Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 2, Issue 3, 1989
[Nelson's silver jubilee]
In 1991/2 Nelson will celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of European settlers.
It is interesting to look back at how the twenty-fifth anniversary was marked.
On the tenth of January, 1867 the Examiner reported a special meeting at which it was resolved to celebrate the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Day in a fitting manner. A meeting of "original settlers" was held at the Bank Hotel and a committee appointed. Nelson was to be the centre of attraction for that day and, if places like Waimea South wanted their own fetes, they could be held the day after, as that was the day the passengers disembarked. Plans were made and the committee worked with a will. The country districts, however, decided to postpone their own celebrations until they had gathered their harvest, and set the date at March the first.
There must have been anxiety when there was a "great fall of rain" in the city. The "Examiner" reported on the 29th. that much damage had been done, especially by floods in the lower part of the town, to Brook Street and the new Nile Street bridge. However, on the great day, the weather was "highly propitious". "At an early hour a gun was fired from the flagstaff and woke the echoes of the surrounding hills; in the city was great excitement." Vehicles of all descriptions, which began to arrive from the outlying districts, were gaily decked with flags and evergreens.
Punctually at ten o'clock a procession set out from the Government Buildings. Headed by a brass band and a drum and fife band, pride of place was given to surviving members of the preliminary party who had arrived in November 1841. They were distinguished by blue badges. Following them was a long train of "original settlers", colonists who had emigrated under the Auspices of the New Zealand Company, the last arriving on the "Skiold" in September 1844. They wore red rosettes, while their children who accompanied them wore white ones. Then came members of the Fire Brigade, "headed by one of their engines, properly equipped and drawn by two horses, the brigade followed, conspicuous in their scarlet uniforms. To these succeeded the Brethren of the Order of Oddfellows and Foresters arrayed in their distinctive badges and insignia, and preceded by their handsome banners. The Volunteers were clad in their new scarlet uniforms and presented a very soldierly appearance. Then followed the juvenile members of the Cadet Corps, who conducted themselves excellently during the day – seventy youngsters, most of very lilliputian proportions. - - - - - The procession, which could not have been less than half a mile in length, was closed by a long train of children attending various schools in the city, and by private individuals, the line being terminated by the Resident Magistrate (Mr Poynter) in his carriage, himself one of the earliest settlers in the Province." Leaving the Government Buildings the procession "wended its way up Bridge Street as far as the junction with Collingwood Street, thence down Hardy Street and Waimea Street to the Golden Fleece Hotel, where it returned by Nile Street to Trafalgar Square. It then mounted the Church Hill and on reaching the terrace on its summit immediately facing Trafalgar Street, the Volunteers and cadet corps were marshalled in double file and fired a 'feu de joie' in very creditable style. The band then played the National Anthem and, after three lusty cheers for the Queen, the Procession descended the hill and passed down the whole length of Trafalgar Street. Thence down Bridge Street and over the Collingwood Street bridge, along Grove Street to Milton Street, and thence to the Botanical Gardens, where it was almost immediately disbanded. It was flanked throughout by a large concourse of people from all parts of the Province."
A printing press belonging to The "Colonist" was in full operation and distributed to the public verses written for the occasion by William Hogg:page 37
"The cannon's boom has told the hour is come
That calls on every loyal citizen,
To leave for one brief day the joys of home,
And join the marshalling ranks of all good men,
Hark! merry sounds are heard from fife and drum,
Lo, flaunting banners fly in every street,
Crowds in hot hurry from the Waimea come
With their good friends on this great day to meet
The ships in port are gaudily arrayed,
The carts and 'lorries' deck'd with garlands gay.
Father and son, mother and child and maid,
With smiles appear to hail this happy day.
The kind desire to please as well as be pleased.
Seems truly to have every bosom seized.
(Many verses follow detailing past events, ending:)
A quarter of century this day
Has been enrolled upon the Book of Time
Since the old 'Fifeshire' crossed our placid bay
To land her freight in Sunny Nelson's clime.
Such progress shows what earnest men can do
Within the tide of five and twenty years.
Progress! which way we turn enchants the view,
All honour to our brave old pioneers!
Much have they done in five and twenty years.
Hurrah for Nelson, our adopted home."
"The Collation." In the centre of the Botanical Gardens, a substantial booth had been erected, with tables to seat 700. Mr R. Burns presided, toasts were drunk and responded to, then the tables were replenished, and a second sitting held. One criticism was that the Cadet Corps were not catered for, beyond a few pieces of cake. Of course there were booths which charged, and they did brisk business, with an estimated 3,000 people present. It was a gay scene, the children with their flags, the colourful uniforms and, most exciting, a gun placed on a knoll overlooking the grounds, and fired at intervals by "an old Man of Wars" man resplendent with many medals!
Sports followed, the Brass band played, the Maoris entertained with song and dance. Special mention is made of "kiss in the ring,' as a favourite game of Nelsonians. At 5 p.m. the women and children were given tea.- About 1200 were fed and at 7pm, there was a Christmas Tree for the children at the Courthouse. The expenses of all these functions were met from a subscription fund.
The official dinner was the only function at which the attendance was less than expected, and it was regretted that it had been held the same night as the Ball. However, some 70 people attended. In the Chair was Mr J.W. Barnicoat, Speaker of the Provincial Council. On his right was the Resident Magistrate, Mr J. Poynter and, on his left, the Superintendent, Mr Alfred Saunders. All three were residents of twenty-five years standing. In the Vice-chair was Mr Wastney, a preliminary man and, among others noticed, were Dr Renwick, Mr J. Tinline, Dr Greenwood, Messrs Cross, Baigent, J.T. Smith, Stanton, Batey and Wagstaff. On the stage was a stringed band, and a Glee Club sang at intervals.
Toasts were honoured: Her Majesty proposed by the Chairman His Excellency the Governor, proposed by the Vice-Chairman.page 38
Prosperity to the Province of Nelson, proposed by the Chairman, who gave an interesting sketch of the history of the past twenty five years. He compared the comfort and well-being of people in the colony with those at home (presumably the working classes) by quoting the difference in the consumption of sugar, tea and butcher's meat between Great Britain and New Zealand.
The Vice-Chairman proposed the health of the Superintendent, Speaker and members of the Provincial Council, replied to by the Superintendent, Speaker and Mr Curtis for the Councillors. Mr J. Tinline proposed the health of the Ladies, and the Vice-Chairman that of Departed Friends, the latter being honoured in silence. The Superintendent then proposed a toast to the early Patriots and Philantropists, mentioning in particular Mr Tuckett, Mr M. Campbell, Mr B. Crisp and Captain Rough. There were other toasts but, as many wanted to attend the Ball, the proceedings were not prolonged. Mr Stock of the Customhouse Hotel had provided the fare.
Meanwhile the Great Fireworks Display was taking place in the Botanic Gardens from 8.30pm. This was a delight to all who saw it. There was dancing in the Booth to the strains of the German Band, "and one most pleasing feature was the fact that no mis-conduct of any sort was noticed."
The Ball, in the Provincial Hall, was "numerously and fashionably attended". It was the most brilliant affair of its kind to have been held in Nelson. Dancing commenced at 10 o'clock, and at midnight not less than 170 people were present. Music and refreshments were excellent and dancing was kept up, with unflagging spirit, until five o'clock in the morning.