Suicide Bombing at Murchison, 1905

Murchison suicide bombing a world first

Forget Islamic extremists or anything to do with the Middle East, the world’s first strapped-on suicide bombing happened in Murchison.

Joseph Sewell was a 57-year-old farmer from Longford when he strapped himself with sticks of gelignite and blew himself up outside the Murchison Courthouse on Friday 14 July 1905. It was an event that got reported worldwide as “The Murchison Tragedy”….

Whatever his mindset at the time, Joseph Sewell had developed an unshakeable belief in the efficacy of explosives to settle virtually any dispute. Some years before he had unsuccessfully sued the Buller County Council for damages to his property sustained by a careless cart driver along its road. After Westport solicitor Edward Harden sent Sewell three accounts with a final demand for payment for having represented him in the case, Sewell marched into his office.

“Do you intend to actually get this money?” asked Sewell.

“Certainly, people in my line of business do not usually go to the trouble or expense for nothing,” replied the solicitor.

“Then we shall go to hell together!” expounded Sewell, who then produced from under his coat a package of dynamite with a detonator attached. The solicitor jumped up saying actually there was no hurry for the money, in fact he wouldn’t bother if it was never paid, but it still took some persuading for Sewell to finally settle down and leave.

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Curse work on Germany, 1916

Unconscious/semi-conscious curse working on Germany from the pages of the
Taranaki Daily News.

Some Great sympathetic magic here; when will they fall? when the clock strikes. How will they fall? like over ripe fruit. Through narrative causality their strength is the sign of their imminent undoing. The fruits of their civilisation are a lie, obliquely mirrored in two leaders, Bismark the inescapable manifestation of the ur German, the guiding hand of national destiny despite the efforts of poets, artists and thinkers, and William, embodying simultaneous paradoxes, with the worse always victorious.

half an athlete, half a cripple, half a genuis, half a homicidal maniac. A diseased sepulchre for a soul, a monster spewed from the dark ages to curse the twentieth century

Peppered throughout are some nice flourishes that demonstrate the will behind the working. The alliteration of:

foul feeders, deep drinkers, dull of brain, heavy of hand, coarse, common and cruel

The marking of Germany as “the Master Devil” a title befitting a villain so single mindedly evil that its downfall is all but ordained,  something conjured up to be a wrestling heel or enemy of Godzilla, and this appellation is backed up by tales of turpitude demonstrating their validity.

he would go to  royal kinsman’s death chamber and steal from dying lips the secrets of the great

It ends with both the case for the war and the implication the curse is already in effect and its fulfilment is at hand

Germany became the colossus of the world, and might have been its master ere the sands ran out had honesty and righteousness been the national watchwords instead of trickery and brute force. The whole Germanic life has been a hideous lie for two generations. They were within an ace of world mastery by virtue of their industry, organisation, and will power and brain force. They have thrown it all to the dogs. The Gods have cursed them. They will fall when the clock strikes.



With thanks to the National Library of New Zealand

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Vera Wyse Munro, Radio Pioneer

Vera Wyse Munro (1897-1966) was a pioneering New Zealand ham radio broadcaster, improviser, and sonic experimenter. Her primary media were amateur radio broadcasts, Morse poetry, and sono-topographical scores. Via her broadcasts, which were frequently received by amateur radio operators as far afield as the United States and Europe, Munro initiated some of the earliest telematic performances, in which she would perform prepared violin in structured improvisations with other musicians broadcasting from elsewhere in the world. Munro’s work was often necessarily clandestine, as a result of legislation curbing amateur radio activity in New Zealand. As a result of this, as well as the absence of extant documentation about her life and her ephemeral practice, Munro’s work is only now starting to be regarded amidst New Zealand’s cultural history.

reconstructed score excerpt of the Skywave Symphony (1940)

With thanks to Celeste Oram. Information from (also check out the radio documentary  on her page)

An expanded biography on Monro is available at

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Concept for a “processional way” for new Auckland war memorial


The project will see a “processional way” built down the grassy bank in front of the Auckland War Memorial Museum to Domain Drive. Photo / Supplied
New war memorial designs questioned (Jan 9, 2016)

Outside of this blogs usual chronological concerns perhaps but it is both noteworthy and heartening to see an evolution in the kind of ritual engagement asked of participants in ANZAC services, as well as the intertwining of ritual and landscape, whatever form the monument itself ends up taking.

The creation of a “hard” processional imperative in the memorial layout has its precursors in the psychological suggestions on crowd movement imposed by road layouts and pathways surrounding established memorials.

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Some pieces relating to blackbirding from New Zealand papers

At first relatively small ships – cutters, and ketches, and schooners – from New Zealand’s more northerly ports made up the bulk of the Kiwi blackbirding fleet, but as time went on, and the profits to be made from the trade in humans became clear, businessmen from New Zealand’s wealthy south funded larger ships. In 1871 JR MacKenzie, one of the richest men in Dunedin, launched a steamship called the Wainui, which was soon busy ‘recruiting’ labour in Melanesia.

Although missionaries like Coley Patteson produced detailed exposes of the trade, governments in Wellington were at first very reluctant to take any sort of action against blackbirding. Frustrated by their own failure to create prosperity in New Zealand, the country’s political elite hoped that the sugar and cotton booms in Queensland and Fiji would spread. Auckland might become a profitable ‘depot’ for Fijian exports destined for Europe, and the newly-wealthy planters of Fiji and Queensland might import large quantities of consumer goods from New Zealand.






The Minister tor Defence



With thanks to the National Library of New Zealand.


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Evil eye on the train


With thanks to the National Library of New Zealand

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Pirates in New Zealand

Taken from Wikipedia:

Charlotte Badger

Charlotte Badger (1778 – in or after 1818) is widely considered to be the first Australian female pirate. She was also one of the first two white female settlers in New Zealand.

Badger was born in 1778, the daughter of Thomas and Ann Badger. She was baptised on 31 July 1778. Her family was poor, and one day in 1796, she stole several guineas and a silk handkerchief in an attempt to support them, but was caught and arrested. She was sentenced to seven years’ penal servitude in New South Wales.

Badger arrived on the Earl Cornwallis in 1801. In 1806 she was serving at the Parramatta female factory, during which she gave birth to a daughter.

In 1806, she travelled with her child aboard The Venus, with plans to become a servant in Van Diemens Land. The captain of the ship, Samuel Chase, was in the habit of flogging the women for entertainment, until his charges and crew mutinied. Badger and another convict, Catherine Hagerty, talked the men on board into seizing the ship, while the captain was ashore at Port Dalrymple in northern Tasmania.

In 1806, Badger and Hagerty and their lovers, John Lancashire and Benjamin Kelly, went to the Bay of Islands in the far north of New Zealand, where they settled at the pa at Rangihoua. By April 1807, Hagerty had died and by the end of the year Lancashire and Kelly had also left.

In 1826, the American ship the Lafayette landed in Vavaʻu. On the ship’s landing in Sydney, they reported that Charlotte Badger and her daughter had stopped there eight years earlier. Badger could speak Māori fluently and could communicate in tongan and was travelling on a whaling ship to America.

Some stories suggest that the other mutineers all fled but were eventually caught and hanged, while others suggest that they went pirating after Badger, Hagerty, Lancashire and Kelly left, despite not knowing how to navigate the ship. Then the Māori captured The Venus, and burned it to retrieve the scrap metal, and cooked the men on board. Meanwhile, Lancashire, and Kelly were also recaptured and Hagerty died of a fever.

In the 1825 convict muster there is listed a Charlotte Badger, with 10-year-old daughter Maria, who arrived on the Earl Cornwallis in 1801. While the birth date is estimated at 1785, it’s highly unlikely there were two Charlotte Badgers – one who became a pirate and another who was listed in Parramatta in 1825

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