Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Deltiology - The World of Vintage Postcard Collecting

An Applique Postcard from Stonehouse
in Lanarkshire, Scotland, having had
ground glitter added to the surface

This Blog celebrates the humble postcard. During the Edwardian era, and generally up to the 1920's, postcards usefully served many varied purposes. These ranged primarily from simple holiday postcards, the exchange of personal and business related messages, as well as the sending of birthday, Christmas, New Year, and other festive occasion greetings. The increasing availability of new colour chromo-lithograph postcards, mainly printed in Saxony in Germany, further added to their popularity.

A Collage type Postcard with the
image formed of used stamps

This also led to the new hobby of postcard collecting, what we now term "deltiology". During her childhood in Scotland my Great Aunt became a fervent collector, managing to fill three large albums which I now hold. Obviously becoming a very discriminating collector, her brother sent her an extra large 26 cm long postcard in 1907 with only the very short and seemingly rather exasperated message, "Will this one please you? J.W."

A Mirror Postcard which can only
be read by holding it up to a mirror

An added bonus has been the large amount of personal and family related information I have been able to glean from these postcards. Even simple and apparently mundane personal messages have enabled me to gain a better understanding and impression of everyday Edwardian life and times. Had these been sent as letters this information would generally not have survived. Once the telephone came into common usage, much everyday information which had previously been conveyed by way of the postcard, then ceased. Interestingly, comparisons can be made to the advent of email and electronic messaging and how this will, in another hundred years, leave an even larger "black hole" in the printed record of own daily lives.  

A Novelty Postcard -
"The Language of Postage Stamps"

This is no where near an exhaustive record of the many types of Postcards available, being just a small percentage of the more interesting examples in my own collection.


Stra'ven [Strathaven] in Lanarkshire Scotland
was once widely renowned for Gingerbread

Mr John Letham of Auchinairn,
Bishopbriggs appears to be making
use of free postcards supplied by
the firm of "Hadfields".  

Military & War

A sentimental type of postcard that
became popular during World War One

"Unity is Strength" with the flags of Britain and her Allies -
A Christmas postcard from the First World War period 


An Exaggeration Postcard - manipulated images are nothing new!

A Humorous postcard showing
a man warming his feet on a
candle, probably dating from the
37 day Miner's strike of 1912
A Comic Postcard - a very mild
version compared to some!
Circa 1920's

Embroidered Postcards

An Embroidered postcard of the
Gordon Highlander's Crest,
  World War One period

An embroidered card with the British and
French Flags. World War One period 

Birthdays & Christmas

A Glossy Birthday Postcard
with an embossed border
An Edwardian Birthday Postcard

A Birthday Card featuring well
known Edwardian actresses
An Edwardian Christmas Postcard

Love & Affection 

An Edwardian Chromolithograph
Postcard expressing love


A Novelty Postcard with the die cut
images pasted onto the backing card 


A glossy Postcard from the New Zealand International
Exhibition held in Christchurh, 1906-07. The card
has been highlighted with glitter.

A Postcard advertising the touring Australian
Champion Woodcutters Peter MacLaren
and Harry Jackson, posted by the
promoter, Mr Thomas Dougall, 1908. 


Mechanical Postcards with moving parts were easily
damaged and are now quite rare, as evidenced in this case
by the missing Lion's tail which could be spun around. 


"On Holiday" - An Anthropomorphic postcard depicting
dogs with human attributes. Such images depicting animals
in semi-human form were once very popular


"Pull-out" Postcards allowed the recipient to open a cover
and pull out a long strip with images, in this case of the
Scottish National Exhibition, Glasgow 1908


Postcards were popular with businesses for non-confidential mail. 

And this Postcard served as a record of
British Post and Telegraph charges for 1909 

All Postcards are from my own collection and may be freely copied for personal use provided this site is acknowledged.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

George Magnus Hassing - An Extraordinary New Zealand Pioneer (Part Two of Two)

George Hassing (at right) with Mrs Christina Wraytt (at left),
(Mrs Wraytt an early Teacher at Kingston before
her marriage to Mr Josiah Wraytt of Garston).
[Source : "Golden Days in Lake County"] 

This Blog concludes the story of the Danish born George Magnus Hassing. George led the most extraordinarily varied and fascinating pioneering life. From globe-trotting seaman, to bush saw miller in New Zealand, to Clutha River log raftsman, to gold rush store-keeper and ferry-man, to West Coast Explorer, to gold miner during the glory days of the Otago and West Coast Gold Rushes, to respected long-term country Schoolmaster, and not forgetting a prolific Journalist; before finally retiring in 1921 at the venerable age of 85. To view the first Blog in this two part series please click Here.

Isolated Cardrona shown at lower centre in relation
to Albertown (at upper right) and Arrowtown
(at lower left). From a map dated 1888.
[From my own collection]

The Overthrow of the Manchu Dynasty :

By 1874, Hassing was the principal owner of the Empire Gold-Mining claim at Cardrona. At this time there were around 150 European miners on the field and some 600 Chinamen, it being "a happy hunting ground for the Celestials". Hassing, "with a view to improving and elevating the moral and intellectual nature of the Chinese residents... started an adult Chinese evening school..". He notes their "keen interest and remarkable aptitude in acquiring the rudiments of English". Soon becoming affectionately known as "Mr Ah Sing", Hassing believed that his previous two years' experience in the coastal towns of China had been of much value to him. With a dry sense of humour he notes that most of his Celestial pupils made enough money to return to the "Flowery Land" but "whether the subsequent overthrow of the Manchu Dynasty was in a remote way due to my democratic teaching is, of course an open question." Hassing held the "most happy recollections of the pleasant evenings spent with my Chinese friends."  

The Catastrophic Great Flood of 1878 :  
In 1878, "a great flood overwhelmed the place" destroying most of the gold mining workings. This catastrophe ruined many miners, including Hassing. Thereupon he made application to the Southland Education Board for the position of Teacher of the Cardrona School, which was then vacant. He carried on this occupation at Cardrona until 1885, "... very happy days, though not without care, anxiety, and sorrow - the outstanding feature was the cosmopolitan, brotherly, charitable, and helpful spirit animating the whole community."

The picturesque main street of a much smaller Cardrona as it
 appears today, but still retaining a 19th century atmosphere.
[From my own collection]

Never Shall I Forget the... Fixed Stares of Those Children :

"Never shall I forget the rigid attitudes and fixed stare of those children as their gaze was riveted upon [the School Inspector]... He had on an Indian helmet, a large dust coat, a pair of double black goggles, and carried under his arm a heavy riding whip with an ugly brass knob on the end of the handle." On closer acquaintance Hassing found him to be "a most affable and courteous gentleman."

A Miners' Orchestra :

As Secretary of the newly formed Miners' Association, Hassing "burned the midnight oil" on many occasions in order to win concessions on behalf of the town which included "£6,000 for a mountain traffic road, 3,000 acres adjoining the town set apart for a public commonage, a fine cemetery site, telegraph connection, [and] library subsidy..." With an acknowledged gift for organisation, another of Hassing's achievements at Cardrona was to set up a "fine miners' Orchestra", comprising of men who played the piano, violin, concertina, banjo, piccolo, and drum. The social life in Cardrona would extend well beyond the bars of the four local hotels.

Rev. A. Stobo
Rev. D. Ross

Clergymen Prohibited From Entering the School :

Hassing latterly encountered a vivid example of the fervent emotion still generated today by what we now know as "Bible in Schools" Religious Education. An Anglican clergyman was politely told to distribute his religious literature after school hours but, replying that this was not possible, proceeded to walk round the class placing a circular on each desk. But that evening the Chairman of the school committee accosted Hassing in a fury, "I have always respected you... but to permit a black Protestant to proselytize my children., I shall never forgive." Many of the local miners would have been Catholic or Presbyterian. Thereafter a notice prohibited all Clergymen from entering the school during school hours. But this did not deter the Presbyterian Ministers, the Rev's Andrew Stobo and Donald Ross, who duly entered but left "after a pleasant inspection" of the children. This violation incensed the School Committee who imposed punitive actions on Hassing, and resolved to appoint a Teacher "of the right [religious] persuasion" to start a denominational school in a hut below the township. Shortly after commencing work the newly appointed teacher broke his neck falling off a bridge.

It was no accident that prohibition era
"Hokonui Moonshine" was distilled in
the bush-covered Hokonui hills.
[Source : Moonshinefest

A Strong Leaning Towards Their National Beverage :

"The impossibility of carrying on the school under such conditions" prompted Hassing to seek a Teaching position elsewhere. Thus, in 1885, he moved, with his wife, whom he had married in 1876, to the small "Highland community" of Hokonui in Central Southland, "a kind, generous, sociable people, anxious for the education of their children, but with a strong leaning towards their national beverage." Even today, the colourful heritage of "Hokonui Moonshine" [illicitly distilled whisky] during the years of prohibition in Southland from 1905 to 1943 / 1954 is renowned - and celebrated.

George Hassing with his Wife and Daughter
outside the Heddon Bush Schoolhouse.
[Source : "Looking Back 100 Years"]

Think, and Ponder Over It, Ye Modern Teachers! :

By August 1888 the Hassing family had moved to the small country school of Heddon Bush, also in Central Southland. The poor attendance had meant that the salary had reduced to £42 per annum or 15 shillings a week so he was initially disinterested in the position. But he was assured that within a month of his taking the position the roll would double, then increasing his salary. But roll numbers were slow to increase so for the first three months it actually cost Hassing £1. 5s for the privilege of teaching 35 State school children; "Think, and ponder deeply over it, ye modern teachers!"

Heddon Bush School from the rear, showing the entrance.
The Head Teacher, Mr Samuel Jackson and Mrs Jackson
appear in the image. As with Mr & Mrs Hassing, both
also ran the Public Library, the Heddon Bush Post
Office, and the only telephone in the district was
connected to the Schoolhouse. Taken circa 1916.
[From my own collection]

The Committee Armed and Rushed for Recapture :

Hassing's predecessor, Mr Girle, and being of "the old school", had engendered a bitter and divisive feud in the community over his outdated teaching techniques and the children's education naturally suffered. Half the community wished to retain him, the other to see him gone. Finally, after a "free fight at the annual householders' meeting", the teacher was turned out of the school. He then countered by setting up school in his residence for those who still wished to retain him, "But one night, under cover of darkness, he made a sortie and recaptured the [locked] school building." Hearing this news, "the committee armed and rushed for recapture." They drove out the teacher, smashed up the table, chairs, windows, and door. So for his first month, Hassing worked till near mid-night repairing broken furniture, pasting up maps, putting up panes of glass, etc. At a public meeting Hassing gave the community a stern talking to which evidently soothed lingering ill feeling as an atmosphere of reconciliation immediately set in.

The 1902 New Zealand Education Department Souvenir
commemorating the Coronation of King Edward VII
and Queen Alexandra in 1902, being hand annotated
 by Mr George Hassing and presented to all
children then attending the school.
[From my own collection]

The Presentation of a Rabbit to Avert His Wrath :

A former pupil, Mr George Catto (1893-1993) recalled that Mr Hassing wrote in a "copperplate hand", also that he was "a man who was not too strict, but if a pupil wanted to learn, he provided the opportunities..." The strap would only be used "about once a year", but any pupil deserving such a punishment could expect a "hammering". He recalled that the next teacher was rather more strict, ending the "big boys" being able to extend their lunch hour to two, "knowing full well that the presentation of a rabbit to the teacher would serve to avert the wrath which might have been called down on them for their misdemenours." A two hour lunch break was however the norm on Tuesdays so that Mr Hassing had time to read the weekly "Otago Witness" illustrated newspaper, to which he was a regular contributor.

Teacher, Mr George Hassing with Heddon Bush School
 Pupils, circa 1905. My Aunt and two Uncles appear in
the front row (from left, 3rd, 6th, and 7th). My Father
did not commence school until 1907.
[From my own collection]

An Act So Despicable :

Known to celebrate important occasions with a nip of whisky, Hassing would hide a bottle in a bag in the hedge during functions in the local hall, repairing at intervals for a nip and a yarn with his friends. But upon finding a slit in the bag and the bottle gone, a very angry Schoolmaster stormed into the hall, held up the bag, and told the no doubt astonished crowd "that in all his travels round the world he had never experienced an act so despicable as the theft of his whisky." I believe a replacement bottle was purchased for the good teacher.

The Leaving Testimonial to Mr GM Hassing, dated the
9th Dec 1906 & being signed by John Catto, James Ryan,
Charles Clarke, William Watson, and my Grandfather.
[From my own collection]

An Honourable & Industrious Career :

Here at Heddon Bush, George Hassing remained until after the early death of his wife in 1906 when he retired on superannuation. During his latter years at Heddon Bush he taught my own Aunt and two Uncles. As Secretary of the School Committee, my Grandfather knew Hassing well and wrote the testimonial to him dated December 1906 which I still hold, along with a first draft; "We can testify that you have done your duty nobly and well as a teacher and that you have taken an active part in every movement having for it's object the welfare of the district as well as the happiness of all around you.... we sincerely trust that under God's blessing you may be spared to enjoy in peace and happiness the reward of an honourable and industrious career."

A Christmas New Year Greeting, sent to
my Grandfather after George Hassing
left the Heddon Bush district.
[From my own collection]

The Teacher's True Reward :

Hassing ends his "autobiographic notes" musing on how he had played many parts on life's stage but teaching was his crowning achievement :

"I little learnt at that time [when his gold mining claim was destroyed in 1878] that teaching would be my future life's work, or that I could ever learn to love a profession that holds out so few worldly advantages. Yet now I recognize that those poor advantages are as nothing compared with the high responsibility involved in training the young so that disciplined characters and good citizens may be the finished product of the school."   

Above Images : The grave of George Hassing and his Wife Lavinia in the Old Winton Cemetery in Central Southland. [From my own collection]

"The Sailor Home From the Sea, The Sailor Home From the Hill" :

Unable to fully retire, Hassing offered himself to the Southland Education Board as a relieving teacher. Fully retiring in 1922 at 85 years of age, he spent the last years of his life residing with his Grand-daughter at Aparima :

"In that retreat one found him a hale, hearty old man of unclouded mind and bouyant soul, browsing among New Zealand and Danish newspapers, attending to correspondence, helping his little great-grandsons with their lessons."

George Magnus Hassing, aged 92 years, died at Riverton Hospital on Christmas Day 1928, being interred with his wife Elizabeth Lavinia Hassing (who predeceased him after "long and painful suffering" in 1906) in the old Winton Cemetery. While the vast majority of those passing the cemetery today would have no knowledge of Geoge Hassing most would however know that the convicted "child murderer" Minnie Dean, the only woman hung for murder in New Zealand, is interred here.

Bibliography / Rārangi Pukapuka :
  • Watson Family Photographic Collection (held by the writer)
  • Personal Family Papers and Photographs (held by the writer)
  • "Papers Past" [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
  • "The Memory Log of G.M. Hassing", 1930 (from my own collection)
  • "Looking Back 100 Years - Heddon Bush School 1881-1981" (from my own collection) 
  • "Golden Days of Lake County", by FWG Miller, 1962 (from my own collection)
  • "The Flame Unquenched", By G. McDonald, 1956 (from my own collection)
  • "The Interior Cold Lakes of Otago", NZ Survey Map, 1888 (from my own collection)

Thursday, 5 June 2014

George Magnus Hassing - An Extraordinary New Zealand Pioneer (Part One of Two)

George Magnus Hassing
1837 - 1928
[From my own collection]

The Danish born George Magnus Hassing led the most extraordinarily varied and fascinating pioneering life. From globe-trotting seaman, to bush saw miller in New Zealand, to Clutha River log raftsman, to gold rush store-keeper and ferry-man, to West Coast Explorer, to gold miner during the glory days of the Otago and West Coast Gold Rushes, to respected long-term country Schoolmaster, but not forgetting a prolific Journalist; before finally retiring in 1921 at the venerable age of 85.

The notation on the reverse of the above photograph
[From my own collection] 

This two-part resumé will highlight the incredibly diverse life of this capable and adaptable Danishman. While Hassing's name and varied exploits are little known today, we are at least left with his many autobiographical "journalistic vignettes", later being published as a whole in 1930. Hassing's very descriptive first-hand eyewitness accounts of his pioneering years in the Gold Field towns are in fact often the primary testimony available to historians today, particularly of early Cardrona and Bendigo. Hassing additionally rubbed shoulders with many now well-known, if even infamous, individuals. His wonderful grasp of the English language and descriptive manner of writing truly brings these colourful characters to life. This two part Blog is but a small edited fraction of those many stories.

The Lure of the Seven Seas :

Having been born in Denmark in 1837, well educated, and upon reaching the age of 15 years and anxious to see the world for himself, the lure of the seven seas called George Hassing to exotic and lonely far-flung shores. Serving on merchant sailing ships for seven years he truly criss-crossed the globe from such far-flung ports as exotic Canton China and Yokohama Japan in the Orient, to the isolated Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean, to lonely Elephant Island off Antarctica where Shackleton's crews were later hold up, to bustling San Francisco where he took time off to indulge in the "California gold rush fever". In 1852, and off the Cape of Good Hope, he observed Brunel's great steamship, the "S.S. Great Britain" [which his vessel "spoke" to], while on her first voyage to Australia and carrying 630 emigrants. In 1859 he sailed to Port Cooper [now Lyttleton] New Zealand on the "Ambrosine", then taking "french leave" (i.e., jumped ship) with two ship-mates. With the law hard on their heels, they safely made good their escape via the whaling station at Kaikoura to Wellington.

The Indian Rebellion, 1857 :

But arriving at Bombay [Mumbai] India on the "Pride of the Ocean" in the summer of 1857, Hassing and his ship-mate William Ellacott visited the British Army Barracks "and fraternized with the troops just returned from Cawnpore [Kanpur] after the shocking massacre at that town." It is believed that 120 British women and children were killed and up to 7,000 locals were executed in "retaliatory counter-atrocities". Hassing makes no other comment on what he may have been told nor does he lay blame on any one party involved in this incredibly brutal massacre. It was in fact Hassing's glowing description of New Zealand that encouraged the English born Ellacott to also come out to New Zealand, then joining Hassing on most of his adventures through the 1860's. After Ellacott's death in England in February 1912 Hassing deposited Ellacott's diaries of his early Wanaka adventures in the [then] Otago Settler's Museum but despite best efforts they cannot now be located which is a great loss.   

This Britain of the South :

Hassing returned to the sea but obviously not before seeing enough of New Zealand and the opportunities it offered to interest him to return - without the law hard on his heels! An able seaman would be paid £2.10/- a month, the food was mainly "sea horse and weevily biscuits", accommodation was a less than comfortable bunk alongside the windlass, and the hours were long. But one could earn £1 a week "with an unlimited allowance of damper [campfire bread] and mutton in this Britain of the South".

West Wanaka Station, of around 30,000 acres, includes
the area marked "Wanaka West" on the left hand shores
of the lake in the above map. From a map dated 1888.
[From my own collection]

Back-Breaking Work :

In 1860 his first job in New Zealand, along with a close mate, Bill Atkins, was pit-sawing timber, posts, rails and shingles for the West Wanaka Station in the rugged back-blocks of the South Island, back-breaking work requiring tremendous physical strength. As we shall read, George was an extremely adaptable individual.

Rats, as White as Millers :

Setting up a camp at the mouth of Minaret Burn [shown in upper centre-right of the above map], some three miles above West Wanaka Homestead, and being surrounded by precipitous mountains and having just one cockleshell boat, they were effectively "imprisoned in the bush for six months". But with plenty of food, they soon "tumbled down the giants of the forest and made the sawdust fly". The bush teemed with plump pigeons and kakas which provided them with fresh food. But one night, they had a visitation of rats, "which swooped down from the mountains in thousands". Hassing and his mate "killed hundreds of them with forks tied to the end of sticks", including those that ventured under the wooden platform which partly covered the floor of their accommodation. Anxious to secure their precious supply of flour, this was hoisted up a tree. But a couple of nights later, when the need to obtain some flour required the sack to be lowered, "a dozen or more rats, as white as millers sprang out of various holes before it reached the ground. However we had to make the best of it till the boat arrived with a fresh supply." Within a fortnight every rat had disappeared as suddenly as they had arrived. 

The Makarora River Valley and Forests, shown at the
head of Lake Wanaka. From a map dated 1888.
[From my own collection]

One Unbroken, Seething Ocean of Flame :

In early 1861, Hassing, accompanied by Mr H.S. Thomson of West Wanaka Station, set off up the Makarora Valley at the head of Lake Wanaka to examine the pine forests some seven miles up the valley. In the valley they discovered a ruined Māori village dating from a raid in 1836. Further access up the valley was only possible by following the river beaches and fording the river wherever necessary, the valley being "covered with an impenetrable mass of cabbage trees, flax, and fern, growing to a height of 8ft to 10ft and the ground a jungle of dried and decayed vegetation, over which it was impossible to make any headway". So to assist in clearing a path, the pair started a fire at the head of the lake. Unfortunately "this soon developed into one unbroken, seething ocean of flame from hillside to hillside, and fanned by a southerly wind, it raged for three days and nights, travelling up the valley 20 miles". Ironically, by 1865 Hassing found that the fire had transformed the valley into "a beautiful carpet of luxuriant grass over which it was a pleasure to travel".   

Dunedin, pictured from Bell Hill in 1862
[Source : National Library of New Zealand]

25 Jolly Adventurers :

In August 1862, while killing wild pigs on the Waipara Run in North Canterbury, and hearing of Hartley and Riley's discovery of gold on the Molyneux, Hassing immediately packed his swag and took a passage on a vessel for Dunedin. Here he found the place bustling with activity with hundreds of men eager to get away to the new "rush". Joining four others, they then took a small steamer for Waikouaiti, calling at the well-known Johnny Jones' store for provisions, tent and gold mining tools. On the journey through the hinterland others joined the merry group, now numbering "25 jolly adventurers" off to seek their fortune. The picture of that jovial group singing round the blazing camp fires at Coal Creek reminded Hassing of similar scenes he had witnessed on the Californian goldfields in the fifties. And what of the enterprising fellow who laid a long plank across a creek and charged 6d each to cross? All willingly paid the "toll". And of the "cute business acumen" of an enterprising and isolated Station cookhouse which not only sold mutton quarters to their passing trade but also offered them boiled mutton, the resulting hot soup with barley and onions, and freshly baked scones... "All enjoyed a merry feast".  

The Burgess & Sullivan Gang, 1866.
Philip Levy appears at bottom.
[Source : National Library of NZ]

Three to Four Ounces of Gold a Day :

Having arrived at "Mutton Town", a canvas town of 30 to 40 tents, already complete with a canvas store run by a Jewish firm, "Levy & Co." which included one Philip Levy, later to be hanged as one of the notorious Burgess and Sullivan gang of Bushrangers. The group first set up camp then all obtained Miner's Prospecting Rights issued by the well-known Vincent Pyke, the first Commissioner of the new goldfields. Prospecting was then carried on up the Clutha River to where Clyde is now situated however nothing of any consequence was found. But upon travelling along the Fraser River to Butcher's Gully, "a splendid prospect" was found on a steep high bank of the river which averaged around three to four ounces of gold a day. The river claim was quickly pegged off.    

An example of a Prospecting [Miner's] Right
issued by the Province of Otago in 1862
[Source : NZMuseums]

Disaster and Retreat :

Concurrent with panning, the wash dirt from the claim was carried back up from the beach and stacked close to the steep bank, "some forty or fifty loads of auriferous gravel-wash". Their panned gold was "stored" in a crater like hollow of a large rock across the river. Then one day a heavy rain set in which continued all day and all night. By noon the following day the rock now lay across a raging and impassable river, being at least 8 to 10 feet under water and the carefully stored wash dirt would have been swept away. The party decided that the river had won and left for Dunstan [Clyde] which had now replaced Mutton Town. Surprisingly, Hassing never returned to the scene and pondered later if the panned gold remained in that hollow rock.     

The Clutha River meanders from Pembroke / Newcastle
(upper right), and down to Cromwell (lower right)
where it joins the Kawarau River, 1888
[From my own collection] 

Thank God it is Safely Over :

In 1862, the great drawback to gold mining and construction in Central Otago was the complete absence of wood in the surrounding area which had to be brought in my bullock teams. Thus even simple wooden hand cradles for slicing the river wash retailed at £10 each. Wooden gin and brandy cases (even minus the contents) were in hot demand! Thus Hassing, along with others, took on the risky and perilous task of rafting logs of timber lashed together from forests at the heads of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea some 50 miles down the rough and turbulent Clutha River. Hassing noted that some lost their lives at this work through not having the requisite qualifications, i.e, a strong nerve, capable of swimming in rough water, and possessed of a thorough knowledge of the river. Parts of the river, such as "Snake Point", "The Devil's Nook", and "The Boiling Pot", were very aptly named. Hassing's last river trip was in 1876 when he brought Mr Deans, the Curator of the Otago Acclimatisation Society with his tin cans from Wanaka down to Cromwell, after having released the first trout ovum in the lake. Deans described the river trip as "the most exciting experience of my life, and I can only say, thank God it is safely over".

A group of early Wanaka Pioneers including William Ellacott
who shared many of George Hassing's Wanaka adventures.
Taken outside Norman's Hotel at Albert Town, Lake Wanaka 
in 1866 by Mr Rich, a travelling Photographer.
Back Row : (L to R) Henry Palmer, William Ellacott,
Joe D. Ross, Henry Norman;
Front Row : Robert H. Norman, Richard Norman,
AE Farquhar, William Waterson, James Isbell.
[Source : The Otago Witness]

It Pays to Advertise :

But by 1863, and in the midst of the rush of gold miners from the Dunstan and Gabriel's Gully to the newly discovered workings on the Arrow River, Hassing foresaw the advantages of setting up a ferry and his own store at Sandy Point, thus providing a convenient crossing of the the Clutha River some 10 miles below Albertown to the east of Wanaka. It pays to advertise, and after putting up 100 posters along the route from the Dunstan near Cromwell there were 40 miners and pack-horses following him. Later in 1863, Hassing and his partner sold out to the Māori Chief Patu and his tribe who had "accumulated a little pile" at Maori Point on the Shotover River, the Chief then inviting most of the Māori's from Moeraki, to join him.

The Cardrona river flowing from lower left to
Pembroke [Albertown] at upper right centre.
[From my own collection]

The Boiling, Seething Torrent :

From July to September 1863 the disastrous"Old Man Flood" swept through the district, claiming the lives of upwards of 63 miners. Crossing the Cardrona River at Albertown in June 1863, and already "then roaring down in high flood", his horse was swept off its feet while the rider was "plunged headlong into the boiling, seething torrent". Despite wearing "a big top-coat and a pair of long nugget boots", luck was evidently on his side this day and he made it to the bank while his horse had to be dragged out with ropes but later died.

The Sanctimonious Shepherd :

In the early 1860's, Hassing observed a stranger arriving in Albertown, "A strange looking individual, dressed in a peculiar garb, lean, tall-featured, with a stubble of grey beard, and keen restless eyes... He wore a shabby-looking brown frock coat, a a Scotch bonnet, and carried a large carpet bag." Introducing himself as "McKay McKenzie", he stated that he had been engaged as Shepherd on a run at Roy's Bay on Lake Wanaka. Assigned to a hut at Glendhu Bay with a young man named Ned Poole, Hassing often heard, when he had occasion to row up or down the lake, "their voices pouring forth in scared song across the placid waters of the lake of a calm evening". But the fear of McKenzie becoming demented forced the manager to discharge him, eventually having to be taken under an escort of diggers to the Dunstan, thence to Dunedin. But his old brown coat and carpet bag remained at Glendhu, the latter being opened by the Station Manager, "Imagine the surprise... when Scottish bank notes to the value of £800 were unfolded.

The Origin of the "Loot"? :

McKenzie later returned to the station, apparently now sound of mind. Inquiring as to his coat and bag, he was advised these were still in the hut at Glendhu Bay. But "the country was then overrun with gold-seekers" and McKenzie was disconsolate to find the coat had been taken by persons unknown. Hassing surmised that it contained hidden papers sewn into the lining. In fact, the carpet bag, which remained, appeared to be of secondary importance to him. The "contents" were counted out to him, and being all in order, he left for new employment at Morven Hill's Station. But upon Hassing later relating this tale to an intelligent young man at Albertown named McLeod, the lad replied, "I was born and brought up in Sutherland, in Scotland, and I have been in New Zealand only a few months. I remember a cattle dealer in Sutherland named McKay McKenzie answering exactly to the description you have just given. He was trusted by the local farmers and crofters to collect all the cattle they had to dispose of, and drive them to the periodical sales, and there dispose of them to the best advantage... After each sale McKenzie would return and settle up fairly with the respective owners of the cattle... But on his last trip, when he had collected a larger mob than ever before, he did not return with the proceeds... but he disappeared to parts unknown".      

Exploring the Haast River and West Coast Passes :

In 1865, Hassing accompanied the Explorer and Prospector, William Docherty, on a 90 day expedition from Makarora up the Haast River and across to the West Coast. They not only negotiated very difficult terrain, but also dangerous river and mountain crossings, an unexpected "flash flood" almost trapping them in a river cave, a rapidly rising river threatening to wash away their camp overnight, relying on their dog "Spriggins" to catch kiwis, kakapos and wekas for their meals, and unexpectedly discovering 10,000 acres of open grass land which they decided to apply for as a run. But being Winter in June, and camped beside "a mountain lagoon" [tarn] atop a mountain plateau heading to the West Coast, they were subjected to "a blinding snowstorm which continued without intermission for 48 hours". Only the top of the tent remained visible. Their almost buried tent had to be left behind as it was "frozen hard as iron and buried in frozen snow", eating only "raw oatmeal and salt".

Swearing, Tearing and Skull-Cracking :

In early 1867, Hassing, who was then in Hokitika on the West Coast, heard of gold being discovered in the Buller River. With 40 or 50 other goldminers he left on a coastal steamer for the Buller. They were quickly followed by "several hundreds" eager to get up the river on small ferry-boats and stake a claim. But, arriving on the Sabbath, and as it was illegal to peg out claims on a Sunday, the miners merely pitched camp close to where they would stake their claim come Monday morning. Expecting a tussle, the other miners were true to form, Hassing describing "the swearing, tearing and skull-cracking... on that Monday morning as something to be remembered." In less than a fortnight over 1,000 men were on the field. The claim staked by Hassing and his friends proved unsuccessful, digging a "slabbed" shaft down 25 feet whence they struck a rush of water which filled the shaft. As his friends were without funds, Hassing stood the cost of this fiasco which amounted to several hundred pounds, "but such losses were borne without flinching". After some unsuccessful prospecting Hassing returned south again.

A Young Looking Richard J. Seddon.
In 1877 he become Mayor of Kumara.
[Source :]

The Fenian Riot of 1868 :     

With a quite uncanny ability to be the "the man on the spot" during significant events in the very eventful history of New Zealand, Hassing, along with an old mate, then set up a terrace gold claim at Waimea next to that worked by one Richard John Seddon (later becoming Prime Minister of New Zealand). It was only two months later that the 'Fenian Riot' took place in Hokitika, taking possession of the cemetery, and holding a mock funeral in commemoration of the Manchester martyrs, Larkin and O'Brien. Hassing joined the 'Waimea Contingent' which then, under the leadership of the one-armed Lawyer "Button", marched to Hokitika, scattering the rioters and, amidst much rejoicing, restored order in Hokitika.   

A Celebrated and World-Renowned - Imposter! :

At this time, a German National by the name of Christian Friedrich Schäfer landed in Hokitika, Hassing staying in the same hotel where he took lodgings. Hassing described him as "long, wiry hair, a very short body, but abnormally long legs and arms... He resembled an orang-utang or an overgrown baboon more than a human" [Note : period newspapers make mention of his having been a cripple with a damaged back, having been run over by a carriage when young and was thus only 4ft 9in]. Being taken as "an unprincipled imposter, [he] did not take on in Hokitika." But arriving in Dunedin, Schäfer had a public reception as "the celebrated and world-renowned German traveller". But he eventually landed in gaol for his escapades up north. Hassing notes (post 1918) that as remarkable as it may seem, it was esteemed a high honour to be a German and thus Schafer was accordingly treated as a distinguished personality.

Please click Here to read the final part of this Blog.

Bibliography / Rārangi Pukapuka :
  • Watson Family Photographic Collection (held by the writer)
  • Personal Family Papers and Photographs (held by the writer)
  • "Papers Past" [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
  • "The Memory Log of G.M. Hassing", 1930 (from my own collection)
  • "Looking Back 100 Years - Heddon Bush School 1881-1981" (from my own collection) 
  • "Golden Days of Lake County", by FWG Miller, 1962 (from my own collection)
  • "The Flame Unquenched", By G. McDonald, 1956 (from my own collection)
  • "The Interior Cold Lakes of Otago", NZ Survey Map, 1888 (from my own collection)

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