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

Waimate — (Runs 39 N.Z.R., 69, 204 and 406)

(Runs 39 N.Z.R., 69, 204 and 406)

Waimate took in the country between the Hook and Waihao rivers, and ran from the sea back to Station Peak and the Hakataramea Downs. Sandford's map, published in London in 1856, shows the seaward part of it as included in Miss Collier's Otaio run, but this is incorrect.

Waimate was taken up early in 1854 by John, Paul, and Michael Studholme, three brothers who arrived in Lyttelton by the Labuan in 1851, John had just left Oxford, Paul was barely twenty, and Michael had just left school and was only seventeen. They came from Cumberland.

Before leaving England the Studholmes had bought a small block of land from the Canterbury Association, and on their arrival they selected this at Governor's Bay, but finding too little scope for their energies, they sold their land and went to the newly discovered gold diggings in Australia. The party consisted of the three brothers and their friend, George Brayshaw, who was also a North-countryman.

At the goldfields they had little luck but many adventures. The diggers were a very lawless lot, and two men always had to watch the camp. Notwithstanding this precaution, they twice had their horses stolen and their tent attacked—fortunately without injury to themselves. After a year of hard work they gave up and returned to Canterbury with just enough money to pay their way to Christchurch. Luckily, when they page 186went to Australia they had left most of their money in the Union Bank.

On their return here they devoted themselves to squatting. They bought a run at Hororata and took up a cattle station at Riverton, in Southland, and a sheep run (which afterwards became Hawkdun Station) in Central Otago. On the journey to Otago they were struck by the country betwen the Makikihi and Waihao, and decided to take it up as well.

The brothers were all in partnership, but divided their labours: Paul managed the Hororata run, John was the business man of the firm, and spent most of the 'fifties in exploring and looking for country, while Michael went down to start the new station, Waimate.

He rode down beside his bullock dray, which carried a load of necessaries. His bullock driver was Saul Shrives. Shrives afterwards had a store in Waimate and managed his accounts very well though he could neither read nor write. Studholme arrived on the new run on 18th July, 1854, after a journey of six weeks. It was winter and the creeks were flooded and the track was not well defined, and ceased altogether at Timaru. The Rhodes's were already at the Levels, the Macdonalds at Orari, and the Hornbrooks at Arowhenua; but the only stations south of Timaru which had been started were Harris and Innes's Pareora, and possibly Waikakahi. Studholme first camped at the Point Bush; the Maori pa stood at a corner of the bush about half a mile away.

The morning after his arrival, Studholme paid a formal call on the Chief, Uru Uru, and they made a compact to respect each other's rights. This compact was faithfully kept, and the two, who seemed to understand each other, lived in harmony until Uru Uru's death in 1861.

The chief was a fine-looking old man. His whole face was deeply tattooed. He had a broad high brow, and bright piercing eyes; but his body below the chest was paralysed and he could move only his arms.

After some time John Studholme and Brayshaw came down to the station, and they all chose the pre-page 187sent site for the homestead. The brothers and Brayshaw built the slab hut and Shrives thatched it. It was all built out of one totara tree. This hut, known as ' The Cuddy,' is still standing in the garden at Waimate —Shrives's thatch still remains under many succeeding coatings.

A part of Waimate at one time seems to have been held by Philip Lloyd Francis, Colonel Muter's partner, who is given in an old stock return as having 2000 sheep there in 1857-58, but these sheep may have been run on terms with the Studholmes; anyhow he sold the sheep to the Studholmes very soon afterwards.

In 1856 George Brayshaw took up a small run near the Hook River, which he sold to the Studholmes in 1862. His hut stood where Nicholas's house is now.

In January, 1857, the Studholmes took up twentyfive thousand acres more country in the Waihao Forks under the Canterbury Regulations. By this time they had nearly 5000 sheep on the station. In 1858 Paul Studholme sold his interests to his brothers and went to live in King's County, in Ireland, where he died in 1900.

By 1860, the station was emerging from the pioneer stage. The first gums were planted in that year and Michael Studholme built the original part of the present house. This was built of the best heart of totara and remained sound and serviceable until it was burnt down with all its contents in 1928. Studholme also married, and he and his wife rode down from Christchurch. Mrs Studholme was one of those cultivated English women who were not afraid to face the hardships of colonial life. She has left a lively account of her experiences on the station, which is unfortunately difficult to get now; and she wrote very graceful poetry.

The Studholmes bought Retribution from Frank Brittan after he had won the first steeplechase held in Canterbury. ' Wayfarer,' in his notes about Early Grand Nationals (Press, 10th August, 1925) mentions Retribution as having won a steeplechase in the middle 'sixties, but Mrs Michael Studholme in her Reminis-page 188cences speaks of his being used as a hack at Waimate when she went there in 1860, so, unless she is mistaken, it looks as if the race must have been run early in that year, or before. Retribution was a very ratty horse, but was never known to tire on a journey. Michael Studholme once rode him from Timaru to Waimate—30 miles—in two and a-half hours, a wonderful performance for a horse carrying 16 stone. Retribution's hoof is still preserved at Waimate in an inkstand and is about as perfect in shape as a hoof can be.

Until about 1864 the house was the post office for the surrounding district. Baines, the postman, brought a fortnightly mail from Christchurch on horseback, the mails being carried in leather bags on a led horse. Before this Baines had been a cook for the Studholmes in the Cuddy, and he was always welcome, being full of gossip and news. His daily stages were: Christchurch to Acton Station on the Rakaia, Acton to the Macdonald's Orari Station, Orari to the Royal Hotel at Timaru, thence to Waimate, and next day to the Waitaki, returning to Waimate the same day and then back to Christchurch in the same stages. He took a great pride in getting through up to time.

During the 'sixties, William Moorhouse, a younger brother of Sefton Moorhouse, the Superintendent who built the Lyttelton Tunnel, managed Waimate, and Edward Hume Cameron (who afterwards managed the station for so many years), worked under him as a boy. Before this, John Ledwick had been overseer and Hamish Mackintosh head shepherd. Michael Studholme went home to England in 1863; during his absence the John Studholmes lived at Waimate. The names of Knottingly Park at Waimate and the horse Knottingly, also Mount Ellen, are reminiscent of their stay, Knottingly being the name of Mrs John Studholme's old home in Yorkshire, and Ellen her Christian name.

Returning early in 1865, Michael Studholme brought out the first hares to South Canterbury, John Molloy, a fellow passenger, looking after them. Most page 189of them died in the hot weather, but enough survived to stock the country. For some time they were kept in an enclosure at Waimate.

In 1867 outsiders began buying freehold on the run, and the Studholmes had an anxious time trying to protect it. It was in 1867, also, that they began to fence in anything but the smallest paddocks. About that time the Waimate township began to take shape. Dan Brown, the first butcher, once offered a novelty in the way of meat. A travelling showman had the bad luck to get his elephant tooted near Waitaki, and Brown cut off the trunk and displayed it in his shop. The rest of the elephant was buried in the riverbed and Tom Teschemaker, of Otaio, used to say that when the river, hundreds of years hence, exposes the bones, the geologists will prove that elephants once roamed over the Waitaki plains. I have since heard, however, that the bones were afterwards dug up and sold to a museum. By 1870 Waimate carried 36,500 sheep, and by 1874 the greater part of the freehold had been bought.

The year 1878-79 was a bad one for everyone in Canterbury, but especially for the Studholmes. There was a drought, and prices fell very suddenly. On 15th November a terrible nor'-wester came and the Waimate Bush caught fire in several places. The Point Bush was saved, the station employing something like a hundred men to keep back the fire. Ambrose Potts, the manager, was badly burned. The fire did an enormous amount of damage, millions of feet of valuable timber being destroyed as well as buildings and fences. Several fires had been burning near the bush when the nor'-wester came, and one of these had been lighted by some of the Studholmes' men. The Studholmes were the most substantial people concerned, so all those who had suffered loss proceeded against them for damages. The Studholmes proved that it was not their fire which had started the bush fire, but the expense of proving it was great, one firm of lawyers alone sending in a bill for £6000. The small part of the bush saved, known as the Point Bush, stood until recent times when it was cut down and sold page 190for a song. It is a pity that the people of Waimate did not preserve it for the sake of their town.

At this time, though they had sold their Otago and Hororata runs, the Studholmes between them owned Coldstream and Waimate in Canterbury, and Owhaoko and Murimoto in the North Island, on which runs the combined shearing tally was for some years 115,000 sheep. In addition they held a large share of Opuha Gorge, Kakahu, Greta Peaks and Lowcliffe in Canterbury, and Raglan, a cattle run, in the North Island.

Most of these stations were in the back country, all wool from Owhaoko and Murimoto having to be sent to Napier on pack horses for 60 and 100 miles respectively. They were all being developed at the same time, and a huge sum of money was necessary to keep them all going, most of it coming out of Waimate and Coldstream. John and Michael Studholme dissolved partnership in 1879, Michael taking Waimate and John taking some of the other properties in part payment. Soon after the brothers divided, there was another sharp fall in prices—the 'eighties being lean years. The Waimate sheep were valued at 8/6 a head in 1886 and wool at £11 a bale. Things were so bad in the 'eighties that a third share in Raglan Station was offered by John Studholme for sale on these terms: any one would be given £7500 to take the third share provided he would take over the liability of that share, which was £14,000. Raglan at that time consisted of two thousand acres of freehold and ninety-six thousand acres of leasehold and carried 3500 head of cattle.

In 1880 Waimate consisted of forty-six thousand acres of freehold and just over twenty thousand acres of leasehold, and carried 82,000 sheep, including lambs, 2500 head of cattle, and 350 horses. About four thousand acres of land were under crop each year, and twenty station teams were employed, besides contractors. By 1886 two thousand acres of the freehold had been sold, and between 1886 and 1895, twelve thousand eight hundred and ninety-three acres were sold for £80,946, in order to reduce the debt. Most of, this page 191land was thrown away, some of the best Willowbridge land being sacrificed at £15 and £16 an acre. It is now worth anything up to £70.

The outgoings on the station at that time were enormous. The yearly interest amounted to £15,000 and the working and other expenses came to £11,000, so that £26,000 a year had to be paid out before any profit could be taken.

Michael Studholme died in 1886. The manager for thirty years from about 1870, with a short interval, was Edward Hume Cameron. Since then the management has been in the hands of Michael Studholme's sons.

The Stud Holmes lost the leasehold country in 1889 and since then it has belonged to the Hayes family, of Centre wood. By 1895 the freehold was down to about 31,000 acres. Wool at that time was worth about £10 a bale, and the best hoggets fetched 8/6 a head. William Grant once bought 2000 fat withers, the pick of 4,000, for 6/-a head. The other 2000 were frozen and shipped on Studholme's account and netted just over 6/-a head. At one time they sold merino wether mutton at Waimate at 1/-a side. Since 1895 the property has been gradually reduced in size, until at present there are only two thousand five hundred acres left.

In its palmy days Waimate was noted for its cattle and horses, the Bell brand being known from one end of New Zealand to the other, and even in Melbourne and Sydney, where many of the horses were used in the trams.

The cattle were Shorthorns and latterly were culled for colour as well as constitution—no whites were bred from, as it was found that the light colours would not stand the hard winters as well as the deeper reds and roans. At three years old, the steers used to kill about 900 lb. off grass. Dealers came from all parts and bought, say, a pick of 350 steers out of 400, at prices varying from £6 to £20, according to the market. John Grigg, of Longbeach, was one of the chief buyers,. Standish, his manager, usually coming down for the cattle. Most of these were sent to the West Coast goldfields, where they fetched big prices. Another large buyer page 192for the Coast was James McLeish.

The cattle at Waimate were as wild as any other station cattle at the time, which was saying a good deal, and the annual muster was one of the events of the year. All the neighbours for miles round came to lend a hand—even the sergeant of police joined in. The cattle yards were on the flat at the Hook River, opposite Nicholas's house. They were specially built for handling wild cattle and had man-holes by the gates, so that a man could slip out quickly when a beast charged. The old stockmen were very plucky and would go into a yard amongst the wildest cattle with a short stick, and it was wonderful how they could draft them and run them through the proper gate.

I wish I had more space for Waimate cattle draftingstories; how a cow caught old Jim, and threw him right over a six-foot fence, and went snorting round the yard with part of his trousers on her horn; how a newchum had a theory that if you turned your back on a beast and stooped down, and looked at him through your legs he wouldn't charge, and how a noted poley bullock completely exploded his theory.

There was a famous rider called George Hyde, who was a great hand with a stockwhip. He was supposed to be able to hold the stalk of a daisy in his mouth and cut the flower off with a fifteen-foot whip, without touching his face. Drawing half-driven corks out of bottles standing on the ground, with his whip, without knocking over the bottles, was child's play to Hyde.

For many years the cows were left in the yards at weaning and the calves driven away from them. This was a tremendous job, and many a good horse was ridden to a standstill in the process. It suddenly occurred to someone that it would be much easier to leave the calves in the yards, and drive the cows away first. This alteration saved a lot of hard work.

Harris, of Waikakahi, was a great lover of horses, and in his time the horses belonging to the two stations used to run together, their paddock being the whole front country between the Waitaki and Hook rivers. When found, the horses were run into the page 193 nearest yards. Horsemen were sent to various points beforehand to turn them.

The original mares were a well-bred lot from Australia, some of them having Arab blood.

A number of good stallions were used at Waimate. Amongst them were Sir Charles, Malton, Caledon, Knottingly, Guy Fawkes, Ilam, Kauri, Borderman, Cajolery, and Conqueror. Stormbird belonged to the Studholmes and Harris in partnership. To get size, a dash of Suffolk Punch blood was introduced, and the mares were then mated with thoroughbreds again. This produced horses like Bredonhill, big upstanding sorts and fine jumpers, with a fair amount of pace. Bredonhill jumped 32 feet 6 inches over the water jump at Kirwee, with George Rutherford on his back, and he ran second in the Grand National. Guy Fawkes sired Freeman, a National winner, and probably more first-class hunters and journey horses than any other horse we ever had in Canterbury. I had a Guy Fawkes mare myself on which I rode from Christchurch to Blenheim in five days, and from Christchurch to Mt Peel in eighteen hours. Curiously enough, she had been taken out of training because she could not stay six furlongs. Young horses were cheap enough in those days—£10 was about the average price for an unbroken three-year-old.

Some of the earliest steeplechases in Canterbury were on the Waimate run. For three years—from 1873 onwards—they were run at Willowbridge, and afterwards nearer the Homestead.

Charlie Bird used to tell a story of Michael Studholme trying to make up his mind how he should invest a thousand pounds he happened to have in Dunedin: whether he should buy five hundred acres near the town at £2 an acre, or a shipload of horses from Melbourne. He chose the horses, to get a quicker return. The land he did not take is now occupied by South Dunedin.

Once in the very early days, John and Michael Studholme went south of Dunedin to take delivery of a large mob of cattle that they had bought, but a big page 194rise in prices had come suddenly, and to get out of the transaction the dealer said he would not take their cheque on a Christchurch bank. The brothers decided that the quickest way to get the money was to walk to Christchurch for it, as the track was very bad, and no steamer was due to leave for some time. John lost the toss and started straight off for Christchurch and got back in time for the delivery, and so saved the situation. This great walk was accomplished in something under three weeks, John Studholme being very much exhausted by the time he reached Dunedin again.

He was ferried across the Waitaki in flood by a Maori on a raft; the Maori was suspected of having drowned more than one traveller for the sake of his blankets. Just before starting the Maori began to tie the blankets on the raft, saying: ' If we capsize the blankets safe.' 'No,' said Studholme, 'if we capsize the blankets must go too! '

On his return journey he got to the Macdonald's Orari Station on the night of a dinner party, and, much to his disgust, fell asleep at the table.

When the Studholmes first took up what was known as the Waimate Swamp, people thought they were mad, and this country, near the sea, was certainly a great sink for money—some of it costing more to drain and clear than it was afterwards sold for. The main swamp started below Willowbridge and ran right to Makikihi, hundreds of acres being simply quaking bog covered with nigger-heads and rushes. There were thousand and thousands of pukaki in the swamp, and thousands of ducks on the open water of the creeks and lagoons. It was generally considered that about two hours was sufficient for two guns to fill a buggy with from seventy to a hundred birds.

There was another flax belt running from the Waimate Gorge to the sea, which was very wide in places. The sound country was closely covered with cabbage trees—always a sign of good land.

Waimate was a great place for wild pigs. A contract was let for pig-killers every year for anything up to a page 195thousand. The price was 9d a tail for the first five hundred and 1/-a tail afterwards. Some of the pighunters became very expert at making artificial tails out of raw-hide and including them in their bundles of twenty.

Some of the early station hands may be mentioned. In the 'sixties most of the shepherds were Scotchmen, as the following names show—Angus McKinnon, Donald McKinnon, William McLeod, James Anderson, and Murdoch Elder. Other names appearing on the station books in the 'sixties are: John Jacobs, Richard Wellwood, John Horgan, William Morton, Gordon Gunn, John Molloy, and John Cochrane.

In those days shepherds were paid £60 to £65 a year, and ordinary station hands £1 to 25/-a week. In spite of the small wages they got, many of the above men afterwards had farms of their own and some of them became wealthy.

Length of time in the ownership of one family, the value of the land and the financial vicissitudes of its owners, traditions of boundless hospitality and un-limited sport, and the grand scale on which operations were carried on, all combine to make Waimate, to my mind, the most interesting station in the province. Its history is the history of squatting in Canterbury, in a nut-shell, and that is why I have written so much about it.