A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas

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

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Nell's walk in Esk Valley



Nell’s Walk in Esk Valley



St Mary’s Church at Esk Valley is I believe, the fruits of a dream Ellen Meyer had during the 1870’s.
It was however, a sight she would never ever see.
Her husband, Charles Meyer, who at that time owned Blue Cliffs Station, used to walk with Ellen in the evenings, down the ridge they used to call ‘Nell’s Walk’, high above the valley floor.
Ellen Meyer would look down that valley toward the sea and remark, “It's so beautiful here, I hope someday to look down this valley and see a little church, just as I would back home in England.”

Unable to bear children, Ellen seized the opportunity of an operation which offered some hope that she and Charles, twenty years her senior, would become parents.
Although the operation was reported to have been successful, Ellen had a relapse and died in January 1878, at the age of twenty-six.
Devastated, Charles relinquished ownership of Blue Cliffs Station and prepared to leave for England.
Before departing, however, he gave his attorney instructions to put aside one thousand pounds of his estate and build a little church to his wife’s memory.
The position he chose was in the valley Ellen Meyer loved so much and within sight of the Blue Cliffs Homestead.  After experiencing some difficulties, the builders completed the church in1880.
Architecturally by B.W. Mountford of Christchurch, this small church was built of limestone, which is said to have been delivered by horse and dray from a quarry located in the Albury district.
It was later consecrated in May of that year by Bishop Harper.

Another of Charles Meyer’s bequests was a six thousand pound grant, from which interest payments were to pay the stipend of a vicar for the district of Blue Cliffs.
They say the first vicar to preach in St Mary’s, was the Reverend Laurence Carsley Brady, who came recommended by Bishop Harper.  Rev Brady had apparently served in the Auckland Diocese before his appointment to the south.
At thirty-five years of age and unmarried, he was described as very active.  A native of Ireland I believe, he was an excellent horseman and the lack of roads in the area did not bother him at all.
Blue Cliff’s District, later to become known as Otaio-Blue Cliffs, at that time extended from the Pareora River to Hook and from the Hunter Hills to the sea.

The late Mrs Woodhouse, told of how for several years there was no one to play the organ at St Mary’s, “I’m no musician” she said, “but I’ll take up the challenge.”
Practising on a small selection of tunes, “I struggled through.”  She said,  “I had a pact with the vicar though when he lowered his hymn book, I knew there was one more verse to play.  However, for some reason should communications break down” she continued, “the sympathetic congregation could be relied upon to join in the customary, ‘Amen’ or else suffer the agony of singing the final verse a second time?”


As far as I can gather, a Bible belonging to Charles Meyer is still used at services held in St Mary’s, even today, but only on very special occasions.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Russian Jack

Russian Jack




Along New Zealand country roads during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the swagger was a familiar sight.  Forced into a life on the road by circumstances beyond his control, however, many enjoyed a freedom that their vocation bought.  Some genuinely looked for work on farms and so on.  Most were grateful for the offer of work, in exchange for a bed in a farmer’s shed or stables, plus a scrumptious meal.   
Tramps or swaggers, during those lean years, were an important part of farm life, particularly during the harvesting season through summer and into autumn.  During those early days of the horse and dray era, this wandering workforce could be relied on to turn up during those busy periods.  A dry bed and a meal in exchange for some manual labour, the swagman and the cocky were usually well satisfied.

In 1912, a British ship by the name of ‘Star of Canada’ was plying New Zealand waters, when, caught in a southerly storm, and was wrecked off the Gisborne coast. 
One survivor of that disaster was a man by the name of Barrett Crumen, who has been fondly remembered as ‘Russian Jack.’
Born in Latvia during1878, in the small village of Alexandra, he joined the merchant marine in 1912 at the age of 24.

After his near death adventure, he spent some time in New Zealand waters working on small coastal ships, before he is said to have set off on a trek to Wellington, however, he never made it.  The reason ___ he became addicted.  Addicted to the open spaces around Manawatu and Wairarapa, where at Awhea Station, he rested awhile, before being offered work as a scrub cutter and a shed hand, remaining there for a good number of years. 
They say he was well known for his impressive appetite and his keenness for tobacco, along with his most prized possession, an old briar pipe. 

During the winter months on the road, he was known to have stuffed paper inside his clothes in an effort to keep warm and is said to have plugged his ears with wads of brown paper soaked in mutton fat, which was believed to have been a deterrent against bugs.  
I can’t imagine it, but he is known to have rubbed mutton fat onto his chest, believing it would ward off infection or whatever ailed him at the time.  Hell’s teeth, he must have smelt a trifle high, like a dead sheep, after a while.
Those were tough times, sleeping under bridges, in culverts or under the shelter of tree branches for shelter. He is said to have carried the largest swag of any of those gents on the road.
Russian Jack is believed to have spent close to 53 years on the road.  He would have gone on forever if he had had his way, but his feet let him down.  In 1965, he was admitted to the Pahiatua Hospital suffering from frostbitten feet.  Although it was not long before he was admitted to the Greytown Hospital for the final time, he passed away in September 1968, aged 90 years.
I believe he is buried in the Greytown Cemetery.  His internment was all paid for with funds from a pension he had never ever claimed.