The landing at Waipu was a tedious business, as people
and goods had to be transferred to long boats and rowed ashore. The task,
however, was safely accomplished, and the boats deposited them at the spot
where Medea had recommended Norman to build his altar. The river ran along
the beach a little above high water mark for about two miles and then
turned inland. Here, where three streams met, was the spot selected for
the first encampment. The word Waipu is of Maori origin, and signifies the
"meeting of the waters" or "murmuring waters." The Maori people were very
poetic and original in their modes of nomenclature, and generally bestowed
names indicating some event or peculiarity or quality of the spot. In this
respect they were exactly on a par with the newcomers, for in Gaelic
nomenclature the same rule holds good.
Norman had purchased a few tents in Auckland, and as
soon as the landing had been effected they were erected at the site of the
future settlement. Ere night fell all the people were landed and proceeded
to their new home. That night Norman called them together, and having
erected an altar on the banks of the Waipu they engaged in family worship.
Then for the first time in the history of New Zealand could be heard the
voices of the 300 Gaelic-speaking people lifting their voices unto God in
the words of the 105th Psalm:ó
"O Thugaibh buidheachas do Dhio"
(Give thanks to God, call on His name)
He said Iíll give Canaanís land
for heritage to you;
While they were strangers there, and few,
In number very few.
The people were devoutly thankful that their wanderings
had come to an end. Their experiences since leaving their fatherís home in
far Caledonia had been very distressing, but now by the grace of God a
better home was opening before them. Here was a land with almost perpetual
sunshine, a genial climate, a fertile soil, and laws that enabled them to
possess any amount of land they desired. Here, too, snow was rarely seen,
while the forests and pastures were evergreen. Here, too, they could live
comfortably in tents at all seasons of the year. There were no wild
animals, no snakes, and no form of life to injure anyone. It was indeed a
rare land for, excepting man, man had no enemies in it. It was their
Promised Land, and now that they had taken possession they were full of
gratitude to God. New Zealand at this time was under provincial
government. The country was divided into large areas called provinces. The
early settlers selected spots along the coast where natural harbours
existed. This was very necessary, as no roads and no means of land transit
existed. Then, too, the Maori tribes were becoming alarmed at the
increasing numbers of Pakehas (white men), and their constant desire to
possess land. This led to much hostility, and hence it was dangerous for
the Pakeha to travel by land unless in armed bands capable of defending
Each province had its own legislative machine, so that
they were practically independent the one of the other. The Governor was
appointed by the British Government, and had powers of general
superintendence; but each province was practically an independent entity.
These conditions were merely of a temporary nature, while settlers were
few and scattered and financial arrangements of a parochial nature. As a
rule all agricultural lands around the various seats of government sold at
ten shillings per acre, but in remote districts they were sold for much
In 1865 the seat of government was removed from
Auckland to Wellington, but the provinces were not abolished until 1876.
Wellington is situated at the southern extremity of the North Island, and
possesses a splendid natural harbour capable of sheltering all the navies
of the world. All the people who arrived by the "Highland Lass" paid ten
shillings per acre for such agricultural land as they chose to occupy.
They had no competitors, so that virtually they occupied the whole plain
along the banks of the Waipu River, which extends to about 15,000 acres.
Land, however, was of no particular value in those early days, as there
was neither demand nor outlet for such things as the land could produce.
These people were enured to the hardships of pioneering,
and hence a primitive existence held no terrors for them.
It no doubt required rare courage and physical endurance, but they were
men of iron, and to them no difficulties were insuperable. Some of them
were fishermen, while the waters around them abounded in fish. Some of
them were huntsmen, and the forests abounded in birds and pigs. All of
them were cultivators of the soil, and here was a land and a climate that
would grow food at all seasons of the year. Some were lumbermen, and here
were forests which they could easily convert into homes. Here, indeed, was
everything that men with a will could desire, and here were the men who
were determined to overcome all difficulties.
The few storekeepers at Auckland knew of the trials of
these people and gave them credit for all the necessaries required. Norman
transacted all the business, and he took care that no unnecessary debts
were contracted. The Waipu block had been surveyed by the government, but
not divided into sections. This made little difference, as an enormous
amount of pioneer work had to be effected ere sections could be allotted.
Most of the country was covered with timber, scrub, and fern. Until this
was cut down or burnt off little real settlement could be accomplished.
Their first task was the clearing of suitable areas for the growing of
garden produce. The fire stick soon accomplished this task. Then they
began the cutting of suitable timber for househuilding. The first twelve
months were spent in clearing and cultivating suitable patches of land and
learning where and how
to secure food from the waters and forests adjacent to
them. Everyone capable of work did his or her share. There was no question
of payment or hours worked or meals enjoyed. Each helped the other, and
all shared such shelter, food, and clothing as could be procured. They
were accustomed in large part to this mode of life in Nova Scotia, and now
they introduced it into New Zealand. Indeed, their circumstances compelled
it, while their religion enjoined it. It is true they were surrounded by
Maoris, but the Maori in those days knew nothing of continued labour.
Necessity did not compel him, as a raupo hut and a canoe enabled him to
satisfy all his requirements. The Nova Scotians brought with them some
tools and the simpler agricultural implements, but they had no domestic
animals, nor could they be easily procured. What ready cash they had was
reserved for the procuring of food and the purchase
of land. The terms of the land purchases were very liberal. A small
deposit, varying according to the area each one occupied, was paid on
taking possession, and the balance in annual instalments according to the
ability of the settler. During this time a house had to be built upon the
section and certain improvements made upon the land. These terms were
exceedingly generous and such as able and willing men could easily fulfil.
When the earlier difficulties of hut-building and
land-clearing were over, Norman called them together in order to proceed
with the erection of a church and a school. Hitherto a tent or the green
sward served the purpose, but now they were in a position to build a more
permanent structure. A site was selected on the left bank of the main
branch of the Waipu River, a little above where the streams met to form
the main river. Here in their ewn fashion they marked off a few acres
suitable for church, school, and manse purposes. This spot also was
intended to become the heart of the new settlement. A few months sufficed
to build a small wooden structure capable of seating some 200 individuals.
In later years a new wing was added to it, and this early structure still
serves as their place of worship. The old people of the settlement look
upon this spot as hallowed ground and treat it with the utmost veneration.
When all was ready, Norman assumed his old role of
teacher, preacher, law-giver, and business agent. Gradually however, the
provincial government took over education and the magistracy of the
settlement. The people were reconciling themselves to their new home. The
majority of them were delighted with the change they had made. The log
fires and fur clothing of Nova Scotia were abandoned. Flowers bloomed and
garden produce grew at all seasons, while domestic animals were happy in
the fields at all times. Though their lots were cast in pleasant places,
still the old people sighed for the
Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
Land of the mountain and the flood,
and every now and then could be heard the refrain
From the lone shieling of the misty island,
Mountains divide us, and a waste of seas;
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.
Fair these broad meads, these hoary woods are grand,
But we are exiles from our fatherís land.
How natural, how human, how beautiful it is for man to
cling to his native land, who but says
Be it ever so humble,
Thereís no place like home.
They had beautiful mountain scenery around them, and
lovely bush-clad islands at their doors, which continually reminded them
of their Caledonian homes; and so with human longings they sighed for the
land of their fathers.
It was the custom in the Highlands until recent years
for some householders to have one or more retainers living in the home
with them. Frequently such retainers were relatives or life-long
companions, or some individual having some claims upon the generosity and
companionship of the owners. In rich and landed families this was a
universal habit in the British Isles, and in a few cases it still exists.
The retainer usually performed some household duties, and all he or she
received was clothing, food, and shelter. Norman would no doubt be
familiar with this custom in his native land, and seems to have adopted it
on his settlement at St. Annís. This may probably explain the reason for
his having acquired 1,200 acres at St. Annís. Owing to his duties as
teacher, preacher, and magistrate, he could riot devote much time to any
agricultural work, so that retainers or servants became a necessity. Of
servants there were none, nor were they desired, hence the patriarchal
system of retainers was adopted. He brought with him one retainer in the
person of Mr. Kenneth Ding-wall, so that Kenny attended to all the
ministerís agricultural affairs.
In the course of twelve months each householder had
secured his own allotment, and with this began the real settlement of
Waipu. The size of the allotments varied according to the size of the
individualís purse and the working capacity of the family. As a rule these
allotments varied from 100 to 300 acres. The fire stick was the principal
weapon for reclamation. Good timber was left standing, while all the rest
was burnt off. By this method large areas were cleared in a comparatively
short time. After a good burn, the land was sown with grass seed, so that
in one season the appearance of large patches of country had been
completely transformed. Good areas that would burn clean were selected for
wheat and maize growing. The grain was scattered on the burnt surface and
raked in. It was primitive farming, but necessity knows no laws. Sometimes
it was sown on the old Highland principle of the "lazy-rig." This was a
narrow strip of good land about 20 feet wide and as long as the field
would permit of. The seed was scattered on the surface of the bed, then a
shallow trench was dug on each side of it and the soil scattered over the
rig in sufficient quantity to cover the seed. Potatoes, wheat, and maize
were grown after this fashion with excellent results. No more was required
than would feed those concerned, so that even with their primitive methods
sufficient food could be easily grown. They had no pests to contend with,
while wild pigs were the only animals that visited their fields. Norman
selected a fine block of land of some 300 acres at the southern border of
the settlement and close to the foot of Mount Pisgah. Here he established
his home, and here Kenny Dingwall, his retainer, lived and worked all the
days of his pilgrimage in Waipu.
When supplies of any kind were required they had to
launch their long boat and sail down to Auckland. This was the only port
having stores which stocked the various requirements of the new
settlement. When they arrived it was arranged that Captain Duncan McKenzie
and his family should remain in Auckland as the agent of the community.
Captain McKenzie set up as a small storekeeper and shipping agent, and so
was enabled to extend help to his fellow-settlers. Then, too, a meal mill
had just been established at the junction of High Street and Vulcan Lane
in Auckland by Messrs Low and Motion; while a young man named Roderick
McKay, son of Duncan Ban McKay, became storeman in the new establishment.
By the combined recommendations of these two men, their fellow-settlers at
Waipu were successful in establishing credits until more prosperous times
arrived. Their requirements were few and were only met when necessity
compelled. These were the days of adversity, so they trained themselves
stoically to endure all sorts of hardships and privations. They were their
own tailors, bootmakers, carpenters, millers, and all else. They were
accustomed to depend upon their own resources, and it is surprising how
men will rise to the occasion when necessity compels. As illustrative of
this they required a few head of cattle, but cattle were unwieldy animals
to carry in open boats. Hearing that cattle ran wild at the old whaling
station at Whangarei Heads, a party of young men set out to try and catch
some of them. The country was mostly dense bush and, as the men
approached, the cattle took to the bush. After much chasing they managed
to lassoo two calves, and with these triumphantly returned to Waipu.