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NEW ZEALAND
THE EARLY HISTORY OF POLLOK
(AWHITU PENINSULA)
AND ITS SETTLERS

THANKS TO DAPHNE FRIIS

 

 

 

The first settlers to come to the area were a group of rugged individualists from Pollokshaws near Glasgow.  They were led by a hell-fire and damnation preaching clergyman JAMES MILN SMITH, nick-named “Brimstone Jimmy” by his flock.  Times were not good in Scotland in the mid-19th century.  The effects of the Industrial Revolution were being felt, and work was hard to get, especially in communities like Pollokshaws which depended on weaving for a livelihood.  Wages when work was available were low.  Small wonder that when Mr Smith returned from a trip to New Zealand talking about a land flowing with milk and honey, that his flock were impressed.

To these people, the prospect of actually owning land of their own would prove a terrific incentive to make the journey.  For those passengers who paid their own passages, the Auckland Provincial Council offered 40 acres for each adult and 20 acres for each child.  considering that an adult fare from Great Britain to New Zealand was approximately £15, this seemed a wonderful opportunity.

In 1850 the average price per acre for town lots was approximately £131, suburban lots £5 and country lots £1.  For a young country these prices were high and in 1853 in an attempt to lower the price to a level at which settlers with little capital could buy, Governor Grey had the minimum price set first at 10 shillings per acre and then, in some cases, at five shillings, the result was not all that was expected for large run-holders and speculators as well as small farmers, took the opportunity to buy up rural areas.

It was not until the early 1860s when the government began to take a direct interest, that land really became available to settlers other than those with a ready supply of capital.  In 1863 an agreement was entered into between the Auckland Provincial Council and a Danish company to settle 150 immigrants in the Waikato, the government to help by providing each prospective settler under the age of 40 years with a 40 acre section.  In the same year a general policy was laid down of encouraging emigration to New Zealand by the granting of free land of the same acreage to each adult and 20 acres to each child with  a maximum of 500 acres per family.  Under the same ordinance free passages were arranged for suitable immigrants so that the way was open for those with little capital to migrate to New Zealand.

(“The Coming of the Pakeha to Auckland Province” John Holsman and

“A History of New Zealand” Keith Sinclair)

Quite a number of the people of Pollokshaws were prepared to follow Mr Smith and on 22  June, 1863, the last ties with the old country were severed as the sailing ship Ganges sailed down the Thames.  She carried 226 passengers and made the trip to Auckland in 3 ½ months with very few incidents, there being only 1 death and 2 births, 1 child surviving.  This would be due in no small part to the small number of passengers (there were 400 on the next trip), because the ship carried its usual amount of provisions - the excess were auctioned off in Auckland.  The Awhitu peninsular was a sight that would depress the spirits of even the hardiest pioneer, and the people of Pollokshaws had expected land similar to the rolling hills they had left, many despaired at first sight of the land for the task before them was great.

The New Zealand Government guaranteed 40 acres for every passenger who paid his passage to New Zealand and who was prepared to take up what was considered wasteland, additional acres were also made available at cheaper rates than the Government was asking for any other crown land, making the proposition fairly attractive for anyone who had not seen their prospective farm.

That this narrow neck of inhospitable scrubland and swamp was inhabitated by the settlers was an achievement, but the fact that these dour, deeply religious Presbyterians converted it to the lush farmland that it is today, stands forever as a monument to their tenacity and courage.

When the settlers arrived at Pollok there were a few Maoris who did inhabit the area, but they were much too busy trying to survive, too cowed by their warlike neighbours, the Ngati Whatua, to the north, and the Waikatos to the south; and too frightened of the power of the white men’s  guns to be any threat.  In fact the only disagreeable situation that existed between the Maoris and the settlers on the Peninsular was the nauseating smell that emanated from the villages whenever a sizeable catch of shark was made and all the fins were hung out to cure in the sun.

The original concept of the settlement had been that it should be a self-contained and self-sufficient religious community where there would be little need for contact with the outside world.  To this end it was planned that there should be two of each type of tradesmen so that there would always be one available and, with true Scot’s canniness, so that there would be sufficient competition to keep prices within reason……

The following rules were drawn up to govern the settlement.

1.             That the settlement shall be known by the designation of Pollok settlement, and the Settlers as a religious community by the name of Scots Presbyterians.

2.             That none shall be admitted to the above-mentioned settlement who are not prepared to adhere to the religious principles of the Scots Presbyterian church, as contained in the Shorter and Larger Catechisms, the Confession of Faith, the form of Presbyterial Church Govt. and the Directories for the Public and Private Worship which compiled by the Westminster Assembly.                                                                                                                                                                            

3.             That all meetings, without exception, connected with the management of the affairs of the Pollok Settlement, shall be opened and closed with prayer.

4.             That there shall be a council consisting of seven members, and voted into office by the settlers, the Council selecting from amongst themselves a President, Vice President (each of whom, when acting as Chairman, shall simply have a casting vote), Treasurer and Secretary.

5.             That two of the Councillors shall retire annually.  (The Councillors themselves shall decide by ballot for the first three years, which two of their number are to retire, afterwards in rotation).

6.             That five members of the Council shall form a quorum.

7.             That the decisions of meetings of the Council, duly called shall be binding on all, whether present or absent, provided there be a quorum.

8.             That the above-mentioned Council shall meet quarterly for the purpose of transacting the business that may be placed before it.

9.             That all extraordinary meetings of the Council shall be called by the President, 8 free days intervening from the calling, to the holding of the meeting, except in a case of urgent necessity.

10.          That the duties of the Secretary shall be to keep the Council’s books, to take a minute of the proceedings of each meeting, and read the same at the following meeting, to receive letters of application in reference to extraordinary meetings, and to lay these letter before the President for his decision as to whether such a meeting should be held, and to manage all epistolary correspondence.

11.          That the duties of the Treasurer shall be to receive all monies and keep an account of the same, to pay those accounts only which have received the consent of 2/3 of the Council, and to prepare and lay before the general meeting an annual report.

12.          That a general meeting shall be held annually, but extraordinary meetings may be held when a requisition signed by a two-thirds of the settlers is submitted to the President.

13.          That all cases of dispute shall be settled by arbitration, the arbitrators to be two in number (one selected by each of the two disputants), from whose unanimous decision there shall be no appeal, but should the arbiters not agree in their decision they, (the arbiters) shall appoint a third arbiter not connected with the settlement, from whose decision there shall be no appeal.

14.          When fencing for the grazing of horses and large cattle, (all other animals excepted), is necessary, all concerned shall pay an equal share of the expenses.                                                                                                                                                                            

15.          That any settler disposed to sell their land shall make the same known to the Council, who, if desired, shall assist them obtaining the best market price, but the existing settlers shall have the preference, provided the offer be equal to the neutral party’s, and that any neutral party purchasing land in the Pollok Settlement must be able to subscribe his name to Article 2 as laid down in this     code of rules.

16.          That none shall keep a public house for the sale of ardent spirits within the boundaries of Pollok Settlement.

17.          That each settler, whether resident or non-resident, shall, in proportion to the number of acres in his property, pay his share of the expenses incurred by the formation of public roads.

18.          That all proprietors, whether male or female, belonging to the Pollok Settlement, shall have a right to vote at general meetings, and to participate in all its civic privileges provided their names are duly entered on the Council’s books.

19.          That the foregoing rules may be altered or improved, from time to time, as need be, by the votes of 2/3 of the settlers, but that any alteration or improvement must be open for discussion six months previous to its be adopted.

20.          That those who refuse either to subscribe or act according to the adopted rules,shall not be regarded as members of the community, nor shall they have any participation in its civil privileges.

The first building erected was a combined church and school made of Kauri slabs and shingles, it no longer remains, but mentions of it in journals note its similarity to the church the settlers had left behind in Pollokshaws, there was also accommodation for the minister attached.  (“The Faraway Land”  by W.L. Walker)

The Scots education has always played a prominent part in the life of the community and in Mr Smith the settlers had a teacher for their private school who could impart the basics of education and also solid study of the Larger and Shorter Catechisms and the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Woe betide any child who failed in these important subjects.  Scripture knowledge was all important when it came to joining the Church and applicants were brought before the Session and examined thoroughly before they were permitted to come for confirmation.

Life in the settlement was very hard and many settlers gave up in despair selling their land as cheap as sixpence an acre and moving to Auckland.  Those that remained, independent, proud and stubborn gradually succeeded in breaking in the land.

By 1874 most of the area surrounding Pollok had also been settled and mostly by fellow Scots, however, the majority of these other settlers belonged to the Church of Scotland and were soon seeking church services of their own denomination.  Because of the Pollok settlers reliance on the fortnightly boat from Onehunga to bring in medicines and manufactured goods, and because of the diluting effect of the surrounding settlers, Pollok was gradually forced away from its insular pre-occupation.  The final blow came in 1882 when the Church and school building burned down and Mr Smith left the settlement.

From this point on, Pollok developed as a district, through the years, especially with the help of fertilisers has become of efficient farming, although, in common with most other districts, farm are still being amalgamated in order to maintain economic units, with the consequent loss of population.


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