A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas

A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas
The Cockabully Hunters --- from an original painting by Noel Guthrie

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Poverty Flat

The only visual reminder of a once flourishing business

Workers accommodation and cook shop 

This area east of the Cave Township is said to have been known to the locals as ‘Poverty Flat.’  The dilapidated building on the southern side of the Te Ngawai River is the only visual reminder of a flourishing business that operated from here at one time.
The Cave Lime Works, as it was commonly known, yet officially recognised as the ‘Timaru Lime Works’, was built during the early 1900s.
It began in a small way by carting raw limestone across the river by horse and dray from the base of the towering limestone cliffs to a small crushing plant.
The operation remained on a small scale until around 1935 when the then management was taken over by Mr Lahaney.  Improvements began to take shape in the form of bucket conveyor system whereby continuously transporting raw material from the cliff face into the crushing plant. 
Because of these improvements, the Works increased its volumes and the need for more labour was required.  Management built men’s quarters and a small cookhouse to accommodate those single employees at the plant.
Even though this piece of history was rather dilapidated at the time of my visit I could still see most of what would have been considered comfortable during those years of operation.
This block appeared designed to accommodate six workers; each small room measured about two by two and a half metres and at one time had a pot-belly solid fuel heater in one corner of the small room.
Located at the northern end of the building the small kitchen was accessible to each room by a narrow veranda.  The remains of a rusted coal range were still visible and the rusting remains of a solid fuel boiler, probably used in its day to heat water for showers and so on.
I can recall as a youngster during the 1940’s helping my dad when he drove a transport truck picking up those bags of lime from the works.  Those were the days of when the bulk spreader was only in its infancy.
Again in 1950 when I travelled the Fairlie Flyer to high school in Timaru each day the train would stop to pick up wagons loaded with lime waiting on the rail siding, specially constructed for that purpose.

Unfortunately for Cave, this lime works, a major contributor to the population of the township closed down during the latter part of the 1950’s. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

My Austin Seven

My Austin Seven

                I noticed in the Herald a few weeks ago, a couple of old codgers sitting in their pride and joy, a 1929 Austin Seven motor car.  According to the article, they had restored that little car, to its former glory. 
                For me, memories flooded back sixty or more years, to the time when I owned a little Austin Seven.  I’m not entirely sure, but I think it was a 1935 model.  I sketched my little car mostly from memory
                In 1952, at the age of fifteen and as an apprentice, I was learning to drive.  My boss at the time, allowed me to take the work truck down the lane, past the timber racks, and into the garage at the end of each day.  I don’t know how he would have reacted if I had taken out the back wall of the garage, or demolished one of the doors. 
                The following morning, I was encouraged to reverse the truck out of the garage and help load it for the rest of the day.  A little chore that carried on for several weeks. 
                One morning, out of the blue, I was informed it was my turn to drive my workmates onto the job, several miles into the country.  It was the boss’s view I would gain valuable experience for sitting my licence.  (But that’s a story for another time.)
                I told my father I was learning to drive the work truck.  A grunt was the only reply I got.
                When I suggested I take the family Model A for a bit of practice and gain a few skills.  That blew the cobwebs out of his ears.  He trusted me, so he said, yet somehow, his trust never extended far enough for me to get behind the steering wheel of his Model A.  I suspect he had visions of his car being wrapped around a lamp post in the course of practising.  That sort of scenario was highly unlikely; for, the speedometer never registered more than 35 miles an hour.   
                A bit later on, the old man scared the crap out of me, threatening me with a lingering death, if I so much as tried to talk my mother into letting me take the old car for a bit of a spin, while he was away.  
                It took several weeks before he relented, but by that time, I had concluded it just wasn’t worth the hassle. For quite honestly it took the work of a genius, to start that car.
                By the time the spark control was adjusted and I fiddled around with the hand throttle, both on the steering column, one needed to find the starter on the floor with their foot.  And last of all, unless I held one’s mouth at the correct angle, the motor never kicked, so half the blasted morning was gone.  
                Then out of the blue, wonders will never cease, I was allowed to take the old car out on a run. 
                After going through the usual flight plan, my last option, after the old girl not starting, was to use the crank handle.
                If I was lucky, a couple of swings on that handle and the car would burst into life.  Otherwise, with another swing on the handle, after advancing the spark a couple of notches and checking the throttle the motor would give a kick, nearly breaking my wrist and flinging me on my back.  It was about then I spent the next 15 minutes cursing and sinking the boot into the bumper bar.
                Totally exhausted from my little tantrum, I fired one last broadside.  “C’mon you lousy bitch, you don’t start this time, it’s over the efin bank into the riverbed. See how you like that, eh?”
                It’s amazing how much better one feels after buggering up a good pair of shoes by kicking the hell out of all four tyres.  You achieve nothing, but man, it feels so good.  That is until mother rushes out, she’s just remembered, Dad said before he went away, the petrol tank is empty . . . . .!
                By the time I was seventeen, I had had enough of swinging that crank handle and so on.  I had saved up enough ready cash, to buy my first car, an Austin Seven.  If I remember correctly, it cost me around one hundred quid.
                God, it was a snazzy little thing, had a motor in it about the size of two pounds of butter.  With a block of wood, a six-inch crescent, a screwdriver and absolutely no mechanical knowledge whatsoever, there was nothing I couldn’t fix on that little car. 
                Even though that wee thing was not much larger than a matchbox, I was over the moon. 
                It wasn’t the most comfortable for courting, the damn gear lever was in the wrong place for a kickoff and there was no room in the backseat.
                I do remember one hilarious act though, where I had arranged to take a girl to a party in the city, never realizing her address was via a steep slope, a few miles out of town.  
                There were a few sharp little bends on that slope and oodles of corrugations to negotiate along that gravel road. 
                Halfway down the slope, on our way to town, we were doing fine, until my girl passenger; accidentally knocked the gear stick out of gear.  At that point, the little car took off like a rocket. 
                The gearbox was screaming as I stamped on the clutch, trying to sort the gears out. 
                We flew round the bend at the bottom.   On two wheels, and after a 360-degree spin, the car came to a halt.   I shuddered to think how many teeth were left lying in the bottom of the gearbox.   
                As for the girl, she screamed all the way down and refused to utter a single word for the rest of the journey.     On arrival at our party, she flung the door open and vamoosed. 
                It’s been more than 60 years since that little escapade.  Consequently, I never laid eyes on that girl again.  For all I know, she may have emigrated.

                Over the next few months I fitted a chrome plated fishtail exhaust to my little car, a full set of mud flaps with little red glass reflectors, new chrome plated side mirrors and an attachment fitted to the radiator cap, redirecting the airflow and insects away from the windscreen.
                As the weather warmed up, I decided the car needed a paint touch up.  I was intent on having a two-tone paint job, forest green bodywork, black mudguards, along with white wall tires.  I later had visions of my car looking like a dung beetle, so I decided against the white wall tyres.
                I didn’t fancy using a paintbrush, so I used mother’s vacuum cleaner, which came with its own spray gun attachment.   If I recall correctly it was called an ‘Electrolux’.  All that was required was to transfer the hose from the sucking end of that machine, relocate it to the other end, where all the blow power was, and, Bob’s your uncle.  
                On the back lawn behind the coal shed, after I meticulously masked everything on the car and gave it a thorough sanding, I was ready for my first assault at the spray painting game.  All I had to do now was fill the spray reservoir and hold my finger over the little air-hole in the top of the attachment, and __ ___ hey-presto, a fine spray of paint should materialize.    
                Beginning along the driver’s side, I began working my first coat of forest green.    Completing the first coat, I stepped back to survey my handiwork.
                Oh man, what a blinkin’ mess.  As fast as I was spraying the paint on, it was slipping down behind me, in hideous watery looking streaks.  My scientific technique and skill at mixing paint definitely needed a bit more practice.    
                Carefully rectifying the paint consistency with a bit less turps, a bit more of this, and bit less of that, I was ready to start again, just as soon as I had cleaned up my previous mess and re-sanded everything.  
                Eventually, over the next few days, the whole thing was completed.  That new paintwork looked clean and shiny.  I was rather pleased with myself. 
                There may have been an infinitesimal fault with my work. ___ Alright, alright! ___ There may have been a few more than one.  Like, where a dozen sandflies landed but never left, a couple of randy blowfly’s had a party on the roof.  A couple of pine needles dropped in on the afternoon breeze.   Yet, when I stood back far enough, I couldn’t see any of that. 
                One thing I did notice though, the paintwork was a mass in little pimples, a result of a non-adjustable air flow, so I was told by one who claimed to know about these things.  I guess it was what professionals may call them, ‘orange peel effect’. Looked rather classy, I thought.

                Standing back admiring my handiwork, my dad appeared at my side on his way to give the chooks their afternoon feed. He had stopped to pass comment. 
                Standing there, legs apart, he was plugging Bears Dark tobacco into his stinky old pipe with his thumb and viewing my handiwork.
                With a sly grin, he said.  “Happy?”    
                “Of course I am. Why?”
                “Oh.  Just wondered?”  He said touching a match to his pipe.   
                “Say,” he remarked from behind a cloud of smoke and a smart-arse grin.  “Is that a special blend of paint you’ve used there? It’s the first time I‘ve seen that.  Just new the market, is it?  It looks like orange peel, doesn’t it?”
                “Yeah, I know.  Actually, it’s specially made for racing cars.”  Keeping a straight face, I knew very well my old man was trying to pull my leg.  “They say it’s supposed to handle the slipstream better?” 
                “Well,” said my father.  “Certainly looks like something slipped. Wouldn’t it have looked better-painted orange?”     
                Turning on his heel, he started calling the chooks for their afternoon feed, and then he began to whistle.    Bloody hell!  It sounded like the old rooster was having another asthma attack and was constipated again.


Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Fairlie Flyer

Remember the Fairlie Flyer?  I don’t suppose most of you will remember those days when the passenger and goods train ran from Timaru to Fairlie, in Mainland New Zealand.
It was around 1884 work begun on a railway that would eventually wind its way through many village settlements.  Places like Levels, Waitawa, Pleasant Point, Sutherlands, Cave, Ma Waro, Albury, Cricklewood, Winscome, and finally Fairlie. It was many years later the line reached its goal, at the gateway of the vast Mackenzie Plains.  By 1968 however, a Government Minister of Railways decided the line was no longer profitable and closed it down.

In 1950/51 I recall riding the train to High School in Timaru, from Albury each day, along with a number other high school students, who probably have fond memories of riding that train, nicknamed the Fairlie Flyer.  We boarded that train every morning and night as we attended school.  Compared to today it was fun I suppose, yet it eventually got a bit boring unless we got into a little mischief.  I guess there were about a dozen or more kids embarking on their first lesson of the day.  Tell yarns and try to make out with the few girls who made the trip each day, or smoke.  Camel cigarettes were the flavour of the day then, they tasted like camel dropping as well, yet we thought we were cool.  We could buy a packet of ten for sixpence at the little shop on the Timaru station platform.   Sadly, all those days are gone and we old codgers are left with our memories.  Realistically, that’s about all we can handle these days, anyway.
When the line closed there was a great old get-together, attended by all those connected with the line over the years.  There was even a song written about the line which some of the older readers may recall.  ‘Ballard of the Fairlie Flyer’.  I seem to recall a band by the name of the ‘Picasso Trio’ performing that on National Radio.
I’d sing it for you y’no, but it's best you tie up your dog first.  I have been told I have a sweet voice, but others know better, so we’ll leave it shall we, and just tell it as a piece of poetry.  Okay?

Listen and I’ll tell you
A railway tale that’s true,
Of how the ‘Fairlie Flyer
Ran down to Timaru,
I’ll tell you of the shearers
Fairlie Railway Station
And the tons of wool that came,
Along the line each season
From the great Mackenzie Plain.

There are stories in the country
The locals love to tell,
Of guards like Martin Fahey
Who served the district well,
For Martin loved the Flyer
And folks remember too,
How he even did their shopping
Down the line in Timaru.

I’ll tell you how the children            Went off to school each day,
And climbed aboard the ‘Flyer’
And stops along the way,
And oh the many memories
Those boys and girls recall,
To them the Fairlie Flyer
Was the greatest train of all.

Down the line to Albury
Where shunting’s done no more,
And at Mrs. Gibson’s tavern
There’s a welcome on the door,
They tell of far-off summers
That will never come again,
When the goods shed at Albury
Was filled with golden grain.

At Cave, the station’s silent
But the goods shed still resound,
When the local boys are training
As the tug-o-war comes round,
When the last train passes
They’ll give a hearty cheer,
While over at the local
Ted pours another beer.

From Sherwood Downs to Clayton
Burke’s Pass and Kimbell too,
The boys that drive the transport
Are the links with Timaru,
And now the line is closing
The country folk agree,
That stories of the Fairlie train
Will go down in history.

Hope you enjoy a bit of wander down memory lane.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Nell's walk in Esk Valley

Nell’s Walk in Esk Valley

St Mary’s Church at Esk Valley is I believe, the fruits of a dream Ellen Meyer had during the 1870’s.
It was however, a sight she would never ever see.
Her husband, Charles Meyer, who at that time owned Blue Cliffs Station, used to walk with Ellen in the evenings, down the ridge they used to call ‘Nell’s Walk’, high above the valley floor.
Ellen Meyer would look down that valley toward the sea and remark, “It's so beautiful here, I hope someday to look down this valley and see a little church, just as I would back home in England.”

Unable to bear children, Ellen seized the opportunity of an operation which offered some hope that she and Charles, twenty years her senior, would become parents.
Although the operation was reported to have been successful, Ellen had a relapse and died in January 1878, at the age of twenty-six.
Devastated, Charles relinquished ownership of Blue Cliffs Station and prepared to leave for England.
Before departing, however, he gave his attorney instructions to put aside one thousand pounds of his estate and build a little church to his wife’s memory.
The position he chose was in the valley Ellen Meyer loved so much and within sight of the Blue Cliffs Homestead.  After experiencing some difficulties, the builders completed the church in1880.
Architecturally by B.W. Mountford of Christchurch, this small church was built of limestone, which is said to have been delivered by horse and dray from a quarry located in the Albury district.
It was later consecrated in May of that year by Bishop Harper.

Another of Charles Meyer’s bequests was a six thousand pound grant, from which interest payments were to pay the stipend of a vicar for the district of Blue Cliffs.
They say the first vicar to preach in St Mary’s, was the Reverend Laurence Carsley Brady, who came recommended by Bishop Harper.  Rev Brady had apparently served in the Auckland Diocese before his appointment to the south.
At thirty-five years of age and unmarried, he was described as very active.  A native of Ireland I believe, he was an excellent horseman and the lack of roads in the area did not bother him at all.
Blue Cliff’s District, later to become known as Otaio-Blue Cliffs, at that time extended from the Pareora River to Hook and from the Hunter Hills to the sea.

The late Mrs Woodhouse, told of how for several years there was no one to play the organ at St Mary’s, “I’m no musician” she said, “but I’ll take up the challenge.”
Practising on a small selection of tunes, “I struggled through.”  She said,  “I had a pact with the vicar though when he lowered his hymn book, I knew there was one more verse to play.  However, for some reason should communications break down” she continued, “the sympathetic congregation could be relied upon to join in the customary, ‘Amen’ or else suffer the agony of singing the final verse a second time?”

As far as I can gather, a Bible belonging to Charles Meyer is still used at services held in St Mary’s, even today, but only on very special occasions.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Russian Jack

Russian Jack

Along New Zealand country roads during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the swagger was a familiar sight.  Forced into a life on the road by circumstances beyond his control, however, many enjoyed a freedom that their vocation bought.  Some genuinely looked for work on farms and so on.  Most were grateful for the offer of work, in exchange for a bed in a farmer’s shed or stables, plus a scrumptious meal.   
Tramps or swaggers, during those lean years, were an important part of farm life, particularly during the harvesting season through summer and into autumn.  During those early days of the horse and dray era, this wandering workforce could be relied on to turn up during those busy periods.  A dry bed and a meal in exchange for some manual labour, the swagman and the cocky were usually well satisfied.

In 1912, a British ship by the name of ‘Star of Canada’ was plying New Zealand waters, when, caught in a southerly storm, and was wrecked off the Gisborne coast. 
One survivor of that disaster was a man by the name of Barrett Crumen, who has been fondly remembered as ‘Russian Jack.’
Born in Latvia during1878, in the small village of Alexandra, he joined the merchant marine in 1912 at the age of 24.

After his near death adventure, he spent some time in New Zealand waters working on small coastal ships, before he is said to have set off on a trek to Wellington, however, he never made it.  The reason ___ he became addicted.  Addicted to the open spaces around Manawatu and Wairarapa, where at Awhea Station, he rested awhile, before being offered work as a scrub cutter and a shed hand, remaining there for a good number of years. 
They say he was well known for his impressive appetite and his keenness for tobacco, along with his most prized possession, an old briar pipe. 

During the winter months on the road, he was known to have stuffed paper inside his clothes in an effort to keep warm and is said to have plugged his ears with wads of brown paper soaked in mutton fat, which was believed to have been a deterrent against bugs.  
I can’t imagine it, but he is known to have rubbed mutton fat onto his chest, believing it would ward off infection or whatever ailed him at the time.  Hell’s teeth, he must have smelt a trifle high, like a dead sheep, after a while.
Those were tough times, sleeping under bridges, in culverts or under the shelter of tree branches for shelter. He is said to have carried the largest swag of any of those gents on the road.
Russian Jack is believed to have spent close to 53 years on the road.  He would have gone on forever if he had had his way, but his feet let him down.  In 1965, he was admitted to the Pahiatua Hospital suffering from frostbitten feet.  Although it was not long before he was admitted to the Greytown Hospital for the final time, he passed away in September 1968, aged 90 years.
I believe he is buried in the Greytown Cemetery.  His internment was all paid for with funds from a pension he had never ever claimed.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Tom Thumb


A 1934 Hudson Terraplane Coupe

The year was about 1953 when I was two or three years into my apprenticeship as a carpenter.   The firm I worked for at the time was engaged by an Ashwick district farmer, to add a couple of rooms onto his family home.
We had completed work on the exterior and had just moved into finishing off the interior, when the painter arrived early one morning, in his old 1934 Hudson Terraplane Coupe.   At some stage, he had removed the door to the large boot of this car.  Fitting a wooden tray, he had transformed the vehicle into a little truck, where he could carry all his tools and other paraphernalia, needed for his trade. 
            Not the most organised of tradesmen; always in a hurry, yet never getting very far.   Most of one thumb was missing from his left hand, an accident sometime during his past I assume.  Some hard cases in the district had given him the nickname, (Tom Thumb), behind his back of course, yet, it was a name that seemed to stick.      
            His speciality was spray painting roofs and anything else to do with the exterior of rural buildings.  The contract on this job was to paint the roof only. 
            In those days he carried an air-compressor, fixed to the tray of his little truck and driven by a small petrol motor.  Numerous long air hoses and God knows what else seemed to be attached.  It may have been a pretty antiquated piece of machinery, compared to the modern paint spraying apparatus today, but it worked a treat.  Of course, it too was covered in paint, all colours of the rainbow; overspray from some other jobs, how he ever got so much paint spread around, beggar’s belief.  His overalls were just the same; stiff with thick layers of old paint.  After work, I could just imagine them standing upright, unsupported in the corner, until required next morning.
            Anyway, the house we were working on was a typical farm style home with a pitched roof.  A typical lean-to style veranda ran part way along the front side of the building.  Concrete entrance steps led from a well-groomed pebble driveway, up to the veranda.  Either side of those steps, a matched pair of beautifully shaped specimen Yew trees grew, rising to about one metre above the roof line.

            The day turned out sunny.  By midmorning, our painter had stirred his five-gallon drum of bright red paint, hauled it up the long ladder, along with his air hoses onto the veranda corrugated iron roof, which had virtually no slope to it.  The whole roof, new and original, was to be painted red.  For some reason, red was a popular roof colour in those days.
            Hoses lay across the roof; just where he had dropped them in a jumble.  Why he needed so many hoses was a mystery to me.  In the midst of that clutter of hose, was the five-gallon drum of bright red paint, with its lid removed and levelled up on a block of wood.  Directly in line with that drum of bright red paint, were those two Yew trees.  
            The compressor was thumping away down below on the little truck, maintaining an even air flow through the hose.  Our painter, picking up his spray gun pulled the trigger, testing the air flow a couple of times.  Although the air flow was good, there was no sign of any paint. A blockage somewhere, our master painter determined.  He began checking, shaking the spray gun and banging it on the roof, in an effort to dislodge, whatever was stuck in there. Probably, it would have been a good idea to clean the thing properly, before he started. 
            Pressing the trigger a few more times, he still achieved a nil result.  Turning the gun around, he peered at the nozzle, like a magpie looking into a beer bottle.  Squinting in the bright sunlight, he unwittingly squeezed the trigger again.  Oh, bugger.  The blockage suddenly cleared. 
Halfway across his plastic goggles, part of his face, his bushy eyebrows and his grey hair, all instantly turned bright red.  With his vision severely restricted, he wiped his goggles with a bare hand, making things worse.  
            Wrestling with those paint covered goggles, and waving his spray gun around in an effort to maintain his balance, he stumbled blindly into that jumbled hose and tripped.  Knocking over the drum of paint, he voiced a collection of words his mother never taught him.
            At ground level, the lady of the house had just walked out for a look at the new colour scheme.  She let out a terrified squawk, as a red tsunami headed in her direction.  As luck would have it, the spouting and one of the matching Yew trees took most of the flood. The entrance steps and part of the lawn, where she had stood a second before, carried a colourful tribute to a painter’s folly. 
            That lady of the house, a dedicated gardener; had everything just so spic and span in her prize-winning domain.  To see those prized trees she had nurtured for all those years, change colour in an instant, it must have been devastating.
            Our intrepid painter slid warily towards the roof edge.  Peering over and in a high pitched whine, enquired, ____ “is anyone hurt?”                                                                                                                            
            White as a sheet, the lady of the house, appeared from where she had flown in an Olympic record-breaking leap. 
            “You stupid, bloody man”, she screeched.  Gaining her second wind, she began a selection of obscenities.  “Get off my property this instant,” she ranted.  “I never want to see you ever again.  Come on; don’t stand there like a dork, pick up your gear before I do something I will regret.”  Then she continued another barrage of obscenities, the likes of which a dog would hang its head in shame.
            With air hoses over his shoulder, the painter thought better than to demand the right of reply; instead he scrambled down the ladder, three rungs at a time.  On the run, he threw everything, including the now empty paint drum onto the deck of his little truck.  Diving into his Terraplane Coupe parked on the meticulously groomed pebble drive, bordered by raised and manicured lawn edgings. 
            Slamming the old car into first gear, he floored the accelerator, neatly burying the back wheels to the hubcaps.  His hands still moist from wet paint, he lost control of the steering wheel as the Terraplane gained traction.  In a sight reminiscent of a scene from a Laurel and Hardy movie, the car bounced off one raised lawn edging, going on to level a cluster of cherished bush roses inside their established plot, before careering onto the opposite raised edging, causing irreparable damage. 
            With rose branches and a small specimen flowering shrub wedged between the bumper and the radiator, the Terraplane Coupe roared in first gear, leaving the driveway resembling a cultivated paddock.   
            “Bloody hell!!” I whispered, as the painter eventually squeezed his Terraplane on two wheels though the road gate, in a classic broadside and cloud of dust.

            I glanced at the duchess; her hands were clenched into tight little fists, while her eyes had become slits.  Her biceps were pumped up, daring someone to say just one word.  Before she could turn her bloodshot eyes in my direction, I hastily picked up my saw and frantically looked around for a piece of wood to cut.   

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Noel Guthrie Art ( 5 )

Abandoned Water Tap
Acrylic wash on card  by Noel Guthrie

Central Otago
Acrylic wash on canvas   by Noel Guthrie

Wheat Stalk
Watercolour   by Noel Guthrie