Tag Archives: NZBS

ChineseNewYearFeature

Firecrackers and Feasts – Chinese New Year in 19th Century Central Otago

- 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.

 

Chinese gold miners, and Reverend George Hunter McNeur, at Carrick's Road, Potter's Gully, Nevis, Otago. Ref: 1/2-019155-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22301091
Chinese gold miners, and Reverend George Hunter McNeur, at Carrick’s Road, Potter’s Gully, Nevis, Otago. Ref: 1/2-019155-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22301091

 

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.

These are the oral history recordings made with elderly Central Otago residents in the late 1940s by the New Zealand Broadcasting Service Mobile Unit. You can hear me talking to RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan about these recordings or read more and listen to them below.

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.

 

85 year old gold miner Kong Cong of Lawrence, who arrived at the diggings in 1862. "New Zealand Freelance," 27 May 1936. Ref: PAColl-5469-018. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23053398
85 year old gold miner Kong Cong of Lawrence, who arrived at the diggings in 1862. “New Zealand Freelance,” 27 May 1936. Ref: PAColl-5469-018. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23053398

 

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.

 

Helen Ritchie and Ellen Dennison speaking on Mobile Unit – Arrowtown History (1948, ref. 5727). You can listen to the full interview here.

 

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Maori Battalion feature

Celebrating Christmas in the Desert, 1942

- By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Coordinator – Radio, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

Silent Night – Tapu te Po (Christmas at NZ General Hospital, 1942, ref. 17321)

 

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

Commercial radio feature

Happy Birthday NZ Commercial Radio!

- By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Coordinator – Radio, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

 

This Saturday is the 80th anniversary of national commercial radio in New Zealand, which started with station 1ZB Auckland on 29 October 1936.  Radio had been operating in New Zealand since the 1920s, but advertising was generally not allowed and stations were mostly financed via a licence fee paid by listeners, or via sponsorship from a related business, such as a music retailer. 1ZB had been broadcasting in Auckland for several years already as a private station, owned by Methodist minister Reverend Colin Scrimgeour. 

 

Aunt Daisy (Maud Ruby Basham), a darling of NZ commercial radio (image: Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Documentation Collection).
Aunt Daisy (Maud Ruby Basham), a darling of NZ commercial radio (image: Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Documentation Collection).

 

In 1936 the first Labour government under Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage bought 1ZB and re-opened it as the first station of the government-owned National Commercial Broadcasting Service. 2ZB, 3ZB and 4ZB followed in quick succession, bringing commercial broadcasting to Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Former 1ZB owner, Rev. Scrimgeour – or “Uncle Scrim” – was appointed as head of the new service.

Announcers such as Maud Basham, the legendary “Aunt Daisy,” became firm listener favourites on the commercial network, with her chatty programme of infomercials, recipes and household hints, along with new features such as sponsored radio serials, quiz shows, hit parades, sports commentary and talent quests – all paid for by advertising. The commercial network also hired Māori broadcasters in each centre: Uramo Paora “Lou Paul” in Auckland, Kingi Tahiwi in Wellington, Te Ari Pitama and Airini Grenell in Christchurch and Dunedin.

The government soon discovered commercial radio was a great income earner. In the first year of operation, the four commercial stations made a profit of 10,000 pounds.  After World War II, income from the commercial network was used to establish the National Orchestra – later the NZSO.

The commercial network grew to include regional and provincial stations and ran side by side with the non-commercial network as part of the New Zealand Broadcasting Service (and various later incarnations such as the N.Z.B.C. and Radio New Zealand), until it was sold off by the government in 1996. The ZB stations became part of The Radio Network – and are better known today as NewstalkZB.

You can hear what 1930s commercial radio sounded like in this 1961 documentary.

JeanBatten feature

“This is Without Doubt the Very Greatest Moment of My Life” – Jean Batten’s Record-Breaking Flight

- By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Coordinator – Radio, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

Eighty years ago today New Zealander Jean Batten became the first person to fly from Britain to New Zealand. Her arrival at Auckland’s Mangere Aerodrome in her Percival Gull aeroplane was captured by radio station 1YA in a series of remarkable live broadcast recordings held in the RNZ historic collection at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

 

Jean Gardner Batten. New Zealand Free Lance : Photographic prints and negatives. Ref: 1/2-046051-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22671195
Jean Gardner Batten. “New Zealand Free Lance” : Photographic prints and negatives. Ref: 1/2-046051-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22671195

 

Jean was already famous for her successful solo flights from England to Australia in May 1934, and to South America in November 1935, so a large crowd had gathered to welcome her. The unidentified radio announcer describes the approach of her plane, with sightings already reported by observers in New Plymouth, Mokau and Kaipara as she approached Auckland from Sydney. The journey had started in Folkestone, England on the 5th of October and she had already broken the previous UK-Australia record by arriving in Sydney one week later.

The audio, which was captured on a series of 12-inch acetate discs, is faint and crackly and almost inaudible in places. Considering the National Broadcasting Service had only acquired disc-recording equipment the previous year, it would have been quite a technical feat to record the commentary and welcome as they were broadcast live “on relay” from the aerodrome.

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Audio Curios: It’s in the Boot!

- By Gareth Watkins (Radio Collection Developer, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

Earlier this week I stumbled across a number of delightful game shows in the radio collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

The first programme featured the much-loved entertainer Selwyn Toogood. In this excerpt, he hosts “It’s in the Bag’” from Dannevirke in 1955.

 

“It’s in the Bag,” 1955, NZBS

You can hear a longer version of this show here.

 

Then I came across “One Minute Please,” a New Zealand Broadcasting Service panel game that was recorded in front of a live audience. Two teams of three, one male and one female were given topics to discuss for one minute, with general rules of impromptu speaking. Continue reading

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

[Basil Clarke] in the New Zealand Players production of "Romanoff and Juliet." Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1958/2046-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22702922

Audio Curios: The Man in The White Coat

You may have asked yourself, “who is that man in the white coat who sometimes appears at the top of our blog postings … and what is he doing?”

Well, thanks to Peter Downes’ research, we know that his name is Basil Clarke and he was part of the “listening watch” during World War II.

Basil Clarke (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).
Basil Clarke (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

The photograph shows Basil in the main 2YA control room in Wellington, listening to shortwave broadcasts from the BBC, allied and enemy radio stations.  The control-room was staffed 24 hours a day, and when the operator heard a newsflash or something of importance they would do a direct recording onto an acetate disc.  This disc could then be re-broadcast to radio listeners in New Zealand (this was how news of what was happening in the war on the other side of the world reached New Zealanders, in the days before the internet, television, or even tape recording technology –which didn’t come in until the mid-1950s).

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s Sound Collection contains many of these wartime shortwave recordings – an example being from exactly 75 years ago, when news came through of Hitler’s proclamation that Germany would march against Soviet Russia:

New Zealand Broadcasting Service, 22 June 1941

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Octavius Francis Harwood’s first house, built in the early 1840s (currently under renovation). Photo by Alexandra Porter, January 2016.

Octavius Francis Harwood – A Journey of Family Discovery

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.

 

Mrs McDonald, of Palmerston North, interviewed by the New Zealand Broadcasting Service, 29 September 1948

 

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 [1] . Continue reading

Māori waka hurdle race on the Waikato River at the Ngaruawahia Regatta. 1910.  Godber, Albert Percy, 1875-1949, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22661780

Tūrangawaewae Regatta

The Waikato River at Tūrangawaewae was a hive of activity last weekend, with thousands of people turning out to watch and take part in the annual Regatta, which sees a variety of Māori waka racing on the river – from primary school children, right up to the mighty waka tauā, or war canoes. This was the 121st year the Regatta has been held, and over the years recordings of radio coverage of the event have found their way into the archives of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. You can hear Sarah Johnston, our Client Services Coordinator – Radio, talking about them with RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan here, or listen to the recordings below.

Regatta on the Waikato River at Ngaruawahia, circa 1910. Price, William Archer, 1866-1948. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22846494
Regatta on the Waikato River at Ngaruawahia, circa 1910. Price, William Archer, 1866-1948. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22846494

The Ngāruawāhia Regatta, as it was originally called, began in 1895 as a St Patrick’s Day holiday event. The 1902 Cyclopedia of New Zealand says it was started by Mr Wells, the local school headmaster, and in 1900 8,000 people attended [1]. The event was organised by both Māori and Pākehā to “promote and encourage aquatic sports and the preservation of ancient Māori events and customs.” It was a hugely popular entertainment, with special trains being chartered from Auckland to bring spectators down and paddle steamers bringing others up the river. At times as many as 20,000 people turned up for the regatta, which was soon supplemented with kapa haka, Highland dancing, sideshows and wood-chopping displays.

In 1947 the New Zealand Broadcasting Service Mobile Unit toured Waikato and recorded oral history interviews with elderly residents, several of whom recalled the regattas of their youth. A Pākehā resident of Huntly, George Shaw, talked about working in a general store, Friar Davies and Co., which did a brisk trade supplying Regatta visitors in the 1900s. From his description we can tell it was a big social event for the whole community, which required a new wardrobe.

Clip 1: George Shaw

From History of Huntly (1 January 1947)

George Shaw‘s recollections are of course, a Pākehā interpretation of Māori events – often the norm in broadcasting back in the 1940s. Continue reading

Brian Cosnett (technician), Leo Fowler (producer), Geoff Haggett (commentator) and Dick Miller (technician) pose with the faithful “Gertie,” the Mobile Unit recording truck, in 1947 or 1948 (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

Coromandel Yodellers and the Royal Navy – New Digitisations from the Mobile Unit Project

By Sarah Johnston, Camilla Wheeler and Alex Porter (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

One of Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision’s current projects is digitising and fully describing the nearly 1,000 acetate records in the New Zealand Broadcasting Service Mobile Unit Collection. These were recorded between 1945 and 1949 all over New Zealand. The project will take the best part of the next year, with the work being carried out by audio conservator Alex Porterand cataloguer Camilla Wheeler. You can hear Sarah talking to RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan about the project here or listen to the recordings in full below.

The Mobile Unit collection is an eclectic assortment of music and oral history style recordings, made by the forerunner to RNZ, the NZ Broadcasting Service immediately after World War II.

The collection was recognised last year as being a significant national treasure of documentary heritage and entered into UNESCO’s Memory of the World register.

Brian Cosnett (technician), Leo Fowler (producer), Geoff Haggett (commentator) and Dick Miller (technician) pose with the faithful “Gertie,” the Mobile Unit recording truck, in 1947 or 1948 (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).
Brian Cosnett (technician), Leo Fowler (producer), Geoff Haggett (commentator) and Dick Miller (technician) pose with the faithful “Gertie,” the Mobile Unit recording truck, in 1947 or 1948 (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

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.”

Songs performed by The Brown Sisters (Mobile Unit, Coromandel, 1948)

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.

British aircraft carrier Indefatigable, Wellington Harbour. Raine, William Hall, 1892-1955. Ref: 1/4-020662-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23204493
British aircraft carrier Indefatigable, Wellington Harbour. Raine, William Hall, 1892-1955. Ref: 1/4-020662-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23204493

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