- By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Co-ordinator – Radio, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
It’s the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese calendar and lunar New Year festivities are being held around the country as the Chinese community celebrates. Thousands of non-Chinese Kiwis join in with these events, going to lantern festivals, watching fireworks and enjoying Chinese food throughout the month of February.
We might tend to think multicultural events such as Chinese New Year are a recent development and part of the more cosmopolitan society we now enjoy in Aotearoa. However, recordings in the sound collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision show us that as far back as the gold-rush era of the 1870s and 1880s, Chinese communities were inviting their European neighbours to celebrate the New Year with them.
The Mobile Unit recording truck visited communities all over Central in 1948 and carried out interviews in places such as Arrowtown, St Bathans, Naseby, Cromwell and Lawrence. It recorded memories from people who were aged in their 80s, so their recollections go back as far as the 1860s – and they had many stories of the gold-miners who flocked to the area – especially the Chinese miners.
Two Arrowtown women, Helen Ritchie and Ellen Dennison, remember the large meals the miners provided to mark events such as Chinese New Year. Mrs Ritchie was born in 1863 in Invercargill and grew up on the Shotover and Nevis Rivers, where her father was a shepherd.
Fortunately, the Wanganella’s passengers were rescued the next day. Rescuing the vessel, however, was not so easy. In spite of several attempts by tugboats to unstick the ship, it remained firmly attached to the reef for 18 days.
The ship was finally freed on 6 February. This film, held in the collections of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, shows tugboats attempting to shift the vessel and eventually succeeding.
A recording of the carol “Silent Night” or “Tapu te Po,” sung in te reo Māori and English by men of the 28th Māori Battalion in North Africa in 1942, is one of the many Christmas taonga held in the Sound collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.
It is part of a series of recordings made by the National Broadcasting Service’s Mobile Recording Unit, in a New Zealand military hospital. The men singing on the recording had been wounded in the Battle of El Alamein in October and November 1942, and were gathered together by Nurse Wiki Katene (Ngāti Toa) of Porirua, to make the recording which would be broadcast back in New Zealand at Christmas.Continue reading →
- By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Coordinator – Radio, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
A “date that will live in infamy” is how United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt described the 7th of December 1941. This week sees the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The attack brought the United States into World War II and brought the war to the Pacific and New Zealand’s back yard.
At the time of the bombing the United States and Japan were actively in peace talks over Japan’s war with China, with Japanese officials in Washington D.C. for negotiations. However, it soon became clear that this air attack had been carefully planned for months, so the outrage felt by the American public at the Japanese deception was immense.
The day after the attack, President Roosevelt addressed the United States Congress and the American people in this historic radio broadcast. Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision holds a recording made in Wellington at the time, from the shortwave radio broadcast, but this version supplied later – directly from the United States – is better quality audio.
The following recording on this compilation tape, is an eye witness account by a US Air Force serviceman, Lieutenant Wallace, who was at Hickham Field airforce base next door to Pearl Harbor. He describes his very brief experience of active warfare.
Another eye witness account of the attack – this time from a civilian perspective – was recorded here in New Zealand a couple of months later, in early 1942, by Thomas Matthews. He was an Englishman, a violinist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He was onboard a passenger ship sailing into Honolulu on the fateful morning, on his way to take up a new role in Singapore (which was still a British colony). As he explained to New Zealand radio listeners, at first he and the rest of the passengers thought they were watching military manoeuvres.Continue reading →
- By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Coordinator – Radio, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
The hilly territory between Canterbury and Marlborough that has been badly affected by the recent earthquake, has long had a reputation as being difficult country for transport, despite its scenic beauty. Since the early years of European settlement, residents have grappled with the steep Kaikoura coast and the rivers and hills of the “Inland Route,” as is captured in sound and film recordings held in the archives of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.
In a 1950 radio interview, Albert Creed, whose family owned North Canterbury transport company Creed and Derrett, talks about the journeys in the days of horse-drawn coaches and bullock wagons.
Mr Creed recalls the poor state of the roads in the region in his father’s time. It could take six or seven weeks by bullock wagon to cart wool bales from Hanmer to Salt Water Creek (just north of Christchurch) and the inland route from Waiau to Kaikoura was vulnerable to high winds, slips and floods on the Conway River, as many newspaper articles of the era attest.
Mr Creed began driving the mail coaches himself as a young man. When labourers from Christchurch were brought in to extend the coastal road to Kaikoura through the Hundalee Hills, he transported them as well. Mr Creed recalls fights breaking out in the back of the coach among drunken road workers who had “pre-loaded” for the trip, with some eventually falling out while he crossed a swamp. In this excerpt from his 1950 interview, he remembers how his brother nearly drowned in the Mason River while on a mail run, when the washed-out road gave way beneath his horse.
As the road links were improved through the 1930s and 1940s, the remote access meant workers had to be housed in temporary villages. You can see these, plus the stunning but difficult terrain, in this 1939 aerial film shot by the Ministry for Public Works.
Recently Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision acquired a set of very special discs from violinist Vince Aspey. The discs not only give a glimpse into Vince’s and his father Vincent Aspey’s distinguished musical careers, they also capture some of the early moments of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra – back then known as the National Orchestra.
Six years before the National Orchestra’s formation in 1946, an orchestra had been established for the nation’s centennial celebrations. In this recording from 1940, the legendary British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham – passing through Auckland on his way to Sydney – introduces and then conducts the Centennial Festival Orchestra and Heddle Nash and Isobel Baillie in the garden scene from Faust.
It wasn’t until after the war that a permanent national orchestra was established. Andersen Tyrer was appointed conductor and Vincent Aspey orchestra leader. As noted on NZ History Aspey had never heard a major orchestra play, but his experience leading orchestras in Auckland, Sydney and Wellington made him an obvious choice for leader.
During those early orchestral rehearsals in 1946, Vincent Aspey’s son Vince recalls standing in the control room at the Waring Taylor Street studios watching his father perform. From one of those first rehearsals comes this recording of soloist Vincent Aspey and the National Orchestra.
By Alexandra Porter (Audio Conservator, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
Last year I was digitising a 1948 Mobile Recording Unit oral history, as part of a larger digitisation project. While digitising this item I heard the name Octavius Harwood crop up, in an account by a Mrs McDonald from Waikouaiti. I remembered the name of Octavius Harwood (it’s not a name you forget) from my partner’s whakapapa (genealogy), when we were researching names for our son Elijah fourteen years ago. So I got in touch with taua Natalie, Eli’s grandmother, who lives near Taiaroa Head, on the Otago Peninsula and the Harwood-McDonald story began to unfold.
Octavius Francis Harwood, born in Stepney Green, England, was the eighth of ten children to Robert Harwood, a sea captain, and Mary (nee Soutter) – whose family owned the company, Soutter ships. After a classical education Harwood followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the mariner’s life, which led him to Sydney in May 1837. There he met George Weller of the infamous and well-established Australasian whaling and trading brothers, and in the following year sailed on to New Zealand to take up the role of storekeeper and clerk at their Ōtākou station  . Continue reading →
- By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Co-ordinator, Radio – Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
Talkback radio has long been cornerstone of late night commercial broadcasting. It can be a familiar voice for lonely shift workers and insomniacs, an outlet for people with strong opinions of all kinds or just a friendly ear for anyone wanting a chat.
In this country, it began just over 50 years ago and recordings in the Sound Collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision tell the story of the roots of talkback.You can hear me talking about them to Jon Bridges on RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan programme here – or listen to the recordings below.
Talkback radio began very modestly in October 1965, on the commercial network stations of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (one of the predecessors to Radio New Zealand). It was part of what had been known as The Women’s Hour. This was a slot every weekday afternoon around 2pm, which featured a local female host presenting topics thought to be of particular interest to female listeners. This programming had begun back in the 1940s and by the 1960s stations in the main centres and over a dozen regional towns –including Timaru, Nelson, Whangarei, Napier and Invercargill – all had their own local Women’s Hour host. While its focus was very heavily on domestic issues such as sharing recipes and home hints, the slot also featured studio guests, visiting celebrities, book reviews, radio dramas and the vital local advertising aimed at female shoppers.
In Masterton in the mid-1960s the Women’s Hour host was the redoubtable Jessica Weddell, who was just starting out in radio, but who would later move to Wellington where she would become the Kim Hill or Kathryn Ryan of her day, as a national current affairs interviewer. In an interview later in her career, she explained how she was a talkback “guinea pig” and the first to trial this revolutionary idea of allowing listeners to call the studio:
The unit was a mobile recording truck (affectionately known as “Gertie”) kitted out with disc cutting equipment and microphones on very long cables. It toured the country recording people who would normally have never been able to get near a radio station studio, which in the 1940s were still largely limited to the main centres.
The purpose initially was for the truck and its crew to go out and record musical talent from the provinces, that could then be used in broadcast programmes for the radio – sort of an early New Zealand’s Got Talent. However, the scope of their mission broadened when the broadcasters realised the wealth of oral histories the old people of the towns they visited could contribute, and so we have a lot of wonderful recorded memories in the collection, reaching back to the 1870s and earlier.
In 1948 the unit was in Coromandel township and recorded three tracks in Māori and English sung by a local group, the Brown Sisters. Here are Tangiura and Te Waimarie Brown singing a country number by Tex Morton, “Outlaw Rocky Ned,” as well as two waiata Māori, “Tōia mai” and “Koutou katoa rā.”
At the end of last year, the eclectic nature of the Mobile Unit recordings was made very apparent as Alex and Cam completed work on a large number of discs recorded around Wellington in November and December 1945, when the Royal Navy aircraft carrier and two British destroyers visited New Zealand.
Broadcasters were possibly testing out the new Mobile Unit truck and its equipment, as there are many hours of recordings made onboard the ship, describing equipment and manoeuvres (you hear planes taking off and landing) and interviews with officers and sailors about their roles on board. More unusual are recordings which reflect something of life in Wellington in 1945. Here is an interview with a Mrs Innes, who was running the Home Hospitality Bureau, which had to find local billets for the ship’s crew. (We think the phone conversations were probably staged for the recording, but it is still fascinating listening.) Continue reading →
By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Coordinator – Radio, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
The early months of the year are harvest time in the Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, and other apple-growing regions of New Zealand – and there are several recordings in the Radio Collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision that tell the story of our favourite fruit and the huge export industry that has grown up around it. You can hear me talking to RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan about the recordingsor you can listen to the full recordings below.
In 1940, during World War II, the New Zealand apple harvest was unable to be exported in such quantities as usual, because of the war affecting international shipping. So there were something close to a million extra cases of apples that needed to be consumed domestically! To get Kiwis eating more apples, radio promotions such as a national apple-pie recipe competition were held and school children were encouraged to take at least one apple with them to school every day. Another competition was held to find a song to promote apples, and it was won by Ivan Perrin, who came came up with new lyrics to an old tune . Here is one version of his winning “New Zealand Apple Song,” performed by Theo Walters’ Personality Band. The female vocalist is not identified on the disc, but may be Jean McPherson, New Zealand’s “Sweetheart of the Forces.”
A rendition of Perrin’s “Apple Song” was also recorded by the children of Wellington’s Lyall Bay School and became hugely popular. An article in The Listener in March 1940 printed the lyrics “in response to many requests” and noted the daily playing of the song at 8.15am on commercial ZB radio stations, along with the ringing of a school bell, had become “a Dominion-wide signal for school kiddies to be on their way” .Sadly, the original Lyall Bay School recording no longer exists, although a performance was re-recorded for a school reunion in 2002.Continue reading →