Mar 5, 2008

Exploding Myths

The 720 ton Charlotte Jane at anchor off Cavendish Bay on the 16th of December, 1850.
One hundred and fifty seven years later the 116,000 ton Sapphire Princess moored in exactly the same position - now Cashin Quay.

First of the chartered ships to arrive at the port with emigrants, the Charlotte Jane, in spite of popular folklore, was not the first vessel to bring Canterbury Association emigrants to the new settlement. More than 120 Europeans were already living at Lyttelton, a significant number being "Canterbury Pilgrims" who had come to the new settlement via Wellington.

However, the foregoing didn't impede Charlotte Jane passengers from parading the streets of Christchurch in 1900, with banners declaring "We Were Here First."

That the same folklore continues to be promulgated as history in the current era provides a realistic indicator of the significant disparities that continue to exist between popularly received history and the actual historical record.

Little did 31 year old Alf Barker envisage the advent of the Sapphire Princess as he viewed his new home from Charlotte Jane's deck - no more than we can imagine the Canterbury of a century and half from now.

But what becomes "history" is often a matter of caprice and occasional serendipity - the small town gossip who leaned over the sailing ship's rail, that early Summer's morning, would take up photography as a hobby seven years later. And thus it was that Doctor Alfred Charles Barker would pass into history as the revered founder of our photographic record.

But wait there's more! Few New Zealanders would not be familiar with the Barker's range of Jams and Conserves, but how many know that if it weren't for the Charlotte Jane's Surgeon the Kiwi breakfast would be a somewhat poorer repast.

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