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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Social, Sporting and Business Centres

Social, Sporting and Business Centres

Much of the everyday life in Early Poverty Bay centred upon the hotels. Important business transactions were, as a rule, negotiated in a side room of a public house. Public dinners, meetings and parties were held on licensed premises. The first race ball (tickets, one guinea) was held at the Masonic Hotel in January, 1874. The hour of closing was not uniform. In the case of the Masonic Hotel it was midnight. According to the Rev. T. S. Grace (annual report for 1852) the first public house was opened in April, 1852. Probably, Captain Read, who had just taken up his residence in the district, was the owner. It is most unlikely that it provided lodgings. Mr. Grace adds: “Although it is now against the law to sell liquor to natives, yet it has been done, and, at present, drunkenness is all too common among them.”

The Albion Club Hotel is usually referred to as Gisborne's first hotel, perhaps because it catered for travellers. A gentlemen's club formed part of the premises. It was erected by J. A. Forbes for Captain Read, and was opened in February, 1868. As there were then so few residents it was nicknamed “Read's Folly.” The Argyll (now Coronation) followed in 1871, and then came the Masonic (so named because it had a Masonic lodge room on the upper floor), January, 1874; Royal, June, 1874; Shamrock (renamed Gisborne), 1875; Settlers' Arms (now Record Reign), 1875; Wharf House (now Turanganui), 1875; and British Empire, 1879.

In the country districts the earliest licensed houses were: 1866—Muriwai (J. Maynard). 1872—Chandos, at Ormond (J. Villers); Royal Oak, Matawhero (A. Hird); Ferry (O. Goldsmith). 1873—Waerenga-a-Hika (G. Saunders); Makaraka (A. Dalziell); Karaua (J. E. Green). 1874—Roseland, Makaraka (L. Higgins); Mangatu (A. Cuff); Scott's Crossing, Kaiteratahi (T. Bell); and the Ormond Hotel (R. M. Steggall). Before L. Higgins received his licence he was required to expend £100 on an artesian well.

A surprise visit by a revenue cutter was a much graver threat to smugglers than the activities of the police. In 1869 the Ringleader was found to have a cargo of contraband liquor which had been transferred to her, from the brig Reliance, outside Auckland. Three broad arrows were painted on either side of her, and she was escorted back to Auckland. Captain Read, to whom the liquor was consigned, was fined £500, and the vessel was confiscated. During the following year it was suspected that a lot of smuggled liquor was “planted” close to the Muriwai Hotel. Search was made without avail. It was reported afterwards that it lay under a plot of potatoes, which were just showing through the ground. The police had not considered it necessary to examine that particular plot!

Under the “Outlying Districts Sale of Spirits Act, 1870,” the consent of all native assessors of a district was required in writing before a licence to sell liquor could be granted. Eight assessors were appointed for the Waiapu Licensing District. When Michael Mullooly applied for a licence for the Sea View Hotel at Tolaga Bay in 1873 a memorial in opposition bore the names of two of the assessors. The licensing bench held that that fact went for nothing, seeing that the names of the other six appeared on a memorial in support of the application, and it granted a licence. In 1872 James Peachey's store at Hicks Bay was boycotted page 341 because he refused to give spirits to some natives. Two assessors, who were sent to adjust the matter, fined him £4 worth of beer and spirits!

Gaming was an important sideline in connection with the pioneer hotels. Poverty Bay's first Calcutta Sweep was conducted at the Masonic Hotel in January, 1874. Raffles were then all the rage. In 1879 D. Page (licensee of the Masonic Hotel) advertised that he had installed a totaliser (the forerunner of the totalisator). He offered £450 in prizes in a consultation on the 1879 Melbourne Cup, and expected to sell 500 £1 tickets

When the Muriwai Hotel was destroyed by fire on 20 February, 1875, A. Tibbals (the licensee) was on a visit to Gisborne. His wife and two daughters lost their lives. At the inquest the jury found that the cause of the fire was unknown. A rumour became current that the remains of the back door showed that it had been locked from the outside. It was widely believed that natives had set fire to the building.

There are not quite so many hotels in the Poverty Bay-East Coast area now (1949) as there were in the middle 1870's. Hotels that have disappeared stood at The Willows, Karaua, Pakirikiri, Mangatu, Waito-tara, Anaura, Marahea, Tuparoa (2) and Port Awanui (3). Makaraka, Waerenga-a-Hika and Ormond have each lost one, and the number at Tolaga Bay has been reduced from three to one. There are now hotels in a number of fresh localities, viz.: Matawai, Patutahi, Tiniroto, Waerenga-o-Kuri, Tatapouri, Whangara, Te Puia, Tikitiki and Ruatoria. The centres at which the number has increased are: Gisborne (four to eight) and Matawhero (one to two).

The acquisition of large blocks of land on the East Coast by the Crown in the 1870's had a grievous effect upon the social conditions of the natives. Many of them flocked to each locality in which negotiations were taking place. Payment was made with £1 notes bound in books of 100. It was not uncommon for unbroken books to be taken to the banks at Gisborne by hotelkeepers and storekeepers. Women as well as men became intemperate. Disorderly scenes occurred even at funerals. Sometimes, when more than one grave had been dug, violent quarrels arose as to which should be used.

Writing to Te Wananga after his wife's funeral in 1875, the Rev. Mohi Turei said that it was the first for many years among the Ngati-Porou that had not been marked by disreputable conduct. A practice had arisen that every mourner should provide at least one gallon of rum. However, their friends had respected his wife's entreaty that not a single bottle of liquor should be taken to her funeral.

In the 1870's liquor could be obtained at many stores, as well as at the hotels, on the East Coast. Between Anaura and Hicks Bay 39 stores sold liquor in 1875. Only five were owned by pakehas. By the end of 1877 the number of establishments between Gisborne and Hicks Bay at which liquor could be obtained had grown to 52, of which 42 were conducted by natives.