The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series
Mount Peel — (Runs 268, 281, 308, 340 to 343, 369, 410, and later 388)
(Runs 268, 281, 308, 340 to 343, 369, 410, and later 388)
Before the Government resumed more than half the country for closer settlement this station occupied all the country between the Rangitata and Orari rivers above Peel Forest, and as far up as Forest Creek and the Phantom Creek, and contained about five thousand acres of freehold and a hundred odd thousand acres of leasehold.
The first of it was applied for on 30th July, 1855, by John Barton Arundel Acland and Charles George Tripp, who had arrived together in Canterbury in the January of that year. They were the first people enterprising enough to risk stock on the higher hills. By 1855 the plains and low hills were occupied, and the partners preferred making the experiment of taking up country then supposed to be fit only for wild pigs, to expending the greater part of their capital (which was only £2000 a piece) in buying the lease of a run.
The attitude of experienced squatters in those days is summed up in a letter written by Acland at the time: 'Russell' [who had lived for a year or more at Gawlor Downs a few miles off] ' laughed at our exploring, and said that the banks of the Rangitata were perpendicular; he would not attempt to take a horse down for fifty pounds, and the opposite country impassable. We replied that it was very likely, but we had a fancy for looking at it. In the Colonies you always like to see for yourself, and the worse account you hear of unoccupied country, the greater the reason for going to look at it.'
Their first application for the country had been made before they had been on it. In the following-spring (1855) and summer (1856), the partners made explorations of the upper waters of the Rangitata, Orari and Ashburton, which they were the first white page 141men to visit. They burnt as much of the country as they could and their fires were seen eighty miles off. They then made new applications for their runs, which they described more accurately, and were allotted what afterwards became the Mt. Somers, Mt. Possession, Mt. Peel and Orari Gorge stations, besides parts of the Mesopotamia and Hakatere. The license, which at that time they believed entitled them to Mt. Peel, was in Tripp's name, but after a survey this run (No. 53 N.Z.R.) was placed at Mt. Possession, and, as Johannes Andersen points out, the actual Mt. Peel country was selected again in various blocks, the licenses all being taken out in Acland's name. Run 268 (twenty thousand acres), on which the homestead stood, was selected on 9th August, 1858, and from that date at successive intervals they took up Runs 281, 308, and 340 to 343.
Run 369, of thirteen thousand acres, which included the Little Forks, part of the Big Forks, and the back of Ben McLeod, was taken up by C. Bulmer in 1860, and transferred to Tripp and Acland in 1861. I do not know who Bulmer was, but he also took up country at Mesopotamia. He may have been a brother of Benjamin Bulmer, an early bullock driver at Mt. Peel.
Tripp and Acland took up the last six thousand acres of Mt. Peel (Run 410) in May, 1861.
Mt. Peel was the first of their stations they started (in May, 1856), and while they were organising this, they ran their sheep on terms for some months with Dr. Moorhouse at Shepherd's Bush across the Rangitata. By 1857 they had 1100 sheep on the station and a year later 2700 sheep. Of course the station was not fully stocked for years, and sheep were not put out on the back of Mt. Peel until some time after the 1867 winter.
Tripp and Acland dissolved partnership in June, 1862, when Mt. Peel became Acland's property and Tripp took Orari Gorge and Mt. Somers, Mt. Possession having been sold the year before.
Tripp and Acland's first overseer was Henry Dumoulin, a brother of Cox's manager at Raukapuka. He was succeeded in 1861 by Alexander Macpherson, a page 142brother-in-law of the Macdonalds at Orari. Just before Acland became sole owner of Mt. Peel, Adam Irvine was made overseer or manager. Irvine was succeeded in 1873 by Michael Mitton, who managed the station until his death in 1888 when, as those who remember him may be surprised to learn, he was only forty-seven.
The owner's eldest son, John Dyke Acland, followed Mitton. John Acland was succeeded by O. Scott Thomson in 1893.
Chudleigh (who afterwards went to the Chathams), C. A. FitzRoy, T. D. Acland, and A. Boyle were early cadets there.
J. B. Acland was one of the last of the life members of the Upper House, to which he was appointed in 1865. He died in 1904, and since then the station has been carried on by his family.
In 1912 the Government took over more than half the country for closer settlement, reducing the carrying capacity from 45,000 sheep to under 20,000.
It was at Mt. Peel that I saw the largest mob of sheep I ever saw handled in one. It used to be the custom to bring 22,000 together at Stew Point. They once had a bad smother there. A man who was new to the country was following part of the mob down what looks from above a perfectly good spur, but really ends in two bluff gullies. The sheep turned back, but he hunted them on, and 1100 went over before they could be stopped. Mt. Peel was unlucky with smothers. They once smothered 5000 in the gully this side of Rawle's Yards, and there was a small smother of about 80 sheep in 1895. Merino sheep seemed wilder in the old days than they are now, I suppose because they were run over larger areas in those days, and they were not. handled so often for eye-clipping and so on.
Thomson managed Mt. Peel until 1905, when he was followed by D. Livingstone, who was succeeded by G. Dickson in 1913. D. Pringle was appointed in 1919 and managed for many years. The present manager is John Acland, a grandson of the first owner. Among well-known men who have been head shepherds there may be mentioned Alexander McLeod and page 143his son John, Jack Turton (later manager at Peel Forest), William Henney, and Murdoch McDonald (afterwards manager of Teviotdale and finally of Glenbourne, Waiau).
Note : In April, 1938, the owners sold all the Mt. Peel leasehold country except the small run on Little Mt. Peel facing the Rangitata. The Mackenzie brothers bought the country between the Hewson and the Phantom and added it to Clayton. John Waddell bought all the rest, which included Big Mt. Peel itself. He built a homestead at the junction of the Hewson with the Orari and named the new station Orari Hills. Early in 1942 he appointed Haldon Beattie manager and at the end of 1943 Beattie bought the station from him. Beattie has renamed it Lochaber after the birthplace of his father, Andrew Beattie, long the manager of Haldon Station on the Selwyn.