Tagged with 'History'

The Origins of Oilskin

There’s nothing worse than getting wet, right? If you think it’s a bit of a niggle now, imagine what it was like for sailors on the high seas or farmers at the far edge of nowhere back in the 1700s.

Back then, sailors, fishermen and anyone else working in foul weather would smear their clothing with oil (or sometimes tar) to help keep them warm and dry. It did a job. But it made clothing heavy, it didn’t last long and it wasn’t breathable.

Then, in 1898, the first modern oilskin garment was made. And what-do-you-know, it was made right here in New Zealand.

A well worn vintage Swanndri oilskin

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Swanndri X Ken Swainson - Swanndri for generations

When Ken Swainson first started farming back in 1964, the Young Farmers Association set him up with an essential piece of farming kit: a Swanndri.

“I was born in ’48. And got it when I was 16. So yeah, it’s getting on a bit.”

Today, almost 60 years on, Ken’s still got that Swanndri – and he still wears it proudly. But it’s more than just a piece of clothing for him now. It’s a symbol of all the things he’s done and seen over the years. And Ken has certainly seen a few things.

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Formerly The Blackball Hilton

Famous. Infamous. Curious. Haunted. Unmissable.

Lots of words have been used to describe Formerly The Blackball Hilton. They’re probably all a little bit true. All we can say is: it’s iconic.

Originally built in 1910, the hotel-pub-and-restaurant’s rise to prominence has paralleled that of the place it’s part of – Blackball. A mining town about 30kms inland from Greymouth, Blackball is famous for its rich and rebellious history, in which locals have regularly proven the power of collective action. It’s a beautiful place, full of wonderful people. And at the heart and soul of it all is Formerly The Blackball Hilton. A one-of-a-kind institution, it is a symbol of this place and the people who live here. It’s Blackball in a nutshell.


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