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Fitzgerald's Town

Pigeon and Sparrow Club

Pigeon and Sparrow Club The house sparrow was first introduced into New Zealand without much success by the Nelson Acclimatisation Society in 1862. Subsequent releases were just as unsuccessful until 1866 when sparrows were brought into Canterbury. The Canterbury Acclimatisation Society had commissioned the captain of the SS “Matoka” to bring in 12 dozen (144) hedge sparrows. Because of an unfortunate blunder he was supplied with house sparrows instead, of which only 5 birds survived the voyage. These five were liberated by the captain when the Acclimatisation Society refused to accept them and within a few years they had become widespread. The introductions were intended to provide control of insect pests which were seriously damaging grain crops, but the birds increased so rapidly that they in turn began to devastate the harvest. Road boards then began selling poisoned grain to farmers and paying a modest bounty on birds eggs and heads in their efforts to control the scourge. As a means of local control it was decided to form a Pigeon and Sparrow club in Lincoln. 25 The annual subscription was five shillings and a subcommittee of the honorary secretary/treasurer W.A. Murray, and Messrs Blakeney and Blair was appointed to draw up club rules and to find out what equipment was needed for club operations. Members hoped that a pigeon match could be arranged at an early date, although at the time feral pigeons were as threatening as the sparrow and their control was necessary It is not known whether the club flourished, but there is no doubt that it was formed as a response to the threat the birds posed to the local economy. Rifle Club A rifle club was formed at Lincoln on 25 June, 1885. 26 Officers elected were A.P. O’Callaghan MHR President; Dr. A.C. Preston Vice-President; J.G. Murray Captain; H.B. Howe honorary Secretary-Treasurer; and D. Broome, W.A. Burke, A. Bartram, F. Townshend and G. Wagner, Committee. Rules were drawn up and a suitable site on the Port Hills was sought for the range after an offer for one on Rabbit Island at Motukarara was rejected. Later that year the Lincoln club was represented at a meeting of district rifle clubs which resolved to inform the Government that a State Rifle Association would be formed if the government provided rifles and ammunition of the type issued to volunteers. 27 Members were sure that if the club was supported in this way the proposed Association would prepare for 142

emergencies, and local dignitaries, including A.P. O’Callaghan, were asked to lend their weight to the request. The club was active and held matches on their range which was eventually situated on Henry Gray’s land at Tai Tapu and probably identified by the sign identifying a culvert on the road between Tai Tapu and Motukarara as Rifle Range Culvert. The Lyttelton Times of 31 October 1887 describes the range as “very prettily situated at the entrance of a deep gully on the other side of the Port Hills from Governors Bay.” At this time the club’s finances were so healthy that it was hoped that a reduction in the entrance fee and the annual subscription was possible and would encourage more people to join. There was even debate about wearing a club uniform, apparently not a popular idea, although members agreed that should other clubs agree to do so the Lincoln Club would conform. As noted earlier W.A. Banks, headmaster of the Lincoln School, was an expert shot and in 1895 competed at Bisley, England, as a member of the New Zealand team. Other activities such as picnics, balls and concerts as well as the formation of societies and clubs such as choirs and improvement societies were also part of Lincoln life in the 19 th century and these are the subject of the next chapter. Sources and notes 1. The Press 18 December 1867. See Papers Past. 2. Ibid 30 September 1869. See Papers Past. 3. Ibid 26 February 1872. See Papers Past. 4. Ibid 1 November 1877. See Papers Past. 5. Ibid 19 March 1877. See Papers Past. 6. Ibid 21 March 1877. See Papers Past. 7. Lyttelton Times. 14 March 1881. See Papers Past. 8. The Press 28 March 1884. See Papers Past. 9. Lyttelton Times. 18 September 1888. See Papers Past. 10. Ibid 14 December 1869. See Papers Past. 11. Ibid 3 January 1870. See Papers Past, and The Press 24 January 1870. See Papers Past. 143

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