Here’s a tale for Gareth Morgan’s anti-cat file. In the Russell Museum we have on display a small bird called a Putopu. A member of the rail family, it is now extinct, but we have a remarkable story about the bird and how we came to have it in our collection. On March the 11th 1845, all residents of Kororāreka were to be evacuated by ship to Auckland, to escape the war raging in the town. A four year old girl, Catherine Flowerday, was gathering her possessions together when she realised her cat, Ginger, was missing. As the family were about to board the ship, Ginger came out of the raupo bordering a creek with a bird in his mouth. The family jumped aboard the longboat, cat, bird and all. The ship’s mate carefully removed the bird from the cat’s jaws. Unfortunately it was dead, but the mate was an amateur taxidermist, and as Catherine was leaving the ship in Auckland, he presented the bird to her in a glass case. Catherine kept the bird for the rest of her life. Years later the bird was donated to the Russell Museum by Catherine’s great-niece, Mrs Elsie Wilkinson, of Kamo. So come in and see the actual bird – one of the minor casualties of the Battle of Kororāreka. Come Back Ginger, a children’s story by Dorothy Butler based on the above incident, is available from the Russell Museum shop.
Sources: Come Back Ginger by Dorothy Butler; Hell-hole of the Pacific by Richard Wolfe.