The Press – since 25/5/1861

Nihil stile quod non honestum – Nothing is useful that is not honest – The Press – www.press.co.nz motto.So true. The Press are onto something!I was completely ecstatic to see this in the foyer of the new Press Building on Gloucester Street.This pillar displays the very first edition of The Press, dated 25th May 1861. The first line of the front page reads:

“We shall make no apology for the publication of a new newspaper.”

The Press was born over the dining room table of J.C and Elizabeth Watts Russell’s Ilam home by James Edward Fitzgerald. I can just see him with a mouthful of dinner, ranting non-stop about Christchurch’s then Superintendent, William Moorhouse and his railway tunnel project and how The Lyttelton Times were refusing to print both side of the story. As the very first editor of The Lyttelton Times, James was very put out!

The answer was simple. Another newspaper was needed.

The first Press office was in Montreal Street . In 1907, the paper moved to Cathedral Square and the first paper was issued from there on the 22 February 1909. It’s spooky to think that the paper’s last edition from that now demolished building was exactly 102 years later to the day – our darkest day, the 22nd February 2011.

James was actually out of the picture quite early in the paper’s history. It was taken away from him as he had gotten it into bad debt and this was one of the reasons he cut his ties with Christchurch and moved to Wellington.

But he remains a loveable figure of Christchurch’s past. He was the first settler to step ashore from the Charlotte Jane – some reports state that he pushed aside or leap-froged Dr A.C. Barker to receive this honour – and was Canterbury’s first Superintendent.

Every time I drive down Cathedral Square, I can’t help but smile thinking about what Charlotte Godley – wife of John Robert Godley, Christchurch’s founder – had written home to her mother about him –
“He grows more wonderful everyday…on hot days he used to wear the most frightful long brown holland blouse, left very open, with a belt and a turn-down collar…”

*photo of new Press Building taken by Annette Bulovic*

*image of the Press Building in Cashel Street courtesy of http://christchurchcitylibraries.com * – File Reference CCL PhotoCD 6, IMG0067

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