HB had country library in 1878
The story of a public library operating from a backcountry station in Hawke’s Bay in 1878 was told to the historical affairs section of the Hawke’s Bay and East Coast Art Society by Miss Alice Woodhouse, the society’s librarian, at last night’s meeting of the historical section.
The Glenross Public Library was the work of David Paton Balfour and the remains of this early public service were sent recently to the Hawke’s Bay Museum. This contained a few books, mostly about 40 or 50 years old, a catalogue dated 1915 and listing more than 3000 books and a balance sheet for the year 1900. This showed there were 35 subscribers, the subscription was 1/- a month and the librarian’s fee was £5 a year. There was a Government subsidy of £10.
Glenross Public Library had its start, Miss Woodhouse said, in 1878 when the men from Mangawhare Station came to the manager and said they had collected 10/- each between themselves to buy books. The manager, David Paton Balfour, took the money, added another pound as his contribution and went in to Napier to buy books. He bought 52 books for his £5.
D.P. Balfour was a remarkable man. He had emigrated from Scotland to Victoria with his family and made his own way to Otago and then to Hawke’s Bay. When he arrived in New Zealand he could barely read, having resisted all attempts to educate him. While working in Otago, he attended night classes and learned Greek, mathematics, astronomy, botany and other subjects.
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 a “small part,’ a mere 30,000 acres, which he called Glenross. When Balfour moved to the new homestead he took the library with him and it blossomed out into The Glenross Public Library.
Miss Woodhouse said a catalogue to which she had access, dated 1884, listed 744 books, mostly novels of the day. Entrance fee was 2/6 and then 2d a week subscription, but shearers on Mangawhare could get books throughout the shearing season for 2/- a week without entrance fee.
The books travelled back to Mangawhare when Balfour had to leave Glenross in 1889. His employer got into financial difficulties, the station was taken over by Dalgety’s and Balfour lost his job. For a time he worked for the Hawke’s Bay County Council and was responsible for much of the work at the Napier end of the Taupo Road.
Miss Woodhouse said “she had talked recently with the late Mrs Sanderson who was then in her nineties.
About 1905 Glenross was bought by T. Sanderson and W. Duncan with Mr Sanderson as manager.
Mrs Sanderson had vivid memories of the station which she had greatly loved. Her report on the interesting history of the library, Miss Woodhouse said, was that the men on Mangawhare carried it on for some years, in particular a man called Harrison.
When he died in 1920, Mrs Sanderson herself acted as librarian for about 10 or 12 years until she found that all and sundry had access to the library and books were getting lost and destroyed. She refused to take any further responsibility for the library, and for 30 years, its useful life has been limited.
Miss Woodhouse said it was heartening to think that the Country Library Service had taken over where the old Glenross Library left off, that its vans now roll along the Taihape Road regularly and the people of the area are once more served.