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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

Some Anniversary Regattas

Some Anniversary Regattas.

It may be interesting to our readers to re-call some of the incidents of Old New Zealand in connection with our anniversay regattas and the commemoration of the anniversary of the colony. 29th of January. The New Zealand Herald and Auckland Gazette of February 2, 1842, gives an account of our

First Anniversary Regatta, 1842.

That journal says:—Saturday last being the anniversary of the arrival of His Excellency Governor Hobson a regatta was got up at a few hours' notice. The vessels in harbour hoisted their flags, and the day was very beautiful. About one o'clock guns were fired, which was a signal that His Excellency and suite were about to go on board the Government brig Victoria. At this time the river looked remarkably well, as there were a great number of boats and a quantity of canoes rowing in every direction. The harbourmaster, Mr. D. Rough, then gave the signal for whaleboats to take their stations, when live boats started for the prize, which was easily won by the boat steered by Mr. Merriott. The second race, for gigs pulled by amateur crews, next came off; three boats started on the signal being given. The Black Angel (4 oars) and the Leander (5 oars), the property of Mr. Felton Mathew, took the lead, followed in their wake by Mr. Weavill's 6-oared gig, pulled by the gentlemen of the Survey Department. The race was admirably contested down to the buoy, the Leander pressing the Black Angel hard on her larboard quarter, for the purpose, we supposed, of taking the inner berth on rounding it. On arriving at the buoy, the two leading boats were stem and stem, the Leander having decidedly the better berth on rounding it, when the crew of the Black Angel, finding she could not turn so quickly as their opponent, backed water with their larboard oars, consequently making a foul stroke, and threw themselves athwart the bow of the Leander. This forced the Leander either to run into her adversary, or take the outside berth (as a matter of courtesy the latter was taken), in doing which she got aground, and in the confusion the other boat grounded also. The Black Angel was immediately got off by one of her crew jumping overboard and pushing her off the mudbank (this was, however, contrary to the laws of aquatic sports), and got nearly six ship's lengths ahead of her adversary before she could possibly be pulled off by her crew. In the meantime, the 6-oared gig, which was a long way astern when the confusion occurred, rounded the buoy safely, and seeing what was the matter kept in deep water, and was abreast of the Leander before she got headway again. The Black Angel of course, came in first, but although the Leander's crew were much fatigued by getting her off the sandbank, they were not so great a distance from the Black Angel in coming in as when they got page 31 way on the gig after striking. It was considered by the greater majority, on the matter being explained, that the race should be run over again. The Leander's crew protested, but the result of the protest is not recorded. In the usual course of events, it is the Black Angel that "scoops the pool." The third race was the canoes, which was well contested by natives. After the Regatta, Captain Fraser, of the Parthenia, invited the amateurs who pulled in the second and third boats to dinner. This seems to have "squared" them for the loss of the prize. The Black Angels were "out of it." The dinner was got up in good style. After dinner several loyal toasts were given, among which were "Captain Hobson, and Prosperity to New Zealand," which was drunk amidst loud applause. It says much for the morals of this primeval period in the history of the colony that though there were a number of "three-bottle men" in the gathering the Herald historian feels bound to record that "the company broke up at an early hour, after spending a very pleasant day." In the evening the Governor Hobson Hotel was brilliantly illuminated.

It will be seen that our first anniversary regatta was the "day of small things," there king only three races; and the regatta of to day, almost half a century after, will serve to show by contrast the progress of the port and of the colony.

It seems that this anniversary regatta was "another injustice" not only to Wellington but to Ireland, for on St. Patrick's Day an Auckland regatta had to be got up under the immediate patronage of His Excellency the Governor, the stewards being W. Shortland, Esq., R.N, W. F.Porter, H. Tucker, Esq., R.N., and David Rough, Esq, harbourmaster. There were five races, including gig, whaleboat, and canoe races. Subscriptions were received at S. A. Wood's, Royal Hotel; Watson's. Exchange Hotel; Crummer and Phillipsthal s, Victoria Hotel, and the office of the New Zealand Herald.

The Anniversary Regatta Superseded By Horse-Racing.

So far as the old files at our disposal enable us to judge, the Anniversary Regatta fell into desuetude, being superseded by a race meeting The New-Zealander of January 31 says: "On Monday last New Zealand entered the tenth year of her colonial existence, and—as is now the established custom on such occasions—her anniversary was welcomed with its fete. If the idea of commemorative festivals be copied from our colonial neighbours, we confess it would have afforded us more satisfaction to have beheld that idea effectually imitated in all its bearings; for, whatever our equine predilections, in a maritime colony of the greatest maritime nation the world ever saw, we are of opinion that a regatta would be a much more national and appropriate annual sport, one which, if properly conducted, would afford quite as much pleasure, and very probably much more colonial benefit. We have no desire to disparage the sports at Epsom, but merely to show what we consider are the superior claims of a regatta as an anniversary fete upon our own metropolitan attention. We think such a pastime, so essentially English, should take precedence of all others in celebration of our natal day."

Horse-Racing in Ye Olden Time.

At a meeting of the inhabitants of Auckland and Manukau (says the New Zealand Herald and Auckland Gazette, of November 27, 1841), held at Wood's Royal Hotel, on the 3rd November, 1841, W. Young. Esq., in the chair, it was resolved that the Auckland Races take place on the Epsom Racecourse. The first day's programme, January 5, 1841, was a "big bill," consisting of the Auckland Town Plate, in specie, by subscription of 3sovs. each; and the Valparaiso Stakes (handicap) heats, once round the course, gentlemen riders. The second day's racing consisted of Ladies' Purse, Hurdle Race, and Consolation Purse. The amount of prize money is not given. The stewards were: Lieutenant Smart, 28th Regiment; Dr. Gaumie, 80th Regiment; W. Young, Esq.; J. Coates, Esq., treasurer; Lieutenant Best, 80th Regiment. Clerk of the Course, R. Benson, Esq. Among the conditions were: Publicans could erect booths on the racecourse on paying £1 to the racing fund; private matches taking place on the days of the races to pay one guinea entrance to the funds for use of the course. No false start allowed. Jockey costume must be worn. Subscriptions for the races were received at the Bank, Wood's Royal Hotel, Watson's Exchange Hotel, Hill's Yew Tree Inn, Mason and Paton's auction mart, and at the office of the Auckland Printing Company. The betting rooms—for human nature was just the same in 1841 as in 1890—were at Watson's Exchange Hotel.

The Anniversary Races (1849).

The anniversary races, 1849, are thus advertised in the New Zealander, of January 24, 1849: Anniversary of the foundation of the colony. Auckland races, 29th January, 1849. and 30th January, 1849. Patron, His Excellency the Governor; clerk of the course, Mr. H. Hardington; treasurer, Mr. Hyam Joseph." It will be seen from the above quotation from the advertisement that neither His Excellency the Governor nor the early settlers of Auckland had any doubt as to the date of the anniversary of the colony. Racing had progressed since 1841, for the programme for the first day consisted of Maiden Plate, Innkeepers' Purse, Pony Race, Ladies' Purse, Produce Stakes, Native Race, the last being for horses the bona fide property of, and ridden by, aborigines—caten weights. The second day's events comprised the Metropolitan Plate, Hack Race, Garrison Plate, Carthorse Race, Consolation Stakes, and Hurdle Race. The prize-money ranged from £0 to £40.

From the files we learn "the sports at Epsom were remarkably well attended. His Excellency the Governor-in-Chief, Sir George Grey, was present to enjoy them. The editor, apparently, undertook to do the first day's racing, and he gets the report into about a dozen lines, as follows:—For the Maiden Plate the first horse, Cantab, was distanced in the first heat, his rider being thrown before arriving at the weighing stand. In the next, page 32 Pensioner, the winning horse, was disqualified, his rider having lost three-quarters of a pound weight. The race was eventually won by Mr. Wynyard's Gussey. The Innkeepers' Plate and the Ladies' Purse were both taken by Mr. Hargreave's grey gelding, Zaccho, which proved to be quite a Jorrocks', junior." He ignores the Pony race, Produce Stakes, and Native race altogether.

The road to the scene of action is described "as strewn with vehicles of all sorts and sizes, and covered with equestrians and pedestrians of all hues and complexions. The course was in excellent order save the keeping of a few mounted policemen being required to apprehend the drunken ruffians who got up extemporary races for their own amusement, but the endangerment of other people's lives."

On the second day the "Phaeton" of the period relieves the editor and devotes thirteen lines to the day's races, or one more than his chief. He says:—"Yesterday's races afforded great sport. The Metropolitan Plate was taken by Mr. Crummer's bay mare Verjuice, the only real blood that showed, and that, consequently, left everything else hopelessly behind. The Hack Race was won by Mr. Young's Alderman. The Garrison Plate by that capital gelding Zaccho. The Carters' Race was such a glorious higgledy-piggledy that we have not heard which won. The Consolation Stakes were taken by Mr. Codlin's bay gelding Jack; and the Hurdle Race was also won by the same high mettled racer." He gives the editor away about the "drunken ruffians," etc., by stating that the races passed off' with the greatest decorum, and that the 58th, who had extensive leave, "conducted themselves in a most orderly and honourable manner." A number of men-of-warsmen from H.M.s. Fly chartered sundry carts (for hansoms and omnibuses were unknown in those days), and, with banners flying, made the trip out and home in ship-shape and truly characteristic style.

Revival of The Anniversary Regatta.

When the anniversary of the colony approached next year (1850), the previous year's protest in favour of a regatta instead of horseracing bore fruit. The horse races seem to have been discredited from a published letter in the New Zealander by the Rev. Thos. Buddie, in which he says:—"Being at Epsom yesterday in the course of ministerial duty, I was greatly shocked at the utter disregard of the Holy Sabbath which I saw manifested by certain parties training their horses for the approaching races." As the outcome, the Southern Cross of January 22, 1850, contains the following:—"At a meeting held at the Masonic Hotel for the purpose of considering the best means of celebrating the anniversary of the foundation of this colony, Mr. Herbert, 58th Regt, in the chair, it was proposed by Mr. Woodhouse, and seconded by Mr. Gray, 'That the most appropriate way to celebrate the anniversary of the foundation of the colony is by a regatta.' Proposed by Mr. Young, and seconded by Mr. Coates, 'That the following gentlemen be requested to act as a Committee of management, with power to add to their number: Major Bridge, 58th Regt., Mr. Cooper, 58th Regt., Mr. W.S. Grahame, Major Gray, Mr. Thomas Lewis, Captain Laye, 58th Regt., Mr. John Me Dougall, Mr. F. W. Merriman, Captain Solman, Mr. Woodhouse. Proposed by Colonel Wynyard, and seconded by Mr. Woodhouse, 'That Mr. Merriman be requested to act as secretary and treasurer.'"

The New Zealander makes the following comments on the subject, which read curiously in the light of present events:—"The proposal to celebrate the anniversary of the colony by a regatta is about to be acted under auspices which promise well for its proper arrangement and efficiency. This amusement, we need scarcely say, is free from many of the objections which have been urged (in our opinion justly), against horse-racing, and, moreover, is better suited to a colony like ours, where strength rather than Heetness is desirable in horses which are with comparatively few exceptions, employed in farm work, but where—from our insular position and maritime engagements and prospects, and from the fact that so large a portion of our communication with the interior is carried on through our coasting vessels—everything that tends to the construction of better and safer boats is especially valuable. Our regatta, therefore, may be found not only an agreeable recreation, not necessarily involving anything which should offend the most fastidious moralist but also the means of doing much practical good by stimulating to augmented taste, liberality, and effort in the designing and building of boats."

The advertisement of the regatta is headed "Auckland Regatta, in Commemoration of the Tenth Anniversary of the Colony, January 29, 1850," and was under the patronage of His Excellency Major-General George Dean Pitt, K.H. The flagship was the Josephine, Captain Smith, and the committee—Major Bridge, 58th Regiment; Major Gray, Captain Laye, 58th Regiment; Mr. Cooper, 58th Regiment; Captain Salmon, Captain Smith; Messrs. W. S. Grahame, Thomas Lewis, John McDougall, Woodhouse, and F. W. Merriman (hon, sec.) The three races of the regatta of 1842 expanded in the regatta of 1850 to twelve races, with prize money ranging from £2 to £15. The cargo-boat race was won by Mr. Osborne's Polka; whaleboat race, by Major Bridge's Parewa; sailing boats, by Mr. Waite's Jerry: gigs, by Colonel Wynyard's Anne; watermen's boats, by Angelo Peragi's British Queen: dingies, by Mr. Carr's Alert; duck and drake race, won by the duck, Angelo.

The Canoe Races.

The Southern Cross thus describes the canoe races:—"The tenth and eleventh matches proved to be the most attractive and prominent of the day. These were the native races and were intended to have been contested the first by canoes manned by twelve Maori only; the second by canoes containing an unlimited crew. Such, however, was the eager excitement of the native competitors, and so anxious were they to exhibit their prowess, that it was found impossible to carry out such a plan. They were, therefore, all permitted to come to the scratch at once, and a page 33 more animated scene it would be difficult to conceive, much less to depict. It was at once wild and imposing, presenting a picture of native energy and enterprise both laudable and ludicrous. Seven canoes having taken up their stations, off they bounded amidst the smoke of the signal gun and the shouts of their chiefs, tearing the water with their paddles, labouring with might and main to attain the goal. There were no sluggards in these long snake-like vessels, the fuglemen, who by extravagant gestures and vociferous tones animate the pullers, having probably fully as arduous and as exhausting duties to perform as those whose part it is to propel the rushing boat. These painted, feather-decked, half-naked gondoliers, giving free and unfettered vent to their desires, exhibiting animal passion in all their might and majesty of manly exertion, were indeed objects of no ordinary consideration, and it is little wonder that they should have contributed so largely to the successful issue of our Auckland Regatta. The course they had to follow was the same as that which had been traversed by the whaleboats, but the distance was performed in 25 minutes by the victorious canoe, or in 12 minutes less than the whining whaleboat. The prize was awarded not to the canoe which came in first, but to that under the direction of Kawau's son Reuiti, it being the only one that had rounded the buoy, tor the most of the competitors were prone to 'the ways that are dark, and the tricks that are vain.' A subsequent race was won by a canoe called the Mokewitiwiti, guided by the chief Arapui. There were four canoes started, and so closely was this magnificent race contested that the competitors might have been covered with blanket, through its entire course."

The same journal in its editorial on the tenth anniversary says:—"With this morning's dawn we hail the return of the day on which 'the shadow of the land' was conceded to the Sovereign of the Isles." From that day out the anniversary of the colony (the 29th January) has been commemorated by a regatta.

The Regatta of 1851.

The following year's regatta (1851) was remarkable for one or two features, more especially the canoe races, which were the best ever held on the waters of the Waitemata. At noon the beautiful barque Novelty delivered a Royal salute in honour of the day. The events recall some well-known names. The first race, for decked boats under 25 tons, was won by the Gnome, Pilot 2, Napi 3. Sculling Race (Amateurs), won by Adjutant Cooper, 58th Regiment, whose Enigma beat Mr. Hay's Sandfly and Captain Daldy's Union. There was no watermen's race, the appearance of a new and beautiful boat, Union (Langley's) causing them to throw up the sponge. In the watermen's boats race (pair sculls) the Union beat Wright's Charlotte and Hawke's Nancy. In the race for cargo boats or boats working for hire, not under six tons, six boats were objected to by some of the fastest cargo boats as having half-decks and hatches, and they refused to compete in consequence. Only one open cargo boat (Mr. Henderson's John and Rebecca) had the hardihood to try her powers, and won the prize, for fortune favours the brave. The Four-oared Gig Race (amateurs) was exciting, a new gig, the Sylph, having been built by the Waitemata Club for the express purpose of beating the Alphabet. The former was defeated. The Alphabet was pulled by Messrs. Brath-waite, T. Lewis, A. and J. Johnston,—coxswain, Mr. C. Young; the Sylph by Messrs. Thompson, Schultz, Smith, and Budden,—coxswain, Mr. Harris.

A Grand Canoe Contest.

The Wakatiwai Canoe Race was won by Hemi Pateora, of Orakei, and Paora, of Orakei. But the Wakataua Race was emphatically the race of the day, and is thus described:—"It was a magnificent one, and such as New Zealand only could show. Five large and powerful canoes, beautifully carved, and highly decorated with pigeons' feathers, and manned by an unlimited number of fine athletic natives, formed line to compete for the prize. It was a picture to look at these craft and their ardent and excited crews, who, like hounds in the leash, sat ready to dart towards the appointed goal. Away they sped the instant the musket shot announced the period of trial had arrived. Their fleet canoes actually bounded over the tide, which foamed and hissed under the nervous rapidity of their strokes. Every ship cheered, and a shout of admiration and delight was mingled with the energetic outcries of the native conductors, who with voice and gesture kept time, and gave encouragement to the close-packed paddlers of these flying race boats. The speed with which they pushed onwards was perfectly surprising, far surpassing that of the whale-boats, over whose course of four or five miles they swept in 37 minutes, being 13 minutes less than that which the whalemen had consumed. The two leading canoes came in neck-and-neck, the foremost being scarcely half-a-length in advance of the other, and the remaining three together and at a very trifling distance behind. It were a study for a painter to have caught the triumphant attitude of the leading chief (Te Wherowhero, Tawhiao's father), as with dilated nostrils, arms outstretched, eyeballs rolling in their sockets, he gave expression, amidst the shouts of the spectators, the thunderings of the American and English ships, and the exultation of his fellow-countrymen, to the unbounded delight of the moment. It was an incarnation of the triumph of the savage combined with the innate energy and ardour so characteristic of the British sportsman. The attitude was intensely classical, a Maori realisation of Ajax defying the lightning. A voyage to Auckland would almost be repaid by beholding such a contest. The first canoe was called the Wharepuhunga. She is the property of the celebrated chief Te Wherowhero, and was paddled by his tribe. The name of the second was the Tamahu, of the Thames. She was paddled by the Ngatipaoa tribe, with their chief Hauaru at their head."

page 34

The following was the canoe song chanted on the occasion:—

Tena! toia,
Tena, te aia,
Tena, kumea,
Tena, ka riro,
Tena, ka puta,
Tena, ka u, u, ka u,
Tena, kia ngoto, ngoto, kia ngoto,
Aha! ka riro,
Ka riro kei mua, rnua, kei mua.

Be quick! pull away—
Be quick! dig deeply,
Be quick! now she goes,
Now she shoots ahead!
Now she arrives—arrives!
Now then, plough deeply, deeply, deeply,
Ah! now she shoots ahead—
Shoots ahead to the front,
To the front, to the front!

The keenness of the contest was intensified by tribal jealousies. As the canoes shot under the signal gun as it blazed out its contents at the close of the race, the sweating, excited crews leaped into the sea to cool themselves. They afterwards came ashore in Commercial (or Town) Bay, and on a sand bar on the beach, a little eastward of where now stands the Imperial Hotel, Fort-street, danced the war dance and got their prize money. In subsequent regattas the canoe races fell into desuetude or were poor affairs, owing to the Maoris of a later date caring more about money than aquatic sports, and wanted a prize of inordinate amount, which probably would be run for as 'a put-up job' and divided! The revival in canoe contests now brought about at the Jubilee will be hailed with satisfaction by all old colonists, as well as by the Maori people themselves.

The best poetical description of a Maori war-canoe race is that given in the following verses by Mr. Alfred Domett in his "Ranolf and Amohia":—

Then rose the single voice in prouder strain,
Just as the lightning Hashed again:

"Had you died the death of glory
On the field of battle gory—
Died the death a chief would choose,
Not this death so sad and gloomy—
Then with tuft and tassel plumy,
Down of gannet—Sea-king's feather—
Gaily-waving, snowy-flecking,
Every deep-red gunwale decking—
Then a hundred brave canoes,
With elated
Warriors freighted,
I Like one man their war-chant chiming,
Fierce deep cries the paddles timing,
While the paddles' serried [unclear: Rows],
Like broad birds' wings, spread and close—
Though the whit'ning
Waves, like lightning

Had been starting altogether,
Forward through the foam together,
All in quest of vengeful slaughter,
Tearing through the for used water."
And from dusky figures seated round,
With savage satisfaction in the sound—
A stern deep pride with sadness shadowed o'er
Like volleys fired above a soldier's grave,
Rang out the chorussed thundering groans once more:—

"Ha! A hundred brave canoes—
Crowding, crashing,
Darting, plashing.
Darting, dashing through the wave!
Forward—forward all together,
All in quest of foemen's slaughter!
They had cleft the foaming water,
Seeking vengeance for the brave—
For the brave—the brave—the brave!"

The late Mr. C. O. Davis, an accomplished Maori linguist, published the following on the subject of Maori war-canoes and their uses:—

"It was not customary with the Maoris in ancient times to appoint regular days for canoe races as is now often done. Sometimes a great chief would proceed on a visit to a neighbouring relative or ally, or on a foray or a hostile expedition. If he went by land he was usually accompanied by a large retinue befitting his rank, often numbering 100 followers, and if he went by water he was escorted by as many as half a dozen large war-canoes all fully manned, and ornamented in the highest style of native art The principal war-canoe was called the 'Tararo.' It was elaborately carved and ornamented with tufts and plumes of the pigeon, albatross, and other birds. Sometimes the carved board rose to a height of twelve feet, all splendidly decorated. Two streamers of white albatross feathers decorated the bows. In the spaces between the gunwales and top sides beautifully carved pieces were let in. The spaces between the thwarts were partly covered over with twigs so as to form a platform upon which the warriors were enabled to sit in regular rows; in fact, they displayed a wonderful uniformity and precision, both in regard to position and motion, so that the war-canoes appeared like some vast antennæ instinct with life. Another name for these war-canoes was Waka Taua, from waka, a canoe, and tana, war party. In manning a canoe two men known to be skilful in handling the large steer-paddles were placed at the bow and stern, and co-operated with each other in guiding the canoe. Two or three other persons well versed in the chants and songs used on such occasions would relieve each other as fuglemen, standing up in the canoe, beating time with a paddle or taiaha (ornamental spear) and chanting a song, the chorus of which was sung by the rowers, who were bare to the waist, with heads beautifully decorated with huia and albatross feathers. Sometimes they wore over the brow topknots composed of feathers, and ribbons of tapa (native cloth), and the tuki or carved comb, which gave to the heads of the rowers an appearance of savage grandeur in singular harmony with the decorations of the canoe itself. They also often wore white or black tufts of albatross feathers (Puhoi) in the ears. These latter ornaments were only worn by men of distinction. Races sometimes occurred in this way. A number of canoes would set out together, the rowers would stimulate each other to put on speed, and in the emulation there would be a struggle for the lead, which would result in a harulycon tested race."