Poverty Bay in October 1887

Having listened to Jim Sullivan’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the New Zealand Sound Archive on Radio New Zealand National this morning, my mind turned to other historical things. What was happening in Poverty Bay on this day in 1887?

A glance through The Poverty Bay Herald of the 22nd October 1887, showed that “fever season” was anticipated. Typhoid fever was the main subject of the newspaper’s editorial, following a year in which typhoid had been present at all of the coast settlements. In summarising a report from Mr Booth, the paper stated, “Mr Booth attributes the outbreak to a whale which had been allowed to lie until it had become putrid, close to Tokomaru in the vicinity of a native settlement, and from thence the fever spread to all the native villages on the Coast.”

The editorial discussed issues of quarantining settlements and railed at residents of Gisborne and the coast for their insanitary behaviour. The Gisborne township of the day was still a frontier town and, following a bylaw made in 1879, houses still relied on the good old kiwi long-drop known in those gentler times as an earth closet.

The hospital, which had been opened in 1880, was bracing itself for the fever season, having added an isolation ward to manage a scarlet fever outbreak in 1883. Town residents in October 1887 were indeed able to “visit the quack” at the hospital and the newspaper noted, “The Lady Superintendent acknowledges with many thanks six fine live ducks from Mrs Petersen for the use of the Hospital.”

The port was quiet on the day, and William Adair advertised spring shipments – just to hand – to be displayed in his new showroom on the ground floor. F. Dufaur, land agent, advertised an extensive list of leasehold and freehold properties in both town and country. Miss Doran offered a “nice assortment of laces, flowers, satins, and Indian silks” and Mr John Berry made his essay as an auctioneer.

A distinct cloud of steam had been seen rising from Ruapehu at Marton the previous Thursday, but clouds of a very different type were beginning to gather in Poverty Bay. The newspaper reported that, “several of the most prominent native chiefs in this district are about getting up a great feast to which Te Kooti will be invited…” evoking memories of the Poverty Bay Massacre of 1868 and that of Mohaka in 1869. It wouldn’t be until 1889 that hysteria would break out when Te Kooti announced his intention to re-visit the area.

But in October 1887, the East Coast Hussars were engaged in regular drills at the drill shed, and Sergeant Turton had been placed on the staff of J Battery. Several alterations had been made to the interior of Holy Trinity Church in Gisborne, and the school squad belonging to the Cadets fired for the Herald Cup.

The keeper of the Auckland fire engine narrowly missed being donged on the head. When he went to ring an alarm on the big bell, the clapper came down with a crash, just missing him.

A lady’s view of the spring race meeting at Waerenga-a-hika on Wednesday 19th praised the totalisator machine which had done away with on-course bookmakers making the meeting less rowdy and noisy. She marvelled at the mettle of the jockey with the broken thigh who asked the buggy to wait for the running of two more races before being jolted off to hospital, and praised the costumery of the ladies. A concert in the Matawhero school-room to raise funds for the Presbyterian Church had been a great success.

W.F. Hatten advertised his coach service to Ormond, with coaches departing the Albion Club Hotel at 8 a.m. and returning the same day at 3 p.m. W. Devery of the Oil Spring Hotel at Whatatutu had recently enlarged the hotel and added a general store and John Waugh, proprietor of the Roseland Hotel at Matawhero, advertised his mineral baths and accommodation. Dickson’s Argyll Hotel in Gladstone Road was able to offer plunge and shower baths, while long-time proprietor of the Waerenga-a-hika Hotel, William Cooper, advertised a first-class well-appointed billiard table.

J. Allen at Matawhero advertised for tenders for cutting variegated thistles at Bridge Paddock, behind Steggall’s Hotel. The Gisborne Gas Company advertised coke and tar for sale, and was renting gas stoves for cooking at 2 shillings and sixpence per month (gas extra, of course, at ten shillings per thousand feet). Mrs Hill of the mysteriously-named Cottage of Content advertised board and lodging in Peel Street (washing included) at 1 pound per week.

Not to be outdone, various stallions advertised their intention to stand at stud, but by appointment only. Merrylegs, New Chum, Morpheus, Emir Bey, Borrodale and Young Orlando were just a few of the, er, studs keen to meet young fillies. Ooops, I mean mares.

[source: The National Library of New Zealand, Papers Past website, The Poverty Bay Herald, Saturday 22nd October 1887.]

2 Responses to “Poverty Bay in October 1887”

  1. Sarah Walker says:

    Hi I am doing some research on the billiard Parlor of Poverty Bay. To my understanding this building stood in Peel Street.

  2. Ken says:

    Thanks for your comment. I’ve had a quick look through my records and can’t find any reference to it. Good luck with your research.

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