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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 5 (September 1, 1933)

Pictures of New Zealand Life

page 43

Pictures of New Zealand Life

Some Pioneers.

Many race elements have gone to the making of the New Zealander of to-day, though the population is, of course, so predominantly AngloCeltic in origin. Some of our best pioneers, sturdy, industrious and courageous, were Danes and Norwegians, who broke into the great bush that covered the country where the towns of Dannevirke, Norsewood, and adjacent settlements now stand, and made the land a richly productive farm region. There is a small German strain, from immigrants who were dissatisfied with the opportunities in their birthland.

Recently the descendants of the Bohemian settlers at Puhoi met to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of their landing in Auckland. Puhoi, a few miles north of the Waiwera, the hot-springs seaside resort, was all dense bush until a band of immigrants brought out by Captain Krippner from Southern Bohemia, by way of Hamburg and Liverpool, set bravely to work and hewed the tall timber away and made their homes there and brought up large families, a splendid stock of pioneer small-farmers.

Some of them served in the Maori War, and while they were in the fighting field the women kept the axe and saw going, loaded cutters with firewood for Auckland, and carried on the farms. It was heroic work for many a year; still it was better than the life of poverty in the old land of Europe.

But those hard-toiling Bohemians never forgot the traditions and the customs of their homeland. The old ways, the old costumes and dances are on occasion revived. They are great dancers, those vigorous folk of Puhoi. I remember that when there was a wedding in the settlement they kept up the dances for three days, and weren't tired then. Auckland people who were invited up that way on such occasions were amazed at the energy of the girls of the “Boo-eye” (coastwise sailor pronunciation), who danced with the vigour that they displayed in their farm and bush work. Also, there was usually a lordly barrel of beer on tap in or about the ballroom, but no Puhoian was ever seen the worse for liquor.

The Good Highland Stock.

Another special settlement with a history, and a greater history than that of Puhoi, is Waipu, in North Auckland, where a brave and hardy band of Macs of a dozen clans built their first bush huts over seventy years ago, a pioneer camp that soon gave place to a township and scores of well-tilled farms. The present-day Waipu people, Scottish Highlanders twice removed during the last century—first to Nova Scotia and then to this country—are having their history put together in book form. It certainly is an inspiring story of determination, endurance and fearlessness in the struggle to make comfortable homes and at the same time to preserve something of the old clan traditions of their forefathers.

Waipu has not forgotten the Gaelic, at any rate many of the elders have not, though they never saw the Highlands, or “the lone shieling on the misty island.” Waipu has produced, besides many a good farmer, many master mariners, schoolmasters, and pipers—especially pipers. The sound of the pibroch, the music of Paradise, is beloved in Waipu. The bagpipes may be heard too on board ships commanded or manned by Waipuvians. There was a captain of an Auckland brigantine bearing a grand old Highland name, a Waipu man, who got out his pipes whenever it fell calm and strode to and fro on his quarterdeck giving page 44 the ocean and the crew “a blaw, a blaw,” until he had played the vessel into a breeze. It was far more efficacious than the ordinary sailor way of whistling for wind, or the Finnish seaman's wizardly trick of sticking his knife in the mast for a fair breeze.

McKenzie of the “Borealis.”

The McKenzies, too, were great sailormen. The grand old man of them all was Captain Kenneth McKenzie, who sailed a fast and handsome brigantine called the “Borealis,” built by D. M. Darroch, whose yard was at Big Omaha. In those days, half a century ago, there were glorious sailing races at the Auckland Anniversary Regatta in which the speediest of the Island and coasting schooners and other craft competed, and soon after her launch the “Borealis” won the champion trading vessels’ race around Tiritiri, the lighthouse island.

In 1880, the Solomon Islanders attacked and captured the brigantine, which was recruiting labour for the Fiji plantations. and the captain's son and half the crew were killed, while the skipper was out in a boat engaging the natives. Aided by the crews of three other vessels—many of those men were of Waipu stock too—he recaptured his looted ship and dealt out what punishment he could to the savages on shores—it was not much for they had nearly all bolted to the bush.

Those were the days when many a New Zealand sailor found all the adventure he wanted in the perilous islands of Melanesia.

The Babies on the Brink.

There was a once greatly popular song on entertainment programmes, “The Babies on Our Block,” of New York origin:

On a hot day in the summer, when the wind blows off the sea,
A hundred thousand children lie on the Battery;
They came from Murphy's Buildings, and their noise would stop a clock,
There's no perambulators for the Babies on our Block.”

A recent news item from Rotorua seems to suggest to me that a ditty with a similar lilt could be written about a sight that travellers cannot duplicate outside New Zealand, and that is the Maori infantry which kicks up its heels and sucks its toes on the edge of the hot cooking springs and young and old geysers in the Rotorua country. Considering the familiar terms on which the Arawa population lives with boiling water, it is amazing that so few accidents occur.

The Coroner, holding an inquest on a three-year-old which had tumbled into a hot pool at Ngapuna, near Rotorua, commented strongly on the danger of unfenced springs of boiling water. Certainly such places should be made less perilous. There are several ways. In one furiously boiling ngawha at Ohinemutu some Maori humorist, a few years ago, set up a post bearing the notice: “Keep Out!”

In such a place as Tarewa village, a kind of native suburb of Rotorua, the large boiling springs, originally geysers, are filled nearly to the brink; the water is all but level with the grassy lawn around. They go down to unknown depths; the quietly boiling water, perfectly clear, has a blueish tint. The mothers of the village tend their cooking there, and gossip while the infants—there are always a lot at Tarewa, happily—lie on shawls or mats or crawl about in the manner of all the world's children, but with this difference, that there is sudden and fearful death within a few feet of them. The babies on the Tarewa block have the “keep out” instinct. The sight doesn't disturb the lovely calm of the kainga Maori. It would send a pakeha mother into fits with fright.

page 45

The Schooners.

The occasional sight of that handsome and speedy topsail schooner the “Huia” in our New Zealand ports, on her business that takes her across the Tasman Sea, is a reminder of the days when scores of sailing craft enlivened the coastal seas and made profit for many besides their owners. The shipyards, the sailmaking lofts, the ropemakers, the ship chandlers, and a variety of other industries and trades throve on the fore-and-afters and the square-riggers that came in and out of every port, from the northern timberexporting harbours to the Bluff.

Despite many inventions, the old ways were the best for business in the shipping trade at anyrate.

The “Huia” is the last of the Mohicans in the topsail schooner class, the prettiest rig ever devised for a little ship. She is, in fact, the only vessel of the type that is ever seen on the Australian coast as well as on our own. She is a Kaiparabuilt vessel, and none more shapely, more sightly, or more swift-sailing has been built on our coast. Like all small craft that still use canvas to-day she has auxiliary motor-power.


A young New Zealander, resident in Australia, has written a novel in which the theme is the problem of a half-caste girl—of course she is called “Ngaire”! —who is educated above the standards of Maori village life and handicapped by pakeha prejudice from entering “white” life, except as an inferior.
Mechanical gold-winning on the West Coast of the South Island. The powerful Rimu dredge at work near Hokitika.

Mechanical gold-winning on the West Coast of the South Island. The powerful Rimu dredge at work near Hokitika.

Wherever did the author get his facts and his outlook? The impression he gives is that the Maoris are a decadent, dying race. He should give his native land a look-in again; he would discover that the facts are very much otherwise. As for the alleged prejudice against the blend of pakeha-Maori blood, it is non-existent except among the very ignorant, whose opinions do not matter. Half-castes have held, and hold, some of the highest positions in the land, and are to be found in all the professions and the Public Service. A girl musician of Maori and pakeha birth was received by Royalty in London a few months ago. The Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe, like many other cultured people who have come to New Zealand, shows by his speeches his high appreciation of Maori and half-caste mentality and the artistic genius of the race. The Maori element in New Zealand's population is bound to increase with education: intermarriage is increasing. No one with any knowledge of our Maori friends and fellow-New Zealanders attempts to put them on a lower social plane than the pakeha.