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

Double Hill — (Runs 272, 291, 352, 428, 435-6-7, 446, 459, 460)

Double Hill
(Runs 272, 291, 352, 428, 435-6-7, 446, 459, 460)

Double Hill lay on the south bank of the Rakaia, and took in the country from Terrible Gully, where it joined Blackford, up to the Lake Stream, where it joined Upper Lake Heron.

Colonel Alexander Lean took up Runs 272 and 291, which lay round the homestead and also took in the front part of what is now Glenfalloch. The printed run lists give the dates as September, 1858, and February, 1859, but there is a manuscript memorandum in the Christchurch Public Library, which states that both runs were allotted to Lean on May 2nd, 1860. Run 352 was allotted to Archdeacon Mathias on May 3rd, 1860. The other Double Hill Runs were allotted at various times until February, 1863, when Run 460 was allotted, but I cannot find to whom.

page 314

About 1861 the Worsley brothers started a small station known as Redcliff I think this included Run 352 (which they must have bought from Archdeacon Mathias) and Run 459, which was not allotted until 1863.

I mentioned Lean as the first man to stock Mt. Hutt Station.

At the end of 1863 Joseph Palmer bought Lean's and the Worsleys' parts of Double Hill, and he appears to have bought up the other runs on it as soon as he could. In 1865 they were all in his name except Run 428, which belonged to W. Turton, and Runs 435-6-7, which belonged to W. D. Barnard. By 1866 Palmer had bought those four runs also. Turton and Barnard were probably the original owners of them.

Barnard was the owner of 'W. D. Barnard's Horse Repository' (afterwards Tattersalls), and a tavern next to it called 'The Blighted Cabbage.' Barnard eventually got in some money trouble and left the country. For a time Barnard and Turton worked their runs in a partnership which was soon dissolved. 'Barnard's Country' and 'Turton's Country 'are still names in use at Double Hill.

Turton was William Turton, who first kept the accommodation house at Ashburton. His three sons were afterwards well known station managers in Canterbury and Marlborough. One of them retired from the management of Peel Forest a few years ago. Melville Turton, of Alford Station, is William Turton's grandson. Palmer came down from Melbourne to manage the Union Bank in Lyttelton in January, 1856, and afterwards managed the Christchurch branch until he retired in December, 1890. He died in Christchurch in August, 1914, aged 84. He was one of the ablest bankers we ever had in New Zealand. In his time bank managers were not tied to their boards of directors so tightly as they are now, and he was never afraid to act on his own responsibility.

Nearly all the time Palmer owned Douglas Hill his manager was Robert Mackay, a well-known sheepman page 315in Canterbury in his day. Mackay was born at Rogart in Sutherlandshire in 1839, and arrived at Lyttelton with his young wife in the ship Brother's Pride in December, 1863, just about the time Palmer was taking delivery of Double Hill. When he landed, Palmer engaged him for Double Hill as shepherd at Redcliff. the lower end of the run, and in 1869 made him manager of the whole station, and he moved to the main homestead. In those 'days Double Hill was still in the pioneering stage and worked partly as a cattle station.

It was Mackay who knocked the station into shape, and he had his full share of the rough work of those days. Besides the ordinary work of sheep and cattle mustering, before the days of huts, he ploughed the first paddocks at Double Hill, laid out and planted the first garden, and made most of his own furniture out of bush timber. There were not many women up country then, and Mrs Mackay was once two years without seeing one, and of course had to educate her young family herself. However, trust a Scotchman to supply books and education. Their daughter, Miss Jessie Mackay, the poetess and writer, had the first nine years of her education there.

Mackay explored the Manuka Point country across the Rakaia, and recommended it to Palmer, who got a pasturage license for it.

Palmer sold Double Hill to William Gerard in 1874 (though the license was not transferred until 1877). Mackay gave delivery of the station to Gerard, and being tired of the back country was some time afterwards appointed by Hoare Brothers, the London bankers, to manage their Raincliff Station in South Canterbury. Here he established a successful stud of merino sheep, selecting the foundation from Gibson's flock in Tasmania. He also carried out an enormous scheme of plantations, some of them now taken over by the Forestry Board. He managed and afterwards supervised Raincliff until the Hoares sold it in 1896, also supervised the Opuha Gorge Station, of which he page 316was a trustee. Bad times in the late 'nineties lost him his own farm, Trentham, near Fairlie, so that in 1904 he started life again by taking over the management of William Aker's large properties at Linton, in the Manawatu. Here for ten years he lived a pioneer life again, fighting floods, starting a flax industry, and negotiating Maori leases. He spent the last ten years of a useful life at Palmerston North, none the worse for all his privations, except for a slight deafness caused by sleeping out in the snow in 1864. He died at Palmerston North in June, 1924. One of his sons still manages what the Akers have left of their estate.

William Gerard kept Double Hill until his death in 1897, when his son George Gerard took it over. In those days it carried, with Manuka Point, over 40,000 sheep.

Murdo McLeod came to Double Hill as a shepherd in 1875 and was soon afterwards made manager. He stayed until 1894 and afterwards went up for many years to manage the shed. He was succeeded by one McDonald who left after the 1895 winter. Next came Alfred Cummings who was also supervisor of all Gerard's stations. He left in 1899 and went farming, and died in the North Island about 1928. From 1899 to 1907 William Logan both managed Double Hill and supervised the other stations. George Taylor was manager in 1907 and 1908, and after him came G. Leslie Nell, who stayed until the station was cut up in 1912.

The leases ran out in 1911 and Double Hill was cut into four. George Gerard was allowed the run next Redcliff (now known as Glenrock) which he worked with the freehold. The other three were ballotted for. The top run, Glenfalloch, was drawn by C. T. Jessop and now belongs to James Todhunter. In 1916 Hugh Ensor bought the Double Hill homestead block, and J. D. McCracken, his brother-in-law, bought Glenarraffe. In 1917 P. McCracken bought the Glenrock leasehold and Hugh Ensor and J. D. McCracken bought the freehold in partnership, so that, except Glenfalloch, all Double Hill came under one en-page 317ment again. Hugh Ensor died in July, 1943, and the station is again divided in three amongst the family.

I always try to enliven these accounts of stations with the story of something tragic or comic which has happened on almost all of them. The only story that I have heard connected with Double Hill is that a man was once in a very great hurry to get there from Methven. He rode so fast that he set fire to the country. It was a dry summer, and his horse struck a flint which started a serious fire in a paddock called the Irishman. The paddock is still called the Irishman, though there is hardly an Irishman scrub bush left in it now.

The original owner, Colonel Alexander Lean, was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1824. He came to Canterbury with his wife in the ship Fatima and brought some thousands of pounds capital with him. He was an architect, and among other good buildings in Christchurch, built the Supreme Court. In the early days he lived at Riverlaw at Opawa, which he sold to Murray Aynsley, as well as Mt. Hutt Station, which he also owned. Lean played many parts. After selling Mt. Hutt and Double Hill he had a large property near Methven which he called Lyndhurst (it gave its name to the district), and he was Steward of Government Reserves, Public Trustee, Sheriff, Commander of the Canterbury Volunteers, and founder and first honorary conductor of the Christchurch Orchestral Society. He died in Christchurch in 1893.