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Showing posts from April, 2020

Dog taxes: a transcription tale

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While our libraries are currently closed some of us in the Heritage Collections team are transcribing the GLNZ letter series from the Grey Manuscripts Collection, held in Sir George Grey Special Collections. This is a collection of letters written in English to George Grey by a variety of correspondents. Some of these were well-known public figures in the nineteenth century, while others were not.

One letter that I worked on recently was a little disturbing in its tone. It begins reasonably enough:

"I took the liberty of writing you these few lines to remind you of your duty towards the welfare of the Country that you represents in Parliament"


On page two however, things take a different turn:

“I want both you and McAndrew if you value your lives and your property to vote for the Abolition and to lower the dog tax”

Signing off as "The Irish Shepherd" the writer was a musterer who was objecting to the dog tax and its dual taxation in multiple jurisdictions. This was a…

The Ways We Remember

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Contrary to our current state of national lockdown, it does take a lot to cause a society to come to a standstill. Yet, each year on 25 April many New Zealanders embrace an early rise on a cold morning to attend an Anzac service. Bursting with tradition, symbolism, emotion and ritual, Anzac services have been a key part of our national calendar since the first service in 1916. This year marks the first year that Anzac Day will not be commemorated with any large public events and so I thought I would delve into our online databases Kura and Heritage Images to take a trip down memory lane and look at the different, and sometimes uniquely Kiwi, ways in which we have commemorated Anzac Day over the past 104 years.


News of Allied troops landing on the beaches of the far-flung Gallipoli Peninsula reached New Zealand in the days following the now infamous maneuvers of 25 April, 1915. NZ History details what happened in the months that followed in Turkey, a time that saw New Zealand lose 2779…

The New Zealand Māori Contingent and the New Zealand (Māori) Pioneer Battalion

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This ANZAC Day we remember all those who served in the Māori Contingent and the New Zealand (Māori) Pioneer Battalion in World War I.

The first Māori Contingent (Native Contingent, New Zealand Expeditionary Force) left New Zealand on 14th February 1915 onboard the SS Warrimoo and included men from Rarotonga and Niue. The Contingent’s crest was the taiaha and tewhatewha, two traditional Māori weapons, while its motto, 'Te Hokowhitu a Tū' (the seventy twice-told warriors of the war god), signified the 140 warriors of the war god Tū-mata-uenga. This name was given by Wiremu ‘Wī’ Pere, an East Coast rangatira.

The Contingent disembarked in Egypt on 26th March and was sent to Malta for further training and garrison duties. The men were later transferred to Gallipoli to build and improve infrastructure, trenches, and supply depots. However, from August to December 1915 they were re-deployed as infantry with the NZ Mounted Rifles Brigade and were involved in the Battle of Chunu…

Tally Ho! Thrills and spills hunting in New Zealand

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Among the traditions toffee-nosed English emigrants brought with them to New Zealand was the ancient upper-class custom of hunting with horses and hounds. The ‘sport’ of hunting was popular in most rural districts of the North and South Islands during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and, despite its opponents, continues among a dwindling circle of wealthy devotees even to this day.

Men, women and even children on horseback followed the scarlet-jacketed masters, huntsmen and whippers-in as they thundered over the countryside on the trail of their prey. In England, hunts actually had the wily fox to chase. However in New Zealand, their antipodean counterparts had to make do with terrorising the humble hare.

The first hares to reach New Zealand apparently jumped ship from the Eagle and swam ashore at Lyttelton, Canterbury in 1851. Between 1867 and 1872 the Canterbury and North Canterbury acclimatisation societies imported more English hares from Victoria in Australia. Acclimatisat…

“Don’t kiss”: advice on how to dodge the ‘flu in 1918

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The influenza pandemic which struck New Zealand at the end of 1918 was the most fatal disease outbreak of our country’s history. Between October and December of that year around 9000 people died, out of a total population just over one million, and smaller outbreaks reoccurred over the following years.

Browsing the pages of heritage newspapers gives an insight into how New Zealanders at that time were thinking and feeling: the advice they were given, the remedies they tried, and how they kept themselves entertained in a period of emergency comparable in some ways to our own.

Plenty of advice was published for readers on how to keep themselves healthy. The Mataura Ensign published a helpful list of “’flu don’ts” for avoiding influenza, number one being “don’t kiss.”


The writer also recommended wearing a “gas mask,” or at least “some protection over the nose and mouth.” A photo in the Auckland Weekly News from a few months later shows an ANZAC solider being welcomed home by masked women…