Social History Shows A Keen Eye For Commitment And Characters
Tauherenikau – ‘Tin Hut’ – 2 September 2007 – The original David Bowie may have been anything but a rock star, but he was as much a mould-breaking pioneer as his contemporary namesake.
David Bowie was a pioneering Wellington businessman whose diaries have now been published as a readable and fascinating insight into the early days of Wellington and the Hutt Valley.
The publication of the diaries was launched in the Wairarapa, at the ‘Tin Hut’ Hotel, combined with a family reunion of David Bowie’s descendants from around New Zealand.
Highly readable and with a keen eye for the quirks and humour of his fellow citizens, David (“Dave”) Bowie’s writings are a valuable and informative chronicle of early and mid-century Wellington and Hutt Valley life and business.
As well as dealing with important social and conservation issues facing New Zealand at the turn of the century, including his close interaction with the Maori and later the Chinese communities, the diaries present an often overlooked insight into both day-to-day and commercial life during these often challenging times. They recount events from the 1913 Waterfront strike to the Depression.
Although he had only a sporadic education, Dave Bowie showed his keen intelligence and humanity through his exceptionally well-written pen portraits of his early life at ‘Bowie Hall’ in Lukes Lane, where his Scottish father operated a shipwrights business.
Orphaned at an early age, Dave was the eldest of nine children and made his own way in a tough world, ultimately becoming a civic leader and highly successful businessman, operating D.Bowie & Co, fruit and producer merchants, at Courtenay Place.
The diaries trace the ups and downs of his interesting life (he died in 1974), chronicling his community, business and family activities from the time he spent at the Maori settlements in Titahi Bay and Waiwhetu to the commercial challenges of starting a business during the depression.
The discussion on the colourful Courtenay Place markets is central to much of the development of Wellington mid-century, with its central characters described and discussed. Dave Bowie’s eye for the human and the humour make the diaries a notable addition to Wellington’s social history.
He also discusses his involvement in the fruit and produce business, leading to the establishment of his own business, which had its origins at the beginning of last century, in 1924
The diaries reveal that he was “a bit of a crank” over New Zealand birdlife and trees and his conservation efforts included helped ensure the development of walking tracks, the planting of native trees in public places and conservation of important tracts of native bush in Wellington district and elsewhere.
Highly public-spirited, he became involved in the National Parks Board, the Eastbourne Borough Council, where he lived for many years, the Chamber of Commerce and the Forest & Bird Society, among many other community organisations.
He enjoyed close associations with both the local Maori and Chinese communities and maintained his great affection for both throughout his life. One of his oldest friends, Ihaia Puketapu, was a founder of the Waiwhetu Marae, who Dave worked closely with to establish the current meeting house at the Marae.
He collected Maori and other artefacts and maintained a high interest in botanic, fauna and archaeological pursuits through his interesting, diverse life.
His principal love and interest, however, was his family to whom he devoted time and attention. His eldest son (also David), the patriarch of the family, recently celebrated his 90th birthday in Masterton. He also had three other children, Colin, Audrey and Ian.
The Autobiography of David Bowie was edited by the current David Bowie’s daughter Susan (Bowie) Franck, Dave’s youngest granddaughter.