Sport 2: Autumn 1989
Fiona Farrell Poole — The Tale of Richard Seddon
It is a fact, though not yet common knowledge, that Richard John Seddon, that same King Dick who stands pot-bellied in front of Parliament steps breasting pigeon assault and harbour gale, was no 'king' at all. Recent evidence suggests that he began life not as Dick Seddon the Lancashire prentice lad, but as Frances Maria Bromley, a.k.a. Louise de Salles, Frances Acton and, for a brief period in the Auckland of the sixties, as Fanny Bromley, the Rose of Symonds Street.
Proof can be found in a bundle of private papers which passed this year from a deceased estate into the archives of the National Library. They are the work of Connie Annally, an extraordinary woman who was last seen alive in 1910. The youngest daughter of an alcoholic colonel in the Seaforth Highlanders and Maeve Fitzgerald, poet and horsewoman, Connie spent her early childhood in India, her youth in a decorous but not too expensive girls' school in Kent and her early adulthood in solo travel to the remoter regions of the world. On her return to the civilised jungles of London or Dublin she retained an affectation for male dress and an independent and unconventional morality which earned her a notoriety she at first enjoyed and courted, but which she eventually found irksome, driving her out on further journeying. On June 10, 1886, Connie found herself crouching under a table at Tarawera while the earth around her thudded and trembled and ash and mud piled against the whare walls threatening to engulf them all. In the morning she was dug, still breathing, from her dark tomb. Her miraculous survival engendered a profound spiritual upheaval. There was no alternative she felt but retreat, and she determined to dedicate her life to contemplation.
Her sanctuary she found on Feydeau Island, a basalt rockstack 60 miles south-east of the Antipodes group, where she established an hermetic order of extreme privation incorporating the mystic discipline page 130of the Eastern religions she had encountered first in childhood with the asceticism of the early Irish monastic orders. By prayer alone she and her followers (never more than five or six for the life on Feydeau was harsh in the extreme) made a garden on rock and sand in a place where all reason would deny that such fertility were possible. Occasionally a fishing boat running for cover in a southern storm would find shelter in the lee of Feydeau's sheer black cliffs, and those on board reported that the air around the island was sweet with the scent of flowers. One party of fishermen, more curious than most, put ashore in March of 1910, running a dinghy in through the narrow break in the lava dyke which encircled one side of the island and surfing on twelve foot breakers to a skidding stop on a patch of black shingle. They climbed a narrow staircase cut into the cliff to the community's cluster of cells. The occupants they found were unkempt and indeterminately men or women. They did not speak because their discipline excluded speech, but they made the men welcome enough, sharing with them a stew of cabbage and potato and showing them their settlement: the tiny beehive huts of unmortared rock and shingle which miraculously withstood gale and storm, the spring of clear water, the garden at the centre where on seaweed in cracks in naked rock they grew cabbages, green globes as big as footballs, potatoes untouched by worm or blight, an apple tree heavy under a good crop of Sturmers and pumpkins swelling gold under a spreading vine. In the shelter of two of the huts lily bulbs sprouted. 'Lillium regale,' Connie told them in a whisper like dry twigs scraping. 'There is such power in the concentration of living energy. We simply draw it down on us here and focus it on one narrow spot, like a beam of light.' One fisherman stayed behind. The others returned, forcing their dinghy out through the surf, and safe, as Connie had assured them they would be because the community would will them so. In the boat they brought with them a pumpkin and a kelp bag knobbly with potatoes. This was the last recorded sighting of Connie Annally. Another party of fishermen visited the island five years later, only to find the huts deserted, the garden a withered tangle and no sign of life anywhere: no bodies, no bones, no living soul. An empty rock. It is surmised that as the members of the community had aged and died their bodies were consigned to the sea and that the last lone survivor must have leapt too into the Antarctic swell.
And Connie Annally's private papers? Before she retreated to her barren Utopia, Connie cleansed herself of her previous existence. Her clothes and possessions she gave away or burned on the beach at Riverton, her money she gave to Mere Paewai, wife of the skipper who ferried them to Feydeau, and her past she expunged by writing a lengthy memoir, a frankly personal Pilgrim's Progress recording a lurid family history, journeys on foot across deserts and mountains, encounters with charlatans, confidence tricksters, cannibals, comedians, academics, courtiers, fools and an astounding series of lovers, male and female. A spiritual record, in short, which should easily make the best-seller lists. And numbered in this catalogue is Fanny Bromley, whom history chooses to remember as Richard John Seddon, the honourable member for Kumara, prime minister of New Zealand and the father of the Welfare State.
The version of Seddon's early career which follows has been constructed largely on the basis of this evidence. For close on twenty-five years, Fanny's letters found their way to Connie poste restante on continent, isthmus and island; for close on a quarter of a century this was their writer's sole means of self-revelation. Even the most private of us requires at times such a confidante: even the most public of us, to all the world seemingly endowed with limitless egotism, can need discreet reassurance, encouragement, forgiveness and advice. For the minister of state such an ear can be hard to find. The Canadian Mackenzie King, for example, was driven to consultation with a dog whom he believed incarnated the spirit of his dead mother concerning government and the conduct of a war. Bromley/Seddon turned to a less bizarre dialogue with a trusted friend. Connie Annally for her part clearly found the correspondence compelling and recorded it so fully in her memoir that the modern reader need go little further, except perhaps to corroborate some minor detail by reference to the police record, newspaper or local history.
This version will come no doubt as some surprise to the politician's many admirers and biographers — but they need feel no embarrassment at having been so long the victims of deception. Fanny Bromley was a mistress of her craft: a complex and astute young woman who duped many in her own lifetime. She was a supremely gifted actress, a careful observer of human behaviour and punctilious in her attention to detail. These talents were obvious from the very earliest period of which page 132we have any record. Two elderly women who as destitute children had passed like Fanny into the care of the pious Mrs Pawson in Princes Street recalled her devastating mimickry of their benefactress, of Churton the minister of St Pauls and of other charitable visitors.* Fanny was never identified as a rebel and never subject to the discipline vented by such people on those who openly resist their regulation. Instead she cultivated a subtler art of mockery. Mrs Pawson issuing the Sunday boots or inspecting her charges' bleakly tidy bedroom would sense defiance, irritating and elusive, but its source could not possibly be Fanny, with her sweetly querulous voice and her earnest determination to fold the corners of her blanket exactly on the diagonal. So why were the other children smirking in that silly fashion? Such mockery became a habit which Fanny carried with her into service. None of her employers ever questioned her domestic ability. With Fanny in the kitchen the meals were elegantly presented and what's more they were served on time. When Fanny cleaned the house, the carpets were thumped thoroughly outside, not skimmed over with a brush, and the top shelves were as free of dust as those lower and more visible. She was quick too to learn the quirks and preferences of the people who paid her. A flower on the breakfast tray, the paper folded just so, the napkin pleated like a waterlily beside one's plate. When one was forced to live with muddy streets, ramshackle buildings and none of the appurtenances of civilised existence, such niceties were delightful. One could trust her besides to be personally discreet and to proffer helpful advice: this hat with that dress? And the cameo as well as the locket and chain? Fanny would look on, head to one side, thoughtful, and say, 'I think the locket alone would be more elegant, Mrs Simms,' and do you know? She was right! Very young and poor as a church mouse but she had an air, a kind of not-quite— Anglo-Saxon distinction. So why did one find oneself within only a few months writing a glowing reference and asking her to leave at the slightest pretext? For two years Fanny Bromley moved from house to house in Auckland, always giving complete satisfaction, always reluctantly let go. But the sense of relief when she had bobbed and smiled, that odd little beauty-spot of hers trembling, goodbye and off to some other mistress!
It was fortunate that Fanny possessed a buoyant disposition. She was optimistic and quick-witted enough to turn rebuff or disaster to good account. It was a skill she had need of.
In 1860 Fanny left the employ of Mrs Hector Palmer carrying only her carpet bag and followed as she was escorted down the hall by the muffled weeping of Mrs Palmer's plumply upholstered son, Harry. Harry first met the new girl while she was plucking a goose at the kitchen table. He leaned in the doorway drinking water boiled against the diptheria and noted the delicate stem of the neck above the sacking pinafore and the fine hands dragging out steaming handfuls of yellow gut, pink lung and crimson liver. But it was her lips pleated like damp silk with a tantalising little mole black as an elderberry at the corner which from then occupied his sticky nightly dreams. Four weeks later he got her behind the wash-house and kissed her, mole, mouth and neck, trampling a row of broad beans in the process. He said he loved her. He said he'd marry her. He lay in wait for her behind doorways, sidled up when she went to feed the fowls, met her, quite by chance, on her way back from Prestons with the cream billy, and when they met he touched and tasted and fondled surreptitiously. So the cream was sometimes spilt, and the wheat. In his nervous eagerness he lost his footing readily and stumbled. But he was lightfooted as a tom the night he came to her lean-to off the kitchen and drew her from her narrow creaking bed to a nest of blankets on the floor. On his bursting body her hands were cool. Like cucumber slices, he thought, or melon, and her body stretched smooth as custard, but with unexpected angles, hollows and crevices which had to be accomodated to his own swollen contour. Each night, the furtive feast on the lean-to floor. Each morning, their eyes pink with exhaustion, they avoided one another. Fanny served the porridge and never by so much as a glance betrayed Harry to his mother. But one morning Fanny broke a butter dish, the Doulton one they'd brought from Home and really, said Mrs Palmer, she would have to go. She was not quite suitable after all.
There is a hiatus in the record at this point. One can surmise that Fanny's life could not have been easy: she had no family in the colony to whom she might turn for support, little education and no trade, and there is no evidence that she found further domestic employment in the bedraggled little village that was contemporary Auckland. It page 134is just possible, in the absence of other alternatives, that she was the Fanny Royal who caused such a stir amongst the soldiers, remittance men, sailors and carousers at Mrs Henderson's Empire Hotel. But that must remain conjecture. What is certain is that in July of that year she encountered Morison the Songster at a hanging in Victoria Street. The road outside the gaol was crowded and Morison records in his Highways and Byways of Maoriland that he found himself standing by 'an enchanting young maiden/of comely sixteen' with whom he struck up a conversation while Dicky Jackson swung like an ox on the gibbet scowling, the blood of Emma Purchass scarce dry on his villainous hands. Morison was preoccupied (it is not easy at short notice to find a rhyme for 'Parnell'), the crowd sighed, the gibbet creaked and Jackson's member was swelling visibly beneath the thin nankeen of his trousers. 'Yet in death there is life,' murmured the enchanting young maiden. Morison had some hours yet before the evening's performance so they strolled together to the Point. The next morning Fanny joined his troupe to travel to the Coromandel with Kitty Love and Biddy Sullivan as 'Louise De Salles', third of the Three Graces. Morison records that she had a fine voice and a remarkable way with an audience. When she sang 'Mother dearest, raise my pillow' hardened miners wept. When she sang 'Hurrah for New Zealand!' they cheered. When she recited 'The Fine Fat Saucy Chinaman' they laughed, and they reached for their cudgels ready for sport with Johnnie Jo on the way home. Fanny was indisputably an asset.
But the life was not to her taste. She disliked sea travel heartily, bobbing about sick on the little coastal steamer from Thames to Wellington, Nelson and the Otago diggings. In Port Chalmers she left Morison. The Three Graces became the Twa' Beauties, and Fanny made her way north to Oamaru where she posed as the distraught sister of a feckless youth who had abandoned her near-penniless and gone to Tuapeka. She needed money to find her brother and restore him to his grieving parents in Melbourne. Impressed by her plucky devotion a miller lent her £20 and Fanny left for Christchurch. Here she was Miss Cavendish (and well-bred it was rumoured, though her family had fallen on hard times). She found a position as nurse-maid with the Beecham family, but absconded within the month bearing three extremely valuable miniatures, believed to be the work of Lely and in the family for generations. In Nelson she took on domestic work page 135once more and pawned an entire living room of furniture one morning while Mr and Mrs Adams were visiting friends in Takaka. She fled cash-in-hand before detection. In Wellington she played a young Polish noblewoman, orphaned on the voyage out, scarcely able to speak the language and robbed of all she possessed by an unscrupulous blackguard. ('I lost everyzing except my honourrr, Meester Acton. I weesh now only to go to my uncle in Seedney but ze teeket...I have no money...') By year's end she was back in Auckland to a little house in Symonds Street, the property of Josiah Clifton Firth and only a short walk from his club.
Firth it seems retained Fanny for her companionship each evening. He was by no means possessive and in this business, if in no other, he displayed a positive generosity. Fanny's days were her own when she was free to entertain landowners, businessmen and political representatives in rooms delicately veiled from vulgar scrutiny where her translucent skin with its single tiny blemish held the eye. She jittered in Grey's memory as he lay bright with fever years later off Buenos Aires hearing across the water the rattle of parakeets and the endless virtuoso of tropical cicadas. 'Ah,' he recorded in his diary, the pages plump with damp and each word jumping like a bug under the pen, 'to be in Symonds Street again and to taste the dear felicity of Fanny's company, to survey that territory once more and to advance and conquer not by force but by treaty and persuasion...' Beatrice Russell, who accompanied Lady Lulworth on her restorative voyage to New Zealand in 1862, also recalled Fanny in Symonds Street at this period: 'A dear little woman, Fanny B. Plump as a pouter pigeon. She indulged my whims with such tact and discretion. An afternoon with her has left me as sleepy and sleek as if I had stepped from a bath on the terraces at Tarraweera...' And Connie Annally, scribbling her confession by candlelight in a bare room behind Souters' Invercargill Hotel, remembered too. With the window open and her arms and legs bare to mortify the flesh she wrote: 'I had little shame in those days and thought it proper to grasp whatever pleasure opportunity placed within my reach.' A chill wind pebbled her skin with goosebumps. 'I came ashore at Auckland in the autumn of 1862, having spent several hours convinced that I was about to meet my maker. Our boat from Hobart, a dingy cutter better suited to the transport of pigs and timber (both of which it carried in some quantity) than human beings, was captained by a drunken blackbirder named page 136Olssen. In a heavy sea he came within yards of driving us on the rocks off the Hen and Chickens, when God and the first mate at last intervened and confined him to his cabin where he ranted and swore all the way to the Waitemata. I have noticed that in such circumstances, when one has had a brush with death, the common reaction is to desire an equally compelling brush with the forces of life. So it was that within an hour of my arrival I found myself ( en travestie as was my custom in those days) enquiring after Miss Bromley in Symonds Street. She was at home and receiving callers, and so began our aquaintance, which was at first a matter of Sapphic business and contract, but which blossomed in time to a true and intimate friendship...'
Fanny Bromley's relationship with Connie Annally was unusual. More commonly her contacts with her clients remained a matter of business and contract, and as such they provided her with a tidy income which she managed by the exercise of instinctive business acumen to build into a considerable investment. Unlike others of her kind she did not gamble or act the profligate. She was fortunate in having intimate access to the best financial advice the colony could offer and she took advantage of her opportunity. 'Grog and land,' said one, tut-tutting that he was late and tucking watch into fob. 'Take my word for it, my girl, that's where the money is.' Fanny invested some of her earnings in a brewery in Parnell and more in sections for subdivision and re-sale along the Karangahape track. 'Kauri!' advised another, and 'Gas!' said a third. 'That's the way of the future!' Fanny bought shares in the Auckland Gas Co. and in a timber mill in Onehunga. None of her investments failed. By some sixth sense she was able to avoid the iron sands foundry, the emu farms and cattle companies recommended by less prudent men. She had a choice, for example, between a project to produce olive oil on Mount Eden and shares in a new bank. Firth's arm snaked along the back of the settee behind her shoulders. 'The Bank of New Zealand,' he said. 'It's got a fine patriotic ring to it. Leave olive oil to the Levantine gentlemen.' Fanny J nibbled at a grilled kidney and her breasts like two plump fowls, plucked and white, rose and fell. 'And I'll make you a gift of twenty shares as a start,' said Firth.
Fanny's accounts were spread over several banks, but chiefly with the Union Bank of Victoria in Fort Street with whom she dealt discreetly page 137as Mrs Frances Acton, widow to a naval man. The manager thought her a gallant young woman. Fanny for her part admired the manager. She liked her men to be a little heavy and the possessors of a fine embonpoint. She admired the rounded belly, the port-and-cigars certainty. She watched the manager closely on her visits to the bank in her heavy widow's veil to discuss the removal of funds from one account to shares or land-purchase, and she liked his manner of standing, a little splay-legged, the way his hands drove home a point, the deliberate portentousness of his speech. She did not in this case mix business with business and when he stood behind her at the desk to point out some footnote or to show her where to sign she noted the pressure of his belly against her shoulder, the way he allowed his hand to hover a hair's breadth above her own, and his delicate enquiries after her private circumstances: did she have no one whom she might consult about this investment? Some person to whom she might turn confidently for sound advice? She permitted him his mild flirtation, but she never took the step of enlightening him or inviting him to a soiré e in Symonds Street. 'A fine woman,' thought the manager, eyeing the thin ankle beneath the widow's weeds. 'We must try to smooth her path as far as we are able.' And he did, with the result that within two years Mrs Acton was worth £2,000.
Fanny play-acted the manager sometimes for her favourite clients. Connie Annally recalled Fanny standing splay-legged by the mantel to smoke her cigar au directeur. 'She was all temptation, this half-man, half-woman, her silk peignoir falling back to reveal the curves of the body beneath, the purse of her lips as she inhaled, the drollery of her slow emphatic speech.' It was one of her most frequently requested routines and one at which she became adept.
Perhaps in some curious way this play-acting triggered the disorder which put an end to Symonds Street and its comfortable confinement and drove Fanny out so decisively on to the public stage, although genetic disposition alone would account for it. Whatever the cause, in the summer of 1863 Fanny developed Lichinsky's Syndrome.
Modern advances in hormone therapy have resulted in the virtual disappearance of this disorder, to the extent that few today will have heard of it, but in the nineteenth century it was something of a medical cause célèbre. The origins of the syndrome can be traced to a Rumanian page 138village, the birthplace of Fanny Bromley's maternal grandmother. This woman had fled with her family in childhood to Austria and thence to England following the insurrection of 1802. Her native village was known as Kapilu Vilcea which, translated, means 'The Citadel of the Hairy Ones'. In adulthood many of its women, though of pronounced beauty in youth, developed an emphatic masculinity manifesting itself in a prodigious sprouting of body and facial hair, massive physical growth and in some rare cases, the emergence of primary sexual characteristics. When Lichinsky, a member of the medical faculty at Saltzburg, first described the syndrome in 1843, it aroused a good deal of somewhat prurient curiosity. Of course, such a condition in a modern European city would have been considered catastrophic, a cause for anguish, but in Kapilu Vilcea, a remote and mountainous peasant village where existence had to be won from rock and dense forest, such women were prized. They were beautiful when young and able to bear children, but in later adulthood when courtship and breeding were past and marriage had become an economic union, these women possessed just the qualities required of a harsh life: enormous strength, sufficient to draw a plough easily through the heavy yellow clay of the transmontane valleys, and glory be, when every mouth cost money, they were often infertile. Lickinsky's syndrome had not manifested itself in either grandmother or mother, but in Fanny it took its most dramatic form. One morning as she sat at her mirror she detected a cluster of hairs on the mole by her mouth. Within a week her chin was coated in a fine bristle and by month's end she was bearded, moustached and sporting a growth like a young lamb's wool on belly and breasts. Simultaneously her voice, previously a melodious contralto, deepened to baritone, her breasts shrank to two flat sacks and her body budded male genitalia.
Fanny had no knowledge of her genetic inheritance. Her father was a Manchester businessman, her mother a laundress dead a month after she set foot in the colony from puerperal fever. Fanny was thousands of miles from her ancestral village and ignorant of Lichinsky and his syndrome. Its appearance in her body was a disaster. It signalled the end of her career. She stood before her mirror, neither fish nor fowl nor good plain herring, the elderberry mole buried beneath thickets of hair, and, weeping, she drafted a letter to Connie Annally who was travelling with von Tunzelmann in Fiordland. A month later she received Connie's counsel: she had only one option — to page 139take on the full mantle of manhood which had been so rudely thrust upon her, to become to the whole world what she had been for the favoured few in the privacy of her room, to make, in short, the best of a bad job. At the onset of the disorder Fanny had put it about that she was indisposed, tubercular and spitting blood. Her admirers sent flowers and hurried notes of condolence and kept away. In haste now, she instructed the bank manager by letter to manage her affairs temporarily while she was out of the country, she ventured out, just once and heavily veiled, to purchase a suit of gentleman's clothing in good condition from Blumont's pawn shop. And when she returned to her room she cut the chignon in one piece from her head and posted it with a letter to Connie. Then she dressed herself in trousers, shirt and jacket and fled by the next ship to the gold fields of Ballarat. Her name, Seddon, she borrowed from the spine of a book in the hands of a fellow-passenger on the Melbourne coach: Pearl's Secret. The Story of a Modern Woman by Bertha M. Seddon. Richard and John were for the two medieval kings. (Harold and Alfred she considered but discarded as too indecisive for her purposes).
The rest is documented and the stuff of history.
Fanny's story may seem a little eccentric, but it is by no means unique. There have been numerous other instances of individuals assumed to be men and proven to be women. One could cite the example of Charles Torr, chairman of a Birmingham lighting firm in the 1880s and a convivial member of the electrical manufacturers' dining club, the Dynamicables. At his death in 1892 he was found to be female. Lorenzo de Torres of Avila too, that famous knight who fought twenty Moors in single combat before the walls of Toledo, and who died after being stung by a swarm of bees, was likewise discovered in death to have breasts and cleft. In the late nineteenth century the phenomenon was common enough to become the subject of psychological research. Delbruck in his influential treatise, 'Die pathologische Luge und die psychisch abnormen Schwindler. Eine Untersuchung uber den allmahlichen Uebergang eines normal en psychologischen Vorgangs in ein pathologisches Symptom, fur Aertze und Juristen' (Stuttgart, 1891), cites several case histories of women driven by the disorder 'pseudologia phantastica' to impersonate men. He quotes for example the case of Mademoiselle M., a ladies' maid who had travelled widely throughout Austria and Switzerland playing at various times the role page 140of Austrian princess, Spanish grandee and cardinal's intimate. She was discovered in attendance at a Swiss medical school disguised as a man in a futile attempt to gain the qualifications necessary for general practice. Her work at the school showed a high degree of intelligence and there is no doubt that, had her deception gone undetected, she would have made a more than passable success of her chosen profession. A boisterous student group inadvertently put an end to her aspirations by stripping her preliminary to a ducking in a city fountain. On her discovery, she was placed immediately in the care of Krafft-Ebing, a specialist in psychological disorders, who diagnosed paranoia. Delbruck confirmed the diagnosis, adding that the girl suffered from 'sexual confusion, moral insecurity and hysteria', and his tests revealed conclusively a brain organisation abnormal no doubt from birth. This case was crucial to the development of his theories concerning pseudologia: that it affected the female more often than the male; that it seemed particularly a disorder of women of the lower classes; and that its victims exhibited a highly-developed imagination, a nimble wit and an abnormal lack of self-criticism. Another student of the condition, Bernard Risch ('Ueber die phantastiche Form des degenerativen Irrseins, Pseudologia phantastica' (Munich, 1908)) went further, to identify the condition with the allied process of literary creativity: both writer and mad woman possess 'the impulse towards self-expression with accompanying feelings of desire for betterment or dissatisfaction with existing circumstance.' However, the victim of pseudologia lacks that essential for the rational adult: 'ethical discernment' (Risch, pp.80-81).
In Fanny Bromley's case the impulse to deceive was of course inspired finally by hormonal misadventure and economic necessity, but her character and behaviour throughout conforms with Delbruck's portrait of tbe classic case: she came from an improverished background, she exhibited dissatisfaction and an opportunistic and lively imagination, and she indulged in a variety of forms of role-enactment before the ultimate performance as Richard Seddon. It is perhaps fortunate for the course of New Zealand political history that no boisterous crowd of diggers took it upon themselves to strip the new arrival to dunk him before his transformation was quite completed. In one of the letters which Fanny continued to write to Connie throughout this troubled period, she mentions that the entire process took more than a year, during which time her body hovered uneasily between the page 141two functions.
We have no need of Connie's letters to learn of Fanny's subsequent career. What New Zealander does not know of the Kumara pub-owner who carried beer to his constituents at the diggings in a fifty gallon cask, which he supported, patient as a draft horse, while they drew off their pint? That same colossus who for a bet carried Te Whiro, all twenty stone of him, the full length of a parliamentary corridor? Who has not heard of his prodigious memory for detail, people and personal histories? His love of costume and display? His quick and intuitive grasp of political realities? His opportunism? Who does not know how he wooed the people as they had never been wooed before? All the skills of the domestic servant, the public entertainer and the whore were brought to perfection in a wider and more public arena than is normally their lot. Fanny earned besides a contented and conventional private life and was able to father several children. Her early life in a Lancashire village she fabricated. There is not a village in England which did not have its crop of young people shipped out to the colonies, and who would doubt the assertions of an elderly and important man that this was his village, this his place of birth, this his old employment and these his former colleagues? The prodigal leaves, sweet-faced, beardless, a blank page. And returns thirty years later stamped and lettered with the slogans of success. It takes an independent person to doubt the Emperor; especially when we know the story well and anticipate the familiar ending.
These are the facts. These are the truths scrawled by a woman under a personal oath of confession, placed in a sealed box and entrusted to the care of Mere Paewai with whom they stayed safe until her death in 1930 when they passed into her daughter's keeping. With the death of that woman in May of this year the private papers of Connie Annally were handed over to the National Library. There they lie in a metal box beneath a shank of golden-brown hair, the chignon of King Dick.
And now the seal has been broken. Out there in the darkness you can hear shuffling and a murmur like water falling. That's the audience, rearranging their chairs to catch this altered perspective.
To view the familiar scene from a slightly different angle.
* Queen of Cities: Pioneer Recollections of Early Auckland by E. W. Slinn. A.H. and A.W. Reed, 1942. pp.38-39