Katherine Mansfield’s 130th Birthday

Sarah Laing’s graphic memoir Mansfield and Me.

Katherine Mansfield was born as Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp on the 14th of October 1888, into a prominent family in Wellington. Her father, Harold Beauchamp, became the chairman of the Bank of New Zealand (then, curiously enough, owned by New Zealanders). He had been born in Australia, but moved to New Zealand with his family when he was three years old. At the age of 65, he was made a knight of the realm. Katherine’s mother was Annie Beauchamp, whose brother would marry the daughter of Richard Seddon, former Prime Minister of New Zealand. This marriage wove the Beauchamp family into New Zealand’s prominent social circles.

When Katherine was five, her family moved from Thorndon to the then country suburb of Karori for health reasons. Katherine spent the happiest years of her childhood in Karori. Her short story Prelude published in 1918, was inspired by her memories of this happy time.

Katherine Mansfield’s childhood home in Thorndon, 2007. Photo by Lanma726. Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Mansfield’s first published her short stories in 1900 in a society magazine called New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Journal.

Mansfield expressed a feeling of alienation in her journals. She became disillusioned with New Zealand because of her observations of Māori being repressed by the Pakeha settlers. This is probably why Māori characters are often portrayed in a positive light in  a story such as How Pearl Button Was Kidnapped, first published in 1912.

At age fifteen, Mansfield moved to London to attend school there. When she returned to New Zealand, aged nineteen, she began to write short stories prolifically. She was determined to become a professional writer and returned to London at the age of 21.

Financially, Mansfield was sustained by an annual allowance from her father of one hundred pounds. But Mansfield was a woman ahead of her time and led an unconventional lifestyle, being bisexual and becoming pregnant while unmarried. Her mother was horrified and raced over to London (well, as quickly as you could race in 1909) where she dispatched Katherine to Bad Wörishofen, a spa town in Bavaria. Mansfield miscarried soon after arriving in Bad Wörishofen and, to compound her woes, her mother cut Katherine out of her will.

CoverHowever, her stay in Germany was to enhance Mansfield’s writing career. Here she first encountered the works of Anton Chekhov, who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short fiction in history. Her experiences of Germany produced the stories which became her first published collection In a German Pension published in 1911.

Mansfield was profoundly affected by the death of her younger brother, Leslie Beauchamp, who was killed fighting in France in 1915. “Chummie”, as the family called him, had been very close to Katherine in their childhood. Perhaps mindful of this shadow of mortality, Mansfield wrote prolifically from 1916 onwards.

This was to prove prescient as Mansfield was diagnosed with tuberculosis in December 1917. In order to lessen the effects of her disease, Mansfield went abroad to Europe, staying in France and then Italy. During this time she published two more collections, Bliss and Other Stories (1920) then The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922).

Bliss KMgarden Party KM 2dove's nestchildish

Katherine Mansfield spent the latter part of her life seeking unorthodox treatments for her tuberculosis, but, unfortunately, she died on the 9th of January, 1923 from a pulmonary haemorrhage. Mansfield left a lot of unpublished stories behind, but her former husband, the editor, John Middleton Murry, took it upon himself to gather and publish several posthumous collections of her work.

Mansfield’s legacy is writ large in the New Zealand literary landscape. Our most prestigious literary residency is the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship which all the big knobs of Kiwi literature have enjoyed since it was inaugurated in 1970. Many a grand poobah of Kiwi writing has resided for six months in Menton, France, at the Villa Isola Bella, enjoying the freedom of writing without the financial pressure of the everyday world. Katherine Mansfield lived and wrote at the Villa Isola Bella in the latter years of her life.

I hate to end on a slightly sour note, but I wonder in New Zealand where we have had several highly talented short story writers like Mansfield, Frank Sargeson and Owen Marshall, why the short story writer seems to be regarded somehow as a lesser being and not taken seriously until they publish a novel. We have let the novel become the Olympus to which all writers should aspire. Some writers like Mansfield clearly felt their talent lies in writing the shorter form fiction. Living, as she did, far away from the claustrophobic literary milieu of New Zealand, clearly Mansfield never felt any pressure to write a novel but she produced a myriad of smaller literary treasures.

More on KM

NZOnScreen has material on Katherine Mansfield, including the 1986 documentary A portrait of Katherine Mansfield.

A Portrait of Katherine Mansfield

 

Rewind at Ferrymead Sunday 14 October: Women and War

Immerse yourself in Rewind at Ferrymead Heritage Park, 10am to 4pm on Sunday 14 October. This FREE family-friendly Beca Heritage Week event, jam-packed with entertainment from times past at Ferrymead Heritage Park. It’s 125 years since New Zealand women achieved the right to vote and 100 years since the end of World War I.

What’s On?

Mobile Discovery Wall: Christchurch City Libraries will be at Rewind with the Mobile Discovery Wall – the smaller sibling of the digital touchwall in Tūranga. You can view historical Christchurch images, interact with them, and upload your own photos.

Suffrage Art Workshop: Take part in this national workshop creating a banner section filled with art referencing suffrage and its connection to significant local heritage buildings, historic figures and ideas.

Exhibition: See the archaeology exhibition, Women Breaking the Rules

There will also be live music, street art, food and craft stalls, steam trains, trams and more!

Getting there

Parking is available at Ferrymead Heritage Park if you enter Ferrymead Park Drive off Bridle Path Road.

Find out more, including details of special bus trips from 9.30am to 4.30pm.

Books

More BECA Heritage Week events

Beca Heritage Week will run from 12 to 22 October 2018. The theme is “Strength from Struggle – Remembering our courageous communities.”

Christchurch Photo Hunt

During the month of October Christchurch City Libraries will run its annual heritage image photo competition. Entries will be added to our digital collection.

Library events

When Death Jumped Ship – Remembering the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Lyttelton Library and Lyttelton Museum – 12 to 27 October

It’s 100 years since New Zealand’s worst-ever public health disaster – what happened? How did we cope? Lyttelton Museum and Lyttelton Library are commemorating the anniversary with an exhibition and ‘Medicine Depot’. Come see some powerful images and find out what an inhalation chamber was like.

FREE public talks at Lyttelton Library 7pm to 8pm

Tuesday 16 October: Anna Rogers, who has written about WW I nursing, will discuss the pandemic and New Zealand’s military medical contribution.
Wednesday 17 October: Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Rice will look at the question: Could it happen again?

FAB FESTA – My five picks for FESTA 2018

We love FESTA! This Labour weekend “vibrant biennial celebration of urban creativity and community” is one of Ōtautahi’s most cool and unique events. It’s food for the mind, eyes, and soul. That is particularly apt in 2018 as FESTA gets foody – FESTA 2018 is all about architecture, design – and food. Contribute to the Pledgeme FESTA2018 by midday today (Thursday 27 September) and you’ll help the traditional Saturday evening mega-event street party FEASTA! be the best yet.

There are more than 55 events planned for FESTA 2018, here are some of my picks:

FEASTA

The big FREE street party is on Saturday 20 October from 5 to 11pm. It’s a FESTA tradition to activate different parts of the city, and this time Mollett Street (which runs between Colombo Street and Durham Street South) is the place to be.

There will be the stunning installations we’ve come to love at the FESTA party. The 2018 works have been created by more than 130 design and architecture students from across Australia and New Zealand, as well as NZIA and NZILA Canterbury branch members, in collaboration with Creative Director Barnaby Bennett. There will be loads of whānau fun, music, performances, art, markets, and plenty of yummy delights. One of the excellent initiatives on the night is Kono for Kai100 hand woven harakeke kono (small food baskets) filled with native plant seedlings and seeds will be available to the public in exchange for a koha of kai (non-perishable goods only please). All koha received will be gifted to a community group for distribution to those in need in the community. Read all about it.

FESTA at Tūranga

Ka rawe! Your new central library Tūranga will be open when FESTA is on, and it is the venue for:

Produce a City

Saturday 20 October and Sunday 21 October 1 to 4pm; Monday 22 October (Labour Day), 10am to 1pm at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū
Pop in to this drop-in session and make a cityscape out of food! Use the colourful clay provided to sculpt a house or a building in the shape of fruit and vegetables and add it to the map. Suitable for children aged 7+. FREE

Last Call: Christchurch’s Drinking and Dining Past

Sunday 21 October 6pm to 7.30pm. Meet at Victoria Square. FREE.
Take a trip back in time and explore our culinary past. Join Nik Mavromatis as he hosts a guided walking tour around central Christchurch, starting with Ōtautahi’s oldest market square. Nik then takes you to former hospitality sites and reminisces over the cafes, bars and restaurants that were previously part of the fabric of our city.

This is a mere taster, visit the FESTA 2018 to explore all the events on offer.

FESTA information

How you can help

Contribute to the Pledgeme FESTA2018 by midnight tonight Thursday 27 September.

Take a look back at the awesomeness of FESTA

FESTA 2016 – Lean Means

FESTA 2014 – CityUps

CityUps - FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture

FESTA 2013 – Canterbury Tales

Canterbury Tales - FESTA

FESTA 2012 – LuxCity

Luxcity

Read our 2016 interview with FESTA director Jessica Halliday: Imagining a different Christchurch – Jessica Halliday and FESTA 2016

Replica Leper’s Cottage, Quail Island, Lyttelton Harbour: Picturing Canterbury

Replica Leper’s Cottage, Quail Island, Lyttelton Harbour. Kete Christchurch. Replica-Leper_s-Cottage-Quail-Island-31-March-2013. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

Date: 31 March 2013

Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Jane Rodgers.

Quail Island was proclaimed a quarantine station on 11 February 1875. The first leprosy patient was Willa Vallane, who was confined to the island in 1906. A second was admitted in 1908, with a third in 1909. By 1925 there were eight patients in residence (a ninth, George Philips, made an escape after having being certified as cured). In that year the eight patients were relocated from Quail Island to a new “leper colony” on Makogai Island in the Pacific.

Do you have any photographs of Quail Island? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Dear Diary Day

Dear Diary Day is observed each year on 22 September. If you have kept a diary, today is the day to go back and reread your efforts – or if you don’t have a diary, today is a great time to go about starting one.

Diaries are acknowledged to be excellent ways of letting off steam, and effectively becoming a better person (though if you are like me, realistically, you just brood on what you have written and become all the more grouchy – but then I am a bit ‘special’ like that). There is also nothing quite like going back and rereading these snapshots of your life – be they good or bad – and, in the process, enjoying a lot of memories, and learning from your mistakes.

Dear Diary Day, is also a great time to acknowledge those great diarists who have taken the ultimate step in diary keeping – namely, committing their memories to print. Here are some great reading picks for ‘Dear Diary Day’ that will hopefully inspire you to write up your thoughts for posterity too:

Cover of The Kenneth Williams diariesThe Kenneth Williams Diaries: The Telegraph recently predicted that in twenty years time, Kenneth Williams will not be remembered as a Carry on favourite, but as one of the English language’s finest diarist. It is impossible not to agree – this volume of his diaries is devastatingly honest both in his assessment of others, from Joe Orton to Tony Hancock, and of himself. Deliciously waspish, and often unbearably tragic, these diaries really do bring readers closer to a fine autodidact and one of Britain’s most underrated performers.

The Noel Coward Diaries: These erudite and witty diaries bring to life one of Britain’s most beloved theatrical figures – Noel Coward. A man of seemingly numerous talents from acting to writing, Coward’s diaries take us through theatrical tours, his own private struggles with depression, and ultimately priceless stories of his contemporaries and of himself. A sheer delight to read, Coward’s diaries are rewardingly gossipy but always without any sort malice, just like the man himself.

The Diary of Virginia Woolf: These diaries from one the 20th century’s most important and ground-breaking literary giants, are a real privilege to read. Virginia Woolf’s diaries take you to the very heart of a genius – dispelling the myth of a sobering and snobby intellectual, and replacing this with a complex, sensitive, and even humorous woman. With descriptions of other famous literary figures – from Katherine Mansfield to T. S. Eliot – as well as descriptions of day to day life, and her journey through writing, this first volume of her diaries is a fascinating and eye-opening read.

Cover of The diary of a young girlThe Diary of A Young Girl: Just after receiving a blank diary for her birthday, Jewish teenager Anne Frank and the rest of her family were forced into hiding in Nazi occupied Amsterdam. This beloved classic is her evocative and honest record of those two years in hiding in a claustrophobic attic, along with her parents, sister, and others desperate to escape the horror of the Nazi regime. Over seventy years since its first publication, ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ remains an unforgettable testament to one of the most shameful events in world history, as well as a moving tribute to the spirit of a remarkable young girl.

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: You couldn’t really say that you love reading diaries and not read Samuel Pepys. A member of parliament who rose to the position of Chief Secretary to the Admiralty, Pepys is better known now for the diaries he wrote throughout the 1600s. Recording such historical events as the Plague and Great Fire of London, these astonishingly honest and ever entertaining diaries also chart the author’s own life – from political chicanery, to his own sexual adventures and domestic conflict.

Cover of The diary of a booksellerThe Diary of A Bookseller: Shaun Bythell’s hilarious diary charts a year in the life of the largest secondhand bookshop in Scotland. It is one of the ultimate books about books, packed with stories of eccentric book buyers, sound book recommendations, and accounts of stock purchase trips to auction houses and estates. With its wonderfully barbed and ever-entertaining style, this is a diary enthusiast’s and book shop lover’s dream.

The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh: These classic diaries reveal Evelyn Waugh in all his cantankerous yet honest and genuine glory. A must for Waugh fans, and anyone wishing to delve into the history of this era, these diaries are a mesmerising read filled with hilariously indiscreet portrayals of his peers, and great insights into the creation of Waugh’s beloved work.

Journal of Katherine Mansfield: The diaries of Katherine Mansfield contained in this volume, are mainly drawn from the last years of her life as this beloved author struggled but bravely strove to continue writing. Despite war time losses, and the immense pain Mansfield found herself in, she manages to write of the beauty of things surrounding her, and movingly reflects on her life, and celebrated writing.

Cover of Ancient as the hillsAncient as the Hills: James Lees Milne was a writer and English architectural conservationist, now best known for his compulsive diaries. Kept over the course of 60 years, his diaries cover a fascinating half century in history – from war time England to Blair Britain. Along with engaging descriptions of his own life and work, Milne observes a fascinating array of people from Nancy Mitford to Mick Jagger – always with absolute honesty and a fantastic eye for detail.

I Will Bear Witness: These powerful diaries are Jewish scholar Victor Klemperer’s record of life in Nazi Germany. His eloquent and mesmerising entries describe the day-to-day horror of life in Hitler’s Germany with important detail, candour, and courage.

Read more

The Suffrage Experiment in New Zealand

125 years ago – on 19 September 1893 – New Zealand women won the right to vote . Registrations closed six weeks after that date for the next election on 28 November. This would have been fairly exciting for New Zealand women but how did the rest of the world view our landmark decision? Armed with an excellent selection of newspaper archives from around the world, I have researched what was said. For this exercise I used Gale Primary Sources; it searches 19 digital archives of newspapers, periodicals, monographs and manuscripts.

Some of the most interesting articles quote other papers, and titles like ‘The New Zealand Experiment’ seemed to be popular.

VICTORY IN NEW ZEALAND. (1893, September 14). Women’s Penny Paper, (30), [465].

“With a slight feeling of envy, we offer our hearty congratulations to our fortunate sisters , who will now be the pioneers in the British Empire in the exercise of franchise.”

The Experiment in New Zealand. (1893, November 16). Women’s Penny Paper, (39), 620.

This article “The Experiment in New Zealand” has the review of the editor of the Australian edition of The Review of Reviews. This writer suggests what might happen in the upcoming elections.

“The new voters, it is suggested will apply quite new tests to candidates. A candidate, one critic argues, who is old, bald, and, say, bandy-legged, will have no chance of winning the suffrages of the voters in petticoats, as against a candidate who is young, has good teeth, and parts his hair in the middle.”

Pretty Souls! (1893, November 28). Fun [UKP], LVIII(1490), 229.

“…with the result that women are now entitled vote for parliamentary candidates in New Zealand. They were not keen to learn their fate, as the empty benches showed. But a correspondent supplies the key to their apparent apathy. A “Society” wedding was in progress a few yards off! Pretty Souls! “

Hope for New Zealand. (1894, February 25). Rocky Mountain News, p. 12

This article reports on another article that appeared in The Nineteenth Century quoting it:

“The colony is now committed to a course of extreme radical legislation. Such are the results of the female franchise! IT is to be hoped that it will be a warning to English conservatives. We shall probably for some years to come be a dreadful object lesson to the rest of the British Empire. We must trust to beer and the banks to save us from absolute ruin.”

Women Voters in New Zealand. (1894, April 8). New York Herald [European Edition], p. 6.

A report on women voter numbers –

“Dunedin had 7,644 women on the roll, and only 1,338 failed to record their votes. Many of the the absentees were no doubt deterred by the heavy rains which fell on the polling day.”

“…and in Christchurch 5,989 out or 6,710 went to the poll.”

WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE IN NEW ZEALAND. (1894, August 18). Nottinghamshire Guardian, p. 8.

“An interview with Mrs. Sheppard, New Zealand deserves to be called the land of political experiments. Its rulers, with a boldness that would startle even many Democratic English politicians, are passing into law measure after measure of radical reform. Among other changes universal suffrage was last year conferred on adult women, married as well as single, irrespective of property qualifications.”

The journalist finishes his article with this summary:

Mrs Sheppard is the very opposite of the bogey “advanced women.” held up to frighten reformers. Handsome, well proportioned, and with a glow of health in her cheeks, she is a good representation of the Colonial woman at her best, strong physically and mentally.

The Suffrage Experiment in New Zealand. (1893, December 7). Women’s Penny Paper, (42), 669.

This article reports on a number of other newspapers views on in particular the quotes from a article in The Melbourne Age of October 21 1893.

“….the bulk of their womankind did not demand it and did not want it. The agitation was “got up by a few women” – chiefly women’s Christian associations and kindred bodies..”

Woman in New Zealand. (1894, January 1). Daily Inter Ocean, p. 14.

Mr Webster relays his views on the election in New Zealand in November 1893.

“It was rather amusing” continued Mr. Webster, “to note the eagerness which the ladies working on the committees brought in voters of their own sex to the polls. Wherever a voter had a baby a member of the committee remained to care for it while the mother recorded her vote. Everything was conducted in the most orderly manner, no rowdyism was apparent.” …”All the same” concluded Mr. Webster in a regretful tone of voice, “I cannot, while appreciating the advantages that are certain to result, but imagine that the dainty blush of womanhood is somewhat blurred when woman steps into the arena of political strife.”

WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE IN NEW ZEALAND: LADY VOTERS GOING TO THE POLL AT DEVONPORT, NEAR AUCKLAND. (1894, January 27). Graphic

Interview with Laurence Fearnley – WORD Christchurch Festival 2018

During the chaos of dashing between WORD sessions, writer and co-editor Laurence Fearnley kindly agreed to sit down with me and answer a few questions about her new anthology To the Mountains and other works.

What brought you to writing about mountaineering?

My parents used to do a lot of climbing in Scotland and Wales after the war [before moving to Christchurch]. We spent a lot of weekends tramping — dad went on a couple of expeditions to the Himalayas, my brother was a keen climber… When I was doing research for my novel The Hut Builder I read a lot of Alpine Club articles and ended up with boxes and boxes of material, so I thought it would be quite nice to do something with that. There hadn’t been an anthology of mountain writing since Ray Knox’s A Thousand Mountains Shining in the 80s, so it seemed a good time. I hadn’t really kept up to date with modern mountaineering writing but [co-editor] Paul Hersey edited the Alpine Journal and is a climber, so he had that sort of knowledge.

You researched a lot in the Hocken Collection. What was that like?

They have full archives from the Alpine Club, which was established in 1891. It’s interesting because they allowed women to join as members right from the start, compared to others like the Canterbury Mountaineering Club which didn’t allow women in until the 1980s. I got material from those archives and also from notebooks, journals, and letters that individuals have donated to the collection. It’s an amazing archival record, it’s incredible. It does taper off from the 1970s/80s onwards so it would be great if people continued to donate to the collection, if this could be our central repository of mountain writing.

A lot of voices chosen for this anthology aren’t those most people would associate with alpine writing — usually we only hear from those at the cutting edge of mountaineering.

That’s the sad thing because that’s how you get the same old voices coming through, if they’re not disrupted by allowing different voices. Mountains are a big part of our sporting identity, it would be nice if it was seen as something families do, not just rugged individuals. There are so many reasons why people go into the mountains — photography, art, for somewhere quiet and restful, to admire the beauty… The public perception of conquest [of the Alps] doesn’t really hold true, it’s not necessarily a motivation for most people.

At the same time a lot of the 1930s Canterbury Mountaineering Club articles are of trips in the Port Hills because it was difficult to get good transport to the Alps — they might only be able to get into the mountains once or twice a year but they were very fit. It was a class orientated sport, particularly in the early days. It’s interesting when the boundaries start breaking down between the upper middle class mountaineers and the working class mountain guides. Guides weren’t allowed in the Alpine Club because they were professionals.

Laurence Fearnley. Image supplied.
Laurence Fearnley. Image supplied.

Which doesn’t give credit to the fact that the guides were doing a lot of the work putting up tents, cutting steps, carrying the equipment…

Yes, you get someone like Dora De Beer on an expedition overseas in China, they walked 400 miles before they even got to the mountain, it was a real Victorian expedition. They would expect shelter from whatever was available, from monasteries to embassies, just take over their house. She was an amazing woman — during the 30s just before the war she would drive from London through Holland, Germany and Switzerland to get to Italy, on her own a lot of the time. Her diaries are from 1936-37, a lot of her entries are things like “Very inconvenienced getting across the border,” such a sense of imperious entitlement with no mention of the political climate. People like her were so curious and enthusiastic, in New Zealand they’d set off on horseback across Otira to the West Coast, just loving the absolute freedom of being out of that rigid society. They thought it was a great hoot.

Some of my favourite parts of the book are letters from the 1800s, there were some really funny excerpts. You must have had a lot of fun finding these in the Hocken collection. Do you have any favourites?

The ones I liked were the quieter, reflective pieces, people going back later in life and just enjoying being in the outdoors with their friends. I guess Jill Tremain had a big impact on me as a kid when she did the [1971 traverse of the Southern Alps] with Graeme Dingle — I can remember it being on the radio, there was a lot of controversy about them sharing a tent as she wasn’t married. From her letters she seemed to have such a generous outlook on life.

Voices I like least would be the 1970s slightly macho hard men stuff, that’s not a voice that appeals to me but quite a big part of the literature of the time. When you compare those writers with Aat Vervoorn, so reflective and spiritual, learning from the landscape… The ones who enjoy being in the space rather than needing to prove themselves or get a reputation, those would be the voices I like.

To the Mountains. Image supplied.
To the Mountains. Image supplied.

What are you currently working on?

I’m two-thirds of the way through a novel looking at landscape through scent and identity, under the umbrella narrative of a woman who loses her job when the university Humanities department is done away with. That one will be coming out next year. I’m also looking at doing an anthology of New Zealand women mountaineers. This will be more historical, it will be worthwhile to have a chronology of women mountaineers as there are so many of them.

What are you reading at the moment?

Just read a couple of books that I reviewed for Landfall, one called Oxygen by [New Zealand freediver) William Trubridge — not a book I’d necessarily be drawn to but interesting to see just how determined and focussed he has to be. The other is a beautiful book about hunting called Dark Forest Deep Water by Richard Fall, which would normally be something that turns me off but hearing him reflecting on why he hunts and the emotional journeys of hunting… It’s a great book, I’d really recommend it.

Thanks Laurence for a lovely interview, and I look forward to reading your next books!

A Very Big Deal – Charles Kingsford-Smith’s flight to Wigram, 11 September 1928

When it’s so easy to cross the Tasman, many people do – a winter holiday on the Gold Coast, a show in Melbourne, shopping in Sydney, family in Perth …thousands of Kiwis travel to Australia every year, and its easy to forget that the very first trans-Tasman flight was less than 100 years ago and was A Very Big Deal.

The Southern Cross. [10 September 1928] CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0015
The Southern Cross. [10 September 1928] CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0015
The flight time was 14 hours and 25 minutes, with the three-engineed Fokker plane Southern Cross flown by Australians Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm along with navigator Harold Litchfield, and radio operator Thomas H. McWilliams. This flight was only the latest in a series of ‘firsts’ for Kingsford Smith and Ulm: in June 1927 they completed a round-Australia circuit in 10 days, 5 hours; then on 31 May 1928 they  made the first eastward trans-Pacific flight, leaving from Oakland (California) to Brisbane, via Hawaii and Suva, in 83 hours, 38 minutes of flying time. In August 1928 came the first non-stop trans-Australia flight from Victoria to Perth.

An unsuccessful attempt to fly the Tasman had been made by two New Zealand Air Force pilots – Captain George Hood and Lieutenant John Moncrieff in January 1928. The crew of Southern Cross dropped a wreath to their memories approximate 240 km off the coast of New Zealand.

Initially Kingsford-Smith and Ulm planned to depart Australia on 2nd September, but were forced to delay departure due to poor weather, departing Richmond (near Sydney) on the evening of 10th September. The flight was made in stormy – at times icy – conditions, with landfall near Cook Strait.

The crowd that greeted them in Christchurch was estimated at between 30 and 40,000, and the whole country celebrated the achievement – finally we were connected to the rest of the world.

Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, and others, upon the arrival of the aeroplane Southern Cross at Wigram, Christchurch. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/2-084047-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. https://natlib.govt.nz/records/23012759

While the New Zealand Air Force overhauled their plane, Kingsford-Smith and crew were taken on a triumphant nationwide tour. Their return flight from Blenheim to Richmond took 23 hours due to severe weather, fog and a navigational error. On landing they had 10 minutes of fuel left.

It was another twelve years before a regular air service by flying boat began in April 1940, and flight time was 9 hours.  Thank goodness it doesn’t take so long now!

Kingsford-Smith went on to make further record-breaking flights and was knighted for services to aviation in 1932.

Kingsford Smith & Sumner school. Kete Christchurch PH13-058.jpg
Kingsford Smith & Sumner school. Kete Christchurch PH13-058.jpg

CoverCover

Prisoners planting trees on the Hanmer Plains: Picturing Canterbury

Prisoners planting trees on the Hanmer Plains. File Reference CCL-KPCD1-IMG0090.

Prisoners planting trees on the Hanmer Plains [ca. 1904].

Between 1900 and 1901 reserve land was set aside in Hanmer Springs for planting exotic trees to supply the Christchurch market. Planting of radiata pine and Douglas fir began in 1902-1903 and prison labour was used 1903-1913. There were 25 prisoners here in 1904, most of whom had asked to serve their sentence at Hanmer. Conditions were the same as a city prison, the only difference being the men got an additional four marks a week remission for industry. See The Press, 10 Sept, 1904, p. 3; The weekly press, 24 Mar. 1909, p. 67.

Do you have any photographs of Hanmer Springs? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Prisoners Planting Trees On The Hanmer Plains

Diana Wichtel – Driving to Treblinka: WORD Christchurch Festival 2018

CoverI must admit I have not yet read Driving to Treblinka, but I am on the long list of library customers who have reserved it to read. I have, however, read all The Listener articles that were the precursors for this book.

The moderator for this session was Philip Matthews, former colleague of Diana Wichtel, but now writing for The Press. He opened the session with some lines from Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan: “It’s Father’s Day and everybody’s wounded.”

Matthews suggested that Driving to Treblinka was a contribution to world history, but Wichtel demurred. She said that her father’s side of her personal history had remained in silence with a lot unsaid for many years until she reached a certain age. She was spurred by one of her daughters and a niece who said she must find where her father was buried.

When Wichtel was asked to provide a memoir piece and recipe for a book called Mixed Blessings, she was reluctant, but eventually wrote a piece. This was another spur to start researching the life of her father who was a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust by jumping from a train bound for the Nazi death camp, Treblinka. He was sheltered by partisans for the rest of the war. He ended up emigrating to Vancouver, Canada, where he met her Kiwi mother who was on her OE and ended up working at her father’s business.

Diana Wichtel. Image supplied.
Diana Wichtel. Image supplied.

When Wichtel was 13, her family migrated to New Zealand. The children believed that their father was to follow them after tying up the loose ends of their lives in Vancouver. He never did and she discovered her parents’ marriage had been disintegrating. As fate would have it, her mother met another man in Auckland who was also from Vancouver. He became Wichtel’s stepfather. When Wichtel was 19, her actual father became ill, but she could not afford to return to Canada to see him.

But once Wichtel’s own children had grown up, she was freed to follow the impetus to research her family’s Jewish heritage with her father as the pivotal identity. Wichtel was approached by Mary Varnham of Awa Press and, over four years, with some welcome assistance from her Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship, she researched and wrote Driving to Treblinka.

Wichtel realised that from the outset the book had to be a personal story. She reasoned that if she was exposing her family, she had to expose herself. She stresses to the audience that it is her story and her version of the family’s history as honestly as she can portray it. She found that when she committed to writing the book, many of her own memories were recalled that she had imagined were lost to her.

When she interviewed Daniel Mendelsohn, author of The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, he told her that “you have to open the door to the past, knowing you won’t shut it again.” And while working on the book, she felt that she had entered “the stream of history” which unkindly spat her out once her book was published. Worried about her wider family’s reception of her book, Wichtel had three months of anxiety after publication, but then realised to her delight that the family welcomed the book and were pleased she had written it.

Matthews joked that she had been a pioneer of what is now called “dark tourism” and she recounted some of the uncomfortable feelings she had experienced in Poland and in Israel. On a guided tour of Treblinka, she felt it was wrong that there was a cafe on the site. At Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, she saw a guide, himself a survivor, posing for pictures with school children. Another guide was adamant this was not allowed, but Wichtel felt that if the man had survived the Holocaust, then he should be the judge of its appropriateness. She encountered contentious displays of pre-war Jewish life in Krakow and she felt that it airbrushed the anti-semitism that had been present in Poland before and during World War Two. She joked that many people referred to this display area as “Jewrassic Park”.

She read an extract entitled “Snowing in Vancouver” about the last times she had spent with her father in 1964 before migrating to New Zealand at age 13.

Wichtel said the chapter called “Shouting at the Newspaper” was all too relevant with the many falsehoods being spread in the media about Jewish society, Jewish culture and the Holocaust and also the rise of the far-right in Europe and America.

She moved me to free the moths from my wallet. To paraphrase Jane Eyre: “Reader, I bought the book.”

Follow our coverage of WORD Christchurch Festival 2018