The Mahurangi Magazine

Select Page

Tudor Collins taped

Tudor Collins, 19 years

Gunner Collins: Spared service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force as a machine-gunner, by the ending of the First World War, Tudor Washington Collins spent World War II as a petty officer in the Royal New Zealand Navy. image Kauri Museum | Matakohe | Tudor Collins Collection

New Zealand’s scowsas published 2001: The scows out of Auckland are a colourful part of the history of the Auckland Provinceas published 2001: province. The administrative area that, 1853–1876, extended from North Cape almost to Māhia Peninsula, on the east coast, and the Mokau River on the west, and have an enduring fascination for latter-day sailors.

The hardy scowmen were seldom given to literary expression, and most of their stories died with them. We must be grateful to the few who did tell their tale. The first was P A Eaddy in Neath Swaying Spars, 1939. Ted Ashby’s Phantom Fleet, 1975, is the definitive history of the scows, a choice book, telling the writer’s own experience simply and with feeling. The third account is presented as fiction. In his sombre novel, Tryphena’s Summer, 1974), William Owens, one-time scowman, fisherman and writer, gives a gripping portrait of the last days of the scows, struggling to remain seaworthy and solvent.

A fourth account, now presented here, has lain hidden for a quarter century. Tudor Washington Collins, 1898–1969, was a well-known character of Warkworth. He is best remembered as a skilled photographer, particularly for his record of the later days of the kauri bushmen. His pictures feature in the Tudor Collins Wing of the Kauri Museum at Matakohe, and in A H Reed’s Story of the Kauri. Collins was too active to write, but when terminally ill with cancer, was persuaded to commit his memories to tape by his friend, Dean C W Chandler—former Dean of Waikato, and for 30 years a familiar columnist in the Auckland Star.

Reverend Chandler faithfully converted tape to type. In his introduction, he outlined Tudor’s varied life:

A man who worked among the giants of the kauri forest—as a lad on coastal vessels—as official photographer on visits of notables—as farmer on Takatu—as a business man, ahead of most in the early days of radio—running a petrol station and supplying the first light and power to Warkworth—a man of great enterprise, courage and determination.

The memoirs failed to find a publisher, and on the dean’s death in 1971, the script passed to his son Ken, who lent it to me, and has kindly consented to its partial publication here. Two episodes stand out as of special interest: his time on the scows and in the kauri bush. These accounts are not only of great historical value, but are entertaining and sometimes hilarious. The scow stories fall into two parts. The first tells how at 14 he went to work on the Kasper scows, the second tells of the hazards of life on a cattle scow with brother Reg.

It seems not inappropriate that this history include these memoirs of life on scows built by a Mahurangi man, and trading from the Mahurangi in the hands of its sons.

This account is presented in Tudor’s own words, edited to make a spoken tale tidier.