Six Degrees of Separation

The theory of Six Degrees of Separation was first set out by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929.  Here in New Zealand there is a joke that there are no more than two degrees of separation.  Sometimes it’s true.  Other times you get back to 6.  This post is about how my paternal and maternal branches have overlapped at times, but didn’t hook up until my parents.  It’s one that may expand over time!

[And if this doesn’t interest you, you can click over to the Oracle of Bacon which calculates the degrees of separation of anyone on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) from actor Kevin Bacon.]

Akaroa

Akaroa is a lovely town on the Banks Peninsula, 75 km from Christchurch.  It’s noted for its French influence due to it being New Zealand’s only French settlement.  But my connections here are more English/Irish!

From around 1877 when she arrived in New Zealand with her husband’s brother Alfred, until 1907 when she and Alfred retired to Christchurch, my paternal gg-grandmother Rose Anne Maria Mrs James E Nicholls lived in Akaroa.  It’s where my g-grandfather Alfred James Nicholls grew up (and won school prizes – see the Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser on Papers Past for details!).  Alfred snr was Headmaster at Akaroa School during this time.

It was also the home to my maternal gg-grandfather Robert William Black’s brother Greacen Joseph Black (1850-1932) for a number of years before he sold up and moved to Gisborne.  Amongst other things, he is likely to have run into Rose, Alfred and family at his store – Criterion House where following family tradition he sold drapery.  His entry in the 1903 Cyclopedia of New Zealand gives you some idea of his activities.

Alfred snr and Greacen were also members of the Akaroa Mutual Improvement Association.  It seems to be a variation on Toastmasters where they practised public speaking!  There is also a Richard Black who attended these meeting – likely to be Greacen and Robert William’s since lost brother.

They both were pillars of the community being also members of:

  • the Akaroa Regatta Committee in 1877
  • the Presbyterian Church
  • won prizes at the Horticultural and Industrial Exhibition in 1878

And Greacen’s oldest son Robert won a prize in the infants class of the school in 1887, awarded by Headmaster Alfred.

Kilmore Street, Christchurch

My maternal 3x g-grandfather Robert Black built a house at what now is about 214 Kilmore Street, not far from the intersection with Barbados Street.  This is the house referred to in the 1949 book Old Christchurch in Picture and Story by Johannes C. Andersen (which lead to my The Old Lady in the Garden post).

Amongst my Grandad’s papers there are copies of the title deeds for this block of land.   It originally started out as blocks 511 and 513 on Kilmore Street and blocks 512 and 514 on Chester Street.  After Robert’s death, it was inherited by his son and my gg-grandfather Robert William Black.

Robert William sold part off in 1895 to Arthur Chigley and the rest in 1896 to Cornelius Cliff.  Deeds show that in 1899 Arthur Chigley owned all of blocks 511 and 513 and a smidgen of 512.  In 1905, Chigley sells an L-shaped part of 511, all of 513 and smidgens of 512 and 514 to James Haswell Wood (snr).

And this is where the connection comes in – James’ son James Haswell Wood (jnr) married May O’Callaghan in 1917.  May was the daughter of my paternal gg-grandparents Jasper Pyne O’Callaghan (the Spanish Grandee) and Winifred Alice Baker and sister of my g-grandmother Greta.

The land in Kilmore Street passed from James H Wood snr to his two spinster daughters Kate Selina Wood and Elsie Haswell Wood who passed away in 1961 and 1969 respectively.  It then passed to Beryl Haswell Wood (1913-2002) until it was taken by the council under the Public Works Amendment Act 1948.

Grandad wrote that the house his g-grandfather built there was still standing in 1981 when he visited:

In 1981 this house (renumbered 214 Kilmore St) still existed and the writer has been in it.

It is a single storey timber framed weatherboard house with a slate roof. As there is no slate in NZ, the slate would have been imported from Britain. [Deleted: With increasing availability of other materials, this practice had ceased before the end of the century, so slate roofed houses are now rare.] There is a roofed verandah across the whole front with cast iron filigree ornamentation between the posts.

It is quite a large house, about 200m2, but the interior shows signs of considerable past alterations, so how it was laid out originally remains doubtful. In 1970 the property was compulsorily acquired by the Ministry of Works, apparently with eventual intent to erect a public building on the site. Meanwhile it remains in use as a tenanted dwelling, but it is very dilapidated and really fit only for its prospective demolition.

Nearly, but not quite

In my post Death in Print there is an item on the Black Beattie & Co Accident which took place in my maternal gg-grandfather’s shop in High Street, Christchurch.  The unfortunately victim of this accident was Margaret Pyne.  My paternal gg-grandfather Jasper Pyne O’Callaghan’s mother was Sarah Pyne of Ballyvolane, Ireland.  However, it would appear that Mrs Pyne’s husband Henry was from England.  While the Irish Pyne’s are likely related to the English ones, the connection is currently unknown.

Near neighbours

This is the one that got me thinking about this post first.  But it’s also the one I have no evidence for.

Te Kuiti is the “shearing capital of the world” located in the King Country, part of the Waikato region.  About 18kms away is Waitomo, famous for its glow-worm caves and caves in general.

In the 1910s, Te Kuiti was home to my paternal grandfather Walter and his first family – he lived there when he commenced his WWI service.  Up the road in Waitomo, my maternal Grandad was a small child growing up on a farm his father Harold was hacking out of the bush.  Did they ever cross paths?  Who knows?

Te Kuiti is the seat for the Waitomo District Council.  And Walter was a mechanic so he may have fixed something of Harold’s.  Unfortunately, there is no one left to ask.

But fortunately, my grandfathers went on to have my parents who did meet.

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