Bruce Comfort
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I'm a retired engineer. I ride a 400cc Suzuki Burgman motorscooter and I live in Oamaru, South Island of New Zealand. I have two adult daughters. My interests (if you haven't worked it out) include New Zealand's heritage of engineering works, snapshot photography of the built environment and recording pastoral farming activities around here. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- PLEASE NOTE THAT MANY PHOTOGRAPHS ON THIS PANORAMIO SITE HAVE BEEN TAKEN BY ACCESSING HERITAGE BUILDINGS, STRUCTURES, AND ENGINEERING ARTIFACTS WHICH LIE ON PRIVATE LAND. PUBLICATION OF PHOTOGRAPHS ON THIS SITE DOES NOT IMPLY ANY PUBLIC RIGHTS OF ACCESS. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- PLEASE ALSO NOTE THAT A FEW PHOTOS ON THIS SITE ARE NOT MINE, AND THAT MANY ARE TAKEN INDOORS AND ARE OF MACHINERY AND THAT THIS APPARENTLY CONTRADICTS THE TERMS OF USE OF THE PANORAMIO WEBSITE. I HAVE HAD THE SITE MODERATORS' APPROVAL FOR USING THE SITE THIS WAY AS ALL SUCH PHOTOS LINK IN SOME FASHION TO MY OWN PHOTOGRAPHS OF PLACES IN NEW ZEALAND WHERE ARTIFACTS OF ENGINEERING OR PASTORAL OR INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE CAN STILL BE FOUND. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MY INTENTION IS NOT TO USURP THE RIGHTS OF THE HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPHERS NOR OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS, AND CREDIT IS GIVEN WHERE I CAN. I have made an endeavour to contact copyright holders of material published on these pages and where appropriate, permission is still being sought for these items. Where replies were not received, or where the copyright owner has not been able to be traced, or where the permission is still being sought, I have decided, in good faith, to proceed with publication. I would be happy to hear from copyright owners at any time to discuss usage of item. IF YOU GO TO THE PLACES WHERE MY OWN PHOTOGRAPHS HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED BY THE MODERATORS TO BE IN THE PHOTOS LAYER ON GOOGLE EARTH, MY HOPE IS THAT THE OTHER HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPHS (which will not have been accepted by the moderators of Google Earth but which appear on these pages) WILL STIMULATE YOU TO THINK ABOUT THE ENGINEERS, ENTREPRENEURS, INVESTORS, THE WORKERS AND OPERATORS AND ALL THE PEOPLE, NOW GONE, WHOSE LIVES WERE INEXTRICABLY TIED TO THESE PLACES AND THESE ENDEAVOURS. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MY E-MAIL ADDRESS IS AND I WELCOME INPUT INTO THIS WORK -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bruce Comfort's conversations

Yep, one of wellington's most interesting buildings. It's a transformer station, built about 1928 when Mangahaou power got to Wellington. Apart from the hum (I think it's still a transformer) it would be a very stylish place to live.

Please see my Panoramio pages (User 1283331) for another person's look at heritage and the world around us.

If you live on the West Coast I have a job for you to do at Port of Greymouth - photographing what remains of the hydraulic cranes and winch network.

Regards BC

This contemporary photo shows one of the pair of steel clad guide rails mounted inside the pentagonal tower at the North end of shed 21 Wellington harbour.

Here one of the two ? (at least) accumulators that provided the constant pressure needed to run apparatus on the hydraulic power network, would have run down as demand increased and up as the pumps backed up the volume of water under pressure available. The drawings and specifications are yet to be researched but if it was like any other system, the WHB network would have had the pumps running so that the accumulators were at the top of their stroke for as much of the time as possible with excess pumped water being bled to waste as it's hard to start and stop or slow down a steam engine. The two accumulators simply took up the strain if/when the demand for water (volume) exceeded the pumping capacity. as the pressure in thenetwork remained pretty much constant, there must have been some device (flow metering or the position of the accumulator weight) which fed-back to the pumphouse and increased the pump speed or shut off or tightened up the bleed valve. Needless to say this was no rough and ready system, with big pumps, miles of pipes and dozens of cranes and winches and hoists and capstans, control would have been of paramount importance. By 1925 when Wellington had a reliable and high capacity 230v AC system in place, the hydraulic network may have been electric powered and thus more easily controlled. Anyhow, watch this space as more reliable and less speculative information is added!

BC 3/9/2011

This sort of eclectic house is called a Dialou in Cantonese and is typical of the homes built by expatriot Cantonese men who went overseas to earn their fortunes. They are universally known as "sojourners" as they fully intended to return to China after they had made their fortune. Except the Japanese invasion of China intervened and then Mao came down from the North with a bit of a thing about wealth landowners! Without exception, these men never returned home and the houses and the land was subsumed by the communist government and generally let out or made available to family or squatters.

In a recent enlightened move the Provincial Governments around Toisan and Kaiping have returned ownership of the properties and some land to descendants of the builders, where they can be found. My wife's two brothers are in effect joint owners of this lovely but decrepit house beside a pond in the middle of an agricultural province in the middle of a small part of a huge country.


By: Joyce Gin – now Joyce Comfort.

When I was young, my parents had a laundry business in Newtown where there were other Chinese families, mainly traditional fruiterers. That was in the 1950s and I am now a retired woman with a growing interest in my family history.

I am Sey Yip and I am now living in Oamaru with my husband Bruce. We have been married 41 years.

In the laundry we all worked extremely hard, at times until the small hours of the morning. I remember my father used to sit in his seat which was the only easy chair we had, after an exhausting day. He was red in the face [after a little drop of Chinese whiskey] and the sweat was pouring off him.

Some of you may also come from this community and you will know what we experienced as children and you will know that there would have been very little discussion at home, about why our parents were here in New Zealand or what they left behind in China. I was always curious but although I occasionally asked, I didn’t get any answers.

I didn’t even know where my father was from until late in my life. I knew we were Sey Yip which wasn’t even thought of as being Cantonese, but where “home” was, I never knew.

I am one of seven children but I only met Fon, my eldest sister who lives in San Francisco, in 1986 after my parents died.

Fon was born in China and never came to New Zealand so until then I had only known of her through letters she wrote to my father and a very few photos.

My visit to San Francisco gave me a chance to question Fon about her life in the village after my mother left the village to join my father in New Zealand in 1940 at the height of the war with Japan. My mother came out with Jack my eldest brother (7) and Margaret my older sister (18 mths)

Fon was left behind to look after the grandparents, the farm and the water buffalos and she married an American Chinese in 1948 and went to live in California.

Fon told me interesting things about her life in the village, things that she had never spoken off ever before.
Her own family were there to hear, and they were amazed and moved on hearing what she said. This visit made me quite interested to go and see this place so that I could appreciate my Chinese heritage better.

Later, back in Wellington, I looked for any clan members that remembered my father, or people that knew of his village. About this time I learned its name. Fon never actually mentioned the name of the village, so you can see the mystery went on for years and years.

I also had a faded 1970s photo of my father’s house taken at a time when some relatives were living there. When I visited the Sey Yip Association, I found out that the house was still standing, but unoccupied and a bit run down. Nobody had been living there for 18 years.

Bruce especially was very intrigued by the house. He had researched a bit and was sure that this was no ordinary village house. There was something special about it and possibly therefore about my father, but what it was would be a mystery that we would only solve by going there.

The village name is Hor Eye. It is about a half hour drive South of Taishan.

Although Bruce had, for a long time, said I should go to China to see where my family came from (Bruce is not Chinese) I never felt compelled even though I was aware of the hole in my life.

Also, we have never thought of going to China just as tourists and the “must see” sights were never a priority for me, but when my parents had both been gone for some time and once my children became adults and grew keener to go to see where their family roots were, the reasons for going and taking them became more important.

After a lot of discussion amongst my brothers and other sisters, a trip for us all was arranged. We left in early September 2007. It was great to be on the way at last.

Most of us came from New Zealand, but family members also came from Singapore, Melbourne, London, San Francisco and Boston. There were seventeen of us altogether.

We met up in Hong Kong and in the morning we travelled up the Pearl River to Jiangamen Port on the fast ferry, past Macau and Doumen, a great river journey which took two and a half hours.

When we got off the ferry we passed through customs and were met by a guide with a small bus and we drove off to our hotel in Taishan.
That took one hour and as it was our first exposure to China and their style of motorway driving, it was pretty hair-raising.

After settling into a great air conditioned hotel with lovely gardens and a swimming pool, we set out on a quick trip to our village. This was an unplanned visit, no-one was expecting us although the elders of the village knew we were in town and were coming to visit shortly.

We had with us relatives from Boston, Dad’s second cousin Gok Gee and his wife. Gok Gee’s family lived in my father’s house until 1990 when they left to go to the USA.

My father’s house was immediately obvious as we approached Hor Eye. It is one of two watchtowers in the village. It was amazing to see the house. It is sited away from the cluster of other houses and it had beautiful bamboo groves around it with a garden out the back.

It is a special building and my husband Bruce was really excited as he had studied the Diaolou buildings of Kaiping and Taishan before we left. He was full of expectations.

In other respects Hor Eye appeared to be a typical very small Toishanese village with low grey brick houses with flat or tiled roofs, a village pond and a large concrete village square facing it. Surrounding it are acres of rice paddies, more villages, more ponds and hills in the background. It was very rural and very beautiful.

We got an amazing reception. It was a Saturday and there were lots of kids there and once we arrived, people seemed to come from everywhere. The talking was excited and noisy and no-one seemed too shy to come up and join in. Bruce was overwhelmed. The heat of 36 degrees and the very high humidity, didn’t help. Sweat was pouring off all the visitors as soon as we got out of the bus!

Hor Eye is a subsistence farming village. It has probably been a distinct village for a long while. The families grow the staple rice crop which is harvested twice a year. They also grow sugarcane, bananas and peanuts and they breed chickens, pigs and dogs.

They still do their farmwork manually, ploughing with water buffaloes. Water is still carried in buckets from a well or the better of two ponds nearby. There are motor scooters everywhere but no mechanised farm machinery.

There was only one water pump and one tiled “crouch” toilet in the whole village. Most houses seemed to have electricity, there was a few with TV and one telephone.

Despite its comparatively primitive facilities, the village was a tidy well kept place and the residents were happy enough and were not poor as we understand it. They just lead a very basic life.

That night we all met in a restaurant in Taishan and had a real big feast.

The next day we all went back to the village. I am not sure how many families live in the village now (about 30 we gathered) but the word got around, and when they knew that the descendents of Moon Bin Gin were coming, over a 120 people, family, clan and distant relatives turned up to join the feast. What a day.

Then we went to “hung san” at the family graves on the hillside, where Joss sticks were lit, the roast pig and cakes were offered along with the burning of paper money. Each one of us bowed three times in front of our great grandfather and grandfather’s graves.

After all the rituals were done the villagers offered us the food and together in the forest in the hills of Hor Eye Choon the Gin Clan, past and present shared time together. It was a moment which I will treasure forever.

Now we had to face another feast!

Before we sat down to an elaborate banquet lunch we were all ushered outside the community hall to see the long string of Double-Happy bangers go off (to ward away evil spirits) There were 400,000 individual bangers on the string – that’s nearly half a million!. It was so loud, I swear it could be heard in Hong Kong.

What fun, great food and beer, lots of noise and what a huge mess afterwards but it was mysteriously cleared up in no time by helpers after we had all finished. There was NO food left over!

My fathers Diaolou is made from reinforced concrete and was built in 1927 the year of his first born child, from money earned in New Zealand. The interior was like all village houses, pretty plain, but there is stencilled frieze and some quite beautiful frescos in places. There are coloured glass windows just like the villas and bungalow houses of the period, here in New Zealand.

There are many Diaolous in Kaiping, which is 20 kms northwest of Taishan and visiting that city and seeing them was another highlight of our ancestral trip, again, particularly for Bruce.

Some clusters of Diaolou in Kaiping have just been included on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list. They are a must see if you are interested in architecture and history.

One day Bruce and I want to go back to our village again and have another look around the area where my roots are. But we will not go in September when the heat and the humidity are so unbearable.

I wished that my parents had accompanied us back to their homeland. They were there in spirit.

If anyone would like more information about our trip or to see some pictures, I would be happy.

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This mapped exposure of shelly hard brittle limestone is where the rhodoliths are found. It is the apparent continuation and the most seaward end of a distinct band of this hard limestone and it is the lode which has been quarried for all the lime kilns noted on these Panoramio pages. This outcrop has been quarried for the kiln at 1000 Acre Road (pics this site) - a relatively deep kiln of about 1900mm diameter and it certainly appears that this kiln had a productive life because there are two quite large quarry pits associated with it. Its ownership and who constructed the kiln are not yet known. It is the only one of the old kilns around Oamaru to have had a sorting shed made from permanent materials.

One of the distinct, named and mapped diatomite locations in North Otago around Oamaru, this small patch of material under the slab of sedimentary rock is called "Totara"

The quarry for the stone burned at the Stavely kilns has been won from some unusual drifts and cuts deep into the hillside in places. One has to assume that the stone was worth digging out by such tedious methods as there seems to the untrained eye to be just tons and tons of identical rock exposed and accessible nearby. There may have been another function for this concealed "room" - perhaps a dwelling for the lime burner or even an explosives store?

The contract for the delivery of the timber for this aqueduct to site from the nearest railhead calls for the "transport of 60,000 board feet of Kauri from Pakakaio Junction (now Pukeuri) to Rocky Gully" The timbers in this view are substantial. The weight of timber in the structure was nearly 50 tons and it held nearly 70 tons of water when full.

The tallest of all the aqueducts (but not the longest) this aqueduct developed a sag early in its life and until the 1940s was supported on auxiliary trestles. It was replaced with an inverted syphon of 24" diameter concrete pipes in the 1960s and subsequently left to fall down of its own accord. Before that occurred however, people had salvaged nearly all the long wide and thick Kauri planks which the flume was made of. These were remarkable pieces of timber - shipped, as was all Kauri, from the Coromandel or Great Barrier Island or the Waitakeres - machined in Oamaru (we must presume) and installed with a tongue and grooved system to render the flume water tight before thick layers of pitch were applied to all surfaces not in contact with the water.

By far the most impressive artefact of the race still extant is this lovely aqueduct across a gully and small unnamed stream which discharges into Landon Creek.

It has both timber trestles and limestone piers and the limestone blocks were quarried from a small outcrop at the base of the pillars. Cut by hand saw and bolstered (chipped to make them look rounded and natural on the faces that show) the quarry has just one "spare" block in place. Frugal workmanship.

The timber for this aqueduct is a mix of Kauri, Australian hardwood and Rimu, and of course the box fluming - now all replaced, would have been 8"x2" and possibly 8"x 3" long timbers with pitch all over the outside and all over the trestles.

In 1880 nails were generally made by hand. Some of the nails used in the race aqueducts can be found in the pieces of the Kauri planking which still survive around the Waitaki District in sheds, culvert, garden edges and pig-sties. They are big and square in cross section with button forged heads. Some will have been 150mm long. Wooden dowels too, seem to have been used and lots of steelwork which shows all the signs of hand forming and with holes cut with drifts whilst hot (hot punched) is to be found around the bases of the dismantled aqueducts.

This spectacular aqueduct jets out from a limestone escarpment on the upstream end and the first set of limestone piers are founded on one of the benches of that escarpment. The creek runs between that set of short piers and the first wooden trestle and is some 4 metres below the foundations in a limestone gorge. The trestle looks a bit "ragged" and is certainly not in its original condition - repairs and modifications seem to have been made to it. Then there is a set of tall limestone piers and another short trestle. Along the top of the piers and trestle is a railway iron tie beam - this too is certainly not original and the original structure would have had considerable amount of big timber in the flume support structure. The top of the extant aqueduct being half round steel is pretty much self supporting whereas planked box section timber fluming is not and the whole thing would have been much more bulky at the top. There are just a few photos I have found of the original box culverting (elsewhere on these pages) and they show the huge timbers and complex structure needed to keep 30 or 40 tons of water suspended 20 metres above the ground!

What has survived of the lower structure is in reasonable condition, however this aqueduct would have been most spectacular when it was first constructed.


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