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The Highlanders of Waipu
Chapter XIII - Landing at Waipu

The landing at Waipu was a tedious business, as people and goods had to be transferred to long boats and rowed ashore. The task, however, was safely accomplished, and the boats deposited them at the spot where Medea had recommended Norman to build his altar. The river ran along the beach a little above high water mark for about two miles and then turned inland. Here, where three streams met, was the spot selected for the first encampment. The word Waipu is of Maori origin, and signifies the "meeting of the waters" or "murmuring waters." The Maori people were very poetic and original in their modes of nomenclature, and generally bestowed names indicating some event or peculiarity or quality of the spot. In this respect they were exactly on a par with the newcomers, for in Gaelic nomenclature the same rule holds good.

Norman had purchased a few tents in Auckland, and as soon as the landing had been effected they were erected at the site of the future settlement. Ere night fell all the people were landed and proceeded to their new home. That night Norman called them together, and having erected an altar on the banks of the Waipu they engaged in family worship. Then for the first time in the history of New Zealand could be heard the voices of the 300 Gaelic-speaking people lifting their voices unto God in the words of the 105th Psalm:ó

"O Thugaibh buidheachas do Dhio"
(Give thanks to God, call on His name)
He said Iíll give Canaanís land
for heritage to you;
While they were strangers there, and few,
In number very few.

The people were devoutly thankful that their wanderings had come to an end. Their experiences since leaving their fatherís home in far Caledonia had been very distressing, but now by the grace of God a better home was opening before them. Here was a land with almost perpetual sunshine, a genial climate, a fertile soil, and laws that enabled them to possess any amount of land they desired. Here, too, snow was rarely seen, while the forests and pastures were evergreen. Here, too, they could live comfortably in tents at all seasons of the year. There were no wild animals, no snakes, and no form of life to injure anyone. It was indeed a rare land for, excepting man, man had no enemies in it. It was their Promised Land, and now that they had taken possession they were full of gratitude to God. New Zealand at this time was under provincial government. The country was divided into large areas called provinces. The early settlers selected spots along the coast where natural harbours existed. This was very necessary, as no roads and no means of land transit existed. Then, too, the Maori tribes were becoming alarmed at the increasing numbers of Pakehas (white men), and their constant desire to possess land. This led to much hostility, and hence it was dangerous for the Pakeha to travel by land unless in armed bands capable of defending themselves.

Each province had its own legislative machine, so that they were practically independent the one of the other. The Governor was appointed by the British Government, and had powers of general superintendence; but each province was practically an independent entity. These conditions were merely of a temporary nature, while settlers were few and scattered and financial arrangements of a parochial nature. As a rule all agricultural lands around the various seats of government sold at ten shillings per acre, but in remote districts they were sold for much less.

In 1865 the seat of government was removed from Auckland to Wellington, but the provinces were not abolished until 1876. Wellington is situated at the southern extremity of the North Island, and possesses a splendid natural harbour capable of sheltering all the navies of the world. All the people who arrived by the "Highland Lass" paid ten shillings per acre for such agricultural land as they chose to occupy. They had no competitors, so that virtually they occupied the whole plain along the banks of the Waipu River, which extends to about 15,000 acres. Land, however, was of no particular value in those early days, as there was neither demand nor outlet for such things as the land could produce.

These people were enured to the hardships of pioneering, and hence a primitive existence held no terrors for them. It no doubt required rare courage and physical endurance, but they were men of iron, and to them no difficulties were insuperable. Some of them were fishermen, while the waters around them abounded in fish. Some of them were huntsmen, and the forests abounded in birds and pigs. All of them were cultivators of the soil, and here was a land and a climate that would grow food at all seasons of the year. Some were lumbermen, and here were forests which they could easily convert into homes. Here, indeed, was everything that men with a will could desire, and here were the men who were determined to overcome all difficulties.

The few storekeepers at Auckland knew of the trials of these people and gave them credit for all the necessaries required. Norman transacted all the business, and he took care that no unnecessary debts were contracted. The Waipu block had been surveyed by the government, but not divided into sections. This made little difference, as an enormous amount of pioneer work had to be effected ere sections could be allotted. Most of the country was covered with timber, scrub, and fern. Until this was cut down or burnt off little real settlement could be accomplished. Their first task was the clearing of suitable areas for the growing of garden produce. The fire stick soon accomplished this task. Then they began the cutting of suitable timber for househuilding. The first twelve months were spent in clearing and cultivating suitable patches of land and learning where and how

to secure food from the waters and forests adjacent to them. Everyone capable of work did his or her share. There was no question of payment or hours worked or meals enjoyed. Each helped the other, and all shared such shelter, food, and clothing as could be procured. They were accustomed in large part to this mode of life in Nova Scotia, and now they introduced it into New Zealand. Indeed, their circumstances compelled it, while their religion enjoined it. It is true they were surrounded by Maoris, but the Maori in those days knew nothing of continued labour. Necessity did not compel him, as a raupo hut and a canoe enabled him to satisfy all his requirements. The Nova Scotians brought with them some tools and the simpler agricultural implements, but they had no domestic animals, nor could they be easily procured. What ready cash they had was reserved for the procuring of food and the purchase of land. The terms of the land purchases were very liberal. A small deposit, varying according to the area each one occupied, was paid on taking possession, and the balance in annual instalments according to the ability of the settler. During this time a house had to be built upon the section and certain improvements made upon the land. These terms were exceedingly generous and such as able and willing men could easily fulfil.


When the earlier difficulties of hut-building and land-clearing were over, Norman called them together in order to proceed with the erection of a church and a school. Hitherto a tent or the green sward served the purpose, but now they were in a position to build a more permanent structure. A site was selected on the left bank of the main branch of the Waipu River, a little above where the streams met to form the main river. Here in their ewn fashion they marked off a few acres suitable for church, school, and manse purposes. This spot also was intended to become the heart of the new settlement. A few months sufficed to build a small wooden structure capable of seating some 200 individuals. In later years a new wing was added to it, and this early structure still serves as their place of worship. The old people of the settlement look upon this spot as hallowed ground and treat it with the utmost veneration.

When all was ready, Norman assumed his old role of teacher, preacher, law-giver, and business agent. Gradually however, the provincial government took over education and the magistracy of the settlement. The people were reconciling themselves to their new home. The majority of them were delighted with the change they had made. The log fires and fur clothing of Nova Scotia were abandoned. Flowers bloomed and garden produce grew at all seasons, while domestic animals were happy in the fields at all times. Though their lots were cast in pleasant places, still the old people sighed for the

Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
Land of the mountain and the flood,
and every now and then could be heard the refrain
From the lone shieling of the misty island,
Mountains divide us, and a waste of seas;
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.
Fair these broad meads, these hoary woods are grand,
But we are exiles from our fatherís land.

How natural, how human, how beautiful it is for man to cling to his native land, who but says

Be it ever so humble,
Thereís no place like home.

They had beautiful mountain scenery around them, and lovely bush-clad islands at their doors, which continually reminded them of their Caledonian homes; and so with human longings they sighed for the land of their fathers.


It was the custom in the Highlands until recent years for some householders to have one or more retainers living in the home with them. Frequently such retainers were relatives or life-long companions, or some individual having some claims upon the generosity and companionship of the owners. In rich and landed families this was a universal habit in the British Isles, and in a few cases it still exists. The retainer usually performed some household duties, and all he or she received was clothing, food, and shelter. Norman would no doubt be familiar with this custom in his native land, and seems to have adopted it on his settlement at St. Annís. This may probably explain the reason for his having acquired 1,200 acres at St. Annís. Owing to his duties as teacher, preacher, and magistrate, he could riot devote much time to any agricultural work, so that retainers or servants became a necessity. Of servants there were none, nor were they desired, hence the patriarchal system of retainers was adopted. He brought with him one retainer in the person of Mr. Kenneth Ding-wall, so that Kenny attended to all the ministerís agricultural affairs.

In the course of twelve months each householder had secured his own allotment, and with this began the real settlement of Waipu. The size of the allotments varied according to the size of the individualís purse and the working capacity of the family. As a rule these allotments varied from 100 to 300 acres. The fire stick was the principal weapon for reclamation. Good timber was left standing, while all the rest was burnt off. By this method large areas were cleared in a comparatively short time. After a good burn, the land was sown with grass seed, so that in one season the appearance of large patches of country had been completely transformed. Good areas that would burn clean were selected for wheat and maize growing. The grain was scattered on the burnt surface and raked in. It was primitive farming, but necessity knows no laws. Sometimes it was sown on the old Highland principle of the "lazy-rig." This was a narrow strip of good land about 20 feet wide and as long as the field would permit of. The seed was scattered on the surface of the bed, then a shallow trench was dug on each side of it and the soil scattered over the rig in sufficient quantity to cover the seed. Potatoes, wheat, and maize were grown after this fashion with excellent results. No more was required than would feed those concerned, so that even with their primitive methods sufficient food could be easily grown. They had no pests to contend with, while wild pigs were the only animals that visited their fields. Norman selected a fine block of land of some 300 acres at the southern border of the settlement and close to the foot of Mount Pisgah. Here he established his home, and here Kenny Dingwall, his retainer, lived and worked all the days of his pilgrimage in Waipu.


When supplies of any kind were required they had to launch their long boat and sail down to Auckland. This was the only port having stores which stocked the various requirements of the new settlement. When they arrived it was arranged that Captain Duncan McKenzie and his family should remain in Auckland as the agent of the community. Captain McKenzie set up as a small storekeeper and shipping agent, and so was enabled to extend help to his fellow-settlers. Then, too, a meal mill had just been established at the junction of High Street and Vulcan Lane in Auckland by Messrs Low and Motion; while a young man named Roderick McKay, son of Duncan Ban McKay, became storeman in the new establishment. By the combined recommendations of these two men, their fellow-settlers at Waipu were successful in establishing credits until more prosperous times arrived. Their requirements were few and were only met when necessity compelled. These were the days of adversity, so they trained themselves stoically to endure all sorts of hardships and privations. They were their own tailors, bootmakers, carpenters, millers, and all else. They were accustomed to depend upon their own resources, and it is surprising how men will rise to the occasion when necessity compels. As illustrative of this they required a few head of cattle, but cattle were unwieldy animals to carry in open boats. Hearing that cattle ran wild at the old whaling station at Whangarei Heads, a party of young men set out to try and catch some of them. The country was mostly dense bush and, as the men approached, the cattle took to the bush. After much chasing they managed to lassoo two calves, and with these triumphantly returned to Waipu.

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