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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 74


page 17


The French proverb, "Man proposes, but God disposes," has been thoroughly exemplified in my life.

I was born on the 16th November, 1831, and am of Highland parentage. When my father made up his mind to emigrate to New Zealand it was intended that I should remain in Scotland, finish my education, and enter the army, my father having been promised a commission for me in the Royal Engineers. However, I gave the irascible old gentleman some offence, and he said "you shall go to New Zealand, sir." It was useless disputing that fiat, and accordingly we left England in October, 1844, and landed at Nelson on 26th January, 1845.

All persons had to work hard in those days, and I spent nearly seven years on my father's place near Nelson, where I was initiated into the mysteries of farming, bush work, sheep and cattle management, stock riding, &c. No 8 hours a day then.

On coming of age, in 1852, I received some money and procured a Depasturage License of a sheep and cattle run at Cape Farewell, including the Sandspit, under Sir George Grey's Land Regulations. I subsequently bought 1500 acres of land at 10s. an acre, which had a frontage of about 4 miles to Massacre Bay. In 1855-56 I made several exploration trips into the then unknown parts of the N.W. portion of the Province of Nelson, crossing the high mountain ranges at the head waters of the Aorere and Takaka rivers which fall into Massacre Bay, and the Whakapoai (Heaphy), and the Karamea (Mackay) rivers, which run to the West Coast.

In December, 1856, gold was discovered at Aorere (now Collingwood), in the Massacre Bay district. In January, 1857, I walked down the West Coast from Cape Farewell to Mawhera (now Greymouth), and went 50 miles inland up the Grey River; I was accompanied on this trip by two Maoris.

On my return to Collingwood, about the end of February, I found the goldfield in full swing there, and like all other young fellows took my turn at alluvial digging (there was no quartzmining then). I speedily found I had a better claim in the sheep and cattle on my run than in the "Manrope" at Slate River. I however did not regret my experience then learned, as it gave me a practical knowledge of digging customs which has stood me in good stead since. There was no Goldfields Act in operation in the Colony at that time, but we made our own regulations which were based on those of Australia and California, and disputes were referred to arbitration. About the middle of 1857 page 18 the digging population numbered about 1900, of whom about 1300 were Europeans, and 600 Maoris. A Resident Magistrate had been appointed, but he, a retired Indian judge, was ignorant of goldfields business. Unfortunately for me, the diggers found out that I had some knowledge of the Maori language, consequently all disputes between the two races were referred to me for arrangement; and I performed all the judicial functions of a Warden without the authority. In January, 1858, I intimated my intention to discontinue this work, as it took more than half my time. The diggers interviewed the Resident Magistrate about my determination, and at their request he wrote to the Government asking them to give me some appointment to enable me to act. To my astonishment, in February, 1858, I received an appointment as Assistant-Native Secretary, and my first duties were to arrange disputes between Europeans and Natives on the Aorere Goldfield. After that, as there were a number of outstanding questions about Native Reserves and two land purchases to be completed, I was to arrange these, I very reluctantly consented to accept the appointment, after considerable pressure had been brought to bear on me by my father, and the digging community. Heretofore my ambition had not risen above the desire to be a successful run bolder, here again circumstances altered my career in life. In October, 1858, the first Goldfields Act was passed in New Zealand and several of the Governor's powers under it were delegated to me, and I received an appointment as Warden (the first in the Colony) for the Collingwood Goldfield.

In 1859 I walked across the Middle Island, from Christchurch to the West Coast, for the purpose of completing the purchase from the Natives of their claims to nearly the whole of the West Coast, an area of 7,500,000 acres. While there, gold was found in the Buller River, near what is now Westport, by Mr. John Rochfort, a surveyor. This information was not divulged to the Maoris. The purchase negotiations were unsuccessful, and I walked back to Nelson by way of the West Coast, thence I proceeded to Auckland to consult with His Excellency the Governor, Colonel Thomas Gore Browne, about the purchase, I received instructions to return to the West Coast and carry out fresh orders about it. I travelled on foot overland from Nelson to the Grey River with three Maoris and we blazed a track all the way (which is the line of the present coach road to Greymouth). The journey took us six weeks. The purchase was completed in June, 1860, for £300 and 10,000 acres of reserves, and I then returned to Collingwood. The Taranaki war commenced in i860, and during its continuance I was actively employed in preventing the large number of Natives, then residing in Nelson and Marlborough, and who were related to the Taranaki Maoris, from crossing Cook Strait to join in the hostilities. I also made a few risky seizures of munitions of war, which were being conveyed by Maoris from Queen Charlotte Sound to Kapiti Island.

About March, 1863, five Waikato chiefs of the Ngatimaniapoto tribe came to Nelson, and visited all the Native settlements page 19 in the provinces of Nelson, and Marlborough, trying to enlist recruits for the service of the Maori King in the coming war. I reported their proceedings to the Governor, and was instructed to make military prisoners of them and bring them to Auckland, I did so, and arrived with them a few days before the fight at the Koheroa. The Maoris were committed for trial for treason, but the Chief Judge (Sir George Arney) was unable to sit in the Supreme Court on account of severe illness, and I and some Nelson Natives who were witnesses in the case were compelled to remain at Auckland. It was during the time we were thus waiting that I was instructed to visit the Thames district, which resulted in my permanent location at Auckland. Gold was found at the Thames in 1867, then commenced the proceedings which are related in this pamphlet. Here again was another exemplification of the above quoted proverb.

The pamphlet was written for the information of the Maoris of the Thames, and I now dedicate it to my old friend, Wirope Hoterene Taipari, principal chief of the Ngatimaru tribe, who rendered me great assistance in the initiatory proceedings relating to the opening of the Thames district for gold mining. As j have acquired the status of a Maori chief among these people it appeared necessary, especially of late years as I have been frequently absent from the district, to commence with the greetings and lamentations indulged in on meeting of old friends after a prolonged absence. At the request of a numerous circle of friends I translated the address into English.

James Mackay.