in NEW ZEALAND
a record of Agnes Archibald, wife of James Archibald,
and other family members who emigrated to Otago, New Zealand
Rev JM Allan (Inchclutha Presbyterian Minister): at centre in back row
Balivi (in front, 1st on left)
John Smaill, sitting crosslegged behind Balivi
Rev Thomas Smaill (in front, 3rd on left)
Mrs Helen Smaill (in front, 4th on left)
Andrew Smaill and Christian Archibald are possibly the couple on
the left end of the back row.
Names of all others not positively identified.
This photo was taken at Inchclutha
about Nov 1895
click here for INDEX
After her husband James died in 1855 at Edinburgh, Scotland, Agnes Archibald (age 70) sailed for New Zealand and pioneered at Inchclutha ["Inch" meaning "island" -- or section of land nearly surrounded by the bends in the river] on the Clutha River of Otago, in company with her daughter’s family-- the Smaills, and another family of friends -- the Darling family. [Inchclutha is now known as "Stirling" which is near Balclutha].
This record is of two parts - the first being recorded from recollections of Gordon Smaill, son of William Smaill and grandson of Andrew and Christian Smaill. It covers the advanced scouting for a location to settle somewhere along the Clutha River. There is description of how information was gathered, where the family camped while the alternatives were considered, and how they proceeded. He briefly covers the family's activities in a two year period.
The next part is a continuation of the record of William Smaill (grandson of Agnes Archibald; son of Andrew and Christian Smaill), who recorded the sailing voyage and continues to give detail of what happened as they moved from camp at Anderson’s Bay to a Maori whare [“whare” meaning place or building]. They stayed until they built a large frame house on their settled land called “Mayfield.” Of course, they called their home the “Mayfield House.”
This record was transcribed by Marloe Archibald from a difficult-to-read transcription typed by cousin Aileen Wood, who got it from her older relatives. Corrections and omissions were done by Trish McWatters. The original documents are now part of the Early Settlers Museum in Otago, New Zealand. This information has long been absent from the Americas.
Re-formatted by Lana Archibald
After passage from Leith, the Strathallen arrived in Port Chalmers in 1859. On board were the families of the Smaills. Andrew with his wife [Christina], six boys and one girl, known as the Black Smaills; and their cousins five boys grown up without their parents, being fair, were the Red Smaills. Transferred to smaller craft, they camped at Anderson’s Bay.
My grandfather Andrew Smaill, with a fellow passenger, Mr. Darling, on the advice of Mr. McAndrew, went off south to spy out the land for a suitable locality to start their lives in New Zealand. My grandfather [Andrew Smaill] had a friend from Edinburgh [Scotland], who had already settled at Inchclutha, and possibly influenced him to emigrate. After a journey of 50 miles, they received a great welcome from the Pillans who had gathered other Edinburgh settlers: the Willocks, Smiths, Davidsons, Wrights, Barkers, and Maitlands. These settlers did everything to help them in their search. Away they went towards the bush-clad Kaitangata hills. Struggling through the undergrowth, they arrived at the highest point where they had a complete view of the winding Clutha River and the plains, stretching towards the Koau branch on the other side of the island. They also saw a building about two miles from the river mouth, the only signs of life. Pushing their way down through the bush, they arrived at the river opposite the dwelling and saw a boat on the beach. “Cooee”-ing, a woman came towards the boat with a lantern. More “cooee”-ing, she persuaded two Maoris to push off and cross the river to take them across. Arriving they found Mrs. Mitchell, who Andrew knew well in Edinburgh; her husband, Willie Mitchell was away up to what was later Balclutha for provisions. The meeting was providential as we shall see.
Mitchell the following day, he told them of two blocks of land
further up the river, which he thought would fit their requirements.
Saying goodbye to these admirable people, they went off to look at
the proposed selections. Duly examined, they tossed up for them and
went off to Dunedin to sign up.
On Mr. Darling’s area was a large Maori whare belonging to the huge
chief, having another whare, passed it over to these new settlers and
always remained very friendly and was compensated in various ways.
Mr. Darling and Andrew prepared the whare to receive the families and
pitched tents that had to stand all weathers. Everything ready,
the families boarded a bullock wagon at Anderson’s Bay for their 50
mile journey to Inchclutha .
Their first day took them over Saddle Hill and they were able to camp
at Homestead and have use of the barn, having any amount of blankets
and rugs, they were comfortable. Then on the way to Waihola,
where they boarded a boat which smoothly helped them south.
Another day or two they were on top of the hill looking down on the
river winding its way through the lush country. Getting nearer,
they saw the Pillan’s white boat with a blue streak around the
gunnel. The boat was to take them to their new home.
Now the clearing of flax bushes and cabbage trees began. Cow bail had
to be made for the essential two cows purchased, and the fencing by
post and rail of the first 15 acres cleared. Fortunately, there
was a stand of large totara trees on the property and more across the
river. These were felled and cut to 10-foot lengths and split into
rails. Posts also of totara and drilled with a 1-1/2
auger to take 4 rails. The wood between the auger holes, the
boys would cut out with chisels. The father knew one Jack
Crammon, a blacksmith in Dunedin, who welded 3 feet of one inch
steel on to the auger. The auger mounted on top of the two posts and
a fly wheel in the center gave the auger momentum to carry the drill
through the post. In Dunedin , he also had the good fortune to
secure a set of steel harrows although he made a set with
wooden tines. [Note 2003
-- from Pat McWatters: "It is amazing what they did with
the flax. Flax bushes that have been growing for a few years
are extremely difficult to get out, and these days it is recommended
that the bush be tied behind a 4WD and pulled out -- to think that
there was acres of flax which all had to be grubbed out by hand!"]
bullocks, which he exchanged for their grand piano in Dunedin,
plodded over the cleared ground and made it ready for sowing the
wheat and potatoes. The potatoes gave a return of 30 tons to
the acre, and the wheat which was cut with scythes and threshed with
flails by two men on contract gave about 80 bushels to the acre, a
yield this rich river silt gave for 16 years without adding manure.
called or named their holding ‘Mayfield’
and the Darling's ‘Cambria Bank’.
Small boats came into the river at Port Molyneaux and berthed
in the river in front of Mayfield and took aboard the wheat and
potatoes that were not required for Mayfield use. These boats also
brought cases of household requirements stored in Dunedin from the
It was decided that the Darling’s house
was to be built first, near the Maori whare and shed. Twenty by
twelve feet was to be their first building. The house would be two
stories and built with totara slabs and pit sawn timber. As
each room was completed, it was soon occupied. Mayfield house
was the next major job; Andrew had managed to find two settlers who
were builders. Thick totara trunks were split into slabs some
18 inches wide and 2 inches thick.
Mr. Darling was adept with adz and he made those boards as if they
were planed. He also had two men pit sawing boards on contract.
Mayfield house was also two-storied with attic windows, built as two
compartments with a staircase to each. Also, a conservatory in
which Mrs. Smaill always had many bushes of grapes in season.
Mayfield was completed, and the gold started and every able man in
the district decided to down tools and go. Grandfather Andrew
was one of them. Having now a boat of his own on the river, he
swam his two bullocks across the river, loaded a sledge with a tent,
gear and four sacks of flour and with a companion headed for
Gabriel’s Gully. Of course all the local gold was gone when
he arrived and he had no intention of going further into Otago
central, knowing that his flour would be commandeered. He sold
it for 1 L- [British pound?] a mug and went home.
I mentioned that the Smaill cousins, all grown men, arrived in the
same ship. Alex, a farmer, took land at Tomahawk. His farm also
took in Smaills’ beach. He went in for a dairy herd to supply
milk to citizens of Dunedin. He built a large stone byre, which would
take 100 cows. He put in one of the first milking machines in
New Zealand, a Danish hartnet. He also put in an oil engine and
Gramme Dynamo for electric light as they started milking in the dark
hours. A musical family, they each played an instrument.
New Zealand” 1859-1863
Recollections of William Smaill,
Grandson of Agnes Archibald
As I said in the close of
voyage, our first home was
at Goat Hill, Anderson’s Bay the house of James Adam, then
emigration agent, and at the time in the Old Country on emigration
business. This arrangement had been made between Mr. Adam and my
father in Edinburgh before we left. So all he really had to do was to
arrange with Mr. Adam’s agents.
Now enters another aspect of the situation. I have mentioned
the Darling family as being with us-- now they are to be very closely
associated with us in all our movements. We were, from this time
onward, until the death of the old folks, largely one family in many
respects. The two families went to Goat Hill together. On
our side was grandmother (mother’s mother--Agnes), Aunt Fannie
(father’s sister), Father [Andrew Smaill Sr.], and Mother
[Christina Archibald Smaill], Aggie [age 14], Andrew [age 12], John,
James, self, Robert, and Tom (infant ) -- eleven of us. Of the
Darlings there were Mr. and Mrs. Darling, Jeannie, James, Lizzie,
Robert, Mary -- seven of that family. Eighteen all told, so we
were a fair company.
These, then with all our household stuff, were taken across the bay in Mr. Adam’s lighter ‘The Queen’. Our heavier stuff was stored at McAndrew and Reynolds and, in due time was shipped to the Clutha.
say, here, that life at Goat Hill was simply ideal for us youngsters
-- there were always some lessons, but no school, and we had the
freedom and run of the bush. Fuchsia berries and brambles, which
were the largest I have ever seen, of the native sort and as large as
the imported, and much sweeter, and of a beautiful rich russet
colour, almost burnt sienna. The native kind usually are, but these
being so much larger, were much finer in appearance. I remember I
thought a lot of these berries and enjoyed them. There was a
fair-sized garden with plenty vegetables and small fruit and, in
time, as many gooseberries as we could eat. With other comforts, it
was pretty nearly heaven.
The outstanding event at Goat Hill was the birth of Ellis Darling,
raising their number to eight. While there, Father, Mr.
Darling, Andrew, and sometimes Aggie, went to harvest work at
McAndrew’s, walking morning and evening which made a long day for
them. It was earning something, besides getting experience of farm
work, as they were grocers by business and had much to learn,
although both Father and Mr. Darling had a good knowledge of stock.
Father was a good judge of horses,
none better. They also knew about cows. So on this part
they were well forward, which was well for them afterwards.
My father was
always a sociable being and had the faculty of conversation and
discussion. He was well read and informed and had quite a
faculty of getting into intimate relations with superior or
well-informed class. So, although only a worker, Mr. McAndrew
and he became very intimate and friendly -- a friendship that lasted
until death. Probably no one knew better than Mr. McAndrew the
general nature and prospects of Otago, at that time north and south,
which meant all south of Canterbury. He discussed every detail
with father -- where he should go and what he should do -- into which
discussions Mr. Darling was eventually included until definite plans
were formed .
The Clutha was always, to Mr. McAndrew, the
garden of Otago. He considered the capital settlement should
have been there, in which many respects he was quite right. Only
Otago then had the best harbor in New Zealand for all weathers, in
which docking could be done at all time, so Port Chalmers decided the
capital. But for that, the Clutha would have been selected.
Naturally then, Mr. McAndrew advised seeing the Clutha, and being
aquainted, more or less, with all in the district, he gave them a
good kind of introduction to the whole of it. First there were
Smiths, as good as a home to call on for a start. Then there were
Pillans, Fergusons, Maitlands, Willocks, and Andersons, all
Edinburgh folk. These would all make them welcome and help.
Then there were McNiells at the Ferry, as Balclutha was called, and
then in the South Molyneux there were the Hays, Beggs, and Lewises,
so it will be seen that Mr. McAndrew had mapped out quite a tour for
Father and Mr. Darling’s inspection. This he advised them to
go and see first, giving them all the detailed instructions and how
to secure any land they decided upon – this was invaluable.
Accordingly, after the harvest was cut, they duly started for Clutha,
going south in Jock Graham’s trap; he was the mailman and light
carrier in those days. I think they went right through to the
ferry and it took them almost two days. The middle stage being
Tokomairiro, as Milton was then called. James Smith’s
afterwards of Greenfield, being the accommodation house there, as the
McNiells were at the ferry.
The one outstanding virtue at the time was that travelers or callers
were treated like guests and friends and generally the oftener the
calls, the closer the friendship. With very few exceptions,
this was the case, and is really one of the main causes of the
success of the early settlers. “Good will” played a very
large part besides increasing the happiness and enjoyment of all
concerned. As man really enjoys nothing as much as man’s
security and fellowship, so the lonely settler enjoyed the advent of
a caller, and if a congenial companion, so much the better.
That must have been a
trip of real adventure to those two (in those days). I have often
followed them in imagination, and would like to know how they felt
about it sometimes, because it was really a big contract they were
facing, as we shall see.
I am not quite certain about their route from the Ferry, whether they
went down to the Warepa side first, or the other side of (the)
Inchclutha, but I think that Willocks, the carpenter as he was called
on the Inchclutha, was about the first person they met. Being
Edinburgh folk, they were made at home and began a lifelong
friendship between the families. Anderson, also being a
“townie,” was called upon. But the first, was the
real friendly spot at all times.
Their next point was the Smith brothers on the mainland, just below
now is. Although they were from Aberdeen, they were townies of
McAndrews and here they had another welcome, again beginning a
lifelong friendship, cemented by much kindness on both sides. The
Smiths became their headquarters from which they worked the district.
They duly called upon the Maitlands at
the Cresent Farm, then crossed the river to the Pillans and the
Fergusons. These being Edinburgh folk, they were naturally made at
home. In Mr. Maitland’s home, my father met an old Edinburgh
acquaintance and in Mr. Pillan’s he met one whose people he knew,
so they were in a friendly atmosphere.
They then called on Mr.W. Moseley further down the island of
Inchclutha, but so far they had no success, as far as land was
concerned -- nothing they had seen just satisfied them. All the
best land seemed to be taken up. They were advised to have a look at
the coast, now called Wangaloa. At that time, no one was settled
there, or had taken up land there.
I think their next stay was at Davidson’s, now Gask Farm. I am not
sure if they stayed all night with them, but as Davidson knew the
ground, he piloted them to Lovell, who had moved from what is called
Lovells Flat to the corner of the Kaitangata bush. He was what
was then known as a squatter, that is a lease-hold instead of a
buyer. From Mr. Lovell and his Maori shepherds, they got the
particulars of the coast and such directions as could be given.
One of the shepherds showed them the ridge leading over to the sea.
Here they started out, actually pretty well on their own, into the
unknown, as the only tracks were sheep and wild pig tracks.
There were no cattle and all the country they had to pass through was
covered, more or less, with rank flax, tutu, and fern. It took
good nerve to face it as they had really nothing to guide them by and
they had had no experience of such conditions of traveling. They got
to the coast alright and traveled along the coast towards Coal Point.
I think the idea
of their directions was that they would go along the coast, past the
end of the Kaitangata bush, make over to the river, and follow the
river up towards Lavells, from where they had started in the
morning. A good walk even under present conditions, but next to
impossible under the conditions they met.
As far as following out the correct directions was concerned, they
were all right. Only in crossing the hills at the bottom of the
south end of Kaitangata, they met a rank of growth of tutu and fern
that was next to impossible to get through, even in daylight.
But before they reached the crest of the ridge, darkness had set in
and how to keep the direction amongst growth was their trouble.
They had only a piece in their pocket for food so, needless to say,
they were hungry, but they were also about dead-beat, so they at
least got a good rest and, I have no doubt, discussed the situation.
After their rest,
they made another trial, or at least a survey of their surroundings.
They were able to make out the river; then they saw a light well to
their south-west, they thought on the other side of the river, and
decided to make a bee-line for it. This even in the present
conditions, would not be an easy matter, but through the rough stuff
they had to force their way. It must have been a battle royal, and
nothing but pure grit would have mastered it, but they did, and
gained the river bank opposite the light. My father had mastered the
colonial signal known as “coo-ee” and having
a rare tenor voice, he soon made
himself heard with a real genuine “coo-ee.”
They were now in front of what is known as Willie Mitchells’, but
he was not at home and his wife was alone. Fortunately, there were
some of the Maoris camped fishing not far off, so she got one of
them, old Rakiraki, after much persuading, to face the darkness
(Maoris, at that time, did not move after dark). However, she
managed it with the result that they got them across. Then
something very remarkable happened. What was my father’s surprise
when he came into the light to hear himself addressed “Mr. Smaill!
Where have you come from!” Then he recognized who Mrs. Mitchell was
and said, “Katie Forster! How are you here?” She had been
one of his daily customers, for Father
was a grocer in Edinburgh. Needless
to say it was a great meeting, as they knew each other so well, and
had much to ask about. My father used to say it was one of the most
remarkable events of his life and always regarded it as the guiding
hand of God, which of course it was, but so are all our steps if we
take notice -- only there are times, we are forced to notice.
They might have seen the same hand in the kindness that had been
their lot all through.
Next day, Willie Mitchell turned up. He had been to the Ferry to get
provisions, fully nine miles as the road was then, walking and
carrying what he could, such were the conditions.
The most important part of all was that they met here the definite
hope of land. Mr. Mitchell told them that there were two
hundred acres that would just suit
them and more if they wanted it afterwards. This was the first
real hope they had met; then all was plain sailing. They were soon on
the land, got the number of the section pegs and, as they had maps,
got the section located. The two sections were together, so Mr.
Darling and Father drew lots for ownership, with the result that Mr.
Darling drew the section with the Maori whare on it and a certain
amount of clearing. Father, of course, got the other one. I remember
us youngsters thought it a piece of hard luck, as acre for acre the
other was much the more valuable in many ways at the time, but I
never once heard Father make the least reference to his bad luck. He
took his section as if it were the best, although Mr. Darling’s
complacent satisfaction made it rather hard to bear. However, the
land was secured. I think Mr. Ferguson had something to do in
the matter. I know he was the only surveyor in the district
but, at any rate, they came directly back, made their application and
Thus the first and most important part of business was finished.
Our future home was fixed. The next point was getting us
there. As there were certain things to be arranged, both Father
and Mr. Darling went back and this time Andrew went with them.
However, before they went, they had to get the baggage and provisions
for a time on board the vessel on the Clutha trade. The ‘spec’
which was in charge of Captain Simpson (this was the opening of
another friendship) was a very vital link in those days. All the
stuff, fortunately, could be landed right on the spot, although
storing it was another matter. The vessel at that time, was a
God-send as the bullock dray was the only other transport and by it
the family had to travel. The stuff was duly sent and the three left
again for the Clutha, now the land of promise.
Mr. Darling was not long away, as his business was mostly to make
arrangements for the different stages. The first stage was from
Dunedin to Scroggs Creek by bullock dray. That was the general
outline of the programme, but it did not work out just to schedule
I do not
remember what day we left, but I think it must have been Monday, but
whatever day it was, I remember it was a long, long
day. We were all astir very early and bedding packed up
and every thing ready for the bullock dray. That was to
take us to meet the boat at Scroggs Creek. The first hitch in
the day was the dray was late. It was well on in the day before
it turned up and before it was loaded up and ready for the road; it
was past mid-day when we finally got away.
Just let us look at the party thus starting on a sixty-mile
journey. To begin at the oldest--
there were Grandmother and Aunt Fanny, the two mothers with two
infants, Mr. Darling, Jeannie Darling, and Aggie, the two James,
Lizzie Darling and I, the two Bobs, Mary Darling and Jack --
seventeen all told. As our bedding was in constant use, and
would be needed on the way, it had to go with us, also goods and
sundry other things, so by the time it was all on the dray, it was
well packed. Fourteen persons, without the driver ‘Goodall’,
to be packed on top was rather a problem, that I may say was seldom
carried out, a good proportion having to walk.
All would have been right had we been away four hours sooner.
But as the day was fine, we all started in good spirits. I may
say that my special care was a yellow collie pup that the Beggs of
Anderson’s Bay had given me. I thought no end of her, as she was my
got a start, but the dray road from Anderson’s Bay, at the time,
was a very round business. At the south of the harbor there
were two creeks which were bridged with a foot bridge and, in line
with the bridges, was a narrow foot path raised above the tide
level. There are still some marks of it. This path was fairly
straight and the bridges divided the paths into about equal portions,
but the creeks spread outwards and went fairly well out.
As there was no short cut through towards Caversham, the drays had to
come right to the south end of the town to gain the ridge up towards
Saddle Hill; then it was all flax and tussock. So it was well into
the afternoon when we were making up towards Look-out Point and I
remember at several points Mr. Darling had to hang onto the high side
of the dray to keep it safe. I remember Grandmother remarking that if
it went over she would be undermost. All of us youngsters that
possibly could were walking. As it was March, darkness was
settling down on us while we were still a long, long way from Scroggs
Creek where we were to meet the boat to take us on to Antone Joseph’s
near Waihola ferry.
The hope of reaching that object had to be given up. But where
could we camp? For the nights were cold and frosty and
there were two infants to take care of as well as their mothers.
Goodall said there was one place we could make, but he was doubtful
of our welcome. So after a long weary trail in the dark, we came to a
steading [homestead], with a house and a large barn and other
buildings, into the yard of which we turned. Mr. Darling went
to see what could be done. It is very unpleasant to record
unkindness at any time, but it was so unusual, otherwise, I would not
have recorded it. I will not name the folks, but their
unkindness, especially the woman, was about the limit. The
first answer was a curt ‘No’! But Mr. Darling would not
take it; they had to consider. Finally, leave was given to
spread our beds in the barn loft, but nothing to eat. We took our
boots off, but I think that was all and we youngsters were soon fast
asleep, as we were properly tired. Later about ten p.m., they
felt a little remorse, and sent word there was tea if we wanted it.
As Mr. and Mrs. Darling and Mother were the only ones out of bed and
as the mothers needed something, they went and had some, but it was
not a cheerful meal by any means. However, as they would need
to pay for it, they arranged to get something in the way of
breakfast, which I think, as far as we youngsters were concerned, was
some milk. We had bread with us. It was not a heavy meal.
I am happy to say that was the last of that sort of thing we were to
see for many long years. These good people were not
acclimatized. I have no doubt time would have put them right.
Fortunately it was
a beautiful morning and our spirits were up and we took to the road
quite cheerily. Mr. Darling had settled up the night before and
had left at daylight for Antone Joseph’s to get the boat that was
at Scroggs Creek for us the night before. No wonder the bullock
driver drew in the night before for, although we made an early start,
it was nearly mid-day before we reached the meeting place, where,
happily, the boat was just showing up.
Now we were to experience a long period of kindness and welcome, much
more pronounced and positive than the other had been negative.
Provisions were sent in the boat for us, as it would be well on in
the day before we reached the homestead, which we eventually did
about three p.m., where we found a beautiful spread and a kind but, I
regret to say, a sorrowful welcome awaiting for us, as the family
that week had been stricken with a sore bereavement. I am not
sure but I think it was their first and only child had been drowned
in the river before their door. No wonder the mother could not
bear to meet us children, but everything that kindness could suggest
was done for our comfort and enjoyment. Later in the evening,
she met the old folk and with them came to see us tucked comfortably
in bed. Thus ended a most adventurous day, a day I will always
remember as one of the brightest and full of thrills.
It was really our first boat voyage of the kind. True, we had
been in boats before, but there was always something of the sea about
them. This was a beautiful river, with beautiful banks on
either side, with one new wonder each mile, and the motion was so
delightful after the dray and the weary walk.
That sail was one continual and perfect delight. The river was pure
and clear, but not quite as clear as the Clutha. It was over
ten years before I was able to see the same river again and I could
hardly recognize it as the same. The diggings had polluted it and the
changes were not in the line of beautifying, as is mostly the case
where man goes.
Here we saw native bush, quite different from the Dunedin bush, where
nearly all the heavy timber had been cut. Here was the three kinds of
pines, red, white and black, totara, kamahi, and ribbonwood, besides
what to us children was heaven: an endless amount of fuchsia berries.
Then we saw a real
Maori encampment. It was not a “pah.” It was more of a village
with their plantations. There were quite a lot of them and they
seemed to think a lot of us youngsters. It was really our first
meeting with the Maoris and it was well that it was under such happy
conditions, as we were to meet the Maoris very intimately on reaching
Inchclutha, as our first home was to be a Maori whare. So as I
have said, it was a day of thrills.
Next day was to be a still more beautiful voyage to the Tokomairiro
end of Lake Waihola. As the day was perfect, and we had the good luck
to get a nice, light, fair wind, the boat was able to sail over most
of the lake making good time. We arrived before the bullock dray from
Mr. James Smith’s, afterwards of Greenfield, driven by Mr. William
Martin, one of a family well known in Tokomairiro.
We got on the dray about mid-afternoon and arrived in what is now
Milton just after dark, but as everything was ready for us, we were
not long in being fed and made comfortable for the night in Mr.
The only special thing I remember of the next morning is that it was a hard frost -- the first of the kind we had seen in New Zealand, not far behind old Edinburgh for sharpness.
last stage of the Clutha voyage, was to be a notable one and each day
had its own particular character and destination. The first was
definitely unpleasent. The second one, we reached the climax of
kindness and consideration, but the third was the brightest of all --
the kindly feeling went with us all the way. Our stay at Antone
Joseph’s was the longest, it was also the most homely, and the
kindly feeling west with us all the way. Our stay was comfortable
and there was something of a forlorn feeling in facing this last
stage. As from the end of Tokomairiro plain until we reached the
Clutha, there was no habitation of any kind, so it was twenty good
miles into the unknown for most of us.
As I have said, the bullock dray was our conveyance, but it is hard
work putting eighteen, at any time, into a bullock dray, the more so
when filled with bedding and baggage, so we had developed quite a
walking contingent. This being a frosty morning, walking was
almost necessary, so all who could walk started on ahead. As the
track, as there was no road, was over the Plain there was no chance
of losing it, provided the track was followed.
This morning, Grandmother and Aunt Fannie started out with the young
folk and for awhile all went well. The dray was much longer in
following than any of us expected. In those days the bullocks
were just turned out and, as they had the whole range of the plain
for a paddock, in the morning two, at least, out of the eight were
missing. It was well on the afternoon before the dray started,
with the result that as the day got warmer, the younger ones wanted
to sit down and rest until, at least, we could see the dray coming,
which we thought we did several times, but still the dray was not
showing up. Grandmother and Auntie, while they sat down at
first, did not join us in waiting but kept on walking, with the
result that when the dray did come up to us, we had quite lost
sight of them. Here was a pickle. As Martin said, we had to
find them before we took the hills, as there was nothing between us
and the Clutha. We could see no one ahead. We were then well
out beyond Clarkeville, but nearer the Fairfax side of the plain then
the road, we ultimately took. Some figures could be seen
walking or moving, we could not say in what direction, away out
towards the Glenore side of the plain. Could that possibly be
them? Just at this juncture, a horseman overtook us.
Mr. Trimble of Warepa (Mr. Darling and Father had met him) and Mr.
Darling told him our trouble. He let Martin have his horse, as
he knew the ground and he would soon see who the figures were.
So off Martin went
and was soon seen riding back, as it was not them. Now what was
to be done? Martin said we could not possibly stay any longer,
or we would not make the Clutha that night. I remember it was
with a heavy heart that Mother agreed to go on, trusting for the
best. Mr. Tremble said he would push on and keep a sharp
look-out for them, and if he overtook them, tell them to wait for the
dray, as we were anxious about them. With that we moved on
again, but very much like a funeral, as we felt we were leaving two
of our number behind us. Personally I was in grief.
I was always fond of dogs and the pup, which was my charge, had been
tied up at the dray and was to come on with the dray but someone
shifted her, with the result that she was left behind. I am afraid I
shed tears rather freely. Yes, this was so far a black day.
Well, we passed
out of the plain and were near the crest of the hill where we lost
sight of the plain and, as we neared the crest, our hopes were
failing fast when Presto! Right on the crest were two figures
sitting. Soon we made out they were women and then there was a
shouting and hurrahing. Mr. Trimble had overtaken them and told
them to sit and wait, as they might lose their way. So they,
very much against their will, waited, which was a mercy, as the track
was none too easy to follow.
Now we passed on as fast as we could. We made Lovells Flat at
dinner time, or to be correct, a drinking place for the bullocks at
Lovells Creek. Here they met two horsemen, also having their
bite, and watering their horses. They were going to town. Trimble had
told them about the plight he that had left us in, so they were quite
interested and pleased to see us all together again.
Here, I first saw what was to us a wonderful drinking device, known
as a Maori cup made of flax. One of these gentlemen made one, used
it, and left it lying behind him. I remember getting it,
examining it closely, taking it down and putting it up again until I
could make one. I can see the whole thing as plainly as if it were
went again, but further than I remember. It was a long weary trail
and there was nothing worthy of note. We reached the top of the
hill known as the cabbage tree that marked the junction of the track
-- the one leading on to the Ferry, the other to Inchclutha—now
Stirling – and here we got the
first view of the Clutha valley, always a most beautiful view, but
then we thought it perfectly lovely, as all the bends of the river
were so clearly seen. I remember some
of the bends looked like circles
and, for many a day, I believed they were. The sun must have
been pretty low, as the river was gleaming with reflected light and I
know it was dark when we reached the riverbank just about where the
bridge is now. I remember it was light enough to see the
swirling of the current, something I had never seen before.
Although the distance from the bridge to William Smith’s house does
not seem any great distance, I remember to us youngsters trudging
along in the growing darkness, it seemed a long weary road and I
think the team were of the same mind.
If the road was weary, the welcome soon made us forget everything but
the present gladness, as we were fairly overwhelmed with kindness.
Everyone seemed to try to out-do the other in getting us all made
comfortable, but I think Mr. Smith was an easy first, as was his way
as long as I knew him. I am thankful to say that I had the good
fortune to enjoy many more expressions of his unfailing and habitual
kindness. There was a goodly number present, as they were
harvesting. I am not sure who was all there, but besides the
three brothers Smith, there were Mr. W. Aitcheson, Mr. James Wright,
and Mr. Thomas Marsh. The last three were staying at Mr. F. S.
Pillan’s, Inchclutha. As it had been arranged that part of
our party were to lodge at the Myers, Mr. Pillan’s place, after tea
Mr. Darling, my brother James and myself were duly shifted into
Smiths’, or I believe it must have been Pillan’s boat , because
we walked across the bend to the boat and down the river from there.
Mr. Wright, Mr. Aitcheson and Mr. Marsh went with us. We were not
long in being snugly fed and in bed, so ended the fourth day’s
time was taken up in those days watching felling and clearing of the
bush, splitting up the broadleaf and burning them in immense fires --
timber that in a few years would have been a small fortune for house
building as no better can be found for piles. In the evening my
father would read aloud Shakespear or “ Palmyra”. My father
was one of the best readers that I have ever listened to. Sam,
who was greatly interested, used to say “Now then Mr. Johnston,
give us a bit more of Zenobe.” My father was better at that
sort of thing than at the arduous labor attached to colonizing.
He cleared a garden for potatoes and planted them in neatly made rows
-- a patch, perhaps one chain by two -- but as he did not fell the
bush about it to let the sun in, the tops grew to six feet high and
of course there was nothing at the root. Had the trees been cut
down, we should have had a splendid crop, as the peninsular as it was
called, was famed for its potatoes.
Our only boat was the flat bottomed one that I have mentioned before
and in this, my father, Whittle and Sam Perry (Percy) made trips to
Koputi and up to Dunedin. I wonder it did not prove a coffin
for them all, as none except perhaps Whittle knew anything about
handling a boat. On a calm morning my father used to give us
lessons in sculling, in which I soon became expert, but my first
experience with boating was with Captain Riddley as he crossed the
harbour in his small, but safe dinghy. He was a daring boatman
and crossed in all weather.
Many a time, I was kept bailing all the way. Poor Captain
Riddley was caught at last many years after this coming from Dunedin
with one of his small sons. One of those sudden southwest gales
struck them between the islands. Their boat was swamped and they were
Much of my time was spent in sculling about on quiet days in our
lovely little bay and at low water gathering pippies, which were
plentiful and very nice when no meat could be had and fish scarce.
Many are the hardships we went through in those days. For the whole
year I went barefoot, and this in the bush and around the rocks at
low tide. Our only road was anything but pleasant. Yet in
spite of all this there was a charm about those days that never
returned. No doubt at times it must have been monotonous enough
for my mother, but having one lady neighbor, it was not so bad as
some who had no one at all. Then we had visitors every now and
then - Maoris with fish or boats from Koputii.
One of these I remember well -- a whale boat with the two hands
pulling and a gentleman at the steer oar. It was a Mr. W. A.
Mansford who had become acquainted with my father when we landed from
the ship. He arrived in the “Victory” four months before we
came. He had a store and dwelling in what is known as Mansford Bay.
He bartered with the natives giving goods, stores, tobacco, tools,
and blankets in exchange for pork and potatoes. I did not know how
intimate my connection with the Mansford family would shortly be, but
it came about this way. My father, as
I mentioned, was not strong. He had
about this time gone up to Dunedin and as they were windbound had to
stay all night, sleeping under an upturned boat. The result was a
severe cold, which brought on other troubles. Heart disease developed
and from that time, he grew gradually worse and quite unfit for any
hard work and his means were very limited. We were soon in
straitened circumstances. Mr. Mansford saw how matters stood
and that my father required medical attention. He most kindly
insisted on our coming over and living in the meantime with them, so
my father accepted his kind offer of hospitality. Mrs. Mansford
who was one of the kindest souls, received us most cordially and did
everything in her power to make my parents feel at home. For
some time my father improved in health and was able to do some
clerical work in Port Chalmers. Mr. and Mrs. Mansford’s home
and store were built on a loop
about three miles, which at the narrowest part is not over three
hundred yards. Just around this loop, we came to Mayfield
Stirling], one of the most beautiful bends in the river, viewed from
any angle or direction; and then in full view of the Kaitangata
hill, covered every inch with
beautiful bush -- a sight the eye never tired looking at. As we
rounded the corner, we met this lovely sight above and reflected in
the water, as it was a perfect day. This was a welcome we all
enjoyed. Ten minutes more, we were around the bend at Darling’s
place where the Maori whare, which was to be our home, was waiting
Father and Andrew had everything ready for our dinner. It was about
two o’ clock but that did not matter. Father had been making, I
forget whether it was a loaf or a scone. I know there was great
rejoicing all around, as we scrambled ashore, and there was not much
order in our doing. I remember us youngsters were just
beside ourselves as we flew around and yelled. Whatever was
needed we got out of the boat right away and then there was the feed.
They had rigged quite a long table in the hut, which would measure
about eighteen by twelve, not much room for twenty-one, counting the
two infants. It was a great meal and very merry, but, as the
boat had a long return journey upstream, there was a hurry to get
them away. Everything, where a little extra strength was needed
to make things comfortable, was done before they left. It was
really not long before the boat was back again, I forget for what,
but it was helping someone, or with stores.
Our first night in the whare was one to be remembered. We were all
together again and all well and happy. There had been worries,
but no accidents, and before it was too late, there was what had been
every night since the two families had a home together-- family
worship -- and it was well worthy of its name.
My father was always fond of music,
sacred music most of all, and some
of the psalms, with their grand old tunes, were his special delight.
Jeannie Darling had something of a kindred spirit and a good clear
voice. Andrew, also, had a voice above the usual, while Aggie
was quite good, although her voice was not so pronounced. Auntie
Fanny, once the tune had started and one she knew, had a clear, if
somewhat shrill voice of that quality peculiarly suited to the minor
keys. When the psalm was started that night, it went with a vim and
swing that was the beginning of a long series of singing bees.
This, I believe, brought and held the families together more than
anything else. Everything seemed to straighten out here.
Father led the singing; Mr. Darling read the chapter and Father led
in prayer. It is singular that, althoughFather was a confirmed
stutterer, his prayers were, as far as I remember, always free and
clear of any defect. Thus was started an institution that first
night that has kept up as long as Father and Mr. Darling were alive.
All the rejoicings and family reunions were always closed with a
combined family worship, however short, but it was always warm and
appreciated by all.
As I have said, singing in the evenings, when reading and talking was
next to impossible, became quite a feature, and Father, Jeannie, and
Andrew were quite a trio that was to go far in the days to come. So
much for our first night--what of the next day and the days
About the first thing, so far as I remember, was pigeon shooting, as
pigeons were very plentiful and quite new. Mr. Darling had a very
fine fowling piece, in fact, one of the finest. Nothing of the kind
is seen nowadays. A double barrel that threw its charge of shot
so close that sixty yards was quite an easy range for it, a good
twenty yards over the average. Father, on the other hand, had never
thought of a gun, as he had never used one. So he bought one from Mr.
Douglas on the ship, the only one available, a flint lock of the
blunder-buss type and quite true to type, it would scatter a charge
of shot fifteen feet widest forty yards, so there was little chance
of actually missing, but equally little chance of killing. The
difference between Mr. Darling's bags and Father's was evident, but
the guns did not get all the credit. However, between them, we had
always plenty to keep us going until we got beef.
Milk, we had none, and this was the really first thing to attend to.
Something in the nature of a stock yard had to be fixed, as a corner
in the bush was cleared, trees being used for posts as far as
possible, and whatever would make rails tied onto these trees.
As far as possible, extra posts being put in where needed.
A yard of four panelled square was fixed up, being pretty well scrubbed all around, which was all right for quiet cattle. Behind it was fixed up a calf-pen, as calves sucked their mothers in those days and had to be shut up at nights. Cows had been bought before this, but were left until ready. Mr. Darling had only bought one cow from Mr. Willocks, a big dun coloured cow, Jean, a real good milker and very quiet. Father had bought four cows from Mr. John Shephard, then in Dunedin, (jailer-in-chief ), but his cattle were running at Moseley's who looked after them on terms. Father was to pick the cows he wanted, which seemed alright. Three were alright, good and quiet, but one, or rather two were heifers, unbroken, and Father, being used to home cows when he was a boy, did not understand the difference. I think there were two cows in milk, Finny and Fanny, but they had been milking some considerable time. One of the heifers was just coming in, and she had a young calf when brought down, but she was decidedly wild, although a good milker. She could both run and rush and was not slow at either. However, she got her calf taken from her and penned up. As far as I remember the others had no calves so hers was the only one. She was put into the bail after much trouble and her behaviour, all around, was not good. The cows were turned into what was called the Balloon, which was a lop of the river bend and, as we were right on the neck of the Balloon, cattle, unless very determined, would pass, but if they did, could easily be seen.
heifer, Mary, returned to her calf after dark and set up great
roaring. Mother, being troubled with the mother instinct,
thought the poor beast needed comforting and so, with very scant
covering, made her way out towards the poor beast to pacify her with
sympathy, as it was all she had to give her. She got near enough to
let her hear “Sh, Mary,” said softly, when like a flash, Mary
made a rush at her. Mother never knew what kept her from getting her,
as mother got such a shock she was unable to move, not even to faint,
but as she was still alive, she gradually crawled to cover and,
tremblingly, got back to the hut and to bed much shaken, but thankful
to be alive.
That was the end of that sort of thing for Mother. That cow was a lot
of trouble for a while, though afterwards a good milker, but always
troublesome when she came in. So much for cow trouble.
The next big job was house building. What sort of house would they
build? There was not much choice -- to build a frame home was
beyond their means; besides, such houses are cold unless properly
lined and papered. Clay houses were warm, but clay on
Inchclutha was scarce; besides, what was known of the wattle and daub
building was not attractive, but something of the sort might do for
chimneys. All was duly discussed. It was decided to build the
Darling's house first, as it was thought it would be more quickly
built and thus get more room. All the same, it meant a long weary job
before Mayfield house would be ready for use and weary traveling up
and down. It was decided that Darling's house would be
weather-boarded in front, eighteen feet high, twenty-four feet long
and, I think, twelve feet wide, with arrangements for a lean-to being
added as early as possible.
In the meantime, something had been going on. Across the river was
Mr. Davidson’s place, what is now the “Gask.” He was
living in a hut at that time. He was a relation of the Maitlands and
was something of a cattle squatter along with them, although
Maitlands had also a sheep run up the river. He was going to
get married and was going to get timber sawn in his bush. Men
would be starting on this at once, and Aitcheson and Bob Mercer were
the first two to start on this job; although William Mitchell, also
helped in turn, also Mr. Darling and Father.
They worked some how, some doing farm work. As the logs suited,
they were put aside for timber, and saplings were cut in the
Kaitangata bush for the framework of Darling's house. These
were put into position and the three walls were started and built
with clay, something of the wattle and daub style. Mr. Barker
and W. Mitchell were both on the job, so it was not really
long before enough of the home was fit to move into, thus relieving
the congestion in the whare. I am not sure which part was ready
first , but I think it was the upstairs part. This reminds me
that the roof was thatched with broad grass.
There was a big patch of broad grass just on the bend below Mayfield
and cutting, tying, and carrying grass was a job for all hands. I
only remember seeing one other solid patch of such grass, and that
was in the Clinton Valley. It was wretched stuff to plow and
harrow and had to be shaken out like couch, but much heavier
roots. It was mostly valuable grass for cattle feed if burned off in
the fall, in fact as soon as the cattle stopped eating it. It
was not long before a fire was possible and it began to spring right
away. From this you will see that all hands were busy every
minute from morning until night. I do not know the date when the
Darlings got finally into their new home, but I know we were getting
well into the frosty mornings. I expect it was into May. However,
several things may be noted during this time.
I think the first thing to note was the first
trip to church, which was at
the head of the island and the winding nature of the track made it
fully ten miles, but as walking could not be free, it took some
time. It took a good four hours! Rev. W. Bannermann
was the minister in charge of Otago, all south of Waihola.
Service was sometimes four weeks, sometimes six weeks, but at the
time, as far as the Low was concerned, no one attended. Father
and Mr. Darling were the first from our end and that first day was a
I remember they got away pretty early and, as they attended church
in Dunedin in their Edinburgh clothes, it was only fitting that
they should do the same here. So they set out in best blacks and
bell-toppers. The result was somewhat startling. Below Mosley's
Bush, the flax, tutu, and fern was too rank for cattle, so cattle
take [no] notice, but above that the land was comparatively clear, so
cattle could see anyone passing and they generally take notice of
strangers. The apparition they saw that day was something unknown,
with the result that they stampeded in all directions. If the cattle
stampeded, the effect on the people in church, especially the
youngsters, was just about as pronounced. Needless to
say, that was the last appearance of these suits at church, but by no
means the last with the youngsters, as in after-days when any make up
[costume] was needed in our many family gatherings, part of them, at
least, was sure to appear. The history of such appearances would be
quite interesting and one which I may come to.
At present, I must follow the serious side. That, as I have said, was
the first of our church attendances, the beginning of a lifelong
habit in the Clutha that was to keep on growing.
Next Sunday service saw Jeannie Darling, Aggie and Andrew added to
the number, until the two James, Lizzie Darling, and I were added to
the number. Ultimately, Mother and Mrs. Darling did it but, as it was
a good ten miles, it meant a twenty-mile walk-- still it was taken
Here I must mention one of the chief items as far as we youngsters
were concerned. I have mentioned the Willocks. Their
place was within a mile of the church and it was simply a glorious
rest house on the way. The best of cheer and plenty to eat and drink,
and dinner to come back to after church, and, as James and Janet
Willocks were about our age, we were soon all fast and life-long
friends and many happy times we had together. So with this
added attraction, the long walk was not really much considered by us
youngsters, until it was quite a common thing for some of us to go up
during the week and come home on Sunday, or stay on Sunday and come
back through the week. Our mothers also did this, but not so
often as we. This was quite a common habit in those days and I
forged strong and lasting relationships.
So much for that side of life, now I must notice the other side--
that is our daily round. Shops and stores were none, except at
the Ferry. Some things could be got there, but mostly liquor.
Bowler and Davies, at the top of the island, kept a limited store
which they increased as things grew, but nearly everything had to
come from Dunedin. The staple needs of life were bread,
potatoes, milk, meat of some sort, tea and sugar. The bread was in
the form of wheat which had to be ground by the hand steel mill and
baked every day. The baking was the old leaven style and had to
be set every night and made up the next morning and fired in the camp
We got our first wheat from the Smiths and, I think, also our
potatoes. Wheat, potatoes and vegetables were the necessities
of life, and everyone grew them for their own use with some to sell,
if possible. The wheat was handled in a most primitive way,
thrashed, mostly by what was called scutching. A sheet was spread, a
block of wood, a tub or any such like thing was placed on it, and the
wheat taken in handfuls and the heads knocked against the block until
all the wheat was out, then another handful until there was enough.
Generally about a bushel, which was a stook, twelve sheaves.
This was then gathered up and cleaned, either by wind or the bellows,
but the cleaning was always a more serious job than the thrashing.
From this, it will be seen what a long line of small jobs were always
The town transport was very intermittent and depended on a lot of
things. There was only one vessel on the run, “The Speck”
sailed and owned, I think, by Captain Simpson, as fine a man as ever
walked, but at the time unknown to us. He went to all the places of
call from the Bluff to Oamaru
which were a goodly number. As
some places, Clutha had bar harbours; he could only get in or out as
the wind and tide suited . Sometime the visits might be fairly close,
that is a month or six weeks, sometimes it went six months. The stuff
had to be ordered in town, and they were by no means particular to
catch the boat, which was of course by no means easy, as there was no
way of giving notice and coming and going was just as uncertain and
erratic as all other conditions. In fact both Father and
Mr. Darling soon decided to send direct to Edinburgh for what was
called a “box” which was sent for every year for many years, and
was quite a boon to many besides ourselves. Captain Simpson
gradually began to be known, which largely changed everything. And he
became a kind of general carrier. He would get everything man,
woman, or child wanted and bring it with as much care as if that was
the only thing he was doing. This he was doing all around the
coast. Certainly, it helped his business and he was soon able
to put on another vessel “The
Pioneer” and with the two vessels,
matters were largely improved. It was he who put an end to the
steel mill (grinding your own flour); he took the wheat to town, had
it ground and brought back as flour, bran, and pollard. At
first it was a bag or two, but ultimately, it would be eight or ten
bags, which made a big difference in many ways. So much for the
general outline which will give some idea of the daily conditions.
Now I come to more specially family matters.
As I have already said, the building of Darling's house was the first
thing concentrated on, to get more house room as quickly as possible
and it was the wisest plan and the quickest way out. As the house
drew near about finish, fewer could be employed, and gradually
changes were taking place. We had to be looking towards getting
our place underhand and there was really much to do.
There was a house to build, stock-yards to build, ground to be fenced
in, cleared and broken up, and sown for spring. Mother and Auntie
Fanny were really the first to tackle this big job, and they began
with the grub hoes, or rather a pair of carpenters
adzes. They began at the corner nearest our lodging, as
natural. At the low corner of Mayfield, there was a little bit of
clear ground and they began grubbing [digging] it up so that potatoes
could be planted in what is called Maori heaps, with three or four
sets, and covered up, which was done as soon as there was enough
grubbed. That was the beginning of the chief industry of one
half of the family, the two already named, with James and myself.
Grandmother looked after the younger ones, Robert, John, and the
Father, Aggie, and
Andrew were a gang of their own, and at this time were mostly at work
in the Kaitangata bush -- and a royal battle they put up. I really do
not know of a better record of work done anywhere and not without
considerable risk. They first cut, and carried out to the river,
posts and rails for a stock-yard,
which is all heavy stuff, and they were rarely nearer the river than
two hundred yards and often four or five hundred. They, it was,
who boated down the river, over a mile, in a three-quarter ton punt,
the timber not only for the stock-yard, but fencing for a fifteen
acre paddock. The biggest job of the lot was getting timber to build
Mayfield house. As I have said, it was decided that after
Darling's house was built, the timber for ours would be sawn in the
same way, but evidently Father saw defects in this plan while helping
to build the other, besides one of those unexpected things happened.
Let us look at what one man, a girl of fourteen, and a boy of twelve
did. The heavy totaras they took down and across cut into lengths
was, in itself a big record. While they were getting rails for
the stock-yard, they split a lot of totara rails into ten-foot
lengths. Splitting is an art of its own, and by no means an easy one,
but the fascination of it had grasped Father. They, for all three
were in it, got such good results. That was the first step. The next
step was when they started to try how near they could come to
splitting a good board, which they managed beyond all expectations.
They got a slab ten feet long, fifteen inches wide and between one
and a half and two inches thick.
They then tried more, and the tree was splitting so beautifully that
they soon had quite a lot of very fine ten-feet slabs, as good as
sawn lumber and Father saw that a house built with these would be
much warmer and much easier built, requiring very little framing.
Fired with this new idea, they set to work with more ambition. They
decided to try eighteen inches wide and broke up their log for that
size with marvelous results. These slabs were the finest split work I
have ever seen. They did not say much about them until they were
boated down, but I remember when Mr. Darling saw them, he was very
excited over them. He thought they were splendid. He said
he would dress them with the adze and they would be better than
boards. He was as good as his word and he dressed those for the
front of the house, especially, about as evenly as if they had been
planed. Needles to say, the three were very proud of their
work, as they had good cause to be, but as I have said, the getting
and transporting that stuff down to the foot of the road at Wright's
corner was a record that would take some beating.
big tree was especially a puzzle to everyone who saw it, to know how
they managed it. I will try to tell how. I will just tell
what we saw. That was the top of the totara, cut off just below
the branches, about three feet through. This top was actually
standing on its head and the saw cut between fifteen and twenty feet
from the ground, a problem that would puzzle most bushmen. I
know they cut three lengths of that tree. This timber had all
to be carried to the bank of the river. Now comes the crux of
the whole matter. They had been advised to raft it down the
river, but even with another man to do half the work, one on the raft
and one on the shore, it would have been difficult, but with two
children it simply could not be done with safety; the biggest
objection was that there was no suitable landing for a raft. So
the small boat had to do it all, although they did raft some on
either side of the boat as a kind of safety, because Father was a
whale to load down, always to about three inches free board. Three
were on board. Now a punt loaded to that depth is positively
dangerous, as the least bit of a false move will make the flat bottom
go off at a tangent, as it lacks the buoyant resistance of a round
bottomed boat, but the float on each side did act towards safety.
Going downstream did not require much effort, but going back, two
went on shore with a line and tracked, the other one steering.
They tracked up the island side, as there was a beach most of the way
but the tons of stuff they shifted was a caution. I remember
Mr. W. Mitchell and Mr. James Wright were the only ones who regarded
the whole business as out of the ordinary, they were unstinted in
their appreciation simply because they were the only ones who knew
what it meant.
I wish I had some record of the months and how they were passing for,
besides house-building, they were getting around ready for wheat and
potatoes. By this time, we had become possessed of two
bullocks. Tom was Darlings'; Jerry was ours. A sledge was built
and, whenever possible, they did the hauling and ploughing.
here a little bit of description will be helpful. As I have said, we
were living in a Maori whare (war-ee ). Well! to be accurate it
was the whare of Chief Tongata Houri, a real hard case in some ways.
He was a man of prodigious strength. He, with quite a
number of other Maoris, was living in what we called “Lovells,”
as Lovell was a sheep squatter on the Kaitangata hills.
His nearest sheep owner was Popplelwell, at Mount Misery. The
Frazers, on the lakeside, formed a boundry between Lovell and
Davidson. Such were the conditions at that time.
On Kemra Bank, there were two fair-sized clearings that the Maoris
had cropped, one just above where the stock-yard is now and the other
about half-way between the river and Wright's corner. They were
the first owners. There had been a bit of bush there at the time, as
there was a lot of timber on the ground, there was one solitary white
pine tree, standing about the middle of Darlings' clearing and, for
years, it was known as the tree paddock. These clearings were
ploughed up as soon as possible.
Mr. Darling was a first-class swing ploughman and the ploughing and
getting ready for the sowing , was well forward, but getting it
fenced in was not so easy. Wire fences were unknown then and,
when they did become known, they were not thought much of for the
cattle. Not until barb wire made its appearance did fencing for
cattle become a much simpler matter than the old post and rail
fence. Posts had to be bored for four rails, eight augur holes
in every post, and the rails sharpened and fitted. A big job to
enclose a fair sized paddock of ten or fifteen acres. And all fencing
had to come from Kaitangata bush, for which they paid a yearly
Since we had arrived , and during the time I am describing, roughly
within the first six months there had been several visitors, outside
of Maoris who came almost daily as we seemed to appeal to their
curiosity, but they were kindly withall. We were surprised to
see three men show up one morning with some of the Maoris. They
had come through the hills from Tokomairiro and stayed at
Lovells all night. These were three well-known names in after
years, viz, Michael Muir, William Carson and William Hodge.
They were on their way to Coal Point to open up the coal there.
Mr. Lewis of Port Molyneux was opening it up. I think he
had some arrangement with the government, but he also put a good deal
of his own money and time into it, which, I am sorry to say, was all
lost as coal was in no demand in those days, as steamers had not yet
arrived in New Zealand waters. These three men went on and
camped, first at William Mitchell’s place. Four men had left
Tokomairiro [now known as Milton] and went as far as the head plain
when there was a difference of opinion which was the best ridge to
follow, the one known as the Devil's Bridge and the Two Stone Hill
which brought them right through. The other decided to go over
the slopes of Mount Misery. This was a fatal step, for the poor
fellow got completely lost in the gullies, and was starved to death,
as by the time he was missed and search set on foot, starvation and
fatigue had done its work. That death gave the name to Mount
Misery and Hungry Hill where he was found. I think that was the only
death of the kind in all the settlement, at least on our side.
some of the Strathallan sailors turned up. The first was Willie
Noble; he had cleared out without waiting to put in hard labor, which
meant little to do and plenty to eat with the others, a fact I am
inclined to think he much regretted. He was given some work and
stayed awhile, but was not much of a success. Then later, Jack
Allan, with not less than notorious
the cook. Nothing could be more marked than the welcome given
these two. It was really a case of the sheep and the goats.
There was the prepared welcome for the one and misery for the other.
The Darlings had moved out of the whare by this time and Mother was
in charge. She certainly had not forgotten Jack Duncan, as he
had given her many a sore heart over getting something warmed for her
infant on the ship. She had told him that she might have a
chance to pay him back, but he only swore at her and told her, if she
was his own mother, he would do the same. All of which
she duly rubbed into noble Jack, with fitting additions, with
the result that he broke down, crying that everyone was against him.
To all of which mother reminded him of his own cruel doings, but,
having given him a dressing down, she would have lost the joy of it
had she gone further. She fed him, but told him to get.
Strange that something the same happened at Gabriel's Gully, years
after, with Father, when food was so scarce. Father also
dressed Jack down, but when the rest wanted to turn him out hungry,
Father would not hear of it, he fed him and otherwise helped him.
will be the last appearance of Jack Duncan, but not so of Jack
Allan. Not many weeks after this he turned up with another
sailor he had met doing time and a name to be well known in these
parts and, afterwards, a successful farmer on Wangaloa. Jack
Allan, on the other hand, got into a pretty steady work with the old
gaoler, John Shepherd. They become life-long friends, that
spoke well for the hearts of both. Jack settled down to
business of jobbing carpenter and house painter that, later,
established into a business. These were the only newcomers within the
I do not know what month it was when the Darlings got into their new house, but it must have been well through the winter, because I know they were just in when Mr. Wright came to stay with us, while he was doing ploughing for us both. I have spoken of ploughing being done with our two bullocks, but that ploughing really took place after this. Mr. James Wright was working for the Pillans and I have already said that Father and he had discovered that they were not only townies, but close neighbors, and knew a lot of people in common and had become chummy. In fact the friendship was one of those that had grown with the years, as I had discovered long after Father's death. I was at Pillans with the threshing mill when the old gentleman came to speak to me about my father. He told me what good friends they had been and how much he thought of him, and how he could always trust father in any pinch. I had known they were friendly, but had no idea they thought so much of each other until the old gentleman told me.
The first act was sending Mr. Wright with a team of eight bullocks to
break up some ground for us both. While this was being done
house building and everything else, had to stand over. The
great bulk of the land at the time, was very hard to break up.
Our two bullocks were added to the eight as leaders, and it was all
they could do, and often the ground had to be cut with spade or adze
in front of the plough. We were often all out with whatever
could cut, cutting cuts the width of the furrow through the bad
places. These were mostly tutu crowns and broad grass. This
last was really the worst, as it could not be cut. The ground
from which we had cut the broad grass to thatch Darlings’ house was
the first to be ploughed, and a wild job it was. Andrew was
chief bullock driver, if Mr. Darling was not on the plough, but it
was not unlike ordinary ploughing that Mr. Wright nearly always had
to take the plough.
Between a quarter and a half acre was considered a good day’s work
and the ploughing was the least part of the business. Harrows were
next to useless until both spade and grub hoe had knocked the worst
of the roots about.
I have mentioned harrows, but as we understand them, they did not
exist at that time, wooden frames with iron tines or teeth were best
going, although iron harrows were to be had in the old country, but I
think only in Scotland. Mr. Ferguson, who was the most
enterprising in the implement line, had the first set of iron harrows
in the district. He also was the first to have a self delivery
reaping machine when they came on the market, but it was before its
time, for Inchclutha crops were too long in the straw for it to
handle. On nice short stuff, it was all right, but all too soon, it
was on the scrap heap. He and Father were the implement men in
the district. To meet our need, Father set to work to make, I was
going to say a set of harrows, but he did better than that; he made
his harrow all in one piece. It was certainly heavier to clean, if it
did get choked, but its tearing power was much helped by its weight
and wide timber teeth. It did wonderful work for many a day until
Father, being on a visit to town and staying with a cousin Charles
Smaill who had land at Tomahawk, saw a set of harrows and plough that
Mr. William Stuart had brought from Scotland. Father gladly
bought them, which gave him, easily, the best set of harrows in the
district. They were Grays of Alderstone, and were the finest set of
harrows around, better than any on the market at present. The
disc harrows have eclipsed the drag and put it second place, so less
attention is paid to their efficiency.
With the breaking up of the ground and getting grain sown, the house
building had to stand over. The seed was no sooner in the
ground than it had to be fenced, as the place was swarming with
cattle, which had the free run of the island from top to bottom.
Only their inclination stopped them but, fortunately, cattle are very
local in their habits; they soon get their rounds that they stick
very closely to and only occasionally wander. When you come to
take up their chosen feeding grounds, you have to fight for it, as
they do not move off quietly by any means. So, if they are to be
fenced, it has to be a fence that they respect and cannot get
through. The fence at that time was four rails ten feet
long, fixed into solid board and mortised posts-- that meant a lot of
labour. Here again Father scored.
Father sent to the blacksmith in Dunedin, Mr. Crammond, a townie he
had met. Father had quite a genius for forming friendly
acquaintances and making them useful for both business and friendship
-- a most valuable habit. What he told Crammond to do was to
get a six feet inch iron spindle, squared in the center, to hold a
balance wheel; weld an inch and a half square onto the one end and,
for a handle to drive it with on the other, put two key slots in the
center, three inches apart to keep the wheel from shifting and that
was all he wanted to make a horizonal boring machine. When it
arrived, he put two posts in the ground, about three feet high and
two feet apart, with a V-shaped groove on top of the post, into which
groove the spindle rested. Its bearings were well greased to allow
the spindle to turn freely and move inwards when boring, and outwards
when being withdrawn. For a flywheel, he made a cross with two
pieces of three by two timber, about three feet six inches long, on
the end of each he fitted a block about a foot long and four by three
thick. This gave the square quite a lot of momentum and, for
withdrawing, with a turn or two, would run out by itself. The
next business was a bench to lay the post on. This had to be held by
hand at first, but any of us boys would do it and, as one hole was
bored, the post had to be pushed along for the next hole.
That was a favorite job with us boys. I forget how many posts
my father could do in an hour, but it was as many as could be done in
a day by the old method, and not such tiring work. This was a
What was called mortising, that is cutting out the piece between the
two holes for holding rails, this was work which us boys could do,
and we were on the job accordingly, which meant a speeding up of the
preparations for fencing. As soon as the posts were ready, the
next job was to get them on the line and then get them up. As
one side was a boundary fence, and the other a road-line fence, and
the section pegs could not be located, the line had to be surveyed.
Mr. Ferguson was the only surveyor in the district at that time and,
though he was not what was called a registered surveyor, he was just
as well qualified and a very fine man to work with and for. I
remember I had the job to stand by the marking peg, a wire about
fifteen inches long with a small red flag on the end, as in
chaining. The peg might have to go to the heart of the flax
bush or a clump of fern. They were by no means easy to locate.
As soon as Mr. Ferguson was near enough to point out the peg, I would
make for the next one that was being placed, as quickly as possible.
It was a rough and tumble job, as the bearings had to be taken from
section pegs that marked the block, there was no trig station to work
from, and getting a correct bearing was a very difficult job, and
very laborious on account of the roughness of the growth. As there
was no picking or choosing, the line had to go straight on. Out
in the swamp where the flax was short, a bearing would be taken
fairly easily, but as the river was approached, roughly from ten to
twelve chains, the growth was very dense flax, tutu, and cabbage
trees. There were openings through the thickets that cattle had
made and tracked, but there were big stretches without a break, and
to get through them was a caution. I have never seen anything
approaching the growth anywhere else. The richness of the soil was
the cause. To give some conception of what it meant, to get
through, I will give a little of my own experience in trying to reach
the riverside when Mayfield house was being built. At that time,
there was no track up the riverside from the corner of the first
clearing already noticed. The track then went straight on, much as
the road goes at present, there being a fair-sized Maori clearing
extending rather more than half way down the present road.
Then there was a clear V-shaped clearing, extending from where the
road is now to almost behind Mayfield. It would be about three
chains wide from the bottom, narrowing into a matter of yards, with
openings that gave a winding road that a sledge could follow, right
to Mosley’s and, by going through Mosley’s ground, a sledge could
get right up the island, and by following something of the same
opening, a sledge could get down the island as far as Willie
Mitchell’s but that was the farthest in that direction at this
Through these openings, was the way we got about, and the
cattle also kept to the openings, leaving a solid mass of almost
impenetrable flax and tutu, and from the first clearing on past
Mayfield was a solid unbroken mass. It was through the corner
of this, I started to explore. I got through, the distance was not
three chains, yet it took me a full half day climbing, creeping, and
zigzagging. I got there, but did not try going back.
I managed to get up the riverside, which was more open. Brambles and vines made matters much worse.
The growth was so rank and green that it was difficult to get a fire,
a good burn was next to impossible on this ground, which made the
clearing of it a costly business. Below the house, Father said
it cost £16 [16
pounds] an acre to clear four acres and put in crops, nearly as much
as stumping heavy bush land. through this then, a fence line was
surveyed and cleared , so that the land that was cleared and broken
up, could be fenced.
A little about the clearing may be interesting. As already has been
said, Father, Aggie, and Andrew were the bushmen and boatmen and they
were mostly at that work, which left the work of clearing for the
rest of us -- Mother and Auntie Fanny, Jamie and myself-- Grannie
kept the other three younger ones at the whare. This clearing was
really hard work for all of us. Mother and Auntie chipped the
acres of flax with the adzes of light hoe-- one bush of flax at a
time; some of us, Jamie and I pulled it away as soon as cut.
Sometimes we built them in rows, roots up, for burning, but, if we
were near the edge of the river, we put them in heaps clear of the
plough or threw them over the riverbank. This was best when at
all possible. Then the cabbage trees had to be dug out.
This was Jamie’s job, and he was pretty good at it, and a heavy job
it was. When shinning down a cabbage tree, he fell on an axe
and cut himself badly, which at the time, with no medical dressings,
was rather serious.
As a great many of the trees were broken by the cattle, there were
many more roots than were visible, but the roots never died, they
were always sending up shoots. The roots were also sledged, or
carried away, as they would not burn. We would be away all day,
having just a piece for dinner. These two women did a big
amount of work in the first years of clearing, besides grubbing the
corner called the first clearance. It was not a large piece of
ground, yet it yielded us three tons of potatoes -- a big crop
and a veritable God-send to us, as what we did not use we sent to
Dunedin for groceries, as the exchequer was pretty empty by this
time. To help this Father was always doing up Maitland’s,
Ferguson’s, and Pillan’s gardens, also at Davidson’s,
especially this last place, where he did a lot of work.
Here it will help if a note of the
settlers known to me is set out, so
as to keep count and date of new arrivals on the island.
Beginning at the top were Andersons, Willocks, Bowlers, Davies,
Ritchies, and Mosleys, Fergusons, Pillans, Barkers, ourselves,
Darlings, W. Mitchells, and Tommy Marsh. W. Atcheson and James
Wright were at Pillans with their families, and Bob Mercer was with
W. Mitchell. As far as I know these were all the settlers on
Taking the mainland from below the Ferry, (Balclutha) I think Peter
Bell (Anderson’s shepherd) was the first. The house is still there
at the willows above hermitage, so called by Mr. Ramsay, and George
Anderson set up the house on it. This house will be noticed
later on. The next was Smith brothers: William, Joseph
and Peter. William was married but had no family then. In
the same bend of the river was Boswell with his wife, but no family.
Following the river are two large bends; in the lower one called the
‘Crescent’, were the Maitlands. There were four sons and
one daughter, who was married to Mr. Rich of Warepa. The sons
were James, George, David, and William. Following three other
large bends were Davidson’s, relations of the Maitlands, who lived
in the bend later called the ‘Gask’!
Following round to Kaitangata bush were Lovells and a Maori
settlement of several families. At Coal Point were the
three men already noted, William Carson, Michael Muir, and William
Hodge. If we follow the river down to the mouth, there was a
large stretch without settlers. The first family at what is now
called Glenomaru was Alex Begg. A little further up the creek
was Jack Tuck. Then following up what was called South Molyneux were
the Lewis’s, Hays, Hendersons and Broughs.
them, at Warepa, were Major Richardson, Rich, and Strachan. The
first two were run-holders. The latter was a bootmaker and
uncle of W. Strachan, cabin steward of the “Strathahallan.”
At the Ferry were the McNiells. Up to the lakeside were the
Frazers and that completes what may be called the Clutha Valley.
I have forgotten to mention the Rev. W. Bannerman, minister for the
whole valley, and as far as Mataura to the south. He was a close
neighbor of Major Richardson at Willowmead, which
remained his headquarters when Balclutha, Inchclutha, and Kaitangata
churches became settled charges. This, as far as I remember, is
the number of settlers, roughly up to 1860 when a good number came to
the business of getting in seed, was the most pressing and house
building had to stand still for a time., this was a trying time
to all, as work was wanted, and Father took as much as he could get
to meet what we had to hire. Whenever a bit of ground was ready
for ploughing, Mr. J. Wright, with Mr. Pillans’ bullocks, eight in
a team, turned it up, until we had about ten acres ready for
harvesting, which was done by our own bullocks. The Darlings
had Tom and we had Jerry, who were a pair, but not so good apart. Tom
did object but Jerry most decidedly did. When working together
they were yoked with one heavy chain between them, but one bullock
cannot be worked that way. So to work singly, harness was got
for the bullocks, I think the first of its kind in the district, if
not in New Zealand.
A bullock in a harness was a thing then unknown, and Jerry was
certainly a most staunch conservative. Harness, he would have
none of. Tom took to his quietly and gave no trouble, but Jerry
was much more active. He would let Father put his harness on,
but to pull with it was quite another matter. He always
managed to twist his head around to
where his tail should have been and give a shake clear of the chains,
and the whole business had to start over again. Sometimes he
would clear out, dragging Father after him, as the ropes on his head
had very small power over him when he set his head down and pulled.
If a turn could not be got on to something firm, it was a case of
drag and a lengthy run, and this was quite often. One day we struck a
new plan. Jerry, although he objected to work along, was very
fond of cabbages, so, by accident, when he was yoked to the sledge,
someone showed him a cabbage. He forgot all his working scruples and
made for the cabbage. That cabbage was Jerry’s undoing, or making,
it depends from which end you look at it, his or ours. The
cabbage was kept in front of him until his destination was reached.
was the longest and hardest straight pull he made and, by the way he
pulled, he showed that pulling was not what he objected to -- it was
these new rags. I was always of an inventive turn so I
suggested tying a cabbage three feet in front of him and I ran in
front of him and he came in great style. He got some of the cabbage
for payment. We were sledging flax at the time and, at the
expense of a few cabbages, he shifted quite a lot and that was the
end of the trouble. He soon took to work and was as good as a
worker as ever was and he did his bit until horses relieved him of
farm work. He was from now on a mainstay on the farm, as with
harrows Father had made, he was able to do the harrowing, and with
this harrow, and the aid of the spade and grub hoe, the wheat, oats
and potatoes were got in and thus our first year’s crop was under
The next business was fencing. The timber was all cut in the
Kaitangata bush and boated down the river to Wright’s corner.
James Wright had a section there and he had taken the bullock dray
down to where he intended to build. That had helped to break
down the flax and rushes. Between that and the cattle there was a
rough track formed in that direction. It had many twists, but such as
it was, Jerry dragged over it all the fencing that we did not carry,
which was a fair bit. We got it shifted and by the time
the stuff was ready for the house there was a tolerable sledge track.
The preparing of the posts and rails was a tedious job. The
posts had eight auger holes in each, bored with an inch and a half
auger. These had to be mortised, forming a hole about four inches
long by an inch and a half wide, the rails had to be sharpened to fit
the hole. W. Mitchell came to help us with this work, as
it was all new to us, and Andrew was his chief mate, learning the
mysteries of fencing-- and he was wonderfully quick in picking it up.
Before many days W. Mitchell was complimenting him on his post hole
digging, which is quite an art in itself.
While I am describing what was going on with us, the same of much
like it was going on with the Darlings, only they got their fencing
just across the river and had less boating and sledging. Mr.
Barker was helping them. But, when there was any big thing to
be done, we both worked together much as possible for many years.
We have now reached the point where all the crops were in and
of Mayfield house was now the chief
object in hand. This, you may well believe, had often been
discussed. I think Father had made up his mind about it,
although he said nothing. He had already satisfied himself that he
could split the slabs as good as weather boards, although these last
were the fashion and the correct thing, until he had split a good few
and got them on the spot, it was decided not to use them. The
women folk of both families were all against them, which was a
serious matter, and until Mr. Darling dressed some and showed how
good a job could be made, they were not decided upon. After
that there was no looking back and Mr. Darling did dress them
beautifully with his adze. He had become expert in its use.
Some were as even as if dressed with the plane and could be either
painted or white washed. Once this matter was decided, it was a case
of push ahead, as there was a big job in front of us. Nearly all the
stuff was in the Kaitangata bush -- slabs for the outside covering,
posts for the corners, doors and windows and plain posts to nail the
slabs to, there was no flooring going at present. The posts
were all sunk into the ground, which meant for a wall ten feet high,
took twelve foot posts. The joists
for upper floor were sawn by Mr. Aitchesen and Mr.Mitchell, but the
rafters were split.
As soon as enough stuff was on the ground Mr. Darling set to work, mostly with James as a help boy to hold and steady things, and so the frame began to rise. As soon as a part was enclosed with slabs, the claying operation was at once started. This was a very constant job and meant a lot of work. Battons were nailed on the inside and the wet mixed clay rammed between the slabs and the battons and, when dry, plastered to an even face. Mother and Auntie Fanny did a lot of this work, while Father, Aggie, and Andrew were either boating supplies or at bush work, so it will be seen all were on the job. As soon as the boating, bush work and sledging were finished, Father joined Mr. Darling. Aggie and Andrew became pretty well all hands on the farm. This clearing was endless, as they set to work on the stockyards, and pigsties, also clearing around the house for garden and continuously getting clay from the river bank and helping mix it, ready to put in place when wanted. They also took over the chimney building and claying. The idea was to get two downstairs rooms finished and fit to live in, and the stairs and the lean-to after we were in the house. This program was fully carried out.
Mayfield House on Inchclutha, an island in the Clutha River, Otago, New Zealand
As I have said, during the house building, and even after, the farm
work was very largely taken over by Aggie and Andrew. It was
hard to say which was the leader. I have often referred to some
of their work, but it was a long list. In addition there was
garden clearing, digging and enclosing with a lot of sod dyke, which
was the only dyke of its kind in the district at that time.
Its main object was shelter from the west gales, after the flax was
cleared. The effect of the wind was terrible. About this time Andrew got a fine strike of
young blue gums
that were, in after seven days, to be featured of Mayfield.
It was a great time when James and Janet Willlocks came down to
Darlings’ house for a birthday party. It was one of those
events which only occur once in a lifetime and I question if there
were ever again such simple pure, undiluted pleasure for us all as
that week contained. There were many others much the same as
after this, no party was complete without the Willocks, but all these
lacked the newness of the first week.
The one outstanding holiday with us youngsters, for many years, was
the Fast Day every six months until there was regular charge, for
Inchclutha Kaitangata, when services were held every Sunday.
Services could rarely be held at Inchclutha on Fast Day, but it was
an idle day, and the youngsters of both families had always something
on foot that made a pleasant break. Looking back, I think we
got as much pleasure and real enjoyment out of life in those days,
and in some respects even more, than young folks get now with all the
side to amusement. A very pleasant history could be written of
all the reunion parties and picnics that began with the first visit
of James and Janet Willocks. They grew to considerable
gatherings, filling the whole week from Christmas until New Year, at
which time both house were crowded to the utmost, even after the new
houses had been built.
By the time we had our wheat, oat and potatoes sown, it would be
somewhere about the end of October
1858, which I consider to be a good
record. There would be about ten acres in all, but it was equal
to a hundred acres with the present day helps. We will look at
the crops further on. When the crops were sown, the fencing was
under way, but there was still a good deal to do and the crops were
up green and the cattle getting on them before the fence was
enclosed. So there was some herding to be done by us young
folk. These cattle were not our own, as ours were with the
Darling’s cattle, running on the Balloon, which formed a fine big
paddock for them. Lizzie Darling and I had the job of
getting the cows at nights and penning
milking of cows at night in those days. If the cows were at the
head of the Balloon, it was a pretty long step, and took a good two
hours to get them. The Maoris had done a good bit of
cultivating on the Balloon and there were tracks cleared ground right
at the head that had been quite a big camp. There were the
remains of a good-sized whale boat, the timber was mostly rotten, but
the shape was intact and there were quite a lot of clubs and other
Maori gear. The clubs were about six feet long, with a fancy
grip for the hand, and place for each finger.
We used to do some great exploring round these parts as this was
unknown land, except to us two. From here we could see the
mainland, which is now Kaitangata. The chief inhabitants at
that time was a herd of goats. I do not know who owned them,
but they were very curious about anyone appearing. Make a noise
and they gathered up at once and, when we took the boat around, they
would run along the bank watching the boat. We youngsters
thought them great fun.
Now while we have been following our own movements, that is the
Darlings and us, concurrently other movements were taking place.
Mr. Davidson of the Gask, was going to be married and was getting
ready to build. He was living in a hut on the river bank, just
below the Darling’s. He was really the connecting link with
the outside world, as he, Maitlands, and Mr. Ferguson were the only
ones who had horses; so Mr. Davidson used to bring any mail that came
to the ferry, the only post office. In connection with the
house building, Mr Mitchell and Mr. Aitcheson were busy sawing in the
bush, living in a bush hut all week and going home on Saturdays for
provisions. As soon as there was enough timber to start
building, Mr. W. Willocks, the carpenter with hired help, was on the
job. They lodged with Mr. Davidson. They were also
building a house for Tommy Marsh. As far as I remember, each
house went on as timber was available, these extra made company and
there were gatherings in the evenings. Two runholders used to
visit Mr. Davidson fairly often, and they found their way across.
They were both young fellows and very lonely and, on the whole,
things at that time were fairly lively and bright.
One outstanding feature of those early days was the free and easy
social habits that were part of our lives. Our delight in human
society, I consider purely the natural effect produced by a
corresponding depressing loneliness and isolation that the settlers
had to continually fight against, knowing instinctively that, if it
got him down, he was done for. Solitude has its charms and its
own place and time, but it also has its terror. An experience
that must be felt in its true sense to understand it. I once
felt that really solemn feeling pointing clearly towards terror.
It was on top of Ben Lomond, above Queenstown, as I looked from that
solitary peak, miles away from any living thing. The absolute
loneliness of the situation came home to me as something absolutely
appalling, akin to terror, just the sense of being so far from any
living thing. I was thankful I was not alone, as there were
three of us. That is something of the feeling that gets into
the lonely settler’s very blood and the joy of company was pure
very easy to understand the free hospitality all around. What
we did on New Years Day of 1860,
I am not sure. We had a holiday of some sort, I think we
youngsters had a picnic at Kaitangata hills, seeing the Maori
camps. We did not keep Christmas Day, as it was
considered English at that time, and we were Scottish. We kept
the Fast day instead. I think, by this time, we had our first
paddock enclosed; so had the Darlings. The two paddocks were
beside each other, a fence between them -- a good record for the
From the seed
sowing until the harvest there was a host of jobs to overtake or get
in hand. Fencing was imperative and had to be done first.
Then house building, but this carried other requirements along with
it. The arrangement then existing was one of stock yard and
calf pens for use by both families, but as soon as we moved into
Mayfield House, a stockyard would need to be in existence and some
other enclosure besides. As it was all open country for miles
around, not the nice enclosed place like the Balloon, there had to be
provision made for yards to keep the milkers about. This was
Aggie's and Andrew's work, with Jamie as an extra, between the house
building and the stockyard. Father was [working] with Mr.
Darling at the house. This, with other jobs, kept us hard at it
until harvest and this merits some special attention.
Harvest, in those days, was a
serious business and makes one think how people lived before the
advent of farm labor-saving implements. Labor organizations cry
out against machinery as being against the interests of labor, but
had the old conditions still existed, conditions now would be
unthinkable. The fashion at that time, was that wheat had to be
reaped with a sickle, a handful at a time, and laid in a bank as
straight as if it had been done by a piece of millinery. Wheat
was precious in those days, about 15/ -[British
shillings] a bushel, sometimes much higher. A quarter of
an acre of such reaping was a big days work and a wearisome one and
only an expert could do it; half that amount was enough for
beginners. Some could do scything, this was a mode of using the
hook with a swinging stroke, something like the scything, only with
more force, at the same time, gathering the grain into an armful with
the left hand. It was very difficult to learn and few could do
it. Mr. Darling was the only one amongst those about at that
time who was able to do it and was pretty good at it. Others
tried it, but few could make a success of it. My father never
tried; he simply used the scythe to the horror of old Mr. Barker, who
piously declared he would as soon burn the wheat as cut it with a
scythe. But Father went ahead and soon all were using the
despised scythe, even Mr. Barker, though he took several years to
come to it. In fact he got to the
scythe stage when the reaping machine came along. He was strong for
it and was about the first to get his crop cut with it.
The cutting then was by Father mowing, Aggie and Janet lifting, I
making bands, Andrew binding and stacking. With wheat we could do
nearly an acre a day, but not quite that with oats. Father
could manage rather more if it was not too heavy. This was done
by what was called cutting in -- that is, the grain was cast against
the standing grain. This is rather easier than throwing it out
and can be considered easier and, on the whole, makes a cleaner job.
There were days when Father could not get cutting with a scythe.
On these days, we all turned out with the hooks and made not a bad
show. Such was the cutting.
Stacking was another business. I can not remember if there was a stack the first year, as threshing had to be done as quickly as possible to get the straw and it was mostly threshed over a barrel -- that is, a sheet was spread and a barrel placed on its side; a good handful of wheat was taken, striking the heads on the barrel. If the wheat was nice and ripe and dry, two or three licks would take every grain out and, one great virtue was that the chaff mostly stuck to the straw and the grain was easily cleaned. A stack would be carried in, threshed, and cleaned, ready for the steel mill to be ground in the morning. That would be about a bushel, two days grinding, and the straw was ideal thatch. The whole of the first year's wheat was carried in on our backs and threshed as described, and a heavy job it was, but it was done and the house was thatched, although not all with our own straw, as we carried straw from the Darling’s, Willie Mitchell’s and Barker’s to keep the thatchers going. Rushes, as we know them now did not exist near us, although there were plenty of them in some places, the swamps were too soft and wet for rushes, there was only short flax and nigger heads.
time the house was finished, there was only straw enough to thatch a
roof without walls being enclosed. This one was
about thirty feet long by fifteen feet wide. It had four strong
corner posts over ten feet. This had manuka scrub on two sides when
they stowed the wheat in it. It had no roof, but that was
put on afterward when the house was finished. This was an
extraordinary building. One half could hold a fair-sized stack
and the other half was used as a barn to thresh and clean grain.
It was ultimately floored and served as a barn till some time after
the diggings, about which we will have something to say.
We must be somewhere about April. Mr. Wright had started
to build their house and Andrew went to help him and help with his
cattle. His wages were to be a heifer. I do not remember
how long he was there, but it was into early winter. The
harvest was being housed and the roof on the stockyard, fencing and
more clearing was the next business, and the paddock above the house,
the six acres was started to be enclosed.
The Darling's paddock was alongside of ours, but only went halfway
back and down the river side to where the second gate and the cross
hedge are now. Now they started to fence from our corner to the
river at Wright's bend. This enclosed the elbow into a large
paddock, giving them their place to themselves, which
simplified their work very much. These fences were steadily
complicating matters when anything in the nature of a road was
wanted. At this time the Darlings were the only ones needing to
pass through our place and, as we had things very much in common,
there was no trouble, that was to come later.
About this time, Mr. Davidson's house being finished, and he having got married, Father went over to give him a hand to dig his potatoes, of which he had an extraordinary crop, and also to fix up a cottage for a family who were coming to work for him. Father was there off and on for a good long spell, but it would be about the end of the year before the family came. They were the Haggarts, but only the younger members, John being the eldest, all the others were at different places.
We are now coming to the
time of our greatest sorrow, the death of Andrew who was
the pride of the family in many ways. He was far beyond
his years in experience and ability and he was a favorite with all
his neighbors, notably with Willie Mitchell and Mr. Wright to them he
was like a son. He was great reader. Although he was only
fourteen, he had read the twelve volumes of Allison's History of
Europe and what ever else he could lay his hands on. He
could draw very decently with the pencil. He was fond of music
and had a very fine voice, which could be heard above the others in
any community sing. His voice was a true tenor, the same as
Father's, but finer. He and father were more than father and
son -- they were chums, and he and Aggie were more than brother and
sister, they were mates at everything. His loss was a calamity
and bitter bereavement. I am not sure of the time when he took
ill, but we were into the warm weather. I have already
described the boring machine that father made, that was what Andrew
last worked at. The beginning was at the thatching of the
stockyards’ bales. He was going down for something when he
slipped and jumped to save himself and, on landing, sprained his
angle badly. In those days little was known in the way of first
aid, so the sprain did not get the treatment it would have been given
now. Still, it must have been fairly good, as he was not many
days laid up with it. I remember him lying on the kitchen sofa,
the only one in the house, and a rough-built one, but a dear old
thing for many a day. He was as happy as a king, reading
Allison's work over again.
This had gone on until it was suggested that he might do something
where his foot would not be used. I do not know who made the
suggestion; it may have been himself. He could hop about
pretty lively on the one foot and the other was in a sling. The
job he went to was boring posts with the boring machine. This
was fixed up on the sunny side of the house with a bench for the
posts to lie on and a contrivance made like a carpenter's horse, only
a double one. It would be about eight feet long and two feet
wide at the top, the four legs splayed as a carpenter's horse, only a
double one. Into the top frame were cut sockets for the auger
to work in to the same gauge as a four rail post. In this case,
the post lay at rest and the auger was lifted into a fresh socket for
every hole bored.
It was a job he could do, but certainly not suitably, as while he
could stand on one foot to turn the handle, the lifting of the auger
and shifting the posts were not jobs for one foot. He was
working in the sun and it was a very hot day, with the result that he
was sweating very much and so got thirsty. At first, he hopped
to the house for a drink and then brought a billy of milk with him --
the most dangerous drink he could take when hot standing in the sun.
The result was about four o'clock his foot and ankle began to feel
sore and he came to the house and had it dressed. The dressing
did not ease the pain as usual.
The pain continued all night and in the morning his foot was red and hot and throbbing, a sure sign of what was commonly called "rose" in those days, on account of its redness. As both Father and Mr. Darling had turns of this trouble, it was not considered serious, and the applications before used were applied. They had little or no effect, and the trouble was soon to be more serious than they thought. As there was no doctor available, Mother's and Father's anxiety was terrible. They were at their wits end to know what to do. The only doctors book they had was an old “Buchan," still it helped them.
The biggest help was from Mr. Mosley as he had a better and more
up-to-date book and he set himself to study the case. He went
to a great deal of trouble and took many long walks to places where
he thought he could get something to help, and wonderful help he did
get. I remember him arriving with his daughter Mary Ann
between ten and eleven p.m. with some medicine. I think it was
Peruvian Barb, supposed to be one of the best remedies at that time
for erysipelas, as they now know it to be. Mary Ann came
with her father as she knew the tracks in the dark better than he
did. Mr. Mosely came every day, sometimes twice a day, but the
disease gained steadily in spite of all their efforts.
At this time Father was sawing in the bush with Albert Pillans, and
Albert used to go to the Maitland’s on Saturdays.
Dr.Williams, who was Maitland's father-in-law, happened to be down on
a visit and Albert Pillans got him to come down on Sunday to see
Andrew. He was much concerned about him and wished he had seen
him sooner. He told us what to do and that he would send some
medicine when he got back to Dunedin. As far as I remember, he
led them to fear the worst, as the trouble had spread through his
whole body with a terrible blood poison. His blood was in
terrible condition; I have never seen anything like it.
Congealed blood formed in blobs just under the skin of his
fingers and around his ankle that was sprained. Even if he
recovered, that foot would be permanently disabled. His
suffering must have been terrible, as it is one of the most painful
wish to tell of the extraordinary kindness of the whole district;
everyone seemed to vie in kindness and thoughtfulness.
Delicacies of all kinds were continually being brought or sent, all
seeming to regard him as one of their own. Just about this
time, Mr. Blackie and his three sons arrived , having walked from
Dunedin. Alex, who is younger than I am, would have been about
eight or ten years old -- a long tramp for a boy of his age.
They took three days to do it. They arrived at Davidson’s
first, and it was there my father saw them and told him the nature
and extent of the trouble. That was a weekday and I remember
because he and the boys came over on Sunday. I am not sure if
any of the Darlings were up, but I feel they were. We had
church and I remember Mr. Blackie taking part, leading in prayer
instead of Father, and how earnestly he prayed for Andrew's recovery,
and for Father and Mother. The Sunday was very close to the
end. I am not sure, but I think it was Monday morning he died,
somewhere about eight or nine o'clock. We had had breakfast
when Mother called us all in and Father started singing a hymn that
Andrew was very fond of called "I Am But A Stranger Here, Heaven
is My Home!" We sang the first verse fairly well, but on
the second we mostly broke down, but Andrew carried on in a clear
shrill voice, to the end of the hymn. Then he turned with a
bright smile towards Mother. I remember those clear brown eyes
and then a sudden change; Mother saw it coming and grasped him in her
arms. His head fell on her shoulder and that was the end of a
beautiful young life.
What a blank it left amongst us all, the sorrow was the sharpest I
have ever known. He was so dear to us all. The only
relief was that his sufferings were ended. These were so severe
that he was delirious most of the time. When
the first agony was over, and before we parted, Father gathered us
all together and prayed, commending and committing us all to God,
with the soul of Him, who in His wisdom, He had taken. I
need not say that it was a prayer never to be forgotten by those of
us old enough to understand its nature, among whom I was the
youngest. That was certainly a clearly marked mile-stone in my
life and a prayer that was fully answered in the gathering of each
one into the family of God. It has often come home to me, the
unshakeable blessing of that prayer to Father and Mother and what a
loss the want of prayer is to a family.
After this communion with God, we were prepared to take up the
several duties that called upon the living. I cannot remember
how each of us were employed at first. I know that my own grief
was my principal thought and, remembering the difference of my grief
at Andrew's death with my grandfather's, James Archibald, Mother's
father, which I clearly remember when I was five years old.
Just here, I wish to mention more fully the kindness of Mrs. Darling,
whose attention was next to Mother's. She was present
every day, and often all day and night. And Mr. Darling usually
came to take her home. The grief was one in common to the two
families. Now there is another outburst of kindness to record
in connection with the funeral arrangements and here, I am reminded
that I have not mentioned Mr. Bannermann. In the work of his
very remote district, he managed to call several times, and in
spreading the word of Andrew's death and funeral he was specially
active. I think it was Albert Pillans who got word to him, as
he had a horse which he used freely. Mr. Willocks, the
carpenter, was also warned and Mr. T. Barker came to offer special
timber that he had for a coffin. This was a veritable God-send
as carriage in those days was not easy. Mr. Willocks came down
to Barker’s and he happened to have a set of mounting, the only one
in the district, and it was by the merest chance he had it.
This was very gratifying to Father and Mother and Mrs. Darling, as it
seemed to meet their feeling of respect and affection.
It was decided that he would be buried at "the first clearance,"
as it was part of his work. I think it was Mr. Darling who suggested
this. It was accepted at once, but I think his motive was that
the grave would be equally near both families, as he was dear to
both. Mr. Darling attended to the grave digging and I
question if ever there was greater labour of love than the digging of
that grave. All us children were there, with all the questions
children will ask, and I remember how kindly and patiently Mr.
Darling had answered and explained every thing to us.
The funeral was on the third day of his death, and such a funeral --
the whole district seemed to be there. One wonders how they got
word. It was a wonderful gathering and, as an expression of kind
sympathy, I have never seen anything equal to it. It may be
considered the first funeral in the district.
There had been two other deaths before this -- Willie Mitchell's
first girl, at whose funeral there were one or two, and Mr. Davis,
but I think he was taken to Dunedin. He died very suddenly and
we, at the bottom of island, only heard after he had been dead for
Willie Mitchell's girl died just before we came from Dunedin.
She was supposed to have eaten some red mushrooms. I have said
that Mr. Barker came and offered timber for the coffin. Well!
I am not sure if he supplied all the timber to enclose the grave, but
I know he supplied some and he made the carpenter work of the
enclosure and a splendid job he made, as it lasted in perfect
order until Andrew's body was shifted to the
Kaitangata cemetery after Aunt Fanny's death.
I have just one little detail to mention before leaving Andrew in his
resting place. One piece of work he and Aggie did, mostly after
working hours. They build a sod dyke round the garden, to
protect a lot of very fine blue gums they raised from seed.
They were Andrew's special delight and care, and he shepherded
them until they were strong plants. It was Mr. Darling's suggestion
that four of these blue gums should be planted round the grave, but
when they came to be planted there, the gate was in one corner, so
there were only three planted. But Mr. Darling had some
cuttings of weeping willow from the Mitchell’s and they were nice
plants, so one of them was put at the head, where it stands to mark
the spot until this day. The blue gums were not used after the
body was shifted, as they were too close together by that time.
This brings us
to 1860, as Andrew died in February 1860.
The Haggarts and
the Blackies must have come about the end of 1859; James Robertson
came in 1861. Mr.Grigor, the schoolmaster, must have also come in
1859, as I had started school about the time of Andrew's death.
The old school still stands,
although the new school was swept away by the 1878
flood. The old school was not a large affair, neither were the
pupils numerous. On the day of my first attendance, I
think there were six of us all told. There was James and Janet
Willocks, John Mitchell, Lizzie Darling and myself. The master
made the sixth. James Willocks and John Mitchell made one
class, the two girls and I the other; the next additions were the
Andersons, Annie, Aggie and Crawford were the first three, all in the
top class. After a time James went for a short while and later a
boarder came from the sheep station, Harry Howe was his name.
He and John Mitchell were the oldest by some years, with Annie
Anderson next. The reason the Andersons were not at the opening
was, I think, because Mr. Anderson died rather suddenly about that
time. That number went on through the summer months, but when
wet weather set in, the number was reduced to three Willocks &
myself. This lasted for about three months, and it was
rather a dull time. That was the ebb tide of the school
numbers, except on a very wet day. The school went on steadily
increasing to an average of over twenty.
After about 1861, mail came once
a week, Wednesdays; the mail took two days each way, a day at the
ferry, and a day in town. The mailman came to the school, got
any mail on Wednesdays, and returned on Thursday and Friday.
This was the arrangement until the diggings [gold rush] changed all
in 1861, the Patersons arrived. They came from Argyleshire and
although the old folk were lowland born and bred, the young folk
considered themselves highland and, at first, wore the tartan and
kilt. I remember the first time I saw Jamie and Tom. They
were both in kilt, a jacket and glengarry, but the kilt had no
sporran, just the tartan about two inches above the knee.
However the condition of New Zealand tracks did not favor the
costume, and trousers were donned. They put up in our quarters,
the old Maori whare, and stayed until after shearing.
Mr. Paterson was a shepherd at home and head shepherd at Moa Flat
station, then owned by Chamber brothers. Father also went
shearing with Mr. Paterson, although father did not go so far, the
fartherest he went was Popoptunoa, and worked back by Waverly and Te
brings us to 1862, when the
Rolands arrived in the district. They were related in some way
to the Maitlands, and stayed with them until they bought Mr.
Davidson's place. House building was set at work right away,
and bush and pit sawing. Father and Albert Pillans were at it
again. Willocks and his man was building what was know in
after years as the “Gask House" after the famous house of Lady
Moirn, immortalised in her famous song "The Auld Hoose."
Another arrival in 1860 were the Dawsons, they had one daughter, Minnie. They had bought ground at Wangaloa or as we called it then, the Coast. It was the only land open for sale the, and they were the first to move into that district. They stayed with the Darlings for about a fortnight, while Mr Dawson prepared some kind of shelter for Mrs Dawson. In this, he had had the help of Tom Johnston, who was working with the Darlings or with whoever needed him most, as he was sort of common property working all round. Tom and Mr Dawson sawed the timber in Orminston’s bush and built the house, and a lonely uphill job it must have been for them all.
On arrival of the
Rolands, as they had a married man of their own, James Petrie, the
Haggarts were out of a job, so they took up land at the Coast, also
another family that had arrived on the same ship as James Robertson,
the Campbells. They had a grown son and daughter. They took up land
beside the Dawsons or rather next to Tom Johnston, who had bought the
section next to the Dawsons.
cousins as we called them, Willie and Charlie Smaill, bought a
section and William Paterson also bought a section before he
went to Moa Flat. These later settlers
were all 1861 and 1862 and, about the same time, Alex Donald, and
Mary Mitchell, brothers and sister of W Mitchell, arrived from the
North Island. They also, bought land at the Coast, although they did
not settle there for some time.
Donald went as mate with Mr W
Aitcheson, sawing timber for Roalnds’ house, also for W.
Aitcheson’s house, and another house for a couple who had arrived,
Andrew Chapman, wife and child. He was first working about McNeills
at the Ferry, then at Maitlands, then helping at farm work as like Mr
Wright, he was an extra good man among stock, besides being a good
ploughman. These people all needing houses made matters livelier all
round, as there was more money in circulation.
There was another change slowly working, that was the Clutha trade.
The coal that Mr. Lewis had opened up was now on the market and any
vessel that called, if short of a load, would fill up with coal. The
demand in Dunedin was not great but it was growing. Clutha potatoes
were now known in Dunedin and were in demand.
Healy was the man father first dealt with.
Captain Simpson, one of
the best men and one of the best sailors on the coast, was then
captain and owner of The Speck a
small schooner of about 25 tons
registered, but could take about 30 tons.
He and father were kindred spirits, and he made Mayfield his
headquarters when at all possible, nearly always taking away a supply
of milk for his crew, as they all shared alike, captain and crew.
captain and his wife being the most obliging of folks, the result was
quite a new outlet for money, as the captain got all sorts of orders
from the women folk. What he could not get, his wife got, so that
dress and fancy goods became quite a favorite with all, but he was
something more. I have described the steel mill. Father
and he were discussing the problem when the captain suggested
that he take some bags of wheat, get it ground at the Duncan's mill,
and bring it back. That was the end of the steel mill at the
bottom of the island. He took four bags of wheat from us and
also some from the Darlings, until this was quite a branch of trade,
with the result that Simpson bought another schooner, The Pioneer,
so well known on the coast trade.
There were several events that were occurring that need to be noticed
to keep the story complete. As I have said Andrew died in
February 1860, that same year James
Robertson, Father's oldest sister's son arrived . He
was one of Father's shop boys in Charles street, Edinburgh, Scotland,
and very much wanted to come with us, and was among the last we saw
waving his hat on Leith Wharf. Father had arranged for his
passage before Andrew took ill and had also arranged for a
box of household stuff of a most wonderful variety, which
came very shortly after Andrew's death because I know it was before
harvest. Needless to say, our cousin's arrival was a great event for
us youngsters, but I fancy the arrival of the box was just as great.
I remember one outstanding feature of the box was a large stock of
clogs, that is boots with wooden soles. There was a pair for
all the older members of the family. I had a pair that lasted and
were in good order for sliding at the time of the famous frost at the
time of the Dunstan Rush, which was fixed firmly in our minds.
Father had ordered many more than he needed and they were bought up
quickly. Besides the clogs was a roll of blue flannel for
shirts, also blue and white stripped cotton for undershirts, and
women's dress stuffs, such as could not be bought here at anything
like the price. Father got as much stuff as paid for expense of
the whole box. With other articles that I cannot name was a lot
of books. The Misses Gilchrist, great friends of Father and
Mother, sent eight lots of Kitto's Daily Bible, that
proved a perfect treasure to all of us young folk. There were
also extra lots of the Christian Treasury to add to what we had,
these were very much appreciated. This was the first of the
boxes, but by no means the last; in fact, they were continued until
it was found that they were no saving.
School must have started
very soon after this as I remember Mr. Grigor had a pair of clogs and
that he wore them constantly all winter in the school.
Just about this time, the Clutha or Molyneux bar was receiving
attention from the government. I am not sure whether it was the
provincial or general, but the coal and potato trade was making it
necessary, as only those who knew the bar could tackle it, and no
insurance was granted either on vessel or cargo. The point of
connection with us was the arrival at Mayfield of an old Edinburgh
friend, Mr. McKay. We
did not even know he was in New Zealand. He was a carpenter and civil
engineer, a combination now unknown and his business was to erect
beacons, so that the channel could be followed, and also build the
pilot station and house. This was a tremendous help to the
shipping, as the pilot signaled when the bar was safe for entry or
exit. Although this was a progress, it was not advanced enough
to save one of J. Jones' schooners going ashore in command of
Captain Stevens. Still as this was after Captain Simpson's
death, the pilot station may have been there.
To come back to McKay's visit, as it meant a lot besides shipping,
one thing I remember, we were nearly out of tea and he told us how to
roast wheat and showed us how to grind it to make a very good
substitute for coffee. We roasted the wheat in a camp oven
until he could rub it to a powder with a bottle. The whole secret is
just getting the correct browness; it must not be burned or the
flavor is spoiled, and it must not be too raw, or it tastes floury,
like porridge, but when just right, it had a distinct flavor of
were nearly six months on it, we had any amount of practice at
roasting and I liked it better than tea. Another matter he set
in motion, the dressing of our grain depended on the wind. He
got Father to make a set of fanners, the first in the Clutha district
and, as he had no iron, it had all to be made of wood. McKay
drew out the plans and sizes and got Father started and, as he came
to Mayfield mostly on Saturdays, he supervised the work until he saw
the fanners finished and working. The value of these fanners
I remember Captain Stevens being at Mayfield
with Captain C Hayward when the former was in command of The Wild
Wave, of which he was immensely proud, and I remember it was
through them that The Wild Wave was his reward for landing
the old Ann Jane in safe quarters, and that would not have
been the case had the Pilot not been there.
In 1861, Robina Smaill, daughter of
Father's youngest brother William, arrived in the
"Pladda." She brought another box, not a large
one, and I do not remember much about it. During the year
two other arrivals came to the district. There were really three,
and the last I should mention first. His name was an honourable one,
Elphestone, no less that a son of Judge Elphestone of India.
He landed somehow at Maitlands wanting
to learn farming, especially sheep and cattle. Maitlands had no
opening for him but they knew J. Wright wanted a young man, so he
went there. He was a tall slender fellow, every inch a gentleman, but
in some respects as simple as a child. I remember Mother happened to
be down at the Wrights’ one day (Mrs. Wright was confined at the
time, which made matters worse ). Mother found poor Alex at the back
door trying to get the pigs supper ready. He had boiled a pot of
potatoes for them and was daintily lifting them out with a fork. She
took in the situation at once, and
said ‘let me help you , you are not used to this kind of work’,
to which he said ‘No; quit thankfully. She showed him how to tip
the lot into a bucket, add the milk, stir in the other scraps and the
thing was ready. ‘Oh thank you so much, I can do the rest now’,
he said. After that he was Mother’s slave, he would do anything
for her. His simplicity, however, was only on the surface. One of
Maitland’s young fellows tried to rag him a bit. He quickly told
him to stand out and, thinking he had a soft thing on, he did, but he
was sent tumbling head over hells the first round, as Elphestone was
every bit as smart with his fists as he was simple. No one tried it
again. However, he did not stay long at Wrights, he got something
better and will appear again.
Among the new institutions
started in Dunedin, was a Labour Bureau, and from it Mr Wright got
another young fellow. He was of a totally different type. He had
been reared in some of the Homeland Charity Schools, but now one
could ever get at his antecedents. He was a master at keeping his
own council and was, on the whole, a good worker. Though knowing
very little about farm work, he understood gardening, and all work of
that class, so he soon picked up the farm work. His name was Robert
Angus, otherwise Bob. He was destined to be a district character,
certainly not on the moral side, but he dept out of gaol and died at
Balclutha not long ago. Not long after this, Father got a young
fellow from the same place, Fred Fuell. He was to be a well known
resident, he was a London boy, with no farm experience, but had been
used to work about stables and understood horses. As we had only
bullocks at that time, he horse experience was of little use.
However, he was willing to learn, and very obliging and civil, and
was soon a favourite and, for years Mayfield was his home.
With the help of J. Robertson and afterwards Fred Ruell, the farm was
considerably extended. The best paying crop at this time was
potatoes. Wheat cost too much to produce and market. As it took
¼ [one shilling and fourpence] to thrash and dress a bushel, instead
of 1d or 2d [one penny or twopence] after the advent of the thrashing
mill. Then after the advent of the thrashing mill, the harvest of
1860 was a fairly large one.
Charlie Smaill came on his second visit to Dunedin- his first visit
was when the crops were green. I remember him looking at
the oats with Father and saying how he would like to have a go at
them with the scythe. Well! He came to have a go at the
harvest. I forgot how many stacks we had but there were four or
five. In those days they were built on stack bottoms, on piles
two feet off the ground, with framing to suit, fifteen feet across.
If properly thatched, there was no wet grain. The thatching rope,
with twisted straw, was a fine art and it was a competition to see
who could make the finest designs and finish. The giving up of
this, I regard, as a great loss, but it would not fit with modern
Sometime in 1860, the Rolands must have arrived,
they came to Maitlands’ first, as they were townies and relations.
They bought Davidson’s place and at once started to enlarge the
house. Willocks had the job and a fine work he made of it, and for
years, it was one of the finest houses outside of Dunedin. The was
one of the bright spots, but
There was another event that cast a gloom over the lower end of the
district. The drowning of Captain
Simpson, at Taieri mouth. Mother often asked him to
bring Mrs. Simpson with him, as she had been helping the women so
much in carrying out their commissions and they would like to meet
her. So Mrs. Simpson, with her two young children, a boy and a girl,
were at Mayfield, and as the Captain had been rather more than a week
on the river and he always came to Mayfield at night, it had been a
wonderfully bright time with gatherings, singing, and bright talk.
He left in high spirits, expecting to be back soon. They called
in at the Taieri for some cargo they had arranged to take, but in
going in, he had noticed a change in the channel and as they would
have a fairly heavy load coming out, he considered it safer to take
soundings before going out. They also had some stuff for Taieri
beach which they took in with them in the boat and going back they
had a female passenger with them, Agnes Campbell, who had been at
service and was going back to Dunedin. Since they considered
there was no danger, she went with them. As far as I can understand,
the soundings he wanted were on the other side he had to land the
stuff on. The stuff was landed and the soundings made and if they had
made straight back, all would have been well. But to make the
trip more interesting and pleasant for their passenger, it was
decided to cross over and up the other side. There were four in
the boat; Peter Campbell the mate, and the one sailor Black Jones,
the cook, was left in charge. All went well until they were
near the other side, when they met much heavier seas than expected,
with the result that they shipped a very heavy sea that nearly filled
the boat and they started to bail out when a much heavier wave struck
the boat capsizing it.
They were all thrown out, but as all but the girl could swim more or
less, she sank first. She came up again and they got hold of
her, but she was so far through that she died in their hands. They
had drifted into fairly quiet water, so they managed to get the girl
into the boat and Simpson took the line they had been sounding with
and tied her to the thwarts of the boat, saying "whoever gets
the boat will get her.” Black Jack, by this time, had
made for the shore and was nearly there when Simpson asked Peter what
he intended doing. Peter said he would stick by the boat, as he
could never swim to shore. Simpson said
‘Alright, Jack is almost ashore, I will follow him and hurry the
Geelong boat to come to your help’, and with that he left. He was
about half-way when he called to Peter, but Peter did not hear what
he said. He seemed like he was trying to come back when he
disappeared and that was the last seen of him. His body was never
found. Jack got the Geelong steamer that was, fortunately, beside the
schooner to go for Peter, but he was over two hours in the water.
News, at that time, had to be brought by messenger, and I
for who brought the message to Mrs Simpson. The blow was simply
terrible in its suddenness and appalling in its results. Mrs Simpson
was so overwhelmed and crushed that she was quite helpless. She
wanted to be away to the scene and place of his death right away
in the wild hope that something might be possible. At that
time, McIntosh was running the mail (a spring cart that carried four
or six.) He left Dunedin on Monday morning, got to Taieri Ferry that
night, Balclutha about twelve o’clock on Tuesday, and brought the
mail for Inchclutha to the school. He used to get there about two
o’clock, started for Dunedin on Wednesday morning, so it could be
Wednesday morning that they should have
met the trap at the Cabbage Tree. But to be able to meet him, meant
an early start from Mayfield, and as Mrs Simpson had two young
children, the thing was unthinkable, so Dr.
Williams arranged for and sent a conveyance, so that Mrs Simpson and
Mother got to Pennydray that night (James Maitland’s place).
Mrs. Maitland was Dr. Williams’ oldest
daughter. Mrs. Simpson had been a servant at the doctor’s for years
before she married and was treated and regarded as a daughter rather
than a servant. Their kindness and thoughtfulness towards her in her
sore need, could not have been more thorough and kinder had she been
a daughter. There were two unmarried girls, at that time, one was at
Maitland’s and she, with the other daughter went the first days
journey to Taieri Ferry, where the other daughter came the night
before to meet them and accompany Mrs Simpson to town the next day,
all staying overnight at the Ferry. Mother was very pleased and
relieved with the kindness showed to Mrs. Simpson and she said that
they made her feel that Mrs. Simpson was with her own folk and felt
the comfort of it. Mother returned the next day with one of the
Miss Williams, leaving Mrs. Simpson in their care of the other So
closed the event that the whole district felt in the nature of a
We now come to 1860 a notable year for arrivals in the Clutha district, although I cannot place them in exact order, the Patersons must have come late in 1859, just before the Rolands. With the Rolands came the Petries, Fred Fuell arrved at Mayfield about that time. Mrs Wright tried his luck at the same time with Sandy Hastings, who sent him Bob Angus, a very different type. A stronger and more robust Scottish fellow about Fred’s age, seventeen or eighteen. Bob had been used to market garden work and was a good hand with the spade, but rough and ready, as well as rough and tumble. He knew how to do everything, no matter whether he had ever seen or heard anything of the sort before, he would tackle it and make up some kind of report about it.
[the writing here gets very hard to read, with the result that there will sometimes be gaps in the story]
The reports were certainly original, and generally remarkable for the little truth in them. Such was Bob, as far as I know, he never went to gaol, but was never very far from the border line, he was a character. He was a great walker and used to come bounding up from Wright’s any time during the day with some message, or to borrow something, that meant that Mr Wright was away somewhere and he was at once asked where Mr Wright had gone, but it made no difference to Bob.
I made mention before of Alex Elphestone being Mr Wright’s cow boy, well: his father, Judge Elphestone of India, arrived from England with the rest of the family. There were Miss N, Tom and two younger misses, Alex, of course, joined them when arrived. They were from Hampshire, where they had an Estate. They brought two or three pure bred race horses, one Sir William, a pure Arab, and a Derby winner, the one the Judge always rode, besides several draughts, one an immense Suffolk Punch. Quite a herd of cows and bulls, Shorthorns, and Jerseys, of Guernseys, as they were then called. Then Mr McGrigor, with his wife and two children, he was the gardener with a complete list of seed and grain, wheat, oats and potatoes. Then Robert Vincent, the groom, in charge of the stock. They all landed at the Crescent first. It happened that the owner of the Crescent, David Lane, with his mate David Dunlop, had not long before this started sawing in the Balloon bush. It was a bit of luck for old David, as he sold for a good figure, that is as land then sold, but not the figure that land afterwards reached. It was not long before the Elphestone’s took possession and a fever of activity unknown before took place. The different members of the party were billeted at the different farms. The old gentleman and his three daughters lodged with the Darlings, Tom his second son, getting his meals with them. Albert Pillans, then was lodging with us at the time, got the job of General Manager on the farm and often joined them at meals to discuss matters. The McGrigor family lodged with us. David Lane and Dunlop built a hut which the men working on the place managed to sleep in. Robert Vincent, being mostly in charge. Roland’s had been the first of what may be called an organized farm, all the other had started as best they could, anything like system with their means was impossible. Rolands were less partial.
Elphestone started out with a full front, ploughing, clearing, house building, stable-building, fencing and gardening rations. The animals they brought with them almost compelled such a force and it created quite a new development in the district and farming was really never the same afterward’s. Such a fillip was given to stock rearing with the advent of so many new breeds of horses, cattle and pigs. There was the heavy draught, Suffolk Punch, the pure bred trap racer, the Shorthorn and Jersey cattle and the Berkshire pigs, the first of their kind in the district, cows, sows and horses being brought form far and near, which soon meant an increase growth in the value of all the stock. This has always convinced me that, if the Government would only export for hire the highest class bulls, the value of the dairy hers could be doubled in a very short time. Testing, without improved breeding, is a slow game, both are needed, but breeding first. This I have proved. So much for the Spring of that year.
This must have been about May of 1861 and, as soon as we were getting so near the great upheaval in June, I will take a general look around noting the settlement generally, when the diggings changed nearly everything, or to be more accurate, changed customs, occupations, and conditions.
As I have already said, 1860 was a marked year of arrivals. The leading families I have noted. But there were others that came to be notable residents. There were the Rolands who bought the Gask Farm from Mr Davidson, the Willocks, Anderson, Aitchesons, Mrs W Mitchell (a servant of the Maitlands, who came with them), Pillans, Mr Ferguson, The Darlings and ourselves, all Edinburgh folk. The school master, with his two brothers and two sisters, were also townies. These all belonged to 1858 and before.
1859 brought the Campbell family who settled in Wangaloa, making the third settler, then the Boyds, Mrs Boyd being a Haggart and a fourth. In 1850 the three Mitchells, two brothers and a sister of W Mitchell, took up land at Wangaloa, but did not settle on it, taking work in the Clutha District instead. Donald went pit sawing with W Aitcheson for quite a time in fact, until he married. Mary Mitchell went as servant to the Roland’s. About the same time, three young fellows came with the Grassmere, James Park, a nephew of Mrs Darling, Robert Frankland, and Robert Byers. Frankland went to the Rolands and Byers to the Maitlands as gardeners, until the Crescent was let. Shortly after this, the two Walsh brothers and sister arrived, John went to Darlings, his sister to W Aitcheson who had moved to Kaitangata bush, not far from Lovells Camp, he had his headquarters with the Maoris at Lovells, Andre Chapman, who had been some years with the Willocks, took up land in Kaitangata, where the present dairy factory stands and built the house which is still there. He was the first settler in Kaitangata town. This, then is roughly howmatters stood just before June 1861. There were two or three families at Coal Point where Mr Lewis was working the coal. The Geelong used to come up for it, also the schooners when short of other cargo. The rush of work at the Balloon had been overtaken. Houses were built and finished and all had taken up their quarters for some time, and they got Ferguson’s portable horse thrashing mill to do their first thrashing.
Father’s big swag came in more than handy, as he had a big calico tent that Mother and Aggie had made. It was the only one on the job and was big enough to hold them all and was dubbed ‘the hotel and well it upheld the name, as all the strays and stranded of the district found it . W. Smaill of Summerhill, often saying was never more thankful when he found himself inside that tent and Father handing him a pannikin of tea and some of his own baked bread. As food could not be bought at that time, Father had some flour sent from home and shared it at a price. So much for the big tent and a big heart. Father was the center of good cheer amid wild surroundings.
A few days after Father left another party got under way, I am not sure who all went together and got together on the way, but Mr Darling, Mr James Frazer, Mr Dawson, and I think, Tom Johnstone. On their first night’s camp, they met Davie McIntyre, with Manso’s bullock team and dray and, as James Frazer knew him well, they all camped together, and got their swags on the dray for the rest of the way. Needless to say, this was a god-send, although the help was not all on one side, as the roads were unmade and all the bands on the wheels on the wheels were not uncommon over a soft or steep pinch, the ferment they left behind grew daily more intense. Our thrashing men could hardly finish the job, Jack Stewart was for being off right away. The Campbells and some of the Haggarts had left Wangaloa and, I think, Andrew Chapman went with them. Matters came to a head at Mayfield when Mr Frazer returned with all the news of Gabriel’s Gully, and with special instructions from Father, as to what stuff to bring, and how to bring it. Mr Dawson returned with him, with instructions for the Darlings. The Frazer’s chief business was to get timber and dress it ready to nail together for sluice boxes, also flour and other provisions which were to be taken with our three bullocks and sledge. The three bullocks to go as far as the top of Mt Stuart, when one of them was to be brought home. Jamie was to go that far with the team and Fred Fuell was to take the team from there. Such were Father’s instructions. Mr Dawson and Mr Dalring had one bullock each, Dawson was to get Darling’s Tom. Mr Dawson called at the Darlings on his way home with Mr Darling’s message. Mrs Darling confided to Mother that she did not think Mr Darling intended to stay long, as along with some other things, he had sent his pillow. I fanscy Dawson must have pinched it for a seat, as Mr Darling did not return so very soon.
What happened when Mr Dawson came for Tom, the bullock, deserves telling about, as it shows several things. Mr Dawson turned up one forenoon with hi bullocks on the other side of the river, cooed that he wanted Tom brought over, which meant swimming him, which needs both strength and nerve. As there were no men about the place, all being away one road or another, could he not come over and give them a hand? ‘No’, he could not leave his bullock, as it might clear out home, and that would mean a loss of two days. He would not risk it. Well, there was only Jeannie Darling and her mother to tackle the job. Under the conditions they would have been more than justified had they told him that neither would they risk it. However, Jeannie was a first class boatman and she decided, with her mother, holding the bullock, she could do it. Mrs Darling was by no means so sanguine, but Jeannie carried her point. A little above the stockyard, was a short beach where the younger ones led Tom into the water, quietly at first, until he was well up to the ribs, when he was given a smack and a jab and he was into deep water and swimming. This was just the pinch of the job, as a heavy animal is a dead weight to shift and they do their utmost to regain their footing, but Jeannie managed to pull him off and Mrs Darling to hold him until they got him underway, then they felt they were masters and were able to land him safely. A record any two strong men could feel proud of, but for two women of their strength, it was a miracle of pluck. This was told to me by Mrs Welsh (Jeannie Darling) afterwards.
I don’t know who all made up the party from Darlings, but John Welsh was one, and there were several from the Gask, as there was a big clearing out, but I must return to Mayfield, where there were plenty of men on the job. The two thrashers had decided to join up and John Stewart was the life and soul of the party. He was singing all sorts of songs, a thing I fancy he had not done since leaving the Old Country. The bullocks were put across, the sledge and all the stuff loaded up and they started. One of the bullocks was inclined to jib, as the load was heave. The Stewart took charge and showed he was a born driver, as between singing and coaxing and a judicious use of the bullock whip he got the team under way. He kept up until the top of Mt Stuart was reached when they had a feed and a spell.
Let us look at the party. Mr J Frazer, Fred Fuell, J. Robertson, Bob Angus, with James to bring back the third bullock, Fuell to take on the team, John Stewart and James Dallas. They had the good luck to have a beautiful day, Jamie said that, as far as he went, it was like a picnic party, he sang some of John Stewart’s songs for weeks afterwards.
On Mayfield, Jamie was the oldest male left. At Darling’s there were two James, James Park and James Darling. Mrs Wright, W Mitchell, Donald and Alex Mitchell, Tommy Marsh, Michael Muir and W Carson, were all away by this time. Then Mr Grigor, Mr Petrie, and all the Rolands except, Mr Roland, and all Elphestone who went later. The only man left was Mr Robert Vincent, who had to look after the stock that had been brought from the Old Country. Such was the cleaning up of the first rush. After this stragglers began to drop back home.
What started after this forms a new order of things. At Kaitangata, which had now become quite a shipping port ‘The Pioneer’, now under Captain Paton ‘The Speck’ with Captain Jamie Grieve ‘The Nora’ with Captain C Maynard, and the Geelong Steamer were the first boats on the trade and, as teams were now steadily on the road, there was always one or more vessels unloading or picking up back cargo. This lasted until 1862 when a new development took place, the Clutha was declared Port of Entry. A pilot who had been placed at Port Molyneaux, at the Pilot Station built by MacKay, came into great requisition and was a help to those now to the Port.
There was a Customhouse Officer at Kaitangata, also a Constable just before these Officers of the Law came, De Costa, a Frenchman, with his wife, known as madam had opened a grog shanty in a big tent. That provided plenty of occupation for the new policeman. As this man had no license and could not get one until a fitting house was built, in that line things lively. Of course, there was no bar, or any regular place of sale now the policeman had come, although before his arrival, the business was quite established and going strong. Cabden was a sergeant and had evidently been instructed how to act, and had been given considerable discretionary powers, as legally he could have confiscated the whole stock and trade, which he did not do, but made them toe the line in an orderly business. I think they had to act under some form of permit. However, the business went on and in due time, a hotel was built and duly licensed.
This Frenchman was the Captain and owner of a cutter of between twenty and thirty tons. He had come from Fiji where, it was rumoured, he had been in the black-birding line, so soon as Madam was established, he left to trade with his cutter, he used to go to Sydney. He was the first Overseas boat to come to Kaitangata.
The Pilot from Hobart town, arrived while the cutter was still in Kaitangata. This was the largest vessel that had come to Kaitangata, and in fact, held the record, she was well over 100 tons. The ‘Mount Alexander’ that came from Melbourne shortly afterwards was some tons less. The Pilot was under Captain Brown, the cargo being potatoes as these could not be stored or driven away, a store was built with Hobart town splits that had been brought for the purpose. This was all correct according to plan, but the human element had been left out, and remained out, with exception of Captain Brown and First Mate Wetherstone, and The Steward. These three were left in sole charge to build the store and unload the boat. Other help could only be had in a spasmodic sort of way when carts or wagons came for loads, so ‘The Pilot’ was some months in Kaitangata before the store was built and the cargo stored. A crew was got together to take her back un Mr Wetherstone, leaving Captain Brown in charge of the store. She was a very short time away, until she was back with another cargo.
In the meantime, ‘Mount Alexander’ turned up and a big part of her crew left her, but not enough to hold her up altogether, so that she got away in reasonable time. She came to Port Molyneax again, but not to Kaitangata. ‘The Pilot’s’ second trip was the last Overseas’ large boat to come to Kaitangata, as the road from Port Molyneaux to Balclutha had been made, and was a much shorter road to the Dunstan Diggings which were now in full swing.
Transcriber's note -- William Smaill, grandson of Agnes Archibald (wife of James), son of Christina Archibald (wife of Andrew Smaill) did a remarkable record with this journal of an extended family in pioneering efforts. The sharing of shelter in the Maori whare and their cooperative effort in house building, gatherings of singing and spiritual meetings, were something that modern families, in modern times could practice for good. While the restoration of the gospel was in transition, these families were true pioneers, doing great for where they were and what they were doing.
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