The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 2 (June 1, 1933)
Much has been written during the last few weeks of what is practically the rebirth of Napier, the splendidly successful effort of reconstruction after the double disaster of earth-quake and fire, and of the resolution and courage displayed by the people of Hawke's Bay in their endeavours to overcome the trouble with which the powers of Nature afflicted them. Headed by His Excellency the Governor, the citizens of New Zealand have united to do honour to the plucky men and women of the devastated districts who have risen superior to evil Fate and have made their town a better place in some respects than it was before the great misfortune fell upon them. The daily newspapers have told us much of that. Hawke's Bay is at work again more busily than before; time is effacing its scars; skilled scientific building is making its provincial capital safer than before.
Authentic pictures of the past of a country are particularly interesting in such a land as New Zealand, with its adventurous history, a many-coloured story of pioneer life and hazard. Hawke's Bay settlement was not endangered, except on one memorable occasion, by such wars and raids as Taranaki suffered in the Sixties. Nevertheless there was much of the rough end of life in the infancy of the province. The endeavours of the early settlers to turn the wild land to account were necessarily strenuous, and often visited by misfortune. Travel was difficult in that unroaded, unbridged country, where even the Maori population was sparse, except near the coast.
When the “Royal Tigers” Came.
Napier was not without its military life and stir, both before and during the Hauhau wars on the East Coast. As early as 1857 there was a garrison of British troops in the young town. This was a detachment of some 200 of the 65th Regiment, that hard-fighting corps of Indian fame which had for its proud nickname page 26 page 27 “The Royal Tigers.” The 65th had been in New Zealand for twelve years and were by this time veterans in Colonial life. They were sent to Napier as the result of a local intertribal feud, between factions of the Ngati-Kahungunu tribe; really they were not needed, because the pakeha population was never at any time in danger, at any rate not until the early Sixties, when the 65th were busy elsewhere.
The Tale of a Maori Curse.
This speech was a most serious kanga, or curse, to the Maori mind, and “The Great Fish of the Ocean” raised a war-party of his clan and attacked Te Moananui. In vindication of his war-making he said: “A blow is soon forgotten, but insulting words live for ever.”
Te Moananui, in his turn, besieged Te Hapuku in his palisaded pa. As the scene of the trouble was within a few miles of Napier the white population became alarmed and the Governor of the day was appealed to to send soldiers to protect the settlement. Now came into action the founder of Napier, the great Donald Maclean (afterwards Sir Donald), who was the Government agent in Hawke's Bay. He arranged a peaceful settlement. Te Hapuku, who seemed to be getting the worst of it, agreed to evacuate his pa and remove to a more secure spot, his ancestral lands at Poukawa. He burned his village, and with all his people marched off with the honours of war.
Meanwhile, the 65th detachment, commanded by Colonel Wyatt, arrived and established a camp at Onepoto, a valley and beach on the side of Scinde Island facing the inner harbour. One-poto means a short strip of sandy beach. Some facetious members of the Royal Tigers christened the camp “One-potato Gully.”
An Inland Journey in 1859.
One of the 65th officers stationed at Napier at this period was a young lieutenant named H. S. Bates. He liked the Maoris and learned their language, and he married a young chieftainess, daughter of Manihera, of the Atiawa tribe (of Taranaki), in Wellington. In 1863 he was made interpreter and A.D.C. to the page 28 Governor, Sir George Grey. When he returned to England with his regiment, of which he became Colonel, he left a young son to be educated with a missionary family (the mother had died), and to this son in later years he left all his large property in England. The son was the late Mr. H. S. Bates, of Wanganui who gave me some of the sketches and manuscript narratives left by his father. This account of a ride through Hawke's Bay, in 1859, is of value as a picture of the primitive condition of this now well-settled and wealthy province. Lieutenant Bates had been invited by two acquaintances, young sheep farmers on the Ruataniwha Plains, to visit them at their new station at shearing time.
“It was a hot summer morning, at the end of 1859,” he wrote. “I had started from my little hut in the One-poto Valley, a narrow gorge on Scinde Island, surrounded by fern-clad hills, a spot in which fate and the service of my country compelled me to while away two and a half years of life. It was pleasant to climb up the steep roadway which led from the confined valley, and inhale the cool sea breeze which was borne to the plateau where the recently erected wooden barracks stood, surrounded by an earth parapet. Descending a steep and newly-cut bridle track, we left the fern-clad hills of Scinde Island and came on to a flat, or wide sterile expanse of pumice stone, the debris of some far-off volcano. This was the site of the future town of Napier, and though there were at present only two or three small weather-boarded and shingled shanties on it, the map which hung in the Provincial Survey Office showed it parcelled out into streets, squares, and corner lots, with here and there a church or school house reserve. Vain dreams they seemed then; but the performance has been greater than the anticipation. Years afterwards I sold the quarter of an acre which I owned in the pumice-stone desert for £300, or at the rate of £1200 per acre.
“Passing over this scene of desolation, we came to a long strip of hard shingle, over which we made good progress. On our left were low sandhills, which separated us from the sea beach, on which the little waves were breaking in melodious rhythm. Oyster-catchers and other sea-birds stood here and there, perched on stones, gazing seaward, or now and again picking up some mussel or other shellfish, bearing the bivalve aloft and letting it drop on some hard piece of rock below, a process which was repeated again and again till the shell cracked and gave up its contents. On our right were mudflats and swamps fringed with raupo reeds.
German and Irish.
“About seven miles from Napier the track turned abruptly to the right, and a deep river bars the way. On the other side of the river, which is about a hundred yards wide, smoke rises from the turf chimney of a small hut built of sods. Two or three vigorous ‘coo-ees’ bring the ferryman out of his whare, and he proceeds to work a crazy ramshackle sort of ferry boat over to our side, by hauling at a chain. A rough-looking German is Nat Tieck, commonly known as ‘the colonel,’ a man of few words. We quickly dismount, and lead our horses on to the cranky raft. I help the ferryman to haul on the chain, and we are soon landed on the other side. The ‘colonel's’ wife, a red-headed Irishwoman, is digging potatoes in a fenced-in patch. Her I politely address with ‘Güten Morgen, Frau Tieck, wie geht's ihnen?’ To which the red-headed one replies with some asperity, ‘Ah, go along wid yez and yer blarney!’
“We climb on to our horses’ backs and jog along another mile to the village of Clive, a new settlement, which consists of a Maori pa fenced on the river's bank, a few huts, a weather-boarded publichouse, and last, a well-built house, the home of Mr. Ferguson, an elderly North of Ireland man, who is king of the place. He is a magistrate and keeps the general store, where you can buy anything from a ‘goashore’ iron pot or a spade to a tin of sardines or a bottle of hair-oil. As we enter the public room of the little wooden page 29 house, there behind the board which stretches across an angle of the room, forming the bar, there is a pleasant vision, the landlord's half-caste daughter, the possessor of a pretty face and comely figure, fine and generous curves.
“Our horses were quite fresh after their feed and two hours rest, and we were soon loping along at a bush canter, the usual colonial pace. We passed Pakowhai, with its stockaded enclosure and thatched huts overhung by luxuriant peach trees. Shortly before sunset we descended some low hills and came to a river, on the far side of which was a wooden house with reed-thatched roof, backed by a stable built of rough hewn slabs. Two or three native huts stood near. This was Ngawhakatatara, our resting place for the night. Next day we got on to Ruataniwha Plains, on the extremity of which was the sheep station for which we were bound. On our left rose low hills, while the plain, covered with coarse native grass, with here and there a palm-like cabbage-tree, stretched for some twenty miles up to the edge of the Seventy-mile Bush. On our right the margin of the plain was marked by the sombre range of the Ruahine Mountains. By sundown we reached Te Kereru, the sheep station of our friends. A neat weather-board house with a verandah encircling it, stood on a gentle eminence, backed by the bush, with a wide prospect over the great yellow plain. The forest near the house had been roughly cleared and burnt, leaving some of the larger trees still standing; their blackened stumps and scorched branches pointing in indignant remonstrance to the unheeding sky. Near at hand was the woolshed, a long wooden erection, and beyond this again were various huts and stockyards. We were warmly welcomed by the two partners. The gang of sheep-shearers had arrived, and for the next few days from early dawn to late in the evening, every soul would be hard at work.”
Then the return to Onepoto camp: “Hark to that bugle call resounding in the still morning air! I am within two miles of home. As I recognise the reveillé, which is sounding at the barracks on the top of the hill, I kick Robin into a canter. There is just time for me to get to my house, a gorgeous structure made apparently of sardine-boxes and biscuit-tins, there to jump into my tub, hurry on my uniform and get up to barracks in time as officer of the day, to inspect the issue of bread and meat.”
Napier'S Masonic Hotel.
Famous for many years for its table and wines, the Masonic created for itself an atmosphere quite unique in the annals of colonial hotels.
To-day on its old key position, a new Masonic has been built, of which Napier may well be proud. Constructed on the most approved shock-proof system, and exemplifying the finest type of that individualistic architecture which is making Napier unique amongst Colonial cities, the building is designed to give sheltered sunshine in two main courts and with a “loggia” and sun porches taking full value of the incomparable sea view over the new Parade.
The Lounge and Dining-room are unequalled in the Dominion for design and beauty of furnishing and bed-rooms embody every modern convenience.
Very attractive terms are being offered by the Management, to those desirous of making a prolonged stay during the winter months.page 30
Railwayman: “Wonderful smoke this National Tobacco. I believe it is the healthiest tobacco on the market.“
Man behind the Counter: “Yes, I smoke it myself. Apart from the fact that the tobacco is one hundred per cent. in quality, it is produced by a company that is one hundred per cent. New Zealand. I believe that company pays hundreds of thousands to the Government in freight and taxes and employs over a thousand workers. Why, dash it all, the more we smoke the better for the country; and the loyal way the company sticks to the Railways in fares and freight, helps to keep the railwaymen in their jobs.”