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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The riches in the river are not for such as Joe


At 6.20 pm on Sunday 28 May 1882, a 40 year-old Texan miner was relaxing after working at dredging gold from the nearby Clutha River in Central Otago, New Zealand. While his wife cleared the dinner table and washed up the dishes, he sat in the rocking chair in the living room of his small wooden cottage, cradling his fifth child Joseph, who was four months old.

Suddenly a shot rang out.

We can pick up the story from the report of the subsequent trial in the local newspaper the Tuapeka Times: ‘The Miller’s Flat Murder – Coroner’s Inquiry Verdict of Wilful Murder returned against Kitto’:

‘An inquiry was held before Jonas Harrop, Esq., J.P., acting-Coroner, on Tuesday last, touching the death of Joseph Augustus Roggiero. After the jury had been sworn, the body of the murdered man Roggiero was viewed, and the adjournment was made to the residence of Peter Kloogh.

Neils Peter Kloogh, the wounded man, whose evidence was taken in bed, deposed (Nils and his wife Tamar are pictured in the lead-in to this story):

‘I am a miner, residing on the east bank of the river at Millers Flat. I was in my house, and about twenty minutes pasty 6 pm I heard the report of a gun. It was moonlight. I heard a scream, and then went outside, I saw two of William Kitto’s children coming towards my house. They were running. They told me that there had been an accidentally shooting. The children are about ten and eleven years of age.

I then ran as hard as I could towards Roggiero’s. On the way I met Betsy Ann Roggiero, wife of the deceased, near John Kitto’s fence, and near his house. She said that the old man (meaning John Kitto) had shot Joe (meaning her husband), now deceased.

When I had proceeded about ten or twelve steps, I received a bullet wound in my right arm. Mrs Roggiero went in the opposite direction. I was shot on the path near John Kitto’s house – the man was about twenty yards distant from me. The man appeared to have dark clothing.

I am acquainted with John Kitto – he is my father-in-law - and he answers the description of the man whom I saw and who wounded me. I am not aware of any ill-feeling, but we have not been speaking for some time. I heard from his family that he did not care to converse with anyone. At the time I received my wound my dog was with me’.

Betsy Ann Roggiero, wife of the deceased deposed:

I remember Sunday evening last. My husband was sitting in the rocking-chair, putting the baby to sleep, at twenty minutes past 6 o’clock by our clock. The child was four months old. I was standing at the end of the table washing up after tea. A shot was fired through the kitchen window, which struck my husband in the breast.

He exclaimed, “My God, Annie, someone has shot me!’. I said “Oh no, Joe it is only someone playing a lark” and I ran out thinking it was someone with Chinese firecrackers. I saw my father John Kitto, walk away frtom the window with his back towards me. I said “You wretch, what did you do that for?”

As I re-entered the door, I met the deceased, with his hand across his chest and saw the infant fall from his arms on to the floor. I then put my arms around his neck. He said. “Don’t stay with me Annoe – run for help – I’m shot”. I then ran out and called my brother-in-law, Nils Peter Kloogh.

I requested him to go to my husband, and was returning with him when I saw my father John Kitto standing between his own house and the wire fence. He held up a gun to his shoulder and deliberately took aim and fired at Peter. The time father put the gun to his shoulder, I saw the flash.

About 10 o’clock, I returned to my own house and my husband expired at about 2 0’clock on the following morning. I have been nine years married in June, and have five children, the youngest four months, and the eldest seven years. So far as I know, my husband and father were on good terms”.

The accused was then brought in and identified by the witness as the man who had shot her husband.

In further evidence, the accused man’s son John Francis Kitto Junior (who was an 18 year old miner) commented that:

“I know of nothing to cause father to shoot the deceased. My father was an inmate of the Lunatic Asylum for six weeks, about four years ago. He appears sulky at times and will not speak. He appears troubled with religious mania as he is frequently talking about religious subjects. When I saw the gun on Sunday, the nipple was on, but now it appears to have been blown out”.

William Poole, constable of the New Zealand Armed Constabulary, in charge of Roxburgh Police Station deposed:

“Last Sunday night at quarter past nine, a man named John Kitto called at the Roxburgh Station and informed me he wished to give himself in charge. I asked him his reason. He replied. “for shooting my two sons-in-law. He had a gun in his left hand, which he handed to me at may request, saying “This is the gun I did it with – take care of it – it is loaded.”

I asked him who his sons-in-law were. He replied “I do not know” - but knowing the accused. I asked if he meant Peter Kloogh and ‘Mexican Joe’. He said I suppose so”. I then locked him up, asking him ‘What brought this about?”. He replied, “I will answer before a Judge.”

Samuel Moore also deposed:

‘I am Sergeant-Major of Constabulary, stationed at Lawrence. On interviewing Kitto, he said: ‘After I shot Roggiero, I went to my own house, and I saw Kloogh running to catch me. He hunted a dog on me – but the dog turned on himself and prevented him getting away when I shot him near the fence.”

The brother of the accused, James Kitto deposed:

‘The accused John Francis Kitto is my brother. He is about 50 years of age, a married man with a wife and ten children, six being at home. When my brother was 15 years of age, he had a severe fall of seven fathoms in a coalmine which injured his head – and since that time he has never appeared to be the same, always appearing light-headed. He was in the Lunatic Asylum four years ago but now appears to be worse than ever I saw him before – and he says he glories in what he has done’.

The Jury then retired and returned with a verdict of “Wilful Murder” against the accused John Francis Kitto.

The trial records note that John Francis Kitto:

‘had been more unsettled than usual for a month past, and that on the day in question he was decidedly worse. He believed himself to be the Saviour (or Joseph), his brothers and son-in-law being imps of Satan, Roggiero being Satan himself’, detailing the following exchange'.

‘Prisoner: I should like to have an explanation from someone to show whether I am a lunatic or not.

Witness: He considers his son-in-law, Roggiero, was possessed of a devil.
Prisoner: Not possessed, but was.
Witness: Was the devil?
His Honor : Anything else?

Witness: That his son-in-law who is wounded is also the devil.
His Honor: Is there anything else, doctor?
Witness: All his delusions, consist of that character.
His Honor : Does he imagine himself to be any particular person?

Witness: l am not aware of his imagining himself to be other than a Jew.

Prisoner: I am professing to be the Christ’.


I was reminded of the Miller’s Flat Murder by my own father-in-law during the weekend that he recently spent with us here in Island Bay. He is the grandson of Nils Peter Kloogh and the great grandson of the unfortunate perpetrator of the crimes John Francis Kitto. Happily though for me, there are ample circumstances that offer protection – for a start Air New Zealand does not allow the carriage of guns but more importantly, my father-in-law is a religious sceptic who is demonstrably sane.

According to the family’s oral history Nils Peter Kloogh was the son of Joachim Christian Kloogh. Joachim Kloogh (perhaps originally Kluch) had been born in Pomerania (North Germany) in 1810 but migrated to southern Sweden as a young man where he was employed as a shepherd. There he married Inga Oldsdotter and they had 6 children.
The four girls remained in Sweden but both of the boys eventually found homes in the Southern Hemisphere - Olaf in Australia and Nils in New Zealand.

Nils Peter who was born in 1853 first migrated to Denmark and then to New Zealand by way of Glasgow and Australia. He arrived in Lyttleton, New Zealand on 16th December 1872 on the ‘Palmerston’. at the age of 19.

We still have the little Book of Household Prayers 'Boner for Andakt i Hemmet' that Nils' mother gave him when he was 15 years old to comfort him during his travels and travails. But gold was the big attraction for young Nils.

In May 1861, Gabriel Read had discovered alluvial gold in a creek bed, close to the banks of the Tuapeka River near the settlement of Lawrence in Central Otago:

"At a place where a kind of road crossed on a shallow bar I shovelled away about two and a half feet of gravel, arrived at a beautiful soft slate and saw the gold shining like the stars in Orion on a dark frosty night".

By the Christmas of 1861, 14,000 prospectors were on the Tuapeka and Waipori fields, and a second major discovery in 1862 at Cromwell led to a further influx of miners from Australia and all points of the compass. By February 1864, there were 18,000 miners but thereafter activity declined rapidly as the main deposits became exhausted.

By the time that Nils arrived, there were around 5,000 miners. He settled in Miller’s Flat as a long period of reworking the Clutha river gravels began, using more highly mechanized processes. Eventually, he and his mates constructed a wheel dredge which harnessed the power of the river but these machines were ineffective in shallow water.

Efforts to develop new techniques culminated in the development of the world’s first steam-powered mechanical gold dredge ‘Dunedin’ in 1881. The Dunedin continued operation until 1901, recovering a total of 17,000 ounces (530 kg) of gold. And Nils and his Kitto brothers-in-law were long associated with the dredge mining business along the Clutha River.

Not surprisingly, the mining had a considerable environmental impact. In 1920, the Rivers Commission estimated that 300 million cubic yards of material had been moved by mining activity in the Clutha river catchment. At that time an estimated 40 million cubic yards had been washed out to sea with a further 60 million in the river.

Getting back to the Family History, John Francis Kitto came from a long line of Cornish miners. The family has been traced back to Thomas Kitto (born Gwennup, a major copper-tin mining area, Cornwall around 1700 – married Margaret Madron). John Francis himself was born in 1832 in East Newlyn, Cornwall and he married Ann Clements in Leicestershire, arriving in New Zealand in 1866. The intervening generations were John Kitto (born 1780, Redruth, married Elizabeth Teague) and Richard Kitto (born 1752, Gwennup, married Mary Trewena).

No doubt John Francis' wife Ann, and her daughters Betsy Ann and Tamar had many a quiet refection on the livelihoods that their men had chosen:

"Spend it in the winter
Or die in the cold.
One a pecker, Tuapeka
Bright fine gold

Some are sons of fortune,
And my man came to see
That the riches in the river
Are not for such as he.

I'm weary of Otago
I'm weary of the snow,
Let my man strike it rich
And then we'll go.

But they stayed and shared their descendants with Central and its marvellous landscapes.

The New Zealand Kitto families have been extensively researched by Joyce Reardon and this material is available on line.

Nowadays, Miller’s Flat is a very sleepy hollow but one that bursts into bucking fits for the annual ‘Miller’s Flat Rodeo’.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Nature of History and the Price of Beer


I have been puzzling for some days on the ‘Nature of History’ – partly in response to reading about Professor Simon Schama’s commitment to revising the UK’s national history curriculum - and partly in response to nagging irritation at a contemporary advertising campaign here in New Zealand on the merits of a locally brewed beer.

Strange counterpoint perhaps but it kicks up some interesting points about objectivity.

So let’s start with Simon. Apparently, he chatted recently to British Prime Minister David Cameron and came away with a remit to reintroduce schools to ‘narrative British history’.

The UK Minister of Education, Michael Gove explains the rationale in the following terms:

"One of the under-appreciated tragedies of our time has been the sundering of our society from its past ... Children are growing up ignorant of one of the most inspiring stories I know – the history of our United Kingdom .... Our history has moments of pride and shame, but unless we fully understand the struggles of the past we will not properly value the liberties of the present."

And it is an acknowledged source of dismay to members of the UK Conservative Party that Winston Churchill is currently left off the history curriculum for 11 to 13-year-olds, while two anti-slavery campaigners, William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano, are the only historical figures mentioned by name.

The tension between seeing school history as identity affirming and nation building on the one hand and as virtue inculcating and cross cultural bonding on the other clearly creates dissonance.

This kind of dissonance is also very evident for mainstream New Zealanders, whose need for post-colonial identity affirmation is constantly challenged by the demands of biculturalism.

That we expect too much is partly because, as Oxford Professor of History, Margaret MacMillan points out, history has displaced religion as a means of “setting moral standards and transmitting values.”

Picking up on the UK curriculum issue, Schama has promised to instill "excitement and joy" as pupils connect with their ancestry:

"A return to coherent gripping history is not a step backwards to dry as dust instruction," he claims. "It represents a moment of cultural and educational rediscovery. Without this renewed sense of our common story – one full of contention, not self-congratulation – we will be a poorer and weaker Britain."

James Grant has commented recently though that for Simon Schama, eloquence is the highest virtue, as reflected in the overblown claim that "the survival of eloquence is the condition of both a free political society and a coherent community."

Well, eloquence aside, Winston Churchill has been taking a bit of stick recently and as Johan Hari comments reviewing Richard Toye’s new history, “Churchill’s Empire”:

“After being elected to Parliament in 1900, Churchill demanded a rolling program of more conquests, based on his belief that “the Aryan stock is bound to triumph.”

And Toye’s research confirms that even at the time, Churchill was seen as standing at the most brutal and brutish end of the British imperialist spectrum.

This was clearest in his attitude to India.

When Gandhi began his campaign of peaceful resistance, Churchill raged that he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.”

But there again, quoting John Carey:

“One of history’s most useful tasks is to bring home to us how keenly, honestly and painfully, past generations pursued aims that now seem to us wrong or disgraceful”

– UK Conservative Party stalwarts please note!


Well, what better way of illustrating the manipulation of New Zealand history than by watching the beer advert itself (see above).

As you can see, it is very hard on Sir Arnold Henry Nordmeyer who was made Minister of Finance in Walter Nash’s 1957 Labour Government and who had to deliver the infamous 1958 ‘Black Budget’.

At the outset, it is important to be clear then that New Zealand was not without locally brewed beer prior to 1957. One of the founding elements of DB Breweries is the Tui Brewery established in 1889 by Henry Wagstaff, and DB itself was formed in 1930 by Sir Henry Kelliher and W Joseph Coutts with the purchase of Levers and Co. and the Waitemata Brewery Co.

The mainstay brew remains Tui, a 4 percent pale lager which the New Zealand Consumers' Institute recently has recently taken to task for claiming to be an "East India Pale Ale", when it is in fact a pale lager that bears little resemblance to the traditionally hoppy, bitter or malty India Pale Ale styles.

The company did not produce a 5.4 percent premium lager until Nordmeyer’s budget provided a protective tariff, largely because demand in this sector was limited. It was not a run of the mill workingman’s drink.

So I am happy to mount a retort to DB’s claims, partly because they are obvious bunk in economic and social terms and partly because Nordmeyer represented my local Island Bay constituency from 1954 until he retired in 1969.

I even quoted one of Arnie’s dictums in one of my Local Election posters:

• We have obligations towards the young because if we fail to provide for them, we fail to provide for the future.

• We have obligations towards the old and infirm because their work in their earlier and more fruitful years has made it possible for us to enjoy the standards we enjoy today.

• We have obligations towards the sick and the ailing because they cannot care for themselves.

• And it is our duty to ensure that those who do the useful work of the world enjoy the full reward of their toil”.

Taking up the story in more detail, there is an interesting recent article by NZ economic historian Rob Vosslamber: ‘Tax history and tax policy: New Zealand’s 1958 “black” budget’ that explores the reality and its telling.

Ross notes that in New Zealand a 'black budget' is:

A name given to a severely deflationary and hence unpopular budget, especially one which increases taxation on popular consumer items; specifically the name given to a 1930 budget, and especially to Labour Finance Minister Nordmeyer’s deflationary budget of 1958. (Orsman and Orsman, 1995, p. 21)

Ross also quotes Michael Stanford’s distinction between two aspects of history - history as events, and history as story, noting that ‘popular notions of the 1958 budget may bear scant resemblance to the actual budget event’.

Of course the same event can give rise to a range of stories, which are shaped by the availability of sources, the scholarship of the researcher, and the perspective of the story teller.

Ross goes on to show that even eminent historians change their views and let eloquence colour the event.

Keith Sinclair's first edition of his classic ‘A History of New Zealand’ published in 1959 made no mention of Nordmeyer’s budget.

In the second edition published in 1969, Sinclair devoted one paragraph to the second Labour government of 1957-60, simply noting that:

It inherited a major balance of overseas payments crisis. There is no doubt that the stringent import controls and the ‘black budget’ of 1958, which increased taxation, were largely responsible for its defeat in 1960. Since then, as harsher measures have followed, that budget looks less dark than it did. (p. 293)

In the third edition eleven years later, Sinclair virtually identifies the writer of the budget with the budget itself.

Having noted that Labour had inherited a major balance of payments crisis, he then describes the budget not so much as a response to this crisis, but rather as a reflection of its author:

The Minister of Finance was Arnold Nordmeyer, a very able and intelligent administrator who was much respected but inspired little affection. He was a Presbyterian minister and in manner somewhat austere. He and the Cabinet were prepared to impose heroic sacrifices upon the nation. Rigorous import controls were introduced.

Then came the famous ‘black budget’ of 1958. Income tax was raised very substantially. Duties on beer, spirits, tobacco and cars were doubled. The tax on petrol was nearly doubled. It was a puritan’s budget, and cynics noted that neither Nash nor Nordmeyer smoked, drank alcohol, or owned a car. It contrasted very greatly with Labour’s promises at election time. (Sinclair, 1980, p. 293).

As Ross goes on to say, these portrayals of the 1958 budget perhaps tells us as much about the historian as about the history.

Sinclair, a Labour party member, was of a different faction than Nordmeyer and it seemed to him, on reflection that the 1958 Budget 'reflected everything he most disliked: Puritanism, Christianity, Britishness and elitism'.

Ross concludes that:

Looking at the past. the political and personal stories of the 1958 budget suggest several contrasting stories that could be told. One story might recall the tax increases as a prudent response to an unforeseen crisis and that families were better off because of the budget. But this is not the popular story; instead it is Sinclair’s story of a “puritan” budget that is more commonly told.

That story certainly reflects aspects of the events of 1958, but not all. Fifty years on, the black budget metaphor has a life of its own, largely independent of the events which originally gave it rise, and is perpetuated by media usage of the term, and by short entries in the published history.

The black budget highlights the ambiguity of history: history as story may elucidate past events, but only ever in part. Sinclair’s telling of the budget demonstrates that it will also always reflect the background, knowledge, and preferences of the historian’

And we might add the butcher, the baker and the brewer.

Getting back to the advertisement, one would have thought that the DB brewing company would be celebrating Nordmeyer’s initiation of a protective tariff to shelter an infant industry – though the company is now a subsidiary of the international conglomerate Asia Pacific Breweries.

But there again, DB Breweries may have a covert motif in running the advertisement.

Further to the Law Commission's recent report on liquor laws, the current Government has tabled an Alcohol Reform Bill in parliament and this is expected to get its first reading on Thursday.

In this the Government has avoided the big policy decisions, such as increasing prices and restricting advertising, and ended up with a package that has been described as "like treating cancer with a couple of aspirin".

At least though, the Government – with a little nudging from DB and the alcohol lobby – cannot be described as puritan.

And we have a neat illustration of how even the provenance of a beer can be held to be identity affirming and nation building - at the loss of virtue and the possible pursuit of aims that are wrong and even disgraceful.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A truly gorgeous Red-head

BACK IN 1968

Very queer to be back in 1968 while watching the recent film on the sewing machinists' strike at the Ford Dagenham assembly plant (a time when not only were hair styles and hemlines very different - words too meant strangely different things sometimes).

But what a truly great gal was Barbara Castle (she had been Minister of Transport when I was a very junior civil servant in the Department of Economic Affairs in 1965-66).

Her gentle and personal brand of libertarian social democracy is still inspirational - as are her beliefs that egalitarianism is inherently beautiful and that denying access to nature and art risk 'revenge' (see following video link).


By Anne Perkins Radio 4, 3 September 2010

Tipped as a future Prime Minister before Margaret Thatcher came to prominence, Barbara Castle is arguably the most prominent women politician in the history of the Labour party.

If politicians are remembered at all, it is often not in the way they might have wished.

Nor is it a static process. Immediate assessments are revised and revised again so that an individual career might seem quite different from one generation to the next, and individual rankings soar and dive.

Barbara Castle who was born 100 years ago on October 6th and who died in 2001, has soared in public opinion ever since she quit politics, propelled on the updraft of anti-new Labour sentiment and continuing frustration at unequal pay.

Barbara was the third and youngest child of Frank Betts, a tax inspector, an occupation which was both safe at a time of terrible economic uncertainty, and relatively well paid.

More importantly, he was an ardent socialist, and an intellectual who taught himself Greek and Icelandic as well as Spanish and Italian well enough to read key texts in the original.

She was showered with personal abuse and ridiculed by interviewers "You're a woman. And you can't even drive" was a typical introductory remark.”

He and his wife Annie believed in socialism not only as a political creed, but as a way of living. Socialism was, of course, about economic redistribution and justice but it was also about giving everyone access to education, music, art and the countryside.

Male world

Barbara fought her way into the almost all-male Oxford, and out again, into the largely male world of politics.

She began an affair that lasted until his death in 1942 with an older, married man, William Mellor.

Mellor was a leading figure of the intellectual left and became the founder editor of the left-wing magazine Tribune. He gave her the introduction she craved to the London political world.

Barbara was destined to make a contribution to politics. At first it was as a journalist, but in 1944, after a series of rebuffs, she was selected for Blackburn, the seat she represented from 1945 until she retired - passing her seat on to her special adviser Jack Straw - in 1979.

Barbara, the youngest of the handful of women MPs elected in 1945 was marked out by her slightness and above all by her flaming red hair. Women in public life had to be seen to be respectable. Part of the deal of getting selected was getting married.

She chose the journalist Ted Castle, a man who knew how to capture the public imagination.

Barbara's career began with a double page spread in the Picture Post and in terms of publicity never looked back.

Her personal charms won her admirers: her passionate advocacy of the causes of the left guaranteed her criticism.

The commentators rarely knew which way to turn, particularly when she began to protest angrily at the way detainees accused of supporting the Mau Mau were treated in Kenya, or at the brutality of soldiers supposed to be keeping the peace in Cyprus.

Extraordinary fame

Even so, when in 1964 her closest political ally Harold Wilson became prime minister he put her in his first cabinet as minister for overseas aid.

She was from the start a brilliant minister - a woman with a clear sense of purpose, a genius for attracting public notice to her schemes and enough clout with the prime minister to get her way in interdepartmental disputes.

In 1966, despite being a non-driver and - perhaps worse - a woman, Wilson moved her to the Department of Transport. Her battles with the empires of men began. First it was the breathalyser, and then seatbelts.

She was showered with personal abuse and ridiculed by interviewers - "You're a woman. And you can't even drive" was a typical introductory remark.

By 1968 she had achieved an extraordinary fame that encouraged some observers to prefer her over the iconoclastic Roy Jenkins as the next Labour leader.

Just as the relationship between government and the unions came to breaking point over the link between pay claims and inflation and the value of the pound, Wilson gave her an even bigger job - he asked her to go to a new department of employment and productivity.

Barbara brought the government to the brink of catastrophe by trying to introduce trade union reform against the overwhelming opposition of union-backed MPs led by Jim Callaghan who would later be prime minister.

Her initiative, In Place of Strife was a bold and bonkers miscalculation from which at the time it seemed her reputation would never recover.

But immediately she struck back with the introduction of the Equal Pay Act, the last piece of legislation to reach the statute book before Labour's defeat at the 1970 election.

And she was not finished. Back in government between 1974 to 1976, she radically reformed pensions and brought in child benefit as a payment to mothers rather than through the father's pay packet.

Today, when her attempt at union legislation looks insignificant compared with what was to come, when drink-driving is (nearly) socially unacceptable and safety belts treated as part of the process of starting the car, it is for introducing equal pay that Barbara is most warmly remembered.

For a politician who rejected the segregation of women's issues as a way of diverting attention from socialism, who dreamt of a minimum wage, who fought to outlaw private practice and paybeds from the NHS and campaigned for a genuine global redistribution of wealth, equal pay seemed a relatively minor achievement.

But for all her radicalism she also understood that change usually comes in increments. And even incremental change only happens when there is a radical individual demanding much, much more.

Sharing Beauty - Revenge Abstained