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July — August 2018

The Avondale
Historical Journal
Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical
Society Incorporated

Innovation on the Flat ...

Photo from Ngaire Dolphin’s collection, published with kind permission: “First tractor on Rosebank Pen-
insula—International Harvester. Perce Jennings and Bill Dolphin, approximately 1947.”

Next meeting of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society

will be Saturday 4 August 2018
at 2pm, St Ninians Hall, St Georges Road, Avondale
The Avondale Historical Journal
Page 2
By means of speculation –
the Dolphin family’s beginnings on Rosebank
Lisa J Truttman

For a time in the early 1920s, a property on the Rosebank Arthur Thode lived in New Lynn at the time, travelling to
Peninsula was linked with another much further down south the Avondale business (and later further to the brothers’
in Otorohanga via a speculative land deal, which resulted in office in Phoenix Chambers, lower Queen Street), made an
civil court action, bankruptcy, deaths of livestock, and near attempt to get on the New Lynn Town Board in 1918, and
ruin for a family just starting their time as settlers in would go on to be a well-respected part of the New Lynn
Avondale. business community. When he died in 1963, part of his
property there was donated to the New Lynn Old Folks
Land speculation in New Zealand is older than the Treaty of Association, where they later built their recreation hall in
Waitangi. From merchants and others offering goods to 1971.
Maori for the rights to huge swathes of the wilderness,
through to the division of extensive farms in the latter part Percy left the business to Arthur later in the 1920s and
of the 19th century (which encouraged Avondale farmer and headed north, becoming the owner and licensee of the
local, later Parliamentary, politician John Bollard to enter Waipapakauri Hotel, then during World War II entered the
the game as a land agent by the 1880s) – it has been a gold service of the Marine Department as a fisheries control of-
rush that has sustained itself longer than the booms and ficer, living at Devonport. Both of his sons served during
busts associated with the precious metal. The subdivision of World War II. One sad aspect is that when Percy Thode
the farms, followed by improved public transport links in died in July 1942, he would have passed on thinking that
the cities, government moves to set up workers settlements, one of his sons, Lieut. J A Thode, had been killed in action
the First World War which brought up the need to establish when the HMAS Perth was sunk four months before. In
returned soldiers on their own patch of ground (with mixed fact, Lt. Thode survived, and was a POW along with 324
results) – all of this helped to fuel the flurry in the 1920s to others who were captured, later forced to work on the
early 1930s of property development, wheeling and dealing, infamous Burma-Siam railway. The other son, Connel, en-
and at times something akin to the trading system in a game tered the Royal Navy, serving on the corvette HMS
of Monopoly in terms of land. Candytuft, and later the submarine HMS Scythian (first
New Zealander to command a Royal Navy submarine) from
The Thodes 1944-1945. Connel Thode was awarded an OBE in 1995 for
his services to yachting.
The Thode Brothers, Arthur Edmund Forbes and Percy
Raymond Forbes, were one example of businessmen seeing The original Thode brothers of this story though, Arthur and
the profitability of the real estate bonanza in the post First Percy, were apparently the appointed land agents for
World War period, and taking up that opportunity to make Alexander and his wife Sarah Ann Liddle in 1919-1920;
money. they reported that a piece of land in Avondale owned by
Mrs Liddle had been sold in July 1920, as well as (in the
Taking part in gold rushes of any kind was in their genes. same notice) “Messrs Dolphin and Clark’s 451 acres,
Their father Henry (1835-1885) arrived in New Zealand Otorohanga.” Therefore the Thode Brothers were involved
from Kiel, part of Danish-ruled Schleswig-Holstein, some- in the land-swap deal between Avondale and Otorohanga,
time around the late 1850s. He became a naturalised British between the Liddles and the Dolphins.
subject in 1863, already working as a gold miner in the
Coromandel district, where he would reside and work until John and Beatrice Lucy Dolphin
around 1884. He and his wife Esther Mary née Forbes were
to have eight children, of whom Arthur (b.1880) and Percy John Dolphin, a market gardener in Epuni, Lower Hutt,
(b.1886) were the third youngest and youngest respectively. married widow Beatrice Lucy Jennings née Percy in 1912.
Percy was born a few months after his father’s sudden death Not a lot is known about John Dolphin’s background and
in Auckland. origins, but Beatrice’s family went right back in the Petone
area to the early 1840s. She had married William Henry
Arthur pursued a career in storekeeping, shifting to Raglan, Jennings in 1905, but he died four years later, leaving her
then Ngaruawahia before returning to Auckland and, with with a son. John Dolphin’s name appears on a recruits list in
Percy, setting up as Thode Bros in a store at the corner of 1916, but in 1917 and 1919 he was taking up a land sub-
Gladstone (now Carrington) Road and New North Road, lease in Belmont, part of the Epuni Settlement, and appears
near the Mt Albert Railway Station, around 1911. They re- to have set up a home for his family there, until later in
tained their Mt Albert business to 1918, then seemed to 1919 when he transferred the lease and took up a dairy farm
branch out, owning Thodes Buildings in Pt Chevalier beside at Otorohanga in July that year. It looks like this was the
the present-day site of the library there from 1917-1922, and land that would be the subject of the ruinous court hearings
also taking up the mortgagee sale opportunity for a corner later.
site in Avondale, fronting Rosebank and Great North Roads
from 1919. The Avondale store, a wooden predecessor to Thomas Gow Clark married Annie Caroline Percy in July
the brick Fearon’s Building there today, was the spot where 1920, the eldest daughter of the late John Henry Percy,
the two brothers introduced real estate deals alongside their Beatrice Dolphin’s sister. As brothers-in-law therefore,
grocery shelves and dry goods barrels.
The Avondale Historical Journal
Page 3

Portrait of John Dolphin, from the Dolphin family court that Dolphin himself had assured him that “the pasture
collection, with a detail of the certificate of title for the always grew well in the spring, and that he had milked 40
Guillard, then Liddle, then Dolphin property on Rosebank cows, and the previous owner had had 70 on the place.” It
Road. (NA333/127, LINZ records) was estimated that financial return on the property would
come to £100 per month, so a deal was struck. From 1920
until late 1921 however, all was disaster at Otorohanga for
the Liddles. They put 19 cows on the farm, purchasing addi-
tional feed for them – but no grass grew. One cow died of
John Dolphin and Thomas Gow Clark took up the title as starvation, another broke its leg, and the estimate of income
tenants in common for the nearly 22 acres of land at dropped rapidly from £100 per month to £100 per year. The
Avondale off Rosebank Road, just along from Eastdale Liddles seem to have then asked around about the farm –
Road, from the Liddles in October 1920 (who had assumed and discovered that it had a poor history indeed. They
formal title themselves of the property on 28 September, the abandoned the venture.
previous month), but the actual exchange took place in July.
By early September, John Dolphin was already settling in In December 1921, the Liddles sued Dolphin and Clark,
with his family, advertising for a labourer for the Avondale claiming a loss of their family savings and demanding
market garden, “one used to horses preferred.” Clark £2560 in damages. Dolphin and Clark denied the claim, on
remained in Petone, and transferred his interest over to the basis that the Liddles had inspected the property before
Thomas Walker, who had married Thomas Gow Clark’s the sale, had called in others for another opinion, and there-
sister. Walker left the Avondale property in June 1921, and fore made the exchange based on theirs and others’ judge-
went to live in Newton. Local Chinese market gardener Ah ments. They pleaded that any and all claims about the
Lim paid the Dolphins £70 to use part of the property. Otorohanga property were “true or honestly believed by
them to be true, and not made fraudulently.” Arthur Thode
Thode brothers received £150 commission from Dolphin in was a witness; he later charged Dolphin for his appearance
September 1920. expenses.
The deal is made However, the jury of 12 thought otherwise, and declared for
the plaintiffs, awarding them £2400. Total damages came to
The Liddles meanwhile, having entered into the deal so as
to establish “their family of boys more firmly on the land,” £2622. In February 1922 John Dolphin tried to have the
received title to the Otorohanga dairy farm, plus a further judgement overturned in an appeal hearing, his counsel stat-
£1026, and set to work. They had inspected the Dolphin’s ing that the Liddles hadn’t heeded his advice “to let the feed
property there in July 1919, so Arthur Liddle later stated, come away before commencing dairying,” blaming inexpe-
finding that it was fern land with around 150 acres cleared, rience on the part of the Liddles for their misfortune. How-
but “not a blade of grass to be seen.” Liddle alleged later in ever, the judge declined to agree that there was any weight
The Avondale Historical Journal

Page 4
of evidence to overturn the previous ruling, and the appeal that point the family’s Rosebank Road property was com-
was denied. prised of around 22 acres, of which five were little more
than wasteland and only 11 available for cropping. Having
Bankruptcy won a supply contract from Brown Barrett & Co, the
Dolphins (Beatrice, her two grown sons and daughter)
Later that month, John Dolphin was forced to file for bank- concentrated on tomato growing to supply 200 tons to the
ruptcy, after negotiations between him and the Liddles (who company. In order to achieve this, the Dolphins had to pur-
wanted the Avondale land auctioned and Dolphin handing chase a tractor plough cultivator and sprayer for £436 under
over the proceeds) failed. He faced debts to secured creditors hire purchase with heavy repayments. For the four years
of £3450, with unsecured creditors totalling £3939 16s 3d leading up to 1937, the family lived frugally, with no profits
(one of those creditors being Arthur Thode, for £2 5s 4d, the coming from the garden (which included cauliflowers and
aforesaid witness expenses), and assets worth only £1761. other cash crops). The Auckland Rural Adjustments
By then he and Beatrice had a family of five children, mort- Commission did pass a ruling reducing some of Beatrice
gage debts (four mortgages on the Avondale farm), and had Dolphin’s mortgage debt (the oldest mortgage going right
been abandoned by both of his financial partners. back to when the Liddles bought the property) and spread
Thomas Walker was keen enough to surrender his half- out repayment of other debts such as rates in arrears to
interest in the property – but not before he arranged the dig- Auckland City uncil.
ging up of around 24 small bags of kumara from the proper- This, and the tomato contract, probably did help Beatrice
ty, as payment of his interest, rates etc. Dolphin and her family to survive and retain their Rosebank
The Avondale property was sold by tender and transferred in land right through to the 1960s when the family sold the site,
13 February 1923 to Frank Edwards, living on Great North and the industrial area of Honan Place was formed. Two
Road in Avondale (he began negotiations to take over the sons, Robert and William Dolphin, had their own sections at
title in March 1922, and had been someone the Dolphin Riversdale and Avondale Roads respectively, while
family dealt with for supplies). Edwards a month later re- Beatrice’s son Percy by her first husband had a house right
conveyed the title to Beatrice Lucy Dolphin, thus ensuring opposite the Avondale Road shops.
that the Dolphin family kept the property after all. John In 1996, while Beatrice Lucy Dolphin’s granddaughter
Dolphin remained in bankruptcy until his discharge in Ngaire was working at the Auckland City Council Municipal
March 1929, seven months before his death at Auckland Library, the question of choosing a name for a service lane
Hospital on 29 October. in the Customs Street West – Pakenham Street area came up.
The Dolphin family at Rosebank Road Ngaire suggested Lucy Lane, for the many trips into that
approximate area of town made by Beatrice and her family
In 1937, Beatrice Dolphin was forced to seek relief from her to sell their produce at the markets there. So today, tucked
debts under The Mortgage and Lessees Rehabilitation Act away near the city’s waterfront, a little bit of Avondale’s
1936, a measure brought in to try to keep farmers on the history lives on.
land, in the face of crippling debts accrued during the Great
Depression. From the Archives NZ files, we know that at

Copies of Avondale Historical Journal and AWHS Newsletter produced for us by

Words Incorporated, 557 Blockhouse Bay Road, Blockhouse Bay.
The Society and AHJ editorial staff thank Avondale Business Association
for their continued support and sponsorship of this publication.

The Avondale Historical Journal

Published by:
the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Inc. (since September 2001)

Editor: Lisa J. Truttman

Society contact:
19 Methuen Road, Avondale, Auckland 0600
Phone: (09) 828-8494, 027 4040 804
email: waitemata@gmail.com or
Society information:
Website: www.avondale.org.nz
Subscriptions: $15 individual
$20 couple/family

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