Archivist Officers Report 2014

Archivist Officers report:

Last year 2013-2014 year I had the pleasure to be able to help Lance Carroll from Tasmania to research and supply a letter to be used to hopefully help a relative of his be considered to be included in the Australian Hall of Fame. This man was Arthur Edward Sullivan who was an Australian by birth but spent many years in New Zealand winning several World Title events in the early 1900’s. Arthur is included in the Tasmanian Axemen’s Hall of Fame.

A World Champion Axeman between 1908 & 1913.

In addition he also won three double handed Australasian Championships in 1909 with A Carlson, in 1912 with Pedder and 1913 with C. Dwyer.

From the research that I have been able to source it is recorded that all World Title events where held in those early years were in 600 mm or 24 inch longs.  It did not matter which discipline was being competed for standing, (also known as overhand at this time) or underhand, single saw or the double hand sawing event all had to be 24 inch logs.

In Eltham in 1908 24 inch single saw AE Sullivan 1st, D. Johnson 2nd, C. Volzke in a New Zealand record time of 1m16.4.  In 1909 he placed second in the same event with D. Johnson 1st and A Carlson third this year the time was 2m 58.  In 1910 D. Johnson and Arthur tied for 1st place with a time of 1m 31.4, in 1911 he was once more beaten for 1st place by W. Weston who was second with C. Volzke 3rd.  In 1913 Arthur broke his own record with a world record time of 1m 9.6 in the same event.

Some other places that Arthur compete Hamilton NZ 1912 18” ss Anniversary Handicap 3rd place AE Sullivan, and Auckland NZ 1914 20” SSW NZ Championship 3rd place AE Sullivan.

To cut any timber of those sizes with the equipment available to these men would have been some feat.  More an endurance race compared to today’s competitors who with the better quality steel available to them cannot be compared to these earlier pioneers who truly had a hard life in many of the bush camps that was the main form of living, breaking in the country around this era.

As New Zealand was being broken in, at that time a greater number of competitors would have been around.  Every small town had bush gangs falling logs all by hand axe or saw, from Kauri felling in the far north to other native logs further south.  Axes and Saws were part of the life of the times often like extensions of a person’s arm.  They built them tough, with axe and timber jacks in hand walking up and down mountains and through steams, often with bullock teams and horses, no machinery like today.

It would be the day the towns and the country folk got together at the local A & P Show.  These would be attended by locals and competitors from afar as the prize money on some of these events would have been quite a sum for the time so the competition was fierce.

World title events anywhere had to be guaranteed to meet the strict rules and competitors would have been first known as the best from many areas to be eligible to enter.  The event would have to have been advertised in advance and sanctioned as being a world title event.  Open to the best from all countries, it is noted that Arthur is Australian and we also have on record a George Thomas McCauley who was born in Katikati and also competed at Eltham in 1907, where he won a World Title event, the year before Arthur won his first in New Zealand.  This appears to be a noted show that held World title events in various sizes and disciplines over a long period of time.  The prize money on some of these events was more than a full year’s wages at the time and axemen would plan out their calendar year around these big prize money events. One reason why many axemen attended from overseas is that they could travel the country working along the way and pick up good prize money as they went from show to show through the calendar of events.

As a note to the above A. Carlson is not the same person as W. Carlson the great South Island Sawyer who was sometimes recorded as A. Carlson as is some results W. Weston had his name was recorded as W. Western. Handicappers and recorders please ensure correct spelling which helps in years to come.

More can be read about Arthur from “Out of the Woodwork” The story of Arthur Edward Sullivan, his life and achievements 1880 to 1930.  In Arthur’s relatively short life of 49 years and three months, born in Australia marrying and then moving to NZ where he worked in the timber industry most likely as a bushman working for one of the local mills.  Arthur married and came to New Zealand with his new bride and had a number of children, one his son also called Arthur but was known as Jerry was born in New Plymouth and thanks to Tania Bellamy she was able to help find out more family information for Lance to fill in the family history gaps.

Arthur travelled back to Australia where he became a publication which is quite a big change from a bushman in New Zealand. He owned the Hobart Hotel and the Union Club Hotel in Hobart. Both are still standing and trading today, however the Hobart Hotel now goes under the name of Montgomery’s Hobart Hotel.

Although I can never lay my hands on the information that Eric held, this is currently in the Alexander Turnbull Library it is important that club secretaries either have their meetings results published in the Axemen’s News or that they or the sub-association secretaries send me copies of this information.

I am happy to continue to store the NZAA files and documents which over my 12.5 years being national secretary has amounted to quite a large amount.  Many documents have been lost by previous changes in office and some secretarial files arrived to me in boxes loosely thrown together. The above story is only one of many people who contact the NZAA each year seeking information only when many years pass by do people start to realise how important it is. 


Val Baker