As far as possible the
extracts from the letters have been grouped for convenience in chapters
according to the topics indicated in the title or headnotes. But where
reference to any topic is very brief the passage has been left in its
In a few places extracts
have been added from some brief Reminiscences, written by my grandfather
for his family in 1870, and
where these occur they are marked "Reminiscences, 1870."
My grandfather’s letters after leaving the "Poictiers"
record his early experiences in Dunedin. The Rattray Street house appears
to have been on the south side, the stream of water at the back door being
the Kaituna Creek [Most authorities think that the correct name of this
creek was "Toi-tu"—see article by Fred. Waite in Otago Daily Times, March
23, 1923, also pamphlet by Alfred Eccles "Records of Early Days" (1929).
], which flowed down Maclaggan Street through the Grand Hotel site into
the harbour at Water Street.
September 13th, 1850.
On landing at Port Chalmers
on Wednesday of last week, I proceeded immediately by a small boat, along
with some other gents, to Dunedin in order to secure a house for our large
small family, which I readily got in Rattray Street—a house of four
apartments, up and down, for 8s. per week, or 7s. if kept for six months
or upwards. We took in along with us the two Messrs. Wallace, minister’s
sons, of whom I formerly spoke on the voyage. We get 21s. per week for
their board and lodging, using and washing their own clothes. This will
only be for a short time ere they go to their land, but I am sorry to add
that the younger one, George, is very poorly indeed, so weak that he is
confined to bed, and we think is consumptive and not likely to recover;
Dr. Purdie [Dr. William Purdie (1797-1876) reached Otago by the Mooltan
in 1849, and was one of the earliest medical practitioners in the
settlement. He was in the Provincial Council (1857-62) and a member of the
Town Board (1855-60).] has visited him frequently. We have had a visit
from the new Judge Stevens [Sidney Stephen came from New South Wales in
1850 as puisne judge for Otago. There was insufficient work to keep him
employed, and he was soon removed to the North Island. He died in January,
1858.]; also the minister, and Captain Cargill. The Captain very kindly
invited Mr. Wallace and me to drink tea with them last night, which we
did, and stopped till 9 o’clock talking over ways and means. He is very
conversible, although an old man; has a house full of big daughters, one
(M.) of which was proclaimed on Sabbath last for the first time to a Mr.
Johnstone, a merchant here.
The first night I lodged in
the hotel, as good a house as you could wish for in Scotland, everything
served up in style, and a waiter. Six of us breakfasted next morning
sumptuously on roast beef, cold tongue, warmed potatoes, two eggs each,
both tea and coffee, and plenty of bread and butter; indeed I was like to
forget being so far from home.
Two of us walked back to
Port Chalmers—a distance of nine miles by land; took us four hours. The
first half is through a beautiful romantic valley called the North-East
Valley, where there are a number of settlers on their ten acres. The
latter half is over a very high hill, densely covered with bush, and the
road was very bad, sometimes to the ankles in mud; was very wearied.
Next day got all my tribe
out of the ship by the Company’s boat, free, to Dunedin but the Customs
are very strict here, and the following day suspected my big boxes being
more than luggage, so sent them ashore to the bond, causing me to return
to Port Chalmers on Monday when they opened every box, but found nothing
worthy of notice except the three windows, which they valued at £5
and cost me 14s. 6d., besides hiring an extra boat to take them up with
cost £1 5s.—nothing for nothing. However, we are now all safe and snugly
lodged for the time, but have very little prospect of remaining in the
town, there being very little business to be done in it, and already too
many at it, viz., merchants, unless selling to them on ship’s arrival
which I could do from stock from England. They have to buy from Wellington
and Sydney, and then irregular. I have sold only one pair of mona blankets
for 6cwt. of potatoes, value 21s., but cost me only 74s. at Ryde. I
have been twice out at the country called the Halfway Bush [Halfway Bush
is two miles from the centre of the city and at an elevation of 1,000
feet. The route from town proceeded in a north-westerly direction past the
York Place cemetery to Halfway Bush and on towards the Taieri Plain. The
road was not metalled, and in wet weather bullock drays were frequently
imbedded in its bogs.] looking for a ten-acre section, but have not fixed
yet. The best is mostly taken up or held in reserve by the Company who, by
the way, are a lot of jobbers, and no one should buy land before coming to
see it. There are always bargains in the market by some discontented, or
ne’er-do-weal, or death. Was very sorry to find Mr. Craig had died before
we landed a long time. The Company sold off his effects for almost
The accompanying sheet I
again send to you by way of a centre man, but of course intended for all
friends. I can add little more as yet regarding the place from the
shortness of time since arrival, but will give you more particulars in my
next. I may add that the last winter here has been the mildest and best
they have known for years back; they say no winter at all. I have seen
garden peas in full bloom and pods also in the minister's garden, although
this is only the first of spring with them, equal to our March in
Scotland, so we have arrived at a good season for getting in a crop if
once fixed for a spot. There is less employment here at present for
labourers or servants than at any other of the settlements, owing to so
little cultivation as yet and the Company’s work at a standstill. However,
I hear there are double more this year than formerly. Flour is 19s. per
100lbs., or 9d. the 4lb. loaf; beef, mutton, and pork all at 6d. to 7d.
per pound, all of fine quality; butter, is. 6d. per pound; eggs, 2s.
dozen; milk very scarce and dear; firewood, 12s. to 14s. per cord or
cartload, but our boys carry in plenty from the hills free, and there is a
stream of water at the back door. The people are mostly all Scotch but,
like the writer, have little capital. Very industrious in getting well on.
I must now acknowledge the
receipt of your kind and welcome letter enclosed in the parcel sent from
Mr. Paterson, Edinburgh, together with the one from Andrew, Mrs. Shanks,
and Mr. Cameron, to all of whom you will not fail to give our united
thanks. The parcel arrived here four weeks before us by the Mariner,
which had again sailed before we came in. I will write each of the
parties in my next letter. Remember us also kindly to all our old friends
and acquaintances, viz., Mr. Goodall, Mr. Tough, Mr. Davidson, Mr. T.
Miller, etc., etc., to whom I will also write soon. I often think of
Kirkaldy and all our old friends and doings, and can scarcely reconcile
the fact that we are now so far removed from you all. I expected the cut
glass for the windows, but will be quite in time next vessel as you write.
Would be glad if Mr. Rattray or Oliphant would send me some manila rope
for boatline about an inch thick. It is much wanted, also plough line for
tying cattle. Swedish turnip is in great demand, and yellow bullock. Tell
Mr. Tough that ryegrass is 14s. per bushel. It could be packed amongst the
crockery; also all garden seeds are very high. All worsted yarn for
stockings not to be got. Also worsted stockings and socks.
We remove to Halfway Bush
very soon, and set to work on the land immediately. It is a beautiful
locality, and has several respectable neighbours. I have been twice seeing
it, and will give you the particulars in my next. Adieu once more.
charge of his store along with himself.
Letters written two years later;
the family is settled at Halfway Bush, where the farm is being worked
and developed by the older boys. "Shortly after getting settled in
Halfway Bush, Mr. James Macandrew arrived, bringing with him a whole
shipload of merchandise for sale. Mr. Macandrew did not know what to
do for a person who could take
Meeting with Dr. Purdie one day, Dr.
Purdie told him of my having been brought up to the business and whom he
could recommend. Sent word to me to call on Macandrew at his store, and
although having no thought nor intention of taking a situation, I engaged
to come and make trial, and there I remained for three and a half years."
October 28th, 1852.
On the other side I send you a
duplicate of the letter and account sales forwarded to
you in September last, which letter as well as
this I hope will reach you safely. The last letter was sent away so
hurriedly that I got little time to say anything to you in it, but indeed
there was so little that I could say from the fact that we were totally
destitute of home news for four or five months, but I am very glad to say
now that since then the Persia has arrived, bringing with her the
largest mail that ever reached Otago at one time. In fact she brought
three English mails via Wellington, each having the appearance of a bag of
corn, out of which I had the good fortune to receive eight letters and
fourteen newspapers, one letter each from Nelson, Sydney, London, Glasgow,
Edinburgh and Kirkaldy, so you see I am getting into correspondence again,
and really it makes our heart right glad to receive such home news. But
you cannot conceive a greater disappointment than a ship arriving and no
letters nor newspapers for you.
I may here mention having
written also to Mr. George Douglas in September last, with account sales,
but through you at this time must acknowledge receipt of his kind letter
and invoice (of February, 1852) of herrings and corn bags, now all safe to
hand ex the Persia. I also received your invoice of sundries ex the
Stately, but she (Stately) is still in Wellington, and it
may be four or five weeks before she reaches this place. Your invoice is
dated April 6th, 1852. By it you give me no news at all, but hope that
when the cask arrives we will get Fife letters and papers.
I am glad to see in your
invoice a quantity of more ryegrass seed. The last is now all sold at 10s.
per bushel. This spring will be past before it comes to hand, but it will
be ready when wanted. The farmers’ mounting, too, is very acceptable, and
will be of great service when we get up our new barn, which we intend to
do this summer. We only want the riddles now, which we hope will be here
before harvest. Cannot say about the hobnails yet till I see them how they
suit the trade, but the shoemakers have got up the price of boots and
shoes very much, viz., 26s. for watertight boots, and youngsters’ they
will scarcely make at any price. In your next box put in a few pairs of
very stout ones for our own use at least, but nothing would pay you better
than to send a hogshead of boots and shoes of all kinds and sizes. The
tartans and shawls we anticipate will be a great boon. Expect the worsted
and stockings in your next—as many as you like. Don’t forget the blue
flannel, best quality, also the light blue drugget and coloured ditto for
dresses, also checked linen—all best quality. If convenient also to send
six dozen each blue Kilmarnock bonnets, Glengarry ditto, and blue caps
with fronts—all good and assorted.
We expect to get some
Kircaldy news when the letters come forward in the cask, although we got
some account of them from Mr. Douglas, as well as seeing some of them in
the papers. Still the particulars from your own hand will be very
acceptable. How is your own business doing? About six months ago a
gentleman arrived here, a settler, named F. Broke Holinshead. [Frederick
Brock-Hollinshead, of the 17th Lancers, brought £20,000 with him, and
commenced to build a mansion in a part of Halfway Bush to which he gave
the name of Brockville. Hocken says: "The name and extensive foundations
remain to this day." (1898). Brock-Hollinshead was one of Cargill’s
nominators for the Superintendency. He soon returned to England.] He has
chosen eight sections in our neighbourhood, and is preparing to build a
fine house. He has already formed a fine road to the place at his own
expense. It has already cost him £200. He pays about £25 in wages weekly,
and seems to be doing good in the place.
I must now conclude as my
paper is nearly all filled. The ship Persia has left the port again
for China, so must send this by the next opportunity. There is no word of
the Stately yet. Last night I was away at the North-East Valley
seeing Mr. Russell, [Apparently Andrew
Russell, one of North-East Valley’s first teachers. He was later a farmer
in Southland.] who unfortunately fell and broke his leg. He is rather
nigh-sighted and had stumbled over a stump. It is a great misfortune for
him. They are a fine family, but not very robust for colonial life. I am
glad to say that we are all in good health and spirits. We had a very wet
winter, and Ma was a good deal troubled with rheumatism. She is now a good
deal better, and the weather so very fine. Our crops are looking very well
this spring, and we are busy planting potatoes (October).
optimism concerning the Otago Settlement greatly influenced relations
in the Old Country. In 1853 Mrs. Hepburn’s brother, James Paterson,
decided to come to Otago, and later other Kirkcaldy friends joined the
Dunedin, March, 1854.
I intended to have
sent you wool for your account, but by the last arrivals we have heard of
the fall in the market at home; so that I am at some loss what to do.
Before this news arrived the wool season was about over; the most of it
bought up at 1s. 2d. per pound, fully 2d. per pound above the former
year’s price. I have only seven bales bought, value about £120, but was to
get as many more as I required from J. Macandrew and
Co. at what they paid for it, but at present there is no vessel to take it
away. Mr. Jones [John ("Johnny")
Jones, pioneer whaler and settler at Waikouaiti in 1843, for a time
controlled markets in the young settlement. He was the principal
competitor of J. Macandrew and Co. as
general storekeepers.] engaged the
Eliza, now in port with a full cargo for Sydney, at 5s. per
bale more than we could give. Should I think it advisable when the next
opportunity offers, I will include your amount in the wool I will send to
Messrs. Lockhart, and give you an order on them for the amount ; if
otherwise, I will send you bills on London. I have told Mr. Douglas both
the difficulty and risk there is in sending our produce to the Australian
market on their account until we have more direct communication there.
Mr. James Paterson
[Afterwards Hon. James Paterson, M.H.R., a member of the Stafford
Ministry, 1865-66. He arrived by the brigintine Clutha on February
12th, 1854.] (who had just arrived) says that things looked better than he
expected, especially the flower garden. He scarcely expected to find such
fine walks bordered with thyme and daisies, with a rich display of
dahlias, not to speak of a long hedge of English fuchsias in full blow,
which even the Rev. Mr. Bannerman exclaimed to be the height of
extravagance at home. At home, he said, they were glad of a small piece in
a flower pot. Our gooseberries, etc., were nearly over, but he got a
tasting to see what we have had. Not only our garden but all our crops
have been excellent this year, and now I am glad to say are all safely
housed in the barnyard. This has been the finest harvest season we have
seen; indeed all the summer the weather has been super-excellent, and the
crops everywhere good. The potatoes only are light from the dry season,
the price of which will consequently be high this year, and none for
shipment. All our produce is expected to be high this season; wheat, 10s.
to 12s. per bushel; we will have about 100 bushels. Flour is now at
38s. per 100lbs.
I daresay that you will
think my letters now so much business letters that I give you no other
news, but really I am at some loss what to write about, for our news comes
all from your end, and we now hear of such rumours of war all over the
Continent that we do not know what will be next. Then we have our new
Constitution [After some years of bitter controversy in the Colony the New
Zealand Constitution Act was passed by the British Parliament in 1852.
This measure, which provided for a Provincial Council in each province and
a General Assembly for the whole of New Zealand, was proclaimed by Sir
George Grey on April 30th, 1853. James Macandrew, John Cargill, and W. H.
Cutten were the first members of the House of Representatives from Otago.
The General Assembly first met at Auckland on May 27th, 1854.] here
occupying all our attention—our Provincial Council and House of Assembly
at present just called for the first time to meet at Auckland, some 600
miles distant. The Government brig is just in our harbour at Port
Chalmers, come express for the members from Otago, giving them only about
ten days’ notice. Our Mr. Macandrew being one of them has put us all in a
stir arranging for his departure. The papers of this date will show you
their letters to their constituents. We expect to get on in these matters
much better now.