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.

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