- #1700440supergold October 28, 2018 at 8:47 pm
Frank and Brenda Bell, 1974 (Hocken Library, Otago Daily Times photograph)
When one thinks of names of pioneers in radio and telephones, names like Marconi and Alexander Graham Bell spring to mind. However, our keen individuals who inspire and surprise are a completely different Bell altogether. Frank and Brenda Bell are not top-of-the-mind recall names but were record-setting pioneers in their own way.
94 years ago, this month Frank held the first ever two-way conversation from New Zealand to England, the first anywhere in the world to communicate from one side of the globe to the other.
“Shag Valley station in eastern Otago is an unlikely setting for a sister and brother to become world radio pioneers. Margaret Brenda Bell was born there on 18 October 1891; Francis Wirgman Dillon Bell was born in Dunedin on 12 June 1896. They were the only children of runholder Alfred Dillon Bell and his wife, Gertrude Eliza Robinson.
Alfred Bell was more interested in science than sheep. He set up what was probably the first telephone connection in New Zealand, between two farmhouses, and experimented with the new-fangled wireless communication. The two children took up their father’s interest. Frank in particular spent long periods listening to radio signals on a home-made crystal set.
The First World War saw the sister and brother heading for Europe. Brenda served as a military hospital cook in England and acted as a hostess at the New Zealand High Commission in London. Frank served as a gunner in France and Belgium until he was invalided home in 1917. The returned soldier’s boyhood interest in wireless was revived while he recovered at home from his war wounds. Along with a handful of fellow New Zealand amateurs, he helped pioneer the use of short radio waves to communicate over long distances, initially through morse code telegraphy.
He achieved spectacular success. In April 1923 he made New Zealand’s first overseas two-way radio contact, with a fellow amateur in Australia. In September 1924 he made New Zealand’s first contact with North America. The following month, on 18 October, he and a student in London held the first-ever two-way radio conversation from one side of the world to the other. It was a feat that every radio operator had been striving to achieve, and made world headlines. Frank Bell’s international status was such that, in his absence, he was elected to the five-member executive committee of the International Amateur Radio Union at its formation in Paris in 1925.
A self-effacing and publicity-shy Frank Bell soon lost interest in radio and took over the running of the family sheep station. His gregarious sister took over the wireless station. She was New Zealand’s first female amateur radio operator, and one of the first in the world. In 1927 she also became the first New Zealander to contact South Africa.
Brenda and Frank Bell spent most of their lives on the family farm. Brenda died in The Chalet private hospital in Dunedin on 10 August 1979, shortly after being presented with the Queen’s Service Medal. She was 87. Her brother spent the last four years of his life in a retirement home in Auckland and died in the Argyle Hospital in Herne Bay on 18 August 1987. He was 91. Both had made a significant contribution towards the development of radio as a means of international communication.”
Supergold-Wainuiomata (Wellington)#1700532vale019 October 29, 2018 at 3:10 pm
That is sooo good, Critic, hahahaha. I’ll have to go shopping to buy my pedestrian helmet 😆 😆 😆
SG- very interesting article. I so often wonder why so many of our clever people and/or characters and so much of our history was never taught at school.#1701508kaiMemberMember since: January 4, 2008
Replies: 9333kai November 6, 2018 at 10:35 pm
offline last 2 weeks so catch up Thursday ,,, take care all
Cheers From Kai#1701516supergold November 7, 2018 at 8:30 am
A Pākehā transfers himself to the Māori Battalion.
This article appeared in the April 1992 NZ 28 Maori Battalion Reunion booklet.
“I don’t know how many people know that we had a full Pakeha fighting with us in Italy. He was Lance Corporal C.J. McCalman – Mac as he was called by all, joined us during the Sangro action. He actually belonged to 27 Battalion but was frustrated by the fact that they actually saw very little real action, so Mac went AWOL and joined 28th Battalion and saw action with “B” company at Sangro and Orsognia. To avoid his being charged as AWOL or a deserter, Monty Wikiriwhi applied to have Mac transferred to the Battalion and this was duly done. Mac soon became very adept at Homai and other hand games and could out-cheat most of us. He was built like a front row All Black and going into action was always loaded down like a pack-horse: Food, ammunition, weapons, cooking utensils, you name it, Mac carried it.
He always carried a Bengazi Burner and base, a Billy and pot for tea and fowls and a frying pan for pancakes. You can imagine the clanking of this collection going into action. But we only had to stop for a few minutes and Mac had a cup of tea ready – a chook on the boil and his masterpiece pikelets. He always carried a supply of flour, egg powder, milk powder and a tin of fruit salts (in lieu of baking powder and a tin of butter, and given sufficient time the platoon would soon be sitting down to hot pikelet covered in butter and jam and a cup of hot tea.
On our long marches and going into battle you would find Mac carrying not only his own heavy load, but also packs or heavy weapons belonging to some of the smaller members of the platoon. Mac served with the Battalion from the Sangra to the final stages of the advance on Florence, when Mac, with several members of his platoon received a direct hit and died on the 1st of August 1944. A wonderful mate and soldier and respected by all who knew him.
I feel that his story deserves to be told, particularly in these times, when there seems to be so much tension between the two races. Here was a Pakeha who showed his love and respect for our people in a countless number of ways, and whose blood finally mingled with ours on the Field of Battle.
~ Aubrey Balzer”
Supergold-Wainuiomata (Wellington)#1701566vale019 November 7, 2018 at 2:08 pm
Great to see you back again, Kai 🙂 Will be lovely to catch up with you.
SG- what a wonderful, moving story – so sad that so many of those brave young men died. Thank you so much for posting that [hugs]#1701568vale019 November 7, 2018 at 2:40 pm
A Dark Period of NZ History
Maungatapu murders, 1866
Page 1 – Introduction
On 12 June 1866, James Battle was murdered on the Maungatapu track, south-east of Nelson. The following day four other men were killed nearby – a crime that shocked the colony. These killings, the work of the ‘Burgess gang’, resembled something from the American ‘wild west’.
The case was made more intriguing by the fact that one of the gang, Joseph Sullivan, turned on his co-accused and provided the evidence that convicted them. The trial was followed with great interest and sketches and accounts of the case were eagerly snapped up by the public. Unlike his colleagues, Sullivan escaped the gallows.
All four members of the Burgess gang had come to New Zealand via the goldfields of Victoria, Australia. Three of them had been transported to Australia for crimes committed in England. They were the sort of ‘career criminals’ that the authorities in Otago had feared would arrive following the discovery of gold in the province. The South Island goldfields of the 1860s offered potentially rich pickings for criminals. Crime was generally the work of individuals, and often a spontaneous act fuelled by alcohol, but there were notable exceptions.
Richard Burgess: Career Criminal
Confession of Burgess – Maungatapu murders – Mark Twain Commentary
#1702137supergold November 12, 2018 at 9:33 pm
Ten things first-time visitors to New Zealand get wrong
OPINION: Misrepresented in advertising campaigns and on screen, New Zealand must surprise many first-time visitors – for better or for worse.
Based on common stereotypes and recent Hollywood films in which the country has had a starring role, visitors could be forgiven for thinking it’s an earthly paradise populated by rugby-worshipping adventurers who – big, hairy feet aside – are not that different from their cuzzie bros across the ditch.
Here we attempt to set the record straight.
Expecting to see kiwis everywhere
Yes, you’ll see plenty of the human variety. But the cute, wee balls of feathers with long beaks that human New Zealanders are named after? Not so much. Being our national icon, visitors often assume they’ll be pecking about in every backyard but, as a nocturnal species whose conservation status ranges from recovering to nationally critical, they’re pretty hard to spot. If you’re keen to that other national icon, the sheep, however, you’ve come to the right place. Forget the zoophilic gags though – we have heard them all. And we are not amused.
Some national icons are easier to spot than others.
Spreading Marmite or Vegemite like it’s jam
I completely understand this, because as a non-yeast spread eater I’ve done it myself. The stuff looks like a dark Nutella. It goes on toast. People are evangelical about it. So surely you’d just slather it on like any other condiment, right? Um, yeah nah (Kiwi for no) – in this case, less is definitely more. And beware: Reach for the Marmite jar over the Vegemite or vice versa and expect to be judged. Tar-like yeast spreads are very divisive in this country.
Not putting on sunscreen
It only takes one bout of extreme sunburn to sort this out. Foreigners tend to underestimate the New Zealand sun, to think it will be like the Mediterranean, or LA, where you can wander around all day with no sunscreen and probably not get burnt. In New Zealand though? Do that and you’re in for days of pain. And an album full of photos of yourself looking like a blistered lobster shedding sheets of dead skin.
Not wearing shoes
Generally causal dressers (and we’re not talking smart casual here), Kiwis regularly flaunt their bare feet at the beach, in shops and supermarkets and even on the main street. Childhood summers spent sprinting over hot tarmac and playing bullrush in fields full of prickles mean some of us now have feet so tough we could walk over hot coals without flinching. But naked tootsies aren’t acceptable everywhere. Don’t wear them out to dinner or – as in the case of one misguided English emigree one of us must admit to being related to – to job interviews.
Taking people seriously
Sarcasm is a language that doesn’t always translate. When a Kiwi comments on your appearance (“Geez, you didn’t have to go to so much trouble…”), or describes their home town (“It’s a bit like New York”), or talks about anything else really, it would be tempting to take that at face value and just believe what’s being said. But that would be a mistake. Also, Kiwis are masters of understatement which, for the uninitiated, can lead to a few surprises – both pleasant and otherwise. Somewhere “not far” away could be an hours-long drive on a road consisting primarily of hair pin bends. On the other hand, a “pretty sweet” view could be a stand in for Middle Earth (and probably was).
Complaining about the coffee
New Zealanders take their coffee seriously. They’re proud of their cafe culture and, although Australians might try to convince you otherwise, invented the now internationally beloved flat white. It’s usually not appreciated when residents of certain countries to the north of Mexico moan about not being able to get a decent cup. Filter coffee is for those who don’t know better.
Thinking NZ is always hot (or even warm)
Visitors who confuse New Zealand with the big island to the left can find themselves having to invest in a winter wardrobe upon arrival. Even in summer. Crowded House was right: There often are four seasons in one day (sometimes twice over), so do as the locals do and master the art of layering. No one will look at you twice if you team a jacket with jandals. Or socks with jandals for that matter. Although, in the interests of preventing perhaps one of the biggest fashion crimes to ever beset these otherwise fair shores, we’re certainly not advocating that.
Thinking NZ is Australia
We may be lumped together toward the bottom of the globe but that doesn’t mean we’re one and the same. Dare suggest that this is the case and expect to be corrected – at length. We’re not dry and barren, our greenery is actually green (as opposed to a faded khaki), our waters aren’t infested with crocodiles and box jellyfish (but keep out an eye for other types of jellyfish and sharks), we don’t pronounce chardonnay like it starts with a k, we’re not arrogant…
Not bringing enough spending money
Being an isolated island nation can be both blessing and curse but, if you’re a big shopper (or just need to buy groceries), it’s definitely no blessing. High import costs mean consumer goods and food are more expensive than in many other countries, but even locally produced items can come with hefty price tags. Hence why you can sometimes buy New Zealand lamb cheaper in UK supermarkets than in Aotearoa.
The snow-capped peaks and golden tussock-covered plains look as pretty as they did in the movie trilogies, but they represent New Zealand at its most photogenic. Parts of our cities and some of our small towns are anything but. The shot in Once Were Warriors of a mirror-like lake which, as the camera pulls back, is revealed to be a billboard beside Auckland’s Southern Motorway, highlights the disparity between the way we portray ourselves and the way we really are. Which doesn’t mean our cities and small towns aren’t worth exploring – they are. Just don’t expect them to look like Edoras.
Thinking NZ is 100 per cent pure
Let’s just say Tourism New Zealand isn’t being 100 per cent honest in labelling New Zealand as 100 per cent pure. In recent years, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has repeatedly warned about the declining quality of rivers, streams and lakes, largely because of pollution from the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus – the biggest source of nitrogen being urine from farm animals. It’s a complex and controversial issue (suffice to say environmentalists, farmers and tourism professionals don’t always see eye to eye) but New Zealand is hardly London or Beijing. Head outside the urban centres, and the air smells pretty fresh; to most of our beaches and the water is frosted glass if not crystal clear.You’ll find plenty of interesting characters in NZ but no hobbits.
Not brushing up on your NZ language skills
New Zealand may be an English-speaking country but the local lingo could leave you confused, embarrassed or offended if you don’t prepare in advance. Māori words and phrases (such as kia ora (hello), whānau (family), kai (food) and mana (respect)) are commonly used by Kiwis of all backgrounds; yeah nah is a polite way to disagree with someone; and a dairy sells way more than milk and ice cream. If someone tells you a place is in the wop wops, expect a long journey and if they ask you to bring a plate to a social gathering make sure it has food on it. Oh, and if someone says they’re buggered, they’re probably just really tired.
Supergold-Wainuiomata (Wellington)#1702186kaiMemberMember since: January 4, 2008
Replies: 9333kai November 13, 2018 at 3:13 pm
Loved that Supergold . thanks for the share,,, Still in transit,,, so will catch up when in one place lol
Hope you and Val and Bobbity and all the other regulars on here are going good??
Cheers From Kai#1702391vale019 November 14, 2018 at 7:37 pm
LOVED that, SG – what an entertaining article. TERRIFIC – thanks heaps, dear Super you ??
Hiya, Kai, the busiest buzzy bee in town haha. Good to hear from you now and again.
I don’t know what has happened to Bobbity – I wrote to her but have never received an answer, I do hope she is OK. Would love to hear if anyone out there knows how she is.#1703259criticMemberMember since: June 6, 2011
Replies: 1221critic November 24, 2018 at 10:23 pm
Worth a look 🙂
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