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

The Smart Ship Norwood

The Smart Ship Norwood.

Captain Mercer's Battery.

"The manner in which she came up the harbour was the admiration of all nautical critics. She worked like a top, shot like a dart whilst in stays, and never lost an inch of ground." Thus the newspaper account of the arrival of the clipper ship Norwood at Auckland on March 4, 1861. We must admit that those old-time skippers were great sailors. Evidently the wind was westerly, and to work a full-rigged ship up the comparatively narrow harbour called for real seamanship. And Captain Bristow, of the Norwood, seems to have been a past master of his calling. "A smarter ship more smartly handled we have rarely seen," is the newspaper's comment on the performance. On this occasion the Norwood, which was under charter to the Shaw, Savill Co., left Deal on November 25, 1860, and made the passage in 99 days. The year 1861 was a memorable one in Auckland, as it saw the arrival of large numbers of troops for the purpose of quelling the Maoris.

On this trip the Norwood brought Captain Mercer's company of artillery, with its battery of seven Armstrong guns, the total number of people on board being 291, including officers, gunners, women and children. Captain Mercer, after whom the township of Mercer, on the Waikato, was named, was mortally wounded on November 20, 1863, at the capture of Rangiriri, one of the strongest of the fortifications thrown up by the Maoris, and many of his men fell there also. As the strength of the work was well known, it seems surprising that General Cameron should have ordered 36 artillerymen, and after their repulse 90 seamen, to assault so formidable a palisading, surrounded by rifle-pits. The artillerymen belonged to Captain Mercer's battery, and they were led by that gallant officer. All they were armed with was their revolvers.

The fortification was eventually taken, but the losses on the British side were heavy, the killed and wounded numbering 130. One of the guns belonging to Mercer's battery is now in the Albert Park, Auckland, among the other old guns and warlike relics.

The Royal Irish.

the Norwood made two more passages to Auckland. Her second appearance was on August 5, 1863, after a passage of 112 days from Spithead. On that trip she brought out the remainder (124 men) of the 18th (Royal Irish, Regiment, 13 men of the Royal Engineers, 25 boys of the Royal Navy, and five men, including an instructor, for the Armstrong guns. The officers on board included Colonel Carey, Captain Kemp, Captain Brooke, Lieut. Marsland, Assistant-Surgeon Spencer, and Mr. Matravers, of the purveyor's department. Mesdames Carey, Kemp, Matravers, and Marsland were also on board.

The Royal Irish Regiment was always closely associated with Auckland, as many of the men remained in the colony after the war, and up to within the last couple of years the survivors used to gather round the statue of Queen Victoria every anniversary and recall the old times.

The only unusual incident on this second passage of the Norwood was the falling overboard and drowning of one of the boys of the Royal Navy who were coming out to join the warships then stationed in New Zealand waters.

the Norwood's third trip, still in command of Captain Bristow, was made in 1866. She left Gravesend on April 28, and reached Auckland on August 11. She brought out cargo and 65 passengers. In the Southern Ocean she struck a hurricane, which carried away the quarter galley and top-gallant bulwark besides doing other damage.