Passing time with Eris Parker

Masonic Hotel NZ

Masonic Hotel Cambridge New Zealand

The new Masonic Hotel in Duke Street, Cambridge was officially opened  23 October 1912.  It was built in brick and described as a very  commodious and up to date building. It compared more than favorably with any licensed house in the Auckland province.
‘The entrance hall is wide and roomy with a handsome staircase leading to the upper storey. Effective diffused light is afforded by handsome stain glassed windows overhead. Upstairs is the drawing room, most artistically and daintily furnished, whilst a cosy lounge leads out onto a balcony.

‘The dining room with kitchen is situated on the ground floor at the east end of the building and is capable of seating sixty persons. Adjacent is the commercial room and a reception room. A large public bar forms the west end of the building with a cosy private bar, a large clubrooms also being near at hand.’

‘As a structure, the house is eminent testimony of thorough workmanship carried out by the builder, Mr Fred Potts.’

Walkies – Cambridge NZ

The Duke spent 10 days holiday with me while Daughter sunned herself on a tropical island.

It rained in New Zealand and daily walkies had to be before work. And I wasn’t leaving a smelly dog inside my house all day. As I drove off The Duke started barking. Then howling like a baby. I rang my neighbour when I got to work but all was well. He just told The Duke to SHUT UP.



On the weekends we went trekking. At the bottom of the hill at the Agility Park, there is the fenced in Settling Pond from the old rubbish dump and a storm water drain. The Duke loves the idea of this drain, and a lot of yelling on my part has so far, kept him out of the mire. Other smells catch his attention and the bird life catches mine.

Not so the Cemetery Walk. The Duke flies down the steep steps and is away in the bushes by the time I get down. I call him back and he bounds into a wet mucky hole. OMG! He’s sunk to his underbelly. He looks up at me. NO WAY, I’M NOT GETTING IN THERE.  Flounder, flounder, flounder.  Shake, shake, shake.
Into the fast running stream and he’s soon washed clean. I hear a noise in the trees and let The Duke snuffle ahead. I sneak up on a Kereru.


Up at the Maungakawa Reserve there is a myriad of new smells. The Duke loses me pretty quickly as I’m captured by the host of tuis drinking from the spring blossoms. I reluctantly follow The Duke’s disappearing tail and I come across him chewing on something. OMG a dead possum. GET THE H… OUT OF THAT!  It’s got to be poisoned! How do I tell Daughter I killed her dog!  But no. We find a new path that the Department of Conservation has put through the bush.

All of a sudden The Duke is prancing up and down in the undergrowth. There’s a smile on his face.  Scurry scurry. It’s a rat. The Duke lands on it a couple of times but springs off as he doesn’t really know what to do with it.


Then, surprising both of us, the rat climbs a tree. The rain starts coming down heavier and two bedraggled bodies head for the car.

Cambridge Library

Cambridge Library Est. 1872

A library for Cambridge New Zealand residents was initiated by the Armed Constabulary forces (who were stationed in Cambridge from 1867) and was operated by James Mumford. Unfortunately this arrangement did not continue for long as most of the force was sent to districts where their services were more urgently required. The school and library, housed in the military building in Fort Street closed down.

The Cambridge Public Library came into existence in July 1872. It was housed in the new primary school in Duke Street with James Hally as chairman and William Cunningham as secretary – treasurer.

There were 30 subscribers and they collected enough money to buy a few hundred volumes ‘all really good and readable works’. Mr James Stuart (the school’s headmaster) acted as honorary librarian.

The library was incorporated on 16 July 1879 with William Rout as Chairman and William Willis, Thos Wells, Geo Clark, R C Dyer as Trustees and J S Masters as librarian. The library moved to a disused immigrant cottage on Victoria  Street near the Post Office.

A proposal for a new library building was included with the Town Hall plans in 1909 and the mayor, W F Buckland, wrote to Andrew Carnegie asking for a grant of £1000. The Library committee got their nose out of joint and opposed the grant saying they had a nucleus of £76 / 13 / 7d and didn’t need handouts.

The grant arrived, the Carnegie Library was built (Information Office today) and the Council took over the running of the Library.

Maungakawa in spring

Daffodils in Spring

The bird life on Maungakawa Reserve, just north of Cambridge New Zealand, is amazing. When the berries are ripe, the tuis warn each other as we approach. Then there is the whoomp whoomp of the wood pigeons as they move from tree to tree. Fantails flitter around us gleefully snatching at the insects.

The Duke doesn’t bother with birds – there’s too many interesting smells on the ground.

When the Thornton family built their house on this hill in 1891 Tom Brown was employed as their gardener. His legacy is still seen at the entrance to the reserve – boxus, laurel, camellias, rhododendrons, conifer, privet grandiflora and mulberry.

Off to the left of the drive is a very old ash playing host to some orchids. Down through a pathway is found a fan palm, porapora and another very old laurel and magnolia.

Up by the trig there is native regrowth  –  cabbage trees, rewarewa, mahoe, mangeao, houhere, flax etc.  Behind the fence by the Gudex Memorial are cedar deodora, ash, kowhai (planted 1992); ferns, orchids and kiekie growing on host trees; and honeysuckle, rangiora and alearia. And the daffodils in the spring are beautiful.

Family History Month

Beech – Barrett Coat of Arms

The annual Family History month in New Zealand is August. But genealogists know that every month is family history month.
It’s the thrill of the chase of finding an ancestor living, working and playing. What a bonus if they wrote a Will, or a letter to the Editor, or went to Court.

From photos we see our great greats looking sternly at us, perfectly groomed and not a hair out of place. But having a photo taken was a great event.

How did great grandmother survive doing all the washing by hand? Then down on her knees scrubbing the floor and keeping the coal range clean? Singing as she did it.

My grandma would not have a steam iron. “Who needs those new fangled things? This one works perfectly.” I say the same to my grandchildren today when they think I need a new computer, TV or telephone.

Beaten to Death

There is no sign in the Cambridge, New Zealand Cemetery at Hautapu where Elizabeth Carroll was buried in 1899.

Cambridge Cemetery

On 15 May 1899 William Carroll, the publican of the Masonic Hotel, while in a drunken state beat and kicked his wife to such an extent as to cause injuries resulting in her death on 2 June 1899. Constable Timothy Cahill had been called to the hotel on the 15th and helped Mrs Carroll – her face swollen, bruised and bleeding, up the stairs to her room.  He said he had not arrested Carroll as he thought it was only an ordinary row between man and his wife.

A witness said later – ‘After the constable left the hotel there was a disturbance in the bedroom as if they were having a row, and there was a noise as if some heavy person had fallen on the floor.’ From 15 May to the date of her death Mrs Carroll never came downstairs.

The nurse girl Minnie Johansen – went into Mrs Carroll’s room to get the baby who was crying, and while she was there Mr Carroll struck his wife who was lying on the bed. Mrs Carroll’s face was smothered with blood and the left side of it was swollen. The next morning Mrs Carroll could not see out of her left eye.

The constable returned to the hotel but was told ‘matters were all right’. He visited Mrs Carroll a few days later and she appeared annoyed that the matter was being talked about so much. It was only after a doctor had been called that Constable Cahill on 29 May, laid an information against Carroll for grievous bodily harm.

He was convicted in the Supreme Court in Auckland of manslaughter and served ten years in prison.

Billy T James’ House Leamington New Zealand

“Mum, I’m going to the beach, can you mind Duke?”

“Ahh but he stinks,” I answer, “Why can’t you take him?”

“Because he stinks!”

Billy T James’ House

We rise early and I check my emails. The Duke sits and just stares at me. After a while he starts sighing, so we head to the Agility Park and off he bounds.

In the next door paddock, now an empty space, was the house where Billy T James spent some of his youth. It was a small square cottage, on the corner of Bracken and Shelley Streets, Leamington, New Zealand, outside the green belt, towards the Council Depot.

Originally this house belonged to the Cambridge Borough Council and was used by the worker of the old Municipal Boiling Down Works. More recently it was rented out until Waipa District Council re-evaluated its rental obligations and burnt the house down.

Courtneys’ Sawmill

A walk down the west end of Alpha Street in Cambridge New Zealand, brings you to the Gaslight Theatre. The old municipal gasworks from 1907 – 1954.

The Cambridge borough kept the buildings as a depot and the expanse of land was leased to Courtney’s Sawmill.  Jack, Charlie and George Courtney owned and ran their mill from 1959 – 1976.

Prior to that they had worked at, and then bought Newmack Ltd’s sawmill in King Street. They changed the machines from petrol to diesel and for ten years they milled timber exclusively for the local building firm Speight Pearce Nicoll Davys.

After the move to Alpha Street they changed to electricity and concentrated mainly on native timbers. Their main outlet then was to Auckland as well as the local market.

At one stage sawdust was heaped nearby but it was later used by farmers to cover ensilage stacks and commercial gardeners used it for weed control.
There was always plenty of firewood for locals.

Leamington NZ Soldiers

  While cross referencing headstones and a Leamington (New Zealand) cemetery burial map I found four World War One soldiers without headstones. The Year of the Veteran in 2006 was the ideal opportunity to get government funding of $2000 to put this matter to rights.

 Fred Keeley died 1 July 1950, Gerald Murtagh died 14 March 1951, Don McKinnon died 23 August 1952, Bert Higgins died 4 August 1956.

  With the help of Waipa District Council’s sexton Dean Signal and cemetery staff, I was able to have these headstones lain with the soldiers, near the Colonial Soldiers’ Memorial at the far end of the cemetery. Waikato Stonecraft Ltd trimmed the bottoms of the stones as we laid them flat, in keeping with the headstone of L.N. McKinnon already in situ.

  Descendents of all the families rallied for the unveiling as they were thrilled to have found their relatives’ lost plots and to have them recognised.

The Returned Services Association helped with the formalities and Rev. Geoff Crawshaw performed the blessing.

Chain Chain Measure

Walking along Victoria Street, outside the former Cambridge Post Office, in New Zealand, we see a surveyors’ old chain measure. Two brass plaques with an arrow on each – one chain apart.

In Queen Street there were two more square brass discs set in concrete.

Chain Chain Measure

They were similar to the Post Office ones, but without the arrows. One is a chain from the Bryce Street corner, then 5 chain along Queen Street is another one. Perhaps we had two sets? Or were the two with the arrows, now outside the Post Office, originally in Queen Street?

They are very similar to the Chain Mark outside the old Government Buildings in Wellington which has a notice to say they were laid down in 1879 to set the Land Survey Standard throughout New Zealand.

The New Zealand Historic Places magazine of 1991 says that – ‘Nelson’s five chain test base was laid in 1877 and ran across Albion Square.’ This sounds similar to our Queen Street set.

A chain measure at Wanganui is registered as a Category 1 historic place by the NZ Historic Places Trust and I believe there is another in the courtyard of the Provincial Government Buildings in Christchurch.

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