From the era where newspapers became a main source of news, a battle has ensued between reporters to be the first to get the news to the public. It was no different for Canterbury – the first printing press arriving in the cargo hold of the Canterbury Association’s first ship, the ‘Charlotte Jane’ in 1850.
For the first ten years of settlement, the ‘Lyttelton Times’ happily reported on local and national news but relied on the recent arrived ships for news from England; not only from the English newspapers but also from word of mouth from the passengers themselves.
When ‘The Press’ came into being in 1861, you can imagine the race that took place between the reporters of the ‘Lyttelton Times’ and ‘The Press’ across Lyttelton Harbour – fist fights breaking out over who would get up the ship’s ladder first!
Money was offered to passengers for newspapers or letters, even though the news was already 3 months old – the length of the voyage from England to New Zealand. The second battle for the bold reporters was not getting caught up in the on board health regulations. I’m sure slipping past the health officers and back down to the rowboats became quite an art form for all involved.
In 1886, ‘The Press’ added a ‘Pigeon Post’ in the ongoing war to get the news out first. Pigeon cages were first installed on the roof of the offices in Cashel Street and when ‘The Press’ moved to the Square in 1902, the Pigeons made their home in a specially built loft. When a reporter went out on a job, maybe to the Riccarton Races or the sales at the Addington Stockyards, a crate with a pigeon went too. Using Japanese rice paper to write down the news, the bird was then set free to return to the office where the story would be collected. This method was used as far away as Oamaru!
The ‘Pigeon Post’ was last used in 1906.
*image courtesy of the Pigeon Insider – http://www.pigeonracingpigeon.com