Saturday, 28 March 2009

100 years ago this month

Delving into the Otautau Standards for March 1909, 100 years ago this month, wheat crops were as high as horses backs, the Otautau Tennis Club played Winton and lost, and played Nightcaps and won, and various shows were happening at the Town Hall including this one, a fundraiser for the Methodist Church.

Otautau Methodist Concert
A company of very talented amateur performers gave an enjoyable concert in the Town Hall on Wednesday evening in aid of the funds of the Methodist Church. The programme [began] with a pianoforte selection by Mrs Brokenshire; this lady acted as accompaniste throughout the evening. A chorus by the party, "The ol black 'oss," reminded one of "The Idlers." Mr Brokenshire, who is one of the best tenor singers visiting Otautau, sang delightfully "Mona," and later "Whisper and I shall hear"; also in company with Mrs Brokenshire, the duet "Nocturne," which was persistently encored. The comic element was supplied by Mr F. Mulligan, who kept the audience in a state of mirth. Mr E. A. Wall played a very fine flute solo, and in the second part of the programme played a duet with Mr C. E. Griffiths, the latter on the flute, and Mr Walls on a bike pump, from which he appeared to bring a good amount of first-class music. Mr C. E. Griffiths, who has a very deep bass voice, sang "The deep cold sea" and "The deathless army," and also gave a comic reading, "Mrs Doogan's discovery." Two very acceptable acceptable items were banjo duets by Mrs Hastie and Mr Wall. The concert was brought to a close by the hearty singing of "God save the King."
And earlier in the month, 4 March 1909, Nadine the White Mahatma was headlining at the Otautau Town Hall.

Another interesting item in the 2 March 1909 edition was a sale for grand pianos.
"The London Piano Company are having a great sale of pianos in McNeil's new buildings over the bridge; the sale, which will only last for a fortnight, is a genuine opportunity of securing a first-class piano at exceptionally low rate, and a visit to the show should not be delayed by all those who want to acquire one of these comfortable homemakers."
I wonder how many folks back then actually bought one of these 'homemakers', and are they collecting dust in someone's shed now.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Earth Hour

This Saturday there is an opportunity to be part of a global initiative - to stop using so much electricity by turning off lights for one hour. It's called Earth Hour, and it started in Sydney two years ago. So on Saturday, 28 March, all around the world, from 8:30pm to 9:30pm, people will be voting with their switches and halting the drain on electrical resources.

It will be dark in Otautau at that time of night so what do you plan to do? How will you spend Earth Hour?

Addendum: Check out The Big Picture's coverage of Earth Hour. Except for the first picture, click on each picture and watch the lights dim on some of the world's most iconic buildings.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

A Brief Almanac - March

1817 - March 11 - Dr. Samuel Hodgkinson born on this day in Nottinghamshire, England. He was educated as a surgeon in England, and first visited New Zealand in 1842, later immigrating in 1851. His interest in land ownership eventually led him from Canterbury to the Otautau/Fairfax district. His property consisted of 200 acres and was named Mount Fairfax. His family moved in in January 1862, and were among the very first European residents of the area. A township was surveyed around the Yellow Bluff area (north of the Otautau Stream, along the Aparima River) and was called Hodgkinson but the residents of Otautau preferred to stay where they were. Dr Hodgkinson became involved in political matters and later retired to Invercargill in 1885. He continued to be active in writing and other matters and passed away in 1914. You can find out more about Dr Hodgkinson in the DNZB

End of summer of 1875 - Measels outbreaks in New Zealand probably killed hundreds if not thousands especially among the Maori population. One story recalls that some Maori shearers from Colac Bay were working at Annandale (Johnston's run) at Wreys Bush at the time of the virus spread. Many in Wreys Bush and Colac Bay had contracted the virus. When the Maori workers returned home, they found many of their whanau dead. -- Source: Sheila Natusch, On the Edge of the Bush, 1976, p.66

- March 5 - St Joseph's Catholic Church, Otautau, opened. This beautiful wooden church was designed by Mackenzie and Wilson (Invercargill), and built by Joseph Swap (Otautau) at a cost of nearly 700 pounds. The high mass was 'densely packed' with worshippers from near and far.
"The music of the Mass was rendered in very efficient style by the Invercargill choir, who were fortunate enough to also secure the valued services of Mrs Murphy of the Bluff. The 'Kyrie', 'Credo' and 'Sanctus' were from Mozart's Twelfth Mass, and the 'Angus Dei' from Weber's Mass in G. Mrs Murphy sang in exquisite style, as an offertory piece, Zelmann's 'Tantum Ergo'." -- Source: NZ Tablet on PapersPast
Service in the evening included more oratory and music.

- March 28 - 'The Big Flood' of 1913. The Otautau Standard's headline of 1 April read: "Residents unanimous that the Old Man Floods of '78 and '88 have been Eclipsed."

1925 - March - After waiting many, many years, electricity finally came to Otautau. Plans had been made several times to get on the grid sooner but were always abandoned due to excessive cost. Lighting fixtures and then heating appliances were among the first electrical conveniences to come along.

1987 - March 10 - The last major flood in the Otautau district. It was not on the scale of 1984 but still, 700 people were evacuated in preparation for the worst. Ironically, after this flood, following so closely on the heels of the Southland-wide floods three years earlier, official channels 'opened' and flood protection was again on the cards.

1995 - March 26 - Winifred Davin (nee Gonley) died in England on this date. Winifred Gonley was born of Irish immigrants in Otautau in 1909. Her parents had a barbershop, stationery shop and billiard rooms on Main Street. Winifred had a love of literature which she pursued at University in Dunedin. Her Masters thesis was called New Zealand life in contemporary literature (1932). After losing both her parents, her brother Mick, and two close friends, she finally went to Europe to be with Dan Davin, also a writer, whom she married in 1939. Marriage and motherhood were demanding roles especially during WWII in England. It has been said that she was equally as gifted a writer as her husband but lacked the opportunities that he was able to garner. You can find out more about Winifred in the DNZB or in Flight to the Centre by her daughter Anna Davin.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Re-opening of Thomson Park

St Andrews Scout Group celebrated the re-opening of Thomson Park, their scout camp on Knutsford Road today. A fire in 1996 left the building in bad shape. It has been rebuilt with a large bunk room with interconnected double-bunks, a large kitchen and meeting room, and an outdoor covered deck area. The property has also been levelled in places to create areas suitable for tents.

The facilities include a new barbecue area away from the building, and a beautiful section of native forest with a creek running through it. I heard or saw tui, bellbirds and kereru during my short visit. It is an ideal spot and I heard many times that people would like to build their house there. The views overlooking Otautau are spectcular.

This is not only a tremendous asset to the scout group but to any group that would like to hire it for meetings or workshops.

Here are a few moments during the celebration.

Ray, Chairman of the Scout committee, welcoming everyone.

Stewart Bull, Kaiwhakahaere (Chairman) of Oraka Aparima Runaka, was on hand to congratulate everyone on their efforts to rebuild the whare and to bless the facilities.

Scout leaders and members of the committee.

Ernest on the left and Pete McClelland on the right, but I didn't catch the name of the leader in the middle.

Members of the troop and community waiting for a delicious afternoon tea that included a wicked banana cake and other wonderful goodies.

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