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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 8 (December 1, 1929)

Pictures of New Zealand Life

page 10

Pictures of New Zealand Life


Now openeth the season when diners in sundry and many country hostelries eat their meals to the music of the buzzing bluebottle. At one backblocks hotel, last mid-summer, I happened to remark to the buxom young party who served me my lunch, something about the cheerful menagerie that hovered and zoomed in the ceiling—where the hanging decorations were. “Oh,” said she, “we never take any notice of them now. They don't settle, that's one good point about them, mister. The boss, he calls them our canaries.”

Man Who Snagged the Waihou.

Auckland Commerce Train passengers recently saw a good deal of that placidly winding river, the Waihou, which flows through a populous rich country from above Matamata to the sea at the Thames. There was a time when it was the only way of getting inland in those parts. For many a mile about Te Aroha and the higher parts it was cumbered with snags, huge logs brought down by floods. That vigorous settler, the late J. C. Firth spent thousands of pounds in clearing the river, to give passage to his steamer, and the man who did the job is still living at Matamata. This veteran is Captain H. H. Tizard, one-time coasting trader, goldfields prospector, native agent, useful all-round settler. He lives not far away from that beautiful warm bathing pool greatly resorted to by the countryside folk. Mr. Firth engaged him to supervise the Maori toilers in the river work, and he found the active young sailor—he is an octogenarian now—just the man for that pioneering task.

Waterfall and Tui.

Not only is there music in the sound of many a Maori place-name, but there is a melodious story in the name-origin. Not far from the Waikato railway line where it crosses the Whangamarino Swamp south of Mercer railway station, there is a small waterfall on the Whangamarino stream which the Lower Waikato natives say bears the name: “Te Ako-o-te-tui-a-Tamaoho” (“The Teaching of Tamaoho's Tui Bird”). The story is that it was here the ancestor named took his young pet tui to teach it to talk. The Maori belief was that the bird could best learn to talk within sound of a little waterfall where no other sound but the steady music of the cascade could penetrate to interfere with the teacher's voice.

The Doctor's Fee.

At Waimamaku, Hokianga, the Commerce Train tourists last month enjoyed the chaffing-match between Dr. G. Smith, Medical Superintendent of Rawene Hospital, and Mr. E. Casey, Divisional Superintendent of Railways, on the subject of “trading in kind.” The Doctor suggested that it would be more advantageous to the country if instead of so much trading in finance, there were more trading in commodities, in other words, mutual barter. Mr. Casey's counter to this was page 11 a suggestion that a patient could pay his doctors for an operation with say, a ham or a flitch of bacon.

This payment in kind was not always mere matters for a joke at a convivial gathering. I remember well enough that it was the only way in which country settlers could discharge their indebtedness. There was once, for instance, a genial Irish doctor in the Upper Waikato whose patients paid him with a ton of firewood or half-a-ton of potatoes, or a load of fruit and vegetables, or a supply of oats for his horse; now and again a sheep or a few sides of bacon.

A Favourite New Zealand Train. (Photo, W. W. Stewart.) The “Limited” Express passing through Manakau, on the outskirts of Wellington, on the last lap of its 426-mile run from Auckland to Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand.

A Favourite New Zealand Train.
(Photo, W. W. Stewart.)
The “Limited” Express passing through Manakau, on the outskirts of Wellington, on the last lap of its 426-mile run from Auckland to Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand.

This was all very well in one way, but the doctor used to complain, good naturedly enough, that he couldn't pass the bacon or the “spuds” on to the town business house which supplied him with drugs for his surgery, and that when he wanted to buy a medical book to keep himself abreast of the times it wouldn't be a bit of use shipping a ton of tawa logs to the bookseller.

First Sight of Waimangu.

The first published report of the outbreak of that famous geyser, or rather muddy-water volcano, Waimangu, was made by Dr. Humphrey Haines and the late Mr. J. A. Pond, of Auckland, who were camping at Rotomahana in March, 1901. They gave the new geyser its name, meaning “Black Water.” But it was really Mr. E. Phillips Turner, the present head of the State Forest Service, who actually saw the first eruption of the tremendous “puia.” Mr. Turner was on the summit of Haparangi Mountain, near the present Rotorua-Atiamuri Road, about October 20, 1900, taking theodolite observations—he was then a Government surveyor—and he saw all at once an extraordinary cloud rising, in the direction of Rotomahana lake. He saw the phenomenon repeated a little later, and at once concluded that a huge thermal eruption had taken place in the vicinity of Rotomahana. Mr. Turner was taken seriously ill before he could explore the district, and when in Sydney recuperating in the following year he read the account of the discovery and naming of Waimangu. There may have been eruptions earlier than October, 1900, unseen by anyone, but it is pretty certain that Mr. Turner was the first to witness the wonderful spectacle that presently became world-famous.

Pan in the Garden.

Round the turn of a path in a beautiful old-fashioned garden in Napier lately I met a tattooed warrior figure who confronted me with a decidedly page 12 cannibal-like grin. “Tena koe, you old ruffian,” I said. “I wish you could talk back, I'd like to hear your views on the modern girl and wireless, and railways and a lot of things that weren't invented when you were carved out of a log of totara.

Pan of Maori Land certainly looked at least a century old. His knock-knees were firmly planted in the ground and one three-fingered hand caressed his lichen-mossed belly; the other held the remains of a club. His neck was stiffened with wire, age-rusted like himself, and a rusty iron cap like a steel helmet had been set on his head to keep the rains from soaking down the cracks into his brains. He looked the most proper of guardian wizards for that historic old garden.

When I get a garden after my own heart, a comfortable garden where everything grows as it chooses and nothing is trim and Dutch-like, I shall get me a Maori golliwog of an Atua like that old lad with the carved face in that Napier garden. If he is newly-carved by a Rotorua artist, Wellington's climate will soon reduce him to satisfyingly weather beaten conditions, and a charge of shot into his front and a tomahawk slash across his nose will give him historic interest for my visitors. I shall call him Te Kooti, and tell my friends it is unlucky to leave the garden without placing an offering of a silver coin at his feet.

In The Nelson Province, South Island. The Railway Station at Seddonville.

In The Nelson Province, South Island.
The Railway Station at Seddonville.

Carved in Stone.

Talking of golliwog-carvings reminds one that we have very few examples in New Zealand of the stone-carving art of a past generation. There were some whiskered masks in wood that adorned an old Wellington hotel, but they have vanished with the demolition of the place. The only existing examples of gargoyles and corbels or whatever they are called that come to mind at the moment are those on the old post office front in Shortland Street, Auckland, and the heads on the Supreme Court building in the same city. These were the work of an artist of the ‘Sixties of last century. The Court, quite unlike any other courthouse in the Dominion, is copied from an old Tudor castle in Warwickshire, and indeed it has quite an antique atmosphere about it. The mossy old corbels that adorn the outside of the Court are quite good portraits of long-gone worthies of Auckland, with here and there a Maori—the old Chief Paul Tuhaere, with his tattoo and his side-whiskers, is one of them. There is a judge or two, and there is a Governor. The stone-carver was a cunning artist in wood, too; he carved with beautiful finish some of the inside furnishings—the ends of the jury seats, the panels at the back of the judge's seat. I hope the modern touch of “improvement” won't touch that picture-like old Court on Constitution Hill.