Exploring the world of Wairarapa's history


Evidence of a shocking crime!

Wairarapa Archive staffer Neil Frances has recently been processing a huge collection of Wairarapa Post and Telegraph files. In one file, about the installation of a public phone-box at Kuripuni, Masterton, there was a small envelope attached to the correspondence. It contained a damaged metal eye which held the telephone microphone, vandalised in March 1936.

In the attached letter, the Masterton postmaster asked the local Police sergeant to keep the phone-box under ‘suitable observation’ to catch the criminals.

Leaving for the front

Leaving for the front

Leaving for the front

The troops leaving for the front re-enactment in 2014 – photograph courtesy Geoff Walker


As part of Wairarapa’s commemorations of the centenary of World War One, a re-enactment of the first troops leaving for camp was held on `13 August 2014, a century after the troops left for Awapuni Camp.   Hundreds of Mastertonians turned out to see the contingent of Masterton schoolboys dressed in military uniforms march to the town square in front of the Town hall.  There they were addressed by actors representing the local M.P., the town’s mayor, his wife (ably played by our current  Mayor Lyn Patterson) and were then blessed by Anglican and Catholic priests.  The contingent maerch up Perry Street, accompanied by hundred of spectators and the local pipe band.  At the station they were farewelled for a short journey to Mauriceville.

Our sdtaf member Neil Frances has played a large part in researching for this and other World War One commemorative events, and was interviewed for television, radio and the press.

I great parade and a fitting tribute to the first of our soldiers to leave.

OMG Txt in 1920s lol

Legal document


Tired of trying to decipher the messages that young people use when  communicating?  Think that  usage of the English language is slipping and we are going to end up with a nation of semi-literate people?  THink this is new?

The above is from a partnership  document prepared by a Greytown legal firm in the 1920s. Maybe things are not so bad after all.

Yarning in barns

Yarns in barns



Every two years the Wairarapa region hosts a writers and readers festival with the suitably rural title of ‘Yarns in Barns’.  Most of the events are held in libraries, shops and halls, but each festival features one occasion whern yards are literally told in a barn – or to be more exact, in an old wool shed.  Jamie and Marilyn Strang allow  festival goers t congregate in the shed on the ‘Glenside’ property at Gladstone, and each festival a crowd gathers to be fed hot chocolate and and tales tall and true – although not always both.

The Wairarapa Archive has played a strong role in the special event, with staff taking part for the last four festivals, but this year two staff members were part of the afternoon.  District Archivist Gareth Winter chaired a panel of authors who have written recently on aspects of war history.  Jo Elworthy’s spoke of her father’s memoir, ‘Greece, Crete, Stalag , Dachau’ which was recently published, while Glyn Harper, Professor of War Studies at Massey University, read amusing tales from soldiers’ letters.

Philippa Werry was also on the panel, and spoke out her work on some children’s books relating to World War One, one on the significance of Anzac Day, the other the story of three young men who went off to war together.

The panel was rounded off by Neil Frances, the Wairarapa Archive’s resident military historian, who spoke on some of the lighter aspects of his work on Featherston Military Training Camp, including the response of some of the recruits to the amount of swearing their fellow soldiers indulged in.

Dear Tyrant

FIVE YEARS' WORK: Barrie Allom told the crowd at the launch of his book, Dear Tyrant, at Aratoi, that they should value their heritage. PHOTO/VOMLE SPRINGFORD.

This Sunday we successfully launched our latest publication, local author Barrie Allom’s book ‘Dear Tyrant – An extraordinary colonial life.’  

Barrie Allom tells the story of his great-grandfather, Albert Allom, and his varied career as a survey cadet in early Wellington, a leaseholder in Wairarapa in the 1840s, a colonial administrator in the West Indies, a mine and farming estate manager on Great Barrier Island, aregistrar of mines at Thames and Ohinemuri, an entrepreneur in Tasmania, and as a public figure in Auckland.   The story is laced with human insight, humour and tragedy, and is interspersed with narrative from Albert Allom’s own hand.

‘Dear Tyrant’ – so named from the way Allom’s wife Eliza’s term of address –  is an interesting read for anyone interested in the establishment of the colony of New Zealand.

The point of it all


Last year the archive’s staff member delivered 38 speeches and presentations, at groups ranging from the local CWI right through an academic conference on World War One.  It is an integral part of returning our records and the information contained within them, back to the community.

Recently though we did something we have not done before.

Shortly after opening in the afternoon, we were visited by a man wanting a handout on Christmas Bay, just south of Deliverance Cove at Castlepoint, and visible from the track that leads to Castle Rock.  We explained that there was no such publication, and asked what he was trying to find out.  He seemed to have a lot of questions, which we answered as well as we could.

He then explained he was a teacher from the Lower Hutt Rudolph Steiner School, and the pupils were having lunch in the park before heading out for a camp at Castlepoint, and would I mend going over and talking to the kids.

It felt a little like an impromptu speech at Toastmasters, but I went over and talked to the pupils and their parents, about Masterton, the park and Castlepoint.

Today in the mail, some lovely handmade bookmarks, and a nice thank-you card from the school.

Why are we here?


The Wairarapa Archive will shortly be publishing a book on an interesting early pakeha settler by one of his descendants.

Albert Allom was a  friend of the Wakefield family and arrived in New Zealand as a survey cadet for the New Zealand Company. Along with other survey cadets, he decided to try his hand at being a grazier, and leased land from Wairarapa Maori near Wairarapa Moana.  He and a fellow cadet, John Tully (later to marry a daughter of William Mein Smith) called  the run ‘Tauanui’.  After they gave the lease up it was run by Peter Hume – his descendants still farm parts of it.

During his time at Tauanaui, Allom had a run in with the local chief Ngairo Takatakaputea, also known as Ngairo Rakaihikuroa, and we were keen to use a copy of his portrait as an illustration in the book. The Dunedin Public Art Gallery holds a copy of a Lindauer portrait of Ngairo, so the author wrote to them asking for a digital copy (it has been digitised as it is displayed on their website) and for permission to publish the image in the upcoming book.  They said we could use the image and asked for a fee in excess of $100.

The Pitt River Museum in Oxford hold a similar painting and when asked, were happy to provide a copy for publication, royalty free.  The director commented that he found it sad we needed to go half way around the world to obtain a copy, a sadness I also feel.

It raises a fundamental question.  What is the purpose of a public cultural institution?

Our answer is simple – we are here to get information out.  Not in, but out.  Why are we gathering cultural items if not to make them available to the public, with as few impediments as possible?


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