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The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series

Motunau — (Run 12 N.Z.R., and numbered 471 when brought under the Canterbury Regulations)

(Run 12 N.Z.R., and numbered 471 when brought under the Canterbury Regulations)

Except Riccarton—though now a town house, it was for many years a farm, and in the 'forties a cattle station —and one or two on the Peninsula, Motunau is the oldest station in Canterbury. It was started in 1847 by Greenwood Brothers—Joseph, James and Edward—who had just sold Purau to Rhodes Brothers. George Greenwood, who remained in England, was also a partner.

Motunau ran from the sea to the Waikari River and Cabbage Tree Flat, and from Boundary Creek to the Slip Creek. It took in what are now Montserrat, Spye, Glendhu, Tipapa, and part of Davaar. I do not know what lease the Greenwoods had of it at first, whether from the Maoris or from the New Zealand Government, or whether they just squatted there. It was brought under the Canterbury Land Regulations in October, 1854, and in 1864 it contained forty-two thousand acres, but that was after ten thousand acres (the Motunau Black Hills) had been bought out of the run by Moore of Glenmark.

Most of the Motunau Station diary from 1847 to the page 263beginning of 1850 is still preserved at Teviotdale.

When he delivered Purau to Rhodes, James Greenwood reserved some of the cattle and drove them to Motunau. On 9th September, 1847, he and a man named Edward Fisher started with them from Purau and took them over Gebbie's Pass on to the Plains, where they camped without water. Next morning the cattle had gone, but they found them again with the help of William Prebble, who was then working for Deans Brothers at Riccarton, and got them to the Waimakariri (which in those days was pronounced as Greenwood spelt it, 'Wye McReedie') and 'crossed pretty well.' They went on through the scrub and camped at the Eyre, Greenwood watching the cattle till 12.30, and Fisher from then till daylight.

On the 11th, Edward Prebble joined them, and they got as far as one of the branches of the 'Rakahooui' (Ashley), where Prebble went to sleep during his watch and the cattle got away again.

On the 12th, they found their cattle, but soon afterwards got them into a swamp where four of them stuck. It was dark by the time that they had hauled these out, so they left the cattle and went and camped at the next creek.

13th. 'Got the cattle out of the swamp with some difficulty, and across the Double Corner [Waipara] River.

14th. 'We had some rough driving among the hills and went further round than we had occasion. At places we had a deal of trouble in getting the cattle over. Stopped for the night about opposite the boat harbour.'

On the 15th they started in good spirits as it was the last day. They had trouble crossing the Motunau River, but reached the yard about 3 p.m. Traveller calved about an hour after they arrived and Greenwood 'took the calf from her, when she made a rush and tore my bed, which was hanging on the yard rails, to pieces.'

They did the journey on foot, and had no pack horse with them.

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A yard and hut had already been built, a married couple were there, also a few hundred sheep, and a patch of potatoes. The chief station work in those days consisted of milking, keeping boundary on the sheep, and hunting for lost cattle. The sheep were kept on the flat and the front of the Limestone Range, and there was everlasting trouble with wild dogs. They milked all the cows, making 50 to 80 lb of butter a week. The dry cattle were run further out than the sheep, but had to be looked over every two or three days, and even then often strayed as far as Waikari and Kaiapoi. When horses were brought up, they went back several times to the Deans's at Riccarton.

Greenwood does not seem to have realised at first what tutu was, though he must have seen plenty before. On 17th March, 1849, the cutter Anne and Sarah landed ten rams which Greenwood had imported from England, and in the diary next day he notes that they were much better, 'none of them having had fits to-day.' However, it was not long before he found out all about tutu.

In 1849 they built a new house, a store, a boat-house, a wash-pen, and a temporary woolshed, and fenced in a small cultivation paddock. The ewes lambed all the year round, which was a common practice until the early 'sixties when the stations began to be fully stocked.

Maoris were always travelling up and down the coast between Akaroa, Port Cooper, Kaiapoi and Kaikoura. They had given up canoes by then, and used whaleboats.

On 9th April, 1849, some people came to Motunau who had landed from a steamer. This must surely have been about the first steamer to visit New Zealand. Johannes Andersen tells me she was the Acheron which was charting the coast.

Amongst the station hands employed at Motunau before 1850 was James Robinson Clough, who was in charge whenever Greenwood left the station. He was engaged at £20 a year, and to be paid £5 extra if he gave satisfaction. He was there all the time the Green-page 265woods had the station and finally got £30 a year—but this included his boy's services as well as his own. Squatters and station hands were hardy men in those days. 'Dreadful wet day and every stream over-flowing its banks, the whole flat almost covered with water. All hands employed cutting and dragging firewood from the gully.' (Diary, 6th July, 1849). Greenwood himself spent the day loading the wood and taking it down to the hut with the bullocks.

Other station hands at Motunau before 1850 were William and Edward Prebble, Edward Fisher, Samuel Taylor, and his wife (a Maori woman), Timothy Hurley (or Hearly), Francis Woodham, J. Pierpoint, George Charleton, and several more who are only called by their Christian or surnames. There is a full account of some of them, and of James Robinson Clough, and the Greenwoods themselves, in James Hay's Earliest Canterbury.

Andrew Dawson, who was working on a farm of the Greenwoods in Yorkshire, was one morning loading a muck-cart, when George Greenwood asked him if he would like a job in New Zealand. He replied: 'I should not mind,' and started for New Zealand the same day. He was at Motunau for many years. One morning he went out before breakfast for some horses and a mule, which had strayed, and followed and followed them till they got to Riccarton—then the only house between Motunau and Christchurch.

Maori lads were also employed occasionally, Coe Coe, Moko, and so on; they were paid from eight to twelve shillings a week.

Joseph Greenwood was drowned between Port Cooper and Motunau, and James absolutely disappeared when in Sydney buying stock for Motunau. He had a large sum of money about him, and is supposed to have been robbed and murdered. So, in January, 1850, Edward let the station with the stock to John Scott Caverhill, and went to England. He never came back to New Zealand.

The live stock he delivered were 981 sheep, 474 lambs, 141 head of cattle (each separately described page 266and each with a name ), 40 pigs, 3 horses, and a mule.

Greenwood kept the year's wool clip and the fat wethers. He sent the wethers overland to Port Cooper, where I suppose Captain Thomas, who was then preparing the Canterbury Settlement, bought them to feed his workpeople.

On 3rd July, 1851, William Lyon applied for a run, part of Motunau, but his claim was disallowed. Lyon was a leading colonist in Wellington from 1840 onwards. Besides his business in the town, he had a farm at Petone.

Either by purchase or breeding, the sheep at Motunau began to increase very fast after 1850. Caverhill had 4184 on sixty thousand acres in 1854. In 1857 he had 8256 on fifty thousand acres, and in 1858 he had 12,000-8526 of them scabby.

Caverhill was one of the most remarkable of the 'Pre-Adamite' settlers (those who arrived before the First Four Ships) in Canterbury. He came from the Lowlands of Scotland, first to New South Wales, where he did well by cattle driving and exploring, and taking up runs which he sold to men with capital. He was a great hand with all stock. He never forgot a horse or a cattle beast, and had such a good eye for them that it was said that he could often identify particular animals further off than most other men could tell whether they were horses or cattle. He had an immense mane of very fair hair and was known to his friends and the general public as 'White-headed Bob,' or as 'Darby' He was a good neighbour and friend, and a most kind-hearted man, but had such a love for practical jokes and tall stories that he was always in some scrape.

He had only been a few months at Motunau before he explored and took up what is now Cheviot, across the Hurunui. This he named the Retreat, and stocked with cattle; Tom McDonald, afterwards manager of Horsley Down, looked after it for him. Caverhill had not had it many years, however, before the Honourable William Robinson came down from Australia and bought the freehold of most of the run page 267from the Nelson Government, so Caverhill sold his interests in Cheviot to him.

In April, 1867, George Holmes, who had finished the Lyttelton Tunnel and been paid with a land order for £200,000, selected some of this land on Motunau, which spoilt the run for Caverhill, who gave up his lease. The station was then carrying 28,000 sheep. Edward Greenwood had died by that time, but his brother George came out from England and sold Holmes the rest of the station, afterwards putting the money into Teviotdale. Caverhill afterwards had Hawkeswood and Highfield Stations in the Nelson Province and was eventually tempted to the North Island, where, like several other Canterbury pioneers, he farmed on a very large scale and lost his money, but he never lost either his spirits or his eye for stock.

During 1855 Caverhill's manager at Motunau was E. M. Templer, of Coringa. After him came Thomas Whillians Bruce, known as 'the little Angel,' whom I mentioned as owning Cora Lynn. He was a polite, natty little man, but a terror when roused, and there is a spirited poem, a parody on 'The Snapping Turtle,' about a fight he had with a horse-breaker on top of Glendhu. Bruce left just before the station was sold, when G. King succeeded him. Templer and King were brothers-in-law of Caverhill's, and I have been told that they were not his managers, but guests at Motunau. However, they signed sheep-notices and returns as manager, so I have recorded them. Bruce came from Jedburgh in the south of Scotland. He died at Greymouth in 1908, aged 76.

George Holmes died and his brother John Holmes inherited his properties. John Holmes had come from Canada. He found he had large properties to develop at Pigeon Bay and Bangor as well as Motunau, and in the bad times, about 1879, it was impossible for him to go on with all three, so he handed Motunau over to the Bank of New Zealand and kept Pigeon Bay and Bangor. J. Russell managed Motunau for the bank.

In 1881 the bank sold Motunau to H. J. Hall. At that time it carried 18,000 sheep, but about 1888 page 268W. Acton-Adams bought the top end of it, now known as Tipapa Station, so that in 1906, when J. H. Hall, who took over the remaining part of Motunau from his father's executors, sold it to A. W. Byrch, who had previously owned Mt. Brown, it only carried about 7000 sheep. After Byrch's death the station remained the property of the family until the end of 1940, when Mrs Byrch's executors sold Motunau to the Government for closer settlement. At the clearing sale in January, 1941, 7000 sheep were sold. The freehold on the coast was bought in the very early days, and Motunau is one of the few places in Canterbury that is freehold to high water mark.