On the eve of the 22nd January, 1840, the inhabitants of the shores of Port Nicholson were anxiously awaiting, as they were on the eve of the 22nd of January, 1870, the arrival of a squadron of six ships.
But the knot on Pito-one beach in 1840 contained but few white faces; dusky forms in mats and blankets formed the majority. The peace-loving Te Puni and the warlike Wharepouri, with their followers and native dogs, awaited the arrival of the ships with mixed feelings.
Europeans were so few that the arrival of so large an addition to their numbers might well be expected with anxiety and anticipations of extreme pleasure.
The “Aurora” was the first to appear, and she was followed by the “Oriental,” “Roxburgh,” “Bengal Merchant,” “Adelaide,” and “Glenbervie.”
These names are as household words to many of our most honoured and oldest settlers, and will carry them back to varied scenes of years now long gone by.
They will recall to many the remembrance of familiar faces now passed away. Well might Moore the poet sing:—
“Oft in the stilly night
Ere slumber's chain has bound me,
Fond memory brings the light
Of other days around me;
The smiles, the tears
Of boyhood's years,
The words of love then spoken,
The eyes that shone,
Now dimmed and gone,
The cheerful hearts now broken!…”
There were bold hearts that undertook the cultivation of the primeval forest which, except on the little open beach at Pito-one, then came down to the water's edge all round the bay. But the change now wrought is evidence enough that they did not shirk the task, and few of the industrious and honest emigrants in those six ships have ever regretted the transfer to these shores. It is only in thus looking back that the work of the old pioneers can be estimated and appreciated; so here's “Hats off to the brave old Pioneers.”