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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 2 (May 1, 1940.)

One of the … — Great Migrations — Of British History — Nova Scotian Gaels to Auckland — Scots who followed Minister in Four Lands

page 29

One of the …
Great Migrations
Of British History
Nova Scotian Gaels to Auckland
Scots who followed Minister in Four Lands

Delicate bloom of the New Zealand manuka.

Delicate bloom of the New Zealand manuka.

No more thrilling, fullblooded romance of pioneering will be celebrated in the centenary of New Zealand, and in particular the Auckland district, than that of the Nova Scotian settlement of the Waipu district. Unaided by any government or settlement company, and led by the minister they had followed from Scotland to Nova Scotia, to Australia and then to Auckland, they came in their hundreds by the ships they built, manned, officered and provisioned themselves. Not lightly has their effort been described as one of the greatest migrations in British history. To-day their descendants occupy honoured positions all over New Zealand, success not gained by influence or other unworthy uplift, but by the exercise of those sterling, honourable characteristics of the Highland Scot which bring their own reward.

Back to Culloden.

What brought this great band to this land on which it has so left its mark? To get to the reason it is necessary to go back to the days of the Battle of Culloden, to some perhap little more than an event in a history book. There was then the feudal clan system in the Highlands; the clans fought each other, but were as one family when trouble threatened from without. After Culloden there began the subjugation of the Highlands with great severity and restriction. This did not cease when the objective of depopulating the land was reached. The persecution continued and even in the early 1800's the northern clans which had not participated in the uprising were not spared. These notorious “Highland clearances.” uprooted great families from their ancient holdings and impelled them to endeavour to regain past freedom in overseas land.

Here enters the central figure of this story. the Reverend Norman McLeod. who, like a Moses of latter times, led his people out of the house of bondage.

He was born in 1780 in the parish of Assynt, Sutherlandshire, the territorial home of his clan. He was at variance with the Established Church of Scotland in some matters and preferred to follow his own conclusion in theology. He disagreed with the minister at his parish church at Loch Irver and conducted his own service. Many people were attracted. In his dissent he was a prophet, for 100 years after there followed a cleavage in the church. His father was of the Church of Scotland; his mother an Independent who was formerly an Episcoalian. In his own book McLeod described himself as being ecclesiastically of “mongrel breed.”

Nova Scotia was the first place to which he led his people—in 1817. It was then as much a virgin land as the New Zealand of 100 years ago. After a brief settlement at Pictou they went to the more suitable St. Ann's. Nearly all McLeod's followers and other Highlanders came there in time. The winters tried even these hardy folk. After 30 years they had comfortable homes and a living from the soil.

The Second Migration.

In 1848 there came a letter from McLeod's second son, Donald, who played a large part in the eventual settlement at Waipu. (McLeod married Mary McLeod; they had six sons and two daughters). In 1838, John Grant McLeod and Murdoch McLeod (sons) had built the brigantine Maria. Loaded with produce it was dispatched to Glagow in the charge of Donald, who was instructed to sell both ship and cargo there. Instead of returning home, however, he went to Australia, and no more was heard of him till 1848, when he wrote the fateful letter. He gave his father glowing accounts of Australia. In a short time men were hard at work preparing timber to build a barque, later called the Margaret, to take McLeod and all she could accommodate to Adelaide. Soon after, the buildin of a brig, the Highland Lass, was started for the same purpose.

Established though they were, the spirit of adventure and the thought of page 30 a better future for their descendants in more temperate climes made them once again start a fresh adventure. Five of the six ships that carried them to Australia were built by their own labour, from the forest timber stage to the rigging. The sixth ship was repaired and reconditioned by them. The money to finance the migration they subscribed among themselves. In their ranks were masters, officers and crews, and each family provisioned itself. Nothing, material, cultural or spiritual, was left to chance. They had men and women for every trade and industry required—schoolmasters and their own respected minister, Rev. Norman McLeod.

Probably without parallel, too, was that the party included their representative in the Nova Scotia legislature, John Munro, later to represent them in the Auckland Provincial Council and the New Zealand House of Representatives. One of the two principal financiers of the venture (the other was John McKay) was John Fraser, the Pictou-born son of Hugh Fraser (a near relative of Lord Lovat, chief of the clan), one of the famous Fraser Highlanders who were in the van of the British Army at the capture of Quebec (1759). It was the Hon. Simon Fraser, whose knowledge of French and quick wit deceived the French sentry and made possible the attack on Quebec. The incident is one of the most well-known in popular history. This soldier led the Clan Fraser against the Government at the Battle of Culloden (1746).

John McKay died at Waipu when nearly 100 years old. A great horseman, he rode one of the liveliest of horses even in his extreme old age. Old letters say his speed in travelling to and from church scandalised the minister.

The Margaret (236 tons) arrived at Adelaide on April 10th, 1852. She had aboard 140 persons, including the Rev. Norman McLeod. Captain W. M. McLeod, deputy harbourmaster at Wellington, has the book “Norie's Navigation,” which the Rev. McLeod used on the trip. He made daily observations of the sun and worked out the latitude and longitude in order to check the officers' calculations. He was an expert navigator.

Arrived in Australia the search for land was disappointing both in Adelaide and in Victoria. The Rev. McLeod corresponded with Sir George Grey who offered special facilities for himself and his people settling as a group. Thus began the migration to New Zealand.

In Melbourne, McLeod had a disastrous experience. There was a typhoid epidemic and three of the minister's six sons died within six weeks. Old letters relate that he took this as a sign of Divine displeasure for leaving Nova Scotia.

The Highland Lass (179 tons) arrived at Adelaide on Oct. 6th, 1852. There were 136 aboard, crew included, and of these there were 37 McKenzies. Captain Murdoch McKenzie was commander. Of those who arrived in Australia by the Highland Lass, 90, plus 33 from the Margaret, travelled to Auckland by the Gazelle, owned by the McKenzie brothers. Chief officer was John Jacob, afterwards to command the Melanesian Mission schooner, Southern Cross, for 21 years, including the tragic occasion when Bishop Patterson was murdered by natives.

The “New Zealander” of Sept. 21st, 1853, stated: “The schooner, Gazelle, arrived on Saturday from Adelaide, having made the passage in twelve days. She had brought a number of immigrants who we trust will prove a valuable addition to the population—
(Rly. Publicity photo.) Buses of the New Zealand Railways Road Services Fleet conveying 480 children from the Brooklyn School, Wellington, to Hutt Park, on the occasion of their recent annual picnic.

(Rly. Publicity photo.)
Buses of the New Zealand Railways Road Services Fleet conveying 480 children from the Brooklyn School, Wellington, to Hutt Park, on the occasion of their recent annual picnic.

arriving as they have at a time when practical agriculturists are so much needed all over the district. They are originally from the north of Scotland, had first been to America, from thence to South Australia where they remained but a year, and have been attracted to this country by its superior agricultural advantages for which it is becoming so deservedly famed.”

The Gazelle later brought a further party, including the Rev. McLeod and his wife and daughter (later Mrs. H. F. Anderson) from Melbourne. They arrived at Manukau on Jan. 26th, 1854. McLeod was then 72, and beginning again where most men would have been glad to give up the burden; indeed, would have been compelled by nature to do so.

In all, six ships made the migration to the Antipodes from Nova Scotia—the Margaret, Highland Lass, Gertrude, Spray, Breadalbane and Ellen Lewis—the smallest 106 tons, the largest under 300.

Duncan McKenzie and Duncan McKay, of the Highland Lass party, saw Sir George Grey, and selected Waipu for their settlement. The first to go there were the families of Hector and Duncan McKenzie and of Duncan McKay.

Hand Tools on Virgin Land.

The others followed. They built their first homes—rough wooden shelters page 31 roofed with nikau or raupo. They had no plough, but with the few hand tools that the average man now uses in his neat garden, they cleared, dug and sowed. Each family ground its own flour till there was a mill.

They came to the stage of producing beyond their own requirements and they wanted what they could not grow or fashion themselves. Isolated on land by lack of roads, they again turned their hands to shipbuilding and manning the ships they built, they sailed and traded with Auckland.

Norman McLeod was still their pastor. In four lands for approximately sixty years he had led his flock, and had practically the same congregation all the time. He was their pastor till he lay down his earthly burden in 1866, aged 86. Never had he had a stipend or fee from his people; he had his own farm, and they helped him work it. He helped them, too.

Descendant Writes Book.

The story of the Nova Scotian Gaels has been recorded by one of their descendants, Mr. N. R. McKenzie, B.A., F.R.G.S., a son of one of the migrants, and now living in retirement in Wellington. He was born at Waipu in 1867, began teaching under the Auckland Education Board in 1890, and retired in 1932, when he was senior inspector for Taranaki. He was twenty years an inspector, and his last head-mastership was that of Mt. Eden school, Auckland. For a time he was acting-principal of the Wellington Training College. It is from his knowledge and by the courtesy of the use of his book, “The Gael Fares Forth,” that this article is written. This fine record was sold out shortly after publication to descendants of the Nova Scotian Gaels, scattered throughout New Zealand and in the countries of the world.

Word as Guarantee.

E. C. McKay, who contributes an introduction to “The Gael Fares Forth,” says: “They were a deeply religious people, brought up on the Bible, and as a community known for their morality, high principles and honest dealing…. All agreements in ancient Waipu were done by word of mouth. ‘The word of a Highlander’ was a sufficient guarantee that faith would be kept. To-day the wise Waipu man moves with the times, and insists on hard and fast written agreements. This is known as progress …. go where you will, in the professions, in commerce or business, on the land or on the sea, you will find the sons and grandsons of the founders of Waipu occupying prominent places…. A quality the Waipu people share with their forbears is loyalty in its widest sense. Two centuries ago the clans rose for Charlie because they were loyal to their Chiefs. This finished, they transferred their loyalty to the reigning house, and even when the ‘clearances’ were taking place in the Highlands, their loyalty made them fight for the King. At heart every Highlander is a bit of a Jacobite, but he sees no reason to make himself mourn over a lost cause. He did his best at Culloden, and conscious of that lets the matter rest…. In the days of voluntary enlistments she (Waipu) sent a bigger percentage of men to the front than any other place in New Zealand … there are plenty of places in New Zealand where the pioneers had just as many difficulties to fight as the founders of Waipu and faced them as bravely. But I know of no other spot where a British community, speaking a strange tongue (Gaelic), landed, or where they were twice led half round the world and started breaking in virgin country each time.”

Days in Auckland.

Another record of the short time spent in Auckland before going to Waipu says: “The migrants found good friends in Auckland. Chief among these was Dr. (afterwards Sir) Logan Campbell. He advanced to some of them money, without security. He also bought a section near the entrance to the Waipu River and presented it to the people as a school site. Another good friend was Mrs. Alexander Dingwall, mother of David M. Dingwall, who left a bequest worth nearly a quarter of a million pounds, to found the Dingwall Orphanage at Auckland. Mrs. Dingwall kept a grocer's shop and as she spoke Gaelic it was easy for the old people to deal with her. During his stay in Auckland the Rev. Norman McLeod held Gaelic services in a hall in Symonds Street and preached in English several times in St. Andrew's Church—the mother Presbyterian church of the Auckland province…. Most of the people settled at Waipu but a few families went to Whangarei Heads. Here they bought land from Dr. Logan Campbell…. A receipt from the Surveyor-General's office for one of the migrant's land purchases is given thus: ‘Received from Mr. Duncan McKay the sum of £400 sterling, being the amount for the purchase of 800 acres of land situated at Mangawai, Waipu, at ten shillings an acre, five per cent. for roads and five per cent. for surveys being deducted. Reader Wood, deputy surveyor-general'.”

Waipu Set Apart.

Waipu was “set apart and reserved … exclusively” for the Nova Scotians but the area was insufficient for the unexpectedly large number of migrants. In consequence several sister settlements were formed by the later arrivals. These were situated at Little Omaha (now called Leigh), the Mangawai-Hakaru-Kaiwaka district, Whangarei Heads, Kaurihohore, Hikurangi and other places near Whangarei. A very large proportion of the Whangarei county was peopled by the descendants of the Nova Scotia Gaels, and of others of the same race who came directly from Scotland or from the North of Ireland. A few families came from Prince Edward Island. It is not generally known that

(Continued on p. 36.)

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