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Avondale Historical Journal 64

Avondale Historical Journal 64

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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 Mar 12, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Back in January, an acquaintance I’ve come to knowvia the internet and between my blog Timespannerand his, alerted me that someone was selling aBenjamin Gittos token on Trade Me. Unfortunately,I lost out on that particular token (final biddingoccurred right when the Society’s February meetingwas happening on 4 February), but — another onecame up on the lists two weeks later. That time, Iwon the auction.I’ve been after a Gittos penny-sized token for years,ever since first reading an article in the
 Auckland-Waikato Historical Journal
from April 2001 called“The Money Merchants” by John Cresswell.In the earliest days of our country’s money system,while there were paper notes or their equivalent incirculation, there was apparently a shortage in coins. Businessmen took up opportunities provided by die-sinkers andcoin manufacturers in Australia and England, such as Thomas Stokes of Stokes and Martin in Melbourne, hissuccessor Joseph Taylor and Joseph Moore of Allen & Moore in Birmingham to order numbers of penny-sized to-kens, as a durable form of early advertising. The Gittos token, for example, is nearly 150 years old!According to Cresswell, “The firm of B Gittos obtained supplies of their penny from Stokes of Melbourne in 1864and once in circulation, these became a common feature of small change throughout the Province.”Benjamin Gittos was a shoemaker in Auckland by 1854, entered into the leather and grindery business by 1857, builta new brick shop in Wyndham Street in 1863, and in 1864 both produced his penny token and took up land besidethe Oakley Creek in Avondale for the first of the Gittos family’s tanneries.So, this token is, to me, part of Avondale’s light industrial history —something I was dead-set on obtaining for its historical value alone.One side says: “ B. Gittos, Leather Merchant, Importer of Boots &Shoes, &c., &c.”The other: “Wholesale & Retail Leather & Grindery Stores, Wynd-ham Street, Auckland NZ, 1864.”
 — Lisa Truttman
The AvondaleHistorical Journal
March-April 2012
Volume 11 Issue 64
Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical  Society Incorporated 
Next meeting of theAvondale-WaterviewHistorical Society:Saturday, 7 April 2012,2.30 pmSt Ninian’s Church
St Georges Road, Avondale(opp. Hollywood Cinema)
Token History
 Image above: Benjamin Gittos, courtesy Murray Gittos
A friend gave me a photographed copy of an issue of the very rare
The News
, Arthur Morrish’s Avondalelocal paper, and effectively the first West Aucklandpaper produced. It dates from 28 August 1915, and onone of the pages was printed a column “Our Boys at theFront.” The following was from a letter written by Sgt.Leslie Rotorua Darrow.
“Another interesting letter has come to hand from RotoDarrow dated June 24th. He says:
“Things are very quiet here at present, and here we arenot adopting a progressive policy at all for the timebeing, but merely keeping the Turks up this end busywhile the offensive goes on down below. Whe(n) theyget them on the run down there, we will have our shareagain.
“I had a very interesting trip round one of our posts,which is nearest the enemy’s lines. At one place we arewithin five feet of Turkish trenches and consequentlyhad to keep our mouths shut. If they hear any talking at all, a bomb is the result. At this particular post all thetrenches are very close, the distances ranging from five feet to forty yards. When we first took over thesetrenches you could not put a periscope or rifle up for asecond without it being shot at, but now you can keepthem up for hours. I think at first they had superiorityover us in bomb throwing, but now I think we havethem beaten. One kind of our trench mortars in particu-lar is very deadly, and the Turks used to bolt when theyheard the bomb coming down, yelling “Allah!”
“We had rather a lively time the other day. The Turkslanded a number of 80-inch cannon shells round the Brigade headquarters. While about half a dozen of uswere examining a piece of one, another came along and landed about six feet away from us. We couldn’t flopdown on the ground quickly enough. Luckily they werevery old shells (I heard they were English shells bear-ing the date 1897) and consequently do not have a highexplosive.
“It is getting very hot here now and the flies have be-come unbearable. I thought they got pretty bad in Avondale at times, but here they almost stop you eating your meals. You can’t lie down during the day time for they pester the life out of you.”
Leslie Rotorua “Roto” Darrow was born in 1893. Hisnext of kin, according to the Cenotaph database at the
The Avondale Historical Journal 
Volume 11 Issue 64
 Page 2
1/4 portrait of Sergeant Leslie Rotorua Darrow, Reg No12/920, of the 3rd (Auckland) Regiment, Auckland Infantry Battalion, 1915. 31-D357 , Sir George Grey SpecialCollections
Auckland War Memorial Museum, was his brotherHarry Alexander Darrow, and Roto Darrow enlisted in1914 at the school. He embarked 16 October 1914,headed for Suez and Egypt, and then on to Gallipoli.His last unit was the Headquarters of the New ZealandInfantry Brigade.
He was killed in action 10 August 1915, aged 22. Thefolks back home at Avondale, reading his letter in
The News
, would have had no idea that he had died two anda half weeks earlier. Roto Darrow’s name is includedon St Judes Church’s World War I memorial plaque.
A letter from GallipoliConstable Crean is spoofed
Pity our local P. C. Plod in the early days. This from the
, 17 February 1900.“Constable Crean, of Avondale, finds his temper rathercapsized by the enterprising efforts of certain jokers inthat neighbourhood to find him employment in ferretingout mares' nests. A few weeks ago he spent a lot of timeand took a lot of wear out of his number tens in travel-ling the district after a capsized boat and a drownedman, both of which proved to be purely bogus. But hisleg was still more severely pulled on Saturday last over
 Just a few of the mini-articles I contribute to Avondale’sSpder web newsletter. — Editor 
The Avondale Historical Journal 
Volume 11 Issue 64
 Page 3
another alleged capsized boat, which this time wasreported to be answerable for the drowning of threemen. The constable spent Saturday night and Sundayforenoon over the matter before he arrived at theconclusion that it was only another Avondale fairy tale.If he lights on the jokers who have been working upbusiness for him after this fashion, somebody's apple-cart is pretty sure to be capsized.”
“Mr. Cox, Government Geologist, has paid an officialvisit to the Avondale district to report as to the natureand character of the district re coal formation. He willreport in due course to the committee appointed at the public meeting, but we have reason to believe that thereport will be unfavorable, and that Mr. Cox, who has previously made an exploration of the district, does not anticipate the finding of coal seams in Avondale.”
In 1882, steps were taken by Avondale's communityleaders, such as John Bollard and Francis Gittos, tobecome involved with investigating a possible coalfieldin Avondale. It certainly, for a time, caught local imagi-nations.A decade before, probably something that was keenlyrecalled, Glen Eden farmer Walter McCaul stuck hisneck out and put his finances on the line for the ideathat coal existed beneath his Waikumete property. On22 November 1872, he called a meeting of interestedbusinessmen and investors at the British Hotel.Unfortunately, by March the following year, McCaul'sprospects as the owner of West Auckland's first coalmine were well and truly kiboshed. He had borrowed,without permission, the only set of boring rods in theentire Auckland Province – and the Provincial Superin-tendent demanded that they be returned so that some-one somewhere else could have a bit of a go at thiscoal-prospecting thing. McCaul’s hoped-for coalmining operation never eventuated.Moving forward, to 1882. According to a history of Avondale written in 1952 by a Mrs. W. Ritchie, aquantity of fine peat was discovered on Dr. DanielPollen's vast holdings at the tip of Rosebank Peninsula,and this was what led to speculation that where there'speat, there's coal. A public meeting on 1 October 1882at Avondale's public hall led to the settlers to apply tothe Government for the use of boring rods so they couldconduct the same tests McCaul worked on 10 yearsbefore, on the other side of the Whau River.The Premier himself, Sir Frederick Whitaker, promisedin early November to send the Government geologist,Mr. Cox, to examine the signs of coal deposits found.The
Weekly News
of 14 April 1883 reported whatseems to be the final word on the carboniferous depos-its in the Whau:
Coal in them thar RosebankFlats!
With the
 Auckland Star 
now online via Papers Past,more information about Avondale’s past is coming tolight. Including this interesting little piece of localnews, from 11 June 1884.
“An interesting trotting match took place at Avondalelast Saturday afternoon between Mr Porter's bay mareand Mr John Laing's grey mare. The course was fromthe New Lynn Hotel to Garrett's tannery, a distance of about three miles and a half, and the stakes £5 a side.The match resulted in an easy victory for Mr Porter'shorse by about a mile.”
Why interesting? Well, for one thing, £5 in today’smoney is just over $850, so this was a sizeable bet be-tween the two gentlemen. They were also racing over adistance almost twice as long as most usual trottingraces held today on purpose-built tracks. Then again,look at the date: early June. Early winter, and on theclay Great North Road all the way from one vanishedlandmark, the New Lynn Hotel (brand new, back then)on the rise above New Lynn township, all the way toGarrett’s Tannery, the old Star Mill right at the end of Waterview. Mr Porter may have been able to secure hislead due to at least one impediment, apart from the gra-dients, curves, slippery mud etc. – in those days, thebridge across the Whau River was wooden, and verymuch a single lane.What would the two drivers have passed on their waythrough New Lynn, Avondale and Waterview that Sat-urday afternoon in early June 1884? From the NewLynn Hotel, they would have headed down to theRewarewa Stream (first bridge, also wooden and nar-row) then around the bend past fields and paddockswhere New Lynn town centre and Lynnmall now stand.There were few houses in New Lynn back then.Through to the Whau Bridge, then more bends as theGreat North Road wound its way, past more open landtowards the Avondale Hotel on the left, and thePresbyterian Church (St Ninians) further on the right.
Racing along the Great NorthRoad

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