From mys­tery box to case closed

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - OUT & ABOUT - DAVID JAMES

How did a box of old pho­to­graphs that once be­longed to a well­known farm­ing fam­ily in Marl­bor­ough end up in the Waikato?

That’s what the team at the Marl­bor­ough Mu­seum have been won­der­ing.

The box mys­te­ri­ously showed up on the doorstep of the Mor­rinsville Mu­seum in May last year. No-one knows who left it there.

After a flick through the pho­tos, staff at the mu­seum soon re­alised they had a con­nec­tion to Marl­bor­ough’s past, and sent them down for staff here to solve the mys­tery.

Marl­bor­ough Mu­seum ar­chives man­ager Me­gan Ross said the box of his­tor­i­cal good­ies be­longed to the Cum­mings fam­ily, who owned Stron­say Sta­tion in the Awa­tere Val­ley.

‘‘The box was dumped on the doorstep of the Mor­rinsville Mu­seum,’’ Ross said. ‘‘They walked into work one day and knew noth­ing about it or where it came from. It was a bit of mys­tery. When they looked into it, it turns out it was a part of Marl­bor­ough his­tory.’’

The Marl­bor­ough Mu­seum al­ready has a num­ber of items in its col­lec­tion re­lat­ing to the Stron­say farm, in­clud­ing an old yel­low Oliver Cle­trac crawler trac­tor from about 1953.

But the Cum­mings were out there much be­fore that. JW Cum­mings bought nearly 2000 hectares in 1908 and even­tu­ally split the land be­tween his sons Sin­clair and Davy in 1938.

The pho­tos in the box ranged in date, but most were con­nected to the pe­riod when Sin­clair and his wife Dorothy Cum­mings had the farm.

But how did they get to Mor­rinsville?

Well, the am­a­teur sleuths at the Marl­bor­ough Mu­seum have cracked the case, spot­ting the name Robert Craven on some of

the items.

Luck­ily, one of the re­searchers at the mu­seum is a Craven.

‘‘One of our re­searchers is a chap named Ray Craven, so I got in touch with him,’’ Ross said. ‘‘It just so hap­pens that this Robert Craven from the pho­to­graphs was a cousin of his and he was born and raised in Marl­bor­ough.’’

Ross and her team dis­cov­ered Robert Craven’s mother and Dorothy Cum­mings were sis­ters. Robert Craven spent a lot of time on the farm while grow­ing up in Marl­bor­ough. ‘‘Robert went to school here,’’ Ross said. ‘‘And did well enough to go onto univer­sity to be­come a lawyer.’’

After that, he moved to Mor­rinsville and set up a suc­cess­ful le­gal prac­tice. ‘‘The Cum­mings had no chil­dren of their own, so he prob­a­bly in­her­ited these photo-

PHOTO: DAVID JAMES/STUFF

A post­card al­bum and an early coloured pho­to­graph found in the col­lec­tion.

PHOTO: DAVID JAMES/STUFF

Old pho­tos of the Cum­mings fam­ily on Stron­say farm in the Awa­tere Val­ley. Back where they be­long.

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