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Pars About People

IF it is ill for a man when everybody speaks well of him,

then Thomas Wells, of Cambridge, most be in a parlous state. He has just received a compliment which is probably without parallel in the colony. Mr Wells has resided in Cambridge for something like the third of a century, but though he is not the oldest inhabitant, he is certainly entitled to be called the Father of the town. It would doubtleas be more correct to call him the Fairy Godfather, because that seems to be the capacity in which he has acted. Oldest inhabitants, as a rule, seldom do anything except live long, but Thomas Wells has been a species of incarnate energy ever since he put up his shingle in the city of the salubrious climate. Most of the good things he has done have been made public over and over again of late, and especially his work in connection with the Domain, the Cambridge railway, and the Anglican Church. But the part he played in opening up the further interior, by means of the Kotorua line aud the Taupo road, is not so well known.

However, all his good points seem to have been within the knowledge of somebody, and, when a committee of his fellow-townsmen was formed the other day, for the purpose of publicly recognising his services on the occasion of his retirement from public life, the members of that committee soon fonnd that their job was one of the softest any of them had ever undertaken. People of all shades of opinion and belief all over the Waikato and in Auckland <met the committee halt way, and, when the presentation was made in the Alexandra Hall the other day, the subscribers were most of them present in person to justify their contributions. The oldest, the best, and soundest men in Waikato — the Taylors, the Fishers, the Forrests, the Hallys, the Hickses, and a host of others whose residence does not date back quite so far— were there, together with a contingent from Auckland, headed by Archibald Clarke. The presenta tion took the form of a gold watch and chain and a purse of 150 sovereign.*. Which seems a much better way than putting up a monument when a man is dead.

('lenient Winter, the unassuming bui extremely popular and talented inspector of the Bank of Australasia, who died recently, was very colonial -—

he was born in British Uuiana (South America), learned fractions and interest in Canada, and was polished ott at Christ's College, in Christchurch, with credit to all concerned. From college, he went into the service of the Bank of Australasia, and his career has been one of steady progress. After being transferred hither and thither in New Zealand as a junior, he was drafted to Melbourne, and two years later was suddenly promoted accountant at Sydney when but thirtythree years of age.

Four years later saw him acting as manager in the big city, through the chief official's long illness. Then, he managed at Christchurch, was actingmanager at Melbourne, managed at Dunedin, and on the death of Mr E. W. Morrah (of Wellington) was appointed inspector, to the great satisfaction of everyone. Mr Winter had been aathmatical for many years, and only two years ago took a trip to England and America in the hope of getting relief, but his known ailment did not cause death — it resulted from heart failure, which makes the second death of well known Wellington men within a few days from the same cause. Clement Winter leaves a widow, who is a daughter of the late Mr R. H. Willis, formerly Collector of Customs at Launceston (Tap.nania).

John Forbes, ex-sergeant of police, who died at Kawhia a few days ago, after a long period of distressing illness, was one of the best known members of that fine serai-military force, the Armed Constabulary, which did such excellent service in pacifying the country subsequent to the withdrawal of the Imperial troops. John, or, rather, "Johnny," or "Jack" Forbes, was one of the smartest men in the organisation, which, unlike the present police force, was almost wholly composed of men of quite uncommon intelligence. Hundreds of the rank and file were of gentle, some even of noble, birth, and there isn't a learned profession that was not represented on the roll call. " Johnny " Forbes joined the service at the end of the sixties, when he was just out of his teens, aud the fine training he received was so deeply ingrained in his character that its effects could not be removed by the years of street duty which he long afterwards underwent in Auckland, —i

The Waikato command of the Armed Constabulary in thoße days was held by Colonel Lyon, the brave old veteran whose pet aversion was any reference to the loss of his left arm. Strangers naturally presumed that the limb had been shot ott in the Crimea, whereas it had been amputated an the result of a sporting accident. Under Lyon, at different times, were such officers as Major William Clare, known familiarly to the men as " Bamboo Billy," subinspectors (afterwards Colonel) Stuart Newell, Ross Watts, Morrison, Capel, Northcroft (now S. M. ) and many others, most of whom have followed the Colonel over the line that we all must cross sooner or later. Snb-inspec-toi Roberts (now Colonel and S. M. , of Tauranga) is a nephew and son-in-law of the late Major Clare. The A.C.'s had a good de»l to do in those days, and at the time of the murder of Tim Sullivan, in 1872, they undoubtedly,

by their presence, prevented what might have been a formidable native rising.

The members of the force were also employed in road-making, and the peaceful traveller who now drives or motors along the main highways of Waikato little suspects that many of those roads were first formed by aristocratic constabularymen doing

" Government stroke " for an extra shilling a day. Hut the soldier policemen got their share of life's pleasures as well. They were always welcome in the Society of the period, and they found abundant openings in the world of sport. It was perhaps as a footballer that Johnny Forbes will be best remembered by the old hands. He was a Waikato "rep" for many .successive seasons, aud one of the hardest nuts that the Aucklanders had to crack.

Wlieu the condition of the natives became so pacilie as to render the maintenance of a large force of constabulary no longer necessary in Waikato, Forbes was sent to Kawhia, where he married a daughter of the late Samuel Morgan, and theuceforward his heart was always in that secluded harbour. Subsequently, he did duty at Hamilton and Te Aroha, and his last spell of police service was in Auckland. One of the strongest and most athletic of men, he was given to overtaxing his powers, and some years ago sustained an injury which gradually brought on diabetes, the disease from which he died. Few men in his position have left behind them a wider circle of warm friends. In the Waikato there is not to be found an individual who has a bad word for "Johnny" Forbes. And yet no policeman ever did his duty more scrupulously or with a smaller regard for consequence*.

< 'banning Buckland, who lately departed for Singapore, en route for a trip round the world, has now got as far as Canada, where he is displaying that enterprise that i.s characteristic of the hlood of the liucklands. Charming is the only son of the energetic and original Frank Buckland, .sometime M.H.K. for Manukau, author of the famous Washers and Manglers' Bill, and at present Mayor of the flourishing borough of Cambridge. Charming, it seems, is not only in Canada, but is "distinguishing" himself there, and that in a very worthy sense of the term. The Dominion, as most people know, is enjoying a "boom" just

now

Thousand* and thousands of emigrants are rushing thither from Europe, and the Government are settling them as fast as they come upon the waste lands of the rich, or allegedly rich, North West. Charming Buckland appears to have constituted himself a committee of inquiry, and has, according to private advices, " made several perilous journeys through unknown land by himself, and is now looked upon as one of the best authorities in the country as to the quality of land. Columns have been devoted to his doing* in some of the Dominion papers."

A picturesque figure has been removed from the social and otticial life of the Waikato by the death of Captain James McFherson, of Kirikiriroa. He was one of the last survivors of the old military caste, and certainly the only one who maintained up to the present day his share in the direction of the affairs of the district which he helped to fight for and settle. Born a member of a Highland family of some consideration, in the late 'twenties or the early 'thirties, young McPherson, following a practice then common enough in his class, enlisted as a private soldier in the 93rd Highlanders, and served throughout the Crimean campaign under thegallant Colin Campbell. He formed part of the immortal " thin red line" at Balaclava, and took part in all the principal engagements on the peninsula. From the Black Sea he followed his leader to India, where he fought in a dozen battles, but was proudest of that which led to the relief of Lueknow. The campaign, which made his general a peer of the realm, gave McPherson a commission, and in 1861 he landed in New Zealand as a captain in the 70th Regiment to assist in the suppression of the Maori rebellion.

He did not remain in the Imperial service long, however. Selling his commission, he joined the Transport Corps, and afterwards the 4th Waikato Militia, as captain and adjutant. It was in this capacity that his talent for administration, which was afterwards to be used so profitably in the service of local government, was first exhibited. At the close of the war, Captain McPherson settled down on his military grant of 400 acres, adjoining the township of Hamilton East, and there for some years he occupied himself with agricultural and pastoral pursuits, which were not too profitable in those days. In the very early 'seventies, the Waikato was constituted a separate electoral district, and the first candidate to come forward was Hugh Kirkwood (now residing in Auckland), whose interests were at Cambridge. The jealousy between that place and Hamilton was much keener in those times than it is even now, and the late Captain Steele, who ruled the roost, and was affectionately known by all his old militiamen as " Father Abraham," decided to bring out Captain McPherson.

With a solid Hamilton vote McPherson was elected, and sat as the first Member for Waikato in the House of Representatives. But he was quite satisfied with one session ; the un pleasant sea journey to Wellington and back, and the long hours of the sittings in Parliament were repugnant to him, and Captain McPherson retired to make way for Major Jackson. Then came the abolition of the Provinces, and the establishment of the County Council system, and at .the second meeting of the Waikato Council, Captain McPherson was appointed clerk and treasurer, an office he held up to the day of his death. Amongst the members of that first Council were Robert Kirkwood, William Gumming (both dead), F. R. Claude (now of Mangare), J. B. Whyte (afterwards M..H.R. and M.L.C., and now residing in London) and G. £. Clarke (still of Cambridge).

Captain Mcl'herson brought to the execution of his clerkly duties the martinet practices he had acquired in the Army, and there is probably no public body in the coiony whose affairs have been conducted with such precision and accuracy as those of the Waikato Council and the various other subsidiary bodies of which the Captain was either secretary or clerk. He was the firm friend of all honest clients of his Council and boards, and a terror to the man who wouldn't pay his rates or slummed his contracts. His preciseness led to an amusing little incident once. Amongst the registered land owners who were in arrears at one time was the redoubtable W. G. Garrard. Captain McPherson did not know W. G.s address, but he knew that William was champion of the out-of-works, and so he addressed the rate notice : "Mr W. G. Garrard, Unemployed, Auckland." The letter reached its destination right enough, and evoked an indignant reply, which was enclosed in an envelope addressed "To James McFherson, Paid Pauper in Employ, Kirikiriroa." The captain would never part with that envelope.

But the late Captain McPherson was not merely a creature of red-tape ollu-ialdoni. Op to within a tew short years ago, when he was overtaken with infirmities, he took part in all social functions with a hearty zest.

He was a patron of volunteering, and acted as Brigade-Major on many important occasions, took a deep interest in music and tlie drama, was secretary of the famous Comas Dramatic Club and the Choral Society, was high in the Councils of Freemasonry, and could dance a measure and sing " The Laird of Cockpen " with a dasli that shamed about 99 per cent, of the younger generation. He was, in leed, a man of many and good parts, and those who were most intimate with him knew what good qualities lay hidden under a somewhat rough exterior. He leaves two daughters, born to him in his campaigning days, and who have been his faithful companions through many changing and eventfui years.

Rev. Flynn Anderson, wlio is visiting these parts iv the interests of his South African mission, is the right sort of man to send out on a begging expedition. He really does give a quid pro quo, and the people who have paid a shilling to hear his lecture and see " his lovely pictures of Africa feel that really and truly it is they who are the debtors to the mission, and not that the mission owes anything to them. After hearing him, one can well understand how well-fitted he is for the strenuous and delicate task of carrying the Gospel tidings to the railway men and farmers on the remote places on the African veldt. He is keen as mustard, and so full of warm human sympathy that you feel you could tell him all your troubles and secrets without stipulating for confidence. He drew a big audience at St. David's Behoolroom, and held them spellbound, except when they were laughing, with bis descriptions of the land of the Briton and Boer. He is now on his way to the Islands, but will return here in time to see what New Zealand (which he greatly admires) is like in the throes of a general election.

Mr Anderson is a blithe raconteur. Here are a couple of his "yarns": — There wan a Dutch farmer at Zandspruit, and he was driving a pair of horses in a Cape-cart to Modderhoek — we will say. On the way, one of the horses took horse sickness, and turned his toes to the broad arch of heaven — a way each horse has once in two years in Africa. The Dutch farmer was canny. He would leave the dead horse, but would take his skin to Hell at Modderhoek. He duly skinned the

horse, piled his skin on the Cape-cart, and made the remaining horse pull the Cape-cart and load. Outspanning to take " skoff" at noon, he looked to the north, when he saw a piuk apparition trotting towards him. It was the horse — without a skin ! He wouldn't part with the hide, but in a krael near by were four sheep skins, and he just stuck them on, and tied them with " reims " — ao ! ltefore he got to Modderhoek, the skins were grown on to the horse. Next year he shore four bales of wool from that horse. The farmer told Mr Anderson so.

Dutch hospitality ia proverbial. Trekking on the veldt alone a few months since, the little English " predikant " struck a few Boer hunters. They made him' welcome. They threw some skins over the " desßelboom " of the waggon for him to camp under. They brought out their bottle of "dop" and offered it to him first. Mr Anderson turned his eyes to the stars and firmly said : " No, thank you." They did not press him. They are not rude, these simple children of the gun. Each applied his mouth to the bottle, and took his " tot." Then they went to blanket. In the morning, the parson kicked something with bis foot. It was the " dop " bottle. The Dutchman, in a spirit of fairness, and recognising that the " predikant" must make some sort of a show of holiness, had given him a chance to drink bis portion secretly, silently and surreptitiously.

(Jr. H. Buckeridge, organiser for the Farmers' Union in this province, is a man of much resource. He is not satisfied with merely doing what he is paid for, that is to say, for "organising" the farmer. He wants to make tlie farmers co operate. But the Auckland farmer is not listening to the voice of the charmer. He remembers the issue of too many so-called "co • operative " enterprises. When G. H. Buckeridge's circular was read at the meeting of the Cambridge Farmers' Club, James Forrest, the ex • president, said he intended to treat anything coming from Auckland with stiff - neckedness. They had a striking instance in the freezing episode recently. Their city friends prated about the importance of agricultural interests — at banquet? — but when it came to business the whole thing was reduced to town v. country.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TO19050826.2.6

Bibliographic details

Pars About People, Observer, Volume XXV, Issue 50, 26 August 1905

Word Count
2,964

Pars About People Observer, Volume XXV, Issue 50, 26 August 1905

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