The first diesel engined truck is built.
The Lieca compact camera popularizes the 35mm film format.
June 14 - NZ permanent Air Force established at Sockburn as the Government takes over the Canterbury Aviation Company. Included in the takeover was Sockburn Aerodrome, which was re-named Wigram a few days later. This was the former Plumpton Park Racecourse.
July 6 - Rail crash at Ongarue, north of Taumarunui when the Auckland to Wellington express derails after hitting a huge landslide on the main trunk line. 17 were killed and 28 injured.
August 11 - Ch-Ch Radio Society begins regular radio transmission with station 3AC.
Credit: Ch-Ch City Libraries
A fatal collision between the West Coast express and a car at Hornby was a front page story early in 1923. Added to the sensation was that Robert McMillan, the car passenger killed, owned the Santa Rosa Farm in Halswell, then the country's most successful Harness stud.
Champion stallion Harold Dillon, and horses like Great Audobon, Nelson Bingen, Brent Locanda and Petereta most of which produced at least one champion, made up the roster. They had made McMillan, who had personally selected many of them, a wealthy man. The driver of the car, severely injured, was his great friend Eugene McDermott, also of Halswell and regarded as the leading non professional horseman in the country.
Canadian-born of Scottish stock, McMillan had worked for a leading American trainer, John Blant for many years before coming to New Zealand and making his way as a trainer, ultimately at Santa Rosa on Nicholls Rd opposite the Halswell Hotel. McMillan had also struck gold when he bought Great Audobon, the first son of the legendary Peter The Great to win a trotting race in New Zealand. He also won as a pacer before siring the NZ Cup winner, Great Hope, with which McMillan won the Great Northern Derby at his first start (1921) before selling on.
McMillan struck up a close association with Etienne Le Lievre of Akaroa who stood his best stallion imports, usually selected by McMillan, at Santa Rosa. At the time of his death McMillan was described as "a real man and one ready to do a good turn to anyone who was a trier". The two Macs, McDermott being of strong Irish stock, had taken a late afternoon drive to Yaldhurst to inspect American imports based with Ben Jarden, one being the later famous stallion Jack Potts.
Soon after McMillan's burial at St Mary's church in Halswell, Santa Rosa was sold to trainer Albert Hendrikson from Templeton and it gradually lost its lustre as a commercial stud, later being used for training by Charles Cameron and others before housing took it over.
McMillan's death had exposed an embarrassing situation in his private life. In 1914, in his late 40's, he had married Madge Green, 24, who had borne him three children in four years. However the marriage broke down and McMillan was ordered by the court on his wife's petition in 1921 to restore her rights, after she was banished from the house. Great Hope's sale may have been part of the settlement because she did not appear in his will, his estate being valued at a considerable £13,000. The children had been cared for by Madge's sister, Miriam, and that apparently continued to be the case after his death. His only son, Peter, later returned to Canada and one of his two sisters died in Arizona.
Eugene Clement McDermott was the son of a professional trainer, John McDermott, originally from Doyleston but based for some years in Domain Terrace. He shifted to Junction Road in Halswell after World War 1 where the family farmed for over 80 years. Eugene, who operated as a stock dealer from an early age, and as a farmer based in Tankerville Road, was a leading trackwork rider at Addington when that was popular and a champion saddle trot race rider on horses like Vilo, Capriccio, Schnapps and Cora Dillon, all trained by his father, besides a host of outside rides. However he resisted pressure to become a professional until late in life for special reasons and never trained a big team.
After the Hornby tragedy McDermott said he would give up owning racehorses and while in later years he relented it was usually only in special cases such as the trotter Garner which he bought for £16 and won many races includig a clean sweep of the features at an Auckland Cup meeting. Ironically it was the death of another close friend, the country's leading trainer, Bill Tomkinson which propelled MsDermott back into the headlines.
Tomkinson suffered minor injuries falling from a drum securing a float door as the team left for Auckland in 1934. Sent home from hospital apparently fit and well he became seriously ill and died within days triggering the biggest Christchurch funeral of the year. The cortege procession was a mile long. McDermott, a pallbearer, had also raced gallopers with Tomkinson and his young son, Jim.
He took over driving the Tomkinson star Indianapolis that year. They won the 1934 NZ Cup but "Mac's" most memorable triumph was with the champion in an odds-on win at Addington the same year. After less than 200m before a very large Addington crowd the hot favourite broke a hopple. Normally he would have been pulled up but Indianapolis seemed to be only keener with the flapping hopple so McDermott decided to let him run for the public's money. The result was a famous hour in Addington history. Indianapolis never missed a beat. He won easily and paced the last 2400m in 3:08.8 - then two seconds inside the national record for that distance and a theoretical world record. McDermott was cheered "to the echo" by grateful punters.
In the 1937 Cup his own luck ran out when he fell from the sulky of Colonel Grattan with about 800m to run, suffering a fatal heart attack. He had told friends before the race if he was leading at that stage Colonel Grattan would win. His son, also Eugene, was taken out of school to help run the family farm.
Later a prominent owner and highly regarded administrator, he had played rugby for Canterbury in the war years. One of his sons, John, also an Addington administrator (his brother Maurice is a stalwart of Banks Peninsula) is now a licensed trainer - like both his great grandfather, 100 years ago and his grandfather. The McMillan racing tradition died that fateful day at Hornby but the McDermott legacy lives on.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in HRWeekly 1May13
JACK 'SONNY" TRENGROVE
When two Dunedin butchery partners decidedly to separately get into harness racing in the 1920's the results were astonishing.
One won the New Zealand Cup with his first starter in any trotting race, a unique feat. The other was the first owner to win three NZ Trotting Cups. Together they won four New Zealad Trotting Cups in 13 years and ran another six placings.
Jack "Sonny" Trengrove and George Barton were partners in Dunedin's biggest butchers shop, sited in the Octagon. Both started off racing gallopers and, in Barton's case, continued to do so. Long before Australians started paying big money for our top horses Trengrove and Barton were big spenders. In September, 1923 Trengrove paid £2000 - a million dollars today - for two horses, Alto Chimes and Great Hope.
It was money well spent. Trengrove, who had a number of successful gallopers, set a thus far unique record in the 1923 NZ Cup won by Great Hope. The little chestnut horse was driven by the then youngest driver to win the race, 21-year-old Jimmy Bryce jnr, but more incredibly it was the first time Trengrove's colours had been carried in a pacing race.
"I am delighted. Wouldn't you be it you won the Cup the first time your colours were unfurled?" Sonny asked the media. One cheeky reporter noted that "although his present condition of obesity would seem to belie it, Jack Trengove was a star of the Heathcote Valley rugby team in his earlier years". The portly butcher was also a steward of both the Forbury Park and Otago Hunt Clubs.
Great Hope was placed in two further Cups (Alto Chimes ran in one of them) and helped break new ground when, at Trengrove's insistence, he travelled all the way to Perth for the Pacing Championship, the first attempt to get an Inter-Dominion series off the ground. Great Hope won the three heat series by one point winning over £1000 for Trengrove who travelled to the meeting. The butchery business survived a huge fire in 1921 and grew even larger but Trengrove sold out in 1926 to follow his horses.
Great Hope, the best 3-year-old of his era, was originally owned by breeder Robert McMillan of Santa Rosa stud in Halswell - the Nevele R of its time - who was killed in a spectacular crash between a car and the southbound express at Templeton which also severely injured his great friend Eugene McDermott. The horse was then bought by Hawera's Joe Corrigan for £1000. Great Hope was slightly disappointing at four and Corrigan - not entirely for racing reasons - sold him on to Trengrove after the August National meeting, the horse remaining with James Bryce.
Young Bryce gave Great Hope the run of the race and he beat the first 4-year-old to run in the Cup, Acron, which would have won had he gone away.
George Barton was also a self-made man having started out as a butcher's apprentice. Uniquely, at the height of his racing fame he employed private trainers on both sides of the Tasman - a thoroughbred one in Victoria (where he had Group 1 winners) and a standardbred one in Christchurch. After the freak death of his long time harness trainer and advisor, Tomkinson, Barton bought the trainer's Derby Lodge stable and set up "Tomkys" foreman, Claude Dunleavy, in his place, with Mrs Tomkinson being allowed to live in the house.
Like Trengrove, Barton had a unique racing record. He won eight successive owner premierships in harness racing in the 1930's. The in 1938-9 was the leading thoroughbred owner in the country, a dual code feat never equalled and unlikely to ever be. He had retired from Otago's best known butchery in 1936.
Barton, a fearless punter, especially in Australia, was direct and could be ruthless. Six hours before the 1937 New Zealand Cup in which he had three runners Barton sacked trainer Dunleavy (who later went to Roydon Lodge), Tempest running third in the event for the stable with Doug Watts in the cart. Southland's Jim Walsh was (Briefly) given the horses. Dunlevy had won £23,000 in stakes for the owner in the previous three years and twice had three Cup runners the same year for him, a record which endures to this day. Barton gradually returned to thoroughbreds for his major interest though he retained his interest in trotters. His high class galloper Ark Royal was principally responsible for his leading owner status in the thoroughbred world.
Barton, who gave up his Australian galloping stable over a case on suspicious running once pointed out that at a country gallops meeting in Victoria he had won three races worth £90 but won £2000 in betting on them. In December 1934 Barton caused a sensation when resigning from the Forbury Park Trotting Club on apparent health grounds - and a "recent unpleasant incident" - which referred to a Stewards inquiry into the running of his horse, Tempest, which had earlier sensationally beaten the pacing star War Bouy ending his 9 winning streak.
Barton would nor accept his horses were not run entirely on their merits. He bought and raced stars like Free Advice, Subsequent Inter-Dominion champion, Grand Mogul, Nelson Derby, Lapland, Cloudy Range and many others.
However, Barton's greatest triumph was buying subsequent triple NZ Cup winner Indianapolis from Harry Nicoll in the depths of the Depression. Tomkinson trialled him and declared him a bargain "the greatest pacer ever foaled" at £500. It seemed a remarkable price considering what Sonny Trengrove had parted with for Great Hope a decade before. The Indianapolis story is an amazing one and owner Barton remains one of only two men to have individually owned three New Zealand Cup winners. Indianapolis's public image would dwarf most modern "superstars". Newspapers devoted entire articles to him just standing in a box recovering from injury. Had Tomkinson lived there is no doubt Indianapolis would have been our first 2 minute miler.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in HRWeekly 31Oct12
As the first two decades of Cup competition closed there was a changing of the guards of sorts when Great Hope led home the unlucky Acron, the first 4-year-old to contest the race, in the hands of James Bryce Jnr, who at 21 remains the youngest reinsman to win the Cup, along with Allan Holmes.
In a fine field, they were followed in by Onyx, Willie Lincoln, Albert Cling, Trix Pointer and the winner's stablemate Taraire, the backmarker on 48 yards.
Initially raced by his breeder Robert McMillan and then Joe Corrigan, Great Hope had only been owned for three months by Dunedin sportsman J Trengrove.
He went on to be placed in the next two Cups and was also runner-up to stablemate Taraire in the forerunner to the Inter-Dominion Championship in Perth.
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 1Oct2003
Great Hope, always well-placed and well-driven by James Bryce junior, held out the four-year-old Acron after a great contest. Bryce, only 21 years nine months, was by far the youngest driver to win a New Zealand Cup, a record he held until 1932, when Allan Holmes, 21 years one month, piloted Harold Logan to victory.
Bracketmates Great Hope and Taraire were the race favourites. The latter, the top money-winner from the previous season, scored a dashing win in the King George Handicap at Addington in August, posting 4:29.6, and qualified within the limit of 4:30. But Taraire was badly treated by the handicapper and shared the back mark of 48 yards with Vilo. As it turned out, Taraire began badly and never showed up during the running.
Great Hope raced three times in August. Earlier in the three-day National meeting he raced prominently in the August and King George Handicaps, but failed to see out the distance, fading in the last 100 yards. In the National Cup on the final day he improved to run third behind Alto Chimes and Onyx.
From the start Bryce positioned Great Hope, from his 12-yard handicap, in behind the leader Paul Default, and they were followed most of the way by Trix Pointer, Vilo, Albert Cling and Willie Lincoln. Snowshoe fell when mixing her gait in the back straight the first time and dislodged Bill Tomkinson. In the back straight the last time Paul Default and Great Hope were driven clear, while Onyx made a forward move and Acron moved up fast on the rails. At the tanks Bryce sent Great Hope away in the lead, and he turned for home on his own, finally winning in 4:31.4 by a length from the fast-finishing and unlucky Acron. Then followed Onyx, Willie Lincoln, Albert Cling, Trix Pointer and Taraire.
Great Hope, a five-year-old, was by the American sire Great Audubon, from Sadie Dillon. He was raced early in his career by his breeder, Robert McMillan, of the Santa Rosa Stud, where Great Audubon stood at a fee of £15 15s. At three, Great Hope was the best of his age, winning the Great Northern Derby at Auckland and the New Zealand Derby at New Brighton. Between these winning runs, McMillan died and the horse passed to Joe Corrigan, a patron of the Bryce stable. After the August meeting, where Great Hope proved disappointing, he was sold again, this time to the Dunedin sportsman, J Trengrove. When presented with the Cup by the Governor-General, Lord Jellicoe, Trengrove expressed his jubilation and good fortune at having owned a horse for only three months and in that time having him win the country's most prestigious race.
Acron was the first four-year-old to contest the New Zealand Cup, but, like so many other extremely good four-year-olds who followed him into the race, the win eluded him. Acron possessed brilliant speed and stamina and for 10 years held the record mile time in New Zealand of 2:03.6. The outstanding youngster of his time, winning the Great Northern and New Zealand Derbies, Acron was the last qualifier for the 1923 New Zealand Cup, winning the Islington Handicap, the last race on the final day of the August meeting, with a superlative performance. He started from 72 yards and beat 17 others to record a time of 4:29.8.
Slow away in the Cup and a long way back early, Acron gradually improved and at the end of the first mile took a place on the inside, at the back of the first group. That proved to be a bad decision because Jack Kennerley could not clear Acron until the race was all but over, though he put in a tremendous run for second. Such bad luck was to dog owner J R McKenzie and his son Roy, who, despite every effort, have failed to land a New Zealand Cup. Yet, between them the McKenzie's have won every other important race on the harness racing calendar and have been leading owners 18 times. J R McKenzie headed the owners' list for the first time in the 1925-26 season.
Acron and Onyx (who ran her usual honest race for third) were by Free Holmes' imported stallion Logan Pointer, then standing alongside his other American import, Rey de Oro, at his Upper Riccarton Stud. Both were successful sires, but Logan Pointer more so. Logan Pointer, foaled in 1909 and imported in 1915, did not race in New Zealand and was first represented on the sires' list in 1918-19. For six seasons, from 1922-23 until 1927-28, and again in 1930-31, he was the country's top sire. Unfortunately, Logan Pointer met a premature end, in 1924, in the prime of his stud duty, when he was kicked by a pony and had to be destroyed. In all, he sired 187 individual winners. His greatest son, without doubt, was pacing idol Harold Logan. Other outstanding performers, in addition to Onyx and Acron, were Prince Pointer, Jewel Pointer, Logan Chief, Cardinal Logan, Logan Park, Native Chief and the trotter Trampfast.
On the second day of the 1923 meeting some excellent performances were recorded by several young horses, none more so than the victory by Logan Chief in the New Zealand Free-For-All, beating Great Hope and Happy Voyage. Logan Chief was one of the stars of the early part of the season, recording three wins and two minor placings from five starts.
Kennerley must have been the envy of most trainers at this time, with Logan Chief, Acron and rising champion Great Bingen in his Belfast stable. But even with this powerful trio, Kennerley trailed James Bryce at the end of the season. Bryce trained 24 winners and drove 28. Kennerley, with 16½ training and the same number of driving successes, was runner-up.
A cold easterly made the third day unpleasant. Don Wild, a free-legged pacer, won the Christchurch Handicap from Tatsy Dillon and Trix Pointer. Don Wild continued his good form after this meeting and by the end of the season was the top money-winner with £3202. Free-legged pacers have been a rarity on racetracks in New Zealand and few have made top company. There have been exceptions - Young Irvington, Don Wild, Lawn Derby, Robalan and Final Decision all raced 'without straps' and made it to the top level.
Native King, a son of Nelson Bingen and Norice, won the Dominion Handicap in race-record time of 4:37.2. Native King was a brother to Nelson Derby, sire of Haughty.
The betting at Addington over the three days was £210,436, a decrease of £11,000 on the previous year. The trend continued, as interest, it seemed, had peaked at Addington. Patrons at the track in 1923 were greeted with extentions to the steward's stand. However, the purchase by the club of a large property on Riccarton Road and the proposed transfer of operations away from Addington were much-discussed topics at this time. The Riccarton project never went ahead, although substantial plans were drawn up. Significantly, the track was designed to run clockwise, the opposite way to Addington. The Riccarton land was sold some years later, and it seems that harness racing in Christchurch will forever have its headquarters at Addington
Credit: Bernie Wood writing in The Cup
1923 NEW ZEALAND CUP
Another Cup has come and gone and this year it went to the favorite, Great Hope, who was sold some time back to the Dunedin owner, Sonny Trengrove, who made his first appearance as an owner of a light harness horse.
Ever since the National meeting Great Hope has been in the market, as the majority of people thought he would improve considerably on his August efforts. So he did, but this scribe is not going to suggest that the improvement was not the result of his races and there was nothing not all square about it. Right here let it be said that after seeing the Cup run and won by Great Hope, this scribe thinks that, though he was unplaced, the pony Taraire is to-day the best pacer in the Dominion. Well, what happened to him on Tuesday? Nothing more or less than that it failed to leave the mark and lost about three seconds. Afterwards he went a good race, but turned it up when pursuit was hopeless.
Now for the race. The bracket was a good favorite and both Great Hope and Tamaire stripped well; so did the second favorite, Acron, but he is a young horse and many were afraid of him at the peg. Early in the day his trainer told Owner J. R. McKcnzic that he had every hope that the bay would be tractable at the peg. but though he was not very bad, still he was on his toes and the assistant starter took hold of him after he had been giving trouble, but at Kennerley's request he let him go again.
When the word was given Great Hope was in his stride like a flash, whlle Paul Dufault dwelt and so did Acron, Whispering Willie and Turaire. Great Hope led to the stand, when he was steadied, and Paul Dufault led him and a bunched field, which was tailed by Taraire. Down the back stretch Paul Dufault was going very fast and tho driver of Great Hope was using him as a wind shield, while none of the rear rank could head them off. As they went into tho straight Vilo and Onyx were noticed putting in good work but the leading positions were unchanged. With half a mile to go Great Hope ran past Paul Dufault and down the back it looked like a stroll for the winner, but as they swept into the straight Acron who had been snowed in most of the way, Vito and Onyx started after the leader.
In a good finish ihe handsome chestnut held his own and won by a length from Acron with the consistent but unlucky Onyx in third p!ace. Then came Willie Lincoln and the Oamaru horse, Albert Cling. With five furlongs to go Snowshoe when well placed, left his feet and Tompkinson got a heavy fall but luckily, was not hurt. It was considered in some quarters that Acron was unlucky and he might have been, but this scribe will not have that the best horse did not win. He never put a toe wrong the whole way and young Bryce deserves every credit for the wry he drove the winner. It was a case of his father over again at his very best. Snowshoe has all along been giving trouble and probably he hit himself when he fell, as certainty nothing in the race interfered with the Aussie.
Credit: NZ Truth 10 Nov 1923
In the NEW ZEALAND REFEREE of 5th February, 1919 it was reported that the Metropolitan Trotting Club had effected the purchase of a large area of land in the Riccarton district covering some eighty seven acres at a cost of £21,000. The new site comprised seventy acres previously owned by Mr T W J Shand, seven acres by Mr W Robinson and two smaller blocks of six acres. The property fronted Riccarton, Blenheim and Wharenui Roads and with the exception of one or two small sections covered the whole block opposite Puriri Street within a stone’s throw of Dean’s Bush and not more than two miles from the city. The article went on to say that the Club’s Addington property, though quite up to the standard of any trotting grounds in Australasia, had the distinct disadvantage of being held only on lease with certain conditions attached which restricted the Club’s scope for expansion. In its desire to cater for the public the Club realized that the appointments at Addington were not ideal an that if the sport continued to advance, as in the past few years, the outside accommodation would be absolutely inadequate.
The new property was served by the Riccarton Tram with the rear of the property being in close proximity to the Addington and Middleton Railway Stations while the Riccarton Railway Station was not more than ¾ of a mile away. The closeness of transport would enable country patrons to be well served in their travelling arrangements.
The article mentioned that the Club’s lease of the Addington Course had only seven years to run and it was anticipated that racing would be in full swing at the new venue before that period elapsed. It was the Club’s intention for the new grounds to be up-to-date in every respect and to take full advantage of the natural beauty of the property and to make its surroundings the most picturesque of any racecourse in New Zealand. Plans for a six furlong track had been drawn up and it was proposed that the work of establishing the new racecourse be treated with the utmost urgency.
At the Annual Meeting held in June 1920 the Chairman stated that all liabilities on the land at Riccarton had been liquidated and the property was now freehold. In November 1922 Mr Hill of Auckland was employed to prepare the layout of the grounds in consultation with Luttrell Brothers. Three months later Mr Hill met the Committee and was asked to furnish a plan and a report as early as possible.
A leading article appeared in the REFEREE of 1st March 1923 and stated
“Although it will probably be a couple of years before the Metropolitan Trotting Club finally removes its headquarters from Addington to its new grounds at Riccarton, the plans for the equipment of the property are now receiving careful consideration. It is impossible for any work to be undertaken at present as the land is leased to tenants whose term of occupancy does not expire until May.
The first work to be undertaken will be the formation of the six furlong grass track which is to be a chain and a half in width with two straights of eleven chains each and the turns being nineteen chains. It need hardly be said that special care will be taken to make this new track provide as perfect a racing surface as possible and by having it put in hand early it will be given a chance to set properly before it is required for racing. The work for laying out the grounds and for providing the necessary equipment will require careful consideration but with expert advice and past experience to guide them the Club’s Executive may be relied upon to provide a trotting ground that will be the last word in general completeness and efficiency. The operations in connection with the Metropolitan Trotting Club’s new grounds belong more or less to the future as plans have not yet been decided upon.”
In May of that year Luttrell Brothers and the Secretary were authorized to deal with the residents and secure their rights over undedicated roads so they could be closed.
Mr Hill’s fee foe planning the layout of the new grounds was 100 guineas.
The following August a deputation of representatives of the Riccarton Borough Council was received by the Committee and the deputation outlined the various works that would be carried out around the property if the Club would consent to join the Borough. The works proposed were to consist of roading and channeling and the Council also undertook to urge the occupiers of the sections in Euston Street to consent to the closing of undeclared roads. In view of the offer made by the Council the Committee decided to join the Borough. In October two Committeemen were authorized to sign a deed petitioning the Government to transfer the Club’s property from the Waimairi County Council to the Riccarton Borough Council.
On Saturday, 28 June 1924 a Commission chaired by Mr E D Mosely, SM, sat in Christchurch to consider whether of not a large area of ground owned by the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club and a small area owned by H Mayne on Riccarton Road should be transferred from the Waimairi County to the Riccarton Borough. The Club now owned 91 acres, 3 roods and 7 perches of the total area of the block which was 92 acres, 2 roods and 1 perch. The District Health Officer said it would be better to transfer the land to the Borough in order that a suitable drainage system could be carried out which was essential with the large crowds that would attend trotting meetings. After hearing evidence from the Secretary of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club and the Mayor of Riccarton, the Commission reserved its decision.
At the annual meeting of Members the Chairman in referring to the new course said that the grounds had been bought and paid for but the construction of the course and the erection of new buildings would be a very expensive matter and he was not prepared to say when the work would be undertaken. A Member mentioned that reports stated that a trotting course could not be formed on the new property. The Chairman asked the Member where he obtained that information and the Member said it was heard frequently. The Chairman said that the rumour was incorrect.
It was reported in the NEW ZEALAND REFEREE of 31st July 1924 that the Christchurch Presbytery had forwarded through Mr George Witty, MP, to the Minister of Internal Affairs a resolution passed by the Presbytery protesting against the establishment of a trotting course I close proximity to the Riccarton Presbyterian Church. The Hon. R F Bollard, Minister of Internal Affairs, informed Mr Witty that the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club, which up to the present, had been racing on leasehold property at Addington purchased the property referred to three years previously with a view to making a new trotting course and had since disposed of its interests of the leased ground at Addington to the Canterbury Park Trotting Club. The Minister stated that he had no statutory powers to prevent the NZMTC from forming a new racecourse on its property at Riccarton.
In the NEW ZEALAND REFEREE of 7th August 1924 an article stated:
“In connection with the recommendation of the Commission recently announced to add the Metropolitan Trotting Clubs new grounds at Riccarton to the Riccarton Borough the Mayor of Riccarton, Mr A D Ford, when interviewed by a representative of the “REFEREE” stated that the inclusion of the Club’s grounds in the Borough was what his council desired.
Mr Ford said that both Mr Mayne and the Club had petitioned the Governor for the land to be added to the Borough and the Riccarton Council supported the request. Mr Ford said that the Riccarton Council desired to carry out substantial improvements in this locality and to put certain roads in order. The Borough boundary was along the whole eastern side of the property, right along the north side and half way down the western side and most of the roadways and paths were thrown into the Borough originally with the boundary line along the Club’s fence instead of the centre of the road as usual. This threw into the Borough the roads and paths, or most of them, and prevented the Borough from getting the benefit of the rates from the block. When asked as to how the district would be affected by the opening of the land as a trotting track Mr Ford said that the first desires of a Council are always the cutting up of large blocks into building sites and for such sites to be built on. In the present case this of course would not come about and therefore the establishment of a trotting track was as good as the next best thing. If the area had been cut up it would have produced about 78 acres net for rating purposes whereas now the whole 92½ acres would be rateable. As the Riccarton Borough rated on unimproved value it would be seen that the difference between rates on 78 acres and 92½ acres would be a fair sum. Mr Ford stated that the Club’s ground was first class good heavy land out of which a very fine racecourse could be made. There was ample road provision on the east side to lay the necessary tram tracks as well as several cross streets running eastward which would provide numerous outlets for any amount of traffic and thus prevent congestion after the races were over each day. Access could be had from four sides for both vehicles and pedestrians and this should greatly assist in handling large crowds. Mr Ford said he hoped later on to approach the trotting club with a request to allow the centre open space, that is inside the track, to be used by the public for recreation. If this could be done then Riccarton would be provided with a very fine ground which would answer the purposes of a park.”
In August 1924 a sub-committee was set up to go into the question of proceeding with the new grounds and in October of that year they submitted a favourable report on the drainage of the property.
In November the Club agreed to give a strip of land half a chain wide to allow Wharenui Street to be widened. In exchange the Club was to receive the freehold of unformed streets within the property. In June 1925 it was pointed out that the annual report of the Club made no reference to the Committee’s proposal in regard to its Riccarton property and it was suggested that it could be presumed that the question of the removal of the Club’s headquarters to the new ground had been deferred indefinitely. It was mentioned that it would be a costly business to equip the new grounds as an up-to-date trotting course and the Club was proceeding on cautious lines in deferring the work until it has accumulated funds that would justify the undertaking.
In July of that year Mr D McCormick offered three acres adjoining the Club’s property and fronting Blenheim Road and it was agreed to purchase the land for £1,500. In March 1926 the Club’s Solicitor was instructed to communicate with the Riccarton Borough Council regarding the closing of the roads and to ascertain the current position. Letters from the Solicitor regarding this matter were received in April but no information was minuted.
In February 1927 authority was given to terminate Mr Shirley’s position as caretaker if it was deemed necessary and in the middle of that month he was given three months notice.
In April 1928 the Riccarton Borough Council requested the Club to connect their properties to the sewer. Mr F W Freeman, surveyor, was asked to submit a sketch plan showing the subdivision of the Riccarton property similar to that proposed by the late Mr Shand. Later in the month Mr Freeman was asked to prepare complete plans for a subdivision.
In May it was reported in the REFEREE that Mr H Shirley had been appointed caretaker of the Napier Park Racing Club’s course and that he was well known in Canterbury having been caretaker of the Canterbury Park Trotting Club’s Sockburn grounds for nine years. When Mr French resigned his position as caretaker at the Metropolitan Trotting Club’s grounds at Addington Mr Shirley was his successor and remained there for about four years. The Canterbury Park Club then acquired the Addington grounds and the Metropolitan Trotting Club placed Mr Shirley in charge of its new property on Riccarton Road which he supervised for about four years. As there did not seem much likelihood of the Club racing on its new grounds, and Mr Shirley being anxious to secure a position on a property that was being used as a racecourse, he applied for the Napier Park position and secured the appointment from over 100 applicants. It was reported that during the time Mr Shirley was in charge at Canterbury Park and at Addington his maintenance of the grounds was of great value especially in the provision of good tracks, one of which was grass and the other dirt.
In July 1928 Tonks, Norton & Company and Jones, McCrostie & Company were asked to report on the planned subdivision, the best method of its disposal and to place a value on the sections. A sub-committee was appointed in November to investigate the subdividing of the property with power to act. No record can be found as to the reason for disposing of the Riccarton property but it probably can be assumed that it was a question of finance which lead the Metropolitan Committee to make the decision to dispose of the Riccarton Property. In December 1928 the land agents reported that they were unable to obtain an offer for the selling of the property as a block and it was then decided to ask the surveyor to complete the plans for its subdivision.
In April 1929 the Riccarton Borough Council was pressed to complete the roading works associated with the loan which was raised especially for that purpose, and during that month the subdivision sub-committee reported that 4½ acres at the Blenheim Road end of the property had been offered to the Riccarton Borough Council for a reserve at £500 per acre. The next report minuted was to the affect that in October 1932 four sections were sold.
In August 1934 arrangements made with Tonks, Norton & Co. to collect the rents on the various properties on the Club’s behalf were cancelled and the collecting became the responsibility of the Club’s administration.
In May 1935 the Riccarton Borough Council was requested to proceed with the extension of Wainui Street and in July 1937 it was reported that a block of 78 acres, 3 roods and 17.8 perches was offered to the government for £14,000. As most of this area is now devoted to state housing it can be assumed the Government accepted the offer.
In April 1941 three properties were still owned by the Club. 91 Wainui Street was let to Mr C W Ayers at a weekly rental of £1/6/0 and this property was sold in December 1970 for a net return of $5,744. 95 Wainui Street was let to Miss Henery at £1/2/6 and this property was sold in September 1941 giving a net return to the Club of £793/8/9. The third property at 97 Wainui Street was let to Mrs J Russell at £1/4/0 per week and after she had vacated the property was sold in June 1970 for a net return to the Club of $5,930.
The selling of these properties brought to a close the Club’s ambitious project of establishing its own freehold Racecourse in the Riccarton Borough.
Credit: NZMTC: Historical Notes compiled by D C Parker
Small fires in the grandstands were not uncommon and in 1923 a claim for £6/6/- was received from a patron whose suit had been damaged in a small fire in the Stewards Stand.
Credit: NZMTC: Historical Notes compiled by D C Parker