Wreck of the S. S. Penguin

WRECK OF THE U.S.S. PENGUIN, NEAR WELLINGTON HEADS, N.Z., ON THE NIGHT OF FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12: INCIDENTS; AND PORTRAITS OF SOME OF THOSE SAVED AND DROWNED. (The Australian, 27 Feb 1909) Captions from top left:Mrs Hope, Stewardess, drowned; Mr Urquhart, Chief Engineer, drowned; Mr Rentoul, third, drowned; Mr Alexander, chief steward, drowned; Mrs Hannan, only woman survivor.Grave with fourteen trenches; Public funeral entering the Cemetery.In the Karori Cemetery; Raft that bought the first eleven survivors.Mr Thompson, Purser, drowned; Mr Luke, Second Engineer, saved; four surviving Stewards, Messrs Hull, McCormack, Jones and Rees; Mr Driscoll, Second Officer, drowned; Miss Doran, drowned.

More information can be found about the S S Penguin on the WCC website: https://wellington.govt.nz/recreation/enjoy-the-outdoors/walks-and-walkways/beyond-the-city/penguin-shipwreck-memorial-walk

Last Post

“LAST POST” AT FRIDAY’S FUNERAL.—BugIer blowing the “Last Post,” the Legion of Frontiersmen standing at attention, outside the Crematorium at Karori Cemetery on Friday afternoon at the funeral of Messrs. F. Gresser and G. B. S. King, killed at Tawa Flat on Tuesday in an aero plane crash. Inset, floral tributes in the form of aeroplanes” Manawatu Times 31 Oct 1932 Edit: Francis Gresser and George Bourne Stephen King

"TWO LIVES LOST IN AIR CRASH AT WELLINGTON.—The Wellington Aero Club’s moth 'plane, ZK-AAZ, which was unable to reach the Rongotai landing ground and was subsequently wrecked in the hills north of Tawa Flat. The two club pilots on board, Messrs. F. Gresser and E. G. King, who were returning from the New Plymouth air pageant, lost their lives" Manawatu Standard 27 Oct 1932
“TWO LIVES LOST IN AIR CRASH AT WELLINGTON.—The Wellington Aero Club’s moth ‘plane, ZK-AAZ, which was unable to reach the Rongotai landing ground and was subsequently wrecked in the hills north of Tawa Flat. The two club pilots on board, Messrs. F. Gresser and E. G. King, who were returning from the New Plymouth air pageant, lost their lives” Manawatu Standard 27 Oct 1932
MR. G. B. S. KING.
Manawatu Times, Volume LV, Issue 6990, 28 October 1932

Yesterday’s Military Funeral

“YESTERDAY’S MILITARY FUNERAL.—The funeral of the late Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Petherick, a former commander of the D Battery, passing under Kelburn Viaduct yesterday on its way to Karori Cemetery” – Evening Post 14 December 1933.

And here’s our man, image supplied by one of the Team today 🙂Alfred John Petherick’s photo album of early Wellington yachting is fascinating: http://www.wcyt.org.nz/abode/getAdminCategoryProducts.do…

Fatal Railway Accident in Wellington

Frank Wilde was killed in 1914 when the horse drawn express cart he was driving was run into by a locomotive travelling to or from the Te Aro Station, Wakefield Street. ACCIDENTS AND FATALITIES KILLED AT THE CROSSING. FATAL RAILWAY ACCIDENT IN WELLINGTON. A single man named Frank Wilde was killed by a railway accident in the city shortly after midday on Saturday. Wilde was driving an express over the line at the railway crossing at Customhouse Quay and Ballance Street, and apparently failed to notice a locomotive approaching. The engine crashed into the wagon, its occupant being killed instantly. His body was terribly mutilated, while the horse was also badly injured. Constable Crowe later arrived on the scene of the accident, and the body was removed to the morgue. Deceased resided at 80 Austin Street, and was employed by Messrs. J. J. Curtis and Co. He came from Wairarapa.

Engineering New Zealand’s website provides interesting information about early Wellington railway lines: 1893–1917: Te Aro Station, Wakefield Street Lobbying from the Chamber of Commerce and others resulted in an extension of the Government railway in 1893 southwards along the sea side of Customhouse and Jervois Quays and Victoria Street (now Wakefield Street, not the present-day Victoria Street) to just short of Oriental Parade. Pressure from the same group, because of congestion, contributed to the closure of the line and station in 1917, with the station later converted into a fruit and vegetable market. The Museum Hotel and Monument Apartments now occupy the site. In 2007 the construction of the apartments exposed the remains of the two platforms with their tracks and some point rodding, all now removed.https://www.engineeringnz.org/…/wellingtons-early…/

Four Killed Car Over 40ft bank Island Bay Tragedy

Exploring the stories behind the adjacent plots of Olga BARDEBES, age 19, & Ernest DICKSON, age 22, in the Catholic section, reveals a tragic tale. They were two passengers in a 7-seater sedan that crashed over a 40-ft drop onto Derwent Street, Island Bay, on the night of 1 April 1933. Olga has an intact angel watching over her. Ernest, on the other hand is in a very plain low-profile plot.The other couple – Mr & Mrs Wood – who died in the same accident are buried in an unmarked plot in the Anglican section elsewhere in the cemetery. The lengthy report from the Evening Post is worth reproducing in full:

FOUR KILLEDCAR OVER 40FT BANK ISLAND BAY TRAGEDY . A MIDNIGHT CRASHOne of the most tragic motor accidents that have occurred in Wellington for several years took place at midnight on Saturday, when a heavy touring car returning from the Crow’s Nest Club at Island Bay plunged from Milne Terrace on to Derwent Street—a sheer drop of forty-two feet. Three of the six occupants were killed instantly, and a fourth died in hospital at 2.30 a.m. yesterday. Another, Miss Marjorie Morris, aged 19, of 25 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, is lying in hospital suffering from a broken collarbone and broken ribs. The driver of the car, Frederick Hooker, aged 22, a salesman employed by E. Hannah and Co., Ltd., suffered severely from shock,and although he was removed to hospital he was able to return to his lodgings at the Waverley Hotel yesterday. The names of the dead are as follows:James Henry Wood, aged 33, who was killed instantly. The late Mr.Wood, who was a traveller by occupation, had been a resident of Wellington for many years, and, with his wife, had been managing “The Ferns,” a block of flats at 22 Aurora Terrace. It is understood that Mr. Wood was to have taken up an appointment this week in the radio department of Messrs. Chas. Begg and Co., Ltd. Marjorie Wood, aged 32, wife of Mr. J. H. Wood. Mrs. Wood, who was originally a resident of the West’ Coast, received injuries to her head which resulted in instant death. Mr. and Mrs. Wood leave one child, Errol, aged ll, who is well known as a juvenile dancer.Olga Beryl Bardebes, aged 18, a hairdresser, who lived with her parents – Mr. and Mrs. Spiro Bardebes, at 27 Nairn Street; Miss Bardebes received injuries to her head and was also killed instantly. Ernest Joseph. Dickson, aged 22, a storeman employed by the New Zealand Paper Mills. The late Mr. Dickson also received head injuries and was in an unconscious condition when assistance arrived. He was removed to hospital as quickly as possible by the Free Ambulance, but died two hours after admission without regaining consciousness. The late Mr. Dickson was a son of Mr. John Dickson, formerly of Christchurch, and lived with his mother, who is the proprietress of the Waverley Hotel,’ Marion Street. He was educated at St. Mary’s High School, Christchurch, where he had played football for Marist. In Wellington he was known as an enthusiastic amateur wrestler. AT A HAIRPIN BEND. The accident was caused through the failure of the car to negotiate a hairpin bend in Milne Terrace. Crashing; through two post-and-rail fences, the car ran over a bank and fell into Derwent Street, almost directly below. All the occupants were pinned beneath the car, and were extricated by a resident living nearby who heard the crash. The car was smashed beyond repair. Assistance was quickly forthcoming after the accident. Several parties returning from the Crow’s Nest Club stopped and did what they could. Constable F. A. Baker, who is in charge of the Island Bay police station, heard the crash when he was on duty near the tram terminus, and arrived on the scene about two minutes later. A doctor was immediately called, but on arrival found that Mr. and Mrs. Wood and Miss Bardebes were dead. The others were given first aid and rushed to hospital by the Free Ambulance. The ill-fated party left the club at 11.55 p.m. The car in which they were travelling was an old model seven-seater and was fitted with a left-hand drive. Mr. Hooker was badly shaken, but was quite conscious when assistance arrived. After giving an account of the accident to Constable Baker he was taken to hospital. The damaged car was towed into town yesterday morning. IN A SERIOUS CONDITION. The hospital authorities report this afternoon that the condition of Miss Morris is serious. There has been no change in her condition since her admission.

Travelling Midwife

The recently cleaned headstone on the plot of Sarah Ann CRIPPS gleams in the shade of tree lined avenues in the first Public section of Karori Cemetery. The simple inscription and design give no indication of the character or experiences of Sarah, who was born in London about 1821. An enterprising young woman she set up her own needlework business before marrying Isaac Cripps, a member of the London Metropolitan Police Force in 1844. They had two daughters and a son before Isaac signed up for a new venture launched by the Southern Whale Fishery Company which had been granted a Royal Charter, giving the company full possession of the Auckland Islands, to set up a ship provisioning and whaling station. The Auckland Islands lie 360 kilometres (220 mi) south of Stewart Island, and are part of the New Zealand subantarctic area. Three ship loads of settlers and supplies landed in 1849, but the settlement had to be abandoned three years later. While living in the harsh conditions of Port Ross Sarah had another daughter. Isaac & Sarah then lived in poor conditions on the shores of Wellington harbour for a couple of years, and had another son. They then moved to the Wairarapa and settled in Whareama, which at the time was a main route between Wellington and Hawke’s Bay. Eventually able to buy 40 acres Sarah ran their house as an accommodation house for travellers north and south, adding a shop and a post office to service the needs of both travellers and the local community. Sarah, while producing more children of her own (she had 10 in total) travelled widely throughout the district to deliver other women’s babies.

Sarah died in Wellington in June 1892. The symbols on the headstone are a broken chain, which can symbolize the death of a family member. It also may refer to the soul being chained to the human body, and with death, that chain is broken. The hand of God reaching down to pluck a chain link means God is taking a soul for himself up to heaven.

Sarah Cripps

Prime Ministers

There are six New Zealand Prime Minsters interred at Karori Cemetery.

The most noted is Peter Fraser, who was Prime Minister 1940-1949. He was elected following the death of Michael Joseph Savage in 1940, and served for 9 years, 257 days

Fraser is one of the few NZ Prime Ministers deemed sufficiently worthy to have a national memorial dedicated to them. The others are Massey (Massey Memorial, Wellington), Savage (Bastion Point, Auckland), Kirk (Waimate), and Seddon (Bolton Street Cemetery, Wellington). Their monuments are the property of and maintained by the Ministry of Heritage & Culture.

Fraser’s memorial is comparatively small and discreet, and clearly designed by the Ministry of Works.  It is unclear how decisions were/are made about which Prime Ministers are deemed to be sufficiently important to qualify for a national monument.

Peter Fraser

The other Prime Ministers interred at Karori are:

Sir Harry AtkinsonPremier for various periods between 1883 and 1891, alternating with Sir Robert Stout. Sir Harry’s grave is 6 plots away from the Underwood vault.

Harry Atkinson

Sir Robert Stout – Premier for various periods between 1883 and 1891, alternating with Sir Harry Atkinson. Sir Robert was cremated and his ashes are interred in a niche in the Crematorium Chapel.

Sir William Hall-Jones –. Hall-Jones was PM for 47 days, from 21 June – 6 Aug 1906 following the unexpected death of Richard Seddon. He was the first to be called Prime Minister rather than Premier. Sir William is interred in a family plot situated on the bank on the junction leading to the Fraser memorial.

Sir Francis Dillon Bell – caretaker PM following death of Massey for 17 days from 14 May – 30 May 1925. Sir Francis was the first NZ born Prime Minister. The Bell family plot is on the walkway opposite the Bradley monument, on the left-hand side when approaching from the road, slightly elevated.

Sir Walter Nash – Prime Minster 1957-1960. Sir Walter’s ashes plot is alongside the main road (left hand side if travelling from main gate) opposite the columbarium wall downhill from the crematorium. It is easy to miss!

Walter Nash

Full biographies of each of these men are available online at https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies

Mollie Tripe

Group portrait of students at Wellington School of Design. Mary Elizabeth Tripe has the skeleton’s arm around her shoulder. James Nairn and Mabel Hill are at far left (the photo is unattributed). This photo has been copied from http://undergroundhistory.blogspot.com/search?q=tripe

A recent blog post about James McLauchlan NAIRN encouraged us to take a look at the life of another artist buried at Karori Cemetery – Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) TRIPE (nee RICHARDSON).

The Tripe family plot is one of the largest plots in the first Anglican section of Karori Cemetery. There are 23 occupants listed on the plot information, including 18 ashes interments. The plot, which is about 4x the standard size, was purchased in June 1899 by the estate of John Robert Bullen Tripe, who was also the first of Dr William Borrowdale and Susan Tripe’s 13 children to be interred in it, along with their parents and other descendants.

There is an excellent item about the Tripe family online at http://undergroundhistory.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-amazing-tripe-tribe.html

Mollie was married to the sixth son, Joseph Albert Tripe, one of the founding partners of the law firm Tripe, Mathews & Feist. By the time Mollie married Joseph in 1900 she was well established in the art world and was working alongside Nairn as a drawing instructor at the Wellington Technical School. She and Joseph had three sons, one of whom died aged 15 months and was interred in the family plot at Karori. Mollie had a long and successful artistic career, becoming one of New Zealand’s leading portrait artists. She died in 1939, 13 years after Joseph. She too was interred in the Tripe family plot, her remaining two sons and their wives joining her later.    

There is a comprehensive biography about Mollie on the NZ Dictionary of Biography:


Google “Mollie Tripe artist” and many of her portraits can be viewed online.

Early Artist in New Zealand History

James McLauchlan Nairn (18 November 1859–22 February 1904) was a Glasgow born painter who  strongly influenced New Zealand painting in the late 19th century. 

Nairn studied at the Glasgow School of Art for four years from 1879 before enrolling as a student at the Academie Julian in Paris. During the 1880s Nairn exhibited work at the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts and the Royal Scottish Academy and was associated with the Glasgow Boys a group of Scottish artist interested in Impressionism.

Nairn emigrated from Glasgow to Dunedin for his health in 1890. He moved to Wellington in 1891, where he was appointed as an art instructor at the Wellington Technical School. He lectured on art and conducted classes for the study of the nude figure. He introduced the Impressionism of the Glasgow school to New Zealand and influenced other New Zealand artists such as Dorothy Kate Richmond, Maud Winifred Sherwood, Mabel Hill, Maude Burge and Mollie Tripe.

Nairn joined the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts soon after settling in Wellington and was elected to the Council from 1890 to 1903. He also formed the Wellington Art Club which met regularly at Nair’s Pumpkin Cottage. The cottage became a gathering point for Wellington artists. Nairn’s influence was felt throughout New Zealand as he regularly sent works for exhibition in other centres.

Nairn painted extensively in the Hutt Valley area around his Pumpkin Cottage, especially in the last ten years of his life. He worked in oils, watercolours, pastels and charcoal. 

He died, aged 44, at his home in Wellington on 22 February 1904, probably of peritonitis. He was buried in the first Public area of Karori Cemetery. His name on the pink granite column headstone is now obscured by lichen.

Public, 23 I

Winter Morning, Wellington Harbour
Gift of Miss Mary Newton, 1939, Te Papa (1939-0009-7)
Nairn's burial site at Karori Cemetery


Homewood House Karori
Photo copied from https://www.massey.ac.nz/~wwjourn/homewood-a-history/

The big house on the hill, on Homewood Avenue, not far from Karori Cemetery was built in 1846, when the first owner Henry Samuel Chapman cleared the land to build the original structure. Chapman was appointed in 1843 as judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand for the southern district, which included Wellington, Nelson, New Plymouth and later Christchurch. He was the first puisne judge in New Zealand. He sold the house in 1852 when appointed to the position of colonial secretary of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).

Henry Samuel Chapman, image copied from https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1c14/chapman-henry-samuel]
Henry Samuel Chapman

The property was purchased by Henrietta Charlotte HATTON and her husband John JOHNSTON, a merchant and stockbroker. They had three sons and three daughters. Henrietta was a devout Catholic and she and John were buried in Mount Street Cemetery.

Various members of the Johnston family lived at Homewood for 75 years until they sold it to the Sutherland family in 1928. In 1957 the Sutherlands sold it to the British government and it became the official residence of the British High Commissioner.  It still serves this purpose today.

There are many Johnston family descendants in the large adjacent tombs in the Catholic section of Karori Cemetery. Amongst them are men with distinguished military service, politicians, merchants, lawyers and landowners.  The oldest daughter is buried elsewhere in the Catholic section in another large plot – she married Dr Morgan Stanislaus GRACE.

John Johnson
John Johnston, image copied from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Johnston_(New_Zealand_politician)