30 June 2015

A celebration of trees: June: A few Auckland notables

As my regular readers know, one of my photography projects this year is a celebration of trees. To honour both the beauty and benefits of trees I have been posting a photo each day of a tree or trees (you can see these photographs in my Picasa album here). And, each month, I’ve been blogging about my favourite or special trees. For my June celebration, I’m sharing photos and a little detail of a few of the more notable exotic trees in Auckland.

Mirbecks or Algerian Oak (Quercus canariensis fagaceae), Cornwall Park
This magnificent tree was planted in the early 1920s and is recognised as being the finest of all the old oaks growing in Auckland’s Cornwall Park. Natives of Spain, North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, Algerian Oaks can grow as tall as 30 to 40 metres and are semi-evergreen trees with rather rough, thick bark. You can perhaps tell from the cherry trees on the right in my photo how huge the oak is in comparison. Apparently, this oak is able to grow two forms of glossy dark green leaves at the same time – one sort is wedge-shaped, the other is oval-shaped and has lobes.

Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla moraceae), Cornwall Park
Though native to the mountain and coastal forests of eastern Australia, the Moreton Bay fig has made itself very much at home in Auckland and the city boasts many enormous old specimens like this one, which was planted in the early 1900s. Both the Moreton Bay fig and the Port Jackson fig (Ficus rubiginosa) were planted extensively by Auckland’s early settlers.

These figs can grow to a height of 30 metres, and spread equally wide when space allows. They frequently have buttressed roots, which sometimes grow completely above the ground and, when young, the Moreton Bay fig grows as an epiphyte and a strangler. It has very odd flowers – they’re contained inside the fruit and pollination is performed by a gall wasp that loses its wings after it enters the fruit. Though initially orange coloured, the fruit turns purple as it ripens.

Dragon tree (Dracaena draco), St Stephen’s Ave, Parnell
I love the shape of this Dragon tree and I’ve never seen one as tall as this one, which is believed to have been planted in 1898. Native to the Canary Islands, where they are cultivated for their resin, dragon trees are long lived and slow growing.

I found a fascinating snippet about dragon trees in an old newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, 5 September 1906, page 3:

The oldest tree in the world is said to be the famous Dragon-tree (Dracaena draco) of Teneriffe, which is estimated to be from 4000 to 6000 years of age. This wonder of the plant world was 70ft or more in height until the year 1819, when, during a terrific storm, one of the large branches was broken off. A similar storm in 1867 stripped the trunk of its remaining branches, and left it standing alone. A plant from one of the branches of this famous tree is growing in Kew Gardens.

Another newspaper report (in the Star, 10 November 1902, page 3) says the ‘tree was totally destroyed in a hurricane which occurred in 1876.’ It would certainly have been an amazing sight to see.

Cook’s Pine (Auraucaria columnaris), Western Park, Ponsonby
Western Park was founded in 1875 and contains some wonderful and highly unusual trees, of which this Cook’s pine is definitely the tallest. According to Elizabeth Francke’s Notable Trees of Auckland (The Tree Council, Auckland, published in 2003), the tree was then 27 metres tall but I imagine it’s grown a few metres since. It may not have been planted as early as 1875 but it is certainly one of Auckland’s oldest imported trees and is quite rare in this country. The Cook’s pine is a native of French New Caledonia and nearby islands and, like the better-known Norfolk Island pine, belongs to a southern hemisphere family of salt-tolerant conifers.

Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), Cheltenham Beach
Another tree that is tolerant of salt-laden winds is the Monterey Cypress, a native of the central coast of California. The many large specimens growing around Auckland city date from the earliest days of European settlement when this species was widely planted for farm shelter. Balmain Reserve, which borders Cheltenham Beach on Auckland’s North Shore, is a tiny park, just 0.4ha in extent – that, and the size of the person and the park bench in my photo, help to give an idea of how large this wonderful old cypress is.

Ombu (Phytolacca dioica), Albert Park, Auckland city
This incredible tree is one of Auckland’s most unusual exotic trees and is quite a rare tree in New Zealand, though there are other notable examples in Auckland’s Three Kings Park and Myers Park. In her Notable Trees of Auckland, Elizabeth Francke has this to say about the ombu:

[It] is native to Central and South America, where its hardihood and strange appearance have made it the subject of myth and folktale. The huge surface root-plate protects a shallow root system and makes the ombu fairly resistant to drought and storm. However, this tree did succumb to storm damage in 1971 – it is now hollow and shows secondary growth. Ombu wood is spongy, brittle and light; in dry weather the branches sometime snap and fall without warning. Nevertheless, the semi-deciduous ombu is often planted as a shade tree and one of its names is bella sombra, meaning pleasant shade. It bears 10cm flowers like bottle-brush in late summer.

As you can imagine, this particular ombu is a favourite with the younger visitors to Albert Park, as an especially good place to play hide and seek.

If you’re a tree lover like me, you might enjoy my previous month’s celebrations of trees which can be viewed by clicking on the following links: January (one particular favourite), February (about lime avenues), March (on the subject of forests), April (about the greening of the trees in the British springtime), and May (on the New Zealand pohutukawa).  

27 June 2015

Morning glory: the sun rises over Auckland

Sunrise, sunup, dawn, daybreak, cockcrow, first light, the crack of dawn, aurora, the dawning … as usual, the English language uses several different words and phrases to describe that time when the dark of night is replaced by the light of the day.

Whatever you prefer to label it, this is my favourite time of each and every day. It is a time of fresh promise and potential, a time of renewal and hope, a time of beautiful light.

Over the last couple of months, as I’ve been preparing to leave New Zealand for a new start in another country, I’ve been photographing the sunrise from the balcony of my 9th-floor apartment in central Auckland. Here are some of those images.

‘What breaks in daybreak? Is it the night? Is it the sun, cracked in two by the horizon like an egg, spilling out light?’ ~ Margaret Atwood

‘Morning glory is the best name, it always refreshes me to see it.’ ~ Henry David Thoreau

‘And even the sun / in dawn chorus sings, / a celestial melody to the earth / below.’ ~ Tjaden

‘When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.’ ~ Marcus Aurelius

‘The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.’ ~ Rumi

‘There's a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they're absolutely free. Don't miss so many of them.’ ~ Jo Walton

‘It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.’ ~ Aristotle

‘Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.’ ~ Victor Hugo, Les MisĂ©rables

26 June 2015

Auckland walks: Monte Cecelia Park and Pah Homestead

Earlier this week, after a stroll around Cornwall Park and a hike up One Tree Hill, I decided to walk a little further (only 20 minutes or so) and paid my first visit to Monte Cecelia Park and the Pah Homestead. Why had I never been to this delightful oasis of green before?

Rather than prattle on about the things I enjoyed about this lovely place, let me pass on some of the history and features from the park signboard:

The 15ha Monte Cecelia park surrounds the Pah Homestead, built 1877-79 by James Williamson, a ‘self-made merchant prince’.
      This park is what remains of an initial 161ha purchase from Maori, by William Hart in 1844.
      Hart developed the farm to become a beef and dairy cattle-rearing operation. After he defaulted on the mortgage, the farm was sold in 1851 to William Brown and John Logan Campbell. The next owner was Thomas Russell, a lawyer, land speculator, businessman and strong character. ‘He never lacked enemies’ [from Monte Cecelia Our History by Graham Murdoch]. Cyrus Hailey, a dissatisfied gold-mine investor, tried to shoot Russell in the homestead in 1871.
      James Williamson bought the farm in 1877, and had a 250ha farm here, surrounding the grand Pah Homestead and its park-like grounds. Williamson had beef cattle, a dairy herd, and fields of oats. Chinese market gardeners grew vegetables for Pah Homestead and the Auckland market.
      There were two houses and several cottages for farm staff. Brick stables housed four pairs of carriage horses, teams of working horses, riding hacks, and horse-drawn vehicles. This was more than an ordinary farm – it was a living example of the colonial vision of an ideal country estate.
      Williamson went bust and lost the property. Between 1891 and 1902, it was leased to a succession of wealthy tenants. The Catholic Church then began a long association with the property in 1913.…


More from the signboard:

Monte Cecelia became an Auckland Council park in 2004. A leisurely stroll around Monte Cecelia now is to re-live the elegance of the high Victorian colonial era in Auckland, and to appreciate the landscaping vision that created this extra-ordinary ‘artwork of the land’.
      The park is a living collection of significant historic exotic trees, some of the oldest and biggest of their species in New Zealand.
      Among them are Atlantic blue cedar, blue lillypilly, bunya bunya, camphor laurel, Chilean wine palm, Dutch elm, holm oak and hoop pine.
      The oldest trees were planted by William Hart 1847-55, and James Farmer 1855-66.


Since 2010, Pah Homestead has been home to the TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, where you can view contemporary art exhibitions from the James Wallace Arts Trust Collection and from regional touring exhibitions. The homestead also includes a cafĂ© and shop, so you can enjoy the art, indulge in coffee and cake, shake the moths out of your purse, then work off that cake with a stroll around the grounds and marvel at the magnificent trees, all in one action-packed afternoon. Highly recommended!

21 June 2015

Auckland trees: New Zealand’s first royal tree planting

Tree planting has been used for centuries to mark and celebrate both historical and royal occasions. In New Zealand, the first such occasion was in 1863, to celebrate the wedding of Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Although the wedding took place at Windsor, in England, on 10 March 1863, the news of the happy event took a couple of months to reach New Zealand, and it was a further couple of months before the various local authorities decided how, if at all, to celebrate the occasion.

In the end, it was only in Christchurch that the royal wedding was marked in any formal way, with the planting, on 9 July 1863, of an oak tree, the very first tree to be planted in the park that went on to become the Botanic Gardens. The ‘Albert Edward oak’ still survives; the Notable Tree Register has photos and a map.

The first tree plantings by an actual member of the royal family took place during New Zealand’s first ever royal tour, in 1869, when Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred Ernest Albert (1844–1900), Duke of Edinburgh, came to visit. As Captain of the HMS Galatea, he first visited Wellington, then sailed on to Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin and finally Auckland. Along the way, he was a prolific tree planter.

I don’t have any photos of the trees planted in Wellington or Christchurch but can pass on what the local newspapers of the time reported about Prince Alfred’s efforts. The report at left is from the Hawke's Bay Herald, 23 April 1869, page 3.

The common name for Abies Nordman is Nordmann or Caucasian fir, the Podocarpus totara is a New Zealand native that we simply call totara, the Cedrus pensilis is no longer recognised in the taxonomy of trees but must have been some kind of cedar, and the Arancaria excelsa is mis-spelt; it should be Araucaria excelsa or Araucaria heterophylla, the Norfolk Island pine. 

The Duke of Edinburgh was also an energetic tree planter during his visit to Christchurch. The Press (on 26 April 1869, page 2) reported that ‘On Saturday His Royal Highness Prince Alfred, attended by His Excellency the Governor, His Honor the Superintendent, several officers of the Galatea and Blanche, and other members of the Royal Suite, visited the Government Domain.’

As you can see from the report (at left), this time the Duke planted an oak tree, a Wellingtonia gigantea, which we now know as a Sequoiadendron giganteum or Giant redwood, a totara, a deodara (also known as a Cedrus deodara or Deodar cedar), and a Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani).

Next stop on his New Zealand tour was Auckland and here I can show you photographs of HRH’s trees, as most have survived and, indeed, thrived. The Prince obviously had green fingers!

The first planting took place on 18 May 1869, as reported by the New Zealand Herald (19 May 1869, page 3):

The Giant Redwood
Yesterday afternoon, at about half-past two, his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by Sir George and Lady Bowen, planted two Norfolk Island pines and a Wellingtonia Gigantea [Sequoiadendron giganteum or Giant redwood] on the lawn in front of the Government House [now known as Old Government House, in the grounds of the University of Auckland]. The spots were well selected, so as not to interfere with any view from the house when the trees are more fully grown, and will, we should hope, be respected and allowed to remain in their present position by the fortunate individual or corporate body that may eventually become possessed of the property, as, no doubt, the Southern members of the Assembly, doubting the necessity of a Government House and grounds in this province, will be of opinion that they should be sold for the benefit of the colony generally. After his return from the Kawau His Royal Highness intends to plant some two or three more trees in the Domain and in the grounds of the Auckland Acclimatization Society, and a Ponga (the male New Zealand fern tree), in the grounds at Government House.

Though there are several Norfolk pines planted at Old Government House, only one has a plaque saying it was planted by Prince Alfred (and that mis-reports the planting date as 14 May 1869), so I’m not sure if the second tree is one of the others or if it has not survived.

The enormous Norfolk pine Prince Alfred planted at Old Government House

A week after his first tree planting efforts, the Prince was at it again, this time in Auckland Domain. Here’s the article from the Daily Southern Cross, (27 May 1869, page 3):

Yesterday morning the committee of the Acclimatisation Society received an intimation from his Royal Highness that he would visit the Domain, and attend at their gardens at half-past eleven to plant the four trees which had been selected to stand in that delightful place of recreation as memorials of his visit.
As it had been determined that the operation should be performed in an unostentatious and private manner, very few of the citizens were enabled to be present, and those fortunate exceptions who witnessed the ceremony were merely such as had been accidentally strolling about the grounds at the time.

HRH's oak tree

Shortly before noon his Royal Highness, accompanied by his Excellency the Governor, Captain Pitt, A.D.C, Major Hamley, and escorted by H.R.H.'s orderlies, cantered up to the gate [how amazing to canter about the city!], where the party was received by the Hon. F. D. Fenton, on the part of the Domain Board; Captain Hutton, President of the Acclimatisation Society and Messrs J. T. Mackelvie, D. L. Murdoch, W. Morrin, members of Council. These gentlemen, with Mr. Brighten, the energetic curator, accompanied the Prince through the garden.
After viewing the various specimens of natural history confined in the cages {there used to be a small zoo in the Domain], and commenting favourably on the aspect of the gardens, which the Prince said he thought were in a most creditable condition considering the short period which he had been given to understand had elapsed since their first formation, H.R.H. proceeded to discharge the self-imposed task.
The trees, which were fine healthy young plants, comprised a specimen of each of the varieties Dammara robusta [Queensland Kauri], Araucaria Cookii [Captain Cook’s Pine], Araucaria glauca [also known as Araucaria cunninghamii or Hoop pine], and though last not least, a tall symmetrical plant of English Oak. The spades employed were the common ones in daily use in the garden, and his Royal Highness in handling them showed the result of some practice in the horticultural art. Mr. Brighton held the tree upright while the Prince shovelled the earth about the roots.

I love how the reporter almost sounds surprised that Prince Alfred used ‘common’ spades – no gold-plated spades for this prince, and I have to admire a royal who didn’t mind getting stuck in and getting his hands dirty. One hundred and forty-six years later, we continue to enjoy the fruits of his labours. Long live the royal tree-planting tradition!

At left, the Captain Cook's pine and Hoop pine and, at right, the Queensland kauri

18 June 2015

Thirty Years a Piper to Royalty: James Cubison Campbell

Discovering interesting characters in my family history is one of the reasons I’m addicted to genealogy. James Cubison Campbell, a very distant first cousin four times removed, is one such character.

James’s life started humbly enough. He was the sixth of ten children born to William Campbell, a shepherd, later a sheep dealer, and Elizabeth (Betty) Irvine. Born in 1853, James lived most of his early life in Kintail, a remote mountainous area in the rugged Scottish Highlands county of Ross and Cromarty.

The Coomassie campaign medal, which James was awarded
In the 1871 census, the Campbells were living in the Corrynagullan Shepherd House, in Kintail but, soon after this, James left the family home to join the army. He must have learnt to play the bagpipes as a child because he served with the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, the Black Watch, as a piper. During 1873-74 James served in the Ashanti Campaign, in West Africa, where the 42nd played a leading role in the successful advance to Coomassie through dense jungle. He was also stationed in Malta for a time, was with the army of occupation in Cyprus in 1878, and spent some time in Gibraltar.

Dress of a 42nd Royal Highlanders piper
in 1856. From Peter Cochrane, Scottish
Military Dress
, Blandford Press,
Poole, 1987.

After leaving the army in 1879, James spent the following two years, until May 1881, employed as valet and piper for Duncan Davidson, Chief of Clan Davidson, Lord-Lieutenant of Ross, and laird of Tulloch Castle. James’s military service had obviously stood him in good stead for career advancement and he must have been highly skilled at playing the bagpipes.

When the census was taken on 3 April 1881, James was back with his parents, now living at Lower Bridgend, in Kilmorack, Inverness-shire but, just a few weeks later, in May 1881, he started working for Duncan Darroch, 5th of Gourock and of Torridon, the Chief of Clan Donald. However, this appointment was only to last a few short weeks, as James was then headhunted by none other than Queen Victoria!

According to the Royal website, Victoria ‘first heard bagpipe music in 1842, when she and Prince Albert visited the Highlands for the first time’ and was impressed by the Marquess of Breadalbane’s personal piper during her stay at Taymouth Castle. Victoria wrote to her mother: ‘We have heard nothing but bagpipes since we have been in the beautiful Highlands and I have become so fond of it that I mean to have a Piper, who can if you like it, pipe every night at Frogmore.’

Angus Mackay became the first personal Piper to the Sovereign in 1843 and he was followed by Pipe Major William Ross in 1854. The piper’s duties included playing under the Queen’s bedroom window for 15 minutes every morning, whether she is in residence at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Balmoral Castle or at Osbourne, on the Isle of Wight, and whenever else Her Majesty fancied a tune, as well as at a variety of State Occasions.

On 15 June 1881, James Campbell was appointed 2nd piper to Queen Victoria, at a salary of £55 p.a., he was allowed the same clothing as was granted to 1st piper Ross, and was granted £5 p.a. for 'Keeping his pipes, ribbons, etc in repair'. As well as playing the pipes, his duties also required him to take charge of the Gun Room at all the Queen's palaces and to keep the guns, fishing rods, etc., in good order. He took his orders from the now infamous Mr Brown (remember Billy Connolly’s portrayal of Mr Brown in the film Mrs Brown?).

'Queen Victoria [with John Brown] at Osborne House' by Edwin Henry Lanseer. Licensed under Public Domain by Wikimedia Commons: File:Queen_Victoria_at_Osborne_House.jpg

In 1883, when William Ross retired, James took over his duties as Gentleman Porter, his salary was raised to £80 p.a., and his rank in the Royal Household was equal to the Sergeant Footman. In 1891, when Ross died, James was officially appointed 1st Piper to the Queen, though he had already been carrying out those duties since 1883.

Some time in the 1920s, James was interviewed for the People's Journal. At that stage, he was enjoying his retirement ‘in a neat little bungalow in sylvan surroundings at pretty Fort Augustus’. These are some of the memories of his time as the sovereign’s piper that James shared with his interviewer:

Then he went to Mr Duncan Darroch of Torridon, in whose service he had been only a few weeks when he was invited to join the staff at Balmoral Castle in the role of Queen Victoria's piper. "Naturally I jumped at the chance," Mr Campbell told me, "but Mr Darroch was reluctant to part with me, and if I had been going to anyone but the Queen he would not have consented to my leaving him. 'A command from the Queen is a command which must be obeyed,' he said to me, 'but if I had known what I know now I would have made your engagement much firmer.'
“I parted good friends with Mr Darroch, and the next morning (16th June 1881), I played my pipes at Queen Victoria's breakfast table. Some time after the meal I was sought out by John Brown, the major-domo at Balmoral, who encouraged me by telling me 'The Queen likes your appearance, and I think you'll be all right.' So far, so good, I thought.    
James Campbell in 1886. Photographer: W Watson, Ballater.
Royal Collection Trust. © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. 
“In the Queen's time it was custom during the shooting season for a number of stags which had been shot to be laid out at the front door of the castle. A bonfire was lit, and at it the ghillies and the gamekeepers would light torches. The stags were then displayed by torchlight to the ladies and gentlemen of the Court, and afterwards the 'Reel o' Tulloch' was danced round the bonfire.    
“I, of course, played my pipes on those occasions, and the experience of receiving pieces of burning torches on my clothing taught me the wisdom of donning absolutely the worst tunic I had for such occasions. This practice was continued during King Edward's time. There were perhaps two such events in the autumn season and one in the springtime.    
“Pipe-Major William Ross, who had joined the Queen's service in 1854, was still at Balmoral when I was taken on the strength. Shortly after Ross's death I told the Queen that I required a new set of pipes. ‘Well, then,' she instructed, 'get a new set, and get them mounted with silver.'
"The pipes were ordered, and in due course arrived at Balmoral Castle. I played them next morning at the Queen's breakfast table. I mentioned to the Queen's page than I was playing the new pipes, and requested him to ask Her Majesty if she would like to inspect them. The Queen said she would like to look at the pipes and accordingly I had the honour of placing them in her hands. After she had expressed her approval of them, she handed them back to me, saying 'Campbell, these are your own pipes - from me.'    
"Such a present from Her Majesty was indeed a delightful surprise, and I expressed my sincere thanks to the best of my ability.   
"In addition to the post of piper, I held the position of jager or huntsman with Queen Victoria, and in that capacity had to look after the shooting and fishing equipment required for Her Majesty's guests.
"I recollect an incident, with the German Kaiser for its central figure, which occurred during one of Wilhelm's visits to Windsor. The first part of the day was spent at covert shooting, and after lunch the party enjoyed rabbit warren shooting. When crossing a rill the Kaiser trod on a piece of loose ground which gave way beneath him, and he was in the act of falling backwards, when, having jumped the rill, I caught hold of him by the seat of his breeches and the scruff of the neck, and prevented him from receiving a nasty fall.    
"It was not a very elegant way to seize hold of an Emperor, but it was fully justified in the circumstances. King Edward (then Prince of Wales), the Duke of Connaught, King George (then Duke of York), and Prince Christian were of the party, and they all laughed uproariously at the Kaiser's little adventure. "'Bravo, Campbell!' exclaimed the Kaiser, who was quite pleased that I had prevented him from falling in the rill, 'Where did you learn your German?' I had been conversing in that language with his own jagers. 'I don't know that I have learned it, your Majesty,' I replied, "I speak it indifferently.' 'Not at all,' declared the now exiled Emperor. 'You speak excellent Deutsch.'    

I should perhaps explain here how James came to speak such ‘excellent Deutsch’. In 1888, at St George Hanover Square in London, James Campbell married German-born Annie Marie Wilhelmina Muhs. Annie was born in Hamburg in 1863 and may have met James while working in the Royal Household. The couple had four daughters, all born in Windsor: Victoria Mary E. M. Campbell born in 1889, Louise Alice Una born in 1891, Isabel Anna H. Nora born in 1896, and Rachel Jennie Graina born in 1900.

The Campbell family in the 1891 census

The interview with James Campbell continued:

"The Queen of Spain was born at Balmoral Castle. The birth took place in the afternoon, and in the evening a bonfire was lit in celebration of the event. This was in the month of November, and I recollect it was a bitterly cold night when I played my pipes at the back of the castle by the light of the torches to light the bonfire and to drink to the health of the baby Princess.    
"The Duke of Edinburgh's children, including Prince Alfred, Princess Melita (who became the Grand Duchess of Hesse), and Princess Marie (now Queen-Mother of Roumania), were visitors to Osborne House when I was there. If the weather was good Queen Victoria sat in a tent in the grounds, and there the Princesses came to greet her. On one occasion I remember, Her Majesty said to the nurse in charge of them, 'If you will just look around there you will see someone you know!' The nurse took the Princesses round the tent, and when they saw me they recognised me at once, and greeted me prettily. I had, of course, met them previously at Malta. The Queen, I remember, used to address Princess Marie as 'Missie!'" 
Mr Campbell had the honour of playing his pipes at Queen Victoria's funeral, which was both a Highland and a military one. He was assisted by his nephew William Campbell, on that occasion. They played 'The Flowers o' the Forest' from Osborne House until they reached the gates that led to the public highway, when the music was taken up by the band of the Royal Marines, who played until the cortege reached Trinity Pier at East Cowes.    
Mr Campbell was also present at the state funeral from London to Windsor, and when the body was taken from St George's Chapel to Frogmore he and his nephew had the honour of supplying appropriate pipe music, of which Her Majesty had been so fond during her lifetime.    
On the night of the funeral Mr Campbell was commanded to appear before King Edward, who then and there, made him a member of the Victorian Order. "This," said His Majesty, as he handed the decoration to the Royal Piper, "is for long and faithful service to the Queen and for the beautiful music you played today at her funeral." The bereft sovereign then shook hands with Mr Campbell, who said, "May I offer your Majesty my humble but sincere sympathy in your Majesty's sad bereavement?" "Thank you, Campbell," said the King as he gave the Royal Piper another handshake.
Asked for his impressions of Queen Victoria, Mr Campbell said, "She was the most noble woman in the world. I have known none to whom I could compare her. Her character was truly noble and her heart was full of kindness, and her son, King Edward, whom I also served until his death, right worthily followed the example she had set. The joys and sorrows of the people who surrounded her were always shared by 'Victoria the Good'. A bereavement in any of the families within her ken touched her deeply, and she was always striving to help those who needed assistance."

Following Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 and Edward VII’s ascent to the throne, James Campbell continued as Piper to the Sovereign until his retirement in 1910. He was honoured for his service to Victoria with the MVO (Member of the Royal Victorian Order) and, though retired, held the honorary position at Court of Groom of the Great Chamber to His Majesty King George V until his death on 8 April 1930, in the Northern Infirmary in Inverness. After a long and very distinguished life, James was buried with his parents in the cemetery at Beauly Priory in Scotland.

14 June 2015

Auckland trees: The Chinese trees of Cornwall Park

Earlier this week I enjoyed a most enlightening guided walk in Auckland’s Cornwall Park, exploring the Chinese trees with specialist tree guide and eminent botanist Dr Mike Wilcox. Mike was assisted this day by Estella Hin Ling of the Auckland Botanical Society, whose job it was to translate Mike’s words into Cantonese as, not surprisingly given the subject and Auckland’s large Asian population, our party included a large number of local Chinese.

The walk was just one of a series of free events run by the folks at Cornwall Park to help Aucklanders appreciate even more this glorious green haven – though, judging by the numbers of people walking, jogging, strolling and picnicking, the locals are already keen users of the 172 hectares gifted to the people of Auckland by John Logan Campbell in 1901. The events are many and varied, and I recommend you keep an eye on their website for something that might interest you.  

Here, then, are some of the beautiful Chinese trees we discovered during our two-hour walk, along with just a few of the facts Mike shared with us. Take the walk yourself to find out more.

Ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba)
Having been on this earth for around 200 million years, the gorgeous ginkgo, possibly my favourite tree, is a living fossil. It has probably survived so long because it was considered sacred by Buddhist monks, who cultivated the tree near their temples. It also has no pests or diseases, and individual trees can live for as long as 1000 years. The ginkgo has a fan-shaped leaf like no other tree, and the fruit of the female tree smells like human vomit. Despite this revolting fact, the Chinese cook and eat it, and they use the leaves to make medicine which is supposedly good for the brain.

The grove of ginkgoes in Cornwall Park was planted in the mid 1960s on the former site of Cornwall Hospital, following the removal of the hospital buildings.

Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
In Cornwall Park, the small group of Dawn redwoods – one tall specimen and several less mature trees – are towered over by a stand of Californian redwoods, though both are tall and majestic trees. During the last ice age, the Dawn redwood was almost wiped out, surviving only in isolated valleys in remote parts of China. It is still rare in the wild, and is now state protected in China. In autumn, its leaves turn a subtle shade of apricot, as you can see in my photos.

Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
Although often seen in street plantings around Auckland, the Tree of heaven is not popular with the city council staff who maintain the streets, partly due to its habit of persistently sending up suckers and partly due to its foul-smelling leaves. The tree has white flowers and orange fruit and can be identified during the winter months, when its branches are bare, by the snake-like marks on its bark.

Mike Wilcox (holding a Plane tree leaf) and Estella Hin Ling, with the distinctive bark of  a Plane tree in the background

Plane tree (Platanus acerifolia)
I’ve always thought of the Plane as an English tree but it is just as familiar to the Chinese, though it only flourishes in some parts of that huge country. In Auckland this was a hugely popular tree for street plantings in the early 20th century, as witnessed by some of the magnificent Plane-lined streets in Ponsonby and other inner-city Auckland suburbs.

China berry (Melia azedarach)
This is another popular street and home-garden tree, with pretty autumn foliage and little yellow berries that remain on the tree through much of the winter. The berries are toxic to humans but many birds love them. Though underutilised for its timber, the China berry produces medium-density straight wood of a brownish-red colour that is resistant to most wood-eating insects.

Wonder tree (Idesia polycarpa)
This is such a graceful tree and, with its hanging bunches of bright red berries, it not only looks attractive but birds love it. The berries can, apparently, also be eaten by humans, either raw or cooked. The leaves when they fall in the autumn are particularly crunchy underfoot, perfect for walking through, kicking up and playing amongst – yes, I am just an old kid at heart!

Chinese sweet gum (Liquidambar formosana)
The gum of this Liquidambar can be burned for incense, hence its common Chinese name. In Auckland the American Liquidambar is a very popular tree and can be seen in street, park and garden plantings throughout the city, providing spectacular autumn colour. I learnt the difference between the two varieties during my walk – the Chinese variety has a three-pointed leaf shape, whereas the American type has five points (see photo above). Mike Wilcox told us the tree in Cornwall Park is the only Chinese variety he has seen in Auckland so if you spot another, make sure to let the park authorities know.

Mike Wilcox is the author of Auckland’s Remarkable Urban Forest (Auckland Botanical Society, Auckland, 2012), which describes the trees and forests of Auckland and includes those in parks and reserves, on campuses, school grounds, cemeteries, and at historic homesteads – it’s a great book and highly recommended reading.