With the reopening of Parliament this week, we will see changes. But somethings are unchanging and traditional, one being the role of Black Rod.
The Black Rod itself is the ceremonial staff of office and technically applied to what was New Zealand’s upper house of parliament which used to be called the NZ Legislative Council. The role was kept even after the council was abolished in 1950.
The Usher of the Black Rod summons the members of the house to the Governor-General’s presence to hear the speech from the throne.
Traditionally this is done by the entry to the House being barred until the Usher of the Black Rod knocks three times on the door.
The rod used was presented to Parliament in 1931, made of polished black ebony topped with a golden lion rampant holding a shield - a gold sovereign is set in the base. It is rarely used now, due to it’s fragility with other rods used in its place.
The current Black Rod is Sandra McKie - the first woman to hold the position in New Zealand.
But the first was Arthur Thomas Bothamley who held the role for 45 years.
Arthur was born in Surrey, England in 1846 and was one of 17 children. He had poor health and by 1868 he had moved to live in Australia before coming to New Zealand the next year.
Here he joined the civil service as a clerk. It would have been considered a very good stable job.
Between 1892 and 1937 he was the Gentlemen Usher of the Black Rod.
A sportsman, he was a founder and first captain of the Tainui Canoe Club as well as a talented and keen photographer. He was well known at the time for his photography exhibitions as well as his paintings, some of his watercolours being the Alexander Turnbull library collection.
He married Elizabeth Poulton in 1876 and one of their sons Charles went on to be a clerk at Parliament as well.
Arthur was given the Imperial Service order in 1924.
He died on December 17, 1938 aged 92 and his funeral was held at St Paul’s and was attended by nearly every member of the Parliamentary and State Department staff.
He is buried at Karori Cemetery.
Photos were taken by Arthur and are now in the possession of Te Papa.
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