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The Diary of James Brogden, August 1871 – December 1872

Auckland, Jan 25 1872

page 35

I find it perfectly hopeless to find the time to sit down and write a full account of my travels and doings. As now the actual work begins and having to organise for its procedure, I have had to go out a good deal. Up to the present time, we have only commenced on a short length of Railway, for the Government are very slow in their operations. I have however, looked over as much as possible so as to be quite prepared.

My last letter was dated at Christmas from Wellington. On the 27th Dec, we sailed with Mr Vogel, Col. Feilding, and the ladies belonging to Mr Vogel’s family in the Govt. Steamer “Luna”. We had on board also Mr Webb, who contracts for the Mail service from San Francisco hereto. So that it was remarked the hopes of New Zealand were on board. I think I have previously mentioned Col. Feilding as the brother of Lord Denbigh, who came out to establish a scheme of immigration. A very poor boat for comfort was the “Luna. The captain however, a real good sailor, He gave us long yarns of his doings during the Maori War, and confirmed the general opinion that after all there is something good and noble in the race. See 44. The way in which they formed their pahs was by casting out trenches in the form of a square, but with 4 projecting angles so as to command each side, thus Many of the various places I have seen are such as to be formidable indeed when defended by brave fellows such as those turned out to be. General Cameron was a brave soldier, but with 10,000 troops at his command made but little impression on the native warriors. I cannot relate page 36 all the incidents we have heard, but were the British public to realise what arduous fights were encountered here, they would think the Maoris not to be despised. I often wonder how the colony has been able to stand after England withdrew the troops. The white population are now compelled to served to a large extent. Volunteer troops are encouraged, and by a fortunate hit. Mr Vogel got a large stand of rifles at £1 each and established cadet corps at the schools and colleges. Boys are drilled, and Dunny had a rifle put in his hands this half-year. I am told that during the war the boys puzzled the Maories more than any others, as they got thro’ the Bush so readily, never knowing danger and fought so as to command the admiration of the Warriors among the Maories. (See 36a)

I think I have before described the Coast as wild, but we again pass Mount Egmont seen for some 60 miles away, its top above the clouds, and snow-clad. It rises from the plain in conical form, and though seen before is still a grand sight, and at any time impressive. At the base and all round, the land is good. It was about this part that Col. Whitmore effected such marches through the bush with a mere handful of disorganised civilians. The troops were withdrawn by England and the Colony left to itself, abandoned in the hour of need. I think it was a cruel thing to do;- however the Maories were beaten and peace preserved; and the white man has since been more reasonable.

Along this Coast lies the so called Taranaki Sand containing a large quantity of Iron, and in some places sufficient page 36a Captain Fairchild informed us that he carried 200 natives the other day, and the difficulty in landing them was considerable. Many of them had never seen the sea before, and they all hesitated about going first, but as the Steamer could not be detained, he pushed one man over into the boat, and ordered the others to be pitched in after him whereupon they quickly took to the boats, creating great fun. They are generally good-tempered, and on every hand, and from every one we hear of the bravery of this race. “Kereopa” has been condemned to die for the murder of the Rev. Mr Volcknor whom he hanged, and when the body was taken down, he took out the eyes of his victim, and standing out before his countrymen said “These eyes have seen the destruction of my race. I now eat them that our race may again flourish”. It is said that the head was cooked and eaten! A reward of £1,000 was offered for the arrest of Kereopa, the originator of the Hauhau religion, who was given up by Ropara, a Chief and his clan, and afterwards executed, “dying” as he said “as befits a [gap — reason: unclear] Maori in the Hauhau faith” The Reward was divided by Ropara equally among all his people.

[See Page 36 for continuation] page 37 gold to pay for washing. Coal is also said to exist. The Coast is simply alive with fish and we saw some 5 or 6 sperm whales sporting close to the ship. A profitable industry might be made by fisheries, and curing the fish, for there are shoals and shoals and easily caught. There is, however one peculiarity, which may however arise from inexperience in curing the fish, viz that those cured here contain or absorb so much salt as to make them far beyond my palate.

Insert 36a

We enter Manakau Harbour for Auckland thro’ the rolling surf which I described when leaving Auckland at first; pass by the place where H.M.S. “Orpheus” was lost in the breakers with all hands;- and we sail up the beautiful lake – like harbour. A special “Cobbs” coach on the American principle awaits our arrival and we drive with a dashing four-in-hand over the Peninsula 9 miles to Auckland City to stay at the Northern Club.

The climate of Auckland is so very different to that of Wellington that I wonder how they came to remove the seat of Government from here. It is hotter, but not so windy as at Wellington, - and exceedingly pretty. The Country is burnt up; 3 months of dry weather has spoiled the Crops and the cattle and sheep are suffering. There is no fresh butter to be had today, and no eggs in Auckland this morning! Why eggs fail is a mystery, but so it is. Meat is however cheap, say about s 2 ½ for mutton and s 3 to 4 per lb for Beef. The water is filthy, and the drainage of the City so bad that I wonder the place is ever free from epidemic. The view from my room down towards the Thames Gold Field District is very charming page 38 Poor Bishop Patterson’s yacht lies in sight now dismantled. The next 9 or 10 days are taken up with walking over the Railway, seeing plans, &c. until Mr Vogel leaves with Mr Webb for Sydney, and Col. Feilding for England.

We start work on the order of the Government upon 3 miles of Railway – plans for other parts not being ready; -and on the 10th we leave in a Steamer called the “Coomrang” for the Bay of Islands, with the Supt of the Province Mr Gillies; the Minister of Public Works, Mr Ormond; the Member for Bay Islands Mr McLeod, Caruthers and Henderson. It is about 120 miles from Auckland, - the coast is pretty, but as we had a rough passage no one could enjoy the sail. The harbour formed by the Islands is about as good as could be made and most extensive. I should think it would easily hold the navies of the World. We passed thro’ an opening of about 300 yards in width, with rocks perpendicularly to 1000 feet in height on either side, and rounding Cape Brett enter smooth water, and arrive at Russel, the first settlement in New Zealand and where the British Flag was first planted. The Maoris considering it an insult cut it down, and war ensued. Heke was the native leader who drove the white man away. The Town was burned and the people were thus compelled to remove to some other place. and Auckland was then chosen as the Seat of Government. Looking at the places where the fights occur the conclusion is irresistible that these wild men must have been brave and daring. They very much admired Lieut. Philpots for his bravery;- he was nephew to the late Bishop of Exeter. His intrepid daring so excited page 39 the Maoris who that they would have spared him if they could; but he was afterwards killed at Pakereka, not far from Russel, much lamented by them. It is by this, one is struck with the nobility of the race. The Missionaries, however, returned, and own the best lands and farms;- but tho’ the churches are also there, I see little effect on the Black people. We were to have been at a large native meeting they had races for 2 days before we arrived, but we saw very little of the people, except some women and men who sat on the ground gambling all day and all night without intermission. Good humour prevails however, and they appear as happy as possible. They say the white man has introduced religion and rum but they like the latter the best. Dunny (who has his holidays now) and is with me, sleeps at the Mine Manager’s house, and a miserable night with heat and mosquitoes we have.

Next morning we go down the Coal Mine. The seam is 14 feet thick, and seems pretty fair coal. It took a whole day to look over this, and to examine the field and the Railway. Already from 3 to 4 miles of a Railway is at work on the 4-8 ½ gauge -0 this must be made over again as it is sometimes 4 feet under water. The Colliery Works are like those at Park but very badly laid out, - and great saving could be effected in the working. At evening Mr Ormond, Mr McLeod and self set off on horseback into the interior some 30 miles and put upstayed with a Mr Clark, a settler from Hampshire in England. He and his kind hearted wife made us very comfortable and we learned that he had done well. The land is very miserable. We were at once “one of the family”, - and we sat chatting and smoking as if old friends, until it was late. We learned that he had bought 300 to 400 acres of good land, knew his business before coming out, and had done well. The land is very miserable page 40 near the Mines, but becomes good at Puke Nui (big hill), the volcanic mountain 2800 feet high shewn on the maps. We ascended this, and had a most extensive view from coast to coast, and thus obtained a good idea of the land and country. Next day we rode some 22 miles further up country by the Lake, and to the so called Canadian settlement or Bush Land. Much discontentment was expressed by the settlers on account of the heavy Bush and outlay for clearing. Here I first saw the great Kauri Tree; - it is a splendid timber, and reminded me of the great Wellingonias I had seen on the Sierra Nevada in California.

We lunched with one of the earliest settlers, the Rev. George Clarke, Waimate, Bay of Islands, who has seen the growth of the whole Colony. He had reared a very nice lot of vines, and I promised to send him a Book on the Cordon principle. This Gentlemen has done much good in acclimatisation. We were much interested in our hurried visit and it was a hard thing to leave [gap — reason: illegible] to the Mines for the steamer that [gap — reason: illegible] beasts, had nothing but a bite of [gap — reason: illegible]ed out in the paddock the night. [gap — reason: illegible] How they carried us at a hard gallop so far, I cannot think. At dusk we made the Waitangi Falls, which are pretty – they are about 18 feet high, and were 100 yards wide in the dry weather. At the Store we found Judge Manning [sic: Maning], the hero of the War in the North and the writer of it. I hope you have got the Book, I had only a short conversation wit him, but I was ambitions to see him. He is indeed a Pakea Maori, and a fine specimen of a man. We then took a boat and rowed some six miles down the bay to the Steamer and left that night for Auckland. We had calm weather, and on our way down called on Sir George Grey at his island Kawau. He shewed us all round his domicile and grounds which are very pretty. but the dry The House is of Wood, and in the Library are many curiosities obtained during the Maori War. Those who have lived there describe it as enchanting, but the dry page 41 weather had spoiled the appearance of the vegetation. He has planted Norfolk Island Pine, Aloe and[gap — reason: unclear] numerous kinds of trees, and I expect under ordinary circumstances his place would have a greater charm than just now. He said the Dunny that he remembered his Cousins very well – and asked us over to stay with him, but I doubt much the possibility of our so doing. He had turned loose some red deer, and theywhich have done well, and he is going to shoot some this season. There is also a sort of [gap — reason: unclear] Kangaroo, which is wild on this island, - and also some wild cattle.

For two days [gap — reason: unclear] on our return we were occupied with plans and works; - but on the Tuesday following we left to go over the route of the Waikato Railway from Auckland. We drive 38 miles to Mercer, - and from thence the owners of some mines conveyed us by special Steamer to the Manager’s House where we stayed all night. The heat of the day had been something terrible, the wind with us, and the dust extraordinary. There was nothing particularly interesting on the journey – except perhaps the river banks covered, as they were, with rank vegetation, and the natives who were in numbers cutting flax for the mills. The R

The River Waikato springs from the Hot Lakes of Taupo, and is a fine wide river, the water of which is soft and beautiful. We bathed in its luxurious stream, and went into our hosts quarters. He was an Irishman from Belfast, a good-natured fellow indeed, but with somewhat the Irish idea of comfort. The mosquitoes were in the thousands and the heat terrible. We had to sleep in the best room however, but unfortunately on a feather bed. There were no page 42 proper mosquito curtains and to keep out these pests we were obliged to close doors and windows and suffocate. We had a wretched night, - no sleep – and were covered with bites. Oh! for the comforts of home, and bravo for Old England where no such things bother you – such were our thoughts, - but the brightest of mornings the charming bath in the river and our host’s good humour dissipate all our complaints and we start to see the mine, - and a wonderful place it is. The Coal was taken out by the Government during the Maori War. It is a seam 18 feet high. Our good host had ordered candles to be placed all round the galleries, which are most extensive, making it like a fairy scene. The openings are about 25 feet wide and 18 ft high, level, and of considerable length. In the midst of the Coal, which is bright like Cannel coal, is a sort of gum, like resin. It is called resinite, - not usual in our coals – altho’ it is so here. Dunny got some of this himself as a curiosity.

There is a substance found in the Bay of Biscay Islands, called Kauri Gum, which occurs in the country where the Kauri Timber has grown, and is found by probing the ground with an iron rod; - it is supposed to have exuded from the tree as resin does. So I believe this Resinite has been formed originally in the forest now converted into coal.

After looking over the Mines, a Steamer was specially put on to take us all down the river to the Waikato Heads. We dined and slept on board. The river is exceedingly pretty at the lower end. As we could not get to the end of our journey without waiting for the tide to admit of our page 43 passing over a sand bar, we drew up alongside a Maori Paka Pah, and went in search of curiosities, bought some paddles, and a few fish hooks. They wanted too much for their mats, which however were rather good. We had great joking in their houses for they are very good humoured. Next morning 3 of us took horses to ride overland to Raglan as I wanted to see some land offered to me and also to return by the course of the proposed line of Railway.

I must now break off and by the next Mail will give you an a further account of my doings. Before returning South I hope to be able to visit Taupo Lake and the Hot Springs.

The Government are very slow is giving us the proposed work:- as yet we have only 3 miles in hand; - and the men are on strike because we are tied not to give labourers more than 6/- per day of 9 hours! We have not yet received any letters – the Mails lost in the Rangoon at Galle were not recovered.