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Saturday, 20 April 2019 02:11 pm

Skepticism around a librarian’s innocence

TEMPERANCE DRINKER: Carterton district librarian Ewan Hyde holds the two suspicious whisky bottles.

SUSPICIONS have risen in Carterton about a teetotal librarian who may not have been as innocent as he made out.

Two whisky bottles dating back to the 1890s were found when contractors replaced the floor boards for the renovation of the Carterton District Library last year.

An archeological report that dates the bottles was presented to Carterton District Council late last month.

Carterton’s library is the oldest building still being used as a public library in New Zealand.

Adam Ayles was resident librarian in the 1890s and a holder of the Temperance Medal, awarded by the Royal Navy for his pledge to abstain from alcohol.

But Miles Fairburn’s 1995 book “Nearly out of heart and hope”, which was based on labourer James Cox’s diary, says Mr Ayles “found him (Cox) an enjoyable drinking companion, for they were always ready to bring out the whisky when he visited them”.

Current district librarian Ewan Hyde says he believes the bottles belonged to Mr Ayles, who lived in a flat that used to be behind the library in the late 19th century.

“The archaeology confirms the suspicions I had. I knew that he had the Temperance Medal and that he had drinks with this guy.”

Mr Hyde says he will now do more research on the matter as he thinks there is a story to be told.

Archeologists found many other objects under the library, including other bottles circa pre-1930s, broken crockery, a child’s shoe, a 1920’s Marmite jar, horseshoes from the police stable, and parts of a copy of the Daily Telegraph newspaper, dated August 12, 1914.

“The most interesting things for me were the Marmite jar and the child’s shoe – the Marmite jar because it is something we are all still familiar with today, yet this is a very early example, and the shoe because it was from a very early period.”

Mr Hyde and the architects working on the project say that they would like to display some of the objects in the new events centre, which is due for completion in September.

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is a student on the 2012 radio journalism diploma course.
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