Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

 The Old Waterfront, p 48 The Streets of my city, Wellington New Zealand,
by F. L. Irvine-Smith. (1948).

A Letter

Contents: a letter | Part One chapters: 1 | 2 | Part Two chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15
Part Three chapters: Intro | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Appendix

My Dear Friends -

Here is the book! It is not meant to be history in any regularised form, but just an appraisement of some of the early days and early folks of our own city. And the pegs used to hang facts upon are our Street Names, for there is no city in the two hemispheres that has a richer store of history tucked away in its names than the city of Wellington. Dates you will find a-plenty. Unavoidable. If not to your taste, just put them on one side of your plate and nothing said.

There are so many to thank. Dr. Scholefield, who has put all posterity in his debt by his masterly compilation of the "Dictionary of New Zealand Biography"; Mr. Stuart Perry, City Librarian, for his very generous assistance in indexing the book; Mr. Finlay Martin, whose well-stocked bookshelves run a long second to his well-stocked mind; the late Mr. Horace Fildes, whose passion for accuracy was to the ordinary mortal both inspiring and unattainable; Mr. J. B. I. Cook, Secretary of the Wellington Public Hospital; Mr. Arthur Messenger, whose artistic pen has so enhanced the story; Mr. G. F. Dixon, for helpful suggestions; Mr. St. John Coventry, who dived into records with such ease and dexterity; the Librarian and Staffs of the Public and Turnbull Libraries, with added indebtedness to Miss N. Millar and Mr. J. B. Trapp; Officers of the City Council, owners of private records, Miss M. G. Ford, who wrestled so cheerfully with the tribulations of typing; and last but not least, the many descendants and connections of early pioneers whose tea and talk enlivened many a shining hour, even if an elusive clue was not always run to earth. To those thus contacted and to those who sent informative billets doux from as far away as the Homeland, my grateful thanks.

For the old "Company" streets and for "official" streets (named for Govornors, parliamentarians, city fathers and the like) provided one browsed in the right places, names were not hard to derive. But with "private" streets, constructed mostly by cutting up original town acres, it was another matter. City records could inform the date of their construction and the constructors thereof, but very often gave no clue whatever to the names bestowed upon the ensuing streets. Nor could logic be called into question, nor at times anyone who remembered unearthed. In plain words the task had been left too long. Hence its shortcomings and unavoidable omissions.

We live in an age of memorials - the aftermath of war. But peace too hath her memorials, more widely spread by far than those of war, and of such come high on the roll the name-plates of city thoroughfares. What better tribute to one who has served his city well than to have his name ever pointing the way to busy passers-by?

One word more. Do not uphold the standardisation of street names. It is an utterly mechanical method, and one of the most effective means for blotting out the past. Think of a London with its colourful names reduced to the dead level of a uniform "scheme," of many a lesser town, whose picturesque history is writ large upon its street names - nay, of Wellington itself, and the thousand and one pioneers whose daily round will be remembered and in no other way. Guard well your heritage.

F. I-S.
Simla Crescent
Khandallah
May 1948

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