Showing posts from 2022

Setting-up Auckland’s Jewish Community

“David Nathan had decided that if the powers-to-be determined that the new capital was to be on the shores of the Waitemata Harbour then he would follow.”   David Nathan was one of the first Jews to move to the shores of the Waitematā Harbour, where in 1841, Captain William Hobson announced the new capital of New Zealand was to be built. A census from the same year had him as one of two Jews in Auckland in 1841, Jews being 1.4% of the town’s population.  As the new capital grew, so did its Jewish population, and in 1842, after the arrival of the large Keesing family, it rose to 15Jews (dropping to 0.48% overall), large enough for public worship.  Auckland's Jewish community began to form a shared community identity, looking to fulfil their common spiritual needs and requirements in the physical space of the colony. By evaluating what Auckland’s Jewish community viewed as vital steps to set up their new community, we can see what a minority community in Auckland viewed as important.

Jack Diamond's huts

John (Jack) Thomas Diamond often visited the beaches on the west coast of Tāmaki Makaurau as a youngster. There he spent time with his friends Tom, Bill, Bryan and Fred in the 1920s. Jack mentions in his manuscript 'Piha - the first visits' : “…we always slept in one of the many mill shacks that were scattered throughout Bethells, Anawhata, Piha and Karekare areas.”  As an adult, Jack joined the Auckland Tramping Club. On 1 November 1933, he was once again in his element, staying in various huts along the rugged west coast of Auckland.  Shacks and huts During the early 1900s, scattered around the west coast of Auckland, simple buildings were built for use as homesteads for Māori and pākehā families, timber mill workers and relief workers employed during the Depression to make the roads. Image: Albert Percy Godber. Mill bunkhouse above the Glen Esk Falls, 1916. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, JTD-04A-00119. The image above shows a group of people, including a visiting

What’s in a building? Chelsea Sugar Refinery and Estate’s journey to heritage recognition

Nestled on the Northern bank of the Waitematā Harbour is one of Auckland’s most iconic landmarks. Protruding loudly from the native bush and regenerating forest of the surrounding Chelsea Heritage Park, the large, questionably-coloured buildings which make up the Chelsea Sugar Refinery in Birkenhead are hard to miss from its seaward side. Everyday, they serve as a stark reminder to the thousands of commuters and day-trippers who cross the Harbour and residents of the adjacent beaches of Herne Bay that the North Shore, known for its ever-expanding low-rise suburbs and idyllic East Coast bays, is also responsible for producing one of New Zealand’s most-loved commodities: Chelsea Sugar. Indeed, today, the sugar works produces and distributes more than 160,000 tonnes of sugar per year to kitchens throughout New Zealand. Image: Chelsea Sugar Refinery, Birkenhead, as viewed from the Waitematā Harbour. 1980s. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, B0116 .   Image: Chelsea Sugar Refinery fro

Douglas MacDiarmid: Coming full circle

A sense of place is important to most of us and particularly so for expatriates such as painter Douglas MacDiarmid who lived most of his life in France but never lost touch with his ‘New Zealandness’. On the eve of his centenary, Takapuna Library’s specialist Angela Morton art history collection has drawn from its substantial trove of MacDiarmid materials and memorabilia to profile this remarkable expressionist painter’s connections to his homeland, and especially to the Auckland North Shore and Piha communities, through his art, writings, photographs, significant friendships and other personal memorabilia.  Image: Douglas MacDiarmid with Bathers, early 1960s. Private collection.  Douglas Kerr MacDiarmid was born in Taihape on 14 November 1922, the younger son of Dr Gordon and Mary MacDiarmid. He read prolifically, drew and painted from a young age, enthralled by sensuality and the beauty of landscapes and the human form, and had a fervour for the ancient world as the source of our civ

What do you know about that, now? The rock, the Rona and the parrot

The dark night of Monday 26 June 1922 was Auckland’s night to remember. However, our local hazard was not a drifting iceberg, but Flat Rock near Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s steamer Rona had arrived from Fiji with 7000 tons of sugar and 600 tons of molasses and was heading towards the Rangitoto channel preparing to offload at Chelsea Sugar Refinery. The crew of the Rona had sailed this route many times before. The lookout reported they were approaching Flat Rock beacon, but the ship always passed close to it. However, this time the mate at the wheel was trying to avoid an oncoming trawler and steered too close to the shoal running out south-westwards from the rock. The ship ran aground on Flat Rock approximately 30 feet from the Flat Rock beacon. You can see how close the bow of the ship was to the beacon in the following dramatic photos published by the Auckland Weekly News. Image: Auckland Weekly News. Flat Rock beacon dead ahead, 6