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Pioneering Reminiscences of Old Wairoa

Home Builders

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Home Builders.

Just to use for once a common word-custom, the toast of "The Pioneers! God bless them!" as an appropriate opening for a note on the pioneers of Wairoa. The majority of them came from the United Kingdom, or other parts of Europe—not all from the slums, as a certain legislator recently averred, with the reckless audacity characteristic of the partisan—but many from the best of homes. Driven out by the rigours of climate, unjust laws, over-crowding and political ineptitude, they sought the open spaces in the sunny isles of New Zealand, tempted by the hope of material advancement and ultimate independence—this was not in all cases attainable, but when obtained it was only by the exercise of that supreme courage of the Britisher with his back to the wall, and his face to the foe, of whatever nature that might be.

Yet, as the shores of England faded from sight, they sighed for the homes they were leaving behind and tears fell as they recalled the many grassy mounds in the receding lands where lay the mortal remains of loved ones. But soon a new note was struck as they faced right about and gazed on the waste of waters they must traverse to reach the new homes to be. Regrets are useless, though the wrench of "breaking home" must be great, and who shall blame them as they think of the mother country as Home?—and believe me, it will be a sorry day for New Zealand when her sons and daughters are ashamed to own the country from which they came as Home.

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For a new task awaits them in the land to which their vessel is bearing them—the task of home-building under new and most difficult conditions, conditions calling for the exercise of every ounce of muscle, every streak of courage and endurance and all the brain-power available. Distant fields are ever green, but the state of the country is not always set out in full by the Governments promoting emigration or immigration, so the pioneer might feel despondent at first sight of his location but for the fact that he is a true pioneer, ready to face all hardships in order to carve out a home for his wife and family. What is home? Does any one know what it is except those that have helped to build up one such, for

"Home is home where love doth dwell."

It may be situated in the wild bush-clad hills, far away from the haunts of men; so far that the man almost loses knowledge of his kind (outside his own circle) and his wife may have to pine for the companionship of her sex. But the man as he stands, armed with his axe, at the foot of one of the giant trees in his clearing appears a puny thing, yet withal he possesses an unconquerable spirit, and feeling the keen edge of his axe he sets to work. His wife, too, in the wattle-and-daub hut, the antitype of the lath and plaster dwellings of the home land, also gets to her work—home-building. Of such were the Wairoa pioneers, but in addition to the edged tools for forest work the man had often to carry a rifle also, whilst the wife pinned her faith in page 23Providence, and trust in the Maoris, to whom she had shown many kindnesses.

The days were not always sunny, and the winter was long and dreary though there was always the rainbow of the future before them. Roads! There were none that could be so styled, but just tracks crossing swampy lands, leading to dangerous fords, or winding round steep precipices, the rider hanging on by his eyebrows lest one false step should lead to his being hurled to death in the gorge below. In addition to caring for his own safety, he had to see that the packhorse with his belongings did not lose his load by brushing against jutting rocks or fallen trees; and so a day in the life of a pioneer draws almost to a close, for the sun has just set over the western hills, and then the lights of "Home, sweet Home" come into view. Home again, yes, that's it. Home, however humble it may be, shelters the pioneer and his wife and family,' "far from the madd'ing crowd"—and Home is a real home, because love rules there All honour to the diminishing band of pioneers.

He was an important storekeeper in the early days of Wairoa in one of her bush townships, and his wife a capable helpmeet from the Emerald Isle. Visited by a carpet-bagger of the Sassenach tribe he sought to explain that really no one would ever think she was Irish, when from the nearby kitchen came in loud tones the remark, "Mary fetch in the butther." "Dad" collapsed.