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Time Pieces - Sundials in South Canterbury, N.Z.  

Timaru Botanical Gardens  - Herb Garden Sundial August 2010 

A sundial gives in principal an indication of the local time. The sun travels across the sky at the rate of fifteen degrees per hour so every degree of longitude represents a difference of four minutes from the standard meridian for the region.

The Timaru Sundial Trail
Cowan, J R: A Guide to Understanding Sundials in the Timaru District (2004) pdf  

29 September 2005 Timaru Herald  It is his hobby
Reid Cowan is becoming an expert on Timaru's sundials. But there's one that's refusing to give up its secrets, and the retired surveyor is hoping someone will be able to offer assistance. Mr Cowan has been involved in the removal, restoration and relocation of a number of Timaru's sundials, and that's led him to preparing a guide to understanding them. He wants to include information on the six sundials in schools and public places in and around Timaru, and while he's been able to find out about most of them, one has him stumped. The sundial at Waimataitai School was engraved in 1933, and with the school holding a jubilee a year earlier, it would seem likely it was a jubilee project. However, an extensive trawl through school minutes has revealed no mention of it, and neither has a search of Timaru Herald files. Mr Cowan's now wondering whether it was donated from a private garden in Timaru, but he'd welcome any clues as to its history.  Most of Timaru's sundials have had the benefit of Mr Cowan's experience in recent years. The Timaru Main School jubilee sundial is to be re-erected at Bluestone School, while Claremont School's sundial will find a new home at Barton Rural (formerly Fairview). Mr Cowan was also involved in repairs and relocation of Craighead School's sundial, dedicated to the memory of the school's first principal, and the Robert Heaton Rhodes sundial - first erected at the end of The Terrace, then moved to Caroline Bay, above the Soundshell seating when the Port Loop Road was constructed. It's now likely to get a third home once decisions are made on where it should be placed. Caroline Bay also boasts the Victoria Cross Memorial Sundial, installed by the Caroline Bay Association in memory of those awarded the Victoria Cross. He finds it fascinating that most were put in place at great expense when there wasn't much money around. "They were put there in the 1930s, in the depression years when things were grim, so they have to be preserved, they can't be just dumped, they have to be looked after." One hundred copies of the booklet have been produced, and distributed to schools and libraries. Mr Cowan's main ambition is to see children in the district able to read sundials at their school, or even make their own.

A test of time: After about five years of working with sundials, Timaru's Reid Cowan knows his shadows, latitudes and longitudes.  

Barton School This plaque is to commemorate the 125th Jubilee of the Claremont School. Robert Rhodes- Chairman. 1878 - 2004.
The Barton Rural School (former Fairview School) at the corner of Fairview Rd and Barton Road. Claremont School was further inland. The school gates are a WWI Memorial. It was 'purpose designed' for the Claremont School's 125th Jubilee in 2004 by Reid Cowan and commission by the Claremont School Board but soon after the project was completed the school was closed. In April 2004 it was announced in the Timaru Herald that 13 schools to close in South Canterbury in time for the 2005 year. Claremont School would merge on the Fairview site. The actual sundial was manufactured by Robert J. Butler & Sons - Timaru under computer-driven milling machine technology.  It is mounted on a block of volcanic basalt (bluestone). Aorangi- stonemason.

Bluestone School 22 August 2010Count the sunny hours only. Bluestone School, on Hurdley St, Timaru. Calculations by J.R. Cowan- M.N.Z.I.S. sundial Erected May 1935.  High flyers.
Golden Jubilee Oct. 1924, Platinum Jubilee Oct. 1949. Diamond Jubilee Oct. 1934. Centenary Oct. 1974.  
Main School was destroyed by fire in 1989 and a merger of Main and Bluestone arose out of district-wide amalgamations during a period of closures of schools.
Bluestone is the old West school on Raymond Street not the old Main school on North Street. The old Main School site is now a technology block.

The Craighead sundial, photo taken 5th Aug. 2010 by M.. The engraver was Mr McGlashan of Timaru."ONLY BE THOU STRONG AND VERY COURAGEOUS ".  
Craighead Diocesan School
sundial  The motto is in the cement and not on the dial. The engraver was Mr McGlashan of Timaru.
"Violet Monica Salmond Headmistress 1927 - 1930 Erected by the girls and staff: remembering" In 1927 Miss Salmond was appointed Headmistress of Craighead as it entered a new phase. Her term of office was cut short in 1930 by her sudden death. She had arranged a tonsillectomy in Christchurch in the school holidays but died under the anaesthetic.

Timaru Botanic Gardens - Herb Garden - August 2010. photo by M.Be as true to each other as the dial as is to the sun.
The herb garden at the Timaru Botanic Gardens has a sundial compliments of the Timaru Herb Society. The brass sundial was mounted on a plinth base in the centre of the herb garden. Timaru Herb Society president said the sundial was a way of returning something to the community and she hoped it would attract people to the botanic gardens. June 29, 2000. The garden is behind the Bowling Club as you enter the gardens and go towards the hospital. XII was pointing south like the other sundials.
 Photo on top of the page.

Photo taken 7th Aug. 2010 by M. Waimataitai School sundial right bedside the war memorial. "Use thy time wisely"Use thy time wisely. History of sundial less of a mystery Timaru Herald, Oct 1, 2005
Reid Cowan's search for the story of Waimataitai School's sundial has had some success. The retired surveyor this week asked for help in finding out the history of the feature. While he'd been able to research the five others in schools and public places around Timaru, there didn't seem to be a shred of information available about how Waimataitai School came by its sundial. However, following Thursday's story, Mr Cowan received a phone call from Don Lithgow, whose family owned land around the school. Mr Lithgow said he could remember his grandfather John Lithgow telling him he had given a sundial to Waimataitai School.

There are two sundials on the bay.

Caroline Bay Victoria Cross Memorial and Sundial was installed by the Caroline Bay Association in memory to New Zealand's eleven recipients of the Victoria Cross. If you walk around Caroline Bay, Timaru you will see the lengthy knee-high, 350 metre, Memorial Wall built in 1929 that list the names of the 101 battles New Zealanders fought in during WW1 on locally made bronze plaques. It also marks the line where land and sea once met. Finished in plaster and Moeraki shingle, the cost was £616 10s 11d. The sundial is in the centre of the wall at the new World War I interpretive memorial. The sundial cost £117 8s 0d . There is a plaque on the front of the memorial listing the names of the Victoria Cross recipients. This is Timaru's most prominent sundial and was the work of James Stewart of Invercargill. Sundials were his hobby. Stewart was apprenticed in the whitesmithing and brass-finishing trade. In his advancing years he maintained his sundial construction, developing a reputation that had clearly been enhanced by his display in the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in Dunedin 1925-26. He has been credited with approximately 200 dials throughout New Zealand, Australia and Britain.  On 11th November 2009 at 11 am the new World War interpretive memorial on Caroline Bay was unveiled and incorporated the old sundial. The interpretive memorial will give meaning and understanding to the 99 balls on the 80-year-old memorial walk, South Canterbury War Memorial Society chairman Mark Hervey said. There is now a 35 minute longitude correction plaque, 4th photo.

   Photo taken 13 Nov. 2009. Facing east.     Photo taken April 2007 by Margaret Todd. The old memorial. 
Horas non numero nisi serenas   I don't count the hours unless they're tranquil.   

 The Rhodes sundial, paddling pool area, Caroline Bay, 29 July 2010, 1243 pm. Photo taken by Margaret Todd Time 1243 pm, 29 July 2010.Pphoto by M.T.|Two mallards enjoying the padding pool at teh top end of the bay with the Rhhodes sundial to the right. East straight ahead. photo
The Rhodes sundial -padding pool, Caroline Bay. Presented by the Caroline Bay Association in the memory of Robert Heaton Rhodes of Bluecliffs. Rhodes died in 1918. Horas non numero nisi serenas I don't count the hours unless they're tranquil. Both sundials on Caroline Bay have the same motto. This one is near the paddling pool at the top end of the bay and is probably the first sundial in Timaru.  Surrounding the other sundial for VC heros is updated War Memorial.

Early in the morning 26 April 2014

The bay has a soundshell, willow walk, about 20 kowhai trees, a lychgate and fountains and more.

Sundials also can be found in private gardens and at:

Waihi School near Temuka has a sundial in a garden. new. "The Old School in about March 1974 showing the sundial in its original position, with its original top stone. This particular stone had a habit of falling off, so was replaced by a quarried piece c1975."
Oamaru Public Gardens
Mt. Cook in front of the Hermitage is a rock pedestal with the different mountains are named.
Lake Tekapo has an analemmatic sundial designed by Freidl Hale. It is a type of horizontal sundial in which the shadow-casting object is vertical, and is moved depending on the date. The time is read from the dial by noting where the shadow cast by the vertical pin crosses hour points laid out on the ellipse (or curve) of the dial. In the centre there is a tile mosaic kea feature. Completed in 2014.
Fairlie, Main Street. Donated by the Beautifying Society in 2000. Nearly 2 pm.

25 April 2014  

William Geddes was a prominent citizen of Waimate and is remembered through this sundial in Victoria Park installed after his death in 1932. It was presented to the borough of Waimate on September 21, 1934. The engineering firm is John Swan and Co., Dunedin. The company has been in business since 1878.

Waimate Gardens sundial, March 2011, M.T.
“The foothills empurpled in gleaming,
Mt Studholm in sunset aglow,
Waimate my heart turns while roaming,
To the best little town that I know”.

This memorial is placed here by friends and
admirers of William Geddes, J.P.
Born Scotland 1851, died Waimate 1932
He found joy in service!

While this sundial measures the flight of time,
it records that William Geddes, J.P. served Waimate
in very many ways, though long years,
and notably as chairman of the
Waimate Hospital Committee for seventeen
years, and as a member of the S.C. hospital Board.

After seventy years experience,
and a tour of the world,
Mr Geddes acclaimed Waimate as
"the best little town that I know."

Wiamate gardens sundial, March 2011, M.T.

Photo taken Dec. 2014 by June E.
Photo taken Dec. 2014. The sundial has a new dial. Tempus Fucit. Time flies.

Another sundial  in the planning
By Matthew Littlewood - The Timaru Herald  16/07/2010
Stargazing and astronomy tour operator Freidl Hale wants to build an interplanetary sundial near the Lake Tekapo domain. Ms Hale, along with a steering committee, has been working towards the project, and just this week they discovered they had received a $15,000 grant from the Meridian-Waitaki community fund. Once completed, the sundial will be located in the Lake Tekapo domain. Ms Hale said it was part of a much bigger project, with the intention to produce two separate scale models of the solar system. "The small model will be entirely contained in the Lake Tekapo Domain, and will just be a neat way to get people to learn about the stars and planets," she said. "It will be to scale, so you could be sitting out by Jupiter as you have a coffee near the Church of the Good Shepherd." Ms Hale said the larger model solar system would stretch right throughout the Mackenzie. "It would be to scale, so for example, Pluto, which would be located near Lake Benmore Dam, would be very small – about 1cm – but Jupiter, which will be near the shore of Lake McGregor, would be about 1.3m in diameter. It would give people an idea of the size of our solar system, and our relationship to it. Each model will always be a work in progress as scientists discover more about our neighbourhood in space." The group estimates the project will cost about $60,000 all up, and hopes to start construction later this year. 

 You don't want sundials to be bright and shiny. They should cast a shadow, not a reflection.

Sundials in Canterbury 

The South African War memorial at Victoria Park, Rangiora is now a sundial. Other war memorials feature sundials, about five in NZ. e.g. Taradale, Napier
There are two sundials in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and one with a limestone pedestal near the fernery at Mona Vale.

Looking true south                  
Christchurch Botanic Gardens.Christchurch Botanic Gardens in centre of Herbaceous Border adjacent walkway. Oamaru stone cairn with slate dial and bronze shadow marker. Note the Roman numerals are from VI to VI , just twelve hours-and placed for the observer to read inside out and below VIII around to IIII and placed for the observer to read from the edge looking in. 'The Desert : Shall Rejoice : And Blossom : As The Rose.'  a quotation from Isaiah 35-1

   A beautiful horizontal face sundial in the rose garden of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, NZ. photo
  Compare faces: London sundial designed in Wellington - looks like a southern hemisphere sundial. (ctrl N to open a new window)


Sundial classes range from horizontal or vertical to the armillary sphere, conical, declining, equatorial, inclining, multiface, polar, signal gun, concave and convex.

11 am Sydney Botanical Gardens, 15 Nov. 2009
Nov. 15 2009. Location: Southern hemisphere: Sydney, Australia. The hour numbers are counting down to the right. Armillary sphere sundial, Herb Garden, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 1993,  This sundial has to mimic the earth and its position to the sun in order to show us the right time. That means the gnomon, the arrow, that runs through the centre of the sundial has to point in exactly the same direction as the north/south axis about which our earth rotates. The ring supporting the hour markings, represents the equator.
The time was off. Actual time was 5 pm, dundial readling 3.30 pm.  No compass bearings. The arrow is pointing towards the north. Telfair, Sugarland, just north of the 59 Freeway, on University Bld. TX 30 July 2010.  MSLH in background.
Aug. 2010. Location: Sugar Land, Texas. Northern hemisphere.  Latitude of site: N 34° 38'   Longitude W93° 47'  80ft alt. The hour numbers are counting up to the right.  The hour-lines will be spaced uniformly if the surface receiving the shadow is either perpendicular (as in the equatorial sundial) or circularly symmetric about the gnomon (as in the armillary sphere). Houston sundial trail. interesting to realise the majority of the sundials in public parks are the armillary spheres.

Message of the sundial

By tradition, many sundials have a motto. Many people make it a hobby collecting mottos from sundials. A sundial compels the passer-by to pause and read the words on the pedestal:
Time flies, and flowers fade;
new days, new ways; love stays.
I give warning how the hours fly,
For men are shadows, and a shadow I.
Give light to them that sit in darkness,
and guide our feet into the way of peace.
Only be thou strong and very courageous Time is swift-much is to be done. I count only happy hours
Smiles equal sunshine in helping folks along Serene I stand amidst the flowers
To tell the passing of the hours
Do like a sundial and count only the sunny hours!
Watch and Pray
Time flies away
Set me right and use me well,
Then I the time to you will tell.
Horas non numero nisi serenas
I don't count the hours unless they're tranquil.
Light is the shadow of God Let others tell of storms and showers, I'll only count the sunny hours. I take no note of time but when the sun is shining

Time can be measured by shade.

The measurement of time has become of increasing importance to man with the advance of civilisation. At first it was based on the succession of night and day, the waxing and waning of the moon and on the changing seasons of the year. The clock was developed for dividing the day into smaller units and adjusted to keep in step with the rotation of the earth. The earliest timekeeper was a shadow clock, a primitive form of the sundial. In a sundial the vertical stake was replaced by a style inclined, according to latitude, till it lay parallel with the earth's axis, and the shadow then moved evenly throughout the hours of daylight. A dial face and style is all that is needed on a sundial face everything else on the plate is furniture, not necessary. Most sundials are constructed for a specific place. The horizontal dial measures the hour angle of the sun from the meridian. Noon is the meridian hour.  For a sundial to work the dial plate must be flat, the twelve o'clock line must be due south and north. The gnomon (the g is silent) (style), set to the correct latitude, has to point to the true South in the southern hemisphere and also the hour numbers on a horizontal dial run anti-clockwise rather than clockwise. Face the sundial due south. A horizontal sundial is impractical on the equator and L equals 0 degrees, the style would be flat and cast no shadow. At the South Pole L would be 90 degrees.  There are websites with free shareware for working out the dial plate but is it correct? Here is the one I tried for Timaru, it was easy to do.  A sundial designed for one latitude can be used in another latitude, provided that the sundial is tilted upwards or downwards by an angle equal to the difference in latitude. For example, a sundial designed for a latitude of 40° can be used at a latitude of 45°, if the sundial plane is tilted upwards by 5°, thus aligning the style with the Earth's rotational axis. In the southern hemisphere sun-cast shadows turn anticlockwise through the day and sundials have the hours increasing in the anticlockwise direction. Hurricanes and tropical storms spin clockwise in the southern hemisphere (as opposed to anticlockwise in the Northern Hemisphere) due to the Coriolis effect.

The 45th parallel is the midway point between the equator and the South Pole. A marker is located on SH1 north of Oamaru and just south of Hilderthorpe and there is another monument marking the 45 degree line of latitude on the Te Anau - Milford Rd and another marker at the 45th Parallel marker just north of Lowburn on SH6 on the bank of Lake Dunstan, a few km N. of Cromwell.

longitude: angular distance east or west of a given meridian, measured in degrees up to 180°.  The earth evolves through 360° in 24 hours, 15° longitude represents 1 hour's difference in apparent time.
meridian: An imaginary great circle passing through the poles at right angles to the equator.
angular distance, measured in degrees, minutes and seconds north or south from the equator. (remember: lat is flat) Thus the equator is 0° Lat. and the poles 90° Lat. (N. or S.)

Auckland, NZ  	Lat: 36.52° S          	Long: 174.46° E. 
Nelson, NZ  	Lat: 41.17 ° S          Long: 173.17° E
Timaru, NZ 	Lat: 44° 23 min. S.     Long: 171° deg. 27 min. 20 sec. East Longitude; at the flagstaff 
Bluff, NZ 	Lat: 46.36 ° S          Long: 168.20° E

In 1883 the Port of Timaru flagstaff was situated in 171 deg. 17min. 20sec. East longitude ; 44deg. 23 min. South latitude.

Public Clocks in South Canterbury

Finding True North

To determine True North is a simple matter by using the daily paper details of Timaru tides, sun and moon. For example, on June 10 the sun rises at 8.06 am and sets at 5.03 pm. From these figures the sun is in the sky for eight hours, 57 minutes, let us say nine hours. Halve the nine hours and add to sunrise and we can easily determine that the sun is at maximum altitude and True North at approximately 12.36pm. The sunny shadow from a stick placed vertically in the ground, the corner of a building, or the shadow east across a living room floor allows one to easily determine True North. Magnetic North, as shown by a compass, is not nearly as good as the simple method I describe. Magnetic North is approximately 23 degrees to the east of True North in our area and a compass is more difficult to handle. A local newspaper, a little arithmetic and a sunny day is all that is required. Reid Cowan, Timaru. June 9 2015 Timaru Herald

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project 

Waikato Times, 11 September 1886, Page 2
THE R. S. H.  

In a garden, lone and wild.
An old sundial stands ;
In that garden when a child
I have often played, and smiled
I see the shadow grow so long,
While the bells at evensong
Chimed the dying day,
Seeming soft to say,
"Time passes away. "

In that garden, lone and wild,
Now I sit and think
Of the time when, as a child,
Innocent and undefiled,
I played there, and a silent tear
Steals adown my cheek, so near
Seems that time — now far away :
And the church bells seem to say,
" Ah ! that time has passed away."

Yes, the years have fleeted fast
Since that happy time ;
Many friends to death have passed,
I alone am left, the last
Of that merry band,
By the sundial old I stand,
While as dies the day
The solemn church bells seem to say.
" Soon, you too must pass a way."

Sunrise, Timaru. Looking towards the east, through the poplars is SHI then the Pacific Ocean.
 Tonight the sun will set, and tomorrow it will rise again.