Life in Early Poverty Bay
After the Massacre — Nork Of The Armed Constabulary. — Mr. J. Walsh Tells Of His Experiences
After the Massacre
Nork Of The Armed Constabulary.
Mr. J. Walsh Tells Of His Experiences.
White sand, little grass and much tree were the most prominent feares of Gisborne's landscape some ty-six years ago, according to Mr John Walsh, of Mangapapa, who first viewed the town at that stage of its existence.
A Peculiar Place.
Mr Walsh was born in Newtown, County Cork, Ireland, eighty-three ars ago, and, at the very early age eleven, joined a man-o'-war. He saw service in the Chinese War of that period but, shortly after this, left the Navy. His parents, in the antime, had settled in Canada and joined them there. After a short period, he again took up the sea-faring life and joined on with a mermtman sailing for the then little own land of New Zealand. Sixty. four years ago, this vessel touched Port Chalmers and Mr Walsh, leaving her, once more adopted a life land. For a time he lived in ago, but then came north to Taraki, where he joined the 2nd Forest Rangers and saw some service against the Maoris. Coming to Taupo, then to this district, he changed from the Rangers to the Armed Conbulary and, in 1871, was allocated duty in Gisborne. Since then, this period of fifty-six years, Mr lsh has resided in and about Gisne. In 1881, he left the A.C. and took up land out near Matawhero.
Gisborne was a peculiar place then,” said Mr Walsh, in chatting those old days, “and it really is marvellous when one considers all changes that have taken place, emember the time well when the sent site of the Government buildings was simply a large clump of very high ti_tree. Right along by British Empire Hotel the scrub stretched and the major portion of the town was made up of houses peeping from among patches of the growth.
“When I came here in 1871 I did Armed Constabulary duty. There were only one or two civilian police in the whole district. The old A.C. did most of the work of this nature. We were always ready for a dash out into the country after any natives who threatened to become troublesome, but, during my time, we never actually came to grips with them—they knew the country too well. It was disheartening work, for we would be out for two or three days, with only such food as we could pick up en route, and we always seemed to be chasing phantoms. In those days we had no modern conveniences such as ration parties and field hospitals to follow us. We picked up such grub as we could and when a man fell, generally speaking, page 157 he lay there, for most fights were of a running nature, and the unwounded men had to carry on the chase and hope to pick up their wounded comrades later when time permitted.
The male residents of the town were all members of the Militia and paraded one day every month or so, at Ormond, where they were drilled and instructed in various points of service work. These parades were compulsory and each man was paid 4/- or 5/- a day to compensate for his loss of working time. It was considered a very serious crime to be absent from a parade, except through sickness.
Town's Last Line of Defence
“As a last line of defence, should the town ever be over-run by natives, we had an old block-house on the site of the present police station. This was of wood, with the lower par strongly fortified by sand-bags and freely loop-holed. It would have been a hard proposition for any band of natives to tackle. From the block-house, a trench communicated with the old court house situated on Adair Bros.' site—apparently intended as an outlet for the defenders who could use it and then fall on the attackers in a surprise attack from the rear.
“I came after most of the Maori trouble had finished,” said Mr Walsh in conclusion, “but I remember one little experience of my police duty in the towm. Twenty-one of the Ngatiporous came in one day with a big stock of seed, disposed of it well, and then started out to drink up the proceeds as fast as they could. By evening, every man-jack of them was fighting mad and things became very serious. I was the only policeman on hand and so I gathered up any passers-by and went along to see about quietening them. Talk was useless, so we separated them as best we could and took them in batches along to the lock-up—only a small cell. By the time the last of them was packed in, this cell was a solid mass of swearing, fighting Maoris on the verge of delirium. Gradually they quietened down, as the strong liquor took effect, and they fell into a drunken sleep. Next morning one of the sorriest bunches of men I have ever seen appeared before the J.P. and were severely admonished, before being escorted out of town and sent their way in peace.”