Thursday, 31 July 2014

Ministering Angels in time of suffering

Ref: James D Richardson, Steamship Maheno used as First World War hospital ship, no date, no location, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-1624
During the First World War not all women saw their role as the person to keep the home fires burning. Those armed with nursing qualifications and the spirit of adventure enrolled to serve their country overseas. These dedicated professionals included nurses from the South Auckland area, who served in the New Zealand Army Nursing Service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

This post is dedicated to some of these nurses who trained in Auckland between 1912 and 1916, with the exception of Ethelwyn Carruth who trained in Thames in 1914.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Remembering Samoan ancestors

Tālofa lava! Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa – Samoan Language Week was celebrated at the end of May this year. Whilst the language week has come and gone, with so much fabulous heritage content at Auckland Libraries, it seemed a shame to wait until next year to share it with you.

The main aims of this annual event are to celebrate and promote the Samoan language and culture and to encourage people to speak Samoan, which is one of the most commonly spoken languages in NZ.

The theme this year was 'Taofi mau i au measina: Hold fast to your treasures'. So it seemed only fitting to remember those ancestors from Samoa whose memory is held not only with their families but also photographically in the library's heritage collections. If you have any information about any of the people depicted in the images, please do get in touch - we are always keen to add information to our records.

Ref: EV Donald for the Auckland Weekly News, Mau leaders, 1931, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19310812-44-2

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sports days

The annual sports day - a ritual in the school calendar. Egg and spoon race, three-legged race, long jump, running, tug-of-war - these are always fun packed events! Its not just children though that get involved, adults are also keen to get in on the action, as the heritage photographs below show.

The annual NZ community sports day was taken and adapted from those in Britain - particularly the Scottish sports days, where professional athletes compete in a wide array of contests, including wood chopping!

Sports days have also been held for a wide variety of reasons: to acknowledge and commemorate particular days of the year, such as Labour Day and to raise funds for charity. This included sports days held on the home front during the First World War to raise funds for the troops. During this war time period, sports days were also held overseas on the fronts, to encourage fitness in the NZ troops, raise morale and encourage camaraderie.

Enjoy this action packed tour through sports days drawn from the heritage collections at Auckland Libraries!

Getting ready for the fun to begin:

Ref: AR Kingsford for Auckland Weekly News, sports day at a girls' college in the Nelson province, 1931, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19310513-47-2
Ref: CV Browne for Auckland Weekly News, girls taking part in the Christchurch sports day, 1934, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19341114-45-1

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori: Māori Language Week

Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori or Māori language week takes place between Monday 21 July and Sunday 27 July 2014. The theme for this year is 'Te kupu o te wiki - The word of the week'. This theme promotes learning of Te Reo Māori throughout the year rather than during just one week.

Te Reo Māori was made an official language of New Zealand in 1987 when the Māori  Language Act was passed and the Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori/The Māori Language Commission was set up to support the growth of and promote the Māori language.

Ref: Photographer: Rachelle Forbes, Joe Harawira during a Matariki event, Auckland Libraries, 2013

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Multicultural Oral History Project Interviews

Listen to the stories of New Zealand immigrants in their own words. The Multicultural Oral History Project, one of many collections held at the West Auckland Research Centre, has seven recordings of the voices of people from the Pacific Islands, Europe and Asia. They talk of their lives in their original countries, their experience of immigration and settling in New Zealand.

Ref: Photographer  unknown, children in traditional costume dancing at the Ons Dorp Dutch Retirement Village, McLeod Road, Henderson c. 1990, Auckland Libraries, West Auckland Research Centre Print Collection

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

'It'll be over by Christmas' - First World War exhibition at the Central City Library

It was an appropriately dark and stormy night in Auckland for the opening of 'It’ll be over by Christmas' - an exhibition about the First World War (1914-1918) at the Central City Library (9th July-12 October 2014). The guests crowded in to the exhibition ahead of the formalities and made their way back there afterwards.

Ref: Paul Nash, ‘The field of Passchendaele’, from the British artist at the Front, ‘Country Life’, 1918
Bobby Newson from Te Waka Angamua (the Māori Strategy and Relations Department within council) opened the evening with a karakia/prayer and set the scene back 100 years ago. Allison Dobbie, Libraries Manager welcomed the guests and introduced the mayor. Mayor Len Brown discussed the many and varied commemorative activities Auckland Council is delivering. This includes the new Heritage Trail for Auckland sites of First World War significance, which opens in August this year.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Music and the First World War

Music in the First World War played a number of different roles on both the battlefields and back on the home front. On a basic level, music was a good form of entertainment and was a focus for social gatherings.

Due to its popular nature, music is able to infiltrate into all aspects of life. During the war, governments quickly saw its potential to inspire a sense of national pride, patriotism, to promote recruitment for soldiers and garner support for fund raising efforts.

It was also used as a powerful way to shame conscientious objectors and others who didn't support the war. The catchy melodies and rhythms can therefore be seen as a form of propaganda. Most songs from the First World War period did not reflect the brutal reality of war, instead they suggested that all would be fine and that the war would end soon.

Ref: Natasha Barrett, military band at Auckland War Memorial Museum, Anzac Day, 25 April 2010

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


Geographically NZ Aotearoa lies between 37 and 47 degrees south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Generally both the North and South islands have a moderate climate, which allows Kiwis to both work (e.g. farming, fishing) and enjoy their leisure time outdoors for much of the year. The two features which heavily influence the weather are our fabulous mountains (with alpine winters dropping to lows of -10ºC in the South Island) and our seas (with some areas hitting as high as 30ºC+ in the top of the North Island).

Our three big cities: Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington all receive over two thousand hours of bright sunshine a year, which is spread across all seasons, not just the summer. As small island land masses, we do however experience dramatic weather on occasions, with wild storms, gale force winds, rain, cyclones, hurricanes and even the odd waterspout hitting our sunny shores. The aftermath of this type of extreme weather can be dramatic, causing all sorts of damage such as flooding, damage to buildings and disruption to people's everyday lives.

Ref: Auckland Weekly News, the call of the outdoors at Easter, various locations around NZ, 1933, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19330412-39-1

Thursday, 3 July 2014


Rats are a big deal in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Not only do they pass on diseases to people and domestic animals but they also pose a serious threat to our native fauna, which is vulnerable to these exceedingly tenacious vermin. For example, in 1959 rats invaded the tiny island of Ruapuke/Maria Island in the Hauraki Gulf (part of the Noises Islands). The rats made short work of the local population of birds, killing nearly 1,000 storm petrels.

Ref: Auckland Weekly News, stormy petrel, Moko Hinau Island, 1937, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19371006-44-8
Quick action was taken and with the aid of a Wildlife Service grant of £5 and the efforts of a Forest and Bird Protection Society group led by A. McDonald from Waiheke Island, the rat population was decimated. The island was surveyed the following year to check for signs of rats but none were found. A program of surveys and poisoning continued for a number of years until 1964 when the rat population was officially declared eradicated. Ruapuke Island along with David Rocks Island were among the first in Aotearoa to have rats permanently eradicated from their shores.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


Matariki is a very important time of the year, which is celebrated throughout Aotearoa/New Zealand. The heliacal rising of the Pleiades or the Matariki star cluster on the eastern horizon at dawn marks the start of the Māori New Year. This occurs during the colder months of the year, usually around May or June and soon after the shortest day.

Ref: Frederick George Radcliffe, Thule by moonlight, Stewart Island, Tourist Series 1181, no date, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 36-R1402
Only 7 of the 500 stars are visible in Aotearoa and remain in the sky until March, when they 'disappear' for two months, before rising again a few months later. The stars are seen at different times around the world and many other cultures attach their own significance and meaning to this most beautiful cluster of stars. For example, in Samoa, Matariki is known as Matali‘i and becomes visible in October each year.