Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 5, 2002

Anniversary Day

Anniversary Day

Nelson's Anniversary Day, 1st February, and now celebrated on the Monday closest to that date, has always been a public holiday for the Province. In the 1920s and early '30s, before there were many cars about, most people walked, cycled, went by horse or used the few buses if they needed to travel. There was a train which daily ran as far as Glenhope, but page 53few townspeople used the service except for excursions, particularly on Anniversary Day.

Hundreds of children and adults gathered at the Nelson Railway Station for their big outing in the country. It was Sunday School Picnic Day. In great excitement and anticipation children, and parents struggling with picnic hampers, boarded the special big train, with its two steam engines smoking and wheezing. These were the centre of interest for the boys in particular, although I presume they were as awesome to the girls as well.

All the passenger carriages available were pressed into service, as were a long string of raspberry trucks which had temporary seating placed in them – planks placed on wooden boxes. The trucks had wooden sides about a metre high, and an overall frame with a tarpaulin tied over the top. They normally used to carry the tons of raspberries and green peas grown in such places as Tadmor and Tapawera to Kirkpatrick's jam and canning factory in Nelson.

Most of the children, accompanied by a few supervising adults, preferred to travel in the trucks, as they provided an unimpeded view of the country side as the train travelled along at its mostly sedate pace. People lined St Vincent Street, many standing on their front verandahs, waving as the train moved slowly along towards Bishopdale Hill where the engines struggled really hard. We chanted "I think I can, I think I can", followed by "I thought I could, I thought I could" when the top was reached.

The various church denominations had their favourite picnic areas that they used each year. The Methodists went to Snowden's Bush at Brightwater, the Anglicans to Wakefield Domain or Baigent's Bush and the Presbyterians to the Wai-iti Domain. Other denominations may also have taken the train that day, but I'm hazy on that.

The train stopped for convenience right next to the Wai-iti Domain and not at the station. Everything was unloaded on to the ground and carried into the domain with all giving a helping hand. The first thing we boys did on reaching our picnic area was to run along the river bed looking for blackberries. The ripest ones were the lowest ones, near the warm stones.

Soon everyone gathered in one big group for the mid-day meal of the mountains of delicious sandwiches made fresh at the domain by the mothers. The meal always began with grace, sung rather solemnly by the older people: "Be present at our table Lord…" to the tune of Tallis's Canon.

page 54

After a brief period of respite following lunch, the children's running races began. These included sack races, where children stood in large chaff sacks with toes wedged into the corners, heads sticking out over the top, as they tried to run or bounce along towards the tape. There were many falls and spills along the way, accompanied by much laughter. The three- legged and wheel-barrow races followed and then mothers and fathers had a run, much to the amusement of the children.

There was always a game of cricket for the men and boys and two or three games of rounders that anyone could join. Games like drop the handkerchief, oranges and lemons, and gathering nuts in May helped keep the younger ones amused.

It was always a wonderful day in the country for everyone. As cars became more common, a trip into the country became less of a big adventure. The train journey picnics became fewer and finally disappeared, but if that quaint old steam train still ran I feel sure it could be just as popular again.