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The

Avondale Historical
Journal

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.

Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Incorporated

November—December 2009 Volume 9 Issue 50

50th issue

The Queen greeted by Avondale locals
during her February 1963 visit. George
Parish collection, courtesy Tim Parish.
The Volume 9 Issue 50
Avondale Historical Journal
Page 2

M. François Rayer: Avondale’s French Connection
Posterity is left with two tantalising pieces of information the south-western winds, as they come up from the
about a Frenchman in the 1880s who came to settle in Manukau, but Mr. Rayer says he has nothing to fear from
Auckland and chose a patch of ground on which to be a any winds which prevail in Auckland. Far stronger winds
winegrower (vigneron), somewhere close to Mt Albert and blow in France, but even there no injury is sustained by
present-day New Windsor. the vines from this cause …

Taking the left side of the road above Mr. Gallagher’s He is satisfied that the Auckland climate supplies …
farm, we came to the section lately purchased by Mr. [equable climate] conditions … On this account Mr.
Stewart, of the Thames Hotel, 25 acres in extent, taken up Rayer is of opinion that the Auckland district will produce
a couple of years ago, and laid down in grass; adjoining wine in greater abundance acre for acre than either
is that of Mr. Beaumont, 15 or 20 acres, just ploughed, France or Australia … These are certainly encouraging
and beyond that again the section of Mr. Longuet, where prospects and it is to be hoped that Mr. Rayer will be
clearing and fencing is going on, and then comes the enabled to carry his experiment to a successful termina-
extensive vineyard of M. Rayer, some 12 acres in extent, tion. He is at present unable to give an opinion as to the
with as much more yet to bring under cultivation. particular flavour (or bouquet as he called it) the Auck-
(NZ Herald, 24 June 1882) land-grown wines may develop, but he has no doubts as to
the ripening of the grapes, and the abundance of wine
THE MOUNT ALBERT VINEYARD which will be yielded.
On several occasions we have drawn attention to the The land purchased by Mr. Rayer is 22 acres in extent,
efforts being made in the Mount Albert district to establish about 15 or 16 acres of which is a clayey loam, and the
vine growing for wine making on a scale which will go far balance rich volcanic flat, subject, however, to a super-
to settle the question as to the suitability or otherwise of abundance of water in the winter season. This, however,
this industry for the district around Auckland. The experi- can easily be cured by blowing out a narrow ledge of rock
ment is being carried out by Mr. Rayer, a skilled French which crosses the creek a short distance below the bound-
vine grower. ary of his land. A few acres of this flat have been sown in
oats for oaten hay this season, but the vines are as yet all
The situation of the vineyard is not such that the majority
planted on the clayey loam, nearer the road than this flat.
of Auckland settlers would have chosen for such an enter-
Fifty thousand vines are permanently planted out, at
prise. The site chosen is on the slope of land at the back of
varying distances of three to five feet apart, besides a little
Mount Albert, on the rolling land stretching onto the
over three thousand rooted plants, which will be planted
blockhouse at the Whau. The surface soil is a clayey loam,
out at the proper season. The vines are of different ages,
resting upon a not unkindly free yellow-brown clay. The
some being planted only last season. A few of the older
situation the vineyard occupies exposes it to the sweep of
ones are bearing, and all are being trained in the bush
form. They are all healthy looking though not yet making
the 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 be
done, but next year he anticipates to have a considerable
quantity. Beneath his dwelling-house he has excavated a
cellar where the wines will be made and matured. This
cellar is of sufficient size to enable him to carry on opera-
tions for three years, by which time an opportunity will be
afforded 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 example
of a great horticultural and commercial pioneer –
establishing a fully-fledged wine-making industry in
Auckland. Within weeks, however, Rayer was dead and
buried in Symonds Street cemetery. That alone would
The Volume 9 Issue 50
Avondale Historical Journal
Page 3
have made his story interesting: New Windsor may well dictionary, and exhibited it with great satisfaction,
have been covered by vineyards had he lived and the although he sorrowfully explained that he had not a suf-
project continued up until the last quarter of the 20th ficient knowledge of the grammatical structure of the
century, judging by the development patterns of the language to be enabled to derive much assistance from
Henderson area where thriving vineyards were also the volume. (Auckland Evening Star, 18 February 1880)
(later) established.
By the time another vessel, the Sovereign of the Seas,
But – Rayer was also a convicted Communard. A former arrived with more ex-convicts from Noumea the follow-
political prisoner, a participant in the Paris Commune ing month, Aucklanders had more or less settled on ac-
uprising of 1871, sentenced along with thousands of oth- cepting that a new though small wave of immigration
ers to penal servitude at New Caledonia when the upris- was taking place. After all, former Communards had
ing was crushed. Rayer was present at a series of events arrived years earlier, via London, but because they had
in the French capital which were to have a major impact entered in dribs and drabs, none created the fuss which
on the political history of Europe. occurred in February 1880.

Much has been written about the 1871 Paris Commune, François Rayer when he arrived was described on a list
which took place immediately after France’s defeat in of the deportés compiled at the Auckland Police Station,
the Franco-Prussian War. The Auckland press in 1880 later submitted to Parliament, as being 50 years of age,
called those from the commune “communists”, but the 5ft 4in in height, medium build, with a dark complexion
people themselves preferred to be known as and grey eyes. His hair was dark, tinged with grey, he
“communialists”, to differ from the socialists and nihil- had a full moustache, slight beard and whiskers. His
ists. The political prisoners on New Caledonia were general appearance was described as smart. According to
pardoned from 1879, and received a generous offer: as records, he had worked as a contractor (possibly in
deportés, they had an option to either return to France or Noumea), but in Paris he had been a wineseller. Almost
head for anywhere in the Australasian colonies at the everything else known about Rayer is sketchy at best.
expense of the French Government. Other prisoners,
common criminals, were known as ticket-of-leave men. What he was doing in Auckland from 1880-1883 is
They were forever banished from France or any of her uncertain. There is a possibility however that he was at
colonies – and to get elsewhere, they had to pay their the New Windsor property as early as 1880, given that
own way. the Weekly News described the vines planted by January
1883 as being of varying ages. Rayer never owned the
A mixture of the two classes of former prisoners, 24 in land he worked at New Windsor. Part of Allotment 66 of
all, sailed from Noumea in January 1880 to Onehunga in the Parish of Titirangi, it had been sold by Robert Green-
the Griffen, on a voyage which should have lasted just 10 wood to a solicitor, John Benjamin Russell, in May
days – instead, with bad weather, it took 30 days to reach 1882.
New Zealand. Almost as soon as they touched
Onehunga’s shore, the news spread of their arrival, and It was Lot 10 on Plan No. 131. Rayer comes into the
the papers blared that it was “The French Invasion.” The picture, taking out a lease from Russell for Lot 10 in July
Auckland Evening Star did differentiate between the 1882 – then, two months later, transferring the lease to
political prisoners and the ordinary criminals (the former Graves Aickin (Auckland chemist, politician and nephew
of Dr. Thomas Aickin), Henry Brett (proprietor of the
not nearly as bad as the latter in their opinion). Most of
the fuss over the next days was over whether France Auckland Star), and John Chambers (an Auckland
intended to continue the use of New Zealand, or any merchant). So curiously, at the time of the Weekly News
British colony for that matter, as a dumping ground for article, even the lease was no longer in his name.
their “dregs”. The Weekly News and the Star both published concerns
about his failing health before he died.
Of the deportés, the Star found that their language skills
in English were on the whole poor to non-existent. “Many of our readers will regret to learn that M. F.
Rayer, the vigeron at Mount Albert, is at present very ill,
A reporter from this office interviewed about a dozen of and his medical advisers give little hope of recovery. Mr.
the Communists at Onehunga, while they were awaiting Rayer is not an old man, between fifty and sixty years of
the arrival of the 1 o’clock train from the wharf. Some of age, but since he purchased the place at Mount Albert he
their number had gone to Auckland early in the morning, has worked hard, early and late, and lived soberly, and it
and had returned to report progress. They appeared very is feared that the privations thus undergone are telling
anxious to ascertain the chances of employment, and upon him now. M. Rayer began without capital, and thus
made diligent inquiries with respect to the state of the a great deal of heavy work fell to his lot, which would
market. None of them could speak English, and they have lightened had he been able to employ a sufficient
seemed keenly sensible of the disadvantage at which this amount of capital in the undertaking. Many were looking
fact placed them. One gentleman who acted as a spokes- anxiously to the result of Mr. Rayer’s efforts to grow the
man for the rest unearthed from the inmost recesses of a vine here for wine-making purposes, and should his pre-
leather satchel a well thumbed French and English
The Volume 9 Issue 50
Avondale Historical Journal
Page 4
sent illness terminate fatally, it will have the effect of “In my vineyard at Mount Albert I shall be able to pro-
retarding the development of this promising industry. We duce wines where qualities will be excellent, and agree-
learn that the patient is quite satisfied that his present able to many; but to the true connoisseur there is no
illness is to end in death. A week or two ago he was comparison between champagne and other wines. It is
brought into town to the residence of M. Garnier, where the wine of the refined and elegant of all civilised na-
he could receive better attention and more comforts than tions. For the vigeron of to-day, the sparkle, “the bou-
at his place at Mount Albert.” (Weekly News 3 February quet,” of these wines are none the less precious because
1883) aided in the manufacture by apparatus which science
has perfected, with which, by experience and careful
A week later, the Weekly News published a translation of handling, he can produce an excellent article for the
a letter written by Rayer to the Neo-Zelandais paper: benefit of the public; and also to show the kind of indus-
“Having often been asked my opinion upon sparkling try the climate of New Zealand is capable of encourag-
wines, especially champagne, and whether I shall be ing. I have no fear in saying that, as time advances, vini-
able to manufacture the same from grapes grown in my culture and sericulture will be extensive industries here.
vineyard, I should feel obliged if you will kindly insert If they are not, it is due to no fault of the climate, but to
the following answer in your paper, for the benefit of my the want of knowledge on the part of the population. The
various interrogators, and the public generally. The con- colony is young yet, and there are many dormant re-
sumption of sparkling wines by all nations shows a great sources in her which will by and by be brought forward,
development, and according to the best authorities in and enrich her revenue far more than any of us at pre-
viniculture, the grapes especially used in the preparation sent can imagine.”
of this class of wines can be grown in any kind of soil at On 3 March 1883, the following death notice appeared in
all suitable for vine-growing; therefore, the manufacture the NZ Herald:
of champagne can be generalised in any of these vine-
growing countries. RAYER – Décédé hier, l’Hôspital Provincial, François
Rayer, agé de 52 ans, natif de France.
“Of late years the progress in the manufacture of L’enterrement aura lieu aujourd’hui, 3 Mars, á 4 heures
sparkling wine has been most remarkable. France has, après midi. Le cortège se réunira devant l’Hospital. Le
up to the present time (thanks to her suitable soil, members de la Société Littéraire Française sont invités á
climate, taste, and the experience of her vignerons), had vouloir lui render les deroiers honneurs.
the happy privilege to produce and furnish to the whole
world this specialty of wine. Since, therefore, after the “His death,” the Star stated, “at the present time is much
above statement that sparkling wines can be prepared in to be regretted, when the success of the experiment at
all countries where the grapes can be grown, it is an vine growing for wine making purposes depended upon
incontestable fact that there is every chance of success his knowledge and skill.”
here. Not only are we in nearly the same latitude as
France, but we have not nearly so much to fear from All the French residents in Auckland are said to have
hail, or the frosts of autumn and winter, which are so attended the funeral in Symonds Street, along with mem-
prejudicial to the vines in many vine-growing districts in bers of the French Literary Society. “The Secretary of
that country. I can, therefore, without fear assure the the Society“ the Weekly News reported, “placed on the
people of this beautiful land that my vines will grow, and coffin a crown of flowers, ornamented with the French
that I shall be able doubtless to furnish them with spar- national colours, and the cortege proceeded to the bury-
kling wines, made from the “grapes de Dinau”. ing yard, where the Rev. Mr. Dudley read the burial ser-
vice. M. A. Villeval [another former Communard], in the
“As to the value of these wines, champagne is the glory name of the French residents and of the Literary Society,
of the vigeron as also the most esteemed wine in the made a short speech, in which he referred to M. Rayer’s
highest ranks of society. The finest connoisseurs are sup- humble but useful career, and bade him adieu.”
posed to be the English and Russians, the latter using it
in their soups. Taken in this way it is considered a great Lisa J Truttman
help to digestion. It is always the favourite beverage of Sources:
invalids and the fair sex. We can trace its delicate effects Verna E. (Ching) Mossong, “The Communists are Com-
(taken in moderation) in stimulating the functions of the ing!”, The New Zealand Genealogist, January-February,
brain. It re-animates and predisposes the mind to gener- 1980, pp. 504-505
ous and kindly thoughts of our fellow creatures. In the Christine Liava’a, “French Convicts in New Zealand”,
works of the poets, in the prose of Voltaire, in the songs The New Zealand Genealogist, September-October,
of Béranger, it pleads warmly the cause of “La Belle 2001, pp. 323-325
France,” the country of its birth. Is it not also taken by Lucy Marshall, “Convicts and communists arrive in
all amateurs as the wine “par excellence” for dessert? Auckland,” The New Zealand Genealogist, November-
In short, there is no other wine which we drink with December, 2001, pp. 396-398
more pleasure without feeling thirst, or which excites the Land Information New Zealand records
mind to perform any arduous task, without undue agita- Auckland Evening Star, Auckland Weekly News,
tion as champagne. NZ Herald, Papers Past.
The Volume 9 Issue 50
Avondale Historical Journal
Page 5

Both of these photographs are from the George Parish Collection, courtesy of Tim Parish. Above is the Avondale Baptist
Church, at the corner of Blockhouse Bay and New North Roads (today known as The Intersection Church), from the late 1950s.
Below, one of the photographs which featured in the recent “Then & Now” photographic exhibition, put on by St Jude’s Church
— a railcar loading passengers from our old railway station, in the 1950s (the station building is now at Swanson, as a café.)
The Volume 9 Issue 50
Avondale Historical Journal
Page 6

Queen Carnival
Jean Jones very kindly supplied these
undated photographs of what appears to
have been a Queen Carnival, possibly
held on the Avondale Racecourse.
Carnivals had been held in New Zealand
from the mid-19th century, mainly as
way for communities to raise funds as
well as a source of entertainment. The
Queens came into the festivities around
1897, possibly linked to celebrations
around Queen Victoria’s diamond
jubilee, and also imitating “Queen of
the Carnival” events reported on from
America. Nominations for a Queen of
the Carnival were called for, as well as
Maids of Honour. Local organisations

each put in their nomination, then raised
money so that it would be their Queen
chosen, based on the total of funds raised
for the cause. This idea seems to have
started in the South Island, and gradually
travelled north. It really hit its stride
from early 1914, during World War I the
Queen Carnival was an event used funds
for causes such as relief for the Belgians,
and patriotic funds (“Our Soldiers’
Queen”, in Auckland, 1916).

Queen Carnivals continued down to at
least 1970. The Auckland Art Gallery
have a photograph taken at a Queen
Carnival in Upper Hutt that year.
The Volume 9 Issue 50
Avondale Historical Journal
Page 7
the farm. Our cows used to go ton the bottom of the
More Memories of farm in a bog area as kids we would put our gum
the “Bug House” boots on to bring the cows up for milking. I was told
that there was a lot of old car parts and steel rubbish
put in to fix the bog.
by Joe Robinson
Editor’s Note
A response to last issue’s story on the Avondale Bug Tim Tyler's Luck (1937) is a Universal movie serial
House: based on the comic strip Tim Tyler's Luck. The plot
On reading the last issue of the Journal, it brings back was: Tim Tyler stows away on a ship bound for Africa
a few memories for me. to find his father, Professor James Tyler. He meets,
and is joined by, Lora Lacey, who is chasing the
My brother and I used to walk from Waterview to the criminal "Spider" Webb, the man responsible for
Avondale Theatre (the Bug House) just about every framing her brother.
Saturday to go to the Matinée.
The cast were:
Mum used to give us sixpence each (from memory) Frankie Thomas as Tim Tyler
and this would cover entry and something to spend Frances Robinson as Lora Lacey, posing as Lora
next door at Whales’ Dairy. Mrs. Whales had to be Graham
very tolerant with the kids as they would push and yell Jack Mulhall as Sargeant Gates
to get what they wanted. Al Shean as Professor James Tyler, Tim's father
For me, I would always get cough drops because you Norman Willis as "Spider" Webb
would get quite a lot for your money. Changing Balls Anthony Warde as Garry Drake
were another good buy as they would last a long time Earl Douglas as Jules Lazarre
as you sucked them and they changed colour. A penny William 'Billy' Benedict as Spud
ice-cream did not last long but it was a treat. Frank Mayo as Jim Conway
Alan Gregg as Brent, one of Spider's henchman
Even if it was raining we had to pressure Mum into Stanley Blystone as Captain Clark
letting us go. The annoying part was that we would Everett Brown as Mogu, Spider's native henchman
miss seeing what happened in the serial. One of the Skippy as Ju Ju, the Chimp (Source: Wikipedia)
serials we followed was “Tim Tyler’s Luck” but it
changed every so often and that kept bringing us back
all the time. Response to photo
We always made our own fun on the weekends and of Archibald Brothers’ truck
school holidays but it was good to go back to the Flix.
The chap on the door was Don Heron who lived in
Arran Street in Avondale. Unfortunately he had polio
and had a calliper on his leg. He was always obliging
and good natured and very tolerant to the noisy kids
and they always respected him.
I have been a Westie most of my life and have seen
quite a few changes (since 1936). I was born in Whan-
garei and the family moved to Ponsonby when I was
aged 1 year old, and we shifted to different houses
around Ponsonby. The picture of the truck load of pipes reminded me
that Jack Tannerhil had a cartage business at the end
I attended the Victoria Street Kindergarten and the of Wingate Street for many years. He did all the cart-
Beresford Street Primary School (now demolished) up age of Bricks for Amalgamated Brick & Pipe. I think
to Primer 2 before shifting to a small farmlet in New from memory, he was a friend of Tom Clark. I used
Lynn (2 cows and poultry). to admire the way the drivers would unload bricks by
The house was to be demolished so then we shifted to running them down a plank on a trolley. If anything
Avondale. The New Lynn farmlet is still there to this had happened at the bottom he would end up flying
day. over the top. A really dangerous process, long before
OSH of course!!
The strange story for me is that when married we had
a house in Mayville Ave and this land was a part of Tony Goodwin
The Volume 9 Issue 50
Avondale Historical Journal
Page 8

Having a hangi
at Bethell’s Beach,
1920s

I met up with Mrs. Lavinia
Longley recently. Mrs. Longley
very kindly shared some of her
family photographs — including
these taken during the 1920s
when her family, the Perrys, vis-
ited Bethell’s Beach and John N.
“Pa” Bethell.

The photo at left shows a hangi
being prepared. Below sits “Pa”
Bethell himself, in his kauri log
chair at the beach (down by the
cottage, Mrs. Longley tells me),
with Mrs Maria Perry, Mrs.
Longley's mother.

The chair is similar to one “Pa” Bethel had at his
Avondale home; only, at Avondale, there were big
whalebones over the top, and a whale’s backbone
alongside. Mrs. Longley still remembers “Pa” Bethell
fondly, and recalls his Avondale home on Great North
Road well.

Next meeting of the
Avondale-Waterview Historical Society:
Saturday, 12 December 2009, 2.30 pm
(second Saturday in the month)
Lion’s Hall,
corner Blockhouse Bay Road and Great North
Road

The Avondale Historical Journal
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