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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Post And Telegraph Department

Post And Telegraph Department.

A Glance at the statistics of New Zealand will at once indicate the popularity of the Post and Telegraph Department. Beginning very modestly some fifty-four years ago with an annual letter circulation of some 2000 letters and a revenue of less than £100 per annum, the Post-office is able to show as the result of its operations for 1894, letters circulated 53,168,336; post-cards, 2,546,713; books, 13,582,985; newspapers, 19,271,590, The average number of letters posted by each person in the Colony has risen in the same period from one, or less than one, to 38£02 per annum, the present average being among the three or four of the highest in the world. An indication of the marked progress of the department can readily be seen from the following table :—Letters posted and delivered—1853, 119,039; 1863, 3,405,380; 1873, 7,915,985; 1883, 33,588,408; 1893, 52,085,449. Newspapers posted and delivered—1853, 177,583; 1863, 3,397,669; 1873, 5,269,195; 1883, 13,030,563; 1893, 19,556,030. The corresponding figures giving the average number of letters despatched for each person in the Colony show in a curious fashion that the progress of the Post-office is independent, or, at all events, largely in excess of the increase of population. Thus we find that in 1853 the number of letters despatched for each inhabitant was 2·31; in 1863 the number was 10·45; in 1873, 12·48; in 1883, 29·25; and in 1893, 38·93. In 1894, it was slightly less. This result is largely due to the repeated reductions in the rates of postage which have taken place. Beginning with a postage of 1s. for a single letter from the Bay of Islands to Hokianga, a distance of a little more than 100 miles, the rates for half-ounce letters have gradually fallen to 1d. for town deliveries, and 2d. for delivery in any other part of the Colony. The postage on letters of the same weight to Australia has been reduced from 6d. to 2d., and for the United Kingdom and other countries to 2 1/2d., from rates varying from 1s. to 3s. In addition to reductions in the rates of postage, the New Zealand Post-office prides itself upon its almost unique facilities in the way of providing post-offices, there being open in 1894, 1353 post-offices, or one for every 507 of population. There is also a very liberal system of letter-carriers' deliveries, and an extensive system of inland mail services performed by railways, coach, and coastal steamers. Communication between the neighbouring colonies and New Zealand is maintained by non-subsidised steamers two and three times a week, and the Colony subsidises monthly mail services to and from Fiji and other South Sea Islands.

Ocean Mails.
The ocean mail services of the Colony are of much interest, New Zealand having led the way in establishing mail routes to England by way of the Pacific Ocean. In 1866 the Panama service was established, the very unsatisfactory manner in which the Colony was being served by the Suez route forcing her to look for a more direct and independent service with the Mother Country. It is interesting to look back and find how far-seeing the Colony has been in the matter of ocean mail services. New Zealand, comparatively isolated as she is, while looking for quick routes for her mails, was shrewd enough to grant page 156 subsidies with a view to securing steamship lines that would foster a trade which would ultimately make them self-supporting, or nearly so. To-day we see the result of this. While other colonies and countries are paying heavy subsidies for ocean mail services, it will be found that the New Zealand Post-office has assisted to build up two splendid lines of steam communication which are now largely self-supporting. To show the exact position, it may be stated briefly that in 1875 the San Francisco mail service cost £51,000 gross, and £28,060 nett, an expenditure which was reduced annually until, in 1885, a profit of £422 was turned into the Post-office. This satisfactory state of affairs lasted until 1890, when a profit of £7466 was shown. Then, in 1891, the memorable reduction of the European letter postage from 6d. to 2 1/2d. per half-ounce took place, resulting in a loss in 1892 and 1893 of between £7000 and £8000. About the time the San Francisco line began to show a profit, a direct steam service between New Zealand and London was inaugurated. This was never an expensive service to the Colony, the highest net payment being £11,070, and the lowest £2691, in the year 1891. Since then, as is well known, the service has been earned on without subsidy, and with profit to the companies. Although the direct companies are not bound to time, their services are very reliable, so much so that the Australian delegates to the postal conference recently held in New Zealand were astonished that it could be possible for such steamers as the “Gothic,” a vessel of 7730 tons,
The General Post-Office, Wellington.

The General Post-Office, Wellington.

page 157 to run, and run almost as regularly as a mail steamer, without a subsidy.
Money Orders.

A very important branch of the service is the transmission of small amounts of money through the Post-office. This business shows a substantial increase for many years past. The value of money-orders issued rose from £465,405 in 1880, to £776,783 in 1894.

The postal note system, introduced in 1886, has been extremely popular, the figures for the first year being £83,389 notes issued for £34,980, and in 1894, £310,360 notes issued for £112,003, an increase of £77,023. Postal notes in New Zealand have now no limit of currency, and are accepted as legal tender by the State. At the end of 1894 the notes ranged from 1s. to £1, and a £5 note was issued in June, 1895.

Every town and all villages of importance have money-order and postal-note offices.

Post-Office Savings Bank.

The success of the Post-Office Savings Bank in New Zealand has been little short of phenomenal. Harking back to 1880, the people are found to have had at their credit in the Post-office Savings Bank, £903,766. In 1883 this had increased by more than half-a-million; in 1892 nearly £700,000 more was in the bank; in 1893 the people added to this over five hundred thousand pounds, and at the close of 1894 the Post-Office had in its hands £3,340,880, as against considerably less than a million in 1880. This is the largest sum in any Australasian post-office savings bank. This splendid result has not been obtained by an abnormal number of large deposits, but simply as the result of a proportionately large number of depositors, the average being one of the best in the world. The average amount to the credit of each depositor is £26 8s. 6d. In New Zealand there is one Post-office Savings Bank depositor to every five and a-half persons.


The telegraph service, which was amalgamated with the Post-office in 1881, made its first report for the year ended the 30th of June, 1866, when it was able to show that 699 miles of line, earning a revenue of £5562, were in existence. The tariff at the time varied according to distance, as high as 10d. a word being charged between some points. In 1869 a uniform rate of 2s. 6d. for ten words was established, and this rate was reduced to 1s. for the first ten words from the 1st of April, 1870. Recently the tariff has been further reduced, and is now 1s. for the first eighteen words. An interesting feature of the tariff is the provision for “delayed” telegrams, which are forwarded at half the ordinary rates; the conditions being that transmission is delayed until the wires are clear of other work, and that delivery is to be made by first post, instead of being effected by messenger. On the other hand “urgent” telegrams, which are given precedence, may be sent for double the ordinary rates. The press is liberally treated by the Department, the tariff being by far the lowest in the world, viz., 6d. for every 100 words for messages lodged between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m.

The progress of the telegraphs year by year shows a substantial increase. In 1873 the number of miles of line had increased to 2356, and the revenue to £39,680, In 1883 the miles of line were 4074, and the revenue £93,822; and in 1894 the miles of line had increased to 5961, and the revenue to £110,012. The number of messages was :—in 1873, £568,860; in 1883, 1,599,400; and in 1894, 2,033,800.

While the number of telegrams dealt with has not increased in anything like the same proportion as the letter circulation, it will be found that New Zealanders make a very large use of the wires. The number of messages per head of population is 3£13 per annum, a very high average as compared with other countries. One of the leading features in maintaining a large volume of telegraph business is the fact that the telephone is freely utilized to connect small country places which could not possibly otherwise be placed in touch with the rest of the world. From the fact of the telephone attendants requiring no special education, telephone offices can, like post-offices, be established at stores, schools etc., at a minimum cost to the Department. New Zealand, it may be remarked, is almost singular in the development of the telegraph system by means of utilizing telephones in this way.

A very extensive system of Telephone Exchanges is also in operation in every city of consequence. The Government wisely reserved to itself a monopoly of the use of the telephone, as in the case of the telegraphs, with the result that it has been able to reduce the tariff to £5 per annum (instruments provided) for ordinary connection with a telephone exchange. This charge is one of the page 158 lowest in the world, and the result is that in the cities, nearly every business house, and many private houses are connected by telephone. The total number of subscribers at the twenty-four exchanges is 4616.

New Zealand is connected with Australia, and through Australia with the rest of the world by duplicate telegraph cable between Wakapuaka, near Nelson, and La Perouse, New South Wales.

Extraneous Services Rendered By The Post Office.

A department giving facilities which enable every man, woman and child to post forty letters and send three telegrams in a year, and which numbers one out of every six as a savings-bank depositor, must necessarily be regarded as a popular one, but the post-office is brought into still closer touch with the people by the services it renders for other departments. Gold-miners may obtain licenses at many offices, and the Mines Department is otherwise assisted in the collection of goldfields revenue. Customs duties are collected on account of the parcel post, while Customs work is overtaken at one or two post-offices; game licenses are issued to sportsmen; policy-holders in the Government Life Insurance Department pay their premiums at a large number of post-offices; nearly the whole of the Land and Income Tax is collected at post-offices; the whole of the live stock fees, and fees for the inspection of machinery are paid to the post-office; the Public Trust Office is largely assisted in its work by collections of over £100,000 annually, and payments of a like amount. Many postmasters are registrars of births, deaths, and marriages. In some cases fees are collected on account of Hospital and Charitable Aid, and under the Licensing Act, etc. Anyone wishing to obtain a patent can also obtain the necessary forms and information at any of the money-order offices. Lastly, for the Treasury, the Post-Office paid to claimants £381,307 in 1894, and the Department is largely utilized for the receipt and payment of money on account of the Advances to Settlers Office, and investment in New Zealand consols. All this necessarily swells the volume of money which passes in and out of post-offices. The total collections and payments made during 1893 amounted to no less than eleven millions sterling. In 1892 they were under ten millions. In considering the work done for other departments it should be stated that the facilities offered by the Post-Office with its large number of branches in remote districts not only admit of great saving in the cost of collection of revenue, but offer a maximum convenience to the public, and the machinery of the Department is capable of being much further utilized, especially as regards the receipt of revenue and payments of public money.

The Hon. J. G. Ward, Postmaster-General and Commissioner of Electric Telegraphs, is referred to at length on page 47.

Mr. William Gray, the Secretary of the Post and Telegraph Department, is a well-known New Zealand official, having been in the Colony for over forty years. He was born in Aberdeen, in 1844, and arrived with his parents at New Plymouth, New Zealand, in October, 1852 per ship “Simla.” Here his education, begun in the Old Land, was completed at private schools. He there joined the Taranaki News office in 1858, and subsequently removing to Nelson, served in the Nelson Examiner office, where he remained until the beginning of 1864. He entered the Government service on the 1st of February, 1864, as junior clerk in the chief post-office, Dunedin; was appointed clerk in the dead letter office, General Post-office, Wellington, the following year, and mail agent on the Panama line in 1866, and continued in that position until the termination of the service in 1868. He filled a similar position between this Colony and Melbourne until the San Francisco service was inaugurated in 1870, when he was appointed clerk in the Secretary's branch of the General Post-office, and on the 20th of May, 1872, received the appointment of chief clerk of the General Post-office. He was promoted to the position of Secretary of the Postal Department on the 1st of May, 1874, and on the amalgamation of the post and
Photo by Wrigglesworth and Binns. Mr. Wm. Gray.

Photo by Wrigglesworth and Binns.
Mr. Wm. Gray.

page 159 telegraph departments in January, 1881, was made Secretary of the combined service. His father, the late Mr. William Gray, was high up in the department for many years before that. It may fairly be said that the gentleman under notice was “to the manner born.” His father, who died in 1871, had filled the offices of Postmaster at New Plymouth, Chief Clerk at Nelson, Secretary at Dunedin and Auckland, and Inspector of Post-offices, and subsequently Secretary of the Department.

Mr. Thomas Rose, Assistant Secretary and Inspector New Zealand Post and Telegraph Department, who has been a Post Office official for over thirty years, was born in Penrith, Cumberland, in 1848. Educated at Hackthorpe Grammar School, Mr. Rose entered the Imperial Post Office on leaving school in 1864. His first position was that of a clerk in the Liverpool Post Office. After an experience of ten years in the Department, during which he steadily advanced in the service, Mr. Rose was selected in Mr. Thomas Rose England by Sir John Hall on behalf of the New Zealand Government to fill the position of Inspector of New Zealand Post Offices, The subject of this notice arrived in the Colony in March, 1874, to take up his duties as above. Arriving in Lyttelton per ship “Dilharree,” he at once came on to the Empire City, and has filled the position to the time of writing, the office of assistant-secretary having been subsequently conferred. Mr. Rose was married in England in 1873, and has a family of two daughters.

Mr. James Kennedy Logan, A.I.E.E., Superintendent of Electric Lines, has been connected with New Zealand telegraphs for over thirty years. Born in 1844 at West Kilbride, Ayrshire, Scotland, and educated principally in Paisley. Mr. Logan received his early training in telegraphy in Glasgow, where he rose to the position of night-clerk in charge. In 1864 he came to New Zealand per ship “City of Dunedin,” arriving in Port Chalmers. He was employed on the construction of the line between Christchurch and Dunedin and entered the Dunedin Telegraph Office when it was opened on the 26th of May, 1865. In September of the same year he accepted an appointment under the Provincial Council of Otago to continue the line to Queenstown. On completion, Mr. Logan was in charge of this section Mr. James Kennedy Logan till December, 1869, when the General Government took over all lines. He then became an officer of the Government, with the rank of Inspector for the District of Otago, which office he held till 1st of January, 1894. During the quarter of a century spent in Otago, Mr. Logan had practically constructed all the linen in that provincial district. On the retirement of Dr. Lemon he was promoted to the position of Superintendent of Electric Lines in Wellington.

Mr. George Gray, Controller of Money-orders and Savings-banks, and Accountant of the Post-office and Telegraph Department, is a brother of Mr. William Gray, the Secretary and Superintendent. Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1846, he came to the Colony per ship “Simla” in 1853, landing in New Plymouth with his father, the late Mr. William Gray, who was for many years a prominent officer in the General Post-office. Mr. Gray was educated partly in Taranaki, but chiefly in Nelson, and joined the Telegraph Department in Wellington as a clearing-room clerk in 1867. Steadily rising in the service, Mr. Gray had attained the position of chief clerk in the accountant's department in the year 1880, when the post-office and telegraph departments were amalgamated. At this time he was promoted to the position of second clerk in the accountant's branch of the combined departments, and after some three years succeeded to the post of senior clerk. In 1891, on the appointment of Mr. J. K. Warburton to the position of Public Trustee, Mr. Gray was appointed to his present position. In private life he has but one hobby, that of gardening. He is a member of the page 160 Church of Christ, Dixon Street. Mr. Gray was married in 1869 to Miss Elizabeth Spittal, by whom he had five children—four girls and one boy. In 1887 he married Miss C. A. Harcott, the issue being a girl.

Mr. George Gray

Mr. Donald Robertson, Chief Clerk of the General Post-office, was born in 1860 in Dunedin, where he was educated at the State schools and privately. After leaving school Mr. Robertson entered the Post-office in his native city as a cadet, and was trained in the service by Mr. Archibald Barr, of Dunedin (under whom many of the senior officers have graduated), rising to the grade of clerk some five or six years later. In 1881 he left Dunedin, and for a short time acted as mail agent on board the San Francisco mail boats. Mr. Robertson was then appointed to Wellington, holding the position of senior money-order clerk for two years, after which he held a similar position in the Auckland Post-office for upwards of nine years. In December, 1892, Mr. Robertson was promoted to the post of Chief Clerk in the General Post Office. In literature and art Mr. Robertson takes considerable interest. He holds the position of Chairman of the Committee of the Literary and Social Club attached to the General Post-office, and while in Auckland was a member of the Art Club. He is preparing a history of the New Zealand Post-office at the time of writing.

Mr. William Russell Morris, Senior Clerk of the Accountant's Branch in the General Post-office, was born in Dublin in 1853. He was educated at Bective College, and subsequently had three years' experience in the Imperial Service in the Accountant's branch of the General Post-office in Dublin. Arriving in Lyttelton in September, 1874, per ship “Carisbrook Castle,” Mr. Morris joined the Civil Service in Christchurch as a clerk in the money order department. Five years later he was promoted to the position of money order clerk at Wellington, and in 1882 was transferred to Christchurch in the same position. After two years hs was re-transferred to Wellington, filling the same office till 1891, when he became senior clerk in the Accountant's Branch. As a member of the Masonic fraternity, Mr. Morris is connected with Lodge Waterloo, E.C. He married, in 1876, Miss Mountfort, daughter of Mr. B. W. Mountfort, architect, Christchurch. His family consists of five daughters and two sons.

Mr. Emil Victor Senn was born at Kirchdorf, Switzerland, in 1855, and after passing the commercial curriculum at Baden College, from which institution he holds first-class certificates in French, Italian, English, and Mathematics, and a second-class in German literature, he was indentured to a French commercial firm. On completing his term Mr. Senn accepted a position on the Swiss North-Eastern Railway, and on conclusion of a course of training in the several traffic branches, he was appointed goods agent at Turgi, the junction of the Zürich-Basel and Zürich-Berne lines. In 1875 he was induced to leave for New Zealand, and arriving in Wellington in January, 1876, by the “Shakespeare,” he obtained a position as clerk on the local post-office staff in May following. Mr. Emil Victor Senn After varied service in the different divisions of the head and local offices, Mr. Senn was, in July, 1877, appointed to the inspector's branch, in which he has occupied the position of senior clerk since 1890. He was selected for trips as mail agent on the San Francisco line in 1878, 1887, and 1893, the latter being the occasion of the first Postal Union counting of this Colony for the adjustment of triennial transit charges. Mr. Senn has acted as translator and foreign correspondent to the department since his appointment. In 1881 he was married to Emily Sophia, only daughter of Mr. Thomas Mills, merchant, Wellington. His family numbers four—one daughter and three sons.

page 161

Mr Frederick Valentine Waters, the Second Clerk in the General Post-office, Wellington, was born in Melbourne on the 16th of June, 1860. He came to the Colony in 1867, and was educated at the Bishop's School, Nelson. In 1879, he matriculated in the New Zealand University. Mr. Waters entered the Postal Department as a cadet on the 1st of February, 1874, and for the first four years had experience in several towns of the Middle Island. In 1878, he was transferred to the General Post-office, where he still remains. Mr. Waters is a baritone singer of repute. He is known as a teacher of singing and voice-production, and there are few in Wellington who have not been delighted with his rendering of “Why Do the Nations,” “It is Enough,” “Honour and Arms.” “Largo al Factotum,” “To Anthea,” “The Yeoman's Wedding,” “Carissima,” etc. He began his musical career as a choir-boy at six years of age, and has been more or less intimately connected with choirs and choral societies ever since. For twelve years ending 1891 he was a bass soloist at St. Paul's, and was afterwards choirmaster of St. Mark's, Wellington. He was a member of the original Harmonic Club and the Harmonic Society, and took a principal part in the first New Zealand Musical Festival. His repertory includes “Samson,” “Elijah,” “Messiah,” “The Golden Legend,” “Acis and Galatea,' “May Queen,” etc., etc. In 1885, Mr. Waters was married to Miss Agnes Dyer, second daughter of the late Mr. Joseph Dyer, the Resident Secretary of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, and their family consists of two boys.

Mr. John Black, Storekeeper, Post Office and Telegraph Stores Department, has spent nearly thirty-five years in the Colony. Born on the 13th of April, 1842, at Tay Port, Fifeshire, Scotland, and educated at the local school, he served an apprenticeship in the barque “Bolivar,” of Dundee. For some years Mr. Black was at sea, his vessel trading mostly between the Clyde and the West Coast of Africa. He afterwards joined the ship “Robert Henderson,” under Captain P. Logan, and made three voyages in this vessel respectively to the Bluff, to Otago, and to China. In September, 1861, having formed a very favourable impression of the Colony he decided to settle in New Zealand, and for the first three years he had the usual experience on the goldfields of Otago. Mr. Black joined the General Government Telegraph Construction Party in October, 1864, in Dunedin, under the late Mr. Alfred Sheath, electrical engineer, and Mr. H. F. Smith, who is now chief mechanician to the department in Wellington. On the completion of the line from Dunedin to Nelson in March, 1866, he was appointed lineman in charge of various sections in the Middle Island, which position he held for four years. After this, Mr. Black was transferred to the North Island, and placed in charge of the construction work then proceeding. Two years later, after he had completed the line from Wanganui to Hawera, Patea, and Opunake he became postmaster and telegraphist at Hawera, which appointment he resigned after filling the office for several years. His next work was to construct the line from Hawera to New Plymouth inland of Mount Egmont, and when this work was finished he was reappointed postmaster and officer-in-charge, being stationed at Opunake. In 1877 Mr. Black was entrusted with the charge of the construction party in Westland, and was afterwards relieving officer for a short time. He was appointed to the position he now holds in 1878.

Mr. Charles Burgess Mann, Assistant Storekeeper of the Post and Telegraph Office Stores Department, was born in Lyttelton, where his father, the late Mr. Thomas Mann, was a Government officer. Educated at St. Michael and All Angels' Grammar School in Christchurch, he entered the Public Service in Wellington as a cadet in the Telegraph Department in 1879. Two years later he was promoted to the position of Assistant Storekeeper. Mr. Mann has taken an active interest in athletics—when in Christchurch page 162 he was coxswain of the Canterbury Rowing Club. In football he has been a member of the Poneke and Athletic Football Clubs, and was associated with the Bohemian and Poneke Cricket Clubs. In 1890 Mr. Mann was married to Miss Minnie, daughter of Mr. John Cole, of Brookside Mills, Canterbury.

Other Officers.

Sub-inspectors of Post-offices—D. Cumming, C. J. A. Tipping.

Clerks—H. Plimmer, J. C. Williamson, W. Crow, W. Beswick, G. Cenci, L. Ledger, V. J. Brogan, W. Callaghan, G. W. Moorhouse, W. Chegwidden, H. S. B. Miller, H. Huggins, G. V. Hudson, F. Perrin, H. D. Grocott, J. Brennan, H. Cornwall, R. J. Thompson, R. E. Fayes, D. A. Jenkins, E. Fitzsimons, H. N. McLeod, J. C. Redmond, C. B. Harton, W. J. Drake, R. F. Smith, J. D. Avery, J. G. Roache, J. Coyle, F. W. Faber, W. H. Carter, J. J. Murray, P. Tyrrell, A. T. Markmann, E. Bermingham, C. Bermingham, S. Brock, W. Menzies, F. Menzies, E. Harris, B. Kenny, V. Johnston, M. A. McLeod.

Electrician—W. C. Smythe.

Mechanician—H. F. Smith. Assistant—A. W. Macandrew.

Cadets—C. Nicholls, A. G. Fabian.