What if they were friends?

One aspect of our lives that rarely appears in our family trees are our friends.  Unless someone marries one, or the child of one, you really don’t know much about your family’s friends.

My gg-grandparents Robert William Black and Emily Kinley Wilson are alleged to be cousins of some sort.  Unfortunately, due to the paucity of records about their families, this has never been proven.  However, a new theory has come to me recently.  What if their fathers were friends?

Robert William’s father Robert lived and worked in Dungannon until he immigrated with his family in 1863.  He was a draper by trade.  His marriage certificate says his father Joseph was a farmer, so it was not a family trade.  So where did he learn it?  Most likely with another draper in Dungannon.

One of the drapers in Dungannon around the time Robert would have been looking for an apprenticeship was Thomas Kinley.  He seems to have been quite a wealthy man, as directories from 1824 have him associated with various businesses including as agent for an insurance company and the East India Company.

Thomas was the son of John Kinley and Mary Carr.  His sister Anne married John Wilson, the minister at Lecumpher Presbyterian Church.  Their son William E Wilson immigrated to Pennsylvania where he had a daughter Emily Kinley Wilson.

So put it simply, Robert William’s father may have worked for Emily’s great-uncle.

So would Robert (Snr) and William E ever met?  It seems likely.  Thomas Kinley’s oldest daughter (and William’s cousin) was called Emily and she lived in Dungannon.

And if we want to add some soap to all of this, perhaps William E wanted to marry Emily but wasn’t allowed, so he immigrated to Pennsylvania.  She married Rev. Robert Hamilton in 1848, shortly before William E left.

So far, all of this is supposition.  How do we prove it?

With great difficulty, is the answer.  Although the thought did come to me tonight, that I have never researched William E in Ireland.  I’ve always been busy looking for him in Pennsylvania.  So off to search!


Upping Sticks: What happened to the Black children?

Updated: 2 January 2016

I recently spent time reading through my Grandad’s notes on the Black family again.  I thought I might detail what happened to Robert and Rachel Black’s children – both from Grandad and his second cousin Jane’s research and what I’ve subsequently found out.

Robert William (1848-1931)

My gg-grandfather was sent back to Ireland in 1872 to marry my gg-grandmother Emily Kinley Wilson who had been born in Pennsylvania.  I’ve detailed their life and his partnership with Robert Beattie in Black, Beattie & Co at the Criterion.

Greacen Joseph (1850-1932)

Greacen was Jane’s grandfather.  And while Grandad has great notes about his children (Jane’s father, aunts and uncles), he hasn’t written anything on Greacen himself.  So this is a potted biog from my own notes.

Greacen lived in Akaroa for many years, farming there and running a shop  named Criterion like his father’s in Christchurch.  From local paper reports it would appear his brother Richard on and off too.

Greacen diversified his farming activities to the East Cape and moved to Gisborne in 1905.  He was a noted collector and his collections can now be found in the Tairawhiti Museum in Gisborne.

Greacen married Mary McKay in 1879 and had 8 children at Akaroa, of whom 6 survived to adulthood.  I’m in touch with Jane’s family, so if you’re after more information on Greacen, get in touch and I’ll pass it along.

Henry / “Harry” (1852-1899)

Harry started out working for his father and then went out on his own.  A letter dated 9 July 1879 from Greacen says:

Harry is on his own hook now, but I don’t think he is making a pile.  I think he flirts a good deal up in Christchurch.  I don’t see much of him myself.

Grandad didn’t find much more on Harry in or near Christchurch, but his alleged womanizing ways were compounded by his drinking (shock! horror! to the teetotal Black family).  Later, Harry moved to Australia and ended up in Hobart where he was thought to have died around 1894.

From Grandad’s notes, Henry does seem to have left the most amusing impression on his nephews and nieces.  I quote:

By family tradition Harry died of the booze.  His death is known to have been held up to his nephews as an awful warning of the results of the demon drink.

To achieve this by age 42 would require quite diligent application.  The writer therefore wonders whether in Robt Wm’s certainly teetoal and possibly dour Presbyterian household Harry’s thirst may have been exaggerated.  The lack of a death certificate, which might cast some light on the matter, is regretted.

Grandad was looking in the wrong time period for Harry’s death.  A family story that his uncle Tom has been sent to Hobart to pay Harry’s debts after his death.  Tom just missed catching the Wairarapa home.  The Wairarapa wrecked on Great Barrier Island with the loss of 121 of the 235 people on board.  This occurred on 29 October 1894.  Grandad spent a great deal of time looking for Harry’s death around then but could not find it.

Because he died in 1899.  The death entry in Hobart matches with family notices in Christchurch newspapers stating that he died at his sister’s house.

So did he die of the demon drink?  Official cause of death is “caries of the spine” which I believe is a form of TB.  His occupation is listed as “tutor”.

George Wilson (1853-1868)

The existence of George was unknown to Grandad and Jane until 1979 when Grandad found Robert and Rachel’s grave in Christchurch.  George was buried with them.  His death certificate shows he died of consumption (TB) at Akaroa.  Grandad’s notes state there was no medical facility in Akaroa for consumptives at the time, so the location of his death is unknown.  Greacen is believed not to have moved there until 1871.

Richard Blakely (1855-???)

I have a separate post about my hunt for Richard.  He allegedly left New Zealand in 1879 for the US to study at a seminary college in Kentucky!!  I think he might have ended up in Victoria, Australia, but details are still sketchy.  No one in New Zealand currently knows what happened to him and the possible suspect in Australia left no children.

Before he left, Richard spent time in Akaroa with Greacen.  They were members of the Akaroa Mutual Improvement Society.  In April 1877, he presented a paper on “Courtship and Marriage“.  Richard’s departure soon after was mourned by the Society who noted “He would doubtlessly have been a tower of strength to the society, being enthusiastic in the cause, and possessed of superior debating power” (Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, 20 April 1877).

Elizabeth Rachel (1857-1901)

Grandad made the following notes on Elizabeth:

In 1879 she married Charles F Creswell, a seed merchant in Sydney and went to live there.  Nothing more is known of her husband nor how she met him nor of her life in Australia.

She died of peritonitis at Hobart on 3.9.1901, aged 45.  The Creswells are not thought to have had any children.

Elizabeth and Charles married in Christchurch.  He was the son of Charles Frederick Creswell which makes things confusing, but they ran a well respected and successful business in Tasmania.  I still know nothing of how they met.

As for the no children….  A tree on Geni has suggested they had 3.  Trove online newspapers quickly filled in the blanks and confirmed:

  1. Harvey – 1884-1945 – born in Sydney
  2. Laurie May – 1892-? – born in Sydney – married Arthur William Henry Stallwood
  3. Arthur Robert – 1897-1974 – born in Hobart

I’ve found Arthur’s birth record and his WWI service record.  He was last heard of by the military in 1967 in Sydney.  His record includes a letter from his sister Laurie in 1919 wondering where he has got to.  I wasn’t sure if Arthur had any children (his siblings did), but as noted below in the comments, he did.

Harvey inherited his parent’s house at 67 Arthur Street, Hobart.  There’s still a house there of about the right era.

Sarah (1861-1863)

The existence of Sarah, like George, was unknown.  Jane found her on the Fiery Star’s passenger list.  Further research found the Fiery Star newsletter which details Sarah’s early death at sea and her burial.

Can Alien Ladies Vote?

Updated 19 September 2017 (124th Anniversary of the Suffrage Vote)

New Zealand is very proud of the fact that it was the first “country” (it was still really a British colony) to give women the vote.  The Electoral Act 1893 was enacted on 19 September 1893 in preparation for 28 November elections.

My gg-grandmother Emily Kinley Wilson, Mrs Robert William Black had signed the 1893 Petition and was likely a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) as the Black family were noted as being teetotal (some more research is needed here!).

But I couldn’t find her on the 1893 Electoral Roll.  I originally thought that perhaps she just signed the petition because everyone else was, until I realised one small detail – Emily was an alien.

No, not a little green man, but a person who was not born a British subject.

Emily had been born in Pennsylvania and as an American was an alien.  However, under section 6 of New Zealand’s 1866 Aliens Act, upon her marriage to Robert William (born in Ireland therefore a British subject) she became a naturalised British subject by marriage (under s14 of the Aliens Act 1880).

So why, on 26 September 1893, did she lodge naturalisation papers?  In order to vote?  Surely she didn’t need to?

Photos 2015-11-18 003

This letter to Canterbury’s Star newspaper (from Papers Past) on the same day shows that there was some confusion over alien women and naturalisation by marriage:

Star - 26-09-1893 Can Alien Ladies Vote - header

Star - 26-09-1893 Can Alien Ladies Vote

Another news item in the Bruce Herald (Otago) on 6 October indicates that the question came up in Parliament on 2 October.  The Hon Sir Patrick Buckley confirmed the right of alien women married to British Subjects to vote.

NZ Hansard 2-10-1893 Snippet
Extract from the Hansard – 2 October 1893

Which is interesting, because when you search the Hansard, you find the Premier Mr Richard “King Dick” Seddon answering the same questions and promising to send a circular to Registrars to set them straight – on September 29.  There is where I could make some comment about men and their listening….?

I asked Graham Langton, previously of Archives NZ, about the situation.  He said that firstly I should check the Supplemental Rolls for the 1893 Electoral Roll.  Many women voters were listed on the Supplemental Rolls because some of the main Rolls had been finalised months before the new legislation allowing them to vote had been enacted.

He was right – there was Emily.  So she was able to vote in that election.

He also suggested that I check back at Archives to see when Emily’s naturalisation was granted.  Which I have done.  And it wasn’t (see below for how to access the naturalisation list).

So, it would appear that Emily did not need to be naturalised to vote.  As she already was, by marriage.  But briefly a mountain was made out of a molehill!

Some further sources

Women, the vote and the 1893 election – New Zealand Parliament

Search the 1893 Suffrage Petition for you ancestress

Archway – search for naturalisation papers

Archives NZ Guide to Citizenship

Archives NZ – Register of Persons Naturalised in New Zealand before 1949 – listed alphabetically by surname – click on the relevant page number on the left – remember married women generally were not naturalised as they got their citizenship through their husbands

New Zealand Historical Hansard – once you’re in a parliamentary session you can search the text.

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 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.

Black Beattie & Co at the Criterion

My Grandad, being an engineer, was very interested in the buildings his forebears in Christchurch had owned and sometimes built.  He researched some of them in quite a lot of detail and wrote them up in his notes on the family history.

This post is about the Criterion.  It follows on from Upping Sticks: the Black Family and continues the story of the Black family in Christchurch – following the business career of my gg-grandfather Robert William Black (RW) (1848-1931).

I’ll quote my Grandad’s notes for the first part:

In 1882 a decision was taken to move the drapery shop from rented premises on Lichfield St corner to a new building to be built and owned by Robt Wm a few doors north in High St.

On 15.5.1882 Robt Wm leased from Elizabeth and Amelia Watson, spinster sisters, Lot 2 DP 20 405 with a frontage of 12m to High St area 301 m2 and an alleyway to Lichfield St behind.  The lease was for 30 years from 26.3.1883 at a fixed rental of £560 per annum, not renewable.  On this site, Robt Wm covenanted to erect before 30.9.1884 a building in permanent materials worth £2000.

When the lease expired in 1913 the building would become the property of the Watson sisters, so Robt Wm had 30 years in which to recover its cost.  Since he was 35 at the time, the scheme was apparently intended to see him through to retirement at age 65.

A new building

The new building was called Criterion House.  It formed two-thirds of the building at 201-205 High Street, Christchurch (now 225-227).  The other third was known as Bonnington House and at that point was home to George Bonnington’s Bonnington’s Chemists, home of the famed Irish Moss cough elixir.

But RW’s lease was only for his two thirds of the land…

Grandad gives more info:

Robt Wm and Bonnington made a rather unusual arrangement by which they would erect what was structurally one three storey building covering both sites, but divided internally by a partition wall on their common boundary.  Each would pay for and own the portion on his own land.

One architect, TR Lambert, designed the whole structure to a uniform style, but it was build by two different contractors, William Prudhoe for Bonnington and BR Best for Black.

The Architect

The building was designed by Thomas Stoddart Lambert (1840-1915).  Lambert was born in Selkirk, Scotland and arrived in Christchurch in 1874 via Edinburgh, Wellington and Marton.  After his time in Christchurch he moved on to Dunedin and then Wellington.

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand 1897 has a comprehensive biography of his life to that point.  He was a busy boy having designed, amongst various houses, schools, churches, halls and warehouses:

  • The Jewish Synagogue
  • Sydenham Wesleyan Church
  • Y.M.C.A. buildings
  • the Opera House
  • the Bank of N. Z. banking premises at Oxford
  • the Junction Hotel, Rangiora
  • Christchurch 1882 International Exhibition buildings

The combined Black Beattie & Co/Bonnington’s building cost £5,200.

Te Papa have this fantastic photo of the building taken by the Burton Brothers in the 1880s.  If you zoom in you can see ‘Black Beattie & Co’ written on the first floor windows.  It looks like the staff are lined up on the footpath, but I have no idea who is who.

High Street - Black Beattie + Co c1880s

According to my Jackman cousins, the new Criterion Building:

was the first building in New Zealand to be fitted with a pneumatic document carrying system, which connected the shop counters with a central cashier to whom the customer’s payments would be dispatched. The cashier would then return the change and receipts to the shop assistants in cartridges that were driven along overhead pipes by compressed air.

Black Beattie & Co

Robert Black officially retired in 1883, leaving RW to take over with a new business partner Robert Beattie.

The new partnership was Black Beattie & Co.  Beattie, originally from Scotland, was a draper from Dunedin.  Robert William managed the shop in Christchurch while Beattie traveled the South Island as the company’s sales representative.

The new partnership was first announced in Christchurch’s newspapers (found on the National Library’s Papers Past) on 1 September 1883.  A small snippet in the Local and General section of the Star Newspaper sums up the situation:

The building which is now nearly completed, adjoining Messrs Strange and Co.’s, will shortly be occupied by the new firm of Black and Beattie, drapers. The old-established firm of R. and RW Black has been dissolved, Mr B. Black, sen, withdrawing, and Mr B. Beattie, well known in Christchurch for some years past, becoming partner with Mr B. W. Black.

The Press contains a potted version of this in their News of the DayThe official public notices of the dissolution of the old and the establishment of the new were only lodged in the Press.  RW, having learnt at his father’s knee the value of advertising, took no time to advertise Black Beattie & Co were open for business:

Press - 1-09-1883 - Black Beattie & Co

The Star on 29 September, 1883 announced in Local and General that:

Messrs Black, Beattie and Co., Criterion House, more into their new building in High street during next week. A millinery department will form a new feature in the establishment.

This is followed up on 1 October in the Press with:

Press - 1-10-1883 - Criterion House opening

The promotion of the new premises continued in their advertising well into December 1883, when, not very surprisingly, it was replaced by Christmas advertising.

And so business was off.  The newspapers show consistent advertising of wares, the arrival of shipments and the occasional debt collection via the courts.

Grandad notes that as RW had entered into all the business arrangements alone, Beattie “does not seem to to have been admitted for financial reasons”.  Beattie was also involved in agricultural business – advertising the buying and selling of horses.

The signboard case

In May 1884 they applied to the Council to put up a sign board.  The Star reports their failure:


The Surveyor said an application had been made for a permit for Messrs Black, Beattie and Co. to erect a sign-board, but he had replied that the board could not be permitted.

Councillor Ayers said the Works Committee had acted upon the By-laws and The Municipal Corporations Act.” and had given instructions that no more sign-boards of the description should be allowed. They did not interfere with sign-boards already existing.

The Press reports the ban being of “unsightly signboards extending over the footpath”.  Obviously the signs in the windows were not enough.

Council reports in June 1884 indicate they had put up the sign under the verandah of Criterion House (it’s not clear whether this was before or after they were told they couldn’t!).  There is the impression that Black Beattie & Co thought the council were being arbitrary in their application of old bylaws.  But the council weren’t budging on their no.

So off to court they went.  On 23 June, 1884 the judge found for the Council and fined the two defendants (Black Beattie & Co and P Cairns) 5 shillings.

But it doesn’t end there. During July 1884 there was a flurry of letters in the Lyttelton Times both for and against the sign.  But a letter from “Black Beattie & Co” on July 3 seems to have upset the Council.  After pointing out that they weren’t the only ones putting up signs, and were the Mayor and councilors going to take down the signs on their businesses, it goes on to quote some Councillors saying they thought “that the motion of the Council was tyrannical and unjust”.

The Press on 15 July reports on the council’s reaction to that letter.    The City Surveyor Mr Walkden clarifies that they were told no and when it was put up, it was taken down.

And that would appear to be that.

The Thursday Half-Holiday Movement

In October 1885 the Christchurch Early Closing Association came into being.  The Dean of Christchurch was its chair and it had many of the leading lights of the city.  They were campaigning for businesses to close early on Thursdays.

Why?  “The tyranny of custom had hitherto deprived large numbers of both sexes of their legitimate opportunities for wholesome recreation”  Then only female factory workers got anything like a weekend.  The average shop worker worked a 6 day week, including late night on Saturday after everyone got paid.

A large number of Christchurch businesses including Black Beattie & Co signed up to closing on Thursdays afternoons.  So imagine the stink when some anonymous person lodged an ad on 5 December 1885 stating that the “leading drapers and clothiers of Christchurch will keep open on Thursday afternoons”.  Fortunately, news of this ad must have gotten out as all the “leading drapers and clothiers” have ads following stating that they would close.

Other snippets from the Newspapers

Here is a random list of mentions Black Beattie & Co got over the years:

  • giving toys to the homeless refuge known as the Armagh Street Depot (Dec 1884)
  • having “a very good display” of colourful costumes and lights for Christmas 1887
  • providing prizes for the “handicap race” at the North Canterbury Caledonian Society – think Highland Games (Mar 1888)
  • RW was Treasurer of the British and Foreign Bible Society, R Beattie a member (Mar 1888)
  • R Beattie a member of a deputation of “soft goods importers” wanting an expert in their products appointed to judge tarifs on imports (Dec 1888)
  • had property stolen from the Gilchrist brothers (Feb 1889)
  • the Criterion shop was the site of an accident in 1894 which injured Margaret Horne Pyne and led to her premature death.

The end of the Partnership

In 1897, Beattie and two of his daughters traveled to England for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

From causes unknown, he died in London on 6.6.1897.  Since Victoria succeeded on 20.6.1837, he appears to have missed the show too.

Apologies if my Grandad offends anyone.  He had a very black sense of humour.  Robert Beattie’s obituary in the Press gives further details of his earlier life and family.

RW continued in business until 1905.  With none of his or Beattie’s sons in the business, he assigned the remaining years of the lease to Thomas Coverdale, chairman and managing director of the neighbouring drapery business W Strange & Co.  In 1913 when the lease expired, W Strange & Co bought the land from the surviving Watson sister Mrs Bullock Webster.

The business continued to trade under the name Black Beattie & Co until 1908:

Press- 3-01-1908 - Closure of BB&Co

Around this time, RW and his wife Emily sold their house “Holmwood” in Fendalton and moved to Auckland.  There they remained until Robert William’s death in 1931 and Emily’s in 1939.  Their house at 11 Fairfax Road, Epsom (now Alpers Avenue) became club rooms for the Carlton Bowling Club until 2001 when it was sold to a property developer and was demolished to make way for the Off Broadway Motel.

The Criterion today

When I first looked up the Criterion on Google Streetview, my main reaction was OMG.  It looked terrible.  But the photos dated from 2007 when it was known as the Galaxy Records Building.  So I was left wondering how it had fared in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.  My hopes were not high.

So it was wonderful to do a bit of search on the address and find Shaun Stockman’s KPI Rothschild Property Group Ltd‘s website and this:

The Company purchased the building in July 2006. The building had suffered a party wall rupture in 1984 and soon after a fire on the top floor had rendered the two top floors unhabitable. Four tenants traded from the building until 2007, when we commenced a full restoration and upgrade programme for the entire building which saw the sandstone facade restored and the original shop fronts replicated to the exact original. A steel and concrete frame was constructed inside the original structure. The top floors were reconstructed as a range of individually sized ultra modern offices with a shared gym with shower, boardroom and kitchen facilities and chill spaces over both floors. The ground floor now houses a funky cafe and three other retailers.

You can see photos of now, before and well before on the High Street Stories website.  It’s now called the Above building.

Upping Sticks: The Black Family on the ‘Fiery Star’

This post is part of ‘Upping Sticks: the Black Family‘.  If your interest is in the Black family you might want to start there.  If not, keep reading.

The Fiery Star

The Fiery Star was a 1360 ton clipper owned by the Black Ball Line (part of James Baines & Co). She was a wooden vessel built in 1851.  Originally named Comet, she was purchased by the Black Ball Line in 1863 from Buckton & Crane of New York.

She made two voyages with immigrants to Queensland, Australia from England and Ireland in 1863 and 1864.  Rather confusingly both arrived in Moreton Bay, Brisbane on 20 November of their respective years.  On both voyages she was captained by W H Yule.

Immigration Companies and Societies

Quite a lot of immigration in the 19th Century was organised by companies or societies who were looking for specific types of immigrants or looking to settle a particular area.  The Fiery Star was bringing out immigrants for two of these:

  • The Queensland Immigration Society (QIS) attracting mainly Catholic immigrants from the King’s County in Ireland to Brisbane.  It had two major promoters – parish priest Father Patrick Dunne and the first Roman Catholic bishop of Queensland James Quinn.  Rev. Dunne was onboard the 1863 Fiery Star voyage.
  • The Queensland Co-Operative Cotton Growing and Manufacturing Company, established by Charles Bushell and Benjamin Babbage, was targeting unemployed workers from Manchester’s cotton mills.

Were the Black family part of these immigration schemes?  There is no documentation as to which of the passengers was sponsored by which group or who was an independent passenger.  However, the Black family were neither Catholic nor from Manchester and they paid for their passage, so they were independent passengers.

The 1863 voyage

The Fiery Star left Gravesend on 11 August 1863 having embarked 324 passengers.  She picked up another 230 at Queenstown (Cork) which included the Black family.  This made a total of 554 – she was chartered to take 470 “statute adults”!  So the ship was very overcrowded.

To make unpleasant conditions even worse, she took 94 days to get from Cork to Brisbane instead of around 70.  They didn’t have favourable trade winds north of Madeira and east of Brazil, and the final leg up the east coast of Australia was also very slow.  Some days they traveled less than 100 miles – to put this in context, their total journey was 17,215 miles!

The only upside is that she seems to have been well supplied.  The schedule signed off by Captain Yule on 17 August notes:

I hereby certify that the Provisions actually laden on board this Ship are sufficient, according to the requirement of the Passengers’ Act, for 460 Statute Adults, for a Voyage of 140 days.

They finally arrived on 20 November probably to the relief of all.

The Black family on the Fiery Star

The Black family were second cabin passengers.  There were Robert Black, his wife Rachel (nee Greacen), 7 children and their maid Susan McQurke (aged 23). They all gave their nationality as “Scotch” rather than Irish.

Despite being second cabin passengers, Robert and his sons Robert William (15) and Greacen (13) were listed as ‘labourers’ on the passenger list.  My Grandad (probably not knowing they traveled in the second cabin) noted that ‘labourer’ was:

a term which probably included farm workers. Since (Robert) transported a large family across the world to Australia and then to NZ, where he at once set up a substantial business, he clearly had much more money that this designation would suggest.

“The mortality was not great, only nine deaths” (Brisbane Courier) which sadly for the Black family, included their youngest daughter Sarah who died at sea on September 22.  Dr Luce, the ship’s surgeon records it thus in the voyage newsletter (Sept 26):

I am sorry, however, I cannot close my weekly bulletin without having to record one death amongst our number during the past week, viz., that of an affectionate and most interesting little girl, between two and three years old, the child of our respected and esteemed second-cabin passengers, Mr and Mrs Black.  She was taken ill about a fortnight since, with a cold and febrile attack, followed, towards the end of her illness, by inflammation of the lungs, which she sunk under after the most patient endurance of her sufferings (from beginning to end) on Tuesday last.  I need scarcely add, that the warmest and sincerest sympathy has been alike felt and expressed for the bereaved parents by all around them, who have the pleasure of their acquaintance: and I am glad to further add, that they sustain their loss with the most exemplary Christian fortitude and submission.

It makes this parent of a small child (currently with a chest infection!) very glad of the discovery of anti-biotics!

It gets sadder with the report of Sarah’s burial at sea in the voyage newsletter:

A melancholy cermonial took place on Tuesday, viz., the burial of an interesting little girl, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Black of the second cabin.  A burial at sea is a solemn and trying cermony, and has often been described, but no one who has not witnessed it can know the feeling of deep regret with which even a stranger sees the body cosigned to the vasty deep.  What then must be the grief of the bereaved parents, around who knees the departed had played or prattled in happier house, and whose tottering footsteps they watched with such anxious hopefulness.

Sarah was one of 9 children who died on the voyage.  Somewhat representative of the times, Dr Luce thought this number reasonable given the crowded conditions.

After the voyage

Newspaper articles published after the Fiery Star‘s arrival give the impression that all was well with the journey.  There was even a cricket game organised between the saloon passengers and locals (the passengers lost).  However, the overcrowding was quickly reported to the Government Immigration Office in Brisbane.

The submission by A C Kemball on 26 November includes a report from Dr Luce and letters of complaint from the passengers (the originals can be found in the Queensland State Archives).  These include one from Robert Black:

Robert Black on behalf of himself, his wife, seven children and Susan McGusk, servant.  One child having died since we came on board, six children remaining, Maketh complaint and saith that the apartments allotted to him and which he occupied on board the ship “Fiery Star” Sailing from London to Brisban were two rooms number 9 and 10 in the Second Cabin for which he paid the sum of £187.10/- That one of those rooms being next the water closet emitted a very offensive smell the greater part of the journey.  Also that the floor of same was wet when I first entered it at Queenstown.  Same day a person who I believed occupied it from London to Queenstown said it was wet and that I would need to put some boards under my trunks to keep them out of the wet.

It was damp and wet less or more from that time until the 7th October at which time I was very sick and lying in bed when I was awoke with the rushing of water in the cabin in which I was lying.  On examining I found water from 1 to 6 inches in both cabins.  My trunks and boxes have been wet a considerable way yup.  The clothing in them has been very much damaged.  A quantity of it almost rendered useless.  My family have suffered very severe sickness for may weeks occasioned I believe to a great extent from the offensive smell and continual water and damp they were subjected to.  My servant had to go to Hospital for several weeks from soreness in her limbs and swollen feet I believe brought on from the damp day and night.

I had chloride of lime put in the cabin next the water closet for several weeks by Doctors orders.  In fact, my family were all healthy and strong until subjected to the quarters they had to live in since we came on board.

Their illness was all of a similar kind and I believe to be attributed in a great measure to the impure air and continual damp which they were subject to during the day and necessarily would inhale during the night.

I had the attention of the Doctor and also the Captain called to the state we were in on two occasions.  The Captain expressed himself that if he had not seen it he cold not have believed we were so flooded.  I also asked the Doctor and Captain to take a memorandum of the state in which my cabins were on their visit, as their testimony might be required hereafter.

On my servants recovery I asked the Doctor to allow her some place to sleep in for the remainder of the journey, as I was afraid if she slept in her former place it being near the water closet her disease might return.  He don so, and since that time she has not occupied it.

The Distance from my first Cabin to the water closet is 1 3/4 inches and with the quantity of water that was about the closet from day to day it could not be otherwise that offensive and injurious to health.

This is only a condensed statement of my complaints as I have particulars more fully written down as they occurred, and which I am prepared to proved by respectable witnesses.

I claim to be compensated by the owners or agents of the ship “Fiery Star” for the damage to health and loss of property I have sustained as stated in the foregoing complaint.

I don’t know if Robert got any compensation.  I do find it strange that Sarah’s death wasn’t mentioned.  The conditions sound like they weren’t too good for her either.  But it’s likely that it just wasn’t done like that back then.

When I mentioned to my Jackman cousins that the original of this document was in Queensland’s Archives, one said “I’m taking Mum for a holiday there in a few months, I’ll go and have a look”.  A few days later he emailed “can’t wait, have sent the nephew down to find it!”.  Here it is:

Robert Black's Original Letter OriginalLetterPage2

Further Information

Newspaper articles can be found on Trove digitized newspapers (National Library of Australia)

Voyage newsletter – on the National Library of Australia website

“They Came Direct: Immigration Vessels to Queensland: Fiery Star 1863” by Eileen B Johnson

Includes transcripts of many of the documents quoted above.

I found a copy in the State Library of Queensland so check out your local library.

“Out of the frying pan: voyaging to Queensland in 1863 on board the Fiery Star” by Kerry Heckenberg published in the Queensland Review, August 2010.

Contains information from ‘They Came Direct’ and other sources

You can find a copy of this online if you have access to Gale World History in Context site (which you do through Wellington Libraries if you live here in Wellington).

The fate of the Fiery Star

The Fiery Star‘s voyage back to London from Brisbane in 1865 was her last.  The 1966 Encyclopedia of New Zealand summarises it in its “Disasters and Mishaps – Shipwrecks” section:

Burning of Fiery Star

The Fiery Star, a full-rigged clipper of 1,361 tons, London-bound from Brisbane, met with misadventure of the worst kind—fire at sea—when 150 miles northwest of the Chatham Islands. Fire broke out in her cargo of wool on 19 April 1865, and a course was set for Hauraki Gulf; but after four days the captain decided to abandon ship. Seventy-eight of her passengers and crew, with Captain W. H. Yule, took to the boats, and were never seen again, but the chief officer and 17 of the crew who stayed behind and fought the flames for nearly three weeks, while at the same time working the ship towards land, were taken off by the ship Dauntless half an hour before the Fiery Star foundered in a mass of flames. They were then only about 15 miles from the New Zealand coast.

Burning of the Fiery Star - engraving

This engraving of the burning by Frederick Grosse can be found on the State Library of Victoria’s website.  And NZ Bound has a further summation of the information available including the names of the surviving crew.

I have wondered what exactly the Fiery Star was doing off the Chatham Islands which are 680km (420mi) south-east of New Zealand.  It would imply they were going around Cape Horn – the Panama Canal didn’t exist at this point.  It is noted as being the most hazardous way of getting from Australia to Europe.  Not a route I would have picked!

So, if we’ve learnt anything, don’t put the word ‘Fiery’ in the name of your ship!  It’s tempting fate.

Myths & Legends: Panama Hats

Every family history has a large number of myths and legends.  This is the first in a series of posts about the little stories that are or aren’t true.

The Myth

According to my Grandad’s notes, my gg-grandfather Robert William Black was the first to import panama hats to New Zealand.  Robert William worked in his father Robert Black’s haberdashery and drapery shop, the Criterion, in Christchurch.  In 1872 he was sent to Ireland to get married.  On the way he passed through Panama and supposedly bought some hats.

Here’s how Grandad summed it up:

By family account, he was provided with money to buy stock for the shop while he was abroad and at Panama he bought a large quantity of panama hats, said to be unknown in NZ at that time.  When he learned of this, his father was very angry, accused his son of ruining the business and so forth.  However, Robt Wm disagreed, claiming that the hats would be popular with harvesters and in the event they were sold at a good profit.  So, the Black family claims credit for introducing the panama hat into NZ.

The Truth

Robert was a prolific advertiser.  The first ads in Christchurch’s The Press after Robert William’s return mention his shopping trip but do not mention panama hats.  Perhaps this is how his father showed his displeasure.

5-4-1873 The Press

Source: Papers Past – Press, Volume XXI, Issue 2393, 5 April 1873, Page 1

Or perhaps they weren’t that “new” to New Zealand.  A quick search of Papers Past finds panama hats for sale in Nelson in 1855!

Panama Hats 29-9-1855 Nelson Chronicle

Source:  Papers Past – Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XIV, Issue 53, 29 September 1855, Page 1

But they were being sold by a Black!!!!  Just not one of ours (so far!).

So Panama Hats – debunked

Robert William was right about them being good for those who worked in the sun as an advert in the New Zealand Tablet in 1873 “proves”:

Panama Hats 1-11-1873 New Zealand Tablet

Source: Papers Past – New Zealand Tablet, Volume I, Issue 27, 1 November 1873, Page 6

All you needed to know about panama hats from Wikipedia.