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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 3, Issue 6, October 1980

Book Review — "Adventure by Land and Sea" — An Autobiography by Harry Louis Moffatt — (1839–1913). His adventures from the age of 12 to his 70th year

page 39

Book Review
"Adventure by Land and Sea"
An Autobiography by Harry Louis Moffatt
(1839–1913). His adventures from the age of 12 to his 70th year.

It is indeed fortunate that the Nelson Historical Society was given the opportunity of publishing an account of the experiences of an adventurer who lived through the stirring days of life in the sailing ships under the most hazardous conditions on most oceans of the world and who finally came to New Zealand to participate in the exciting search for gold in the Collingwood, Buller, Otago, Matakitaki and Whakamarina fields of the South Island.

Part of the manuscript of this autobiography had been prepared as a series of articles on Moffatt's gold mining experiences for the "Nelson Evening Mail" in 1896, and these articles had also been printed in a small booklet entitled "A Digger's Story" by "Kiwi" of which only three or four copies are extant. Before his death in 1913 Moffatt completed the autobiography by adding details of his early seafaring experiences and also his later life as a storekeeper at Anatori and latterly as wharfinger and harbourmaster at Motueka. We are indebted to two of Moffatt's grand-daughters the late Miss Nina Moffatt and Mrs Joyce Anglesey that the manuscript was preserved, typed and prepared for publication.

The writing in the early chapters gives a vivid insight into the atrocious conditions under which a boy of twelve was indentured to a shipping company and put to sea in the middle of last century, and the fact that Moffatt survived the hazardous situations into which he was thrust provides an illustration of his tenacity and his basic love of the sea.

It is in the chapters dealing with his gold mining experiences, especially in the Nelson goldfields that local readers will find the greatest interest. Moffatt's account of his experiences in the Collingwood and Buller goldfields provide practically the only personal recollections that were ever committed to paper of the life of a miner in those isolated areas. It is upon such fragments as these reminiscences that historians have to rely to clothe the basic facts and statistics in order to make history come alive.

The book is well illustrated with photographs and maps and an adequate index is provided. The publication will form a worthy addition to the book-shelf of all who enjoy a lively account of adventurous life well spent with the added bonus of an authentic account of personal experiences on the local goldfields.