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Emaline South 

Judith Cranefield is the granddaughter of Joseph South(1), and the daughter of his youngest child, Elizabeth (Bess). Judith has written several articles on the emigration of Joseph South(1) to New Zealand and the subsequent history of the family, many of which appear in the Articles section of the website. This latest history adds to the biographies of members of the South family in New Zealand.

               EMALINE MARY SOUTH b. 1855

Early Days

Emalene (Lena) was born in Dunedin on 11th March 1885. She was named after her mother's half-sister. Her parents, Joseph and Mary Ann South had emigrated from Edmonton, which lies to the north of London, on the sailing ship "Buckinghamshire". Joseph sold his brick and pottery works there to his son Samuel, and with his second wife Mary Ann (nee Dutton) came to New Zealand and set up a new brickmaking works near Dunedin, first in Anderson's Bay and then at Walton Park, Fairfield. The firm was variously called 'South and Sons" and "South and Co,'.

Lena spent her early schooldays at Walton School, Fairfield. In 1896 or 1897, Joseph moved Mary Ann, her mother "Granny Dutton", and the three youngest children up into town to South Dunedin. Her sister, Bess, used to say that the reason for this was to be closer to better education.The family made several moves in the Forbury-South Dunedin area. They lived in 1 Helena St then Brunswick St and then Joseph bought a house in Bathgate Rd. After Joseph's death in 1906, Mary Ann moved to George St and the Bathgate St house was rented out as was their original residence at Walton Park.

Early photographs of Lena show her as a very attractive young woman. She was an accomplished pianist, and Arta her daughter remembers being told how she frequently accompanied eminent singers and musicians. This was presumably while she was still in her "teens". Mary Ann and her daughters were always involved in concerts, usually church entertainments, around the city. The family excellence at music was fostered by their mother, herself a very good pianist. It appears in a number of the family.They were all very active in their new church choir and its administration.

Church and Choir

All the South family were members of the Kew Primitive Methodist Church at Forbury Corner in South Dunedin. It was decided at the beginning of 1900 to start a church choir and, inevitably, the South family became very active on its committee. The minute book of its meetings still exists. It is a little school exercise book full of copperplate handwriting and covers the period from February 1900 until about 1918. In March 1903, Lena, aged 18, was appointed Secretary. Her brother Ernest was Choir Librarian. It is interesting to read the minutes written in young Lena's handwriting as various other members of the family turn up. Arthur came to speak to them about church collections, Harry reported to the committee on church quarterly meetings, Moses, now in North Auckland, sent donations. The lively debate of most meetings was always led by Ernest and by Lena. By 1904 however there were no Souths left on the choir committee.

Lena and Bert Gill -life in the Catlins

Lena married Herbert Edgar Hogarth Gill on 12th February 1908 in the Office of the Registrar of Marriages in Dunedin. They were both 23 and they gave their professions respectively as Saleswoman and Chemist. Bert's birthplace was Waikouaiti and his parents were Alfred Hogarth Gill, a journalist and Maria Gill (rice Beal ). In the Stones Directory of 1906 he appeared as a Chemist's Assistant, living at 1 Lees St. He worked as an analytical chemist with Kempthorne Prosser, and was registered as a fully qualified chemist on 18th August 1909. After their marriage Lena and Bert lived at 9 McRae St, Mornington. Their first child,.Alberta, was born in 1908, their son Alfred in 1909, and Essie was born in 1910. Throughout these years Bert continued to work for "K.P."

By 1912 the New Zealand Pharmaceutical Register showed his address as Kahuika in the south Catlins on the South Otago coast. In the Clutha county, Kahuika lies 95 miles south west of Dunedin., in the Catlins about 4 miles from Papatowai. It had a Post Office and a school with an average attendance of 21.

The railway was being built through the area which had very difficult terrain. The Catlins railway was not completed and opened until 1915. The number of residents in 1912 was 33. These included farmers, a butcher, a teacher, a storekeeper, a nurseryman and the overseer of the Public Works Depot there.

Arta's memories of her father's stories of life in the Catlins merge well with published information about pioneer life there, and it is important to understand how difficult life must have been there, especially for Lena with three little children under five years old.

Arta writes:

"They moved from Dunedin ... to the Catlins District and I understand that it was just opened up and was a logging area. He built their own log cabin by himself and he worked there, evidently fondly called "Doc". There was no doctor there and he evidently did what he could as emergency doctor as well as his role as chemist ... From time to time they went back to Dunedin to see friends."

The history of the Catlins area is very interesting, As the railway was slowly being constructed south from Owaka, which had a rail connection by 1896, the government were opening up small areas for closer settlement. The new settlers often worked on construction of the railway, took up contracts for metalling roads, and in their "spare time" developed their holdings. The Kahuika district had been surveyed as early as 1898 but heavy bush retarded progress and it was fortunate that supplementary work was available on the railways or in the sawmills which used the native timber from the heavily forested steep hillsides. The first large influx of settlers to Kahuika came from North Otago from the Shag Point mine which was closing down.

In the early days the nearest shop with a good stock was in Owaka. Supplies were usually shipped in to Kahuika by cutter but adverse weather often delayed it and the food supplies were liable to run out. Isolation was a great disadvantage. Another route was to row across Catlins Lake and then use packhorses along a coastal track. This took two days and was regulated by the need for low tide. It was obvious that Bert's skills would be invaluable. It was a very difficult area for the resident Owaka doctor to reach.

The opening of the Catlins Railway in February 1915 changed the character of the district and in anticipation of its arrival much development took place - more sawmills and farming, and soon a cheese factory. In 1911 Dr Truby King purchased two existing farms and in 1918 founded a cheese factory. Although he never lived in the district he regularly travelled by train down there on tours of inspection.

For many years sawmilling was the major industry in the Catlins, and with the completion of the railway line it increased, until by the 1920s there were about 16 sawmills operating in and around the Tahukapa Valley near Kahuika.

I have included an extract describing a typical Catlins pioneer house in the Appendix. This is because of some interest in the log hut that Bert built on his arrival at Kahuika.

The move to Wellington

No research has yet been undertaken into how long Bert, Lena and the children lived in the Catlins. It is safe to assume that they were there for several years. (See Appendix B.) The next directory entry for Herbert Gill is for 1920 when he is listed as a chemist in Wellington living at 463 Adelaide Rd. By 1915 Bert had actually let his registration as a chemist lapse. This is best explained with reference to this extract from the Pharmacy Register:

"The Board will from time to time, by a letter addressed to any registered chemist at his last known address, enquire whether he has changed his place of business and if no answer is received within six months the Board may erase his name from the register, and may subsequently restore the same upon his personal application and the production of his certificate." (from New Zealand Constitutional Statutes 1908 Vol. IV)

At some time before settling in Wellington Bert Gill worked as a relieving chemist at Kaikoura, filling in for their usual resident chemist Mr Thomas Vangioni.

During the early years of the First World War Bert and Lena moved from Kaukoura to Wellington where Bert managed a pharmacy for a chemist in Newtown who was going away for the war. He owned both the Newtown business and also one at 463 Adelaide Road, Berhampore, and they had an agreement that Bert would buy the Berhampore pharmacy when the owner returned from the war. Cleo was born at 463 Adelaide Road and Bert had by then bought the Berhampore business. Two years later the first of a number of very sad family tragedies occurred when Alberta, just eleven years, died in Wellington Hospital as the result of a brain tumour. A photograph of her remains, taken barely a week before her sudden death. It shows a beautiful and radiant child standing in a sunny garden and holding a forget-me-not flower.  

Towards the end of her life Lena endured many years of ill-health. She could look back on a remarkable life of varied experiences. I have found it a fascinating exercise in historical research to follow Lena's story, first in Dunedin with its focus on her musical activities in the church choir and her talent as a pianist, to the rugged and isolated south Catlins where she coped with her small children in a pioneering environment, and then on to urban life in Wellington. The contrasts appearing in the lives of Lena and Bert serve to highlight the adaptability and stamina noticeable in so many New Zealanders of their generation.

by J. Cranefield (M.A. Hist.Hons.)

Appendix A

Extract from "Catlins Pioneering" by A.J. Tyrrell (pub. Otago Heritage Books 1989 ):

The typical Catlins pioneering housing went through three stages.. first a ponga hut for immediate shelter, second a three or four bedroom house of tree ferns and some milled timber, and finally a larger house made entirely of timber.

A ponga hut was usually about 3.5 metres long, 2.5 metres wide and the walls nearly 2 metres high. The walls were halved tree fern trunks sunk into the ground for support. Rails were cut for the roof shingles which were cut from suitable Rimu. A wide chimney was created from saplings and the fireplace was plastered with clay and cow manure, two flat stones serving as hobs. Within the hut four posts were dug in to support the bunk. Bags comprised most of the furnishings and a glass window was an optional extra.

Once the farm had been broken in a permanent home was needed, often built with the help of neighbours or friends. A typical house had three or four rooms, in one being an iron range and hot water, a living room, bedrooms, a long passage and verandah and an iron roof.

The corner posts were sunk into the ground, much of the frame was of flattened tree ferns, rails held the walls in place, and sandstone rocks were used for the chimney, with sand and lime for the mortar, The mill provided flooring planks and battens, the merchants the roofing iron, spouting, glass and wallpaper - and an iron tank if the family could afford it, otherwise a wooden one would be laboriously built, tarred, caulked, and charred inside to keep the water sweet. An outside lavatory was placed at some distance from the house, the area around kept clear of logs and stumps, and the garden fenced to keep out the rabbits.

Appendix B

Stones Directory entries:

Directory entries of householders' names outside the towns can not be regarded as reliable for a particular year. Stones' agents did not manage to visit rural areas, especially remote ones, annually, to record or update information about residents.

Sources of Information:

Borrie, W,D. "Immigration to New Zealand 1854 - 1938

Seed E.M. History of Brick, Tile and Pottery Industries in Otago - unpublished thesis held in the Hocken Library, University of Otago.

Simpson, Tony "The Immigrants'

Tyrrell, AJ "Catlins Pioneering"

Waite, F. "Pioneering in South Otago"

Also, held in also held in Hocken Library:

Methodist Church Archives, especially the choir committee minute book of the Kew Primitive Methodist Church.

Stones Directories, Otago.

Stones Directories, Canterbury, Marlborough and Westland. New Zealand Gazettes 1911, 1912, 1915, 1918.

New Zealand Consolidated Statutes 1908 Vol 1V


Arta Goodman for her patience and co-operation in sending reminiscences.

Wendy Moses for advice on genealogical matters especially with regard to the Duttons

Hocken Library head librarian for his interest and great help.

Cleo Cromey


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