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Tales of Banks Peninsula

No. 8—Head of The Bay

page 305

No. 8—Head of The Bay.

Although the bays called Duvauehelle and Head of the Bay are often called by each other's name, the bay in which Messrs Piper, Barwick, and Libeau lived is strictly Duvauchelle. That in which the County Council Office and Post Office is, is really the Head of the Bay. They are in reality one bay, though two distinctive valleys run back. Mr Libeau was the first white man who lived in Duvauchelle or Head of the Bay. He came ashore from a whaler and built a whare on the spot where his son's house now stands. He arrived a year after the French immigrants came out to Akaroa, and was the father of the present resident. For many years the only inhabitants of the Head of the Bay were a number of sawyers. Many of them afterwards became settlers. Among them were Peter Connelly, Joseph Bruneau, Cortner Nicholas, Louis LeValliant, Bernard and his nephew, and Jas. Piper. The timber in the valley was nearly all totara and black pine, white pine growing on the flats close to the seashore. Like the rest of the Peninsula, the Head of the Bay was covered in dense bush, which ran down to the water's edge. Even in those times, when pigs were plentiful all over the country, the Head of the Bay was famous as literally swarming with them. Many and exciting are the tales told of pig hunts in this locality, in the old days, by the early settlers.

The Pawsons arrived in the Bay in 1850, and cut the timber for the public house about to be built Mr Pawson, sen., came out to Port Nicholson in 1840, at the same time as the late Mr Jas. Wright, of Wainui, in the Coromandel, after a very stormy passage of nine months, six weeks of which were spent in the Cove of Cork repairing the damage caused by a terrific gale the vessel experienced shortly after commencing the voyoge. The family remained in the Wellington Province for nine years, and then left for Lyttelton in the Queen. From Lyttelton they came to Little Akaloa in a ketch commanded by Captain Bruce, of Bruce Hotel notoriety. The boat belonged page 306to the Maoris, and was probably the same that Hempleman bought the Peninsula from Bloody Jack with. The Pawsona did not live in the Head of the Bay until 1857. They came over occasionally for a time to cut timber. They saw the fine timber the bay possessed in these visits, and bought a mill from Mr Bryant in Barry's Bay. The three brothers, Messrs Jonas, John, and William Pawson, worked it together for a number of years, erecting it a good way up the valley—close to the house in which the latter now lives. Mr John finally bought his two brothers out, and worked it himself for a time, afterwards building the big mill at the bottom of the Bay. Messrs Saxton and Williams afterwards bought the mill, and worked it very profitably. Mr Shadbolt, who arrived about the year 1855, was the last owner of the mill, taking it and cutting out all the timber in the bay. Nearly all the old settlers about the Head of the Bay were employed in those times about the mill, and a great quantity of timber was cut annually. The vessels that took away this timber were all built in the bay. Mr Robert Close first started a boatbuilding yard, close to where the jetty has been built. He built the vessels Sylph, Sea devil and others. The latter is very likely the boat afterwards owned by Mr Thacker, which came to grief in Little O'Kain's. Messrs Barwick and Wilson afterwards opened a yard in Duvauchelle. They had come to the colony from Tasmania. Mr Barwick was by trade a Shipbuilder, spending nine years at it, the earlier portion at Sunderland and afterwards at London. The partners, before coming to the Head of the Bay, had built the vessel Foam at Red House Bay. At Duvauchelle they built the vessels Vixen, Breeze, Spray, Dart, and the Wainui, afterwards converted into a steamer. They also built the first three boats for the Timaru lighterage. The Spray is the only one of these vessels that is now heard of. Messrs Barwick and Wilson dissolved partnership when they had built these vessels for Mr E C. Latter, and Mr Barwick worked the yard himself for two years. During that time he built a large punt; which was afterwards turned into the ketch Alice Jane, that was so well known page 307all over the Peninsula. Mr Wilson was a very peculiar character, being very mean in scraping together all he pos sibly could, and very generous in distributing it, "giving the shirt off his back," as one who knew him well puts it, "to the first man who asked him," He was the first man to open a store in the bay, but it did not prove very profitable to him, as he gave away most of his goods. While Messrs Barwick and Wilson worked the shipyard they employed over thirty men. After working the yard by himself for two years, Mr. Barwick gave it up, as there was no work to be done, nearly all the timber in the bay being cut.

Bush fires were pretty common in those early days. At the time the whole Peninsula was on fire, starting from Pigeon Bay, the whole of the bush in the Head of the Bay was killed, and the fire, bursting out afresh at intervals, was burning from January to May. The settlers in the Bay have been very fortunate, as there has never been a fatal accident there, the only serious one remembered being that by which a man lost his legs through having them crushed under a tree when he was bushfalling.

The public house was first owned by Messrs Tribe and Selig. Afterwards Mr. Pawson, sen., became owner, and Mr John Anderson took it from him. Mr. Shadbolt then bought it. Messrs Vanstone, Barker and Brookes each managed the hotel after this, Mr. Shadbolt taking charge of it again where they had left it. Mr Cooper had it after it was re-built, after being burnt down during the ever memorable hotel burning period, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson afterwards ruled there most worthily.

During the early years in the history of the bay, the want of a school was much felt, for there were many children in the bay belonging to the men working at the mill, and a place of worship was also much needed. Lord Lyttelton therefore gave half an acre for the purpose, and the men clubbed together and gave timber and work until they had erected a suitable building. The half-acre is that on which the church now stands, though it has been re built.

page 308

The Akaroa and Wainui Road Board was shifted from Akaroa to the Head of the Bay in 1878. The office stood where the Courthouse now is. The permanent road to Little Akaloa from the Bay was made about 1864 At the same time the road from Akaroa to Christchurch was made up Red John's Gully. The evidence of the Board's usefulness is visible everywhere, and the bay is perhaps the most central position where its headquarters could be situated. The County Council's offices were built; in 1879, and the Post and Telegraph Office in the same year.

Messrs Barker (father of Mr Beilby Barker) and Fry established the line of coaches running from Christchurch aad Pigeon Bay to Akaroa Mr. S. Lee owned the business for some considerable time. Mr B. Barker, Mr R. Paton, and Messrs Webster & Cusdin have owned the coaching business in turn till the advent of the motor car, Mr Cusdin still runs a coach from Duvauchelle to Little River. Mr Pilkington's cars have reduced the time be tween Akaroa and Little River, making it a most enjoyable run. In this year (1914), the prospects of the railway being carried to Barry's Bay are brighter than they have ever been, and our magnificent harbour is bound to be tapped before many years are over.