AUCKLAND COBBLER IS GOING WELL AT 88
IF he does not emulate the boot-< maker in fiction and story who sang at his last and worked half the night through he is, in his way, no less remarkable, for, at 88, he is Auckland's oldest cobbler, and is still going strong. He loves to talk as well as cobble, and his friends call him "the philosopher."
, In a little shop near the top of Cook Street he bends over his work, an artist at his craft, and even on winter days is always in his shirt sleeves. For over fifty years he has been making surgical boots, his sure hands, keen eyes and strong constitution apparently as equal to the task to-day as when he was in his prime. Neither his voice, nor his constitution betrays his agfe.
Behind the window on which his name, W. Richmond, is unnoticed by the majority of people who pass along Cook Street, a light was often seen burning as he worked far into the night when he was a young fellow of seventy or so, but to-day, although he still has more work than he can .cope with, he likes a certain amount of daily leisure. He is not a bootmaker in the ordinary sense, but a specialist, Who can See a foot, quickly gauge its peculiarities, cut a last to shape and turn out a boot which suits the taste and comfort of the wearer.
Small though his shop is, he has a reputation which extends far afield. Every bootmaker and footwear factory manager in Auckland knows him, and his business has been drawn from places as distant as Bluff and towns in Australia. He belongs to a rare group of craftsmen born in the days when machinery was in its infancy, and is undaunted by the challenge of the mechanical age. Boy Ran Away to Sea An adventurous soul, too, is Mr.. Richmond. As a lad of 16 he ran away from his home in Somersham, Huntingdonshire, and became cabin boy on a Scottish barque.. In 1872, the ship called at Townsville, Queensland, where, intrigued by the sights of a new land, he spent so much time looking round that when he returned to the quay his ship had sailed. It was a mushroom town, and he soon got a job as a kitchen boy in a hotel and afterwards as a groomsboy. Then he joined a surveyor's gang as chainman and helped in mapping out the first streets of Charterstown.
The old bootmaker yesterday recalled the catching of live alligators, which Were numerous in those parts of Queensland. Trappers had a habit of capturing stray dogs in and occasionally dogs were also stolen to be used as live bait for luring the alligators into traps. But the cruelty of the sport aroused so many protests that humanitarian interests eventually prevailed, and a device was constructed which released the dogs the moment the alligators were caught.
When he was 22, youhg Richmond went to Sydney, where he bound himself down to an apprenticeship with a surgical bootmaker, but he soon abandoned this to follow, the lure of the Temora goidfields. Back
>in Sydney again a few years later, he married, and in 1893 came to New Zealand with his Wife. There had been hard times, with unemployment and soup kitchens, but he immediately set up business as a bootmaker in Wellesley Street, and many of Auckland's leading citizens of that time had their boots made at his shop. Since then he has seen machine-sewn footwear reach such a standard that handcraftsmen have either disappeared or, like himself, become specialists.
Away back in the days when Auckland was young, Mr. Richmond developed two other interests which brought him into prominence. While visiting a friend who Was in hospital he saw the needs of other sufferers, and soon took part in founding the Auckland Hospital Patients' Benevolent Fund, of which he was honorary secretary for fifteen years, in association with Mr. A. E. Eagleton, chair* man, and successive Mayors of Auckland, who were trustees. About £9000 was raised before the movement changed its form and became the Women's Hospital Auxiliary. A Communistic Scheme Less successful was Mr. Richmond's effort, just after the turn of the century, to found a settlement on communistic lines On a property Of eighty acres near-Lake Takapuna, a scheme inspired by the ideals of a proposed Paraguay settlement, which attracted much attention at that time. "There were to be twenty families in our group," he said. "We were going to train the men to make boots which we intended to sell on the Auckland market while we got going, but we got no further than drawing up rules and regulations. First one and then another supporter dropped out, and we had to abandon the plan. One of our ideas was that the work of the women should be made as easy as possible by having a laundry and a cookhouse on community lines, where everything was pooled." In the cottage above his shop Mr. Richmond, who is a non-smoker, today lives a bachelor's life, until lately he had the company of Mr. William Cole, five months older than himself," but, although he a is now alone, he is not lonely. Fond of reading, he likes to read alOUd to interested listeners, and his clear and expressive voice makes him easy to follow. He also attends frequent meetings where philosophic topics are discussed. Vegetarian For Matty Years In his kitchen he keeps a supply of fruit and Vegetables', for he has been a vegetarian for forty years, except for an occasional pound of sausages. Carrots and potatoes are among his staples Of diet in the winter, and through the kindness of a friend he has not Suffered from the potato famine. Rationing of foodstuffs _ had hot bothered him much, he Said to-day, as he did not drink tea and turned to dripping if his butter supply ran out. If there was a sugar shortage he used treacle. His chief drink was milk and water.
Mr. Richmond has a bottle of water containing pieces Of rock sulphur, from Which he drinks a glassful every day. "Good for the blood," he says.
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Auckland Star, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 165, 14 July 1945
AUCKLAND COBBLER IS GOING WELL AT 88 Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 165, 14 July 1945
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