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… continued from part one published in June

It would appear that the Waite family was not treated to any sympathy when they finally arrived at Dunedin as an article in The Otago Colonist of December 11th 1857 reported a court action brought by William Waite against Young and Co., the ship’s agents. The Bosworth tied up off Port Chalmers and the 2nd class cabin and steerage passengers were landed at Dunedin. However, the 1st Class cabin passengers were expected to make their own provisions for landing. William sued the agents for the cost of landing his family and baggage, £1 11s 6d [£75]. The agent argued that it was customary only to pay the landing expenses of the second cabin and steerage passengers and that they had fulfilled their contract by delivering the passengers to the port of Otago. The Magistrate ruled that the shippers were bound to land the plaintiff, with his family and luggage, at the ordinary landing place of the port of Otago; and as it had been the usage of the port to hold Dunedin as the proper landing-place, as admitted by the defendant in their landing the second class and steerage passengers at Dunedin free of expense, he therefore gave judgment against the defendant for £1 11s, 6d [£93], the freight claimed, with 3s costs, but that the jetty dues were payable by the plaintiff. It would appear that William Watkins Waite was not a man to be trifled with as there is no report of other passengers taking similar actions.

Otago is a provincial district in the southernmost part of the South Island. In 1848 the Scottish Free Church founded a settlement at Dunedin based on the ideas of Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Then sheep farmers took up land in the southland plain and in the downlands of North Otago. The discovery of gold in 1861 created a gold rush, which brought an estimated 14,000 people to the area. Later discoveries brought the mining population to 22,000 but by 1865 there were onl y 10,000 miners left on the fields. The prosperity brought by the gold rushes developed the city of Dunedin and after the gold had declined the land was utilised by sheep farming.

An Editorial in the Otago Witness of November 28th 1857, commenting upon the arrival of the Bosworth appears to disparage the arrival of this ship on the grounds that it brought the wrong class of passenger.

“The arrival of capitalists and farmers would increase the need for labour, which was already in short supply. What was required was labour in large numbers.”

However, the arrival of the Waite family must have been welcomed, because William Watkin Waite opened the first school in Warepa and possibly the first in Otago.

A history of Warepa School, written in 1928, indicates that William had travelled from Canada specifically to open a school for the children of the Scottish settlers. How did he know of this requirement? Was the post advertised? The school first opened in William Waite’s house, which is described as being quite a comfortable one. The walls and floor of the building were of wood, the roof of shingles and at one end of the school room a spacious open fireplace made room for the large log fire, which was one of the few luxuries that the early settlers enjoyed. The furniture consisted of locally made wooden forms for the children and two small tables where the children went to in turn to write in their copybooks, which were headed by the teacher. All other writing was done with chalk on slates. The house was situated on section V, block CII, Clutha Survey District at the West End of the Warepa Bush. The section comprised 50 acres on which the Waites grazed cattle and grew a little wheat.

William was described as a man with no previous experience of teaching but was of a good ordinary education and, being popular with the children, maintained good discipline. He was a good penman and a good singer. Many of Warepa’s future vocalists, including James Somerville, owed much to the tuition they received from him. The subjects taught were reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography and religious instruction, the last of which took the form of daily Bible reading and prayer. William had the assistance of his daughter Ellen [Nellie]. During the cold weather William wore a thick cap, with wide ear-muffs, which he had brought from Canada and which was something of a novelty to the pupils.

Warepa district survey 1950 (sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright preserved)
Warepa district survey 1950 (sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright preserved)

He always warmed it at the fire before going outside. On one occasion when William was caught in a raging tussock fire and badly burned, he claimed that his cap saved him from permanent injury. Whilst he was recovering from this his wife Emily conducted the school. Emily was described as a highly educated lady, extremely popular with her neighbours and a real helpmate to William. It is worth mentioning that, although William had no formal teacher training, in the 1841 census his step- mother, Virtue Waite, is shown to be operating a Boarding School for young ladies in her house in Ock Street, Abingdon. Did William get the idea of teaching from her?

 

Warepa or more properly, Wharepa [pronounced Wo-r-paaa] is a Maori word, meaning village or settlement. It was probably a favourite dwelling place with the Maori in pre-colonial days, as the centre of the settlement was a pleasantly situated hill which was at one time thickly covered in bush, and the Kaihiku river, close by, must have teemed with fish. As a colonial settlement, Warepa dates from 1853 when Peter Ayson bought land there and, in a few years, had other pioneers as his neighbours.

Wharepa was the first district in the Clutha to be blessed with the benefits of a school. At a very early date (1855) a Mr. Waite, who had a section to the west end of the Wharepa Bush, opened a private school. For some time, he taught in his own house, and when the first public school was built, he was appointed the first teacher. The school duty for several years until the attendance increased so much that the school was held in the first church, the school building being then used as a dwelling. Before this change came Mr. Waite resigned.

Of the early Wharepa scholars, some have made their mark in the professional world, one especially being worthy of mention vis; Dr. W. L. Christie, who was the first New Zealander to gain the MB degree. Dr Christie was almost a native of Wharepa: and is now practicing as a physician in Bristol, England.

Extracts from Reminiscences of the Early Settlement of Dunedin and South Otago, Compiler and Editor John Wilson (1912).

By the end of 1858 there were three schools in Warepa, and William’s school became a public one under the control of the Clutha School Committee and the Otago Education Board, which voted £200 [£11,800] for a new building. A section of 50 acres was set apart as the school site and 5 acres of bush reserved for the use of the school. Willia m w as appoin te d a s th e first teacher for the new school. The old school continued to be held in his house until the new building was ready. The new school was a substantial structure containing, in addition to the classroom, accommodation for the teacher and was completed in 1859. The site was later described as a swampy, flax covered flat where, from the virgin bush clad hillside, echoed the screech of the kaka [large species of parrot], the chatter of the parakeet and the clear bell note of the tui [another native New Zealand bird], a veritable paradise. This building was still in existence in 1928 and being used as a residence.

The new school opened with a class of ten boys and three girls, including the four Waite children. The schoolroom was furnished with desks, forms, a set of maps and a blackboard. At this time the Education Board provided only half of William’s salary, which was about £100, the other half being raised by the school fee of 10s a pupil and subscriptions from the settlers. The attendance at the end of the first year had risen to eleven boys and four girls. The ages ranged from seven to eighteen for the boys and eleven to thirteen for the girls. The attendance figures dropped in the winter due to the lack of roads and bridges making it impossible for the children of the more remote houses to reach school.

Although William continued to educate the children, his situation was far from ideal. A report of December 1859 states –

“The Board has not voted money for fencing the land or even the buildings as protection from the many cattle that are continually grazing in the neighbourhood. It cannot be expected that a side-school teacher, whose salary is so uncertain as to its amount, and the tenure of whose office is at yet undefined, should bear the burden of protecting the property of the Government. The upper portion of the house is as yet not divided into rooms. There is a sum belonging to the committee – part of the original vote -which will suffice for this. The teacher experiences no small hindrance in prosecuting his labours from the want of books, slate pencils and suitable copy books; a proper supply of which seem to be provided neither by the Government nor by the merchants. From £45 to £50 as one-half of salary will be required, as an increase in the number of scholars is expected in consequence of the school-house having been erected.”

In 1861 William tendered his resignation and left the district early in 1862. His departure coincided with the passing of a second Educational Ordinance, which came into force at the beginning of 1862. Warepa School graduated from a side-school to a main school with a committee of its own. 

The Waite family, William Watkins, Emily, Ellen Wilson, Edward Benham, Henry Watkin and William Claxton, left New Zealand, from Port Chalmers, on September 11th 1863. They sailed on the Glencoe from Otago bound for Hobson’s Bay, Victoria, Australia, where they arrived on October 4th 1863. It is not yet known where the family spent the time between leaving Warepa early in 1862 and leaving the country late in 1863. However, the Dunedin Town Rate Book shows that in 1859 William Watkin Waite owned the freehold of an unoccupied piece of land designated as Block 25, Section 10 with a rateable value of £2. In 1860 and 1861 this piece of land contained a house, which was occupied, and the rateable value had increased to £24. Is this where the Waite family were living after leaving Warepa? The Electoral Roll for the City of Dunedin dated October 1st 1866 includes William Watkin Waite as the owner of a house and land designated as Section 10, Block 20. This would appear to be the same property mentioned previously and was still owned by William after he had left for Australia.

The Glencoe was a ship of some 746 tons and was 185 feet in length. It had been built at Dumbarton in 1855 and was captained by James Hutton, who appears to have been the owner. On this voyage it carried a total of 32 passengers, 6 cabin, including the Waite family, and 26 in steerage. For such a large ship this suggests that its normal cargo was most probably wool, and, like the Bosworth, it was one of the ships that had been specially built for the fast run from Australia to England.

To be continued . . .

Berkshire Family History Society

Berkshire Family History Society

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