A career soldier in the British Army, Major Frederick Rice Stack was based in New Zealand for only five years (1857-1862). He left a vivid record of his stay, however, in the set of six large hand-coloured lithographs published on his return to England by the London firm of Day and Son, who proudly proclaimed themselves ‘lithographers to the Queen’. For each of his ‘views’ Stack also provided a detailed ‘descriptive letterpress’.
‘Drawn from nature’, according to the inscription, Stack's depiction of the 1862 Auckland regatta looks across the Waitemata Harbour from a vantage point on the North Shore towards the houses of Parnell. The highest building on the skyline is the original St Mary's Church (demolished in 1886). The two sailing ships are H.M.S. Miranda (left) and H.M.S. Fawn. Stack says that ‘the very unsettled state of the colony for nearly two years prevented the natives from joining with the Europeans in their amusements’, but ‘native tribe living near Auckland, on the Coromandel coast, was induced to bring their war-canoes and warriors to join with the Pakehas (or White Men)’ in the festivities of January 29th, 1862. The concept of competing for a cash prize, Stack tells us, was foreign to Māori sensibilities. Thus the canoeists ‘agreed among themselves beforehand that the amount of money gained as the prize was to be equally divided among them, in consideration of the labour endured by each individual in the exertion of his utmost strength’.
Stack, somewhat condescendingly, praises Auckland shops (‘some few of them would by no means disgrace provincial towns in England’), but he is otherwise scathing about local architecture: ‘The principal public buildings, churches, chapels, barracks, public offices, house of assembly, court-house, gaol, &c., almost without exception, have been built without any regard to beauty or design.’
The Library's copy of the Views has a hand-written inscription from Stack on the title-page: ‘For His Excellency, Sir George Grey, K.C.B. with the author's compliments. London, 19th March 1863’.