Mystery Launches – Mansion House Bay
Mystery Launches – Mansion House Bay
Mansion House Opening Labour Day 1979
SATURDAY – REGATTA DAY
SATURDAY NIGHT AT SCOTTS LANDING
MAHURANGI REGATTA 2019 – The biggest & best classic wooden boat regatta in NZ – 90+ photos
Check out the video below of Rawhiti – sent in from Benjamin Mendlowitz from Off Center Harbour
Update – due to not all launches completing 2 laps of the launch parade – I missed photographing a few boats – photos below ex Justine Ricketts (edited by myself)
AND MORE – link below to the Off Center Harbour video of the 2017 regatta, featuring Steve Horsley’s stunning 1904 Chas Bailey Jnr – Ngatira
UPDATE ex Graeme Finch of the A Class fleet racing Saturday + one of Raindance showing myself & Steve Stone from Off Center Harbour filming / clicking away 🙂
As always – click photos to enlarge 😉
Also from Graeme – one of Bruce Tantrum’s pride & joy – Paramour + Graemes stunning ship – Te Arahi 🙂
UPDATE – An early Saturday morning drone fly-by over Sullivans Bay, Mahurangi. Filmed by Neil Lawton, heads up on the movie from Ian Gavin.
30-01-2019 Update – photos of Laughing Lady ex Jason Prew
Update 11-02-2019 photos below ex Angus Rogers.
Mystery Woodys at Kawau Island
NOT Mullet boats but 18-foot V-class. See endless posts and publications over the last 20 years (puts hobby horse back in stable)
From what I can make of the name on her transom, the light coloured hull looks to be Vaalele, V-78, built by Charlie Hardman to a Ralph Goodwin design in 1936.She was one of the four Auckland 18-footers that travelled to Sydney for the first World’s 18-footer championship in 1938. Charlie Hardman kept Vaalele until 1939 when he sold her to S.H. Bailey.
The darker boat is a bit later and looks to be quite new. She’s marconi rigged and could possibly be another Charlie Hardman / Ralph Goodwin boat, Vindex, V-35 built in 1939. Marconi rigs were not common in the V-class but by 1939 the more competitive yachtsmen were moving away from gaff.
From other photos I have seen, she was painted a dark colour, either black or royal blue and was marconi rigged. Vindex was laid up in 1940 and In 1944 he sold Vindex to Keith Atkinson who was working at Lidgards with Hardman.
If this is the case then that would date the photo to the summer of 1939/40, with the two Hardman boats cruising in company, and also explain the patriotic display of the Union Jack from the wharf,
15-07-2018 Update from Steve Pople (current owner)
Steve sent me the 2 b/w photos below (ex NZ Herald) of RF as launched – what a stunner, just about perfect from any angle. Steve confirmed Ken Rickets comments re being lengthened (by 6′). RF is currently in the very capable hands of Dave Patterson of Leader Boats in Pakuranga undergoing a total refit. I will updated the restoration story with new photos.
Kawau Island Boats & Baches
Recently I had had enough of weekends in Auckland so with the wife out of town, I took the opportunity to escape & experience the 2nd to last stage that some of us go thru e.g. yacht > launch> motorhome > death.
An old neighbour & friend Chris Miller, owns a large motorhome, so we headed north to Sandspit – & booked into the camping ground for the weekend.
On Saturday we took the ferry to Kawau Island for what is known as the ‘Royal Mail Run’ – the boat mooches around the island dropping off / picking up passengers & freight for all the private jetties. While not a woody, the ferry trip is a must do, you get to visit most of the bays & can even enjoy a wine or two.
The photos above are a random gallery of the woodys I spotted on the trip & some of the waterfront holiday homes.
Yachts at Kawau Island – Sailing Sunday – Win A WW T-Shirt
This Mansion House Bay, Kawau Island photo from the ‘NZ Car, Boats, >>> Utes Pre’75’ FB page shows a great collection of classic yachts (& a few launches).
I’ll put up a WW t-shirt to the woody that can ID the most yachts – given my launch angle – I’ll get a yachty to verify the answers. To stop copy-catting, entries ONLY via email to
LIPTON CUP RACE – SATURDAY – MARCH 17th
The 97th Lipton Cup race is set to take place on the 17th of March. 22 miles of blood, sweat and tears is to be raced by the 22ft L Class ‘mullet boats’ to see who will triumph as the winner of the esteemed Lipton Cup trophy. This is a highlight of the yachting calendar and this year it appears there will be fierce competition with a number of the mullet boats performing exceptionally well in recent racing. With only 3 years to go until the 100th you can expect there to be a lot more competition and boats coming out of the wood work to compete in following years. Previous crew and owners are always welcome to come down and watch with the club open all day with food and refreshments (with a lift for the weathered yachties).
The days events are as follows:
7am – Hot cooked breakfast (Prebooked)
9am – Race briefing
11am – Race commences
3pm approx – Race finishes
6pm approx – Prize giving and after party
Watch Video footage from last years race here https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=LAZotynoqiA
Woodys at Kawau Island
The above photo of Kawau Island is ex Lew Redwoood via the facebook page ’New Zealand Cars,Boats,Motorbikes,Trucks,Vans,Utes,Pre 1975′ -the photo is tagged ‘ Pleasure craft at anchor in Mansion House Bay.
How many woodys can we ID?, I know Nathan Herbert was a little excited to see the family launch Pacific in the shot (top right).
If you are on facebook – you should ‘follow’ this page, there are some very cool old woody photos that pop up from time to time.
Aussie Boat Porn
I have featured several times The Australian Wooden Boat Festival that happens very 2 years in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. The video below is a 100% publicity video for Tasmania & the event – but dam its good. Have look, you’ll be blown away by the number of stunning woodys. Thanks to the USA based on-line membership only video website – offcenterharbour.com for making the video available. Its a great site, I’m a member.
Rakira is a carvel kauri launch / motorsailer, built in 1955 at Kawau Island. She measures 29.52’ & is powered with a 54hp Mazda Bongo diesel motor.
That’s about all her trademe listing tells us, if the Kawau build is correct, we must be able to uncover more about her provenance.
Thanks to Ian McDonald for the listing heads up.
The New Zealand Clinker Boat booklet winner – Is Mike O’Dwyer. Well done 🙂 A lot of you need to read the entry conditions i.e. via email. I’ll give way another copy on Friday,so look out for the quiz.
THISTLE – Sailing Sunday
Last Sundays story on the scows on the Waitemata / Auckland Anniversary Regatta resulted in being sent the above photos of Thistle from the Tudor Collins collection at the Auckland Museum. Emailed to me by Ken Ricketts. The photos show Thistle at Kawau Island c.1940’s.
Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta
Click the link below to view some stunning classic sailing footage of the 1913, ‘Jolie Brise’ that placed 1st in the first race of the recent Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall ships Regatta. The 2:30 minute video shows her at the start of the race out of Torbay. Enjoy 🙂
Picked up the cowls below, on trademe for $30, a serious bargain 🙂 But in real life a little bigger than I imagined (note to self – read the spec’s) Added to the ww stockroom – there will be a home for them one day.
I was recently contacted by Chris Laird & his first words were “are you guys interested in small woodys?”. My answer was ‘if its wood, its good’ 🙂
The above photographs show two dinghies that Chris restored a couple of years ago. The 12ft 6in Seacraft Tuna has been stripped back and had new rib sections, one or two splines to cracked planks, seats, foredeck trim and beltings before being painted up to original Seacraft colours with original badging.
The varnished 12’6″ Brin Wilson has been stripped back, seats etc removed, some rib sections scarfed in, several splines to cracked planks and varnished / painted up to original colours.
Chris commented that it is a lovely boat to row.
Also included are photos of a 6hp Norman and original cone clutch that is in a 16′ Seacraft cabin boat that Chris is currently rebuilding. I have asked Chris to send in photos of that project.
OOPS THAT IS EMBARRASSING
Over the Anzac weekend a lot of the classic fleet headed north to Kawau Island. Anchoring room near the Kawau Boating Club is always at a premium on long weekends & no one likes a long row in the dark……….. but even the old salts can get it wrong – the crew on the 1905, Logan Bros, ex pilot boat ‘Ferro’ must have been in a hurry to make the KBC as they anchored rather close in. As it turned out, too close in – the below photo was 1/2hr before low tide & mid Sunday morning – would have been a long / embarrassing day waiting for the tide 😉
A Small Woody Quiz – Good Prize
I hope you have all finished the madness that is the run-up to Christmas Day, every year we all ask ourselves why we stress out – but its all about the kids, I hope I never have a Christmas Day / present opening without little ones around – they make it special.
Now the above photos are from the Tudor Collections collection at the Auckland Museum & were emailed to me by Ken Ricketts, they are dated Feb 1940 & the location is Kawau Island – the question of the day is whose boat & who are the people ? A big ask I know but I’ll put up a ww T-Shirt & a Lake Rotoiti Classic & Wooden Boat Parade 2017 calendar for the 1st woody that gets the boat name & one of the names of the people aboard. I’ll need some proof of ID, as I have know idea of the answers 🙂
Answers via the comments section on ww.
1947 Squadron Weekend at Kawau
The above photo appeared in the 19th Feb, 1947 issue of the ‘Weekly News’ (ex Mac Taylor collection) & shows the RNZYS fleet at anchor in Mansion House Bay, Kawau Island for the annual squadron weekend at Kawau, which continues to this day. Its a very impressive line up of classic’s that includes most of todays premier classic woodys.
New Classic Read
If you are looking for a ‘fix’ of classic sun & sailing this winter (in fact anytime) check out the new UK magazine at the news stands (got mine at Whitcholls).
Its called Classic Sailor & its publisher is Dan Houston ex Classic Boat magazine editor – & the best news, its only $9.50
The June issue (cover below) is the 9th issue, check it out, you’ll enjoy it. More info at classicsailor.com
Beatrice > Edna > Lola – A Waiheke Story
Story & photo ex Joyce Fairgray, input from Harold Kidd
Today’s photo & story was prompted by the recent ww post / movie ‘Beautiful Waiheke’. The launch Beatrice was built in 1909 by Bailey & Lowe for Jas, Gordon – I’ll let Joyce tell the story.
“When the Lambournes and other city folk holidayed on Waiheke in the 1920s, they were welcomed by other young ones growing up there, who joined in the fun and friendship.
One was my father Selwyn Pegler (born 1903), son of John and Nell Pegler of Orapiu. Nell was daughter of Martin and Mary Ann Day of Days Bay; her sister Annie married John’s brother George and they lived not far away at Omaru Bay. Both families were large – double first cousins – so there was always a big crowd ready for fun. Numbers were further swollen by more cousins, because another sister, Jane married Will Connell, and brother Ted Day married Mercie Connell. Ted and Mercie’s daughter-in-law, Dixie Day, was author of “Waiheke Pioneers”.
Grandfather John Pegler farmed at Orapiu, and he and Granny Nell leased the boarding house from William McIntosh. It was a family enterprise with parents and children working together to run the place. All had their jobs, cooking, milking cows, cutting firewood, growing vegetables, caring for poultry and much more.
When Dad was in his teens, his father bought the launch from the Gordon family of Awaawaroa. There were a large number of Gordon girls, (yes, one married a Day!) and the launch was named for one – Beatrice. I think.
When Peglers became owners, the name was changed to that of Pegler daughter Edna, and when eventually it was sold to Connells it was named for Connell daughter Lola.
Teenage Dad was told to learn all about the boat from Mr Gordon, and take over the responsibility of launchman for the boarding house, providing guests with fishing, picnics and other excursions. It was also used for transport to and from the island for the holidaymakers. The Fuller family was often among them, and they and others would want to see any shows that were on at His Majesty’s so Dad would get them to the city. He was given a ticket to see the show, and afterwards would take them all back to Orapiu. There were few lights to be seen round the gulf, but one landmark to watch for was a lone house light at Beachlands. Weather deteriorated one night and Dad decided they would have to sleep on the boat at the launch steps, and wait until morning. One lady was very cross about it.
In 1924 the lease was due for renewal. The two oldest girls had gone nursing, other children were reaching adulthood, and my grandparents decided Waiheke could not provide adequate livelihoods for all. The launch and other possessions were sold; they moved to a dairy farm at Paerata, and Dad’s days as a responsible young skipper were over”.
More details & photos of Lola here https://waitematawoodys.com/2014/08/27/mystery-launch-2708/
Input from Peter Stein
The above article brought back many fond memories. When our launch “Waitangi” was laid up during the war because of the petrol shortage we relied very much on the “Lola”. Our only access to Arran Bay was by the Auckland-Cowes Bay ferry. The usual ferry was the “MV Baroona” but sometimes the “TSS Tangaroa” and “Onewa” were used on the run. The ferry would stop off at Connell’s Bay and Mr WJ Connell (we knew him as “John Willie”) would bring the Lola alongside for the passengers to board. He owned the store in the bay named after him. He usually had one of his two sons with him. The elder Eric took over the store after his father died. The younger son Les managed the farm which included the land behind the houses in Arran Bay.
If my memory serves me correctly the Lola was driven by a two cylinder Lister motor.
During the summer when I was a young boy the family would visit the Pegler’s in Omaru Bay. It was an opportunity for my father to renew his acquaintance with Mr Pegler and for us to gather fruit from the fine orchard they had.
From the 1920s to the 1980s there would be few boaties that did not visit Connell’s Store for fuel and stores. My father bought Arran House from WJ Connell in 1924. Below is a copy of the first account my father received from Mr Connell.
Mansion House Bay On A Bad Day
photo ex Juliana Cooke (nee Turnwald)
Not sure of the date on the above photos but the presence of all the plastic fizz boats & the navy vessels in Mansion House Bay, Kawau Island, must make dating the photo easier.
If you look at the top photo & out into the bay, it must have been the start of ‘the end’ 🙂 i.e. the arrival of plastic fizz boats & plywood Vindexs .There is a cluster of classics in the right hand corner.
In the 2nd photo, who can ID the launch at the wharf – given the origin of the photos, the Turnwald family, I would suspect its ‘Robyn Gae’ but it does not look right to my eye.
photos & details from owner John Newton
The 34′ sedan St Clair was built for Lionel Barney by Brin Wilson in 1956 and is kauri carvel construction. ww readers may recall that it was used as a ferry for St Clair lodge at Vivian Bay on Kawau Island . Piers Barney who runs Norma Jean charters has recollections of collecting passengers from Sandspit when he was 10 years old, Piers had to stand on a soap box to see out of the wheel house.
She was surveyed for 39 passengers to Kawau limits and amazingly carried up to 20 x 44 gallon drums of diesel for generators and bags of wheat and meal for all the chooks and muscovy ducks at the lodge, so a really solid little launch.
Piers father Lionel used to enjoy racing it in fun races against other boats off Kawau Island Yacht Club where she did very well reportedly getting up to 13 knts with a 100hp Ford engine. She hasn’t seen that sort of speed since, perhaps because of the new heavier sedan cabin.
St Clair was bought by John and Helen Hager and refitted to a comfortable sedan in 2006 by Robertsons Boats. Current owners John & Natasha Newton bought her in 2011.
A Woody Labour Weekend
The weather split the CYA classic fleet in two this Labour weekend with some heading to Kawau for the opening of the ‘new’ Kawau Boating Club. From all reports it was a blast & well done to those that made the trip. The photos below of Kawau are from the camera of Margo & Jamie Hudson (Lady Crossley).
A selection of classic launches mooched around Waiheke Island & with the weather forecast – Onetangi Bay was the most popular spot. We had to share it with a rather large number of plastic boats, I think every Rivia in Auckland was there, but for once they behaved & the hum of the gen-sets was almost bearable 🙂
Waiheke photos ex me (I took a few more ,but they will be ‘Mystery Boat’ posts)
PS If you were away on the boat or at the bach, you may have missed the last 4 ww posts, which featured the boats of Norm Fairlie. Stroll down to enjoy 😉
Somethings wrong here – why is the oldest rowing?
Schoolhouse Bay Mystery Launches
Photo ex Simon Smith, courtesy of the Sir George Collection.
The above photo is Schoolhouse Bay, Bon Accord Harbour, Kawau Island.
Who can ID the launches – L>R?
I don’t know the answer, so my guess for the first 2 , starting on the left is –
1. Ngaio – the 1921 Arch Logan
2. Raiona (Mollie > Alcestis) the 1919 Joe Slattery
Lady Adelaide photo as per HDK’s request
Aside from school trips to see the wallabies, I like a lot of us, had my first Kawau Island boating experience via RNZYS race weekends. I can still picture Ken Lusty’s very large dinghy on the beach on Saturday night, filled to the gunnels with ice cold cans of beer & being invited for whiskey & milk for Sunday breakfast on the commodores boat………….. how we all survived god only knows 🙂
I was recently lent by Barbara Cooke a copy of the book ‘Memories of Mansion House – Kawau Island, NZ’ by Nora Creina Wilson. This insight into life on the island would have to be compulsory reading for anyone interested in the gulf & classic wooden boats. Needless to say, I very quickly snatched a copy of my own off trademe for the princely sum of $8.00. It now sits on Raindance alongside Johnny Wray’s ‘South Sea Vagabonds’.
Buy a copy or borrow one from the library, you have to read it, the photos alone are worth viewing – the island will not be the same post reading.
ps – speaking of Johnny Wray’s master piece – I’ll be posting details soon about the re-print (#5 ) of this very special book, which will co-incde with the re-launch of the restored Ngataki, the yacht that Johnny built & undertook his adventures in. Only yesterday I lent my (old) copy to an young 8 year old Opti sailor, who I hope will be wow’ed by the book. I took the photo below to remind me who currently has the book – its my latest trick, sick of people that do not return books. A few years ago I was offered a book to read & when I opened the dust cover, there was my stamp…………… & they still swore black & blue it was theirs 😦
photos & details ex Craig Anderson
The owner of Lady Pat describes her as a ‘pub cruiser’ i.e. the perfect boat for navigating the upper reaches of the Waitemata Harbour & seeking refreshment at the Riverhead Hotel. I think that we will see more ‘Lady Pats’ as the popularity of the hotel grows.
Her owner is keen to find out more about her past, what he does know is an amusing read.
Lady Pat, 17′, was rescued from the side of Whangaparoa Road nearly 20 years ago by Stephen Harris (of Auckland Engineering Supplies), who paid $100.00 to the man and hauled her away. She had been stripped bare of her equipment and left sitting in the grass. Steve was told that the boat was built on Kawau Island by a retiring shipwright at the Lidgard yard. She was built of the kauri scraps left over from ship building it seems.
Steve took her home and began the restoration, with an eye toward sightseeing tours up the Puhoi river (another hotel location). While Steve was sanding off the blue paint from her transom he found ” Lady Pat” in pencil written there. After several years he found another boat and this project sat on a trailer in his shed. Two years ago he decided he would never get back to the little boat and offered it to his friend Craig Anderson, as a gift.
Craig moved Lady Pat to Wayne Olsen (Horizon Boats) for replacement of it’s cabin top and window frames along with glassing the topsides. Wayne also built a new drystack chimney for the two cylinder Ford that now powers it. I viewed her in Wayne’s shed while Waimiga was having her make-over (refer photos) & thought at the time that a vessel of this size was very lucky to be under the care of the Horizon crew.
After a lick of paint she was returned to Steves shed and waited for further repair and assembly, which was completed by Paul Middlemiss and Craig. She went back in the water at the Stillwater Boat Club in late March 2014.
08/04/2014 – Photos below ex Steve Harris & show Lady Pat as ‘found’ & at the start of the restoration process – have to say she was a very cute runabout 🙂
10/01/2015 – An update on ‘Lady Pat’
from owner Craig Anderson
“We enjoyed LP for only a short time on the water last season, caught some fish and got some hours on the little engine.
At 7kts she is a gentle performer on a smooth sea. Things get a bit wild on board when it’s rough, as she is small and buoyant.
After we pulled her out and put her on her new trailer last April, a list of jobs was developed, and one by one, done during the better days of the past winter.
We have just had the pleasure of returning to the tide and it is clear we have made improvements that will be enjoyed for years to come. Included below are two recent photos.”
photo & details ex ken ricketts
Tamahere is seen above tied up at the Sandspit wharf. She is currently owned by Chris Metcalf who has had her for about 12 months & bought her off a Mr Rose. She has a small Isuzu engine, which replaced a 135 hp 6 cyl Ford, which had been right in the bow, & he has put the Isuzu more amidships.
The designer / builder is un-know & while there is no concrete proof the talk is she was launched in 1904. She appears to have been low wooded in the bow & has had the bow raised & combings added to, altered, or replaced, through the years, but not for a very long time as Ken recalls her more or less looking like she does now back in the 1950s/60s.
In her past life she was used for years by a number of Kawau Island residents & trades people (builders etc) to tow barges & be a work boat & workers transport, Also for a while was used to tow the fuel barge with big tanks on it, to the KIYC, from Sandspit. She was moored for quite a period in the 1970s & 1980’s in Smelting House Bay.
Currently kept up the Matakana River at Sandspit & is in the process of being, in the owners words, ‘tidied up’. Any help in ID’ing her & her past would be appreciated.
Recollections of Kawau Island – By Bob Edwards
Bob Edwards lived on Kawau for a ‘number’ of years (he was the ferrymaster at one stage) & this is a record of his recollections of those times. It was given to Keith Presland & typed by Flo Presland (I love the old typewriter font & hand corrections)
This was forward to ww by Ken Ricketts & I have posted the tale because I agree with KR in that much of the history contained herein may be lost forever, if this is not recorded in a formal way. While not all wooden boat related, Kawau is a special place to most of us & I’m sure this 15 page tale will be an enjoyable read for most of you.
Click on the link (blue text) below to view / read – enjoy 🙂
photo of Bob Edwards on-board ‘Kawau Isle’ at North Cove c1970’s
Harold Kidd Update
It’s a great piece of local history with some brilliant, spare tales. A few comments. NANCIBEL was built by Bailey & Lowe in 1920 and was not a conversion of Andros’ open boat. “Emptage” is Emtage of course of Motuora who had the launch ILA/OLA. “Bunty” Palmer married a Nops. Unless I’m confusing the several KORORAs, this KORORA was built by David Reid in 1907 for Judge Seth-Smith and was later MURIWAI, then OSTEND before reverting to KORORA. She had been used by the RNZAF who had bought/hired her from Whakatane in 1943. She then had a K2 Kelvin which was undoubtedly replaced in service by the standard armed forces issue of a Chrysler.
PS Spero Andros sold NANCIBEL to Gubbs shortly after his wife Molly (Kathleen Mary) died in February 1941. Gubbs’ first day of operation was 11th June 1941.
A Neat Idea from Baden Pascoe
This is great stuff. Let’s ask any readers if they can find photos of the boats mentioned in the articles. I remember the “Mairie” (not sure if the spelling is correct) very well. One of the Harrison boys ran her out of Whitianga. Last time I saw her she was on the hard up at Te Atatu as an unfinished project. Shame, nice little boat. One day my brother Mitch and I were steaming with her in a big sea out by the Twins (in Mercury Bay), man could she roll!
Mansion House Bay c.1950
photos from Helen & Richard Andrew’s family collection (grand daughter & her husband of Henry Allen -Tiromoana) ex Ken Rickitts.
The above postcard of Mansion House Bay Kawau Island, was written by Alma Allen (Tiromoana) in the early 1950’s & sent to Esme & Joe Coggan — their daughter & son in law &/or Helen their grand daughter as a little girl, now Helen Andrew.
Ken has attempted to ID some of the boats & can identify Mananui (P.R.Colebrook’s days), Valsan (Arnold Baldwin era) & very importantly to Ken the Lady Claire (in the Stan Headland era), Headland had her cabin sides beautifully varnished, which disappeared later. Ken believes the photo was taken circa 1953-55.
Note Valsan anchored off the end of the wharf & with the stern tied to wharf — A.D.B. used to take family away for about 10 days at Christmas, then swap crews, for a “men’s” crew, & cruise. He never tied to the wharf when the family were there & never left the wharf, when they weren’t there, so this is without doubt, taken in the second half of a Christmas period. — He, & Len Peckham, (Lady Sandra) took unplanned turns, at sharing the wharf in this manner in this era.
Classic’s in Mansion House Bay, Kawau Island
Lots of classics on the bay – my attempt at ID’ing them – from left Menai, Safari,?,Trinidad (or Lady Crossley), ?, Coquette, ?, Rehia (or Talua) Wirihana?,?
KAWAU COPPER MINE
THE KAWAU COPPERMINE AND ITS PUMPING ENGINE – Russell Ward
I first saw the Kawau copper mine in the late 50’s and have nursed a fascination for its history ever since. My primary interests are mechanical and I often wondered what sort of engine had been installed and the nature of its fate. There was an old boiler lying alongside, but it appeared to be much more modern than the engine house. It was evident that the engine house was of a type found in Cornwall and that a beam engine typical of Cornish mines was likely to have been installed. I researched the nature of the workings in the early 1990s and reported on my findings in “Breeze” at the time.
My interest in the old engine was revived in Finland, of all places, where I was attending an EU classic steamships meeting. A chance mention of the Kawau engine to Brian Hillsdon archivist for the Steamboat Association of Great Britain led me to an exchange of correspondence with Kenneth Brown, a member of the Trevithick Society for the Study of Industrial Archaeology in Cornwall. Kenneth kindly sent me a copy of the Society’s journal, which reported on the various attempts to mine copper at Kawau and the possible fate of the pumping engine. I am indebted to the Society for allowing me to draw heavily on this document.
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE MINE
In the 1840s Kawau was bought and settled by the Bon Accord Mining Company of Aberdeen on the strength of its copper deposits, which had been discovered in 1844. Mining started using local labour but, in January 1846, a party of miners arrived from Cornwall with Capt James Ninnis head operations. Ninnis, an able manager, was from a well-known mining family and a strict teetotaller. He founded a flourishing Kawau Total Abstinence Society.
For a time, 200-300 people, miners, surface workers and their families, were living on the island in timber dwellings. At first ore was shipped to Sydney with the intention of sending it to Wales for smelting. However the ore displayed an alarming tendency to spontaneous combustion, not healthy in a wooden ship, which led to the decision to build a smelter on Kawau itself. The copper content could then be raised from 6 to 30 percent making the ore safe to ship to Swansea for final refining.
The copper lode itself lay in the small (though originally much larger) headland we all know, just 18 ft below the surface. As the miners sank shafts the workings inevitably went below sea level. A 12 hp steam engine was bought in NZ and installed to work pumps in one of the shafts and possibly a crusher as well. A horizontal level, or adit, ran into the mine from an opening in the headland above sea level. To provide a greater working area, the miners blasted the cliffs and used the rubble to form a narrow strip retained by wooden piles, which incorporated a wharf to load ships. A longitudinal section of the mine, on a plan drawn by Captain Ninnis in 1848, shows four shafts. Three were inland, each equipped with a horse whim (or gin) for hoisting. Lawyer Frederick Whitaker owned the fourth shaft.
Whitaker seems to have had his share of skulduggery in the young colony. In this instance he managed to obtain from the government the right to mine beyond the high water mark. His workmen, however, were caught red handed mining inland on the other claim. Protracted legal battles ensued, resulting in the company having to buy Whitaker out for £5000. While there was an expectation that the copper deposits extended out under the sea as often happened in Cornwall, the unfortunate consequence of the physical integration of the inland workings with Whitaker’s undersea workings probably hastened the later flooding of the mine.
Ninnis left when his contract expired and his place was taken by Begher a German metallurgist with experience of smelting but not mining. As the mine went deeper, the amounts of water seeping in became ominous. In 1852, with the work at 24 fathoms down, the ingress of seawater overcame the pumps, flooding the mine. Begher set sail for England to persuade the company to put up the cash for increased pumping capacity. At this time, the company was reformed as the North British Australasian Company and management was from London.
A report by mining engineers John Taylor & Sons was optimistic on the prospects for the mine and proposed
“… To send out immediately a Cornish steam engine of sufficient power to drain the mine with facility to a depth of 60 fathoms at least and keep it clear of water even if the present quantity should be doubled.”
It is on record that the 330 ton barque Baltasara was purchased by the North British Australasian Company and despatched from Falmouth in late 1853 or early 1854 with the engine, engineering and mining personnel on board. The Perran Foundry was one of the three major builders of Cornish beam engines and is the only one likely to have shipped an engine from Falmouth. The engine was erected in the engine house and ready for work by 15 July 1854. In 1995 it was deduced from on site measurements that the engine was probably about 36” bore and had a stroke of between 8’ and 8’6”. More of this later.
By August 1854, the new engine had dewatered the mine to the 24-fathom level where the work had ceased three years earlier. Begher was back in charge but a Cornishman Capt Anthony Bray was appointed to oversee the actual mining. The difficulty was that the deeper the mine went, the harder the rock became and the costs escalated. The 34-fathom level was finally reached in September 1855 to find that no payable ore was available. Begher had, moreover, grossly overestimated the quantity of easily workable ore left at the 24-fathom level.
Shortly after, the Sydney agent began refusing to honour Begher’s heavy drafts on the company. The decision to recoup company losses by stripping the assets seems to have taken the English shareholders by surprise. By December 1855, all mining had ceased and the engine had been or was about to be dismantled after little more than a year’s work. The only result was 32 tons of copper ore shipped back to England and a further 50 tons said to be ready for shipment from the smelter.
After this setback, the company sold its mining interests in Australia and concentrated on sheep farming.
The Mining Journal, a weekly newspaper of the period reported quite fulsomely on the recriminations at the shareholders’ meetings that ensued. They reveal a sorry tale of failure of the mine after little more than a year’s activities. As a result Taylor resigned but the directors and Begher seemed to have been primarily responsible for the company losing £30,000 on the venture. The previous company apparently lost £45,000; these were quite substantial sums for the day.
WHAT BECAME OF THE ENGINE?
Following the abandonment of the mine, it seems that the engine was returned to England for sale. The suggestion is that the company hoped to return it to the Perran Foundry for resale. There is no record of it making it back to Perran’s works. The plot thickens a little and the following advertisement, which appeared in the Mining Journal 4 October 1856, is interesting.
Mr Little will sell by auction at Devoran in the port of Truro on Monday 13 October next at Twelve o’clock the undermentioned materials all of which will be found in excellent condition (some of the pitwork quite new) and lying on the wharf convenient for shipment:
A steam engine 36″ cylinder, 8½ ft stroke equal beam. Large iron angle bob, with plummer blocks and brasses about 3 tons 31 9ft 3in pumps (ie sections of the rising main)
Then all the pitwork in detail including 12 and 14 in brass plunger poles, 10 and 12in iron buckets 6 and 7in brass buckets and clacks.
May be viewed on application to the Redruth and Chacewater Railway Company’s offices at Devoran
From Kenneth Brown’s measurements, it would appear that this might be the same engine. Certainly the ancillary equipment offered suggests that it was recently removed from a mine. Moreover, it appears that some of this equipment was not associated with the new engine but was from older pumping activities.
The more modern rusty boiler on site dates from a short-lived attempt to rework the mine in 1898-1900 by a Capt Holgate. It features in a picture in the Auckland Museum showing its installation in a lean-to alongside the old engine house. Jet machinery was installed in the shafts for pumping.
I have included a picture scanned from the latest copy to hand of the British journal Old Glory. It is part of an article about a preserved Cornish tin mine. The Levant mine ceased work in 1939, but was reopened and worked again in 1960. Its venerable pumping machinery was taken in hand in 1935 by a group of local enthusiasts and conserved. The National Trust now preserves the mine. Would that we had had some preservation enthusiasts in 1935 over here! Our only enthusiasts were wielding gas axes and chopping our heritage up for the melting pot.
The Kawau copper mine pump house is worthy of rebuilding to its original configuration. It stands as the first major site of very early colonial industrial activity and should be reinstated. Any lobbyists keen to take up the cudgels?
Harold Kidd Update
I had a lot to do with the mine in the 1960s when I acted for a couple of eager fellows who were sold on the idea of recovering the rails in the mine. The mine had run well out under the sea and flooded as soon as the workings ceased. The seawater acted as an electrolyte, depositing the copper from the exposed workings on to the iron trolley rails in a fairly pure form. Despite valiant attempts, the two guys just could not dewater the mine to make it safe enough to get at the rails.
I took a party of Japanese mining engineers to the mine to show them around with a view to raising capital to get the appropriate gear. To impress them (I thought) I turned up in my father’s brand new Datsun Bluebird, one of the first Jap cars sold here. But nothing impressed them, especially not the rough trip to the pumphouse on the tray of a beat-up WW2 GMC truck. Guadalcanal all over again perhaps?
So the copper is still there for the taking…if you’re brave enough!
Three classic launches in the centre are (from the left) – Gay Dawn, Alofa, Apache. Photo at Kawau Island
Taken at Mansion House, Kawau Island in 1924 & the Colin Wild Viveen is the launch with the black hull on the right. What are the others?
FLYING SCUD ( I bought her as ROBBO, but had known her since new & knew she was built as FLYING SCUD, so in accordance with my beliefs I reverted her to her original name. — (It is my view, that the original owner has absolute naming rights for a boat for its life), I owned her from 1970 to 1976. she was 30 ft long, 2 skins Kauri Built by R Lidgard at Kawau Island in 1953, towed to Auckland to have twin 6 cyl Austin Skipper 100 petrol engines fitted when built, (sister ship to Miss Lidgard). I replaced these with 2 x 6cyl OM321 Mercedes Benz diesels in 1971. I sold her to B Purdy who onsold her & later she had engines replaced with 2 x Bedford Diesels by subsequent owner. Dragged anchor & went ashore by the sugar works at Birkenhead & was wrecked circa 1985.
photos & copy ex Ken Ricketts
Update 05/05/13 with b/w photo, when ‘new’
13-09-2018 Update from Ken Ricketts – photo below c.1980 when owned by Garth McGowan (1979>1980)
A challenge to all the ‘train-spotters’ amongst us . Name the launches.
photo ec Ken Ricketts
Neptune – designed & built 1956 by Fred Lidgard at Kawau Island. Her owner tells us he uses her more as a motor launch than a yacht, so here she is :-). The interior is quite special as well, we will cover that in the future.