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The Lively Brays of Mt Albert

The Lively Brays of Mt Albert

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Published by Lisa Truttman
Story of the Bray family in Mt Albert, 1850s-1880s
Story of the Bray family in Mt Albert, 1850s-1880s

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Lisa Truttman on Nov 05, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Lively Brays of Mount Albert
Christmas Eve,1867. In the dark of a pre-streetlight period along New North Road in MtAlbert, seemingly dastardly plots were afoot to upset, quite literally, one of the moversand shakers in the district. Allan Kerr Taylor, chairman of the Mt Albert Highway Boardand under criticism from many of the ratepayers over assessment disagreements amongother issues, was heading towards home at Alberton from the city. Accompanying himwere his wife, with Mr and Mrs John Davis. They reached the Mt Eden Road toll gate.William Galbraith, a Mt Albert settler and one who had disagreements with Taylor aboutthe rates, stuck his head in the carriage, “impertinently” in Taylor’s opinion but,according to Galbraith, just as part of his duty at the toll gate. Taylor later related how henoticed two horses “loosely hitched” to the gate – he linked this with the appearance of two riders who came galloping after him, and near the Whau Road School nearly ran himoff the road, with one yelling out “We will give it to you, Taylor!” The carriage’s lampwas “smashed to pieces” by the attackers, but Taylor whipped his horse forward andraced the riders until the carriage reached Mr. McElwain’s house and help fromneighbours. The riders disappeared into the dark.
 According to the
 NZ Herald 
, Taylor recognized the attackers as “Mt Albert settlers” – butthere was only one arrest. Under a warrant, Sergeant Murphy arrested William Bray on28 December, “on the charge of unlawfully and maliciously assaulting A K Taylor, withintent to do him grievous bodily harm. “
On 30 December, before the Police Court, bothTaylor and his friend Davis testified that William Bray “in company with another personunknown” made the attack. Taylor stated he “recognized him [Bray] distinctly by thelamps” before they were smashed, but was unable to recognize the other man. Davisstated “I saw the defendant that night, but did not then know his name.”William Bray’s lawyer, Mr. Wynn, in addressing the court, contended “that there was noevidence to sustain the charge, that the two witnesses did not corroborate each other’sevidence, and that the case must therefore be dismissed.” The two JPs hearing the caseagreed, and Bray was discharged.
 So, who was this William Bray – and the rest of this family of early Mt Albert settlers?It appears that William was born in Devon c.1831, the eldest son of Thomas and SarahBray, and brother to George, John, James and two sisters. The Bray family arrived inTaranaki in 1841, but moved to Auckland by 1844. There, Thomas Bray purchased land,initially near the Three Kings area
(where he raised cattle),
then he and his sonsGeorge and William purchased Allotments 58 (1850), 52 (1852) with 57 (1853) andfinally 53 (c.1858), all in the Parish of Titirangi
. In today’s terms this farm would havestretched from between the Oakley Creek and New North Road in the north-west(Allotment 58, today mainly railway land, Soljak Place and Pak n’ Save) then downacross New North Road to all the land between Richardson Road and the creek, toapproximately where Richardson Road meets Hendon Avenue, and including today’sAlan Wood Reserve. Later, according to the Bray family history, Allotment 52 of thisland went to Thomas Bray’s son-in-law John Stewart when Thomas Bray went bankruptduring the late 1870s-early 1880s.
 According to the electoral roll for Raglan, 1865-1866, at that time Thomas Bray ownedAllotment 52 (towards Hendon Ave/Richardson Road intersection), while next to himwas a block owned by son George Bray and then fronting New North Road was WilliamBray’s block (Allotment 57).By the end of 1851, Thomas Bray had “the well known Cart Horse, Young Farmer’sFancy” standing at his Mt Albert residence for breeding fees.
He next came to the noticeof Auckland newspaper readers for an entirely different reason in August 1855: accusedof stealing cattle from Patrick Donovan at Epsom and selling them at Otahuhu saleyards.Despite witnesses to transactions and the presentation of a tanned hide bearing the realowner’s brand, the jury at the Supreme Court in December found Bray not guilty.
 In 1862, George Denyer, traveling along Great North Road through Avondale, was setupon by brothers John and James Bray somewhere close to “Preece’s public house”
(possibly Priestley’s, that is, the first hotel at the corner of Rosebank and Great NorthRoad) and the Whau Bridge. Denyer was knocked to the ground at one point, only to bepulled up from the ground by his hair, before he ran. James Bray, perhaps one of ThomasBray’s sons, was found guilty and ordered to find two sureties of £50 and ordered to keepthe peace for three months.
The reason for the enmity is unknown.By 1863, Thomas Bray had a business at Newton, selling “boards, scantling and joists”.
In June 1864, he numbered among his customers one James Williamson, taken to theresident magistrate’s court by Bray over a disputed bill for timber ordered by Thomas.Bray won his case that day.
 James Bray was charged, this time in October 1865, for stealing a gander and six ducksbelonging to Alfred Fossett of Mt Albert, found later on James’ own premises. ThePolice Court justice found that there was insufficient evidence, “as the ducks might havestrayed”, and discharged James without conviction.
 One of the Bray family landholdings at Mt Albert, called “Windsor Farm” was advertisedfor sale in October 1865
(the name sounds as if there may have been a connection withthe “Windsor Estate” being sold at the time covering much of what is now the suburb of New Windsor, so this might have been one of the Bray farms beside Richardson Road)but the sale may have been unsuccessful.Thomas Bray’s Newton business by 1865 had developed into full-fledged contracting andexcavation work. His name appears as a sub-contractor employed by one David Muirwho had a contract to excavate around 16,000 cubic yards at the site of the Auckland GasCompany works, but who fell ill and brought in Thomas Bray and around 50 workers tocomplete the job. After the company disputed exactly how much had been excavated andhow much had already been paid, Muir ended up with no further payments, and it appearsThomas Bray was out of pocket as well.

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