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Tales of Banks Peninsula

No. 8.—Arrival of the First English Ship

page 109

No. 8.—Arrival of the First English Ship.

The Monarch, commanded by Captain Smale, chartered by Messrs Robinson (formerly Resident Magistrate at Akaroa) and Smith, who was the first; person who placed sheep on Mr. Buchanan's run at Little River, was the first English ship that ever came to Akaroa. She arrived on April 2, 1850, and the following is a full account of her trip, published in the Akaroa Mail in 1877:—

It, is now twenty eight years ago since we first turned our thoughts towards New Zealand. The idea speedily ripened into resolve, and finally we took our passage in a small barque named the Monarch, of 375 tons register, the owners, Messrs Robinson and Smith, coming out with her. The crew consisted of the captain, David Smale, three officers, six A.B. seamen, and an apprentice, while the passengers numbered fifty two, including a doctor. With a small vessel, a short crew, and a few adventurers, for such we might be termed in those days, we set sail for Auckland, but Akaroa was to be our destiny, and there we proved to be the first direct English settlers in what is now called Canterbury. The town of our adoption, Akaroa, now boasts of a periodical publication, and it has been thought that an epitome of our voyage, and the subsequent career of some of those ante-pioneers to the Canterbury settlement—ante diluvians as we have been jocosely termed—might prove interesting to the readers of that journal.

"We left Gravesend on the 22nd day of November, 1849, putting into Cowes, Isle of Wight, whence we resumed our voyage at 6 a.m. on the 27th, and, with a fine light breeza, ran down the Channel that day, losing sight of land as the shades of night closed in and hid it from our gaze. With Madeira came our next view of the terra firma, but were not able to indulge in more than a fleeting glance, as our captain deemed it advisable to keep as near mid-ocean as was practicable. So onwards in our course until about three days' sail from 'Rio,' when we fell in with a smart looking craft, the Pilot Fish, bound to that page 110port from Liverpool. The breeze was light, and enabled us to sail in company for two days, during which, by nautical means, we held a long conversation with her captain, who, on changing his course, promised to report us, a promise which we afterwards ascertained he had faithfully fulfilled, and, with one exception, his was the only vessel wa sighted on our passage out. All went well until, having rounded the Cape, a fine wind favouring us, we sailed from there to the meridian of Hobart Town in twenty one days, which was considered a smart trip. A few days previous to our reaching this longitude, we discovered we were getting short of provisions.

"Many and loud were the expressions of annoyance and discontent wheu this discovery was made known to us, so much so that the owners decided upon running for Hobart Town. The wind, however, proved dead against the carrying out of thair decision, and being a fair one for our proper course, tha idea was abandoned after four days of beating about, and we once more resumed our voyage to Auckland. The same evening that we bade farewell to the distantly seen shores of Tasmania, a fearful squall struck our vessel, forcing her through the water at such a spaed that the rudder was broken away before sail could be shortened. In addition to this serious mishap, the stern windows were dashed in, and the saloon flooded with about three feet of water, With great presence of mind two passengers, an elderly gentleman (Mr Wray) and his daughter, seized feather [unclear: bad,] and managed to hold them over the broken windows until the sailors succeeded in battening them down In this rudderless, and therefore helpless state, we were driven before a gale of wind down the west coast of New Zealand. Fortunately, the weather abating, we were enabled to fix a temporary rudder, and in about a fortnight from the time of our severe handling by the elements found ourselves sailing past the Snares. All went well with us until nearing Cape Saunders, when our temporary rudder fell from its bearings, leaving us once again at the mercy of wind and tide, and our escape from page 111shipwreck and destruction on that bold rocky promontory was little short of a miracle. Soundings were taken at once, only twelve fathoms of water being discovered beneath us, while a light breeze, dead on shore, was slowly, but surely, drifting us on to the rocks, Consternation prevailed, but despite the confusion, the boats were got; ready for lowering, and the anchor was let go with the hope of arresting further ingress. 'The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglee,' and never was the quotation more aptly verified than in our case, for no sooner was the anchor dropped than it was discovered that it had not been shackled to the chain, the whole of which, however, was paid out, and served in some degree to check our drifting. It was night, anil only here and there could a star be seen to cheer us. The looming headland looked down dark and threatening from above. Around us the surging, seething billows rushed madly on, to dash themselves to foam against the rocks beyond; while through the rigging the breeze seemed to sigh and moan a funeral dirge to our ill-fated ship.

"Hope had fled, and grim despair had taken possession of us all, for there was no chance of extraneous aid, and the coastal steamers which now ply so frequently between our ports, and run up and down the coast, were not then in existence, when, as is often the case just about midnight, the wind suddenly veered round to an exactly opposite quarter, and speedily drifted us away from the land into comparative safety. Then arose sincere and hearty thanks givings for deliverance in the hour of peril to Him who rules not only the winds and waves, but also the desfiny of His creatures.

"With the appearance of day, the only spar we had on board was fixed so as to steer the vessel, and under sail we set out for the nearest, or any, port that could be found. On the 27th day of March, 1850, we made the heads of Akaroa Harbour, into which the owners had determined to enter, but the wind proved unfavourable for so unmanageable a rudder, and, in an almost starving condition, we were compelled to lie to for almost a week before a fair page 112wind arose for taking us in On the 2nd day of April we entered the heads at about 7 a.m, and to oar great delight saw a boat coming down the harbour towards us. The occupants soon boarded us, and amongst them was an old sea captain, who, knowing the harbour, had come to pilot us up to the anchorage, not forgetting to bring with him some eatables, consisting of new bread, butter and watercress, which were proportioned out, and devoured with voracious eagerness. It should have been stated that, on the day previous to our entering the heads, a boat with one of the officers and a crew of volunteers from amongst the passengers had proceeded down the harbour, and reported our arrival and condition, which was no doubt the cause of the boat with supplies coming to meet us.

"We let go anchor at one o'clock the same day, and in an hour afterwards many of us landed, thankful enough to be on terra firma again after our long and perilous voyage. Here and there might then have been seen small groups of the new arrivals wending their way to seek new friends amongst the strangers, astonished to find, instead of the traditional cannibal of New Zealand, Europeans, like themselves, representatives of England, Scotland, Ireland, Savoy and Germany, who proffered a most hearty welcome, and seemed right pleased to see us, while a few Maoris, to all appearance tame and civilised, joined in the cordial reception accorded to us by all. Fortunately among our passengers was a young man who could speak French fluently, and this proved of great service to us. Eventually a kind of patois was established, which enabled us to deal with our new friends, and such was their kindness and hospitality that, after twenty-seven years' sojourn in this colony, we still look back with feelings of the keenest gratitude and pleasure to the welcome we received at their hands. We partook of tea on the day of our landing at Bruce Hotel. The table was well furnished, and the cooking excellent. As may easily be imagined, we did ample justice to the substantial repast set before us, and enjoyed it as only those can who, for a long time, have neither tasted fresh meat, nor, indeed, a page 113proper meal. For this, our first meal in our new country, we each paid two shillings and sixpence. As night came on, we returned to the ship, and this, daily routine was kept up for about a fortnight, during which we each day wandered farther away in the different valleys, becoming at the end of this period so enamoured of the place that no less than forty of the passengers agreed to remain. Akaroa was then in all its pristine beauty, so enchanting in its climate, and so picturesque in its scenery, that one could not resist the fascination and the feeling that it was all that could be desired; but we soon found the beauties of the place could not alone satisfy the wants of man, for, owing to the sudden influx of population caused by our arrival, provisions became scarce, and the serious question arose as to whether we had acted wisely in determining to remain. The ship being yet in the harbour, we still had an opportunity to escape, when news reached us of the arrival at Wellington by the Lady Nugent of the agent for the Canterbury Association, tidings which filled us with a vague hope of better things to come, and so, reluctant to leave a spot which had strangely insinuated itself into our affections, we finally decided to remain. On the 15th May, 1850, the Monarch, having had a new rudder made and fixed, sailed away without us for her original destination, Auckland. During her stay in harbour, four of her crew were drowned from a. small boat when returning to the ship from ashore, where they had been having a spree, all being more or less intoxicated. We were now left to our own resources, and to shape our course in the best way we could. But before taking leave of the vessel for good and all, it may be well to add a few particulars about the live stock we were enabled to successfully bring out with us. But few were landed alive out of the original stock. The deer, pheasants (save one brace), partridges and hares given by Lord Braybrook died on the passage out. We landed, however, one pure bred bull, two ditto heifers, one pure bred mare, and a brace of pheasants, all belonging to Mr. Smith. As Canterbury was not known in those days, the mare was sent on to Nelson, and was one amongst thepage 114first, if not the first, that won a prize in the Colony; the bull and the heifers remained in Akaroa; and the pheasants were let loose in Pigeon Bay. We. also brought out vegetable, tree and farm seeds of all kinds, kindly given by Lord Mansfield's gardener. It may also be of interest to mention that Mr. Bruce was oar pilot into Akaroa, and Big William the first Native on board

"There is always in narratives of this kind a certain delicacy in mentioning the names of others, but to some extent it is necessary to do so. Only a few, however, need be mentioned. Some soon removed to other parts of the country, while others turned their thoughts and best attention towards what [unclear: seemed] to each most desirable, and which they thought would best further their own interests, as well as those of their adopted land, Among those who settled down may be mentioned the Haylocks. Pavitts, Farrs, Vogaing, Parkers, Harrington, Rule, Groen and Hilleur. After a while the Haylocks decided to erect a flour mill, to be driven by water power. This was accomplished, and the building was named after the street in which it was erected, the Grehan Mill. The Pavitts built the first sawmill in Canterbury at Robinson's Bay, where they had purchased land. Both these mills were of much service to Akaroa, and their erection may be regarded as a great achievement under the then existing circumstances, for there was no foundry in those days, and only one man, a whitesmith, who knew anything of iron-work. Nothing daunted, however, by the many and great obstacles, the mills were completed, and, though some parts were of somewhat rude construction, the desired end was attained. Mr. S. C. Farr acted as engineer to the primitive sawmill, and afterwards was engaged for the second mill of the same kind in the province, named the Cumberland Sawmi'ls, situate in Duvauchelle's Bay.

"My self imposed narrative now draws to a close, scenes changed, circumstances altered, some rested from their labours and passed on to fairer regions; a few remain, who are with us still, while others, faithful to the old spot, though removed some little distance from it, like page 115to occasionally visit us. Some have done little to mark their course, and when they pass away will be forgotten; but there are others who have left their mark upon the rock of time, not soon to be erased. Their aim has been usefulness; they have been in every sense of the word, good colonists."