We had a very pleasant passage to Nelson where we arrived in three or four days. Before landing a lady came on board to meet her daughter. The lady was the wife of Mr. Ray or Rae (1) I think, the clergyman in Nelson.
(1) The Reverend Charles Lucas Reay, B.A. (1780-1848). A broken tombstone, which his widow had intended should be placed over his grave, was found in a garden in Shortland Crescent, Auckland, in 1914. It was repaired and erected in the locality in which he was buried at Rangitukia (near Gisborne), the exact site of the grave being unknown.
Her daughter was called Miss Essex. Mrs. Rae as soon as she got on board began to relate the Nelson news to her daughter to which I listened with interest. As the chief news seemed to be the danger to which the settlers were exposed from the natives, she instanced the case of Mr. Jollie (1) who had lately when living on his farm been visited by a lot of Māoris who went into his house and, seizing him by his hair, swung him round, and at the same time made demonstrations with their tomahawks, as if they would split his head open.
(1) Probably referring to his brother Francis at Wakapuaka, Nelson.
With more particulars, which I forget, she related this with much animation. I afterwards found that she had given way to her imagination very largely and exaggerated matters immensely. Miss Essex the year after married Doctor Pollen of Auckland, who afterwards became and Member of the Legislative Council and was a member of several New Zealand Governments.
On landing in Nelson, I found a small town of about a thousand inhabitants, without any hotel where I could get quarters, so I called Mr. Tucket (1) who was living in my brother’s house in Nelson and he kindly gave me a bed and food.
(1) Frederick E. Tuckett (1807-1876), principal surveyor and civil engineer to the New Zealand Company's Nelson settlement.
The next day I walked up to Thackwood, (1) the name Frank had given his place, when I had the pleasure of meeting him after an interval of three and a half years. I was then nineteen years old and he was twenty-nine.
(1) Home of Francis Jollie at Wakapuaka to the near North of the city of Nelson from 1842 to 1853.
I found him living in a very beautiful valley about eight miles from Nelson in a hut situated close to a small clump of white pine (Kahikatea) and Kowhai trees - the sea (Blind Bay) about one and a half miles away. The hut was built of mud with walls about six feet high and thatched. Its length was thirty-six feet and twelve feet in breadth, divided into three rooms. The middle one was the kitchen and dining room and on one side of it was our bedroom and on the other the housekeeper’s.
It was not a very large establishment and I don’t think that the furniture and all the fittings would have sold for £10. We lived in this house for some time without any addition, and as far as I can now recollect we were very happy. Our work was pretty hard and continuous in making a garden, clearing land ready for the plough, and doing ordinary labourer’s work on a farm.
The farm establishment consisted, besides ourselves and the housekeeper, of a Scotch ploughman called John Livingstone and a boy, who slept I think in a small shed somewhere, having their meals in the house. The livestock on the farm were four working bullocks and a cow or two, a pig, and some fowls.
Times then were very bad in New Zealand and particularly so in Nelson. No one had any money or very little, so that there was great scarcity of work for the immigrants who had been sent out by the New Zealand Co. The Company had employed the immigrants for some time in making roads, but when these works were there was very great destitution, which could only be very slightly relieved by a few of the landowners beginning farming on their land. I heard of cases at the time in which settlers with families were so pushed for food that they had actually to dig up again the sets of potatoes which they had planted in order to keep their children alive.
Many of the gentlemen landowners were not much better off and had hard work to make a living. When my brother first landed in Nelson from the Fifeshire he found that the land order for one hundred and fifty acres which he bought from the New Zealand Company and the one acre town lot had not been surveyed. Frank had to wait a long time before he could choose the suburban and rural land. The consequence was that he settled on his town lot and, without proper consideration, had limited his means when he built a large house and planted the rest of his town acre in a garden. It was three years after landing before he went to live at and farm his fifty acres at Thackwood.
The consequence was, that when I joined him, he was very impecunious and had not the means to make himself comfortable on the farm or to carry out his farming operations on a scale large enough to return anything, but the smallest pittance.
I did not bring any money with me except something under £2 when I joined him. That and a very small stock of clothes were my only earthly possessions. However, by strict economy, it had to suffice until something should turn up, although I was often hardly put to it for clothes, especially trousers, which are garments that wear out very quickly in farm work.
For the year and a quarter that I remained at Thackwood before I went to Otago, the £1.16.0 or thereabouts, which I began with, served me as pocket money, without any addition. Several times I walked to the Nelson Post Office to send or collect letters. Then back again without stopping, or taking even a glass of beer along the road. This was a distance of twenty miles as the Post Office was situated at the Port of Nelson, nearly two miles from the then town.
During the three years I was in the Company’s service at Wellington I had letters from Frank stating that he was hard up and requesting my help, if I could manage to save anything out of the eight shillings a day I received as cadet. As my expenses were small and I was always of rather a saving disposition, I managed to send him all at different times about £150, which was a large sum in those days. Enough to have given me a start in life had I not had it drawn from me to meet my brother’s necessities. As it was, it did me but little good as Frank was not in a position to pay it back to me until about twenty years afterwards when he returned it with other money which he owed me, but without interest, and more as if he were conferring a favour rather than having received one.
After living at Thackwood about twelve months, I received letters from Mr. Andrew Wylie and Mr. A. C. Wills (1) telling me that they were intending to take contracts together for surveying land in the new settlement, which had been started in Otago and asking me to join them. This I promised to do, and Wylie went down to Otago and tendered for two contracts at the Molyneux River, both of which he was successful in obtaining in our three names. He then returned to Wellington and about the end of April 1846, I left Nelson.
(1) Andrew Wylie and Alfred Wills arrived with Jollie at Wellington as survey cadets aboard the Brougham in 1842.