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White Wings Vol I. Fifty Years Of Sail In The New Zealand Trade, 1850 TO 1900

The Fifeshire

The Fifeshire.

Wrecked at Nelson on Her Maiden Voyage.

When on her maiden voyage, the ship Fifeshire, which brought out the first settlers to Nelson, was wrecked. She was trying to get out of the port after landing her passengers. Owing to the ignorance of the pilot, coupled with the failure of the wind, the vessel was carried on to the rocks by the tide, and fell broadside on to the Arrow reef, named after the brig Arrow, one of the expedition ships of the New Zealand Land Company, and the first vessel to enter the port, two months before the Fifeshire. In sailing up the channel the brig touched the reef which was afterwards given her name.

It was February 1, 1842, that the Fifeshire arrived in Nelson, and the next vessel was the ship Lloyds, which arrived on the 10th of the same month with the wives and children of the immigrants. The Lloyds was an old craft, with wretched accommodation, and she was overcrowded, as many of the early ships were. In rough weather the unfortunate immigrants had to spend hours below, cooped up in their close, dark quarters, lit by smelling oil lamps, and there was much suffering and misery. No less than 65 children died on the passage. There had also been a good deal of sickness on the Fifeshire, 17 dying of fever.

Fashions Astonish Maoris.

Referring to the Fifeshire's arrival, the Nelson "Examiner" said that as the ladies (cabin passengers), dressed in the London fashions of 1841, were carried ashore from the ship's boats the Maoris broke into loud exclamations of wonder and delight. "Kapai!" "Kapai te wahine!" "Kapai te piccaninny!" said the astonished natives, who, though familiar enough with white men, had never before seen the prevailing European fashions for women and children. And no wonder they were astonished.

Wheelbarrows were the only means of conveyance when the ship arrived, and were in great request, being kept going day and night. Soon, however, a man named Sam Phelps, with a youthful assistant named Ben, arrived from Port Nicholson (Wellington) with a dray and team of bullocks. His team consisted of a celebrated bullock, "Shortland," and two other bullocks almost equally well known. Sam, an original character, was brought on one occasion before Lieut. Shortland, Magistrate and Colonial Secretary. Sam paid his fine, and promptly christened one of his team after the unpopular Acting-Governor. The next time he met the stately and pompous Colonial Secretary on Lambton Quay the air rang with oaths and objurgations to the unhappy bullock.

Annoyed the Acting-Governor.

When Sam roared "Gee up, Shortland, or I'll cut your —— tail off, you brute!" the passing magistrate haughtily inquired if he was referring to him. Amidst shouts of the bystanders' laughter Sam replied, "I wasn't speaking to you; I was only speaking to my bullock." The christening was such a success that the names of Sam's bullocks were continually being changed to the names of the last magistrate who fined him and the last policeman who arrested him.

Sam started his first day's work in Nelson by earning £11 before dinner by carting a Mr. Cottrell's goods and chattels, but the afternoon found him under his dray oblivious to the world. Later, competition arrived in the shape of a dray with a black horse, which not only worked all day, but was handier in going into the water to the ship's boats, and, as Sam said, "spoilt the business." The black horse was very vicious, and had an antipathy to Maoris. Many an astonished native was glad to find himself naked with a whole skin and only his blanket in the horse's teeth.