Thursday, 9 October 2014

Waggon wheels

This week's prompt features wagon wheels, and I have several photographs to share with you on this subject. The first photograph below shows 6 sets of horses and wagons assembled in Cathedral Square Christchurch NZ in April 1886.  The photograph comes from the  extensive collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington NZ, and the description given there doesn't identify whose wagons they were, but in fact they belonged to a partnership styled Murray & Forbes, who had operated in business as carriers for some years previously, but had realised that with the advent of the 'iron horse', as the train was then known, they could no longer compete successfully. Prior to dissolving their partnership they arranged for this photograph to be taken, as you can read in the article taken from the Star newspaper of 28 April 1886. Charles Forbes my great grandfather was one of the two partners, so I was very excited to discover this photograph on the Alexander Turnbull Library web site a couple of years ago.  Unfortunately there's no identification of the men in the photograph, and as I have so far only been able to identify photographs of Charles from a much later date, I can't be sure whether he is one of the drivers, or one of the two men standing just left of the centre of the picture, but never mind.  You can zoom in and see some good detail of the men, their horses and wagons, or alternatively you can click on the link below to do the same with the photo in its original library location.

Report in The Star, 28 Apr 1886, snipped from Paperspast web site.

Here are transcriptions of a couple of reports of the sale of horses and stock that followed.

From Timaru Herald, 5 May 1886:

MESSRS H. MATSON & CO. have received instructions from Messrs Murray and Forbes, who are relinquishing the carrying business, to OFFER FOR SALE AT TATTERSALL'S, on THURSDAY, MAY 6th, The whole of their HORSES AND PLANT, Comprising 42 VERY SUPERIOR DRAUGHT MARES and GELDINGS; grand sorts, capital workers, and on the whole, perhaps one of the Best Lines of Horses to be found in Canterbury. Also, 6 CAPITAL TILTED WAGONS, each with patent axles, and in good repair. 42 SETS OF HARNESS. Covers for each Horse. The attention of Farmers, Shippers, Contractors, and all who may require first-class Draught Stock, is directed to the above Sale. The season for Autumn Ploughing is now at hand, and gives a good prospect of a remunerative return for the labour, and farmers, as well as other buyers, would do well to attend this auction. The Horses have all been carefully selected, are of the best stamp,in the pink of condition, and there is not a bad worker among the lot. As Messrs Murray and Forbes are giving up the business in which they have recently been engaged, the various lots will be for bona fide sale. DATE—   THURSDAY, MAY 6th, At 12 o'clock. Place of Sale Tattersall's, Christchurch. H. MATSON & CO., Auctioneers.

From the Press, 7 May 1886:

Live Stock Market
Special Sale of Carrier's Plant -  Yesterday at Tattersall's, we conducted a sale of more than ordinary importance. The great northern caravan firm of Messrs Murray and Forbes, who, for so long a period, have done such good service in the transmission of produce and goods for the wool kings of the Amuri, have, in this age of progress, been compelled to yield to the superior facility afforded by the iron horse, and as the mist of the early morning disappears before the sun, so bullock drays were superseded by horse waggons, and these, in due time, by the railway at Culverden. There was a very large assemblage of people to witness this interesting dispersement of the relics of the past, the popularity of the firm, the superior and well known qualities of their teams, and the known bona fides of the sale created an attraction which brought together sentiment and business. Biddings came freely, and prices were good, only a very few of the lots passing the hammer without finding fresh owners. Figures were equal to a rise of 20 per cent upon ordinary values, the majority of the horses going to farmers and not to the trade; £20, £25, £30 to £36 were not infrequent quotations upon the catalogue of the day. A prominent member of the Railway League hardened his heart and dived in with a vengeance, buying a large proportion.

Shortly afterwards it appears that Charles Forbes took a consignment of 14 horses plus two waggons and a harness 'across the ditch', to be auctioned at Kirk'Bazaar, a big horse auction house of the day  in Melbourne Victoria. It must have involved quite a hazardous boat journey back then. I don't know what prices he obtained in Melbourne, but hopefully it justified the trip.  Charles seems to have stayed in Australia for around six months before returning to NZ, where he married the following year and became a farmer. He had orginally emigrated to NZ from Ballater Aberdeenshire in 1867, where in the 1861 Census he was described as a cattleman, despite being only aged 14 at the time. He was also a keen pole vaulter in his spare time, but I don't have any photographs of that. I hope he did not pole vault in his kilt! 

This advertisement appeared in the Argus on 20 May 1886, and has been snipped from the Trove web site.

Here from the Press, 11 September 1886, snipped from the Paperspast web site, is the final notice of dissolution of the Murray and Forbes partnership, which refers to the iron horse as the reason for the dissolution.

Charles and Jane Isabella Forbes and family, c. 1914

Charles Forbes with his baby granddaughter Jean (my late mother), c. 1928

This next item is only a photocopy of a photograph held in the Canterbury Museum, but it's also of family interest because the driver of the Riccarton dray is William Joseph Forbes, a nephew of Charles Forbes  above. Riccarton is a suburb of Christchurch.  Billy,1868-1933, was one of the four sons of Charles' older brother William, and used to drive the between Coach Corner and Christchurch.  I imagine that must be Billy holding onto the reins.


The sons of William Forbes, showing William Joseph standing on the right. The others are George Henry (left rear) and John and Francis Charles, seated. Photo courtesy of  Relda, a descendant of Francis.  Their father William died when Francis was only four.

The last photo here comes from my mother Jean's album and is described as 'A week at Coutts Island, May 1940'.  Coutts Island is no longer an island, but is a farming locality on the south bank of the Waimakariri River, south of Kaiapoi.  It looks like this was a fun outing for a party of  friends, and I think that must be Jean standing up on top in the dark coat. I'm not sure what she could be holding on to, but maybe they are all just posing, as I don't think the cart could be going anywhere with one girl perching on the wheel like she is.

So that's enough from me this week, and I'll just finish with a link to this amusing little advertisement for a popular biscuit that I remember from about twenty years ago, which is sort of relevant to the topic. (Actually I've referred to the edible kind of wagon wheels before, just click here for an image).

For more blogs on the topic, just keep rolling along to Sepia Saturday #249

Postscript, 12.10.14:
Wikipedia photo of what was originally known as the Government Building, photographed from the clock tower side. See the relevant comment and reply below.


Anne Young said...

Bit of self interest going on from the herring urging us to eat the wagon wheel! :)

To have found the newspaper article that explains the photograph in Christchurch square is terrific. Interesting that they assessed the competition and decided to bow out so promptly.


Jo Featherston said...

Actually I found the article first and thought if only the photograph was available, and then I discovered it at the ATL.

Wendy said...

The photo and newspaper clippings make a wonderful addition to your family research. Your great-grandfather seems to have been a good businessman.

Little Nell said...

Great marrying up of photo and news report and an interesting set of photos.

La Nightingail said...

It's sad that invention & progress have to put the past out of business, but it's the way of things & it will continue to happen as the world's technology moves ever forward. Loved the ad for wagon wheel cookies. :) There might be some preferring pickled herring or sardines & such, but I surely wouldn't be one of them!

Postcardy said...

I agree with the description "interesting dispersement of the relics of the past." Both the photo and related articles are very interesting.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what great grandpa Charlie would have said when he dangled Jean on his knee if someone had told him about the lifestyle Jean's daughter would have. An interesting piece of research and like many of our Sep Sat posts makes you think about how things have changed.

Jo Featherston said...

Not to mention the lifestyle of Jean's granddaughter or great granddaughter in London - or that some 86 years later, his photo would be available to be viewed by anyone worldwide who cared to look :-)

Sharon said...

Well Done.

All very interesting but the thing that made me smile the most was the reference to Wagon Wheels. Yes, I often bought Wagon Wheels from the school canteen many years ago!

Bob Scotney said...

Wagon Wheels used to be my favourites but they don't seem to be available any more. Did that fine old building in the Cathedral Square survive the earthquake?

Alex Daw said...

I love how the horses are described as being "in the pink of condition".

Lorraine Phelan said...

I'm showing my ignorance but what on earth is a tilted wagon?
This is an impressive bit of research Jo - I hope your family realises how lucky they are to have you:)

Kerryn Taylor said...

Jo I nominated you for this award

Jo Featherston said...

Yes, according to Wikipedia the Chief Post Office, originally known as the Government Building was built in 1878 and unlike the cathedral and many others, it survived both earthquakes. More recently it housed the Visitor Information Centre but but it seems access may not be possible due to damage to surrounding buildings. I believe that when my grandfather John Morrison was Commissioner for Stamp Duties in the 1940s, his office was in the Government Building, as it then was.

Jo Featherston said...

I'm not sure but I think 'tilted' may mean a covered wagon.

Karen S. said...

What a wonderful great-grandfather, excellent story and photos!