Picturing scenes of the Bay’s past
A“fascinating” collection of Hawke’s Bay images discovered in a private collection of glass plate negatives taken in the 1920s and 30s has been gifted to Knowledge Bank Hawke’s Bay. The 122 boxes of negatives were donated by Lewis Townshend. The negatives belonged to his grandfather, keen amateur photographer Alex Lavery. The negatives included images of the 1931 earthquake, a flood in Hatuma, and the 1938 Eskdale flood. Among images prepared for uploading to the Knowledge Bank website so far is a picture of the Napier Swimming Club’s Roll of Honour, recognising those who lost their lives in World War I. The roll of honour had reached almost “mythical” status, with reportedly no sign of it in years, if not decades, but the photo proves it definitely existed. Hawke’s Bay Digital Archives Trust chairman Peter Dunkerley said the Lavery collection was “precisely” the sort of history the trust members had envisaged saving when they set up the Knowledge Bank in 2011. “The stories that Alex Lavery can tell us through his lens are unfolding before our eyes, as our volunteers prepare the images for uploading,” he said. “It is absolutely fascinating to see the old photos and writings from across our region come to life and a real privilege to be part of preserving the history and making them available for all to see.” Alexander Lavery was a Glaswegian, born on October 5, 1863. After marrying Susan Somerville Henderson in Scotland in 1892, the couple had one child before emigrating to New Zealand in 1893, where there family grew to 11 children. Lavery, whose occupation was recorded as farmer on the ship passenger list, worked as a fencer in Central Hawke’s Bay until he bought a farm in Hatuma. He retired to Westshore, and died on Oct 15, 1940, Susan died in 1949. The dates of his plates would suggest he became an even more prolific photographer in his retirement years, attending events, building openings and sporting fixtures, predominately in Hastings and Napier. His taste was eclectic, ranging from Napier’s Mardi Gras parades (1919 to 1934) and the openings of the A&P Showgrounds, St Luke’s Church in Hastings and Napier’s new Post Office, to the unveiling of the Napier Cenotaph, and the opening of the Hawke’s Bay Aero Club in Bridge Pa¯. Keen on sport, he photographed the Caledonian Games, surf lifesaving, hockey, cricket, motorcycle racing, swimming, golf, skeet shooting and rugby, including the Hawke’s Bay Magpies. Knowledge Bank, run by the Hawke’s Bay Digital Archives Trust, is dedicated to preserving the region’s historic events, celebrations, tragedies and day-to-day life, scanning and transcribing family and business photos and documents locals loan to the organisation. The board members serve voluntarily, as do all 80-plus volunteers involved in the recording, digitising and uploading of material. The project is overseen by two part-time staff. They recently interviewed and published online 400 interviews. It is based in Stoneycroft Homestead in Hastings.