Letters: Plaque information incorrect on Paihia statue

The plaque on the new Paihia statue is full of "blatant misinformation" says a reader.
The plaque on the new Paihia statue is full of "blatant misinformation" says a reader.

Headlines in local newspapers extol a statue donated by the Fuller family, with assistance from Focus Paihia. I took the time to read the memorial plaque, and am appalled that such blatant misinformation should be in the public arena.

The text begins:
"In 1886 Albert Ernest Fuller began a maritime cartage business when he built and launched a 9.75m gaff rigged yacht Undine. This was used to deliver essential supplies to the islands within the Bay of Islands."

Undine was built later than 1886, and Walter, Ernest's older brother, has been omitted as a co-builder and operator. Undine did not provide a service to islands in the Bay, but did cart kauri gum from their parents' store at Waipapa to Russell for shipment to Auckland.

There was no work in the Bay for the brothers with Undine, so they sailed down the coast to work in Auckland.

Weekly News, January 31, 1891, p.24 records: "Fuller Brothers new boat, 31ft x 9ft x 2ft 6 has arrived in Auckland ..."

Hazel Cates' book, When boats ruled the Bay, page 4, states that the brothers arrived back in the Bay during November 1896.

Both men married, and as there was still no work for them, left the Bay on January 12, 1897. With their wives they sailed Undine to Coromandel to work the Thames gold fields.
AE Fuller and his wife Maud had a daughter, born October 1897, and a son in June 1900, while at Coromandel. Brother Walter and wife Mima also had two children born there. The two families sailed back to the Bay of Islands in 1902.

So much for delivering essential supplies round the Islands of the Bay.

The text continues:
"In 1926 Albert Ernest won the dairy company contract to collect cream from farmers on the Islands and mainland round the Bay. In addition to collecting cream and delivering groceries, Albert Fuller decided to take fare-paying passengers and make a scenic journey of the normal cream collection activities."

This is an outrageously incorrect statement. Edmund Lane, of Opua, began the cream collection in August 1919 for the Hikurangi Dairy Company, with the 28ft launch Dairymaid. This was the first regular contact for isolated folk on two of the three inhabited islands, and for settlers on remote bays and inlets in the outer Bay of Islands.

He provided a free service for suppliers, shopping at Russell and delivering groceries and other favours - even the odd cattle dog.

Edmund Lane began taking passengers so the dairy company had blocks of tickets printed; 5/- for a day's outing on Dairymaid.

Edmund Lane built up the cream run into a thriving enterprise, increasing suppliers and providing a vital link with outlying settlers. Increasing work on his own farm and the birth of his first child caused his resignation.

The Dairymaid was sold and the run put up for tender. Jack Williams of Russell was successful, and began in August 1926 - not AE Fuller as stated on the plaque.

Dairy company files record that the 1925/26 season was the most profitable in its history. Cream collection had attained a peak and suppliers reached maximum numbers. A testament to Edmund Lane's outstanding seamanship and assiduity. Later fees were added for delivery of supplies and numbers declined.

Royal Mail contracts were for the delivery of sealed mail bags between post offices, not delivering post as stated on the plaque.

I have details of all Royal Mail contracts beginning 1879, obtained from NZ Postal Division Headquarters. Extensive research has elicited names of the true pioneers who began sea services within the Bay of Islands.

John Fox of Paihia was the first known person to do so, by rowing boat until June 1868. (Weekly News: June 20, 1868). As the years go by the endeavours of such men are being overlooked.


- Northland Age

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