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Vanished hosts and homesteads of South Canterbury, N.Z

Timaru Herald, 22 October 1912, Page 10
Having a few days to spare I went for a walking tour round a locality I was very familiar with, forty-five years ago. The old familiar accommodation house at Arowhenua, and the proprietor, Mr Glasson, are things of the past. So also is the splendid Arowhenua Bush, one of the great landmarks on the dreary ride from Christchurch. Two of our much respected settlers, the late Mr M. Gaffney and Mr John Ackroyd, of Temuka made their start there, and both became wealthy men. Mr Ackroyd still lives to enjoy his well earned competency. At Temuka you miss the old Crown Hotel, with mine host Shanks, also the familiar faces of the late John Hayhurst, Dr. Raynor, Mr Forward, and others, who used to meet there and discuss politics as warmly as folk do now. The '68 flood went over the counter of this hotel. Mr William Hornbrook owner of the Arowhenua Station, and Mr Henry Poindestre, of Bluecliffs Station, were looked upon as past masters to create fun on any festive occasion. They made a carriage out of two bullock cart wheels, an axle, and some cases from old Bob Reed's blacksmith shop and had a draught horse and mule decorated with ribbons, and drove to the races. I can assure you they had the right of the road, as the mule in the shafts could kick. These good, fellows and jovial spirits are all gone, so also are their old homesteads, where many a gay evening was spent with fellow convivial souls.  

Wooden wide verandas, huge rhododendron bushes and mature trees - typical.

I pass on to Winchester, and find the old hotel where Major Young so ably presided also demolished. The coach used to stop there, and passengers had breakfast on their way to Christchurch. The sixteen miles drive from Timaru gave you a splendid appetite for the good repast that was always placed before you. The fine hotel that is now kept by Mr King is the end of all cheerfulness, and you now enter the joys of prohibition in the land, the great dry territory. After spending a pleasant evening at Mr John Kelland junior's. I continued my walk as far as Woodside, the home made and occupied for many years by the late Mr Upton Slack, and his most hospitable wife. The beautiful grounds and trees are still there, the fruits of their money and labour, but the pleasant hosts of former days are gone. I hear their family are very successful in the North Island. We next come to the old home of Messrs Lancelot and Sherbrooke Walker and Captain Clogstoun (Four Peaks). They have, also gone to their long home, and the place is now a Government settlement. Mr Lancelot Walker introduced hares to Four Peaks. After they became plentiful and protected by law, if Mr Walker had his way it was gaol to be caught taking one but I think snares accounted for a good many. Mr Lancelot Walker was the guest of the late Duke of Edinburgh when he made his trip in the Galatea.

I made Geraldine by climbing the hill at the back of the township. The buildings look very well from the top, but you miss the beautiful bush. Sawmills and fires have done their work of destruction. There are some nice homesteads with plantations where the old bush grew, but they are not equal to nature. The late Mr Angus Macdonald's beautiful brick homestead, situated on the hill, is now quite bare, and the great home of the late Mr Alfred Cox, of Raukapuka is now replaced by a new building. I was there 47 years ago, when the two grandmothers, Mrs Gammack, widow of the late Colonel Cox, and Mrs McPherson, mother of Mrs Cox, had each their separate management, one the garden —and a beautiful garden it was; old stumps dragged from the bush to be decorated with growing flowers and the other in charge of preserves. It was a great house of entertainment, and in music the family excelled. Mr and Mrs Cox played the piano and flute, and the twins, though but little children, were perfect at piano duets. I think Mrs Barker is one of the twins. Captain McPherson, father of Mrs G. and Mrs W. K. Macdonald. Mr Belfield (once proprietor of the "Timaru Herald'') and Mr Harris, were also at Geraldine. Captain McPherson was one of Wellington's fighting men, and had a bullet in his body till his death. The veteran F. W. Stubbs is still carrying on his duties as clerk to the Geraldine County Council, faithfully and well. Mr C. G. Tripp, one of the best hearted men in the world, has gone to his rest: but he has left marks of his good work behind him. Peel Forest was once the home of the Jollies and Mr Edward Cooper. They are gone, but there reigns in their stead Mr Dennistoun. I knew Mr Dennistoun as a young man, when he was part owner of Haldon Station, Mackenzie Country (Smith, Wallace and Dennistoun). He and the Mackenzie boys used to make things lively in Timaru for a week when they came down for their annual holiday. I think his brother captain of the Galatea when the Duke of Edinburgh made his first voyage. That was the time when the Duke was shot by Farrell in Sydney, and Farrell was hanged for it.  

Now we come to Mt. Peel, the last of the great stations this side of the Rangitata. The beautiful brick mansion, church, and grounds are a living monument to the memory to the late Hon. Mr Acland. The beautiful bush of valuable timber, shrubs, and a great variety of ferns, also shows the work of the sawmiller. I cannot let pass Shepherd's Bush, the home of the king of sports, Dr. Moorhouse, brother of W. Sefton Moorhouse (Superintendent of Canterbury). All that marks the spot where the house once stood is the cellar, and that tells a tale of good fellowship and hospitality. Although always opposed to the late Government, I will give them credit for the settlement of the people on the land.  It was not their original idea. The Hon. E. Stafford. member for Timaru. and Premier of New Zealand advocated the same policy in a speech at Timaru forty-eight years ago, before the railways were made, and when it was nearly all Government land. He proposed to make the railways and then sell the land in reasonably small blocks but Sir Julius Vogel upset it all with his squandering policy. The late Hon. W. Rolleston also advocated putting people on the land. The people are now on the land, and the  once dreary Rangitata plains are all nice homesteads with plenty of water-races and plantations. From the hills the whole of the plains look one continual series of plantations.

I now come to Hilton, once the residence of the late Mr Arthur Ormsby, who afterwards practiced as solicitor in Timaru. He, his wife, and son are also all gone. He sold his large farm to Messrs R. and James Skinner. Mr Robert Skinner, a member of the Timaru Harbour Board, still holds his, but his brother, Mr James Skinner, is dead, and his farm is now owned by Mr Thomas F. McGarra, son of the late Mr Thomas Garra of Christchurch, who for twenty-nine years was foreman of bridges for the Railway Department. The late Mr James Skinner went to great expense to beautify this place (Lexington Grange, 408 acres). The house was built of concrete, and has a verandah on two sides, supported by concrete pillars, and finished with rough-cast cement, and the outside of the house is finished with the same material. The house is situated on the hill but there are ornamental terraces to the plot, with walks and ornamental trees. The effect is very pleasing and Mr Skinner evidently intended it as a beauty spot. There is a well close to the house, and from the top to about ten feet down is a perfect fernery. Maiden hair and other ferns row on the sides of the well, luxuriously and no cultivated ferns could look better. The crops are all looking well in this district.

EHEU FUGACES - alas! the fleeting years glide on

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