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ROBERT BRUCE., Northern Advocate, 3 May 1917
SPLENDID NATIONAL BEQUESTS.
A -STERLING CHARACTER.
On Tuesday last the "Advocate" published a list of bequests, some of which had a national application of , great Value, left by th, g . late Mr Robert Cunningham .Bruce, at one time M.-H.R. for Rangitikei; Mr Bruce was born in East Lothian* Scotland, in 1843, and was a descendant of Robert the Bruce, the famous Liberator of Scotland. He was taken at an early age by his parents to County Cork, Ireland, and at the age of 13 went to sea, having the adventurous and roving spirit of the Scot strong within him. He orossed many seas, and cam, e to New Zealand in the Blue Jacket in 1860. He had strange adventures in his seafaring career, which he wrote up in a book he published a few years ago, entitled "Reminiscences of a Wanderer," which was regarded as on, e of the best books of its kind. He was a/bold, fearless sailor, and had a splendid physique. He once took part in a mutiny caused by injustice—a part characteristic of his race. He got out of this safely, and reached North Australia, afterwards going to California, where he Won prowess as an athlete. He was a dominating figure on board ship and wherever he went. His people came out to the Dominion and settled in the 'Turakina, where they were held in great respect. In 1877 he settled down with them in the dense bush of the (Parekaretu, and hewed out a home on the banks of the Turakina. Bruce was a great lover of Nature, and felled the bush, so as to preserve the amenities of two beautiful lakes on the property, one of which is the lovely Manu Manu Lake, a little loch among the hills much admired for its beauty.
Robert Bruce, like so many of his countrymen, got but little schooling, but he was an omnivorous reader and deep thinker, endowed with great powers of expression. He had the intense earnestness of the Scot, held his views tenaciously and scorned to compromise. He had a passionate love for the literature, the ballad lore of Scotland, his knowledge of which was wide and deep. Th,? Scott country had been the home of his mother's people, and he was well up in the works of the Wizard of the North and his history. After some years of farm life the call of the sea came to him again, and he shipped before the mast and roved around the world. Ho / returned to his bush home, however, which he was extremely proud of. In 1884 he stood for Parliament at the request of his fellow settlers. He had a striking career as a member of Parliament, achieving fame as an orator, and winning great popularity. He had a powerful voice, and his periods were cultured in diction and- modelled on the old time eloquence. His appearance in the House and his manner of speaking were well portrayed by the late Joseph Gunson, in "Parliamentary Portraits,'' where he writes: —
"Whenever in the House I hear 'Mr Bruce's deep rolling polysyllables, and that inflection of mournfuliKss which run through them, I am irresistibly reminded of some old shellback's chanty, . . and this probably for two reasons:—(First, because Mr Bruce has himself been a seaman; and, second, a not, 3 of melancholy and weariness is ever distinguished alike in the songs and sayings of the Ancient Mariner who, taking his somewhat sad pleasures while he may cannot forget that death is always waiting for him 'beyond the harbour bar. . . .For one who has seen hard times he is wonderfully preserved, and is, mentally and physically, 'fit as a fiddle.' . . . Oftentimes he is quite eloquent, and always has a command of words only to be attained by much thinking out of subjects in long night watches or in bush solitude. His voice, too, is resonant and musical. ... A good honest man whose knowledge of mi;n and mariners has been- acquired in many journeyings to and fro and in many (climes, ready," but not rough, eschewing bald personalities, a reackr and a thinker, Mr Bruce is a member of whom any constituency might feel proud. ... As to the melancholy of his manner, there need be no surprise as to that, when Aye remember that not only was he a sailor, but he sailed in Scottish ships. For there, too, he who writes has once been, and the mournfulness of the experience will cling round him for ever and for ever. For most Scotch ships mean high thinking and low living. . . There must have been a day in his career 'when Robert Cunningham was the curly-haired darling of his ship, for even now, when he has touched the half-century and struck his spars, th, e . hull is well-looking enough. He is still curly, the sort of man good to have for a shipmate or comrade when the gale blows on the shore and the cruel rocks are close (beneath the lee." Robert Bruce was a typical specimen of the true Scot—a staunch 'friend, a stickler for principle and 100 good a man to be a successful politician. He seems to have been lacking in the humour of the Scot, and ho had the tinge of melancholy that belongs to the Celt. A few years ago he brok, e down in health, but an operation by the late Dr. Arthur Martin—the surgeon in khaki—gave him a fresh lease of life. He was never 'married.. He leaves behind him many 'friends and admirers, and an unblemished record of a strenuous life lived but to the full.
ROBERT BRUCE., Northern Advocate, 3 May 1917
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