Omens of Succession

Another tale from John Wilson’s ‘Reminiscences of the Early Settlement of Dunedin and South Otago‘.

The Nicols, father and son. took a contract to build 
a bridge and an accommodation house at the Mataura 
River. Not having seen the place, they had to trust to 
the particulars given by the Government Department, 
and their estimates were made up from the information 
supplied, a good deal of which was misleading. Mr. 
Nicol, senr.. engaged men and a bullock driver, and. 
having secured a pair of first-class bullocks and sledge, set 
out from Dunedin for Mataura. Walter Nicol had now 
his first experience as a bullock-puncher, as the others of 
the party left him in charge. The road was only a track 
in many places, and in others there was hardly anything 
to guide the plucky new-chum driver. Nothing daunted, 
he set off, and after five days reached Caldervale, Kaihiku. 
then occupied by Alex. McNeil, where the others joined 
him, and the bullocks were handed over to their proper 
driver. The first day's trip had been as far as Saddle 
Hill; the next to Taieri Ferry; the third to Mathieson's. 
at Toko ; the fourth to Balclutha. and the fifth to Kaihiku. 
After leaving this place they managed, by taking a long 
day, to reach Trumble's place at Otaraia, but received 
a very surly welcome, neither food nor lodging being at 
first forthcoming. Ultimately they persuaded Trumble 
to give them food, and they lodged in the stockyard 
among the calf-pens. The seventh night found them at 
their destination the Bush about two miles below the 
present Mataura township, where there was a Maori settle- 
ment. Work then began. All the timber had to be cut in 
the bush and taken to the bridge site, a distance of about 
two miles. Soon a difficulty presented itself. The bridge 
had one span of fifty-two feet, and they could find only 
one tree in the bush which would square the size required. 
They had to go to Steel's bush. Edendale. for the other, 
and this entailed a great deal of extra labour. The bridge 
was a foot and horse bridge, six feet wide, and the spans 
were to rest on two Mat rocks, almost in mid-stream. It was 
found that the plans were here far astray, the proposed 
bridge being found to be twenty feet short, and some time 
was wasted in getting authority from Dunedin for the in- 
creased length. Provisions ran short, and the bullock 
team was sent to Invercargill for flour. It was away a 
fortnight, and then brought only one bag. The men were 
in a sad plight. Rich, a station-owner near, was away 
from home, and his foreman refused to sell them any 
meat, and if it had not been for the Maoris they would 
have starved. These Maoris gave them a few potatoes, 
and they managed to get some wild pigs. On Rich's 
return he soon had a bullock killed, and they were in 
clover. They then shifted camp to the bridge site, and 
were ready to start, when a flood came, and showed 
them that something would have to be done to prevent the 
bridge when built from being swept away, as the water 
rose right over the rocks where it was supposed to rest. 
The authorities were communicated with, and instructions 
sent to drill holes in the rocks and put in bolts, which 
were fixed by having melted lead poured in. After the 
work was completed, the river rose again, and the water 
flowed over the bottom of the bridge. Some time after- 
wards the bridge was swept away just when Southland 
separated from Otago and this accident made the sepa- 
ration complete. The accommodation-house was soon com- 
pleted, and the party returned to Dunedin. 
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Reminiscences of Knife Fights with Wild Dogs

A recollection from John Wilson’s ‘Reminiscences of the Early Settlement of Dunedin and South Otago‘.

The following account is 
given by Mr. Matthew Marshall, a passenger by the 
"Philip Laing" in 1848, and relates to the time 1852) 
when he was shepherding for Edwin Meredith on the 
Popotunoa Run. 

In those early days there were, in the Popotunoa 
Bush, a few wild dogs, which were a source of never- 
ending trouble to the shepherds., who had to gather the 
sheep together every night, and tie their dogs at suitable 
places round them, not only to keep them together, but 
to give the alarm when the wild dogs attacked. One 
night the wild dogs got in before being seen. and. while 
some attacked the sheep dogs, others went after the sheep. 
Hearing the noise, the shepherds rushed out, but had great 
difficulty in driving off the wild dogs. Meanwhile the 
sheep had scattered in all directions. For many hours the 
work of collecting them proceeded, and. although ulti- 
mately successful, it was found that many had been killed, 
while others were so badly maimed that they soon died. 

It was a strange thing that, if a sheep were bitten by 
a wild dog, it never recovered. No matter how small the 
mark made by the teeth, blood poisoning set in. and the 
animal was sure to die. It was also a strange thing that 
the dogs would never make a meal of a sheep, and the 
shepherds never saw the remains of one that had been 
eaten. They seemed to be content with worrying the poor 
brutes to death. 

In the following year the sheep were taken to Fuller's 
place at Hilly Park for the shearing, the whole flock being 
shorn in the stockyard, and the wool taken to Port Moly- 
neux, where it was shipped to Dunedin. After shearing, 
the sheep, which were divided into two flocks, were 
camped in two separate places, one being in the valley 
between the Awakiki Bush and the hill, the other on the 
Clinton side of the bush. 

Dent's time being now up, and he refusing to re- 
engage, Hobbs went to Dunedin for another man. while 
Marshall was left in charge of the sheep. In about a 
week Hobbs returned, bringing a tall, strapping man. in 
the prime of life, named Sandy Gordon. 

The sheep were then taken to Popotunoa. Some time 
afterwards Meredith arrived from Tasmania, but was 
greatly disgusted with the small returns. He ordered the 
mob to be divided into two flocks again, and Marshall 
was sent with the ewes and lambs to Moa Hill, Kaihiku, 
while Gordon remained at Bedding Hill with the wethers 
and dry sheep. Sandy Gordon was a very conscientious 
man and exceedingly careful with the sheep, but was 
terribly harassed by the wild dogs, often having hardly 
a night's rest for weeks at a time. One day Hobbs. on his. 
return to Moa Hill, after a visit to him, told Marshall that 
Gordon was in a terrible rage, and that his ultimatum 
was: "Just you look here. now. Mr. Hobbs. if you will 
not send me up another man, I shall just leave the sheep, 
and vou can do whatever vou like with them." 

It was then decided to shift the sheep to Wharepa 
to try to get rid of the dogs, so they were all mustered, and 
the trip started. However, the dogs seemed to think 
something was up. and actually followed them for some 
distance. The first night they reached Albert's Cap, 
where they camped on the banks of the Piawhata Creek. 
Hobbs and Gordon then came on to Marshall's hut at Moa 
Hill, where they stayed the night. On their return next 
morning what was their disgust and rage to find that the 
wild dogs had been among the sheep, which were scattered 
in all directions, some fifty being either dead or badly 

The remainder were collected and arrived safely at 
the Wharepa Bush, where Gordon built the first white 
man's hut in the district. It was built on the site of the 
present house, in front of which is still to be seen the 
stump of the first tree cut in the bush by a White man. 
It may here be said that Gordon afterwards purchased 
the section, and lived for many years in the original hut. 

For some time both flocks of sheep were not troubled 
by the dogs, and the shepherds thought they had now got 
rid of them. However, one clear frosty night in the 
winter time, when Hobbs and Marshall were in bed at 
Moa Hill, they heard the sheep running about. There 
was no barking of dogs or any other noise, so they did 
not suspect wild dogs. Getting up. they had a look 
round, when, to their amazement, they saw some dogs 
rounding up the sheep. The leader of the mob was a 
white bitch -a perfect devil and there were three other 
dogs, a black one and two reddish-coloured ones. This 
mob had originally consisted of seven dogs, but three had 
been killed at Bedding Hill. 

Hobbs had a grand collie bitch which had already 
accounted for two of the mob, and this night she led the 
chase. She managed to bail them up on the banks of the 
Kaihiku. and when the men reached her the white bitch 
was sitting on the ground, fighting viciously. On seeing 
them she dashed into the water, but the men were deter- 
mined she should not escape. Whenever she came out of 
the water their dogs tackled her and drove her in again. 
Hobbs' dog followed her, while Hobbs himself took one 
side of the stream and Marshall the other. Up and down 
the bank she dashed, but every time she was checkmated 
in her attempts to escape. At last she was played out 
and caught in the water. Marshall had a pocket knife 
with which Hobbs stabbed her to the heart, both men with 
grim satisfaction then watching her bleed to death. 
Owing to the excitement of the chase they had not felt 
the intense cold, but on returning to the hut. when they 
took off their trousers they found them so frozen that they 
stood up by themselves in the middle of the floor. 

Next morning being Sunday. Marshall went to pay 
Gordon a visit. When he told him the story, Sandy replied : 
"I'll not believe a word till I see her," so both set off 
for the Kaihiku. On reaching the spot where the body 
lay. Sandy stood looking at it for a few minutes with a 
grim look on his weather-beaten countenance. Then he 
jumped on the body, dancing about till there was not 
a whole bone left in it. He then skinned it and 
took the skin to his hut. where he cured it, keeping 
it for several years as a relic of the early days of shep- 
herding in the Clutha.
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Suicide Bombing at Murchison, 1905

Murchison suicide bombing a world first

Forget Islamic extremists or anything to do with the Middle East, the world’s first strapped-on suicide bombing happened in Murchison.

Joseph Sewell was a 57-year-old farmer from Longford when he strapped himself with sticks of gelignite and blew himself up outside the Murchison Courthouse on Friday 14 July 1905. It was an event that got reported worldwide as “The Murchison Tragedy”….

Whatever his mindset at the time, Joseph Sewell had developed an unshakeable belief in the efficacy of explosives to settle virtually any dispute. Some years before he had unsuccessfully sued the Buller County Council for damages to his property sustained by a careless cart driver along its road. After Westport solicitor Edward Harden sent Sewell three accounts with a final demand for payment for having represented him in the case, Sewell marched into his office.

“Do you intend to actually get this money?” asked Sewell.

“Certainly, people in my line of business do not usually go to the trouble or expense for nothing,” replied the solicitor.

“Then we shall go to hell together!” expounded Sewell, who then produced from under his coat a package of dynamite with a detonator attached. The solicitor jumped up saying actually there was no hurry for the money, in fact he wouldn’t bother if it was never paid, but it still took some persuading for Sewell to finally settle down and leave.

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Curse work on Germany, 1916

Unconscious/semi-conscious curse working on Germany from the pages of the
Taranaki Daily News.

Some Great sympathetic magic here; when will they fall? when the clock strikes. How will they fall? like over ripe fruit. Through narrative causality their strength is the sign of their imminent undoing. The fruits of their civilisation are a lie, obliquely mirrored in two leaders, Bismark the inescapable manifestation of the ur German, the guiding hand of national destiny despite the efforts of poets, artists and thinkers, and William, embodying simultaneous paradoxes, with the worse always victorious.

half an athlete, half a cripple, half a genuis, half a homicidal maniac. A diseased sepulchre for a soul, a monster spewed from the dark ages to curse the twentieth century

Peppered throughout are some nice flourishes that demonstrate the will behind the working. The alliteration of:

foul feeders, deep drinkers, dull of brain, heavy of hand, coarse, common and cruel

The marking of Germany as “the Master Devil” a title befitting a villain so single mindedly evil that its downfall is all but ordained,  something conjured up to be a wrestling heel or enemy of Godzilla, and this appellation is backed up by tales of turpitude demonstrating their validity.

he would go to  royal kinsman’s death chamber and steal from dying lips the secrets of the great

It ends with both the case for the war and the implication the curse is already in effect and its fulfilment is at hand

Germany became the colossus of the world, and might have been its master ere the sands ran out had honesty and righteousness been the national watchwords instead of trickery and brute force. The whole Germanic life has been a hideous lie for two generations. They were within an ace of world mastery by virtue of their industry, organisation, and will power and brain force. They have thrown it all to the dogs. The Gods have cursed them. They will fall when the clock strikes.



With thanks to the National Library of New Zealand

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Vera Wyse Munro, Radio Pioneer

Vera Wyse Munro (1897-1966) was a pioneering New Zealand ham radio broadcaster, improviser, and sonic experimenter. Her primary media were amateur radio broadcasts, Morse poetry, and sono-topographical scores. Via her broadcasts, which were frequently received by amateur radio operators as far afield as the United States and Europe, Munro initiated some of the earliest telematic performances, in which she would perform prepared violin in structured improvisations with other musicians broadcasting from elsewhere in the world. Munro’s work was often necessarily clandestine, as a result of legislation curbing amateur radio activity in New Zealand. As a result of this, as well as the absence of extant documentation about her life and her ephemeral practice, Munro’s work is only now starting to be regarded amidst New Zealand’s cultural history.

reconstructed score excerpt of the Skywave Symphony (1940)

With thanks to Celeste Oram. Information from (also check out the radio documentary  on her page)

An expanded biography on Monro is available at

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Concept for a “processional way” for new Auckland war memorial


The project will see a “processional way” built down the grassy bank in front of the Auckland War Memorial Museum to Domain Drive. Photo / Supplied
New war memorial designs questioned (Jan 9, 2016)

Outside of this blogs usual chronological concerns perhaps but it is both noteworthy and heartening to see an evolution in the kind of ritual engagement asked of participants in ANZAC services, as well as the intertwining of ritual and landscape, whatever form the monument itself ends up taking.

The creation of a “hard” processional imperative in the memorial layout has its precursors in the psychological suggestions on crowd movement imposed by road layouts and pathways surrounding established memorials.

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Some pieces relating to blackbirding from New Zealand papers

At first relatively small ships – cutters, and ketches, and schooners – from New Zealand’s more northerly ports made up the bulk of the Kiwi blackbirding fleet, but as time went on, and the profits to be made from the trade in humans became clear, businessmen from New Zealand’s wealthy south funded larger ships. In 1871 JR MacKenzie, one of the richest men in Dunedin, launched a steamship called the Wainui, which was soon busy ‘recruiting’ labour in Melanesia.

Although missionaries like Coley Patteson produced detailed exposes of the trade, governments in Wellington were at first very reluctant to take any sort of action against blackbirding. Frustrated by their own failure to create prosperity in New Zealand, the country’s political elite hoped that the sugar and cotton booms in Queensland and Fiji would spread. Auckland might become a profitable ‘depot’ for Fijian exports destined for Europe, and the newly-wealthy planters of Fiji and Queensland might import large quantities of consumer goods from New Zealand.






The Minister tor Defence



With thanks to the National Library of New Zealand.


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Evil eye on the train


With thanks to the National Library of New Zealand

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Pirates in New Zealand

Taken from Wikipedia:

Charlotte Badger

Charlotte Badger (1778 – in or after 1818) is widely considered to be the first Australian female pirate. She was also one of the first two white female settlers in New Zealand.

Badger was born in 1778, the daughter of Thomas and Ann Badger. She was baptised on 31 July 1778. Her family was poor, and one day in 1796, she stole several guineas and a silk handkerchief in an attempt to support them, but was caught and arrested. She was sentenced to seven years’ penal servitude in New South Wales.

Badger arrived on the Earl Cornwallis in 1801. In 1806 she was serving at the Parramatta female factory, during which she gave birth to a daughter.

In 1806, she travelled with her child aboard The Venus, with plans to become a servant in Van Diemens Land. The captain of the ship, Samuel Chase, was in the habit of flogging the women for entertainment, until his charges and crew mutinied. Badger and another convict, Catherine Hagerty, talked the men on board into seizing the ship, while the captain was ashore at Port Dalrymple in northern Tasmania.

In 1806, Badger and Hagerty and their lovers, John Lancashire and Benjamin Kelly, went to the Bay of Islands in the far north of New Zealand, where they settled at the pa at Rangihoua. By April 1807, Hagerty had died and by the end of the year Lancashire and Kelly had also left.

In 1826, the American ship the Lafayette landed in Vavaʻu. On the ship’s landing in Sydney, they reported that Charlotte Badger and her daughter had stopped there eight years earlier. Badger could speak Māori fluently and could communicate in tongan and was travelling on a whaling ship to America.

Some stories suggest that the other mutineers all fled but were eventually caught and hanged, while others suggest that they went pirating after Badger, Hagerty, Lancashire and Kelly left, despite not knowing how to navigate the ship. Then the Māori captured The Venus, and burned it to retrieve the scrap metal, and cooked the men on board. Meanwhile, Lancashire, and Kelly were also recaptured and Hagerty died of a fever.

In the 1825 convict muster there is listed a Charlotte Badger, with 10-year-old daughter Maria, who arrived on the Earl Cornwallis in 1801. While the birth date is estimated at 1785, it’s highly unlikely there were two Charlotte Badgers – one who became a pirate and another who was listed in Parramatta in 1825

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The New Zealander of the future

Part of the impetus behind this blog is to underline moments of unfulfilled potential in the overlooked literary output of this country. When that potential is couched in a body of irredeemable dreck the question of whether the author is capable of raising a point worthy of examination will always linger. All the more so when the writing in question is wholly lacking in original ideas such as the piece from which the following excerpt was taken.
The piece as a whole is reflective of the received and unexamined cultural logic that informed the author stitched together without any deep thought to produce a vacuous puff piece for the economic potential of the colony and the work ethic of the colonists. It is as a transmission of unmediated cultural currents that the excerpt is interesting. Hidden amongst the ignorant stereotyping and just so stories vaunting European superiority lies a method of reading the character of an emerging culture that is worth a moments consideration.

The New Zealander of the future.

New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 11, 1 August 1900, Page 26



These aspirational examples are both more productive and nuanced than the conclusions the author draws from his reading of the landscape, which boil down to nascent exceptionalism in their most generous reading and vapid cheer leading for New Zealand industry when assessed coldly.

Had the article been written by someone with a focus on poetics and not on economics, perhaps something worthwhile and coherent could have been made from it.

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