Popular Posts

Thursday, January 30, 2014

In the Year of the Horse


My pony would stand and let me

Crumble the night-eyes on his fore-legs -

Extraordinary muskiness -

Raised, dry, broken and calloused

Like a dead wart or the crust on a roast
Or a shank truffle.

And my dog would be snaffled by the smell

Of the pieces that broke away

And the three of us would share
A weird sacrament.


It seems that time is an illusion

And that its only purpose is so that

Everything doesn’t happen at once.


That old chestnut!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Eyeing up the Past

As a swarthy sort of person who takes a strong sun-tan and who possesses what have been variously described as piercing, deep or, less flatteringly, 'cruel' blue eyes, I was not really surprised to learn that I share these characteristics with at least some of Europe’s 7,000-year old hunter gatherers. See:


All we need now is proof that some of our Neanderthal ancestors also had baby-blues.

It has been a long road for Europeans, especially Northern Europeans, in recognizing that, not only are they nothing special, they are the remnants of a relatively inbred and marginalized group – one nevertheless that has a remarkable story to tell of survival and eventual respectability.

Although WW2 had been partly against notions of racial superiority, the idea that Europeans, and in particular, fair-haired blue-eyed Europeans, were at the top of the intellectual, cultural and organizational heaps was almost universal in the post-War period.

My mother had spent a year in Wiesbaden as a nineteen year old in 1934 on an exchange scheme and she picked up on what was to become an obsession in Germany about racial purity. She was even told that, as the paired girls had walked out in file to go to the park, one of the townsfolk had remarked on the fact that she obviously wasn’t German. She had black hair and bright blue eyes.

But my father seemed to be a very model of an Aryan. Blue-eyed and blond, he would have passed muster for a breeding programme. But like many Northern Germans and Scandinavians, he took a very deep tan. And as died at 33-years old in WW2, we will never know whether or not his hair would have darkened in his late 30s. I went from blondish to black between 25 and 40.

On the other hand, my stepfather had black hair and gentle brown eyes, as well as a very hairy chest and hairy back.

At my secondary school in Cheshire, England in the period 1955 -1962, the blond, blue-eyed bit was subtly at ease with attitudes about the racial pyramid that shared a common heritage with the classification adopted by the Nazis [a majority of whose leaders do not appear to have had a strong claim on these traits]. This was rounded out by an interest in head shape, with our classification as kids into brachycephalic [broad-headed] and dolicocephalic [long-headed] types in one memorable History class.

Everyone wanted to be long-headed to meet the prescriptions of Swedish professor of anatomy Anders Retzius (1796–1860), who first used in physical anthropology to classify ancient human remains found in Europe – and whose theories became closely associated with the development of racial anthropology in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

All this put me in a bind – as the orphan of a blond, blue-eyed father and the stepson of a brown-eyed, hairy and very lovable ‘Uncle’.

And feeling alienated somewhat from the farming community into which I had been grafted, I surmised in my imagination that I was the product of Anglo-Saxon invaders whilst my stepfather’s family harked back to the ‘older’ people of North West England who were kin to the Welsh.

All this sort of drafting-into-one-pen-or-another thinking about individuals is of course is absolute nonsense but it has taken me a good while to realize exactly how much nonsense it is.
If you now asked me for my judgment on the relative male-line DNA of my father and my stepfather, I would go with the view that my father’s paternal family descends more directly from the inhabitants of Yr Hen Ogledd [the Old North that included Northern England and Wales] with some links back to the Neolithic / Palaeolithic, and that my stepfather’s paternal family was likely of Viking origin - with both families sharing a long-distant admixture of Neanderthal [like all the other Eurasians].

 Which all goes to show that: ‘the eye [blue or brown] sees what it brings the power to see’.



Thursday, January 23, 2014

How the First World War should be remembered - through Family History


It is my belief that there is a lot of merit in recasting History as family history. After all, History is most generally seen as the story of society, and if someone as eminent as Margaret Thatcher can aver that ‘there is no such thing as society’, for me at least, that leaves families and the individuals that comprise them. And giving history more personality opens greater possibilities for understanding and empathy.

The Guardian has embedded a link to debates of the last few weeks over how the first world war should be presented and this gives me an opportunity to make my case by matching British and German stories from the families of combatants. And in the case that I am taking up, this is a real tale of one-to-one daring do and dueling.

On March 11, 1917, Captain Eric Fox Pitt Lubbock of the Royal Flying Corp, in the cockpit of a Sopwith Camel 1½ Strutter, clashed with Lieutenant Paul Strähle of Jasta 18 of the German Airforce, flying an Albatross D.V. [replete with his trademark axe] over Zillebeke, Belgium [a village that has since been incorporated in the city of Ypres or Ieper].

Lubbock was killed and Strähle went on to survive the War and become a civilian aviation pioneer.

We know quite a lot about both men.

Eric was the uncle of Eric Lubbock, the current Lord Avebury and I’ll let him take up the story [see also: http://ericavebury.blogspot.com].

‘Uncle Eric was my grandmother’s favourite child, the one she loved with such intensity that she remained in deep mourning from the day he was shot down, for the remaining 30 years of her life. But he lit up the lives of everyone he knew, family, friends, his father’s scientific colleagues, and comrades in the armed forces.

‘My father, who Eric called ‘dear little Moke’, born seven years after Eric, idolised him, and so I bear his name. When my father was little he couldn’t pronounce the name ‘Eric’ and he called him ‘Yay’, a nickname that was transferred to me within the family when I was a child.

‘Eric hated war, and my grandmother wrote that if his life had been spared, he would have worked for real peace, as his father had done, though in vain. But he joined up from a sense of duty at the beginning of the war, and was in France with the British Expeditionary Force by the end of September 1914’.

Eric began a valedictory letter to his letter to his family, as follows:

‘My Darling Mum

‘One is here confronted almost daily with the possibility of Death, and when one looks forward to the next few months this possibility becomes a probability. I am therefore sitting down now to write to you briefly a few words which in the event of my death I hope may help to comfort and to cheer you – it is my last hope if I should be taken from you, that I may not cause you too great a grief.

‘The thoughts which I here intend to write are those which I have had on occasions when it seemed that my life was about to be cut short. Also, I know that if in my last hour I am conscious, my chief consolation will be to feel that these thoughts may reach you. I shall therefore simply write down my ideas about it all and hope thereby to enable you to feel that though I may be taken away yet that fact is not all grief.

‘Now one of the questions one asks oneself about it all is do you fear Death? And I have I think convinced myself that I do not.’

Eric was 24 when he died – almost exactly the same age as Paul Strähle.

Paul was born in Schorndorf, Kingdom of Württemberg and joined the army on 1 October 1913 as a 20 year old. Early in the war, he served in the infantry but transferred to the German Air Force in 1915. He was posted to FA(A) 213 on 15 July 1916 and trained on fighters in the fall before joining Jasta 18 on 27 October 1916. He scored seven victories in 1917 and on 1 January 1918, he assumed command of Jasta 57. Before he was wounded in action on 27 September 1918, he scored eight more victories. At one point he walked away almost unscathed from a crash-landing among the shell craters and debris of the Front.


Paul Strähle ran an aerial photography business venture from 1919 onwards, leaving a 40,000 photo archive. By 14 July 1921, he was running a pioneering air mail service between Stuttgart and Constance, using three of the Halberstadts, one of which could also carry passengers, under the name Luftverkehr Strähle. Subsequently, he became an automobile manufacturer and returned to service as a Major der Reserve during World War II.

In the next generation, son Paul Ernst Strahle [born 1927] became one of Germany’s most successful racing drivers during the 1950s and 1960s. After the end of the Second World War [war serviced unspecified – typical of the reticence of German commentators], he successfully completed a mechanical and commercial apprenticeship in his parents‘ car and motorcycle business which he then built up into a successful Volkswagen and Porsche dealership in the following years.

From 1951 onwards, Paul Ernst became one of the most successful sports car racing drivers in Europe in the Porsche 356. His long list of victories included countless class wins in major races such as the “Mille Miglia“ in Italy, the 1000 Kilometre Race on the Nürburgring or the “Targa Florio” in Sicily. Among his most important rally successes were overall victories in the Adria Rally (1953, 1956), the Tour of Belgium (1957), the Liège-Rome-Liège Rally (1959) and the Tour of Corsica (1960).

According to Wolfgang Dürheimer, Executive Vice President for Research and Development at Porsche, “Paul Ernst Strahle was one of the most important and most versatile motorsport pioneers in post-war Germany. Through his success in numerous international races, he became a leading ambassador for German autosport”.

Eric Lubbock, the nephew of Eric F.P. Lubbock, was born in 1928.  He read Engineering Science at Balliol College, Oxford and served as a Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards in WW2. He joined Rolls-Royce in 1951, where he was employed as a production manager (1951–1956) and as a production engineer (1956–1960).

Having joined the Liberal Party in 1960 and become a councillor the following year, Eric won a sensational by-election victory at Orpington on 15 March 1962, with a majority of 7,855. This was a swing of nearly 22% from the Conservatives and brought the number of Liberal MPs to seven. Following his victory, he was dubbed "Orpington Man".

In the Commons, Eric was on the Speaker's Commission on Electoral Law in 1964–1966, and proposed STV in multi-member constituencies, only to be voted down by 18–1. He also proposed reducing the voting age to 18, on which two Labour Members supported him.

In 1970, Orpington reverted to being a Conservative seat. On losing the seat Eric was widely quoted for observing: "In 1962 the wise, far-seeing people of Orpington elected me as their Member; in 1970 the fools threw me out".

Now Lord Avebury, Eric is a Buddhist, an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. He frequently raises matters related to civil rights, freedom of conscience, the rule of law and the pursuit of peace and reconciliation in the British Parliament. Among the many causes that he has taken up are citizenship rights for the solely British ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, human rights issues in Peru, the protection of the native people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, and the treatment and rehabilitation of prisoners in both the UK and abroad.


When Eric F.P Lubbock died, his heart-broken mother Alice Avebury arranged for a one third scale model of his beloved Sopwith Camel to be carved in stone and erected as a memorial in the family graveyard at High Elms, Bromley, SE. London. In 1981, when the house was demolished, an attempt was made to transfer the monument to the graveyard of St Giles Church, Farnborough but the rector there refused because Eric had been buried in Belgium. The memorial subsequently went missing.

In 2010, a family member identified the memorial at a stone mason’s yard in Great Bedwyn, Marlborough, Wiltshire and Eric was able ultimately to purchase if for £8,000. The stone has now been returned to close to its original site in what is now High Elms Country Park, run by the London Borough of Bromley.

At the rededication service, Eric's great-nephew, Lyulph Lubbock, 55 noted in his speech that:

"It is really gratifying to see the memorial returned, cleaned up and presented nicely. This has long been a mission of the Lubbock family.

"This has been top of the family agenda for many years and so it is good that it has finally been reinstated at High Elms.

‘My father, Lord Avebury, gave his financial backing for the whole enterprise which has resulted in the memorial's return, he doggedly pursued all avenues to ensure its return. Friends and family have helped to maintain momentum on what has been a long drawn out saga.

‘My great uncle Eric was a brave patriotic pilot who had a very brief career before meeting his end after so short a time in the Royal Flying Corps. The average lifespan for a pilot at that point was about 22 days, a fact of which he was only to aware."


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Our Misbegotten Great Great Granny - and her Mum’s walk on the wild-side with Mr N


There has been a mass, swag, or, as we would say here in New Zealand ‘raft’, of articles recently in the international press about the DNA that modern Eurasians have inherited from interspecies matings with Neanderthals. It seems that some 4% of our genes come from this source. And it has also been proven that the mating of Homo sapiens males with Neanderthal women would not give rise to viable offspring. The DNA comes from mitochondrial connections between Neanderthal males and modern women.

Bob Brockie, the Dominion Post newspaper’s marvellous NZ octogenarian science writer is of the opinion that the matings probably resulted from force majeure, on the lines of the rape of the beautiful, wise and sensitive Ayla by the thuggish Neanderthal clan leader Broud in Jean M. Auel’s ‘The Clan of the Cave Bear’. Well, Bob’s a scientist, so I am making a leap of faith about Ayla’s attributes and the fantasy that she looked like Cate Blanchett, Scarlet Johannson or Kate Middleton.

I cannot include any Black females from Sub-Saharan Africa here as they are likely to be 'Pure' Human Beings.

But 4% 'Non-human' is a large share for us Eurasians. In the round, we share 50% of our DNA with our mother, 25% with each of our 2 grandmothers, 12.5% with each of our 4 great grandmothers and 6.25% with each of our 8 great, great grandmothers.

Thanks to the digitization of historic Births, Marriages and Deaths records and of the Censuses in England since 1841, and their availability online, I can actually tell you the names of my 8 great, great grandmothers [and the additional four that I inherited from my stepfather]:

Ann Collinge b 1824, Lancashire

Eliza Jackson b 1831, Lancashire

Clara Elstob, b 1830, Norfolk

Mary Ann Henderson, b 1831, Cambridgeshire

Ann Hughes, b 1823, Northamptonshire

Sarah Robishaw, b 1825, Lancashire

Elizabeth Palfrey, b 1825, Devon

Martha Whatley, b 1843, Wiltshire

Mary Galley, b 1807, Cheshire

Ann Williamson, b 1823, Cheshire

Sarah Ellson, b 1815, Cheshire

Frances Miller b 1811, Cheshire

And I also know the names of a number of their mothers.

So the composite share we inherit from our ‘big-framed, barrel-chested cannibal and immensely powerful’ Neanderthal forebear is what we might expect from matings somewhere between the 'Great-great' and 'Great-great-great' generations. Not that far away if you are a keen family historian!

In the work that I have done on my own family, I spent comparatively little time on genealogy. I just used this as a framework for stories about the various families that I could build up from social and economic history sources, by placing my ancestors in their occupational, class and regional milieus. I have done this for pretty much all the families back to the G-G generation. The results are scattered around this blog if you are interested [together with similar stories for other families to which I am linked – including the family of Kate Middleton to which I am linked only by her fame].

Like Kate, I have ancestors back in the 1820s – 1840s who were half-starved agricultural labourers and peasant smallholders – and others who were modestly prosperous in a Middling Sort of way.

Anyhow, I can’t let the opportunity pass for me to record a story about 'G-G-G-father' Broud’s family. And what better way than to let H.G. Wells take us back to prehistory in his monumental book from 1920: ‘The Outline of History’. Both Wells and Brockie surmise that Neanderthals could speak and that they possessed complex patterns of thought that led them to inter their dead in the hope of an afterlife.

If there is an afterlife, and Broud has a spare moment to put down his harp on his cloud, I’m sure he will enjoy a quiet laugh at Wells’ account [my headings inserted].  


'In Worthington G. Smith's: 'Man the Primeval Savage; his haunts and relics from the hilltops of Bedfordshire to Blackwall’ (1894), there is a very vividly written description of early Palaeolithic life, from which much of the following account is borrowed. In the original, Mr. Worthington Smith assumes a more extensive social life, a larger community, and a more definite division of labour among its members than is altogether justifiable in the face of such subsequent writings as J. J. Atkinson's memorable essay on Primal Law.

For the little tribe Mr. Worthington Smith described, there has been substituted, therefore, a family group under the leadership of one Old Man, and the suggestions of Mr. Atkinson as to the behaviour of the Old Man have been worked into the sketch.

Mr. Worthington Smith describes a squatting-place near a stream, because primitive man, having no pots or other vessels, must needs have kept close to a water supply, and with some chalk cliffs adjacent from which flints could be got to work. The air was bleak, and the fire was of great importance, because fires once out were not easily relit in those days. When not required to blaze it was probably banked down with ashes.

The most probable way in which fires were started was by hacking a bit of iron pyrites with a flint amidst dry dead leaves ; concretions of iron pyrites and flints are found together in England where the gault and chalk approach each other.

The little group of people would be squatting about amidst a litter of fern, moss, and such-like dry material. Some of the women and children would need to be continually gathering fuel to keep up the fires. It would be a tradition that had grown up.

The young would imitate their elders in this task. Perhaps there would be rude wind shelters of boughs on one side of the encampment.

The Old Man, the father and master of the group, would perhaps be engaged in hammering flints beside the fire. The children would imitate him and learn to use the sharpened fragments. Probably some of the women would hunt good flints; they would fish them out of the chalk with sticks and bring them to the squatting-place.

There would be skins about. It seems probable that at a very early time primitive men took to using skins. Probably they were wrapped about the children, and used to lie upon when the ground was damp and cold. A woman would perhaps be preparing a skin. The inside of the skin would be well scraped free of superfluous flesh with trimmed flints, and then strained and pulled and pegged out flat on the grass, and dried in the rays of the sun.

Away from the fire other members of the family group prowl in search of food, but at night they all gather closely round the fire and build it up, for it is their protection against the wandering bear and such-like beasts of prey.

The Old Man is the only fully adult male in the little group. There are women, boys and girls, but so soon as the boys are big enough to rouse the Old Man's jealousy, he will fall foul of them and either drive them off or kill them. Some girls may perhaps go off with these exiles, or two or three of these youths may keep together for a time, wandering until they come upon some other group, from which they may try to steal a mate.

Then they would probably fall out among themselves. Some day, when he is forty years old perhaps or even older, and his teeth are worn down and his energy abating, some younger male will stand up to the Old Man and kill him and reign in his stead.

There is probably short shrift for the old at the squatting-place. So soon as they grow weak and bad-tempered, trouble and death come upon them.


What did they eat at the squatting-place?

"Primeval man is commonly described as a hunter of the great hairy mammoth, of the bear, and the lion, but it is in the highest degree improbable that the human savage ever hunted animals much larger than the hare, the rabbit, and the rat.

Man was probably the hunted rather than the hunter.

"The primeval savage was both herbivorous and carnivorous. He had for food hazel-nuts, beech-nuts, sweet chestnuts, earth-nuts, and acorns. He had crab-apples, wild pears, wild cherries, wild gooseberries, bullaces, sorbs, sloes, blackberries, yewberries, hips and haws, watercress, fungi, the larger and softer leaf-buds, Nostoc (the vegetable substance called 'fallen stars' by country folk), the fleshy, juicy, asparagus-like rhizomes or subterranean stems of the Labiatae and like plants, as well as other delicacies of the vegetable kingdom.

He had birds' eggs, young birds, and the honey and honeycomb of wild bees. He had newts, snails, and frogs the two latter delicacies are still highly esteemed in Normandy and Brittany. He had fish, dead and alive, and fresh-water mussels; he could easily catch fish with his hands and paddle and dive for and trap them. By the seaside he would have fish, mollusca, and seaweed.

He would have many of the larger birds and smaller mammals, which he could easily secure by throwing stones and sticks, or by setting simple snares. He would have the snake, the slow worm, and the crayfish. He would have various grubs and insects, the large Iarva of beetles and various caterpillars. The taste for caterpillars still survives in China, where they are sold in dried bundles in the markets.

A chief and highly nourishing object of food would doubtlessly be bones smashed up into a stiff and gritty paste.

"A fact of great importance is this primeval man would not be particular about having his flesh food over-fresh. He would constantly find it in a dead state, and, if semi-putrid, he would relish it none the less the taste for high or half-putrid game still survives.

If driven by hunger and hard pressed, he would perhaps sometimes eat his weaker companions or un-healthy children who happened to be feeble or unsightly or burthensome. The larger animals in a weak and dying state would no doubt be much sought for; when these were not forth-coming, dead and half-rotten examples would be made to suffice.

An unpleasant odour would not be objected to; it is not objected to now in many continental hotels.

"The savages sat huddled close together round their fire, with fruits, bones, and half-putrid flesh. We can imagine the old man and his women twitching the skin of their shoulders, brows, and muzzles as they were annoyed or bitten by flies or other insects. We can imagine the large human nostrils, indicative of keen scent, giving rapidly repeated sniffs at the foul meat before it was consumed ; the bad odour of the meat, and the various other disgusting odours belonging to a haunt of savages, being not in the least disapproved.

"Man at that time was not a degraded animal, for he had never been higher; he was therefore an exalted animal, and, low as we esteem him now, he yet represented the highest stage of development of the animal kingdom of his time."

That is at least an acceptable sketch of a Neanderthal squatting-place. But before extinction overtook them, even the Neanderthalers learnt much and went far.


Whatever the older Palaeolithic men did with their dead, there is reason to suppose that the later Homo Neanderthalensis buried some individuals at least with respect and ceremony.

One of the best-known Neanderthal skeletons is that of a youth who apparently had been deliberately interred. He had been placed in a sleeping posture, head on the right fore-arm. The head lay on a number of flint fragments carefully piled together "pillow fashion." A big hand-axe lay near his head, and around him were numerous charred and split ox bones, as though there had been a feast or an offering.

To this appearance of burial during the later Neanderthal age we shall return when we are considering the ideas that were inside the heads of primitive men.

This sort of men may have wandered, squatted about their fires, and died in Europe for a period extending over 100,000 years, if we assume, that is, that the Heidelberg jaw-bone belongs to a member of the species, a period so vast that all the subsequent history of our race becomes a thing of yesterday.

Along its own line this species of men was accumulating a dim tradition, and working out its limited possibilities. Its thick skull imprisoned its brain, and to the end it was low-browed and brutish.

The Neanderthal type of man prevailed in Europe at least for tens of thousands of years. For ages that make all history seem a thing of yesterday, these nearly human creatures prevailed. If the Heidelberg jaw was that of a Neanderthaler, and if there is no error in the estimate of the age of that jaw, then the Neanderthal Race lasted out for more than 200,000 years!

Finally, between 40,000 and 25,000 years ago, as the Fourth Glacial Age softened towards more temperate conditions, a different human type came upon the scene, and, it would seem, exterminated Homo Neanderthalensis.

This new type was probably developed in South Asia or North Africa, or in lands now submerged.

The opinion that the Neanderthal race (Homo Neanderthalensis) is an extinct species which did not interbreed with the true men (Homo sapiens) is held by Professor Osborn, and it is the view to which the writer inclines and to which he has pointed in the treatment of this section; but it is only fair to the reader to note that many writers do not share this view.

They write and speak of living "Neanderthalers" in contemporary populations. One observer has written in the past of such types in the west of Ireland; another has observed them in Greece. These so-called "living Neanderthalers" have neither the peculiarities of neck, thumb, nor teeth that distinguish the Neanderthal race of pre-men. The cheek teeth of true men, for instance, have what we call fangs, long fangs; the Neanderthaler's cheek tooth is a more complicated and specialized cheek tooth, a long tooth with short fangs, and his canine teeth were less marked, less like dog-teeth, than ours.

At present we can only guess where and how, through the slow ages, parallel with the Neanderthal cousin, these first true men arose out of some more ape-like progenitor. For hundreds of centuries they were acquiring skill of hand and limb, and power and bulk of brain, in that still unknown environment. They were already far above the Neanderthal level of achievement and intelligence, when first they come into our ken, and they had already split into two or more very distinctive races.

No doubt the ancestor of Homo sapiens (which species includes the Tasmanians) was a very similar and parallel creature to Homo Neanderthalensis. And we are not so far from that ancestor as to have eliminated not indeed "Neanderthal," but "Neanderthaloid" types. The existence of such types no more proves that the Neanderthal species, the makers of the Chellean and Mousterian implements, interbred with Homo sapiens in the European area than do monkey-faced people testify to an interbreeding with monkeys; or people with faces like horses, that there is an equine strain in our population’.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Foundation of Wellington in 1840: 'a coup d'etat, attempted by a set of scheming adventurers of a republican spirit'?


We are currently celebrating the 174thAnniversary of the Founding of Wellington. The New Zealand Company’s first settler ship, the Aurora, anchored at Petone in Wellington Harbour on 22 January 1840, marking the settlement that would later become Wellington. The new town was named in honour of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington.

As was often the case with the New Zealand Company, there was a substantial difference between theory and reality. One settler recalled that when his ship entered Wellington Harbour, ‘disappointment was visible on the countenance of everyone’.

The problems associated with settling among steep hills and swampy valleys were compounded by: floods which led to the movement of the site of the city [initially named Britannia] from the Hutt Valley to its present location in Te Aro; disputes as to the extent of the land purchased from Maori; and confusion and conflict on land titling among the colonists.

By the end of the year, 1,200 settlers had arrived in Wellington. The Colony’s Promoter Edward Gibbon Wakefield had hoped to make the settlement the capital of New Zealand. He was to be disappointed when Governor William Hobson chose Auckland instead (although Wellington did become the capital when Parliament was moved to the city in 1865).

The Crown also began an ex post investigation of the New Zealand Company’s land purchases. This uncertainty and fighting with Māori in the Hutt Valley and Porirua contributed to Wellington’s slow growth in the 1840s. In 1850 the so-called ‘model settlement’ had a population of 5,479, while the virtually unplanned town of Auckland was home to 8,301 settlers.

And it wasn’t more than a month after the first landing in 1840 that the Australians were sledging the Kiwis in what has become a longstanding mutual chiack.

It seems that a certain Captain Pearson, of the ship Integrity, who was a resident of New South Wales, was violently arrested and put in irons in early 1840 at Port Nicholson, on a charge of piracy, preferred against him by his charterer, because he would not land his cattle until he had either paid, or given security to pay the freight. Captain Pearson challenged the authority, and protested against the jurisdiction of the Court convened by the New Zealand colonists.

The NSW Newspaper ‘The Colonist’ took up Pearson’s case calling the court ‘a trumpery that was got up, without Her Majesty's commission, to try him’ and claiming that the court derived its authority from thin air and that its functionaries were 'nothing more than grave and potent seignors of a rebel Council, with a bogus sovereign President at its head'!


The Main Text from ‘The Colonist’, Sydney, New South Wales, Saturday 9 May 1840:

'By the arrival of the Tory from Port Nicholson we are put in possession of the second number of The New Zealand Gazette, the first newspaper ever published in that territory. The first number of this Gazette was published in London, as a feu de joie, prior to the departure of the first expedition. The number which we have now before us was published on the 18th ultimo, at Port Nicholson, and promulgates certain manifestoes in which the Provisional Constitution of the new settlement is defined, and on which its Local Government professes to found its powers and jurisdiction within the limits of its territory.

As there is something in our opinion rather extraordinary and unprecedented in this experiment of the New Zealand Company, we have thought it necessary to quote, in another part of this day's paper, all the documents and intelligence respecting the Government and proceedings of this new Colony, which have been published in the second number of The New Zealand Gazette, in order that our readers may the better judge of the nature of these proceedings, and of the validity of the strictures which we are disposed to make upon them.

After having perused the documents we have referred to, we presume that no intelligent person, who understands the true principles of the British Constitution, will hesitate to coincide with us in the opinion, that the experiment of the Port Nicholson Land Company is not only novel and unparalleled in the history of modern colonization at least, but anomalous and fallacious as regards the fundamental principles on which its constitution is based, and the source from which its functionaries profess to derive their authority.

When the colonists at Port Nicholson set out on their enterprise, they did not obtain a Royal Charter from the Crown to which they owe allegiance to authorize them to erect a government of their own, and to invest their functionaries with constitutional powers. But in order to remedy as much as possible the want of a Charter, and to provide for the maintenance of social order, the emigrants previous to their departure from England entered into one common compact, for the erection of a Provisional Government, according to a specific form of Constitution, whereby they bound themselves to recognize certain authorities, and submit to be governed by them agreeably to the Laws of England.

This was all very well so far as the parties to this compact were concerned; but in order to render the jurisdiction of the provisional government effectual. in its application to persons who might come among them, but who had not been parties to the original compact, the colonists of Port Nicholson seem to have felt the necessity of investing their Constitution with the sanction of sovereign authority, in order that their Government might have paramount jurisdiction within the' limits of the colony’; or, in other words, 'that their Government, in its administration of the laws of the community, might be competent to exercise supreme authority and territorial dominion.

There are only three ways in which this end could be accomplished by this new colony. First, by obtaining a Charter from the British Crown; second, by assuming and maintaining sovereignty in itself, as an independent state; or third, by obtaining the sanction and recognition of Native Chiefs, and incorporating, as it were, their territorial sovereignty as an element in its political constitution.

 With respect to the first of these ways, we a have only to remark, that it is the most legitimate and effectual mode of founding a colony, and of establishing within it the institutions of Government on a competent basis. On that basis, however, the Government of Port Nicholson does not profess to found its authority.

With respect to the second mode of establishing a new colony, we believe it cannot apply to Port Nicholson; in as much as it is legally incompetent for British subjects to organize themselves into a distinct community, and assume an independent sovereignty of their own. This requires no elucidation - it is obvious in itself. Such a proceeding as we now suppose would be incompatible with the personal allegiance which British subjects owe to their Sovereign - which allegiance is so absolute and permanent in its obligation as to be incapable of dissolution by removal from the Empire, or by deliberate renunciation on the part of the subject.

Such renunciation would infer treason; and hence, if - any number-of British subjects organize themselves into a distinct community, and erect themselves into an independent state, irrespectively of the supremacy of the British Crown, then unquestionably they incur the political guilt of treason, and are liable to be coerced into subjection as rebels, or punished as traitors.

With a view to avoid this illegal position, and to compensate in the mean time for the want of a Royal Charter, the Colonists of Port Nicholson had recourse to the manoeuuvre of obtaining the ratifying assent of the Native Chiefs to their Provisional Constitution, and of thereby investing it, as they suppose, with the high sanction of Sovereign authority within the limits of their territory.

This arrangement we have characterized as a political experiment, not only of an extra ordinary and uncommon description, but, in our opinion, of a no less anomalous and fallacious kind. It is altogether unprecedented in the history of British Colonization, for an Association of British subjects to establish a colony in any savage country, and to erect an independent government with political supremacy and territorial jurisdiction, founded on the sanction and derived from the sovereignty of Savage Chiefs.

Such a manoeuvre is really too shallow and fallacious not to be seen through and scouted by men not given to visionary projects and theoretical chimeras; and our candid opinion of this novel experiment at Port Nicholson is that it is a mere juggling trick of state - a coup d'etat, attempted by set of scheming adventurers of a republican spirit, to give colour to their position and proceedings, which are both very questionable indeed.

The illegality of their Government, so far as it asserts its supremacy over any portion of New Zealand, we maintain is obvious; inasmuch as Her Majesty the Queen of England has proclaimed it to be her royal will and intention to extend her sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand and one of the primary and most obvious effects of that proclamation was to render it illegal for any of her subjects in that territory to act irrespectively of her supremacy.

The authority of the British Crown was thence forth paramount in New Zealand; and the colonists of Port Nicholson need not, therefore, flatter themselves with the idea, that the sovereignty of savage chiefs, whose sanction they pretend to have obtained, will give validity to their Government, or legality to their proceedings. They are, to all intents and purposes, within the limits of Her Majesty's empire, and within the sphere of her sovereignty.

It is, therefore, incompatible with their allegiance, for any of her subjects in any part of New Zealand to organize a Government, or to exercise magisterial jurisdiction, without her sanction and authority.

This, then, is precisely the position of the colonists of Port Nicholson. The fact that the Queen of England is negotiating for the surrender of their territory, and also for the recognition of her own sovereignty, by the natives of New Zealand, affords no pretext - although the Port Nicholson colonists allege to the contrary - for their negotiating either directly for the land, or indirectly for the sovereignty, of the natives in any portion of the territory. Such negotiations on the part of subjects in competition with their lawful Sovereign, and in defiance of her proclamations, can bear no other construction in the strict interpretation of the law, than that of treasonable practices; and as such, therefore, they are illegal and nugatory in themselves.

The Port Nicholson Government dispenses with the most sacred functions of the British Crown; it usurps the prerogative of creating magistrates of its own, and assumes jurisdiction over British subjects who do not recognize its authority, or the legality of its administration. And when the jurisdiction of its authorities is protested against, and appealed from to the only legitimate and competent authorities for the administration of English Law on British subjects in New Zealand - to wit, the constituted functionaries at the Bay of Islands, under Her Majesty's Representative, Lieutenant Governor HOBSON, - they insolently spurn the appeal, and show their respect for the authority appealed to by committing the appellant to prison, and treating him like a condemned felon.

What! Talk of the Queen of England's sovereignty to them, and of Governor HOBSON's constituted authorities within their territory, and in the face of that Sovereignty which they have already derived from the Native Chiefs! Who dares doubt the authority of their government, or question the legitimacy of their jurisdiction? Talk of the Law of England and the British Constitution! Why, is it not the boast of the one, that it can be administered only by authorities constituted by the Crown, - that it holds a man innocent until he is proved to be guilty, - and reserves even to the guilty the sacred privilege of trial by jury! And is it not the peculiar characteristic of the other, that it admit of an imperium in imperio?

If so; then we hesitate not to denounce the self-constituted Government of Port Nicholson as a monstrous and audacious usurpation - an anomalous and unwarrantable experiment, which ought to be put down'.


In a previous article, I have characterized New Zealand, somewhat acerbically, as ‘the only country in the world founded by real estate agents'. But it seems the Australians have a somewhat more romantic view that our founders were a bunch of lawless pirates. You can pay your money and take your choice.

I note though that the H.M.S. Herald set sail from Sydney on 18 December 1843 with the following passengers onboard: Captain Hobson, Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand, and family, Mr. Felton Mathew, Dr. Johnson, and Mr. Hustler. Hobson landed at the Bay of Islands on 30 January 1840 to read his proclamation of appointment and arranged for a meeting at British Resident James Busby's house on 5 February, while the Treaty of Waitangi between Maori and the Crown was being drafted.

‘On the following day, 6 February, as the chiefs came forward to sign he greeted each of them with the words 'He iwi tahi tatou' (We are all one people). At the end of 1840, New Zealand ceased to be a protectorate of New South Wales and became a colony in its own right, with Hobson as Governor and Auckland as its capital city. The administration was short of cash and had frequent conflict with settlers, who were hungry for land and wanted control of the colony's government’.

It seems that Hobson’s posse cut the rustlers off at the Pass - or was this just another underhanded turn down?


Friday, January 17, 2014

At the Pencarrow Lighthouse Open Day

Some 60 ships have been wrecked around Wellington Harbour and the adjacent coasts of Cook Strait. The area’s unpredictable weather, high winds, vicious swells, reefs and high cliffs make it a very dangerous tract of water. The first recorded European shipwreck was that of the barque Winwick which foundered off Lyall Bay in 1841 – just one year after the founding of the city of Wellington.

The area was the scene of two of New Zealand’s worst maritime disasters. In 1909, the passenger ship Penguin hit the rocks while returning across the Strait from Picton and 75 lives were lost. In 1968, the inter-island ferry the Wahine grounded on rocks near Seatoun, just within the Harbour – 51 lives were lost during the incident which saw survivors and bodies cast up on the opposing shore.

The Pencarrow lighthouse was the first attempt to provide proper guidance to vessels using the harbour entrance. It was sited on a prominent headland at the eastern side of the harbour, some 10 kilometres from the nearest settlement along a rough coastal track. Built from prefabricated iron sections that were joined together with massive nuts and bolts, the tower was shipped out from Britain in knock-down form, arriving in 480 packages on the Ambrosire.

It was the first permanent lighthouse to operate in New Zealand and the light was first lit on 1 January 1859. An accompanying shore-level light was built in 1906, as the light on the original structure was sometimes obscured during fogs and storms. In 1935 an electric light was installed at Baring Head further out on the headland, which made the first lighthouse redundant.

New Zealand’s only female lighthouse keeper, Mary Jane Bennett, was the inaugural operator of the lighthouse when it provided a 24 X 7 service. Mary was the wife of the previous keeper, George White Bennett, who had drowned in the harbour in June 1855. She was in charge when the colza oil light first shone and maintained the lighthouse till 1865 when she returned to England. For many years, the lighthouse keepers lived in a cottage on the lee-side of the promontory, maintaining a garden and a small livestock farm.
The tower is now maintained by the Historic Places Trust.
Helen Beaglehole tells the wider story of New Zealand's attempts to safeguard maritime passengers and commerce in her 2007 book: 'Lighting the Coast : A history of New Zealand's coastal lighthouse system'.
Helen accompanied the party of visitors convened by the Historic Places Trust for the annual Open Day and provided a talk on the origins of the structure and its history.