A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas

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

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Old Shepherd

An excerpt from my book, Ballad of Ernie Slow.
Titled "The old shepherd" it is a piece of poetry first written by the late J. P. Hanifin.
It goes on to portray an old stockman recounting those days gone by, as he patiently waits to unite with his old mates on their final muster.  It is quite a moving piece.  The old stockman in his final days clearly recalls the Stations he once mustered and the men he met along the way.  He looks forward to when he can meet those old friends again.

The Old Shepherd

The old man's frame is tall and spare
His eyes are faded blue
His face is deeply lined and burnt
An almost copper hue.

His gnarled hand grips a stubby pipe
And slightly bent is he
His mind is fixed on far off days
When he was young and free.

He's mustered cattle on Molesworth
He been a shepherd on Glen Wye
On St James and St Helens
Where hills rise steep and high.

On Mt Rose and on Locheil
Where the sheep are big and tough
On Eskhead and Mt White
Where the going's pretty rough.

 He has mustered in the autumn
And before the shearing too
On the sheer hills of Glentanner
With the good mates that he knew.

On Lilybank and Godley Peaks
Glen Lyon and Braemar
Out at Clayton and Blue Mountain
And Orari George so far.

He has worked on Mt Possession
On Snowdon and Mt Peel
And fancies he is back there
The pictures seem so real.

He can see the tussock waving
On Delrachney and Benmore
How he'd like to be in Kurow
Buying moleskins from the store.

He spend a while at Simons Pass
Jack Nisbett was the boss
But Jack's passed on before
He keenly feels his loss.

The Grampians and the Haldon
He's mustered on them too
Ollie Smith and old Jim Innes
Were bosses that he knew.

He can see again the old mates
That he camped with on Grays Hills
Frank Creighton, Maurice Snushall
Jules Seigert and old Bob Wills.

There's others that he remembers
That he'll never see again
Frank Kerr and Peter Hall
Then he feels the stab of pain.

From the shadows there comes fleeting
The face of old Bob Day
Jack MacIntosh and Doug Smith
Andy Allen and Doug Rae.

Fred Evan and Bob Cowan
They see their long blow through
George Allen and Joe Casey
And Jack McKinnon too.

He sees Bill Perry shearing
As he did so long ago
And he marvels at the smoothness
And the swiftness of the blow.

Ernie Slow and Wattie Powell
These two were great blade men
He wonders if the young blokes
Can peel it off like them.

He has never wanted women
The high hills were his love
The great wide open spaces
With the clear sky up above.

As he worked there in the out-back
His soul would feel at ease
And as he communed with nature
There was no one he need please.

He can see T.D.Burnett
And old George Murray too
Old Jim Pringle up on Richmond
And Lake Tekapo so blue.

Joe Allen round at Benrose
He used to be his friend
Perhaps he'll find him waiting
On the road just around the bend.

He's been sort of quite religious
Though he didn't often pray
He'd often think of Heaven
As he worked throughout the day.

He was gentle with all creatures
Although he rarely went to Church
He's pretty sure his Maker
Will not leave him in the lurch.

He did his share of drinking
At Burkes Pass and Fairlie too
Kurow, Methven and Rakaia
And the pubs in Timaru.

When he'd been on a bender
And his money was near gone
He'd collect his horse and dogs
Then be movin' on.

Now he's almost ninety
He'll never ride again
Soon he'll join the final muster
Up on the Golden Plain.

Then he can sit forever
On the stockyards up above
Basking in eternal sunshine
And the splendour of Gods love.


Hope you enjoyed this little piece?

Have a nice day.

Friday, 4 March 2016

South Rakaia's colourful past

South Rakaia Hotel
This old hotel is still situated at what was originally termed ’South Rakaia’.

As I understand it, the main township was first situated on the northern bank of the Rakaia River where the Canterbury Provincial Railway, the first locomotive railway in New Zealand had its terminus.


South Rakaia however, was recorded as being the place where most business was conducted.  It served as the main social centre for people from surrounding Run’s where cricket matches and race meetings were held and were said to have been well attended.

During the early 1870’s, the first Rakaia bridge was constructed; this was to eventually change the township for ever.

Even though Ashburton was to later steal much of Rakaia’s thunder this little village still retained some prominence.


South Rakaia followed the letting of the construction contract for the railway line south, became railways manufacturing and assembly point for rolling stock.  Not only carriages and trucks were constructed here, but at one stage locomotives to operate the new line were built here as well.

At about the same time as the new bridge was built, I think in 1872, Mr B. Robinson, for the cost of eight hundred pound, built the first part of this old hotel at South Rakaia.

I am led to believe that the foundations came from the tops of the bridge piles when surplus sections were removed.  Timber for hotel’s construction however, was milled on Banks Peninsula and floated across Lake Ellesmere, to be carted the remainder of the journey by horse and dray.

It is said this is one of five hotels and accommodation houses to be built on either side of the Rakaia River in those early years.  Rail and road travellers stayed over at the South Rakaia Hotel, also those who waited for the floodwaters of the treacherous Rakaia to recede.


Some of the more colourful moments in the hotels history are a delight.


It has been known for an occasional saddle horse to breast up to the bar, ridden in there by a thirsty rider, or perhaps it was just for the devilment.  But then the dining room was not to be outdone, once hosting an impromptu blade sheep shearing contest, where they say Kiwi and Aussie shearers battled it out.  


One of the South Rakaia Hotel’s colourful owners was a man by the name of (Flash) Jack McKendry.  He is said to have taken his racehorse to Auckland to contest the Auckland Cup, where his horse, against all odds, won the Cup. 

 On the way home he celebrated his win by purchasing the South Rakaia Hotel.  He must have been well and truly taken with the place, for he stayed all of thirty five years.


Rakaia was definitely renowned for its fishing all over the world and probably for its fishing stories.  One story had me in stitches.  See, it went something like this: -


One of the local identities was in the bar this hot day partaking of a cool beer, when a stranger walked in. 

The stranger ordered his beer and stood there supping away, until a local sidled up to him, ‘Gidday!  I caught twenty fish in the Rakaia yesterday.’

The stranger turned and looked the local up and down for a minute. 

‘Do you know who I am?’

‘Nah, I don’t mate.’

‘Well, I happen to be the District Fisheries Ranger!’

‘Get away,’ smiled the local, plonking his beer on the bar. ‘Good to see you,’ he said puffing out his chest.  ‘Well, I bet you don’t know who I am,’.

‘You’re right there’ said the Ranger pulling a notebook out of his pocket.  ‘Tell me your name.’

‘Me! ____ Mate, me names Ron Mead, and I am the biggest bloody liar in Rakaia.’
Have a nice day