The formidable Ann Bird made a huge contribution to Nelson’s early European settlement.
Born in England, Ann was in her early 20s when she arrived in Nelson on the Fifeshire with her husband Reuben and daughter Anne, in 1842.
Reuben soon opened a butcher shop. Regulations weren’t so stringent in those days, and in 1847 it was reported that as an employee was about to shoot a bullock in the lane behind the shop, the animal lifted its head, sending the bullet down the lane and killing a Mr Sidebotham who was walking along Bridge Street.
When Reuben died in 1850, Ann gathered up her five children and used her steely determination to take on the business. Within ten years she had opened the shop in the photo – that’s her in the doorway, keeping an eye on the hopeful dogs, no doubt.
In the 1870s, when Ann’s rival up the street got a little too overzealous in his competitive pricing tactics, Ann joined up with all the other butchers in Nelson in an all-out advertising war against Kerr’s Butcher – “CHEAP MEAT! CHEAP MEAT!!” It must have worked, because by her death in 1891 at age 73, Ann had amassed a considerable estate of more than £950. She had also earned a great deal of respect from the good folk of Nelson, with more than 40 carriages in the funeral procession to Wakapuaka Cemetery. Many of Ann’s descendants still live in Nelson.
Nelson Provincial Museum’s photographic collection is one of national significance with an estimated one and a half million photographs dating from the 1850s onwards. With the earliest photos dating from soon after European settlement, it is a visual record of the development of a colony, both the area and its people. This photo of the Bird Butchery is part of the renowned Tyree Studio collection, which is on to the UNESCO New Zealand Memory of the World Register.