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Pioneer travel in Southland
Extracts from Thomas
MacGibbons 1909 reminiscences of a bullock wagon trip, in early 1858, to deliver
wool from Longridge Station in the Waimea Plains, to Invercargill.
|Invercargill|Returning to Waimea|Early
Invercargill - a one-horse place
"In the morning, with much
labour and anxiety, we got through our sloughs of despond and on to the dry
ridge which took us along the side of what is now Forth Street, Invercargill.
"Tay Street was all bush at the east end,
and as much of it had just been felled, the road was impassable for wheeled traffic. We
finally drove into Tay Street just where Nith Street intersects, and it was plain sailing
to Mr Calders store at the west end, where the Bank of Australasia now stands.
"Alongside Linds Waihopai Hotel there
was a stable which, although not completed, had a roof, and in this building we deposited
our loads of wool. The present Albion Hotel, opposite the Post Office, stands on the site
of Linds building, which was the first, and for a time the only, hostelry in
"Linds hotel stood a little way off
the line of Dee Street and was a composite building. The larger part was constructed of
slabs with a thatched roof, while the smaller portion, which was new, was built of
weatherboards and roofed with shingles. Here we put up for a couple of days, and the host,
Mr Lind, and his good lady made us very comfortable.
|"Invercargill was a very one-horse place in
those days. The houses, or rather huts, were few in number. The two stores were primitive
in character. Dee Street was a mass of dense bush which extended right down to the back of
the hotel. The only street which showed any sign of mans improvement was Tay Street.
This improvement amounted to the bush having been felled the width of the street...."
Returning to the Waimea Plains
"On our way back to the Waimea Plains, I picked up about 600
feet of sawn timber which had been left for me at the edge of the bush about the end of
what is now McMaster Street. I carted this timber up to the Halfway Bush to form part of
the new accommodation house being erected by Mr Hughes.
"On our way, we camped alongside Mr John Oughtons house
and spent the evening indoors with his family. After a pleasant evening, David McKellar
and myself adjourned to our 6-by-8 tent. I remember that during the night we had a fight
with rats, which were present in swarms and had attacked the sheepskin rug on which we
|"After leaving Halfway Bush we had a
regular southerly buster which confined us to our tent for a couple of days. We beguiled
the time by swapping yarns and telling anecdotes. Mr McKellar had a great deal to tell
about his first trip with stock, from Mokomoko to the station at Waimea. The snowgrass was
so long that he needed to take a small cut of the main flock of sheep, and drive them
ahead a half-mile or so to make a track along which the main flock might travel. This
procedure made progress very slow, and it is not surprising that the Messrs McKellar did
not reach their run at Longridge for a year or more after starting out from the
Bluff." [Todays car journey is under two hours.]
in earlier days
"Mr McKellar described some of the hardships they
encountered on the trip. His experiences are worthy of record, if only to show the stamina
of the men who pioneered this country.
"One of the chief impediments to travelling
was the snowgrass [red tussock], which grew luxuriantly and to a great length. In places
where it had escaped burning, I have seen it eight feet long, so that it will be seen that
it was a serious obstacle to rapid progress over the plains. During the winter the weather
alternated between frost and sleet, and with the snowgrass being saturated with moisture,
it requires no stretch of the imagination to know that the travellers clothes were
anything but dry and comfortable.
|"McKellar told me that after a thorough
soaking all day and a hard frost at night, he sometimes found his nether garments frozen
so stiff they would stand on their own! The only course was to get a good fire started and
dance around to keep warm until the heat of the flames had thawed out the garments and
made it possible to get into them
Rats for recreation
"Time hung somewhat heavily on our hands [while snowed in at
Longridge Station], and the only recreation was reading, varied with an occasional rat
hunt. This latter pastime afforded a great deal of amusement and excitement to us and our
"Doubtless if the unfortunate rodents
themselves could have expressed themselves, their words would have been, "It may be
fun to you, but it is death to us".
"In the vicinity of the station there were
immense clumps of speargrass, and as the roots are edible and much appreciated by the
rats, they congregated there in considerable numbers.
"The order of the day was to get all the
station dogs around while we poked poles into the base of the speargrass. This startled
the rats out, and the dogs, who were eagerly awaiting this part of the performance, joined
in the fray. The rats gave the dogs many a good chase, but the result was usually a
considerable number of victims.
"Another method of rat killing was to keep a
candle burning in the sleeping tent, which was erected on the top of sod walls so as to
give more head space. Crumbs of bread and meat were laid down as bait, and we waited with
loaded revolvers to pop off the rats that appeared.
"As I have previously stated, the rats were
literally swarming, and it was very difficult to keep stores from their voracious
A Beaumont Adams .44 cap and ball
believed to be the
weapon Thomas MacGibbon used to shoot rats in his tent.
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