A rare case of gang crime in inter-war New Zealand


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O.E. Hugo, Spiritualist.

O.E. Hugo, who wrote two of the more convincing hymns to the ancient gods that were produced in 19th century New Zealand, seems to have been a colourful character. Like many of the eccentrics who provide material for this blog, he was a lecturer, but also a phrenologist and spiritualist. The following eulogy recounts some of his activities.

ISSUE 14363, 20 AUGUST 1915

With thanks to the National Library of New Zealand.

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Superstitions of Criminals

These generalised recountings of superstition and folklore, presumably from Britain but not clearly marked as such (for example in this article where only the first incident, which states it’s location, in clearly labelled as having come from an overseas source) are made interesting by how common they are as a feature of the pre-war press in New Zealand. The lack of clear delineation as to the location of these beliefs, along with the ubiquity of accounts of them , raises the question of the effect of this kind of reporting on the population at large


With thanks to the National Library of New Zealand

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House of Dreams



With thanks to the National Library of New Zealand

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Maori Prophet and Temple

Tūhoe prophet, Rua Kēnana Hepetipa, and his temple, 1908.


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Cold Blooded Murder

A further story from John Wilson’s ‘Reminiscences of the Early Settlement of Dunedin and South Otago‘. The context suggests this story takes place in the 1860s.

A report of a double murder at Switzers reached 
Blatch at Clutha. Two brothers, named Tibbetts. had a 
station at Switzers. which they sold to a man named 
Switzer, who was a bootmaker in Dunedin. and from 
whom the place gets its name. Tibbetts Bros, haa another 
run near the former, and their horses always went back to 
the old run. The shepherds hunted them home with dogs, 
and one morning one of the Tibbetts found his favourite 
mare with her leg. broken. He said the shepherds had 
done it. and he would shoot the lot. Taking a double- 
barrelled gun. he walked to Switzers. where he arrived 
in the evening. He went to the hut, but the men had 
heard that he was coming, and they all cleared out. A 
woman with a child walked several miles to another 
station. The men hid in the scrub, from which they watched 
Tibbetts go into the hut, where he lit a fire and had his tea. 
About dark he went outside and called. "Aren't you coming 
in? You'll have to come some time." He stayed all night, 
and had his breakfast in the morning. It was a frosty night, 
and the hidden men had nothing on but shirt and 
trousers. After breakfast he went away up a gully, and 
one man. a German, who was cook, saw him going, but. 
being shortsighted, could not see him far. He thought 
he had gone, and started for the hut. Tibbetts turned 
and saw him. When he got near the poor fellow saw 
him and ran for the scrub, but Tibbetts shot him dead. 
He then turned away, and had some more breakfast with 
some men who were making a road near. One asked. 
"Been shooting?" "Oh. not much," said he: "only 
shot an old German affair." Some settlers then sent a 
mounted messenger to Blatch. but he had not gone far 
when another messenger overtook him and told him that 
Tibbetts the murderer had been shot by his brother. On- 
Blatch's arrival, he found that Sergeant Morton, who was 
on his way from the Lakes, had heard of the murder, and 
had gone to Tibbetts' house. He found the brother there, 
and they went to Switzers to look for the murderer, but 
did not succeed in finding him. They returned home, and 
in a little while saw him coming across the river. They 
saw him looking at the horses' tracks, and carefully scan- 
ning the place. There was a calico door to the hut. so 
they put the table against it, and cut loopholes to peer 
through. When he came near, the brother told him to lay 
down his arms and come into the hut. "Who is with 
you?" was the reply. "Oh. nobody that will hurt you. 
Lay down your gun." ''What for?" "Because you 
have shot one man, and I don't want you to have any 
more shooting." "Yes, you - . and I'll shoot you. 
too," was the reply. He fired at the door, but, finding 
from the sound that there was something solid against 
it, he aimed his gun again. The sergeant said, "now's 
our time; fire, or he'll shoot us." The brother fired, and 
shot him dead. He then tried to shoot himself, but Mor- 
ton, after a sharp struggle, managed to get his revolver, 
which went off in the tussle, and he was wounded in the 
hand. Blatch went for Rich, and an inquest was held, 
when in the one case a verdict of murder was brought in 
against the dead Tibbetts, and in the other one of justi- 
fiable homicide. 
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Omens of Succession

Another tale from John Wilson’s ‘Reminiscences of the Early Settlement of Dunedin and South Otago‘.

The Nicols, father and son. took a contract to build 
a bridge and an accommodation house at the Mataura 
River. Not having seen the place, they had to trust to 
the particulars given by the Government Department, 
and their estimates were made up from the information 
supplied, a good deal of which was misleading. Mr. 
Nicol, senr.. engaged men and a bullock driver, and. 
having secured a pair of first-class bullocks and sledge, set 
out from Dunedin for Mataura. Walter Nicol had now 
his first experience as a bullock-puncher, as the others of 
the party left him in charge. The road was only a track 
in many places, and in others there was hardly anything 
to guide the plucky new-chum driver. Nothing daunted, 
he set off, and after five days reached Caldervale, Kaihiku. 
then occupied by Alex. McNeil, where the others joined 
him, and the bullocks were handed over to their proper 
driver. The first day's trip had been as far as Saddle 
Hill; the next to Taieri Ferry; the third to Mathieson's. 
at Toko ; the fourth to Balclutha. and the fifth to Kaihiku. 
After leaving this place they managed, by taking a long 
day, to reach Trumble's place at Otaraia, but received 
a very surly welcome, neither food nor lodging being at 
first forthcoming. Ultimately they persuaded Trumble 
to give them food, and they lodged in the stockyard 
among the calf-pens. The seventh night found them at 
their destination the Bush about two miles below the 
present Mataura township, where there was a Maori settle- 
ment. Work then began. All the timber had to be cut in 
the bush and taken to the bridge site, a distance of about 
two miles. Soon a difficulty presented itself. The bridge 
had one span of fifty-two feet, and they could find only 
one tree in the bush which would square the size required. 
They had to go to Steel's bush. Edendale. for the other, 
and this entailed a great deal of extra labour. The bridge 
was a foot and horse bridge, six feet wide, and the spans 
were to rest on two Mat rocks, almost in mid-stream. It was 
found that the plans were here far astray, the proposed 
bridge being found to be twenty feet short, and some time 
was wasted in getting authority from Dunedin for the in- 
creased length. Provisions ran short, and the bullock 
team was sent to Invercargill for flour. It was away a 
fortnight, and then brought only one bag. The men were 
in a sad plight. Rich, a station-owner near, was away 
from home, and his foreman refused to sell them any 
meat, and if it had not been for the Maoris they would 
have starved. These Maoris gave them a few potatoes, 
and they managed to get some wild pigs. On Rich's 
return he soon had a bullock killed, and they were in 
clover. They then shifted camp to the bridge site, and 
were ready to start, when a flood came, and showed 
them that something would have to be done to prevent the 
bridge when built from being swept away, as the water 
rose right over the rocks where it was supposed to rest. 
The authorities were communicated with, and instructions 
sent to drill holes in the rocks and put in bolts, which 
were fixed by having melted lead poured in. After the 
work was completed, the river rose again, and the water 
flowed over the bottom of the bridge. Some time after- 
wards the bridge was swept away just when Southland 
separated from Otago and this accident made the sepa- 
ration complete. The accommodation-house was soon com- 
pleted, and the party returned to Dunedin. 
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