Mangawhare library may be HB’s oldest
By Marion Morris
Staff reporter, Hastings
Before Hastings was officially a town . . . when Hau Hau raids were terrifying Hawke’s Bay settlers . . . David Paton Balfour was establishing a library on the station he managed, Mangawhare.
In 1878 station hands approached Mr Balfour with 10 shillings they had collected and asked him to buy books for them.
He did, making the amount up to £5 and buying 52 books. That was the beginning of the Glenross Library – a library which exists to this day.
The present owners of the now much smaller Mangawhare Station, Pat and Brian Tolley, care for and issue the 150 books on the shelves in the “library” – one end of the homestead’s veranda they have enclosed.
They admit it’s a far cry from the library’s heyday of 1915 when, according to a printed catalogue of the library’s books, there were 3118 books for borrowing.
Catalogues for 1884 list 744 books. Four years later the 1888 catalogue lists 1108 books and the other remaining catalogues (now housed in the historical section at the Hawke’s Bay Museum) of 1915, 3118 books.
Owned own books
The catalogues show both fiction and non-fiction books were owned by the library.
Many of the classics were there – The Count of Monte Cristo, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Life’s Handicap by Rudyard Kipling. But there were intriguing titles too – Diary of a Naughty Girl among them.
By 1915 the list had become more varied. Several books by Winston Churchill were included and Major-General Whitmore’s The Last Maori War in New Zealand was one of the few with a local flavour.
By now, those daring authors Annie S. Swan and Ethel M. Dell had been added to the reading for the ladies of the time. The catalogue shows a book called The Complete Bachelor by O. Onions.
The time when large numbers of shearers would descend on the district are gone. The 40km of roads into Hastings and Napier are sealed. Every home has radio and television – inconceivable to the early settlers.
They were hungry for books to tell of life “back home” or of luxury and romance in lands less raw than back-country Hawke’s Bay.
Entrance fee was 2/6 and there was a 2d weekly subscription. Shearers could get books issued for 2/- a week and pay no entrance fee.
David Paton Balfour had emigrated from Scotland to Victoria, Australia, with his family and made his own way to Otago and then to Hawke’s Bay, according to an article published in the Hawke’s Bay Herald-Tribune, quoting Miss Alice Woodhouse.
When he arrived in New Zealand he could barely read having resisted all attempts to educate him. While working in Otago he went to night classes and learned Greek, mathematics, astronomy and botany.
After being driven off his first holding on the Mohaka River by Hau Hau raids, he became manager of Mangawhare for J. G. Kinross.
Mr Kinross sold Mangawhare and kept 30,000 acres which he called Glenross. When Balfour moved to the new homestead he took the library with him and it blossomed into the Glenross Public Library.
The books travelled back to Mangawhare when Balfour had to leave Glenross in 1889 after his employer got into financial difficulties and the station was taken over by Dalgety. Balfour lost his job.
About 1905 Glenross was bought by T. Sanderson and W. Duncan with Mr Sanderson as manager.
Miss Woodhouse said she had spoken with the late Mrs Sanderson who was then in her 90s. She told her that the men of Mangawhare had carried the library on for some years, particularly a man called Harrison.
When Mr Sanderson died in 1920 Mrs Sanderson became librarian for 10 or 12 years until she found that all and sundry had access to the library and books were being lost and destroyed.
She refused to take any further responsibility and for 30 years the useful life of the library was limited.
When the station was bought by Clifford Tolley in 1947, his wife Mrs Elsie Tolley decided to run the library.
In 1957, the Tolley seniors decided to leave and divided the station into four for their four sons.
David and Pat got the homestead and moved in.
“Mother asked me to continue with the library, so I did,” Pat said.
Originally the library had been a “well-built” shed under a large oak tree near the Mangawhare homestead.
After serving the district well for many years, Pat believes it slipped off its piles. A new home was needed and the homestead’s smoke room (a smallish room with access from the wide veranda) became the library.
When Pat took over she decided that it would be more convenient for her to have it in some disused bachelors’ quarters.
One of her first moves in her new role as librarian was to pay N. C. Raikes, paint, wallpaper and glass merchants of Hastings, the grand sum of £6/16/6 for some paint.
With the help of neighbours the library was painted.
Helen Arthur, who remains a neighbour, remembers the painting project.
Her name is one of those which appear on the first page of a 1956 exercise book in which Pat recorded the library’s business. She and other members are recorded as paying 10 shillings subscription.
In 1958 the Glenross library began getting its books from the National Library Service through the Palmerston North-based Country Library Service.
Book van visits
So began the visits of the book van – quite a highlight in the district’s life.
“Its arrival was eagerly greeted, not only for the new books which would be arriving but for the enjoyment of having the field librarian to stay,” said Pat.
One is remembered as a favourite.
Miss Elizabeth Franklin became Frankie, and would often stay the night at Mangawhare.
She was to continue her three-monthly visits for nine years.
Pat remembers her fondly, but was obviously not so pleased with some of Frankie’s successors.
Notes in the old exercise book on book van visit show:
April – Man!! Ghastly.
September – Miss T … Nice lass should do well.
June – Miss H … Very uncompromising.
November – Mr S… Brief visit – couldn’t help on account of baby.
In 1971 book van visits were reduced to two a year.
In 1986, a survey was done to ascertain the need for continuing the service.
The book van visits became fewer and the service was finally ended in July, 1988.
Instead the National Library Service in Palmerston North substituted a carton service which kept Glenross going until last year when that too ended.
Did the residents of Waiwhare still need a community library? Pat wondered. And if they did how could it be maintained?
A visit by the Hastings District Council’s librarian Raewyn Lowe showed a way. Pat could get a collection of books from the Hastings Library at regular intervals.
A new chapter in the second century of the Glenross Public Library has begun.
Photo captions –
Helen Arthur issues herself a book. She has been a member of the library since she was a child.
Pat Tolley – librarian of one of New Zealand’s oldest libraries – checks the cards of the 36 books at present on loan.