Tenders for the first Parish School in Dunedin, June 1848

Among the first documents of the Otago Settlement in an old tin trunk discovered on the top shelves at the Otago Foundation Trust Board Office were a small pile of tenders dated 6 June, 1848.  The majority of tenders are for the building of the first parish school and there were several others for a flat bottomed boat.  

 The curious thing about these tenders is that two of them have been opened and three remain intact, their wax seals unbroken.  The open tenders are from Thomas Courtis and John Ferguson who won the contract to build the school, and William Henry Monson who had been appointed the official builder for the Education Users Trust before he left Scotland. Thomas Courtis and John Ferguson’s tender is very brief, hence a second one was submitted on the day of the Trustees meeting one month later, outlining further details of their costs.  Monson’s, on the other hand, is detailed and professional.  One can’t help but wonder if some Presbyterian jack-up was organised, that meant Monson missed out on this particular building project; he did carry out others later. 

 What should an Archivist do with unopened material?  It is now 160 years on.  Does one open them and note the fact that they had been sealed for so long?  Maybe if they were opened the names could give some clues in the attempt to find work in the new Colony?  Were the tenders handed directly to Thomas Burns and he made a unilateral decision as to their suitability from the outset?  

 Well to date I am unable to answer any of the above questions as I have not unsealed the tenders, you see I rather like mysteries.

By Yvonne

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