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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Otago & Southland Provincial Districts]


page 590


Burnside , which is an industrial centre, four miles south of Dunedin, forms part of the borough of Green Island, and is also included in the postal district of that town. It is connected with Dunedin by rail; and also by a road from Caversham, beginning with a long stretch uphill, but kept in first-class condition. From the top of the hill a fine view of Burnside, Green Island, and the Taieri plains is obtainable. The local industries include the New Zealand Drug Company's Chemical Works, the Otago Iron Rolling Mills, the New Zealand Refrigerating Company's Works, the Dunedin City Abattoirs, a tannery, flour mill, and several fellmongeries. There are two railway stations, the nearest to Dunedin being the Cattle Yards, where there are numbers of pens for the accommodation of sheep and cattle sent in by farmers and cattle dealers for sale, or for the abattoirs. The other station, Burnside, is about a mile south of the Cattle Yards. There is one hotel, but no private boardinghouse. Many people engaged in business in Dunedin live in the Burnside district, where they have built comfortable and picturesque residences.

Otago Iron Rolling Mills, Burnside.

Otago Iron Rolling Mills, Burnside.

The Otago Iron Rolling Mills Company, Limited , Makers of Flat, Square, Round and Angle Iron, Burnside, Brands: “B.B.B.,” shoeing quality; “N.Z.,” for engineering work. Telegraphic address, “Iron Mills, Abbotsford”; telephone, 623: bankers. National Bank of New Zealand Managing Director: Hon. A. Lee Smith; works managers, Messrs Alexander H. Smellie and William O. Smellie; general manager, Mr. Herbert Stott. These mills were established in 1886, and are now the only industry of their kind in New Zealand, as the firm has recently acquired the plant of the late Iron Mills at Onehunga. The Otago Mills supply the New Zealand Government with bar iron at all the chief centres. The authorities have always been well pleased with the iron, which has stood all tests, and is far superior to the Home article imported into the colony. The English iron has not been through the number of processes required to make it fibrous, and is granular and brittle, while the Burnside rolled metal is exceedingly tough. As showing the direct bearing of this industry upon others, it may be mentioned that for the furnaces about fifty tons of Westport coal are used in a week, and for steaming purposes an equal amount of lignite, mined in the district, is consumed. The rolled metal is manufactured from scrap iron, not pig iron, and all around the works there are heaps upon heaps of the most heterogeneous collection imaginable, consisting of horse shoes, boiler plates, ship plates, old rails, engine scraps, and all kinds of broken culinary and agricultural implements, which, but for the existence of these mills, would have no commercial value whatever. The scraps are shipped to the mills from all parts of New Zealand, and even from New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, and New Caledonia. The firm cannot get sufficient old iron, and were a much larger supply available, the proprietors would be able to use it, and to extend their works so as to keep pace with their orders. Every description of square, angle, flat, rolled and standard iron is supplied to the wholesale merchants throughout the colony. In the process of manufacture the scraps are first of all cut up into handy sizes by a powerful machine called the “shears,” the cutting power of which is such that it will snip through a Victorian railway rail, which weighs seventy pounds to the yard. After the scraps are cut, they are packed up into heaps of about 140 pounds weight, and placed on small square boards. Eighteen or twenty of these heaps make a “charge” for each furnace, and are run on trollies or “bogeys” to the furnace, where they are shovelled in, in much the same manner as a baker puts bread in the oven. The boards on which the piles are placed burn away, and the iron is heated to a white-hot mass. The piles are then withdrawn from the furnace and rushed to a steam hammer, which, dealing a blow of twenty-five tons, quickly reduces the charge to the necessary size for putting through the rollers. After this it is cut up into weights suitable for making the various sizes page 591 of iron required, and the block of iron is again brought to a welding heat. It is then put through a series of grooved rollers made from the best chilled iron. The grooves vary according to the size of the iron required. If horse shoe iron be required, the heated mass is pressed into the revolving grooves, between two rollers. These grooves are graduated, descending in size, and the iron is pressed through again and again until the final groove is reached. After leaving this, the piece of iron contains the same number of cubic inches as before, only instead of being a square lump of metal it is a long thin rod of horse shoe-iron. It is interesting to watch the white hot iron being thrust through the rollers, which are driven by steam power, the engines having ponderous and immensely heavy fly-wheels. A man stands on one side, and with a special pair of tonga thrusts the bar into the revolving grooved rollers. By the time it is through it is drawn out to twice its original length, and as it emerges another workman seizes it with tongs and thrusts it back over the top of the rollers, to be again thrust back through a smaller groove. Eventually, after several journeys through the grooves, that which was originally a two-feet length of white-hot iron has been drawn out to about fifteen feet. If required in a shorter length the iron is cut by a circular saw, while it is yet at a red heat, and the process produces a veritable shower of blazing sparks. Night is the best time to witness the operations at the mills, for then the spectacle is a most fascinating one. As the doors of the furnace are opened a lurid light is shot forth, temporarily illuminating the premises and throwing a glare upon the faces and forms of the men and boys who are flitting about amidst the lights and shadows. When the furnace door is opened and the mass of iron is drawn forth the heat is intense, and the onlooker steps back, shrinking, and wonders how the workment stand it. That they do feel it is indicated by the quantity of water they drink, buckets of which are placed in a convenient position for the purpose of allaying their thirst. Altogether the scene, combined with the blackness of night, impresses the spectator with a feeling of having witnessed a picture of the imagination's ideal of an inferno.

Mr. John H. Smellie , who is a Director of the Otago Iron Rolling Mills Company, Limited, was one of the founders of the Mills, in conjunction with his brothers and Mr. Walter Stott. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1854, and with his brothers was apprenticed to the Great Central Railway Workshops at Manchester, England. At twenty-eight years of age he became foreman of the works at Warrington, and was subsequently sent to Carnforth, in the North of England, to erect and manage new iron workshops, where he remained for three years, before leaving for New Zealand in 1886. Mr. Smellie and his brothers brought out with them a complete Iron Works plant, which they erected at Burnside, and so gave another important industry to the colony. With his thorough knowledge of the iron industry, and his alert business methods, Mr. Smellie's help was invaluable; and it is in a large measure due to him that the Otago Iron Mills occupy their present high position in the industrial life of New Zealand. Mr. Smellie was married, in the Manchester Cathedral, in 1875, to a daughter of Mr. A. McLean, of Glasgow. His wife died in February, 1903, leaving three sons and five daughters.

Mr. William Orr Smellie , Of the Otago Iron Rolling Mills, was born in Glasgow. Scotland, in 1856. He was brought up and educated in Manchester, and subsequently served an apprenticeship in the steel department of the Great Central Railway. He arrived in New Zealand in 1886 with his brothers, whom he joined in establishing Messrs Smellie Brothers' Iron Rolling Mills, which have since been formed into a company under the name of the Otago Iron Rolling Mills Company, Limited. Mr. Smellie was married, in 1881, to a daughter of Mr John Rowbottorn, of Manchester. England, and has a family of two sons and three daughters.

Wrigglesworth and Binns, photo. Mr. W. O. Smellie.

Wrigglesworth and Binns, photo.
Mr. W. O. Smellie.

Mr. Alex. H. Smellie , Of the Otago Iron Rolling Mills, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1859. At an early age he removed with his parents to Manchester, and after leaving school entered the steel making department of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company, now the Great Central Railway Company, in the management of which he was eventually associated with his brother William. Mr. Smellie came to New Zealand in 1836, and with his father and brothers helped to organise the mills, which he and his brothers now direct. He was married, in 1884, to a daughter of Mr. D. Bruce, of Liverpool. England, and has three sons and one daughter.

Wriggleswoth and Binns, photo. Mr. A. H. Smellie.

Wriggleswoth and Binns, photo.
Mr. A. H. Smellie.

Mr. Herbert Stott , General Manager of the Otago Iron Rolling Company Limited, was born at Droylsden, near Manchester. England, and was educated at the place of his birth. On the completion of his education he accepted a position as junior clerk in the service of the Manchester Corporation's Gas Department. After three years' service he left England for Sydney, Australia, where he obtained a position—which he occupied for four years—on the clerical staff of Reuter's Telegram Company Limited. In response to a better offer, he accepted the position of accountant to Messrs Johnson and Sons, leather merchants, Sydney. Three years afterwards his brother, Mr. Walter Stott, who was commercial manager and partner in the page 592 Otago Iron Rolling Mills, Burnside, met his death by drowning. Mr. Stott then vacated his position in Sydney, and came to New Zealand, where he succeeded his brother in the commercial management of the Otago Iron Rolling Mills. Simultaneously, he took over the duties of Town Clerk of the borough of Green Island. The duties pertaining to the dual position were successfully carried out by Mr. Stott till 1902, when, in consequence of increased business, he resigned the clerkship in order to devote his whole time and attention to the iron business. On the retirement of Mr. John Smellie from active work in connection with the Company, Mr. Stott was appointed General Manager.

Wrigglesworth and Binns, photo. Mr. H. Stott.

Wrigglesworth and Binns, photo.
Mr. H. Stott.

The Burniside Freezing Works (New Zealand Refrigerating Company, Limited, proprietors), Burnside, Otago. Mr. William Murray, secretary; Mr. John Wilson, local manager; Mr. John Aitchison, engineer in charge. Head office, Liverpool Street, Dunedin. The Burnside Freezing Works were the first of their kind erected in the colony, and cover a large area. They are further referred to at page 335 of this volume.

Mr. John Aitchison , Engineer-in-Charge of the Burnside Freezing Works, was born at Kaitangata in 1863, and served his apprenticeship to the engineering trade with Messrs James Davidson and Co., of the Otago Foundry. In 1885 he joined the Burnside works as assistant engineer to Mr. John Scott, the first engineer of the works, and was appointed to his present position in 1895. Mr. Aitchison is the inventor of an appliance or switch, which he has erected at the Burnside works to facilitate rapid handling in setting grades of sheep together in the cooling chambers. The switch used for this purpose works on the drop principle; and as the straight switch, lifts out, a curved one drop in. The attachment for accomplishing this is worked by a wooden handle attached to a cord, which does away with the necessity for handling the switch. The patent is also in use at the Oamaru works. Mr. Aitchison is a member of the Green Island Bowling Club, and has been connected with several Dunedin cricket clubs. He has held a commission as lieutenant in the Green Island Rifle Volunteers since November, 1902, and is referred to in that connection at page 134 of this volume. Mr. Aitchison was married, in 1888, to a daughter of Mr. John Scott (father of the late Mayor of Dunedin), and has two sons and two daughters.

The New Zealand Refrigerating Company's Works, Burnside.

The New Zealand Refrigerating Company's Works, Burnside.

Messrs Kempthorne, Prosser and Co.'s Premises.

Messrs Kempthorne, Prosser and Co.'s Premises.

The New Zealand Drug Company's Chemical Works (Kempthorne, Prosser and Company, proprietors), Burnside, Otago; Mr. George B. Smith, manager. Bankers, Union Bank of Australasia. Telephone, 203. Manager's residence, “Kuri Mari,” Main South Road. These works were established in 1881, for the manufacture of sulphuric, muiratic, nitric, and other acids. Most of the sulphur used comes from Japan, and after being burned in specially contrived furnaces, the fumes and steam pass into large leaden chambers, for condensation. Afterwards the acid is run into leaden passes so as to be concentrated, and it then passes into the platinum boiler for final concentration. The acid is then, previous to being put into jars ready for the market, run through a cooler made of platinum. A large portion of the sulphuric acid manufactures is used in making superphosphates. Muriatic, Nitric, and Acetic acid, and liquid ammonia, are also manufactured at the chemical works, where special retorts are provided to deal with the ammonia. The manure department of the firm has become once of its leading industries, and occupies a large space of the buildings. Heads and bones of cattle, and blood and offal from the abattoirs, are treated by a special process, after which they are used largely in the composition of manures. The heads and bones are first put into digesters, and after being treated, are drawn out and strewn on the floor to dry, previous to being crushed. Superphosphates also play an important part in the manure industry. The phosphate rock, found forty miles from the works, after being crushed very fine, is hoisted by elevators into a hopper, run into a mixer with the sulphuric acid, and is then run out of the mixer into pit, where it is left for twelve hours to harden, before being removed by excavators into trucks, and conveyed to the store shed. Another department of the works is devoted to the manufacture of linseed oil. The raw linseed is passed through two sets of friction rollers, and comes out as linseed meal. Then it passes under heavy edge-runners, and is placed into heaters, from page 593 which it is conveyed in iron buckets to the cylinders, and compressed by hydraulic pumps, the oil being squeezed out, and stored in four hundred gallon tanks to settle. It is then put into five gallon drums for the market. The linseed cake is disposed of to farmers, who use it largely in feeding young stock. The works, which are of brick, cover two acres of land, and the most up-to-date machinery obtainable has been installed.

Mr. George Bremner Smith , Manager of the New Zealand Drug Company's Chemical Works, at Burnside, was born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in 1841. When eighteen years old he went to the United States, and apprenticed himself to the engineering trade, at Maine, but in 1862 left for Australia to join his father, then Chief Pleuro-Pneumonia Commissioner of Victoria, at Melbourne. After assisting his father for a time Mr. Smith entered the chemical business of Messrs Clarke, Hoffman and Co. He worked up to the position of manager, and afterwards he and Mr. Cuming and Mr. C. Campbell bought the business, and the firm became known as Cuming, Smith and Co. In 1881 Mr. Smith disposed of his interest, and came over to New Zealand to erect and manage the works at Burnside. On leaving Melbourne he was presented, by his late employers, with a solid silver flower bowl, and also received many other valuable presents. For four years Mr. Smith was a member of the Footscray Borough Council, a suburban municipality of Melbourne, and was still a member when he left for New Zealand. He was married, in 1887, but his wife died in 1900, leaving two sons and three daughters.

Wrigglesworth and Binns, photo. Mr. G. B. Smith.

Wrigglesworth and Binns, photo.
Mr. G. B. Smith.