Historic diligence and old-fashioned power return to the streets of Fairlie

Horse enthusiasts brought back a historic stagecoach from its museum on Saturday, giving a family with an intimate connection to the coach a chance to learn about the lives of their ancestors.

The Clydesdale Society’s annual meeting was held in Timaru at the weekend and included a trip to the Fairlie Heritage Museum, where the group had arranged to hire their historic stagecoach and have it pulled by a team of Clydesdales from the station of Erewhon.

And among those who enjoyed the rides were several generations, including a sixth generation, from the Kerr family, who originally owned the stagecoach.

Fairlie Heritage Museum guide Garry Kerr, who has no connection to the stagecoach family, said as a history buff he organized that side of the family to come and participate.

READ MORE:
* Fairlie Heritage Museum offers to be guardians of the statue of Sir Bill Hamilton
* First steam train to Fairlie in 51 years as part of the annual parade
* Fairlie’s 51st Annual New Year’s Day Parade draws crowds
* The Fairlie Heritage Museum is running its engines

“It worked very well, up to the sixth generation of the family.”

The original owners’ great-great-great-grandson, Oliver, was the youngest descendant to travel back in time, along with his father, great-great-grandson, and grandfather. father, great-grandson.

Kerr said the company that owned the stagecoach, Kerr and Frayne, operated a service in the 1870s and 1880s, making twice-weekly trips from Fairlie to Aoraki/Mount Cook, carrying passengers and mail.

“There would have been no bridges or anything, and the journey took three days.”

Reuben and Oliver Kerr, left, Erewhon Station's Erin Cassie and Alistair Kerr enjoying the experience on Saturday.  The Kerrs represent six generations of the family that owned and operated the stagecoach in the late 1800s.

JOHN BISSET/Stuff

Reuben and Oliver Kerr, left, Erewhon Station’s Erin Cassie and Alistair Kerr enjoying the experience on Saturday. The Kerrs represent six generations of the family that owned and operated the stagecoach in the late 1800s.

Edna Kerr, one of the family historians, told Garry Kerr that the stagecoach would leave Fairlie on Tuesday, spend the first night in Takapō/Tekapo, the second night in Pukaki, and arrive in Aoraki/Mt Cook late in the morning. Thursday afternoon.

“It’s in perfect condition now.”

He said the woman at the reins who drove the Clydesdales team from Erewhon station told him she was “driving extremely well”.

Lester Cordes, 74, used to play on the dilapidated stagecoach as a child, when it was abandoned in a paddock on Talbot St under the flax mill, he said.

Following the coach’s discovery, it was taken to a Fairlie restaurant, where it became a garden ornament, until Cordes acquired it from the owner of the restaurant in 1971 to restore it for the Mackenzie Country and Western Carnival.

Clydesdales from Erewhon Station pulling a historic stagecoach from the Fairlie Heritage Museum.  The coach dates back to the late 1880s, as part of the Fairlie Kerr and Frayne company's fleet of Concord stage coaches.

JOHN BISSET/Stuff

Clydesdales from Erewhon Station pulling a historic stagecoach from the Fairlie Heritage Museum. The coach dates back to the late 1880s, as part of the Fairlie Kerr and Frayne company’s fleet of Concord stage coaches.

In addition to serving on the committee and a year as chair, Cordes served as chair of the catering committee.

He said he’s always had an interest in historic vehicles.

“Once we got it [the coach] I towed it to the workshop we were working in, and it wasn’t until we got it there that we could tell what we were working with.

“We didn’t even really know what it was. We had collected a lot of wagons and things from the area for carnival and parade, and we wanted to build a stagecoach and I knew it was there.

“We put together some pictures of former coaches Kerr and Frayne Concord who missed Fairlie, and lo and behold, you could see it was one of those original coaches.”

Cordes said the Concords were American trainers, imported to New Zealand in fairly large numbers.

Oliver Smith, 4, takes a ride in the old Concord Stagecoach at the Fairlie Heritage Museum.

JOHN BISSET/Stuff

Oliver Smith, 4, takes a ride in the old Concord Stagecoach at the Fairlie Heritage Museum.

“Cobb and Co imported a lot of Concord coaches, and Kerr and Frayne had four that ran from the Fairlie railhead to Mt Cook,” he said.

“The wheels and chassis were all in relatively good condition, but the bodywork looked like the top had been cut off, it was pretty much knocked down.

Arty Hurland, owner of Lakes Construction, volunteered to rebuild it for the committee, while Maurice Woods volunteered to do all the steel work, Cordes said.

Hurland painstakingly restored the coach, single-handedly rebuilding the coach’s body, and was “an unsung hero of it all,” Cordes said.

“A lot of people have known about the stagecoach since the days of the carnival, but no one really knows the working hours and who actually did it.”

Ava, 8, and Oscar Smith, 4, enjoy a carriage ride as history comes to life in Fairlie at the weekend.

JOHN BISSET/Stuff

Ava, 8, and Oscar Smith, 4, enjoy a carriage ride as history comes to life in Fairlie at the weekend.

“We were very lucky with the volunteers, all the work done by Hurland and Woods was free. At the beginning of the carnival, there were only volunteers, all the animators participated for free as long as we put them in place.

“Something like 14,000 people packed the main street of Fairlie for the first parade in 1969, which was huge.

“We trained the horses to pull the carriages, and we had oxen pulling the ox carts.

“It was something to behold, and something I will never forget.”

Cordes said he took advantage of the power on Saturday to take another coach ride.

“It was wonderful to do it again. It brought back memories of when we trained horses at Caddington.

About Paul Cox

Check Also

A frightened carriage horse in New York runs into oncoming traffic and collides with two vehicles

On Tuesday night in Midtown Manhattan, a Central Park carriage horse got scared and took …