Monday, 19 January 2015

Discover Rotorua Heritage : Moncur Drive

Moncur Drive named after expert knitter.                                      

Moncur Drive is a quaint, tree-lined street of mainly residential dwellings with the exception of the Commercial Travellers Association. 
 In the early 1900s, Goudie’s Nursery ran from Otonga Rd back to the thermal area. This sequoia tree and lane of trees on Kiwi Street marks what was the back entrance. The track that was the main entrance to the nursery off Old Taupo Road is now Moncur Drive (8, 9).
Moncur Drive was named after Alexander Francis Moncur (1889-1976). Labour MP for Rotorua  1935-1943, Rotorua mayor 1947-1953 and expert knitter (3).

Born in Thorpedale, Australia on 9/3/1889, Moncur came to New Zealand in 1906 and had worked in West Coast and Waihi mines and for the Railway before owning a taxi business in Whakatane (4).

Moncur may have had some impact on Rotorua before taking up his roles here. He was Chairman of the Auckland Branch of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants during the railwaymen strike at the time of the Prince of Wales’ Visit to Rotorua in 1920. The Prime Minister, Mr. Massey, had to take an arduous car journey from Rotorua to Wellington for negotiations where further train travel for the Prince was agreed on (5, 6).

Moncur was a Borough Councillor in Whakatane and involved with the Labour Party there before moving to Rotorua in 1935 (4) Moncur was the mayor of Rotorua from 1947 to 1953, a period where there was growing demand for houses and increased water supply (7).
Author of Rotorua streets, Philip Andrews, notes that ironically Moncur “had opposed the naming of streets after local personalities” while serving for council (3). Andrews also states that Moncur knitted baby layettes while Parliament sat. Moncur later made comments against the efficiency of hand-knitting despite having “the reputation of being an expert knitter” and got himself into some hot water with more than one “woman knitter”! (3, 8, 9)
2.       Allen, P. (1990). Rural community, Rotorua, 1920: just before and during 1920’s. Rotorua: P. Allen.
3.       Andrews, P. (1999) Rotorua streets: the stories behind the street names of Rotorua & district. Rotorua: Bibliophil
5.       Prince and strikers. (1920, April 30). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 7.
6.       The Rotorua Post. 28.10.1953 A.F. Moncur. [Microfilm]
7.       Stafford, D. M. (Donald Murray). 1988. The new century in Rotorua: a history of events from 1900. Auckland [N.Z.] ; Rotorua [N.Z.] : Ray Richards Publisher and Rotorua District Council.
8.       WOMEN KNITTERS: Evening Post, Volume CXXIX, Issue 135, 8 June 1940, Page 10
9.       WORK OF WOMEN KNITTERS: Evening Post, Volume CXXIX, Issue 137, 11 June 1940, Page 6

Post by Sandra Quinn, Heritage & Collections Librarian.

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