Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Dr James Shirlaw, 1836-28/4/1869.

Dr James Shirlaw is recorded as arriving in Otago in 1859 in the "Cheviot," of which ship he travelled as surgeon.  He did not have a long life in the new Province, but it was an interesting one, as related by author and fellow medical man Robert Valpy, whose account of him, although abridged here, has many details of life and conditions of those early colonial days.


By Robert Valpy Fulton, M.D. 


The Taieri Plain in the early days, long before County Ridings were laid down, might have been arbitrarily divided into North Taieri, lying eastward of a line extending from what is now Wingatui (or, as we think it should be, Ohingatua) diagonally right across the plain to Breadalbane (Macdonald’s); a line from this to where the Riverside railway bridge now is, thence to Allanton (or Greytown, as it was long called), and back through Owhiro, Riccarton, and Mosgiel: this could be considered East Taieri; and all that portion of land from Breadalbane westward, down to the river at Shand’s, and across and up to the shadows of Maungatua, halfway to Lower Waipori, down to Henley, along to Greytown, and back by the River to Outram,West Taieri. We have included this little corner from Breadalbane to the river as practically belonging in those days to West Taieri for the reason that the settlers there did all their business with Outram as against Mosgiel, supplied workmen for various trades and occupations to the west of the river, and almost to a man attended the West Taieri Church on Sundays. The names of Buchanan, Marshall, Millar, Stevenson, Walter Watson were all well recognised as being “of West Taieri.'' Dr Shirlaw, who himself latterly lived in this corner, was “the West Taieri doctor.” 

The first settler here was Francis McDiarmid, a Scotsman, who had come out in the Philip Laing, and selected a fine piece of bush land right under the grim heights of Maungatua (or Maukatua, as the local Maoris called the mountain above). On the edge of the dense red, white, and black pine forest he built his wattle-and-daub hut in June, 1848, and here, with great numbers of wekas and other native birds around him, he made his first home. Here he brought his bride, formerly Janet Milne, a fellow passenger by the Phillip Laing, and a sister-in-law of another very early settler of Otago, James Adam, of Bon Accord. From McDiarmid’s hut eastward was all thick swamp, patches of grass, cabbage trees, and tussocks as far as the river. Close to him Edward Lee settled on the fringe of the bush, on what was afterwards John Gow’s farm, and through his property ran a pretty little burn or clear rocky stream, which came down the side of the mountain, and in flood time made itself of no inconsiderable importance. This stream was named the Lea Creek, from the River Lea, in Kent, England, near Blackheath, whence the young Fulton brothers had early emigrated. James and Robert Fulton squatted on the flat, opposite Lee’s, right under the edge of the hill. Here in bush and flax they built their hut, and here took charge of Edward Lee’s flock of sheep “on terms.” They had come from England in the Ajax in 1849, and made their town selection, then string and pegs through swamp and flax, in George street, opposite A. and T. Inglis of to-day; suburban at Caversham (which they called Lisburn, after their father’s birthplace and home in County Antrim); and their rural at “Ravensbourne,” under the mountain, from the little Blackheath stream which ran into the Lea, where they had spent their boyhood days. They started life in 1850 as part flock-owners, clearing their own sections as occasion allowed. They had brought with them Robert Harvey, an excellent shepherd, who lived on the flat on the north-eastern slope of Maungatua for some years, afterwards moving w est, where he brought up a large and highlyrespected family. In many places at this time the Maoris had scattered huts or whares: across at Mohoua, where the Taieri River runs into the gorge, close to Henley of to day was an aggregation of huts, a small kainga, and there were others near by. That there had been Natives all over the plain was evidenced by the scores of black holes filled with round stones and shells, called “Maori ovens,” and the frequent finding of adzes of all sizes and shapes when ploughing up the land. There were the remains of an old Maori canoe resting against one of the large totara trees in Fulton's bush, one of the first and most efficient under-shepherds thev had was a Native, while Maoris, full-blooded and half-castes, were the bulk of the shearers for a long time.

For the first few years there was no medical assistance nearer than Dr Williams at the Taieri Ferry, and Mrs McDiarmid was the only white woman at the west end of the plain. When others came she was the good Samaritan, and from mere love of humanity and a noble, unselfish heart she trudged to many women in trouble, absolutely refusing any payment for her services. On one occasion she climbed the sides of Maungatua, which at the time was covered with snow, carrying her own infant in her arms, in order that she might give aid to a “crying woman” who lived on Harvey’s Flat. The hardships they had to endure at first can hardly be understood at the present time. Flour had to be carried on the back every yard of the way from Dunedin through flax and swamp and along the hills; little if any milk was to be got; and the only meat was wild pork or native birds, the latter fortunately plentiful. On one occasion they ran clean out of the necessaries of life, and Mr and Mrs McDiarmid tramped across the swamp to the kainga at the Taieri Gorge, an almost impossible feat, which meant floundering up to their waists through streams. The Maori chief received them kindly, and gave them what he could — mostly muttonhlrds and eels. Dr Williams often came across to Ravensbourne; later Dr Nelson; and in 1860 James Shirlaw, a graduate of a Scottish university, settled in Maungutua, as it was still called, and boarded with Peter Nimmo in the house which is now Malcolm McLeod’s. He afterwards moved across the river beyond Outram, living with Thomas Buchanan, of Clair Inch. He was quite young, a bachelor, and was fairly tall, dark complexioned, a goodlooking man, with a heavy dark moustache. He was genial in his disposition, and very popular with the residents; but as he was in the habit of taking opium or some such drug he could not be relied upon at all times, and people were afraid to trust their lives to him. He was a strong, athletic fellow, and used to amuse people, particularly the young folk, who liked him well, by getting two men to hold out a rope or string at 5ft from the ground: this was an easy running jump for him. He was a vigorous walker, and a good rider, rather neat in his appearance, generally sporting a flower in his coat. He was very musical, and played the violin well. In the early sixties fevers of various kinds broke out everywhere in town and country, due to the influx of diggers and a floating population, and carelessness of the ordinary rules of sanitation and common sense. An epidemic of diphtheria took place, and a number of the children at the West Taieri School became affected. Four died. These were James, the only son of Donald Borrie, who lived near the West Taieri bridge; William, son of James Dow, of Dowfield: John, son of Francis McDiarmid aged 14; and Thomas, son of Gilbert Buchanan, aged 14. These boys lived in widely-separated localities, so it was evident they took the disease from some central source of infection. This must have been from Gardner’s School, which stood near John Joseph’s (“Bricky” Joseph’s), and possibly from the stream which ran down the gully in the neighbourhood. There were scores of cases of diphtheria in Dunedin at the time, and diggers were passing in hundreds along the road within a few yards of this stream all day long, wending their way to the diggings. That these apparently healthy persons could be carriers of the disease was then quite unknown. On one occasion, John McDiarmid, who afterwards succumbed to diphtheria, was asked by one of the diggers on the cutting above the school if he would sell him the bottle of milk he was carrying, a fair-sized bottle; he handed him the bottle, and received in return a half sovereign. “Now,” said the digger, “we’ll stick him up, and take the money back”; this was, of course only said in fun, for “sticking up” was common in those days, and the talk of the youngsters around. The man got the milk, he had probably swigged it off and given back the bottle, the boy the half sovereign, and more than likely the diphtheria infection at the same time. Dr Shirlaw succeeded in limiting the disease to a great extent; but he had many other cases of fever, which was called “marsh fever,” evidently typhoid, caused (as was the other trouble) by the infection of drinking water with poison generated by the careless habits of the mining population then overrunning the country. 

We have been fortunate in obtaining from Miss E. McDiarmid, of Busholme, Woodside, a daughter of the late Francis McDiarmid, the following interesting account of early days at West Taieri. Woodside (or, as it was then called, Maungatua) was all Government property, dense bush, principally pine trees. Government licenses were issued, and holders of such licenses were permitted to cut and saw timber. Francis McDiarmid was the first Crown Ranger, and he was succeeded by William Valpy. There were many sawyers’ huts in the neighbourhood: they were of the usual back-block type — rough weather boards, with two or three rooms at most, short, wide chimney, which in windy days allowed of a tremendous downpour of smoke, making it most unpleasant for the occupants. In some of the huts barracoota, the only fish then available, apart from eels and native trout (so-called cocka-bullies, Maori kokopu), were hung round those wide chimneys, and were cured in this way by the smoke. After the land was cleared of bush, the Government cut it up, and sold it into township sections. It was called Maungatua township, and this it still is on the Government map: but when the post office was opened at Maungatua, halfway to Berwick, or Lower Waipori, such was the confusion and so many the mistakes that Francis McDiarmid suggested to the postal authorities that the name be altered to Woodside, and that name has continued ever since. We show in this issue a photograph of the old store, surrounded with bush, as it was in the ’sixties. Petersen, a German or Swede, had it at first; after him John Farquharson, of whom we have some dim recollection of a story that he died from the result of a blow or cut from an axe. His name can be seen on the glass over the door in the photo. After him came Iveson, who was the first to apply for a license. During his time the coach started from Woodside, and ran to town, returning the same day, leaving the Bull and Mouth, in Maclaggan street, at 4 p.m. One of his drivers, who was a well-known resident of the Peninsula for many years, and is still living, was William Donaldson. When Iveson applied for a transfer of his license to the Terminus Hotel, Outram, Alexander Chisholm, precentor in the West Taieri Church and one of the early residents of the lower township, went round with a petition against the granting of any new license in Woodside, and since then there has never been a licensed house in the neighbourhood. 

Minor accidents gave Dr Shirlaw a goof deal of work, one of his first cases being the setting of a broken leg in a young boy, son of Thomas Buchanan, of Clair Inch, who was trying to walk on stilts. These were very much in vogue among the young folk, due possibly to the large amount of water which often lay after heavy rain — small floods. From whatever reason, young Buchanan came a cropper from his stilts, and Dr Shirlaw made a very good job of his fractured leg. Accidents in the sawpits in the bush were very common. Pitsaws were the only kind used in those days, and all timber had to be hand-cut, two men working together. They were of various nationalities, each pair sticking to each other, but being always ready and willing to assist anyone when occasion required. For the heavy logs block and tackle had to be used, and on these occasions the men left their own work to assist their neighbour sawyers, no remuneration being given or expected. Occasionally logs slipped, ropes broke, or chains parted, and then Dr Shirlaw had to come upon the scene. The felling of the trees required skill and experience. If a man misjudged his distance, did not allow himself time, or tripped over an obstacle nothing could save him from the falling monster. Such was the end of poor John Ferguson, upon whom a tree crashed. Most of the sawyers kept pig dogs, and after their day’s work, or when meat was scarce, some were told off to go for food. They went pig-hunting, bringing home an excellent supply of pork. What they could not carry in one trip they secured under running water by means of heavy stones, thus preventing wild dogs, pigs, or flies from destroying it. Wild pigs were very common on the back of Maungatua. Some of the wild boars were very savage, inflicting terrible wounds with their tusks. They would charge a hunter “like a shot,” and many the gash in man and dog had Dr Shirlaw to sew, using in those days silver wire — catgut and sterilisation had not yet come to hand. One noted boar that they had often chased, and which sometimes turned the tables and did the chasing, was named “The General.” His lair was far up the gorge above Allan Mann’s, and for long he eluded his trackers, and acquired quite a reputation. At last George Duncan (now a well-known civil engineer in Australia) and Alexander Adam (son of James Adam, of Bon Accord) came out to Maungatua for their holidays, and, hearing of this noted animal, made a dead set at getting him. Starting from Francis McDiarmid’s, where they were staying, they put in a great day hunting “The General.” Who fired the fatal shot we do not know, but they “got him,” and brought his huge head home in triumph, the carrying of this through the dense fern, manuka, and tutu being the hardest part of the whole outing. A more serious errand upon which Dr Shirlaw was called was to the accidental shooting of John Curral in Lee’s Bush on Christmas Day, 1862. A Dr Cockerell (not in practice) was living in Lee’s house, and he invited over for some shooting three young men from a neighbour’s. One of these had an elephant gun, which threw a tremendously heavy slug or bullet. Curral, who was a stranger from Australia and had only arrived a fortnight before, had wounded a kaka on the roadside, and had followed it into the bush, unfortunately approaching just at the time a shot was fired from the big gun. The bullet richocheted from a large totara, and penetrated the poor fellow’s spine, inflicting a fatal wound, from which he died in a few days. When Dr Cockerell saw the wound he pronounced it hopeless, and sent off at once for Dr Shirlaw, who gave a similar opinion. Dr Eccles also was brought all the way from Dunedin, but agreed that nothing could be done, the man dying soon after. Cockerell and another of the shooting party were the only two justices in the neighbourhood, so Hyde Harris and Mr Vincent Pyke came from Dunedin to hold the inquest, the other justices testifying as to how the accident happened. It was really a case of pure misadventure. They had placed their target in an apparently perfectly safe and isolated spot, but they had not calculated upon the great kick of the elephant gun and the chance of a long richochet. However, they were pretty severely blamed for their “carelessness.” Ferguson was killed by the falling tree on the 29th of the same month, and Dr Shirlaw had again to give evidence, this time before the justice who had been one of the shooting party. A good deal of horse-breaking took place in the district, and now and again a man was violently thrown or jammed against a stockyard fence by the frantic animal, which was undergoing the old-fashioned method of taming called “lungeing,” it consisted practically of driving and “belting” the poor creature round and round, with an ever-tightening rope around its neck, finally choking it into submission or insensibility. We well remember the pantings and agonised struggles to get free, the foaming mouth and heaving flanks, and the terrific leaps to get away from the strangling rope or to unseat its rider. One valuable horse thus bounding struck its head against the top bar of the stockyard, instantly breaking its neck, the rider narrowly escaping death. Encounters with fisticuffs, too, gave Dr Shirlaw a chance of advising a raw beefsteak or hot fomentation to the face. On one occasion Jimmy Cuthbertson, in his young days very handy with his “dukes,” made a particularly pretty mess of a noted bully and loud talker at the Buckeye Hotel, then occupied by “the Professor" (George Moir, who was rather an adept, or thought he was, at mesmerism and curing of headaches). He did not “run” to treating of badly-battered faces, and Dr Shirlaw had to come in. The doctor had many cold rides up the mountain to shepherds' huts, and across the swampy plain to gunshot accidents. Many sheep and cattle died at first from eating tutu, and the doctor was called upon occasionally to treat human beings for this form of poisoning. Finally it became necessary to post up notices warning people as to the dangers of this berry both to stock and to human beings. From the question that was put to one of the witnesses at the inquest we are about to describe it is probable that some kind of warning notices were posted, but apparently nothing strictly official for the coroner’s jury asked the Government to provide such. Quoting from the Otago Witness of 22nd of February, 1862: “An inquest was held on Monday last at West Taieri on the body of a Frenchman named Regan, who had died at the back of Maungatua from the effects of eating tutu berries. George Wilson, also a native of France, said that, on the previous Wednesday he and three other men were on the way to the Diggings by the West Taieri road. They camped that night on the face of Maungatua, and after pitching their tent witness and deceased went down the side of the hill and gathered some branches of the tutu, and brought them up to the tent, where they all tasted them. Witness and deceased then went up the hill while their mates were preparing tea, and ate heartily of the berries, plucking them off the branches. When witness had eaten sufficient he returned to the tent, leaving deceased still eating the fruit. He remained about five minutes after witness, and shortly afterwards complained of a swimming in his head. He tried to eat something, but said that he could not do it, as everything appeared to be turning round. He then lay down, and a few minutes afterwards fell into a fit. Witness and his other mates, thinking he might be subject to fits, threw cold water on his face, and did all they could to bring him to, not having any idea that the fit was the result of the tutu that he had eaten. In a few minutes deceased came to, and almost immediately relapsed. From this latter fit he only partially recovered, when he looked very vacant, and soon went off again into another. Witness then ran up to the tent on the top of the hill to get assistance, and mentioned to the men there that they had all eaten of the tutu, and that it was probably from the effects of that that he was suffering. The men in the tent then returned with him, and found the deceased in strong convulsions, so strong that he had to be held down. Witness himself was then taken ill, but was not so bad as deceased. He believed he had two fits, and was insensible during the night. He had vomited a great deal, but he did not think deceased did so at all. When the doctor came next morning deceased was dead. Daniel Soarez, another of the mates of deceased, corroborated the statements of the previous witness, and said he had known the deceased, who was a Frenchman, for about eight years. No one had ever told him that tutu was poisonous, or none of them would have eaten it. He had not seen any posters warning parties against it. They were all perfectly sober. Deceased did not vomit at all, but during the fits he foamed at the mouth. Dr James Shirlaw said that he was called to the tent of the deceased on Thursday morning, but he was dead before he arrived there. There were no marks of violence on the body, but the ‘eyeballs were dilated, as if from the effects of a narcotic irritant poison.’ He had not made a post-mortem examination, as it would be useless unless the contents of the stomach could be analysed, and he did not think there was an analytical chemist in the province. He knew the tutu to be poisonous. The jury, in bringing in a verdict that deceased had died from eating tutu berries, requested the coroner to present a petition to the Government praying them to take each necessary steps as would warn strangers coming into the colony of the poisonous nature of the tutu plant, the berries of which had already caused serious illness to nine persons in the West Taieri district in the last nine weeks, one of which proved fatal.” We have given the account of this inqueet in full, as it is one of the very few instances of fatal cases of tutu poisoning which have been recorded. It was overlooked in the search through the records in 1907 by the Registrar-general, when a scientific investigation of the alkaloids of tutu was made, and the action of the poison upon human beings and animals described in full (Transactions New Zestland Institute, Volume LXI). Dr Shirlaw, though quite a young man, found the rough work, long distances, and severe exposure inevitable in this kind of practice more than he could stand, and, handicapped as he was with his opium habit, like so many others of whom we have written, he fell before the storm. Matters became worse, he was often found unconscious, and as often recovered and carried on hie work, but the inevitable end came early in 1869. A little stone monument is erected in the West Taieri Cemetery close to the big willow tree with the following inscription: — “Sacred to that memory of James Shirlaw, M.D.; died 28th April, 1869, aet 33. Erected as a token of respect by his friends.”  -Otago Witness, 11/1/1921.

West Taieri Cemetery.

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Nathaniel Arnold Mitchell, 1879-7/9/1886.


On the 7th September, it his father's residence, Beach House, North Taieri, Nathaniel Arnold, fourth son of William Mitchell and his late wife, Elisabeth Mitchell; aged 16 years Deeply regretted. -Otago Witness, 17/9/1886.


By Dot. 

To our little folks. 

[Dot will be pleased to receive short letters from juvenile correspondents on any matters of interest to themselves — short stories of pet animals, descriptions of their favourite toys, their parties, amusements, &c. the letters to be written by the children themselves and addressed "Dot, care of the Editor." and to be published in the page devoted to "Our Little Folks."] 

Sometimes the children's letters do not reach Dot in time for mention and reply the same week, but in all cases will be acknowledged in due course. 

Dear Dot, — My first letter to you is a very sad one. It is about the death of our dear schoolmate, Nathaniel Arnold Mitchell, who died on Tuesday, 7th September, of brain fever, caused partly through a fall on his head, and partly through being over anxious to pass his standard at school. He had a bad headache on Thursday and Friday, the 2nd and 3rd September — the two days of the examination. Dear Nathaniel was such a good boy, and was so anxious to pass that he would go to school. When he went home on Friday afternoon his head was worse, and on Sunday, the 5th, he was very bad. The doctor could do little for .him, but did everything that was possible to save his life, but it was not to be, and Nathaniel died at half-past 11 on Tuesday. Dear Dot, I cannot tell you how sorry everybody about here is, for he was such a good, kind, gentle friend, and was always ready to help anyone. I think he was the best boy in the school. His fuueral took place on Thursday, the 9th September, and there was such a lot of people there. All the schoolboys went. They took wreaths, crosses, and bunches of flowers, and threw them in the grave. It made such a lot of us cry to see dear Nat put down the deep hole and covered over with dirt. Mr Murray, the schoolmaster, had such a lovely cross made in Dunedin as his last token of respect for dear, dear Nathaniel. He is deeply regretted by all who knew him. Dear Dot, it is a very sad death, and is made more so by the fact that only a year ago his mother died; so you will know how sad all his people are. — I am, dear Dot, yours truly, John (age 13). Taieri, September 15.   -Otago Witness, 1/10/1886.

West Taieri Cmeetery.

George Shrimpton, 1871-12/9/1907.



[Press Association.] DUNEDIN, To-day. The electric cars were momentarily stopped this forenoon, owing to a fatal accident to George Shrimpton, single, employed at the Waipori electric power works as general utility man. No particulars of the accident are available. Shrimpton's parents live at Berwick. He was about 25, and has been engaged on the works since they started. He is supposed to have been electrocuted. He was one of the best men employed at Waipori, and had been selected for promotion.  -Bush Advocate, 12/9/1907.

The circumstances under which George Shrimpton met his death at Waipori are not disclosed to us by the electrical engineer. There is an uneasy feeling abroad that the works at Wafpori are unsafe. It is said that another man, named Clothier, also received a heavy shock, and had a narrow escape. No doubt all the important facts will be disclosed at the inquest tomorrow morning.  -Evening star, 13/9/1907.



The authorities are (the "Otago Daily Times" states) strangely reticent over the Waipori accident, but, as far as can be learned, it appears that Shrimpton, together with an older man named Clothier, was engaged in taking glazed pipes (presumably to be used for insulating purposes) to an upper room, where sudden death is lurking on all sides. The men reached the room without mishap, and the deceased deposited his burden, weighing some 50lb or 60lb on the floor, and turned to help his companion. The moment was his last. His head came in contact with an overhead copper switch, it is stated, and he collapsed and fell back over the pipe he had been carrying, death having been instantaneous. As he fell he evidently touched Clothier, who received a tremendous shock which, fortunately was not sufficient to kill him. Clothier was in a dazed condition for the greater part of the day. Shrimpton's body was conveyed to one of the houses near by, and late in the afternoon a vehicle was sent from Berwick to convey it to Outram. Deceased was severely burned and disfigured about the head and neck, and although the men at the works had little doubt that life was extinct, they applied artificial resuscitation for two hours ill the hope of restoring vitality. An engineer, commenting on the accident, states: "There should be no part of the 30,000 volts alternating system within reach of a man's head. It is extremely dangerous to approach the wires and switches in this department, and to go near with anything in the shape of metal in one's possession is positively courting death. Even the casing of the apparatus, in the event of a leakage, is dangerous.  -Mataura Ensign, 13/9/1907.




 Mr C. C. Graham (coroner) and a jury of six, of whom Mr T. A. White was foreman, held an inquest on Saturday at Outram concerning the death of George Shrimpton, the man who was killed at the Waipori electric works on Thursday through his head coming in contact with one of the switches at the works.

Mr W.C. MacGregor appeared for the City Corporation, and Mr J. M. Gallaway for the relatives of deceased. 


Frederick William Clothier, the first witness called, said he was a labourer, occupied at the Waipori Falls Electric Power Works. He knew the deceased, and identified the body. Deceased was similarly employed with witness. On Thursday, the 12th inst., witness was in company with deceased, carrying pipes into the power-house. They carried the pipes up two flights of stairs into the upper storey of the building. They had each carried up a pipe, and were carrying up the others, and deceased put his pipe down. Witness was just behind deceased, with a pipe on his shoulder, and deceased turned to assist him with the pipe he was carrying when witness received a shock. Both he and deceased fell together. As far as he was aware witness did not come in contact with any of the wires. The wires came straight down from the roof through the floor, and were guarded round above the floor for about 4ft or 5ft with pipes and railings. When witness recovered himself, he crawled away on his hands and knees, and was assisted downstairs to the open air.

To Mr MacGregor: They started at 8 o'clock in the morning, and were instructed to take down two barrels of oil from the stable to the power-house. They had been instructed to do this, by Mr Keon, the previous day, and had taken down seven barrels, and that left two to be taken down. They did not take these two down on the Thursday morning, because they thought the track was too slippery, and it was dangerous. Shrimpton suggested taking down the pipes instead. Witness had no instruction to take down the pipes. There was no danger as regards the electrical appliances in taking down the oil. Shrimpton said they would have to take the pipes through the powerhouse up to the switch-room. They were not allowed to go into the switch-room unless ordered to, or accompanied, by Mr Keon. On this particular morning they went in by themselves, without any instructions so for as witness was concerned. Witness acted at the instigation of Shrimpton. Witness knew he was going into danger. Shrimpton also must have known he was going into danger. He said they would have to be very careful upstairs, and they were very careful. Shrimpton was a very careful man. They went in by a little side door to the work-room. The switch-room was the most dangerous room in the power-house. The man on the watch could not see them going up the stair. Witness was just behind Shrimpton, who asked him to put down his pipe.

To Mr Gallaway: Witness had been in the switchboard-room before. Last time witness was there he was cleaning out a large oil tank. He had never taken up any of these pipes before, but could not say whether Shrimpton had done so. Witness thought they had been instructed to go there, but Shrimpton did not say so. He said, "We had better take these pipes upstairs." He said it was too frosty for the other job, and that they had better take the pipes up to the power-house. Witness presumed Shrimpton had instructions. Mr Keon never told witness to take instructions from Shrimpton. 

To Mr MacGregor: It was not on a Sunday that witness was in the switchboard-room before. The current was not shut off. He and a man named Turner were at the far end of the building, away from the switches. There was mo danger in that part of the building.

To the Jury: Witness and Shrimpton both fell together. The wires were about 2ft apart, and the pipes about 2ft long and lft in diameter.

William Henry Keon, first operating engineer at the Waipori electric works, said that on Thursday morning he understood deceased was sledging oil, as instructed the previous afternoon. He had no instructions from witness with regard to carrying the pipes. At 8.58 a.m. there were indications of a dead short (a short circuit); and the generators increased in speed momentarily. The current was immediately turned off by the switch board nttoudant. Witness smelt something burninig, and looked through into the transformer room, and proceeded upstairs. Turning to his left in the switch board room he found Shrimpton hung up on the guard pipes. Witness then returned to the switch board and gave orders that the circuit was not to be put on the line again. He then returned and assisted to carry Shrimpton's body to the switch board gallery. Shrimpton was quite dead, and the body was left in charge of Blackwood. Witness then rang up his chief (Mr Stark) in Dunedin. and notified him of what had happened, and asked for a doctor to be sent out. He rang up the staff at the cottages to come down to assist in the attempt to restore consciousness, which attempt was kept up for two hours and a-half, but without avail. Clothier was lying on the floor when witness first saw deceased and was about 3ft away from deceased. There was a pipe alongside Clothier.

To Mr MacGregor: Clothier and Shrimpton were employed as labourers, the latter coming to the Waipori works in February, 1906. He was nn exceptionally intelligent man, and would never be idle. He was aware of the danger of coming in contact with the wires or switches. Witness had often spoken to him of the danger. The current was on continuously, except for a few hours on Sunday. Witness had never before known a labourer enter the switch board room while the plant was in operation without being accompanied by a responsible person. There was no danger in Clothier being where he was cleaning the oil tank. There were boards marked "Danger" hung round the switch board room. Shrimpton would pass four danger boards before coming to where his body was found. There was no recognised passage where the men were. It was the most dangerous part of the chamber. Witness had told Shrimpton not to do things before. He was very eager, and never liked to be idle.

To Mr Gallaway: Clothier had been there from the inception of the works. Witness never told Clothier he was to take instructions from Shrimpton. The earthenware pipes surrounding the wires were put there during construction time. Mr Stark gave orders that these new earthenware pipes were to be put in. The instructions were given by Mr Stark some weeks ago. He said he was sending the pipes out. The first batch of 12 came out a few days before the accident, and were unloaded by the waggoner. Witness believed the whole staff knew where the pipes were to go. Clothier and Shrimpton had carried others up that morning, and these two were evidently taken on a second trip. Witness would not have attempted to put the pipes there then. His intention was to carry them up on a Sunday morning, when the current was off. Witness never dreamed of ordering the men to carry the pipes up there, he did not consider it practicable to protect the disconnecting switches so as to make it impossible for a man to come in contact with them. Witness did not consider it was dangerout to take the oil down that day. 

To Mr MacGregor: There were 64 switches in operation in the switch room, and it might be neccesary to operate any of these at any moment. In witness's opinion it would be more dangerous to have these switches protected in such a way that removal of the protection would be necessary before operation.

To the jury: It was in consequence of static discharge that the pipes were to be taken out and replaced. The change was to prevent this discharge, and was not with a view of increasing the safety although it might have that effect. 

Mr MacGregor: There is a misconception about these pipes. They are not intended as a protection to the men, but to the wires. 

Dr Fulton, deposed that on Thursday he proceeded to the electric power works at Waipori, and reached there about 2 p.m. He went to the hut in which the body of deceased was lying, and made an examination. Shrimpton was quite dead. His face and neck, right shoulder and arm, and right side down to the level of the elbow were all scorched. The hair on his face and head was burned and there was an indentation on the back of the head where he had come in contact with the switch. His hat was partially scorched. The nails in his boots were fused, where the current had gone through to the earth. After hearing the statements made, witness concluded that Shrimpton had died instantly. Witness went to the power-house with Mr Keon and inspected the scene of the accident. On going in witness saw great danger boards, in all directions, and realised he was in an absolute death-trap. Mr Keon and the father of deceased went up into the switch-room with witness. He saw on the end switch evidences of deceased's contact with it. On the down wire through the pipes there was also evidence of contact. Mr Keon impressed upon them the necessity for extreme caution, and took them down a back stair into the transformer-room. There was no one there. A possible prevention to accident that had occurred to witness was that there should be on the doors notices, that no one should enter without a permit. Witness did not see any reason why a bar should not be used to protect the 12 switches where deceased met with his accident. 

Mr Keon said that would be more dangerous, and was not practicable. 

Witness (continuing) said he had formed the opinion that the building should be practically as inaccessible as a prison. The precautions were very good, but it struck one that there was a lot of uninsulated wires about, carrying a high current. 


The Coroner said they had gone pretty minutely into the circumstances connected with the death of deceascd. It was unfortunate that Clothier had fallen with deceased and received a shock, as he was able to tell but very little of what occurred. That death was due to accident there could be no doubt. Deceased might have overreached himself in taking the pipe off Clothier's shoulder, but it was evident that the cause of death was accidentally coming in contact with a live wire. The question was whether all necessary precautions had been taken to prevent such an accident. They were told by Mr Keon that no one had any right to go into that place except they were accompanied by an expert, and that no instructions were given to Clothier or Shrimpton to go in there. They were also told that Shrimpton was an intelligent and zealous man, anxious to do all the work in his power. He had had his instructions from Mr Keon, but as he did not think it safe to sledge the barrels down, he thought he might employ his time in taking the pipes to the switch-room. To do such a thing without consulting Mr Keon seemed to have been an error of judgment on Shrimpton's part, for which the poor man had suffered. Taking everything into consideration, they could only come to the conclusion that deceased did what he was practically forbidden to do, and he (Mr. Graham) thought the jury would be perfectly justified in returning a verdict that no blame was attachable to anyone. Mr Keon said he had given strict injunctions that no one was to go into that room without instructions, or without being accompanied by him. As to extra precautions being taken, he (Mr Graham) did not think he or the jury was in a position to judge. It was a matter for experts. 


After a brief consultation the jury returned a verdict — "That George Shrimpton died at the electric power works at Waipori on the 12th September, the cause of death being accidentally coming in contact with a live electric wire, and that no blame was attachable to anyone." The jury recommended that access to the main building be at all times prevented by means of locking the doors, which were to be under the control of the man in charge.  -Otago Daily Times, 16/9/1907.


West Taieri Cemetery.

Thomas Grant, 1838-4/2/1868.


The extent and the destructiveness of the floods which are now afflicting Otago, will be vastly greater than could be inferred from the accounts which we published yesterday. Throughout a large portion of the Province, the waters rose terribly during Tuesday night and yesterday. There has not before been a series of floods here which has been comparable with the present for destructiveness. It is doubtful whether there has, since the settlement of Otago, been such an extensive overflowing of the rivers and the lesser streams: if there has, it was when population was very thin, and improvements but few and far between. On Tuesday, the coaches which left Dunedin for Tokomairiro performed both the up and the down journey, despite difficulty and danger. Yesterday, no wheeled vehicle could get further south of Dunedin than the 17-mile post, or something less than a mile from the Reliance Hotel, Otakia. It is true that the mails were forwarded on to Tokomairiro. But what terrible pictures of suffering and loss are conjured up by the statement of how that transmission of the mails was managed! They were conveyed in a boat for nine miles, to the Waihola township, the boat floating safely over many fences, and being rowed against many others so as to displace the top-rail, which was the only obstacle. The Taieri Plain itself, from a point about eleven miles (by the road) from Dnnedin, is covered with an almost unbroken sheet of water, in some places deep enough to wash away, or almost to overtop, houses. Towards the West Taieri, from all we can learn, the flood is the deepest. The very costly bridge there has been much injured, apart from its approaches; and there has been at least one life lost — a son of Mr Grant having been drowned while going to his father's assistance.  -Otago Daily Times, 6/2/1868.

On reaching the Buck Eye Hotel, I found a number of persons engaged in searching for the body of Thomas Grant, son of Mr. Peter Grant, of Granton, who, it may be remembered, lost another son about a year ago by a fall from a dray. Finding that my further progress towards Dunedin was impossible, the main road being completely covered to an impassable depth, there was nothing for it but to take up my quarters here for the night. I therefore spent the remainder of the evening in ascertaining the losses sustained in the district, as far as possible, no communication having yet been obtained with the farmers of the lower portions of the plain. 

Feeling anxious about the safety of their father's family, Donald and Thomas Grant were riding on horseback, accompanied by a friend, through Mr. Borrie's cornfield, and had already passed through what appeared the most dangerous portion of the journey, the horses having had to swim at several places. Donald, the elder brother, had previously requested Thomas to return, as the danger appeared too great, but Thomas, in his anxiety, led the way, but unfortunately was not careful in avoiding a lagoon, into which the horse fell. No doubt the growing corn would entangle the horse's feet, and prevent him swimming freely. Thomas Grant became unhorsed and was observed endeavouring to swim, but suddenly disapeared.   -Bruce Herald, 12/2/1868.

West Taieri Cemetery.

Robert Cowin, 1863-3/3/1893.


[From our own Correspondent.] I have to record two deaths in one week in this little district. The first, Mrs Hill, died on Wednesday, at the age of sixty-five years. The funeral, which was a large one was conducted by the Rev C W Jennins. The deceased, who leaves a large family was one of Nelson's earliest settlers, having arrived here in 1842. A good part of he life was spent in Motueka, where she is stil remembered, especially by the Natives, with whom she was a great favourite. She came with her late husband (Mr Jamea Rose) to this district in its infancy, and has resided here until the time of her death. 

The next I have to record is specially sad in that it was so awfully sudden. A young man, thirty years of age, cut off in a moment, in the very bloom of health. The young man, Robert Cowin, was a son of Mr James Cowin, of Dovedale. The cause of his death was a shying horse. He was driving with a load of sacks of grass seed when the brute shied, and went right off the road (it was a side-cutting) and capsized the cart, when the young man fell apparently into the water-table, the horse falling on the top of him. A little boy, son of Mr M Davies, saw the overturned cart, and as soon as possible gave notice to the hop pickers in Mr W Win's hop-garden, when all the men ran as quickly as possible, and found the horse and cart as already described. Though there were willing bands, it was all too late, there being not the slightest sign of life left is the poor yonng man, who was carried to the house of Mr John Win, where an inquest was held on the following day (Saturday). A verdict, in accordance with the evidence, of accidental death was reoorded. The funeral, which was the largest ever witnessed in this district, took place on Sunday afternoon, when rtere were upwards of 400 people present at the cemetery, there being over forty carriages and about fifty horsemen and lady riders following. The local Oddfellows (to which order the deceased belonged) accorded him an official funeral, their merit board being carried in front of the hearse for the last quarter of a mile, the members following followed by the children of the Wesleyan Sunday school, of which he had been a teacher for many years. The burial service of the English Church was read by Mr J. W. Win, after which the very impressive service of the Oddfellows was read by P P.G.M. N. Win. Very great sympathy is felt for the bereaved family throughout the district, the young man being generally a favourite. He was of a genial and obliging disposition and will be certainly missed by a large circle of friends.  -Nelson Evening Mail, 9/3/1898.

Dovedale Cemetery.

6/302 Captain George Scott Murray, MC, RFC, 10/4/1892-24/5/1924.

George Murray was a farmer in the Nelson area when he enlisted in the Army in August, 1914.  He served in the Canterbury Infantry Regiment for all of three weeks, then for a reason that does not appear in his service record, he left New Zealand and made his way to France and the British Army, serving with the Royal Fusileers and the Royal Flying Corps.


Mr G. S. Murray, of Nelson, left Wellington last evening for Sydney, en route to England.  -NZ Times, 30/1/1915.

Lt. G. Scott Murray, Royal Fusiliers, attached to the R.F.C., is still out in East Africa, where he is seeing a considerable amount of duty as an airman.  -Evening Post, 2/3/1918.

George Murray served with 26 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, in the East African campaign.  It was a difficult time and place to be a flyer.  The planes were obsolescent - but with no enemy opposition in the air, that was one of their smaller problems - the tropical heat and damp rotted the organic parts of the structure and rusted the metal ones.  Ironically, one of their greatest problems was the lack of decent roads.  Aeroplanes soared above the jungle but supplies and ground crew needed to be transported by truck.  There were also the endemic tropical diseases to be contended with, notably malaria and it might have been that which led to George Murray's being eventually invalided out of the Army.


Mrs F. Barnes, of Cridland street, Kaiapoi, has received advice from the Minister of Defence that Regimental Sergtant-major T. S. West, has been awarded the Croix de Guerre for gallantry on the field action. Sergeant-major West left New Zealand with the Main Body, and took part in the landing and evacuation at Gallipoli, where he was wounded. He went through the battles of the Somme and Messines without mishap, and is at present studying for a commission at Keble College, Oxford. 

Information has been received that Captain Roland Fulton, R.A.M.C., eldest son of Lieutenant-colonel R. Fulton, of Dunedin, has been awarded the Croix de Guerre for meritorious services as regimental medical officer attached to the 13th Middlesex Regiment during the engagements at Ypres. 

Flight-lieutenant George Scott Murray, of the Tasman district, who was awarded the Military Cross for services rendered during the East African campaign, has been promoted to the rank of captain. Captain Murray received his decoration at the hands of the King, and and in latest advices he was leaving England for France.  -Otago Daily Times, 5/4/1918.

Among the decorated officers who recently returned was Captain G. S. Murray, R.F.C. Captain Murray joined the Imperial Army in England, and was attached to the Royal Fusiliers. He was later sent to German East Africa with the Royal Flying Corps, from where he has been invalided home to New Zealand. He was awarded the Military Cross in January last for "repeatedly carrying out bombing raids and obtaining valuable information regarding the enemy." Captain Murray was decorated by the King at Buckingham Palace in January last. He is a Nelson boy, and left New Zealand to join the Royal Flying Corps.  -Auckland Star, 20/5/1918.



(From Our Own Correspondent.)

Captain G. S. Murray, of the Flying Corps, who has had over three years' active service, including some sensational experiences in German East Africa and in France, is enjoying a well earned furlough of six months. Captain Murray is at present spending a few days on his orchard at Tasman.  -Colonist, 29/5/1918.


Captain G. S. Murray, of Tasman, who has been in Wellington since Saturday last in connection the despatch of fruit to Glasgow, per s.s. Somerset, is delighted with the arrangements made for the loading of the fruit. The fruit had been precooled and was placed on board the steamer at a temperature of 42deg., and the handling was all that could be desired. Fruit was stacked with plenty of ventilation between the cases, and the engineers stated that the whole shipment could be reduced to a temperature of 30deg. within a few hours of sailing.  -Nelson Evening Mail, 29/3/1922.



A painful shock was experienced by the Tasman district yesterday when it became known that Captain Scott Murray, who since the war has suffered severely from his experiences, had met his death by his own hand, being found shot through the heart. 

The late Captain Murray saw considerable service in East Africa as a captain in the flying corps and his trying experiences there greatly affected his nerves and he had not been the same man since. Despite his disabilaties however he took an active part in the fruit industry and was well and favourably known throughout the whole district. His is an end considerably delayed it is true, but none the less attributable to the ravages of the war. 

Widespread sympathy will be extended to the bereaved widow and child.   -Nelson Evening Mail, 26/5/1924.

Latest News From New Zealand

Captain Murray was found dead in his house in the Tasman district, Nelson, with a bullet in his heart. He was a captain in the flying service in East Africa, where his experiences caused a nervous breakdown.   -Samoanishce Zeitung, 30/5/1924.

Motueka Cemetery.

Monday, 27 December 2021

Robert Edward Albert Gadd, 1874-16/1/1923.



Quite a gloom was cast over the Mapua district on Tuesday last, when it became known that the task of shifting the school building had resulted in a fatality, the victim being Mr Robert Edward Albert Gadd, 47 years of age, married, with three children.

Operations were proceeding in lowering a wall on to a lorry with block and tackle, when the rope broke and the wall fell a distance of about two feet, striking the deceased on the back of the neck, breaking the neck. Death ensued almost immediately. At the inquest a verdict of accidental death was returned.

Sincere sympathy will be extended to the bereaved widow and family.  -Nelson Evening Mail, 19/1/1923.


THE friends of the late Robert Edward Albert Gadd are respectfully informed that his funeral will leave his residence TO-MORROW (Thursday) January 18th, at 1.30 p.m. for the Motueka Cemetery. EDMUND PARKER, Undertaker.  -Nelson Evening Mail, 17/1/1923.


MRS E. GADD and Family wish to thank all kind friends for letters and wires of sympathy also floral tributes in their recent sad bereavement. Especially those who gave assistance.   -Nelson Evening Mail, 24/1/1923.

Motueka Cemetery.

6/256 Private Percival Hawken, 5/8/1894-11/6/1916.



Regret is felt at the death of Private P. Hawken, aged 22, of the Main Body, Expeditionary Force. Private Hawken returned invalided some time ago. He had obtained his discharge, and was employed by Mr H. J. Trewavas, baker. He was at his work as usual on Friday, but complained of feeling unwell when he returned home in the evening. Dr. Horrax was called in, but death took place at midnight on Sunday. The sympathy of all is extended to his father and family. 

The funeral of the late Trooper Hawken took place yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, when the deceased was accorded military honours. There was a large attendance of Territorials and Cadets and of the general public, and among those present were the Mayor and borough councillors and representatives of the local Patriotic Committee. The returned soldiers of the district attended and a number of them acted as pall-bearers. The Rev. J. Newlands, of the Presbyterian Church, conducted the burial service. There was a firing party of'cadets, and the Last Post was sounded, with a roll of drums. Lieutenant Suckling was in command of the Defence forces on parade. SergeantMajor Hurdley was responsible for the military arrangements, and SergeantMajor Campbell was in charge of the pall-bearers.  -Colonist, 14/6/1916.


MR. HAWKEN, of Motueka, wishes to thank all kind friends for their sympathy in connection with the death of his son.   -Nelson Evening Mail, 14/6/1916.

Percival Hawkins' military career was a short one.  He enlisted almost as soon as war was delcared, experienced two months' training, went to Gallipoli, caught typhoid fever, was taken to a Hospital Ship and eventually invalided home. He was discharged as medically unfit in March, 1916, after spending time in quarantine in Auckland due to the contagious nature of his disease.

Motueka Cemetery.