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


page 77

Otago settlement was the last of the New Zealand Company's ventures, and it has certainly proved not the least successful. After an upheaval people are always restless and ready for great adventures, and Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who seems to have been a most astute observer of human nature, was quick to see the possibilities of the great movement in Scotland which resulted in the disruption of the Church of Scotland and the establishment of the Free Chuch. To the pagan outsider it is rather difficult to distinguish one from the other—they are all simply Presbyterians—but to a Scot such things as these are the very warp and woof of life. Knowing that there would be thousands of people north of Tweed whose minds would be in a state of unrest, Wakefield got into touch with some friends and put forward the idea of a Free Church settlement in New Zealand. Committees were formed in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and much propaganda work was done. The scheme hung fire at first, and was delayed by the Maori War of 1845, but the enthusiasm of the Rev. Thomas Burns, a nephew of Robert Burns, eventually led to the sale of enough land to satisfy the requirements of the New Zealand Company, and preparations were made to dispatch the first ships.

Strangely enough, Canterbury might to-day have been Scottish in tone instead of so very English. What are now the Canterbury Plains at the back of Akaroa had for several years been regarded as a certain site for a settlement by the heads of the company in Wellington, and when the Scots project assumed definite shape it was proposed to locate the settlers on that fine stretch of country. Mr. Tuckett, chief surveyor of the Nelson settlement, who was instructed to lay off the site of the new settlement, suggested that before anything definite was done he should be given permission to explore the more southern part of the Middle Island, as it was then known. This was given, and the result was that Tuckett selected Otago as the site of what was then called the "New Edinburgh Settlement."

A block of 400,000 acres of land was purchased from the Maoris, but this transaction was very different from the rather doubtful purchases of the company that led to such trouble at Wellington, Nelson, and Taranaki. The land was purchased by the Crown through a trusted agent, Mr. George Clarke, and part of it subsequently conveyed to the New Zealand Company by grant from the Crown. This was probably the first real title the company possessed for all the thousands of acres it acquired.

It was in 1844 that the site was chosen, and in 1846 the preliminary work of surveying and laying off an equal proportion of page 78 town, suburban, and rural allotments was begun by Mr. Charles H. Kettle, who had been appointed chief surveyor to the settlement.

Negotiations for the purchase of land in Otago from the natives was begun in 1840, and continued up to 1847. Towards the end of 1844 we find two families connected by marriage settling down in this very out of the way corner in a very out of the way country. These were the McKays and the Andersons. The McKays settled at Koputai, which is now called Port Chalmers, and the Andersons settled on what is to-day called Anderson's Bay. The McKays started an inn called "The Surveyors' Arms" on the site that is now occupied by the Port Chalmers Hotel. Both families must have had a very hard struggle to make a bare living, but no doubt they felt that such a fine country must eventually attract settlement, and their confidence was rewarded one February day in 1846 when a whaleboat came up the "river," as the whalers used to call the harbour inlet or "loch," to use a good old Scots word. In the boat were Mr. Kettle, surveyor, and party, who had come to lay out the "New Edinburgh," for such was the first name suggested, but eventually "Dunedin" was chosen, and one must pay a tribute to the innate good taste of the Scot for having hit on this musical and happy name, which, as even the mere Sassenach knows, is the old Celtic one of Edinburgh.