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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 1 (April 1, 1935)

Pictures of New Zealand

page 41

Pictures of New Zealand

The Planing-down Process.

Looking through some sketches and photographs of scenes and people in the New Zealand of the last two or three generations, the thought comes that those casual visitors who assert that this country has not yet evolved a national type disregard the fact that strongly-marked human characteristics belong in greatest measure to the adventurous pioneering era and to the edge of settlement. As close settlement and city-building develop, and the rough places are made smooth and means of communication improved, the differences between the town and the country dweller tend to disappear. The townsman sees more of the far-back settler; travel is made easy and cheap. The radio, the cinema, help equally with the railway train and the motor-car to make the nation homogeneous. No populated part of the Dominion is isolated from the other, as Westland once was, and as the Urewera Maori country was, before the coming of railway and motor highways. The Westlander, the gold-digger, the surveyor in the back-country, the native-born bushmen and scouts who tackled the Maori in his forest sanctuaries, the coast whaler, were men apart in their manner of life, their attire and often their speech.

Some day perhaps this country will develop the so-called type for which literary folk and other visitors from overseas say they are looking. But the “characters” belong to the adventurous past about which so much has still to be written.

The Wrong Way.

Photographs of some of the old-time ships once such familiar sights at the New Zealand wharves, bring up a flood of memories. The London clippers, the handsome painted-port square-riggers, the smart coasting and South Sea schooners and brigantines, the sturdy barques that took timber and coal across the Tasman Sea, were always in the harbour picture. A memory just now of an incident on a long-ago week-end yachting cruise down the glorious old Hauraki:

It was a fine Sunday morning. A tall ship, one of those big black-painted New York square-riggers that we used to admire for their lofty spars and snowy cotton sails, came strolling up through the Motuihi Channel, the eastern entrance to Auckland Harbour. This is the side-door to the port, the little ships' way, the tradesmen's entrance, so to say. It was the American skipper's first voyage to Auckland; he did not know that Rangitoto Channel was the usual course; the east channel looked as good as any other. There is a long reef, just under water, that runs out from Motutapu Island almost half way across the passage. The yacht's crew, standing out from Drunken Bay—that delectable deep indent between Rangitoto Island and Motutapu—for a day's fishing, saw to their amazement this big Yank coming along serenely, everything set to royals, all but grazing that hidden reef.

“Hi, Captain!” one of the boys yelled, as the yacht ran up on the ship's starboard quarter, “you've come in the wrong way!”

The skipper leaned over the rail. He was a Down-Easter, with a sawed-off sandy beard. He looked at the lads, and courteously expectorating aside, said in a Massachusets drawl:

“Much obliged to you, stranger, but that's Arkland town up yonder, isn't it?”

“Yes,” said the yacht spokesman.

‘Waal, then, I'm in now and I'm etarnally goldurned if I'm goin’ ter turn round and go out and come in the right way.”

The “Three Bees” Mystery.

There were some unravelled mysteries in the maritime stories of our early days. I have before me some notes, tantalisingly brief, of the tragic affair of the cutter “Three Bees.” (A name to excite enquiry. There was a ship of the name that brought convicts out to New South Wales over a century ago and then went whaling in these waters.)

The New Zealand cutter was built on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula at the place now known as Kennedy's Bay. The builder and owner was a Mr. John Kennedy, who arrived in New Zealand in 1836 and married a Maori chieftainess. He traded with the Maoris, and he loaded ships with kauri spars.

About the year 1843 Kennedy sailed in his cutter for either Auckland or the Bay of Islands. He is said to have had with him a sum of over £4000, mostly in gold, the profits of his trading and timber-ship-loading; he intended to bank this money. The crew of the cutter, three in number, murdered Kennedy for the sake of his money, and threw the body overboard. This deed is supposed to have been committed near the Great Barrier Island. The vessel never reached her destination; her disappearance was long a mystery. The villains sailed her down the coast and into the Bay of Plenty, where they scuttled her, and made for the shore in the dinghy. They landed at Tauranga; and by devious ways found their way north to Hokianga, where they shipped in a kauri-carrying vessel for Sydney.

One of the three had committed other murders in New South Wales, and he was arrested and convicted. Before he was hanged he confessed that he and his gang had murdered the owner of the “Three Bees” and pirated the cutter, and that they had killed nine other men at various times. What happened to the other two murderers is not known.

So goes the story, but that is all that is definitely known. There are the bones of an adventure or detective tale in this, for some of our young New Zealanders who have a bent for research work. Some of the descendants of the ill-fated cutter-owner are living in the Poverty Bay country today.