary telegrams (they have their own English trained telegraphists), for obvious reasons they allow nothing to pass along the wires respecting their own proceedings. 

During the night the captain of the Russian ship, Vice-Admiral Herodskoff, landed with a body of Russian marines and sailors, armed with cutlasses and repeating needle carbines. He proceeded to the Provincial Council Chamber, and thence sent messengers commanding attendance of the Superintendent of the province, the Mayor of the city, all the bankers and bank-directors, and members of the Assembly. These gentlemen were ordered out of bed, and, amidst the dismay and terror of their families, were led to the council-room. On their arrival they were placed in the centre of the chamber, the armed men, with carbines loaded and bayonets fixed, lining the walls of the room. Seated on the Speaker's chair, Admiral Herodskoff, in good English, read a requisition demanding immediate payment of one-and-a-half million of roubles (£250,000 stirling) as a ransom for the safety of the city, and intimating that, if the money were not paid within three hours, he should retire to his ship and burn the town. He first asked what the Superintendent had to produce from the provincial chest. Whereupon His Honor exhibited the Treasurer's accounts, and proceeded to prove that the province had no "accumulated savings," that the assets had entirely disappeared in consequence of recent financial arrangements under the hands of his officials. He proposed that the General Government should be applied to, as from his own experience he knew there were funds in that exchequer. He was proceeding to show the means by which the money might be forthcoming from Wellington, when he was interrupted by the Admiral, who said he should see to that port himself, with which the Superintendent had nothing to do, and he should take care he never should, and he discourteously added that in Russia his Honor would have been knouted and sent to Siberia for daring to construct such balance sheet as he had produced. 

Mr. Sheehan, M. H. R., and Mr. Lusk, Provincial Secretary, both lawyers, humbly suggested that the action of the Russian Admiral was in contravention of the laws of war. Mr. Sheehan quoted from Vattel at the wrong place respecting the law of nations, and Mr. Lusk sought to show the "invalidity" of the whole proceedings, but with a bow admitted his error, and dropped to the rear, when the Admiral haughtily waved his hand towards his armed force, and remarked that their presence proved the perfect "propriety" of his action. Mr. Lusk then also referred to Vattel, and affirmed the general validity of that author's wellknown work. But the Admiral, with that diplomatic training and knowledge which Russian training gives to her officers, demolished his argument, by stating that Vattel's work was merely a synopsis of the works of Pullendorf, Grotius, and others; that he was often wrong in his generalisations, and drew many false conclusions, because he omitted from his premises the practices of nations, and displayed an ignorance of the principle of utility in our time generally adopted as the test of international morality. The Admiral added with something of bitterness that he did not come to dispute but to command, and he desired to hear no more of such law. 

Mr. Creighton, M. H. R., profferred as his contribution to the ransom the secret for smelting our ironsand at one process, which he said would be a great boon to Russia; at the same time suggesting to the Superintendent that a poll-tax should be levied on the people of the province to recoup himself and his partners for the sacrifice. Both proposals were instantly rejected, the Admiral scornfully remarking that Russia had long been in possession of the secret, and was only waiting until it was convenient to annex Norway and Sweden, in order to apply the discovery to Swedish iron. 

The next person interrogated happened to be Mr. Swanson, M. H. R, who said he would consent to advance a large sum of money (less exchange), but was told that it would be taken from him with or without his consent. 

On behalf of the new National Bank, Mr. W H. Grahame, and Mr Hean, the manager, said they were anxious to save the city from ruin, and offered to provide £60,000, or one fifth of the sum demanded, on the security of the English shareholders; but were sternly informed that with such security to back them they ought to provide double the sum. Mr. Thomas Russell said the Bank of New Zealand was prepared to give £50,000; but on this sum being declined too little by a fifth, he agreed, at the suggestion of some of the directors, to provide the other £10,000. The representatives of the other banks were ordered to furnish their quota; and armed parties were told off, in charge of the bank managers, to ransack the cellars for the specie and gold-dust they contained. 

During their absence some one suggested that the old floating paper in Auckland, and the mining setup, should be tendered as part of the ransom; but the proposal was derided with scorn by the stern Russian. It was not a moment for mirth; but the suggestion brought a smile to many of the anxious faces which looked upon the hard impassive face of their self-appointed judge. After the lapse of half an hour the detachments returned from the banks with all the gold and silver that could be found, which amounted to only L131,098 17s. 6d., little more than half the sum demanded. Admiral Herodskoff threatened the lives of the gentlemen who were before him; and at last gave orders to have them taken on board the 'Kaskowiski,' stating that immediately after day break he would sail in pursuit of the 'Wonga Wonga,' and, if he overtook her, and found sufficient gold on board to make up the sum required, he should land his hostages at Fiji. 

He then rose; the hostages were marched downstairs, and placed in the centre of a hollow square formed by the sailors and marines, and in this fashion they were matched to Wynyard Pier in the dull grey of the peaceful looking morning, put on board two boats, and taken to the 'Kaskowiski,' which almost immediately after steamed out of the harbour, leaving the town, as we have said, at the mercy of the prize crew put on board our own warship. 

We have given a narrative of this terrible disaster, as succinct as could be gathered in the circumstances. The grief of the community it is unneccesary to parade. Deep as that is at the loss of our treasure, a far deeper grief fastens on each heart to think of the dishonour this affair has cast on the British flag and the British nation. Lord Granville promised to defend England's colonies with England's "last ship and her last shilling." Russia has taken both in Auckland waters. From the depths of our despair, we cry 


-Daily Southern Cross, 15/5/1873.

Auckland wharf, 1860s. Hocken Library photo.


Much alarm has been caused by the account published in the Southern Cross of the visit and proceedings of a Russian man-o'-war. We admit that in these politically uncertain times the sudden appearance in our port of such a monster, bearing the Rusian flag, would of itself be sufficient to cause serious apprehension, but we can assure our readers that there is no cause for alarm, the statements published being utterly untrue. We are surprised that the Southern Cross should publish such Baron Munchausen-like statement, calculated to alarm everybody, without first inquiring into their truth. 

We must confess to having felt some uneasiness at first sight of the huge ironclad, but we have now to congratulate our readers and the country on the deliverance from the threatened danger. It should be borne in mind that no true Briton was ever not afraid of ten "casks of whisky." We are authorised to state that the sole object of the visit of the 'Kaskowiski' was to inspect the well known Clothing Establishment of Samuel Coombs, No 80, Queen street, the fame of which has reached the Emperor and Court of Russia — (Adv )  -Daily Southern Cross, 18/2/1873.

Comical were many incidents which followed the publication of the Cross yesterday, produced by a cursory perusal of the article describing an ideal visit of a supposititious and visionary Russian iron-clad, with the not very original name of 'Cask of Whiskey' ('Kaskowiski'), pretended to have been built in the snowy regions of ice-bound Alaska! Crowds besieged our office, and discussed the question in the street. Some persons in the country — who, like others, forgot to read the foot-note of the article that explained the whole romance (which, as is said elsewhere, was written as a warning to lead to future protection) — took up a plank of their flooring and concealed their money and jewels; others proposed to go far into the interior. One tradesman, who on Saturday had drawn a large sum of money to pay a month's purchases, confidentially informed a friend that he had hidden it, and asked if it was safe. The watermen pulled up their boats and sought no fares. A cautious shipmaster stood on his deck with his watch in one hand and a telescope at his eye, waiting for the eight o'clock hoisting of the British Ensign at the peak of our own war steamer. His watch was fully three minutes fast; and minute after minute passed and still the well-known bunting did not appear. "By Jove, the Russians are there." he ejaculated, as he hurried below. An old naval man pulled on his uniform while his wife was reading the account, but before he had sallied forth to the barracks she discovered the foot-note, and said "Oh Robert, it is only a hoax." "Hoax be adjectived!" was his reply, as he proceeded to take off his war paint. A school in the suburbs gave its pupils a holiday that they might go and see the Russian frigate. Knots of people at the wharf were tracing out, as in a map, how the exploit was accomplished. One blue-jacket could not understand it, for they did not mention it on board, but he swore, "We'll lick the Russians." One energetic lady asked a knot of men on the street why they did not go and shoot the Russians. A well-known public man resident in Parnell was awakened from his peaceful slumbers at 6 o'clock by his cara sposa rushing upstairs to inform him that the Russians had taken Auckland, and that two gentlemen were waiting to accompany him to town to defend his property. Scarcely comprehending the assertion of his wife, he caused her to repeat the alarming statement three times: when he horrified her by exclaiming that it was a very good job the Russians had taken Auckland! Things he considered had been managed miserably enough by the numerous cliques having control of affairs in the city, and it was time there was a change. After soundly rating him for his levity under such grave circumstances, she descended the stairs, both in sorrow and in anger, to advise the gentlemen waiting below to leave him to his fate. One poor old woman, resident in the vicinity of Nelson street, upon hearing the news cast her eyes around her domicile to discover the most valuable of her Lares and Penates to save from wreck and ruin. After much cogitation she fixed upon her favourite washingtub, by which she had earned her living for so many years, as the most valuable article to be saved, and buried the treasure in the garden. Stories of this kind are multitudinous. The thing has been a day's wonder, and it is to be hoped it will have the effect intended. Auckland has shown she can be roused from apathetic slumbers.   -Daily Southern Cross, 18/2/1873.


The hoax perpetrated by the Southern Cross yesterday regarding an attack on Auckland by a Russian ironclad, is generally condemned as stupid. Several women went into hysterics, and two premature deaths were caused by it. Threats were made of breaking the windows of the Cross office. The Herald to-day says tho article will not prove a lucky catch penny for the Cross.  -Otago Daily Times, 19/2/1873.


(To the Editor of the Evening Star.) Sir, — I wish you would not let that Southern Cross go and frighten our wives and children in the morning after we go to work when they get hold of a newspaper and read in it about the Russians and go half mad; they must want very bad to sell their paper, and if any of us working men take in the confounded paper again we ought to be kicked, as it is all humbug from beginning to end.

— I am, yours, &c, Working Man.

— P.S. — If my wife gets ill through it I will bring an action for doctor's expenses against the Southern Cross.

[We have no control over our contemporary's movements. If he cannot take a pattern from our veracious and exemplary example he must be left to his fate. — Ed. E.S.]  -Auckland Star, 19/2/1873.

The Waikato Times thus alludes to the 'Kaskowiski' attack: — "The writer's object so far as is apparent is to show the necessity for direct telegraphic communication between this colony and Australia. He presumes that war has been declared between England and Russia, &c. Now that the question is raised, however, we may as well consider probabilities. There is no disputing the fact that, in the absence of an English man-of-war from Auckland harbour, a vessel might run in and demand any terms from the inhabitants that the commander might deem fit. Considering the immense amount of British property in the Australias, our fleet is miserably small, and the protection to our harbours in the shape of forts is little more than a farce, so that we are actually in danger of having realised the dire calamity predicted by the writer in our contemporary. The question naturally suggests itself, how are we to improve matters? In these days diplomacy verges closely on the borders of war. Great Britain cannot endanger her supremacy (on the seas) by keeping a sufficiently large fleet in the Southern Ocean to protect her wealthy and extensive colonies. There is little fear that a fleet of any magnitude could escape the vigilance of our cruisers, but there is always the fear of the mischief that could be inflicted by a single vessel commanded by a plucky and enterprising officer. We colonists are prepared to fight for our adopted country, but we must not disguise from ourselves the fact that it would be useless to attempt to contend against a modern ship of war. Whilst the last European war was raging, great uneasiness was felt at this end of the world; there was some talk of getting the Australias declared an independent kingdom, so that we should not become involved in a war forced upon Great Britain, but in which her colonies had no immediate interest. There are few men in these colonies who are not prepared to sacrifice a great deal to maintain our connection with the old country. In return we have certainly a right to ask that a sufficient fleet shall be kept in our seas to protect us from any sudden attack by the isolated cruisers of a common enemy."  -Daily Southern Cross, 20/2/1873.


AT the request of numerous correspondents who have been unable to procure copies of Monday's Daily Soutern Cross, the report of the 


Will be reprinted in the Weekly News of Saturday next.  -Daily Southern Cross, 21/2/1873.


Maister Editor, — When I read your account o' the 'Kaskowiski's' visit to Aucklan' my heart verily lap into my mou'. In I run ben the house, got down my father's and grandfather's swords: stuk them to the grin'stane, an' gaed them a bit scour up — for I hae nae been usin' them muckle myself. (Ye maun ken, Maister Editor, that my grandfather was a colonel o' the Militia in the time o' the First Napoleon, and my father a captain o' Volunteers in that o' Napoleon the Third: an' I can tell ye the folk o' Peterhead wad hae gaen either o' them a different sort o' welcome to that they gied to Prince Charlie whan he landed there.) Weel, but after I got my twa swords ready, my gun loaded, and "Sharp's repeater" charged, I got time to sit down and read the lave o' your account o' the affair. An' by the time I got in far as Mr. Creighton offerin' to tell them the way to smelt our ironsand, an' that the Superintendent should levy a Poll-tax to repay him an' his partners, I began to "smell a rottan," an' fairly leugh. But, Maister Editor, I'm thinkin noo that ye have got the 'Kask-o'-whiski,' ye'll be needin' some help wi' it. An' I was thinkin' the best thing ye cud dee would be to get some o' my drouthy countrymen to help ye. I think I could pit ye in the way o' a few about Auckland mysel'. Mak' it into good punch. I can gae ye a recipe. Here it is — 

Ane o' sour (a sup o' lemon juice) 

Twa o' sweet 

Four o' strong (whiskey) 

An' Eight o' weak (boilin' water). 

If ye gang by that it'll drink fine — it'll mak yer lungs crack, or I'm nae


p.s. Dinna forget me whan ye are issuin' yer invitations, Maister Editor. I ken what guid whiskey-punch is — tho' I never was fou in my life.   -Daily Southern Cross, 24/2/1873.

The Auckland telegrams recently conveyed the intelligence that a sensational account of a supposed attack upon Auckland by a Russian man-of-war had appeared in the Southern Cross, and excited much alarm in the community, the female portion of it especially. The Phoebe brings a copy of the Southern Cross containing the article, which is a poor imitation of the "Battle of Dorking," and could hardly deceive any intelligent reader, one would imagine. However, it misled a number of the Auckland folks, and the Herald tells us that "shortly after seven o'clock numbers of men were seen rushing out of their houses half-dressed, and with a copy of the Cross in hand, making eager enquiries to learn if the 'news' was true. Quite a number of people assembled on the wharf at an early hour, to catch a sight of the Blanche, which they fully believed was flying Russian colors and manned by a prize crew. One well-known gentleman, on reading the tissue of untruths while at breakfast, rapidly made preparations for the flight of himself, wife, and family to their farm at the Hot Springs. Horsemen came into town by dozens, from an early hour, quite scared. We are informed that in the country districts the greatest possible alarm was created, the settlers fully believing the story so artfully told by our contemporary." After a proof of this sort that the inhabitants of Auckland can be easily gulled, we should not be surprised to hear of a series of practical jokes on a large scale being perpetrated in that city.   -Evening Post, 24/2/1873.

(From the New Zealand Herald, February 18.) Considerable excitement reigned in town yesterday, especially in the early morning, through a senseless article which appeared in our morning contemporary, headed "War with Russia." The hoax was written with such an air of truth, that there were not many persons wanting who, on first reading it, became thoroughly shunned, We have been informed of many instances of women who were seriously afflicted by the "news," several so seriously that medical assistance had to be called in. One lady whose husband was a passenger on board the Wonga Wonga, fearful that the Russian man-of-war would overtake that vessel and land her husband at the Fiji, went off into violent hysterics, and was very ill for the rest of the day. A number of other ladies, whose husbands or relatives were on board, also suffered severely in mind. Shortly after seven o'clock numbers of men were seen rushing out of their houses half-dressed, and with a copy of the Cross in hand, making eager inquiries to learn if the "news" was true. Quite a number of persons assembled at the wharf at an early hour, to catch a sight of the Blanche, which they fully believed was flying Russian colors and manned by a prize crew. One well-known gentleman, on reading the tissue of untruths while sitting at breakfast, rapidly made prsparations for the flight of himself, wife, and family to their farm at the Hot Springs. Horsemen came into town by dozens, from an early hour, quite scared. We are informed that in the country districts the greatest possible alarm was created, the settlers fully believing the story so artfully told by by our contemporary. About nine o'clock a somewhat ludicrous incident occurred in Queen-street. One of our well-known shopkeepers, who had opened his business premises, rapidly put up the shutters again on hearing the report — which had alarmed the whole town— and immediately afterwards appeared at the door fully armed, accoutred, and "ready for the fray." There is no doubt that, for some hours at least, and in some quarters, the story was fully believed, and that it led to great excitement and alarm. We have no doubt that the hoax has done a great deal of injury in this respect, and we are quite sure that the unenviable notoriety which our contemporary by this means gained for a single day, will not be soon forgotten by the people who have suffered in consequence.  -Colonist, 25/3/1873.


To the Editor of the Herald. Sir,  — It gave me very great pleasure to read, in your issue of this morning, your "testimonial" to the good conduct and orderly behaviour of the crew of this noble vessel. She is a magnificent vessel of her class, — perhaps the finest that has ever yet graced these waters; one which we may proudly look upon "as our own," inasmuch as she has been re-commissioned in our Australian ports. She is not so harmless, nor does she keep so blind a look-out as to be taken by surprise by any Russian or stealthy enemy. Why single out such a ship, by name, to give point to any such trumpery skit as that recently indulged in? The Blanche's cutter, with field gun, came over to the North Shore this morning for practice at 800 yards. It was beautiful in the extreme. The line of fire was admirable; and had the Blanche herself been in position, it is within the range of possibility that with her 20-ton gun she might have tapped the Cask-o'-Whisky.

— I am, &c., D.B. Devonport, February 25, 1873.  -NZ Herald, 26/2/1873.

HMS Blanche (1867-1886). Wikipedia photo.


(from our own correspondent.)

The "Town Talk" is an article in the the Southern Cross, announcing, in sensational headings, "War with Russia," and "Capture of Auckland by the Russians." Two columns and a half were devoted to a very circumstantial account of the arrival, during the preceding night, of the steamer of war "Kaskowiski," the capture of H.M.S. Blanche, and the landing of a body of men who had seized as hostages most of our leading cititizens. Contributions were levied on the Banks, but they proved insufficient to gratify the greed of Admiral Herodskoff — the officer in command — and he was therefore going with all haste to overtake the Wonga Wonga —which had sailed with a large quantity of gold the day before. Heaven help the passengers and crew of the Wonga Wonga! was the aspiration of the Cross, and the part of the article which excited the most genuine alarm among those who had friends on board. Of course, careful or practised readers saw at once that the whole thing was a hoax. But the great majority, deceived by the genuine sound of the first few paragraphs, lost their wits before they got any further. Women fainted, riflemen rushed out armed and accoutred, ready to skirmish their way into the city and relieve the bailed up bank directors; wives hung about their husbands to keep them at home; the coach was stopped from entering the town on its way from Onehunga, and riders from all parts came in during the day, approaching Auckland stealthily lest they should fall into the hands of the enemy. Schools were hastily dismissed, and all the old maids in the place were in a state of fearful alarm. Of course, those who read coolly, or beyond the limit of a few paragraphs, saw that the whole was a hoax, and succeeded in pacifying their neighbours. Among a large number of  people the alarm was, however, genuine and serious; so much so that it is asserted several ladies are suffering still from the effect. There were in the article some very good local hits, and the name of the Russian steamer was soon put into the vernacular as "Cask o' Whisky." The knowing ones are amused, those who were deceived are more angry than ever, and the affair is likely to be the topic of the next few days. The morning after the hoax the Cross came out with the bold avowal that it had been done deliberately to arouse Auckland and shew us our defenceless state — a praiseworthy object, which it is to be hoped will be followed up by some reasonable suggestions for enabling us to take better care of ourselves in future.   -Otago Daily Times, 26/2/1873.

The following jeu d'esprit on the celebrated mythical Russian war vessel, the Kaskowiski, appears in the Southern Cross. 

O should the Cask o' Whisky come (As come full well she may) 

Whom shall we send to meet the foe, And save a bloody fray? 

Oh, let her come: she'll welcome be, To many a thirsty soul; 

The temperance folks will tackle she - Come, fill the flowing bowl!   -Wanganui Herald, 28/2/1873.

The Press. MONDAY, MARCH 3, 1873.

We published the other day from the "Southern Cross" an amusing skit (apropos of the news of a possible rupture between Great Britain and Russia) describing an imaginary descent upon Auckland, and the capture and pillage of the city, by the Russian frigate Kaskowiski. Our contemporary has been taken to task for hoaxing the public. For our part, we consider that he did them a good service; and if he thereby roused them to a sense of their defencelessness against such an attack, the more he succeeded in startling them the better. The supposed report was written cleverly enough; though our friends in the North must be more wooden-headed than we imagined to have been so easily taken in by it. But it must not be regarded as a mere jeu d'esprit. It conveys a very serious moral. Setting aside intentional exaggerations and dashes of fun — the wonderful engines of destruction employed by the Russians, the absurdities attributed to the local Government, and so forth — looking only to the broad facts, it describes nothing more than might once have been, and may still some day be, the literal truth. When next Great Britain is at war with a European power, our contemporary's predictions may be fulfilled only too well. There is not a single seaport town in the colony which would not lie at the mercy of a hostile cruiser, or would have any means of defending itself against the fate suggested to the prophetic vision of the "Southern Cross."

We have again and again pointed out the absolutely defenceless condition of this colony against external attack. This matter has been taken up in the Assembly. It has been several times discussed in both Houses. The undefended state of the port towns, and the necessity of providing for their protection, have been universally acknowledged. Resolutions have been passed affirming the importance of taking steps to put the harbours in an efficient state of defence. The question has been considered by a select committee. Many plans of defence have been submitted; some in an elaborate form as devised by the Imperial War Office, others prepared on the spot by officers of Her Majesty's service, employed by the Colonial Government. In fact from 1857 to the session of 1871, off and on, the question of the external defence of the colony has been under consideration. But nothing has ever been done. There have been plenty of reports and plenty of recommendations; but nothing more. The reports have been laid on the shelf, and the recommendations not acted on. It still remains true, as was stated by a select committee of the Legislative Council in 1869, "that for all practical purposes there is not a single harbor in the colony which is not exposed to the effective attack of a privateer or cruiser carrying heavy guns; and that while there are no fortified points of any strategical value, there is no ordnance which could afford the hope of a successful resistance." 

And so we suppose it will be, until the colony has been taught its folly by painful experience. At the cost of a few thousands all the principal harbors in New Zealand might be made perfectly secure against any marauder, and such an expenditure might very well be be provided for out of the balance of the defence loan. But neither Government nor the Assembly will bestir themselves. The former are content with procuring reports and recording their opinion that "the subject deserves attention;" while the latter think they discharge their duty to the country by passing equally futile resolutions. Both need to be stimulated by public opinion. Unfortunately the public are even more indifferent than the Legislature, being apparently quite unable to realize a danger which is not immediately present. On this account we are glad to hear that the suggestive fiction of the "Southern Cross" created a sensation. If it induces the people of Auckland to take a serious view of the matter, and to reflect how easily what was told in jest might happen in earnest, it will have been written to good purpose.  -Press (Christchurch), 3/3/1873.


The "Kaskowiski" skit in the Southern Cross has given rise to the following in the Herald: — When the history of that Monday comes to be written on which it was announced that a Russian ironclad man-of-war entered our waters, I trust the historian will truthfully narrate the many noble and gallant deeds done by our brave and heroic volunteers. When the martial sounds of the bugle-call were heard summoning the fearless defenders of our hearths and homes to arms, there was a sight witnessed at the Albert Barracks which will never be effaced from the tablets of men's memories. The historian, if he be truthful and impartial, will relate how, when the roll-call was read out, seven men, which included six officers of the 1lth division of the first file of the Auckland Unbeatables, answered to their names. Never before did men shake with such terrific indignation. Indeed they shook so much that their boots wouldn't stop on their feet. But what shall be said of the remaining ninety-three of the Unbeatables, which also included seventy-eight officers? Why were these lion-hearted men and officers not on the ground ready to resist the advancing tide of foemen in serried ranks? The historian will do these magnificent fellows all the justice their great bravery and daring will entitle them to. He will show how Private Smith could not possibly join in the attack because his fighting breeches were with the tailor, who was putting new stripes down the sides of them. He will relate how the chivalric Robinson was absent on account of having to convey the bosom of his family to the crater of Mount Eden for concealment, leaving with her a carving fork that she might bury the prongs of it into her heart and suffer death sooner than dishonor or the loss of virtue. It will be intimated in brief but graphic language how Ensign Brown was prevented carrying his colors into the midst of the enemy, he, unhappily, that morning having been detained at home by taking pills. It was a noble apology was that of Corporal Funky, who would not have it said of him on such an occasion that he had deserted his mother-in-law in the hour of danger for the mere pleasure of slaughter, even in despite of her entreaties for him to leave her. The reply of Color-private Noodles, when sent for by his commanding officer, was one which only a true hero could have returned. He said, "Tell old Stirrup-irons I shan't come. The fewer there are at the fight the more glory and gunpowder there will be to divide among 'em, and then they won't have too much." Gallantly playful, too, was the answer of Corporal Shirk to a similar request. He had ordered, he said, lamb chops and tomatoes for dinner, and he wouldn't miss 'em for any amount of bloodshed going. The beautiful discipline of the volunteers holding appointments in the Civil Service was manifested on this trying occasion in an eminent degree. They declined to a man and a gentleman to fight, on the ground of having received no instructions from "Heads of Departments." The historian will relate all these matters. He will tell how the two brigades of Death and Glory Boys were absent from the field that it should not be said to their shame that an overpowering force was brought on to the ground to annihilate the enemy. He will relate in what words, burning with the fire of inspiration, the Captain of the Silver Greys, who mustered four strong in ball costume, addressed his company: "Men of the Silver Greys," he shouted in stentorian tones, "Now's the day and now's the hour; see the front of battle lower; are you ready at command to do your duty?" When, reversing rifles and putting the muzzles behind them, they all said as one man, "We are." "Then," said their impetuous chieftain, "Threes right about rear; form ambuscade in kilts, and follow me!" As the historian will doubtless relate, after deploying into line the noble army of Silver Greys marched out to Otahuhu, thinking to decoy the enemy into an ambush, when they would be shot down while entangled among the supplejacks or grazing their shins stumbling over scoria boulders. All men, however, are not warriors. Some are great at diplomacy. When, as the historian will further relate, it was learned that the Russian enemy were upon us, there was a caucus meeting of our leading legislators, besides several of the representatives of the by-laws' committees of the City Council, the Inspector of Nuisances, the dust contractor, and the contractor for the city watering-carts. By these it was thought advisable to make some effort to conciliate the enemy. It was known the Russians look upon melted tallow seasoned with Baltic turpentine as a great luxury. One merchant said he had got a few cases of sperm candles at his disposal which he would be willing to dispose of at a fair advance upon cost and charges if it would mollify the enemy and cause the Admiral of the Kaskowhiski to leave the port. His Worship the Mayor said that if this were done he would joyfully lend the Russians his stock of frying-pans to cook the candles in. The proposal was thought to be good when Captain Chapleman of the Naval Brigade was requested to go off in his war-wherry pulled by the naval cadets, with a flag of truce trailing over the lee scuppers, and make the presentation. The gallant and light-hearted captain, however, did not approve of the plan. He stated that if grease would conciliate the Russians be could lay his hand on any amount of it. His duty, however, was to fight. As for carrying a flag of truce over the lee scuppers of his war-wherry, he would not so dishonor his wife's white handkerchief which he carried in his pocket, and referring to the naval cadets being allowed to pull off to the enemy, it might be, he thought, contrary to the rules and regulations lately published by the Board of Education. What he would propose in the present emergency was to call for public tenders for torpedoes, and when they were accepted and the torpedoes ready, he would then propose advertising for men willing to place them along the Kaskowhiski, and blow her into smithereens. The historian will chronicle other matters besides those herein but remotely referred to. When at last it came to be discovered there was no enemy to fight, the whole of the volunteers shed tears of bitter grief. It had long been he cherished wish of their hearts, they said, to have an opportunity of meeting an enemy, if only to show the beauty of their uniforms. It was at this juncture when Private Smith came up and said it had been his intention even if he had neither stripes nor a seat to his trousers.  -Nelson Evening Mail, 1/4/1873.

This morning early some surprise was manifested at the sound of heavy firing in the direction of the harbour. Some persons having still in their minds the fright caused by the Kaskowiski joke, immediately rushed to the conclusion that the French war steamer Atalante had thrown off her mask of friendliness and was bombarding the town. Other rumours equally wild were circulated. One trembling individual solemnly asserted that the Atalante had opened fire with all her big guns upon the town, and that the artillery had been ordered out to offer what little resistance was in their power, This he knew to be true because he had passed Capt. Featon hurrying up to the Barrack, and he could tell by his pale but determined look that some dreadful work was on foot. This indisputable circumstantial fact proved the story beyond doubt, and the listening groups who were standing close to the entrance of a small pub. in Greystreet, and comprised three tailors, two washerwomen, and a precocious devil belonging to the Cross indulged in various manifestations of terror and alarm. The tale-bearer, seeing the effect of his story, which, to tell the truth, he only half believed himself, grew proportionally bolder as his hearers became frightened, and at last actually proposed thet they should repair to Fort Britomart and watch the progress of the conflict. This was met with decided repugnance by the three tailors, who, without further parley, set off up the street, and have since been heard of at Otahuhu. One of the ladies of the tub, and the printer's devil who at the mention of war had drawn a sixpenny penknife from his pocket, and felt its edge viciously, while he surveyed his own legs admiringly after the manner of McTappertit, consented to accompany the explorers. The party set out, and after carefully taking the very longest way, at length, arrived in the neighbourhood of the Fort. Yes, it was all true; there were the Armstrong guns being gallantly served by the Artillery men of our local corps, urged on in their efforts by Capt. Featon in person. And there, in the harbour with the banner of perfidious Gaul flaunting at her peak, lay the treacherous monster belching forth destruction from her plate-protected sides. The sight was too much for the nerves of our inquisitive friends. Without waiting for inquiries they turned and fled, and have not been heard of since. Our readers will by this time have learnt that the guns which were firing this morning on both sides were innocent of ball, and that the terrible conflict was nothing more than a complimentary salute interchanged between our iron visitor, and the Volunteers, on behalf of the Corporation and city of Auckland.  -Auckland Star, 29/9/1873.

Atalante in Fitzroy dry dock, Sydney. Photo from Wikipedia.

We published the other day from the " Southern Cross" an amusing skit (apropos <of the news of a ARCHŒLOGICAL RESEARCHES AT THE NORTH HEAD.

To the Editor: Sir, — Ascending the North Head yesterday, to see if I could discover ought of the Marquess of Normanby, I made several interesting discoveries which I have the honor to lay before such of your readers as are of an antiquarian turn of mind. Half way up the North Head I discovered the remains of an ancient wall, composed of scoria blocks, uncemented, and forming a rectangular enclosure, which was rather depressed within. The material of this wall is evidently of a great age, and, judging from the rude construction, the architects may have been coeval with the stone epoch. A "rugged kind" whom I met, and questioned, made a valuable suggestion when he hinted that the enclosure was a species of "pen," or paddock; perhaps primeval man, or the moa-hunters had it for the traditional moa battles. Hard by the wall still exists a small rude building, of no known order of architecture. It contains some metal utensils which the kind to whom I alluded ignorantly termed paint pots. I fancy they were used by the tohunga ventriloquists much as the Pythoness used the tripod. On the summit of the North Head it was my good fortune to discover two mysterious looking long metal tubes, on platforms of British oak, or an oak very similar to the British species. One of these tubes points to "nowhere in particular." The other points Heavenwards and I imagine was left as it was employed, in the observation of some remote transit of Venus. To account for the oak platforms, it is only necesarry to remember that there is not a particle of direct evidence to show that the North Shore was not colonised a long time ago by antipodean Druids, who naturally introduced both the oak and the miseltoe. In fact we see oaks growing here to the present day. Moreover we know this part of our population is composed of "Ancient Druids." Curiously enough the tubes resemble our Armstrong guns, and might be taken for such, if it were not for a thick crust of rust which lines both tubes, and the exquisitely formed elevating screws, &c. It might even be possible to fire from these rusty reliques, in case of another advent of the "Kaskowiski," but in the interests of the firers it would be as well to place them at the safe ends of very long slow matches. In conclusion I would strongly recommend further exploration of the North Head, and the aforesaid tubes, by studying them well. Artillery officers especially, may learn a good deal about the oxydation of metals, and how easily a piece of artillery that cost, say L800, fittings included, may be irretrievably injured by gross neglect. Meantime I remain Mr. Editor, yours &c. 

Rusticus Primes.  -Daily Southern Cross, 2/12/1874.e between Great Britain and Russia) describing an 


Mr. Theophilus Cooper, sen., sends the following reminiscences of the eventful morning when the Kaskowiski article was published:— As I was publisher of the Daily Southern Cross when the public were so aroused and so completely taken in by the announcement of the invasion of Auckland by the Kaskowiski, it may perhaps be interesting to many if I state my experience of the effects of the scare. The paper was out earlier than usual, consequently the outer districts obtained the dreadful news before men of business came to town. So far as I was concerned, I was in utter ignorance of the thunderbolt which was about to be hurled on the devoted head of poor Auckland. My attention, however, was aroused by people coming in more rapidly than usual for single copies, and all seemed full of anxiety and alarm. Then a man ran past towards the wharf, exclaiming, "Oh, those blessed Russians!" Then a man came in out of breath. "Let me have a paper! This is a pretty state of things! We shall be in a nice mess!" "What's the matter?" I said. "What's the matter? That's a queer question, when the Russians are in Auckland a plundering on us right and left. We shall all be smashed to atoms afore the day is out. What! you the publisher of the paper, and don't know the news? Just look, man." I thought the man was mad. The rush of people increased; I was bewildered. "The Russians! the Russians!" was the cry, and people were now tearing away towards the wharf. In the midst of the tumult I tore open the paper, and there, sure enough, was the startling account of the arrival of the Russian man-o'-war in the harbour. I read the account hurriedly with a beating heart, and with indignation and horror. My opinion was asked by paasers-by as to the truth of the matter. I could give no answer; the whole narrative was so circumstantial it bewildered me. I seized upon a few moments' rest to scan the article again, when the bubble burst. My eye caught the date at the bottom, and I found it was an extremely clever skit. My mind was at rest; but I was vexed at being so completely hoaxed. Having distributed all the issue of the paper, I then had time to stand out in the street and witness with considerable interest the marvellous effects of the scare. People on horseback came tearing by, carts, carriages, cabs, gentlemen on horseback, the pavement thronged by anxious pedestrians, some running rapidly, all bearing in their countenances manifestations of extreme fright. One old citizen whom I knew well came along as rapidly as he could, for he was stout, wiping the perspiration from his face, while his hat was in his hand. He was passing, but I stopped him. He tried to smile; it was a miserable, ghastly effort. I pitied him, but I could not keep from laughing loudly and broadly at him. He then looked astonished at my cruelty; I laughed again, and then he brightened up. "What," he said, "ain't it true, after all? ain't the Russians in the harbour?" "No, it's all a hoax, friend; make yourself easy." "Well, well, well," he said, "thank the Lord! What a relief! oh, what a relief! Good-bye; I must go back and tell the wife at once." In the course of the day the banks were visited by numerous depositors, who were extremely anxious as to the safety of their property. Many had heard the dreadful news who were unconscious of the contradiction. They were consequently suffering great agitation of mind, thinking that utter destitution would be the result of the sad disaster. It was very gratifying to observe the evidence of extreme delight exhibited by such individuals when they found all was safe. After awhile it began to be known that the people had been for once completely done, and the stream turned. The multitude came along with improved visages and laughter, instead of downcast looks and piteous ejaculations, on their way to their homes.

One instance among the many which partook of the serio-comic character may be mentioned. It was that of a well-known gentleman, then and now attached to the R.M. Court, living in Ponsonby. He was quietly pacing with measured steps up and down his verandah in peace and comfort, enjoying the balmy morning breeze, and probably contemplating the forthcoming comforts which awaited him in the shape of eggs and bacon, &c. He had his comfortable morning gown on, and he looked the picture of health, his round, plump face beaming with innocent smiles and jollity. Happy man! happy man! you do look well, indeed — nothing troubles you this peaceful, beautiful morning. "Paper! paper!" cries, the boy. "Here, boy, throw it up here to me," says Mr. ... He catches it; he opens it; he reads a little of the Court news first, then his eye catches something - some long foreign word; he takes out his glasses; he starts; his glasses slip off his nose; he convulsively, nervously slips them on again; they fall off again, his hand trembles; at last he fixes the glasses on tightly; he reads again; his breast heaves with agitation; his heart beats so violently he can even hear it thump, thump, thump. At last he involuntarily throws the paper down on the verandah; he rushes to the bed-room in which his beloved wife is quietly resting. He goes to her bedside. My dear, my dear, get up directly, get up." "What's the matter, dear? oh, what is the matter? Is the house on fire?" She begins to weep. "Get up directly," he says. "Where's the money, dear, where's the money? Give me all the money there is in the house." "What can be the matter?" the dear woman says. "The matter! Why, the Russians have seized upon Auckland. They have come in a great man-o'-war; they are going to blow the city into shivers; they have broken into all the banks and got all the notes, and the gold, and the silver. We shall all be ruined, dear. Give me all the money, dear, and I will hide it. The wretches I — oh, the wretches - they shall not have any of our property if I can help it. No; I shall die first!" But before the money could be got together our worthy friend was seized with a violent attack of illness, the effects of which were so exceedingly awkward that we cannot venture to describe them. Suffice it to say that before breakfast could be got ready a messenger came with the grateful tidings that Auckland was perfectly safe that, in fact, she had never been in danger, the whole affair being a clever hoax.  -NZ Herald, 21/3/1885.


The Kaskowiski has at last come into port in the shape of the Kussian warship Rhynda. Her visit was wholly unexpected, and when the signal went up the Harbour Board authorities were so flustered that they lost their heads — a pilot was not procurable — and the harbourmaster sallied off himself in a waterman's boat. Misfortunes never come singly, for the waterman in returning lost his scull and was drifted down the gulf till picked up by a passing steamer. The Russians are making good use of their time, "using the pump handle judiciously." Inquiries have been made as to population, yearly increase, wealth of colony, taxation, percentage of Russians and Finns in colony, desirability of appointing a Russian consul, openings for Russian mercantile marine, &c. They did not tread on the tender ground of asking for a look round the fortifications, but that is of little consequence, as through our own press and Parliamentary Blue Books they know all that is necessary, whilst the last Russian cruiser took soundings all the way down the gulf to Whangaparai as she went out. The Afrika's officers had a look also at the two guns in Albert Park, taken at the fall of Sebastopol, and said jocularly they thought they had seen them before, and would know where to look them up when they wanted them. All the officers of the Rhynda speak English fluently, and are excellent linguists. Captain Avellan, to use his own words, "took it in with his mother's milk," his mother being an Englishwoman. Commander Berkmann it is more than suspected hails from Vaterland. The officers are a pleasant, gentlemanly set of fellows. The Grand Duke is a simple lieutenant, and receives no extra respect on board, but on shore receives the honours accorded to a member of the Imperial family. The Russian officers were particularly inquisitive as to the reasons for Admiral Fairfax coming here repeatedly, and the objects of his visit. They seem to entertain the notion that it is the intention of the British Government to establish a great naval depot here for their South Pacific squadron.

Some quiet grumbling has taken place on the part of the local authorities at foreign warships taking soundings in the harbour, and of its approaches. The German war vessels, soon after their first visits to Auckland, carefully sounded the whole harbour up to Kauri Point. Some remonstrance was made to officers of the Government, with the answer that to stop it would look unfriendly, while the utility of the stop was questionable, as the Germans or any other foreign power could get an Admiralty chart containing all the information they vranted for a few shillings at any bookseller's shop. While the Favert was here her gallant commander in an indirect way endeavoured to get a look over the North Head batteries, he was very much struck with the picturesque view which seemed obtainable of Auckland from Fort Cautley. It was represented to him that the Wellington authorities might not be such ardent lovers of the picturesque, and might be rather displeased at the request being granted. With the politeness of his nation, he at once waived his preference and gracefully accepted the situation.  -Otago Daily Times, 30/3/1888.

The Rhynda - 1886-1914.  Wikipedia photo.

imaginary descent upon Auckland, and the capture and pillage of the city, by the Ruseian frigate Kaskowiski. Our contemporary has been taken to task for hoaxing the public. For our part, we consider that he did them a good service; and if he thereby roused them to a sense of their defencelessness against such an attack, the more he succeeded in startling them the better. The supposed report was written cleverly enough; though our friends in the North must be more wooden-headed than we imagined to have been so easily taken in by it. But it must not be regarded as a mere jeu cTesprit. It conveys a very serious moral. Setting aside intentional exaggerations and dashes of fun—the wonderful engines of destruction employed by the Russians, the absurdities attributed to the local Government, and so forth —looking only to the broad facts, it describes nothing more than might once have been, and may still some day be, the literal truth. When next Great Britain is at war with a European power, our contemporary's predictions may be fulßlled only too well. There is not a single seaport town in the colony which would not lie at the mercy of a hostile cruiser, or would have any means of defending itself against the fate suggested to the prophetic vision of the " Southern Cross."

We have again and again pointed out the absolutely defenceless condition of this colony against external attack. This matter has been taken up in the Assembly It has been several times discussed in both Houses. The undefended state of the port towns, and the necessity of providing for their protection, have been universally acknowledged. Resolutions have been passed affirming the importance of taking steps to put the harbours in. an efficient state of defence. The question has been congjdered by a eelect committee, M;any

plans of defence have been submitted ; some in an elaborate form as devised by the Imperial War Office, others prepared oil the spot by officers -of Her Majesty's employed by the Colonial Government In x fact from 1557 to the session of IS7I, off and on, the question of the external defence of the colony has been under consideration. But nothing has ever been done. There have been plenty of reports and pleuty of recommendations; but nothing more. The reports have been laid on the shelf, and the recommendations not acted on. It still remains true, as was stated by a select committee of the Legislative Council in 1869, "that for all practical purposes there is not a single harbor in the colony which is not exposed to the eflective attack of a privateer or cruiser carrying heavy guns; and that while there are no fortified points of any strategical value, there is no ordnance which could afford the hope of a successful resistance." And so we suppose it will be, until the colony has been taught its folly by painful experience. At the cost of a few thousands all the principal harbors in New Zealand might be made perfectly secure against any marauder, and such an expenditure might very well be be provided for out of the balance of the defence loan. But neither Government nor the Assembly will bestir themselves. The former are content with procuring reports and recording their opiniou that " the subject deserves attention;" while the latter think they discharge their duty to the country by passing equally futile resolutions. Both need to be stimulated by public opinion. Unfortunately the public are even more indifferent than the Legislature, being apparently quite unable to realize a danger which is not immediately present. On this account we are glad to hear that the suggestive fiction of the " Southern Cross " created a sensation. If it induces the people of Auckland to take a serious view of the matter, and to reflect how easily what was told in jest might happen in earnest, it will have been written to good purpose.