Wednesday, 5 November 2014







A new Facebook group called Family History Unplugged went live on 5th November 2014. They are a platform for airing the quirky, interesting, silly and plain weird things that we all find when researching history. They are not an advice forum for genealogical queries  but exist purely for fun, interest and entertainment. I hope to be adding some of my quirky snippets about Thames and surrounds.  See you there - https://www.facebook.com/groups/familyhistoryunplugged/?fref=ts

Rewriting history.




Two of Kenneth Brown's horses listed as Melbourne Cup entries for 1873 - Hindu and Victorian.  There was a third, Asteroid, not listed here. (The Empire, Sydney 18/08/1873)


Hung for the murder of his second wife, Kenneth Brown, explorer and pastoralist of Western Australia, had a previously unknown connection to Thames, NZ which came to light when I was researching my blog 'Against her heart'  (July 2014).

Intriguingly, I was unable to find any mention of the Brown's time in Thames or New Zealand  in Australian newspaper reports or  Australian information sources.  All reports said the Brown's spent that year or so in Melbourne before returning to Champion Bay, ten weeks before Mary's murder.  

It's fascinating how the internet has made the often murky past accessible, particularly the digitising of documents and newspapers where details only guessed at by generations before us are suddenly fleshed out.  Stories that have been lost in time, mis- remembered or deliberately hidden start to take shape under the electronic glow of the internet.

In an eerie coincidence, Aidan Kelly, lawyer of Fremantle, WA , was working on a presentation of Kenneth's life to be given in Champion Bay, WA,  at the same time I was researching my blog story. 


 He had noticed the appearance of the name Kenneth Brown in NZ records but didn't think it could  be the same person.  When he came across my  just-posted blog , which was based on the story of the domestic violence against Mary Ann, the penny-dropped. 

We began swapping notes and the missing parts in the  life of Kenneth Brown came into focus.
Aidan gave his talk in  Champion Bay on 20 August 2014 which was reported in the Geraldton Guardian 27/08/14.  His interest in Kenneth Brown had been sparked  last year when he started researching a documentary on the rare, nearly extinct Australian night parrot.  (Kenneth Brown had  shot the type specimen in 1854.)

Kenneth was also the first Western Australian to enter the Melbourne Cup .  He took his best horses Victorian, Hindu and Asteroid and trainer-jockey Henry Woolhouse. 


There was a lot more to Kenneth Brown than his inglorious end and he became famous for all the wrong reasons and 
I am pleased to have been able to play a small part in the search for Kenneth Brown.

For more on Aidan Kellys' quest  -  www.matrixapprovals.com.au/02-searching-for-kenneth-brown-esq/




Mary Ann Tindall Brown - it was "against her heart" to testify against her husband. 

Kenneth Brown -  an enigma to this day. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

An extraordinary feat. Frederick Schafer (1836 -1882)


This is not really a Dead Cert but the fascinating story of a little man who passed through the  Thames area.   It was the mention of the "irrepressible and interesting half caste"   LIzzie Schafer who first caught my attention when writing the blog 'Tommy is cold'  (April 2014)  and  which put me on the trail of her husband.  Originally written for NZ Memories magazine, a large number of long articles awaiting publication and really tight space meant my little man didn't quite make it onto their pages.  Rather like the story of his life . . .




'Little Schafer' - the great German traveller.
(National Library of Australia 50990521.  Used with permission.)

In 1868, Frederick Christian Schafer, the renowned German traveller, was making a tour of New Zealand on foot. While this was unusual in itself, even more noteworthy was the fact that Mr Schafer was a dwarf.

The Canterbury Times, calling him 'A Distinguished Traveller', enthused that he was “undoubtedly the most remarkable traveller of this or any other age." He had just arrived in Christchurch, overland from Dunedin, having recently come from Victoria, Australia. The distinguished traveller, though, complained that  in all his wanderings, in many lands among many people, he had never met with more real rudeness and incivility than on the journey from Dunedin to Christchurch.  "We trust Mr Schafer...will receive the attention and consideration to which he is entitled," scolded the Times,  "and that his remembrances of Canterbury will be such as to give the province an honourable place in the book of travels which he intends to give to the world."  This jarring note in the journey of Mr Schafer heralded difficult times ahead, for New Zealand was to be the downfall of him.

‘Little Schafer’ was a native of  Hesse Cassel, Germany.    He told a Dunedin reporter that he was born in Carlhafen  on 23 November, 1836.  His father was a hotel keeper. Although not truly a dwarf, he was referred to as such.   He had been run over by a coach at the age of eight which so injured his back he was permanently crippled with a curvature of the spine.  He was only 4 ft 8 or 9 inches tall.  When he became old enough to work he was taken into a lawyer’s office and while there resolved to journey over the world, walking where possible.   His great object was to write a book of travel which would be a unique record of his personal adventures and observations.

 He commenced his travels in 1852, at the age of 16.  He carried an autograph book and a diary.  In his autograph book he had many signatures, from those of crowned heads to primitive preachers.  He travelled without money, relying upon the charity of those he met along his way.  He often made do on bread and water, but Freemasons, Oddfellows and other friendly societies lent him aid, and railway and steamboat companies regularly gave him a free pass to help him along.  After travelling New Zealand, he proposed to visit Mauritius, Madagascar, the East Indies, Siberia, and the northern portions of Asia and Europe. He calculated this would occupy about three years.  He estimated during his 16 years of travel he had gone over 150,000 miles - 100,000 of them on foot.

Starting in 1852, Schafer had spent seven years walking the different German states.  Between 1859 and 1863 he travelled through Denmark, Holland, Belgium, England, France, Spain, Italy, the northern part of Africa, Palestine (including Jerusalem) Turkey, Greece and Russia, before heading back to Germany.  He then sailed to America where he visited 24 states.   He walked over the Rocky Mountains, suffering very great hardships among the Indian tribes and, in 1866, arrived in California.  From there he went to Japan and China, and visited the islands of Batavia and Sumatra among others. He then sailed for Australia, proceeding from Sydney to Melbourne, Adelaide, Tasmania, and back to Melbourne, from where he left for New Zealand aboard the Omeo.    While she lay at Bluff, he went on to Invercargill, arriving on February 17, 1868.  He then walked up to Dunedin and continued his travels to Christchurch, Hokitika, the Grey, the Buller, Nelson and Wellington.

Schafer  arrived in Wellington on the s.s. Airedale, impressing the Independent newspaper with the information that he could easily walk 40 miles a day and, by pushing it, could reach 52.  In seven successive days he had walked 240 miles "which is certainly a great feat for a man only four feet eight inches in height, who labours under the physical infirmity on an injured back besides."  Mr Schafer now reported that he had experienced much kindness from the people he came across on his journey, but with limited financial resources, the reporter prompted "whoever may  encounter the traveller in the North Island" to help the little German traveller on his way.

From Wellington, Schafer tramped overland to Waipukurau, reaching there in a sorry state, but being hospitably received by the residents. He continued on to Napier, and in June the Hawkes Bay Herald noted   “Mr Schafer arrived in Napier on Wednesday last; and he intends very shortly proceeding to Auckland by way of Taupo and the Hot Springs, certainly an arduous undertaking at this season of the year."  From Napier he set off for Taupo and this leg of the journey took him one month - Schafer having stopped at one or two places at the invitation of Maori chiefs.

 By the time he reached Tauranga in August, he had walked eleven hundred miles in New Zealand.  The Daily Southern Cross newspaper's Tauranga correspondent  noted Schafer   “is by all accounts an extraordinary pedestrian, having accomplished some great feats....in one case having walked six and a half miles in one hour and twenty seven minutes, and in another thirty seven miles in a little less than five hours."  Schafer was delighted with the appearance and climate of Tauranga, which he said excelled that of any other place he had ever seen.  "This opinion, from an intelligent observer, who had travelled nearly all over the world is no small tribute of praise to our beautiful district . . . ," effused the correspondent.

 Schafer tramped on, and after ten days overland from Tauranga, he arrived in Shortland, Thames.  The local correspondent reported that Schafer "was very much pleased with the look of this part of the country and expressed the opinion that the country from Waihi to Ohinemuri was the best looking gold bearing country that he had seen in all his travels through the Australian colonies.   He picked up a gold specimen on the road from Waihi to Ohinemuri. "He is very much pleased at the kind hospitality shown him by the natives here," added the correspondent.

Schafer spoke in the highest terms of the courtesy extended towards him by the Hauhaus, through whose country he had come and with whom he spent several days.  The Hauhaus, an anti-European Maori religion that had thrived in the North Island, were feared by many for their random violence on isolated European communities.  Mr Schafer had no such qualms. Although heavy rains and flooding rivers had hampered his progress, he was "anxious to pay the district another visit in order to renew his acquaintance with the Hauhau tribes." The natives had very kindly presented him with greenstones, tiaha's and mats. “Mr Schafer proceeds to Auckland from this place, and afterwards returns into the interior to continue his travels."

In mid September, the Daily Southern Cross carried the startling headline “Mr Schafer to be married to a Maori.”   The ambitious little traveller had "become enamoured with a young dark-skinned lady of the native race and therefore proposes to settle down." His betrothed lived with a tribe at Ohinemuri. In the same breath, Schafer also announced plans to conclude his history of travels, publish them, return to Germany, finish his journey through Russia and Siberia and finally, after completing all his travels; return to become a New Zealand colonist.

But the admiring headlines tracking the fascinating footsteps of the German globetrotter now took an ominous tone.  The New Zealand Herald crossly announced “...the German pedestrian Schafer has been representing himself to the Upper Thames Maoris as a nephew of the Queen of England. That on the strength of this relationship he has been hospitably entertained by the native chiefs....and been presented with valuable mats, Maori weapons and ornaments, several of which he has since sold....we cannot too strongly condemn such conduct."   And the apparent romantic ending to his lonely trek across the world was suddenly in tatters. In November  various newspapers carried the headline “The German traveller and his Maori bride; and how they quarrelled."  The Thames Advertiser's special correspondent reported, with barely suppressed mirth, “a most comical episode is the description of the appearance of 'Little Schafer' and his 'Loves and Grief’s' amongst the Maoris."  The correspondent, while visiting  Maori settlements in the Upper Thames, was in discussion with Chief Ropata when, "'in the course of a few minutes, who should make his appearance but that celebrated individual, Mr Schafer, the great pedestrian traveller, who at once commenced a complaint of the treatment he had received at the hands of Ropata and his tribe."

An interpreter explained to Ropata the dissatisfactions of Mr Schafer.   Mr Schafer said he had been living amongst the tribe for two months.  Shortly after he arrived in the settlement, he had allotted to him a young Maori lady in marriage.  They had lived very happily together until recently, when his 'fair lady', without any explanation, expressed a wish to leave him. In consequence of this, she was taken away by her parents.

Chief Ropata sent for Mrs Schafer - a young lady of modest appearance and remarkably good looking. She informed the group in excellent English that her name was Lizzie, she was 15 years old,  she had  left   St Stephen’s Native Girl’s School nine months earlier and that she was a near relative of Chief Ropata.

After some discussion a jury was selected consisting of four natives and four Europeans.
"The most remarkable trial on record", the astonished correspondent advised, was held in a whare.  Lizzie stated she did not wish to live with Schafer.  He had a shawl of hers and she had a ring of his.    She also said that Schafer had given her father two pounds, that her father had then given it to her, and that she had bought a pig with it, which Schafer helped her to eat.

When Schafer came to live with the tribe he brought with him one and half hundredweight of flour, three pounds of tea, two pounds of coffee, some candles and some cooking utensils.
Schafer admitted having given Lizzie the ring, but denied giving her the shawl.  He denied the pig had been purchased with the two pounds, and alleged that they were still owing to him by the girl’s father.  The father was also in possession of a blanket which Schafer claimed to have returned.  Schafer expressed his willingness to leave his wife in the settlement, upon having the ring, the two pounds, the shawl and the cooking utensils returned.
The father stated he had given the blanket to a boatman, for bringing Schafer's traps from Shortland to the settlement. The chief's wife, Mrs Ropata, said that she had cooked for Schafer the whole time he had been in the settlement, and she thought she was fairly entitled to retain the cooking utensils, which were of a trifling value.
 Other evidence obtained "somewhat promiscuously" suggested that a cutter had come up to the settlement sometime previously, sailed by two Europeans, and Mrs Schafer had been enticed on board.  Schafer had felt aggrieved and went on board to induce her to return, but was unable to persuade her.  A scuffle ensued between Schafer and the men on board in which, Schafer alleged, he received some very serious injuries, later revealed as nothing more serious than a smack in the face.   Mrs Ropata accused the "illustrious German stranger" of being very partial to ladies society, and suggested the disagreement between husband and wife was through jealously on her part.  Mr Schafer had been supplied with a whare but he furnished nothing towards his own or his wife's support beyond the few things already mentioned.

The jury decided that Schafer should leave the settlement for being a nuisance and disturbing its "otherwise peaceful repose."  Likewise, he should take his wife with him - the chief considering that he was legally married, according to Maori custom, as if he had been married by a priest. Lizzie's friends refused to allow her to go with Schafer, and he refused to leave the settlement without his things returned. The jury then retired into the open air to consider their verdict.  After a short deliberation they unanimously decided that Lizzie should retain the ring, the shawl should be returned, and the cooking utensils should be returned by Mrs Ropata.
They also decided that the two pounds should not be returned to Schafer and that Schafer was not entitled to the blankets.  Schafer should leave the settlement on the following day, escorted in a canoe to the steamer, Clyde. The verdict was delivered in both English and Maori and appeared to give very general satisfaction.
The party adjourned to Ropata’s whare where the shawl was given to Lizzie.  "We must not omit to mention that the whole proceedings connected with this memorable trial were conducted with the most rigid decorum," reported the correspondent approvingly.
Punctually, at 5 o'clock the next day, Ropata’s canoe made an appearance and Mr Schafer was safely delivered aboard the Clyde with his baggage.  "Upon the steamer leaving, the natives in Ropata's canoe gave us a very hearty cheer and we returned on our way to Shortland, where we arrived about 10 o'clock, highly delighted with the result of our trip.”

The press across New Zealand gleefully reprinted the details of "The loves and battles of the universal traveller"  but a few days later there came the worrying report "...that the troubles of the unfortunate little German traveller, Mr Schafer, have affected his spirits..."

He had been staying at an Auckland hotel where his general conduct, bordering on extremely eccentric, suddenly became rather outrageous.   An attempt to choke himself was frustrated by some bystanders, after which he rushed out into the night.
He was next discovered by police on the wharf in a very excited condition and in possession of a dagger. He was disarmed and taken to his hotel where he remained, apparently “in his right mind.” The next afternoon, however, Constable Clark was called from his beat in Queen Street to the Custom House Wharf.  He found Mr Schafer in a very exhausted condition, having just been extricated from the water by two seamen.  He had been observed by them to place his hat  under a piece of wood so that it might not blow away,  raise his hands to the clouds mumbling, then jump into the water which was about 8ft deep.

Schafer was taken to a hotel where brandy was administered.  Dr Nicholson arrived, applied the usual remedies and restoratives and Mr Schafer began to recover his strength.  He was rolled up in blankets and conveyed on a stretcher to the police station.  Here he was detained to give an account of his extraordinary behaviour, pending a charge of attempted suicide.  His hat, on being recovered, was found to contain a letter addressed to someone in Melbourne and a piece of paper containing German verse which, when translated, contained the words "Fare you well, fare you well...”, as well as some lines about his journey being finished.

 Germans in the province of Nelson were scandalised at the stories of Mr Schafer’s amours amongst the Maoris, and were determined to vindicate his reputation.   “They will certainly be friends in need,” said the Daily Southern Cross, “for Mr Schafer...is now in the Mount Eden stockade."  A deputation to the Consul-General for Hamburg, resident in Nelson, requested him to absolve Mr Schafer's character from the aspersions thrown upon it.

The once feted wayfarer was released from Mount Eden Gaol and money was raised to pay his passage to Melbourne where he was the serve the rest of his sentence.  Mr Schafer was said to be in poor health, and  used to an outdoor life,  there were fears that confinement would kill him.

Six months later, in May 1869, the Melbourne Argus announced that Schafer, "the poor little German traveller", had been released from Melbourne Gaol and "appears to be wandering about, uncertain where to go or what to do.  It is a pity that this unfortunate wanderer should be so left.  He was unlucky in coming to these shores, where everyone is busy, and few are romantic or sentimental enough to sympathise with the motives which induced him to leave his fatherland and visit strange nations.”
The world that Schafer had intrepidly striven so hard to see had washed its hands of him.  "Of course, to expect anything from him in the nature of a book of travels is out of the question...he mistook his vocation utterly when he proposed to narrate what he saw and experienced in a trip round the world,” harrumphed the Argus, although it was sympathetic enough to suggest financial contributions would enable Schafer to leave the colony and go home.

By mid 1870, it was reported that "Schafer, the great little traveller, has given up his vagabond life and is now making an honest living by tailoring in Melbourne."  A few months later however, Schafer applied for admission to the Benevolent Asylum.  He was suffering from chronic rheumatism which prevented him from working and he was “altogether in a miserable plight.”

He did not remain an inmate of the Benevolent Asylum for long however.  He had received a letter, and in accordance with regulations, it was opened in the presence of the Superintendent.  It was found to contain a cheque for one pound 12 s 10d, from Adelaide. Schafer refused to sign an acknowledgement for the cheque unless it was given to him to spend.  The Superintendent refused and Schafer elected to leave the Asylum, which he did at once.  It later transpired Schafer had been in receipt of one pound per week since June from the Albion Lodge of the Manchester Unity Order of Odd Fellows at Adelaide.

Twenty five years later, in 1906, ‘Old Chum’ wrote of his recollections of Frederick Schafer the great German traveller, for the NZ Truth newspaper.  Entitled ‘Maoriland Memories’, it recalled their meeting 40 years previously in Sydney, prior to Schafer’s fateful journey to New Zealand.   The diminutive nomad was then an active and energetic little fellow, full of talk and reminisce, and always alert for a new autograph for his book, which he carried in a wallet slung over his shoulder.  He claimed to have travelled over a great portion of the globe and was 31 when 'Old Chum' encountered him.
 During his travels in America, he met President Johnson, whose guest he was for three weeks.  He visited all the chief cities in the United States and travelled all the way from Portland, Maine, to San Francisco, mostly on foot.  He was three weeks in Salt Lake City and had many conversations with the Mormon prophet, Brigham Young, whom Schafer described as a very courteous, well informed man.  From San Francisco he went to Hong Kong, then to Java intending to return to Europe by way of India and China and from there across the Great Desert and Russian Tartary, visiting Siberia before returning to his native Hesse Cassel.   Among the signatures in his autograph book were the hieroglyphics of the Emperor of China, who would not allow him to enter Peking.   ‘Old Chum’ was doubtful of this signature- he was under the impression it had been done by a 'rubber stamp', which he didn’t think was invented at the time. Schafer, however, had plenty of genuine signatures - President Johnson, General Grant and Pope Pius IX among them.

 He also had a collection of official seals.  His book contained thousands of signatures and numerous recommendations.  He also boasted a collection of 6000 photographs and a miniature museum of curios.  He planned to donate his collection to a German museum once his book was written. ‘Old Chum’ recounted Schafer’s Maori marriage and his subsequent fall from grace.     “I don’t know what eventually became of the unfortunate traveller,” wrote ‘Old Chum’, “and I would be glad of some reader will let me know how he finished up.”

Frederick Schafer had ‘finished up’ on 24 January, 1881 at Callan Park Hospital for the Insane, Sydney.  He had been found hatless and bootless, shrieking and foaming at the mouth.  The Masonic Brethren had paid his expenses home to Germany, but he had found his way back to Sydney.  The man who performed such an extraordinary feat was described on admission as “a little deformed man with spinal curvature” with blue eyes and a fair complexion, in a thin but clean condition.   His general health was below par.  He stood at 4 feet 4 ½ inches tall and weighed 95 pounds (43 kilos).  He was 45.  His previous occupation was listed as ‘traveller’, he had no residence and no friends or relations anywhere but Germany.   He “could not say” if he was married, single or widowed.  He was assessed as not “a fit person to be at large”.  His form of mental disorder was given as mania.

He was very childlike in his manner, loquacious and rambling in his speech and easily moved to tears and laughter   His medical notes chart a sad, steady decline over the next 11 months.   He was frequently very noisy by day and night, screaming at the top of his voice, imagining that he was going to die.    Although he gradually put on weight – 101 lbs by October – in November he started having epileptic fits followed by unconsciousness, the fits and stupor becoming more frequent.  By mid January 1882 he had been confined to bed for a fortnight, eating very little   Although still destructive, he was extremely feeble.  The renowned German traveller finally ended his journey about 7.30 on the evening of 26 January.

Of Frederick Schafer’s vast collection of autographs, mementoes, photographs and book notes there appears to be no trace.   Callan Park records make no note of any possessions.  Possibly they were scattered or stolen during the last years of his distressed wanderings.  It was a dismal end for the man who walked around the world, briefly finding love in New Zealand.

____________________________________________________________________

( Lizzie, Schafer’s Maori bride, made a couple of appearances in the Thames court before disappearing from view.  She was evidently well known locally, attracting descriptions such as the “irrepressible half caste.” In October 1870, the same month that Schafer applied for relief  to the Melbourne Benevolent home, his wife, then aged 17 or 18, was charged by Mrs Welsh, of the Shortland Hotel, Thames, with stealing a dress, a petticoat, a handkerchief and a locket.  Lizzie was described as “the intelligent half caste who enslaved the affections of the little German Schafer, the erratic traveller.”  Lizzie carried out her own cross examination of Mrs Welsh  -  “quite a professional cross examination at the hands of the sharp half caste,” observed a reporter.   Sergeant Lloyd deposed to finding the dress in Lizzie's tent.  For the defence, a Maori woman named Mary Anne was called.  She said she had been present when the articles said to have been stolen were given to Lizzie by a white woman.  Lizzie Schafer, however, was found guilty and sentenced to one month's imprisonment with hard labour.  Six months later, Lizzie again appeared in court in a curious case where a gold locket was stolen from her and she herself was charged with stealing a gold watch and chain. She also prosecuted this case.  Court reports were exasperatedly headed “Mrs Schafer Again.”  Lizzie also went by the name Williams.  The boarding school she said she attended was established by the Kisslings and was the forerunner of St Stephen's School, a boarding school for Maori boys at Bombay, south Auckland.  No school records remain of that era or the irrepressible Lizzie, who so ensnared the heart of the little German traveller).
______________________________________________________________________

Frederick Christian Schafer, misnamed here as Christian Frederick Schafer, in 1867. (National Library of Australia - an23149135-y  Used with permission)


Sources:  Papers Past, National Library NZ.
Callan Park Hospital for the Insane records, NSW State records.
Thanks to Anne Lyon, Society of Australian Genealogists.


© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The flutter of a beloved petticoat.

Sorry for the break in transmission - my husband had a heart attack!  And although extremely frightening, I'm glad it happened now and not 'then'  . . .

The Thames Star of 1911 admonished readers that "you do not respect your hearts as much as you ought to."  Women,  when they had done a hard days shopping then fainted when they got home, were advised "it is your poor old heart that finds itself too weary to pump the blood up into the brains."  Men who trained for rowing or boxing  trained their biceps and calf muscles,but neglected their hearts "and fall out before the race is finished because the heart has not been trained to stand the strain."

Envisioning the heart as an organ with an occupation the Star continued  "perhaps you forget that your heart is really a muscle...it works all day and all night and even attends to business on holidays and Sunday . . .It never strikes for higher pay: it only demands care and good food."

The stomach had a lot to answer for  - "it receives the food as it is swallowed, is quite close to the heart, and when it is distended with wind the heart is pressed against and its action disturbed; hence the treatment of palpitation is to pay no attention to the heart but to direct the treatment to the digestion.  In these cases look after the stomach, and the heart will take care of itself."

Smoking was recognized as a danger - "cigarettes act as a heart poison, especially the very cheap kind: you must not smoke cigarettes until you are 21, and then you must exercise your own discretion."  Silly boys,  steamed the Star,  "who smoke cigarettes in large numbers because it looks grand ought to be locked up.  Their hearts are certain to suffer."

Sex, of course, was fatal - even the mere thought of it - "anxiety makes the heart beat faster; the flutter of a beloved petticoat sends the pulse rate up and the heart acts feebly in times of depression and misery."

For the sake of our hearts  one must maintain a cheerful and steady temperament, counselled the Star before adding  perhaps the wisest advice -  still relevant today -  "a man who flies in a temper over trifles a dozen times a day throws a heavy strain on the heart; it is a very expensive habit to keep a bad temper."


 Thanks to Thames Hospital and Waikato Hospital Cardiac Care unit.  We are (both) on the mend now!




Pain, smothering, choking, fainting, no pulse - not to worry!  It's probably only a heart attack - have a swig of this!
Disquieting advertisement from less enlightened times (1909)
(Source: Papers Past)

Monday, 6 October 2014

Mantraps. John Fitzgerald, 1906

Coromandel town in 1904 - memories of mines and men.

At 77 John Fitzgerald was still spry enough to gather his firewood from around the Coromandel hills.  By May 1906 the old prospector had lived in the area, where he and his brother Michael were well known for their glory days on the goldfields, for over 30 years. 

But Michael had died two months previously at the age of 83.   He had not enjoyed good health and had been a patient at the hospital for some months. 

John lived by himself and his neighbour, William Anderson, kept an eye on the bereaved man.  On Monday 7 May William was becoming anxious - he had not seen John since Friday.   He headed into the hills where he knew John was in the habit of collecting firewood and soon came across a bundle of wood beside an old mine shaft overgrown with scrub. On looking down the shaft William made out the motionless figure of a man.  He went for help.

 Charles Norman volunteered to be lowered down the shaft and a 60ft rope was obtained.  This proved too short and he had to be hauled to the surface again.
When a longer rope was found, Charles descended the shaft where he found John Fitzgerald in a huddled up position, quite dead.  The body was pulled to the surface and carried to the Golconda Hotel where an inquest was held.   Dr Smith found the neck and spine were broken as well as a large number of ribs and the right leg.  He concluded death must have been instantaneous.

The inquest found John Fitzgerald came to his death by falling down a mine shaft. The jury added a rider that the conduct of Charles Norman in descending the shaft twice on a rope was worthy of commendation. During the inquest a good deal of discussion had taken place as to the action of mine companies in leaving old shafts unprotected.  The Coroner emphasised that the mining law provided for old shafts being either filled in, covered or fenced.

It was an ironic end for the old prospector who fell down an 80 ft dry air shaft on the Hauraki No 2 Gold mining Company's property.

Twenty five years earlier, in 1881, John Fitzgerald had been noted as one of the lucky prospectors of Blackmore's claim, leaving for Auckland to arrange matters in connection with the formation of a company. Gold was showing more freely in Blackmore's reef the more it was worked on.  A very rich leader ran down the centre of the reef which was about 6" wide.  "Every stone taken from it is richer than anything yet got out of the claim," marvelled the Thames Advertiser, "and where left in the floor of the workings the gold is stronger than ever, giving every promise . . . "

The claim, discovered by Harry Blackmore, was known as the Tiki and such was its promise that the Auckland Star wordily reported "most of our old miners who essayed to try their luck at Te Aroha have returned, and so convinced are they of the auriferous character of the newly-discovered Tiki gold-field, that they have gone thither and pegged out claims adjoining the prospectors."   There was a considerable area of ground lying between Blackmore and Fitzgerald's claims.  Good results from the field were expected and "prospects are such that a considerable increase of population may be expected before long."

The Tiki Battery was opened in September 1881 to great fanfare. Several hundred people, including "a fair sprinkling of ladies",   came in spite of the bad roads and other difficulties.  A few minutes before 12, the machinery having been set in motion, the customary bottle of champagne was broken over the flywheel by Miss Blackmore who named it 'The Tiki.'
After viewing the machinery in action, the public dispersed over the mines, lubricated by an abundance of refreshments.   "There was not the slightest hitch.   Everything worked as smoothly as though it had been in operation for years," noted the NZ Herald approvingly.   

That night a grand dinner was held at the Star and Garter Hotel to commemorate the opening of the Tiki battery.  The evening echoed with toasts, speeches and musical honours.   One speaker said when he first came to Coromandel 13 years previously it was a very dull place indeed, but he thought there was a bright future before it now.  Another added he was perfectly astonished at what he saw at the Tiki, and was sure when he got back to Auckland and told people what he saw in the mines and in the district, they would be sure to want to come and see for themselves.  Another said "he was very sorry that so few of the Auckland shareholders had come down . . .  if they had - they would have felt well repaid."  Toasts were drunk to engineering feats carried out in weather so bad the roads were near impassable.   "When the Tiki broke out, although there was no money, they managed to get a road made, and a good many roads had been made since."   Finally the tables were cleared away and celebratory dancing was kept up for some hours. 

But all that glittered was not gold - in February 1884 brother Michael Fitzgerald was in the district court taking action against the Blackmore Gold Mining Company for 37 weeks and three days wages at two pounds eight shillings per week for work and labour done at the defendant's mine at Coromandel, between 21 June 1882 and 25 April 1883.

Michael Fitzgerald said he was working with John Fitzgerald and others in the mine.  John was one of the largest shareholders in the mine and said he could not pay his calls. 
The company was also in debt at the time.  John Fitzgerald undertook to work the mine with the help of other men, including Michael, for three months or until the company's liabilities were paid off; or until the company should pay Fitzgerald or Blackmore.  After a complicated hearing the district judge ruled that in his opinion the company was not liable for wages for the plaintiffs.   Further action against the company by John Fitzgerald was withdrawn.

A year later the brothers established a new Fitzgerald Claim about 3 miles out of Coromandel in the direction of the Tiki.  It lay on one of the spurs from the Tokatea main range; the spur lying between two gullies.  Here the Fitzgerald brothers took up three claims consisting of about 80 acres in all.  They had prospected this ground some years before and got gold on leaders running off the main reef that ran through the ground.  The ground was then floated, but financial difficulties of the Auckland shareholders prevented the supply of the capital necessary to develop the property. The ground was known to be gold bearing and they were encouraged to now thoroughly prospect it. 

Three years later, in 1898, when the brothers were aged 70 and 75, they made headlines again.   The men, now identities on the Coromandel goldfields, had made a new discovery at Tiki.  After diligent and patient labour they discovered a reef hinting at more than average promise.   "These indefatigable brothers, although well advanced in life, have persevered in a manner deserving every success, the difficulties encountered by them being of no mean order," praised the NZ Herald. It reminded readers that some years before "when mining was at a low ebb, they, in conjunction with the late Mr Harry Blackmore, made an important and valuable discovery -  the claim being known as Blackmore and Fitzgerald's - and caused a revival  in our midst."  The brothers were now working at following the lode down and were hopeful that within a week or two they 
would be able to prove it was of sufficient value to stimulate prospecting. 

But by March 1902 the brothers who worked so doggedly had finally laid down their picks. The Council were asked to take steps to get numerous claims now protected and not being worked forfeited and thrown open to bona-fide miners. It was resolved that the circumstances of the Fitzgerald brothers and the forfeiture of their claim be laid before the Minister for Mines when he visited the district. 

Two months after John Fitzgerald's fatal fall the Coromandel News commented many such 'mantraps' were about the Coromandel goldfields and it was a wonder such accidents did not happen more frequently.  It was high time that legislation was enacted making it compulsory for claim owners to make safe every property held under licence by them.  
The Thames Star called the disused shafts "a perpetual danger on mining fields."

In July 1906 a case was brought before the Warden's Court at Coromandel - the outcome of John Fitzgerald's death.   Information was laid by the Mining Inspector against the Hauraki No 2 Gold mining Company.  But the company had gone into liquidation prior to the information being laid and it was doubtful who was liable under the Act.  The inspector withdrew the information after bringing before the public and owners of mines their liability to heavy penalties for allowing disused shafts to remain unfenced or uncovered.  The inspector stressed  the determination of the Mines Department to see that the Act was strictly complied with.  Too late for John Fitzgerald, tireless prospector. 

______________________________________________________________________ 

The surface works of the old Hauraki Gold mining Company in 1904.


The Fitzgerald brothers are buried at Buffalo Cemetery, Coromandel.  They left a sister in Australia and a nephew, Mr Oliver Mason, of Limestone Island, Whangarei. 

Phillip Henry Blackmore, known as Harry, was also a most assiduous prospector who discovered the celebrated claim at Tiki which bore his name, besides many other important finds.  He took a very active interest in public affairs and was a member of the County Council.    Despite his industry and the discovery of the Tiki, he did not profit much by it. He was remembered as a thoroughly upright and straightforward man.   He died in December 1892.

Sources: Papers Past, Te Ara, Heritage Images 19041020-16-4 & 19040915-3-1



© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Papers Past Bloopers

And now for something completely different - a little sidetrack into the lighter side of my researching.

The vagaries of the Papers Past digitisation process makes the task more enjoyable when the text is transcribed inaccurately. Here are a few examples which have relieved some grimmer moments during my investigating.

In June 1900 Thames ratepayers would have been indignant to learn of Grants for County Beads. Council workers decked out in jewelry at their expense it was not though - it should have read Grants for County Roads.

In August 1900  education may have sounded under threat if you were Tom, Dick, Harry - or any other name for that matter  - with the announcement of the Coromandel School of Mikes. Fortunately it was the Coromandel School of Mines so no aspiring mining engineer suffered through having the wrong handle.

 Paeroa appeared to be lovesick in October 1900 with the headline Paeroa Dotes, but in reality it was the more mundane Paeroa Notes. 

September of 1905 saw news of The Snaremarket which was an amusingly apt but faulty translation of The Sharemarket .

The meaning of The undalanced drain in October 1915 was anybody's guess. The off-kilter digitization actually referred to The unbalanced drain, still a strange heading in it's original text.

A colourless way to die reported by the Nelson Evening Mail in March 1892  was A supposed case of browning.   Perhaps drowning would have been preferable.

Possible earthquakes in Coromandel were reported in March 1906 with Coromandel Joltings but the upheavals were just a computer misinterpretation of Coromandel Jottings.

The Ohinemuri Gazette  in August 1906 appeared to put a sexy spin on sport, announcing the game of Hotkey,  throwing a curve ball at the far less exciting game of Hockey.

For local  pupils in December 1895 the year's end seemed to be all a bit too much with news from Thames Sigh School.

In October 1912 spendthrift residents dreading bills in the post would have viewed with alarm the Wail Notices,  a mis-transcription of the more benign Mail Notices. 

There was evidently danger at sea with a July 1902 report of Trawling in the gulp.  This hard-to-swallow fishing story actually read Trawling in the Gulf. 

The Manawatu Standard, in August 1902  promised more - but their Further Particulars ornately translated as Farther Particuarly.  

The Evening Post reported the bizarre demise of an unfortunate person who was Bun over by a lorry in March 1935, leaving them not sure to rise again.

Distasteful news was delivered in October 1885 by The NZ Herald and Daily Southern Gross, after the merging of the Herald and the Daily Southern Cross.

And my personal favourite from May 1884 -  Home Eule Foe Ohinemuri and Justice Foe hee peoplet -  a hilarious digital transcription of Home Rule For Ohinemuri and Justice For her people.

Back to the inquest reports and headstones for me - another Dead Cert coming soon!



© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert, 2014


Monday, 25 August 2014

"O heaven, what shall we do!" Walter Ritchie, 1881.




Boys, bush and bullets.  A creek near Paeroa. 

For the four lads out on an impromptu shooting expedition on an April afternoon in 1881  the excursion was a high spirited, late summer adventure.  The intended quarry was duck and pigeon of which there were plenty on farmland near Puke, Paeroa.    Earlier that morning, about 10am, Thomas Cashen, jnr, aged 14, and Fred Lipsey, 17, had set out -  Fred carrying his  double barrelled breech loading, pin fire Sniper.  They walked towards the junction and crossed the river near Haora Tareranui's settlement,  passing near Mr Lipsey's farm.

About 12pm they saw Walter Ritchie, aged 13,  on the opposite side of the river.  Walter was also hunting and had a gun with him.   Fred and Thomas re-crossed the river and Walter joined them.  They all walked down to Mr Moore's and there 11 year old Ernest Moore joined the group.  The boys, with youthful exuberance,   crossed the river again and once opposite Mr Snodgrass'  went some distance below his house to a fig tree.  They picked some figs and then their attention was caught by a shag sitting in a willow tree.  Walter aimed his gun and fired at the shag while Fred  discharged both barrels of his gun and then re-loaded.   While Fred was reloading, they saw another shag and Fred called out to Walter "I am going to fire" at the same time raising his gun. Walter was standing about a yard and a half on the left side of Fred when he inexplicably  shifted his position in front of Fred's gun.  The gun went off and shot Walter in the head.

Lewis Snodgrass was on his farm near Puke at 3 pm when he heard shots on the other side of the river.  A short time later he heard another shot, followed immediately by the sound of boys crying out "O heaven, what shall we do!"  Lewis took his boat and went over the river to see what the matter was.  On arriving on the other side he found three boys - Frederick, Ernest and Thomas, who were in great distress. They told him Walter Ritchie was shot.  Ernest pointed in the direction and Lewis Snodgrass found Walter lying on his back.   It was about seven yards from the bank of the river, on open ground.  A distraught Fred  said to Lewis Snodgrass "What shall I do - the gun went off accidentally and I shot him."

At the inquest, held at Paeroa Hotel,  young Thomas Cashen said he thought the reason Walter had stepped in front of the gun was to prevent Fred from firing until Walter was ready to shoot too.  "After the accident,"  said Thomas, "we all ran away screaming." 
Lewis Snodgrass testified  that  he heard no sound of dispute or quarrelling before the shot was fired.  Two of the boys had told him that when Fred was in the act of firing,  Walter ran in front of him and was shot, but the shock and speed of events possibly distorted their recall.

Albert Russell, Sergeant of Police, said that at 3.30 David Snodgrass junior came to the police station and informed him Walter Ritchie was shot and was lying opposite his farm near Puke.   Russell  went immediately to the scene where he asked Thomas Cashen how the boy came to be shot.  Thomas replied Fred had shot him.  He pointed out the spot Fred  had stood in when he fired.  "It appeared to me," said the sergeant, " as if the deceased had come out from behind the bush.  I should think that anyone standing behind the bush could not be seen by Lipsey."  Russell arrested Fred who said "I don't know how it was done; it was accidental." Sergeant Russell believed the boys to all be very good friends.

The jury found that  Walter Ritchie met his death by a gunshot wound and that it was purely accidental and a misadventure.

Walter was the son of Mr John Ritchie, the  respected headmaster of the Paeroa public school. "Deep gloom was cast over the inhabitants of Paeroa, Ohinemuri and the whole adjacent district ," noted the Thames Advertiser when news of Walter's death broke. 
To add to the family's distress  an elder brother of Walter's was lying at Thames in a most critical condition, having recently come out of hospital.  "If sympathy could alleviate this new affliction of the parents, there is an abundant outpouring of it in Paeroa now . . . "

Walter was buried on the outskirts of Paeroa in spite of the law providing  for burial in public cemeteries only.    There was no cemetery in Paeroa then.   Walter's death saw " a strong feeling prevalent in Paeroa which this fatal accident may bring to a climax - that a local cemetery for such a populous district must be provided at once."


Walter was a bugler in the No 3 Company of the Thames Scottish Volunteers.  He was buried with military honours: a tragic victim of those relatively carefree colonial days where young boys entrusted with guns was commonplace. 




There were seven children in the Ritchie family, including Walter.  Two of his brothers, Fred and Jack, are pictured here to the right, leaning on the seat.

(Back Row: Mr Walter Sullivan (Headmaster  at Paeroa School 1885-1901), Miss Minnie Shaw. Teacher at Paeroa for 31 years, Fred and Jack Ritchie. Seated: Fred Shaw, Mr Jim Shaw (uncle of Shaw's and Ritchie's) Mrs Sullivan.Two young ladies not known).

_____________________________________________________________________


The lack of a cemetery at Paeroa was the subject of a Pigeongram flown to the Thames Advertiser in February 1878 which noted that “the wife of Mr Thomas Shaw (Foreman of the Works in this district) died yesterday...owing to the want of a cemetery here her remains will have to be conveyed to the Thames for sepulchre.” In 1882 Paeroa submitted a request to parliament for the setting aside of a piece of ground for a local cemetery and was finally successful.  Later that year a cemetery committee arranged the fencing, ploughing, harrowing and sowing of a one acre block, ‘Pukerimu’, for a cemetery.  

John Ritchie was the first headmaster of Paeroa school (1875-1884).  
  In 1876 he opened a part time school at Mackaytown, while Mrs Ritchie continued teaching at Paeroa.  When Mr Ritchie left Paeroa he went teaching in Northland.  He returned to Ohinemuri, opening the Karangahake and Owharoa schools.   He died 21 October 1901, aged 70.
Mrs Ritchie died on July 16, 1884,  aged 48, three years after her son Walter.  She was buried at the Paeroa cemetery by then opened.


The area where the boys were shooting  was called 'Te Puke'  in newspaper reports, likely meaning the Puke Road area of  Paeroa, not Te Puke, Bay of Plenty.   
"In 1842 when Joshua Thorp sailed up the Waihou with a view to building the first European house in Ohinemuri he chose the site "Te Puke", a low hill adjacent to the river . . ."   [see  Ohinemuri Journal 8: Thorp Family - Paeroa's First Settlers ) 

(Sources Papers Past, Ohinemuri Journal No's 8, and 19 (Ritchie photo), Sir George Grey Auckland Libraries 534-9514)  

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014
_______________________________________________________________________


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Hawkeye, 1887.



A goose gizzard gathering gold was dissected  at Puriri and was found to contain  40 small particles swallowed from the river there.  The goose's nest egg prompted  the Advertiser to proclaim  "the opening out of this important tract of country is of the utmost importance to the county."

Also at Puriri vigorous steps were being taken by the police to quell orchard and honey robbing which was rife in the settlement.  There was scarcely a settler who had not suffered from "nightly marauders".  Constable O'Brien, it was ominously reported, would no doubt with his usual tact run to earth the petty thieves.  The metalling and forming of the Puriri- Hikutaia road was making good progress with about 40 workmen and ten teams of horses employed on the job by the contractor, Mr J Rickets.

Boisterous weather, bad roads and hard times were reported form Paeroa. Compounding the gloom was the amount of 'naughty lingo' overheard there.  A 'burst of amusements' was anticipated though - talented musicians were to appear at the public hall and a football match at Mackay Town was scheduled.

Banging gates in the vicinity of Thames Hospital pained patients. The negligence of  some inhabitants in attending to the safe fastening of their gates, particularly during windy nights, earned them a scolding.  The hospital patients had 
 their rest seriously broken by the clanging and banging of unfastened  gates and those  who were the cause of this harassing nocturnal disturbance were advised to take the precaution of safely latching  them - if only for the sake of their own comfort.

'A case of misplaced charity' was observed when a Shortland  fisherman obtained from the Charitable Aid Board an order for food rations and was later seen in a public house  trying his utmost to exchange the order for a long beer.

"Bread stuffs falling" announced the Advertiser, catching the attention of Thames housewives  concerned about the price of bread.   A baker boy in Richmond Street,  driving his pack horse  to his customers, was nearing the  Rev Mr Neil's house when the horse bolted, upsetting the bread and sending several loaves flying.

"Mr F C Dean, Town Clerk, announces that from and after Saturday next, the water supply of the Borough will be cut off except during the hours of 7.30am and 11am.  This course is necessitated through the cleaning out of the dam, and the repairing of the water race."



© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Where youth and laughter go. 1914-1918.


With the start of the commemorations of World War One it is perhaps timely to remember that not all casualties were to be found on the battlefields or in the trenches.  Thames and districts were no exception.

In May 1915, against a backdrop of rising anti-German feeling across New Zealand, Herman Mohlman, a naturalised German of Paeroa, ordered his wife and children out of the house.  His wife, who had no financial means, went to stay with friends.  She had recently started proceedings against her husband on account of his ill-treatment of her.
They had married at Rotorua six years previously and had lived at Opotiki for a time, then at Paeroa for about eight months.   Two years earlier Herman had gone to Germany for six months.   His father had died and Herman was to look into his estate.  He had been in New Zealand a little over six years and was naturalised after marriage.  He had been a gardener at Rotorua Sanatorium and afterwards started farming near Rotorua but gave it up to go to Germany.  Since returning from Germany his sympathies were absolutely German and he was very strong in his beliefs.  He began gardening again at Paeroa but was fired due to pronounced pro-German statements.
The day before he ordered his family out he had applied to the Thames police for the cancellation of his naturalisation papers as he wished to become German again.
His wife last saw him on the morning of the 18th when he called out from across the road to say he was going  to the police and wanted to say goodbye to the children.

Herman travelled to Thames and engaged a room at the Royal Hotel.   He told Mr J W Bright, the hotel licensee, that he would be staying overnight and returning to Paeroa the next afternoon.   A subsequent guest went to occupy the room Herman had been in but found it still tenanted.  Bright investigated and to his horror found Herman shot in the temple, on the bed, fully dressed with a revolver nearby.

Bright told the inquest that he had heard no shot fired nor had he noticed anything unusual in Herman's behaviour.   He considered Herman had been perfectly sane.  He drank very little and had missed no meals.
The verdict reached was one of suicide by shooting, there being no evidence of insanity. There is no record of where Herman Mohlman is buried, a task that was probably carried out quietly with no acknowledgement.  It was noted that for the Mohlman's, there had been unhappiness before the war, which had increased since its outbreak.

In June 1915, near Ohingaiti, on a special troop train from Auckland to Trentham, Archibald Young, from Thames, a member of the Auckland reinforcements, was asked for  a match by another trooper.  Instead of producing a match box Archibald pulled out a razor and shockingly slashed at his own throat in a most determined manner.  He was immediately restrained   and a doctor who boarded the train at Hunterville  accompanied the injured man to Palmerston North Hospital.
At the Magistrate's Court hearing the next month  Archibald Young  blamed the send-off in Auckland at which the departing soldiers were supplied with a great deal of liquor, which  had affected him. He made a "remarkable recovery" and his father paid all court costs.  "A soldier's lapse" the newspaper headlines described it,  playing down what was,  for the times, perceived as a shameful disgrace.

The uncertainty of war also affected loved one's  left behind.  In February 1917 at Tirohia, Kahu Taupaki, a 19 year old  European woman, attempted to drown herself in the Waihou River in the vicinity of the Tirohi Maori settlement.  Her husband, a Maori, was away at war and she had been living with his relatives at the settlement.  She felt isolated and alone and  got the idea into her head that she had not been treated properly, and those at the pa were always talking disrespectfully of her. This preyed so much on her mind that she suddenly rushed into the river.  She was up to her shoulders in the water before she was rescued.
Kahu was taken to Paeroa and seen by a doctor.  The stress of the incident affected her psychologically. "Strange to relate Mrs Kahu Taupaki appears to have lost her memory regarding the occurrence.  She could remember nothing whatever about going into the water," said the Ohinemuri Gazette. She was brought up at the Police Court and charged with attempting to commit suicide.  The Bench unsympathetically  gave her a severe reprimanding, some advice and discharged her, remarking it would be wise for her to leave the area.
Kahu was reported to have later taken a job as an assistant at the quarry cook-house at Tirohia with the likelihood of her running it on her own in the near future.  "She is, however, in regular receipt of money from her husband at the war."

Suicide and cowardice were seen as a serious transgression particularly in war time.  There was much to fear - being shot at, gassed, losing friends, losing family, being wounded, being killed.  The continual fear of death drove many over the edge.  Others suffered from trauma and mental breakdown from constant explosions and artillery fire. Men returned  wounded,  suffering with war related mental illness to employment prospects could be grim.   Shell shock was poorly understood and often not recognised.

In  July 1918  the publication of details on the suicide of soldiers came under discussion.
The Rangitikei War Relief Association protested against the undue prominence given in the press to suicides of soldiers and returned soldiers. The association asked the Dominion Advisory Board of the Patriotic Society  to take action so that the newspapers would suppress the words "soldier" and "returned soldier" in future.  The president of the RSA, Mr McCallum, said "starring in headlines of returned soldier suicides was most offensive.  It reflected on the deceased relatives and in soldiers generally."
Mr J Dougall said the request should not stop there - it should be extended to cover soldiers charged in court. The Hon J T Paul remarked that he had heard "very strong comment in the lack of publicity that was given to suicides in the (training) camps for instance."   He agreed that publicity in these matters was sometimes scandalous, but they must not stifle reasonable publicity.  The public, he said, was the great jury.
Mr Larner observed that the government might not be blameless in these suicides.  He believed many of the men to be victims of neurasthenia, who had been discharged before they were fit.  Publicity would be a good thing if it brought the government to a sense of responsibility in regard to these men.  Mr McCallum, replying, said that camp suicides were on a different plane to those of returned men.  Camp suicides  might be from fear.  As for returned men,  it was impossible to say what a man might have been through or how his mind might as a result have been affected.  A resolution was passed condemning undue publicity being given to soldier suicides or offences.*

SUICIDE IN THE TRENCHES

By Siegfried Sassoon

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.





Rameka Taupaki's war grave at Ramparts Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium. His wife, known as Kahu, was Gwenyth  Taupaki,  nee Henry.   They married at an Auckland Registry office in February 1916.    They lived at Grey Street, Waihi at one time.   Two Taupaki brothers went to war.   Rameka Taupaki was a Lance Corporal who embarked February 1916 with the Third Maori contingent.  He was killed in action at Ypres, on 31 December, 1917, aged 27, ten months after Kahu's suicide attempt.  His brother, Te Aotutahanga Taupaki, was a private who embarked in February, 1915, with the First Maori contingent.  He is noted as being single, with his as mother next of kin. In Roll Of Honour In Memoriam notices a year later Rameka is remembered by his brother Te  Aotutahanga, his sister Caroline and his mother.  Rameka's brother's memorial notice to him poignantly says "killed in action somewhere in France." 


'John' Taupaki of Paeroa - Auckland Weekly News 21 March, 1918.  In all likelihood this is Private Rameka Taupaki who was killed three months before.

(Thanks to Althea Barker http://thamesnz-genealogy.blogspot.com/ for additional information on Rameka Taupaki's marriage details.)
_____________________________________________________________


*At the same discussion there was also an appeal for the elimination of 'Americanisms' in the press.

Neurasthenia  was originally a description of a mechanical weakness of the actual nerves.  It later came to mean a psychological disorder marked especially by mental exhaustion, lack of motivation feelings of inadequacy and psychosomatic symptoms.

__________________________________________________________________


(Sources: Papers Past,  Heritage Images AWNS 19180321-41-34, Auckland Museum Cenotaph database,  NZ War Graves Project, Wikipedia)

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014