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

OrariandPakihi — (Runs 17, 20, 32 and 33 all N.Z.R., afterwards numbered 440, 452 and 470; also 238)

(Runs 17, 20, 32 and 33 all N.Z.R., afterwards numbered 440, 452 and 470; also 238)

South of the Rangitata and beginning at the sea the first station was Pakihi, but as Pakihi was for many years a part of Orari, the station above it, it is convenient to take the two together.

Before it was subdvided, Orari covered all the country between the Rangitata and Orari rivers from the sea to the line of the present road running from the Upper Orari bridge to Proudfoot's Corner.

Colonel Campbell originally allotted this country on 27th September, 1853, in four runs which he numbered 16, 24, 25 and 26. He allotted C. R. Blakiston twenty-five thousand acres from the sea inland. West of Blakiston he allotted twenty thousand acres to W. K. Macdonald. G. W. H. Lee came next with twenty thousand acres, and above Lee came R. J. S. Harman with twenty-five thousand acres. In those days the Orari river was called the ' Cocks.'

Blakiston, Lee and Harman are all mentioned in the accounts of other stations. None of them ever occupied his Orari run, which he either forfeited, aban-page 133doned, or sold to the Macdonald brothers. One of the runs, probably Harman's, was taken up again or purchased by Dr. Barker who could not find stock for it, so sold it to the Macdonalds for £50.

When Brittan took over the administration in 1854, he re-numbered these runs 17, 20, 32 and 33 N.Z.R., and issued them to William Kenneth Macdonald and his brothers (Doctor) Allan Ranald and Angus. In February, 1858, they took up the Rangitata Island (Run 238) under the Canterbury regulations.

The Macdonalds, whom I mentioned as owners of Ashfield and Waireka Stations near Christchurch in the earliest days of the settlement, had owned stations in Victoria before that. A. R. and W. K. Macdonald had landed in New South Wales in 1842 and Angus joined them later.

Just after the arrival of the First Four Ships, W. K. Macdonald brought a ship-load of sheep from Australia to Canterbury in partnership with Joseph Hawdon and J. C. Aitken. There was great risk in shipping sheep in those days. In November, 1852, the Macdonalds shipped 2200 sheep in the Tory from Portland, and only 900 of them reached Lyttelton after a bad passage lasting thirty days. The previous lot, however, got on better, as the Tory only took fifteen days on the voyage.

Orari was one of the first of the South Canterbury stations to be anything like stocked up. The Macdonalds brought sheep there from their northern stations in 1853, and by 1856 had 4000 head on the country and 8000 by 1857.

Both William and Angus Macdonald were on their Canterbury stations from the early 'fifties, but the Doctor did not come down to New Zealand until 1855, and in 1858 he went out of the partnership and returned to Australia, letting his run and sheep to his brothers.

In 1862-3 the Orari runs were brought under the Canterbury regulations, 20 N.Z.R. becoming 452; 32 N.Z.R., 440; and 33 N.Z.R., 470, about sixty thousand acres altogether besides Run 238 of five thousand. page 134Run 17 N.Z.R. disappeared. The reason that thirty thousand acres vanished seems to have been that the runs were originally plotted on an old map which shows the Orari running into the Opihi; and as the valuable piece of country running from the present Orari racecourse to the sea and to the Opihi was almost the only coastal land in South Canterbury which had not been applied for by 1852, it seems most probable that it was reckoned in the area of the Orari runs.

In 1864 W. K. and Angus Macdonald dissolved partnership. Angus took Run 452 which came from the sea up to Badham's road, on which he built his new woolshed and shepherd's hut. He had already built his homestead, Waitui, on the Geraldine downs.

W. K. Macdonald took the other two runs—Run 440 which was in his own name and came to within about half a mile of the Great South Road, and Run 470 which stood in the Doctor's name. In the early days, the Doctor's run, which had been an out-station (on R.S. 3604 B.) on the north bank of Cooper's Creek, was sometimes called the Rangitata Terraces Station. The Orari homestead is on R.S. 3604 A., on the present railway line.

The Macdonalds divided the eight hundred acres of freehold and the sheep equally. There were at the time 25,000 sheep running on the Orari Station, besides 3000 which were running with Jollie at Peel Forest on terms.

W. K. Macdonald died in 1879, after which trustees worked the station for Mrs Macdonald for many years. In 1881-82 they sold nine hundred and fifty acres of the freehold at £12 an acre, which was a very good price for those days.

Mrs Macdonald died in 1901, and the station—which consisted of about eight thousand acres of freehold— was divided among her four sons. The youngest, G. A. M. Macdonald, got the old homestead which his family still owns, and they still use part of the original house built in 1854. The rafters are of split totara and some of the walls are built on split slabs.

W. K. Macdonald managed Orari himself in the page 135early days. A. R. B. Thomson, known as ' Bob '—an old Australian friend—was the first overseer. He afterwards had a run in Otago. E. R. Guinness, who worked on the station as a boy, was a later overseer. He was mixed up with station business in Canterbury until his death, and his son still owns Glentanner in the Mackenzie Country.

Among the early station hands were Tommy Pearce, who helped plant the first trees at Orari and who died in 1928 in the Orari township; ' Billy Gooseberry,' whose real name, William Smith, was never used, was the first bullock driver. ' Billy Gooseberry ' afterwards became fordman at Coppin's Ford on the Rangitata, and was drowned while carrying out his duties. He had piloted some diggers across and when returning he dropped his coat into the water. He galloped along a shingle spit to try and recover it, but fell from his horse and disappeared.

' Old Brown ' did the first ploughing with a wooden plough and bullocks. He got on so badly with the other men that he had to live by himself in a little hut out in the flax. ' Little Irving,' an early teamster, was killed on the station by falling under his dray. William Gartner, a brother of Ellis's partner at Ashley Gorge, was for many years cook. Other early station hands were Boothroyd, sometime overseer, Robert Eaglesome, and Fred Austin, whose son is the present shepherd at Orari.

Charles Steven Totton managed Orari for some years for W. K. Macdonald's executors, as did William Gunn, who left in 1883, but the best known of the later managers was J. M. Murray, who managed from 1883 until 1899, when the management was taken over by W. K. Macdonald junior, son of the first owner. Murray had been managing Glenwye for the Count de Lapasture before he came to Orari.

The Macdonald's country on the Rangitata river-bed was originally separated from the plain by what was called the Rangitata Creek, which generally made a good boundary, and in 1859 was spanned by a 36-foot bridge. Sometimes the creek ran low and the Mac-page 136donalds made a channel to run more water into it from the river, and the old diaries frequently speak of the men being employed to run water in, or turn it off, but in the end the river took charge, and the Rangitata Island was formed. The Macdonalds had to build a woolshed on the island and shear 6000 or 7000 of their sheep there. One of the Macdonalds told John Barton Acland that he only regretted the forming of the Rangitata Island once—and that was always.