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The Boy Colonists

[publisher's note]

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This account of two boys' stay in Otago from 1859 to 1867 aims "to inform friends of the real nature of colonial life in the early days of the settlement of that Province", and is characterised by a cheerful acceptance of the hard work, primitive conditions, and the isolation endured on the sheep-stations. The excitement of a chase after bushrangers provides them with a welcome relief from the never-ending chores.

Their first experiences in New Zealand were most discouraging—on asking an old Maori chief if he ever tasted human flesh, Harry was told, "Oh yes, there is no meat equal to white man: I hope that I shall taste it again some day". Arriving at the sheep-station where they were to work as Cadets for board and keep but no pay, they "were rather horrified" to find that their new home consisted of a thatched hut with an earth floor "which seemed eloquent of fleas". Even the blankets "were hardly calculated to inspire Englishmen with confidence". Despite these inauspicious beginnings, their natural good-humour and curiosity provides them and the reader with many interesting diversions, such as Ernest's first attempt to milk a wild cow to help supplement the meagre diet of mutton and potatoes with the "luxury" of milk and butter.

A valuable record of people and places during the early settlement period of Otago.

Cover Illustration: "On the Road" by L. J. Kennaway from "Crusts: a Settler's Fare due South" (1874) republished by Capper Press (1970).