At first glance there seems nothing remarkable about the swampy scrubland which lies in the shadow of Mount Harper on the northern banks of the Rangitata River. Separated from the valley road by the braided course of the river, it is easily bypassed by tourists, as they journey further inland to visit Mount Sunday, the filming location for Edoras in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is only when you closely examine the area using Google Maps satellite imaging that you notice an unusual circular patch of land. Long since overgrown, it shows signs of having been altered by human activity at some stage in its past.
A physical journey to the site, itself a difficult undertaking unless you are in possession of a boat or a 4WD, would offer more clues. There you would find the ruined remains of concrete culverts, causeways, bund walls, machinery, and buildings. These are the only reminders of a facility which, at one point, attracted up to 3,000 people in a single day; the Mount Harper ice rink.
Even at the beginning of the twentieth century, ice skating was already a well established pursuit for those who lived on the remote back country stations in the foothills of the Canterbury mountains. For early settlers in the nineteenth century, the winter months could be bleak and gloomy. One of the means of passing the time for those residing in the high country was ice skating. Newcomers to the region were told of lakes set further inland, which froze so hard during winter that a team of bullocks could be lead across the surface. Lake Ida, near Lake Coleridge, was one such popular destination for the sport.
In the 1860s, the owner of the Lake Coleridge run, Charles Harper, used to organise week long skating parties in which people from surrounding stations would be invited to participate. Each day the group would meet at his station and ride out to the Lake Ida, where they would enjoy a day of skating. In her account, Station Life in New Zealand, Mary Anne Barker, describes the setting of one such outing:
“On either hand rose up, shear from the water’s edge, a great, barren, shingly mountain; before us loomed a dark pine forest, whose black shadows crept up until they merged in the deep crevasses and fissures of the Snowy Range.”
Weekends in the mountains
Prior to the construction of the Mount Harper rink in 1931 and 1932, ice skating in Canterbury had largely been confined either to these high country residents (some of whom made their own private rinks), or members of winter sports clubs (in 1930 the Canterbury Winter Sports Club began construction of an ice skating rink and toboggan run on Mount Cheeseman at the foot of the Craigieburn Range).
Although it was a pastime which couldn’t be so easily undertaken by the average citizen of Christchurch, it was still popular enough for a local industry to arise. By 1934 Ice skates were being manufactured locally at the firm of P. and D. Duncan who used boots made in Christchurch by Duckworth, Turner and Company Limited. It was in this same year that a synthetic ice skating rink opened in Christchurch on Kilmore Street opposite the Caledonian Hall (it is possible that it was not feasible to operate, as by 1936 it appears to have become a roller skating rink).
That outdoor skating was a popular activity for the people of Christchurch can be seen by a 1937 article in The Press which estimated that up to 600 people left the city every winter weekend to find suitable locations for skating.
The Mount Harper ice rink
The Mount Harper rink was constructed by Wyndham Barker (1886-1958). The son of a Rangitata farmer, he developed a passion for ice skating while living abroad in Europe. Upon returning to Canterbury, it seems he had a desire to raise the profile of the sport in New Zealand. His rink would differ from other rinks in that it was the first purpose built public ice skating rink in Canterbury, and possibly the southern hemisphere.
The rink was set on land leased from Mount Possession Station, in a cold location which remained without sun between the months of May to August. After the first rink failed to prove satisfactory, another was constructed. The number of rinks expanded until there were at least eight (though not all were successful at forming ice). Buses would bring visitors all the way from Christchurch, and after crossing the Rangitata River on a punt, they would initially take in their surroundings from the warmth of the ‘skate shed’ (in reality more of a clubhouse and cafeteria) before venturing out onto the ice. There they could enjoy not only skating but tobogganing, curling, and ice yachting. Floodlights were also installed for those who were willing to brave the chill and skate at night.
Perhaps the most significant sport performed at the rink was ice hockey. In 1937 Barker established the Erewhon Cup, an ice hockey tournament which continues to this day.
The Mount Harper rink continued to provide the people of Canterbury with an array of winter sport activities until it was finally closed to the public in the 1950s. Left to fall into ruin, it is now located within the Hakatere Conservation Park and administered by the Department of Conservation.
Skating in the city
Despite the closure of the Mount Harper rink, the ice would soon come to Christchurch. When Victoria Lake in Hagley Park froze in 1945, it was followed by calls for a permanent artificial ice skating rink to be established in the city. In 1952 Centaurus ice rink opened at what is now 12 Centaurus Road, Cashmere. The rink operated until 1982 when it closed and was demolished. The location of the former rink became the site of Torvill and Dean Lane, which was named after British skaters, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who won a gold medal at the 1984 Winter Olympics for ice dancing.
In 1985 the Alpine Ice rink opened on Brougham Street. Today, the venue is the home of the ice hockey team, the Canterbury Red Devils (formed in 2005).
Do you have any images of ice skating in Canterbury or of the former ice skating rinks which you would like to contribute to Kete Christchurch?
In June 1917, the new tea house at the summit of Dyer’s Pass was officially opened.
“The new house at Dyer’s Pass, now half an hour’s walk from the tram terminus, appears destined to be known just as the Rest House, although in some quarters it is called the Toll House. It is a tea house unique in New Zealand.” (Star, 9 June 1917)
The building, designed by Samuel Hurst Seager, was described in the Star as “An inviting flight of red stone steps leads to the entrance, an open porch, with big plate-glass windows at each end. Across the porch is a deep jarrah beam, bearing the quaint carved inscription:-”
Jog on, jog on, the footpath way,
And merrily hent the stile-a,
A merry heart goes all the day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a
The Sign of the Kiwi, as it would later be known, was the third of four rest-houses that had been envisaged by Harry Ell as part of the Summit Road Scenic Reserve scheme. Unlike the other rest-houses, the Sign of the Kiwi, was planned to include a toll-house with the collected tolls going towards the construction of the remainder of the road. The Kiwi also provided tearooms, which Harry’s wife, Ada, took over managing in 1920. The collection of tolls and the management of the tearoom attracted some controversy and Harry would often write to the local papers letting his feelings be known about this subject.
In the 1940s the building was closed by the Department of Lands and Survey with responsibility for it being handed over to the Christchurch City Council after 1948. The building was then used as a custodian’s house and modified so that the only public access was to the porch. In 1989 the council began restoration of the Sign of the Kiwi to its original state and it was opened again as a refreshment and information centre.
The building was damaged in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake but after undergoing repairs it was reopened in January 2017.
Read more about the Sign of the Kiwi, Harry Ell and the Summit Road.
History tells us why she died. This captivating novel shows her as she lived.
Alison Weir has an impressive body of work as a historical writer – both non-fiction and fiction – but I was amazed that she was willing to start a huge new series entitled ‘Six Tudor Queens’.
So far she has published Katharine of Aragon: The True Queen and has followed this up with the queen I am most fascinated by – Anne Boleyn. True, Alison has written extensively on the Tudor period and possibly having previously written The Six Wives of Henry VIII had all the groundwork and research under her belt for such a massive endeavour …
My fascination for the 2nd consort of Henry VIII began as a child when I used to visit Hever Castle, the family home of the Boleyn family. Privately owned, but open to the public, there were huge grounds for kids to run themselves into exhaustion, Italian gardens, and an impressive lake. More importantly there was a small-scale castle with drawbridge over the moat that housed giant koi carp. Inside the castle there was abundant family history with an Armoury and severe looking family portraits – an ideal way to absorb an episode of English Tudor history!
There has been much information amassed about Henry’s reign and numerous mentions of Hever, but I knew very little about the formative years of Anne which is where this book – although fictional – is truly amazing. The early relationship that Anne had with her brothers and sister; the education received at the Courts of Burgundy and France, including an early introduction to feminist writers, were the details required to make Anne a much more sympathetic character than previously portrayed.
Through the narrative we begin to understand Anne’s motivations for her behaviour at the English Court, especially concerning her indifference to the increasingly besotted Henry VIII. Political and religious alliances through marriage was something the Monarch had to consider in case it weakened present and future Tudor rule and Anne’s romantic union with Henry Percy was quickly thwarted. Anne’s outrage at this ‘slight’ made her behaviour especially cool when dealing with the King – he was not used to this in women and it had the effect of increasing his romantic ardour.
Anne was quick to realise the power this infatuation gave her. She walked the precarious path to marriage and a Crown, quickly followed by a rapid descent once Henry VIII grew bored with her. Anne, for all her feminist intellect and political astuteness did not make the connection that she was still only female in a male-dominated society — and therefore her only requirement as Queen was to provide England with a male heir. That, coupled with her misguided belief that she was ‘equal’ to Henry, proved to be her undoing.
The personal panic I felt whilst reading this – a young woman who had seriously miscalculated her ability to keep her husband enthralled, and the lengths that Henry was prepared to go to ensure a son would succeed to the English Throne again illustrates the power of the writing.
The fact that Alison Weir takes us ‘along for the ride’ is positive testament to her ability as a writer. The reader cannot know with certainty what went on, but there is enough fact in this fictional tale to make it totally believable.
Kua ara ake ahau i te papa o te whenua
Kua kite ahau i ngā whetū e tūtaki tahi ana
Ko Matariki te kairūri
Ko Atutahi kei te taumata o te mangōroa
The scope of our imagination is from the earth to the stars Professor Te Wharehuia Milroy, Kura Reo ki Te Waipounamu 2014
Matariki 2017 is a fresh look through old eyes at Māori oral traditions, practices and customs associated with the Māori New Year. Over the next three years the Christchurch City Libraries will be re-introducing ‘Te Iwa o Matariki – the Nine stars of Matariki’ beginning with Te Kātao o Matariki – the water stars of Matariki, Waipuna-ā-rangi, Waitī, Waitā.
Nine or Seven? That is the question!
The star cluster of Matariki (Pleiades) has long been associated with the Greek tale of the seven daughters of Pleione and Altas, who, upon being harassed turned into doves and flew into the heavens. In this version of the story, two stars were not included in any traditions or commemorations, rather the mythical seven were embraced.
However history records that Māori were aware of the presence of more than seven visible stars within the cluster as noted by historian Elsdon Best in his 1955 book The Astronomical knowledge of the Māori:
“[Historian William] Colenso writes [in 1839 in the far north]: “I found that the Maori (sic) could see more stars in the Pleiades with the unaided eye than I could, for, while I could only see clearly six stars, they could see seven and sometimes eight.” (Best, 1922)
Associate Professor, Dr Rangi Matamua, Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, is a leading Māori astronomer. He has spent over 20 years researching indigenous astronomy. Awarded the 2014 Fulbright Scholarship – Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, Rangi used the grant to study how astronomy is embedded into the cultural practices of indigenous people. That same year he was successful in leading a group of Māori astronomers in securing funding from the Royal Society – Te Apārangi (the Marsden Fund) to continue this study. It is through his Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga research and the work of the Marsden Fund project Te Mauria Whiritoi that Rangi has re-confirmed that there are nine stars that constitute the star cluster of Pleiades or Matariki not just seven stars as commonly believed.
For this reason Rangi and Te Reo Māori Language expert, Paraone Gloyne produced an article in Mana Magazine reclaiming the two missing stars and providing an insight into Te Iwa o Matariki.
“Contrary to popular belief, there are nine stars in the constellation of Matariki, rather than seven. They all hold dominion over particular areas of our environment as seen from a Māori world view. They are; Matariki, Pōhutukawa, Waitī, Waitā, Waipuna-ā-rangi, Tupuānuku, Tupuārangi, Ururangi, and Hiwa-i-te-rangi. Traditionally, our ancestors did not just look at the constellation as a whole, but rather viewed each star individually, gaining an insight into the year ahead.” (Gloyne, Matamua, Mana, May 2016)
Puanga or not to Puanga?
For some iwi, Puanga not Matariki marks the start of the New Year as it rises just before Matariki. For others Puanga is seen as the pre-cursor to the rise of Matariki. It is Puanga that foretells the fortunes of the coming of the New Year by his appearance and placement when he first rises after the first new moon. It is Matariki who confirms it through her placement and appearance when she appears three days later.
According to some oral traditions, Puanga is the older brother of Takurua his younger brother, and his pretty younger sister Matariki. Jealous of the attention Matariki gets, “the task of Puanga is to strive ahead of Matariki that he may again take possession of the year for himself.” (Puanga, Star of the Māori New Year) It is for this reason he appears prior to Matariki in the hope that he may be heralded as the bringer of the New Year, only to be overlooked with the appearance of Matariki.
Does Matariki always rise in June?
No, the last quarter of the moon cycle known as the Tangaroa nights of the moon is when Matariki rises. This can vary from year to year but is always in the cold months from May to July. This year the rise of Matariki is from 17 to 20 June while the period of Matariki is from 17to 24 June.
On 2 May 1917, Ada Wells was the first woman elected to the Christchurch City Council.
I stand for better housing, for municipal markets, for proper working conditions for all employees, for rest-rooms and play gardens for mothers and children, I shall work for municipal activities in the direction of the uplifting of the people. We should have municipal educational lectures, music, encouragement of drama. We should have women inspectors. It must not be permitted that young boys shall sell newspapers on our streets until late hours… Municipality means the place which gives us freedom and shelter.
Reported on in the Maoriland Worker, 25 April 1917, the successful election of Ada Wells to the Christchurch City Council was “looked upon as certain” due to speeches like that above, her experience and her long standing commitment to improving the condition for women and children. She was 54 when she was campaigning to be elected to the Council for the St Albans Ward on a Labour ticket. Labour had only officially formed in 1916 in New Zealand, and they had the polarising campaign of being against compulsory military service during the First World War.
Her outspoken opinions made her a controversial figure to some, and a trailblazer to others. Ada was in favour of economic independence for married women, free kindergartens, universal access to secondary education, and the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act 1869. Her involvement with the Peace movement (anti-militarism and anti-conscription) were causes she fought for throughout her life.
Ada Wells had been instrumentally involved in the Women’s Rights campaigns with Kate Sheppard in the 1880s, and she knew that winning the vote for women in 1893 was only a step in gaining equality for women.
She became involved with many societies and organisations that aligned with her opinions. She established the Canterbury Women’s Institute with Professor Alexander Bickerton in 1892, and held the position of President for many years and was a founding member of the National Council of Women of New Zealand in 1896, also serving as their first secretary for many years.
By 1900 there were cracks in the ranks of the National Council of Women due to some members — including Ada — holding pacifist views. The National Council of Women supported New Zealand’s involvement in the South African War (1899-1902). The National Council of Women of New Zealand stopped operating in 1906, but the organisation was revived in 1918 partly due to what was perceived as the moral decline of the country’s youth.
Ada was also heavily involved with the Children’s Aid Society, Peace Society, and was on the Board of Governors of the Christchurch Technical Council as a representative of the Council.
In 1899 she became the second woman elected to the Ashburton and North Canterbury Charitable Aid Board (a precursor of social welfare). She wasn’t shy about stating her opinion on the causes that she was passionate about. Ada often received antagonism from male members of the board when she stated how she thought the aid should be administered. She believed that children should be looked after in cottage homes, rather than boarded out in large orphanages. While on the Charitable Aid Board, she helped instigate an investigation into the treatment of the children at the Waltham Orphanage that the Board itself had responsibility for, even though “the progressive ideas of the lady members had not always been concurred in by the members of the Board”.
Running for Council was the logical next step in a tireless fight for women’s and children’s rights and actioning change at a higher level. Standing with Labour aligned with her anti-militarism ideals. The final outcome for the 1917 Christchurch City Council election was 9 Citizens’ Association nominees, 5 Labour nominees and 2 Independent nominees. Successfully being elected to the Christchurch City Council in 1917 threw the majority of the council into a tail spin on two points, that there was now a female Councillor, and she was with Labour!
Many heated discussions were had in the Council Chamber meetings and the newspapers of the day reported on Ada Wells speaking her mind. The discussions were varied and often reflected her anti-militarism ideals. There was talk on where war trophies that were presented to the city should be located. Ada stated it was a pity that the war spirit should be fostered at all, and she often often argued for peace rather than continuing the war. She visited the imprisoned conscientious objectors during her time as a councillor, once with her young granddaughter in tow who later recalled him as a nice man.
When the Council declined to support the Canterbury Society of Arts, she said that they might well consider themselves a huckstering, pettifogging people and pleaded in favour of the arts.
While she did stand again in the next election in 1919 her campaign was unsuccessful.
More about Ada
Born Ada Pike on 29 April 1863 in Oxfordshire, England, her family immigrated to Christchurch in 1873. She attended Avonside School and then Canterbury College in 1881 after being awarded the university junior scholarship. She then worked as an assistant teacher at the Christchurch Girls High School.
Ada was 20 when she married the Cathedral Organist Harry Wells (11 years her senior) on 7 January 1884. In 1885 the couple welcomed their first child, a daughter Christabel, and completed their family in quick succession by 1889 with the addition of 2 more daughters (Alma and Alice) and a son (John Stanley). The marriage was not a happy one and Ada often provided the only source of income for the family through teaching, or working as a healer through massage therapy which she learnt from her mother Maria Pike.
She juggled raising and supporting her family while working for the equality of women and this demonstrated her admirably strong character. When she was campaigning to become a councillor, she was already a grandmother of five.
Harry Wells died in 1918. Ada Wells died in Christchurch on 22 March 1933. In her obituary it was said of her that:
A cause might be despised, obscure, rejected, she not only helped it all the same, she helped it all the more, and in the dark and stormy days of unfounded truth she was always to the front. Press, Volume LXIX, Issue 20812, 23 March 1933, Papers Past
In 1933 the Ada Wells Memorial prize was established for undergraduates, or graduates of up to three years, and awarded for an essay on the exposition of some subject chosen from literature having reference to social ideals. This prize is still awarded annually.
For a lively fictionalised account of Ada Wells, her eccentric unmarried daughter Bim, and Kate Sheppard I can certainly recommend Farewell Speech by Rachel McAlpine, who is a great-granddaughter of Ada Wells. Based on family stories and talking to those who knew the women, three very strong, different personalities come clearly through.
Women In The Council Chamber: Ada Wells This brief political biography originally featured in an Our City O-Tautahi exhibition from 19 – 30 September 2006, featuring Christchurch’s own “Women in the Council Chamber”, initiated and co-ordinated by Cr Anna Crighton.
He was a carpenter, a sportsman – a boxer – went to Christchurch Normal School (local boy), his photos show a nice face, and he wasn’t married. Just an ordinary kiwi bloke, maybe. But he did extraordinary things.
Henry Nicholas enlisted in February 1916 with the 1st Canterbury Battalion, and landed in France in September 1916. With his Regiment was involved in fighting at The Somme, Messines and Polderhoek, (Belgium).
It was from the action at Polderhoek on 3 December 1917 that he was awarded the Victoria Cross for “conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty… exceptional valour and coolness”. He destroyed an enemy strongpoint that was inflicting heavy casualties and overpowered a sixteen-man enemy garrison, capturing four wounded prisoners and an enemy machine-gun.
While on leave in England in mid-1918 he was invested by the King, the first solder in his regiment to be awarded the V.C., and he returned to France in September 1918, promoted to sergeant.
The Regiment had the duty of holding the town of Beaudignies, near Le Quesnoy. A skirmish on 23rd October with a German patrol cost Nicholas his life, and earned him the Military Medal.
6.30am: Service begins centred around the Memorial Cenotaph
7.15am: Service concludes with Mayor Lianne Dalziel laying a wreath on behalf of the citizens of Christchurch.
Organised by the Canterbury Branch of the Malayan Veterans Association in conjunction with the Christchurch Branch of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA), and the Christchurch City Council.
There will be a volley of shots fired and a fly-over by the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The New Zealand Army Band will be in attendance and a bugler will play The Last Post.
The service runs for about 30–45mins and will be projected on two large screens.
The Citizens’ Service is organised by Christchurch City Council in conjunction with Christchurch Cathedral and the RSA. An address will be given by Air Commodore Andrew Woods, RNZAF and representatives of the NZ Defence Force, Consular Corps and various Christchurch youth groups will be attending.
In 2015, the Canterbury Province Field in Cranmer Square contained 632 crosses commemorating the men and women of Christchurch who died in 1915. A further 825 crosses were added in 2016 and the field will gain more crosses again this year.
Exhibitions, displays and events
Heathcote WWI Soldiers Remembered – 31 March to 30 April at Linwood Library at Eastgate Mall. The soldiers from Heathcote Valley who died in WWI are individually remembered in an exhibition at Linwood Library.
Eastside Gallery: Anzac Exhibition 2017 Opening Wednesday 19 April – Friday 28 April. A multi-media participatory experience on the theme, “We honour, we remember, we reflect”. Photographs, artworks, installations, memorabilia, talks, readings, poetry and prose, printed and audiovisual material. With a poetry evening on Friday 28 April.
This doesn’t happen nearly as often as I would like, but I can honestly say that I loved this book! I’ve only ever really thought of Jackie French in terms of children’s and young adult fiction so was pleasantly surprised to see her grown up offering – If Blood Should Stain the Wattle.
Now it is probably the Australian in me, but I especially loved how Jackie uses famous Australian poetry and folklore that brought a ‘familiar’ spark to the story for me.
If Blood Should Stain the Wattle is full of wonderful, well established characters that have appeared in Jackie French’s earlier ‘Matilda’ series. I haven’t read any of these books yet but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this one; instead it made me want to experience them all.
There are fabulous strong female characters who are making their mark in Gibber’s Creek, finding love and setting their sights on conquering the world. Okay, maybe just Australia. Then we have the odd spiritual moment where they converse with ghosts and even manage to peek through time itself. But this is the seventies so the story wouldn’t be complete if there wasn’t a hippy commune on the edge of Gibber’s Creek and a ‘cult leader’ who is receiving messages from aliens. Did I mention that this is also the story of the Whitlam government coming to power?
Stop, come back! Don’t be put off by the inclusion of politicians and their shenanigans within the pages. Jackie French has cleverly woven the information into short excerpts from newspaper reports, and by having characters Jed Kelly and Matilda campaigning to support a Labor government. No boring political twaddle in sight; instead we get to experience first hand what it was like when the Whitlam Government came to power in early 1970s Australia and the subsequent historic dismissal of Gough Whitlam by then Governor-General Sir John Kerr.
This book really does have something for everyone and it won’t disappoint.
The Matilda series began as a trilogy, became a quartet. It was meant to be a history of our nation told from one country town, and the viewpoints of those who had no political voice in 1892, when the series begins: women, indigenous people, Chinese, Afghans.
But, by book four, I realised that history didn’t stop just because I was born, and that the series will continue as long as I live.” (Jackie French)
The quartet Jackie French is referring to is now a sextet – and who knows how many more there may be. So if you want to start at the very beginning the titles in order are: