In the 1840s there was a famous and bloody murder right here in Devonport. It was followed by the public hanging, on the same spot, of the culprit. The victim of the crime was Lt Robert Snow, who was the first signalman in Auckland, in charge of the signal station on Mt Victoria. He was killed together with his wife and child in their small house on the Devonport waterfront, near Mays St. The murderer, one Joseph Burns, became the first Pakeha to be hanged in New Zealand. Burns's common-law wife, Maggie Reardon, was transported to Tasmania for trying to cover up the crime.
The Auckland Heritage Festival is on and two events feature these dark events, just a few steps away from the scene.
The Devonport Friends of the Michael King Writers' Centre are organising a discussion about A Tangled Web, the novel by local writer and broadcaster Kirk Page based on the murder. The discussion features author Tessa Duder and Devonport local John Duder, whose forebear Thomas Duder was falsely implicated in the scandal.
A Tangled Web will be held at The Ship, the Calliope Sea Scout Hall, 29 King Edward Parade, Devonport, at 4 pm Sunday September 28. Free.
Devonport Heritage explores the same story, with a reading of Michelanne Forster's play Always My Sister the following week. Michelanne wrote Always My Sister when she held a Michael King Writers' Centre residency in 2011. The play looks at the same events through the eyes of Maggie Reardon's sister and sheds an interesting light on life in early Auckland.
Always My Sister will also be at the Calliope Sea Scout Hall on October 3 and October 4, 7.30 pm. Tickets are $10 each.