Snells Beach writer uncovers Auckland’s wild past

Posted at 8:00am Wednesday 31 Mar, 2021

Brian Jackson
Bryan Jackson

Buoyed by the success of his book on Warkworth's incidents, accidents and tragedies, Snells Beach writer Bryan Jackson has written another – this time focusing on Auckland.

Auckland: Incidents, Accidents and Tragedies covers the dramatic events in the city between 1840 and 1989 and the extraordinary characters that were involved in them.

Little known incidents include a Russian invasion of Auckland in 1873 – a hoax news story that had people ripping up floorboards to hide their money and jewels, and a school that gave its pupils a day off to go and see a Russian frigate in the harbour.

Accidents include a great fire of 1845 that destroyed more than 50 homes – some of them deliberately blown up by soldiers to try to create a firebreak to contain the blaze.

Tragedies include the Birkenhead Ferry disaster of 1955, when the Bender family lost their lives after a ferry eased away from the wharf, just as their car mounted the ramp to board, plunging the car into the sea with the family trapped inside.

As with his Warkworth book, Bryan takes delight in finding little-known colourful personalities to write about.

A favourite is Cyrus Hayley who, over a spat with the Choral Society, burned down the Music Hall in Symonds Street in 1871 and then a newly built Choral Hall designed to replace it, in the same year. He ended up serving a prison sentence in Dunedin and was shot in the back by guards when he tried to escape.

Bryan also covers better known events, such as the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985, the Bassett Road murders in 1963 and the man hanged in Mount Eden jail for the murder of Rev Volkner in 1866.   

He says digging into these incidents often sheds new light on them. He discovered four of those thought to have been executed for the murder of Rev Volkner actually died of other causes, such as TB.

Auckland: Incidents, Accidents and Tragedies is 374 pages and can be found at Paper Plus in Warkworth.

Book Giveaway

Mahurangi Matters has one copy of Auckland: Incidents, Accidents and Tragedies to giveaway. To go in the draw, email editor@localmatters.co.nz and put “Accidents” in the subject line. Competition closes April 12.


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