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The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series

Acheron Bank — (Runs 121 and 155)

Acheron Bank
(Runs 121 and 155)

Acheron Bank lies on the south side of Lake Coleridge, and originally ran up the Rakaia from the Acheron to the Lake Stream.

Run 121 was taken up on 3rd October, 1853, by the McLean Brothers, Allan and Robertson. They had several other stations, and only kept the Acheron a year, and then sold it unstocked, I think, to William Thomas Norris. In May, 1857, Norris unexpectedly inherited £17,000. He straightaway sold the station to John Jackson Oakden and sailed for England, but on 6th September Potts noted in his diary that the ship he sailed in was reported lost. Anyhow he did not come back to New Zealand. Oakden had two thousand five hundred sheep on twenty thousand acres there in 1857.

Oakden's first manager was Richard Groome, who afterwards managed Blue Cliffs. Later on he had two cadets, both of whom afterwards became his managers —Rawlins, and Henry Slater. Rawlins after he left went to South America, and Slater became a lawyer, also commander of the volunteers in Christchurch. He wrote a book, Fifty Years of Volunteering, about them. He was managing the Acheron in 1863 and had C. F. Barker, afterwards of Malvern Hills, as his cadet.

In May, 1878, Oakden sold the station to John Murchison.

Old Johnny Oakden 'was a great ' character.' He came of good family in Staffordshire. He had managed a station in Australia for William Robinson, and Robinson sent him over to New Zealand in the early page 206'fifties to buy land for him. Oakden wisely chose Cheviot Hills, and I think he was Robinson's first manager. Anyhow he supervised the stud sheep there till the middle 'seventies.

A correspondent who remembers him when she was a child says: 'Old Johnny Oakden was rosy cheeked, white whiskered, hearty, hospitable—always kind to children, fond of his garden, proud of his peaches and hollyhocks. He used to go home to England to hunt and had hunted with the Empress of Austria in Ire-land.' Like many sportsmen in Victorian times, he always dressed in rough tweed of a sporting cut. Once in London he went to call on his friend Robinson who was living there at the time, trying to win the English Derby. The footman who opened the door said, 'I'm afraid it is no good, the place is filled.' Robinson was advertising for a gamekeeper and the man thought Oakden had come to apply for the job.

Once when some poetically minded people were enlarging on the delights of summer, Oakden said: 'Well I prefer winter. You can eat twice as much in cold weather.' Everyone liked him.

Old people at Hororata tell me that when he stopped there to feed his horses on his way to town, he would never let the horses drink out of the river, but always shouted for the ostler to bring them water in a bucket. I suppose he had seen the reins get caught up on the pole. After he sold the station he lived in Christ-church and died in his house in Barbadoes Street in March, 1884, aged sixty-six.

Murchison was the first man to introduce the double drafting gate to this part of Canterbury. He brought the idea from the Honourable Robert Campbell's stations in Otago, where he had been in charge of the stud sheep. For the first year or so at the Acheron he had a partner, W. S. Cartmill, who was to have found the greater part of the capital, but his money was in the hands of trustees, who would not consent to his investing it in a back country station, so Murchison had to carry the whole load himself. Cartmill, however, lived with him to the end of his life.

page 207

In 1912 the Government resumed the leasehold country of the Acheron and re-let it as two grazing runs, Peak Hill and Mt. Oakden. The Acheron run, however, had been part of the Midland railway area, and when it was offered for sale in 1889, Murchison bought seven or eight thousand acres of it. This freehold still belongs to his sons, who work it with Lake Coleridge.