‘A HUGE ZEST FOR LIFE’: WILLIAM FITZGERALD CRAWFORD
By Dr Monty Soutar
Monty Soutar, the new director of the Tairawhiti Museum, is also one of the historian members with the Waitangi Tribunal. For several years he has studied the rich historical records of the Poverty Bay and East Coast region. His doctoral thesis was focused on this region’s early history. He will provide a regular feature about the collections at the Museum.
Anyone who knows something about the colonial period in Gisborne, or Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa as it was referred to then, will admire the early pioneers who settled among the several iwi and hapu in the region. Names like Williams, Harris, Read and White would rank among the most well known men and women who were self-reliant, progressive in their thinking and who had an appetite for challenges. Others who are aware of the Maori history of the region similarly could offer a host of others—Kahutia, Te Kani, Rukupo, Kohere— people who characterized the tough, unyielding spirit that is reflected in the makeup of the region even today
One such man, to whom we owe much for the pictorial record extant in the museum’s photographic collection, is our first mayor—William Crawford. A burly Irishman, Crawford had an amiable nature and a generous spirit. First establishing himself as a brewer in Gisborne in 1874, he went on to develop a reputation as a photographer of some repute. For forty years, he lugged his camera and heavy tripod over hills, through valleys, on sea-going vessels and horse-drawn transport to capture the activities of the Gisborne-East Coast region as it developed.
Over 5000 of Crawford’s photos have survived and the negatives are in the care of the museum. A sample (about 370), taken between 1874 and 1913 was published in Gisborne Exposed, a local publication. Crawford’s journal, which documents his own perceptions of Gisborne, is also part of the museum’s collections.
William Crawford, first mayor of Gisborne 1877-78.
This photo forms part of an album which William Crawford presented to the Hon. James Carroll (the local MP) in July 1897 after the two had attended the funeral of the Ngati Porou leader Major Rapata Wahawaha. The shot shows Crawford at work as Carroll and others approach the bereaved family at Porourangi meeting house, Waiomatatini.