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The Highlanders of Waipu
Chapter XIX - St. Anne's Deserted

In 1858 St. Ann’s was busy gathering the remnants of its Caledonian settlers. The place looked as if a plague had stricken it. Many of the houses were in ruins, and the land reverting to its original condition. It was indeed a strange illustration of what had taken place in Assynt, Gairloch, and Lochaber in earlier years, only the one evacuation was forcible, while the other was voluntary. The pages of history show us that the same thing has occurred from time immemorial. Wars and tyrants have decimated some countries and filled others. How true are the words of the poet when he says

Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn.

Canada was no longer the "Golden West" nor the "Land of Freedom" to these people. Their experiences in it were hard, and possibly those of them who were of Caledonian birth were not sorry at leaving St. Ann’s. The great majority of their friends had already left, and they must follow, in the new land they had the promise of much better conditions. The "Land of the Rising Sun" was now their goal, and all their hopes centred therein. From the far west they were about to move to the far east. A new world opened before them and, like children, they were curious to see what it held.

Immediately on the departure of the "Breadalbane" steps were taken to build another ship. Capital and labour were soon forthcoming. This time it was decided to build at St. Ann’s. It was a final effort, and, as the first ship in this wonderful migration was built there and sailed from it, so would the last one. There was a mighty felling of timber at St. Ann’s during the winter of 1858-59. Every man who was physically fit did his share. Only land sufficient to raise food for their own requirements was cultivated. Every superfluous animal was sold. The whole attention of the people was centred on the building of their ship and personal preparations.

In September, 1859, they launched a fine barque of 300 tons and named her the " Ellen Lewis." December, 1859, saw her ready to sail. On the morning of departure they gathered in the old church in order to worship under its roof for the last time, and bid its sacred precincts farewell. The few neighbours around gathered to bid them goodbye; but, oh, how few were their numbers in comparison to a similar gathering in 1851. The " men," or, in the vernacular, "na-daoine," and the elders of the kirk officiated. They recalled the earlier scenes and the wonderful providence of God in guiding their friends to the new land to which they also were now about to proceed. The service over, these holy men led the people to their ship singing the 90th Psalm to that fine old and appropriate tune St. Ann’s

"S Tit bionad-comhnuidh dhuinn gach linn
A Thighearna na gloir."

Lord. Thou hast been our dwelling place in generations all.
According as the days have been
Wherein we grief have had.
And years wherein we ill have seen.
So do Thou make us glad.

One hundred and eighty-eight people joined the ship, while a few friends from the surrounding districts bade them farewell with many beanuachds (good—byes).

St. Ann’s was desolate and remained SO for some years. The journey of the "Ellen Lewis" was uneventful, and she arrived at Auckland on May 14, 1860.

In all about 1,000 souls moved from Cape Breton to New Zealand between the years 1851-60. The total number given in the ship lists amounts only to 876, but the survivors explained that two children under five years of age counted only as one adult; hence considerably more than the 876 must have arrived.

By the time the "Ellen Lewis" passengers arrived, the original Waipu block was well occupied, so that the newcomers had to move further afield. Some took up land on the high ground near the summit of Maungaturoto, some went to Whangarei, and some along the coast to the Whangarei Heads. Much of the original Waipu block was unsuited for agricultural purposes, and this induced the people to move further afield. Maungaturoto is now a township on the main North Island railway line. From a hilltop near the township a magnificent panoramic view is obtained. To the south the eye roams over undulating country to the mountains behind Auckland; northwards, range after range of mountains extend from Dargaville, Kaihu, Kaikohoe, on to the Bay of Islands; westwards, the ever-restless Tasman Sea; while eastwards lies Waipu and its purple isles of the sea. There are few spots in New Zealand where a more extensive or a more pleasing view can be obtained than the heights of Maungaturoto. Here, owing to its height and fine grazing qualities, the outcast Caledonians have found a pleasing New Caledonia. They richly deserve all their good fortune, for they have displayed wonderful courage, resource, and tenacity of purpose.


Hitherto all grain was ground in the steel hand mill. With a larger population and more ground being put under crops, a mill driven by water was deemed essential. Agriculture as yet followed primitive lines. The plough was only used in favoured spots. All reaping was done by the sickle or hook. Threshing was done in the open by flails. Winnowing the grain had to wait upon a favourable breeze and a handy sieve. All their agricultural operations were similar to those practised by their ancestors hundreds of years ago. They had no alternative, and where necessity drives simplicity rules.

Mr. Roderick Fraser was the owner of a farm on the north branch of the Waipu River. There was a nice fall in this stream close by his home, and here he decided to build a meal mill. The labour, material (except machinery), and skill were all in Waipu, and soon a good wooden structure had been erected. The machinery required was purchased in Auckland, and glad were the hearts of all the women folk in Waipu when Rory turned the water on the big water wheel and began the grinding of the meal. For several years he had no machinery for sifting, so that the people had to sieve the meal in their homes. That was an easy task—once or twice in the season—instead of the almost daily grind of the hand mill. Rory’s mill was the only one in a wide district, and farmers came for many miles to have their grain ground. The old mill is still in existence, but the water wheel and the grinding stones have long since ceased from their revolving. During the winter months the mill became the rendezvous of the whole parish. Maungaturoto, Maungapai, Maungawai, all sent their contingents. Rory’s home was an open house for everyone in the parish, and frequently a dozen visiting farmers sat down to enjoy the jolly miller’s hospitable board.


The ‘sixties and ‘seventies of last century witnessed great disturbances amongst the Maoris. The trouble was principally confined to the central portion of the North Island; but its echoes were heard throughout the whole north. The propensities of the Pakeha in land grabbing aroused the hostility of the Maoris, and this led to open warfare. Fortunately the Waipu people were largely outside the war area, and hence did not suffer. By this time they were numerous and well prepared for any eventualities. The natives around them became very arrogant and showed great contempt of the rights of property. They arrived in bands, and trod down the growing wheat or helped themselves to the growing potatoes. To counter this, the Waipu settlers procured dogs and trained them to attack the Maoris. The latter, however, soon learned how to quieten the kuri (dog). When on their raiding expeditions they carried pieces of boiled poaka (pig), and on meeting the settlers’ kuri they appeased its anger with the boiled poaka while the digging of potatoes went on. During this period they

were also in the habit of appropriating all tools and weapons left lying about. They, however, never attempted any personal violence, and excepting these acts of spoliation they did little harm. Cattle, sheep, and horses were running about, but they seldom interfered with them. Some of the more bellicose Maoris expressed the opinion that all the pakehas would be driven out of the country, and the land revert to the Maoris. The numbers of men and guns, however, served as a deterrent to gross acts of spoliation or attempts at any violence amongst the settlers.

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