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The Auckland Asylum Springs
Lisa J Truttman August 2007
(Above) Building 33, the former Mt Albert pumping station building, built 1904, designed by Henry H. Metcalfe. Photo taken by the author, 17 September 2006. (Right) The Takapuna Pump House, Killarney Park, beside Lake Pupuke. Note mirror-image placement of door and windows, and compare with photograph on title page. Photo taken by the author 18 February 2007.
Title page map detail from 1892 Map of Eden County, NZ Department of Lands and Survey (copy in Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Collection, also available as NZ Map 4785, Special Collections). This is one of the earliest maps of the asylum springs. Insert photograph of the Mt Albert pumping station on title page by very kind permission of Dick Scott, author of In Old Mt Albert. This was scanned from a published image of a 1911 montage of the first Mt Albert Borough Council, 1911, opposite p.64 in the 1983 reprint of Mr. Scott’s book. The original image, and the montage, has not yet been found. My sincere thanks to Mr. Scott, and those who have hunted on my request for the original image. Printed by: Words Incorporated, 557 Blockhouse Bay Road, Blockhouse Bay, Auckland
Introduction This work arose from out of a fascination for two topics: the story of the Oakley Creek as it flowed alongside the area of Waterview, past the site of a long vanished flour mill near the present-day interchange of Great North Road and the Northwestern Motorway, and the story of the Auckland Lunatic Asylum, an institution known by many names since the first building was completed in 1867.
Quite by chance in September 2006, while walking with a group from the Friends of Arataki and guided by the convenor of the Friends of Oakley Creek, Wendy Jon, I walked past a lovely brick building on the Unitec grounds (Building 33), and stopped to take a photograph. I have a deep love for old buildings, and often take a photograph then think nothing more of it. Then, towards the end of that year, after an approach from a researcher (Marianne Simpkins) who was keen to find out as much information as possible about the history of the area around a building on the Unitec grounds (an old former pumphouse) which developers intended to convert into a restaurant – I looked at the photo again. And realised I had been looking at the old Mt Albert pumping station. During that same walk, I’d spoken to those with me about a typhoid epidemic which was centred on the springs we were then walking beside, an outbreak that happened in the early 1920s. Looking at the photograph I had taken, I knew I wanted to find out more about the pumphouse, the outbreak which closed it down, and about the waters it is so intimately associated with.
This paper is the result.
My thanks to Marianne Simpkins who inspired me to do something about finding out more; the staff at Auckland City Archives and Unitec; those also at Special Collections and Auckland Research Centre at Auckland City Library (Central); North Shore City Libraries (Takapuna); and my friends who have listened patiently to me telling them how engrossed I have been with the story of an old brick building and a series of water springs for months and months.
“When she was thirsty, she demanded water, stamped her foot, whence water gushed out of the ground.” – Text from a sign beside Te Wai Unuroa o Wairaka, Unitec.
The story could begin around 30,000 years ago, for without the volcanic eruptions in that period which formed the cone known as Te Puke o Ruarangi, Te Wai o Raka, Te Ahi Ka a Raka, or (as it is now known) Owairaka, 1 the waters perhaps wouldn’t flow as they do as groundwater, part of a basalt aquifer called Mt Albert West, the mouth of the Oakley Creek.
It could begin in the twelfth century CE, when the tohunga of the Tainui canoe is said to have lived in the area of the springs on the grounds of present-day Unitec, controlling an area called Te Ahi Ka a Rakataura which extended to Three Kings, Eden Park and the Meola Reef. 3 Puhi came on his journey north from Whakatane, commanding the Mataatua Canoe and founding the Ngapuhi iwi, after engaging in a quarrel with his brother Toroa. Sometime later, some say after an affair of the heart that had gone wrong, Toroa’s famous daughter Wairaka came north and settled for a time with her kindred at Mt Albert, 4 and drank from the waters she stamped from the ground. From then on they were known as Te Wai Unuroa o Wairaka (the long drink of Wairaka). Today the waters, springs and stream flowing into the Oakley Creek, are known as the Wairaka Stream.
According to historian George Graham,
Wairaka’s name in turn came from that of
the coastal village in Hawaiki where she was born, and means “waters entangled or enmeshed”. Considering the history of the waters here in Auckland, this deeper meaning is apt.
The spring was highly valued, both for drinking and for rituals of thanks-giving and ceremonials. According to Haare Williams, “It offered relief to the sick, and as well
Mt Albert – Owairaka Management Plan, Auckland City Council website, http://www.aucklandcity.govt.nz, sighted 4 May 2007 2 Map, “ICS Study Areas and Aquifer Location”, Auckland Waterway, May 2005 (published by Auckland City and Metrowater) 3 Information by Haare Williams, Unitec, given to the author 2007 4 Letter written by George Graham to NZ Herald, 21 March 1931. Copy via the Mt Albert Historical Society, sourced from Dr David Simmons 5 Letter, 21 March 1931
was used for healing, bathing, irrigation and was a constant source of food.” Watercress grows in abundance today along the waters’ edge.
The cone which fed the waters came to be called Mt Albert by settlers after 1840, and the rest of the suburb followed it in name, the population increasing around the mountain’s flanks especially from the early years of the 20th century, once the plentiful natural water source was tapped.
Hick’s Spring Siting a lunatic asylum on an imposing landscape flanked by scoria fields and grazing paddocks, three miles or so away from the urban habitation of Auckland may have seemed a good idea in the minds of the provincial council in the 1860s, but effectively locating an institution with the population of a small village here had one major drawback, amongst others: lack of water supply. The English Commissioners of Lunacy recommended in the middle of the 19th century that the quantity of water required for an asylum was 40 gallons per week per inmate. Dr Thomas Aickin, the second Resident Surgeon of the Auckland Provincial Lunatic Asylum, reported in 1873 that the supply was “limited to a few casks obtained from springs lying adjacent to the Asylum grounds, and is carried day by day a distance of about half a mile,” along with water from four rain tanks built into the main Asylum structure’s roof. “The force pump yields a scanty supply of impure water, wholly unfitted for culinary purposes. “It is now admitted that an abundant or possibly unlimited supply of good water can be obtained on the scoria grounds adjacent to the Asylum, which by a system of piping, aided if required by a suitable hydraulic machine, might be made available for every requirement.” 7
It is in the documents stemming from the administration of the asylum that we first come to read of what European settlers thought of the series of springs bubbling up from the aquifer just to the south-west of the asylum’s original site. The farm through
Information by Haare Williams Aickin’s report to Provincial Superintendent, 20 January 1873, Auckland Provincial Council papers, Special Collections
which the waters flowed from the springs, forming the Wairaka Stream, and emptying into the Oakley Creek, were purchased in 1855 by one Andrew Rooney.
He was a
land entrepreneur, dealing in large properties on the North Shore, Epsom, Hillsborough, and Riverhead. He also owned the land across the Oakley Creek which would later become known as the Star Mill site, beside present-day Cowley Street, selling that land to John Thomas in April 1859. But the farm to the east of Oakley Creek, Allotments 31, 32 and 33 of the Parish of Titirangi, were to remain his property until 1873, leased out to farmers. The first lessee, James Henry Hayr, assigned the remainder of his 1859 lease to Thomas Hicks in 1863. The springs therefore, right from the time of the start of construction of the asylum in 1864, were dubbed Hicks’ Springs.
In reference to one of four sources of water for the asylum in 1873: “Water of a pure and wholesome quality has hitherto been obtained from Mr. Hicks’ springs adjacent to the Asylum grounds. It has been conveyed in casks by the Asylum cart at a considerate expenditure of time on the part of the attendants.” 9 Initially, however, the springs were not one of the main sources of supply for the Asylum. The first full provincial council report sighted on the asylum, prepared by Robert Elliott Fisher (first Resident Surgeon) in January 1868, does not mention supply from the springs at all – rather, wells on the asylum reserve were used, and these either ran dry or were often contaminated by sewage. 10 These were still in use in 1872. 11 In 1873 however, a government enquiry echoed Dr. Aicken’s report to the Provincial Council: “Daily during the dry season every year, an attendant or two, with a number of patients, have to be despatched with a water cart to obtain this necessary [water supply] from a distance … The management of an institution such as the Provincial Asylum is placed at a great disadvantage without an ample supply of good water for the important uses of drinking and cooking … This could be remedied by large tanks being constructed to receive the rain-water from the roofs of the buildings … or a small hydraulic ram could be placed in the neighbourhood of the creek which passes the garden of the
DI A2.129, LINZ records for Allotments 31, 32 and 33, Parish of Titirangi Aickin Report on Water Supply – 12 April 1873, Auckland Provincial Council papers, Special Collections 10 Fisher, “Annual Report of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum”, published by NZ Herald 17 March 1868. 11 H Hanson Turton, “Provincial Lunatic Asylum, Auckland – Inspector’s Annual Report”, report published in Appendix to Journals H of R, 1872
Asylum, and which would afford a constant supply of good water at very little expense.” 12 This “creek which passes the garden of the Asylum” could have been the Wairaka Stream outlet into the Oakley Creek. There would have been legal impediments to that solution, however, as that area at that time was included in the Thomas water right, and was not Crown land.
The low level in comparison to the asylum buildings on the adjoining property meant that supply from the springs was not easily arranged; and in the early 1870s was expensive as well. “Mr. Hicks’ springs lie adjacent to the Asylum ground. These are at a lower level and the water could not be utilized in large quantity for any emergency otherwise then by the aid of an Hydraulic Apparatus which together with the expense of securing the right to the water by purchase or otherwise would probably prove more expensive and less efficient than the supply aforesaid by tanks of sufficiently ample dimensions.” 13
The District Engineer didn’t hold out much hope of the springs being a supply of water for the asylum until the property was either purchased or came under specific agreement. “The second proposition to supply water from Hicks’ Springs I believe would give a sufficient supply, if the property could be purchased at a cheap rate, or if satisfactory arrangements can be made with the proprietor. A supply could be pumped up to the Asylum with a horse power pump at a cost of about five hundred pounds. The water is abundant and of good quality. The cost of pumping would not be great, as a horse is always kept on the premises, and its services might be made available for this work. In the first proposal a powerful force pump, worked by hand, would be necessary to raise the water from the tank to the cisterns on the roof; in the second the water would be raised up at once with three hours pumping per day in any weather and in wet weather a supply from the roof into the tanks could be procured without pumping.” 14
Daniel Pollen, William Stockwell and John Thomas Boylan, “Report of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum”, published in AJHofR, 1873 13 ibid 14 Report by H Allright, District Engineer, 12 May 1873, Auckland Provincial Council papers, Special Collections
However the Superintendent of the Auckland Provincial Council, Thomas Gillies, advised Dr. Aickin and the supporting engineer and inspector in May 1873 that such construction of a pumping system from the springs to the asylum could not proceed without a special vote, the estimated expenditure for such a plan being over £500.
The proposal was allowed to lapse. Dr Aickin could only report that the supply of water was, at the end of 1873, much as it was before: “The few water tanks with which the house is furnished are usually exhausted within four days after the cessation of rain, hence the necessity of continually employing a man, horse and cart to haul water from an adjacent spring, a privilege which may at any moment be denied by its proprietors.”
In 1874, when the rainwater tanks ran dry once again, “the whole
supply for all purposes has to be carried in a water-cart from the creek, and the quantity procurable by the labour at the disposal of the superintendent is insufficient to meet the sanitary requirements of the inmates.” 17
The first reference to a pump being used to increase the amount of water available to the asylum is later that year, when H D Morpeth reported to the Auckland Provincial Council: “… I am now happy to report that a force-pump has been procured from Britain, through His Honor the Superintendent of the province … A well has recently been sunk, 76 feet deep; the water, I am happy to say, is excellent in quality, and the supply will be at all times sufficiently abundant. The depth of the water in it at present is 50 feet.”
The location of the force-pumped well is unknown, and is unlikely to
have been where the much-later pumphouse was erected by Mt Albert Road Board, but it does represent the first mechanical pumping technology known for the entire site.
The Provincial Council era was drawing to a close. On 1 November 1876, the provinces ceased to exist, and the affairs of the asylum passed to central government and the Colonial Secretary. In late 1877, the first of two fires at the asylum proved how ineffectual the water supply really was, with water only able to be thrown at the
Thomas Gillies, Provincial Superintendent, 22 May 1873, Auckland Provincial Council papers, Special Collections 16 Aickin Report, 10 November 1873, Auckland Provincial Council papers, Special Collections 17 E Paley, Report on Auckland Lunatic Asylum, published in AJHofR, 1874 18 Morpeth, “Report by the Inspector on the State of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum, Auckland, st up to the 31 December, 1874”, published in AJHofR, 1875
flames with buckets.
In March 1878, the District Engineer accepted the Auckland
City Council’s offer to supply the Asylum with water from their new Western Springs pumping station, for £100 per annum. 20
On 29 September 1879, the last private owner of the farm allotments which included the springs, Joseph Howard, sold the land to the Crown for £4200,
a princely sum
in those days for what was really just a farm out in a country area. The government had surveyed the entire site in July that year from Mount Albert, including the existing asylum grounds.
From 1888-1893, the process was completed by the
gazetting of the water-right to the Oakley Creek along the western edge of the farm, secured from the Garrett Brothers and their financial successors to the Star Mills site.
From then on, the asylum grounds were at their fullest extent, and the springs
belonged to the Crown. Thirst and contamination Typhoid fever is a disease caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi. This bacterium lives only in humans, and so outbreaks are usually linked directly with transmission either from infected persons (eating food or drinking beverages prepared by those infected with typhoid), or by water contaminated by sewage containing the bacterium. Persons infected carry the disease in their bloodstream and digestive tract. The bacteria can exist in the body long after symptoms disappear. 24
Typhoid first appeared as an epidemic disease in New Zealand in 1860, and by the 1870s it ranked close to pulmonary tuberculosis as a major cause of death. The disease’s effects on the local population began to decline in severity from 1875 onward, owing to improved sanitation and safer water supplies, but still remained a major concern. One of the first aims of the new Public Health Department from 1901 was to promote better sanitation, the safeguarding of water supplies, and the
NZ Herald, 27 September 1877 City Council report, NZ Herald, 28 March 1878 21 Deed 62802, LINZ records 22 T W Hickson survey, plan no. 1992, LINZ records 23 Plan No. 5131, LINZ records 24 From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services, U.S.A., http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/typhoidfever_g.htm, sighted 10 July 2007
protection of food. By 1906, nationally, the typhoid rate had been halved, and by 1921 had been halved again. 25
Typhoid outbreaks occurred almost regularly in Auckland from the late 1870s, usually in the months of March-May. Lack of proper sanitation was usually held up as a direct cause of each outbreak, but increasingly concerns were expressed as to the location of night soil depots close to water supply areas (such as Western Springs), market gardening practices involving spreading raw manure onto gardens within the watershed areas, and questions were even raised as to what effect the cemetery at Mt Albert might have on raising contamination levels. 26
One set of statistics detailing typhoid cases from a four-year period was published in 1889: 27 42 cases of typhoid were admitted to Auckland Hospital in 1886; rising to 74 in 1887; rising again to 81 in 1888, with 11 deaths; and finally dropping to 22 cases, no deaths, in 1889.
Residents and staff at the Asylum were reported as being infected by typhoid in 1878. “Three of the attendants are at present off duty with sickness. Two of them are believed to be suffering from typhoid fever, and one has been removed to the hospital and the other to his own house … The occurrence of typhoid fever in this crowded community, and in buildings the drainage of which is utterly abominable, is a matter of very serious concern.”
The occurrence, though, is hardly surprising, given that
sewage was being allowed to “escape through the Asylum grounds by means of an open drain” after the demolition of one of the institution’s sewage tanks.
There were more cases of typhoid reported the following year, with several cases reported in the male division of the asylum, and two deaths. 29
F S Maclean, Challenge for Health – A History of Public Health in New Zealand, 1964, p. 146 26 NZ Herald, 23 March 1887. Numerous other articles around this time on the same theme. 27 Auckland Star, 7 May 1889, p. 5 28 Report on the Auckland Lunatic Asylum, by Dr. Skae, published in NZ Herald, 17 September 1878. 29 George Wallington Grabham, recorded in AJHofR, 1883
In the beginning of 1882, Dr. Alexander Young, then the Medical Superintendent for the Asylum, included in his “Farm and Garden Account” list for 1881, £17 5/- spent on “Hydraulic ram, including laying pipe.”
One of the uses for a hydraulic ram is
the lifting of water from a low source to a higher storage point – perhaps, this was the start of an auxiliary source of water for the Asylum from the springs, although on a small scale. It may though have only been for the farm’s irrigation purposes. “A great deal appears to have been done in clearing the farm-land of scoria,” said the inspector of asylums in 1883. “The acquisition of a piece of land of some five acres near the creek, and having on it a good spring of water, is very desirable.” 31
That £100 cost per annum to the City Council for their mains supply began to bite into the budget allowed for running the Auckland Asylum by 1884. The Inspector’s comment then was, “The cost of the asylum water-supply being very great, some use should be made, by ram or steam pump, of the excellent spring which rises on the estate. A small reservoir is needed for the auxiliary asylum, which could readily be filled. The very necessary enlargements at the main buildings might include storage, in some lofty part, for water, which would effect a considerable economy in the working expenses of the asylum.” 32 This was repeated as an even stronger suggestion the following year, as nothing had been done: “A large annual saving would result from the utilization of the large volume of excellent water which is constantly running to waste into the creek.”
Again, the year after that: “The water-supply running to
waste on the estate would, if utilized, soon repay the cost of the necessary pumpingmachinery and storage-tanks.” 34
Another typhoid outbreak in the summer of 1890 apparently spurred the government on to upgrade the drainage for the entire asylum the following year.
drains were still emptying straight into Oakley Creek: “…a nuisance to the neighbourhood, and I hope that next year  we shall be in possession of such a system of sewage irrigation over the farm as shall remove this evil.” 36 By 1894 “the
Published in AJHofR, 1882 Grabham, recorded in AJHofR, 1883 32 Recorded in AJHofR, 1884 33 Recorded in AJHofR, 1885 34 Recorded in AJHofR, 1886 35 Recorded in AJHofR, 1891 36 Recorded in AJHofR, 1892
system of sewage irrigation is nearly finished, and is already at work over a considerable area of the garden.”
Raw sewage or night soil was therefore being
regularly used by the asylum authorities over their farmland.
The main supply for the asylum
as at December 1894, however, was the mains
water system supplied from Western Springs, so the possible contamination risks associated with the night soil wouldn’t have been so important. The pressure from the City supply however failed on the night of the second fire that century to destroy part of the asylum, this time the auxiliary building in late December 1894.
Even so, the
asylum did not have its own reservoir and pumping station until 1897, when new superintendent R. M. Beattie reported: “The new reservoir and pumping station have been completed, and our water supply is now an admirable one. I anticipate a considerable saving.”40 The exact location of this pumping station and reservoir is unknown, but may well have been instigated in response to increasing low levels reported from the Western Springs supply in the middle of that decade. 41 The Mt Albert Borough pump house In the late 1890s, Auckland was going through a series of dry summers. Rain was reported in 1895 as being “good for crops, but have not been heavy enough to affect favourably the [Western] springs …”
By January 1897, the water level in the
Western Springs reservoir had been “steadily falling, owing to the continuous dry weather …” Dry weather was still bedevilling the Auckland City Council in
December of that year,
and this led the Council to scout around for alternative
means of water supply, Western Springs becoming increasingly unable to sustain the city’s demands. In February 1898, the City Engineer even recommended that the council consider the Waikato River as Auckland’s future source of permanent supply.
Recorded in AJHofR, 1894 An 1886 plan showing the layout of water supply from the Council’s main around the asylum buildings can be found at the University of Auckland’s School of Architecture library archive, record 33987, http://www.architecture-archive.auckland.ac.nz 39 NZ Herald, 22 December 1894 40 Recorded in AJHofR, 1898 41 Local news, NZ Herald, 5 March 1895, p. 5; 22 January 1897 42 NZ Herald, 25 March 1895, p. 5 43 NZ Herald, 22 January 1897 44 Report by the City Engineer, NZ Herald, 17 December 1897
In the same report, however, results of testing for contaminants at the pump well used by the Asylum were published.
“The analyses [of three samples, including that from the Asylum pump] show a close accordance in the temperature, clearness, freedom from deposit, lowness of ammonia, both free and albuminoid, and of oxygen absorbed, the two last being the most important factors for determining the presence or absence of sewage contamination, therefore the small amounts shown are of especial value.” 45
By March 1898, the situation at Western Springs was serious enough for the City Council to consider purchasing 80,000 gallons of water per day from the asylum springs, at a price of about 6d per 1000 gallons, to help top up the dwindling municipal supplies. 46 An offer from the asylum to supply the City Council with water from the springs at a penny per thousand gallons was accepted in February 1900.
Two years later, the set-up at the springs was described by civil engineer Henry H. Metcalfe as “the Asylum and City pumps are both working, the former taking 5000 gallons per hour, and the remaining yield of the spring running into the bath from which the city pump was drawing…” 48
Back in 1898 however, the Mount Albert Road Board also began to look at future water supply options for their district. They called on Metcalfe to prepare a report, which he presented to them in May 1898.
Mount Albert as at 1896, when the
previous census took place, was a district with a population of 1670, living in 337 houses. By 1898, it was estimated that the population had risen to around 2000, with 400 houses, and Metcalfe predicted that the likely population increase with an assured water supply could be up to at least 3000. Each person, he reasoned, would require 30 gallons per head, or a total supply for the district of 90,000 gallons daily. His pick of the options was the asylum spring, with a dry weather flow measured at 8000 gallons per hour (that was 192,000 gallons per day, easily enough to satisfy the needs of the district at that time and the predicted growth.) His proposal included making an offer
NZ Herald, 25 February 1898 NZ Herald, 25 March 1898 47 NZ Herald, 23 February 1900 48 Report to Mount Albert Road Board, 19 February 1902, MAC 174/1, Auckland City Archives 49 31 May 1898, MAC 174/1, Auckland City Archives
to the asylum authorities, via the minister in charge of the department responsible for the colony’s lunatic asylums, that the Road Board take over the task of keeping the asylum’s reservoir full, in return for a 4d charge per thousand gallons, thereby saving the department even more money than when they had begun to pump the spring’s water themselves.
Metcalfe in 1898 laid down some of the specifications for this municipal pumping station which would eventually play a major role in encouraging and speeding up the development of Mount Albert. Structures he described in his report, beside “a brick building and chimney”, included a straining well and gathering tank. For a supply of at least 120,000 gallons in 10 hours as a delivery capacity, he recommended specific pump and boiler types, including stand-bys in case of failure or breakdown. His proposals included the construction of a service reservoir at the top of Mt Albert, supplied by a 7” rising main from the springs to the tank, along with a 7” service main branching off as it crosses New North Road, and 4” pipes for other mains in the district. Services to every house were included in his estimate. Total estimated cost: £13,755, of which the building of the pump house, the wells and plant totalled £3000. Nothing was done about the proposal however until the start of the new century.
Comments made by Metcalfe in his report of May 1898 were to prove prophetic. “It is of course only a matter of time and increase of population,” he wrote, “when all the springs near the city will become unfit for use, and that time in my opinion is nor far distant either.” He felt that “the whole of Auckland must be supplied from an outside source within 20 years.”
In August 1900, the City Council adopted the Nihotupu scheme.
later, the Mount Albert Road Board met to consider water supply options for their district once again, and the Nihotupu scheme was favoured. However, a water supply vote was lost in October. 52 A further poll just over a week later was held, and £14,500 was passed for expenditure on water works and mains. 53 Now, all options for a water supply for the district were revisited, with Board members Hutchinson and
NZ Herald, 3 August 1900 MARB minutes, 1 July 1901, MAC 100/7, Auckland City Archives 52 MARB minutes, 4 October 1901, MAC 100/7, Auckland City Archives 53 MARB minutes, 12 October 1901, MAC 100/7, Auckland City Archives
Coyle submitting their report on 4 November 1901 which strongly recommended the asylum springs as the source of supply, “there being a plentiful supply of excellent water available from that source.”
The Board examined the existing pump and
boiler at the asylum, and found that these were unsuitable for their requirements. The total cost of works was expected to rise to £15,000, but the Board engaged Metcalfe once again to report as to what would be required at the asylum in the way of land, machinery, etc. 55
The Road Board, still leaving all options open in case the cost of setting up their own supply proved too much, made enquiries with Auckland City in February 1902, and considered that a reservoir would still be needed at Mount Albert’s summit even if they chose to use the city’s water supply. 56 The yield at the asylum, again during dryweather conditions, was found to be the same as it was in 1898: 8000 gallons per hour. Four months later, they wrote to the Inspector of Lunatic Asylums to enquire as to the terms to take water from the springs. 57 It took ten more months, including some intervention and campaigning on the Board’s behalf by their local MP George Fowlds, for the Inspector of Asylums to approve the plan and recommend it to the Minister. 58
By July 1903 it was agreed that the asylum would continue to pump their own supply, while the Board were to pay £150 per annum for the right to pump water and site their station on the asylum land. A contract dated 5 February 1904 was signed between John Chambers & Son Limited and the Road Board for the supply and erection of the pumping plant.
The brick pumping station itself, with concrete foundations, was
apparently built by the Board’s own workmen, but to Metcalfe’s direction.
November 1904, the pumping station was completed, with a supply of coal arranged and pumping engineer appointed (possibly T W Davidson, who resigned due to ill
MARB minutes, 4 November 1901, MAC 100/7, Auckland City Archives MARB minutes, 2 December 1901, MAC 100/7, Auckland City Archives 56 MARB minutes, MAC 100/7, Auckland City Archives 57 ibid. 58 MARB minutes, 4 May 1903, MAC 100/7, Auckland City Archives 59 MAC 110/1/3, Auckland City Archives 60 “Supply and erection of pumping plant specification”, MAC 110/1/3, Auckland City Archives 61 MARB minutes, 4 May 1903, MAC 100/7, Auckland City Archives
health in 1907) 62 and the first Memorandum of Agreement between the Board and the Crown was signed on 8 November. 63
I haven’t been able to locate the original plans for the pumping station, but the specifications for the plant and the reports as to estimates were written by Metcalfe. In addition, the remains of the pump house today are, with the addition of the now demolished chimney (see later in this paper, under “Aftermath”) a mirror image of another well-known pumping station from the early municipal water supply period: that at Lake Pupuke, in Takapuna. Also designed by Henry H. Metcalfe (1905), the Takapuna pump house was ultimately the result of a winning entry of his in a competition held in 1898 – the same year he wrote his first report to the Road Board at Mount Albert. 64 A photograph of the Mount Albert Pumping Station can be seen in Dick Scott’s book In Old Mt. Albert. 65
The following year, the Board gazetted their Waterworks By-Law.
As part of
maintenance of the works, boys were used by the pumping engineer whenever it became necessary to clean out the flues of the boilers. In 1908, another drought hit
Auckland, and the Board became concerned that their water supply would dwindle along with others used on the rest of the isthmus. Metcalfe submitted a report to the Council with reassurances that he did not “anticipate any failure in the supply”. Come July, the Board were still quite concerned about the coming summer and the water supply. Metcalfe was asked to prepare another report. 68
At some point around this time, the Board consulted a noted water diviner named Rev. Harry Mason. He was Otahuhu’s Anglican minister when he paid a visit to the springs, accompanied by Dr. Beattie from the Asylum and members of the Road Board. The press reported: “The object of the visit was to locate additional springs from which the present supply could be augmented in the future, as the growth of the
MARB minutes, 3 June 1907, MAC 100/8, Auckland City Archives MAC 174/1, Auckland City Archives 64 “History of the Takapuna Pump House”, from North Shore Libraries Vertical File, Ref. 993.22 65 1983 edition, opposite p. 64, part of a 1911 photo montage. Original image and montage not found. 66 New Zealand Gazette, 20 July 1905, Issue 68, p. 1727 67 MARB minutes, 18 May 1907, MAC 100/8, Auckland City Archives 68 ibid
district has been so rapid of late that the present supply was taxed almost to the limit during the last spell of dry weather. The Board, therefore, considered it advisable, before putting down trial shafts or bores, to consult the Rev. H. Mason, of waterfinding fame. Mr. Mason was successful in locating many underground streams in the vicinity of the present pumping station, and the evidences of his power in this respect were most remarkable. The centre from which these streams radiated was eventually traced without difficulty by Mr. Mason, and was found to be almost beneath the quarry near the auxiliary building. Over this spot the mysterious forces were manifested in a marked degree, and were, in fact, so much in evidence that Mr. Mason was almost overpowered by their influence.” 69
Before the extra bores could be undertaken, however, by 1909 the Board felt that it was important that complete control of the springs be handed over to them. The asylum’s superintendent Dr. Beattie had no objection, and welcomed the proposal for the Board to supply the asylum with water at a reasonable rate, in return for cancelling the £150 per annum rental. This would also have ensured the asylum could benefit from the higher pressure available from the Board’s reservoir. of Agreement was signed on 12 March 1910. 71
between the Board, Fowlds and the Public Works Department, a new Memorandum
Mt Albert as a suburb boomed during the time of the establishment of the municipal water supply from the asylum grounds, right through to the early 1920s. It was a “goahead suburb”, with dwellings rising from 460 in 1903 to 1300 at the end of March 1910. 72 By 1911, the year the Road Board ceased and the Mt Albert Borough Council took office, capital values had climbed to £1,022,970 from £225,000 in 1903. It was now a millionaire suburb. 73 It was described as the only borough in 1911 in the whole of New Zealand to have doubled its population over the previous five-year period. 74
Undated article, “The Water-Finder”, from MAC press cuttings, Auckland City Archives Letter from M J Coyle to George Fowlds, 3 November 1909, MAC 174/1, Auckland City Archives 71 MAC 174/1, Auckland City Archives 72 NZ Herald, 4 October 1910, p. 7 73 Dick Scott, In Old Mt Albert, 1983, p. 60 74 NZ Herald, 1 June 1911, p. 6
The pumping station, once the March 1910 second memorandum with the Public Works Department was signed and sealed, was further developed by the Road Board and its successor the Borough Council. Two fires in the coal store led pumping engineer J. Taylor to recommend that a small dividing wall be erected “to keep the coal away from the boiler room wall which became a little heated from the furnaces.”75 In October 1910, loans were approved which included £9230 for the extension of the water supply and construction of a new reservoir.
Trial bores were
sunk around the pumping station site, with Metcalfe reporting a good yield per hour in tests with makeshift pumps. The Board prudently decided that the water should “be analysed and if found satisfactory the well be sunk as suggested without delay.”
The results of the analysis were considered in the end “very satisfactory”, and the work to increase the water uptake proceeded. In January 1911, the pumping
engineer reported that for the previous month the engines at the station were running for 385½ hours, at the rate of 1,697,770 revolutions for the month, consuming 36¾ tons of coal, pumping 5,964,000 gallons of water from the aquifer springs. The Mental Hospital was supplied with 1,119,900 gallons.
The waterworks was
described in the middle of 1911, in a glowing article detailing Mt Albert’s progress:
“An excellent supply of the purest water is there obtained from a spring which finds its way up through the rocks. In order to supplement the supply, the Council is now putting down a second well over another spring, and when this is completed there will be ample water to supply the needs of a much greater population that Mount Albert now contains. At present the water, which is pumped to the reservoir on the slope of Mount Albert, is supplying the needs of over 7000 consumers, the Mental Hospital supply being also drawn from this source. It is also intended to construct a second reservoir at the mountain.” 80
John Chambers & Son were once again the successful tenderers for the contract to supply Tangye pumps and gas engine for the new well, but the well itself presented problems during drilling with water filling the work area before the shaft could be
MARB minutes, 3 October 1910, MAC 100/8, Auckland City Archives NZ Herald, 15 October 1910, p. 6 77 MARB minutes, 5 December 1910,MAC 100/8, Auckland City Archives 78 MARB minutes, 9 January 1911, MAC 100/8, Auckland City Archives 79 ibid 80 NZ Herald, 1 June 1911, p. 6
completed. Metcalfe arranged with Fletcher & Co for a large steam pump, capable of lifting 10,000 gallons per hour, to keep the shaft clear of water. Unfortunately, Fletcher & Co abandoned the contract by the beginning of October 1911, and Metcalfe had to arrange to have the work finished using men engaged by the Council’s engineers.
The new bore was described, around the end of that year, as
providing water “drawn from a depth considerably below sea level, is remarkably clear and pure, but differs from the old supply in that it contains a much larger amount of lime in solution and is thus harder water.”
At the time, it was thought that a
larger pumping station would eventually be needed, given the growth of the area. The borough, “to guard against possible contingencies,” even installed a line to the City’s main from Nihotupu, but it was there only for emergencies. At the end of 1911, Mt Albert was happy enough with their main water supply coming from the springs.
The Borough Council protested loudly and with the backing of experts such as Metcalfe and Wellington engineer H Munro Wilson against the proposal to build a new auxiliary mental hospital “near the piggery and not far from the pumping station” in 1912. The main thrust of the arguments against the building was the disposal of sewage and the contamination risk of an increased population so close to Mt Albert’s precious water supply. Metcalfe was adamant as to what was necessary: “… a source of water supply, which should be not only above suspicion, but free from even the suggestion of impurity; in fact too much care cannot be taken in protecting the sources of water supply.” 83 The asylum’s proposal was abandoned by March of that year. 84
A third shaft was added at the pumping station by the end of 1912.
In the dry
summer of 1912-1913, rumours were rife that Mt Albert had to fall back on the City mains supply, but this was clearly denied by the Mayor, M. J. Coyle.
given rise to the rumour,” he said, “was probably a statement that the new supply for the borough would not be available for use for another fortnight, but by that time the
MABC minutes, 5 June, 24 July, 16 October, 26 October & 20 November 1911, Auckland City Archives 82 Undated news clipping, possibly from December 1911- January 1912, MAC news clippings, Auckland City Archives 83 Report from Metcalfe to Mayor of Mt Albert, 15 February 1912, MAC 174/1, Auckland City Archives 84 MABC minutes, 1 April 1912, MAC 100/9, Auckland City Archives 85 MABC minutes, 23 December 1912, MAC 100/9, Auckland City Archives 86 NZ Herald, 18 February 1913, p. 5
contract for the installation of the machinery would be completed. Care would have to be taken in the meantime, of course, to conserve the supply from the old springs …” By March, new gas-powered engines were pumping water from the new shaft. 87 Warning signs Just as Mt Albert Borough was expanding operations at the springs, the Auckland District Health Officer Robert Haldane Makgill came into the picture. He was invited by the Mayor to visit the Mental Hospital grounds, during the period of the auxiliary hospital proposal in February 1912. In weighing up the risk of contamination from the new building’s sewage lines, he wrote, “In the case of an institution such as the proposed auxiliary wards there is less danger than from the same population scattered in private homes.”
This possible risk to the water supply from private homes was
raised by him again in late 1914, when he advised the Borough Council that “a number of houses on small sections in the western part of your district are without nightsoil service. I understand that the carts visit the district, but that the service is not compulsory. This is very undesirable, more especially in that part of the district which forms part of the catchment area for the Mount Albert Springs.”89 In the previous year, the Health Department warned the Borough Council that “the supply was beginning to show signs of diminished purity … but the water was not in such a condition as to occasion serious alarm …” 90
Makgill considered the Mt Albert situation in some depth. In a later, 1923, report, he wrote, “When the supply was first taken for public use there were few houses on the catchment area and the water was very pure, both by chemical and bacterial analyses. Since then the number of houses built on this area has rapidly increased. There are no sewers, and each household disposes of its slop waters by letting them soak into very porous scoria soil, dumps being dug for the purpose. Some of the houses have waterclosets connected to septic tanks, the effluent from which is conducted to such dumps.
MABC minutes, 17 March 1913, MAC 100/9, Auckland City Archives Letter to Town Clerk, MABC, 16 February 1912, MAC 174/1, Auckland City Archives 89 Letter to Town Clerk, 11 September 1914, MAC 133/1, Auckland City Archives 90 Makgill, Acting Medical Officer of Health, Auckland, “Notes on an outbreak of typhoid fever in the Mount Albert District, Auckland”, from Annual Report, Department of Health, published in AJHofR, 1923, H-31.
For other houses there is a nightsoil service, the excreta being removed from the district.” 91
Makgill’s views as to the risks municipal authorities ran in using springs water in the Auckland area became as crystal clear as Wairaka’s waters were so often described, during the typhoid outbreak of 1915. This originated from the One Tree Hill reservoir, supplying Epsom and One Tree Hill, near part of the catchment which also supplied the springs at Onehunga and Ellerslie. At the time, in Makgill’s opinion, all water supplies with their sources in populous areas should be shut down urgently. “People who were compelled to use such supplies he likened,” the Herald reported, ”to the residents of a village on the slopes of an active volcano, for they could not foresee where or when the danger would come. The present outbreak, the Health Department considers, is sufficient warning to warrant the abandonment of all supplies of water drawn from springs in populous districts.” Mt Albert’s springs were included on that list. 92
He urged the Mt Albert Borough Council, in the light of the One Tree Hill outbreak, to undertake regular monthly chemical and bacterial analyses of the springs water each month from that point on. Even with such analyses in place, he had his misgivings. “This, as I have pointed out does not absolutely provide a safeguard – but it will be better than the present haphazard system. The only true safeguard,” he reiterated firmly, “is to cease to use locally drawn supplies, and I trust your Council will hasten in every way the time when this can be done.” 93
Around the same time as Makgill made his urgings to the Borough Council, the Inspector-General of Mental Hospitals wrote to Dr. Beattie at the Auckland Mental Hospital, instructing him to collect samples of the springs water “from the same tap each time, the nearest to supply, in a Winchester quart bottle – sterilised and glass stopped, of course.” This was to be sent to the Dominion Analyst in Wellington, who would do the analysis for nothing (and had methods and staff that tended to remain unchanged, thereby eliminating any “personal factors” in the analysis), whereas the
ibid NZ Herald, 12 May 1915, p. 9 93 Letter to Town Clerk, MABC, 13 May 1915, MAC 133/1, Auckland City Archives
charge for the tests in Auckland were believed to be £2 2/-.
Despite some hiccups
with a glass bottle being corked instead of glass stopped (“the cork did not fit tightly and dropped into the bottle when an attempt was made to extract it”) 95 the tests were arranged and completed. The water was reported as being “very similar but slightly inferior in quality” in September 1915 to an earlier test in August, the albumoid nitrogen levels were higher in May 1916 than they were for December 1915 through to March 1916, and in September 1916 again showed changing levels of chlorine in chlorides, nitrogen in nitrates and the albumoid nitrogen levels. In their August 1916 report, the Dominion Laboratory “recommended that an Inspector [that from the Auckland Health Department] should examine the source of supply and its surrounds and report on any apparent source of contamination.” They suggested specifically that samples be sent to the Government Bacteriologist. In September, this was reaffirmed as a recommended course of action “for it is rather remarkable that the water should vary in composition to such a marked extent in so short a time.” 96
Still, it wasn’t until early 1921 that concerns as to the quality of the water supply were again raised with the Borough Council. Samples taken from the tap at the Council Chambers on January 10 showed the presence of B. coli (Balantidium coli) bacteria, and yet three days later the water appeared to be of high quality again. Dr. Thomas. J. Hughes, the then-Auckland Medical Officer of Health, had the opinion that “this water supply must be watched.” 97
It became apparent to the Mt Albert Borough Council, by at least August 1921, that the springs supply was now being outstripped by the demand from their burgeoning residential suburb. Investigations were made before early August into the feasibility of wells in the Morningside Reserve. 98 The supply had dropped sharply by September that year, and the auxiliary bores at the pumping station had to be brought into use. 99
Letter dated 31 May 1915, YCAA 1079 5e 4/26/1, Archives New Zealand Letter from Inspector-General to Dr. Beattie, 13 July 1915, YCAA 1079 5e 4/26/1, Archives New Zealand 96 Reports from the Dominion Laboratory, Wellington, YCAA 1079 5e 4/26/1, Archives New Zealand 97 Letter from Hughes to Town Clerk, Mount Albert, 21 January 1921, MAC 133/1, Auckland City Archives 98 MABC minutes, 10 August 1921, MAC 100/12, Auckland City Archives 99 MABC minutes, 12 September 1921, MAC 100/12, Auckland City Archives
Rains in October helped the situation somewhat, but by January 1922 some 900 homes in the borough were being supplied by the city mains. 100
A test done prior to 10 August showed “that a considerable amount of contamination of the water was taking place.” The Mayor advised the council that if succeeding tests proved there was contamination, then a chlorination plant would need to be installed, and that ‘this should be done without publicity in which case it was probable that consumers would detect no change in the water.”
By the 15th of August, with
varying readings from the water tests, Dr. Hughes declared, “… the position of the water supply together with the number of septic tanks in the district, renders the water liable to dangerous pollution, more especially after heavy rainfall.”102
On 10 October 1921, the responsibility for the promotion and preservation of public health standards in Mt Albert came to rest on the shoulders of the Borough Council, and the first meeting took place of the Local Health Committee. 103 Perhaps somewhat embarrassingly, the Borough didn’t have a sanitary inspector at the time, not until February 1922 when Mr. Kingdon took up the role. 104
In November 1921,
evidence of B. coli was once again detected in the water
samples. Hughes warned the Borough Council that the water was no longer safe and directed that chlorination be done. A temporary chlorination plant was set up at the pumping station, and another test on 13 December seemed to indicate that the chlorination was working. According to Hughes, the plant was temporary because the Borough Council could not obtain Candy automatic filters.
According to the
Borough Council’s minutes, the Mayor ordered that the reservoirs be chlorinated on the night of Saturday 3 December with supplies of chloride of lime obtained from the Western Springs pumping station and City Waterworks engineer J Carlaw. More (½ ton) was to come from G. W. Wilton & Co at £65 per ton from Sydney. The Borough
MABC minutes, 16 January 1922, MAC 100/12, Auckland City Archives MABC minutes, 10 August 1921, MAC 100/12, Auckland City Archives 102 Letter from the Auckland Department of Public Health and Charitable Aid to the Town Clerk, MABC, MAC 133/1, Auckland City Archives 103 MAC 100/12, Auckland City Archives 104 MABC minutes, 16 January 1922, MAC 100/12, Auckland City Archives 105 Makgill, AJHofR, 1923, H-31 106 NZ Herald, 19 April 1922
Council spent £13 on installing a “simple but efficient” chlorination plant at the pumping station itself.
However, according to Makgill, some ratepayers
complained about the taste, so the Council reduced the proportion of chloride of lime between December and March, below the levels stipulated by Hughes. Hughes commanded toward the end of March 1922 that this should be increased again, 108 but by then it was too late: the 1922 Mt Albert typhoid outbreak had begun. Outbreak: 1922 April 8 A single case of typhoid was notified in the Mt Albert district. This case was initially diagnosed as pneumonic influenza,
and was included in a list with three other
cases of “infectious and notifiable diseases” at the time (namely tuberculosis, diphtheria and influenza). At this stage, however, the Medical Superintendent at
the Mental Hospital advised the Medical Officer of Health that “several cases of typhoid” had broken out among the asylum patients. 111
April 10 Samples of water from the pump-well taken on 10 April showed significant presence of B. coli. 112
April 13 By the 13th, a number of cases now diagnosed as gastric influenza existed in the Mt Albert district. Hughes directed the Borough Council to shut off the springs water supply and revert totally to supply from the emergency city mains set up years before.113 This was done, and the Borough Council begin flushing out the mains with the city’s water. 114
MABC minutes , 6 December 1921, MAC 100/12, Auckland City Archives Makgill, AJHofR, 1923, H-31 109 ibid 110 Advertisement placed by C J Parr’s election committee in the Auckland Star, November 1922, quoting the Civic Sanitary inspector’s report of the time. 111 Makgill, AJHofR, 1923, H-31 112 ibid 113 ibid 114 NZ Herald, 18 April 1922
Notices were published in the local newspapers on 17 April warning the public to take precautions against contamination and the spread of typhoid. By now, there were 20 cases notified in the Auckland area.
It was advised to boil all water used for
domestic purposes, to boil milk, protect foodstuffs from flies, and to stop eating any raw vegetables after washing, such as celery or salads. 116
April 18 On the 18th of April, the NZ Herald in its editorial was firmly of the opinion that the cause of the outbreak was contamination of the Mt Albert springs. Dr Hughes publicly confirmed this later that day.
However, the Mayor of Mt Albert, Alfred. F.
Bennett, denied that the springs were definitely to blame. “If the water has been contaminated – I am not prepared to say that it has – it has been because of the recent heavy rains. That is the reason. However, we want further evidence that the water has been the cause of the trouble.” 118
April 19 Further analysis of the spring water was conducted by Dr. W Gilmour, Auckland Hospital pathologist.
Five more cases were notified in the Mt Albert district,
bringing the total up to 32. Dr. Hughes advised the public that free anti-typhoid vaccinations were being arranged, and recommended to the Education Board that the three primary schools in the district should be kept closed.
One of these is
Gladstone Primary School, supplied up until 13 April with water from the springs across the road.
Auckland Hospital reported that typhoid patients were being accommodated in their wards, and that the medical superintendent, Dr. C. E. Maguire, had been advised of the situation while on holiday in Rotorua. He immediately volunteered to return to Auckland, and came back on the 18th, going straight into a meeting with Dr. Hughes and the chairman of the Hospital Board Mr. W. Wallace.
Twelve new cases of
Makgill, AJHofR, 1923, H-31 NZ Herald, 17 April 1922 117 Auckland Star, 18 April 1922 118 ibid 119 NZ Herald, 18 April 1922; 19 April 1922 120 NZ Herald, 19 April 1922 121 NZ Herald, 19 April 1922
typhoid fever were admitted to the hospital, bringing the total up to 44 under treatment. A woman from Morningside died, Mrs Pateman, aged 30. 122
April 20 The Herald reported that Dr. Hughes himself lived in the Mt Albert district, on Domain Road (now Summit Drive) in a part of Mt Albert that wasn’t connected to the water available from the city mains. He and his neighbours used chlorinated water from the reservoir. 123 The number of notifications from the Mt Albert district is now up to 57. 124 75 people presented themselves for inoculations at Mt Albert School. Dr. T. H. A. Valintine (Director-General of Health), Dr. Hughes, Dr. Makgill and Dr. Wallace made a tour of the Mt Albert district, with the view to opening a temporary hospital there should the wards at Auckland Hospital become too full. None of the buildings in the district were found to be suitable, however, as they weren’t connected to the sewage system.125
April 21 The borough’s engineer in charge of drainage works, F. E. Powell, defended the system of allowing household sewage to run straight into the soil, stating that under normal circumstances the soil acted as a filter, thereby causing no harm. However, he admitted that allowing house drainage to go into the soil had contributed to the typhoid outbreak. The Borough had authority to spend £82,000 on house drainage, “but the trouble is to find the money.” 126
Rumours were now rife that up to 100 patients at the Mental Hospital could also be affected by typhoid. Dr. Hughes admitted to knowing of about four cases (his department knew on April 8), but stated that it was outside his jurisdiction. “It is a
NZ Herald, 20 April 1922 ibid 124 Auckland Star, 20 April 1922 125 NZ Herald, 21 April 1922 126 ibid
matter for the authorities there, but I know that there have been several cases at the Mental Hospital.” 127
144 Mt Albert residents were inoculated that day, as well as the inmates of the Methodist Orphanage and Industrial School at Mt Albert. The neighbouring Avondale Road Board took precautions to prevent the spread of the epidemic into their district, by cleaning the drains, and supplying ample supplies of chloride of lime, possibly from their works near Pollen Island, for free distribution. 128
April 22 The newspapers reported that there were 60 cases of typhoid at the Mental Hospital, including one death. Because the Mental Hospital at the time was controlled directly from Wellington, authorities there were not obligated to notify Auckland authorities in the Health Department of any instance sickness. 129
Out of 63 typhoid cases being treated at Auckland Hospital as at the morning of 22 April, 55 came from the Mt Albert district. Like a war-room map, the Auckland Health Department maintained and updated a chart showing the location of residence of each of the patients. “The flags showing the residence of each patient are distributed over the whole borough, some being even on the slopes of the mountain. There certainly are more flags in the residential area than in some outlying streets, but when the number of houses is considered it is seen that the infection is general throughout the whole area formerly served by the Mount Albert water supply.”
similar map had been used by Dr. Makgill in 1914, during another typhoid outbreak in the Auckland area. At the time, another map, prepared by the Borough’s Town
Clerk at the request of the Mayor, seemed to show a different pattern, showing the “trouble was thickest” around the Paice and Kenneth Avenue areas, Sandringham Road and close to Gribblehirst Park. either side of
Auckland Star, 21 April 1922 NZ Herald, 22 April 1922 129 ibid 130 ibid 131 Geoffrey W. Rice, “Makgill, Robert Haldane 1870-1946”, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007, from www.dnzb.govt.nz 132 Mayors report to MABC on typhoid epidemic, presented 1 May 1922, MAC 100/12, Auckland City Archives
Advertisements appeared, with headlines such as “Are YOU helping to fight the TYPHOID?” (this for a product called the “Comfort” Sanitary Combination – “The Comfort Resolvent Solution destroys all germs and rapidly liquefies all solid matter.”)133
April 23 The Minister for Health, the Hon. Christopher J. Parr, arrived in Auckland and issued a statement that evening on the outbreak. He reassured the Auckland public that the known cases in the Mental Hospital were 43 male, 14 female, out of a total population there of 1100. Those diagnosed and being treated for typhoid had been isolated in two blocks clear from the other inmates.
“I fear,” he said, ”that the local water supply which the mental hospital uses in common with the residents of the borough of Mount Albert, is responsible for the outbreak. The evidence supplied to me supports this theory. This, of course, cannot be held to be absolutely conclusive until further tests are made.” 134
April 25 The Borough’s Mayor, beset by the opinions of nearly everyone involved with the crisis that the springs and lack of proper sanitation in the district were the causes of the outbreak, now turned his own accusing finger to point at the Mental Hospital. J. Waldon, chairman of the Mt Albert Ratepayers and Residents Association, read a letter from the Mayor to a meeting of the Association and reported that “personally the Mayor inclined to the theory that the typhoid in the Mental Hospital had contaminated the water supply. There had always been typhoid in the Mental Hospital, sometimes as many as 30 cases, but the authorities had never made the fact public.” A former mental hospital attendant at the meeting agreed with that view. The Mayor admitted in his letter, though, that the water from the springs was now no longer pure enough for supply without chlorination, and that it may indeed have to be shut off from public supply. 135
Auckland Star, 22 April 1922 NZ Herald, 24 April 1922 135 NZ Herald, 26 April 1922
The members of the Association demanded to know how water once proclaimed among the purest in the Dominion could now be so contaminated as to be unusable. Local agitator Forbes Eadie felt that the Morningside rubbish tip was the cause of the contamination and that the whole crisis was an example of how boroughs like Mt Albert should amalgamate with the city as part of Greater Auckland. 136
April 26 Total number of typhoid cases was now 90. One of the nurses at Auckland Hospital, according to reports, had contracted the disease; cases appearing in Auckland City and other areas were traced back to those having contact with Mt Albert patients. The numbers being inoculated at the Mt Albert school dropped off from this point, and further inoculations were to be supplied from the Health Office in Fort Street. 137
By the evening, the number of cases had risen to 100. Another death had occurred that morning: Robert M. Strong, aged 45, from Mt Albert. A total of four deaths were reported from the Mental Hospital. 138
April 27 By the morning of the 27th, another death was reported: Marie M. Walmsley, aged 23, from Edendale. The total number of notifications rose to 110, including one from Avondale, and four from the city. Reports come through of some people suffering from a milder form of typhoid were not confining themselves to their homes to stop the spread of the disease. The Herald sternly reminded its readers of the heavy penalty under the Health Act in such cases. 139
April 28 The notifications total in the morning was up to 117, not including those at the Mental Hospital. Another death was reported from there, due to typhoid and jaundice complications. Questions were raised as to why the district’s schools had been closed, but not the three picture theatres. Dr. Hughes responded that the boiling of water to prevent disease spreading in the schools was impossible. Also that this was not like an
ibid ibid 138 Auckland Star, 26 April 1922 139 NZ Herald, 27 April 1922
influenza epidemic, where an airborne spread would have meant the closing of theatres as well. 140 Later that day, the notifications rose to 124, according to the Auckland Star.141 By the morning, the Herald refined that figure to 123, but included two cases of the milder paratyphoid fever not found in Mt Albert. 142 Inoculations were continuing, even with just the Fort Street location open. About 450 inoculations in total had been given according to the Herald. 143
April 29-30 Dr. Hughes, from the start of the epidemic, had calculated an incubation period of around 14 days for the typhoid outbreak to work out when the outbreak would reach its peak and start to come back under control. From the time the water pumps had been switched off at the Mt Albert station on April 13, he expected the peak to be over by around April 27 or 28. Over the weekend of April 29-30, three more deaths occurred, two at Auckland Hospital (Gladys Eileen Jordan, age 11, from the Methodist Orphanage, and Thomas Westwood, age 29 from Kingsland) and one more at the Mental Hospital. A total of five had died at Auckland Hospital, and six more at the Mental Hospital, the Herald reported. One of those, Westwood, actually worked for the Herald as a machinist. age 23.
Another died on 1 May, George Edward Andrews,
On the Saturday of that weekend Mt Albert’s mains were flushed again, this time with a solution of chloride of lime which was left in overnight. They were emptied of the city mains water during the process, and after the disinfecting, the city water supply was resumed. 146
NZ Herald, 28 April 1922 Auckland Star, 28 April 1922 142 NZ Herald, 29 April 1922 143 ibid 144 N Z Herald, 1 May 1922 145 NZ Herald, 2 May 1922 146 N Z Herald, 1 May 1922
May 1 The Mayor of Mt Albert had asked, earlier during the outbreak, why it was that of all of Mt Albert supplied by the waters from the springs, the Euston Estate remained relatively clear of typhoid. (According to a Mayoral report presented to the Borough Council that day, Glenmore and Rocky Nook were also unaffected.)
by 1st May, had an answer for this apparent anomaly – his theory was that as the Euston Estate had been settled mainly by returned soldiers, the inoculations they’d had during the war years was still holding them in good stead. Double inoculations were commenced from the 1st of May, a station manned by Dr. Davis starting up again at Mt Albert School. 148
The Mt Albert Borough Council met for the first time since the crisis had begun. Now, Mayor Bennett admitted that the contamination source was indeed the pumping station at the springs on the Mental Hospital grounds, but he felt that the cause was the Mental Hospital’s drainage and the proximity of asylum patients coming too close to the pumping station, not the lack of proper sewage reticulation from the Mt Albert district. Two councillors, H. H. Armstrong and R J Allingham, wanted to know why the Water Committee had not been convened, and “why the whole matter had been dealt with entirely from the Mayoral chair.” The Mayor responded that there was “really nothing for the council to be called together for.” All that had happened was the order to turn off the water from the springs, and to decide whether or not to turn them on again. He had been “merely assisting” the health authorities. The Council agreed to consider the matter of the water supply in committee. 149
May 2 By now, both the Herald and the Auckland Star reported that the epidemic was on the wane. New hospital admittances were down to a few.
MAC 100/12, Auckland City Archives ibid 149 NZ Herald, 2 May 1922
The schools were kept closed for the rest of that week. New cases were reported right through to the week ending May 22, and then tapered off until there were none by June 30. 150
On the 8 May 1922, the Mt Albert Borough Council voted to abandon the pumping station on the Mental Hospital grounds, and use the city mains supply from that point on. 151
The official statistics given by Dr. Makgill in his 1923 report to the Department of Health were as follows: Total number of cases, inclusive of those living outside the Mt Albert area but found to be connected, and those at the Mental Hospital: 216. A total of 31 people died, including 17 from the Mental Hospital.
Aftermath The typhoid outbreak and the actions of both the Borough Council and the Public Health Department came under the public spotlight during the general election campaign in November-December 1922. While during the epidemic local resident Forbes Eadie contended that the contamination had arisen from the Morningside Dump, and seeming Borough Council inaction there, by November he had come to accept that the pumping station itself was the cause. In an open letter published in the Auckland Star dated 4 November,
and followed up by circulars posted all around
the district, Eadie attacked both Parr (Minister of Health and MP for the Eden electorate) and the Borough Council with quotes taken from the Council’s own minutes. Unfortunately, all but one of his quotes cited as evidence of either Council or ministerial bungling was inaccurate in terms of context or even the words used in the minutes themselves. Parr’s election committee had a field day with counter-ads in the papers, pointing out how Eadie “faked the minutes.”
Parr, point by point,
denounced Eadie’s circular to his face at a public meeting held in Mt Albert 154 – and went on to win the election and remain as MP.
Makgill, 1923, H-31 NZ Herald, 9 May 1922 152 Auckland Star, 8 November 1922 153 Auckland Star, November 1922 154 Auckland Star, 17 November 1922
By March 1923, the Borough’s sanitary inspector was able to report that the borough had a “clean bill of health, not a single case of notifiable or infectious disease having been reported.”
The Mayor, perhaps wisely in view of the shenanigans at the
previous general election, chose not to seek re-election.
The Borough Council
resolved in June 1923 to bring in the services of an expert with regard to disposal of the pumping plant. The machinery was to be advertised for sale “as a going concern,”157 although clearly such was not the case. The Mt Albert pumping station close to the asylum spring was never used again for that purpose after May 1922. It is unknown how successful this disposal was at the time. Much of the plant appears to have remained on the site for the next ten years.
Wairaka’s waters were studied in early 1929, this time by the mental hospital authorities, as an auxiliary source for the institution’s laundry, stables and garden. 158 The old concrete bath still existed at that point, the one where the waters were emptied in 1900 and from where the city obtained supplies back then to bolster up their volumes at Western Springs. Aside from that, and perhaps some tanks on the knoll at the south side of the Nurses Home, there was little evidence left of the original asylum supply before the 1910 agreement with Mt Albert Road Board. The Medical Superintendent’s memos of 13th and 15th March to the office of Auckland Medical Officer of Health on the subject of auxiliary water supply for the mental hospital were responded to with firm misgivings, for the said medical officer was still Dr. Thomas J. Hughes, who had very clear memory still of the outbreak of 1922. “This source [the springs] was condemned some years ago,” he wrote, “as an absolutely dangerous supply.” He felt that it was, seven years on, even more likely to be a hazard, given the increase in residential development on the catchment area feeding the springs from Mt Albert itself.
The Inspector-General then advised the
Auckland Mental Hospital’s medical superintendent that the proposal to draw water from the springs was declined. In addition he gave a stern reminder that the patients
NZ Herald, 31 March 1923 NZ Herald, 4 April 1923 157 MABC minutes, 12 June 1923, Auckland City Archives 158 Copy of letter from A White to Medical Superintendent, Auckland Mental Hospital, 22 February 1929, YCAA 1079 5e 4/26/1, Archives New Zealand 159 Letter dated 16 March 1929, YCAA 1079 5e 4/26/1, Archives New Zealand
were to be discouraged from drinking such a potentially dangerous water source, where there was a tap supply available.160
In 1933, the Mt Albert Borough Council Engineer, Wilfred E. Begbie, received a letter from the medical superintendent at the mental hospital,
advising that the
brick chimney stack beside the former pumping station building, not used for many years, possessed no aesthetic value to the rest of the complex and might even be an earthquake risk. Authority was sought for demolition of the chimney, and this was granted in April that year.
This exchange attracted the Borough’s attention to a
neglected part of their assets. Much of the plant for the pumping station may have long before been sold off, but the building itself remained Borough Council property. Begbie wrote to the mental health authorities, asking if they wished to purchase the building, stating that he was aware it was being used as a storeroom by the hospital.163 There were two buildings left on the pumping station site at that time, the main brick and iron one, and a secondary one of timber and iron. Begbie proposed to the Borough Council that the secondary one be dismantled, but that the main one be offered for sale to the mental hospital authorities. 164
This started a flurry of memos and reports between Auckland and Wellington. The medical-superintendent in Auckland, H M Buchanan, was quite keen to retain the pump house, advising the Director-General that the building had been used for many years as a storeroom for coke, straw and empty cases etc. It was especially useful as a storage space. The Director-General, however, could see no reason to make a payment to the Borough Council for the building. 165
Begbie meanwhile reported to the Borough Council in June 1933 that the water works fittings, pipes etc. still left in the “Asylum Reserve” were being retrieved for use elsewhere in the district.
By August, the Borough Council advised the mental
hospital that the Department had use of the pump house in the meantime, until it was
Letter dated 25 March 1929, YCAA 1079 5e 4/26/1, Archives New Zealand Letter dated 14 March 1933, YCAA 2n 4/3/23, Archives New Zealand 162 Letter from MABC Town Clerk, 27 April 1933, YCAA 2n 4/3/23, Archives New Zealand 163 Letter dated 17 May 1933, YCAA 2n 4/3/23, Archives New Zealand 164 MABC minutes 12 May 1933, MAC 100/19, Auckland City Archives 165 YCAA 2n 4/3/23, Archives New Zealand 166 MABC minutes, 23 June 1933, MAC 100/19 Auckland City Archives
decided whether it was to be demolished or not, along with the rest of the station’s fittings. 167
Then in September, the Borough Council reported that they had received an offer to buy the pump house, but gave the mental health department first option to purchase.168 A W Bryant submitted a cash offer for the building “as it now stands together with some loose second-hand uncleaned bricks adjacent to the building.” They offered the Borough Council £43 16/-.
This apparently spurred the
department into action. On being advised of the offer to buy the pump house, they put in their own bid of £45, which was duly accepted by the Borough Council. The
Borough Council then went ahead and dismantled their tin shed, and removed the rest of their pumping plant.
The old pump house, now without its distinctive chimney (all that was left was a 2 meter-high base to the stack, only removed completely relatively recently),171 apparently was used as an occupational therapy workshop in the 1950s, and by the time Carrington Polytechnic took over the site it was a carpentry workshop. Administered by the polytechnic, later Unitec, it then became known as Building 33, used initially as a drawing board studio for landscape design, then refitted as a high tech space for learning technologies. It was then simply a store again Carringtons. 173
up until this
year (2007) when it was redeveloped and now houses the restaurant known as
The 103-year-old building, still showing some of the details of the Harry H. Metcalfe’s Edwardian-era design, has therefore found a new lease of life. As has
MABC minutes, 29 August 1933, MAC 100/19 Auckland City Archives YCAA 2n 4/3/23, Archives New Zealand 169 MABC minutes, 28 August, MAC 100/19 Auckland City Archives 170 Letter from Mt Albert Borough Council to the Mental Health Department, 3 November 1934, YCAA 2n 4/3/23, Archives New Zealand 171 Conversations and email with Frank Webb, Safety and Security Manager, Unitec, 2007 172 Email from Frank Webb, 17 July 2007 173 I personally tend to doubt that Carrington Road, after which the new restaurant is named was in honour of Taranaki surveyor and public administrator Frederic Alonzo Carrington. That Carrington died in 1901, at least 25 years before the road was renamed from Gladstone Road. His association with Auckland is tenuous at best. A likelier candidate is st Robert Wynn Carrington, 1 Marquess of Lincolnshire, known as Lord Carrington (d.1928). Of course, “Carrington” in the Pt Chevalier/Mt Albert district still has connotations of the mental hospital also known as Carrington, after the road.
Wairaka’s Waters, the springs which still bubble up from the boundary between basalt lava flow and clay, today mainly a landscaped stream flowing through well-tended grounds in one of Auckland’s premier tertiary education institutions. These waters which were once renowned for their healing properties, the sustenance of early settlers and their farm animals, providing water for an over-crowded mental hospital, and then even an entire district – and for some time earned infamy because of a deadly outbreak of disease. Now, in the 21st century, they are regaining their traditional associations, and are cherished by new generations.
There is something special about watching the water bubble, suddenly, from out of the ground in a surrounding of volcanic rock. Perhaps Wairaka’s magic still lingers, here where her thirst was slaked so very long ago.
Personalities The Engineer – Henry Hulbert Metcalfe (c.1852-1918) Educated at Cheltenham College and King’s College in England, Metcalfe arrived in New Zealand around 1883, after gaining civil engineering experience in South America, Africa and Australia. He was engaged as works superintendent by Isaac Coates, a former Yorkshireman who won the tender for the Puniu section of the Main Trunk Railway at that time. The two men went on to successfully tender for the Te Kuiti section in 1886 which was completed by the following year.
Metcalfe later become a consulting engineer for local and public bodies, including Devonport (drainage systems and the Takapuna pump house), areas in Auckland city and suburbs, and the Whangarei waterworks. He died, suddenly, at Whakatane, while inspecting the local harbour works. At the time of his death, one son had been killed on active service at Arras in 1917, while another was still serving in France. 174 The Water-Diviner – Canon Harry Mason (1868-1930) Born in Staffordshire, England, Harry Mason arrived in New Zealand in 1894. He worked as second master at the New Plymouth central school, was ordained at Bishopscourt Chapel in Parnell, and became curate at Okato diocese in 1896. By 1900 he was vicar at Huntly, and in 1904 was serving at Otahuhu. It was in Otahuhu where his water-divining skills assisted the local authorities to determine where to bore for the district’s water supply. He also found the right position for a bore to tap into a large supply of “healing waters” at Helensville, and helped a Catholic orphanage in Wellington. “The position he pointed out,” according to the Auckland Star, “was considered unlikely by the contractor, but the nuns had faith, and asked that the work be proceeded with, and the supply was duly obtained.” It is said that he helped many farmers in the Auckland district with his gift.
He accepted the position of vicar at All Saints Church in Howick in 1925, and devoted a considerable amount of time both to restoration of the old church, and the
Obituary, NZ Herald, 6 May 1918; R. S. Fletcher, Single Track – The Construction of the Main Trunk Railway, 1978, pp. 126-130
collection of information on early church history for the diocese. He was made Canon in 1923 at St Mary’s Cathedral, and also served at St Mary’s Home on Otahuhu. 175 The Doctors – Robert Haldane Makgill (1870-1946) and Thomas J. Hughes Robert H. Makgill was born in Stirling, Scotland in 1870, the son of Captain Sir John Makgill of the Royal Engineers. His family emigrated to New Zealand in 1881, settling in Waiuku in South Auckland. Robert Makgill studied medicine at the University of Ednburgh, graduating MB, CM in 1893 with first class honours. Resident surgeon back in Auckland at Auckland Hospital from 1894-1896, he was also honorary bacteriologist in 1897. During the period in which he gained his MD at Edinburgh in 1899, and completed his health diploma in Cambridge in 1901, he also served in South Africa during the Boer War, attached to the 2nd Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders, and with the Natal Field Force. He received the Queen’s South Africa Medal with two clasps.
With the creation of the Public Health Department in 1901 under the 1900 Public Health Act, Dr. Makgill became the first district health officer appointed for Auckland. He became known for the detailed and “masterly” nature of his reports, especially one in 1902 on a case of bubonic plague in Auckland. He went on to be appointed government bacteriologist in Wellington (1904-1908), government pathologist (1908-1914) and was once more district health officer for Auckland from 1909.
In 1915 and 1916 he served with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Back in New Zealand, he was recalled from the Defence Department during the influenza epidemic, and dealt with the latter phase of the epidemic in Wellington. He remained in the Health Department as a consultant until his retirement in 1932. During that time, he is credited with the drafting of the 1920 Health Act which, according Geoffrey W. Rice (author of Makgill’s biographical entry in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography) served to establish “the framework of New Zealand’s public health system for the next 40 years.”
Obituaries, NZ Herald and Auckland Star 3 May 1930; Anglican Clergy Directory, www.kinderlibrary.ac.nz
Dr. Makgill never married. He lived near Henderson, owning an orchard where it is said he had his best success with Chinese gooseberries. He suffered a debilitating stroke not long before he died in Auckland on 3 October 1946. 176
Dr. Thomas J. Hughes had his “trial by fire” during the 1918-1919 influenza epidemic. It was he who stood on Queen’s Wharf in Auckland on October 12 1918, reading an urgent telegram from Wellington in which the Minister of Health ordered him not to clear the Niagara or to allow any disembarkations until he had any report of deaths since the ship had sailed from Vancouver, Canada. He sent a telegram back to the Minister: “One death last night, broncho-pneumonia after influenza. Disease purely simple influenza. Only two passengers for New Zealand with it on board.” The Minister authorised that the ship be cleared.
Dr. Hughes had joined the Public Health Department in 1914. He was to remain as Auckland’s district health officer until at least the early 1930s. It would appear that he used the lessons learned from the 1918 ‘flu epidemic when it came time to deal with the 1922 typhoid outbreak. 177 The Mayor – Alfred Ferdinand Bennett (1884-1965) Born in Auckland, Alfred F. Bennett practised law in Auckland for more than 50 years. His term as Mayor of Mt Albert Borough from 1921-1923 was actually only part of the total record of service he gave to Mt Albert: he was also a chairman of the King George Hall committee, the Mt Albert Scout committee, the Mt Albert Gymnasium Club and the Gladstone Road school committee. He was an honorary life member of the Mt Albert Bowling Club, and toured with the New Zealand bowling team to Fiji and Australia in 1925. He helped to found the firm Board and Council Publishing Co. Ltd. 178
He occupied an unenviable place in Mt Albert’s history. His was the period during which the Borough was slowly and expensively making the transition from low-
Geoffrey W. Rice, 'Makgill, Robert Haldane 1870 - 1946'. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007, http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/; obituary NZ Herald, 4 October 1946, p. 8(4); F. S. MacLean, Challenge for Health, 1964 177 MacLean, p. 22; Geofferey W Rice, Black November, 2005, pp. 64-67 178 Obituaries, NZ Herald and Auckland Star, 3 June 1965
density to higher-density residential development. On top of this, as predicted by Henry H. Metcalfe, the springs were nearing the end of their use as a municipal water supply even without the unwanted complication of contamination and typhoid. This meant looming expenses, payment of which had to be authorised by polls put to ratepayers who didn’t, at the time, pass everything put before them by the politicians who represented them. The concept of Greater Auckland was at its height, and the thought of coming to rely on the mains supply from Auckland City seemed to be just another step closer to the amalgamation of Mt Albert with the city. Mt Albert was also in a state of transition in terms of administration, still operating from the old Road Board offices, with no Borough Engineer, and only recently given the responsibility for preserving the public health of the residents with the demise of the old Charitable Aid system. I think Bennett did everything he could to carry out ratepayer expectations, as well as follow the instructions of health officials. In the end, however, he inherited the result of factors going back twenty years; the result being the outbreak in 1922. The Minister – Sir Christopher James Parr (1869-1941) Born near Cambridge, initially Parr had intended to follow the teaching profession rather than the path towards law, but by 1890 he had been admitted to the Bar. In 1898, his interests broadened to those of community and politics, his foundation presidency of the Auckland Ratepayers’ Association leading to election as an Auckland City Councillor in 1899, and regular re-election until his retirement from the position in 1911 to become Mayor of Auckland until 1915. He remained in practice as a lawyer until 1926.
According to a biographer, Graham Bush,
Parr found socialism and militant
unionism abhorrent, and had a reputation for being a strikebreaker, first in 1912 in a dispute involving local body labourers, and then during the 1913 waterfront strike when he helped organise the special constables known as “Massey’s Cossacks” (after the Prime Minister of the time.) He was also a supporter of the Greater Auckland movement during his time as Mayor of Auckland City.
Graham W. A. Bush, 'Parr, Christopher James 1869 – 1941’ Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007, http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/
In 1914, he was elected Reform Party MP for Eden, including the Mt Albert district, and was to hold the seat until 1926. By 1920 he held the dual portfolios of health and education. During the November 1922 election campaign, while he tried to emphasise to the voters what progress he had made regarding education in their area, it was to be the public health side of his responsibilities which would be used to try to hammer him – and the one doing the hammering was the very vocal and persistent Forbes Eadie of Mt Albert. Parr was knighted in 1924, became high commissioner for New Zealand in London in 1926, leader of the Legislative Council in 1930, and retired in 1936 on a property in Hertfordshire in England. The Agitator – Forbes Eadie (c.1878-1962) Forbes Eadie, called by some the “stormy petrel” of Mt Albert politics
1920s to mid 1930s, is still a bit of a mystery as at the time of writing this paper. He appears to have been born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, the son of a police superintendent of the same name, but even this is uncertain. 181 He may have come to New Zealand around 1908.
The first documentation is when he was made a 2nd
lieutenant in the 7th (Southland) Mounted Rifles in 1911. Morrinsville,
By 1912 he was in
in 1916 he appears in the Northern Wairoa district, and by 1919 he
was in partnership in a land agency business dealing with returned servicemen in Auckland. He served as a JP from 1919-1926, campaigned unsuccessfully for
the position of Mt Albert borough councillor in 1923,
and tried at least twice
during the 1930s (also unsuccessfully) for a place on the Auckland Transport Board.
Despite his criticism of Mt Albert Borough Council and their actions during the 1922 typhoid outbreak (which he blamed as the cause for one of his sons going blind,
NZ Herald, 10 November 1931 Some genealogical information held by the author, yet to be verified. 182 Auckland Star, 9 November 1931 183 NZ Gazette, 24 August 1911, p. 2507 184 Waikato Independent index, Cambridge Museum 185 NZ Gazette, 1919, p. 608 186 NZ Gazette 187 Auckland Star, 27 April 1923 188 NZ Herald 9 May 1935; 10 September 1936
although this was denied by C. J. Parr and the public health department),
worked for the council in 1928 as a clerk of works, and then as a labourer before being laid off after allegations of impropriety in late 1930. Said allegations led to a police court hearing in March 1931, followed by a Supreme Court hearing. Eadie was then acquitted and applied unsuccessfully to the council for reinstatement which was denied in May 1931. He then brought a slander case against Borough Engineer W. E. Begbie in November 1931 which led to Eadie being awarded damages, and Begbie’s brief bankruptcy (discharged by April 1932). 190
During the 1930s, he began to write for the Auckland Star, under the pseudonym “Lee Fore Brace”, on the subject of maritime history. In 1936, he was a member of the Auckland Centennial Historical Research Committee, and prepared a number of lists concerning passengers and ships arriving in the earliest days of Auckland and Wellington for the 1940 centennial. In the mid 1950s, a series of columns of Auckland historical facts was compiled into the “Forbes Eadie scrapbook”. He died in 1962: neither an obituary nor death notices have been found for him.
Forbes Eadie was a colourful, occasional character appearing in and out of the Auckland newspapers across four decades. He seemed to have set upon his shoulders the mantle and responsibility to be a “voice” for those Mt Albert residents affected by the typhoid outbreak, and constantly demanded answers from authorities who became more and more unwilling to communicate with him. In his enthusiasm, he often misquoted or pulled sentences used by those he was questioning out of context – but he certainly made sure that the outbreak was in the news far longer than it might have been. Hopefully, one day, we will learn more about this intriguing personality in Auckland’s history.
Advertisement, Auckland Star, November 1922 Various reports in the NZ Herald and Auckland Star, 1931-1932
Part of the springs as they are today – Unitec grounds, September 2006. Photo by the author.
“The Mt Albert Pumphouse”, by Stormdance Creations. All rights reserved.
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