Who was the mysterious Mrs Diamond?

Jack Diamond is quite famous in the world of New Zealand history, especially West Auckland history. His extensive archive, gifted to Auckland Libraries, is inscribed onto the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand documentary heritage register.

But few people know about his wife Melville who often accompanied him on explorations and site visits. She features in a number of his photos, lovingly portrayed and often as a useful element to give perspective to a scene.

We thought it would be polite to introduce her to you.

Ref: Jack and Melville Diamond. Courtesy of the Diamond Family Collection, about 1930s.

Ref: Jack and Melville Diamond. Courtesy of the Diamond Family Collection, about 1930s.

Married in the 1930s, Jack was already a passionate historian, out and about researching the historic places, industries and settlement of Auckland from the Manukau to the Kaipara. I wonder if Melville guessed what she was in for!

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Diamond family in the water at Blowhole Bay, 1948.
J. T. Diamond Collection. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-04E-05626-1.


One of the earliest images in the Diamond archive which shows the Diamond children. John (junior) and Judith with their mum enjoying the warm water in a place now known as The Gap, at Piha.

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Diamond family at bluff on Centennial Track, 1949. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-04N-01483-1.


Melville and children on what is clearly a warm summer day, all in shorts. The family often explored the Waitakere Ranges together.

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. 16 Evans Road, Glen Eden, 1950. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-12A-05618-2. 


Number 16 was Melville and Jack’s home for many years. Jack took quite a number of photos of the development of their subdivision and the Glen Eden borough as it grew, documenting many important occasions and changes to buildings and streets in the area.

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Old engine at Karekare, 1953. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-05C-00705-1. 


Not only did Melville keep her husband company on his trips around the west of Auckland, she was often a subject in his photos, giving helpful perspective to the objects in the frame.

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Diamond family watching surf at The Gap, 1953. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections.JTD-04E-00036-2. 


Piha must have been a family favourite. This delightful photo shows Melville’s 1950s style and how the children have grown since we saw them at 16 Evans Road.

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Boulder in the Opanuku Stream, Henderson Valley, 1954. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-14N-01812. 


There’s an opportunity for unique family photos when your historian dad takes you to interesting places!

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Diamond family sitting on logs in Piha Gorge, 1955. J.T.Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-04B-00061. 


Climbing Up On Things was definitely the theme to many photos of Jack’s family and Melville often joined in. These enormous logs were part of an old log jam in the Piha Stream gorge.

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Diamond family at log jam in Piha Gorge, 1955. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-04B-00062-2. 


This photo gives us a better perspective of the log jam, the scale of the logs and how Melville and the children scrambled up there.

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Road subsidence on West Coast Road, 1958. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-13J-01389-1. 


Jack’s label for this photo always makes me smile. Melville looks so smart in her pretty dress, jacket and shoes, observing this slip from the edge.

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Ford Model TT and Diamond family members,1959. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-13M-01013-2. 


Another summer adventure has the family sitting in this marvellous old Ford Model TT truck which was produced between 1917 and 1927.

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Artist on beach, Whatipu, 1964. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-06K-02382-1


Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Artist on beach, Whatipu, 1964. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-06K-02382-2


Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Artist on beach, Whatipu, 1964. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-06K-02382-3


Melville was a noted artist of West Auckland scenery and frequently took her easel and paints with her on their excursions. These three photos from different perspectives show us the beauty and expanse of Whatipu and the absorption of the artist in her work.

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Demolition of Glenburn works, Avondale,1970. J.T.Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-24G-05845-2. 


Melville must have enjoyed her adventures with Jack, even to old half demolished industrial sites. Here she is wearing a headscarf and sensible shoes, sifting through debris on the floor of an old brick and pottery works in Avondale.

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Dam remains on Company Stream, 1974. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-05B-04912-1. 


As the children grew they appear in Jack’s photos less often, off and about living their lives. But Melville is still there keeping him company, this time cooling her feet in an icy stream in the Waitakere Ranges.

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Dam remains on Driving Stream, Henderson Valley, 1975. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-0469-T.


Jack was fascinated by the kauri timber dams that sprang up alongside the logging industry throughout the North Island in the 1800s and early 1900s, particularly those in the Waitakere Ranges and foothills. Good sport that she is, Melville is holding up part of the iron tom mechanism from the remains of a dam in Henderson Valley. 

Jack’s book on the dams explains what an iron tom is and is an excellent children's resource: Kauri timber dams by J.T. Diamond & B.W. Hayward

Ref: John Thomas Diamond. Crum Brick, Tile and Pottery Co., New Lynn, 1980. J.T. Diamond Collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. JTD-11G-05192. 


After 50 years of marriage and innumerable excursions and adventures, Melville still came along on some of Jack’s research trips. In a dusty old industrial demolition site a spot of warm sunshine and a hot cup of tea from a thermos were just the ticket. 

Ref: Melville and Jack Diamond. Framed Portrait Collection, Research West.

In 1986 Jack received his M.B.E. for services to archaeology at Government House, Wellington. There by his side is Melville.

Author: Liz Bradley, Research West

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