Edward Jollie - Reminisces 1841-1865


5. Nelson: 1848-1849


My share of the profits of our surveying contracts at Otago amounted to between £600 and £700, the greater part of which I invested in the purchase of four hundred sheep, which I placed in the hands of Mr. John Watts (1) who had been one of the ten Nelson cadets sent out by the New Zealand Company a few months previous to my sailing for Wellington in the Brougham
He was about to start a sheep farm in the Wairau Valley [Below, 1850]and agreed to take my sheep on “thirds” for three years.  On “thirds” meant that he was to have one-third of the wool and lambs each year and I was to have two-thirds.

(1) John W. A. Watts was drowned in the Waiau River while on his way from Christchurch to the Hanmer Plain on the 14th of January, 1862.

Many of the Nelson gentlemen were at that time in 1847 buying sheep and stocking runs in the Wairau, as the road to it from Nelson had been lately made. The profits of sheep farming had been proved, and as those first on the ground with sheep would secure first choice of country, there was great competition in buying sheep, which were imported from Sydney. There were also great efforts made by intending run holders to place their sheep on good country.  Watts managed to get down in good time, with my sheep and some of his own, and there I left them for three years.

During 1847 the survey of the Wairau into one hundred acre sections was completed and in December of that year I was appointed by Mr. Fox, (1) who was at that time Resident Agent of the New Zealand Company at Nelson, to examine its correctness.

(1) William Fox (1812-1893). Explorer, Lawyer, Politician, Premier, Artist and Social Reformer.

This of course required that I should go to the Wairau, which I did with several other gentlemen, some of whom had been appointed as land agents to examine the sections previous to selecting.  My work occupied me about a month, when I returned again to Thackwood, where I still was when Captain Thomas with Messrs. Cass and Torlesse (1) arrived at Nelson from London in the ship Bernicia on the 5th Nov. 1848.

(1) Charles Obins Torlesse (1825-1866).  A Nephew of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, he was subsequently a Canterbury Association Assistant Surveyor (1849-1851).  Torlesse later settled in Canterbury’s Rangiora (Rakiura) district. 

His 1863 Christchurch house, opposite the Botanical Gardens, was demolished in in 1990 to make way for a YMCA development.

 Captain Thomas, after completing his survey contract in Otago, had gone to England, and while there he had accepted an offer made to him by the Canterbury Association to act as their Agent and Chief Surveyor in New Zealand, and it was in furtherance of this object that he had arrived in Nelson.

Thomas sent me word that he would like to see me, so I walked in to Nelson and he rode back with me to Thackwood [Above, 1849] where he proposed that I should join him on the same terms as Cass and Torlesse.  This I agreed to do when he should have decided upon where the settlement would be.  He agreed and promised to write to me when he had work for me to do.

Shortly afterwards he left Nelson and having examined various places, which from former experience he considered might be adapted for the new settlement, he finally determined that Port Cooper on Banks Peninsula should be the Harbour of the Colony.  It was the centre of a fine District, easy of access, with good land, and without any trouble likely to arise in future from native disturbances.

This choice he had according to instructions to submit to the Governor, at that time Sir George Grey, and the Bishop of New Zealand, Dr. Selwyn, (1) for their approval.  After some delay, caused by those gentlemen having pet places of their own which they wished selected, he had at last secured their consent to his choice.  There is no doubt that the Canterbury settlers have every reason to be satisfied and grateful to Captain Thomas for his wise selection.

(1) George Augustus Selwyn (1809-1878). First Anglican Bishop of New Zealand 1841-1868.

It was not until the 2nd of July, 1849 that I heard from Thomas that he had started work at Port Cooper and wished me to join him as soon as I could get there.  I thereupon immediately set about making preparations and hearing that a small cutter called the Supply(1) sometimes, but generally the Roaring Gimblet, was about to sail for Port Cooper.

(1) The 22 ton cutter Supply was built and owned by Samuel Strong (1795-1875) of Nelson. Not infrequently chartered to the New Zealand Company, she was a familiar sight at the provincial ports of the colony. On the 6th of December, 1870, while sailing from Havelock, in the Marlborough Sounds, to Wellington, she was beached to as a consequence of defective ground tackle.

A Quaker, Samuel Strong arrived at Nelson in late 1842 and New Zealand's first regular Meetings for Worship commenced the following year. The first meeting house in New Zealand of the Society of Friends opened for worship in 1853 on a Rutherford Street site in what is now central Nelson. Samuel and Martha Strong (along with two others) were buried on the site, which became known as the Quaker's Acre Cemetery. In 1922 parliamentary authority was obtained to sell most of the Acre for subdivision, except 17.5 perches, which included the graves and the site of the Meeting House. The Nelson City Council took over the maintenance of the historic site in 1934. 

I took my passage in her and on the evening of the 12th of July we left Nelson, my fellow-passengers being Mr. Thomas Brunner, (1) formerly a Nelson Cadet, who had lately returned from an exploring trip along the West Coast towards Milford Sound. During this expedition he was absent for twenty-one months, without seeing a white man.

(1) Thomas Brunner (1821-1874), an 1841 New Zealand Company "Improver" or apprentice surveyor in the 77 strong advance party for the Nelson settlement. Brunner was retired unusually early, in 1869. Though kept on by the provincial government as a consultant surveyor, he was regarded as rather impracticable; the inaccurate state of the Nelson survey being partly his responsibility.

Also aboard was a Mrs. Kenny, who with her three children was going to join her husband at Port Cooper.

The crew consisted of the Captain, named Boyce, a lad named Tom (the cook) and a man whose name I forget, three in all.  Brunner and I were the only occupants of the cabin and we filled it.  There was just room for us to lie down one on each side, with a table, about two feet square, between us.  Mrs. Kenny and the children were somewhere forward.

The day after starting we were knocking about off Stephen’s Island (1) and I was very sick.  Our vessel pitched and rolled and twisted herself to such a degree that it was a miracle she did not turn inside out.  She seemed to prefer going sideways or any other than the right way, and this continued until midday of the 14th when a stiff South-Easter met us in Cook’s Strait when off Tory Channel.  Our vessel not being very fit to fight against a gale, the Captain decided to take shelter in Queen Charlotte’s Sound.

(1) Due north of D’Urville Island in the Marlborough Sounds district, Stephen’s Island is home to the largest population of the Tuatara, last survivor of the ancient reptile order Rhynchocephalia, which became extinct elsewhere sixty million years ago.

He steered for one of the entrances of the Tory Channel.  I was at this time in the cabin lying half-dressed in my bunk, but I could hear what was going on deck. The conversation between the skipper and Brunner was, I thought, expressed in anxious language.  And, as if we were getting into danger, I ran on deck to see how we were going.  I found that we were in breakers and close to a high rock about eighty feet high, over the top of which the waves broke. Close under our lee I saw in the hollow of a wave, a black ugly rock, which our vessel just missed with her bows.

The drawback of the sea then took us clear of it for a second or two when the next wave lifted us high up and leaving us again we fell on the rock with so great a smash that I thought my last hour had come.  Our vessel was now quite unmanageable, the rudder was carried away and all round us was white water and breakers washing over us.

We were astonished that she did not sink after such a smash, but as she continued to float we did our best by getting a leeward current to steer her as the tide was fortunately running into the Sound.  Very soon the vessel was taken away from the rocks and into smooth water.  However we still expected our cutter to sink soon so we got the dingy out, but it was done in such a hurry that it was smashed.

The Captain and Tom the cook behaved well, but the other Hand, who may be called the crew, when we were in the greatest danger pulled off his cap, threw it on the deck and kept jumping on it while he tore at his hair, and cursed everything from the man who built the vessel to himself for being such a fool as to be in her.  He was in a frantic state of fear, but got better when I told him to shut up and help the skipper with the sweep [a jury-rigged or temporary rudder].

After being in a state of uncertainty for some time and of astonishment at our keeping afloat so long after such a smash, I happened to look up the Sound where I saw two boats about one and a half miles away, apparently pulling towards us.  This proved to be the case as they were very soon alongside of us.  After a consultation with the Captain they took us in tow, and aided by the tide they, in about thirty minutes, beached us in a bay about three miles from the scene of the accident.

The water by that time had risen to within an inch or two of the bottom of my bunk, so that I just managed to secure my blankets in a dry state.  The boats which so promptly came to our aid belonged to Geordie Toms (1) who had a shore whaling party in the Sound.  The whaler’s look-out man seeing and reporting a vessel in distress, Toms sent his two five-oared whale boats to our assistance, with the result named above.

(1) Jollie first met Toms on his way to the Manawatu district in December, 1843. Joseph Thoms or "Geordie Bolts" was at his 1830's Whekenui Bay whaling station. He is buried at Te Awaiti Bay on Arapawa Island in the Tory Channel of Queen Charlotte Sound.

On landing from the vessel we were met by a dignified man who in appearance reminded me very much of the late King Louis Phillipe.  His name was Jackson - Captain Jackson, (1) a retired whaler who had taken to matrimony and was living with his wife and two children in a house close to where our vessel was beached.

(1) Jollie had previously stayed a night at a Porirua (Wellington) hut belonging to Captain James Hayter Jackson on his way to the Manawatu district in December, 1843.

He met us in a very kind manner and invited us up to his house, [above] where he gave us food and a hearty welcome.  We arranged to stay until our vessel was repaired and our voyage resumed and having thus secured ourselves a home, in the meantime we turned our attention to our preservers [rescuers].

The crews of the whale boats were very soon happy in the possession of a cask of beer, which was got out of the hold of the cutter, and one or two other delicacies, which we could get at.  Certainly those men must have been very happy all that night, judging from the sounds of hilarity which continued uninterrupted until morning.  Fortunately, I had a keg of Brandy in the cabin, which I got a man to dive for, and which was of great service in making Jackson and his brother-in-law as happy in the house as the whalers were outside.

Next morning at low tide we examined the damage to the vessel and found that she had struck the rock just under the stern port, which together with the keel, was broken off short.  Also the deadwood between the two was carried away, just where the notch is made to fit the planking into, and a hole was torn out of one of the planks about large enough to push a hand in. 
The Captain immediately started off up the Sound and returned, with two ship carpenters, who lost no time in going into the bush and cutting the timber required for repairs.  He then crossed over the Straits to Wellington to get the necessary ironwork.

In the meantime we got a winch from the Whaling Station and after a great deal of trouble we hauled up the cutter sufficiently high on the beach to get at her wounds, which were all mended in about three weeks, with everything ready for a start again.  This was not bad considering that she had to have a new keel and stern post and a few planks put on her, etc.

Both Jackson and Toms had been noted men in their day on the New Zealand coast.  The former was very much given to argument on religious subjects and as a great secret he informed me, after we had got intimate with each other, that he was a Deist.  He read a good deal and as he did not understand many of the words he would to come to me for enlightenment.  Jackson would then go into his bedroom and return smiling, with the observation that he considered me a wonderful man.

I learned afterwards that he had a dictionary in his bedroom, which, whenever I told him the meaning of a word, he consulted to see if I was right.  He was also very fond of playing Draughts and fancied himself good at it.  But as I always beat him, he said he knew of a man some miles up the Sound who could beat me, and that he would fetch him, if I would play with him.  To this I agreed, so Jackson manned his boat and set off for his champion, whom he returned within a few hours.

This champion was a Carpenter or Sawyer or both and as soon as he arrived we were set to play.  But after playing twelve games, all of which I won easily, Jackson put his carpenter into the boat again and took him home thinking me a more wonderful man than ever.

The following story I had heard of Jackson before I saw him.  He was informed that the Reverend Mr. Reay of Nelson was about to visit him when he immediately said to his wife, “Put the Bible on the table, Eliza”.  This was done and having welcomed Mr. Reay to his house, he though himself bound to discuss none but religious subjects.

Suddenly however something occurred, which made him forget the Parson’s presence, upon which he swore roundly.  When recollecting himself he said, “the Lord forgive me” and turning to Mr. Reay, he continued, “You see, sir, I wipes off as I goes on”.

I doubt the truth of this story, as I don’t think he ever swore when I was with him and I have heard him severely rebuke a young man who used an oath within his hearing.  Some years before I knew him, he had a small vessel which he used to advertise in Nelson as a first-rate passenger ship carrying an experienced cook - the said cook being a very dirty boy.

I sometimes went over to see Captain Thoms at his whaling station situated about a mile from Jackson’s house, to have a game of cards or a yarn with him.  He is the same man that took over Rauparaha and party form the North Island to the Wairau [District] immediately before the Wairau Massacre and he was at the time very much blamed for it.  But he assured me with tears in his eyes that there was no reason for such blame.

He was a very old whaler on the New Zealand coast and could tell stirring stories of fights with both whales and Māoris.  He had had most of the principal bones of his body broken by whales’ flukes, but when I met him he was what the whalers called “gallid” (1) or afraid even of the sight of a whale.  I expect his nerves were hurt when his bones were broken.

(1) Probably a colloquial pronunciation of galled; causing physical or psychological pain.

I often watched the boats chasing a whale and on one occasion I saw one killed.  Another day a boat was struck by the fluke of a whale and smashed, but the men were not hurt, being rescued by the other boat.  The whale which did the mischief swam close past me as I was looking on and it seemed very excited and inclined for more mischief, if it had the chance given it.

On the 8th of August, 1849 we had our vessel afloat again and all ready for a fresh start, so I went over to say good-bye to old Thoms who on parting said feelingly, "Well good bye old man take care of those persons you are going among, they have been the ruin of many a young man" and I believe this was his honest conviction.  Jackson and I had a parting game of Draughts about twelve o'clock at night, which he won, much to his delight.