Sunday, 1 March 2015

Music and Entertainments - Today and Yesterday Year

                                   The Musical All Blacks of Maoriland - Postcard of Unknown Date - private collection

Bought this postcard at one of the many Fairs we have on the Coromandel Peninsula to entertain holiday makers over the Summer Break . Was fascinated with who the " Musical All Blacks of Maoriland were" on this postcard. 

A bit of research  showed it was not our New Zealand All Black Rugby team but a family of musicians who were very popular in the first decade of the 1900s. A letter appearing in the Otago Witness from John Black of the Black Family Musicians shows the degree of popularity that this group held throughout Australasia along with difficulty of travel to rural areas because of weather.

AROUND THE WORLD Otago Witness , Issue 2654, 25 January 1905, Page 61
The Black Family Musicians came out of Invercargill and in those early days of 1897 the group consisted of Mr and Mrs Black, three daughters (Misses Nellie, Elsie, and Doris) and a son (Master Bertie). Newspapers of the day reported the concerts they gave in detail, the Mataura Ensign article reporting on the concert at Mataura,  typical of those to follow into the first decade of the 1900s.
TOWN EDITION. The Ensign. OCTOBER 28, 1897.Mataura Ensign , 28 October 1897, Page 2
Courtesy Papers Past National Library NZ
 The Postcard of the Black Family Musicians got me to thinking about the stories passed in our family down of dances, soirees and musicals  - many of them to raise money for a hall, a church, a school, a football team in a town or  rural area. To welcome or farewell someone. In the following advertisement incident a farewell to Mr. Henry Severn who had contributed greatly to the Thames Mechanic Institute with many interesting lectures and to the mining community of Thames as an Assayist with the Bank of New Zealand.

Page 2 Advertisements Column 4 Thames Advertiser, 29 January 1877, Page 2
Courtesy Papers Past National Library NZ
Travelling back over the hill after an enjoyable music evening in a private home last night ( 28/02/), having listened to Mark Laurent and Brenda Liddiard  weaving  wonderful music on mandolin, classic guitar and ukelele bought memories of yesterday year.  Julie remarked to fellow passengers that it had been like going to a Soiree. 
A flood of memories came back - to the pre television days -  when there were lots of musical evenings - the "sing songs" on a Saturday night around the piano; the getting together of family and friends after a hard week's work in the "bush" or on the farm playing well known songs and tunes on accordian, banjo, fiddle, guitar. The travel " over the hill" to another valley settlement to make our own fun with music. The travel home singing and chattering about the evening. The rough road home over metal roads - typical of the Coromandel Peninsula.
Road from Whangamata, Thames-Coromandel District
  Road from Whangamata, Thames-Coromandel District. Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-63220-F.
Courtesy Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Then there were the memories and tales shared that had been passed down from our grandparents. The times when for them it was travelling "over the hill " on a Saturday night to the dance in the next valley by horseback or. No cars in those yesterday years. Nor roads - just well-known bridle tracks in rural areas away from the towns. Or the steamer trip carrying the team for  the cricket  game and evening dance such as was reported in the Bay of Plenty Times in March 1888. A return match between Mercury Bay and Tairua ( both "mill towns" in those days). All a part of the past New Zealand history.

Reference Source:

  •  THE BLACK FAMILY CONCERTS.  Tuapeka Times, 19 January 1901, Page 3
  •  TOWN EDITION. The Ensign.OCTOBER 28, 1897.Mataura Ensign ,28 October 1897,Page 2
  • AROUND THE WORLD Otago Witness , 25 January 1905, Page 61
  • Page 2 Advertisements Column 4 Thames Advertiser, 29 January 1877, Page 2
  • TAIRUA. Bay of Plenty Times, , 23 March 1888, Page 2
  • Mark Laurent and Brenda Liddiard Musicians


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Waitomo Caves of Yesterday Year - On the Research Trail.

Otorohanga Railway Station near Waitomo Caves - photo CRB February 2014

Recently we did a trip down Otorohanga way. Was interested to see that September 2014 marked 125 years of tourism for Waitomo Caves - from 125 years ago not long the Caves were explored by English Surveyor Fred Mace with Maori Chief Tane Tinorau. In part of the past New Zealand History the two men ( according to the Ashburton Guardian ) constructed a slender raft of logs and used this to enter the caves. That was said to be back in December 1887 and that before that despite many knowing about the caves few had ventured into them.
This bought back memories of the stories,  I had been told of the expedition Great Grandfather went on to the  caves. Of the beauty he had seen. The memory of back in 2008 doing some research at Paeroa Museum with the then Museum Curator Graham Watton on the Thames Waikato and Waihi Railways. As I was leaving for the day, my eyes lighted on an article with photo in a display  -  the newspaper heading " Discovery of the Glow-worm Grotto." This was proof of the story I had been told about Great Grandfather. I took notes - meaning to write these up some day. Two years later in 2010 we were at a flea market and there amongst a pile of newspapers and books was the same publication with the article " Discovery of the Glow-worm Grotto." Along with the photo. This photo I discovered recently, also appeared in the Sydney Illustrated News (Saturday 25 October 1890 page 15.)
Photo clipping from The New Zealand Herald Centennial Record, November 13, 1963

Still meaning to write the story up - one day - got busy on other research and writing - shipping and railways.  Now it is time to write it up - so words to blog - to add a part of the past New Zealand History.
Following the exploring of the caves by Mace and Tinorau, the then Government instructed Thomas Humphries, Chief Surveyor and Commissioner of Crown Lands to visit  the Waitomo Caves near Tauranga and to make a report to the Government. (  Humphries was appointed Surveyor General In 1906  and retired from this position in 1909. During his life his work in both  astronomical and geodetic fields was recognised by  his election as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.)

courtesy NZETC in

Louis E. Ward Early Wellington Whitcombe and Tombs Limited, 1928, Auckland
Humphries took with him a party with skills in their respective fields. Albert George Allom a surveyor( son of Albert James Allom who moved to Thames in 1867 and is said to have held a number of appointments until 1886, including that of receiver gold revenue and mining Registrar at both Thames and Mackaytown) ; well- known  photographer John Robert Hanna ( who was said to have been commissioned by the Government to take the photographs ) ; Hanna's assistant  Bain;  James Stewart Civil Engineer & Surveyor ( well- known as in charge various projects Railway Construction and Survey in the Auckland Province including 1873 - 1880 The Thames Waikato Railway ) ;  Major William Gilbert Mair Native Court Judge; Henry Dunbar Johnson native interpreter( formerly in Ohinemuri area )   and William Cussen ( brother of Laurence - both brothers had carried out Triangulation work in the King Country).

             John Robert Hanna                              James Stewart Minst. CE
in Cyclopaedia NZ Auckland Province
  Major William Gilbert Mair                    Henry Dunbar Johnson courtesy NZETC
                                                               The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District] The Cyclopedia     Company, Limited, 1897, Wellington
According to Thomas Humphries' report to Government ( AJHR 1889 H H18 ) and articles across a number of newspapers, both  John Robert Hanna and Humphries took extensive photographs. The Taranaki Herald reported the following  on the photos which had been presented to the Government: -

Humphries' report to Government also included photos and maps.

Courtesy ATOLS Online National Library NZ In Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1889 Session I H-18 THE WAITOMO CAVES, KING COUNTRY (REPORT ON).

James Stewart did not say much officially  on the Expedition to the caves as Thomas Humphries was in charge of and making the Report to the Government . However newspapers did report on Stewart saying  :
" It will be a wonderful attraction in fact, I have never seen anything I have enjoyed more since the destruction of the White Terrace." ( NZ Herald 07/06/1889)
Passed down was this story from Stewart along with the Expedition during the Tarawera Eruption. It must have been a special occasion for him to see something just as beautiful as the White Terraces he had also seen prior to the eruption of Tarawera. The photos for us today are a reminder of what both the Waitomo Caves and the terraces looked like in that part of the past.

Courtesy ATOLS Online National Library NZ In Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1889 Session I H-18 THE WAITOMO CAVES, KING COUNTRY (REPORT ON).

Major William Mair and Henry Dunbar Johnson who had also witnessed the Tarawera eruption and its aftermath also were said to feel the same. Mair had written a paper on the Tarawera Eruption for the New Zealand Institute ( Art. XLV.—Notes on the Eruption of Tarawera Mountain and Rotomahana, 10th June, 1886, as seen from Taheke, Lake Rotoiti.) Mair intended to write one on the Waitomo Caves. A review of the Institute papers does not show one from Mair on the caves . However Thomas Humphries was reported on giving an account with photo presentation to the Auckland Institute in 1889 and 1892.
Tinorau opened the caves to tourists in 1889. Now 125 years later Waitomo Caves over the years has been a very relevant Part of  past New Zealand history for tourism and the memories for many of a trip  to the caves. Memories that are not forgotten.
Reference Source:
  •  Lawn, C.A. F.N.Z.I.S. The Pioneer Land Surveyors of New Zealand Part IV. Auckland: N.Z.I.S., 14 October,1977.
  • The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District] The Cyclopedia     Company, Limited, 1897, Wellington
  • The New Zealand Herald Centennial Record, November 13, 1963
  • Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1889 Session I H-18 THE WAITOMO CAVES, KING COUNTRY (REPORT ON).
  • Sydney Illustrated News Saturday 25 October 1890 page 15
  • THE OFFICIAL INSPECTION OF RAILWAYS. New Zealand Herald, , 3 May 1889, Page 5
  • THE OTOROHANGA CAVES. New Zealand Herald, 7 June 1889, Page 5
  • THE OTOROHANGA CAVES AT WAIKATO. Taranaki Herald, , 12 June 1889, Page 3
  • THE OTOROHANGA CAVES. Timaru Herald, , 21 June 1889, Page 3
  • THE OTOROIIANGA CAVES. New Zealand Herald, 12 August 1889, Page 11
  •  RANDOM SHOTS Auckland Star, 28 September 1889, Page
Our family first met Graham Watton when my mother Helen Stewart was writing for the local and national newspapers. When I retired and began the history research on great grandfather and those early railways it was once more contact with Graham Watton in his role as Curator Paeroa Museum. In 2012 Graham Watton passed away and tis was a great loss to historians and researchers such as myself. His knowledge and help were vast - I miss it.


Friday, 30 January 2015

" Tis Gold A Plenty - Waihi Gold Mining Company Limited

A Heritage Icon -Pumphouse Waihi - Photo CRB 2010
The last two months have been one of travel backwards and forwards to Waihi and beyond - time spent with family and friends. Driving past the Pumphouse at Waihi has been a constant reminder as past photos and information  is sorted over the holiday break. Recording family history has threaded the story once more of the early days of the one of the giant mining companies of all - Waihi Gold Mining Company.
The remains of the Pumphouse seen today and the concrete relics of Victoria Battery at Waikino are reminders of that early era 1887 to 1905. A period  when the Directors and heads of a Mining Company dared to dream, plan and implement those plans into something that became one of the biggest Industrial Plants in Australasia. 

Concrete Relics Victoria Battery Waikino - Photo CRB 2010
Much has been written about the Waihi Strike in 1912, the lives of those working in the mine, Thomas Russell as Chairman of Directors of the Waihi Goldmining Company. However for some of the others also involved, their names and stories are scattered and some almost forgotten.
Exploration, Acquisition, Flotation and Company Beginnings:

Back in 1887 the Waikato times reported a visit to Waihi Mines by those connected with the Union Mine Waihi - including Hon Thomas Russell,  Messrs J. B. Russell, Henry Russell, Thomas Morrin, and J. W. Walker.

Thomas Russell In The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited. Bold Century. Auckland:
The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited, 1959.


The intention was to float the Union Mine on the English Market as soon as possible.    By the end of 1887 it was reported that Union and Rosemont Mines were floated under names  of Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd. Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd was  registered in London in December, 1887, with  capital of £100,000 in £1 shares.  The New Zealand Herald ( 25/01/1888 )reported that the following were Directors of this newly floated Company: -

Directors in London Thomas Russell, Esq., C.M.G., director, Bank of New Zealand, chairman; John Boustead, Esq. Director, Lambeth Waterworks Company, Limited; Henry Joseph Bristow, Esq. (Messrs Bowley and Bristow), director, New Zealand Land Mortgage Company, Limited Richard B. Huth, Esq., director, City of London Fire Insurance Company, Limited Sir Edward W. Stafford, G.C.M.G., Chairman Manitoba Mortgage and Investment Company. Limited. Directors in New Zealand David Hean, Esq., inspector of the National Bank of New Zealand, Limited, Auckland; James Russell, Esq. (Messrs Jackson and Russell), Auckland; Thomas Morrin, Esq. (Messrs T. and S. Morrin and Co., Limited), Auckland, director of the South British Insurance Company Seymour Thorne George, Esq., J. P. Auckland.

James Russell of Jackson & Russell


Thomas Morrin
In Chadwick, J. 1906. Men of Mark In the World of Sport in New Zealand. Brett Publishing Company Ltd.
Edinburgh born Sir Edward Stafford had also formerly been the third  premier and on three occasions between 1856 and 1872, of what was known in those days , the Colony of New Zealand.

 Thomas Russell in the chair at a meeting of the Waihi Gold Mining Company in May 1888 reported  that  shares allotted were 84,818 out of 100,000, and the remainder being gradually taken up.  By 1889 Thomas Henry Russell ( son of Thomas Russell) based at Waihi  was Superintendent of the Waihi Gold Mining Company, J.W. Walker ( John Watson Walker more well  known as "Long Drive Walker") the Mine Manager and Seymour Thorne George as the company's first General Manager based in Auckland.
The year  1890  marked a significant addition for the Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd.   Thomas Henry Russell purchased mine and battery, the property of the Martha Extended Gold Mining Co. Ltd (The Martha Lode) for £3000. Later it was acquired by the Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd.
Also in 1890 Robert Rose was appointed second General Manager of Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd. In addition to being part of the era of capital growth and development for the Waihi Goldmining Company,  Rose was also a Director of NZI ( New Zealand Insurance Company ) from 1889 until his death in 1900; Director of the growing Northern Steam Ship Company 1999 to 1900 - a company Rose had been involved with since its formation in 1881 and Secretary of the NZ Mines Trust. His sudden death was a shock to many including those in Waihi and a loss to the company of who was someone known for level headed decision-making. 
Robert Rose - Photo Courtesy of
“Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries. AWNS-18990609-1-3”
Capital Growth and Development

This era saw increase of capital, major construction - the outcome of adoption of a new process , and changes in personnel at the helm of the company because of deaths.

Henry Dale was appointed second Superintendent and Manager  of Mine and Plant in the place of T.H. Russell in 1890, following the purchase and sale of the Martha Mine.

The year 1891 marked another significant  Waihi Gold Mining Co. Ltd increase their capital by the issue of 50,000 new shares, raising the total to £150,000.
Also in this year Mr. Hubert Percy Barry was bought into the Company and by 1892 had become Superintendent - replacing Henry Dale and Mr. Thomas Gilmour also bought into the Company in 1891, was appointed Mine Manager of the Waihi Mine. Both were active in  community affairs, including establishment of Waihi Hospital and Waihi School of Mines. Barry was Chairman of the Ohinemuri District Council for a number of years and Gilmour, Mayor of Waihi for a term from 1904, just after his retirement from Waihi Gold Mining Company.
Hubert Percy Barry
Courtesy Papers Past National Library NZ
Photo Mr J. H. Barry, MANAGER WAIHI GOLD MINE. Observer, Volume XV, Issue 880, 2 November 1895, Page 17

 July 1894 marked another significant milestone for the Waihi Gold Mining Company when they adopted the cyanide process for gold extraction. By 1896 plans for major works were being outlined at the statutory meeting and in 1898  Victoria Battery construction had begun at Waikino.

Relics of Brickwork Victoria Battery Waikino - photo CRB 2010

 During this decade those who were at the helm of the Company and died were :
  • March 1891  David Kean Former Inspector of the National Bank and New Zealand Director died suddenly.
  • July 1892 Mr. Henry Dale, Superintendant and Manager died suddenly.
  • February 1894  John Benjamin Russell - brother of  Thomas Russell and James Russell died  after a long illness. J.B. Russell as two of his brothers was also a lawyer - a practicing Senor Member with the legal firm Russell and Campbell of Auckland.
  • September 1995 Richard Spratt died. Spratt was inspecting engineer  on a regular basis  for the Waihi, Waitekauri, and Crown Mines, and New Zealand Mines Trust, Limited. Spratt was  also a Director of Woodstock.
By 1896 the Organisational Structure of the Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd looked like this:-

Charles Rhodes was appointed replacement  to  the position held by Robert Rose in 1900 . This was to be a long tenure with the Company until Rhodes died in 1932. Rhodes was as with several others at the helm of Waihi Gold Mining Company, on the Directorship of NZI ( New Zealand Insurance Company), Northern Steam Ship Company, NZ Mines Trust , NZ Portland Cement Company.
 and Auckland Electric Tramways Company Ltd. Rhodes took a keen and active  interest in the introduction of Rotary Clubs to New Zealand and along with Fowlds is known as one of the Founders of this movement.

Charles Rhodes photo courtesy Papers Past
N.Z. INSURANCE COMPANY. Mr. Charles Rhodes, who has been elected chairman of the New Zealand Insuran... [truncated] New Zealand Herald, , 8 August 1928, Page 8
In April 1904   - New directors to Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd were appointed  - Messrs Beddington, Brutton ( AKA Button )  and Owen  making seven directors instead of five  - Thomas Russell CMG  Chairman , Arthur M Mitchison,  J Boustead  Henry J Bristow,  H. E. Beddington,  P. Berry Owen, E J Brutton. Less than six months later the  Chairman of Directors died in August 1904 - ending a significant influence and era for this company. His brother James Russell ( formerly  of the legal firm, Jackson and Russell ) was at the helm as Chairman  for but a few short months when he too died. Arthur Mitchison - son- in-law of Thomas Russell was voted to the chair and so started a new era of management.
In 1905 the Organisational Structure of the Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd looked like this - back to a Directorship of five :-
Reference Source:
  •  Chadwick, J. 1906. Men of Mark In the World of Sport in New Zealand. Brett Publishing Company Ltd.
  • The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, Vol 2, Auckland Province.  Christchurch: Cyclopaedia Company Limited, 1902
  • The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District] The Cyclopedia Company, Limited, 1897, Wellington
  • New Zealand Mines Dept; Galvin,  The New Zealand mining handbook (with maps and illustrations) (1906) P J. Mackay, Government Printer Wellington, 1906
  • Downey, J.F., Gold Mines of the Hauraki District, originally published 1935, this edition Cadsonbury Publications, Christchurch, 2002
  • McLintock, A.H. An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand Volume 3. Wellington, New Zealand: R.E. Owen, Government Printer, 1966
  • The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited. Bold Century. Auckland: The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited, 1959. (Shareholders Copy)
  • Scheidel, A The cyanide process, its practical application and economical results (1894) Sacramento, A.J. Johnston, supt. State printing
  • Stone, R.C.J., Makers of Fortune, A Colonial Business Community and its Fall, Auckland University Press, 1973
  • In Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 21, June 1977 AUTHOR’S COMMENT: GOLD MINING AT WAIHI 1878 – 1952 J.B. McARA.
  • Edmund Bohan. 'Stafford, Edward William', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 19-Feb-2014 URL:
  • Newspapers
         OHINEMURI NEWS. Waikato Times,  31 May 1887, P 2
         CABLEGRAMS. Otago Witness , 16 December 1887, P 13
         The Union Mine, Waihi. Thames Advertiser, 17 December 1887, Page 2
          NEW ZEALAND AFFAIRS IN LONDON. New Zealand Herald, 25 January 1888, P 5
          THE LATE MR. DAVID HEAN. New Zealand Herald, 25 April 1891, Page 5
           DEATH OF MR. HENRY DALE New Zealand Herald, 28 June 1892, P 5
          DEATH OF MR J. B. RUSSELL. Auckland Star, 28 February 1894, Page 8
          OBITUARY. New Zealand Herald, 4 October 1895, P 3
          DEATH OF MR. ROBERT ROSE. New Zealand Herald, 25 April 1900, P 5
          DEATH OF MR. THOMAS RUSSELL. Auckland Star, 5 September 1904, Page 5
          DEATH OF MR. JAMES RUSSELL. New Zealand Herald, 20 February 1905, P 4
Thanks to Auckland Libraries for the wonderful Heritage Images

Also The Treasury Thames and Waihi Arts Centre & Museum are great places to visit if doing early Family History or about early  Coromandel Peninsula.



Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Ships, Voyages and Places of Captain Dacre

Flaxmill Bay Coromandel Peninsula Photo CRB 2012

Used to love visiting  Maramaratotara or  Flaxmill Bay more than fifty years ago back in the 1950's.The road there was not much then - loose metal - however it was a treat to visit my uncle and his family who were staying there for the summer holidays. Swimming and exploring the beach were daily activities and being told the history of the area which goes back a very long way - before European came to the area, when Captain Cook stayed a few days to observe the transit of Mercury and the first European settlers who arrived in the area back in the 1830's - Gordon Browne and Captain Dacre. 

Captain Ranulph Dacre is remembered today at Flaxmill Bay mainly for the purchase of land in the area. However the story is more than just the writing on the heritage board as in the photo below.

Signage Flaxmill Bay - Photo CRB 2012
Captain Ranulph Dacre spent his early years in the Royal British Navy, moving  on to the mercantile navy.  Dacre was first reported in Australasian waters in 1823 - captain aboard the 400 ton ship Elizabeth, bound for the London run with a cargo of wool. Merchants and shipping owners and agents,  Raine & Ramsay, the New South Wales Agents and Robert Brooks, the England based owner.

A few months later in  June of 1824, the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser reported Captain Dacre to be now of the schooner Endeavour and loading at Otaheite for Port Jackson. (Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser   
17 /06/ 1824  Page 2)

The schooner Endeavour was said to be a Mission  Schooner bought by the London Missionary Society in 1817 -Missionary John Williams and the chiefs of Raiatea.  It was as Master of this Mission Schooner that Captain Ranulph Dacre made his first visit to New Zealand shores.

On 15th July 1824 Dacre sailed in to  Whangaroa Harbour. On board were missionaries Daniel Tyerman, George Bennet, Launcelot Threlkeld and his son, Joseph Thomas Threlkeld.

From Totara  North Looking across Whangaroa Harbour - photo CRB 1993

Their stay, although strained with tension , was more fortunate  than those on board  the ship  Boyd fourteen years earlier, in 1809 also at Whangaroa. The Endeavour left Whangaroa on 18th July and voyaged on  to Port Jackson, Sydney.

Daniel Tyerman and George Bennet who were aboard the Mission Schooner Endeavour
Tyerman, Daniel, Bennet, George, Montgomery, James, London Missionary Society. 1832. Voyages and travels; Missions. Boston & New York : Boston : Crocker and Brewster ; New York : J. Leavitt.


Captain Dacre on arrival back in Sydney, continued to trade along the East Coast of Australia and across to New Zealand. He also carried out a couple of voyages on the London run as Master of the Surrey  for Robert Brooks , the owner.  Brooks was also the owner of the 238 ton barque Lucy Ann of which Captain Dacre was also recorded Master of in 1927.

   From Lloyds Shipping Register 1827
It was while Captain Dacre was Master of Lucy Ann that he visited Whangaroa, Mercury Bay and Hokianga on the look out for spars for British sailing ships. Mercury Bay where Maramaratotara or  Flaxmill Bay opens onto. 

The kauri tree was ideal for the purpose - yielding  straight spars and fine timber - one of the contributing factors to the beginning of the timber industry in New Zealand. One of the first ships to call in for a cargo of spars was HM's Coromandel ( for which the town Coromandel was named after ). That was back in 1820. The HM's Buffalo left Sydney for New Zealand in 1833, intending to load spars at Hokianga - however insufficient vessel draught meant she could not enter that harbour. Later on another voyage home to England in 1837 the HM's ship Buffalo  obtained the first spars from  Ngungaru and area in Northland. In 1842 the HM's Tortoise was gathering spars at Te Karo near Tairua. 

Captain Dacre gained a contract to supply spars to the Admiralty in 1831.

The Late Captain Dacre In
The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, Vol 2, Auckland Province. Christchurch: Cyclopaedia Company Limited, 1902.

Meantime Gordon Davis Browne had become the one of the first private Europeans  in the New Zealand timber trade operating out of Horeke, Hokianga
in partnership  with merchants Raine and Ramsay in Sydney. Captain Dacre is said to have taken one of the first cargoes from Hokianga.The Hobart Town Gazette reported in 1827 the arrival of the bark Lucy Ann, Ranulph Dacre, with amongst the cargo "110 planks  New Zealand pine timber." (Hobart Town Gazette 11/08/1827 p5)

There followed  a few years of change, uncertainty , set backs and misfortunes for both Browne and Dacre. The Horeke timber business and shipbuilding yard was not successfully run  and by 1830 the firm was bankrupt.

Captain Dacre  retired from long sea voyages to London  and established himself as a Sydney based merchant - Dacre and Wilks.  In those days Sydney was a hub of commercial enterprise and Port Jackson a key port for Australasia  for the movement of goods and people inwards and outwards. It was where taxes and customs excise on cargoes were received. 1845 saw the building of the first Customs House in what is now  Circular Quay near the waterfront.

Customs House on Circular Quay Sydney, Australia - Photo CRB 2013
 In September 1831 Dacre purchased the barque Darling for £700. ( The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 17/09/1831)  Dacre is said to have sent Captain Skelton aboard Darling to establish spar stations at Mangonui and Mercury Bay. The venture was not successful. Dacre met Browne also in 1832. A spar station was established at Mahurangi, Northland  in 1832 - Browne and fifteen other men taken there aboard the barque Bolina ( Dacre & Wilks Agents ). This venture also proved unsuccessful, with Dacre stating that his trees had been appropriated by HM's Buffalo and higher prices paid to the maori who were felling the timber. 

Dacre then established Browne in another timber station in Mercury Bay in 1837. Here Browne erected the stone wharf ( still used today in 2014 ) and what was said to be the first water - powered sawmill in New Zealand - both to enable processing and transport of the timber more easily. The first mill was said to be near the stone wharf on the same side. 

Mercury Bay at Whitianga - Photo CRB 2012
 In 1838 when Browne was setting up the Mercury Bay station, the partnership of Dacre & Wilks came to an end. 

The Australian  6 April 1838 p1 courtesy Trove newspapers National Library Australia

The Mercury Bay venture was costly and despite Browne's ingenuity in establishing the wharf and sawmill, the Browne's project soon owed Dacre  £4000. The debts kept accumulating and along with a rejected shipment of spars from the Admiralty, regarded by them as being sub - standard was enough to send Browne into melancholia. 

Dacre had been involved in several purchases of land  during his spar ventures  and in 1841 began the long process of land claim with the Government - finally settled in 1862. This included the land previously known as G.D. Browne's grant purchased in 1837 and situated between Whitianga Harbour and the Purangi River. As Browne had died in about 1842 the Court awarded Dacre the land in 1862 and it then became known as Dacre's grant. The area at what is now known as Flaxmill Bay and the signage seen today listing the purchase price -

" for 16 pounds cash, 36 Sydney pieces worth 3 pounds each, 24 blankets, 10 tents,10 hats, 20 tomahawks, 20 tinder boxes, 20 boxes of lucifers, 10 pairs of scissors, 10 looking glasses, 3 sixty pound boxes of tobacco, 140 pounds in Spanish dollars and articles of merchandise. Sale Acknowledged by  Taharakee on 27 October 1837. "

Looking out from Flaxmill Bay Coromandel Peninsula Photo CRB 2012
 Captain Dacre, despite owning a number of ships, properties, being a successful merchant  and having been one of the first directors of the Union Bank of Australia, succumbed as many did during the 1843 - 1844 Depression in Australia and became insolvent.

Not deterred Dacre rose once more as a successful Merchant - this time based in New Zealand. Going there in 1844 he established a business relationship with James Macky who was in the employ of L.D. Nathan. In 1854 Dacre went into partnership with Macky's brother Thomas Macky ( who was also father of the son who was part of the well known firm of the late 1800s - Macky, Logan and Steen. The large family moved to New Zealand in 1859 and contributed via business, community and sport.

So ends the story of " more than just a sign at Flaxmill Bay - a part of the past of New Zealand history on the Coromandel Peninsula and beyond.


Reference Source:

  • The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, Vol 2, Auckland Province. Christchurch: Cyclopaedia Company Limited, 1902.
  • McLintock, A.H. An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand Volume 1. Wellington, New Zealand: R.E. Owen, Government Printer, 1966.
  •  Tyerman, Daniel, Bennet, George, Montgomery, James, London Missionary Society. 1832. Voyages and travels; Missions. Boston & New York : Boston : Crocker and Brewster ; New York : J. Leavitt.
  • Maori Deeds of Old Private Land Purchases in New Zealand, From the Year 1815 to 1840, with Pre-Emptive and Other Claims  Author: H. Hanson Turton - 408
  • Maori Deeds of Old Private Land Purchases in New Zealand, From the Year 1815 to 1840, with Pre-Emptive and Other Claims Return of Land Claims Finally Settled Since 8th July, 1862 H Hanson Turton

  • Frank Rogers. 'Dacre, Ranulph', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 27-Jun-2013

  • by D. Shineberg  Dacre, Ranulph (1797–1884) This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966
  • The HMS Buffalo: Part One, Two and Three
  • The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser Thursday 17 June 1824  Page 2 
  •  Hobart Town Gazette Saturday 11 August 1827 page 5
  • NEW ZEALAND FORESTS. New Zealand Herald, 4 March 1926, Page 13
  • THE LATE CAPTAIN DACRE. New Zealand Herald, 11 October 1884, Page 1