A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas

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

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Turkey's kept their distance

Castle Rock Homestead


The day was rather cold and damp when I sketched this once proud homestead at Castle Rock.
I sheltered under some trees in the orchard and was constantly scrutinized by a dozen or so turkeys. Keeping their distance, I’m sure they had in mind my presence was just a ploy, to select the plumpest and the largest for the pot. . .
It does appear that Castle Rock was established in 1884, or thereabouts, by Gideon Rutherford.
Gideon, born in 1884 in Golspie, Sutherlandshire, Scotland, came to New Zealand in 1879 after spending some twenty years farming in Australia.
Beginning his New Zealand career in Dunedin, afterwards he spent some time in Oamaru, before finally ending up at Castle Rock, in South Canterbury.
He chose to erect his homestead here deep in a secluded valley, flanked on either side by high out crops of limestone bluffs.  Elevated thirty to forty metres above the valley floor, his site overlooked a little spring fed creek, which originates further up the valley.
This beautiful old home was actually erected in two parts.  The first being a two story section, built sometime around 1895 from rough hewn limestone, quarried on the property.
The rear section, a single story was built some years later, again of limestone, only this time the blocks were sawn to a smooth finish and chamfered corner blocks give this section a totally different appearance.
It appears this single story section has been erected as a utility block accommodating a kitchen, laundry, dining and living quarters as the family grew.
Gideon obviously liked his fruit trees, for on his arrival here he planted an orchard on the slope between the stream and the house.  This was reputed to be the best in the Canterbury district at that time.
Orange and mulberry were some of the species established here, as well as an Australian fig, which stands a few metres from the house and I ‘m told it still bears fruit.
Apart from clearing massive quantities of gorse and fencing the property into convenient paddocks, Gideon drained a swamp that covered much of the valley floor.
Being a successful stock breeder, I guess it was the natural shelter of the valley that originally attracted Gideon.
With his stain of merino sheep descended from the famous Learmouth flock in Australia, he was a regular prize winner at the Christchurch and Dunedin agricultural shows.
He had a great affection for his stud stock, his main objective was to produce the highest quality wool possible and he spared no amount of effort in the care of his flock.
His attention must have paid off, as one of his prize rams, an elderly gentleman of eleven years, yielded a fleece of just less than 10 kilograms one shearing season.
Those days are now history, a third generation of the Mowat family owns castle Rock.  Although it is a shame when some of those original homesteads become a little neglected when they are not lived in for a few years.
However, restoration plans have begun so I gather, in an effort to return this part of our history to perhaps its former glory.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Sulphuretted Mountaine Hoo

The Sulphuretted Mountaine Hoo
Johan Peter Hende was born in Schleswig, Holstein, Denmark in 1843.  Nineteen years later in 1862, accompanied by his brother Jens, Johan immigrated to Australia to join those who sought their fortune in the goldfields.
In 1863, at the age of twenty, Johan went to sea, signing on as a midshipman with the regular vessels plying between Australia and New Zealand.
Johan, or Peter as he became affectionately known, was eventually promoted and began captaining his own ship.  Unfortunately disaster struck when, as captain, his vessel became shipwrecked off the mouth of the Wanganui River, along the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.  It was about this time Peter appeared to have had his fill of the sea and decided to once more become a landlubber.
Jens joined Peter and together they searched for gold off Greens Beach and the Saltwater Lagoon.  Then later 1872, they took over the ferry at the mouth of the Wanganui River, from William Bell.  It was while Peter Hende operated the ferry across the Wanganui, down stream from Hari Hari, that he got the urge to develop a whisky still.  Of course this, he claimed, was strictly for medicinal purposes?  Well, perhaps that is not quite true.  You see, Peter being a sailor of many years, he had experienced the regular custom of a tot of rum, straight from the barrel each night and he grieved for that little traditions return.
Anyway, they say it all started during one cold winter, when Peter was crossing the upper reaches of the Wanganui River.  A few kilometers above the village of Ross, he slipped into the water.  After a few colourful words in his native tongue, he found his trousers and hands were covered in a slimy greasy substance and the water was unbelievably warm.
To cut a long story short, Peter, found the water getting progressively warmer as he followed that stream towards its source at the bottom of a terrace.  There he found hot water flowing from beneath the rocks.
He kept his find a secret for more than a year, until the following summer when the water level dropped to an all time low.  It was only then he found a significant volume of hot water still flowing from the beneath the rocks.  Visions of grandeur swept over Peter.  “Be done with the ferry and all that went with it,” he said to himself, “this is where I am going to make my mark in life!”
He could see it all before him now.  . . .  The ‘Sulphuretted Mountaine Hoo.
A secluded area for bathing,  Dining with a live band and of course dancing girls.
Unfortunately, as so many of us do, Peter found his dreams shattered by a large dose of reality and, let me tell you, dreams are the only things in life that are free.  However, I am reliably informed, that come next election, the Government of the day will contemplate registering those for GST.
Peter is said to have been eager to get his dream enterprise cracking and confided in the Westland County chairman, a chap by the name of Grimmond.
He was thought to have been some sort of expert in the field of minerals.  Visiting the site with his testing equipment, he tested several specimens of hot water with conflicting results.
Jokingly, he is thought to have told Peter, the water contained ‘sulfurated mountain whisky’.  At this revelation, Peter shook his head in disbelief; he could not believe his luck.
Not satisfied however, Peter accosted the chief surveyor Mr. Mueller for his opinion as to how he would go about getting a title over the surrounding land.  Peter was advised it was not an option.  He was far better off, according to Mueller, to bathe in the waters and rid himself of all his aches and pains.
By 1886, the water from that spring increased in temperature to almost boiling.  A freak event of nature some said, to have boiling water spouting skywards from near the base of an ice fed glacier.  Publicity of the find reached further a field, up and down the coast.  Letters to newspapers advocated a simple road be formed with haste towards the hot springs.
Now! …. There is no real moral to this tale, but it does make one wonder, why all those hardy coasters wanted to visit the headwaters of the Wanganui River.  It could well have been the publicity over the healing properties of the hot water, which is said to have soothed away those aches and pains.
Or perhaps, many sought out Peter Hende’s other small enterprise, the ‘whisky still’ he had dreamed of establishing one day and the healing properties that liquid became renowned for.  Some used to say, Peter Hende’s whisky had a more’ish taste about it.  Yes, more than two glasses of that brew, not only soothed away one’s aches and pains; it completely removed all feeling from one’s limbs. 
Since Peter’s death, connoisseurs of his beverage have tried, with varying degrees of failure, to emulate his recipe.  
Quite regularly one see’s folk, after a hard days work, striking out for the local pub. Spare them a special thought.  They are renewing their search for Peter Hende’s natural remedy. 
By their smile as they later leave that local establishment and the lack of control over their limbs, some have obviously discovered Peter’s stimulant once more and sampled more than two glasses. 
Come to think of it, perhaps there is a moral to this tale afterall, it comes from and old Irishman who told me once.
“If it’s drowning you want, don’t torment yourself with shallow water.”