Church Street, Onehunga, 7 Aug 1919,
THE ARRIVAL OF THE FENCIBLES
By the "New Zealand Herald" of August 4. which came into my hand this day, I read of the death of Mr. W. Tapp, who the paper says came to New Zealand in the ship "Oriental Queen' in 1850. That date is not correct. for with my parents I also arrived in New Zealand. As the events of that far back event may interest you, I will pen them for you. The good ship 'Oriental Queen' (Captain Thomas). having aboard No. 8 Company. Loyal New Zealand Fencibles. under the command of Captain T. M. Haultain, set sail from Gravesend on the morning of May 17, 1849. and dropped anchor in Waitemata Harbour, Auckland, on the evening of September 17. 1849, just 120 days on voyage. After a short stay at the Parade Ground, just under Mount Victoria Signal Station, to discharge some warlike stores, the ship was moved up the harbour just opposite old Fort Britomart, where it remained for about three weeks, during which time the cargo was discharged and taken ashore in what was in those days called cargo boats, which returned loaded with kauri gum for ballast. for at that date kauri gum was not of so much value as it is at the present time. During that three weeks' delay some of our mothers took a journey ashore to view what was then only a very small village with few inhabitants. and those mostly natives with very little clothing on Hawking fish and potatoes and driving pigs, all for sale. They brought the good news to their fellow-passengers that oranges were only 1/- per dozen and that the tea-tree was growing alongside the streets and could be obtained free. The boys and girls were not concerned much about the tea- tree, but oranges at one penny each pleased us all, although pennies were very scarce at that early date. Some very big oranges were brought on board to prove the fact that our mothers were not practising a joke. At the end of that three weeks' sojourn on the waters of the Waitemata about half of the Company, with their wives, children, and all worldly possessions - and I can assure you they were not very much - were taken ashore in the ship's boats and placed in drays in Official Bay. then taken across to Mechanics Bay. Another horse was put to the dray and taken up the cutting to Parnell, and at the Old Windsor Castle Hotel, kept by Mr. Thos. Johnstone, a halt was made until all the drays were brought up. While waiting, some of the men treated themselves to some beer, which they declared was the best they had tasted for four months
because on board the "Oriental Queen" there was not any beer to be had, for all the men could get was their ration of rum, and they all during those four months managed to live almost total abstainers and landed in New Zealand in good condition and with clear brains. All being ready, a start was made, and as we passed through Newmarket I noticed two buildings on the left of me. Some distance back from the road was the public house called the "Royal George,"* while on the right was a store with a signboard on which was written "Cheapside," kept by D. Toohy. When we reached that part of the Onehunga Road where the South Road joins, a real live donkey was in a cart by the roadside, and it neighed at us. That was the only music that greeted No. 8 Company, Loyal New Zealand Fencibles, on their arrival in New Zealand. We soon reached the hotel called "The Half Way House," where a stop took place for the men to get some more beer. Then a move on till we reached Potter's Paddock, where all the contents of the drays were dumped on the grass. Then into the barn they were carried, for that was to be our home. The next day the other half of the Company arrived. Some person was despatched up to the slopes of One Tree Hill for flax. which was tied together and the barn divided into compartments, wherein we slept and ate what food was provided. My parents had two boxes, which were used as tables, while we slept on the floor. As there was not any school to attend, the boys soon got into serious trouble. Outside and stretching across the road was a large pond of water, into which we placed our mothers' tubs to journey back to England. Those tubs often turned over and placed us in the water, our clothes getting very wet and dirty, and because we were not drowned some of us got a sound thrashing. James Ingram was sent up to One Tree Hill for flax and sticks for guns, the flax sheaves for swords, and a number of us were drilled so that in the years that lay before us we would be ready to fight the natives. That was in October, 1849. and in the same month of the year 1863 I was a Colonial soldier at Papakura ready to fight the natives if they came there.
These few lines may interest you a little, as there is no doubt you were present in those early days. Perhaps you may be an early resident of Onehunga where I resided in 1850-51-53. So wishing you health and peaceful happiness,|
(Signed) E. MELLON.
(Passenger to New Zealand per "Oriental Queen." September, 1849.)
See also: [Notice to Pensioners Selected for Enrolment in the NZ Force]