Hats on for Edwardian picnic

We don’t see regattas as we used to.  As a lad I used to go to the local railway station near Dunedin, most conveniently located right alongside the harbour, and watch the yachting regatta.

From the vantage point thoughtfully laid on by NZR (‘the railway’) which also incidentally sported a brightly coloured sign which warned, ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted’, I could watch the railway when the yachting was off. I particularly enjoyed the shotgun reports signalling the beginning of a race and on the other side of the fence the loud blast from the whistle of a passing steam locomotive. But I digress…

These photos are from about 1907. There is no sign of a regatta but we are assured by the donor of the photos that this was the social scene at Ngaruawahia during a regatta in the grand Edwardian moments. Edwardian was in many respects ‘Victorian with a sense humour’. However, looking at these scenes one could be forgiven for immediately thinking Victorian – fashions had not changed dramatically but they had started to cock a snook Victorian strictness.

Skirt lengths were rising (Mary Quant was only 50 years away) and there was perhaps a more casual appearance in general. In New Zealand I suppose, this would have been more prevalent thanks to the relative freedom born-and-bred kiwis enjoyed.

In any event a river regatta was usually held in the warmer months and given the ladies’ white dresses and boaters, this is certainly late spring or summer.

In the top photo there are carriages/buggies perhaps a house or perhaps the boat shed. But it’s the hats! Look at the hats. There is a homburg in the front on the reclining gent. Most, if not all the ladies sport boaters. These were very common amongst the younger ladies in later Victorian and Edwardian times and would not be out of place in our contemporary steam-punk scene. One chap standing about the centre wears a fine looking cap which is more a sports cap than a cloth cap. Gents also wear boaters and a couple are in scruffy looking fedoras.

But, the icing on the cake as it were, is in the right of centre leaning over the picnic. A genuine gentleman (never referred to as a ‘gent’ – that’s a different character altogether), a genuine gentleman in morning dress. Look closely and you can see his coat tails and he wears a ‘topper’.

The photograph below is in for one reason only – the organ grinder with his barrel organ. This organ was in Ngaruawahia at a regatta. Now, that is amazing to me because I have never before seen a photograph of a barrel organ in New Zealand. In keeping with his profession, the grinder looks less than prosperous and he would be too, because they relied on the public for a few pennies and as the organs often had only one tune, their chances of generating largesse were severely limited.

And, getting back to the digression at the start, Perry’s favourite spot for watching trains and yachts was at Ravensbourne, West Harbour Borough.  Three miles from Dunedin (CPO to PO), he says.

As an added bonus,  here’s a pic of his overbridge – “See the railway line on left (there used to be line on right of the poles as well) and harbour on the right.

It was a great place to be in the spring/summer. The boat club had some great wee launches – very old they were and probably qualify as steam punk launches.

This is where the once famous now infamous Russell Coutts got his start.”

For further information, email Perry  – and quote HCL_00645 regarding the first pic, and HCL_00646 for the organ grinder one.  Can’t help you with the bridge photo.

Hamilton Central Libraries

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