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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 1, Issue 5, December 1961

Valuable Historical Records

page Two

Valuable Historical Records

"Some four years ago Mr Bert Monro, of Marlborough, told me of some 50 odd diaries belonging to his grandfather, David Monro. Sir David Monro played a big part in moulding early Nelson and the diaries were held by Miss Monro, of Palmerston North. After four years of enquiry, we have arrived at the stage whereby the diaries go to the Turnbull Library in trust to come to Nelson under conditions similar to those pertaining to the Bett Collection, and the Kingdon and Budd Silver and relics." That was part of a report presented to the annual meeting of the Nelson Historical Society by the chairman of the Records Committee. Mr J. A. Jenkins.

"During the year a large volume of material has been given to the society. As far as our limited funds permit, books and other material of interest to the society are purchased when available," the report stated.

"It is difficult in this present age to know what will be of importance in a century or so, and in bringing certain highlights to your notice it is possible that the shadow has been placed before the substance.

Documents from Department

"The Nelson Office of the Lands and Deeds Department held some 30,000 documents bearing on early provincial settlement. Our society was invited to select any that it considered of interest. This involved a weekly session for three of us for a period of six months, and resulted in the selection of some 329 documents. We concentrated mainly on educational, ecclesiastical and those bearing on certain areas and people of special interest.

Albums and Family Papers

"Photographic albums from the late Captain Walker's Estate, the Colt family, and the F. G. Gibbs Estate are an acquisition.

"The Berry family papers were copied and we hold the originals. Our policy has been, and I hope will continue to be, to copy letters and manuscripts of interest, have them bound where necessary, and share the expense with the donor of the documents. They are usually very pleased to have a bound copy of the manuscripts they give to us. The Berry family papers centre round F. T. Berry, who was an early arrival in Nelson, and the correspondence, commencing in 1838 in London, carries on for some 40 years among various members of the family.

"Photographs come in all the time, and sooner or later our detective service, conducted by Messrs Field and Collins, succeeds in identification.

"Articles of great variety are given to us, e.g., a doll dressed in period costume, a stove from the old Spring Grove Methodist Church, some very beautiful Crown Derby, an old cannon ball, etc. We, like the magpie, keep everything. Some day we may be able to set up rooms furnished according to the period. If you visit the Canterbury Museum, you will see what I mean.

"Two estates have recently brought in a large amount of material.

"(1) The Hector Walker Estate centres mainly round farming and timber milling in the Inangahua and Buller area. Records are very complete in detail, and some day will provide useful reference for the period. Sport, S.P.C.A. and Kennel Club are also features.

Mr McKay's Record

"(2) The second estate is that of J. G. McKay. He had been a collector all his life. The Nelson College Old Boys' Association has at present a mass of College historical data that he had gathered together over the years. But in addition to this there was material that has kept me busy for weeks sorting page Threeand classifying. He had compiled notes on numerous topics, and to mention a few: (1) A biolographical sketch of Matthew Campbell and the Nelson School Society. (2) Architects and Surveyors. (3) The Bishop School giving lists of students and dates of entry, a study of the Bishop School. (4) Beginning of education in the Township. Nelson. (5) Building and School Rooms in Nelson College, Manuka Street. (6) The History of the Town Acre 503 (the old Renwick Home). (7) Extracts from the diary of Father Gavin and the story of Catholic Education in Nelson. (8) Early flour mills.

"Much of the material is in the form of rough notes. Additions have been made from time to time as further information became available. These notes now await the hand of someone knowledgeable in history and skilled in writing if we are to obtain the maximum benefit. Mr McKay would jot down notes on a subject and at intervals add further memoranda and data. His enquiring mind led him to then weigh up pros and cons as to the accuracy of data collected and at times there is conflict. I have selected one item in which he was especially interested and which I think he himself was satisfied as being reasonably correct."