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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

The Soldiers

The Soldiers.

Mrs E. M. Dunlop has giren a vivid Fletare of these times She writes:—In 1858, certain military of the 68th Regiment: under Colonel Wyatt, were sent to Napier to quell a disturbance brought about by the chief Hapuku and it is from this point that my memory dates, as my people accompanied these troops. We were encamped in a valley on the western side of the island, known as Onepoto, and the greater part of the year was spent in that locality while the barracks were being erected on the top of the hill where the hospital now stands. The soldiers occupied tents in the valley, page 56 the officers and their wives being similarly provided.

Great round holes were dug in the bank over which our tents were pitched, excavations being made in the banks to serve as cupboards, and a table arranged round the tent pole. Thus we lived in a canvas-covered pit, from which we ascended by steps to the upper air. A fireplace was cut in the hank and a rough sod chimney conveyed the smoke away. So we fared, and often I have heard my mother, who was fresh from all the luxuries of an English home, say that she never enjoyed any part of her life so well. She Possessed the true spirit of the pioneer, hardship and discomfort were amusement for her, and she met every vicissitude with a smile. The freshness, the novelty of the surroundings, the camaraderie, the spice of danger, seemed to her the very wine of life.

We had the excitement several times of the tent being blown down about us in the dead of night, and one of my earliest memories is that of being carried through the wild wet night in the arms of a soldier to a safer resting place—a mud hut on high ground. Alarms were frequent in the camp, as it was supposed that a hostile attack might be made by Maoris. The bugle would blow calling the whole camp to arms, and a scene of wild excitement would ensue

Our arrival at the valley of Onepoto was somewhat sensational We were disembarked at the Spit—known as the from Pot—and had to make our way along the sandy spit and rocky shore as best we could. My father sprained his ankle as we disembarked, and was carried on a stretcher, wife and children following—the younger ones carried in kind soldier's arms, The soldiery as a body went across in boats over an inner lagoon filled with shallows, transit being problematical. How- page 57 ever, two or three days saw us quite settled in camp.

Various stores and other buildings were going up on the other side of the island where Napier now extends. A school was soon initiated by a most worthy clergyman, the Rev. W. Marshall, who was identified with the riso of Napier. Newton's store was built and celebrated with a grand lull to which my mother went with other ladies from the Camp, her toilet being made in the tent before a looking-glass swung from the tent pole. The ball was much enjoyed, though she often amusingly recounted the adventures of the hop, skip, and jump necessary to avoid the large cracks in the flooring which somewhat interfered with the dance. The Superintendent, Mr Fitzgerald, built a small house, which is still standing, near whore the breakwater now is and we were fortunate enough to procure a part of the cottage next to it, which is also still standing Mr Lyndon occupied the third cottage; this gentleman, who only passed away at a great age a short time back, was identified with the whole history of the place from the earliest days to a recent year. He was an excellent settler, making several lovely homes and encouraging horticulture which he loved, and to which the soil is naturally suited.

The town was now laid out, stores, churches, and other buildings were springing up, the town of Napier was taking shape, and country settlement progressed We were advised to venture inland and travelled by bullock dray, taking five days to reach Te Yute—a distance now traversed by rail in less than two hours. Strange indeed and perilous was our progress; the long cavalcades of bullocks winding round the cuttings, the drays sometimes tipping over on a slippery siding; the starry night, the strange encampments, the voices of the men as they talked or page 58 shouted to their bullocks by name; the camp fires, the weird figures of our Maori friends, combining to make up a never-to-be-forgotten picture. We passed through Clive, already a hamlet. A kind woman came out from her shanty with her apron full of hard-boiled eggs which she offered to the travellers for their journey. We floundered in great peril through the river near Havelock, where we encamped tor the night, entering the next day upon the long gorge which was traversed with many adventures. At length our goal was reached, and our tents pitched in the Te Auto valley, which was filled with magnificent forest; giant pines hoary with moss of ages, thick undergrowth and ferny boscage—with carpets of green moss from which arose the tree-fern and the nikau, while The tree tops were alive with parakeets, pigeons, and fantails. A trickling rill supplied moisture. Axe and saw were soon busy, and slab huts arose by the wayside, while the long white road began to take shape.