Robert Ellis

Chicken switch

Chicken switch - Robert Ellis

There is no doubt about it - farmer Robert Ellis (b ?, d. ?) of Brightwater (near Nelson) is one of New Zealand's unsung geniuses. In 1910 he converted the waterwheel from a mill on his farm to power up his own house. The mill ground out flour during the day, and generated electricity at night. In 1911 he decided to hook the wheel up to help power the local streetlights, but he didn't want to be bothered having to go and turn them on and off every night. Ellis, in a flash of inspiration perhaps only surpassed by the other area genius, Rutherford, realised that the hens running around near the mill might provide a solution.


The powerlines at Brightwater
Chook, chook, chook
A chicken recreates the Brightwater invention
All your chickens have come home to roost