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Our New Zealand Cousins
Chapter XVI


Dunkeld—Our Jehu—On the box seat—A Chinese Boniface —Gabriel's Gully—Good farming—Dunedin—Harbour works—A category of ''the biggest things on record'' —Charms of Dunedin—A holiday drive—The Grand Hotel—The churches—Preachers—Dunedin mud— Beer—Keen business competition—The West Coast con­nection—"Wild Cat" claims—The Scotch element— Litigiousness—Energy of the people.

Roxburgh, like nearly all the other goldfields towns in New Zealand, is now but a shadow of its former self. There is not much of interest to note about it.

To Dunkeld, we ride through a wide pastoral valley studded with numerous farms, and pass the deserted sites of old gold-crushings by the river. One or two dredges are still at work in the stream ; but the gold got now is insignificant in comparison with the returns of the pristine rushes, when the valley was a busy humming human hive. Old James M'Intosh, our Jehu, one of the oldest drivers in New Zealand, is full of reminiscences of these stirring times. He points out to us the fine freehold estate of Mr. Joseph Clarke, brother of Sir William Clarke, of Victoria. Many farms about here are let at a high rental. I was told they did not pay. We pass frequent parties of rabbitters, and almost every man we meet carries a gun, and is followed by several dogs. The rabbit question is a burning one hereabouts. We are getting out of the country of rocks now, and the hills become more rounded, and are clad with a denser growth. The scenery is more distinctly pastoral and rural. Flax swamps increase, and we leave the snows and cataracts behind us.

Dunkeld is a sleepy-looking little hamlet. Its great four-square hotel is big enough for a popula- of ten times the number the town can muster. The curtainless windows look cheerless.

The coach is packed inside, and I share the box seat with a dandy, diminutive publican, who has made a snug little pile as a butcher, and has taken to the tap in his old age as a sort of genteel occupation for his declining years. The little man is possessed of a fine vein of humour, of the broad American kind, and some of his passing remarks on men and things are shrewd and witty withal. The other occupant of the box seat is a desperately drunken Irishman, who alternately wants to fight and embrace the ex-butcher. At the slightest remark he flares up in the most ferocious manner, evidently looking on me as a base and bloody Saxon, whose head he would like to punch. His muttered treason occasionally bursts out into a general commination, which includes everything English, from Gladstone down to the meanest powder-monkey of her Majesty's fleet. It is in vain we reason, expostulate, threaten, cajole. His rum-laden brain is proof against all our blandish­ments, until, mindful that "music hath charms,"' I try the effect of a plaintive Irish song on "the savage breast." And lo ! at the old familiar strain the flood-gates are unloosed, and the poor, blunder­ing, impulsive, drink-besotted, warm-hearted bos- thoon begins to blubber like a child.

Poor Pat! Surely his love of country covers a multitude of sins. We get on better after this ; but I have to sing till I am hoarse to keep our Hibernian friend in the right key, and possibly to preserve my pate from a punching.

We cross the river at Dunkeld' on a pontoon raft, propelled by the power of the current through the agency of a traveller on a wire cable, such as we had seen on the Manawatu River. I was informed by M'Intosh that the idea had been borrowed from India, and introduced into New Zealand by an engineer who had served in the East.

At Lawrence, the ancient Tuapeka (why will they change these beautiful old native names for the vulgar patronymics of Cockaigne?, we bid good-bye once more to the stage coach, and revert to the iron horse. Here for the first time in all my colonial experience, I noticed a Chinese name over a hotel. Sam Chew Lain is the Boniface of "The Chinese Empire Hotel," nor is this the only sign of the march of civilization among the Mon­golians in New Zealand, as I found on reading the Bankruptcy list in Dunedin the names of two Chinese market-gardeners, whose liabilities were set down in round figures at some 600/., and their assets a modest ten-pound note.

"Tarantara!!"

As the urbane celestial blandly observes.

"Bankee lupchee, welly goodee. Got him cash, got him goods. All same Englisman. Go tloo courtee!!"—

Close by is the famous Gabriel's Gully, which was about the first goldfield in Otago. What a scene was this in those rude lawless times. Every one conversant with the literature of the early gold days, can imagine the roar and turmoil, the ever-shifting phantasmagoria on those slopes ; and along these flats, crowded with tents, blazing with camp fires, and the air resounding with the din of tongue and shovel and cradle, and not unfrequently the sharp report of firearms. Now the little settlement is peaceful enough. There is still one rich working up the creek, called the Blue Spur claim, which gives employment to about one hundred men. The houses are scattered over knolls, and up secluded gullies, and many pretty villas surrounded with ornamental gardens crown the ridges. There is a pretty quiet cemetery sur­rounded by pines on the hill behind the town where the coffin of many a wild and turbulent spirit moulders. At present the trees are for the most part leafless, and the aspect of the country is dun brown, and bare; but in summer this must be really a pretty district.

We pass Waitahuna, a great flat, where com­panies of bestial-looking Chinamen are fossicking among the old workings. They have to go deep now for wash dirt, but get coarse gold, very red and water-worn, among the pebbles and drift. They are a more hang-dog set of oblique-looking pagans than one generally sees in New South Wales. Many of them look as if they had been in the wars.

Cultivation extends to the very tops of the ridges here. Great armies of gulls follow the shining ploughshare as it turns up the teeming tilth. And I am glad to observe pleasing evi­dences round every homestead that the tree- planting fever has been pretty generally infectious.

It does one's heart good, after the slovenly farming and tree-stumps of some parts of Australia, to see the clean fields here. The ploughmen of this part of Otago are famous, and the mathe­matical exactitude of the long, clean furrows would rejoice the heart of a true farmer anywhere. The train is full of volunteers going up to Dunedin for the review and sham-fight on the Queen's Birthday, and the run from Milton Junction is past Lake Waihoa, Mossgiel, &c., a part of the country which I have already described.

Having now got back to the Otago capital, we find time to look about us, and very soon the con­viction is forced upon us that, from an architec­tural point of view, Dunedin is the finest city of the whole colony. The inequalities of her surface lines undoubtedly aid in producing a fine effect; but the genius of her architects, the taste and public spirit of her citizens, and the liberality of her merchants and magnates have all combined to adorn their hilly site, and the result is a noble city worthy of metropolitan rank in any country. Considering the age of the colony, I think the progress of this city nothing short of marvellous. Hitherto ocean steamers and big ships have had to discharge cargoes at Port Chalmers, a small town, prettily climbing over its rocky-peninsula at the foot of the long firth or estuary, which extends upwards to Dunedin proper, some eight miles.

The Dunedinites, however, have never been satisfied with this arrangement. Year by year dredging, embanking, and other reclaiming opera­tions have been going on. Steadily the channel has been deepening, and the reclaimed flats on either side broadening; and bigger and bigger craft have been, as time passes, able to come right up the bay to the city itself. The harbour board has expended vast sums of money on these works, and in anticipation of the time when the leviathans of the merchant service shall haul alongside, great wharves have been erected, mighty storehouses line the wharves, and the reticulations of the railway system interpene­trate both wharves and storehouses. Everything is ready for the big steamers, and now a monster dredge, said to be the largest on this round sphere of ours, is busily engaged deepening the channel still further; and no doubt the time is not far distant when the honourable ambition of Dunedin will be realized, and she will become a port of direct call for the mightiest ocean-going vessels of the age.

En parenthhe, let us just for a moment recapitu­late and array together these "biggest in the world" items, of which New Zealand is so proud. It is, indeed, a motley catalogue. First, the biggest dredge ; then, the biggest water-wheel; next, the biggest trout; the biggest wooden building; the highest wooden bridge; the biggest calcareous terraces; the biggest bird (if the moa still lives); the biggest apples—those of the Waikato district; the biggest and most luxurious natural warm baths; the biggest terraced formation; the biggest glacier (that of Mount Cook—though that is doubtful); the biggest tattooing on the biggest reclaimed cannibal, with probably the biggest mouth; the biggest flax-bushes; the steepest railway incline; the biggest beds of shingle; the biggest concrete breakwater; the biggest cabbages —if we accept the cabbage-tree as generic; the biggest proportion of rabbits to the acre; the biggest artesian water supply (that of Christ­church) ; the biggest beds of watercress; the biggest colonial debt; and as its admirers say, the biggest hearted people, to which my own experience says amen; and the biggest future of any of Britain's colonies, to which with a Scotch­man's proverbial caution, I say, "Weel, we'll see!" "Nous verrons."

One of the charms of Dunedin is its irregularity of outline. The streets are nowhere straight. To get even an approximate idea of the city as a whole, you must mount the fine tower of the yet incomplete town hall, or ascend the steep inclines which overlook the city, by one of the wire tram­ways, which are a feature of the locomotive life of Dunedin, or, if you are favoured with a fine day, take a drive along the beautiful winding road, which threads the heights of the peninsula, between the firth and the open sea, and you will be rewarded with views of the great city, which give you an idea of its extent and importance, such as perhaps you could acquire in no other way.

This drive formed a memorable event in our visit. I took with me a small select party of ladies and children, and we enjoyed the varied scenery to our hearts' content. On the one side the cultivated slopes leading down to the bay, on the other the frowning headlands, seagirt cliffs, and here and there a placid inlet, although in some places old ocean battled with the coast in its usual boisterous and hollow-sounding fashion. Some of the surf bits were exquisite in their beauty. Descending the hill above Portobello, however, the hired horse, which had hitherto been a paragon of every equine virtue, began to lash out wildly with his hind legs, and smashed the splinter bar. This finished my pleasure for the day. The horse re­quired all my attention now, as he had become nervous, and manifested an insane desire to shy at every conceivable object we encountered. I had eight miles to drive home, along the winding shores of the bay, by the low road. There was no parapet, and the water lapped on the "bund" or embankment all the way. My ladies were nervous ; my horse was likewise. My road was barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass, and the frail rope with which I had spliced my splin­tered splinter bar threatened to give at every tug. Under such circumstances I must be excused if I failed to see the vaunted beauty of Dunedin from the harbour. My wife says it was exquisite, beau­tiful, lovely, &c. As a dutiful husband, I endorse the dictum of my wife.

Dunedin from the harbour is beautiful.

One noteworthy feature of Dunedin, one grand feature, I may say, is its Grand Hotel. This is unique in the Southern hemisphere, and would not disgrace New York. Under Mr. Watson's able management the visitor finds himself relieved from every care. The dining-room and public drawing-rooms are palatial apartments. The private sitting-rooms are models of elegance and comfort. The bedrooms are without a fault, and the bath-rooms are luxurious to a degree. The table would satisfy the most fastidious ; and if you want a more obliging hall-porter than "long Charley," with his cadaverous eyes, well, you must be hard to please—that's all.

While I am in the praising mood, I must not omit to mention Burton Brothers for photographs of New Zealand scenery. If Bourne and Shep­herd be a household word in India for collections of photography, surely Burton's is equally famous in New Zealand, and deservedly so. A visit to their atelier embraces all New Zealand. You can study every phase of her marvellous coast, every aspect of her wonderful hills, rivers, and sounds.

If you want your portrait taken, you cannot find a better artist in that line than Morris. One glance at his handiwork will confirm what I say.

The churches are really fine. The Scotch Pres­byterian Church, of Otago, is well endowed, and, much to its honour, it is a liberal patron of educa­tion, and supports two professorships in the Uni­versity. But the First Church and Knox Church would be an ornament to any city; and to see the dense throngs of big-headed, intelligent men, and fresh complexioned, elegantly dressed women, that crowd the churches is a treat In Dunedin, par excellence, they "do not forget the assembling of themselves together as the manner of some is." Except in Mr. Charles Strong's church, or when Bishop Moorhouse preaches in Melbourne, I have not, in all the colonies, seen such packed congrega­tions as in Dunedin.

To hear dear old Dr. Stuart preach was in itself worth a pilgrimage. The homely Scottish tongue, the genial mobile face, with the earnest eyes and appealing, winning smile, the quaint illustrations, and powerful searching home thrusts, were those of a born preacher. Would we had more such. I heard Dr. Roseby too. The affectionateness of the man would open the most closely guarded soul, and let the sweet influences of the Gospel work their will.

After what I heard and saw in Dunedin, my heart was uplifted. Let no one tell me that the power of the pulpit is on the wane. The Word is "quick and powerful" still as ever it was, where properly presented. But oh, woe is me for the many that "sit at ease in Zion." Methinks there are too many "dumb dogs " and "hireling shep­herds" in some of the churches nowadays.

Twenty years ago, I saw Dunedin, when it was a rambling collection of miserable wooden shanties. The cutting through Bell's Hill was not then finished. If I mistake not, it was of Dunedin mud in those days that the following satire was concocted:—

"A new chum, walking along the quaking morass that was then the street (so the story goes), espied a nice new hat on the surface of the treacherous mire. Presumably he was a web-footed stranger, for he sallied out to pick up the hat. To his surprise it was clutched firmly on both sides by two bunches of digits, and he perceived it was being held On the head of some subterranean wearer. ' Hallo!' shouted the N. C., making a speaking-trumpet of his hands, "You are surely in a bad way down there?' 'Oh, no! I'm all right,' came the muffled reply. 'I'm on the top of an omnibus.' "

The streets are very different now. Well paved, well scavengered, and with horse-trams running in all directions, they redound to the credit of the city management. They have not been idiotic enough to try and make the trains do the work of a city railway, and consequently the public are well served.

The Water of Leith, with Nichol's Falls, are well worthy of a visit. Farther up, through the saddle above the falls, a recent discovery has been made, which bids fair to introduce a new industry. This is a deposit of shale, specimens of which have been sent home, and have been pronounced by experts there to be of more than usual excel­lence. It is in contemplation to erect machinery and start works at an early date, and, if all I hear be correct, there is no doubt that a highly remunerative industry will be inaugurated.

From shale and sermons to beer. Dunedin beer fairly rivals the renowned brews of Auld Reekie. The populace seem also to have very fair powers of imbibition. There are no less than seven breweries in and around the city. This is in keeping with almost every other branch of industry. It is much overdone. Competition has cut prices down to the point at which legitimate profits have almost entirely vanished.

For keen business competition Dunedin fairly "cows the gowan," as a Scotchman would say. In this respect it puts Aberdeen to the blush, and outrivals the Burra Bazaar of Calcutta. The fact is admitted by the merchants themselves that there is no cohesion among them. They will not combine. They all do a "cutting game," and while the result cannot but be beneficial to the purchasing public, I cannot see how the sellers can reap much of a rich reward, Several instances came under my observation, in which a little combination as regards certain commo­dities with which the market was insufficiently stocked, might have raised prices very materially and given the merchant a legitimate profit on his scanty stocks. But no ! Each was afraid of the other forestalling him, or springing a surprise on him ; and, indeed, in some cases, a smart man might have bought goods in Dunedin, and shipping them to Melbourne or Sydney have realized a respectable profit on his transaction. Every merchant I spoke to on this subject deplored the existence of such a spirit, and yet such I suppose are the exigencies of trade, and the keenness of the competition, that no one could afford to take his stand, and hold for a rise. In other words, it seems to me that there is barely sufficient trade in Dunedin to keep all the traders going. The cry of dull trade was no bugbear in Dunedin.

The West Coast connection has always been an important and valuable one for Dunedin. The mining communities on the West Coast prefer to get their supplies from Otago; but they dearly like also to "spoil the Egyptians," in the shape of Dunedin men, whenever they get a chance. The Dunedinites, it would seem, have rather arrogated to themselves the reputation of being preternaturally knowing, and maintain rather a supercilious attitude as regards the intellectual, commercial, or other acumen of outsiders. So it becomes a study with the West Coast speculator "how to do Dunedin," i.e. it is considered no in­fraction of any moral obligation, but rather a laudable achievement, to beguile the Dunedinite out of his money under any pretence what­ever. And so the merry old game of mining swindle has been played with variations more or less intricate, for the last two decades at least. Enormous sums of Dunedin capital have been invested in perfectly worthless enterprises on the West Coast; and a swindling speculation which consists in puffing up a "duffer claim," or rigging UP a reputation for 'a worn-out mine, is a favourite occupation with many keen-witted characters in New Zealand. The claim, or mine, so manipulated, is called "A Wild Cat." There are many legitimate mining enterprises, and a wide field for bona-fide investment, on the gold- fields of New Zealand, but let the prudent man beware of "Wild Cats."

Just as a Highlander of the days of our grand­fathers looked on smugglingas a virtue, and cheating and hoodwinking the gauger as an honourable achievement; so the Reefton promoter or projector looks on a Dunedinite as his fair, natural, and legitimate prey.

I make bold to say, however, as the result of my own rather limited observation, that in the long run the Wild Cats get rather the worst of the rubber with the Dunedin men. This mutual game of "Beggar my Neighbour" does not, as may be imagined, tend to elevate the moral tone of the people. "Trade fictions," to use a mild phrase,, are considered justifiable; and of a great many of the statements which the ordinary Dunedinite may make to you on 'Change, on the wharf, or on the market place, you might be par­doned if you again used the caution of the Caledonian, and whispered quietly to yourself, "Ou aye! if a' stories be true, that ane's no' a lee."

Of course I was prepared to find the atmo­sphere intensely Scotch. It was delightful to hear the dear auld Scottish tongue, to note the Scottish names of streets, and mark the prevailing Scottish nomenclature on the sign-boards. But I was scarcely prepared to find the very wine- cards in the hotels transmogrified from French, to Scotch; and yet on perusing the wine-carte at the Grand Hotel we found the French "St. Julien Mc'doc" figuring as St. Julien M'Doe. This was transposition with a vengeance surely.

I do not know whether Dunedin human nature be abnormally litigious or not, but this I will aver —that if all the solicitors and legal practitioners of sorts who exercise their calling in the city, make a good living out of their clients, it would argue that litigation is pretty lively. As with commerce, so I should imagine with law—it is surely overdone. The city swarms with solicitors. One well-known legal firm of high standing, and in the enjoyment of a splendid practice, have a suite of offices that are probably unequalled for sumptuousness in any town anywhere. The offices are worthy of a visit. The granite pillars at the doors were specially imported. The rooms and lobbies are replete with every modern device for luxury and adornment Gildings glisten from floor to ceiling. In the centre is a dome of stained glass, more in keeping with a summer palace on the Bosphorus or Guadalquiver than within the precincts of a lawyer's sanctum. If the magnificence of the offices be at all a fair index to the scale of fees, no wonder Otago litigants are impoverished and complaints of dull times are rife.

A very beautiful cemetery crowns one of the overlooking eminences, on the north of the town; and, from its shady walks and terraces, you can look down on the busy human hive. The long, irregular town spreads away southward at your feet. There is the dark-blue mass of the Uni­versity, laved by the waters of the Leith Burn, and admirably set off by the quaint red-brick buildings, of Queen Anne style of architecture, which form the residences of the staff of professors. Farther along, the imposing bulk of the hospital looms up from the valley, and then beyond, the graceful spire of the Knox Church, the aspiring altitude of the Town Hall, and crowning the heights, terrace on terrace of really-beautiful houses with artistically laid-out grounds, and the Boys' and Girls' High Schools, the convent, the cathedral, and other great buildings breaking the continuity and evidencing the importance of the city. In fact nothing better perhaps is better calculated to give the visitor an idea of the push, energy, "go" of Dunedin, than to see how the citizens have made the most of their difficulties of site. Great hills have been scarped away to make room for villas. Roads have been cut right into the solid rock, chasms have been bridged and gullies filled, terraces and gardens formed somewhat after the similitude of the hanging gardens of Babylon, so far as eleva­tion is concerned; and yet every now and then you come on a bit of the old original bush, right in the heart of an environment of houses and gardens. So that, as you look around, upward and downward, and reflect that all this lavish display of architectu­ral and horticultural adornment has been the work of only some twenty years, and that it has been achieved in face of natural difficulties which force themselves on the attention of the most cursory and unthinking observer, you begin to realize that the Dunedinites must have come of a good stock, and that they do well to be proud of their natural progress.

I do most sincerely hope that the present cloud of commercial depression may speedily lift, and that the wheels of trade may run merrily as of yore.


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