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Avondale Historical Journal No. 50

Avondale Historical Journal No. 50

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Published by Lisa Truttman
Journal of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society, Auckland, New Zealand
Journal of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society, Auckland, New Zealand

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Lisa Truttman on Oct 13, 2009
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01/11/2013

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November—December 2009 Volume 9 Issue 50
Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Incorporated 
 
The Avondale HistoricalJournal
 
50th issue
The Queen greeted by Avondale locals during her February 1963 visit. George Parish collection, courtesy Tim Parish.Two little boys captured on film on Avondale’s Race- course, sometime in the 1910s, by Frederick G Radcliffe. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auck-land City Libraries, photo ref: 35-R158.
 
 Page 2
Volume 9 Issue 50
Posterity is left with two tantalising pieces of informationabout a Frenchman in the 1880s who came to settle inAuckland and chose a patch of ground on which to be awinegrower (vigneron), somewhere close to Mt Albert andpresent-day New Windsor.
 
Taking the left side of the road above Mr. Gallagher’s farm, we came to the section lately purchased by Mr.Stewart, of the Thames Hotel, 25 acres in extent, taken upa couple of years ago, and laid down in grass; adjoiningis that of Mr. Beaumont, 15 or 20 acres, just ploughed,and beyond that again the section of Mr. Longuet, whereclearing and fencing is going on, and then comes theextensive vineyard of M. Rayer, some 12 acres in extent,with as much more yet to bring under cultivation.
(
 NZ Herald 
, 24 June 1882)
THE MOUNT ALBERT VINEYARD
 
On several occasions we have drawn attention to theefforts being made in the Mount Albert district to establishvine growing for wine making on a scale which will go far to settle the question as to the suitability or otherwise of this industry for the district around Auckland. The experi-ment is being carried out by Mr. Rayer, a skilled Frenchvine grower.
 
The situation of the vineyard is not such that the majorityof Auckland settlers would have chosen for such an enter- prise. The site chosen is on the slope of land at the back of  Mount Albert, on the rolling land stretching onto theblockhouse at the Whau. The surface soil is a clayey loam,resting upon a not unkindly free yellow-brown clay. Thesituation the vineyard occupies exposes it to the sweep of 
The Avondale Historical Journal 
the south-western winds, as they come up from the Manukau, but Mr. Rayer says he has nothing to fear fromany winds which prevail in Auckland. Far stronger windsblow in France, but even there no injury is sustained bythe vines from this cause …
 
 He is satisfied that the Auckland climate supplies …[equable climate] conditions … On this account Mr. Rayer is of opinion that the Auckland district will producewine in greater abundance acre for acre than either France or Australia … These are certainly encouraging prospects and it is to be hoped that Mr. Rayer will beenabled to carry his experiment to a successful termina-tion. He is at present unable to give an opinion as to the particular flavour (or bouquet as he called it) the Auck-land-grown wines may develop, but he has no doubts as tothe ripening of the grapes, and the abundance of winewhich will be yielded.
 
The land purchased by Mr. Rayer is 22 acres in extent,about 15 or 16 acres of which is a clayey loam, and thebalance rich volcanic flat, subject, however, to a super-abundance of water in the winter season. This, however,can easily be cured by blowing out a narrow ledge of rock which crosses the creek a short distance below the bound-ary of his land. A few acres of this flat have been sown inoats for oaten hay this season, but the vines are as yet all planted on the clayey loam, nearer the road than this flat.Fifty thousand vines are permanently planted out, at varying distances of three to five feet apart, besides a littleover three thousand rooted plants, which will be planted out at the proper season. The vines are of different ages,some being planted only last season. A few of the older ones are bearing, and all are being trained in the bush form. They are all healthy looking though not yet makingthe rapid growth of wood which well rooted plants in-variably do here…
 
Upon the whole Mr. Rayer is well satisfied with the pros- pects before him. This year he expects to make twenty or thirty gallons of wine merely as a sample of what can bedone, but next year he anticipates to have a considerablequantity. Beneath his dwelling-house he has excavated acellar where the wines will be made and matured. Thiscellar is of sufficient size to enable him to carry on opera-tions for three years, by which time an opportunity will beafforded of testing the results of the enterprise.
(
 Auckland Weekly News
, 20 January 1883)M. François Rayer (c.1831-1883) seemed at the time of the
Weekly News
reporter’s visit to be a shining exampleof a great horticultural and commercial pioneer –establishing a fully-fledged wine-making industry inAuckland. Within weeks, however, Rayer was dead andburied in Symonds Street cemetery. That alone would
M. François Rayer: Avondale’s French Connection
 
The Avondale Historical Journal 
Volume 9 Issue 50
 Page 3
have made his story interesting: New Windsor may wellhave been covered by vineyards had he lived and theproject continued up until the last quarter of the 20thcentury, judging by the development patterns of theHenderson area where thriving vineyards were also(later) established.
 
But – Rayer was also a convicted Communard. A formerpolitical prisoner, a participant in the Paris Communeuprising of 1871, sentenced along with thousands of oth-ers to penal servitude at New Caledonia when the upris-ing was crushed. Rayer was present at a series of eventsin the French capital which were to have a major impacton the political history of Europe.
 
Much has been written about the 1871 Paris Commune,which took place immediately after France’s defeat inthe Franco-Prussian War. The Auckland press in 1880called those from the commune “communists”, but thepeople themselves preferred to be known as“communialists”, to differ from the socialists and nihil-ists. The political prisoners on New Caledonia werepardoned from 1879, and received a generous offer: asdeportés, they had an option to either return to France orhead for anywhere in the Australasian colonies at theexpense of the French Government. Other prisoners,common criminals, were known as ticket-of-leave men.They were forever banished from France or any of hercolonies – and to get elsewhere, they had to pay theirown way.
 
A mixture of the two classes of former prisoners, 24 inall, sailed from Noumea in January 1880 to Onehunga inthe
Griffen
, on a voyage which should have lasted just 10days – instead, with bad weather, it took 30 days to reachNew Zealand. Almost as soon as they touchedOnehunga’s shore, the news spread of their arrival, andthe papers blared that it was “The French Invasion.” The
 Auckland Evening Star 
did differentiate between thepolitical prisoners and the ordinary criminals (the formernot nearly as bad as the latter in their opinion). Most of the fuss over the next days was over whether Franceintended to continue the use of New Zealand, or anyBritish colony for that matter, as a dumping ground fortheir “dregs”.
 
Of the deportés, the
Star 
found that their language skillsin English were on the whole poor to non-existent.
 A reporter from this office interviewed about a dozen of the Communists at Onehunga, while they were awaitingthe arrival of the 1 o’clock train from the wharf. Some of their number had gone to Auckland early in the morning,and had returned to report progress. They appeared veryanxious to ascertain the chances of employment, and made diligent inquiries with respect to the state of themarket. None of them could speak English, and theyseemed keenly sensible of the disadvantage at which this fact placed them. One gentleman who acted as a spokes-man for the rest unearthed from the inmost recesses of aleather satchel a well thumbed French and Englishdictionary, and exhibited it with great satisfaction,although he sorrowfully explained that he had not a suf- ficient knowledge of the grammatical structure of thelanguage to be enabled to derive much assistance fromthe volume.
(
 Auckland Evening Star 
, 18 February 1880)
 
By the time another vessel, the
Sovereign of the Seas
,arrived with more ex-convicts from Noumea the follow-ing month, Aucklanders had more or less settled on ac-cepting that a new though small wave of immigrationwas taking place. After all, former Communards hadarrived years earlier, via London, but because they hadentered in dribs and drabs, none created the fuss whichoccurred in February 1880.
 
François Rayer when he arrived was described on a listof the deportés compiled at the Auckland Police Station,later submitted to Parliament, as being 50 years of age,5ft 4in in height, medium build, with a dark complexionand grey eyes. His hair was dark, tinged with grey, hehad a full moustache, slight beard and whiskers. Hisgeneral appearance was described as smart. According torecords, he had worked as a contractor (possibly inNoumea), but in Paris he had been a wineseller. Almosteverything else known about Rayer is sketchy at best.
 
What he was doing in Auckland from 1880-1883 isuncertain. There is a possibility however that he was atthe New Windsor property as early as 1880, given thatthe
Weekly News
described the vines planted by January1883 as being of varying ages. Rayer never owned theland he worked at New Windsor. Part of Allotment 66 of the Parish of Titirangi, it had been sold by Robert Green-wood to a solicitor, John Benjamin Russell, in May1882.
 
It was Lot 10 on Plan No. 131. Rayer comes into thepicture, taking out a lease from Russell for Lot 10 in July1882 – then, two months later, transferring the lease toGraves Aickin (Auckland chemist, politician and nephewof Dr. Thomas Aickin), Henry Brett (proprietor of the
 Auckland Star 
), and John Chambers (an Aucklandmerchant). So curiously, at the time of the
Weekly News
article, even the lease was no longer in his name.
 
The
Weekly News
and the
Star 
both published concernsabout his failing health before he died.
“Many of our readers will regret to learn that M. F. Rayer, the vigeron at Mount Albert, is at present very ill,and his medical advisers give little hope of recovery. Mr. Rayer is not an old man, between fifty and sixty years of age, but since he purchased the place at Mount Albert hehas worked hard, early and late, and lived soberly, and it is feared that the privations thus undergone are tellingupon him now. M. Rayer began without capital, and thusa great deal of heavy work fell to his lot, which would have lightened had he been able to employ a sufficient amount of capital in the undertaking. Many were lookinganxiously to the result of Mr. Rayer’s efforts to grow thevine here for wine-making purposes, and should his pre-

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