The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]
The Hon. Mathew Holmes
The Hon. Mathew Holmes, M.L.C., was born in the North of Ireland in 1817. He was sent first to a mercantile business at fourteen years of age, and at this he remained until his twentieth year, when, in search of a wider field for his energies, he left for Victoria, then known as Port Philip. There he was engaged in business for fifteen years, being among the earliest shippers of wool from that colony to England. While in Australia he married the youngest daughter of Mr. Allan McLean, of Strathallan. In the year 1854 he left Victoria for Scotland, where he resided for five years with his family. The young Colony of New Zealand then attracted the attention of himself and four or five of his friends, and finally they selected the Province of Otago as their field of operations. He went about the business of colonization in a determined, independent, and able manner. It was evident from the first that Mr. Holmes meant business, and intended to succeed in his enterprise. Before setting out for the Colony, he chartered the ship “Cheviot,” 1000 tons, to come out to Port Chalmers, The vessel carried a very large number of horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry, which had been selected by Mr. Holmes to stock an extensive farm. Among the cargo with which the ship was loaded was a large quantity of seeds, fodder, builders' ironmongery, furniture, general merchandise, and farm implements. Everything necessary to stock and work a large estate was put on board. The “Cheviot” had a goodly number of passengers, who were mostly skilled farm servants and overseers engaged by Mr. Holmes to work for him in New Zealand. After despatching his vessel, the subject of this sketch left Scotland, arriving in this Colony six weeks before her. When the “Cheviot” anchored in Port Chalmers harbour in 1854 there was no whart nor any convenience for landing cattle. The animals were driven into the sea, and swam ashore. The manner in which several of the horses leaped from the deck of the vessel into the water in order to gain terra firma is graphically described by the honourable gentleman. Mr. Holmes has done a good deal to assist in settling the lands of the Otago and Southland districts. He is still a large landed proprietor, holding the Castle Rock Estate (50,000 acres), the Manapouri Estate (10,700 acres), besides Government leasehold, and the Awa Moa and Allday Bay Estates (of about 4700 acres.) As a breeder of cattle, sheep, and horses, the name of Mathew Holmes has been prominent ever since page 251 his arrival in the Colony. He has also been a large importer of stock, and hardly a year passes without fresh shipments being received. The studs of Clydesdale horses still show names which can trace back for over thirty years to the original shipments, and its representatives are to be found scattered through both Islands of New Zealand, and prominent among the prize winners at the leading agricultural shows. The studs of Lincoln and Leicester sheep, which, as well as the Clydesdales, are kept in the Awa Moa Estate, are no less widely known and esteemed. These, which have been in Mr. Holmes' possession almost forty years, at first few in number, gradually have displaced the Merino, which was once almost the only breed known. At Castle Rock, where hardier sheep were required, the Romney Marsh flock has been brought to great perfection in the low lands, while the hills are pastured with a pure bred Cheviot flock, the only one of its kind in the Colony. The honourable gentleman was called to the Legislative Council in 1866. Mr. Holmes has had ten children, of whom six still survive. He has twenty-two grandchildren, and some half dozen great-grandchildren.