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Old Time Echoes.

OREPUKI GOHDFIEED. (Concluded). For some years Mr Kirktou forsook mining - for work possibly even more arduous —1 he “blazing” of tracks for the Government. “I Vhelped to blaze tracks from Fitzgerald’s to the ram paddock at Mcrrival’c, from Orepuki to Scott’s Gap and Otautau, Riverton, and elsewhere. Hardships? Of course there were hardships ! I often slept at the foot of a tree with only a small blanket for bedclothes', but then I liked the life. I blazed five miles of a track towards Scott’s Gap, and Sam, a Dane, undertook another section, but the poor fellow came out at the mouth of the Waiau instead of the Gap. He did his work thoroughly though. You can see his “blazes” yet on some of the big birch trees —he made some half the size of a tablecloth. We had some fun with so-called bushmen in those days. There was Bob Aitken the surveyor. He wasn’t going to be like the other fellows that got “bushed” —he could find his way in and out as he liked. Well, he pitched his tent, and off into the bush be went to make for a distant point. At nightfall he saw a tent fifty yards off. ‘Hallo ! Wha’s campin’ here?’ Then he found that he’d been walking round his own camp all day.” There was very little scrub in the bush in those days—that came later when wild cattle made their way up from the station—but the track to Riverton was exceedingly rough, and was only used in cases of dire necessity, as when a man, hurt in an accident, had to be carried on stretchers to Riverton for medical treatment, Food supplies came seaward', hut sometimes rough weather kept vessels away, and supplies ran veryshort ; .rapre than once the place could not boast of more that 50lbs. of flour. Storekeepers followed the miners, and according to Mr Kirktou, Mr James Surman was the first itore-keeper at Orepuki, and was followed by Mr J. L. McDonald and Mr Mortlake. Mr Kirktou tells some good stories of the early times, and of the arrival and doings of Warden Rogers and Sergt. Morton, and he has a vivid recollection of a milling case—a disputed water-race—dragging on for nine weary months, until Warden Wood came on the scene and settled the business in five minutes. After a time Goveilnment scut 'down a whale-boat to be used instead of the track in cases of e-merg-ency, and it was housed in a shed by the grate-

ful recipients. She was long and very narrow, and evidently not suited to local conditions. One 'day Messrs Menpes, Niven, and Peter Crowe wet out fishing in a small boat, and were drowned in the vicinity or Pahia. Menpes’ body was not recovered, and to afford his relatives the melancholy satisfaction of giving the remains Christian burial a party of seven fine young fellows, most •ox them good swimmers, volunteered one bright morning, when there was .scarcely a ripple on the sea to search in the whaleboat. They never returned that was the whaleboat's first and last trip. No one wifinessed the disaster, and the first news of it came from a boy—nephew of Macdonald (one of the men) who, becoming uneasy at his uncle not returning, set out along the beach and found some of the dead bodies. "Orepuki never seemed the same after,” said Mr Kirkton. The poor fellows were buried close to the shore, their requiem—"the moan of the sobbing sea.”

But not all of Mr Kirkton’s reminiscences are sorrowful. His eyes twinkled as he recalled how he dunned the old Provincial Government of Southland for some £6O due for limber supplied for the Bluff railway. His partner had tried in vain t;0 get the money, and some of the firm's employes were becoming impatient. The partner at last suggested rather sarcastically that Mr Kirkton could try his hand, so he left Riverton, and armed with a newspaper, entered the old Government Buildings in Bee street, soon after the opening hour. Coming out he met a Riverton resident, who shook his head mournfully, as much as to say—"No money today.” Nothing daunted, he entered, presented his hill—a familiar document —and took a seat. Various personages, from deputy-superintendent to junior clerk, assured him at intervals that it was useless to wait, as Dr. Menzies had gone to Christchurch and there were no funds. Mr Kirkton, like Patience on a monument, remained and read his newspaper. People came and went. He stayed on. At closing time clerks glanced savagely at him. and banged ledgers and other weighty volumes about in the hope that he would take the hint and his departure. But Kirkton the implacable was not to be shifted, and at last an official handed him a cheque, took his receipt, and closed the office. Mr Kirkton took no chances —he remained in town, cashed the cheque the moment the bank wa.s opened next day. When he returned to Riverton ho had a job to persuade his partner and others that he had indeed "raised the wind.”

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/SOCR19070302.2.30

Bibliographic details

Old Time Echoes., Southern Cross, Volume 14, Issue 50, 2 March 1907

Word Count
849

Old Time Echoes. Southern Cross, Volume 14, Issue 50, 2 March 1907

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