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A Romance of Lake Wakatipu

Note 27.—Invercargill

Note 27.—Invercargill.

Had Invercargill represented the family circle, instead of representing the body politic, we should have been justified in ascribing to it ancient and honourable traditions. These would have dated back to the middle of the seventeenth century, and even then there is reason to assume we would not have reached the root of the genealogical tree. In support thereof it is necessary to mention the illustrious Charles Stuart, grandsire of that Stuart afterwards named, or, rather, misnamed, the Pretender. Like unto his race, more especially that section by which the Royal family account was closed, he ruled neither wisely nor well. He was a pig-headed monarch, who fancied he reigned over his fellow-men by virtue of a Divine right in kings, and that, as king, he could do no wrong. Amongst other fads, he got the idea into his head that his Scottish subjects were going to Heaven the wrong road. He thereupon prescribed that, for the future, they should make their calling and election sure by virtue of the Church of England service-book. To such proposal, however, the Scottish mind was bitterly repugnant. The Sunday the innovation was introduced into the parish church of St. Giles, Edinburgh, an old woman named Jenny Geddes, lifting up her testimony together with her three-legged stool, called out at the top of her voice, "If ye wid blaw ye'r papish mass-book into mi lug, tak' that." So saying she sent the stool flying at the head of the offending parson. The latter was a prudent man, and accordingly forbore intruding the service-book further on his unwilling hearers. Had the Royal Charles followed the same example it would have been well for him, and far better for his successor. Instead of that, however, the liturgical crusade was followed up with renewed vigour, and, in order to make it more effective, a commission of fire and sword was granted to one John Grahame, of Claverhouse, a renegade Scot (see Note 24), who had studied cruelty as a fine art in the wars of continental Europe. Exasperated and oppressed beyond endurance, the Nonconformists, as they were named, did a very unwise thing. They killed an apostate from their ranks, whom, rightly or wrongly, they suspected of having betrayed their trust. This reprehensible act was made a plea for further severities, and everything savouring of Nonconformity was assailed with merciless fury. The consequence was that the Presbyterian Scot who desired to remain true to the faith of his fathers was driven from his home, and made to wander amongst the beasts of the field. When taken he was either shot on the spot or handed over to the doomster to be tortured to death. Amongst others of this sect, or, as they were named, the "persecuted remnant," was one Donald Cargill. After enduring much suffering and cruel persecution he fell into the hands of his enemies. At his trial before the Privy Council he could be got to recant nothing, and on the scaffold at his execution he appeared equally dauntless. Beyond the fact that he had the courage of his opinions, a courage death itself could not destroy, there seems to have been nothing formidable about the man. However, the circumstances of his death, and its surroundings, were enough to canonize him, and, if the faith to which he belonged had admitted of a saint's calendar, most assuredly Donald Cargill's name would have appeared therein. A descendant in the direct line of this courageous old Presbyterian was leader of the Free Church movement in the Otago settlement. His name was William Cargill, and, in token of the respect and veneration in which he was held, Invercargill was named after him.

This young Cargill, or Invercargill, did not contribute largely to the credit of the parentage from which it derived its name. It started life, as the capital of the Southland Province, in a kind of prodigal campaign, raising the page 131wind on every side, until things got so breezy that nothing remained but to reap the whirlwind. It was a case of—

——mirth and laughter;

Sermons and soda-water the day after.

In itself it was not what would be called desperately wicked, but, somehow no sooner did it become known that it had entered into doubtful dealings than there congregated within its borders iniquity enough to have sent even a cathedral city headlong to destruction. One man brought with him the wooden-railway system mentioned in the narrative. "My railway," said he, "is the triumph of science, the perfection of art. Just give me a man, with a crutch in the one hand and a wooden leg in the other, and I'll back him to make better time on my rails than the best Fairlie engine you can put upon your metals." Advantages like these were not to be despised, and accordingly the wooden-railway scheme was bought, and the youthful province sold. Another gentleman came armed with a method for making macadamised roads out of flax and fascines. This was the pink of perfection in domestic economy—a good passable road, with flax and fern ad libitum all along the line. The flax enterprise proved less innocent as a joke than the wooden railway. The latter could be lifted up and thrust out of the way; the flax got imbedded in the slush and mud, and remained a danger to life and limb for years afterwards. Getting very poor, the district became very penitent, and, like the prodigal child it had been, after ten years' sin and misery, it took heart of grace and returned to the provincial parent. Since then Invercargill has enjoyed domestic peace and commercial prosperity, and, having sown its wild oats, has settled down and become a reputable member of colonial society. Even its saintly primogenitor, Donald Cargill, had he been in the flesh, would not be ashamed of it.

No record has been kept of the date when Invercargill made its first start. There is a tradition it was founded by a refugee from Van Diemen's Land; and it is a fact that such a personage did occupy a picturesque situation in what is now Dee Street, Invercargill, for a considerable period after the settlement fairly got into existence. He was popularly known as the "black doctor," and a striking character in real life he most undoubtedly was. He was a tall, gaunt, black-grained figure, standing six feet some inches high. He went about armed with an axe, carrying himself, as well as the axe, with the martial dignity of a hero in romance. The reason why he got to Van Diemen's Land in the first instance is not known. He was one of the notorious Macquarie Harbour squad, Macquarie Harbour being then one of the most rigorous of the South Sea penal settlements. He was drafted into what was known as the "look-out gang." They were a party of prisoners camped on an island at the mouth of the harbour, and, amongst other duties, they were employed looking out for vessels, and to assist in working them over the bar. A sealer craft en route to New Zealand put in, and, after discharging stores from Sydney Cove settlement, set out in prosecution of her voyage. He was one of the boat's crew who took the sealer over the bar, and on leaving, instead of getting into the boat, managed to secret himself in the chains. The night being dark and boisterous, his absence was not noticed until the sealer got well away and pursuit became useless. Arriving at Awarua (Bluff), the black doctor joined the shore whaling-party. Having reason to suspect a purpose was afoot to seize him and send him back to the penal settlement, the doctor took to the bush, and when the early settlers invaded the place they found him in the full enjoyment of a Robinson Crusoe life on the banks of the Waihopai. Compared with the ordinary bush habitation, the doctor had erected for himself a palatial residence. It was an enterprise fearfully and wonderfully made, contrived in accordance with the interstices of the honeycomb. Indeed, no one that saw it could have doubted it was the handicraft of a man with a bee in his bonnet, and so the honeycomb construction became all the more obvious in respect of the eternal fitness in things. The doctor kept undisputed possession of his holding, and continued to strut about as proud as a peacock, until Crown grants and parchment rights came into operation. It seemed a heartless thing to oust the creature, but that was not the worst page 132feature in the proceeding. The prosecuting attorney in the ejectment process got it into his head that the doctor meant him grievous bodily harm, and had him indicted as a dangerous lunatic. A scrap of paper was produced on which some wretched scrawls had been traced. This the alarmed lawyer construed into a skull and cross-bones, meaning thereby that the legal cranium was in danger of being dissected, and other of his bodily members disarranged. The whole thing was too flimsy, and justice satisfied itself by simply ordering the doctor off the land. It was after all a hard case, but, as it happened, when the rights of landlordism were never called in question, little notice was taken of it. Driven from his home, the poor fellow became a wanderer, and shortly afterwards wandered forth to be no more. Whatever his early transgressions amounted to is not known. His life latterly was perfectly harmless. If he was proud, and perhaps demonstrative, he had about him a good deal of the pride of independence, and a certain rectitude of conduct according to his own interpretations thereof.

The first official record we have of Invercargill is a Town Board ordinance passed in 1859. Its population at that date numbered 445, over two-thirds of whom were females. Now the town is subdivided into five municipalities, the affairs of each being administered by separate Councils. Its values are set down at £934,838, of which £408,174 represents the value of buildings and improvements. That is a remarkably good record for thirty years, springing up, as it does, from the inappreciable value of a bush shanty to the rateable value of a trifle under one million sterling. Then, again, if we take the county we find another million, represented by agriculture and pastoral improvements; and, by adding the unimproved value thereto, we get the grand total of three and a quarter millions of money. The area of Southland County is set down at 6,966,592 acres, of which 1,893,568 acres have been disposed of, so that a good extent of landed estate still remains for setttlement. Its population is estimated at 18,412. In cattle it numbers 61,815; sheep, 776,364; and horses, 12,829. Its area and produce in staple crops is estimated as follows: Wheat, 5,811 acres, producing 149,910 bushels; oats, 80,583 acres, producing 2,753,072 bushels; barley, 1,213 acres, producing 35,197 bushels; hay, 746 acres, producing 1,067 tons; potatoes, 1,177 acres, producing 5,965 tons.

Situated as Invercargill is near the extreme south of the colony, the following climatic observations, extending over a period of fourteen years, will be read with interest: Mean temperature, 50·36°; difference, 16·92°; rainfall, 43·674in.

I am indebted to one of the early settlers, Mr. James Walker Bain, formerly M.H.R., now Mayor of Invercargill, for the following information: This, the original capital of Southland as a province, is now chief town of the county of that name. It is situated on the eastern shore of the New River estuary, nine miles from Foveaux Strait. It is connected by railway with Bluff Harbour, the distance from town to port being seventeen miles. The site of Invercargill was fixed in 1857 by the late Mr. John Turnbull Thomson, F.R.G.S., afterwards Surveyor-General of the colony.

Invercargill is immediately surrounded by five smaller municipalities, the total population of the town and adjacent boroughs being 8,551; and it is also the administrative centre of a district containing a population of upwards of fifty thousand souls. As a centre of railway traffic it has a train-service of upwards of three hundred miles.

In street architecture visitors from other colonies express admiration and surprise at the class and style of its buildings. The Crescent Block, leading from the railway-station towards Tay Street, contains the handsome buildings used by the Union Steamship Company; Mr. J. G. Ward, grain merchant; the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company; the National Mortgage and Agency Company; the Crescent Hotel; and the National Bank of New Zealand. Langland's Block, in Dee Street, the design of Mr. F. W. Burwell; the Bank of New Zealand, the Bank of Australasia, the Colonial Bank of New Zealand, the Union Bank of Australasia, the Bank of New South Wales, the Supreme Courthouse, and the Athenæum crowned with a large bronze statue of Minerva, might all be located in the largest cities in the colony without the risk of being overshadowed by others.

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A tenth portion of the sections in each block was reserved for endowment and other municipal purposes, and the result is, about 130 of these, containing 1 rood each, are bringing in a satisfactory rental, and one that will in time produce such a revenue as will render the imposition of rates unnecessary.

Another important advantage is the splendid recreation estate. This consists of a public park, situated on the northern front, of 200 acres, which has been largely planted and improved; garden blocks of five acres in the centre of the town, through which the bubbling Puni Creek flows merrily to the estuary; and fully twenty blocks of land, known as the Town Belt, and situated on all sides, varying in size from 4 acres to 40 acres, and more or less improved and planted. These combined will in time render Invercargill a most delightful place for resort and residence.

The gasworks of Invercargill belong to the municipal authorities, and cost about £40,000. The price of gas is 7s. 6d. per 1,000 cubic feet to private con-sinners. The town is well lighted by 200 street lamps; and the quality of gas, manufactured from Greymouth coal, is reputed to be of superior brilliancy to that generally supplied to many cities of greater pretensions.

The town is supplied with water by the Corporation. It is pumped from a watertight iron-cylinder well, sunk to a depth of 105ft. The engines were manufactured by the Glenfield Company, Kilmarnock, and consist of two high-pressure horizontal steam-engines, each 15-horse power. Water can be pumped direct into the mains at any pressure up to 150lb. to the square inch. Ordinarily the water is pumped direct into the tank above the tower, morning and evening. In the event of fire the water is drawn up to an ascertained pressure both from the tower and by direct pumping into the mains, an automatic valve having been constructed to enable that to be accomplished. In that case eight hydrants with 1¼in. jets can be played on to a building, which should be sufficient to drown out almost any conflagration. The gravel stratum from which the water is pumped is 30ft. in depth, the strata both above and below consisting of a layer of brown coal, so that the gravel stratum might almost be called an underground river. The cylinders are 7ft. in diameter, and a continuous pumping for three months of 15,000 gallons an hour did not diminish the supply, which constantly stood, and still stands, at 25ft. from the surface. The tank contains 66,000 gallons, weighing about 300 tons. The tower was built from designs by the town engineer, Mr. William Sharp, Assoc. M.I.C.E. Its total weight-is 2,800 tons; 500,000 bricks, besides concrete, were used in its construction; the cost, with tank, being £5,000. The height of the gallery is 90ft., and to the top of the lantern 140ft. The total cost of the waterworks, including twenty-four miles of water-mains and services to every property, was £30,000.

In social institutions this, the southern city of the world, boasts of the following: Rifle, Artillery, and Cadet Volunteers; volunteer fire-brigades, athletic clubs, Rugby Football Union and clubs, cricket, lacrosse, tennis, bowling, rinking, boating, and sailing clubs. Besides these there are literary and debating societies, assembly balls, dramatic associations, temperance and friendly societies, Masonic lodges of the English, Scotch, and Irish Hew Zealand Constitutions. The Athenæum is most imposing as a structure, containing two reading-rooms that would be creditable to any city in the colony, and having a large library, a museum, and chess and draughts room within its walls. As exponents in re public opinion there are the Daily News and Southland Times, both well-established and well-respected daily papers with weekly editions, each office issuing fully 15,000 copies per week. Then, in the country districts there are three weekly newspapers and three newspapers issued semi-weekly.