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New Zealand representative rugby union team, New Zealand vs Britain, 1930

Our oldest recorded sports broadcast – the All Blacks vs the British Lions, June 21, 1930

By Sarah Johnston (Senior Client Access Liaison – Takawaenga ā-Iwi Matua, Nga Taonga Sound & Vision)

The first test between the All Blacks and the current touring Lions side takes place this Saturday at Eden Park and nearly 90 years ago this week, a similar match took place and entered the history books for several different reasons. 
 
On June 21st 1930, the All Blacks met a touring British side for their first test at Carisbrook in Dunedin. This tour was the first time the British Isles team started to be called by their nickname “The Lions”, although the name wasn’t officially adopted until the 1950s. The home side featured legendary New Zealand rugby names like George Nepia and Cliff Porter, who can be seen in the photo above.

All Blacks, lions, rugby 1930
Otago Daily Times, 22 June 1930, Courtesy Papers Past

It was shocking weather with driving snow, but still a crowd of 28,000 people turned out. You can listen to Sarah Johnston from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision talking to RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan about the broadcast of this match, or read more below about why this game has gone down in New Zealand media history.

The All Blacks lost the game 3-6,  making it New Zealand’s first loss at home to Britain,  but it was also the first time an international match had been broadcast here – and it is our oldest sound recording of any New Zealand sports commentary and a pioneering example of local sound film recording.

All blacks rugby lions tour 1930
Otago Daily Times, 22 June 1930, Courtesy Papers Past

 
Radio broadcasting began in New Zealand in 1921 and sports commentaries started being broadcast in 1926, but none of these were able to be recorded because sound recording technology was still fairly immobile.  You could only record by cutting sound onto acetate or lacquer discs and the equipment was not able to be easily taken out of the studio to sporting events.  So all earlier 1920s sports broadcasts simply went out live-to-air and were not recorded.
 
However in 1929,  sound films (the “Talkies”), arrived in New Zealand. A Dunedin silent film cameraman Jack Welsh,  acquired some sound film recording equipment and his experiments with this new technology were significant enough to make news in the capital’s “Evening Post” newspaper:
 
“TALKIE” PLANT MADE IN DUNEDIN

Two young Dunedin men have successfully built a “talkie” film recording plant, after months of slow and tedious work. Mr. Jack Welsh, working in his laboratory at Anderson’s Bay, transferred sound, from a gramophone record on to a film. When the first trial of the reproduction was made in the projection-box at a Dunedin theatre, the melody was jumbled and marred, but the results showed that Mr. Welsh was well on the way to discovering a satisfactory method of recording. In Dunedin yesterday another trial of the reproduction was made of speeches recorded in the room on Friday night, and the improvement was remarkable.

(Evening Post 06 Mar 1930 Courtesy Papers Past)
 
Jack Welsh had already made quite a few silent films of local sports events in the late 1920s, some which you can watch on our website, such as cricket at Carisbrook in 1929. With his new equipment he now made some experimental sound recordings and by June 1930 he was ready to use it to film the test against the British side. 
 
Providing the sound for his film would be a local minister and rugby referee Reverend A.L. Cantor, who had been a regular rugby commentator for Dunedin radio station 4YA.  Years later in an interview held in our sound collection, he recalled how he took his seat in the Carisbrook broadcasting box, along with his wife, two radio technicians, two Lions players who were on the bench (Welshman T.E. Jones-Davies and Brit Douglas Kendrew), as well as Jack Welsh and his partner J.H. Gault – making it a rather cosy space on a snowy Dunedin day.


A.L. Cantor recalls the test match between New Zealand and the British Isles Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision ID146483
 
The score stayed at 3-all right up until nearly fulltime, but as Rev. Cantor describes, a sensational last minute try by the visiting side caused chaos in the commentary box, when the British player Kendrew could not contain his excitement at seeing his side win.


A.L. Cantor recalls the test match between New Zealand and the British Isles Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision ID146483
 
Unfortunately, the outburst by the over-excited Kendrew (who later became Major-General Sir Douglas Kendrew, Governor of Western Australia) was not recorded as part of Welsh and Gault’s film of New Zealand’s oldest sports commentary, but you can hear part of A.L. Cantor’s commentary and watch excerpts of the game on the film, which Welsh titled “New Zealand Audible Items of Interest.” (Note the All Blacks played in white jerseys, to avoid confusion with the dark blue of the British players.)
 

F4483 NEW ZEALAND AUDIBLE ITEMS OF INTEREST. Sound by J H Gault, Camera by Jack Welsh. Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

SinkingOfTahitiFeature

Around the World in an Austin 7 (1928-1931)

- By Jane Paul (Community Programme Coordinator, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

Richard B. Mathews (from Kaitaia) and Hector McQuarrie (from Auckland) came to worldwide attention by circumnavigating the globe in a baby Austin. The intrepid kiwis travelled 22,000 miles in their tiny two-seater car, dubbed “A rugged little baby” by Truth newspaper.

Their journey through Australia, New Zealand and on the ill-fated S.S. Tahiti was captured on film by Hector McQuarrie. This extraordinary film can be watched below, courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia which holds the original nitrate film:

 


Around the World in an Austin Seven [Australia and New Zealand], 1928-31, courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive

 

Richard (Dick) and Hector’s first adventure was the journey from Sydney to Cape York in Northern Queensland. This marathon trip covered 1,300 miles of which 700 were roadless. Austin (Sydney) supplied the “baby” and in return received paramount publicity for their car. Over three months the pair drove further than anyone had gone before. The journey was dangerous – what would happen if they ran out of water or petrol, or the car was unfixable? They navigated dense bush and steep terrain, pockets of quick sand, crocodile-infested rivers and even fled forest fires before reaching their destination. Hector estimated that they averaged 25 punctures a day. Dick was both driver and fixer of punctures, he was “very strong, 12 stone, almost 6ft and built like a Russian.” [1]

The men left Sydney in August 1928, the Austin loaded up with a tent, supplies (including benzene) a typewriter, (Hector had been commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald to write a serial about their adventures [2]) and two books: the complete Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland. By the time they had reached Cooktown they had abandoned most of their baggage, and slept out in the open on gum leaves, wrapped in a mosquito net. With no benzene purchasable after Cooktown, they relied on the goodwill of isolated station owners to help out. Small amounts of benzene was received – mostly from women who used it to power their irons. They reached Cape York on 31 October 1928.

SinkingOfTahiti1

After a spell at Torres Strait and New Guinea (without the baby) the men prepared to make a trip through New Zealand from furthest north to furthest south, and then leave on the next stage of their world tour. The men re-united with their car, “Emily,” in Sydney (after it was shipped down to Sydney as an exhibition in a car show).

Hector, Dick and Emily sailed on the S.S. Maunganui to Wellington. They spent two months in New Zealand and the film shows the men in Rotorua and near the Chateau on Mt Ruapehu.

SinkingOfTahiti2

While in New Zealand, Hector gave lectures and showed his film of the men’s Australian adventures. Auckland newspapers advertised this lecture at the Civic Theatre:

Hector MacQuarrie – Author, Traveller, Adventurer

Will appear in person at each of the above sessions and give an illustrated travelogue

WHERE WE WENT WITH THE BABY

Bristling with Wit and Humour!

Admission – Matinee Dress Circle 1s 6d, stalls 1s, Evening DC 2s

(Press, vol. LXV1, issue 19991, 28 July 1930)

In August 1930 Hector, Dick and “the baby” boarded the Tahiti in Wellington, expecting to reach San Francisco within three weeks.

On the fourth day of their journey (300 miles from Cook Islands) they were awoken by news from the ship’s crew that:

“the tail shaft has broken, the propellors droped off, the engine room is filling with water, and the old lugger’s sinkin.”

The 128 passengers onboard knew that the vessels Penybryn and Ventura were coming to their assistance but not when they would arrive. They endured an anxious 50 hour wait at sea. The passengers were well aware that if the calm waters turned, and the wind and sea got up, the boat would sink. In the interim, the loudspeakers blasted cheerful dance music and food continued to be served.

The Auckland Star reported “Hector MacQuarrie [MacQuarrie was his chosen literary surname], the Auckland journalist, was a passenger [...] and he was able to take some excellent shots of the last moments on board, and the sinking of the ship” [4]

The footage begins with Emily being hoisted on-board at Wellington and scenes of shipboard life. Then the last spectacular images, taken on 18 October 1930, of the liner’s final plunge stern first into the ocean’s depths (taking the baby with it). Hector’s footage was taken from the safety of the rescuing ship – Ventura.

SinkingOfTahiti3

Hector and Dick returned to Auckland. The footage was sold to Fox Movietone (for inclusion in their newsreels) and a negative struck for filmmaker Rudall Hayward, who organised showings of the film in Australia and New Zealand.

By March 1931 the couple were in America, where they purchased another Austin 7 called “Emily H.” Newspaper reports from the time record their only “real mishap was when a rumrunner in Florida charged into them out of the wide and flung the car and the two tourists into the ditch.” Luckily they met an English engineer, who restored the smashed car.

After driving through America, they continued on to Britain, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, Jericho, Bagdad, Babylon and India. Adventures encounted included “being fired at by a Turkish soldier and charged at by an infuriated camel.”

So, where is this footage of these other journeys?

We know Hector didn’t lose his camera on the Tahiti, so he is likely to have continued filming along the way. Is it housed in other film archives? Or do Austin clubs around the world have it? We’d love to hear from you if you have information on these films made in Europe, Middle East and other places (contact: janepaul@ngataonga.org.nz)

Copies of Around the World in an Austin 7 are held in Australia, by the National Film and Sound Archive, and in New Zealand, by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision was recently in touch with the Austin Seven Clubs’ Association, UK about the film. Chris Garner, a member of the Austin Seven Clubs’ Archive Team, added:

“We here in the UK are delighted to hear that this particular film has been discovered, remastered and made available to all. Our congratulations to all involved.

This piece of Austin Seven history is very important to us all, especially as material of this nature is rare and brings to life what McQuarrie and his companion’s exploits were like at the time.

In conjunction with what our archive team is doing here in the UK with our collation and digitisation project, the film is yet another piece of the rich jigsaw of Seven material that exists. We know many enthusiasts here will look forward to viewing it.”

References

  1. We & The Baby. Angus Robertson: Australia, 1929.
  2. This was later released in a book titled We and The Baby, Press, vol. LXVII, issue 20317, 17 August 1931, p. 11.
  3.  Press, vol. LXV1, issue 19991, 28 July 1930.
  4. Auckland Star, vol. LXI, issue 212, 8 September 1930, p. 9.

Hector MacQuarrie published a number of additional books:

  • How to Live at the Front
  • Tahiti Days
  • Roving New Zealanders
  • Round the World in a Baby Car
Esme Stephens.

All the Hits and More – Part 2

Broadcaster and historian Peter Downes wrote to us in response to a recent blog entry about the history of popular music charts in New Zealand, with this fascinating behind-the-scenes background on music hits shows in New Zealand during the 1950s.

Peter Downes.
Peter Downes (courtesy of Peter Downes / Dave Smith).

 

I was pleased to see you’ve included the N.Z. Hit Parade (1952) on your blog.

It so happens that this was yet another of my “babies” and I thought you might like to have some background to it. In those days, apart from some radio drama, New Zealand Broadcasting Service producers were not allowed to be credited.

In the early 1950s most of the so-called “local” radio stations, that is those with a YX call sign, were running their own Hit Parades, with results taken from sales in their town’s record shops. I was a producer at 2YA in Wellington, and it occurred to me that if these results could be combined we would have a near enough to true measure of the most popular songs in New Zealand for that week. In fact it would create a N.Z. Hit Parade. My boss was enthusiastic, and the stations thought it was a good idea and willingly co-operated by sending me their weekly “charts.”

This was in contrast to commercial radio’s Lifebuoy Hit Parade, whose results were based mainly on charts in Billboard (USA) and later in The New Musical Express (UK). The Lifebuoy show was presented by 2ZB’s Rex Walden (pictured in the window display), who had a deep, dark chocolatey BBC type voice.

An advert in a shop window for the Lifebuoy Hit Parade, 1946 (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Documentation Collection).
An advert in a shop window for the Lifebuoy Hit Parade, 1946 (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Documentation Collection).

 

Rex Walden introducing the Lifebuoy Hit Parade, c.1946

 

We couldn’t hope, nor did we try, to compete with the Lifebuoy show, but we had the advantage of being able to include songs recorded by New Zealand performers when they became bestsellers here but who would never have made the overseas charts.

Esme Stephens.
Esme Stephens (photo courtesy of AudioCulture).

An outstanding example of this was Between Two Trees, in the number two position for the year 1952. This American song had been recorded by the Andrews Sisters in the USA, but was only a minor success. However, a cover version recorded for the New Zealand Stebbing Recording label by Auckland singer Esme Stephens went viral (as they say) in her homeland. It reportedly sold well over 7,000 copies – quite remarkable for that time. It was accompanied by “the guitars of Buddy Kane”.

 

“Between Two Trees,” by Esme Stephens, courtesy of Stebbing Recording. A large back catalogue of early New Zealand recordings has been remastered and is available on the Stebbing Recording website. Continue reading

Glimpses of The Film Archive Cafe

A nice collection of photos from our Visitor Services team are the subject of our blog this week. Amanda White, David Klein, Kate Lepper and Abbekah Arulandu took some snaps over the course of a typical day and night to give you a sneak peek of what they get up to. These lovely folk are the friendly faces you’ll see upon walking through our front doors. They are dedicated to making your experience at The Film Archive and our medialibrary an enjoyable one. We even captured a sneaky shot of our Projectionist Oscar Halberg at work! Be sure to say hello next time you’re in and grab a $3 coffee – the cheapest in town!

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photo 6 Continue reading