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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Keith Johnson's Australasian Bestiary - the Ruru or Morepork

The Wisdom in the Rending Wind

The storm is shifting rafters, lifting eves.

It’s dangerous to walk against the wind

And black rains lash and sting the hillsides blind

As now, so then hau puhi howls and heaves.

Those born of rutting sky and earth have sinned

And sorrows blow against the cliffs and trees.

The children rend the darkness, seize the light

And grief and yearning strain the breaking seas.

Now owlish eyes can turn from side to side

And guard as spirits stray and wander wide.

Dark and emptiness flee before the sight

Of warmth and wisdom as the gale retreats -

And you my friend will croon ruru tonight

When the waking Bush its dusky lover greets.



Friday, June 7, 2013

Poneke Slammers skin Jo'ville Jackals!




Wednesday, June 5, 2013

One Canoe, Two Canoe


... noting that English archaeologists and conservators have launched the an intensive conservation program to save the eight dugout canoes that have been discovered 5 meters below the surface in a buried riverbed at Must Farm near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire.

Examination of the boats – dating from 1600 to 1000BC – has so far revealed that Bronze Age Britons developed a much wider range of dug-out boat design than previously thought.

Four of the eight craft were extremely light-weight – with sides on average just two centimetres thick. Two of these light-weight boats had been deliberately made from less heavy, more easily carved, timber – lime and alder. Fast and easily manoeuvrable, they would have accommodated just one or two crew.

The other four boats discovered were robust, heavy-duty vessels all made of oak. One was 8.4 metres long and 85 cm wide – and would have been capable of carrying up to 20 people or, alternatively, up to a tonne of cargo.

Another heavy-duty dugout, capable of carrying up to ten people or up to half a tonne of cargo, was richly decorated with criss-cross designs. It is the first decorated boat ever found in Britain.

The parallels with the ongoing conservation of a nearly-complete, seven-metre long Maori wooden waka tikai, or river canoe that was recently found in Muriwai Beach, Northland, New Zealand are too interesting to let pass unnoticed.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Waka Disaster - Island Bay


When Jane came back from her 6.15 am rendezvous with pain at the Island Bay Beach Boot Camp this morning, she was excited to report that there had been a ‘shipwreck’ in the harbour. And sure enough, from our grandstand posi on the cliffs, we could see a boat in trouble in the light surf sheltered behind our island Tapu te Ranga.

So I had to take the boys for a ‘Captain Cook’ [i.e. look] before dropping them at school this morning.

The boat in question is a 22-metre long traditional Maori double-hulled ocean-going catamaran or ‘waka’ called Te Matua a Maui, with a crew of 14. All onboard are safe - and the incident reinforces just how seaworthy these traditional craft were. Unlike 19th Century European vessels which regularly foundered and smashed during storms, a shallow-draught waka can ride out the surf on a beach.
I have previously posted several stories on this blog magazine relating to Maori seamanship, the exploration of the Pacific and analogies with ancient maritime trading in NW Europe. And as I reported back in 2011, Te Matua a Maui is one of a new fleet of ocean-going waka that have been built to reclaim the Pacific by linking its indigenous Polynesian communities:

The aims of the voyages are to re-establish cultural links through traditional voyaging and to raise awareness of the key environmental issues threatening the Pacific Ocean - including ocean noise, pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing, acidification and de-oxidation and climate change.

As for the legend behind the boat’s name, it is better to let Maori tell their own story. Suffice to say that Hawkes Bay is the Fish Hook on the map of New Zealand’s North Island, and that the tale explains very adequately from my point of view why we inhabit a rough and uneven land, which like a thrashing landed fish still tosses its head and lashes its tail.


‘Maui’s brothers in the meantime had arranged amongst themselves to make fast the lashings of the top side of their canoe, in order to go out for a good day's fishing. When all was made ready they launched their canoe, and as soon as it was afloat Maui jumped into it, and his brothers, who were afraid of his enchantments, cried out: 'Come, get out again, we will not let you go with us; your magical arts will get us into some difficulty.'

So he was compelled to remain ashore whilst his brothers paddled off, and when they reached the fishing ground they lay upon their paddles and fished, and after a good day's sport returned ashore.

As soon as it was dark night Maui went down to the shore, got into his brothers' canoe, and hid himself under the bottom boards of it. The next forenoon his brothers came down to the shore to go fishing again, and they had their canoe launched, and paddled out to sea without ever seeing Maw, who lay hid in the hollow of the canoe under the bottom boards.

When they got well out to sea Maui crept out of his hiding place; as soon as his brothers saw him, they said: 'We had better get back to the shore again as fast as we can, since this fellow is on board'; but Maui, by his enchantments, stretched out the sea so that the shore instantly became very distant from them, and by the time they could turn themselves round to look for it, it was out of view.

Maui now said to them: 'You had better let me go on with you, I shall at least be useful to bail the water out of our canoe.' To this they consented, and they paddled on again and speedily arrived at the fishing ground where they used to fish upon former occasions. As soon as they got there his brothers said: 'Let us drop the anchor and fish here'; and he answered: 'Oh no, don't; we had much better paddle a long distance farther out.'

Upon this they paddle on, and paddle as far as the farthest fishing ground, a long way out to sea, and then his brothers at last say: 'Come now, we must drop anchor and fish here.' And he replies again: 'Oh, the fish here are very fine I suppose, but we had much better pull right out to sea, and drop anchor there. If we go out to the place where I wish the anchor to be let go, before you can get a hook to the bottom, a fish will come following it back to the top of the water. You won't have to stop there a longer time than you can wink your eye in, and our canoe will come back to shore full of fish.'

As soon as they hear this they paddle away--they paddle away until they reach a very long distance off, and his brothers then say: 'We are now far enough.' And he replies: 'No, no, let us go out of sight of land, and when we have quite lost sight of it, then let the anchor be dropped, but let it be very far off, quite out in the open sea.'

At last they reach the open sea, and his brothers begin to fish. Lo, lo, they had hardly let their hooks down to the bottom, when they each pulled up a fish into the canoe. Twice only they let down their lines, when behold the canoe was filled up with the number of fish they had caught. Then his brothers said: 'Oh, brother, let us all return now.' And he answered them: 'Stay a little; let me also throw my hook into the sea.' And his brothers replied: 'Where did you get a hook?

And he answered: 'Oh, never mind, I have a hook of my own.' And his brothers replied again: 'Make haste and throw it then.' And as he pulled it out from under his garments, the light flashed from the beautiful mother-of-pearl shell in the hollow of the hook, and his brothers saw that the hook was carved and ornamented with tufts of hair pulled from the tail of a dog, and it looked exceedingly beautiful.

Maui then asked his brothers to give him a little bait to bait his hook with; but they replied: 'We will not give you any of our bait.' So he doubled his fist and struck his nose violently, and the blood gushed out, and he smeared his hook with his own blood for bait, and then be cast it into the sea, and it sank down, and sank down, till it reached to the small carved figure on the roof of a house at the bottom of the sea, then passing by the figure, it descended along the outside carved rafters of the roof, and fell in at the doorway of the house, and the hook of Maui-tikitiki-o-Taranga caught first in the sill of the doorway.

Then, feeling something on his hook, he began to haul in his line. Ah, ah!--there ascended on his hook the house of that old fellow Tonga-nui. It came up, up; and as it rose high, oh, dear! how his hook was strained with its great weight; and then there came gurgling up foam and bubbles from the earth, as of an island emerging from the water, and his brothers opened their mouths and cried aloud.

Maui all this time continued to chant forth his incantations amidst the murmurings and wailings of his brothers, who were weeping and lamenting, and saying: 'See now, how he has brought us out into the open sea, that we may be upset in it, and devoured by the fish.' Then he raised aloud his voice, and repeated the incantation called Hiki which makes heavy weights fight, in order that the fish he had caught might come up easily, and he chanted an incantation beginning thus:

"Wherefore, then, oh! Tonga-nui,
Dost thou hold fast so obstinately below there?"
When he had finished his incantation, there floated up, hanging to his line, the fish of Maui, a portion of the earth, of Papa-tu-a-Nuku. Alas! alas! their canoe lay aground.

Maui then left his brothers with their canoe, and returned to the village; but before he went he said to them: 'After I am gone, be courageous and patient; do not eat food until I return, and do not let our fish be cut up, but rather leave it until I have carried an offering to the gods from this great haul of fish, and until I have found a priest, that fitting prayers and sacrifices may be offered to the god, and the necessary rites be completed in order.

We shall thus all be purified. I will then return, and we can cut up this fish in safety, and it shall be fairly portioned out to this one, and to that one, and to that other; and on my arrival you shall each have your due share of it, and return to your homes joyfully; and what we leave behind us will keep good, and that which we take away With us, returning, will be good too.'

Maui had hardly gone, after saying all this to them, than his brothers trampled under their feet the words they had heard him speak. They began at once to eat food, and to cut up the fish. When they did this, Maui had not yet arrived at the sacred place, in the presence of the god; had he previously reached the sacred place, the heart of the deity would have been appeased with the offering of a portion of the fish which had been caught by his disciples, and all the male and female deities would have partaken of their portions of the sacrifice.

Alas! alas! those foolish, thoughtless brothers of his cut up the fish, and behold the gods turned with wrath upon them, on account of the fish which they had thus cut up without having made a fitting sacrifice. Then indeed, the fish began to toss about his head from side to side, and to lash his tail, and the fins upon his back, and his lower jaw. Ah! ah! well done Tangaroa, it springs about on shore as briskly as if it was in the water.

That is the reason that this island is now so rough and uneven--that here stands a mountain--and there lies a plain--that here descends a valley--that there rises a cliff. If the brothers of Maui had not acted so deceitfully, the huge fish would have lain flat and smooth, and would have remained as a model for the rest of the earth, for the present generation of men. This, which has just been recounted, is the second evil which took place after the separation of Heaven from Earth.

Thus was dry land fished up by Maui after it had been hidden under the ocean by Rangi and Tawhiri-ma-tea. It was with an enchanted fish-hook that he drew it up, which was pointed with a bit of the jaw-bone of his ancestress Muri-ranga-whenua; and in the district of Heretaunga they still show the fish-hook of Maui, which became a cape stretching far out into the sea, and now forms the southern extremity of Hawke's Bay.

The hero now thought that he would extinguish and destroy the fires of his ancestress of Mahu-ika. So he got up in the night, and put out the fires left in the cooking-houses of each family in the village; then, quite early in the morning, he called aloud to the servants: 'I hunger, I hunger; quick, cook some food for me.'

See also:

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Nemesis Rowing Club of Manchester & Salford and my great, great grandfather Walter Shorrocks


Like contemporaries Jerome K. Jerome (1859 – 1927), of ‘Three Men in a Boat’; Kenneth Grahame (1859 – 1932), of ‘Wind in The Willows’; and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson aka ‘Lewis Carroll’ (1832 – 1898), it seems that my great, great grandfather Walter Shorrocks (1824-1906) loved messing about in boats.

And thanks to the British Newspaper Archive, I can tell Walter’s story:


[Manchester Evening News, 19 June 1897]

This year of grace which marks an epoch in the life history of our gracious Sovereign, should prove of more than passing interest to local oarsmen, and indeed generally, to all supporters of the manly pastime, inasmuch as the premier aquatic institution of the city – the Nemesis Rowing Club – will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its birth.

The club holds a record of which it may well be proud. In the days of its early childhood the river Irwell was clearly a stream which sped upon its way between rich meads and pasture land and boating must then have been a pleasure. But what a change!

The ardent oarsman who now practises on its surface must be cast in a heroic mould, for surely in the event of an immersion the consequences would be serious. Despite however the changes that have taken place, through good fortune and ill, the Nemesis men have held together, and there are now in the club some few members who fifty years ago helped to start it upon its course.

In the autumn of 1847, a meeting was held at the Red Lion Inn, Salford, for the purposes of establishing an amateur rowing club. The name ‘Nemesis’ was given to the club from a feeling of resentment existing at that time against the Chester oarsmen for some real or fancied ill-treatment on the part of the latter, towards the Manchester men.

It was decided to temporarily fix the headquarters of the club at the old Manchester and Salford Regatta Club’s premises, close by Regent Bridge on the Manchester side of the river, pending the erection of the Nemesis boathouse near the Pomona Gardens, Cornbrook.

These enthusiastic watermen held their first event on New Year’s Day 1848, when a pair-oared race was rowed in three heats. From this small beginning the club went on to greater things, for a resolution was recorded on the minutes that eight jerseys be purchased and sold to members at cost price, and that an investment be made in a six-oared gig, to be called the ‘Free Trader’ and a smaller boat which would be named the ‘Clarence’.

At this time the subscription was only one shilling per week, and there were scarcely twenty members in the club. But they were keen oarsmen, and by pluck and steady perserverance they soon made a great name for the club.

In 1849 Jabez Roebuck, John Lang, Richard Anderton and Sam Cheetham won the Stewards’ Cup at the Manchester and Salford Regatta, and this prize was again secured in the two following years. Mr Sam Cheetham who stroked these crews was also a sculler of repute and placed the Chester Cup to his credit on several occasions.

In June, 1849, Mr Walter Shorrocks joined and soon proved himself a competent oarsman, rowing at No.3 thwart in many a winning race, in crews which were stroked by Sam Cheetham. Mr Shorrocks still takes a vivid interest in the doings of the club, and has rowed in scratch races to within the last five or six years.

The most successful season ever experienced by the club was 1853, whe the Nemesis crews swept everything before them. They took the £50 Challenge Cup at Chester, the prizes for four and pair-oared races at Kingstown [Dublin], the Ellesmere Cup at the Manchester and Salford Regatta, and the £40 Subscription Cup at Belfast.

The names of the men inscribed on these captures are Jabez Roebuck, J. Lythgoe (subsequently a founder of the Agecroft Rowing Club), Walter Shorrocks and Sam Cheetham.

Varying successes attended the club during the following years but in 1857 the fine boathouse was built, and remained in use until pulled down for canal purposes; where the premises stood is now one of the Pomona Docks. Some years later the club, like Alexander, seeking new worlds to conquer, went further afield, and succeeded in winning the Grand Challenge Cup for fours, and the Corby Castle Cup for pairs at Talkin Tarn, near Carlisle.


Those who witnessed the excellent performances of the crews at Chester and Agecroft last year, will agree that the men gallantly upheld the fine traditions of the club. As nothing succeeds like success, it is possible the club may now be entering upon a fresh era of prosperity.

We have hitherto treated the progress of the club from a purely business aspect of rowing, but the trips by river and canal to Barton, Sale, Bollington, Lymm, Worsley, and even Runcorn, will long be remembered by those who rowed in the good old days before the Bridgewater Trustees withdrew the licences for rowing boats, a step which was a great blow to the club.

Though trips of this character are now but a memory of the past, the members are able to use a fine stretch of water about three miles to Mode Wheel. This keeps the men in good training, and should they yearn for a longer spin, for prettier scenery, and for relief from the concentrated odour so peculiar to their sphere of action, parties for a run to Chester and the Dee are quickly formed.

Those interested in the royal pageants and rejoicings of the coming week will be please to know that when Her Majesty visited here in 1851, the Nemesis Rowing Club provided an escort for the journey by state barge from Worsley Hall. Again in 1869 when the Prince and Princess of Wales came to Manchester the club manned and sent three eights to form an escort on the Bridgewater Canal.


[Manchester Evening News, Monday 6 December 1897]

It would be a bold assertion to make that the River Irwell, which pursues its course by cheerless wharves and dull prosaic factories, offers any inducement whatever for the average boating man. Yet for a period of 50 years the members of the Nemesis Rowing Club have cultivated the art of rowing upon its waters.

We were not surprised to learn that there were occasions when the club was compelled to adjourn to Hollingworth Lake, as the state of the river was not conducive to the health of practising members. But in spite of every drawback the representatives of the club at various regattas won eleven challenge cups outright and 114 presentation prizes.

The challenge cups and many of the prizes were in evidence on Saturday evening, when a large and enthusiastic gathering of members and friends dined together to celebrate the jubilee of the club. Mr H. Voss occupied the chair.

Several of the older supporters were present, one of whom. Mr Walter Shorrocks joined the club in 1849, and still takes an active and friendly interest in its welfare

During the evening medals for junior sculls and double sculling were given to Messrs Z.M. Lord and H. Vos.

An excellent history of the club since it was founded in 1847 has been compiled by Mr H. Hockmeyer.


[Manchester Times, Saturday 23 July 1870]

The annual regatta in connection with this club was held on Saturday, on the river Irwell at Cornbrook. With the exception of a smart shower, the weather during the afternoon was delightfully fine, and a large and respectable company (including many ladies) was present at the boathouse of the club, which was decorated profusely with bunting, and presented a very gay appearance.

The Compstall brass band was in attendance.

The programme contained four events for decision, but the pair-oared prizes were rowed over by Messrs. Gil and Armistead. During the afternoon a pair-oared cutter was capsized opposite the Nemesis boathouse, but the two men were rescued after a thorough drenching.

The following are [selected] particulars of the racing:

In the Champion Pair-oared Race [Throstle Nest to Regent Road Bridge and back – about 2 miles], Messrs. J.H. Shorrocks [Walter’s eldest son] and W. Lang [stroke] made a good start. Messrs. Shorrocks and Lang drew ahead, and at the Nemesis boathouse led by a length, rowing well. At this point they ‘hugged’ the Salford shore too closely, and the stern of the boat being caught by a sudden gust of wind, they ran into the bank. After getting clear, and proceeding a short distance further, a similar occurrence took place, and they retired from the contest, leaving their opponents to row over the remainder of the distance at their leisure.

In the Four-oared Race [from near Hulme Hall to Throstle Nest and back], in the first heat Mr Armistead’s crew showed slightly in front at the boathouses, immediately after passing which they were supplanted by Mr Shorrocks’s crew, who rowed steadily throughout, and won cleverly by two boat lengths.

In the Final, immediately after the start both crews settled down to their work, and some steady and determined rowing took place. On passing the boathouse the pair were nearly level, and so continued until half-way along Pomona railings, when Mr Vos’s crew dropped slightly astern. After rounding the buoy at Throstle Nest, Mr Shorrocks’s crew drew two lengths ahead, in which position they subsequently remained, and, of course won easily.

In the Eight-oared Race [from Throstle Nest to near Hulme Hall, nearly three quarters of a mile] Mr J.W. Dean’s crew, who rowed on the Manchester side of the river, obtained about half a boat’s length at the start, which they further increased, and won easily. Dean’s crew included J.H. Shorrocks and his father, my great, great grandfather Walter Shorrocks, who was then 46 years old.