Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Ngatimoti's first Anzac Day, 25 April, 1921.

Returned servicemen fire a gun volley into the air at the close of Ngatimoti’s 
first Anzac Day service.
The sound of rifle fire echoing around the valley at the close of the service was for many years as much an integral part of the Anzac Day ceremony as the bugler’s Last Post and the parade of old soldiers from Ngatimoti’s now defunct Returned Servicemen's Association marching to a brass band past our home on Waiwhero Road as they made their way down the hill to the memorial at St James Church.

The official unveiling of their newly completed Takaka marble memorial by the Rt. Rev. William Sadlier, Bishop of Nelson, was a deeply moving experience for the Ngatimoti community, many of whose sons, brothers and cousins lay in unmarked graves far from home. They were joined by a crowd of 600 or 700 people from all over the Nelson district, including the mayors of Nelson and Motueka, Mr R.P. Hudson, M.P. for Motueka, and a large contingent of veterans.

A brass tablet inside St James Church inscribed with the names of local men lost to the war was unveiled at the same time. A list of names of all those from the Ngatimoti area known to have served during WWI is also held inside the church.

Behind the memorial stands a woman in black - bereaved mother Mary Strachan, supported by two relatives as she mourns the loss of her only son Frank at the Somme in 1916. The woman standing on her righthand side is her sister-in-law Kathleen Strachan nee Robinson, who in 1900 had married Mary's brother John (Jack) Strachan, owner of the "Meadowbank" farm at the foot of Church Hill. 

Kathleen's brother John (Jack) Robinson, who worked at "Meadowbank" before WWI, was left totally blind after being gassed during the war and learned to type as part of his rehabilitation post-war. He is mentioned in the "Nelson Evening Mail" article below as "the soldier who lost his sight while on active service who typed up the hymn sheets for the dedication service for the War Memorial". Keeping it in the family, in 1922 John Robinson married Dora Beatson, only daughter of John Strachan's older sister, Mary Sclanders Beatson nee Strachan.Through their father, Edward (Ted) Robinson, Kathleen and her brother John were grandchildren of John Perry Robinson, who served as the 2nd Superintendent of Nelson Province from 1856-1865.

Looking up Waiwhero Road, standing at centre rear is "Sunny Brae", the home of John Guy, farmer and local postmaster, who donated family land for the memorial site on Church Hill, adding to the area donated in the 1880s by his father Walter Guy as the site for St James Church. John Guy and his wife Lily nee Strachan had two daughters, Margaret (Daisy) and Ruth, and three sons, Walter, Hector and Arthur, who all served overseas during the Great War. However, only Arthur came home - both Walter and Hector were killed in action at the Western Front. Their names are recorded on the memorial, along with that of their cousin Frank.

The Guys’ daughter Daisy, wife of Lt. Col. Cyprian Brereton, commanding officer of the 12th (Nelson & Marlborough) Company of the Canterbury Infantry Battalion during WWI, spearheaded the highly effective Ladies’ Committee which so successfully facilitated the memorial project. The local menfolk were meant to be in charge but faffed around so much that their wives took over and swung into action. I suspect that these formidable ladies would have probably made short work of the war given half a chance!

Along with nearly every chimney in the Motueka Valley area, the Ngatimoti War Memorial collapsed on 17 June 1929 during the Murchison earthquake. Because of lengthy ongoing tremors, it took quite some time before it could be repaired, however the pieces were eventually carried by cart to Nelson, where stonemason Mr Simpson put it back together again and sent it back to be erected on site once more. Lines of the repaired cracks can still be seen if you look carefully, but it has remained sturdily in one piece ever since that time.

Further Information

War Memorial at Ngatimoti - an article covering the Dedication Service
"Nelson Evening Mail", 26 April 1921, pg 4.

For more information, including a list of names of the men recorded there, see 
"Ngatimoti War Memorial" at the NZ History website’s Memorial Register.

for the history of the Memorial's WWI trophy guns.

Photograph of the first Anzac Day service courtesy of Kate Speer - click to enlarge

Thursday, June 8, 2023

"Woodland House", Private Girls' School in Nelson ca 1866-1872

                                              "Woodland House", 5 July 1868
                                       Artist: Sarah Greenwood (1809-1899)

"Woodland House" was set up in a two-storeyed brick residence built in 1845 on Section 340, Bridge Street, by the Maitai River and next to a footbridge. Although it no longer exists, it stood on the corner where Tasman and Bridge Streets join by the current Bridge Street Bridge. For a time this house served as both home for the Greenwood family and a private school for girls - both day pupils and boarders - which was run by Sarah Greenwood and her daughters between 1866 and 1872, while her husband Dr Danforth Greenwood was occupied at Parliament in Wellington. The name "Woodland House" was a nod to the Greenwoods' former well-known home in Motueka, called "Woodlands".

"Woodland House" (known by locals as "The Brick House") was leased from Hugh Martin, a substantial local landowner who established "The Hayes" estate in Stoke, originally a 50 acre block which had expanded to 270 acres by the time of Martin's death in 1892. He also had property in the Wairoa Gorge area, farmed by one of his sons. The Bridge Street house had been Martin's first home in Nelson after arriving with his family on the ship "Himalaya" in 1844. His connection to the Greenwoods possibly dated back to the founding of Nelson College, of which Dr Greenwood was on the first Council of Governors and served as Headmaster from 1863-1865. During this time his wife Sarah and daughters joined him at "College House", the Headmaster's residence. Hugh Martin's son Charles was a founding pupil when the College opened on 7 April 1856 and 2 other sons, John Packer and George Freeman, also attended the College. Martin's daughter Alice became a "Woodland House" pupil, and an already cordial relationship between the Greenwood and Martin families was further cemented when two Greenwood sons, Frederick and Graham, married respectively Clara and Isobel, two of the Martin daughters.

Sarah gradually lost her assistant daughters to Wellington - three set up a school of their own in that city and were followed by various sisters who had married Wellingtonians, thanks to their father's connections in the city. The Nelson school was closed and Danforth & Sarah Greenwood retired to "The Grange", their son Fred's home on the outskirts of Motueka.

In 1873 "Woodland House" was passed on to a Greenwood friend, dentist Henry Freer Rawson, and for a short time it became his dental surgery. Rawson took the eldest Greenwood son, John, into his practice as a trainee dentist, and when later situated at a surgery in Hardy Street the two achieved notoriety by accidentally burning down the building and pretty near the whole block after an experiment with a volatile mixture in their surgery went spectacularly awry. Fortunately no one was hurt, although one imagines that they were not the most popular pair in town at the time!


Neale, June E., "The Greenwoods: A Pioneer Family of New Zealand", first pub. 1984

Article at the Prow website

Image: Painting of "Woodland House" by Sarah Greenwood, 
Nelson Provincial Museum, ref. AC271.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Dr Shaw visits Collingwood during the 1857 Goldrush

                       Collingwood and Pakawau, 1864. Artist: Jane Stowe


 "Nothing could possibly exceed the singularity of the scene that presents itself to the                                traveller on entering the town of Collingwood." 

So said Englishman Dr John Shaw of his 1857 visit to the gold boom township in his book "A Gallop to the Antipodes", published in England the following year. An inveterate globe-trotter, Dr John Shaw from Boston in Lincolnshire, Englan was a wealthy eccentric, a shrewd, scholarly bachelor who visited Australia and New Zealand twice and published two books about his travels there.

 Despite the pedantic Victorian wordiness, Shaw's keen eye for detail and tart, gossipy style  make his books a delight to read, if in small doses. Below is an account of his stay at Edward Everett's "hotel" in Collingwood, at the time full of cheek-to-jowl shanties offering a bed, food and liquor, their proprietors all willing and eager to relieve would-be diggers of their hard-won gold. Being granted a "bush licence" by the Nelson Provincial Council to sell liquor at a goldfield was pretty much a licence to print money! 

"There were several houses of accommodation both for diggers and visitors, all possessing peculiarities which would have startled some and amused others of the old world unacquainted with life as it is carried on at the diggings. I was strongly recommended to one of them as possessing many advantages over the rest. I repaired to Mr. Everett's establishment for that accommodation which I believed to be the best at the diggings. After dinner, which consisted of a huge cut of mutton, as clumsily carved as if some of the miners had been chopping it with their tools, I had an opportunity, after appeasing my appetite, to look around me and take a sketch, only in words, of this very extraordinary house of accommodation.
Seated in the dining-room, I looked in vain for carpets, sofas, pictures, paper, mirrors, and other things useful as well as ornamental. I beheld, however, everything that was useful, entirely bereft of the ornamental. To the right hand of the table where I had dined were suspended from the wall two Macintoshes, and a towel, and a weighing-machine; half a sheep, with a stone bottle dangling from the same nail; three saws oscillating in the wind, which came down from the roof, being close to the head of a dead fish, with its eye sufficiently lifelike to be expressive, as it were, of both surprise and horror at the operation of being sawed, of which it seemed singularly conscious by a peculiar development of the eye. In the centre stood a table, on which was placed an orange box in conjunction with a huge tin dish, destined for the reception of a quarter of mutton, tilted upon one side like a vessel on its beam end, several bottles of pickles, with a dozen or two of plates for the foreground, bounded on the right by a couple of bottles of raspberry vinegar, or something similar, and to the left by a huge teapot. Underneath the table were a lot of sacks, a riddle or sieve, with no end of bags, and a lot of carrots heaped up in a corner.
Above the table was a shelf containing half-a-dozen bread-loaves, two or three pounds of candles spread out with great accuracy, with the vinegar cruet gracefully suspended. Beneath this was a sheet or veil, which reached only to half the height of the wall, for the express purpose of shutting out the vulgar eye from gazing on the various eatables which were enshrined in this sanctum sanctorum. Beneath, in one comer of the room, was a big bucket, wrong end upward, as if it had suddenly suffered from the shock of an earthquake, placed near to a sack of potatoes, with a plentiful supply of pickaxes and shovels for associates, and several old boxes to boot, one piled on the top of the other, and surmounted with a mattress rolled up, forming a kind of apex, the whole not dissimilar in appearance to a rough sketch of a pyramid. On the wall to the left was seen, most legibly written, "All meals to be paid for before leaving the table," which beautiful specimen of penmanship was intercepted, or rather cut in two, by a shirt fresh from the wash-tub, there placed to be bleached.
In short, the floor was such as might be seen in every well-cultivated garden, when all the weeds are hoed and well kept down. A bit of canvas separated the sleeping apartment from the kitchen by being suspended in the doorway; this was substituted for the wooden division, the door as yet being in embryo, very probably at some carpenter's shop in the vicinity, or more probably in the wild, wild woods, too far away to bear the expense of felling, hewing, planing, and joinery. One might have supposed that in such an establishment an ad libitum kind of life might have been adopted. This, however, was far from being the case, as certain restrictions were laid upon the inmates in the following terms-- "No smoking allowed in the bedrooms." The bedrooms consisted of two tiers of bunks, wherein perhaps a dozen diggers might repose. I tumbled in with the rest, being attired as a digger, in a heavy pair of medium lace-boots, with a sailor's flannel-shirt for an envelope. I had with me eighty sovereigns, which I placed by my side in a stocking for a purse, during two nights' repose, without fear of molestation or of robbery, among rough diggers, many of whom, I have no doubt, were as honest as their superiors".


           Shaw, John (Doctor of Divinity), "A Gallop to the Antipodes" (NZ sections only)

          Digitised online version

Painting  "Collingwood and Pakawau, 1864".

          Original held by the Aorere Heritage Centre, Collingwood. 

Artist: Jane Stowe nee Greenwood (1838-1931), 6th daughter of Motueka pioneers Dr Danforth and Sarah Greenwood.


Sunday, May 28, 2023

Nurse Mabel with baby Frank Strachan

Taken at Mrs Davidson's private lodging house in Grove Street, Nelson, this photo shows midwife Nurse Mabel seated on the verandah with her most recent charge, baby Francis Alexander Cochrane Strachan, whom she had helped deliver a few days earlier on 5 June 1985.

However, this midwife was no ordinary woman - she was from one of Nelson’s more socially prominent families, and never led an ordinary life. Her name was Mabel Atkinson, and she carried the infant Frank and his mother off to stay at her grand family home, “Fairfield House” until they had grown strong enough to handle the bumpy four-hour carriage ride back to their own home, a farm called “Manawatane”, at the head of the road in the Orinoco Valley named for their family, Strachan Road.

Alice Mabel Atkinson (always known as Mabel) was born in New Plymouth on 3 November 1864 to lawyer Arthur Atkinson and his wife Jane Maria (nee Richmond), who came to Nelson as refugees during the Taranaki Land Wars and stayed on. They were part of a much larger inter-related family group (known among themselves as “The Mob") who had emigrated to New Zealand, and included Atkinsons, Richmonds, Fells and Hursthouses, a number of them playing significant parts in Nelson affairs (one, Richmond Hursthouse, was elected Motueka’s first mayor when the town became a borough in 1900). Mabel’s parents were unusually liberal for the times in their approach to women’s education and lifestyle choices. Independent Mabel went to England and trained there as a midwife, gaining experience helping families in English slums.

She had returned to New Zealand not long before Frank Strachan’s birth and was living at “Fairfield House” when WWI broke out in August 1914. Although almost 50 years old by then, she almost immediately took ship for England, where she registered as a nurse with the VAD and spent several years nursing in France, driving a field ambulance as part of her duties. Mabel Atkinson, who never married, returned to Nelson in 1921 and remained there until her death in 1935, being much involved with the Plunket Society and the Girl Guides. She was buried at the family plot at Wakapuaka Cemetery. 

A more comprehensive account of her life can be found at the Nelson City Council website, written in association with the Notable Women Walks series.

And baby Frank Strachan? He grew up on the family farm at Orinoco surrounded by friends and relatives, much loved by all, the only son and pride and joy of his parents, Alexander Cochrane Strachan and Mary Rebecca (nee Bowden). Like his friends at Ngatimoti, he trained with the local Territorials, later enlisting with the 12th (Nelson & Marlborough) Company, Canterbury Infantry Battalion, during the war. Frank left New Zealand on 31 May 1916 with the 13th Reinforcements of the NZ Expeditonary Force on the troopship “SS Willochra”. After training at Sling Camp in England, he was deployed to France and sadly, was killed at the Somme on 12 November 1916, aged 21 years, struck by an unlucky random enemy shell before he had even seen action. His death was a devastating blow for his family.

His mother put together a book dedicated to Frank, with letters, entries from his diary and reminscences of his life. This haunting little piece from her book, written as she struggled to come to terms with her son’s death, must surely have echoed the feelings of bereft mothers all over the country throughout those dark years.

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Yes, God gave them to us, those beautiful infant forms, fresh from his Hand, to love and care for, to caress, to feed and clothe and guide – for Him. We watched day by day as they grew in strength and beauty till our babes reached manhood and could care for us as we had cared for them. And then they were gone - called to higher service – and for us silence – blank emptiness".

Frank’s story can be read here:

WWI Service no 24117, 12th (Nelson) Infantry Regiment, NZ Expeditionary Force.

Photo taken from the privately published book, “Our Boy” complied by Mary Strachan, courtesy Miss G. Guy.

"House at the Haven, formerly Captain Wakefield's"


"House at the Haven, Nelson, formerly Captain Wakefield's" 

Painted by William Fox, its occupant at the time. Site today is 403 Wakefield Quay, though the current house is not the original, which later burnt down and was replaced with a new one.

Having made harbour with the three ships of his Preliminary Expedition sent out to establish the New Zealand Company's Nelson colony, it's recorded that on 6 November 1841 Captain Arthur Wakefield pitched his tent on the hill at the Port. Maybe the magnificent outlook inspired him to set up his house there, though as a naval man, he would of course have been aware of its perfect position as a lookout, a place to keep an eye on any shipping activity, whether it be friendly or hostile. Fox, later Sir William Fox, was appointed Nelson agent for the NZ Company following Captain Wakefield's untimely death at Tua Marina on 17 June 1843 during the Wairau Affray.

Fox noted that the house had been brought out from England, one of a number of homes which had their origins as prefabs made in England, carried out on board immigrant ships, and constructed on arrival in New Zealand.

This house would be home to two future Premiers of New Zealand - Fox himself and Sir Edward Stafford, Colonel William Wakefield's son-in-law, who bought it from the by then defunct New Zealand Company in 1849. 

It was known as "Stafford House" when later bought by prominent early Nelson hotelier and businessman Edward Everett, Mayor of Nelson and founder of the long-running Everett Bros' all-purpose drapery store, which traded under the name "Victoria House" and had branches in Motueka and Collingwood. 

Everetts' Nelson store was sold in 1913 to William McKay, an entrepreneurial Scottish tailor who in the 1860s had set up a successful business in Hokitika, getting his start by making sturdy clothing for the diggers, and later adding a branch in Greymouth. Everett's former store was then  renamed "Wm. McKay & Son", though always known simply as "McKays". Said son, the equally entrepreneurial William Jnr, set up several branches around the South Island, the largest being in Christchurch where he lived, and put in reliable managers. Many years later, the Nelson branch of McKays would be taken over by yet another long-running Nelson institution, H&J's Department Store.

The property where Captain Wakefield once lived has stayed pretty much intact over the years and was the subject of much interest when it went up for sale in 2016.

See article at the "Stuff" website, published 1 Oct 2016 at the time of this sale.

Image credit: Hocken Pictorial Collections, ref.11,731 a3608

Sunday, May 21, 2023

How the Grove Track became Queen Charlotte Drive

Intrepid Motoring, 1915 Style!

Jack Love of Picton (seen here at the wheel of his Overland Model 90) takes the first motor-car over the Grove Track, with a little help from his friends. Now better known as Queen Charlotte Drive, the Grove Track connected the township of Picton to Havelock via The Grove. Sited in the Marlborough Sounds at Okiwa, The Grove was named for the extensive kahikatea forest that covered the area before the Pakeha moved in. Work started on the track in 1861, when pioneer Alexander Scott Duncan settled at The Grove and established Marlborough’s first steam sawmill there. By the time the mill was moved to Tennyson Inlet in 1870, it’s thought that around 18 million feet of timber had been shipped out from the Grove wharf.

There was early pressure to have the track upgraded from a notoriously rugged bridle trail to at least a cart road, especially after The Grove became the main access point to places like Cullenville and Mahakipawa during the goldrush period. (It was down the Grove Track that Hiram Harris hurried in April 1864 on his way to Nelson to claim on behalf of his party the finder’s bonus for their discovery of Marlborough's first payable goldfield at Wakamarina). However, disagreement over which body should pay for the work meant minimal improvements were made over the years, and those mostly done by unemployed men on various work schemes in 1864 and 1898.

The road still hadn’t been upgraded much beyond the classification “stock route” when Jack Love made his ground-breaking and no doubt bone-rattling trip on Sunday, 3rd October 1915. Because it was subsidised by the Government, significant work was done on the old Grove Track by Public Works gangs during the Great Depression and the road was declared a highway in 1936, but it wasn’t until 1965 that the question of funding was finally resolved sufficiently to have the track developed into a fine scenic road, sealed for its entire length.

Photo and adapted info from Henry D. Kelly’s “As High as the Hills: the Centennial History of Picton"
See also "The Grove Okiwa" at the Prow website:

Friday, May 19, 2023

Alexander Le Grand Campbell: Riwaka Settler, Artist, Explorer, Public Servant.

“Motueka Valley, near Nelson, showing Mt Arthur” (1863)
Artist : Alexander Le Grand Campbell (1819-1890)
Lithograph produced by Arnold Meerman, Munich, Germany, for inclusion as Plate 9, pg 472, in Ferdinand von Hochstetter’s “New Zealand: Its Physical Geography, Geology and Natural History”, German edition published 1863, English edition 1867.
Alexander Le Grand Campbell, second son of Sir Alexander Campbell, fourth Baronet of Auberchill & Kilbryde, and his wife Margaret nee Coldstream, was born on 18 July 1819 at the family pile, Kilbryde Castle, near Dunblane, in Perthshire, Scotland. What sort of education he had is unclear - possibly the Campbell family employed a private tutor - but he was a talented artist and had likely received some formal instruction from a drawing master. After his father died in 1824, his older brother James inherited the baronetcy and the castle, and his mother, the Dowager Lady Campbell, later removed with her younger children to an upmarket terrace house at 5 Windsor Street in Greenside, Edinburgh. Described as a gentleman of independent means aged 20, this is where Alexander was living when the census was taken in June 1841. Perhaps adventure called - at any rate, on 6 November 1841 he departed Liverpool, England, for New Zealand, travelling cabin class on the ship Martha Ridgeway, which arrived in Nelson on 7 April 1842.

He bought a section on Trafalgar Street, Nelson, where he lived for a short while before becoming, along with surveyor/explorer Thomas Brunner, one of the first resident landowners in the Motueka-Riwaka district. He freeholded a block of four sections in central Riwaka in early 1843, and was elected a member of the management committee of the Riwaka Co-operative Store, established in December that same year as an aid for Riwaka’s newly arrived group of NZ Company workmen turned small farmers. This useful enterprise later collapsed after the appointed storekeeper, John Ballard, was accused (falsely as it transpired) of cooking the books, Alexander Le Grand Campbell being the only member of the Management Committee to take Ballard's side.

In 1848 Campbell gifted an acre of his land (Pt Section 52) near the present Riwaka Domain and Memorial corner for a public school, and set up the Campbell Trust to administer it. In time the administration of the Campbell Trust fell for a number of years to Le Grand Campbell's son, Alexander Jnr. Classes were at first held in the home built for the schoolmaster, followed by a schoolroom in the 1860s and a schoolhouse in 1879. Today's Riwaka School, stands on what was Section 27, behind the original school acre.

In addition to building a timber-framed cob homestead and developing his farm, called "Fernhill”, Campbell took an interest in exploration and surveying work. 

Through November and December 1848 he ventured into the Maungatapu with fellow Riwaka settler Thomas Brunner and two Maori guides, Askew and Kehu, in an arduous attempt to find alternative routes between Nelson and the Wairau. This entailed going up the Maitai and thoroughly exploring the surrounding area, before descending into the Pelorus Valley. They pushed through heavy bush and fern, camped in pouring rain, contended with flies and mosquitos, and made a raft from flax flower stalks to float down the swifly flowing Wakamarina River. That night they camped near the Kaituna Pah, where they had to set up their tent in thick mud and provided a royal feast for the local bugs. Campbell recorded the following day that "Our last night's lodging equalled in misery anything of the kind I have yet experienced.." 

From the mouth of the Pelorus River they went up the Kaituna Valley, losing their way and scrambling over steep ridges before reaching the Wairau on 25 November. At one point they had to cross the Pelorus River, which entailed wading up to their armpits in water.
In a masterpiece of understatement Campbell noted "I must confess I did not feel very jolly in the circumstances, having never attempted anything of the kind before... on gaining shore I was completely exhausted."

Campbell was described as “an amateur surveyor”, suggesting that he had no formal qualification, but had maybe spent much time in Scotland tramping around the countryside, gaining inspiration for his sketches and paintings. Brunner’s report about this expedition was published in the “Nelson Examiner” on 28 September 1850. This is unfortunately not available to be read online, but a journal Campbell kept during his explorations with Brunner ( from which his above comments are quoted), and including sketches he made at the time, was passed down to his grandson Alan Le Grand Campbell, a career soldier who attended Nelson College, served as a Captain with the 23 (Canterbury- Otago) Infantry Battalion during WWII, and upon retirement became an orchardist in Stoke, Nelson. This journal is now held by the Nelson Provincial Museum. Campbell is also known to have made a journey from Riwaka to the top of the Pikikiruna Range (Takaka Hill) in 1852.

On 26 July 1855 Alexander Le Grand Campbell was married at Motueka to Hester Ann Copeman, a daughter of merchant banker Edward Breese Copeman of Coltishall House, Norfolk, England, and his wife Elizabeth nee Jones. Hester had arrived in Nelson on 24 October 24 1852, having travelled out from London on the barque “Stately”. The Rev. Thomas Lloyd Tudor, Vicar of St Thomas Church, Motueka, conducted the wedding ceremony.

The Campbells settled for several years at “Fernhill” and their five children were all born during this time - Margaret Jane (1854-1943), Alexander Bulwer (1855-1938), George Frederick Colin (1858-1937), Caroline Hester Mary (1859-1942) and Catherine Coldstream (1862-1948). Both sons attended Nelson College and played rugby for Nelson and Wellington. Alexander Jnr qualified as a barrister and solicitor and had legal practices in Wellington, Auckland, and latterly Napier, while George was a civil servant based in Wellington, rising through the ranks to hold the office of Controller and Auditor-General of New Zealand between 1922-1937. Margaret married Dr Walter Edward Hacon from Christchurch at St Paul’s, Wellington, on 1 September 1884, but her two sisters never married.

It must have also been while he was living at “Fernhill”, that Campbell painted the scene used in Hochstetter’s book. Someone may correct me, but I feel that the description "Motueka Valley" is somewhat generic and that this view is in fact of Mt Arthur as seen end on from the plains of Riwaka, and possibly depicts Le Grand's own "Fernhill" homestead and farm. Hochstetter is known to have visited the Motueka and Riwaka areas during his scientific survey around the Nelson province in 1859, and was very taken with the region, later noting in his book:

“At the foot of the Western ranges are the fertile plains of Riwaka and Motueka, which, but fifteen years ago a perfect wilderness, now present the most charming sight: luxuriant meadows with magnificent cattle grazing upon them; thriving fields and orchards, interspersed with the dwellings of the settlers. The white glistening snow-peaks in the back-ground remind us of the most charming valleys of our Alps”

The above lithograph taken from one of Alexander Le Grand Campbell's paintings was used to illustrate this text. 

As an amateur explorer himself and local bigwig, Alexander Le Grand Campbell would almost certainly have met Hochstetter when he visited the Riwaka area, and perhaps even hosted him at "Fernhill". It’s not beyond the realms of possibility to suppose that Le Grand Campbell might have gifted Hochstetter the painting later used as an illustration in his book.

Around this time Alexander Le Grand Campbell turned his attention to civic affairs and in effect spent the rest of his life employed by the NZ Government as a Public Servant, his somewhat rocky service beginning in 1859 when he was appointed Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for Motueka, a position he held till 1873, when it was taken over by Joseph Foord Wilson. In 1859 Campbell was also appointed Registration Officer for the election of members of the House of Representatives for the electoral district of Motueka and Massacre Bay (later known as Golden Bay). He was appointed Returning Officer for the Electoral District of Moutere in 1861, and in 1862 became Returning Officer for the Electoral District of Motueka. The same year he was gazetted a Justice of the Peace for Motueka.

“Fernhill”, a farm of 150 acres with house, stable and orchard, was advertised for sale in 1866. In 1867 the family moved into the township of Motueka and were living on what is now Greenwood Street (next to number 27 where Nurse Darkin ran a nursing home) when Campbell took up the post of Clerk of the Court in 1872. Making a shift further south, in June 1876 Alexander Le Grand Campbell was appointed a clerk in the office of the Resident Magistrate for the District of Oamaru and the Campbells went to live in Temuka. Late the following year he became Resident Magistrate for Ashburton and Geraldine and also Deputy Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Although he was clearly seen by the Government as a useful functionary (and from an aristocratic family as well - bonus!), his style seems to have been somewhat quixotic, and controversy attended Campbell’s career at times over the years. In September 1871, during an inquiry into various issues known as the “Motueka Election Case”, Alexander Le Grand Campbell was questioned as to whether he had misused his power as Registration and Returning Officer for Motueka. Consequently he lost his position as Returning Officer for Motueka, though less for any wrongdoing than for erratic record keeping. 

There was opposition to his appointment as Resident Magistrate for Oamaru in September 1878 - the Minister of Justice being memorialised by the barristers and solicitors of Ashburton, requesting a public inquiry into Campbell’s official competency and conduct of the Resident Magistrate’s Court during his tenure in Ashburton. This appears to have led to Campbell’s transfer instead to the post of Resident Magistrate and Warden for Collingwood, in Golden Bay. This is where he was based and acting as Returning Officer in September 1879 when he caused much consternation by deciding that the votes for the popular winning candidate, William Gibbs, should be disallowed on a technicality. After obtaining legal advice Campbell did change his mind, allowing the votes for Gibbs to stand, but not before “great dissatisfaction” had been stirred up in Nelson.

Possibly this episode marked the beginning of the end of Campbell’s career. At any rate, a programme of Government retrenchments saw him made redundant in August 1880, with all future judicial work for the area to be centralised in Nelson. He was granted a pension and retired with his family to Wellington, where they moved into a residence on Tinakori Road in the suburb of Thorndon. It appears that he had kept up his interest in painting, as he entered a watercolour, painted in 1880 and titled "A view in Queen Charlotte Sound", at the first exhibition of the Fine Arts Association held in Wellington in March 1883. Alexander Le Grand Campbell died at home on 2 February 1890 and was buried at the Bolton Street Cemetery in Thorndon, Wellington, his widow Hester joining him there in 1894.

Nelson Provincial Museum, Davis Collection, photo ref no. 380

Photograph of Captain Alan Le Grand Campbell, Alexander Le Grand Campbell's grandson through his son George Le Grand Campbell and Annabel (Amy) nee Pike.
Nelson Provincial Museum Photo Collection ref no 163688


Papers Past
National Library of New Zealand

Neale, June E. "To Nelson by Sailing Ship - March 1842 - June 1843: Pioneer Passengers"
First pub. 1982, reprinted 1989. Printed in Nelson by General Printing Services Ltd, Anchor House, 258 Wakefield Quay, Nelson.
See Alexander le Grand Campbell, pp 17-18

Hill, Hollis J.P., Compiler. "Riwaka School Centenary 1848-1948: The First Hundred Years"
Printed by R.W. Stiles & Co., Ltd, Rutherford Street, Nelson.
First Riwaka School, pg 12

Lash, Max D. "Nelson Notables (1840-1940): A dictionary of regional biography
Pub.1992 by the Nelson Historical Society Inc., P.O.Box 461, Nelson NZ.
Profile of Alexander Le Grand Campbell at pg 36.

The Mystery of the Painting in the National Library of Australia

A watercolour painting labelled "The Motueka Valley, near Nelson, Mount Arthur in the Distance, New Zealand" is amongst the catalogue of art works held by the National Library of Australia. (Click on image to enlarge)

This painting is dated in the Library's catalogue as ca 1835 and attributed to Thomas Bernard Collison, a versatile English soldier/surveyor/engineer/draughtsman who worked on various projects in NZ from 1846-1850. However there is no evidence that he ever visited the South Island and there were certainly no settlers living in either the Motueka or Riwaka Valleys in 1835! When compared to the above lithograph based on one of Alexander Le Grand Campbell's original watercolours, and keeping in mind that his painting was somewhat romanticised during the lithographic process, it is strikingly similar in style to his work. It's likely that Le Grand Campbell painted a number of watercolours around the area where he lived, perhaps painting a version especially to give Hochstetter. A query sent to the National Library of Australia about this painting's provenance got an unhelpful and exceedingly chilly response!