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The Highlanders of Waipu
Chapter XIV - Wedding Bells


The winter of 1851 was a very severe one in Nova Scotia. Early in the season a British ship put into St. Ann’s Bay for shelter and became ice-bound. One of her officers was Hugh Anderson, a tall and handsome man of 22 summers. To while the time away while his ship was ice-bound Hugh was in the habit of visiting the St. Ann’s settlement and the ships that were abuilding there. Here he frequently met the minister’s lovely daughter Margaret, or Peggy, as she was locally known, and immediately fell in love with her. Cupid’s ways are mysterious, and Hugh became an almost daily visitor in some part of the settle— ment. The wideawakes gradually surmised that Hugh was a fond admirer of the belle of St. Ann’s. He gradually pushed his way into the manse on the plea of desiring to learn Gaelic from the young people of the manse. Mrs. McLeod, with a woman’s intuition, soon perceived the object of his visits; but thinking that he and his ship would soon be away and she and her family on the way to Australia, remained silent. Hugh was a diligent Gaelic scholar, and readily committed to memory such phrases as he desired to learn. His favourite one was "thoir gaol do, mo callin boidheach, laoghach" (give me your love my handsome bonnie lassie). When Cupid drives, man soon accommodates himself to Babel’s tongues. In a few weeks Hugh managed to sing in Gaelic one of Burns’ songs

Bhcir aodann Phegi is a dealbh,
Nimh aois is aonarachd air falbh;
Chuireadh inntin Phegi’s a luach maoin,
Seun air ceud-dhuin a chinne daoin.
My Peggy’s face, my Peggy’s form,
The frost of hermit’s age might warm;
My Peggy’s worth, my Peggy’s mind,
Might charm the first of human kind.

I love my Peggy’s angel air,
Her face so truly heavenly fair,
Her native grace so void of art;
But I adore my Peggy’s heart.

Early in the spring the ice broke and Hugh’s ship moved out into open water. When she was ready to resume her voyage, officer Hugh could not be found, and it was surmised that he had been drowned while attempting to regain his ship over the broken ice. There were loud lamentations in St. Ann’s when the supposed fate of the gallant officer became known. The ship sailed away, while the second officer was logged as lost. Some days afterwards Hugh reappeared, and sought employment on the building of the St. Ann’s ships. This was readily proffered him, and he it was who carved the form of Peggy as a figurehead for the "Margaret." No one asked how he had survived his drowning, but it was surmised that Peggy and some of her girl friends had a hand in his recovery.

When the "Margaret" was ready for sailing Hugh offered to join her as navigating officer. Norman was so engrossed in his parochial duties that he may not have observed the ravages that Cupid threatened in his family. He demurred at this stranger accompanying them, but Hugh had several friends amongst the people and even in Norman’s family, so that eventually Hugh joined the company and continued with them until they had settled at Waipu.

Then he decided to approach Norman for the hand of Peggy, now the belle of Waipu as formerly of St. Ann’s. It was the case of Laban and Jacob over again. "Peradventure," said Hugh, ‘1 have served thee and thy people for three long years, and now I have come to ask for the hand of your lovely daughter Peggy." Then answered Norman, "thou are not of our people, and Peggy cannot understand you or go amongst strangers." "Aye," said Hugh, "that she can; for has she not taught me to speak Gaelic, and has she not made a gaidheal (Highlander) out of a Gallda (Lowlander)." With this Mrs. McLeod and Peggy appeared, and Norman quickly read in Mary’s eyes the object of their interview. "Well, well," said Norman, "silver and gold have I none, but in Peggy you have a treasure, and with her you get my blessings and that of Heaven also."

HIGHLAND WEDDING

The news soon spread abroad that Peggy and Hugh were engaged to be married, and as both of them were very popular it was decided to give them a grand Highland wedding. Weddings, like other things in life, seldom come singly, and at the same time it was announced that the wedding of Ina McKay and Hector McKenzie was also to he celebrated. The marriages were proclaimed in church on three successive Sundays. The brides during this period were in strict seclusion. Generally on the Friday night preceding the wedding day the bride in each case received all her female friends at her home. This was referred to as "oidhche nigh nan cas" or the night of the feet washing. In the same way there was "oidhche nan reiteach" or contract night. Originally both these ceremonies were of a religious character, but after the Reformation they dwindled into nights of merriment. The girl friends of the bride insisted upon washing her feet, and during the ceremony they frequently added some colouring material to the water to increase the fun. All of them brought some small present for the bride extending from articles of furniture and dress to ordinary food. Indeed, a popular bride was well set up after the feet washing night.

The bridegroom’s time came on a night or two before his wedding day. Then all his young male friends came to see him at his home during the evening and brought with them a great variety of simple and useful gifts. In the Highlands each man brought some whisky, which was generally used during the night’s festivities. In wine-for-bidden Waipu they contented themselves with tea and tobacco. After a night of song and story, the bridegroom stood at the door, and as each guest passed out he was offered a glass of whisky and a hearty handshake. This drink was known as "deoch an doras," or drink at the door. This was intended as a farewell ceremony, for next day the bridegroom became the property of his bride and no longer joined in the merrymaking of his former friends.

On the wedding day the bride and bridegroom marched each with separate parties headed by a piper to the local church. Here the ceremony was performed, and after that they marched arm in arm, headed by the pipers and followed by all the wedding guests, to the bride’s home, where the wedding festivities were partaken of. The young men fired guns, while the girls flew ribbons as emblems of joy.

According to the social status of the individual these festivities continued for one, two, or three days. There were no wedding trips and no necessity for them. On the Sunday following the wedding all the guests reassembled at the bride’s home and followed the young couple to church. This was known as the day of "beachdaichu," or kirking, or viewing. After church, the procession was reformed, and they returned arm in arm to the bride’s home. This occasion was generally the last time that this man and woman would be seen walking arm in arm. The two were now publicly constituted man and wife, so that death alone could part them. All those quaint habits have disappeared from Waipu, but they still persist in the more remote parts of the Highlands.

Shortly after the wedding, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson removed to Auckland where he established a shipping business which throve immensely. For many years Mrs. Anderson was a prominent figure in church and social affairs. Many old Aucklanders still speak of her as a most kindly and charitable woman. They reared a family of one daughter and three sons, some of whom still reside in Auckland. When it came to the laying down of their burdens, this romantic couple departed honoured and beloved by everyone who knew them.

AUCKLAND WHARFBUILDING AND HARVESTING.

Wharfage accommodation at Auckland in 1853, when the "Highland Lass" arrived, was non-existent; but shortly thereafter improvements began. The government of the day decided to begin operations, and at this work several of the Waipu men found employment. They were well fitted for this job, being handy men with tools and any woodwork. The sea at this period of the city’s history lapped the foot of Shortland Street, so that it required much reclamation and a long jetty to make conditions comfortable for the sailing ships that visited the harbour. Timber was handy, as little settlement had as yet taken place in the surrounding country. The wages of these days were small (2s. per day), but a raupo (reed) hut served as a home, while fish and flesh were cheap. Then, too, the work of harvesting gave considerable employment. There were no large fields of grain and no reaping machines, so that all reaping had to be performed by the common reaping hook. At this work the Waipu men were experts, and numbers of them came every autumn to the Auckland district to work in the harvest fields. This employment enabled them to extend their holdings and supply their families with absolute necessaries, while land clearing and food growing proceeded. Some of the Waipu families still treasure the tools with which their fathers built the first wharf in Auckland. Such things would be welcome exhibits in an "Old Settlers’ Museum," but scattered as they are they will soon disappear.

CEILEIDH

Ceileidh (chat) (sounds Kaley) is a very ancient Highland institution. How old it is is probably unknown, but it is referred to as early as the Norman Conquest, and doubtless is as old as man. In those early days, and even still in remote districts, it served the part of newsvendor or newspaper. To acquire information regarding the doings and sayings of other people is a very primitive human instinct. Vendors of news in various guises tramped the country and were welcome guests in many homes owing to the information they were supposed to possess. The origin of the word is uncertain, but it may have originated from "ceil-de," a preserver of the fire, or otherwise a "culdee." These were the early collectors and purveyors of news. From this word comes Caileir," or the story-teller, or warbler; while the thing itself is called " Ceileidh." Whatever its origin, the system has come down through the ages as a meeting at which news, music, and enjoyment are dispensed to the inhabitants of a district. In this latter sense it still exists, and in early Waipu the " Ceileidh" " was a recognized institution. There were no local newspapers and no travelling newsvendors to satisfy human curiosity, so the "Ceileidhs" took their place. In much the same way all over the civilized world we have our social gatherings, our dinners, our afternoon teas, our smokes, our drinks, and our visitings, at which all manner of news is purveyed. In every town, village, and district there springs up some individual or some house which acquires fame as a news centre. Owing to their isolation and being strangers in a strange land, the people of Waipu were needful of some common centre of conversation and communication. The "ceileidh," or corroboree, shifted from house to house according to circumstances. The evening was generally spent in reciting the news of the district or the contents of letters and any newspapers received from abroad. Excepting Maoris they had no neighbours, but the language bar effectually shut them off from Maori intercourse. Music, songs, story-telling, and dancing were the common means of whiling the time away. It is truly said that man is a gregarious animal. He loves the company of his fellows, and in this company food, conversation, and amusement play the principal part.

LOCATING WAIPU.

Look at the map of New Zealand, and on its far northeastern coast look for latitude 36 S., where lie Whangarei Heads and the Hen and Chicken Islands. The great navigator, Captain Cook, gave Whangarei Heads the name of Bream Head from its resemblance to the bold black head of the bream fish, so common to British waters. From Bream Head to Bream Tail is a distance of some 20 miles, and close to the shore lies a group of half a dozen islands called the Hen and Chickens. All those islands are uninhabited. The largest (The Hen) is about 10 miles in circumference, while the others are much smaller. They lie at from two to three miles from the shore, and are completely bush-clad, and the home of countless birds.

A DELIGHTFUL SITUATION.

Waipu Bay runs in a curved inland fashion all the way from Bream Head to Bream Tail. It is a great low-lying sandy beach covered with a great variety of large and small shells. The islands shelter it beautifully, so that one might travel the world over and not find a more delightful spot. No wonder "Moses and Aaron" (Captain Duncan McKenzie and the Rev. Norman McLeod) chose this spot, for it strongly resembles much of the west coast of Scotland. Standing on the beach and looking landwards and westwards, Maungaturoto (mountain between two seas) raises its crown some 3,000 feet in the air. From either end of the mountain runs in a crescent shape towards the sea a chain of hills, the northern one being named Maungapai and the southern Maungawai. Maungaturoto is about 15 miles inland, and along its slopes rises the Waipu River, which runs in an almost straight line eastwards into the sea. In the course of ages it has scooped out for itself a level plain of about 15,000 acres surrounded by low undulating hills. Here, on the sea end of this plain, is located the original settlement of Waipu. The river enters the sea through a long sandy beach, and as a consequence it frequently changes its outlet. The Cove is the name given by the Waipu people to the Tail of the Bream. Here, when they arrived in 1853, the river entered the sea. It is a low rocky headland which gives little protection to the river mouth. The name "Cove" is of Nordic origin. It is common in the north of Scotland, and there it means a sheltered nook on a rock-bound coast where a boat can find shelter. It was the name of Norman’s home in St. Ann’s, and no doubt to this cause it owes its transference to New Zealand.


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