From the first years of settlement, Albertland pioneers have celebrated May 29, the date their ships left London’s East India docks for New Zealand. 1887 marked the Albertlanders’ 25th Jubilee and the opening of the new Port Albert Temperance Hall. Everyone was determined the double celebration would be a huge success. Settlers living in Auckland formed a committee to arrange transport north for as many as possible. The SS Durham was booked, leaving Helensville on Saturday, May 28, to return the following Monday or Tuesday. She arrived in Port Albert, flags flying, at 4pm Saturday with 50 passengers, who were greeted with cheers from people waiting on the wharf.
Many other visitors came from Whangarei, Matakohe, Paparoa and Maungaturoto. One gentleman from Thames couldn’t make it – his daughter wrote to a friend, ‘Today papa received a letter from Auckland re. the gathering of which you wrote but does not think he will be able to be there. We have had a dreadful flood since this was written.’ In Port Albert, however, the weather was perfect.
On the Sunday morning, a Thanksgiving service was held in the Temperance Hall, with Mr James Coupland presiding. William Armitage conducted several musical items with Mrs Cutforth, Mrs David Becroft and Mr George Nicholson on piano and harmonium. The Reverends Gittos and Barley officiated at special afternoon service and, in the evening, Edward Browne chaired a political meeting.
Newspapers reported that 400 to 500 people filled the Temperance Hall for a traditional old-fashioned tea on Monday. Afterwards, Mr Coupland presided over ‘one of the most enthusiastic meetings ever held in Albertland’. Esteemed Missionary Rev William Gittos briefly addressed the meeting, saying that he had done his best to encourage local Maori Chiefs to sell the Oruawharo Block to the government for settlement. He added that there was a Maori proverb which could be applied to them: ‘No weeping or sighing for the past, no complaining or discontent for the present; but joy, prosperity and success for the future’. Rev Gittos added that he had every confidence in the future prosperity of the district.
2017 marks the 155th Albertlanders’ Anniversary and celebrations will be held at the Port Albert Hall on Sunday, May 28, at 2pm. A varied programme will include items from the 1999 Albertland Dinner and Concert, a pictorial history of Wharehine’s Minniesdale Chapel, which will celebrate its own 150th anniversary in December, and an Old Time Magic Lantern Show of local images, many of which have not been shown before. Afternoon tea will be provided.