Art and area remembered
A bloody battle raged where Pauatahanui’s St Alban’s Church now stands, as described in a new book about Wellington’s significant buildings.
Paekakariki author David McGill describes how Ngati Toa set up a military pa where the church now stands in his book The Compleat Cityscape, a compilation of columns that McGill wrote for The Evening Post.
Each column tells the story of a historic building that contributed to the Wellington region’s cultural history.
‘‘Most of it has never been published, apart from in the newspaper,’’ McGill said.
‘‘It had disappeared as a record except in old, curly newspaper files.’’
The original illustrations were sketches by the late Grant Tilly. They have been scanned from fading yellow newsprint and carefully digitally restored.
Among the tales in the book are accounts of the early European settlement at Pauatahanui, the resulting buildings and the inevitable conflicts with Maori – the Battle of Pauatahanui.
Settlers were moving into the area to take up land they had purchased from the New Zealand Company but Maori were not keen to give it up.
‘‘There wasn’t a lot available to Governor Grey,’’ McGill said.
A resourceful Royal Navy officer, Midshipman McKillop had a 12- pound cast- iron cannon mounted on the bow of a small whale boat.
It was the flagship of a small flotilla of three rowing boats, which were heavily outnumbered by Te Rauparaha’s and Te Rangihaeata’s larger waka.
To even the odds, McKillock protected the sides of his craft by lining them with the crew’s bed- ding, which proved effective protection from the Maori musket balls.
One notable exception to the book’s focus on buildings is a column dedicated to Kapiti legend Len Southward. In his book McGill called Southward the ‘‘ living history of Wellington motoring’’.
The industrialist and car museum founder was a bit of a hoon at heart.
One of the museum exhibits is a Brough Superior, ‘‘the Rolls Royce of motorbikes, which Len wound up to 180kmh at Otaki Beach years ago’’.
Kapiti is home to another exception to the stories of buildings, Wellington’s last trams.
Trams occupy no less than four of the columns and a fifth is dedicated to trolley buses, the other mobile tenant of Queen Elizabeth Park.
The columns and later the book have their origins in the Wellington motorway development.
McGill returned from a spell
A commemorative two millionth Model A Ford at Southwards Car Museum brings back memories for author David McGill. Museum founder Len Southward featured in McGill’s book working as a journalist overseas, to find that the motorway had extended down Shell Gully in his absence. ‘‘I was shocked to see the motorway had cut through the old Bolton Street Cemetery,’’ he said.
McGill had earlier cut his journalistic teeth as a cadet at The Listener and it had been staff practice to take a bottle of bubbly to the cemetery for lunch.
‘‘Things were more relaxed in those days,’’ he said.
He went to work at The Evening Post as investigations editor, in order to experience what daily journalism was like.
Editor Mike Robson wanted more from him, so he agreed to write two columns a week and as a condition he demanded the services of Tilly to illustrate them.
‘‘When I found a subject that I really enjoyed like the trams, I did as many articles as I could.’’
When McGill retired, he moved to Paekakariki to write books, but said he has been busier than ever.
Grant Tilly died in April this year, but McGill was able to take an advance copy of the book to him before he died.
Rich history: Grant Tilly’s restored sketch of St Alban’s Church.
The Compleat Cityscape.