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The Highlanders of Waipu
Chapter XVII - More Migrants


No sooner had the "Gertrude" departed from St. Annís than a new committee was formed to make a fresh party, the members of which were willing to wind up their affairs and set, sail for New Zealand. Leaders were not awanting, so that in a short time 20 families had signified their intention of joining the expedition. As the St. Annís harbour was liable to be ice-bound during the winter, this party decided to build their ship at Big Bras DíOr, where open water generally prevailed. In December, 1856, they launched the " Spray," a brigantine of 100 tons. The earlier experiences of the people taught them how to proceed in the building and equipping of their vessel. The "Spray" sailed from Big Bras DíOr on January 13, 1857, with 66 passengers bound for Auckland. January 12 was known as Old New Yearís Day, so they decided that this day should be spent as was their wont in the Highlands. There the people retained the old custom of celebrating New Yearís Day on January 12. Old customs die hard, and in remote corners of the country January 12 is still held as New Yearís Day. The people visited each other, bade each other a "bliadhna maith ur," or a Guid New Year, and partook of such hospitalities as were seasonable. The same custom continued at St. Annís and, though the occasion was depressing both for those leaving and those remaining, still they strove to overcome their feelings. Reference was frequently made to the smallness of their ship, but how fortunate it was they were to sail on the first day of the year.

Captain Duncan was quite satisfied with his craft, and pointed out that safety did not lie in size but in buoyancy, structure, and seamanship. Their forefathers crossed stormier oceans in coracles, and how much stronger was their ship built of sound Cape Breton oak. Our destiny seems to be in New Zealand, and as God has directed us thither He will care for us on the journey. After many "beannachds" (good-byes), prayers, and tears, the people joined their ship and sang

"(Ďha tille, cha tille, cha tille me tuilleadh
(Return, return, return we never.)

The "Spray" made an uneventful voyage and arrived at Auckland on June 26, 1857. When she arrived at Waipu the district had become well settled with some 500 Scots and Nova Scotians. Even with such numbers there was still plenty of room in the Waipu block, with plenty more outside it which could be purchased at ten shillings per acre.

RENEWED EXCITEMENT IN ST. ANNíS.

While the " Sprayí was wending her way to Auckland, letters arrived at St. Annís from friends who had sailed in the " Gertrude." These letters caused much excitement. They described Auckland harbour as the most beautiful natural port they had ever seen. Here, too, was an empty land with so pleasant a climate that men could work in their shirt sleeves at all seasons of the year. Most important of allóMr. John Munro had secured for them an extensive area of freehold land. Then, too, this block of land was reserved for such Scots and Nova Scotians as chose to follow those who had already settled there. The climate and soil was capable of producing in abundance maize, wheat, and potatoes, and such fruits as oranges and grapes. There were no wild animals and nothing to interfere with their comfort. Waipu they described as a lovely locality situated on the edge of the sea, with numerous islands some two or three miles distant. Their friends had abundant food, while a calico tent was sufficient for a home. These letters produced a sensation, and almost everyone in St. Annís decided to migrate to New Zealand.

It was agreed they should build their ship at Big Bras DíOr. There were many willing hands and capable minds to overtake the work, so that in six months they had built a fine barque of 300 tons which they named the " Breadalbane." The people were so enthusiastic about the venture, and so determined to overcome difficulties, that they disposed of their stock and properties for nominal sums. New Zealand was pictured as an El Dorado, in which no winter existed, and consequently there was no struggling with domestic animals such as there was in St. Annís. Here they were promised a free gift of about 100 acres for each family. Here, too, vines, oranges, and tobacco would grow in the open. What a change, and how easy would be the struggle for existence. So infectious was their enthusiasm, that almost everyomic in the settlement wished to depart with the " Breadalbane." There were many difficulties, however, as they could not dispose of their stock or land on any satisfactory terms owing to the absence of newcomers.

On December 27, 1857, the "Breadalbane " sailed with 129 people direct for Auckland. The old scenes on departure were not repeated, as now they were satisfied that the journey was easy and the reward great. The ship arrived at Auckland on May 23, 1858, after a voyage of 148 days. The voyages of these vessels were somewhat prolonged, but as they were small and not sailing as a commercial venture time was not of so great importance. They were the masters and sailors themselves, so that safety and convenience were their guiding principles. After a few daysí rest at Auckland, they passed on to Waipu, and were heartily welcomed by their old friends. By the terms of the Act, which Mr. John Munro of the Gertrude" secured, the passengers by the " Breadalbane" had the same rights to acquire a free gift of land as had those who preceded them. This, however, necessitated the extending of the settlement, both southwards and northwards, of the original block. The settlement made by the "Highland Lass" migrants remained the centre, and it still holds its place of importance.

SHIPBUILDING AT WAIPU.

As the people overcame the earlier difficulties of hut-building, bush burning, and the cultivating of some land, they had to consider some means of transport to Auckland. An open boat served the purpose during good weather, but as Auckland (their principal market) was 100 miles distant, something more substantial was desirable. In a newly settled country such as New Zealand was at this time, there were no roads except a few rudely-made paths in the chief centres. The government had to construct all roads, and as the people were few and the country undeveloped taxes or money loans were matters of immense difficulty. Land was the only commodity the government had for sale, and as there were no markets for the products of the land its value was correspondingly small. Hence progress was slow, and people were forced to find their own means of transport. The sea was their easiest road, so that shipbuilding on a small scale became absolutely necessary. The country consisted of three or four long narrow islands that lent themselves to the rearing of a maritime race. The North Island was almost entirely occupied by hostile native tribes who resented the Pakeha (white man) travelling over the country. Most of the Waipu people were comparatively poor so far as gold was concerned, hence they had to seek work in order to purchase clothing and a few articles the land could not produce. Owing to their system of mutual help, or Christian Socialism, shelter and such things as the land produced were within the reach of everyone; but very few people are satisfied with the bare necessities of life; hence money and what it commands appealed to them. Were they living in a country where clothing was unnecessary and the gratifying of taste unknown, they might endure the simple life; but as civilization advances living becomes more and more complex, so that money or something easy of exchange becomes a necessity. No doubt the Waipu people made this discovery, and hence the young men wished to move away where money could be earned. Their nearest port was Auckland, and so they must construct a seaworthy vessel. At this point the brothers Duncan and Murdo Mckenzie again came to the rescue. They financed the matter, while the brothers John and Roderick McGregor agreed to build her. The people got busy cutting timber, and in a few months the McGregors built a splendid cutter of 50 tons, which they named the "Flora Macdonald" after the immortal Scottish heroine. She carried parties of men to the wharf-building operations and street making in Auckland, as well as harvesting parties during the season, and returned with such domestic animals and articles of food and clothing as the settlement required. At this juncture Captain Duncan McKenzie removed from Auckland and set up his store at Marsden Point on Whangarei Bay. Here his home became the trading centre for Waipu, and the people referred to it as the place of refuge for every weary traveller.


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