Wigley - One Family on the Road to Tourism
Their passion for adventure wasn't limited to the ground!
The original Hermitage hotel was built of cob in 1884 by a private company. A feature of all the photographs of the early Hermitage is a pond formed were clay was removed for sun-dried bricks for the cob building. The company which operated a coach service held the mail contract between Fairlie and the Hermitage. Members included Capt. Francis Hayter, Melville Gray, Michael Godby, Dr. Richard Hogg, Robert, George and Timaru Rhodes (s/o George Rhodes, founder of Levels), John Ross, John and Edmund Rutherford. Frank Huddleston was appointed owner/manager/ranger. In 1894 the service was sold to Kerr and Frayne of Fairlie. The Hermitage was added on between 1900 and 1907. Another Hermitage was built in 1914 by the Government and destroyed by fire in 1957. Glencoe Motor Inn
Herald Tuesday 12 February 1889 pg2
Just now tourist traffic to Mount Cook is exceedingly brisk. Last week no fewer than 50 tourists arrived or departed from Fairlie Creek in one day, and the Mount Cook Coaching Company found the demands on their resources so great, that a special coach and six, driven by Mr J.S. Rutherford, was put on to clear the press work. Many of the tourists were from Home, from Melbourne, Sydney and other cities in the colony of Australia. Latest advices from Fairlie Creek report the weather to be very fine and favourable.
Otago Witness, 18 April 1906, Page 26
Messrs Wigley, Chaffey, Bayley, and Rollinson in Bayley's 15 h.p. car. made the trip from Timaru to the Hermitage on Sunday, starting at 6.10 a.m. and arriving at 3.57 p.m.. or 7 hours 24 minutes actual travelling. They returned on Monday, leaving at 6.20 and arriving at Timaru at 5.5 p.m., after two and a half hours stay at Fairlie. The creeks were exceptionally low, and were crossed without difficulty. Messrs Wigley and Chaffey will establish a motor service next summer if the creeks are bridged.
Rodolph Lysaght Wigley b. 21 October 1881 at Opuha Gorge Station, Pleasant Point, South Canterbury s/o Thomas Henry Wigley, a sheepfarmer and his second wife, Annie Caroline Lysaght (1860-1881) of Hawera. Educated at Christ's College from 1896 to 1898. Wigley sold out his interest in the family property and teamed up with Samuel Thornley of Waitohi in 1904 to form a transport company specialising in traction-engine haulage and contract harvesting. Sam Thornley drove the first traction engine cross Burkes Pass in 1904 and the company brought 'trains' of trailers laden with bales of wool from the Mackenzie Country stations to the Fairlie railway terminus.
Rodolph Wigley's Mt. Cook Motor Car Service provided the first car transportation from Fairlie to the Hermitage in February 1906. The first journey, by John Rutherford, his son John, R.L. Wigley and Dr. Eric M. Marchant, engineer to the Mackenzie County Council, took four and a half days, travelling in two 1902 six-horsepower, two-seater, De Dion Bouton motor-cars which they reversed through streams. The company owned four Darracq service cars (40 and 60 hp) and were engaged to carry mails and passengers. Tickets to the Hermitage in 1906 had Wigley and Thornley Ltd Mount Cook Motor Car Service at the top. The business collapsed in November 1907 due to high running costs but in 1912 Wigley took over the assets and restarted operations as the Mount Cook Motor Co. Ltd. By 1918, there was a weekly service car between Mt. Cook and Queenstown over the Lindis Pass using Cadillacs. The company had a depot / garage in Fairlie. The Mt. Cook buses for over fifty years would stop here for passengers and freight. Building Fairlie.
First motor car at the Hermitage hotel, Mount Cook, 1906. ATL
Note on back of backing card reads: "From left - J S Rutherford, Opawa; R H Rhodes, Blue Cliffs. Back seat - R L Wigley." Photographer unidentified.
On 15 June 1910 at Timaru, Rodolph married Jessie Christie Grant, daughter of Alexander and Ellen Grant, runholders in the Mackenzie Country. They had six children including sons Henry (Harry) and Alexander (Sandy). In 1913 Jessie designed the company's lily motif after the giant mountain buttercup (incorrectly called the Mt Cook 'lily'.) Flowers November to January. Today the symbol still represents the goodwill of the company, a permanent memorial to the Wigley's and the dramatic Mackenzie Country. Grant b. 1830 in Stirling, Scotland, purchased 'Grays Hills' in April 1881 and increased the size of the station to 60,000 acres. He and his wife retired to Timaru and had a home built, the Aigantighe, on two acres. James Grant, their son, presented the home and gardens to the citizens of Timaru in 1955. It is now the Art Gallery. Mrs Wigley was well known in the art circles for her water colours of South Canterbury.
In 1920 Rodolph bought five war-surplus aircraft for sightseeing and formed the NZ Aero Transport Co., the first company of its kind in the country. The first aeroplane to land in Fairlie was a war surplus bi-plane E 4242 in May 1920 still with the RAF roundel on the chassis. The passenger and freight service route was between Wellington and Invercargill. On October 1920 with Captain J. C. Mercer he flew on the first one-day flight from Invercargill to Auckland. 1921 photo. After a series of mishaps, e.g. damage to landing equipment during forced landings in paddocks, the company went into liquidation in 1923, but was later resuscitated as Queenstown-- Mount Cook Airways Limited. His son, later, Sir Henry (Harry) Wigley acquired his father's passion for flying and a license in October 1935. He joined the family firm and often took locals on sightseeing joyrides. During WWII Harry was first a flight instructor for the RNZAF at Taieri, and later a fighter pilot in the Pacific 1944-1945 flying P40 Kittyhawks.
In 1921 R.L. Wigley leased the Hermitage from the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts (until 1944) and began and expanding its facilities by installing electricity and a telegraph link, building tramping huts, and catering for skaters and skiers and employing top-rate mountain guides. He promoted downhill skiing, mountain climbing and winter holidays. He also employed fit young men from Timaru to act as student guides. They served their apprenticeships washing dishes, painting the Hermitage roof, peeling potatoes, helping the baker or kitchen staff, taking parties out to the huts, packing stores by packhorse to the Ball Hut, taking parties by horse, doing some guiding. In the summer they would take parties up to the old Mueller Hut, over night and climb up to the northern slope of Ollivier and tie wooden ash skis on to the tourist and let them go. They did a bit of everything. The company was the first to offer group packages to tourists. In August 1923 Wigley and two guides became the first to climb Mt Cook in winter. In 1928 his road transport business, by now called the Mount Cook Tourist Company of New Zealand, became a public company. By 1930 Wigley had built it into the largest tourist organisation in New Zealand. Rodolph Wigley died in Dunedin on 27 April 1946. Obituary "Timaru Herald" 29 April 1946 page 4. In 1976 it became the Mount Cook Group. Reference: Ogilvie, Gordon. 'Wigley, Rodolph L. 1881 - 1946'. Dictionary of New Zealand
Henry "Harry" Rodolph Wigley was born at Fairlie, South Canterbury, 2 Feb. 1913, the eldest son of Jessie and Rodolph L. Wigley. Harry attended Timaru Boys' HS and Christ's College. In the 1930s Harry entered the family firm, the Mount Cook Tourist Company of New Zealand, in Timaru, of which his father was the founder and managing director. As a qualified commercial pilot he flew for the small, associated company, Queenstown-Mount Cook Airways Limited. In May 1936 the Mt. Cook aerodrome was officially opened the grass airstrip being by Bill Hamilton's company. He was a national downhill skiing champion in 1936 and co-founder with his father of Mt Cook Airways. After the war he pioneered aerial search and rescue operations in the Southern Alps. In 1945 Harry became managing director of the Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Company, the name adopted in the mid 1930s. H.R. was a tall, slim man with a big moustache, very easy to talk to. The lease at the Hermitage expired in 1944 so Harry led his company to establishing new ski-fields and facilities at Coronet Peak and in 1947 at Lake Ohau where a thirty bedroom lodge was built and a rope tow designed by Bill Hamilton was installed. The Wigley brothers, Harry and Alexander, took over the ownership Glen Lyon / Huxley Gorge stations at the head of Lake Ohau in 1948. In the early 1950s he also encouraged the company to involve itself in the aerial top-dressing and rabbit poisoning businesses, and in 1954 a subsidiary, Mount Cook Air Services, was established.
By this time H.R. had begun to study the feasibility of equipping a light aircraft with retractable skis to enable it to take off from dry ground and land on snow. Overseas, aircraft were equipped with skis for snow take-offs and landings, but the use of both wheels and skis was unknown. A hinged axle lowering and raising laminated oregon skis with a handbrake type lever and an oval cut in the skis allowed the wheels to protrude through the skis for landing on hard surfaces was developed on models until a plane was fitted-out in the Mt Cook Company's workshop on The Terrace in Timaru. On 22 September 1955 Wigley successfully flew a high-winged Auster Aiglet aircraft fitted with retractable wooden skis from the grass airfield at Mt Cook and touched down on the Tasman Glacier with one passenger, an employee, Alan McWhirter. Doug Drake, along with pilot Elgar Dickson, were in the safety aircraft, a Whitney Straight, above the Tasman Glacier and witnessed the event. They were to inform rescuers if there were any problems. Mr Drake, a private pilot, former Timaru Herald reporter and now of Wings over South Canterbury was a passenger on the second landing. Edmund Hillary was a passenger in the ski plane later that day. Over 40,000 visitors per year are now flown to remote the alpine glaciers to take photographs, ski, climb or hunt.
In 1956 Mount Cook Airlines was founded when the Mt Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Company expanded its operation to include air services of the Queenstown & Mt Cook Airways company, originally founded during the 1930s. Mount Cook Coachlines had a depot in Fairlie at Elms's garage down the Main St. The garage had the Government contract to run the school buses. In the 1970s the children from the country districts were bused to school in the large Mt. Cook tourists buses.
In 1961 the company commenced an air passenger service from Christchurch to Mt Cook, Queenstown and Manapouri, with a Douglas DC-3 in addition to expanding bus schedules. In 1968 the company introduced a British-built turboprop airliner, the Hawker Siddeley 748, the first of several such aircraft which carried Mount Cook Airlines into the 1990s. In 1971 the head office was moved to Christchurch. Harry received a KBE in 1976 in recognition of his service to tourism and aviation. Renamed the Mount Cook Group Limited in 1976. Wigley had developed the company into the country's largest privately owned travel organisation. Sir Henry, mountain aviator, died in Christchurch on 15 Sept. 1980. Today Mount Cook Airlines (a subsidiary of Air New Zealand) flies into Aoraki/Mount Cook airport, has the concession to land fixed wing aircraft in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Currently, 2000, only three Pilatus's and three Cessnas are used.
Mt Cook Airlines inaugural flight left Queenstown 6:30 pm / 19 Oct 1970 to Rotoura. The flight was by a Hawker Siddeley HS. 748 ZK - CWJ piloted by G.B. Williams and A.J. MacLeod.
Wigley mementos for museum
By Rob Kerr - The Timaru Herald | Friday, 10 August 2007
A treasure trove of historical material, some believed lost in a fire, has been given to the Aoraki Mount Cook Museum Trust. Many of the personal belongings of Mount Cook tourism pioneer Sir Henry (Harry) Wigley were believed to have been destroyed in the fire at the company's head office in Timaru in the early 1960s. However Harry Wigley had taken the material to Christchurch when he relocated headquarters. After his death, when Air New Zealand took over his share in the company, his office was cleared out. His personal effects were to be thrown out. Fortunately a secretary, Jan Allott, salvaged and stored the items. The now Taupo resident has now passed the material over to the museum trust. They will be housed within the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, an extension of the current Hermitage Hotel and is proposed to open late December 2007. Product manager BF said the items related directly to Harry Wigley's memorable life. Items included a wooden model of the ski-plane with retractable ski system he designed. The archival material also relates to Rudolf Wigley (Harry Wigley's father) and his time at Mount Cook. These include Mount Cook Tourist Company letter books from 1908, Wigley family photo albums between 1910-1930, as well as photos of the Hermitage and early motor vehicles, receipt books and letters. There are also letters from Mount Cook artist and identity Duncan Darroch. There was a wealth of items giving insight such as the 1912 post and telegraph mail contract for the Hermitage, "other historic objects such as staff badges, vehicle badges, signs and ornamental plates and much more".
Obituary Timaru Herald. 16 Sept. 1980 pg 3.
�Sir Harry Wigley�. Timaru Herald. 2 Jan. 1976: pg 10
First ski-plane landing made 20 years ago�. Timaru Herald. 20 Sept. 1975: pg 14
Reference: Drake, D. E. 'Wigley, Henry Rodolph 1913 - 1980' Dictionary of New Zealand
Timaru Herald 5th Dec. 1879 Marriage
WIGLEY - LYSAGHT - - MOORE - LYSAGHT - On the 5th November at Wellington, by the Right Rev. Bishop of Wellington, the Hon. Thomas Henry Wigley, M.L.C., New Zealand, to Annie Caroline, second daughter; and at the same time and place, Henry Walter, son of the Rev. Edward and Lady Harriet Moore, to Henrietta Amy, fourth daughter of James Richard Lysaght, Esq., of Wellington
Timaru Herald Thursday 21 Oct. 1880
Birth. Wigley - On the 20th ult., at Timaru, the wife of the Hon. T.H. Wigley, of a daughter.
Mr T.H. Wigley of Opuha had a brother who resided in Adelaide in 1886.
Hester Wigley, died recently aged 87, travelled a great deal during her lifetime but always considered Timaru her home. Miss Wigley was born in the South Canterbury town and, until the age of 7, lived in Fairlie where her father, Rodolph, founded and ran the Mount Cook Company. She was the eldest of five children, including two brothers. Miss Wigley served as a nurse during World War 2 in Egypt, Tripoli, Sicily, Italy and Florence. Following the war, she went to Europe and nursed in London and Wales. She returned to Timaru in the 1950s to care for her mother and grandmother and, with a group of friends, introduced the Meals on Wheels service to the town. Her voluntary service also included 25 years' involvement with the West End Elderly Citizens Association. She was well known and much respected both in Timaru and Wanaka, where she owned a holiday home. Miss Wigley is survived by two sisters and a brother. Saturday, 31-October 1998 ODT
Evening Post, 20 February 1936, Page 18 Mrs. A. C. WIGLEY,
The death occurred at Timaru yesterday Of Mrs. Annie Caroline Wigley, widow of the Hon. T. H. Wigley, who was. an M.L.C. for more than 20 years, in her eighty-fifth year; Born in England, Mrs. Wigley was a daughter of the late J. R. Lysaght, and came to Hawera with her parents in 1873. She married Mr. Wigley in 1879 and came to the Opuha Estate, Raincliff, South Canterbury. After the death of her husband she continued to manage the estate till 1908, when she removed to Timaru, where she remained 'till the time of her death. Mrs. Wigley is survived, by two sons� Messrs. R. L. Wigley (Timaru) and H. T. Wigley (Omarama) and a daughter, Mrs. A. Otway, of Wellington.
Evening Post, 7 February 1935, Page 13
BY AIR TO MOUNT COOK
REQUEST FOR MONOPOLY protection: for investment
Claiming the right to protection be-1 cause of the capital it has invested in road services between Timaru and, Mount Cook, the Mount Cook Tourist Company yesterday afternoon asked the Transport Co-ordination Board for the sole right to carry passengers by air to and from the Hermitage, Mount Cook. The company applied for an air-taxi licence. The managing director of the company (Mr. R.L. Wigley) said that the company was not in a position to stand any competition where transport to the Hermitage was concerned. "I did not intend to ask any questions, but if this monopoly joke that has been sprung, on us is going to be considered by the board I want to examine Mr. Wigley," said Mr. J. P. Ward, who appeared on behalf of New Zealand Airways, Ltd. The suggestion, he said, was about the most ridiculous he had ever heard put up to a judicial body. In reply .to questions, Mr. Wigley said he did not want other companies to start regular services in opposition to his own.
Mr. Ward: You have a licensed house there and are obliged to provide accommodation for anyone that is prepared to pay for it.
Mr. Wigley: We do not want you to run regular services in opposition to our services.
Mr. Ward: Yet yours is the only accommodation house there.
Mr. Wigley: There are plenty of tussocks.
Mr. Ward: They, could sleep in-.the tussocks. Is that what you mean?
Mr. Wigley: Yes, there are plenty of tussocks.
Evening Post, 9 January 1929, Page 8
Flying Near Mt. Cook.
Something of a feat in flying, so far as Canterbury is concerned, was performed on Sunday last when Mr. Ken Hall, of Hororata, flying a Moth plane, made a safe landing at Mr. George Murray's Braemar Station, Mackenzie Country, about twenty miles from the Mt: Cook Hermitage, says the "Timaru Herald." . Mr. Hall set out from Hororata in the afternoon and reached Braemar at about 4.30, after flying for one and three-quarter hours. A perfect landing was made, while the takeoff, half an hour later, was also very successful, the return journey being made via Glenmore and Godley Peaks Stations. Mr. Hall experienced rather trying conditions owing to the heavy clouds over Fairlie, and was obliged to fly at an altitude of 9000 feet. The flight is unique in that the landing at Braemar is the most successful to date as far as proximity: to Mt. Cook is concerned. The country in general in the vicinity of Mt. Cook is not suited to aeroplane landings.
Wigley, Harry R., Ski-plane adventure - Flying in the New Zealand Alps. A H & A W Reed, Wellington, 1965 1977 222pp, 37 illus. Autobiographical. Over thirty years of flying described, including pioneering tourist flights in the late 1930s, wartime service as an RNZAF Wing Commander in the Pacific Islands including Bougainville Is., and the development of the Mount Cook Company�s extensive sightseeing and, later, airline operations in the South Island and pioneering of retractable skis on aircraft and something of his other interests including photography and the book has many of Wigley's own photos. The book has a photo of the 40 H.P. Darracq service car of the Mt. Cook Motor Co. Ltd taken 1908.
Wigley, Harry R. - The Mount Cook Way. Auckland, 1979. The First Fifty years of the Mount Cook Company. Collins 1979. 218p. illus. Introduced reminiscences, many of them amusing, of his main recreational pursuits: trout fishing, game shooting, skiing and photography. 73 photographs. Vintage ads on front Endpaper. Rear is mapped.
Wigley, Sandy, 1915- A High Country Life. Christchurch: Orca, 1994. Life of A.G. (Sandy) Wigley and his family. Grays Hills, Huxley Gorge and Glen Lyon stations. 168 p b/w photos. Includes chapters on :
Early Flying in New Zealand
The Early Mount Cook Company
The Hermitage, Mount Cook
England in War Time
Huxley Gorge Station
Glen Lyon Station
Life in the High Country
Holiday Thousands of Feet Above Worry Level
Timaru Herald Thursday 17 December 1891 pg 2
Mr Thomas Shaw, of the Mount Cook Hermitage line of coaches, has very creditably fulfilled an engagement for a through trip from Fairlie Creek to Mount Cook Station with a coach and six. He accomplished the journey in eight hours, including an hour's halt at Tekapo.
Timaru Herald Births:
WIGLEY - On the 20th Sept.1880, at Timaru, the wife of the Hon. T.H. Wigley, of a daughter.
WIGLEY - On the 21Oct. 1881, at Opuha Station, the wife of the Hon. T. H. Wigley, of a son.
WIGLEY - On the 9 March 1884, at Opuha, the wife of the Hon. T.H. Wigley, of a son.
The Weekly News Engagement 20 July 1949
Emily Margaret d/o Major & Mrs H H Westmacott to Arthur C Ronayne s/o Mrs and Late Mr A J Wigley of Opuha Lodge, Timaru.
Otago Witness, 27 December 1905, Page 10
CHRISTCHURCH. December 21. At the Supreme Court this morning judgment was given in the case of Thornier (appellant) v. Orbell (respondent), which was an appeal from the decision of the stipendiary magistrate at Timaru on a complaint alleging that it appeared to the Levels County Council, the local authority which had undertaken to repair a road in Levels County, being portion of the main M'Kenzie road between Washdyke and Levels, that extraordinary expenses to the extent of �109 12s 7d had been incurred by the council in repairing the road by reason of damage caused by extraordinary traffic thereon during March, 1905, by traction engines drawing vehicles laden with grain. The Levels County Council sought to recover from Samuel Thornley and Rudolph Wigley, both of Timaru, carriers, by whose orders such extraordinary traffic bad been conducted, the amount of such expenses under the provisions of section 138 of "The Public "Works Act, 189," and other statutory powers in that behalf. The magistrate found the allegations proved, and gave judgment against defendants for �75 and cost. An appeal was lodged against the decision, but the justice dismissed the appeal, with �10 10s costs.
Otago Witness, 18 April 1906, Page 26
Messrs Wigley, Chaffey. Bayley, and Rollinson in Bayley's 15 h.p. car made the trip from Timaru to the Hermitage on Sunday, starting at 6.10 a.m. and arriving at 3.57 p.m. or 7 hours 24 minutes actual travelling. They returned on Monday, leaving at 6.20 and arriving at Timaru at 5.5 p.m., after two and a-half hours stay in Fairlie. The creeks were exceptionally low, and were crossed without difficulty. Messrs Wigley and Chaffey will establish a motor service next summer if the creeks are bridged. The Government has been asked to get this done, and give an assurance of it in time to allow cars to be ordered in readiness for the season.
Grey River Argus, 12 June 1906, Page 2
Mr H.F. Chaffey, of Timaru, has been successful in forming a company to run a motor-car service from Fairlie to Mount Cook. There will be on the service a 40 horse-power Darracq, to carry nineteen persons, two 24 horse-power motors, to carry nine persons each, and a 15 horse-power car, to carry five. There will be three trips a week, if necessary, and the service will be inaugurated at the beginning of November. A number of cars from different places in Canterbury will take part in the opening, and the Premier has accepted an invitation to be present.
Otago Witness, 8 January 1908, Page 83
We have also a hack, which I have to feed. She is very quiet. We have only had her about three months, and I have not had the courage to ride her yet. I have a nice side-saddle and habit. I have not been on a horse for four months. I used to ride a, lot when we lived in Fairlie. I had a horse of my own, but we had to sell him. Fairlie is a nice place in summer, and is not so lonely as this place. In the summer I used to watch the motor cars leave their sheds every other morning for Mount Cook. The motor cars have the mail contract for two years, and are much quicker than the coach.
Evening Post, 16 January 1912, Page 3
15th January The Mount Cook motor service, which last season ran to Pembroke on lake Wanaka, is to be extended to Queenstown. The first car goes through on 22nd January. The Hon. T. Mackenzie will probably make use of the return car to visit Mount Cook. The trip from Fairlie or Mount Cook to Queenstown will occupy two days, and the route is said to be varied and picturesque, and well worth doing. The service will be a weekly one. Mount Cook has attracted many visitors this season, and four and five cars are sometimes required from Fairlie.
The Irish Times Saturday, August 11, 1923
Wigley -July 13, 1923, at Waifa, Palestine, of wounds inflicted by Arabs. Captain Arthur J. Wigley, M.C., (C.E. Palestine Railway), beloved and loving husband of Violet Grey (nee Ronnayne), and youngest son of Mrs Wigley, Timaru, New Zealand.
Otago Witness, 8 January 1908, Page 83
Dear Dot, � Since I last wrote to the page we have come to Winchmore to live. It is very lonely, and I do not get out much. We are six miles out of town. I have not any pets yet, but I am going to try and get a few. We have a cow, and I have to milk her, but I do not mind that, as I like milking. I have a dog, and she is blind. We have also a hack, which I have to feed. She is very quiet. We have only had her about three months, and I have not had the courage to ride her yet. I have a nice side-saddle and habit. I have not been on a horse for four months. I used to ride a lot when we lived in Fairlie. I had a horse of my own, but we had to sell him. Fairlie is a nice place in summer, and is not so lonely as this place. In summer I used to watch the motor cars leave their sheds every other morning for Mount Cook. The motor cars have the mail contract for two years, and are much quicker than the coach. There used to be a good few D.L.F. in Fairlie Creek, but they have nearly all left the district. I used to know Mount Cook Lily, Geisha, and a number of others, but I forget their names. I would be very glad to exchange autos with any D.L.F. With love to Lamp Glass and all the D.L.F. that used to live on Ashwick Flat, � Yours M Merman.
CHANCE RESCUE OF HISTORIC DOCUMENTS
4 February 2006 Timaru Herald
Ron Laplanche opens a large, flat cardboard box. Out come several old fashioned ledger-style volumes and a large leather-bound book. He up-ends a pink flannelette pillowcase. An even larger ancient volume slides out. Lying on the table is the history of Timaru firm Wigley and Thornley Ltd, the company behind the first motorcar service to Mt Cook a century ago. Thirty years ago a friend turned up with all but the pillowcase-covered volume. He had been clearing out an old Timaru grain store and the books were in the bottom of a tea chest of rat-chewed paper destined for the Redruth tip. Seeing the drawing of a traction engine on the cover of one volume, and knowing Ron's in-laws had operated similar machines, the man thought Ron might be interested. He was. And not just in the orders for traction engine parts and boiler servicing documents. Also there was the story of the Mt Cook Motor Car Service in books of invoices, accounts and letters. The records include everything from the accounts for the four Darracq service cars used on the Mt Cook run, to the Levels County Council's certificate of registration for the company's De Dion car which was on that first trip in February 1906. There are letters from Rodolph Wigley to a Dunedin company seeking a quote for the fuel they would need for the service as well as handwritten copies of the proposed timetable for the Fairlie to Mt Cook service. A book of printed tickets for the journey also survived. The records go from 1905 to 1907, from the planning stage of the venture through to when the company went into liquidation and was later purchased by Wigley. There is even a copy of the handwritten letter Wigley sent to Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward inviting him to open the service. The accounts provide a glimpse into the South Canterbury's business sector around the turn of the century. It appears every account the company ever received was diligently pasted into the volume. Some of the names still remain - engineers Parr and Co, the Gladstone Hotel in Fairlie. Another volume contains clippings from The Timaru Herald. They tell the story of the first journeys made to Mt Cook, of the bridges the company's traction engines carted materials for, and of the court cases it found itself involved in. Ron completed the set when he managed to purchase the company's accounts book a number of years ago. It was only in late 2004 that the existence of the old volumes became public knowledge. The organisers of this weekend's centennial rally had placed an article in the Vintage Car Club's magazine Beaded Wheels, seeking any information on the early journeys. Ron recalls rally co-convener Russell Paul's obvious amazement when he first saw the collection. Much of the material has since been copied with sets of the documents now held by the local branch of the vintage car club as well as the South Canterbury Museum. While the Mt Cook documents came into his possession by chance, Ron admits he has always been a collector. He blames his father and his grandfather. They were scrap dealers, so he reckons it was in his genes. Ask him what he collects and his version will be a little different to his wife Bet who mentions the word "junk" as she gestures towards piles of "treasures" in his Timaru home. The collection is certainly varied. There are the Coca Cola collectables he has imported from America. Then there are the two 1937 Chevs awaiting restoration. He never set out to collect helmets, but that hasn't stopped the rafters in one garage being lined with firemen's helmets. And he had to have the old fire extinguisher from the now closed Waimate hospital. Then there are the railway collections. He opens another cabinet to reveal pieces of railway china. A carton sitting on the garage floor is yet to be sorted and stored. Ron pulls out a leather-bound ledger - the lost property book for the long-since closed Washdyke Railway Station. The next book out of the box is the station's parcels register. Their history is similar to that of the Mt Cook books. Rather than dumping them, someone dropped them off at Ron's. In spite of the material he already has, Ron's collecting continues. Hold a garage sale and you're sure to meet him. He can't resist taking a look. The old adage that one man's junk is another man's treasure couldn't be more true than in the case of Ron Laplanche and his many collections.
Mt Cook Airlines history
Thames Star, 26 March 1906, Page 4
They want a good deal more than they deserve down South. "It is all very well for the Premier to tell you how the Midland railway is getting on," says Sir W. J. Steward, "but the shirt, is nearer one's skin than that coat, and we want a motor service to Geraldine; and we want one to Pukaki. The whole thing could be done few a few thousands, and the Colonial Treasurer has three quarter's of a million that he does not know what to do with."
Auckland Star, 22 March 1929, Page 5
BANK MANAGER'S APPOINTMENT. Timaru, this day. Mr. D. Standage, manager of the Bank of New Zealand at Timaru. who has been 26 years in the service of the bank, has accepted the position of general manager of the Mount Cook Motor Company. He will take control of the Chateau Tongariro National Park in its initial stages and later he will be at the company's head office, probably in Wellington.