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The Highlanders of Waipu
Chapter XXI - Death of Norman

January of 1866 saw Norman failing. He was now in his eighty-sixth year, and he felt that his days were coming to a close. Being confined to bed, he asked his people to come to his home and hear the Word of God. On Sunday mornings—it was midsummer—the people gathered on the green in front of his bedroom window. AEneas Morrison stood on a chair by the open window and led the singing. Norman, though weak, read a few verses from the 13th Chapter of Matthew where Christ refers to the parable of the Tares. Then he offered up prayer, and seemed as if resuscitated by some unseen power. Sitting up in bed he preached with great earnestness. He was in his element when preaching, and seemed to be endowed with supernatural strength while engaged in the service. The people were astonished at the beauty and felicity of his language, and crowded around to hear his words. Old causes of friction were forgotten, for now they realized the probable passing of a great man. Sunday after Sunday they gathered in their hundreds at the manse, anxious to hear the last words of their great leader and to pay him their respects. In the heyday of his youth they remembered him as a famous orator. Now he was a prophet and in communion with God. He could see that which was hidden from their eyes, so they longed to hear his message. The elder people recalled his cheerfulness and comforting words on leaving Scotland. Then the part he played in saving their lives on the voyage to Canada. His self-sacrifice in remaining with them in Pictou. Then the wonderful adventure of the "Ark" and his skill in steering them into smooth waters at St. Ann’s Bay. Who but a man inspired of God could work and teach and preach to them for some 60 years without fee or reward. What courage he had, and what faith in God when he sailed some 13,000 miles to find them a new home. Now full of years and having accomplished his task he was about to depart. They might have had differences, they might indeed have made mistakes; but all acknowledged that he had acted most unselfishly and all for their good. The patriarch gradually failed, and on the fourteenth day of March, 1866, he closed his eyes in his last sleep.

Great was the grief of the Waipu people. They had lost a father in Israel, and one whom it would be almost impossible to replace. He knew most of them from their birth, and his every thought was for their welfare. He had his oddities, his eccentricities, his limitations; but taking him all in all he was a rare combination, and eminently filled the role of leader, pioneer, and teacher.

Norman was laid to rest beside his dear wife in the burying ground at The Cove. Over his grave they erected a beautiful tombstone bearing the following inscription :—

Sacred to the memory
And his beloved wife MARY McLEOD
Both of whom were public servants of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
He preached the Gospel for 60 years
Born at Stoir Point, Assynt, Scotland, September 29, 1780 Died at Waipu, New Zealand, March 14, 1866
Aged 86 years

The tombstone is a replica of that common to all the old burying grounds in Scotland. It consists of a large polished stone slab, 6ft. x 3ft. x 6in., supported at either end by two supports, raising the slab about two feet from the ground. In Scottish kirkyards many of these slabs have a skull and crossbones and sandglass in raised figures depicted upon them, but the Waipuans here refrained from the latter emblems of time and eternity.

Though Norman had not joined the Presbyterian Church, either in Nova Scotia or in New Zealand, it is said he counselled his people to join the latter body on his departure. The Presbytery of Auckland, however, seems to have taken cognisance of Norman and his work, for in its records of April 25, 1866, the following entry occurs

expressing their sense of the great loss which the Church has sustained in the removal by death of their reverend father, Norman McLeod, minister of Waipu.

No immediate steps were taken to join the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand nor to select a new minister. Mr. AEneas Morrison, who was Norman’s precentor and the first public schoolteacher at Waipu, had translated some of Spurgeon’s sermons into Gaelic, so that with them he and others carried on the Sunday services for some time. In the meantime the people heard that the Rev. David Bruce, minister at Auckland, was about to visit Scotland, and he was invited to try and secure a suitable Gaelic-speaking minister. The Presbytery of Auckland has no record of this, but some time after a Ross-shire divinity student named William McRae visited Waipu. At a Presbytery meeting in Auckland on February 7, 1872, the Rev. Mr. Bruce introduced Mr. McRae, who meantime settled in Waipu. While these events were transpiring, some of the late Norman’s admirers removed his pulpit from the church so as to prevent a less worthy successor from occupying the rostrum of so great a man. It is said that eventually a few of his chief admirers seized the pulpit and had it divided amongst them as souvenirs. This unwise act led to considerable feeling in the congregation, which only subsided on the death of these hero-worshippers.

The majority continued their confidence in Mr. McRae, and on April 3, 1872, the Presbytery records state as follows:—

The clerk read an application from the people of Waipu to have Mr. William McRae settled amongst them as their minister. The application was signed by 322 names. It was proposed by the clerk, and seconded by Mr. Hill, that in consideration of the peculiar circumstances of the people of the Waipu district with regard to ministerial superindence, and the special qualifications of Mr. McRae to fill the position of pastor amongst them, the Presbytery agree to have Mr. McRae settled as Minister of Waipu with all convenient speed.

The Church, Waipu,
May 29, 1872.

The commission of Presbytery appointed to conduct the Ordination of Mr. William McRae at Waipu met this day and was constituted with prayer. Present: Revs. David Bruce, R. McKinney, and John Wallace (Moderator), also Mr. W. McRae. The Rev. D. Bruce read a narrative of the steps taken to supply the vacancy caused by the death of the late lamented Rev. Norman McLeod. . . . . . . The commission having resumed, the Rev. Mr. McRae declared his willingness to subscribe the formula, and took his seat as a member of Presbytery. . . . . . . The commission met with the congregation in the afternoon, and, after prayer, announced to them the appointment of an interim session, together with local assessors, which announcement was concurred in by all present. . . . . . . The Rev. Wm. McRae was duly installed as Minister at Waipu, and remained there until June, 1883, when he resigned and left for Australia.

There have been several ministers in Waipu since the days of Norman, but upon none of them did fall the mantle of the prophet. He had a wonderfully controlling influence over his people. If any of them tried to foment discontent they were immediately pilloried. Next day all was serene. Some men have the faculty of controlling the turbulent spirits amongst their followers and some have not. This is readily observed in our social, political, and religious life. Great as are mental and physical powers in a leader, they alone will not make him a success. There must in addition be some attractive force, some phase of character, some quality, which leads other men to be submissive to him. Fortunately Norman was independent of his people so far as monetary matters were concerned. He ruled them as a father would his house. His priestly office, his sympathies in suffering and success, his usefulness, and his lack of selfishness made ready friends. In addition, however, he must have possessed some quality or qualities that appealed

to his people, for no matter what opposition might arise he remained master of the situation. What these qualities were we leave our readers to discover.


None of the older people who came from Nova Scotia made much progress in the accumulation of wealth. They owned land, but never accumulated capital. Few of them had any capital to start with; while the roads to wealth were very limited in a new, sparsely-peopled, and undeveloped country. There were no cities when they arrived, and, being a peasant people, they preferred the simple rural life rather than the hectic life of the city. Their sons, however, visited the Otago and other goldfields in the early ‘sixties, and some of them were very successful goldminers. Others of them took up contracting, timber cutting, land speculation, etc. Most of these young men accumulated money, and they or their descendants are those most comfortably situated today. The higher education of the younger generation was somewhat neglected as their primary schools were not of a very high standard, while secondary schools were not in existence. These, of course, are some of the disadvantages of pioneering; but as against them there was the independent, self-contained life of an industrious and God-fearing peasantry. The accumulation of wealth is a process much lauded by some people, while the accumulator is looked upon as a superman. It is given to few men to accumulate great wealth, and these few gather it at an immense cost both morally and physically. When accumulated, it rarely brings happiness; for has not the poet said :—

Wisdom alone is man’s true happiness;

and did not the prophet of old counsel—

lay not up treasures for yourselves where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal.

The old pioneers each possessed one, two, or three hundred acres of freehold land; while a few of them owned over a square mile. In its original state is was of little value, but their labour gave it great value. Their bread was sweet and their slumbers sound, as both resulted from honest toil. Their minds may have been cramped and their horizon narrow, but they were a most exemplary and God-fearing people. In their own humble way they were a wonderful community, and their descendants may well be proud of the work they have accomplished and the fine example transmitted to them.


Waipu is located in the extreme north of the North island under a sub-tropical sun, while Otago is located in the extreme south of the South Island in a very temperate climate. Both localities have been peopled by Scots, largely of Celtic blood. The northern migrants were driven out of Scotland from political and monetary causes, while the southern migrants left Scotland voluntarily, while suffering to some extent from religious factions in church government during and after the disruption days. Thus politics and religion have ever been prominent causes in the dispersal of nations. In the Auckland province a large body of Irish people have also settled, so that probably the Scots and Irish combined outnumber the other nationalities. In Otago, on the contrary, the Scots outnumber all the other nationalities. Owing to the island character of the country neither heat nor cold are disturbing factors. Waipu lies in much the same latitude as Sydney (Australia), but is much cooler; while Otago resembles the south of England, with much the same climate. Indeed, there are no great extremes of heat or cold; hence the British race thrive here exceedingly. The speech of the people, both north and south, is that common to Scotland. Their manners and customs are also such as are common to that country. They are intensely proud of their nationality and exceedingly patriotic. Educational Institutions, Caledonian Societies, Gaelic Societies, Burns Clubs, and such like organizations take firm root and thrive amazingly.

It is curious how this band of Celts has now spread themselves over the whole of the northern peninsula from Auckland to the North Cape. Another band of the same stock spread themselves over the entire southern end of the country from Dunedin to the South cape. It is curious, too, with their sad experience of land laws, they have become land-grabbers in the country of their adoption. The land question seems to have been burnt into their fibre, and they are determined to possess it at all costs. The descendants of these people, North and South, are now the sheep and cattle kings of New Zealand. In days of old, the caoraliath (grey sheep) dispossessed them, and upon it they vented their wrath. Now they are the principal breeders of this useful animal, and no one takes more readily to the occupation of buachaille (shepherd) than do these men. They love the call of the hill and mountain, while isolation has no terrors for them. They commune with Nature, while the faithful Collie is their only companion.

Tradition and history refers to them as great wanderers. They have blazed their tracks from Asia westwards in place names and racial peculiarities. They have now found their way southwards as far almost as territory permits. On the lone shore of Patagonia can be heard the shrill whistle of the Highland shepherd and the yelp of his faithful Collie. On almost every mountain in New Zealand the same thing is experienced. Here, too, he has left his mark in place names. Dunedin is the Gaelic word for Edinburgh, while Invercargill is a compound of Gaelic and English (Inver—mouth of a river; Cargill—name of the Otago leader, 1848). Oban, in Stewart Island, is the most southerly postal town in the British Empire, and it, too, is a Gaelic name. Oban in Scotland is reputed to be the finest situation for a town in the British Isles, while its namesake in New Zealand easily rivals it. The provinces of Otago and Southland are full of Gaelic place names bestowed upon them by the early pioneers. If now the people of Waipu would translate the word Waipu (noisy waters) into Gaelic and make it Ran-burn (ran—roar, burn—water) then with the other Gaelic names suggested Waipu could tell its story to generations yet unborn. Philology is largely history, and hence place names and individual names are so many pages of history that time cannot efface nor man destroy.


It had been known to Norman and his family for some years that his son Donald was alive and living in Melbourne. His wanderings since leaving St. Ann’s were unknown to the people, and seeing he had not met them either at Adelaide or Melbourne their interest in him had largely ceased. In these early days one could easily be lost in the great island continent. Men hurried to the goldfields hundreds of miles inland where no roads and no postal facilities existed, and hence were practically dead to their friends. In his wanderings he met some St. Ann’s men, who informed him of the migration of the people first to Australia and then to New Zealand. After tiring of his wanderings around the goldfields, he settled in Melbourne and was there married. Having some of the literary talent of his father, he became attached to the staff of one of Melbourne’s great newspapers and worked there for several years. In 1880 his wife died, and he himself being in poor health decided to visit his relatives at Waipu. Having no family, he lived with one of his sisters, and died there in 1891. His remains rest in The Cove cemetery near those of his father and mother. By the time he returned the earlier incidents of his career were largely forgotten. A new generation had arisen to whom St. Ann’s and the voyaging to Australia and New Zealand were merely as tales told. Since then every member of Norman’s family has crossed that bourne from which no traveller returns. He initiated a great and historic movement. Whatever his failings, motives, or conduct may have been the migration to Australia and New Zealand made history, and so the descendants of these brave pioneers may well draw the veil over ex-Captain Donald McLeod’s seeming neglect of them.

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