Showing posts from November, 2017

Jane Austen 200

Jane Austen fans will probably already know that 2017 marks two hundred years since the death of the novelist on 18 July 1817 at the early age of 41.

Since then her six completed novels have been among the most loved in the English language, with a steady surge in popularity following their adaptations into film and TV versions.

After Jane’s death her brother Henry Austen organised the publication of her last book in 1818. It includes her earliest novel, Northanger Abbey, and her final completed novel, Persuasion, printed as a set in four small volumes.

Waikōwhai Park

“As Auckland grows every open space which is preserved for the use of the public is an asset of incalculable value,” a writer said in the NZ Herald in 1914. “Every city, in order to keep its inhabitants healthy, must have breathing spaces for the adults and playing grounds for the children.” Few of those spaces, it seemed, compared with Waikōwhai Park, Auckland’s newest, beautiful reserve on the shores of the Manukau Harbour.

The land had been purchased from Māori in the 1840s, and a decade later, nearly 500 acres was granted to the Wesleyan Mission. Used for camping and fishing, its location on the outskirts of the isthmus was perfect for a public reserve. In 1911, the Waikōwhai Park Act was passed: a collaboration between the Mt Roskill Roads Board and the Wesleyans (who gifted a portion of the land for the park). Both the central Government and the Roads Board came up with the finances to create it, including grading the roads for motor vehicles to use, and laying a two-mile long w…

An old Sanson church

A little Anglican church in the Manawatu recently celebrated its  140th year and quite coincidentally I happened to be down that way for the weekend.

Even more interesting, from a family history point of view, is that the builders of St Thomas's  (Main Road, Sanson) were ancestors of mine – the Ellerm brothers, Fred and Bert.

I had been inside St Thomas's only once before, at a family funeral when I was fifteen years old, and since then had only ever driven past the church on the way to Palmy, admired its cuteness and thought, "one day, I must make the effort and have a good look around."

One day turned out to be this particular weekend because it happened to be the weekend to celebrate "The 140th anniversary of the consecration of St Thomas’s church, Sanson, by the Right Reverend Octavius Hadfield, Bishop of Wellington."

On the Saturday was an open day with photographs and the chance to really inspect the building. On the Sunday was a special 10am service,…

Toni Savage, entertainer and philantropist

Laura Joan 'Toni' Swan (née Savage) was an entertainer who began her career singing and dancing, mixed with some accordion playing and ventriloquism for New Zealand and American troops during the Second World War. She continued entertaining throughout her life, and after her death in 2011 her executors donated her archives (known as the Toni Swan papers, NZMS 1746) to Sir George Grey Special Collections at Auckland Central Library.

The archive includes many photographs of Toni singing and dancing. Some of the photos are of her performing alone but there are also photos of her singing and dancing with groups like ‘The Kentucky Korn Kobs.’ In later years Toni performed with ‘The Toni Savage Troupe.’ Some of the photos dating from this time show Toni with her ventriloquism puppets ‘Wonki Wolf’ and ‘Cookie Bear.’

Fortunately the Toni Swan archives give listeners a chance to hear Toni singing in some of her performances. There is a 78-rpm gramophone record, from the 1940s, which fe…

Dr Grace Russell and the Dobie sisters

When I started researching New Zealand women who worked in the war effort overseas during the First World War, I realised much of the material I needed was in a cupboard in someone’s spare room – or in a box under the bed.

While the soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and the nurses of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service all had numbers – and files at Archives New Zealand – women who paid their own fares and often worked with the British, the French and the Serbs were more or less untraceable.

Enter Kate de Courcy who contacted me when she saw a little plea for information under an article I wrote for North & South magazine on the World War 1 Oral History Archive interviews I did with Nicholas Boyack in the 1980s – when our veteran interviewees were between 86 and 99 years old.

Kate sent me transcriptions of letters from her grandmother, Dr Grace Russell from Auckland which are in her family’s possession.  Grace had been a port doctor at Port Said, largely dealing wit…

Your story - a work in progress

At a recent talk here at Auckland Libraries, many of us came away buzzing over ideas on preserving 'our' story. What can we do right now, to get those interesting things about ourselves organised for posterity?

Our speaker, Jan Gow, discussed a computer programme called Treepad, that has a free edition, but also a  paid edition with useful add-ons such as the ability to save images.

But as she said, there are other options, too.

For the paper-addicted among us, the stationery sections at book stores are our happy place, from basic binders to the joy of the beautifully-covered journal. One could purchase a different journal for each decade (perhaps colour-coded?), and add to it over time.

If spread-sheets are so your thing, you could come up with something practical there.

And you could always make up an eBook, which I’ll address in a later post. Publishing an e-book can cost you virtually nothing, and you can easily get print copies for little cost, as well.

The message is th…

Auckland’s Jazzy nightlife

Whenever I tell people what I research - the history of jazz in New Zealand - the first response I get is: ‘there was jazz in New Zealand?’ The second response is usually something along the lines of: ‘but we didn’t really have any nightlife…did we?’ The answer to both is emphatically yes! New Zealand, and in particular Auckland, certainly had a nightlife, and jazz invaded New Zealand about mid-1917. Auckland percussionist and saxophonist Bob Adams created New Zealand’s first jazz band in about 1918, and there were already plenty of dance halls, cabarets, and theatres ready and willing to get in on the new craze that soldiers brought back from the First World War.

As the 2016-2017 Auckland Library Heritage Trust Scholarship winner my project was to investigate the Jazz Age in Auckland (1918-1930). Yes, Auckland, and more broadly New Zealand, did have a Jazz Age commensurate with other Western nations. When we think of the Jazz Age what comes to mind are images that could be out of a …