Daily Archives: April 15, 2011

Walking around our city

Wellington is affectionately dubbed Windy Wellington due to its close proximity to the Cook Strait and unpredictable weather patterns.  It is  the Capital City of New Zealand, and is small enough for one to walk around in a day and see most of the sights and visit some of the monuments and galleries open to the public.

Wellington city was recently named as ‘the “Best Little Capital in the World” by Lonely Planet Guide.  Being named  4th in the top ten cities of the world to visit in 2011.  (Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2011).

With its quaint wooden houses tumbling down a ring of hills to the city centre, clustered on reclaimed land around the glittering harbour, in ‘100% Pure New Zealand’, the country’s most innovative and inspiring city might just be the ‘Best Little Capital in the World”

View of Harbour

This harbor view of Wellington is available from many of the hills surrounding our beautiful city.  The city is a hive of activity with a thriving commercial center; cultural, arts and sports are alive and well here too.

Following the downturn in the economy following the share-market crash in the late 80s, many of the commercial  buildings became empty and many were converted to apartments.  So now we have a city that is bustling with life until the early hours of the morning where before the city closed down after the offices closed.

Wharf offices buildingWellington Harbour Board Wharf Office Building (Shed 7). Photographed by Rachel Connolly 10/01/2009. Copyright NZ Historic Places Trust

Probably the most notable conversion of offices into apartments is the Wharf Offices building in Queens Wharf.

This building was designed by the well known English architect, Frederick de Jersey Clere (1856 – 1952) for the Harbor Board to use as offices.  The building, is classified as a “Category I” (“places of ‘special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value'”) historic place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Apart from 31 great apartments the building houses the NZ Academy of Fine Arts  a non-profit private company supported by membership subscriptions, donations and commissions on the sale of exhibited works.

When the building was first converted I was employed to manage the building and look after the interests of the Body Corporate.  This is a fascinating building that has held my interest for some 20 years.

The building is home to an unusual and almost un-noticed monument which is  a memorial to Paddy the Wanderer. The story of Paddy was the inspiration for a recent (2007) children’s book by Dianne Haworth.  The story of Paddy is told on a separate adjacent plaque as:

“Paddy the Wanderer was a ginger and brown Airedale (terrier) dog who became a well known and much loved identity on the Wellington waterfront in the 1930’s. His original name was believed to have been “Dash”, the favourite pet of  a little girl called Elsie Marion Glasgow, whose father was a seaman. Elsie Marion and her mother Alice would often bring their dog to meet John Glasgow’s ship when he was returning to port. In this way, “Dash” soon became familiar with the wharves.

Tragically, Elsie Marion took ill and died of pneumonia in 1928, aged three-and-a-half years. Bewildered and lost, “Dash” strayed from home and took to wandering the wharves, seemingly in search of his lost playmate. He never returned home, deciding instead to remain at the waterfront.

Paddy came to be a familiar sight on the wharves in the 1930’s, and began to feature regularly in newspaper articles. He was cared for by watersiders and Harbour Board workers, seamen and local taxi drivers, who all took it in turn to pay his annual dog license fee. The taxi drivers would often take him for rides around the city, and sometimes up country. Paddy also made voyages to some of New Zealand’s coastal ports, and to Australia.

Paddy was said to have good sea legs and “a really keen nose for impending storms”. In 1935 he made a flight in a Gipsey Moth biplane, and apparently enjoyed the experience of flying in an open cockpit.

In his last few years, Paddy held the honorary title of Assistant Watchman, keeping an eye out for smugglers and pirates as well as rodents. Paddy became good friends with the nightwatchman, both being glad of each other’s company during the long, cold nights.

By the time he was 13 years old, Paddy began to show signs of old age and refused to travel far. He was now usually to be found on the Tally Clerk’s stand inside the Queen’s Wharf Gates. Then, when his health deteriorated, he was placed in a sickbed in Shed 1, and attended to by a vet, with people calling to see him and to enquire about his welfare.

On July 17, 1939, Paddy died. Obituary notices were placed in the local papers to inform everyone of his death. A fleet of black taxis, led by a traffic officer formed a funeral cortege to carry his coffin from Queen’s Wharf to the City Corporation yards for cremation.

Funds were gathered by Paddy’s old friends for a memorial drinking fountain. In 1945, the fountain was erected. It is set in stone from London’s bombed Waterloo Bridge. When the drinking bowl overflows with water, it fills the two drinking bowls below, for any dog who passes to quench a thirst.”

Surely a small dog with a great history.  And the water bowls are there for any dog being walked on a leash and some who just escape, to drink from.  LotteI often stop there to read the plaque while Lotte slurps from the bowl.

In future posts I would like to show you around our fabulous city.  We have fantastic museums including

  •  Our National Museum – Te Papa (Maori for Our Place.  This building has caused great controversy and you either love it or hate it.  I love it.
  • Museum of City and Sea – celebrating Wellington’s social, cultural and maritime history.
  • Cable Car Museum – brings to life the story of Wellington’s iconic cable cars
  • The Colonial Cottage – Wellington’s oldest original cottage and its garden
  • NZ Cricket Museum – based in the Old Grandstand at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, and houses a wealth of cricket treasures and memorabilia
  • Katherine Mansfield’s Birthplace – The childhood home of New Zealand’s most famous author

and many other places to delight you.  We can also take walks around the harbor and see some of the original cottages that were built when Wellington was first inhabited.  Oh I am so looking forward to sharing my hometown with you.  I hope you will join me.

Perhaps we could share some of our favorite places.  Let me know what are your favorite places in your city please.

And today’s quote comes Elizabeth Seton 1774-1821, The First American Saint

“When so rich a harvest is before us, why do we not gather it?  All is in our hands if we will but use it”.