Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tales from the Trunk # 8

A gruesome find

While casually browsing some historic papers online (doesn't everyone?) recently, I stumbled across the following story. It describes a gruesome find by a Mr Bryson. I don't yet know how or even if he is related to us, but he was from Otatara, where lived our original Bryson family, of whom all the males had died. I have encountered this person elsewhere in the newspaper archive, and am now endeavouring to find out more about him.

However, I digress - back to the newspaper report published in the Southland Times , Issue 2910, 23 October 1877, Page 2. It went like this:

An Unknown.— A rather extraordinary discovery was made on Sunday afternoon by Mr Bryson, of Otatara Peninsula, while walking in company with Mr David Anderson, of New River Heads, on the Riverton beach, near the wreck of the Hindu, and about three miles from the finger post. At about high water mark a well made coffin was found, constructed of baltic pine, with every indication of having been made by a tradesman, the shoulders being properly sawn, and the seams tarred. The lid had evidently been well screwed down, although when found it was hanging by one screw. The coffin was discovered in an isolated position and contained the body of a man of about 5 feet 6 inches in height, well formed, and apparently approaching middle age. The deceased had on a pair of merino socks, knitted flannel and a striped Crimean shirt, nearly new, with large white studs. The body was perfect, with the exception of the face which was completely gone. The head was in position, but detached at the neck from the trunk. A cursory examination disclosed no marks of violence. Mr Bryson immediately proceeded to the Invercargill Police Station, arriving there at 9.30 p.m., and he then accompanied Inspector Fox and Sergeant Tuohy to where the body lay. On Monday morning the police brought the remains to town, and deposited them in the Morgue at the Hospital, where an examination will be made to-day by Dr Jackson, and an inquest will be held this evening at 7 o'clock. It is a singular fact that the foot board of the coffin has been by some means carried away, and the feet of deceased protrude for about twelve inches and yet have sustained no damage.

If you're puzzled about the whereabouts of Riverton Beach, puzzle no more.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

30 !!

Our Sarah Rose turned 30 recently!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tales from the trunk # 7

All at sea

I have previously told you the tale of the watery end of the Bryson males.

Until now I have only been able to speculate about just how Francis died.  But thanks to the clever folk at National Library, or more especially those responsible for the Papers Past facility, I now know.

You see, the Southland Times published the page 2 story below on 23 December 1868 under the heading "Local and General.":

On the 3rd ult., the town was thrown into a state of painful excitement by the report that a boat known to belong to Mr Edward Hart, Invercargill, and who had only a few days previously completed a contract for the supply of posts for the Agricultural and Pastoral Association's Show Yards, had been found on the beach near the Kew Railway Station. It being known that Hart was working on the opposite side of the estuary, fears were entertained that, with the daring for which he was remarkable, he had attempted to cross while the gale was raging, and the boat had upset, all on board being drowned. Messrs. Coutts and Campbell who first discovered the boat, having communicated with the police, steps were taken to ascertain if Hart had left Fraser's Saw Mills in his boat on the previous evening. A party proceeded to that locality, when the worst fears were confirmed. They learned that Hart and four others had left Mr Fraser's Jetty on the previous evening in the boat that had been found. The occupants of the boat were Messrs. E. Hart, Frank Bryson, Wm. McCulloch, Wm. Nelson, and Henry Tremore. Mr Fraser stated that previous to the boat leaving he had remarked, "It was overloaded," to which Hart replied, he "Would rather have seven than five in it." Mr W. Tait, who was present, stated that he had watched the boat from the time it started until it was opposite Capt. Thompson's, (ship builder) yard, up to which time all appeared safe. A heavy squall then came on, and the boat was lost to view. A careful search was then made by the police and volunteers for other evidence of the accident. Mr Coutts found the oars at the breakwater on the line of the Bluff Harbor and Invercargill Railway, and Mr H. Pierce found, at the far side of the breakwater, Hart's cap, together with a black felt hat, which has been identified by Mr Vale as that worn by one of the missing men. Yesterday morning a swag was found on the beach ticketed with the name of McCulloch, and another, which, as yet,is not identified. The search for the bodies was continued during the whole of yesterday by the police boat's crew, and three or four boats with volunteers, but without success. There can be now no doubt but that the whole five men have perished, and we regret to say that at least two were married men with families. The search for the bodies will be still prosecuted. This sad accident has thrown a gloomy cloud over the community.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Shaken and stirred

It's been a moving few days.

We've experienced a cluster of sizable earthquakes over the last few days. It started on Friday morning with a shake rated "severe", then further minor shakes throughout Saturday into Sunday. Then another large one, rating 6.9 early Sunday evening.

This one produced widespread but minor damage throughout Wellington.

Consequently, all local train services have been cancelled, so my daily travel to work is disrupted. And the building I work in is closed for a safety inspection.

Unusually, we had visible effects of the Sunday evening shake:

Note that this was hardly "damage" in the sense that nothing was broken or disassembled, merely temporarily re-arranged. That's the first time I can recall an earthquake shifting anything at home.

But I'd have to say I'm a little worried about the extent of the effects in central Wellington, as that's where the kids all live and work.

But, apart from that minor inconvenience, everything else is fine - even the pets appear to be OK, although Peaches does take off outside in sizable shakes!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tales from the Trunk # 6

Bravery or Survival?

Someone asked me recently about Herbert Edie's medals - what were they awarded for? And that got me checking the records.

His personnel file reveals he was eligible for the following medals:

  • 1939-45 Star
  • Africa Star
  • Clasp to Africa Star (8th Army)
  • War Medal
  • NZ War Service Medal

None of these were awarded for individual acts of bravery, courage or leadership; rather they were recognition of service; that Herbert served his country (and survived).

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Signs of Spring

It is mid-winter, and Desiree has fled to Vietnam, the back-yard is suffering it's near continuous inundation
the back-yard in mid-winter
but all is not lost!

Out there, in the midst of rain, cold, mud, and over-growth, is a sign that Spring is on it's way!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

They also serve ...

While in Sydney earlier this year, we went to see the ANZAC Day Parade through downtown Sydney.

In New Zealand, the Day is quite restrained, as is the Kiwi way: Dawn Parades, respectful services, and all shops shut until early afternoon. Sydney is a whole other story: raucous, nationalistic even jingoistic, celebratory, drunken, a big deal.

We got a prime spot opposite the Town Hall, which appeared to be the official "reviewing stand". We arrived at 0900, having been woken by bands marching about town near our hotel. So we knew we had to move. And there we stayed. Until almost 1250 - 4 hours! Although Desiree took time out for a cup of tea, and I went back to the hotel to unload my camera!

We were fascinated by a number of elements - the raucous nationalism - flags everywhere!; the very considerable respect for those who marched - everyone got a resounding round of applause & cheers; the scale - it went on for 4 hours, after all; the inclusion of descendants honouring forebears, many carrying their photos; and the wish of all to be recognised - the obscure & quirky just as much as the more traditionally noted.

Not sure why these cars were included, but hey, ...

Can't forget the Medicos!

A touch of the Australian dry, sardonic humour?

Even a place for gallows humour!

It is said that the first victim of war is Truth, but I'm not sure this group would disagree

It wasn't clear if this group made movies for propaganda or screened movies for the troops

Here they are:

It wasn't clear just who these guys were, but they were from PNG
A typical Aussie display? Big car, flags, beer, loud behaviour.

A more traditional mark of respect for the fallen, and all the more poignant for being un-heralded, unaccompanied, silent and under-stated

My favourite of the quirky and obscure - the Spotters followed by the Carrier Pigeon Service!
And all the while the pubs were full to overflowing, and would be throughout the afternoon and into the evening!:

Friday, May 10, 2013

Granny takes a trip

While in Sydney we wandered from the vicinity of Chinatown south-eastwards to Paddington.

One website describes the suburb in these gushing/uber-cool terms" "A luxe, boutique-strewn suburb, Paddo is famous for fine threads, pretty residents and a very Eastern Suburbs private school vibe. And let's face it: that's why we love it. Come here to be transported. Narrow William Street's got you sorted for high-end duds, while all the Big Shops have a home on Oxford Street."

We didn't make it as far as Williams St, but we did traverse a small portion of Oxford St.

We were taken by some of the 'retro' boutiques in Crown St - 'retro' because they specialise in clothes & accessories from the 60s and 70s.

One in particular took my eye - Grandma Takes A Trip!

When I saw it I was convinced it was named after an obscure 60s pop song by one of the British underground psychedelic bands like the early Pink Floyd. The shop assistant didn't know much about it, but did think it was named after a shop in London in the "swinging sixties".

A little research after I got home showed I was NEARLY right!

There was both a shop AND a song. According to Wikipedia "Granny Takes a Trip was a boutique opened in February 1966 at 488 Kings Road, Chelsea, London, by Nigel Waymouth, his girlfriend Sheila Cohen and John Pearse. The shop, which was acquired by Freddie Hornik in 1969, remained open until the mid-70s and has been called the 'first psychedelic boutique in Groovy London of the 1960s' ".

The song was called - strange to relate - "Granny Takes a Trip" and was written & recorded by a group called The Purple Gang - one-hit wonders.

YouTube is also a useful source of content.

This clip has a wonderful promo clip from 1967 for the single

A second clip is a BBC interview with one of the founders, John Pearse.

And to prove that aging hippies don't die - they just move north, have a look at The Purple Gang performing the song at The Castle Pub in Macclesfield about 2007!

Ah me - now if I could only find another shirt made of fabric with a pattern of Groucho Marx heads on it!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tales From The Trunk # 5

Prison-time for Joe

James & Margaret Mulligan had a younger brother, Joseph Edward, born about 1859.  Joe was to become a convicted felon and spend time in jail.  And to get a number of mentions in the British Parliament.

It transpired like this.

According a Mr. Lonsdale ( MP for Armagh, Mid.), "on Sunday the 11th February [1906], a mob of 300 persons, headed by Mr. Thomas Smith, J.P., chairman of the Cavan Rural District Council, Mr. Fitzpatrick, D.C., and Joseph Mulligan, an evicted tenant, marched on to the farm of Peter Brady, near Ballyhaise, tore down fences and held a meeting, at which threats were uttered against Brady."

By the time Lonsdale raised the matter in Parliament, the matter was the subject of "proceedings in the Land Judge's Court which resulted in an order by the learned Judge for the attachment of the persons named in the Question."  It appears that "attachment of the persons" meant they were imprisoned.  Lonsdale raised the matter during Question Time on 15 March 1906.

5 days later, MR. Dillon (Mayo, E.) asked a series of questions on the same matter of "the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland", to which Mt Bryce replied, in part, "I understand that these persons were charged with contempt of court in taking part in an unlawful assembly, the object of which was alleged to be to intimidate the holder of a farm which is under the control of the Court."

There followed a brief flurry of comment focussing on the iniquity of a judicial system which allowed for ordering "unlimited terms of imprisonment", with the effect that "they may be kept in prison for life unless they plead guilty of a charge which they deny having committed".

On 28 March, a further exchange occurred which dealt with the conditions under which the 3 were held (locked in cells for 22 hours per day) and could receive visitors (watched over by guards ready to take notes).

John Redmond and Sir Edward Carson, both notable National MPs, felt moved to become involved.  There followed an attempt to clarify the role of "Mr. Arthur Forbes, ... sub-sheriff for County Cavan".  Redmond summarised his role thus:  "Then the person who initiated the proceedings and obtained the order of attachment afterwards as sheriff executed it?"  Odd, to say the least.  Bryce agreed Redmonds view was correct.

2 months later, on 28 May, in answer to a question from MR. P. A. McHugh, Bryce told the House, "I am informed that the three men named were released on April 23rd, on the completion of one month's imprisonment, by an order of the Land Judge's Court. The order of release was unconditional."

One of Joseph's descendants, Sheila Openshaw, provided the links to this Tale, and also added, "Mum told me he spent a night in prison & when I rang (Uncle) Bob on the farm at Lisnashanna he told me it was 6 months!  My grandad Frank had to do the ploughing & keep the farm running when he was just 11 years old whilst his dad was in prison.  Seems that he was in Dundalk Prison for a month."

The exchanges mentioned above can be found online at:

Joseph's place in our family tree can be understood at

Monday, April 29, 2013

A few days in Sydney

We've just had a few days on holiday in Sydney, ostensibly to visit an exhibition about Alexander The Great.

Really, it was just an excuse for a few days away and a change of routine.

We stayed in an inner-city hotel on Park Street between Castlereagh and Pitt streets. That means we were a stone's throw away from Hyde Park and from there The Domain.

Between Hyde Park and The Domain is College Street, on which is St Mary's Cathedral. A very impressive Catholic Cathedral.

To give a sense of perspective, the building in which our hotel was located was 45 storeys high. Our room was on the 14th floor, from where I took the two photos of Park Street above. And at the top was a swimming pool (!) and the guest laundry. We went up to have a look, you can see the view was very impressive, although I was decidedly uncomfortable taking the photos!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tales From The Trunk # 4

Spying Out The Land

We have come to think of the Edie clan as inextricably linked to Otago, and particularly to Central, or the Blue Moutains area.

But it nearly wasn't to be so.

The Tuapeka Times in October 1882 carried a story entitled "A TRIP TO GISBORNE, NORTH ISLAND" and sub-titled "Spying out the Land."

The story was supplied by John Edie (Senior) and begins:

"I left Lawrence by the 2.45 train on the afternoon of Monday, 2nd October, and reached Dunedin shortly after 7 o'clock. On the following afternoon, I left the metropolis by the 2.30 train for Port Chalmers, which was reached in half-an hour. At 4 o'clock, the s.s. Wairarapa, bound for the Northern ports, left the wharf, and in half-an-hour's time the Heads were cleared."

He was sailing north, headed for Christchurch by way of Lyttelton initially. En route he engaged in a bit of sight-seeing.

"During my stay (in Christchurch), I visited the Cathedral— the leading feature of Christchurch - and also the Museum; with the wonders of the latter I was greatly pleased."

Then it was on to Wellington and Napier, before he finally reached Gisborne "at six o'clock on the following morning. Here also we had to anchor in the bay, and take advantage of a small boat to reach the shore. It appears that the bar at the mouth of the river is not navigable to the larger class of steamers."

He cast an experienced across the landscape: "All the land has to be cleared; it is covered with dense scrub and fern: shortly afterwards it is sown down in artificial grasses- there being no natural grass in the neighborhood worthy of the name. The climate is remarkably fine, and stock sheep chiefly thrive amazingly well. While in Gisborne, I was asked by a friend to accompany him on a visit to Mr W. B. Johnston's estate, fourteen miles from town. Mr Johnston is the possessor of 12,000 acres of freehold... I was told by Mr Johnston, who treated us very hospitably and took us through his estate, that the land carries three sheep to the acre all the year round - an unmistakeable proof that the land when sown down in English grasses is really good."

John (Snr) was clearly not a 'stranger in a strange land': he met up with "the Rev. Mr M'Ara, Presbyterian minister (who at one time held a charge in the Clutha district), I visited Mr G. Bruce's homestead, ... Mr Bruce, I might add, was at one time a resident of Murrays Flat, Waitahuna. ... [and was interested in a sale of land managed by] The New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Co., of which Mr R. Hill Fisher, formerly agent of the Bank of New Zealand at Tapanui, is the local manager."

But the eye-opener is his passing comment that "While there, I had my eye to some fine pastoral land - a block of 8000 acres in extent. I did not make final arrangements for securing it from the aboriginal owners, as business arrangements caused me to hasten to Dunedin a week earlier than I intended."

So it might so easily have been the "The Edies of Ormond" or some other location near Gisborne!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tales from the Trunk # 3

Cumnock Poisoning Case

A member of the Bryson family was, in late 1906, the victim in The Cumnock Poisoning Case.

It came about like this.

Mungo Bryson & Grace Dickie had a number of children. One, Agnes, brought her family to New Zealand in 1863. A second, Margaret, married William McKerrow in 1840.

Grace Dickie McKerrow was the fourth child of William McKerrow and Margaret Bryson. Grace was unmarried and had her own home in Ayr when her Aunt Grizzel, her father’s half sister who had married William Lennox, a farmer, in 1863, died after an illness in 1904. William Lennox had been ill at the same time. Grace, who had been looking after her Aunt before her death, was pressed by her to continue to look after Mr. Lennox. This Grace reluctantly agreed to do. She sold her home, except for a box of books she gave to a friend, and moved to Cumnock as housekeeper to the then deaf, elderly, childless, and retired William Lennox.

In 1906, a mysterious parcel arrived, containing a tin of shortbread with a card saying "With happy greetings from an old friend".

A few days later Grace had some of the shortbread and within an hour and a quarter, Grace had died in great pain.

The police investigation lead, a few days later, the arrest of Thomas Mathieson Brown of New Cumnock.

Following a preliminary hearing on 8th March, the case against Brown was heard before five Judges in the court of Justiciary, Edinburgh, on 18th, 19th and 20th March 1907.

Brown had a History of epilepsy for some forty years. and had shown signs of insanity.

The jury returned the verdict that the accused was "now insane" by a majority believed to be 11 to 4. Brown was ordered to be detained during His Majesty's pleasure.

Grace was well liked and respected. The "Scotsman" referred to her as a "lady of much intelligence and a rare amiability of character" (26 November 1906).

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Of bugs & beasties

I have often reported on the visits of birds - kingfishers, tuis - to our backyard which have delighted me.

But recently it has been the turn of other animals to come calling.

I got home from work one day to discover a dragonfly inside the house and trying to get out. Needless to say I took photos and THEN released it!

And then yesterday, while mowing the lawn I had to work around a monarch butterfly who had decided it need a rest on the back lawn. I tried picking it up and putting it on some leaves on a tree, but it seemed to prefer the grass! So I worked around it until it decided it was time to move on.

And, finally, later the same day, in the mid-afternoon sun & heat, a curious hedgehog came out to wander around the lawn. It was bewildered by the noise of my camera, took fright and scuttled back into the undergrowth, presumably heading back to bed!