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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 9 (December 1, 1937.)


(Written for the “Railways Magazine” by William Vance.)

Samuel Butler.

Samuel Butler.

In South Canterbury, on the road to the Upper Rangitata Gorge, a clump of poplar trees can be seen across the river from Mount Peel Station. These trees are the last forlorn remnant of a once, beautiful garden of eight acres that surrounded the homestead of Shepherd's Bush, one of the most famous sheep stations in Canterbury. Owned by Dr. Ben Moorhouse, this station kept open house to all-comers, and being but a few yards from the Rangitata Ford, their generosity was fully availed of by travellers from all parts of Canterbury. Hospitable to a fault, the Moorhouses entertained freely, on occasions having as many as thirty guests at a time, staying with them. The Moorhouse hospitality is still fondly remembered in Canterbury.

Driving his bullock-team from the farthest back station in the Rangitata Gorge, a swarthy, taciturn young bachelor would often break his journey at Shepherd's Bush. This man had evoked unflattering notoriety on account of his peculiar ideas and actions. Owner of a sheep-station that needed careful attention, he neglected it for weeks on end so as to make companionless explorations into the Southern Alps; son of a church dignitary, he continually railed against orthodox religion; a strong objector to “foreign names” being given to places, he named his own station “Mesopotamia.” He would write a controversial letter to the newspapers—next day he would contradict this letter under another name—in order, he said, to keep the correspondence going. He would break off in the middle of a conversation in order to scribble notes in a pocket-book that he always carried in his pocket. Small wonder it is that those who came in contact with him found him “queer,” and in consequence his circle of friends became very limited.

But Dr. Moorhouse, in addition to being the owner of Shepherd's Bush, was the only medical man between Christchurch and Timaru. He was always out on errands of mercy for which he never charged any fee. If his practice gave him no monetary reward, it gave him rich reward in a knowledge of human nature, and Dr. Moorhouse had learned that, no matter how “queer” a man might be in his ideas, he will always respond to kindness. So the unsociable sheep-owning radical found kindness at Shepherd's Bush, and he learned to make it his rendezvous.