The Coal Yard & other stories (Part 4)

Other big Buildings

Along the valley road there were several two storey buildings. Some were houses on the bottom side of the road where the hill dropped down to the Kaikorai Stream. These houses had the lower storey below the road with the front door entrance at street level. At the bottom of Falcon Street was Hunters Store with the cable car going past one side. Mr. Hunter carted the newspapers to the various paper boys who had set areas to cover. Jim Thompson recalls being one of these boys, calling out ‘STAR’ as the walked around the streets.

As well as the coal yard building there was another two storey building on the south corner of Hereford Street. On the other corner was one more where Robertson’s Butcher shop was. Nearer to the Stuart Street corner another housed Nicol the boot maker.

A.Nicol - Boot Maker shop at 14 Kaikorai Valley Road

A.Nicol – Boot Maker shop at 14 Kaikorai Valley Road

W. Wilson - Boot Maker shop at 25 Kaikorai Valley Road

W. Wilson – Boot Maker shop at 25 Kaikorai Valley Road

Further up the road was the Argyle Hotel building which became a boarding house. As the townships around Dunedin amalgamated with the city, there were several streets and roads that required renaming. In the Kaikorai area there were three King streets. One of these was changed to Gilmore St. Other changes were: Mount Street from Hill Street, Anderstons Road became Shetland St., Jervois St. to Pennant St., King St. To Greenock St., John St. to Oates St. and also in memory of Antarctic heroes was Falcon St. from James St. (after Robert Falcon Scott).

Earlier I mentioned the wool scour or fellmonger business that belonged to Sandy Ness and his sons Alex and Davie. This set up used water from Fraser’s Gully stream for washing the wool. A large ditch was cut around the edge of the paddock to bring the water in. Ness’s had rolls of scrim (light sacking) which they spread in long rows across the field near the buildings and held down with big stones to stop the wind catching it.. The washed wool was spread out on the scrim to dry and in the evening it was all rolled up, wool and all, and brought inside for the night.

Later on they got a drier and netting on frames so they could dry the wool indoors. Bill Ellis carted the wool to the wharf. Black wool sold cheap at sales and Sandy sent a whole bale of it to England. Unfortunately it only paid the cost of the carriage.

Horses Around the Valley

Grandad Still (Frederick James Still) worked, as did several of the Still family for the Dunedin City Corporation as it was called then. Frederick worked on the “ash cart” that collected rubbish and the spent ashes from the household coal ranges that were put out onto the street sides each week. Two horses pulled the ash cart, as it was quite a heavy dray when loaded. Fortunately the wheels had roller bearings that made it easier to pull. Norman Ellis recalls that the dray had a rim brake on the hub, which squawked when going down hill. (The brake rubbed on a steel band that was fitted around the hub on the wheels).

Fred Still

Fred Still

Many of the roads and streets in the Kaikorai were steep and made hard work for the horses. One of the steepest was Falcon Street that was first used as the cable car route, but only for a short time. (More on this subject later) To get the horses up Falcon Street, Frederick Still would blindfold the horses and have a block to put behind the wheels to prevent the cart running back. When they were above the halfway point the buckets of ash were brought down from the higher houses to save the horses from the extra hill work. Grandad Still had a great collection of clocks that came from the rubbish collections and his son Jock (Gilbert) took a keen interest in restoring these items. The dray was sold later on to ‘Welham’ another local carrier whose business continued on into the 1970s?.

The stables for the Corporation horses were in Fraser’s Road a mile or so from the corner of Kaikorai Valley. The floor inside was paved with square hardwood blocks that made a good hardwearing surface. Many horses at that time were suffering from sore legs that attracted flies that became a nuisance. Frederick Still concocted a recipe that overcame the problem and used it with great success on all the horse teams in his care. The corporation was offered the chance to buy the recipe to use on the horses in the other city areas. The offer was refused but the corporation started to rotate the horses around the city so that Grandad who did not like to see the horses suffer, ended up treating the whole lot. Once a month these horses also had to have their shoes removed and their feet levelled with a big rasp. This job cost 5 shillings (50cents) but if worn shoes needed replacing then the cost would be one Pound (two dollars).

George Still, another of Frederick’s sons also worked with the council horses. His job was to sweep the streets clean of leaves and rubbish, and make it into piles that would be shovelled onto the following dray by Jackie Smith. The horses would follow quietly behind, controlled by the click of a tongue or a quiet ‘Whoa’ from the men. A low part of Anderson’s property, just across from the cable car sheds in Fraser’s Road, was used for tipping the rubbish to help reclaim an area that was hollow.

Jackie Smith had worked earlier for Bill Ellis’s coal yard, carting coal with two or three horses. He was popular with the customer’s, as he was always neat in placing the coal in the household coal bins. One day a customer wanted a ton of chaff carted from Dunedin and Bill Ellis gave the job to Jackie. Unfortunately the few beers that were consumed on the way, from the Maclaggan Street pubs, combined with the generous supply from the client, made Jackie a little tired.
The dray arrived home pulled by the clever horses but Jackie was sound asleep in the back. Old Bill growled at him about drinking on the job and not looking after the horses. The reply to this from the inebriated Jackie was to ‘put his job where the monkey puts his nuts’, and Jackie quit working for Bill but soon took up work for the City Corporation.

(Original Article by Alan Gilchrist)


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