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Some Interesting Occurrences in Early Auckland: City and Provinces

Chapter 11 — Some Humorous Incidents

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Chapter 11
Some Humorous Incidents

The first three–storey building in Auckland was erected by the South British Insurance Co. at the corner of Queen and Shortland Streets, and on it was placed the first statue in Auckland — one of Britannia armed with her celebrated trident. The Mayor made a great speech at the opening of this huge structure, and at its conclusion whipped off the sheet shrouding the statue, thereby disclosing the fact that the ruler of the waves was crowned with an article borrowed from the bedroom but not usually worn by ladies as bonnets.

In those days anything might happen to folk in the streets. Judge Munro told me that on one occasion he was walking up Queen Street with a “new chum” when a tattooed Maori chief spoke to him. The new chum asked “What does this curious looking old savage want with us?” The Maori asked “What the Pakeha say, e hoa”? Judge Munro replied “He is admiring your tattoo”. The Maori responded by exposing his rump saying “my moko (facial tattoo) is nothing, let him see this”. Maori men were often so closely tattooed from the waist to the knees as to appear clad in knickerbockers.

A similar incident occurred at Rotorua at a reception to the Prince of Wales. There was an old tattooed chief present, and wicked people persuaded him that the Prince desired to see his tattoo. At length the old man consented. He stalked up in front of the royal stand, turned round, and bowed away from royalty, at the same time lifting his mat. He was promptly seized and rushed off the ground bursting with indignation at this treatment after he had condescended to show this treasure of Maori art. Rotorua friends have told me that “Teddy Wales” was really highly amused by this incident.

There has always been some humour in Auckland — even in advertisements. For instance, a leading land agent advertised a “submarine” residence for sale. I suppose he reflected that a suburban residence was one near a town, and that therefore a submarine residence was one near the sea. Anyhow, he was himself submerged with buyers, but he failed to deliver the goods.

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Again, the first importer of Friesian cattle advertised a bull in full milk for sale, but in this case no buyer came forward. No–one seemed anxious to try his hand at milking the animal!

A very cunning advertisement read “Where is the Auckland Savings Bank? Why, it is right next to J. W. Shackelford, the leading hatter and mercer of Auckland”.

Some famous hoaxes have been perpetrated in Auckland. During one of the recurrent Russian scares the morning paper came out with a big black border and the announcement that during the night the city had been captured by a Russian man–o'–war named Kaskowiski, and laid under tribute. Most people fell in, and so did the gallant little Captain of a volunteer company. He summoned his men and decided to root the Russians out or perish in the attempt.

Another instance occurred when one of our dailies recorded a statement that Noah' Ark had been discovered on Mt. Ararat. This wonderful corroboration of Holy Writ was enthusiastically received by the godly, and an expedition fitted out; but it found no ark on the spot. Some thieves must have got away with it!

One parson of a well–known church found it necessary to sustain himself with spiritual refreshment during the service, and used to keep a glass of “distilled damnation” in the pulpit for the purpose. On one occasion he had come to the lectern, which was in the form of an eagle with outspread wings, to read the lesson when he “came all of a tremble” but supported himself by clutching the lectern, exclaiming aloud, “If it hadn't been for this damned duck I should have fallen”.