Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 8 (November 1, 1937)

Escape to Beauty and Old Adventure — A Caroline Bay Sketch

page 25

Escape to Beauty and Old Adventure
A Caroline Bay Sketch

He will never, never, never sail to ‘Frisco,
The Golden Gate is very far away, They caught him, and they caged him like a squirrel.
He is totting up accounts and going grey.


(Rly. Publication Photo.) Christchurch—Dunedin Express passing Caroline Bay, Timuaru, South Island, New Zealand.

(Rly. Publication Photo.)
Christchurch—Dunedin Express passing Caroline Bay, Timuaru, South Island, New Zealand.

There are streets like close canyons, that press their busy sides together in a narrowing world; there are streets that bring one home to hedges and the soft, familiar garden seclusion; and there are a few others that carry one away to mysterious distances.

The northern crest of Stafford Street, Timaru, is like the last. People on the footpath loiter there, leaning on the rails to watch a fleck of smoke grow large upon the shimmering waters; motorists slow down, and when the train passes in that clay drop below the street, passengers in the carriages lean over towards the seaward windows and say, “It is the Bay.”

In that brief few minutes of view from the train, which is the same as the view from the street, there may be a traveller or two, who, like the child that puts a shell to his ear to hear in the pearly chamber the ocean's reverberations, will recall a depth of pleasure cupped in the sweep of beach and harbour.

Caroline Bay curves round like a shell, and in the winter it is beautiful with a shell's colours. It is opal in that vague shore towards the Rangitata where the dark blur of pines beyond the sea's blue plain, melts into the horizon cloud. It is mother of pearl in the jagged line of the westward gleaming Alps, and under the cliffs, of dashing rocks it is iris shadowed, like the rippled cave of a pawa shell.

The cat's-eye shell, the limpet, the ram's horn and the screw shell; the pipi, the scallop, the homely mussel and the nymph are common in most places in New Zealand. But at Timaru you may find one other, the New Zealand olive shell, Ancilla Australis. Ancilla is a maid-servant, a southern maidservant. And although the tawny Olive is not a beach beauty, her presence in the bay might be given a quaint significance. For ever since the early ships anchored here, the beach and the harbour have been hand-maids of the south, serving its health and its wealth.

On a still winter's day a quiet, grey man looked along the sweep of the bay and let his eyes rest once more in its
(Rly. Publicity photo.) A harvesting scene near Timaru, South Island, New Zealand.

(Rly. Publicity photo.)
A harvesting scene near Timaru, South Island, New Zealand.

beauty. The scalloped line of spume crumbled over the beach with a soft crushing sound. Gulls circled there in hungry quest. Women knitted in the sun traps among the trees below the yellow cliffs, and in the shelter sheds veteran pensioners gossiped and scraped the shingle with their sticks. A laughing child ran away from the waves and hurled himself against the thin hand of his grandfather. It was a day for children. From the swings their voices piped above the soughing of the sea.

For a week the quiet grey man had walked every day along the southern esplanade that runs out into the sea like a peer. He had a look like one who sees and hears with inner, keener senses. Perhaps the sun on the water had dazzled him or played a trick with the eyes of his mind, for he told me that sometimes he saw no longer the modern beach with its gardens and fine pavilions, and all the facilities for hot salt baths, sea bathing, sun bathing, for dancing, page 26 page 27 beach concerts and tennis and motorists' parties. All these melted into the wilderness that had been, the rough beach, the wild cliffs and the boiling down pots of a whaling station.

He said it was like a bequeathed memory, and I noticed that although his hair was touched with frost, he was not old enough to have seen all the rugged past before steam had superseded the sailing ships, or the immigrant ships had displaced the whaling boats that had come almost in the wake of visiting war canoes.

The old cob and shingle town he spoke of, with its few houses and couple of stores, were beyond the span of his recollection, as was the bullock track that was its street, the forest of cabbage trees through it, and even the Rhodes's first wool shed.

But he had some memory from childhood's stories. Wild pig, he had heard, supplemented provisions. Mr. Lough, who made a rough sketch of the town to be—Rhodestown, they thought they would call it then—had hunted pigs on the post office site.

He saw sailing ships in the bay and the beauty of their wings against the sky. There were whale boats carrying out the wool and bringing in supplies. LeCren's store had a shipping service with small surf, boats wound in by a capstan. The capstan also hauled in pioneers. The dialects of Britain spread out over the plain. From the Echunga the Cornishmen of Penzance and Truro waded through the surf and went inland to the edge of the hills. The women talked of saffron cakes in those days in the little settlement of Waimate.

There were wrecks; one almost on the Timaru railway station site. The Benvenue was driven ashore to the north of the bay and the City of Perth with her, but the City of Perth was refloated. At Whale Creek the shingle holds the last of a derelict.

LeCren's capstan grew into wharves and the rope into railway lines. In these years the virgin curve of the bay was cut in two and divided between industry and beauty.

The quiet man pondered this—a brief tale of many years, months, weeks and days of adventure. And thinking of the present serene progress of industry and pleasure, it occurred to him that the modern form of the bay was like a bivalve or hinged shell. The empty wing was the beach for rest and recreation. In the other wing where the shellfish lay, was the dark mollusc of man's industry, the harbour proper, the wharves and the railway. The esplanade where he stood was the hinge of the shell.

Old men nod in the sun here, drugged with age or air and some perhaps with beauty. For Caroline Bay is most beautiful in the winter when fewest see it. The almost empty sands have the calm grace of a woman in repose. It ought to be a winter resort, he said, a resort not in the tone of summer posters, but with soft cadences. For a resort is a haunt, a refuge, and here it is at once a place of ethereal loveliness and homely interest.

And artists, I agreed with him, should set their easels here as naturally as fishermen hang their nets over the white rails to dry.

The Concarneau fisherfolk, I added, may wear brighter blouses and have a foreign savour, and the streets of that other much painted fishing village of Newlyn, may be crazy with cobbles and quaint houses, but in the picturesque Old World, art is often served in spite of the stink.

Timaru is clean, and the sunlight, from which the artist wins his colours, will vie with any Continental tones.

Trawlers unload their freight at steps enamelled with sea growth, and small boys, hauling in their lines from an under platform on the wharf, flash their catches on a crater made of brown rope. The dredge in the harbour makes a constant iron protest, and foreign cargo boats bring their colour and their human types within the speculation of the casual stroller. The water is a red reflected crimson lake about the hulls.

Timaru, of course, is not a major port. It does not overwhelm. But the slightly acrid smell of pitch is just sufficienty pungent of untold stories.

It is the esplanade, running along the protective works, then, that gives Caroline Bay a unique interest, not because it has any special decorative merits—in itself it is no more than it was meant to be, a breakwater, or harbour protection and a place for old men to sit in the sun and for boys to fish from—but it is a frontier between two countries. It touches the tranquil pleasure ground of a bastioned bay and the region of the hardier romance which clings to ships and trains.

It is better to come down to this esplanade than to stay in the street, much better to be near the swish and chant of the sea and to feel the tang of its breath.

After we had talked there awhile the quiet, grey man saw the train's smoke through the yellow clay cutting. He turned and went back to an inland town.

I am certain that through the bars of his cage the bay glittered. As he picked up his pen he would smile like a wanderer come home with his eyes full of old horizons and his heart close to beauty.

British Industries Fair
New Zealand's Representation.

New Zealand is again taking space at the British Industries Fair which is being held from February 21 to March 4 in London and Birmingham next year. She will be represented in the Empire section in the great new building at Earls Court.

Textiles, furniture, foodstuffs and the products of the British Empire are to be shown at Earls Court, with its two floors, where there is room for 40,000 people to move along the gangways with ease.

Among the exhibits at Olympia will be jewellery, pottery and glassware, toys and games, fancy goods, scientific instruments, leather goods, stationery and printing, chemicals and sports goods, and a number of the “Iighter” trades of the United Kingdom.

At Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, engineering and metal manufactures will be displayed in what is believed to be the world's largest permanent exhibition building, which has a gross area of 694,000 square feet and an actual exhibiting area of 305,000 square feet.

By the beginning of July more than seven-eighths of the space occupied this year in the Fair as a whole had already been booked for 1938.

(Theima R. Kent, photo) Rough seas on the coast near Kaikoura, South Island New Zealand.

(Theima R. Kent, photo)
Rough seas on the coast near Kaikoura, South Island New Zealand.

page 28