Brewed with southern pride since 1876

Well Park Brewery oldest building still extant, North Dunedin

Although James Speight was first licensed as a brewer on today’s date, 6 June, in 1876, James Speight & Co. of the City Brewery in Rattray Street, Dunedin, had already produced their first ale some two months earlier on 6 April. The ‘Maltsters, Brewers and Bottlers’, Charles Greenslade, William Dawson and James Speight were former employees of one James Wilson at the Well Park Brewery, also known as the Dunedin Brewery, near the Water of Leith in North Dunedin.

Subsequent expansion as Dunedin Brewery

But the Speight’s brew which originated in the Rattray Street premises, and was destined to become an ‘icon’ of southern New Zealand, was not the first brewed on this site. Between January 1867 and December 1871, James Wilson, the trio’s former employer and his business partner, Thomas Birch, had operated as Brewers and Maltsters from these same premises.

A little over two weeks after James Speight’s brewer’s licence was granted, the City Brewery advertised for the first time in The New Zealand Tablet, the weekly Catholic newspaper published in Dunedin from 1873 until 1996 when it closed.

The advertisement was prominently placed, high up in the middle column on the front page. However, ‘Maltseers’ should read Maltsters; perhaps the proofreader for this issue had imbibed a few too many samples of the advertisers’ product!

That such an advertisement should appear in a church newspaper is hardly surprising given Frank Tod’s description of the sites of the earliest Catholic Masses in Dunedin:

“The first Mass was celebrated … in the loft of the old bottle store of Burke the brewer. About 20 people were present and they had to ascend a rather rickety ladder and squeeze through a narrow trapdoor to get to the loft. The second Catholic Mass in Dunedin was celebrated in the skittle alley of the Queen’s Arms Hotel, Princes Street South.” (Frank Tod, Pubs Galore: History of Dunedin Hotels 1848 – 1984, p 67).


Printing the New Testament in Te Reo Maori

Today’s issue of the Otago Daily Times informs that on this day in 1837 “William Colenso” prints 5000 copies of a 356-page Bible translated into Maori.”[1] That sounds impressive in the extreme – so impressive that the urge for verification sent me scurrying for my copy of Peter Lineham’s Bible & Society.[2] And indeed, it transpires that the ODT’s history highlight is rather more impressive than it is historically accurate.

Most certainly Colenso and his assistant, William Wade, did produce 5000 copies of 356 pages each. However, these copies constituted just the New Testament – not the Bible in its Old and New Testament entirety. The small Stanhope printing machine which Colenso and Wade brought with them from England in 1834 proved less efficient than anticipated, taking some 22 months from March 1836 until December 1837 to print the pages of these 5000 New Testaments. But that was only the beginning …

Once printed, each of these 5000 sets of 356 pages required binding. Here, even further difficulties ensued. Necessity became the mother of invention in the Paihia Mission Station in Northland’s Bay of Islands: whatever material came to hand was pressed into service – including curtain fabric. Ultimately, most copies were sent either to New South Wales or London for proper binding. This, of course, not only increased the cost beyond an already expensive 3s 3d (3 shillings & 3 pence) but considerably delayed distribution of the scriptures until much later in 1838.

At the time it was estimated that of the 45 000 Maori in contact with missionaries  some  800 adult Maori were able to read as a result of access to certain portions of scripture in Te Reo Maori.

A little over 30 years later, after significant attention to the details of translation, checking revision and proofreading, a single volume of the entire Bible in Maori was published by the Bible Society in 1868.

As a postscript, it is interesting to note that a Maori Bible belonging to the Weslyan Methodist Missionary, Revd Thomas Buddle, is held by the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch. Buddle arrived in New Zealand in 1840, played a prominent role in Maori Mission in the North Island, was one of three Weslyan missioners who joined with four Anglicans between late 1858 and 1860 to revise the Old Testament translation, then between 1866 and 1870 served as Chairman to the extensive Methodist circuit centred on Christchurch. [3]

[1] Page 14

[2] Lineham, Peter J (1996) Bible & Society. A Sesquicentennial History of the Bible Society in New Zealand. Wellington: The Bible Society in New Zealand & Daphne Brasell Associates Press

[3] A grand-daughter (1940) Rev Thomas and Mrs Buddle: Pioneer Missionaries. Auckland:Methodist Literature Society

A Christmas Bell

Today, 27 December, the Otago Daily Times informs us that on this day in 1851 the bell for First Church bell arrived in Dunedin. In fact, according to the Otago Witness of that very date, the bell was already in place, hanging from a purpose-built wooden tower. It was quite separate from the original church – a small wooden structure to the south-west – deemed to be of insufficient strength to bear the weight of the 3 cwt (hundredweight) or 152.41 Kg bell.

Cast in the Bell Foundry of C & G Mears, Whitechapel, London, the bell is inscribed thus:




Described by the Otago Witness as a ‘seasonable’ gift, the report not only expresses gratitude from the Colonists of Otago but also indicates the existence of a predecessor, kindly donated by the neighbourly John Jones Esq of Matanaka, Waikouaiti whose own settlement predated the 1848 Free Church Colonists.

The Christmas Bell of 1851 no longer tolls the hours of the work day, nor calls the faithful to worship, but remains prominently displayed in the grounds of First Church of Otago, firmly fixed to a stone plinth. And on that stone plinth is fixed a plaque declaring some important historic detail, borne out in the Otago Witness report …

Although the wooden bell tower was appropriately located atop a prominent hill, that hill was then known as Church Hill, the future site for First Church of Otago, designed by R A Lawson in neo-Gothic style and completed in 1873. But for generations of Dunedinites the locality is known as Bell Hill – and the bell remains, albeit silent, to assert that.

Election 1893: how our foremothers voted.

In this second part of my ‘Election 1893’ blog, I attempt to gain some understanding of how my foremothers might have voted 118 years ago, on Tuesday 28 November, 1893. Unless we have documentary evidence about their political involvement, or the oral process has preserved some clues as to their political leanings through anecdote, we’re unlikely to know who they voted for in 1893 and, more importantly, why. Given the detail which has been preserved, it is possible, however, to indulge in some historic re-creation of how these women went about exercising their new-found equality.

In my previous ‘Election 1893 …’ blog I creatively imagined the half sisters Isabella Cable and Christina West stepping out together, from their Harrington Street homes in Port Chalmers. Exactly where were they going to vote, how far away was the polling booth and how might they have got there?  The Otago Daily Times of Wednesday 29 November 1893 informs that there was just one polling booth in Port Chalmers – in the Municipal Council Chamber – and further reports “ … the ladies – young and old – came forward in solid numbers to avail themselves of their newly-gained privileges; indeed, so many of the fair sex have not been seen together in the streets of the little seaport town for a considerable time past, and their presence from first to last made the proceedings exceedingly cheerful and lively.”

Did Mrs Cable and Mrs West walk the 1 kilometre or so from Harrington Street via Burns Street then along Wickliffe Street to George Street where at its northern-most end stands the Municipal Council building? And did they then, as we must now, recognise the relevance of these street names to the history of the Presbyterian Free Church settlement of Otago? Rev Dr Thomas Burns was the spiritual leader of the pioneer settlers and founding minister of the First Church of Otago. The ‘John Wickcliffe’ arrived on 23 March 1848 with the first ninety or so settlers, thereby establishing the date of Otago Anniversary Day, celebrated ever since. Or, perhaps they took an alternative route, along Harrington Street connecting with Magnetic Street, then down Grey Street to the corner of George Street where the handsome Municipal Council building had been completed just four years earlier.

Port Chalmers Municipal Building

Then again, did Mesdames Cable and West accept a ride on one of the “… several vehicles [which] were provided to convey ladies and others from the upper part of the town to the polling place”?  Clearly, some effort was made to ensure the newly-enfranchised participated. In the same Chalmers electorate, Isabella’s and Christina’s sister, Ann Telfer, would likely have voted at Pine Hill. It is reasonable to assume the polling booth was at Pine Hill School, established 1872 and probably the only public, or government, building on Pine Hill.

Mary Dellow and her youngest daughter, Emma Ford, both lived in Crescent Road (now Trafalgar Street), St Albans and would likely have voted at St Albans School, just a few blocks distant. Enrolled in the Christchurch Electorate, they were required to vote for three of eleven candidates, two of whom were ministers of religion – the Congregationalist Rev C H Bradbury, and Anglican Rev J O’B Hoare – and both of whom were prohibitionists.

Mary Coleman lived in the Avon Electorate, on a small farm in Hills Road, Marshland. The most rural of my voting foremothers, her nearest Polling Booth was the recently-built Marshland School near the corner of Marshland Road and Prestons Road – a good 45 minute walk away.

Marshland School opened 25 June 1888

And who took care of the four children, Harry (5), Tom (4), Tottie (2) and seven month-old Caroline? Or did Luke drive them all in one of the farm vehicles – the milk delivery dray or maybe a dog cart?

As we follow these women to their respective polling booths, what political issues might have influenced the way they voted? Beyond the principal decision whether or not to return the Liberal Government of the previous three years, there were two hotly-debated issues, both of which directly concerned the women of New Zealand: prohibition and education.

Women of Mary Dellow’s age were more likely to support the return of the Liberals, for old age pensions were in the offing. However, given her family’s significant commitment to the Weslyan Methodist Church whose stance on prohibition was immutable, she was more likely to favour the Prohibitionist candidates, Revs J O’B Hoare and C H Bradbury, whose campaigns were widely and publicly endorsed by such Wesleyan clergy as the Rev Len Isitt.

For Mary Coleman, whose own education was seriously compromised by the depressed Cornish tin-mining economy of her childhood, the Liberal policy of free, secular and compulsory education must surely have appealed. Moreover, she was casting her first vote in the very school where her eldest son, Harry, was either already attending or soon to attend. In his acceptance speech upon re-election to the House of Representatives the Liberal member for Avon, Mr W W Tanner, could for all the world have been speaking  directly to Mary Coleman when he said, “I thank the women for looking after the interests of their children.”

Special thanks to the current Marshland School Principal, Jacqui Pascoe, for permission to copy this photograph from the school’s website.

Election 1893, Foremothers and Political Statements

The political campaign for Election 2011 could hardly be described as lack-lustre. Voting-age New Zealanders could hardly be unaware that tomorrow, Saturday, 26 November, is polling day. But how many, I wonder, are aware that New Zealand women went to the polls for the first time on 28 November, in 1893. Rather than wait until the actual anniversary next Monday, when there’s likely to be much post-mortem ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’, I’m posting this blog today – to provoke your thoughts on women’s suffrage in New Zealand and, in particular, how the fore-mothers in your family and mine responded to Election 1893: their first democratic opportunity to engage as political equals.

I couldn’t possibly comment about my readers’ foremothers, but I can about my own. Of the four descent lines I’ve inherited from my parents, three of them stretch back into New Zealand’s 19th century political landscape. So, who were they and how did they respond to that evolving landscape?

Mary Dellow

One Great-great-grandmother, Mary Dellow, married to Isaac Dellow, arrived with husband and seven children to Canterbury in 1859. Another Great-great-grandmother, Ann Ellis, arrived as a three-year old to Otago in 1860; she later married Robert Telfer. And Great-grandmother Mary Barkle who arrived as a 12 year-old to Canterbury in 1874 later married Luke Coleman.

Mary Coleman

Enrolling to vote in the 1893 Election is arguably one of the most definitive political statements our New Zealand foremothers made. However, they needed to act with some haste because the Electoral Act 1893, signed into law by the Governor, Lord Glasgow, on 19 September meant they had just 10 weeks to enrol before the 28 November election.

I’m both proud and relieved to find the names of all three foremothers, Mary Dellow, Ann Telfer and Mary Coleman, on that Electoral roll. Had they and their families not emigrated from England, Scotland and Cornwall, respectively, they and their daughters and grand-daughters would have been denied political equality until 1928.

Neither Ann Telfer nor Mary Coleman had daughters over the age of 21 in 1893. But Mary Dellow had six surviving daughters and three daughters-in-law; all except one daughter enrolled. Two of those daughters, Emma (married Charles Ford) and Martha (married John Tonkin) signed the Suffrage Petition.[i]

Although Ann Telfer in Dunedin did not sign the petition, her elder sister, Elizabeth Wragge did, together with their step-mother Mrs Ellen Ellis and half-sisters Lucy and Ellen. Another of Ann Telfer’s elder sisters, Isabella (married John Cable) and half-sister Christina (married James West) also enrolled to vote. Given that Isabella and Christina lived next door to each other in Harrington Street, Port Chalmers, it’s difficult not to picture these two celebrating their new-found suffrage by going to the polling booth together.

Sadly their father, blacksmith John Ellis, died earlier that year, on 1 February, aged 73. Would he have approved or supported the cause? Were he still living, would his wife and two unmarried daughters, both still living at home, have signed the petition? It is interesting to note that three of his four married daughters living in the Dunedin area appear not to have signed the petition although they did enrol.

I’m saddened my Great-grandmother Jane Emmett’s name is not on the electoral roll, given her mother, Mary Dellow, her five living sisters Mary Stackhouse, Elizabeth Jackman, Charlotte Wykes, Martha Tonkin and Emma Ford, together with her three sisters-in-law, Australia Jane, Jessie and Elizabeth Dellow, had all enrolled. One can’t help but wonder what influences she may have been subjected to, beyond those of her mother and sisters.

Certainly, it would have been hard to avoid the issue. Canterbury and Otago are strongly represented in the Suffrage Petition: of the nearly 24 000 signatures, these two regions together account for almost half that number – 7 471 from Otago and 4 432 from Canterbury (including Christchurch but excluding South Canterbury).[ii]

About 84% of New Zealand adult women (over 21), a total of 109 461, enrolled. On 28 November 1893 our foremothers turned out in force when 90 290 of them cast their first votes – an impressive 82% turnout. They exceeded their eligible male counterparts by 12%.[iii]

In researching my New Zealand foremothers’ response to both the Suffrage Petition and the political equality it delivered, I’ve discovered much more than I anticipated. How did your foremothers respond? The footnote links are a useful starting point to find those answers. Let’s not forget them next Monday, whatever the aftermath of tomorrow.

Myth Making & Myth Busting: the case of Wain’s Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin.

An astonishing fragment of history flashed from my Twitter feed yesterday: the Mercure Dunedin Hotel is 148 years old! Really? Both astonished and impressed that Dunedin should have such a globalised foothold in the 19th century hospitality industry, I replied to  Mercure Dunedin’s tweet, exhorting the tweeter to ‘fess up’: Reveal the true identity of a grand old dame I knew by her original name. And so, back came the reply, “The Wains Hotel” of course.

Of course – everyone knows that Wains Hotel is ‘rebranded’ Mercure Dunedin, don’t they? Everyone, that is, except the person who wrote the content for the Mercure Dunedin website. No mention, whatsoever, of the name by which that outstanding, eye-catching, ornately articulated expression of Victorian architecture has graced Princes Street for as long as anyone can remember, and longer. And the claim to ‘148 years old’ stretches the truth so far it borders on myth – which is just a wee bit too far methinks! Here’s why …

Frank Tod’s 1984 publication, “Pubs Galore, History of Dunedin Hotels 1848 – 1984” credits Andrew Moir with the July 1862 opening of Moir’s Family Hotel on the east side of Manse Street. It was then, 148 years ago “… one of the largest hotels in the town and offered first-class accommodation.” These days, the stained glass windows of a Mercure meeting room grace the Manse Street wall of this room. Curiously, these days, there’s no evidence of an hotel entrance on this side of Manse Street.

In 1864, that’s 146 years ago, Tod writes that Job Wain took possession of Moir’s premises and renamed them ‘Wain’s Hotel’. However, the entry for Mr Job Wain in The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, Volume 4, Otago and Southland records that he “…opened a hotel in Manse Street” in 1863 – that’s 147 years ago!

Job Wain’s enthralling life history must, for the moment, be set aside as a subsequent blog topic. Suffice to say, he is recorded by Tod as the licensee of his own establishment from 1866 until 1873, and again from 1885 until 1889. However, the Wain’s Hotel which still graces 310 Princes Street, Dunedin was not built until 1878 – that’s 132 years ago!

Most licensed premises of any significance or proportion in this period of history in this part of the world, at least, played host to numerous groups and societies. Wain’s Hotel was no exception. Frank Tod describes Dunedin’s first Press Club occupying a suite of rooms wherein the editors and reporters of various local newspapers met, and a library was established. Thomas Bracken, poet, author of the New Zealand National Anthem’s five verses, and then editor of the Saturday Advertiser numbered among these journalist patrons. Appropriately, one of the Mercure’s two meeting rooms is named in his honour. But Tod ‘fudges’ the record somewhat, offering only a vague decade – the 1870s – during which the Press Club occupied their suite of rooms in Wains. Would those rooms have been in what was originally Moir’s Family Hotel – old Wains – on Manse Street, or new Wains, built 1878, in Princes Street? The investigative plot thickens and the myth busting process intensifies.

For the greater part of her illustrious life during which Wain’s Hotel was known as such, there are at least two other family names associated with the business. The Hazlett family owned Wain’s for more than 35 years before selling to the Farrys in 1962. Corporate ownership of this now historic Dunedin landmark began 40 years ago when it was purchased by Dominion Breweries – but we still knew her as “Wain’s”. Thank you, DB. Not a myth in sight and ‘busting’ pertained only to after-hours drinkers in the belief that they deserved ‘a DB’.

The “Poi E” effect

Yes, “Poi E” is back in the news, back in our ears, back in the charts, and back on screen in more creative and innovative ways than ever before – this time in the cinema and on You-tube. Dalvanius Prime & Ngoingoi Pewhairangi created a legacy whose message is proving to be both timeless and universal.

Timeless, because after more than a generation we’re still excited about hearing it, we’re obviously excited about buying it, and so we keep playing it. “Poi E” is clearly responding positively to the process of natural selection. And universal, because there’s a critical element within the “Poi E” message which extends well beyond Maori culture.

Regardless of who we are, where we come from, what language we speak, our level of education, financial status or occupation, we all belong in greater or lesser degree to a family.  Every last one of us has a set of kinship connections through which we inherit or adopt a family culture.  Granted, some family cultures are better expressed than others; some are well documented, others hardly at all; some are richly endowed in anecdote, others remain devoid of oral culture. If Dalvanius & Ngoingoi could achieve what they have with “Poi E”, by packaging the message in such a way that it commands our attention, then surely there’s a lesson in it for the rest of us.

Frequently, I meet people who tell me they’d like to ‘tell their stories’: of their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on; of their emigration from the old country; of those who went to war and never came back; of districts and communities no longer visible; of organisations no longer functioning; of buildings still standing but now put to different uses; of schools and churches, of farms and businesses whose daily routines have been modernised beyond recognition; and means of transport only visible as ‘vintage demonstrations’ or static displays in a museum …  and so the strands of story become multi-layered, densely interwoven, and intensely complex.

Often, the next thing these same people say begins with “But … “

“… my family weren’t important people, they were just ordinary folk. Nobody would be interested in anything about them.”

“… I wish I had talked to or recorded ‘so-and-so’ before they died – they knew so much and now it’s all gone.”

“… I don’t know where to begin.”

“… my children don’t seem very interested. They never knew these people.”

“… how could I put together all the information I’ve already got, so that it makes sense?”

There is a growing realisation that the stories are important; that they must be passed down to the next generations. If the current ‘Gen Y’ and their children – the techno kids – are to connect with the stories that are their inheritance, the information must be presented in a format that is at once enticing and accessible. This means, we need to get creative and do it differently: same message, different packaging.

So, you might reasonably ask, “What does this different packaging look like?”

The answer to that question is less straight forward. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ formula – it isn’t that simple. As with “Poi E”, the packaging must be enticing and the contents accessible. Gen X and Gen Y are utterly deserving of information about who they are as well as an understanding of what it is that they have inherited. However, they are discriminating, discerning and highly selective. How to make the material accessible is up to you; how they go about applying it is up to them. That’s the “Poi E” effect.

Want to know more? Click here.

The Bible that went to war …

Some of us who inherit more copies of The Bible than we’re ever likely to need, tend to store them, politely and respectfully on a bookshelf, in sentimental acknowledgment of their former owners. Collectively, they express unique aspects of those former owners’ histories:  records of achievement at Sunday School, or the day school Scripture class; departure from a congregation or community; a wedding gift; or a school-leaver’s presentation copy, complete with school crest embossed on the front cover.

There’s one particular bible which sits almost inconspicuously among just such a collection; its brown leatherette cover shows signs of wear and its size belies its significance. On the fly leaf there’s an inscription which reads, quite simply, “John Fergus Ross with love from Mother 24.6.43”. The only indication of provenance is a retailer’s sticker, “Hyndman’s, Dunedin” on the front recto endpaper.

Then, in an altogether different hand, not the exquisite fountain pen of ‘Mother’ but in post-war ballpoint, the recipient appends: “Carried by me in my battledress pocket throughout the war” followed by “William Thomas Fergus Ross, Love from Father Feb 1977”.

In these few tantalizing lines we are made aware that this small copy of the Scriptures has passed through the hands of three generations. John Fergus Ross did indeed survive the war, returned home to raise his own family and was still living in 1977. So much for the obvious. But what of that which isn’t obvious and raises more questions than there are immediate answers?

The date, 24.6.43, appears to lack any significance beyond its falling within the period of the Second World War. It was neither John Ross’s birthday (23 October), nor his wedding anniversary (1 July 1939). However, there is a letter in the family’s personal history collection, dated 1st July 1943, which offers a clue.  It’s an intensely personal and poignant letter from an adoring aunt to a special nephew, likely penned in a quiet moment of reflection after a family celebration of his wedding anniversary.

She writes: There were one or two things I wanted to say to you if there had been an opportunity – (though probably I wouldn’t have said them even if there had been!) … I know it is a satisfaction for you to go overseas & that you have to go – but you are leaving some very sad hearts behind you … There is no man in the Army, Navy or Air Force who will receive a warmer welcome on his return than you. John – you have no idea how we hate you having to go. You will always be in our thoughts. I am convinced that whatever happens to one the only thing to do is to hold on to one’s trust in God. Much love from Aunt Z.

Another letter in the family’s personal collection  – this one from Army Headquarters, Wellington – solves the date problem. On 23 December 1939, Ross, John Fergus, 611199, was commissioned in the New Zealand Scottish Regiment. The day before he resigned that commission on 25 June 1943, to join the ranks on 26 June 1943 as Private Ross in the 23rd Battalion, 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force, his mother inscribed the little bible. Her only son was off to war!

John Ross’s army serial number proved a lucky one. Or was it the bible that never left his battledress pocket, together with the wedding anniversary day letter’s entreaty to trust in God, that ensured his safe return? Not least among this soldier’s survival stories was the Battle of Monte Cassino.

By Dr Jennie Coleman

The soldier’s watch still ticks

As we prepare to observe Anzac Day this Sunday, 25 April, I remind myself it’s time to wind up and wear the silver wrist watch my paternal grandmother, Nell (nee Eleanor Mary Emmett) Coleman, gave me when I was in my mid-teens. She had kept it safe for more than 50 years as she continued to mourn its former owner, her favourite brother, Arnold.

The watch, she told me, was presented to him at his soldier’s farewell in 1917 by the people of Shirley, then a farming district on the northern bounds of Christchurch. But Rifleman Arnold Emmett, 51831, 3rd Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade, already had a wrist watch which, according to my Nana, he took with him; the fine presentation model he chose to leave behind.

Just weeks before the Armistice was declared on 11 November 1918, Arnold Emmett was at the Somme where, on 31 August, 1918, he died of wounds in one of the Gezaincourt Casualty Clearing Stations. He is buried with 180 other New Zealanders in the Bagneux British Cemetery, just south of the town of Doullens and about 20 kms north of Amiens in north-west France.

Bagneux British Cemetery, France

On the day in June 1987 when I visited that cemetery, there too were three Commonwealth War Graves Commission employees doing the work they do so well. It was an enormous privilege to thank them, in my then relatively fluent French, for their part in maintaining the dignity and respect of a family member’s final resting place. Their gracious response was to pose behind great-uncle Arnold’s headstone for this photo.

Text & photos by Dr Jennie Coleman

Lines from behind ‘The Front’

While he was on a spell from the front line at the Somme, Rifleman Arnold Emmett scribbled a couple of pages to his future brother-in-law, Harry Coleman, back in New Zealand. These pages look to have been torn from a small exercise book, are written in purple ‘ink pencil’ and signed ‘From your old cobber, A.E.’ The address from which he writes is officially vague and quite simple: ‘France, 6 June 1918’. They are all that seems to have survived this soldier’s service to his country on the battlefields of France.

Apart from not unreasonable complaints about New Zealand mails not reaching them in the Somme, Arnold Emmett reveals something of his soldier’s social life behind the line. He describes meeting up with the recipient’s brother, Gunner Tom Coleman and three other young men, Ted Treleaven, Willie McFadden and Harold Wilson –names from the greater Marshland district, north of Christchurch. Although the Coleman family had left that district in 1912 and moved to a much larger property at Ladbrooks, old friendships remained intact, not least on the battlefields of France.

McFadden & Wilson, both drivers in the 5th Reinforcements, left Wellington on 13 June 1915; Treleaven embarked with the 9th Reinforcements, Wellington Infantry Battalion (B Company), on 8 January 1916; and Tom Coleman, with the 17th Reinforcements, New Zealand Field Artillery, on 23 September 1916.

But the network is wider than is at first apparent: Sapper Dunning Nigel Treleaven – likely a close relative of Ted Treleaven – embarked with the same body and on the same day as Drivers McFadden and Wilson; another Harold (Roy) Wilson (likely a close relative of Driver Harold (Twentyman) Wilson) enlisted in Dunedin and embarked on 9 October 1915 with the Medical Corps attached to the 1st Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade.

Arnold Emmett and one Joseph Edward McFadden – possibly a close relative of Driver Willie McFadden – embarked the same troopship, HMNZT 86 (Maunganui) as Riflemen in Reinforcements, H Company, of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, on 12 June 1917. When Arnold Emmett wrote on 6 June 1918, one cannot help but wonder whether or not he knew of Rifleman McFadden’s death on 27 March 1918.

By the time his ‘old cobber’ received this letter,Rifleman Emmett had returned to the front, been wounded and subsequently died.

The Treleavens, Drivers McFadden & Wilson, and Gunner Tom Coleman all survived.

When Tom Coleman died just two months short of his 90th birthday in 1978  he was buried in the All Saints’ Anglican Church Cemetery, Prebbleton, beside his local-born wife, Nan (nee McNally). Although he gave his enlisting address as Ladbrooks, Tom Coleman’s name is included on the Prebbleton war memorial, just a few hundred metres south of his burial place.

And so fate decreed that I was deprived of one great-uncle and privileged to know another.

By Dr Jennie Coleman