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THE OLD DIGGING DAYS.

A MAN" OF MA NT "RUSHES." THE HON J. COLVIN AND HIS ADVENTURES. (Contributed.) ( With a wisdom befitting that flowing Dmiclic oeard of liis, the Hon Climes Colrfii, tho now Aliniatcr of | Mines, carefully refrains from any announcement of forthcoming tremendous Reforms in his Department. Ho lias decided upon any revolutionary improvements in the ways and customs of | the New Zealand mines and those who \ toil in them. As l'ar as can be gather- , «xl, ho is just going to lie low lor a \ while, like a sensible man, and get the tun of tho ropes departmental. Meanr while the Grand Old Man of tho Clean { fciweop Cabinet is not by any moans \ unwilling to spin a tale or two about (his earlier days. He is not an orator, lie admits, which is greatly to his credit. It is the member who believes Jie is an orator that covers with affliction tho bowed head of tho recording pressman. Not being an orator, therefore, Mr Colvin-—tho "Uncle" of an affectionate House—is a pleasant man , to listen to when that honeyed Done- ( gal tongue of his gets going, and particularly wlieh it turns to stories of the vld blue shirt pioneering days. ft was in one of the famous old 'Blackball miners, Mr Colvin told ina that he got his first taste of "roughing it." He was a lad of seventeen, when lie left his Irish home to shovel gold off tho streets of Meli( bourne, as the touching belief of the .emigrant was in those days. It was in (IS6I, and the Victorian diggings were still the talk of the world. Young , Colvin went out in the ship Champion the Seas, a famous flyer in her day. ilioso were the years when canvas was ; Btill king of the seas, and when the \ most beautiful fabrics that were ever huilt raced round the world with the Jhina tea cargoes, ami earned enor--1 nious dividends for their owners in the Australian passenger and gold-carrying [trade. The days of great single toptails and stu'n'-sail-booms, when sailing ships carried crews of three or four times the number they do now; the days when emigrants were half sailors (themselves by the time they landed in | the colonies. But those beautiful clippers were also at times highly uncom- / lortnble, and their skippers were generally more anxious /to make a fast passage than _to concern themselves I about the " live stock," as isomo of them used to call their passongora. Jttnyhofr, young Colvin got to 'Mel\bourno, and soon thereafter he was Tiandlin g shovel and wash-dish for the I?i * U I I6 11 J lo ' l the Creswiek Creek, and l th° Daylesford diggings. But T" , Sold was elusive, and in (I ,? 1 n C n new s Gabriel's \«*ully finds reached Australia, Colvin, /in company with throngs of other I diggers, made for Melbourne as fast as ais feet could carry him. ' THE RED JACKET AND THE THOUSAND DIGGERS. It was a wonderful rush, that excited migration of Australia's goldhunters to the new land of promise. .Scores, of vessels—sailing ships and ueamers, chiefly the former—were laid jon for Port Chalmers,, and ©very one \was packed with diggers. James Colvin came across as a steerage passen- / ger on the ship Red Jacket, a famous \ ilier of that era of fast ships. She was an American-built wooden ship of 1 very fine model. It was in that same *lled Jacket that Sir John Gorst made ( «iis first voyage to New Zealand in )iB6O, coming out from Liverpool to I A uckland; as he records in his remiiniscence3, he covered a thousand miles \in three days when "running down .J,ho easting" across tho Southern \ Ocean. On her trip to Port Chalmers from Melbourne she was a lively ship; /itliere were a thousand diggers on Aboard 1 They camped wherever they could get a shake-down; most of the \ bunks were not bunks at all, but just bundles of straw on tho bare planks iof the'tween and lower decks. There (was such a crowd that it was very difficult to get food cooked for all. ''Also there was much danger from fire. < Tho rowdy crowds persisted in using i candles below late at night and play- , ing cards till all hours, and the cap- \ tain had an anxious time of it. He cracked on sail as if he were in a race, and seven or eight days took his giving mountain of canvas to Otago i Heads. He was real glad to get those thousand diggers out of his snip. The , fear of fire was uppermost in his mind. The Red Jacket's boats would not have , gone far amongst a thousand men. But \ the cherub that sits up aloft watched ■ over that packed ship of gold-hunters, (the careles3, happy crowd of fellows, , most of them young and fit for any (adventure. A great song amongst the Victorian (diggers who came across to New Zealand those times was'sung to tho tune iof the old sailors' chantey " Sacra- " Oh, blow ye winds, yeo-ho! " Foe the land of O-ta-go; " There's plenty of gold, so we've been told, "In tho golden land of Otagol" ■' Swag on back, young Colvin and his 'mates tramped up-country from Dun- \ edin to the Dunstan diggings. Then .lie tried his luck at Wnkatipu, where Uhe shores of the great, Alpine lake ,-were specked with hundreds of white {tents. Rut fortune still dodged his (hovel. Then the bov from Old Donegal got him to Southland, and in In|rercargill and thereabouts he tackled , «uiy work lie could get, making some- / times XI per day. Bullock-driving | was ona of the accomplishments he /earned in Southland. I THE WAKAMARINA DIGGINGS _ Then a new gold rush came. This I time it was to the Wakamarina, up near Havelock, at the head of PeloruS Sound, concerning which there was an , old diggers' song (the author was that ' one-time celebrity, Thatcher) which tho late M r Seddon was fond of singing ut convivial gatherings, with a chorus, " I'm off to that golden location, ( The "Wakamarina fwr mel" From that not-sufficiently-golden location Mr Colvin, in 1865, shitted camp .to the West Coast, which had just "broken out." He went from Canvas- | town to Nelson over the Maungatapu (Track, when about that very tilno the bushrangers Sullivan, Burgess and two j other ruffians were stieking-up and i murdering unsuspecting travellers, for th<i Bake of the gold they carried or j wero thought to carry. A pack-horse I belonging to one of tho murdered men , bad been sold to the unfortunate gold- ( seeker by Colvin a short time previ»usly.

ON THE WEST COAST. Going down from Nelson to Hokitika. by steamer. Mr Colvin started , digging once more—lie had had a spell lot storekeeping on the Wakamarina--i and now ho had his first real stroke of luck. He and seven other young feli lows took up adjoining claims on the tWaimea, which was a very rough bit |©f bush country in those days. For ■ome time ho was winning an ounce of fold a day. Later ho went to Hokiika, on the Grey, digging and storekeeping; then up the coast to Brighton and Charleston, and finally, in i 1867, ho brought up nt Westport, where ho has lived ever since. Tii«t West Coast was a rough-and-i tumble Bort of place in those days. Men earned a lot of money, and spent a lot. There were all sorts of ups and downs, !ar.d tio end of adventures b.v trackless I»fea£ and hridgeless rivers. But it was ft reße and it turned out good, sturdy men, 'pr.S st! Westport that Mr Colvin got his first exnenpneo of servico on a public body, when he was elected as Wfie of the •miners' representatives-on the Hospital Board. A little later he waa the first West Const man returned fts member of tho Nelson Education Board. Thence the graduation into general politics was easy—and behold toe end of it, a seat in Cabinet. In tho Mines, Mr Colvin has the portfolio that tallies with his special knowledge. Jf ho does not make a success of it, it certainly will not bo lor jvant of hard, £racta^..fgßerienc§ fc

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TS19120406.2.103

Bibliographic details

THE OLD DIGGING DAYS., Star, Issue 10430, 6 April 1912

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1,364

THE OLD DIGGING DAYS. Star, Issue 10430, 6 April 1912

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