Woes of a reporter
The amenities at Mercury Bay were a trial to an Auckland newspaper reporter who was there to cover the Regatta. While the town had a post office, telegraph office and a telephone office kept by a storekeeper, no regular hours were adhered to. He only succeeded in getting a telegram through to Auckland via Coromandel after scouring Mercury Bay in search of the store keeper, who was having a good time at the Regatta. This sort of thing was objectionable and should be altered, he snorted. He negatively noted too that the policeman in charge, who was also Clerk of the Court, had frequently a very rough crowd to deal with in the bush men who came in from the country to spend their cheques, yet he was housed in a shabby and miserable two roomed shanty, one of the worst looking and most uncomfortable places in the neighbourhood.
Mercury Bay, though, was oblivious to these defects as it subsided into regatta revelry. The vicinity of the middle wharf was the centre of attraction, and the days boat races were loudly discussed with frequent intervals to wash down arguments with a nip of ‘chain-lightning’. To add to the din the local band, with its drum-major in full and fanciful costume, marched through the town playing numbers of popular airs, followed by a motley crowd. Corners were taken up by card sharks having a profitable time with the uninitiated lads from the country. The win of one of the Whitianga White brothers meant the three hotels were liberally patronised, while the music halls attached to each of these establishments was crowded. A theatrical burlesque performance was given at the mill hall by a local amateur company, and was followed by a dance, while Sheehan's band, from Auckland, delighted a large audience.
As midnight advanced, the town quietened and tired merrymakers were to be seen proceeding towards the Timber Company's wharf, where the Argyle was lying ready to sail for Auckland. By twelve o’clock there were a large number of passengers on board, and after the bidding of adieus, the Argyle got underway. As she left the wharf three hearty cheers were given for the Mercury Bayites, and a similar compliment was paid to those on the steamer, Sheehan's band on the Argyle playing ‘Auld Lang Syne.’
As they sailed away, Mercury Bay lay under a clear, bright, moonlit night, the town extending along for about two miles in an unbroken chain of residences, some of them very pretty villas with trim and well stocked flower and kitchen gardens. Things were not so orderly on board the Argyle however. Every available space not occupied by luggage was piled with passengers, who, with cloak or rug around them, had lain down to sleep. The skylight tops, the hatch tops, even coils of rope were occupied as were the ship's boats in the davits.
At 8am an appetising breakfast was served, and done ample justice to, and after a pleasant run of ten hours Captain Amodeo safely landed his 104 passengers on Auckland’s Queen Street Wharf well pleased with their day at Mercury Bay.
Caption: Queen Street wharf, Auckland 1880s, where steamers came and went from Mercury Bay.