These images come from Postcard album, 1906-1926, compiled by Ruth Crump – A selection of postcards from a postcard album containing New Zealand and overseas postcards. Archive 345.
Explore more Christchurch Christmas images.
If you enjoy local history, heritage, or generally intriguing snippets of information, make sure to keep an eye on our digital collection. New additions appear regularly. One of the latest is the Log on board the S.S. Somersetshire, 1869, by W. C. Walker.
Mr Walker left Plymouth on 1 July and arrived in Melbourne on 30 August 1869. His diary is an amusing compendium of vignettes of daily life aboard ship. Days pass by lounging on deck under the awning, playing whist in the evenings, and attending concerts and dances. For the sport-inclined there’s the excitement of guessing how many knots the Somersetshire has done the previous day and maybe winning the sweep.
Of course there are the usual irritations of sharing facilities. As Walker notes, “nothing is sacred on board ship – all is common property” (p. 14). In the bathroom a notice appears requesting that bathers limit themselves to 8 minutes apiece – a time limit that was apparently strictly monitored.
I particularly enjoyed Walker’s descriptions of his fellow passengers:
Miss Weston as the elder of the 2 deserves the first place & for other reasons as well. I can’t tell you her age – all I know is that she is young enough to think her youth requires her to dye her hair. (p. 27)
And with apologies to all readers lucky enough to have Irish ancestry or red hair:
Mr Moynan… remarkable in appearance from possessing the reddest hair & whiskers I ever saw, but apparently and I think luckily wanting in the immense assurance & self-appreciation generally associated with such flaming embellishments especially when the owner is an Irishman. His eyes without speculation of a neutral fishy hue, so neutral as to be hardly called hue or colour at all; and probably to this accident this sanguine temperament generally accompanying red hair has been so subdued as to be conspicuous by its absence. (p. 6)
All in all, the trip could almost appear to be one of pleasure. As Walker himself writes in the final pages of his log:
if you don’t see that it was a jolly one, the fault lies in my way of telling the story”. (p. 164)
Yet there are clues that not everybody is as lucky as Mr Walker. In Plymouth the Somersetshire “passed close under another ship on the point of starting for Australia, the ‘Royal Dane’… crowded with emigrants & waiting for a fair wind, & less fortunate than the ‘Somersetshire’ in having only wind & sails to trust to” (p. 5). Most shocking to me was the passing remark that about a week into the voyage, 6 stowaways gave themselves up, including a boy about 11, who was given to the boatswain to “slave for him” (p. 55). I can’t help but wonder which category of traveller my Scottish ancestors who settled in Southland belonged to.
Christchurch has many links with Antarctica, both modern and historic. This November sees the 105th anniversary of the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition sailing from Lyttelton. Led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and officially known as the British Antarctic Expedition, the expedition ended in disaster when the polar party perished on their way back from the South Pole, having discovered that Roald Amundsen‘s Norwegian party had made it there before them.
Scott and his men had spent some time in Lyttelton and Christchurch before setting sail on the last leg of their sea voyage from the UK. Scott first came to the region in 1901 when he also used Lyttelton as last port of call on his way to Antarctica. This was the British National Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Discovery expedition.
Our digital collection includes a couple of nice mementos of these two expeditions, which highlight the Christchurch connection. On both occasions the people of Christchurch gave a gift to the expedition – firstly some sheep and secondly a mounted horseshoe. Scott wrote thank you letters to the town clerk and these are now part of the library’s archives collection and have been digitised.
Another treasure of Christchurch City Libraries archives (namely Arch 1029) has been digitised and is now online for the enjoyment and edification of all.
The latest is the shipboard diary of Henry Smith, who journeyed from Plymouth to Wellington aboard the R.M.S. Rimutaka in 1885. Written in pencil, the diary documents shipboard life and includes many interesting observations about what it was like to live aboard a ship for weeks. Not the least of which was food and meals which Smith describes thusly –
Opened a tin of condensed milk today, also pickled cabbage, which was very acceptable indeed. Our meals are something like feeding wild animals. Every man helps himself, or else he falls short, that is the case at the present anyhow.
Mmm. Sounds delicious.
Henry, a blacksmith in his mid-twenties, is quite interested in music and seems often to enjoy a singalong with his fellow passengers, though others prefer to read.
Borrowed a concertina from one of my mates & had a few tunes this morning. Lent Miss Morrison “The Old Curiosity Shop” this afternoon, lent another young man on Friday last “Percival Keene”.
Where travellers these days might purchase easy to read “airport fiction” along the lines of James Patterson or Lynda La Plante to occupy the time on a journey, longer sea voyages meant Dickens was probably an appropriately-sized read, though it’s interesting to see that coming-of-age adventure novels like Percival Keene obviously had their place too.
According to the letter of reference that Smith brought with him from England he had been active in his church in his home town of Oxford as part of the choir, so clearly he had a musical bent. Indeed, even his last entry in his diary is concerned with music.
Went to church in the morning, congregation scanty, singing went very well.
Henry Smith went on to settle at View Hill, just west of Oxford setting up a blacksmithing business before becoming a sheep farmer with a freehold estate of 4280 acres. In 1890 he married a local woman named Mary Mounsey and they had several children. Smith was very active in the community, taking interest in the local library, school committee and eventually as a member of the Oxford County Council.
This digitised archive in addition to the shipboard diary includes photographs, letter of reference, and an invoice for a View Hill property in te reo Māori.
They were signed off Howard, or more informally Kip, and most were written to his friend Glen Morgan in Rangiora. Nothing particularly remarkable in that, at first sight, but Kip was in fact Howard Kippenberger, who historian Glyn Harper has described as “New Zealand’s most popular military commander, and perhaps its most talented.”
His letters and cards, which have recently been added to our digitised collection, span the period from 22 February 1940 to 18 February 1945 and offer a fascinating insight in the life of New Zealand soldiers in World War II.
We meet Kippenberger in Egypt, where he is in charge of the 20th Canterbury/Otago Battalion, and where he experiences “the most bitter disappointment of my life” as a result of the lack of involvement of his Battalion in the routing of the Italians from Egypt.
We then follow him to Syria, where he is commanding all the troops in the Aleppo area, including some French, Syrian and British soldiers, and where he is dealing with the local Governor and the French delegate.
Lastly we move to the UK, where we find out that Kippenberger “will be starting to learn to walk again soon“, having lost both feet in an anti-personnel mine accident near Monte Cassino.
Kippenberger’s personal experiences are interesting per se, but the letters offer much more.
My romantic streak was sparked by descriptions of the living quarters:
You will imagine us on the Libyan frontier, sweltering in the desert, close to action.
Well we’re not, at the moment. We’re doing important enough work and having an interesting time, but living in near luxury. My H.Q. are in the Kasr el Nil Barracks. I occupy part of the old Khedivial palace, sharing two rooms with a Scots Guards Major, having meals on a mahogany table on the balcony above the Nile, a charming scene with moonlight on the river, candles & palms.
Similarly, I was intrigued by Kippenberger’s depiction of a captured Italian general:
He has been moaning like a bull at his perfectly good treatment …has been hunger striking & generally acting like a goat.
And who couldn’t be touched by the following vignettes of the soldiers’ lives in his letter of 7 December 1940?
Censoring letters the other day I came on this. One boy writing to his girl friend described how he’d saved his water allowance for days until he had enough for a bath.
Pete Smart managed to get tight last night & for reasons clearer to him then than later decided to … stay the night [at a friends’ camp] & arrived back this morning …wearing a dishevelled & shame-faced look.
And, of course, some things never change, as this comment about the frustration of not taking part in the battle against the Italians in December 1940, demonstrates:
Only consolation is that the Aussies aren’t in it either.
Socialism: You have 2 cows. Given one to your neighbour.
Communism: You have two cows. Give both to the Govt. The Govt gives you milk.
Fascism: You have two cows. Give milk to Govt – Govt sells it.
Nazism: Govt shoots you and takes cows
New Dealism: Govt shoots one cow, milks the other & pours milk down the sink.
Capitalism: You sell one cow and buy a bull
Anarchism: Keep cows – shoot Govt. Steal another cow.
???: You have no cow.
Conservatism: Embalm the cows. Freeze the milk.
Can anyone decode” ???: You have no cow.” Maybe despotism or heroism?
From World War II letters and cards, 1940-1945. The letters are written by Howard Kippenberger (Kip) to Glen and May Morgan.
In 1879 a young man named Henry Garmston Bottle undertook a great, but not uncommon journey from London to Lyttelton aboard the Himalaya.
He kept a diary while on board, and wrote several letters to his family back in England, to his father (My dear Papa), his sister Nellie and his brother Fred.
His shipboard diary is largely an unsentimental and factual account but it nevertheless conjures up fascinating images and vignettes of life onboard ship for months at a time. The following are some excerpts from his shipboard diary which covers 11 January – 14 April 1879.
21st – Vessel rolled very much when at breakfast the whole table was cleared and some things broken, running down coast of Portugal, pigs got loose had a spree.
24th – Heavy gale during night could not sleep. Off Str of Gibralter, went on deck & got drenched from head to foot by a sea, about 1ft of water in our cabin.
25th – Pig died, thrown overboard, saw a shark eat it
8th – Lat 4 Long 22 N Heat 96. 97 miles killed a rat in our cabin, slept on deck
Unsurprisingly there’s an awful lot of people being sick to start with and a surprising number of animal escapees including one passenger’s canary.
We had a heavy gale yesterday morning it came on all at once & the wind blew & it rained as I never saw it before it came down in streams like pailfulls we all took our shoes & stockings off rolled our trousers up put macktos [mackintoshes] on, no hat & went on deck to catch water we caught a good lot. The gale lasted an hour.
You can read more about Henry Bottle’s journey and his life in Oamaru and Waimate in his digitised papers.
This collection of photographs, slides and negatives was taken by Norman Pierson (207815) in 1951 to 1952 during his time in Korea with 163 Battalion New Zealand Artillery, E Troop. Norman Pierson was the Gun Sergeant in charge of the No. 3 Gun. There are battlefield photos, but also games of cards, shows, haircuts and trips to Japan. It’s a fascinating glimpse into a less well-known war. As Norman said:
I left New Zealand with the first unit to go to Korea in December 1950 and turned 24 when on my way. In early 1951 one of our officers bought me back a camera from Japan and I recorded the life I was leading for Mum.
Here’s a selection:
Three sisters, Korea concert, Norman Oswald Pierson. 1951-1952. CCL-Pierson-CCL-PH-0004
Lunch while in the field, Norman Oswald Pierson. 1951-1952. CCL-Pierson-CCL-PH-0011
Getting my short back and sides. Norman Oswald Pierson. 1951-1952. CCL-Pierson-CCL-PH-0016
Kim at the concert with 303 rifle. Norman Oswald Pierson. 1951-1952. CCL-Pierson-CCL-PH-0034
Find more Korean War resources in our collection.
Animal architecture by Ingo Arndt is a photographic tribute to animal nests and shelters which are functional, complex and beautiful, however this book is not just all about the pictures (stunning though they are) it also ticks all the boxes for containing scientific facts and insights into animal behaviour.
Our Fiction buyer has been busy this month and has noted that there are so many takes on literary classics that you might assume they’ve all been done. However, Tom Grass, whose background is in the film industry, has a debut novel coming out soon called Twist, with the title character Twist as a teenager on the run from the police and saved by the mysterious Dodge who introduces him to Cornelius Faginescu, described as an “art collector.” No songs in all this.
One of the literary greats of today would have to be Margaret Atwood and she has a new one – Stone mattress – coming out. It’s a volume of short stories.
Also taking the short story route is Man Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel and her collection has the intriguing title of The assassination of Margaret Thatcher. Fans of Hilary in her historical fiction hat might like to know that the television miniseries adaptation of Wolf Hall will be shown in Britain in 2015. It’s a six-parter and Cromwell is played by Mark Rylance with Damian Lewis as King Henry, Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn and Joanne Whalley as Catherine of Aragon.
Our children’s Non Fiction book buyer loved The scraps book.
The renowned Caldecott Honouree and illustrator provides a moving, intimate, and inspiring inside look at her colourful picture book career. Lois Ehlert always knew she was an artist. Her parents encouraged her from a young age by teaching her how to sew, saw wood, pound nails, and by giving her colourful art supplies. Today, many years and many books later, Lois takes readers and aspiring artists on a delightful behind-the-scenes tour of her books and her book-making process. Part fascinating retrospective, part moving testament to the value of following your dreams, this richly illustrated picture book is sure to inspire children and adults alike to explore their own creativity.
This book is on order so there is nothing to see yet but I was intrigued by the idea that the staff at the National Archives in Britain were given the opportunity to choose their favourite documents from out of 120 miles of papers that the Archives contain. What would they choose and why? The Magna Carta, a letter from Queen Elizabeth or a ships log by Captain Cook? I think this could we a wee gem for those secret archivists amongst us.
And lastly some music to finish off.
VOCES8 are an cappella octet from the United Kingdom, and our music buyer says:
Pure and meltingly mesmerising. Don’t expect a haka-boogie good time from this one
Great news for genealogists and researchers. The Methodist Archives are reopening 9 January, 2013. The archives will be open weekly, Wednesdays 1.00 pm-4.00 pm.
As there is only a small space available for researchers please contact Jo to reserve a table during these hours on 03 366-6049 ext 831 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Archive and research services in Christchurch took a pretty major hit during the earthquakes of 2010/11. They are working cooperatively to get up and running. The Cantage group keeps an up to date list of what is available.