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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Read's “Shin-Plasters”

page 191

Read's “Shin-Plasters”

The year in which Read first issued his own paper currency is not known. Some specimens of his so-called “shin-plasters” bear evidence that they were printed in the 1860's. Private paper money was used in some other districts at a much earlier date. The initial issue might have been that which was made by Captain G. T. Clayton in connection with his whaling-station at Queen Charlotte Sound. His notes were of £1 denomination, and they were printed in Sydney in September, 1837. Clayton might also have used his own notes at his Waikokopu station in 1839. Some years later Johnny Jones—sometimes referred to as “The King of Waikouaiti”—also acted as his own banker. Above the text on Read's £1 notes was a representation of the Royal Arms, with the word “ONE” on either side. Below, the number of the note appeared twice. Then came the wording:

I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of £1 sterling.
Poverty Bay……………day of……………186…
£1. ……………………………………………………

Until they became enlightened, natives who quarrelled with Read were apt to show their contempt for him—and their own painful ignorance—by entering his store, producing some of his notes, tearing them up under his very nose, and scattering the fragments on the floor. On such occasions he would pretend to get into a violent rage, pick up anything that might serve as a weapon, and chase his “enemy” off the premises. The simplicity of one of Read's native friends was the subject of an amusing story which the early settlers used to tell; it might, of course, have been apocryphal. Some of Read's notes were, it was stated, lost in a fire which destroyed the native's whare. With misgivings, he set off to interview Read in the hope that, if he offered to recompense him, all might be well. Read assured him that, as they were old friends, he need not worry any more over the unfortunate mishap. The native, it was added, remained one of his staunchest supporters!

No other early settler did as much as Read to promote settlement in Poverty Bay. If he had so desired, he might have mopped up much more of the countryside during the very lean years that followed the Massacre, for, at that time, many good blocks were being hawked round New Zealand at ridiculously low prices. However, he realised that, unless there was a considerable influx of population, the district would remain insecure. According to Captain A. F. Hardy (who, for some years, acted as his accountant), Read was obsessed with two very deeply-rooted ideas: he could not tolerate a credit balance in his bank account, and he regarded it as a crime that good land should be allowed to lie page 192 idle. Much of the land that he bought for £3 per acre he sold (after meeting the costs of survey, etc.) at as low as £5 per acre, giving purchasers up to ten years to complete their payments. [In the boom years of the early 1920's, an offer of £100 per acre would not have been accepted for some of this land.] Read cherished the idea of establishing a large settlement at Pouawa, but the plan failed to reach fruition on account of the delay which took place in having the interests of the numerous native owners defined.