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White Wings Vol II. Founding Of The Provinces And Old-Time Shipping. Passenger Ships From 1840 To 1885

Mr. Pavitt's Reminiscences

Mr. Pavitt's Reminiscences.

As mentioned previously, among the people who settled in Canterbury before the arrival of the "first four ships" in December, 1850, was Mr. Edward Pavitt, who arrived at Akaroa in April, nine months before. Recalling those early days Mr. Augustus Reid Pavitt, of Tennyson Street, Christchurch, who is a son of Mr. E. Pavitt, writes:—

"My father and mother, with their family of eight sons and three daughters, arrived in Akaroa by the Monarch, a barque of 365 tons, after a perilous journey of five months, on April 2, 1850. Instead of landing in Auckland, as was our intention, we drifted round the west coast of New Zealand, through Foveaux Straits, up to Banks Peninsula, into Akaroa Harbour, up which we were steered by the help of two boats, as we had lost our rudder some hundreds of miles before we sighted New Zealand.

As we drifted towards the anchorage, several Maori canoes came out to meet us. When the natives came on board, clad in very scanty garments, all the lady passengers retired to their cabins. The steward returned presently with several articles of apparel, which were received with great satisfaction by the natives, especially by one heavily-tattooed old gentleman, whose share of the pakeba clothing was a white bell-topper, which he immediately put on. As he was stepping into the canoe a sailor brought his hand down heavily on the top of the hat, bonneting the poor old fellow, whose white head was forced through the top of the hat. The last I saw of him was when he was trying to restore his prize to its original shape. The natives were never troublesome, and we were always able to maintain friendly relations with them. I remember well old Te Whawha, a splendid looking old native, who had been mainly instrumental in saving part of his tribe from the fury of Te Rauparaha.

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"When we arrived in Akaroa there were about 70 white people on the Peninsula, most of whom were French. All of these have crossed the Great Divide.

"We bought land at Robinson's Bay and set up a sawmill there. Most of the work was done by hand, but we afterwards installed a water-wheel which drove a circular saw with a radius of about 12 inches, and all the flitching had to be done with pit saws. When fifteen years of age I was working in the pit doing a man's work. There were no labour laws then and no time restrictions, and we worked in summer from six in the morning till six at night. A great deal of the timber was used in building houses in Christchurch, being brought up from Akaroa in small vessels (of which we owned three), and unloaded at the old steam wharf on the Heathcote. Although we had had no previous experience in boat-building we managed to build a little ketch of sixty or seventy tons, called the Thetis, which some years after was wrecked on the Kaiapoi Bar.

"I can well remember how excited all were when we heard of the arrival of the 'Four Ships'—even the Maoris were surprised to see 'Plenty men, plenty women, plenty girls'—this with true Maori emphasis. It was several years after we landed that we first tasted beef and mutton here, but hard work gave us a good appetite for the wild pork, pigeons, kakas and fish which he had to shoot or catch before we could have a meal. However, they were easily obtained, so we rarely went hungry for long.

"Our stores we bought from Mr. Peacock, who brought them from Sydney in the brig Torrington (afterwards wrecked at Lyttelton) and the Mountain Maid. Whalers often visited Akaroa. The ships were principally manned by French and American sailors, who came in for wood and water. The Government warships Acheron, a survey boat, and The Fly, bringing Sir George, Grey, arrived in Akaroa in 1850. Other notable visitors to the Peninsula about that time were Bishop Selwyn and Lord Cecil, afterwards the Marquis of Salisbury. Our first bishop was a most noble-looking man. One could not but be impressed by his appearance and manner. He did more to pacify the Maoris than anyone, either Governor or general. He was loved by all his people, both white and brown, and admired for his courage and fearlessness as he travelled from place to place over his large diocese."