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Pacific's triple star

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Those three words are sung before every test match that the All Blacks play—in grounds throughout the rugby-playing world. Many New Zealanders have sung them more than once themselves. What exactly do they refer to? Let’s begin with their author.

Born in County Meath, Ireland, in 1841, Thomas Bracken spent most of his life in New Zealand, where he became a Member of Parliament and the popular poet who wrote the verses that are now our national anthem, ‘God Defend New Zealand’. The Auckland Central City Library’s Sir George Grey Special Collections contains the only manuscript in Bracken’s own handwriting of this ‘National Hymn’, as he entitled it. It is dated 9 July 1876. Also in the Grey Collection is the sole surviving autograph manuscript of John Joseph Wood’s musical setting of the anthem. Bracken's manuscript and Wood's sheet music, held by Auckland Libraries, are inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand register.


The history of ‘God Defend New Zealand’ is …
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If you haven’t had a chance to see the exhibition Don’t leave town till you’ve seen the country on Level 2 of Tāmaki Ngā Pātaka Kōrero Central City Library, we recommend you go to enjoy its visual richness. In the meantime, we offer you an opportunity to listen to a selection of exhibition interviews in the comfort of your favourite chair, or on your commute.

The first track is an interview with Principal Curator Georgia Prince giving a background to the exhibition content and selection process.

Georgia shares with interviewer Haunui Royal a couple of highlights including Cecil Burleigh’s diary. The diary begins in 1932 when he was 22, and records his regular holiday trips around New Zealand. The hand drawn map charts three road trips he took with his mother in 1948 and 1949. In March 1949 they travelled from Auckland to Waiouru and back, before he returned to sea as a chief engineer.

‘The whole trip was pleasant and interesting.’  Cecil Burleigh. Diary. 1932-1987. NZMS 1450.


The second…

Wesley Primary School students gather scientific data

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“Plans were laid and one sunny morning we set off to walk to the top. It is quite a climb to the summit and we were puffed and glad to sit down for a bit and have a look round at the view. From our school down below, the mount doesn’t look very exciting but from here the city lay spread out on every side making a patchwork of coloured roofs, and the waters of the Waitemata Habour to the north really do sparkle… Standing here with Auckland at our feet we felt like kings of the castle.”

This excerpt was written by a primary school student at Wesley Primary School, in Mt Roskill, Auckland. It is taken from a school project report titled 'Life on an extinct volcano' created in 1966. J.F. Hopkins, a former teacher at Wesley Primary School, compiled these school project reports. Filled with photographs, they are a delight.

Three natural science projects form the Wesley Primary School Projects Collection, NZMS 2165, now held in Sir George Grey Special Collections. This manuscript wa…

Family stories of our ancestors

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Family historians spend a lot of time researching and collecting their facts and stories. Many have been spurred on to share their research with other family members or even the wider general public.

Often the stories are shared in blogs, but some have been keen enough to share in books. We call these "published family histories."

In New Zealand, a couple of copies are sent to the National Library in Wellington to be preserved as part of the nation's memory. Sometimes, Auckland Libraries is also also sent a copy or two as well. Often we purchase them for our family history collection. - You should come in and have a look if you haven't already!

We don't just collect New Zealand family histories, we also collect published family histories from all over the world - particularly if they relate to the historic areas that many of us emigrated from.

One such book caught my eye today. Written by a New Zealander about her English grandfather's family.

My Mountain, My…

The 1950 British Empire Games

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After a world war, and an absence of twelve years, the sports fans of the British Empire once again welcomed back the British Empire Games. The year was 1950; the host country, New Zealand.

The idea for New Zealand to even consider bidding for the right to host the games came from Mr Alwyn Moon of the NZ Amateur Athletic Association. Mr Moon had observed just how well the 1947 national athletics competition had run in Auckland, and especially how well Eden Park had coped with the intense level of competition at that standard. Moon subsequently called a meeting with like-minded officials to discuss the rather bold proposal: was Auckland in a position to host the 1950 British Empire Games?


Representatives from sporting codes across the city believed it was possible and began to explore the venture, while Mayor John Allum offered his backing, adamant Aucklanders would get behind the games. It soon transpired Christchurch was also keen to host, and so the New Zealand Olympic Association w…

Auckland Library Heritage Trust Scholarship 2018/2019

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Applications for the Auckland Library Heritage Trust research scholarship are now open!


Now in its sixth year, this scholarship is offered by the Auckland Library Heritage Trust to assist with research and the promotion of material held in the Sir George Grey Special Collections at the Central City Library and the distributed heritage collections across Auckland Libraries. Heritage collections are found at the north, south and west research centres at Takapuna, Manukau and Waitākere libraries.


The breadth of the collections has seen research topics range from Japanese woodblock books from the nineteenth century to the Jazz age in Auckland in the twentieth century. Last year’s scholar was Dr Majid Daneshagar from the University of Otago. Dr Daneshgar prepared a catalogue of Middle Eastern manuscripts looking at Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Turkish works in Sir George Grey Special Collections.

As well as rare and historic books Auckland Libraries’ Heritage Collections feature maps, manus…

Evolving Auckland

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Many maps and plans of Central Auckland have been drawn and published since the 1840s. The first and most well-known was drawn by Surveyor-General, Felton Mathew, for Governor Hobson and published in 1841. Mathew’s design was best known as ‘the cobweb plan’ because it envisaged a circular Trafalgar Circus (where the university is today) with radiating quadrants and a crescent connecting with Upper Queen Street. Mathew’s plan was thought impractical by many influential settlers so was eventually shelved. The only echo of Mathew’s plan that survives today is Waterloo Quadrant (originally to have been named London Quadrant – but now not even actually a quadrant) and which runs between Old Government House and the High Court.


One hundred years later a town planning model was created of the Auckland CBD, probably from an aerial photograph taken in 1939.  Possibly this was done as part of New Zealand’s centennial celebrations in 1940.  Lisa Truttman of Timespanner has suggested the model mi…