McCurdy's chest has a story to tell
A piece of Upper Hutt history has found its way to the city library – but is looking for a permanent home.
A travelling chest, believed to have been owned by Mary McCurdy as far back as the late 1800s, was recently donated to the library.
Heritage and research co-ordinator Reid Perkins said the good-sized chest, in moderate condition with its bottom fallen out, has a tag affixed to its top with McCurdy's name, a vessel name and Wellington.
"It's real neat to have such a tangible link to our city's past. Perhaps this was a travelling chest the McCurdys brought with them when they first came to Upper Hutt," Perkins said.
However, the library was not set up to house the chest permanently. "It's a resourcing question but we'll look after it and pursue options as to its future home."
The chest was donated by city councillor Glenn McArthur, who had stored it for several years after his brother Mark handed it on to him.
A real estate agent, Mark was appraising a 1950s house in Martin St when he spotted that the case, name tag and all, was heading for the skip.
"I'm not into collecting that stuff but I knew Glenn was and I wasn't going to let it be thrown out."
Glenn McArthur said he considered whether the chest could be returned to its original state "but decided that something like this needs to be in the hands of the city, that's best".
Mary McCurdy (nee Jones) was born in 1865. She arrived in Wellington from Hammersmith, England, in November 1883 as Angus McCurdy's fiancee. The couple wed the following month in Wellington. They made the move to Upper Hutt seven years later.
Angus McCurdy was a prominent early Upper Hutt citizen and its first mayor.
He worked as a telegraphist and electrician, movie theatre owner-operator, and was founding editor of the area's first newspaper, The Upper Hutt Independent. Active in local politics, he was Town Clerk (1907-13), Town Board commissioner (1913-19) and chairman (1924-26) before serving as mayor twice (1926-27 and 1931-38).
In 1900 the McCurdys began building their Bonnie Glen family home. Above the Hutt River at Whakatiki and known as McCurdy's Castle. it was a landmark until it burnt down in 1969.
A renowned figure in her own right, Mary McCurdy died in July 1970, aged 104.