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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 11 (February 1, 1935)

Pictures of New Zealand Life

page 34

Pictures of New Zealand Life

“There is a Green Hill …”

One of the charms in New Zealand travel, at any rate to those travellers who take a more than perfunctory interest in the country they traverse, is the heightened value which the stories of the past give to beautiful scenes. This is more particularly true of the northern parts of the Dominion, and above all in the Auckland and Taranaki country. In a mental review of such places whose pictures remain a lifelong pleasant memory, thoughts linger on a spot which is not often mentioned as an example of lovely lands and storylands. This is Bombay Hill, on the Great South Road; it fills in the eastern skyline as you look eastward from the railway on the Pukekohe levels. It is the rounded crown of land on the northern terminal of the hills popularly called the Razorback Range. If you take the trouble to climb this way you are rewarded with an inspiring view over many leagues of very beautiful country, the pick of the South Auckland lands; it swims in colour from this commanding height, six or seven hundred feet above the plain.

The Bombay public school stands on the side of the hill, above the straggling township, and it is surely the most inspiring of settings and aspects for the fortunate children of the settlement, high-placed above that world, with the grandest of views and the purest of air, translucent light and radiant sunshine. Fortunate children, indeed, far removed from the dust and noise of the world below. Looking northward, they may see the hills of the West Coast, and northward to the volcanic cones of the Auckland isthmus, and Rangitoto Island. The outlook westward, with the easy tilt of the land, takes the eye over Pukekohe to the Manukau and the blue crests beyond.

“Williamson's Clearing.”

Such is the picture; a hundred authentic traditions hang to the scene of beauty. It was not always so softly pastoral. The hill was the ancient Pukewhau of the Maoris; its first pakeha name was “Williamson's Clearing,” a name dating back to 1860. The westward face of this great green dome of land covered with small farms and diversified with small groves of forest, was then just an oasis in a vast expanse of dense bush. Williamson's was one of a series of grassed clearings extending down toward Pukekohe East. Bombay township, with its church, did not then exist.

The “Bombay” Boys.

The foreign name was not given to the place until the year 1866, when a number of English immigrants who had arrived in Auckland in the ship “Bombay,” after an uncommonly long and stormy voyage, were given sections here, and set to with axe and saw and plough in a new and wild but fertile land.

Those “Bombays” were fortunate in that they arrived just after the Waikato War. This was a land of martial stir and bugle call and gun-play in the period 1863–64, when thousands of British and Colonial troops tramped along the bush road from Drury to Pokeno, and when the escorts with the supply carts now and again fought Maori ambush parties. A redoubt known as the Baird's Hill Post stood on the spot now occupied by the Bombay Presbyterian Church. There was another redoubt, the Razorback Post, on the southern end of the up-and-down hill road.

A Bush Surprise Party.

Half a mile below the hill church, on the road to Drury, is the place where a party of lurking Maoris made a most skilful haul of arms one day in 1863. They charged out on a road-party; the soldiers (a detachment of the 40th) had piled their rifles and were plying their axes in the bush at the side of the road. The warriors gave a volley, knocked over a couple of soldiers, seized all the stacked rifles—twenty-three of them and the ammunition, and bolted into the forest as quickly as they had come. They lost two men themselves—but the rifles were worth that trifle of warrior-power. Those rifles saw a lot of service for the Kingites.

That was Bombay before it was Bombay. The farming folk in that high, free country, have their troubles to-day, no doubt; but those woes do not include sentry go and weary escort duty, “boots, boots, moving up and down again,” and now and again a volley from ambush. The high-speed motor car is the road surprise party these times.

Long Life, and the Recipes.

Are people living longer than they used to, or is it that we hear more about those who succeed in keeping Old Time at bay for a century or so? Certainly there seem to be more centenarians among us now than there were in the days of one's youth.

Perhaps a contented mind has much to do with longevity. There was an Auckland man I knew who roamed the city looking for a particular kind of vegetarian diet and a very special kind of bread. He was the most abstemious of men, took the greatest care of himself and was rewarded by being carried off at a comparatively youthful age. Per contra, there is the happy old party who just eats and drinks anything that is going, and to that comfortable diet he attributes his long life. To everyone his, or her, taste.

In Wellington, there died a few years age an old-timer of ninety-two who had been sailor, whale-hunter, soldier and gold-digger in his day. In his youth he had served in a British warship on the Pacific station, and he attributed his long life and good health largely to “regular habits” formed in the Navy life—those habits centering in the regular daily issue of good Navy rum. He never broke the good old way. He smoked his pipe and took his daily tot, and dug his garden and told his yarns, a round-bodied, cheerful-tempered chip of the old Navy to the last. His sons dutifully saw to it that he was kept supplied with the best old Jamaica; it prolonged his life. And he was a truly temperate man. Regular habits.

page 35