A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas

A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas
The Cockabully Hunters --- from an original painting by Noel Guthrie

Sunday, 16 February 2014

A True Missionary of Life

Anne Brown
A True Missionary 
of Life


 Possibly the only truly pioneer Anglican Church remaining in Canterbury, New Zealand today stands at Pleasant Valley in peaceful farmland surroundings, approximately five kilometres west of Geraldine an internationally known and picturesque village.

    During 1861, it is said Thomas Hardcastle, a dedicated and enthusiastic parishioner, was the first to canvass the area seeking funds for a new church.
The community envisaged a practical building with a seating capacity for up to forty worshipers.
    So successful was his mission, enough funds were available almost immediately, for the construction to begin on half and acre of land donated by William Grace.
    Laying the foundations began in 1862 by two carpenters John Huffy and William Young, with voluntary labour supplied by the locals.

    Walls were built of cob and a roof was sheathed with adze hewn timber shingles.  The interior timbers were pit sawn and with the use of an adze, were trimmed to size. While cob construction was not at all uncommon, perhaps St Anne’s is unique in that the original cob in later years was sheathed with timber weatherboards.  This protected the cob from the elements thus saving it for posterity.  Although showing only minor decay the original cob interior could still be seen almost one hundred and fifty years on.
The font was fashioned from a large knot of Totara timber.  Although in later years, this was replaced.  However, the original hand hewn pews still exist today.

    As the centre of a bustling community, St Anne’s was erected to the echo of the saw and the axe.  It may be difficult to imagine now but Pleasant Valley, during the 1860’s boasted a number of trades and professions.
Those listed in the Parish register included: -
Innkeeper, bullock driver, estate owner, contractor, shepherd, boundary rider, governess, wheelwright, domestic servant, shoemaker, gardener, blacksmith, and a labourer.

    By the 1880’s much of the bush around Pleasant Valley had been cleared and workers began moving on to greener pastures.
    St Anne’s Church remains the only memory of that former active community and will remain in the hearts of many.  The name St Anne’s, was influenced by the work of Anne Grey Brown, wife of Lawrence Lawson Brown, Anglican Vicar and driving force behind the erection of this small Church.

    In 1846 at the age of just seventeen, Anne Fabor daughter of Thomas and Eleanor Fabor, of Stockton on Tee’s England, married Rev. Laurence Lawson Brown, becoming one of the many pioneering women destined to settle New Zealand.
    In 1859, Laurence received a call to continue teaching the Gospel in New Zealand.  Sponsored by the missionary Guild, the Brown family left Whitten Le Wear, in the county of Durham for the parish of Sumner/Heathcote, on the edge of Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand.
There, Laurence continued his work as Assistant Curate but in 1862 he was called to the Geraldine Parish in South Canterbury.  This was a journey, which was to take the couple and their young family six long weeks to complete by bullock wagon, losing many of their possessions while negotiating swollen unbridged rivers and rugged terrain.

    From a rented house provided by Alfred Cox at Waihi Bush, now know as Woodbury, Laurence and Anne began to build a faith in this beautiful but rugged countryside.  The enthusiastic leadership that Laurence brought to the community, saw him move freely among the people sharing their joyful occasions as well as their times of crisis.  It was this sort of leadership that saw him roll up his sleeves and becoming the principal character in that band of volunteers who erected this small church.
Little did those pioneers know at the time, but contributing what they could to their humble church, they were creating a memorial for which their descendant could be justly proud.

    However, we should spare a thought for Anne Brown.  Raised in a well to do environment in England she chose to ‘rough it’ within the primitive surroundings in the New Zealand wilderness.
While her man was out spreading God’s word throughout this scattered parish, Anne remained at home with her seven children trying her best to cope, cooking over a smoking fire and washing clothes out in the open. 
    Casting aside her own terrible homesick thoughts of England, she baked for those in more desperate need than herself she was always ready with a sympathetic word giving comfort to others.

In one of Anne’s letters, she wrote: -
    “Often lately I have met old colonists just returned from home who now abuse the climate there.  They tell me it did little else but rain there during their visits; they never once beheld the sun, so different from this bright sunny land.   I venture to remark that when I lived at home I did not notice the rain falling.  However, that has all altered now, as it is such a long time since I was home, nineteen years to the day that I landed in New Zealand.  Many are sure that I could not live in gloomy England now, but daily, I wish I had the chance to try.”

    During 1893 while living in Christchurch, Anne Brown at the age of 66 years, passed away.  Her body, confined to a plain casket, she was carried to Pleasant Valley and laid to rest among her friends in the little cemetery behind the church that bears her name.

    St Anne’s Church epitomizes strength and a gentle quality that Anne Grey Brown showed to so many.  She may not have preached the Gospel, or become a leading figure in the community, she did however, show others how to endure and be strong.

    Anne Brown and women like her, to me; they are the true missionaries of life.

Facebook;-   plow and pickle press

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Latest E-book.

Have you read my latest E-book  Road to Flamingo Flats.

Available on Amazon Kindle

Short Stories

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The Whisky Grew Sweeter

From the E-book  'Road to Flamingo Flat'

The Whisky Grew Sweeter

At the outset of World War Two, young men from the New Zealand high country heeded the call to arms.  Tying up their dogs, they swapped their hill stick for a rifle and a canteen.  In doing their bit for King and country those men left their high country employers with a void that they were going to find difficult to fill. 
 Unfortunately, many of those young men would never return, of those who did, many ventured into city life.  For others however, the love of the outdoor life lay deep in their hearts. 
Many of those young men, on their return, were assisted back onto the land by way of a government grant. Nevertheless, that acute shortage of skilled musterers and shepherds continued for the duration and well beyond the term of the war.

One of those farmers, who managed a high country station, was only one of many who found it difficult to employ good men with dogs during those war years. On one particular occasion and in desperation, this farmer is said to have hit on an ingenious plan.
To muster his wethers off the range, he offered the job to a group of boy scouts.  Partly filling old golden syrup tins with stones, he pointed each of these young blokes, tin in hand, to their allotted beat.
Assuming a suitable distance apart, the scouts commenced rattling their tins.  With a noise that would have scared the living daylights out of the most stubborn of sheep, those youngsters drifted across the hill face.
     At the conclusion of a highly successful muster the delighted cocky was overheard to remark, tongue in cheek.
“That’s the best damn muster I’ve had on that block, we lost a couple of scouts, but we brought in all the wethers!”
 In early 1946, two high country neighbours began bouncing ideas around, both concurring that the war years had partly destroyed a mustering breed.
They set about seeking ways of rejuvenating that mustering skill and attracting it back into the High Country.
 They hit on the idea of a dog trial.  While proposed primarily as a social event, the trials were to have a couple of objectives.

  1.      To encourage and recognize mustering skills    
           and  good dogs.

2.       To attract musterers back into the high country.

Such an event would be open to those past and present musterers and shepherds who worked on the sheep stations within the Ashburton Gorge.
As a result of those two founding members enthusiasm, the inaugural dog trial meeting was held at Hakatere Station, on the 25th May 1946.
 From that meeting, guidelines for the proposed event were thrashed out, two of which were:

1                    To fund a dog trial each year, it was generally agreed to levy each run-holder to the tune of ten shillings per thousand sheep.

2                    First prize the equivalent of fourteen pounds, a month’s wages.

Eleven competitors took the field on the initial dog trail on the 12th June. 1946.
With the services of an official judge, first, second and third were finally selected from the day’s contenders.  Two contestants were also honoured with titles of the youngest and the oldest competitors of the day.
 So successful was that first dog trial, plans were made to continue it during the following years.  That first event not only established a unique camaraderie among those high country stockmen, but it demonstrated what a huge appetite these men had. 
For the next thirty-five years the local branch of the Red Cross provided lunch.
They say a menu, much of it donated by the run-holders, consisted of wild mutton, mashed potatoes, mashed swede, beetroot and home made pickles. That fare remained unchanged for the whole period. 
Desert, was stewed apple under a slab of pastry, covered with a mountain of whipped cream.
Not to be abandoned, those sheepdogs, the real stars of that show.  Well, they received a drink of water and a lie down in the shade.

Around 1950, a Silver Billy, designed and manufactured identical to the billy favoured by musterers on the beat, was offered as first prize.  That billy would continue to be vigorously contested in the years to come.
As part of the first presentation ceremony, the winner was encouraged to fill the billy with whisky, passing it round the cook-shop, long after the event had finished. 
As the whisky grew sweeter and the beer keg became lighter, to the accompaniment of one local character, whose fingers deftly caressed the keys of his favourite piano-accordion, re-runs of the day’s event began to take shape. 
Stories were told of those dogs performing legendary feats.  In a matter of hours the cook-shop was rife with stories, where the dogs had pitted their unique skills against the wily sheep, on a hill face that had miraculously became almost perpendicular. 
As the night wore on, stories became more and more bizarre, telling of bionic musterers scaling those slippery slopes, pitting their skills against gigantic sheep recently drenched with Ivomec.   They declared that particular drench increased their speed and agility.

  Then there were the yarns, where everyone was trying to outdo the other.
 One old hand told his story of the two dogs who spent a day at the local agricultural show.
One dog was a Pomeranian bitch called Bow.  She was done up like a dogs dinner especially for the day, with a nice red ribbon around her neck and a cheeky little bow on her topknot.  The other was a male fox terrier-cross called Tom, with a dirty shaggy coat, a scarred nose and a gammy leg.
Both these animals agreed they would meet at the gate after the show, to exchange their experiences.
     As agreed, they duly met at the gate. The Pomeranian went first, saying she had a wonderful time.  She preened as she told of the judges awarding her first prize, a second prize and a highly commended. 
“How did you go?” She asked.  “Were you a good boy Tommy?”
“Aw, shucks, Bow.” Old Tom smiled, his mouth open, his tongue hanging out and panting from sheer exhaustion.  “I had a couple of sexual connections. Had three fights. And now Bow, I’m buggered, but highly delighted.”
The crowd erupted into song. 

Space became a premium in the cook-shop as supper tables, unceremoniously laden with a banquet of sandwiches appeared, some dry, some moist and some curled at the edges. However, all had one filling in common.  Cold mutton.
To top off the evening, one bright spark suggested a midnight run down to a corner of the road, almost a kilometre for the jaunt.
Older and wiser contestants, legs jellified by the over indulgence of liquid refreshment, waited in ambush along the roadside verges, to join the leading bunch on their return. 
After a sprint that could have made Usain Bolt envious, the bunch collapsed in the cookhouse door. 
Chests heaving, tortured lungs wheezing. They begged for another beer.

As the years progressed, the event developed to accommodate not only the young men, but also to take into account the greater involvement of those women, who loved to work on the land and compete alongside their men. 
By the 1970’s and 80’s, the event became a family affair, held in picnic mode during the late summer or early autumn.  A family day offered the dog trials as a more sedate event, with barbecues and a more modest round of ale. 

Concluding the day’s festivities, the midnight run was replaced with an afternoon jog from the woolshed to the slipping pens,
Then as the shadows lengthen and the day gradually came to a close, the whole family dined on a lavish homemade banquet, including mutton chops, along with sausages off the barbecue.
As old acquaintances are renewed, past times are golden for those aging musterers.
With nostalgia in their hearts, they take one last look at that famous hill and marvel at their feat, or was it their stupidity in youth, sprinting to the top of that famous hill.
Many will pay tribute to those two men who inspired this event in the beginning, all those years ago. Without their faith and persistence, the Ashburton Gorge would be a less colourful place today.

Whatever these families do during the months ahead is anybody’s guess, but come hell or high water, every effort will be made to train another pup and have the absolute desire of returning to the Gorge the following year, their hearts once again set on winning that coveted silver cup.

I hope this little story brings back fond memories to some.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Road to Flamingo Flat

The Road to Flamingo Flat is my latest publication.

A collection of  delightful short stories.  Bringing to the reader some of the authors
most entertaining work.
Rich in diversity and the pleasures that only his work can offer.


Road to Flamingo Flat.
A Sanctimonious Prick.
The Whisky Grew Sweeter.
Mr Breen gets his License.
A Fly's Skating Rink.
Please Shut the Door.

This is only available in E-book from Amazon Kindle.  
Login          Road to Flamingo Flat