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The Journal of George Hepburn
Part II - Settling Down in Dunedin - Chapter I


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 context.

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 nothing.

September 13th, 1850.

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.

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 charge of his store along with himself.

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." [Reminiscences, 1870.]

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).

George Hepburn’s 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 circle.

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.

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