The names of Rhodes and Barker, for Canterbury historians and alike, represent a delicious smorgasbord of old photos, journals, homesteads, memorials and real-life colourful characters who made the swamps and Toi Toi of Canterbury their home.
The Rhodes Brothers – William, George and Robert – had settled on Banks Peninsula – from Akaroa in the late 1830’s to Purau (the little bay facing Lyttelton) in the late 1840’s.
By the time Dr. A.C. Barker stepped off the ‘Charlotte Jane’ – after being pushed aside by James Edward Fitzgerald so he would be the first settler ashore – on the 16th December 1850, the Rhodes were already substantial landowners, here in Canterbury and in the North Island.
So the thought of the children of these pioneers playing together on the dusty dray tracks of early Christchurch paints such a capturing image.
Heaton Rhodes (son of Robert Heaton Rhodes) and Willie Barker (son of Dr. A.C. Barker) grew up literally as the city of Christchurch did. They spent the days playing alongside the unkempt banks of the Avon, chasing each other down long gone alleyways of yesteryears and getting so dirty that I’m sure their fathers had no idea what to do with them next.
Heaton recalled one adventurous day where Willie and he were shooting their catapults into Cathedral Square near the Barker home, not far away on Worchester Street, where the Rydge’s Hotel now stands.
They managed to hit and kill a Morepork and rushed over to inspect their prey, looking down with great excitement at the unfortunate creature. A disappointment grew over them as the Morepork had been so much more interesting while in flight.
Casting a look at each other and after a small conference together, the boys decided to take their defeated conquest down to the Botanical Gardens.
The man in charge of the gardens was a well known Taxidermist. In exchange for the dead bird, the delighted boys were rewarded with a jar full of Australian tadpoles.
Heaton released his half in the pond of the family home of Elmwood (now Heaton Normal Int School, Merivale). The descendants of these frogs still live at Otahuna after having been moved to Heaton’s property at Tai Tapu – all from this not quite so innocent adventure.
Willie Barker died in 1935 where as Sir Heaton Rhodes (as he was known in his later life) died at Otahuna in 1956.
Pictured is Dr. A.C Barker’s home and surgery on Worcester Street, at the corner of Cathedral Square. The boys in the photo are the sons of the Doctor. It was not uncommon for A.C. to open the window of his office and yell down to his sons to be quiet if they were playing too loudly!
*image courtesy of the http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Art/People/B/BarkerAlfredCharles/ *