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Pioneering Reminiscences of Old Wairoa

Old Transport Gone

page 104

Old Transport Gone.

In days gone by in Old Wairoa, transport was of a varied character. "Shank's pony" was most in demand, and the Natives blazed the trail for the white man, who for years trod the various Native tracks: then came "the cow," alias the bullock, and with him the "language" became prolific and lurid, and many a "bullocky" strove hard, at times, when in the hearing of an Anglican or a Catholic Bishop, to moderate his flow of expletives. Then came the horse, as a means of transport, and for him the tracks had to be widened to accommodate him. Roads there were none, and settlement was practically non-existent. Poverty Bay was well settled, and so was Mohaka, when the titles to the major Maori lands were extinguished by confiscation and sales. To go to Gisborne, then called Turanganui, the "road" lay over the low saddle at Te Uhi where the railway-cutting is situated, then round by the swamp and the beach to Nuhaka, and on by Opoutama. At this time there was a great trade being done between Wairoa and Napier, as well as Turanganui and even further afield; craft of all sizes ranging from five tons up were used, and some were even built at Wairoa, besides which many large Wairoa war-canoes voyaged to and fro. As the trading fever mounted so grew the craft that were drawn to Wairoa as by a magnet. There were two anchorages, one at Lockwood's' Point, west of the town bridge, and the other at Spooner's Point, and both were the business places of two sly-groggers. The Point, before the sale of the town page 105site, was the most popular because not only was it in sight of the "bar," a sine qua non with the skippers, but there was in the vicinity the remnants of Pa Manukanui, and Kaimango on the south-east, but there were Kurupakiaka, and four pas on Ohuia and Ngamotu and to all of the dwellers within, the "taonga," or "trade," in the litle vessels was a source of unabated interest. But, alas! The true historian cannot but record the opinion that the arrival of the boats did not in any way improve the morals, the physique or the health of the then unsophisticated Maori people—rather the reverse. To start with, it was in 1829 that Captain H. J. Sturley, later a Wairoa resident, first sighted New Zealand. The same year Barnet Burns, a trader, visited Mahia in a brig called the Darling. In 1839, nearly one hundred years ago, a vessel called the Pane (Fanny) came from Sydney to buy flax; and on Boxing Day, 1839, Barney Rhodes, in the Eleanor, from Sydney, was off the Wairoa bar; whilst in 1844 the Hoturangi was plundered at Waikokopu—not by the Maoris, but by the lawless whalers from the Bay of Islands. To give the full history of these boats or to tell of the men who "go down to the sea in ships" would overload this booklet. There was the Hero, commanded by Jock Campbell, a flat-bottomed bluff-nosed craft, which was as often on the bar as off it; there was the Scamperdown, built at the mouth of the Kahauroa stream near Frasertown, the builder being J. Norcross. She was owned and sailed by William and Thad Lewis, regular old salts, and was no doubt the first vessel of European con-page 106struction built in Wairoa. Another was the Taraipine, built at the mouth of the Huramua by the late R. T. McRoberts, and finished about 1865. On 8th February, 1866, she made her first trip to Napier, commanded by the late Joe Carroll, father of Sir James of late history. Her last and fatal trip was made on 7th March. 1867, for Turanganui. She had on board Taraipine, the chieftainess, daughter of Rangimataeo; an old gentleman named Campbell and his wife, from Kinikini: and eighteen or twenty Natives. She was in command of W. Lewis, father of Mr. Archie Lewis of Te Hatepe, In heavy weather she anchored off Paritu and sank during the night, all being drowned, and not one body was ever found. Many a war-canoe journeying between Wairoa and Turanganui and Waimarama came to grief, and in one trip to or from Turanganui the Wairoa chief, Tiakitai of Kihitu, lost his life. Among the larger vessels, when the war-clouds hung over Wairoa were the Sturt, 130 tons, which frequently entered the river. Instead of a siren she had a small gun to signal her arrival, and the first time it was fired all the natives fled to Frasertown. It was this incident that led a later historian to report that the Pakeha had "shelled" Te Uhi pa. It is just a question If there was such a thing in 1863, at least in Wairoa. The St. Kilda and the Eclipse, New Zealand's first war-vessels, also visited us but did not enter the river. There was quite a host in the mosquito fleet, of which only these can be named: the Dolphin, the Shepherdess, the Daring, Uncle John (1857), Wairau (1858), the Zillah. This boat page 107sailed from the Scamperdown once with 1,500 bushels of wheat for Auckland, which went finally to Sydney and sold for 12/- per bushel! Once she had to load at Whakaki, at Wai-horo-i-tuna, because the Wairoa bar was bad, and her entire inward cargo was four bags of oats! Among the "liners" of five to ten tons were the Gem, the Mario, and the Clara. The Clapmatch was twenty tons and the Swan forty tons. The first cargo carried by the former was five bags of sugar and 500lbs. of salt! Her fate was to be carried out over the bar in a heavy flood. There were three men on board, two Natives, who both got ashore after a grim struggle, but a coloured man, "Black Harry," was drowned. The Aquilla (Captain Sturley) traded in 1859; the White Swan, the Effort, Southern Cross and the Esk; also the Dart. The Salopian was the first vessel to clear at "the spit" in 1859. In 1860 there was the Tere, commanded by Paora Apatu, who supplied the Napier dinner tables with apples, peaches, pears and water melons. The Gypsy was built at Mohaka by a Dutchman called Henerici, and traded in the name of the late John Sim. In. 1861 the cutter Ada was lost at Wairoa, and in 1862 the Effort capsized in Huramua Creek. In 1862 the Lark and the Eliza were trading. The Maid, fifteen tons, traded from Arapaoanui to Napier, and in 1863 the Tere was lost on the Wairoa bar, but all hands, including Paora Apatu, were saved. The Ladybird was trading in 1863, and about that year there were jubilations in the port of Wairoa over a "fast trip" of eight hours from Wairoa to Napier. In 1863 the Janet arrived page 108from Turanganui with Natives to tangi over the great chief Rangimataeo. The following year the paddle-steamer, Star of the South, was carrying sheep to Mahia, and the Ballarat, engaged by the New Zealand Government, went ashore at Te Hoe in the Waikokopu Bight. The Mary Thompson was sent to help in getting her off and she was partly launched with the aid of forty Natives, but slipped off her skids, and sank in deep water, but was finally raised. The Vivid was trading in 1864, and the Mahia Maoris bought the Maid the same year, and she was commanded by a Maori named Raumanga, alias Snipey. Then there were the Iris and the Sailor's Bride, both running from Mohaka to Napier, and the Greenwich was trading to Wairoa, and commanded by Captain Garnham. All was not plain sailing, for the Effort was lost at Awanui and the Eliza followed suit at the Wairoa bar. In 1866 the Huntress (200 tons) got up river as far as Hikawai, and the same year was anchored off Paul Street for six months owing to bad bar. The Pai Marire, Te Kooti's slogan, was launched about that time, but the Jane, the Bittern, and the Rose Ann traded between Wairoa and Auckland. The Queen (Tom Schon) and the Rambler (seven tons) were still afloat, but the Vivid and the Rambler were lost, the one being abandoned at Whangawehi, and the other lost at sea while sailing from Napier to Wairoa. The small cutter Donald McLean took up the trade, and on 1st August the Sailor's Bride was lost at Wairoa while bringing a load of potatoes for the Wairoa Natives, who were very poor at the time. Two Maoris were drowned, one of them a brother page 109of Kopu. This year flour went up to £2 per 50-lb. bag! To add to the miseries of Wairoa, the Ladybird was lost on the bar (20th August). In 1867 the Tay, fourteen tons, was trading, but the Gypsy got out of it by capsizing on the bar. The Grayling was bought by S. F. Prentice, and the Lady Wynyard was running to Mahia. The Cleopatra, which also sailed fifteen miles up the Wairoa river to get a cargo for Wellington, was lost at Palliser Bay. The Meteor and the paddle-steamer Waiparo were at Wairoa in August, 1868, and the same year another Wairoa trader, the Annie, was lost at the Kidnappers. The Mary Ann Hudson, built for the late John Sim, entered the trade, commanded by W. E. Baxter, but the Grayling disappeared, and was supposed to have foundered off the Wairoa bar. The Esther, The Twins, the Petrel, the Sea Serpent, the Colonist, the Why-not, and the S.S. Napier bring the list up to 1871—and here must I stop, for steam was coming in, and Wairoa lost its small craft transport. Now we rush north and south by fast motor cars, or if at Gisborne or Napier, fly over the young city of Wairoa in the Dragon 'planes at one hundred miles an hour, looking down upon our town from 4,000 feet. Yet we are not more happy than were the pioneers, who had stout arms, and the hearts of lions, while modern men and women have lost the spirit of enterprise and endeavour, and fallen under the spell of pleasure and fashion. Both, like the daughter of the horse-leech, cry out, "Give, give," and when there is no response they become irritated and contrary and finally nervous wrecks. There is a penalty to pay for living too fast.