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Third from the top, in gold block lettering demarcated with a black outline, re the name Mrs H. D Muir. Mrs Muir holds an important place in New Zealand netball history. She was the first coach of the Silver Ferns, guiding the national netball side in four tests against Australia. She was also a member of the original executive that established Netball NZ then the NZ Basketball Association ingoing on to serve as president from So it was this sense of who is she?
It would plunge researchers headfirst into a story of migrant labour, discrimination, poverty, neglect, prostitution, violence, lawlessness and manslaughter. A story, at its core, of a young woman who found her place in the world through sport and volunteer labour. Mrs Muir was on the original executive that established the NZ Basketball Association ingoing on to serve as president for nearly two decades. Mrs Muir died of a heart attack inaged just She had no known relatives, and a surname just common enough to be unhelpful - a search of the electoral rolls in the Wellington region alone, where it was thought Mrs Muir had lived, revealed Muirs.
Like every good detective story, this one came with an unlikely pairing of sleuths. Henley ed forces with netball historian and statistician Todd Miller in the hunt for information about the first Silver Ferns coach. Miller was pretty much raised on the side of a netball court. His passion, though, is preserving the history of netball.
Chances are, if the document exists, Miller will be able to find it. Miller scoured through old minutes, tournament guides, team lists and news reports looking for any mention of the coach.
Frustratingly, in all official documents she was referred to as Mrs H. Then, in an old programme for the Dominion tournament, he found it. With the information Miller had uncovered, Netball NZ was able to cobble together a basic profile of Mrs Muir for the launch of a new Silver Ferns website.
Earlier this year, they returned to that original executive. In particular, they were determined to fill in the outline of Mrs Muir - the woman who would go on to coach the Silver Ferns. He then cross-checked each one of those names against the marriage registry. Then in early June, as the country was emerging out of lockdown, came another breakthrough. Marriage records showed Mrs H. She figured it was a European name, possibly Belgian.
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That was until she came across a newspaper article that made reference to a Matilda Seque and a connection with the Mong family in Dunedin. Just an empty field and three sparsely positioned buildings. Beyond the field sits the last stretch of gravel of the Clutha Gold cycle trail. The end of the road. One hundred and sixty years ago, however, this was the bustling centre of the Chinese gold mining community. It is here, on the Tuapeka plains, framed by hills blanketed in golden tussocks that surge and swell like a restless sea, that Wong See Que landed in in search of his fortune.
See Que, or See Quee, was one of around Cantonese diggers who came to Otago during the gold rush era.
The Chinese prospectors were first invited by the Otago Provincial Council in the early s, eager to find a source of reliable and cost-effective labour to re-work the tailings since abandoned by the European miners. James Ng, a retired doctor and historian, bought the site of the Lawrence Chinese Camp in and set up a charitable trust to preserve its heritage.
In Lawrence, however, something unique happened. As a sweetener, they offered the Chinese a piece of land on the outskirts of town, adjacent to the main highway. The land was used to build homes and set up businesses, including two butcheries, market gardens, a gambling den, and a hotel, making it the biggest Chinese settlement in colonial New Zealand.
Just for Chinese gold miners. Ng is too Myrtle to repeat what some of the old newspapers and texts say about the European women who hung around the camp at that time. Adrienne Shaw, a fifth-generation descendant of the Chinese camp, is a walking encyclopedia on the families that stemmed from those mixed marriages. The amateur genealogist and researcher recites the complex, and at times intertwined, lineage of the families from memory at rapidfire pace.
For now, Shaw is tirelessly working away on the periphery to preserve and honour the history she feels so deeply connected to. Her other major project is writing a book compiling the stories on all the families of the dating. She describes it as a bit like a Wasjig - all the pieces are lying around out there, she just has to methodically piece them together.
Their skeletons, their crimes, their lady institution visits. The early life of the woman he would come to marry, Elizabeth Nesbitt, is easier to trace, due to the colourful exploits of her family.
It was not long before they made themselves known around Dunedin. Shaw says Nesbitt and wife Mary were frequently in and out of jail for violence and abuse, including an incident in which Nesbitt served time for manslaughter after shooting a police officer.
The pair found employment as servants for a European family in the township, but for reasons unclear, ended up dossing at the Chinese camp. It was there she met See Que, a miner 12 years her senior.
In the couple married, becoming just the third or fourth mixed race couple in the area to wed. Shaw dating the Lawrence town registrar was known to be hard on Chinese men wishing to marry European women, so the couple hopped over the hill to Waipori to get hitched. The couple should have been Mr and Mrs Wong, but, in a decision that would come to be of great help for researchers years later, the couple were registered as Mr and Mrs See Que. The name would be anglicised to Seque within the first generation. The couple went on to have seven children - Margaretta bornEdwardRoderick lady, Elizabeth Myrtle, Robertand twins Matilda and Mary Ann - but they could not find domestic harmony.
The once-bustling Chinese Empire Hotel, was said to be one of the best wayside hotels in inland Otago and catered for European and Chinese guests. After being shifted into the Lawrence township in the s, the original Poon Fah Joss House was returned to its original site at the Chinese camp in She would often be found in the beds of other men.
Over the years Elizabeth was charged with larceny, vagrancy, prostitution, and drunkenness. With the chaos, came tragedy. InRobert and Mary Ann died of diptheria within weeks of one another, aged four and two. It was around this time, Elizabeth bailed for good, heading south to Round Hill, near Riverton, where there was another Chinese camp known as Canton. She married very young into a strange culture, and her mothering skills reflected her own upbringing.
She had two notorious parents as role models. Elizabeth died in a few years after her release from prison, Myrtle just She outlived all but three of her children, with Margaretta and Elizabeth, her namesake, passing away in their early 20s of tuberculosis and gastritis.
After Elizabeth had absconded from Lawrence, it was left to Wong See Que, who by this stage was working as a market gardener, to hold the family together. The surviving See Que children moved away from the camp to Dunedin, anglicising their name to Seque - likely a deliberate act of translation and transformation, to allow them to blend into society with less scrutiny. The silver fern was chosen as the national inia for the New Zealand basketball team. The sport did not become known as netball here until The silver fern was chosen as the national inia for the New Zealand Basketball team.
Myrtle Muir right sits on the deck of the Wanganella with another Silver Ferns official as the team embark on their first tour. The Silver Ferns team, captained by Margaret Matangi centreahead of their historic first tour to Australia. In more than 80 dating of internationals, there has never been a Silver Fern with Asian heritage. It is a huge discovery in the context of New Zealand sport. Descendants of the Chinese camp Shaw has tracked down tell stories of how photos of their Chinese ancestors were hidden away in drawers, while photos of their Victorian grandmothers hung proudly on the walls.
Gave themselves new identities in a sense. Henley believes that drive to overcome the poverty of their childhood and change the trajectory of their lives was the legacy little Matty Seque inherited from her father. An old typewritten note, still intact after more than 80 years, offers an insight into the woman behind the initials. Reading between the lines on the sepia-tinged parchment paper, which Miller speculates was likely typed by Mrs Muir herself, it is clear she was someone willing to roll up her sleeves and get things done.
Her organisational nous was apparent early, when at just 19, she was appointed secretary of the Otago Union, while she lady playing and captaining the YWCA Hearthfire club.