Reference: Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Canterbury edition. Vol. 3 pages 951-952 Published 1903
THE MACKENZIE COUNTRY has been one of the most celebrated pastoral areas in New Zealand. It is a great inland plain, noted not only on account of its own pastoral richness, but for its lakes, Tekapo, Pukaki, and Ohau - and its adjacent mountains. Yet it was discovered, in the first instance, almost by accident, and under circumstances which shed a humorously sinister light on some of the instances of early colonisation. These circumstances have been variously described, and two accounts are bought together in this article. Mr. L. Langlands, in a letter dated Highfield, Burke's Pass, and published in the "Otago Witness": some years ago, says; "On several occasions sheep in large numbers were missed from the Levels station. Mr. Rhodes came to Dunedin in the hope of hearing something about them. He told me he felt convinced they were brought into Otago, but no traces were left, was at a loss to conceive how, and had to return no wiser than when he came. In those days the common custom was for sheep to be tended in large flocks by boundary keepers, generally two men in a hut. On the Levels some Maoris were acting in that capacity, and report had it that they were more partial to playing cards in each other's huts than looking after the sheep. Each flock had a large block to graze over, and they were only mustered on special occasions, sheepstealing was thus made easy. There country was all open, and if a mob could be got away without being seen going. some time might elapse before they were missed. It was only by fluke that the discovery on the Levels was made. Mr. Sidebottom, the manager, wanted some horses, and sent the Maori boy to look them up and ride them in. The lad returned at night, and said he could not find them. The manager doubted whether he had really been looking for them, and told him he believed he had been putting off time at one of the huts, which the boy denied. He was told to go again next day, with the consolation that if he came back without them he would get a flogging. This frightened the boy, and caused him to cover a lot of ground, but without success, Sidebottom, still doubting, questioned him closely as to where he had been and what he had seen. Amongst other things the boy said he had seen a man with a bullock driving sheep. Being beyond bounds, Sidebottom knew it was none of the station hands, and it at once struck him that probably here was a clue to the mystery. Early next morning, taking the boy and two Maoris, he started in purist, and about dinner-time came on a knoll, the pack bullock grazing near him, the sheep in front, and the dog lying near them. Mackenzie knew very little English, but he mastered enough to innocently ask Sidebottom "Who seep dat?' Sidebottom told him he knew perfectly well whose sheep they were, and called the Maoris to seize him. Mackenzie objected, and showed fight, on which the Maoris cleared to a safe distance, leaving the two to fight it out. They were both powerful men, Mackenzie lean and muscular, Sidebottom tall and robust.. After a scuffle Sidebottom threw and held him down, seeing which the Maoris took heart of grace, and, coming up, he was speedily secured with ropes, taken back to Timaru, and given into custody. This led to the discovery of the Mackenzie Country, and eventually also the Mackenzie Pass, for Sidebottom, being curious to know what outlet he had in that direction, returned to where he had picked him up, and travelling in the direction he had been going made the discovery. These particulars I had from Mr. Sidebottom himself. Mackenzie was convicted and sentenced for sheep-stealing-not insanity- and confined to the Lyttelton Gaol. On the occasion of Governor Browne' first visit to Christchurch he was the only prisoner in the gaol. I believe it is the custom on an occasion of that kind, if the crime is not too serious, to commemorate it by an act of clemency. Whether or no, he was pardoned on condition of taking his undoubted though misapplied talents to other shores, and was taken by the gaol authorities on board a vessel bound for Australia, and nothing reliable was heard of him afterwards. I think there is little doubt of his taken several mobs through the pass and crossed the Waitaki at what is known as Ross's Crossing-a crossing made to order, and where one man would have little trouble with thousands' but his route through Otago is unknown, I saw his dog in Christchurch when in possession of Inspector Pender (who kept it for a time and gave it to a runholder) -a low-set black slut, with tanned muzzle and feet. Of course he was accustomed to be worked in Gaelic, and several tried her on sheep in that language; but whether their Gaelic smacked too much of the tussock and not sufficiently of the heather for her taste, or whether the work was too honest, I can't say, but she would work for no one. The bullock did not belong to Mackenzie. Its owner was well known in Otago, he having a place on the Taieri and a run down south, where no doubt the sheep were going as other had gone before them. In Scotland he (the owner, not the bullock) had been a cattle and sheep dealer on a very large scale, and had unlimited credit. One fine day his clothes, from his hat to his boots, including also a bulky pocket book, were found beside a stream, which was dragged, but the body was not recovered probably because they did not try the right place. Had they thrown the grapnel in Princes Street, Dunedin, they might have been more successful, as that is were he serenely bobbed up, very wealthily, after that memorable dive, having divested himself of his name and heavy liabilities as well as his clothes in the process. With the exception of a note or two for the appearance sake, the papers in the pocket book were valueless."
Mr Langlands' account of the encounter between Sidebottom and Mackenzie, and of Mackenzie's release from custody, does not tally with that of Mr. E.W. Seager, Usher of the Supreme Court at Christchurch. Mr Seager arrived in New Zealand in 1851, by the barque "Cornwall," and was up to the present time (1903) been in the service of the Government. In 1855 he was Immigration Officer and Inspector of Police at Lyttelton, and in the second of these capacities he had a good deal to do with Mackenzie. In an article contributed to "Canterbury, Old and New," published in the year 1900, Mr Seager says Mackenzie was a Highland shepherd, born in Ross-shire, Scotland. About the year 1845 he emigrated to Australia, and two years later arrived in New Zealand, and landed in Otago [he landed in Nelson not Dunedin]. At first he earned a living by sheep driving, and in that way became acquainted with sheep stations in Otago and Canterbury. After residing for some time in the Mackenzie district , Mackenzie tracked northward into the interior on an exploring expedition, on which his only companion were his collie dog, and a bullock which carried his possessions and his provisions. On this expedition he discovered new country to the north-west of Timaru, and of the levels run, occupied by Messrs G. and R.J. Rhodes; and Mr Manson the Commissioner of Crown lands in Otago, afterwards gave him a license to occupy country bearing north--west from Timaru and midway between the sea and the west coast of the Middle Island. In order to stock this territory Mackenzie followed methods said to have been common enough at one tome in his native country- methods associated in story with the name Rob Roy, whose economic gospel was that-
They should take who have the power.
And they should keep who can.
Accordingly, as Mr Seager relates, Mackenzie, in 1855 cut from the Levels flock, with the assistance of his dog' a mob of sheep, which he drove up the valley, over the pass, and down to the plains; that is, into the district now known as the Mackenzie Country. In the mob thus stolen there was a black sheep, which was missed by Mr Sidebottom, overseer to the Messrs Rhodes, and next time he mustered; and he also found that altogether a thousand had disappeared from he flock. With the help of a Maori boy, Mr Sidebottom got on the track of the lost sheep. On reaching the plain of the new country they saw a bullock in the distance, and father on came to a small tent, in which they found a man asleep. On being aroused, the man was asked how he came there, and he answered "That 's my business." He then leaped to his feet, seized a piece of wood, with which he felled Mr Sidebottom to the ground, and then ran away. After recovering from his stunned condition Mr Sidebottom found the sheep, which were faithfully guarded by Mackenzie's dog. Then, on returning to the Levels home station, he despatched the Maori boy to Purau, Lyttelton harbour, to inform Mr Rhodes of what had happen, and give him a description of Mackenzie, for whose apprehension Mr Rhodes then offered a reward of �100. The boy left Levels on Saturday, and travelling along the lonely Ninety-Mile beach, reached Purau on the following Friday. Mackenzie, who was probably trying to escape the country, also made his way to Lyttelton - by what route is not known-and reached it on Thursday, the day before the Maori boy arrived at Purau. To Mr Seager, as office in charge of the local police, Mr Rhodes told all the circumstances of the case; and; in the end, after much ingenuity and resources on Mr Seager's part, he, with two of his constables, arrested Mackenzie late at night while he lay in bed in the loft of a small shanty that stood in a narrow alley between London Street and Norwich Quay, Lyttelton. Mackenzie was found to be a man of large size, with red hair, high cheek bones, and piercing ferrety eyes, that gave him a look of extreme cunning to the whole face. In due course he was taken before the Resident Magistrate (Captain Charles Simeon) and committed for trail at the next sessions of the Supreme Court to be held at Lyttelton. When placed on trail in the Supreme Court before Mr Justice Stephen, Mackenzie remained stolid and silent and refused to plead. But during his trail his dog was brought into court; and, at once recognising her master, she wagged her tail and whined up towards Mackenzie, who was so overcome that he shed tears. Mr Sidebottom gave evidence that the dog in court was the same he had seen guarding the sheep, and after he and Mr Seager had described the conversation which they had had with Mackenzie, the accused was judged guilty. Before being sentenced, Mackenzie begged, with tears in his eyes that his dog might be allowed to accompany him to his gaol. That it seems was not allowed by the gaol authorities, for the dog was taken south, where for years afterwards her progeny were much sought after by runholders and shepherds. Mackenzie was sentenced to five years' penal servitude. Within the first year he escaped three times from custody, but was recaptured on each occasion. It was, however thought advisable that, on account of the trouble and expense caused by his escapes and captures. he should be allowed to leave the country, under the proviso that, should he return, he would be compelled to serve the unexpired term of his sentence. The plan was carried out, and Mackenzie left for Sydney. He seems to have returned to New Zealand, but on receiving significant hint from the police, he left the country for ever. Such, as historically described by one who has intimate official knowledge of the facts, are the circumstances connected with the discovery of the fine pastoral territory which has so long been known as the Mackenzie Country. Two photos by Heeks of (Aorangi) Mount Cook and Hooker Glacier and Mount Cook and the Hermitage.
BALMORAL, BRAEMAR AND GLENMORE STATIONS , Mackenzie Country. These stations are the property of the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company. They contain 170,00 acres, stocked with Merion sheep, and were originally taken up in 1858 by Messrs Beswick, Cox and Hall. "Balmoral" is the second highest homestead in the colony, and stands 2600 feet above the level of the sea..
Mr. H. WINTER, J.P. Manager of the three stations, was born in 1842, in Tasmania, where he received the first part of his education, which was finished in England. For some years he followed a pastoral life in Australia, and came to New Zealand in 1867 in the ship "South Australia," which was wrecked at Port Chalmers. Mr Winter was for ten years manager for Messrs Tancred and Allan at Ashburton. He afterwards entered into farming on his own account, and followed it for seven years. Mr Winter was then appointed superintendent of the Canterbury properties of the New Zealand loan and Mercantile Agency Company and held the position for ten years and a half. He was appointed to his present position in 1896. Mr. Winter has been on the Commission of the Peace since 1870. He was elected one of the first member of the Ashburton Council, and took an active part in organising the church and school, and is promoting the Agricultural and Pastoral Association and athletic sports. Mr Winter was married, in 1869, to Miss Richardson, of Tasmania, and has two sons and four daughters.
Otago Witness, 30 September 1897, Page 51
Dear Dot, � My sister told you that father had a horse called Judy, but we only call her Judy to tease father. Her real name is Lady Agnes. She is a vary nice horse, and father is very proud of her. Benmore is a lovely place, and there are about 80,000 sheep on it. lather has three sheep dogs, called Rover, Spark, and Glen. We have two cats, called Skittles and Rouggy. We want rain very badly here just now, and the oats are very dry. The trees are nice and green now, and the buds are getting big. My sister Alice has has three hens on 11 eggs each, and I hope they will all hatch. I must stop now, as it is near bedtime. � Yours truly, Tawi Middleton (aged 11 years). Benmore, September 20.
Otago Witness Saturday the 14th April 1855 page 2
Mr Rhodes travelled overland to Dunedin. He obligingly handed over to the editor a number of "Lyttelton Times" and "Canterbury Standard".
A daring robbery had been committed. It appears that Mr. Sidebottom, who has charge of the sheep station belonging to Messrs. Rhodes, received information from a native that a Scotchman had taken away a large portion of the flock of sheep under the native's care. Mr Sidebottom followed the track of the sheep, and eventually came up with a man named M'Kenzie, who was in possession of the sheep, and who was about to turn in for the night. Mr. Sidebottom intended to camp on the ground, but after he had stopped for about two hours, he heard some suspicious calls, the dogs began growling, and the sheep broke camp. M'Kenzie started up and began whistling and cooeing. Mr. Sidebottom had only to natives with him, and as it was evident M'Kenzie had confederates, he deemed it best to drive the sheep back at once, which he accordingly did, but being able to attend to the prisoner M'Kenzie, he made his escape. The sheep were safely brought back a distance of 25 miles. M'Kenzie had a pack bullock with him. and was prepared for a long journey. Tracks of two other men were discovered, and the road taken was the pass to the West Coast over the Snowy Mountains. Mr. Sidebottom says there seems to be a fine plain just at the back of the Snowy Range, and a first-rate pass through the mountains to it; and they he found old sheep tracks (large tracks) of a good mob, leading up the same pass, and he is therefore of opinion that this was not the first mob M'Kenzie had driven off. M'Kenzie was captured on Thursday night the 15 ult., by Sergeant Seager, of the police. He intended to have got away in the "Zingari." He was committed for trail the following day.
There seems to be strong ground for believing that M'Kenzie has confederates either at the back of the Canterbury or in this Province. The route taken was that by which it has long been affirmed there was an easy communication between Canterbury and the southern portion of Otago; we would recommend our settlers to keep their eyes open, and afford every assistance and information to Mr Rhodes, who has proceeded to the south to endeavour to discover traces if missing portions of his flock.
�250 POUNDS REWARD
WHEREAS a person of the name JAMES
MACKENZIE, and other did, on or about
the 1st March last, steal and drive away about 1000
Sheep from the Timaru Station, and as there is
reason to believe that the same men. have on pre-
various occasions, stolen both Sheep and Cattle, and
driven them away. The owners are of opinion that
there is a regular organized gang of thieves and
receivers either in this or the Otago Province.
�100 of the above reward has been paid on the
apprehension of M'Kenzie, and the remainder will
be paid to any person or persons who shall give
such information as will lead to the conviction of
all the parties concerned, and the recovery of the
R. & G. RHODES
Lyttelton, March 15th 1855
Otago Witness Saturday the 21st April 1855 page 1
reprinted 19th & 26th May 1855 page 1
Saturday July 28th 1855 Otago Witness
We understand that the notorious sheep-stealer, M'Kenzie made his escape from the Lyttelton jail on Tuesday evening last. From what we have learned, it appears that he had been for sometime engaged in cooking the food required for the prison, his chance of escape being, as it was supposed, sufficiently prevented by a pair of 12' pound shackles round his ankles. However M'Kenzie contrived to bolt, fetters and all while the gaoler was employed locking up other prisoners, and has as yet been managed to conceal himself. A very active pursuit has been instituted, and we have no doubt he will be speedily recaptured. Standard, June 21.
Otago Witness August 23rd 1856
On May 10, he dashed away from the labour gang and again sought the mountains, and next morning appeared at a station twenty-five miles distant, just as the men were sitting down to breakfast. Unfortunately for the sheep thief, the house was full of visitors, and he was too well known by this time to pass without being recognised. He was too dead-beat to offer much resistance, and, after being fed, be was bound upon a dray and sent away toward Lyttelton, in custody of a Mr C. Russell and some workmen. Half-way on the journey, McKenzie forced himself from the rope, and again made off. He was called to stop, but he didn't, and a charge of shot went after him. He got portions of the charge in his back and thigh, but still kept on; till he was run down by one of the men mounted on a dray-horse and brought him back to the dray. He was ultimately taken to Christchurch and handed over to the police. He was put in irons and imprisoned again, but he once more broke away, heavily ironed he was. He was soon recaptured and replaced in the gaol; but a determined prison-breaker like this was too great a trouble to the Government of the day, who, to get rid, not of him, but of the bother he caused, gave him a free pardon, and the discoverer of the Mackenzie Country, quietly disappeared.
South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project
Note: Sergeant Seager was Dame Ngaio Marsh's grandfather. Her mother, Rose Elizabeth Seager, was the daughter of this enterprising colonist who had used mesmerism and theatricals at the Sunnyside mental hospital (where he was the Superintendent) as a very advanced approach to mental affliction.
Another James McKenzie
Timaru Herald October 28 1865 page 3
Resident Magistrate's Court
James McKenzie was brought up on remand from Thursday last, charged with stealing posts and rails from the Waimate Bush, the property of Messrs R. & G. Rhodes. Prisoner pleaded guilty to the charge and the Resident Magistrate, B. Woollcombe, sentenced him to three months imprisonment, with hard labour.
The start of the Mackenzie Pass - a former bullock wagon trail. The Rollesby Valley Rd makes a pleasant Sunday afternoon loop drive. map. From Fairlie drive up the Mt Cook Rd and turn left at Burkes Pass but before you do go down the shingle road, drive into Burkes Pass and visit the tiny St. Patrick Church and note their collection of harmoniums and the photo of the gentlemen in suits at the Mackenzie Dog Trials. Pamphlets are found inside the church and here. Note Mt Dalgety Station's 44 gal drum as a mailbox. Go all the way to the Mckenzie monument. Double back to the intersection and turn right and after passing "Waratarh" and around a bend look up for the Te Ngawai War Memorial up in a paddock on the right. The road comes out just north of Albury and look across the road towards the river there is the former "Pig and Whistle" accommodation house made from local limestone, built by Wm Butterworth in 1867. It had 13 bedrooms and could seat 30 in its dining room. Back to Fairlie note the 2003 Sam Mahon 450kgs bronze to James Mckenzie and his faithful eye dog in the main street. A rock from Mackenzie Pass was located for the plinth. Immortalized and his name, albeit with a spelling change, was applied to this beautiful tussock country. That's right, it's spelled differently.