Marvellous machines and feats of endurance – the story of Sir Douglas Maclean’s bicycle

Over the past fortnight I’ve had the pleasure of piecing together the story of Sir Douglas Maclean’s bicycle in preparation for its display – from today – at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

Maclean's bicycle, held by Chad Heays, Design Technician, MTG

Maclean’s bicycle, held by Chad Heays, Design Technician, MTG Ariel pattern bicycle, late 1871 Designed and manufactured by Starley & Co, Coventry, England Steel, wood Gifted by Lady Maclean collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, R85/2

Maclean’s bicycle has been in the collections of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust for many years, but we’ve known very little about her. Now, with the assistance of a number of experts around the world we have discovered that she is one of the earliest Ariel model bicycles, invented by James Starley, and manufactured in late 1871 by Starley & Co, Coventry, England.

In about 1870, Starley, known as the father of the British bicycle industry, began producing bicycles based on the French velocipede, or ‘boneshaker’, but with front wheels of increasing size to enable higher speeds.

Starley’s innovative designs made the new style of bicycle a simpler, lighter and more comfortable ride than the older-style velocipedes. The larger front wheel allowed the rider to travel faster. Cyclists would buy a bicycle sized to the length of their leg, the taller you were – the bigger the wheel you could ride. The high bicycle ruled the road from the 1870s to the late 1880s, falling into obsolescence, in their turn, with the introduction of the safety bicycle in the late 1880s.

While today, these machines are frequently referred to as ‘penny-farthings’ (referencing the large penny, and small farthing coins, as viewed from the side), the term is something of a misnomer. They were referred to as bicycles at the time, and from the late 1880s, with the emergence of the new safety bicycles, were called ‘ordinary’ bicycles’ to differentiate them from the new design.

Photographie Disderi Delié Succ collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 12882

Portrait of Douglas Maclean Photographie Disderi Delié Succ
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 12882

As part of our research into the bicycle we’ve also rediscovered some of Douglas’ adventures with this remarkable machine in the very early days of New Zealand cycling.

Sir Robert Donald Douglas Maclean (b. 1852, d. 1929) was the owner of the Maraekakaho Estate, inherited from his father Sir Donald McLean KCMG in 1877. Douglas represented the Napier electorate as an independent Conservative member of parliament from 1896 to 1899, but, as one of the largest land holders in Hawke’s Bay, focused most of his energy on pastoral pursuits, particularly stock-farming and sheep-breeding. He was also the first President of the Napier Society of Arts and Crafts in 1924, and was actively involved in promoting arts in the region.

Douglas spent most of his early years in Napier, but went to England for his schooling in 1865, returning to New Zealand in 1870. He worked in Wellington for the law firm of Hart and Buckley through the 1870s. An accomplished sportsman, he was a prominent local cyclist (winning the first two cycle races ever held in Wellington) and an early rugby player.

In February 1876 Douglas rode this bicycle from Wellington to Napier, a journey of six days on rough roads, which included the arduous climb over the Rimutaka Range, slow riding through Forty Mile Bush on muddy tracks cut-up by drays, and the fording of many rivers and streams. He ran the final 40 miles as he came into Napier in one day, with a strong head wind against him. The newspaper’s noted that on his arrival, “he suffered a little from exhaustion”. (Auckland Evening Star, 11.2.1876, Wellington Evening Post, 8.2.1876)

Douglas Maclean and his son Algernon, outside the Maclean residence, Napier Terrace, c1900 collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, M2004/19

Douglas Maclean and his son Algernon, outside the Maclean residence, Napier Terrace, c1900
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, M2004/19

Maclean’s bicycle is in largely original condition, though it is thought that the saddle spring was at some point replaced with a slightly later, 1873 design. The wheel rims have also likely been replaced.

Among its many innovations in design, the Ariel featured Starley’s new wheel design – a lever tension wheel with wire-spokes. It also used one inch rubber tyres, one of which the museum holds in the collection, but which has disintegrated over time to the extent it cannot be displayed.

Saloon, Maclean Residence, Napier, showing the bicycle propped up against the back wall. A B Hurst & Son collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2004/19

Saloon, Maclean Residence, Napier, showing the bicycle propped up against the back wall.
A B Hurst & Son
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2004/19

The bicycle came into the museum collections in 1940, as part of the Lady Maclean bequest. That same year it also featured in the New Zealand centennial celebrations in Wellington.

MacLean’s bicycle will be on display in the Century Theatre foyer from 28 January 2015.  Come in and pay her a visit.

Eloise Wallace, Curator Social History

My thanks to Graeme, Lorne, Carey, Richard and Bob for their expert research assistance.

Visit our Collections page for many more photographs of bicycles and cycling in Hawke’s Bay


A Boxing Day Casualty – in memory of Private Albert Cooper (1891 – 1914)

This Boxing Day marks the centenary of the death of Private Albert George Cooper [10/380], one of New Zealand’s earliest casualties of the First World War.

Private Cooper, of Hawke’s Bay, never saw battle. Eight days after his arrival in Egypt with the NZEF he was hospitalized, suffering from pneumonia. He never recovered and died on 26 December 1914.

Albert was born in Hastings in 1891, to William and Elizabeth Cooper, of Tarapatiki, Waikaremoana. His occupation on his attestation forms is given as a painter, his last employer S. Sargent, of Wairoa. He is described on enlistment as 5ft 8 inches tall, 126lb, of dark complexion, with brown eyes and hair.

Albert enlisted with the NZEF in the 9th (Hawke’s Bay) Company of the Wellington Infantry Battalion in September 1914 and sailed with the main body on 16 October.

Photograph of Private Albert Cooper (front left), and three other unidentified soldiers take at Electric Studio, 90 Manners Street, Wellington, October 1914, prior to the departure of NZEF. collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi,[75041]

Photograph of Private Albert Cooper (front left), and three other unidentified soldiers taken at Electric Studio, 90 Manners Street, Wellington, October 1914, prior to the departure of NZEF.
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi,[75041]

He arrived in Alexandria, Egypt on 3 December 1914 and as a young man on his first trip abroad, would have been impatient to see the sights. The NZEF disembarked at Alexandria and most of the New Zealand force entrained immediately for their camp in Zeitoun, on the outskirts of Cairo. However, Albert, as a member of the Hawke’s Bay Company, was, along with the Taranaki Company and Battalion Headquarters given the task of staying on in Alexandria to complete unloading the transports.

O E Burton wrote in The Silent Division impressions of the arrival of the NZEF in Egypt:

The men went thronging into the city. And what a night they had! At midnight they came back to the familiar holds but not to sleep. They had seen marvels and must recount what they had seen. Excited men talked at the top of their voices. No one listened to anyone else. Everyone was too full of his own experiences—and so the babel flowed on. In one evening they had seen Aladdin’s Cave, the Forty Thieves, and the houris of the Thousand and One Nights; veiled women and others whose draperies were of the most diaphanous sort. French, Greeks, Russians, and Italians, with the brown-skinned Egyptians and black Nubians from the south—all these they had seen and the spell of Egypt had taken hold of them.

The diary of Edward P Cox, a fellow soldier in the Wellington Regiment (and who later noted Albert’s death in its pages) wrote of Alexandria:

Saturday, December 3rd
Went ashore this evening to Club de Anglais of which we have been made hon. members. The best quarter of the city is very well built and very fine at night when all lit up as I saw it tonight. But the native areas about 2 miles of which I passed in a cab going to the wharves, have narrow streets, most evil smelling, and cafés, saloons and open bars etc galore. The work of unloading horses & military stores goes on and trains for Cairo leave every hour or two.

Men of the Hawke’s Bay Company were given a half-days leave on the 5th to visit Alexandria, before departing for Cairo on the 6th.  In the museum’s collection we hold a postcard, likely written on 5 December, to his sister-in-law Alice Maud Cooper. Maud was the wife of his older brother William Edward Cooper, watchmaker of Napier. In the short note, Albert (or Albie, as he signs off) gives his love to Betty, their daughter, his three year old niece.

Postcard, from Albert Cooper to WE Cooper, 1914 [front] collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi,75/29

Postcard, from Albert Cooper to WE Cooper, 1914 [front]
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi,75/29

Postcard, from Albert Cooper to WE Cooper, 1914 [back] Mrs W E Cooper, of 13 Napier Terrace 9 December 1914 Dear Maud We have got as far as Alexandria.  We are going to ‘Zeetun’ outside Cairo in Monday.  We have leave here today and town is very interesting. Will write and tell you all about it.  Love to Betty.  Yours etc Albie collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi,75/29

Postcard, from Albert Cooper to WE Cooper, 1914 [back]
Mrs W E Cooper, of 13 Napier Terrace
9 December 1914
Dear Maud
We have got as far as Alexandria. We are going to ‘Zeetun’ outside Cairo in Monday. We have leave here today and town is very interesting. Will write and tell you all about it. Love to Betty.
Yours etc
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi,75/29

Albert reached camp at 6pm on the 6th December after a train journey south through the heart of the Nile Delta. The regiment’s unit history recounts the difficulty of the first days in camp at Zeitoun. The camp was at first no more than a bare patch of desert, and the air described as very bracing after the stuffy conditions aboard ship. On the first night men slept on the sand wrapped in great coats and blankets. The ground was cold, and the air frosty. The author of the Wellington Regiment’s unit history wrote “those who were privileged to experience that first night’s bivouac on the sands of the Egyptian desert will long remember it as one of the coldest of their lives.” The first night’s exposure in the desert produced a mild epidemic of influenza and some twenty men were sent to hospital the first day.

The desert training regime was intense, but outside of their work, the sights of Cairo were an irresistible lure to all ranks. We do not know if Albert had the opportunity to visit Cairo, or see the wonders of ancient Egypt – the Pyramids, the Sphinx on his picture postcard home – before he succumbed to illness.

On the 10th December, five days after this postcard was sent, Albert was admitted to Abbassia Hospital, a British facility, east of Cairo, with pneumonia, along with fellow Hawke’s Bay soldier John Archibald Campbell, driver for Barry Bros of Napier. John Campbell died on the 14th, while Albert remained seriously ill in hospital, eventually passing away on the 26th. Respiratory diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis, pleurisy and pneumonia were rife in Egypt and struck many of the new arrivals from Australia and New Zealand.

We do not have a record of his funeral, but Albert’s death is noted in the diaries of other soldiers in his unit. It is possible that his next-of-kin were cabled with news of his death, and it was widely reported in the New Zealand papers from 30th December. The news must have come as a shock to the tiny East Coast community in which he grew up. His brief postcard from Alexandria, would have arrived in Napier much later and must have been a treasured remembrance of Albert, and his grand adventure, cut tragically short. Thus far, it is the only known letter of Albert’s to survive.

AG Cooper's grave, Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt Private Cooper is listed as aged 26 on his memorial, though he was actually only 23.

AG Cooper’s grave, Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt
Private Cooper is listed as aged 26 on his memorial, though he was actually only 23.

The museum also holds Albert’s Memorial Plaque in its collections. These were issued after the end of the war to the next-of-kin to all British and Empire service personnel who were killed as a result of the war. The full name of the dead soldier is engraved on the right hand side of the plaque, without rank, unit or decorations. They were issued in a pack with a letter from King George V and a commemorative scroll. These plaques were colloquially known as the ‘dead man’s penny’ because of their resemblance to the penny coin.

AG Cooper, Memorial Plaque collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi,75/29 gifted by Mr Noel G Cooper

AG Cooper, Memorial Plaque
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi,75/29
gifted by Mr Noel G Cooper

The First World War was the first major conflict in which the overwhelming majority of military deaths were battle-related, rather than caused by disease. Of the 16,703 New Zealanders who died during the war years, 63% were killed in action, 23% died of wounds, and 11% of disease.

Dedicated to the memory of those of the Regiment who gave their lives in the Great War;
And to our fellow soldiers of the Regiment who remain to serve the country in peace;
And to the present and future soldiers of those battalions that made the Wellington
Regiment N.Z.E.F., in whose keeping is its good name.

For us the glorious dead have striven,
They battled that we might be free.
We to their living cause are given;
We arm for men that are to be.
– Laurence Binyon

Dedication from the frontispiece of the Wellington Regiment unit history, Cunningham, Treadwell and Hanna, 1928

Albert’s story will be featured in MTG’s upcoming First World War exhibition, to open in April 2015. His service record is available online at Archives New Zealand,

Eloise Wallace, Curator Social History

volunteering with collections

22.10.2014 Carol Portrait

Volunteers play an important role in museums and galleries and MTG Hawke’s Bay is fortunate to have a regular volunteer, Carol Dacey, who holds the honorary position, Keeper of Textiles. In the weeks prior to the opening of the current exhibition Travel in Style which features items from the wardrobe of New Zealand politician and style icon Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan, Carol offered advice and assistance in mounting the garments. She was also involved with a number of projects at the time of the redevelopment and continues to provide invaluable assistance. I caught up recently with Carol to talk about her role at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

With so many organisations requiring volunteers, what appealed to you about volunteering at the museum?

I was told that the former Honorary Keeper of Textiles, Joan Maclaurin, was leaving and someone was needed who was able to sew and work with textiles. Having just retired and being a keen sewer, it fitted in well and I liked the idea of working in a museum environment. Since joining the museum I have learned many new skills and I thoroughly enjoy helping alongside the enthusiastic staff of the museum.

When did you first begin volunteering here? In 2006.

Who have you worked alongside at the museum?

I have helped in the Access/Collections and Design and Build teams and I have also worked with the Education team.

Prior to the redevelopment of the museum, what sort of projects were you involved with?

I made calico covers for the men’s suits that were hanging in racks. When the covers were made it was difficult returning them to the hanging racks because of the extra bulk from the fabric and because the space was so confined. I also made ‘sausages’ of different sizes from scraps of calico. These were put into the shoes to stop them from bending and to help prevent the leather cracking. I saw many shoes ranging from babies shoes, which had to have the sausages custom-made, to army boots which required stuffing with several sausages to hold them in shape.

I have re-covered chairs for exhibitions and before the museum closed, I helped a staff member check the accession numbers in the Textiles and Social History department, to make sure the items were correctly catalogued. This was an interesting task as I saw many items in the collection and as some of them were quite large and the accession numbers minute, it could be tricky to find where they were located.


When the museum closed in 2010 were you able to continue in your voluntary role?

My main job when the museum closed was to make different sized cushions to fit inside the packing boxes.

What did this involve?

During the closure there were two or three sewing and box-making ‘bees’ where staff and volunteers sewed and stitched the cushions and assembled the packing boxes. I washed and ironed many loads of 20 metre lengths of calico, and in my sitting room which became a sewing workshop, I cut out between 750 and 800 cushions. My husband Richard patiently avoided this room for the duration of the project! I measured and cut out the calico and Dacron and marked the cushions individually so although I sewed many of them myself, some could be easily handed on to other sewers.

Was there anything else that you helped with during this time?

Prior to the re-opening of the museum I helped to mount some of the mannequins for the opening exhibitions. This was a new experience for me and I really enjoyed it. The 1870’s wedding dress required about 5 different petticoats made of tulle and calico to recreate the full style of the skirt. I also mounted a small boy’s dress which was challenging because the neckline of the dress was much wider than the small size mannequin. To overcome this, I had to extend the shoulders of the mannequin in a life-like way to support the dress. I did this with calico, Dacron and conservation card and I also made a small petticoat to support the skirt.

At the museum’s off-site store, I helped the Curator of Archives during the scanning and cataloguing of the photographic collection for the online catalogue by sorting through the photographs and identifying any duplicates. I have also helped the Collections photographer mount clothing and jewellery for photography for record purposes. Some of these were the beautiful beaded dresses in the collection. I also sew accession labels into newly acquired garments.

What has been one of the more challenging tasks you have undertaken?

The most challenging to date was preparing and mounting the garments for the current exhibition ‘Travel in Style’.

Why was this challenging and what did it involve?

A lot of people think you just put the dress on the mannequin or stitch it to shape in some way. In reality you have to make the mannequin fit the dress, using calico, Dacron, card and a lot of ingenuity! Making and attaching legs to fit inside the trousers required a lot of thought and a certain amount of dexterity, partly because of the mannequin’s supporting pole! As ironing the garments is not permitted we used a steamer needing two people to operate it – one holding the steamer and the other manoeuvring a pad underneath the garment. I made a large and small pad shaped like a table tennis bat. This help to safely apply the right amount of pressure underneath the garment as it was steamed.

Carol also volunteers as a host in the museum’s upstairs galleries where she meets and chats with visitors and answers questions or offers background information about the setting and the exhibits.

Linda Macan, Collections Assistant


A splendid send-off – Hawke’s Bay goes to war

One hundred years ago this week, Hawke’s Bay’s first contingent of men were mobilised for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

When the King declared war on behalf of the British Empire on 4 August, New Zealand put its mobilisation plans into action. Men volunteered in their hundreds. Women marshalled in matters of ‘practical patriotism’ – raising funds for the expeditionary force and in equipping men for the front.

The first thirty seven – 10 August

On 6 August Prime Minister William Massey offered troops for Imperial service and the Defence Force made its first call for volunteers. The government promised to have the entire expeditionary force of 8500 men and 3800 horses on its way to Europe in three weeks. Recruiting began on 8 August. Within a week more than 14,000 volunteers had stepped forward. The Hawke’s Bay men accepted into the first draft departed in groups according to the requirements of the unit they were joining. Whether it was a handful of men, or a hundred, thousands of well-wishers turned out for each departure, and sent them on their way with speeches, brass bands, and a chorus of God Save the King.

Some of the first to leave Hawke’s Bay were 37 men who had answered an early call for ambulance brigade members, a machine gun section and railway engineers. A public notice was put up on the evening of the 8th for volunteers; men were selected and fitted out on the 9th, and departed for Wellington on the morning of the 10th. Over 3000 people gave these first volunteers[1] an enthusiastic send-off from the railway stations in Napier and Hastings.

Hastings all agog – 11 August

The earliest dated photographs in the museum’s collection capturing the departure of troops from Hawke’s Bay are three photographs taken at Hastings Railway station on 11 August.

Troops leaving Hastings for Awapuni, 11 August 1914, gifted by Stan Wright. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m74/72, 4923(a)

Troops leaving Hastings for Awapuni, 11 August 1914, gifted by Stan Wright. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m74/72, 4923(b)

Troops leaving Hastings for Awapuni, 11 August 1914, gifted by Stan Wright. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m74/72, 4923(b)

The Daily Telegraph for 11 August notes the departure of one group of men from Hastings on that day. “Hastings was all agog” the paper said “to see one of the first large groups of men to leave Hastings”, the departure of a draft of 25 Mounted Rifles, B Squadron, 9th (Wellington) and their horses, for Awapuni (via Dannevirke), commanded by Lieutenant [Augustine] Georgetti.

These men were to join the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment, formed on 8 August, and which concentrated at Awapuni Racecourse in Palmerston North (alongside other units) from the 12 August.

Napier Contingent Day – 15 August

Napier Contingent Day ribbon. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, [74627]

Napier Contingent Day ribbon. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, [74627]

On a meeting at the Napier Council Chambers on 10 August a ‘Contingent Day’, was proposed for the 15 August to raise funds for the expeditionary force. 250 women were given boxes and badges and let loose upon the pockets of the generous Napier public. Some ladies, the paper noted, started solicitations before breakfast, and they worked till 9.30pm that night, canvassing the streets. Hotel-keepers provided complimentary teas to all collectors. At Taradale, the post mistress, Mrs Hazel took charge, and had twenty girls on horseback scouring the countryside.

These satin badges, of which the museum has half a dozen, were given out to each patriotic purchaser, for a minimum donation of 5s. By noon, 2000 had been distributed and demands were coming in from collectors for more. Napier Contingent Day raised £351 18s 6d in all.   Hawke’s Bay people undertook all manner of concerts, parades and events to raise funds.

Practical patriotism – 16 August

After the declaration of war, and the confirmation New Zealand would send men to fight, the women of Hawke’s Bay banded together in local Ladies’ Expedition Equipment Committees, to consider how to quickly supply the men of Hawke’s Bay with all they would need for the front.[2] At the suggestion of Lady Godley (wife of General Sir Alexander Godley, Commander of the NZEF) the wives and mothers of the men of the 9th Regiment focused their attention on the supply of vests, hold-alls and ‘housewives’. The various branches of the Girls’ Friendly Society of Hawke’s Bay made and contributed 50 pairs of sox, 50 suits of flannel pyjamas and 50 flannel shirts.

Donated goods were collected at drill halls, and citizens were encouraged to make public subscriptions to enable the purchase of materials. Mobilisation commanders directed, and expected that local men be fitted out locally before their transfer to the concentration camps.

On 16 August, the main contingent of Napier men assembled in full force at the drill hall to be presented with the war kits that had been assembled by the women of Napier. Lieutenant Colonel Hislop, officer commanding the 9th Regiment (infantry) made a speech of thanks, “on behalf of the Napier boys going to the front I have to most heartily thank the ladies of this town for equipping them”.

Au Revoir, God speed, and a safe return – 17 August

On the morning of Monday 17 August 1914 the main contingent left Hawke’s Bay.

From Napier, 112 men, including 33 from Gisborne, met at the Drill Hall, where the the Rev J A Asher, conducted a short service, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer. The volunteers, headed by a band, were then marched to the railway station via the Marine Parade, Hastings, Emerson and Munroe streets, all of which were thronged with spectators. The museum holds two photographs of a large contingent of men parading along Marine Parade, on what may be this occasion.

First draft of the NZEF, Napier, August 1914, gifted by Neville Harston. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m76/30, 5241 (a)

First draft of the NZEF, Napier, August 1914, gifted by Neville Harston. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m76/30, 5241 (a)

First draft of the NZEF, Napier, August 1914, gifted by Neville Harston. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m76/30, 5241 (b)

First draft of the NZEF, Napier, August 1914, gifted by Neville Harston. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m76/30, 5241 (b)

Mayor J Vigor Brown and Lieutenant-Colonel Hislop spoke to the 112 contingenters and a crowd of 7,000 enthusiastic spectators from the balcony of the Terminus Hotel.

The papers reported:

“A most enthusiastic send-off was given to the local volunteers for active service this morning, many thousands of residents of all ages cheering the men on in their noble response to the great call from the Motherland for some of her stalwart sons.

Everyone appeared to be excited and patriotic in the extreme. Flags fluttered everywhere. Ladies wore ties of red, white and blue.

Some of the crowd were gathered together in small knots, only too evidently related to some member of the departing warriors, and in such groups were to be seen many saddened faces and moistened eyes. It was a scene of intense enthusiasm, dampened only by the stern realty of what was before the brave lads who had so nobly responded to the call.[3]

In Hastings, the town despatched 48 members of B Company 9th Hawke’s Bay Regiment (old Hastings Rifles) and nine mounted rifles on the same special military train as the Napier and Gisborne men. Crowds began to assemble on the railway platform from 9am, and the paper notes that,

“by the time the men, headed by the Union Jack, wheeled into Station street to the inspiriting strains of the Hastings Band, something like 4000 persons had gathered on the platform, on the verandah roofs, tops of railway carriages, trees, and every available spot, to watch the lads’ departure.”

“When all were aboard, the train, whistling “hip hip hurrah! steamed out over exploding fog signals, amidst waving of handkerchiefs and sustained cheering, the Salvation Army Band playing ‘God Be With you till we meet again’”

These scenes of departure were repeated again and again from 1914 to 1918 as reinforcements were mobilised for the front. In my next post I’ll be writing about the next stage of the journey, and the experience of Hawke’s Bay men, at Awapuni, and other camps, as they prepared to depart for the war.

Can you help?

Piecing together the story of the departure of the first contingent of Hawke’s Bay men is a challenge, and my research is very much a work in progress. If you have information to share please get in touch.

I’m particularly keen to find out if there are any more photographs of the departure of Hawke’s Bay men in 1914 out there? Or better yet, letters, or diaries written by Hawke’s Bay men and women which shed light on daily life and activities in the early months of the war.

Did any of your ancestors depart as part of these first contingents of Hawke’s Bay men?

Eloise Wallace

Curator of Social History



[1] The Napier recruits for the Field Ambulance Corps were BH Dyson; JH Ward; WH Wrathall; C Page; CB Angrove; JC Twomey; JA Campbell; ES Flood; FN McGee; C Collins and B Trim. The Hastings Ambulance contingent were Corporal McGuirk, Privates P Henderson, A Ford, R McKeown, V Portas, C Halse, R Chadwick, C Money, E Cruickshanks, J broad, G McNaughton, C Heald, WH Temperley, Duncan and Grant. The machine gun section members were H McCutcheon; WR Proffitt, S McConnochie, P McLean and JW Rowney, all of Napier. Napier railway staff, Sergeants Hammond and Mullaney, Sappers Hatwell, Woodville, Johnson, Marriott and Greenslade all left for Wellington to join the railway contingent. The Daily Telegraph, Monday 10 August 1014

[2] A public call was made for items such as strong pocket knives, strong cord, double or single blankets, dubbing for boots, empty pillowslips, underclothing, shirts, socks, towels, soap, brush and comb, shaving material, cleaning material for arms, needles pins and strong thread, forks, spoons, plates and pannikins.

[3] Monday 17 August 1914 Daily Telegraph

Helmet for a Pillow


The soldier, above all others, prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

– Douglas MacArthur, 1962

Every once in a while there are certain individuals who cross our path and provide insight into areas of life that we would not normally venture. Anyone younger than 65 has more than likely never seen the direct effects of, or fought in a war. While our families can recall grandparents and great-grandparents that fought in either of the world wars, conflict in our recent history has been confined for the most part to our television screens. That is why it is important to keep the memories of those who served alive and undistorted; so that we may never forget that war really is hell.

Bernard 1Bernard Madden, photograph courtesy of Barbara Madden.

One of our latest donations, a large collection of letters between a serviceman and his family during the Second World War, has shone unique views onto military service and the home front in this tumultuous time. In April 1941, Bernard Madden, a 26 year-old driver for Amalgamated Couriers of Napier, left his parents and enlisted in the New Zealand armed forces. After undertaking three months basic training at Trentham, Bernard was quickly sent off to the Middle East as a gunner in the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment, 2 New Zealand Expeditionary Force where he served as a gunner and later a driver.

While overseas Bernard sent many letters to his parents in Napier.  They were read and then passed on to his extended family who lived throughout the Hawke’s Bay region as mail restrictions disallowed excessive postage. It becomes apparent reading through these letters that the first priority for Bernard was of the need to reassure the family at every possible opportunity that he was doing well. Surface-sent letters, which were bulkier and took longer to travel, were sent every week, but he did not hesitate to send faster-arriving, smaller airgraphs (at considerable personal expense) in between these weekly letters to reassure the family.

2013.65.10a (1) Letter from Bernard Madden, 20 September 1941, gifted by Barbara Madden, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/65/10

Bernard appears deeply involved with both his close and extended family. He at times questions if his father’s health is holding up and asks his mother, Louisa, if she is surviving the rationing period, frequently offering to send items home. When his brother Patrick was listed as missing in action as Axis forces advanced on Egypt in 1942, Bernard took it upon himself to question every soldier from Patrick’s unit about his brother’s fate. After Bernard learnt that he was taken prisoner, first to Italy and then to Germany, he made sure the family was kept up-to-date on his location and on the best way to send him his favourite tobacco. Sister Noeline and Cousin Lola were frequently reprimanded for ‘flirting’ with American soldiers based in New Zealand, while his young niece Moira appeared to be his favourite as he constantly asked about her schooling and after-school activities. The agony of being away from those he cared about shows through in Bernard’s writing, particularly as children in the family, some which he had never met,  grew up in the years he was away.

While Bernard did not see much front line action, he did see his fair share of hospital wards. The infection of a scratch on the leg early in the war was the start of a long list of maladies including influenza, intestinal problems and a significant hernia which, due to lifting heavy objects constantly, kept him in hospital and off the front lines for significant amounts of time. This had the unintended effect of allowing for long periods of recuperation time which, since permanent hospitals and respite camps were well behind the front lines, meant Bernard took the time to travel throughout the Middle East and Italy. Bernard’s letters tell of the large orchards scattered throughout Palestine, visiting Jewish communities and learning about their culture, visiting seaside resorts and tours of the countryside with other servicemen. Bernard was also in the right place at the right time during his Italian tour of duty; he writes of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in March 1944 and of arriving back at base minutes before a grand tour of Rome left for the capital.

By the time he had finished his service, Bernard Madden had served with 2 NZEF throughout its major operations in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Italy. In addition, he had managed to see the sites of Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Bernard left the armed forces after returning to Napier in August 1945 with six campaign medals, later settling in the suburb of Otahuhu, Auckland. His medical conditions, however, lingered, as the effects of war always do, and he was in and out of hospital until late the next year when he was officially discharged from the armed forces. Bernard passed away in Auckland aged 54 years and is survived by his wife Betty, seven children, 12 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. He is interred in the soldiers’ section of the Manukau Memorial Gardens.

All 150 of Bernard’s letters are now available on the MTG Hawke’s Bay online collection.

Evan Greensides
April 2014

In small things not forgotten

My grandfather, Arthur Black, often told stories of growing up in Porangahau; a childhood filled with adventure – the rugged Southern Hawke’s Bay landscape providing him and his five siblings with a glorious freedom to roam the countryside surrounding their farm. Although I have never lived in this part of New Zealand until now, family stories passed down through the generations and etched into my memory have made this place, Hawke’s Bay, feel like my place.

The Black family, Hawke’s Bay, 1930s. My Grandfather is centre back.
Photo courtesy of Heather Tanguay.

I came to Napier to work at the museum as a collection assistant, but for me it is much more than that. I have returned to connect to the place of those who I hold so dearly; to the landscape that nourished their lives and imaginations, as well as their frustrations and hardships. I think the very same motivation that draws me to connect with my family history in Hawke’s Bay underlines why I have chosen to work in museums. The lines that connect us to the past have always fascinated me. Ever since I was little, when I looked at objects I wanted to see so much more than just the physical form. I wanted to know its history, its story, its lineage. Reflecting on all of this, it makes sense that I have a job where I am surrounded by objects!

British potter Edmund de Waal is clearly also fascinated by the stories that objects can tell if you listen hard enough. His intriguing family history is charted through the movement of a collection of netsuke in his memoir The Hare with the Amber Eyes. One excerpt has always resonated with me and, much more poetically than I, articulates the potential power of objects:

 I want to know what the relationship has been between this…object…and where it has been. I want to be able to reach to the handle of the door and turn it and feel it open. I want to walk into each room where this object lived, to feel the volume of the space, to know what pictures were on the wall, how the light fell from the windows. And I want to know whose hands it has been in, and what they felt about it and thought about it—if they thought about it. I want to know what it has witnessed.

As dramatic and illustrious as de Waal’s family history is, even the most humble object has a story that deserves to be told.

Netsuke, Japan, from the Black Collection, collection of  Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 37/100/

Netsuke, Japan, from the Black Collection,
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 37/100/18

A netsuke was used traditionally by Japanese as a way of tying valuables such as a purse or a tobacco pouch to their kimono sash. This intricately carved Japanese octopus netsuke was collected by Greacen Black (no relation) on one of his many travels and donated to the museum in 1937. Can you think of an object which has a rich story behind it? Are there any objects within the museum’s collection which are connected to your personal family history? If so, let us know in the comments below.

Nina Finigan
Collection Assistant
February 2014

MTG Friends Enrich Collection Stories

To all our MTG Friends who have generously donated to the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust Collection, we would like to say a huge thank you. Current Friend’s donations have allowed the recent acquisition of three pieces to add to the collection. These were selected as works important to highlight and expand on the stories of artists, art movements and designers already held within the collection, with significance to the Hawke’s Bay region, New Zealand and beyond.

Thomas McCormack OBE is one such artist. Renowned for his skill and application of watercolour, he is considered one of New Zealand’s most important twentieth century painters. Artist Roland Hipkins (1894 – 1951) noted that ‘His efforts…have a remarkable freshness, breadth and simplicity, with spontaneous brush work and a rare quality of colour’ Art in New Zealand 1936 (1)

Born in Napier in 1883, McCormack was largely self-taught and excelled at drawing from an early age. A severe illness at the age of 17 left him unable for many years to partake in his other passion, sports and it was around this time his focus turned solely to painting, consequently cementing his lifelong path as an artist. Thomas McCormackThomas Arthur McCormack in his studio, taken 3 May 1963 [2]

McCormack moved to Wellington in 1921 where he lived and worked for much of his life. In his own words:

  ‘An artist develops from his surroundings – the sea, rivers, plains, and mountains.   His friends and fellow artists, Wellington with its magnificent harbor, its art gallery, exhibitions and artists, a trip to Sydney of about nine months duration; these were factors in my development. A little wine, a sardine or two with their little eyes. A little bread to soften the road and help me on.’ (3)

TA McCormack painting

Untitled, c. 1906, T.A McCormack, b.1883, d.1973 Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/35 Purchased with funds from MTG Hawke’s Bay friend’s donations.

The Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust Collection includes many of McCormack’s works. Our recent acquisition being significant in that it is a very early piece, painted when the artist was just 23 years old. The untitled watercolour (c1906) depicts the Ahuriri foreshore, Douglas Lloyd Jenkins – Director MTG Hawke’s Bay notes ‘It is around this time that McCormack arrived at a recognisable, mature style. This work is a key example, in its own way, a big part of the overall story of the artist and the development of his career’.

Another of McCormack’s works ‘Tapestry’ can currently be viewed in our Architecture of the heart exhibition, on display until March 2nd 2014.

Our second purchase, a vase by English ceramic designer Dame Susie Cooper, adds another page in the collections story of a design period close to the heart of this region. Cooper was a prolific English ceramics designer with a career spanning more than seventy years. Beginning with a placement in the early 1920’s as a paintress at Grey & Co Pottery Company in Burslem, England Susie was quickly promoted to lead designer, allowing her the freedom to explore the geometrics and pattern associated with the Art Deco period.

By the late 1920’s Cooper had branched out on her own, forming ‘Susie Cooper Pottery’. Later merging with ‘Wood & Sons’, another local Burslem company who provided her with quality white ware, which she would transform with her vibrant hand painted designs.

Susie Cooper Cup & SaucerCup, saucer and side plate, Susie Cooper (OBE) (b.1902, d.1995), Designer, The Susie Cooper Pottery Limited (estab.1930, closed 1966) manufacturer, purchase, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 91/54ac

Susie’s company grew, eventually supplying Harrods, Selfridges and Waring & Gillow among others with her wares. In 1940 Cooper was presented with the Royal Society of Arts ‘Designer for Industry Award’, the first woman to ever receive this. Our latest addition of Cooper’s work is a vibrant hand painted, green earthenware vase, featuring a Sgraffito design of deer and foliage, a popular Art Deco motif.

The Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust Collection holds many Susie Cooper production pieces, however this vase is significant in that it is an example of her earlier one-off designs. This piece is currently featured in our decorative arts exhibition in the MTG Annex.

Susie Cooper VaseVase, glazed earthenware, C1930, Dame Susie Cooper b.1902 d.1995 Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/39/1 Purchased with funds from MTG Hawke’s Bay friend’s donations.

Another prolific English designer, Archibald Knox is the maker of our third acquisition. Much like Cooper, Knox mastered the balance of expressing an individual design voice while still remaining accessible to the masses. In 1899, with an impressive variety of talents, Knox began designing for London store Liberty & Co. Wallpaper, jewellery, ornaments, textiles, silverware and clocks were all part of his extensive range.

Archibald Knox

Archibald Knox, Art Nouveau artist and designer for Liberty & Co., London (1864-1933) Courtesy of Manx National Heritage (4)

The Liberty & Co store specialised in selling fabrics, ornaments and objects from Japan and the far-east, and is attributed with introducing this style to the west. This had a great influence on artists and designers of the time and by the 1890’s founder Arthur Liberty had tapped into the English Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau design communities.

With Liberty’s encouragement and business behind them, these designers and the Arts and Craft movement flourished. Liberty aimed for “the production of useful and beautiful objects at prices within the reach of all classes.” (5) This was achieved by keeping manufacturing costs low, meaning lower pricing for customers at the register. This was in contrast to other Art Nouveau Pieces at the time which were generally one-off and therefore priced to match.

Liberty & Co

Liberty & Co Store (undated) [6]

Pewter Vase

Pewter Vase, c1905. Archibald Knox, Liberty b. 1864 d.1933 Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/43 Purchased with funds from MTG Hawke’s Bay friend’s donations.

Our recent addition to the collection is the above Arts and Crafts pewter vase, an interesting example of the Liberty & Co ‘Tudic’ range, blending Celtic with Oriental style c1905. During the period this vase was produced, Liberty & Co products were also sold in Hastings, Georgina White – Curator Social History at MTG explains;

From 1908 Hastings businessmen Reginald Gardiner and John A Fraser acted as agents for Liberty and Co, selling fabrics and ‘artistic wares’ first from their offices in the Dominion Buildings on Queen Street and soon after from the Arts and Crafts Depot on Station Street. The Depot showed paintings, metalwork and leatherwork by international and local artists alongside Liberty fabrics. The Depot marked the beginning of Gardiner’s push to generate and promote local arts and crafts in Hawke’s Bay’

Again, we would like to thank everyone who has generously contributed and made the acquisition of these works possible. To become part of the MTG Hawke’s Bay legacy, donate to the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust or join as a Friend and enjoy the extensive benefits our friends membership offers. We are currently offering our membership package at a reduced rate (membership re-news 1st July 2014) you can find further information on our friend’s package and how to join HERE

Vanessa Arthur
Friends & Volunteers Coordinator
January 2014

[1] Janet Paul. ‘McCormack, Thomas Arthur’, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Nov-2013 URL:

[2] Thomas Arthur McCormack. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1963/1513-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

[3] ‘T.A. McCormack’, The New Zealand Academy of fine arts, Catalogue of painting exhibition, December 1971, 2. Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi W (62341)

[4] Manx National heritage site, archives.

[5] The Archibald Knox Society, Liberty & Co. to ‘Liberty Style’

[6] Liberty London, Our heritage.