Social media 1860s style – The logbooks of Joseph Munnings

You might have heard of people who keep a diary of their daily lives, recording their thoughts and special occasions. Some of us still do, and have little interest in using social media to share our most intimate thoughts and what we had for dinner with friends, workmates, friends of a friends, and that random stranger who you talked to once and ‘friended’.

I’m fairly certain that when Joseph Munnings wrote an account of his daily life he couldn’t foresee that it would be available for public scrutiny 150 years later – or that it would be of interest to anyone else. But it is. We are very fortunate to have the digitised copies of his ‘Log Books’ that date from May 1862 to November 1866 available for us to have a sneak peek into his world.

Diary, May 1862 to May 1864, Joseph Munnings. ANZC Archives. CCL-Arch971-01-002
Diary, May 1862 to May 1864, Joseph Munnings. ANZC Archives. CCL-Arch971-01-002

Joseph’s Log Books served to answer some questions that I didn’t know that I had. Like how did people of the time spend Christmas and New Years? Strangely he didn’t mention that he liked one particular gift over another and there were no plans to return unwanted pressies on Boxing Day! Maybe it was because he had to work – his shop was open six days a week and he was busy on Sunday teaching Sunday School before he went to evening services. He did however mention that he spent Christmas day with the Harringtons and some time at the Lunatic Asylum and there was preaching involved – his words not mine! Okay so that poses more questions than it answers.

I particularly enjoyed his account of the post-Christmas 1865 Bazaar that he both worked at and patronised in a paddock at Governors Bay. There was casual mention of his soon-to-be-betrothed being in attendance and a marquee was erected to house the food, refreshments and Christmas tree. Some 400 people were brought out to the event via Cobb and Co. coach or cart as well as numerous trips from Lyttelton by the steamer Betsy Douglas. They ate well – fowls, ducks, pigeon pie, ham, beef, mutton, lamb and spiced beef. Well, that kept all the carnivores happy but they also had salads, cucumbers, cakes, fruits of all kinds – and it was all washed down with ginger beer, lemonade, tea or coffee. “Sixpence if you please” for your cup of tea. Sounds divine – I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Amusements were provided, balloons sent up, quoits were played and “kissing in the ring – a favourite with the young”. No doubt!

My romantic side has read between the lines on this occasion and decided that as his ‘beloved’ was also in attendance. I think it’s possible he proposed marriage to her as he was asking for her father’s consent to marry her by the 4th of January 1866. Next question: A Saturday wedding in spring with a honeymoon to Kaikoura or Akaroa? Time to put aside such romantic notions … how about a midweek ceremony in late July instead – and they were by all accounts still entertaining guests past midnight. Well, at least there was the honeymoon to look forward to … except Joseph was back working in his shop by Friday. However, I think we can rest assured that there was romance between them because his wife featured quite regularly in his log and they had 11 children over the years.

Maybe this is where we get the impression that they lived a simpler life back then. Joseph was simply grateful to have made it to the year’s conclusion and then wondered if he would see the new year through to its end. A noble aspiration methinks.

You can read more about Joseph in the The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District] available on NZETC.

Joseph Munnings
Joseph Munnings The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District], NZETC
So, if you’re like me and would prefer to read about historical life events rather than how someone else had a better weekend than you, then make sure you have a look at:

For those of us that like pictures because it makes it brings it alive on a different level – Geoffrey W. Rice has some amazing books to take a look at.

Captain Anthony Wilding – Wimbledon champion, killed in action 9 May 1915

Captain Anthony Wilding was the first and – so far – the only New Zealander to win a Wimbledon championship.

Anthony Frederick Wilding. Making New Zealand :Negatives and prints from the Making New Zealand Centennial collection. Ref: MNZ-0971-1/4-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

His record in the International Tennis Hall of Fame reads:

Career Achievements

Top Ranking

World No. 1 (1911)

Grand Slam Results
11-time major champion and 4-time finalist


Bronze Medal in Men’s Indoor Singles at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games

Davis Cup

Member of the Australasian Davis Cup Team 1905-1909, 1914

Member of the Australasian Championship Davis Cup Team 1907-1909, 1914

In 1913, while dominating Wimbledon, Wilding won world titles on clay (World Hard Court Championships), grass (World Lawn Tennis Championships) and wood (World Covered Court Championship).

The ‘dashing’ sportsman

Tennis had been a sport for ‘wealthy gentlemen’, but Anthony Wilding helped it gain greater popularity through his dedication to training and fitness. Former world heavyweight boxing champion Bob

Fitzsimmons – another New Zealander – advised him on his fitness regime so that he ran two or three times a week, skipped, and went for brisk walks, as well as playing tennis. He was much fitter than his opponents, and neither smoked nor drank alcohol (which was unusual for the time).

Described as ‘dashing’ Tony Wilding had the female spectators swooning because of his ‘manly brand of tennis’. He was reported as tall and fair, as well as ‘handsome, chivalrous and was always on the lookout for adventure’.

Early Life

Anthony Frederick Wilding on a motorcycle.
Anthony Frederick Wilding on a motorcycle. Taken at Off to John O’Groats from Land’s End. Ref: 1/2-049754-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Wilding was born at Opawa on October 31, 1883, one of five children of Frederick and Julia Wilding. Frederick Wilding played cricket for New Zealand, was a good horseman, footballer, athlete and oarsman. Sporting interests were strongly encouraged at the family home, Fownhope, and Anthony’s sister Cora was also well-known in Christchurch circles as an artist and founder of the Sunlight League of New Zealand. Young Tony excelled at swimming, shooting, riding and cricket, but once he started at Cambridge University in 1902 he became a dedicated tennis player.

Wilding in Europe

Wilding qualified for the New Zealand bar, but didn’t work as a lawyer, preferring to motorcycle around Europe, playing in the great tennis tournaments of the Riviera, Germany, Serbia, Hungary, Sweden and Norway. Shortly before the first world war he became a pilot.

When war broke out the British-based Wilding joined the Royal Marines, rising to the rank of captain in the Armoured Car Division, where his pre-war experience of driving in Europe was valued. He was killed aged 31 during the Battle of Aubers Ridge at Neuve Chapelle in northern France, and is buried in Rue-des-Berceaux military cemetery at Pas-de-Calais, France.

The home of Canterbury tennis is, of course, Wilding Park.

World War I soldiers, including Anthony Wilding, in an armoured Rolls Royce car, Dunkirk, France. Ref: 1/2-049756-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
World War I soldiers, including Anthony Wilding, in an armoured Rolls Royce car, Dunkirk, France. Ref: 1/2-049756-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

More readingCover of Anthony Wilding: A sporting life

Te Kupu o Te Wiki – Tātua (belt)

Kia ora. To encourage the use of Te Reo Māori we are publishing weekly kupu (words) and phrases that can be used with children.

Kupu (word)

belt (car, pram, clothing)

Whakamaua tō tātua, e te tau.
Fasten your belt, my darling.

Whāngahia te Reo

Introducing your Auckland Writers Festival 2016 angels

Good morning, Charlie (and also people not named Charlie)!

This week the Auckland Writers Festival 2016 begins (10-15 May) and again Christchurch City Libraries is sending a crack team of librarians up to the Big Smoke to absorb, experience and share the excitement of being in the midst of great writers of all kinds.

AWF Angels
Your AWF Angels, Roberta, Masha and Moata, are armed with bookish knowledge

Myself, Masha and Roberta will be your festival “angels” blogging, tweeting, snapping and interviewing our way through the fest beginning on Thursday 12 May and wrapping up on Sunday 15 May. So keep an eye here on the blog or the #awf16 hashtag if you want to stay updated on the festival comings and goings.

There are some extraordinary writers taking part in the festival this year from 81 year-old feminist legend, Gloria Steinem to Man Booker prize winner Marlon James and literary darling Hanya Yanagihara. For fans of smash bestseller (and soon to be released movie) The Girl on The Train, the presence of author Paula Hawkins is sure to raise some interest. Not to mention there being a raft of talented local writers of all stripes attending.

You can find out more by checking out the full festival programme.

What we’re looking forward to at Auckland Writers Festival 2016

Masha, Roberta and I share our picks for what’s good at this year’s event.



The author I am most looking forward to seeing is Liz Pichon, the creator of the amusing and very likeable character Tom Gates. Not only does Liz write every page of Tom’s story by hand, she also draws them  – doodling is as important part of her narative as is writing. Hopefully she will teach Auckland’s audience how to doodle and eat caramel wafers at the same time. Very important for future pacifists!

Liz is not the only super-all-in-one-author at the festival. Edward Carey also illustrates his own stories, though his ones are much more darker, eccentric and peculiar. His award-winning young adult Iremonger trilogy has been praised highly by many writers for its truly innovative and unusual imagination.

The rest of the authors that I’m going to see at the festival are all ramblers on the dark side (but another kind of dark): John Boyne with his World War II inspired young adult novels (The boy in the striped pyjamas, The boy at the top of the mountain), this years Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James with A brief history of seven killings (so dark I stopped reading after the first few chapters) and Paula Hawkins with last year’s domestic thriller hit The girl on the train. But please, do not fear! The vibe at the Aotea centre is so uplifiting, I can already see myself floating through the festival days with a big grin on my face, unwrapping each chocolate like it’s the last one!


MoataI adored The Goodies when I was kid so I would be lying if I said being in the presence of one Mr Bill Oddie isn’t looking like being a highlight for me. As well known for his conservation work and bird-watching as he is for his comedy (and music), it will be interesting to hear what he has to say.

As a science enthuisiast I’m also really looking forward to a session by Janna Levin. She is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University and has the inside word on all that recent hub-bub about the discovery of gravitational waves resulting from black holes crashing into one another. I expect her Gravitational Sensations session will be heady stuff. I hope I understand some of it!

Levin also features in my other top pick for the festival, The State of America, a session that couldn’t be any more timely, what with the eyes of the world turning towards the US presidential race – and widening at what they see there. Levin, with legendary feminist writer Gloria Steinem (I was gutted to miss out on tickets to her solo session but at least I can get to this one) and historical novelist, essayist and critic Thomas Mallon are set to discus and unpack their homeland (chaired by Guyon Espiner). I’m secretly hoping it’s equal parts brainy and scathing.


RobertaBest I give you three short quotes to whet your appetite:

  • Jeanette Winterson on writing and creativity: “Nothing kills creativity like dinginess… the small damp confines of the mediocre,…the compromising and the settling.” (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit)
  • Jane Smiley on how we love our children in different ways: “Who you are shapes how you are loved”. “You didn’t love us equally” said Debbie. “We loved you individually” answered her father. (Early Warning)
  • Vivian Gornick on her relationship with her best friend Leonard “We share the politics of damage. Our subject is the unlived life.” (The Odd Woman and the City)

These sentiments seem true to me. I have lived these things: the creative crises, the sibling rivalry and the bonds of best friends. And yet I could not have explained them better – or even half as well. So, Auckland here I come, ready to have my eyes opened, my brain prodded and my heart filled. Ready to be amazed.

Indeed. We’re all ready to be amazed. Please do come along and be amazed with us.

*Late edit: More tickets for An evening with Gloria Steinem became available, so I’m going after all!