|My Life - David Wilson Virtue|
A brief account of my life may prove not only interesting but instructive, more especially to my children for whom I cherish the deepest paternal affection and solicitude. I am sensible of my inability to accomplish the undertaking with literary skill, but through divine help I am encouraged to hope that the story, though artless, will be intelligible and strictly true.
I was born at Glasgow in 1828. My parents belonged to the middle class, though my Father incurred a college education. Both were godly and were connected with the Baptist. At a very early age I was seriously impressed about divine things, and when I first realised the solemn fact that I was mortal and would die I cried bitterly all through one night and very soon after I was anxious about my soul. Every Sabbath I made a mark at the end of the pew where I sat in the old meeting house in Hanover Street to denote that I was still unsaved, and I continued this practice till I left home. The tolling of a Bell for the dead filled me with great fear and sadness, for I felt that I was not ready to die. At this distance of time I cannot remember what were my thoughts regarding the way of salvation, but I wanted to love Jesus and believed that I must undergo some great inward change before I could be saved. Salvation through faith was taught me, but as repentance, or sorrow for sin, was interposed as necessary to faith, I was often praying and looking for this sorrow as a needful qualification for its reception, so that my soul experiences were at times both painful and bewildering. The hardness and insensibility of my heart distressed me, but when I felt, in some measure, contrition for sin I was hopeful that the longed for blessing was at hand. But when it did not come I was sorely cast down and discouraged. But I never lost hope that I would ultimately be saved.
In 1839 when I was about eleven years old my Father was seized with typhus fever which brought him near to the gates of death. When he recovered, his medical adviser urged him to leave Scotland for a warmer climate. This advice, backed by a growing desire to try a new country, led him to sell out his business and make preparations for leaving for "Victoria," at this time known as "Australia Felix." He was led to make this choice from the very flattering accounts given of the country by Major Mitchell and Sturt who explored it. Their books were beautifully illustrated with delightful natural scenes in which handsome good looking natives, richly plumaged birds, kangaroos, and other animals, largely figured, which greatly fascinated my young mind and made me long to be there.
None but those who have gone through a similar experience can have any just conception of the heavy trial, the anxiety and sorrow connected with breaking up a home fifty years ago, and leaving ones native land for a far distant country, then hardly known, with a large young family. My dear parents often wept bitterly before they got fairly away. All at length being ready, we embarked on board the "Ariadure," a small vessel of 350 tons, lying at Greenock, and bound for Adelaide and Port Phillip. A tug steamer towed us a few miles down the Firth of Clyde where she left us to complete our journey alone to the Antipodes. As one or two of our passengers became rather famous it may prove interesting to mention their names. Neil Black, the great Victorian Squatter, and the Blythe family, one of whom became Sir Arthur, an agent general for South Australia.
The passage was one of over six months duration, and was attended with all the usual discomforts incidental to small overcrowded ships at that period. Discontent was general and deep, and quarrellings frequent. For about five months the Ariadure pursued her voyage through "winds and waves and storms" till we reached Port Adelaide where we remained for about a month, and then proceeded to Port Phillip where we cast anchor in December 1839.
In looking over the vast bay where we cast anchor no other vessel of any description whatever could be seen, nor any signs of life of settlement, except a small white tent standing on the beach, now known as "Sandridge." Next morning after our arrival, some of the passengers, including my father, asked the Captain to put them ashore at the "tent on the beach," which he consented to do. So the long boat was launched and about 20 passengers including my father, mother and two brothers besides myself got into her. On landing, we made for the tent, and as we approached, a sharp looking lady of middle age met us with a very polite bow, and after mutual salutations, we inquired the way to the City, which she kindly showed us by putting us on a foot track which led to it. We subsequently learnt that our new acquaintance was Mrs Liardet, the mother of a family well known in the colonies. The place upon which their tent stood was for many years known as "Liardets Beach."
We now wearily wended our way along this track which led us through a forest of gum trees, and on to the margin of the River Yarra, upon the opposite side of which stood Melbourne. It was late afternoon before we arrived and near where we stood was a large encampment of natives who inspired us with great terror for a short time, till we discovered their friendly character. Several Lubias (women), surrounded us and appeared quite delighted. They laughed and chattered and turned the young people round and round admiringly. But a damper was put upon our joyous meeting by the approach of a very fierce looking elderly gentleman armed to the teeth with spears and a great club. He stared at us for a minute or two without uttering a word or moving a muscle of his face, and then jerked out the short sentence, "Intobacco," which we took to mean, "Give me tobacco." One of our company gave him a piece, which he accepted without acknowledgment of any kind, and then retreated with savage dignity. As we were now detained upon the banks of the Yarra waiting for a punt to take us over, the shades of evening began to close upon us. Our situation awakened in our hearts many strange feelings. Close to us was a camp of about 500 savages, who together with a host of mangy dogs kept up a perfect babel of strange sounds. The coming darkness began to reveal the camp fires flickering here and there, lighting up the forest. In front of us was the dark unknown river where swarms of frogs kept up an awful croaking which struck terror into our young hearts. Presently the city lights opposite appeared, and the tones of a hand bell were heard, followed by an intimation that "Lily White" would sell by public auction tomorrow and etc. This was poor old Daddyís voice, the first Melbourne town crier. At length "Bilburnies" punt came over and took us across, when our family found refuge in a small cottage in course of erection. Having brought a kettle with us and some eatables we soon made a hearty tea, after which our father committed us all to God in prayer, when we lay down among the shavings with which the floors were well covered, and tried to forget in sleep, our fatigue and sorrows. But a new and painful experience awaited us. We heard humming sounds in the air, and presently felt that we were being operated upon by mosquitoes. It was impossible to sleep, so we sat up and cried, and now wondered among other things how father should have left a comfortable home in Scotland to come to such an "awful country" and I have no doubt but similar thoughts were passing through his own mind at the same time. The trial was so practical and irritating that we boys not only complained, cried, and said naughty things, but in sympathy began to hit one another, "passing it on," which brought down upon us in addition a severe paternal visitation, after which we sobbingly put in the greater part of the night trying to protect our skins and killing foreign insects. In this entirely new and painful way, we completed our first day and night in "Australia Felix."
The only means of getting goods conveyed from the "Ariadure" to town was by the vesselís long boat, and a small lighter. The former came up the Yarra the day after our arrival, bringing a portion of our effects which we were anxiously waiting for. There were no wharves, mooring, piles or conveniences of any kind for the use of vessels, so our boat was made fast to the limbs of a gum tree growing on the edge of the river, somewhere about where "Coles Wharf" was subsequently erected. I just mention this item to show the wonderful advance Melbourne made during the last fifty four years. All the banks of the river about this place were thickly covered with tea tree which was then greatly used for broom purposes. After seeing our luggage, etc, safely in our new home, we took a stroll through the town. The houses were few in number and nearly all built of weather boards. The streets were being laid out and formed. Gangs of convicts were grubbing out and removing stumps. Several of these poor fellows were working, in chains, the small "go carts" each of which was worked by four men, two in the front and two behind. With these they removed the roots and timber. When passing our cottage with a load they asked if we wanted any firewood. We replied. "Yes." Upon which they tipped it in front of our door. My mother thanked them and tendered a shilling, which they took with thanks. Collins, Elizabeth, Bourke and Swanston Streets were about the only ones which were partially made. The others were in their primitive state minus the trees. A deep water course ran along Elizabeth Street, and another down Collins Street into it, so that at the corner of the two streets there was a somewhat dangerous crossing where loaded bullock drays often came to grief. It was called "Townsend Creek," from the fact I presume that a general store at the corner of the two streets was kept by a person of that name. Bullock drivers did a great deal of swearing at this spot. There were several Hotels in town, the best known and used being "The Club" and Lamb Inn, both in Collins Street. Squatters usually put up at one or other of these houses, and often made things lively by their drunken orgies.
Victoria at this time was a port of New South Wales, and was consequently ruled from Sidney. Captain Lansdale was the nominal governor and resident magistrate, and a great tyrant he was. The police composed of ticket of leave men, all knew that convictions were certain before him so they were not particular about inquiring into details before arresting victims. If a man only stumbled in the streets in view of these city guardians he was pounced upon and handcuffed in a trice. If he protested or resisted he was simply knocked on the head with a baton, and thus stunned and sobered. He was marched off to the lock up, presented before Lansdale in the morning and fined with the usual alternative. A small policeman named Tommy Smith was pre-eminent at this work. As a boy I often felt that I could have witnessed the execution of Tommy without sadness.
The Magistrateís Court, lockup and stocks were all situated at the top of Collins Street, where now stands the eastern market. The floor of the cells were made with common bricks so that the recent occupants were easily recognised after their release. "On the bricks" was the usual way of specifying them.
Land sales at this time were frequent, chiefly of city allotments. A large tent was erected on some empty section. A champagne luncheon was invariably given before commencing, and many of the natives hung about the door in quest of a drop, while their land was being sold without their permission. While speaking about the Aborigines I may mention that I witnessed two thrilling sights shortly after our arrival in Melbourne. The first was a battle between the Barabool and Goulbourn tribes. On the morning of the eventful day numbers of the male natives of the latter tribe were running about the town with their faces and persons painted, or in the process, with red clay. They made no demur of using, without asking, the water in your household barrels to assist them in this operation, so that before they joined in the deadly strife with the enemy there were many angry little skirmishes between the European housewives and these fellows. They, trying to prevent the pollution, and the others insisting upon the liberty as there was to be "plenty fight." All things at length being ready, wives and children removed to a safe distance, about a hundred men on either side marshalled in single line on the flat land lying between Emerald Hill and the river. The Goulbourn Tribe were painted Red, the Baraboolís White, and all perfectly nude. All arrived alike with spears and shields. I suppose the space between the contending lines would not be more than 200 yards. After hurling reproaches and defiances at each other for some time, one line advanced at a run upon the other till within about 30 paces, when they threw their spears with great force and precision at their opponents, but these were caught with great dexterity on the shields and appropriated. The line which made the onset now turned and fled back to their first position where they halted and faced about just in time to receive their opponentís spears on their shields, who had pursued them this far with fearful yells. They then in their turn, retreated, while the first line again advanced and threw their spears with the same result. This going and coming went on for some time without damage till one of the Goulbourn combatants was pierced through the body and fell. This closed the engagement amidst great wailing and excitement, for some mounted troopers who were present from the first, now intervened. Why they did not do so before blood was shed I cannot say. The whole town was present and appeared to regard the set to as a capital entertainment. The victorious Barabools now retreated to their own district, and the Goulbourns kept up a fearful howling lamentation over their fallen warrior all through the night..
A few months after this encounter a white man was, from some cause or another murdered, by the Barabools. The authorities were unable to discover the actual culprit, so they hit upon the ingenuous desire of capturing the whole tribe when they next visited the city, which happened shortly after. The unsuspecting tribe came along and encamped on Emerald Hill. Nothing was said or done that day, but just before daylight next morning Captain Lansdaleís little army consisting of a detachment of soldiers then stationed in Melbourne, a number of troopers and police, surrounded the persecuted natives, and drove them down to Balberniers Point, which took them over the river. They were then driven along Swanston Street, and up Collins Street. Here a very brutal event occurred. The natives by this time, beginning to recover from their surprise, and suspecting that they would be all put to death, began to show some resistance. One old warrior raised his club to strike one of the officers when a soldier at once shot him through the head. He fell dead in the street. This outrage paralysed with fear the rest so they went quietly along, men, women and children, till they reached a new brick store in course of erection, into which they were driven. Sentinels were placed before the door. Here the poor creatures were detained without food all that day-Sunday. But during the night one of the prisoners, having obtained an old metal spoon, managed to pick out some of the bricks in the back wall of the building and succeeded in making an aperture large enough to permit one to pass through at a time. Several had, by this way effected their escape before the morning, when one of the sentinels suspecting that something was wrong, went to the back, just in time to see a poor fellow struggling through the escape. Without saying a word the brave soldier shot the native dead in the hole, and thus ingeniously blocked the way, and prevented further escapes. During Monday the authorities met to consider the situation. They had done an outrageous illegal act. They had, for all they knew to the contrary, murdered two innocent men, and now they did not know what to do with their prisoners. At length it was decided to release them. So a squad of troopers were sent up to the prison. The doors were thrown open, the prisoners marched out, and escorted back to Emerald Hill. Of course they did not remain, nor did they ever again return to the city. I am not aware whether this resulting tragedy has been chronicled in the history of Victoria.
Shortly after this, another event of a very painful character occurred. The shop of a Mr Blanch, a dealer in fire arms and ammunition, situated in the Market Square, blew up. The report was awful, and the sky was darkened with dust, and presently, guns, pistols, pieces of brick and wood began to fall in Collins Street opposite our door. After recovering from the shock I ran with others to the scene of the explosion, and found the building completely demolished, and level with the ground. Rev. Mr Blanch, with his wife and nurse girl were underneath, as also two men, new arrivals. One of these had caused the accident by snapping his towling piece, which he thought was empty when it was loaded. The contents struck a stack of tins of gunpowder. Mrs Blanch and the nurse girl were dead when extricated. Her husband and the two other men died the following day. I followed the funeral of the fire to the grave. The service was conducted by the Rev Mr Davis, Church of England, in a very solemn impressive manner, the tears running down the cheeks of the good man, while he spoke.
My father entered into partnership with Mr A Miller, and purchased the general business of Mr Robins, which was carried on in premises situated in Collins Street east. During the time the partnership lasted, a little over a year, I was not sent to school, but was placed with a Mr Brown, a builder, in order to learn the carpentering trade. However, a sunstroke, which I received while assisting to weatherboard a shop in Elizabeth Street, brought my career in this line prematurely to a close. It was a considerable time before I recovered. Shortly after, my father dissolved with Miller and relinquished business in Melbourne. He then purchased sheep and took up a run near Mount Macedon on the deep creek. During the period we remained in Melbourne I attended the Sunday School in connection with the Independent Church, of which Mr Waterford was pastor. My teacher was a Mr Robinson, who subsequently became a squatter. This good man had a wonderful power over me. He was very gentle and loving. I never left his class without strong
..... page missing .....
about the run all night and firing off guns to frighten the dogs away. In the morning we discovered the remains of the missing sheep. Over a hundred had been killed, and as many more severely bitten. We had not been at Mount Macedon over two years, when my father got into financial difficulties, and lost his property, or about all. We then retired to another part of the country. But before quitting this period of my history I will describe one incident as throwing some light upon station life at this period.
Before my father left Melbourne to reside upon the station, he sent me up as overseer. I was then about 13 and as the shearing season was on I was instructed to engage a band of shearers who were finishing up the adjoining station, and this I did. The rate for shearing was 20 shillings per hundred, and 3 glasses of rum per day. In order to carry out the latter item in the contract, a five gallon keg of rum had been sent me. The shearers came, real beauties. All "ticket of leave" men. The day after their arrival they ascertained from my hutkeeper, "Bob," (another of the like kidney), where the keg was. So one of them in a coaxing way prevailed upon me to go down to the creek for a bucket of water for some purpose or other. During my absence they took the keg out of my box and set it on the table, where I, to my astonishment, recognised it on my return. Seeing my surprised look, one of them, in an earnest way said, "You see, young master, we do not want to lose time by drinking three times a day, so we thought it best just to finish it up and be done with the thing." During this explanation the rest were helping themselves liberally from the keg. In a short time they all became drunk. Some of the things that followed I dare not describe. One of the number had been a drummer. He got an old tin dish and two hard sticks, and to the music he produced, they danced in a sheepfold, making the air foul with yells, oaths, curses and utterances unmentionable. The orgies kept up all through the night. Next day the keg was finished, and the day following they went to work and completed the job without the stuff.
During our residence at Wellington on the Merrie Creek, our next place of sojourn, I led a very unsettled and unhappy kind of life, having no definite goal or object in view. I was growing into manhood and disliked what is known as the cockatoos existence; that is living on a small piece of land with few head of cattle, two or three horses, and a team of bullocks. At times I cut away and went on a shearing tour, which, to some extent, broke the monotony, and put me in possession of a few pounds.
Having ascertained about this time that unoccupied country existed in the high mountains from which the Goulbourn and Yarra Rivers, and other smaller water courses are fed, I went with a brother and two young natives, Tom and Harry, on an exploration expedition. All the appliances we had to aid us in making discoveries were the two darkies and a small pocket compass. These, with a couple of horses, some provisions and two or three guns with ammunition, and a rug or two sum totalled our equipment, nothing particular came of the adventure. We found the country, but it was entirely unsuitable for either pastoral or agricultural purposes, being densely covered with scrub and heavy timber. In our extraordinary travels, one or two incidents occurred which may be worth relating. One afternoon we came across a lyre bird, which I shot and threw on the fire to burn the feathers off preparatory to eating it, but I had no sooner done so than one of our blacks, snatched it from the flames with a yell. In astonishment I said, "Tom, what for you do that?" "Oh plenty. Tumble down big one rain tonight," was the excited reply. Being sceptical, it was not convincing enough to deter me from again placing the bird on the fire. The two young darkies watched the roasting process with sulky silence. After we had eaten it, our journey was resumed. The afternoon and evening were fine, not a cloud to be seen. So we at length halted and camped for the night. My brother and I made up a kind of shelter of bark under which we reposed, but our lazy friends accepted the weather risk, and sat before our huge camp fire, singing a plaintiff lullaby, till sleep overtook them. When they lay down, and all was still, "not a sound was heard" in that great forest, but the occasional notes of the morpork and slight rustling of leaves as a gentle zephyr now and then stirred the tops of the trees. But towards midnight the sky became overcast and it began to rain, and presently it poured. We felt that we were in for it, as the poor nativesí superstitious prediction was being fulfilled. But we remained quiet. At length they commenced chanting, a mournful kind of dirge in which my name frequently occurred, as also that of the ill omened bird. After relieving their feelings for some time in this way, they called upon us in lamentable tones.
"Davie, Davie. Big one tumble down rain. You burn him bullen bullen (native word for the lyre bird), and now you make alight big big one rain." We said nothing, but got up and replenished the fire with some heavy logs, and turned in again. Of course Tom and Harry were confirmed in their superstitions. A day or two after this event another of a curious kind occurred. Our little dog "Snap" discovered a wombat (native pig) in its den, the entrance to which was a small tunnel about 18 inches in diameter. From the mouth to where the prey was would be at least 50 feet, but our blacks soon discovered his whereabouts in this way. The wombat burrows with great rapidity, the ground where he is found, being loose and soft, composed of dead vegetable matter. When pursued, he goes further in at a great rate. He breaks down the earth with his fore feet which are armed with powerful claws, and when a certain quantity is collected he draws up his hind quarters in front of the heap and with violent jerk throws it back a considerable distance. In this way he keeps his pursuer back while retreating further in. As the tunnel is only about 4 feet beneath the surface, the thud caused by the animals back coming against the roof of the tunnel when jerking out the earth can be felt. Our two darkies, in a short time, discovered his position with their sharp pointed sticks, commenced digging down upon him. It was not long before the roof gave way and I fell prone upon the top of piggy, who only growled and continued his excavating so rapidly that I could not dislodge him. I got a firm hold of him by his long bristles, but failed to fetch him an inch, and all the time he was getting further in. So I called for a gun which was loaded with heavy shot, which I fired point blank into his body, but without making the slightest impression, his hide being about an inch in thickness. We tried to burn him out, but it was no use. Our friend growled and went on. So we regretfully left him, as we were very hungry. I was now, and for some time after, annoyed by observing Tom and Harry always staring at me. At last I demanded an explanation. "O, you shoot him wombat, and by and by you like him Pumpkin Murray," was the reply. The black fellow in question had a large hunch on his shoulder resembling this vegetable. For weeks after, till we parted, they were always intently looking for the coming of the protuberance.
Shortly after my return from this exploring expedition, my eldest brother, (who was overseer for Mr Furlong, an adjoining squatter), attained his majority, and celebrated the event by giving a convivial entertainment at the Plenty Hotel. Many friends attended, among them a squatter and one or two overseers. A good dinner was provided, with drink of every description. Toasts, songs, music and dancing followed, and the whole affair by midnight degenerated into a drunken orgy. My brother and I drank very little and soon after left the scene, when he remarked to me with deep emotion, "Davie, I am done with this sort of thing forever." And so he was. For not long after, a great change took place in his character, and it came about in a singular way. He was in love with the daughter of a neighbouring farmer. She was sent to a boarding house in Melbourne to get polished up a bit. One Sunday my brother rose early, saddled his horse, and left for the city, distant about 23 miles. He called at the boarding house on his arrival and learned from the mistress that his lady love had gone to the church. He at once proceeded there and took his seat. The Rev. Mr Ramsay was just giving out his text, "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness." Zechariah 13.1. My dear brother was arrested, he listened and became deeply concerned about his soul.
After the service had closed he left the church, but waited outside till Mr Ramsay came out, and followed him to his house. He told the good man the state of his mind, and was kindly spoken to and prayed with, and returned home. At supper that night we all noticed that something had come over Jack. He was quiet and serious, and did not, as usual, indulge in a smoke after supper. Next Lordís Day he mounted his horse and went through the neighbourhood distributing tracts. He even went with them to the hotel where he had celebrated his 21st birthday. He spoke, read and prayed with his men. All were astonished and thought he had gone mad, but after a while they changed their minds and respected him. Not long after this he threw up his situation and commenced business in Melbourne as a stock and station broker. He took this step in order to be near the ordinances of Godís house. About a year after he was seized with inflammation of the lungs and died in his 24th year.
My father, becoming tired of a country life, sold out and started business in Gertrude Street, Melbourne, as a wholesale and retail grocer. I was taken in as a partner, but disliked the business cordially. I felt that I could not stand it long, nor had I to do so, for very soon after, the Ballarat gold fields broke out, and turned everything upside down. Clerks left their situations, shop keepers their shops, merchants their warehouses, professional men their practices, seamen their ships, tradesmen their benches; in fact it looked as if the whole male portion of the city were off, or going off to the New Eldarado. I caught the fever, as also a younger brother. We borrowed two teams of bullocks and drays, loaded them with provisions, drapery, tools, etc, and away we went with the truck, for Ballarat, to commence business there. When we got a few miles out of town I began to breathe freely again. I was in my element, and again on my native heath. The sound of the bullock whip was music to me. The bush air and surroundings were quite exhilarating. I fairly danced with joy after being cribbed for some months in a shop. I seemed to feel as if I had escaped from a hateful thraldom. As it was late in the afternoon when we started, we only got a few miles out of town, when we camped for the night in company with a crowd of other adventurers. We had a glorious fire, a bush fire; none of your mean, irritating, ready to die city fires, a real log fire, flaring up with dignity and keeping you at a respectful distance. And then the supper-steak, grilled on glowing ember, and laid upon a hunk of bread piping hot, and a pannikin of fine strong tea made in the kettle. None of your teapots or chinaware. After this, a chat, then a "shake down" under the dray till dawn, nothing to disturb your repose but the tinkling of the bullock bells. At daylight, up and make ready for another dayís journey.
In passing over the Keeler Plains the sight was remarkable. As far as the eye could reach, the road was thronged with wagons, drays, spring carts, gigs, buggies, go carts, and horsemen, footmen, and every conceivable kind of vehicle, all pegging along as fast as they could, to the gold field. The weather, being fine, hopes ran high. At the next encampment (Pikes Peak), nearly all the afore mentioned medley crowd were gathered, and such a time: bands playing, some going it with violins, others with flutes, some singing, others crowing like cocks, then shouts of laughter; all this far into the night. In a day or two the scene changed. Heavy rain set in. The roads became almost impassable. What with cold and wet and every discomfort, the ardour of the novices cooled down to a very low temperature, and hundreds began to return before they reached Ballarat. Through the night we were continually being disturbed by these runaways, asking for shelter, or something to eat. We had heavy travelling now, and made slow progress. Still we forged ahead, but what with bogging and "double banking," we were nearly a fortnight in reaching the field, although the distance was only 120 miles. Here all was bustle and excitement. Some were putting up tents, stores and accommodation shanties, others pegging out claims, some were carting and some were carrying wash dirt into the creek, where the cradles kept up a deafening rattle, rattle. After reconnoitring, we selected a spot, then unloaded the drays and erected with saplings and canvas, a small store, where we commenced business. But trade was discouraging. We were too far away from the centre of mining operations, having pitched two miles from "Golden Point," just on the spot where the famous Eureka stockade was afterwards erected and where so many miners lost their lives through the storming of it by a detachment of soldiers led by Captain Wise, who was also killed. We therefore moved down to the Point where we did well, but remained for a very short time. The "Mount Alexander" mines broke out and the reports were so glowing that I borrowed a horse and started for the new field distant 70 miles. I left at noon and got as afar as the "Jim Crow" ranges, when night overtook me. I dismounted, hobbled my horse, lit a fire, put my saddle under my head and tried unsuccessfully to go to sleep, but I was too tired, having ridden about 50 miles. This and mosquitoes rendered every effort unavailing. So I waited for the morning, when I found that I was not far from Mr Parkerís Station. Mr Parker was Native Protector under the government. I however pushed on and reached the Loddon River just as the sun rose. Here I watered my horse, had a wash and then rode forward, reaching the workings about nine oíclock a.m. I hauled up at a store, dismounted and had some biscuit and cheese, the first food since I left Ballarat, after which I viewed the field. The diggings were at this time chiefly "interfacing," that is, taking a few inches from the top, but the yield was extraordinary. From a half to two ounces to the bucket of dirt, and there appeared to be a large track of auriferous country. So I was satisfied, and after another biscuit or two and a glass of porter I started for Ballarat, which I reached next day in the evening. After reporting to my brother, we at once resolved to remove to the new field. Seeing two bullock teams coming down the street I hailed the drivers and found that they were open for an agreement. So we arranged in a few minutes, had the drays brought alongside our store, and soon loaded them with our effects, lock stock and barrel. That same afternoon we started for Mount Alexander. I went with the drays, my brother going on to Melbourne to send on goods. We reached our destination in three days. I decided to pitch on "White Hill flat," and at once unloaded, obtained a few saplings and erected our shanty. During the evening we arranged our commodities and then tried to get some refreshments. A friend searched the field for bread, and after an hourís absence returned with what purported to be a 2lb loaf. It was a small shapeless affair, very sodden and heavy, cost a shilling. However we soon polished it off with some cheese and tea, after which we lay down on the floor, with heavy bodies, new experiences and varied reflections, till we fell asleep, and slept soundly till the dawning, when we were rudely awakened by a miner who wanted to know, "if this were a store." Of course we were. He wanted some tobacco. "How much do you want? Its six shilling a pound, you know." "Oh, give us a hunk, not particular." We broke him off six pounds. "How much sugar do you want?" "Not particular." "But we have no bags to put it in." "Oh that does not matter. Put it in here," pulling off his blue shirt, and tying the sleeves together. We put about 50 pounds into it, and received payment. Other customers, by this time were waiting and the tide of business set in with a rush, only stopping when we had nothing left to sell. By the evening our entire stock was sold off, and the proceeds in our pocket, and thus we inaugurated our first day on the famous Mount Alexander gold fields, (afterwards known as Castlemanís) with much encouragement, though with great physical discomfort. The heat was excessive, water scarce and bad. The ground was covered with fine dust, which got into everything, including our eyes, giving us the very painful disease known as "Sandy blight." As a protection to our eyes, green gauze was much in request. A Jew who had several yards made a fine thing out of them, as he sold pieces about nine inches square at 2/6 (2 shillings and 6 pence) each.
A squad of mounted police visited us on the following day and demanded to see our licenses. We showed them those we had taken out at Ballarat, but they said these would not do, so we had to take out a fresh one, 30/-(30 shillings) each for one month. This outrageous import was levied upon every man that came upon the gold field, and was collected by the police in the most arbitrary way. If you did not on demand at once pay you were simply marched off to the police camp and locked up till you did. In connection with these licensing raids some very amusing scenes were often witnessed. When a squad of police were seen advancing the miners gave timely notice by shouting "Joe," and the whole field presently resounded with the warning note. Delinquents, thus admonished, fled, pursued by the police. Some would be let down a friendly shaft and shelter in the drive, a blue coat looking stupidly down, but not caring to follow, while the friends on the top bantered him unmercifully. There was a large fallen tree which bridged the creek opposite our store, and many of the hard pressed miners made for it, crossed by a knack, and ascended the opposite creek which was high and steep. When they reached the top they turned and fired off a loud "Joe," at the baffled bobby who did not venture across amid the jeers and laughter of the onlookers.
We now built a large store in which we did a large general business. Gold at this time was bought from the miners at 52/6 per ounce. In a few months it rose to 60/- We purchased large quantities for ourselves and the Bank of New South Wales. The mode of transacting gold business was exceedingly simple and off handed. "What do you give for gold, Mate?" "Two twelve six- just weigh that," throwing down a bag on the counter. This was emptied on to a sheet of paper, blown slightly to take the dust out, after which the magnet was run through it. Then it was weighed and paid for. We were careful not to be too particular in the cleaning process, as the sellers did not like it, but instead we took good weight. Our business increased, but was conducted in a loose slovenly way. We were amateurs and young. I was only 23, my brother, younger. However we made money and became somebody. I even ventured to make an outdoor speech at a great anti license meeting, which was loudly cheered, although I doubt if anyone knew what I said. At all events I did not know myself, I was so much agitated.
The great bulk of the miners at this time were a superior class, being chiefly composed of professional men, mechanics, clerks etc, but in a short time these returned to their original employments and the horny hands took their places. After we had been about a year in this place I got married in my fatherís house in Melbourne by the Rev. A.M. Ramsey, and shortly after, I took my wife with me to the mines.
By this time, that zealous religious body, the Wesleyians, had erected a small chapel close to our store, and the circuit was placed in the hands of the Rev. Mr Currey, assisted by a number of local preachers. Outdoor services were held everywhere and were well attended. Indeed, true piety appeared to be more prevalent then than it is now, although an impostor now and then intruded himself. I will never forget one of these-the Rev. Mr Hanies, a deposed independent minister. He mined, or pretended to mine throughout the week and preached several times at different centres on Sundays. One of these centres was just in front of our store. He had a tremendous voice and was very emotional. He wept bitterly, and at the close, took up a collection in his large Kimarnock Bonnet which be wore on these occasions. I was so deeply moved on his first visit that I dropped a sovereign into his receiver and invited him to have tea with us next evening, which he did. But he was so awfully polite and gushing that we began to suspect him. My dear wife just reminded him so much of his beloved daughter, Emily, and our toast was just delightful etc, etc. Not a word about Christ or his love or work. So after an hourís trifling small talk he took his leave and with him went the spell he had thrown over us.
My brother and partner, having gone home to England to see life, I was left in sole charge of the business, which shortly after began to wane, the mines being nearly worked out in the locality. So we sold it to a Mr Dick, when I returned to Melbourne with my wife and child, and here I assisted my father for a time with the Gertrude Street business in which I still had an interest. However, between rash property speculations of my father, the dishonesty of our accountants, the large expenditure connected with my brotherís home visit, and losses on his home purchases sent to us, our business affairs became shaky. We had large stocks which we could not realise in time to meet our payments, so it was resolved that I should go to Simpsons diggings which had just broken out, and take a portion of our stock with me. So we loaded six bullock drays with general goods, and I started ahead to try and dispose of them. But I was only partially successful, and was placed in a very painful dilemma. The drays were coming. I could not sell, and had no place to store the goods. I was sorely distressed and all night paced the miserable little room I occupied in the National Hotel, (a large canvas structure), wondering what I should do. I could not send the goods back, for we wanted the proceeds of them. Early on Sunday morning I went out to see if I could find a vacant spot on which to pitch a store, when to my consternation I saw a long line of bullock drays coming up the road. "Can these possibly be ours?" was the anxious inquiry that passed through my mind for I did not expect them so soon, But all doubt was soon dispelled when the driver of the leading team stopped and asked me if I could tell him where Virtueís stores were. "No," I said, "but I am Virtue. You had better follow me." And I led him on to an empty section which a new friend had just offered me. There we deposited the loads and I signed their tickets, after which they left me "all in my glory." I asked my new friend to keep watch till I procured a tarpaulin or two with which to cover the goods. I soon returned with these and made things as secure as possible under the trying circumstance, and as a caution to thieves I bought a fierce looking dog, and chained it in front of the pile. At night I crept under the covering with a couple of rugs and lay till the morning, when I made arrangements with a bushman to erect with saplings the framework of a small store at once. It was finished and covered with canvas by night. Next day I hired an assistant and commenced business at Simpsons, now known as Maryborough in which I remained nine years. Here five of my children were born.
The cares and vicissitudes of life had by this time greatly sobered me. I began to see with power that all the real happiness the world could give was but small and alloyed. I tried politics and was elected a member of the Maryborough Mining Board in which I occupied the position of chairman for two consecutive years. I was also a member of the Town council for some time and at the request of Mr Heals, Premier of Victoria. I stood for a seat in Parliament against Doctor Evans, but was defeated by a narrow majority. About this time our business affairs in Melbourne went wrong. A private arrangement was effected, and the partnership existing between my brother and myself dissolved. I now commenced on my own account with varied success. But my mind was off and on greatly distressed about my soulís welfare. I felt the power of sin and sinful habits to be overwhelming, and not withstanding many efforts and painful exercises of mind I was quite unable to secure deliverance. I attended church, read religious books, especially biographies, prayed, confessed and wept often long and bitterly, but still no rest came. I wondered how God did not respond to my entreaties and earnest efforts to be good. I resolved to redouble these efforts to repent and amend my life. Unto this end I made diverse resolutions, which I entered in my memorandum book, and carried with me for reference, but all was of no avail. My load still remained and I seemed to grow worse instead of better. I now became subject to deep despondency, and could hardly attend to my worldly affairs. Sometimes I sought relief in conouvial company, but these seasons were of short duration, for the arrows of God were drinking up my spirit. Everything failed me, and I failed in everything. I became weary of life, and of the locality in which I dwelt, and did not know that God was dealing with me and leading me, by a way that I knew not, to himself. I was seized with a sore and long illness, which looked as if it would prove fatal. Two doctors at times attended me, and both concurred in the opinion that my sickness was the result of overanxiety. At the end of four months I began to recover slowly. During my illness the darkness in my soul increased. I seemed to be further from salvation than ever. Sometimes a ray of light and hope would dart in through the gloom but soon went out again. I ventured to open my mind to the Rev. Mr L but all the aid he gave me was, "It will be all right by and by." I never troubled him again. I afterwards spoke to a Wesleyian local preacher whose pulpit ministrations always impressed me, but still my load remained. I could not see that salvation was a free gift, although it was pointed out to me over and over again. It required divine power to open the eyes of my understanding. Weak and desolate, I could not tell what to do. At one time I had imagined that the near prospect of death would have the effect of driving me into the arms of Christ. Now this illusion was dispelled, but still I was not entirely bereft of hope. God was sustaining me in the billows.
The Otago gold fields now broke out, and as God had about closed up my business career in Maryborough, I resolved, after much thought and anxiety, to leave for New Zealand with my family. So I sold off my belongings and came to Melbourne where I stayed with my parents for some weeks. They both tried hard to dissuade me from leaving Victoria, and advised me to see the governor who had promised me an appointment for withdrawing from a contest for a seat in Parliament in favour of their colleague, Dr E. With great reluctance I called upon Mr OíShannesy, the Premier, who received me somewhat cordially, but evaded the main point of my visit. At length he promised me the inspectorship of one of the four distilleries they purposed establishing by act of parliament. But in my state of mind I would not listen to the proposition. I told him that his government had promised me a wardenship on the gold field, the duties of which I to some extent understood and consequently would have no fears in undertaking. He tried to put me off with many reasons, which I felt were manufactured, till wearied out, which was probably his design, I asked him, on my second or third visit, to give me a categorical reply-yes or no. He said, "No." I rose, bowed and left, and felt relieved, as my mind was now settled about going to New Zealand. I therefore took out my passage in a small barge called the "Benjamin Heape" (1863), bound for Dunedin. In a few days we sailed (age 35), my wife and children remaining behind with my parents till I should send for them. Our passage was long, rough and dangerous, owing chiefly to the drunken character of the captain and first mate. Neither of them were ever perfectly sober from the time we left Hobsons Bay till we reached Port Chalmers. The ship was once or twice saved, and at length practically worked, by one of our passengers who had been a sea captain. At length we arrived, and next day I went up to Dunedin, took lodgings, and looked about, undecided what to do.
After a few days I resolved to commence business as a retail grocer, having some knowledge of the trade, and a little money. So I rented a new shop in Georges Street, where I started, and sent for my wife and family. Here I laboured away under many unforeseen difficulties till in an evil moment I was induced to open branches at Blue Skin Bay and Hinfon. The dishonesty of the man in charge of the former place ruined me. He did very well for a time till he matured his plans, when he sold as much stock as he could in a short time and sent me a small portion of his takings, and, in order to lull my suspicions, assured me that business had greatly fallen off. When all was ready he cleared out with the balance, about three hundred pounds. I consulted a lawyer but could do nothing as I in part paid my defaulting servant with a small share in the profits, which constituted him a partner. I could have proceeded against him by a civil action in the supreme court, but it would have cost me seventy pounds to launch it, which sum I could not raise. Besides, the issue was doubtful. So I called my creditors together and laid a statement of my affairs before them, and gave up everything. They were very kind, and left the entire disposal of my estate in my hands, after which I took a small cottage in Pelichet Bay, to which I removed with my family. Here for many months my experiences were wonderful. I was in a strange land and stripped of everything. My beloved wife was near her confinement, so that things looked exceedingly black. Sometimes we thought of trying to get back to Victoria, but lacked the means, so we had to remain, and I began to look for employment. All this time my soul troubles appeared to exceed all the rest. I had no rest of spirit, but instead, sad and gloomy forebodings. I attended the Baptist Church of which Mr Parsons was pastor.
One night I resolved to call upon him at his house, and after much trepidation, ventured. He received me kindly and took me into his study. I told him about my soul troubles, he listened patiently, and then tried to explain the cause of my distress in a very learned manner, but my heart closed against him, for I felt that he could not diagnose my trouble, nor prescribe for it either. So after a miserable half hour I left more wretched than ever. The night was dark, but not so dark as my soul, I knelt down near a fence and cried to God for mercy and light, but none came. Shortly after this a godly man, a deacon of the Baptist Church, knowing my state of mind called upon me one evening and got me to take a walk with him in the Botanical Gardens. There he urged me to accept salvation so freely offered. I said I was perfectly willing to do so, but could not see how I was to do it. I had not the faith or power necessary. He then wanted me to pray. I tried, but could not. My heart and lips appeared to be firmly closed, so he gave me up, and I returned home. Next day, being Sunday, I went in the afternoon to hear Mr Parsons preach at the Octagon, but he did not turn up. So after waiting a while, I left for home, "weary and worn and sad." On the way, a poor man called Jock Grahm, a noted character, met me and inquired if there was "any preaching in the Octagon," for he had a quantity of tracts to distribute. It appears that although a godless character, he was anxious to be admitted a member of the Baptist church, but as they demurred about receiving him, he determined to give them a striking proof of his sincerity and zeal, by distributing their tracts at Mr Parsonís outdoor service in the Octagon. I told Mr Grahm that there was no service. He replied, "that will not keep me from giving away my tracts anyway, and I shall begin with you," handing me one, for which I thanked him and put it in my waistcoat pocket. That night after retiring to my bed, I remembered the tract which Jock gave me. I got up and took it from my pocket, drew a chair upon which stood a lighted candle, close to my bed, turned in, and began to read. It was just a leaflet headed, "Through Christ." The writer began by saying that he had called upon a poor woman some time ago, and in simple language placed before her the gospel, but she replied, "Oh I have a great deal to do before I can be saved." He rejoined, "If this is the case, what is the meaning of this scripture, ĎFor the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord?í" When I got to the word gift my soul lighted up as with a candle. I saw the truth, and that Scripture in the Psalms pressed it home, "The entrance of the word giveth light." Salvation a gift. I see it. Without money and without price. I read no more. The tract fell from my hand. The load was gone from my heart, and I lay awake all night, as a weary one enjoying a delicious rest. "Can this be conversion?" I said to myself. Salvation as a gift. Nothing to do. Nothing to pay just a gift. But the enemy had not done with me yet. He would not let me go without another desperate effort. In the morning after I got up, I told my wife that I had a curious experience through the night, which I related to her, adding. "I wonder what it was?" She replied, "Oh you have had so many queer experiences. I expect this one is like the rest. It will come to nothing." I smiled and said "I think you are right. It is simply a delusion," and I tried to forget it. After breakfast I went down the town and met with a merchant whom I knew. He asked me if I would go with him to a small inland town, on business matters. I gladly assented. He had a nice turnout in which we started. We called at one or two wayside inns, where we had several drinks. We became merry by the time we reached our destination. That night we played at draughts, had another glass or two and retired to rest. But I was perplexed. My heavy load of fear was gone, notwithstanding, my sin. A strange peace had taken possession of my mind. I began again to wonder if I was saved. What has happened to me, was my continual inquiry. Next day I refused to drink. My friend was astonished, and wanted to know what had come over me. I said nothing, but resisted every effort of his to make me drink. When I reached home at night I remained behind when my wife and family retired to rest, shut the door, and falling down on my knees, I cried to God to let me know if I was converted. Immediately the room was-or appeared to be-flooded with light. I saw, or seemed to see my eldest brother, who had been dead 15 years, and my daughter who had been dead 12 years. I knew them at once (though my daughter appeared as a young woman), and put out my hand to shake hands with them, when the vision disappeared. But I fully realised that I was pardoned and saved, "through Christ." I was filled with joy and peace in believing. With regard to what I saw, I have simply stated the fact, and will make no attempt to account for it. I was wide awake and had not been five minutes on my knees before it occurred, and had not been thinking about either my brother or daughter.
The current of my life was now turned into another channel. I felt anxious to tell others of what God had done for my soul, and began to distribute tracts, and speak a word to individuals as opportunity offered. I at once sought believerís baptism, and was baptised by Mr Parsons in the Water of Leith, after which I was admitted into church fellowship. I commenced family worship, and occasionally spoke at cottage meetings. Still I was not without misgivings at times. It was long before I enjoyed the assurance of faith. I could hardly credit, after all my years of misery, that I was indeed saved, that Christ was mine, and I was his. But the Lord graciously sustained me, and sent a godly friend to help me by his experience and counsel.
As already stated I was at this time in great pecuniary straits. I had only a few pounds left, and could not obtain employment, although I diligently sought it. We now both believed it to be unscriptural to contract debt, but God most wonderfully encouraged and sustained us. We firmly believed that He was faithful Who had promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us. But our faith was to be sorely tried. When our funds were about exhausted the honourable Mr Oliver stopped me in Princess Street one day, and said, "You are just the man I was looking for. Come with me to Mr Coles." He was a joint trustee for an insolvent ironmongery estate. I went with him, when he engaged me at four pounds a week, and gave me an order to get delivery of the said concern, with instructions to realise the stock in the best way I thought fit. My dear wife and I were greatly humbled and comforted over this singular manifestation of our Fatherís love and care, and we thought it would be impossible to doubt Him again, so ignorant were we of our own hearts. It took about five months to wind up the business, and the trustees were pleased to express themselves highly pleased with my management. During this time our beloved daughter Minnie was born.
I was now again out of employment but from recent experiences I felt little concern about the future, being confident that God would soon again help us. I even went so far as to boast of faith in the matter to some young fellow Christians who were also out of work. But as one week after another passed away and no help came I began to see that I had no faith at all. Then Satan began to buffet us. "Where is your God? He has left you! Have you not made a mistake?" The fiery darts flew fast and thick, but we were "kept by the power of God through faith." One day I went up to a solitary spot on the top of a high hill at the rear of our cottage.
I was deeply concerned and depressed, taking out my little Testament I read and considered Matthew 6 from the 25th verse to the end of the chapter. I then prayed earnestly for faith to believe the truths contained in these verses. I wanted to know if I was to take the promises unconditionally, or were they for very particular circumstances and a special prepared condition of the soul. I cried aloud for light and expected an inward movition but none came. My anxiety became intense. I cried more and more earnestly till I almost fainted, but received no inward answer. After struggling for about two hours I returned to my house exhausted, sad and perplexed. My wife noticed my agitated state, and asked what had happened to me. I evaded her inquiry, and said it was nothing particular. Just at that moment a knock was heard at the front door, which my wife at once opened, when an unknown woman put a letter into her hand, and immediately left. On opening the letter or envelope we found it contained three pounds and a sheet of note paper, on which was written the exact ten verses in Matthew over which I had been crying to God. There was nothing more, and no signature. This was Godís answer. It came from without. I thought it would come from within. To this day, after a lapse of thirty years we are in profound ignorance as to who our earthly benefactor was. But God was, in this way, sustaining and preparing us for still deeper trials of faith and patience. Although I put forth every effort, I could not obtain employment. I became ashamed to be seen in the streets, as I in my distress imagined that everybody knew my condition, and either blamed or despised me as a worthless idler. So strong was this impression upon me one day that I stopped on my way to the city, and could not proceed further. I opened my pocket book in which I had written some portions of Scripture, when my eyes lighted upon the 12th verse of the 51st chapter of Isaiah, "I, even I, am He that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass." These words gave me relief. I thanked God, took courage, and went forward. At length our very last shilling was sent out for bread. My wife drew attention to the fact. I replied, "If this Book," taking up a Bible, "is true, God will again in some way or other help us." I had not done speaking when a stranger called and placed two sovereigns in my wifeís hand, saying, "I was told to leave these here," and then departed. Again our money ran out. We had no food of any kind whatever in the house. One morning my dear wife and I looked at one another and then at our five helpless children, and remained silent. At last I said to her, how much would it take to procure us food for today. She replied, "half a crown." I cast my eyes towards the front door and observed a small piece of paper under it. My wife picked it up and found that it contained half a crown. In this wonderful way the dear Lord sustained us for several months, during which period we contracted no debt, although paying 12/6 rent every week for our cottage. Only one or two friends were partially aware of our straits. The Lord gave us grace to keep quiet through the trial, in which joy and sorrow, fear and hope were so strangely blended, though at times I completely broke down. At length Godís time of deliverance arrived. The West Coast gold fields broke out. My dear wife and I earnestly prayed that he would send us there if it pleased Him, that I might preach the gospel to the miners, for I had a strong and increasing desire to proclaim the unsearchable riches of His grace. Our petitions went up in the morning and when I returned home in the evening I learned that Mr Pole, a merchant in the city had called and wished to see me. I at once went to his house, when he told me that in conjunction with his brother they had resolved upon starting a general business at Hokitika on the West Coast, and that he wanted me to go down and inaugurate the project. If I saw an opening and considered that the prospects warranted such a step, they would send the frame of a store 20 by 60 with me all ready for erecting, The two schooners, the "Jane Lochart" and "Susannah Booth" were in process of loading with a varied stock of goods. My instructions finally were as follows. First, if I considered the mines good and likely to be permanent I was to erect the store and commence business. Second, if I did not consider them good or likely to be permanent I was to try and sell the cargoes and return. Third, if I was not successful in disposing of them I was to make arrangement with the captain of the vessels to bring them back. Matters being settled thus far, a difficulty arose. Wines, spirits and beers were included in the goods I was to sell. I told Mr Pole that I could not trade in these lines as I was a Christian. He was nonplussed for a moment, but recovering himself, said, "Well I am glad to hear it, and respect your principles, but we will only deal wholesale. I am a Christian too, and can see nothing in the Bible to forbid the trade if properly managed." I simply replied that associations were such as to make me afraid of touching it, however I would consult some of my Christian friends and let him know my resolution concerning the matter on Monday morning, that being Saturday night. I then left, and on my way home I knelt down and earnestly prayed God with many tears, to guide me by His unerring wisdom and grace in this time of perplexity, and upon no account to let me sin or take a wrong step, but that integrity and uprightness might preserve me. Next morning, being Sunday, I went to the Baptist church, when a very venerable looking old man (Mr Deek) occupied the pulpit. His ministrations were so sweet and grateful that I at once determined to make him my adviser about the drink difficulty. So at the conclusion of the service I went towards the pulpit, when he advanced to meet me. I told him my situation. He at once said, "Do not accept the position. It is the devilís tempting you with bread in the wilderness. He pressed my hand at parting and urged me to be firm. I thanked him and said that he had removed a load from my heart, for I thought as he did but from Christian inexperience I was afraid to decide alone, lest I might be rejecting Godís deliverance. On returning home I told my wife what had happened and my resolve. We wept together, but enjoyed a wonderful peace. I now sent a respectful note declining the appointment with many heartfelt thanks, and stated my reasons. On Monday morning he returned me an answer soliciting another interview, as he was anxious to secure my services, more than ever. In response, I went to his office full of alarm lest I might be seduced from the path of the righteous. Mr Pole received me kindly, and said he was very much pleased with the spirit of my note, and would be sorry to ask me to do anything which might do violence to me conscientious scruples, but, he continued, I will relieve you entirely from the spirit department, and have arranged that my nephew will go down with you and take charge of it. I was now in a great dilemma. Is this of the Lord, thought I, or is it of the Devil? I asked Mr Pole to give me an hour for consideration to which he assented. I now went down to see a dear friend and adviser, Captain Wylie, but though he usually met me at that time daily for some time past, I could not find him. I ran through the town in search of him, but without success. I cried to God for light and assurance regarding his will. When at the end of the hour I felt that I should accept the position. I returned to Mr. Pole and told him my resolve on the understanding that I would have nothing whatever to do with the liquor part of the business. All settled. I took my passage by the ill fated "City of Dunedin" steamer in which I left shortly after, my wife and family staying behind till I could send for them if I did not return. After I got fairly away and had time to think I can not describe the feelings of my mind, here I was again off to a strange and comparatively unknown part of the island, with a strange responsibility, and all my loved ones left behind. But God gave me grace and strength sufficient for the day. I was in some measure enabled to cast all my cares upon Him, and He was pleased, besides, to use me for His glory to one of my fellow passengers. In the course of conversation with him one moonlight night, while sitting together on the shipís deck I drew his attention to the seething and boiling expanse of ocean through which we were ploughing, and observed that Godís greatness and power was wonderfully indicated in that passage in Isaiah where He is said to "measure the sea in the hollow of his hand." This opened the way for a religious discussion and enabled me to preach Christ to him. He listened patiently and then told me of some of his soul difficulties. Next day he renewed the conversation which gave me a further opportunity of directing him to the Lord Jesus. We arrived at Lyttleton on Sunday morning when I went ashore and inquired for a place of worship, and was directed to a Wesleyan Church in which a Mr Buddle was to preach that day. I listened to him attentively but did not realise much blessing till he gave out the hymn, "Give to the winds thy fears. Hope and be undismayed," which came to me like a breath from heaven, full of encouragement and comfort. I wept and praised my dear Lord for this fresh manifestation of his grace and love in time of need. As I had never before seen the hymn I transcribed it into my pocketbook. At the close I broke bread with these friends. On Monday we left Lyttleton and reached Wellington on the following day. Here I parted from Mr Steel, the gentleman already mentioned, whom I tried to lead to Christ. As he left he gave me a kindly look and warm pressure of the hand. I followed him with my prayers and best wishes, both of which were answered and gratified, as will be seen further on.
The day after leaving Wellington we arrived in Nelson. I went ashore and strolled through the pretty little town wondering if I would meet with a Christian. While looking at the beautifully situated Church of England Cathedral, a poor man accosted me and inquired if I could tell him what church it was. I replied that I thought it was an Anglican Church, from its style. He was of the same opinion. "But," I continued, "the material fabric is of small moment. Godís true children are themselves temples of God." My new friendís eyes sparkled, and placing his hand in mine, rejoined, "Yes, and we are members of his flesh and of his bones." We enjoyed a few hours sweet communion together. I found that he was a passenger on another steamer bound for Lyttleton, and that, on coming ashore he had asked God to lead Him to some Christian brother, as I had done also. And thus our dear Lord graciously answered us. We now left Nelson for Hokitika, and in two days reached the roadstead. After waiting a couple of hours for flood tide, the "V. P. S. Bruce" came out and we were transferred to her by a small boat, after which she made for the "Bar," crossed it safely, and landed us on the banks of the Hokitika River. Everything looked miserable, a low lying beach on which several steamers lay stranded, a background of high snow capped mountains, and a dense scrub and heavily timbered country intervening close down to the sea. All the tents, stores and shanties were erected on and close to the beach on ground partially cleared. I looked about for a few minutes, wondering what to do, and lifted up my heart to God for guidance. Presently a very dear Christian friend, Mr A Falconer, now manager of the Sailors Rests at Port Chalmers and Dunedin, came along, and after a warm hand shaking he kindly invited me to share his tent, 8 by 6, which offer I most gladly accepted, and thanked God for a Christian brother and temporary home. Our first nightís experience together was rather novel. The weather was wet and stormy, and near the morning our frail tenement blew over. It took us about an hour to refix it, as we were on the beach exposed to the full force of a north west gale. Next day, being Sunday, we retired into the adjoining scrub and spent some time in prayer for grace and courage to preach the gospel. God heard us, for after breakfast we took a bundle of tracts and went down to the river just at the end of Revell street, where some hundreds of diggers were congregated. With fear and trembling I mounted a pile of timber and commenced singing a hymn, "Oh ye that thirst approach the stream where living waters flow" and gathered strength as I proceeded. My audience looked surprised for a few moments, till they took in the situation, when they drew close up around me and listened most respectfully to the close, when Brother Falconer distributed the tracts which were eagerly accepted. We announced that God willing we would again speak in the evening at the same place. We were greatly encouraged, more especially when a number of Christians came forward and gave us a warm and hearty greeting with many thanks. They were quite delighted at the unexpected testimony for our dear Lord in such a place. At the evening meeting the attendance was very large. Some said a thousand souls were present. Besides speaking myself, I asked one of our new friends to say a word which he did, and another prayed, so we had quite a little band of workers, and the Lord blessed the testimony. Many appeared deeply impressed, and some, I trust were saved, we returned to our tent thankful but weary. And thus ended my first Sunday on the West Coast.
Next day I made a reconnaissance of the town and surroundings, and resolved to stay. There was a large population, and favourable reports, after a painful suspense, were coming from the adjacent mines. Mr R. Walker, known as "Bob Walker," offered me a section in New Street, afterwards named Wharf Street, for seventy five pounds. This I purchased and invited tenders for the erection upon it of the store I had brought with me in the city of Dunedin. In less than a couple of hours from the time of tacking my invitation to a small tree, I received quite a number of tenders, from which I chose one. In two days the store was finished-just in time for the schooner which had arrived, as also, Mr Paterson, who was to take charge of the liquor department and act as clerk in the new business which opened auspiciously. There was a brisk demand for such goods as we had, and prices were good. In a short time Mr Pole arrived and took charge, I acting now as cashier and general assistant. A great and rapid influx of miners and others from the adjoining provinces and colonies now set in. Stores, hotels etc were going up everywhere, but there were no churches. As the winter was about on I was led to rent the "Corinthian Hall," a large music room, for preaching in on Sunday evenings. Here I preached Christ and Him crucified for some months, when it was sold and converted into a drapery establishment. On Sunday mornings I went up to the Kauiere mines distant four miles, and preached with apparent blessing. Quite a band of earnest Christians used to meet there. The first Sabbath I spoke there is indelibly fixed in my memory. The whole place was alive with men, some felling trees, others erecting buildings, tents etc. The din was great. There did not appear to be the slightest regard for the day. I hardly knew what to do, but after much silent prayer I proceeded to the top of a terrace which commanded the whole field, and after opening my Bible, I read with a stentorian voice the ten commandments, emphasising the third, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." The effect was remarkable. In a few minutes the din ceased, and there was perfect quietness. We then sang a hymn and prayed, after which I preached. At the conclusion we distributed tracts. I continued to preach in the open air at this place for about ten months, every Sunday. Before the end of this period the Wesleyians had erected a church.
Having lost the use of the Corinthian Hall, I was successful in getting the "Duke of Edinburgh Theatre," where I continued the Sunday evening services for a time till several churches were established. During this period a few Christians, about thirty, met in my house on Sunday afternoons for Breaking Bread, and on Tuesday evening for prayer. These were times of refreshing, and are still joyfully remembered. There were no jars. All was done with simplicity and in faith, which worketh by love. But how soon all this passed away. I question if any of these dear associates are now to be found on the coast. Many have fallen asleep, and the rest are scattered throughout the world.
I did not long remain with Mr Pole, but entered the service of Messrs. Morrison, Law & Co, as salesman. A dear brother in the Lord, Mr R MacIntyre, was manager, but his health was so bad, I had at times to take charge. A small schooner, called the "Jessie," belonging to this firm, and loaded with general goods from their Invercargill house, and bound for Hokitika, was blown ashore at Greymouth, which had not long been opened as a gold field. I had to go up and attend to the discharging of her cargo, and the disposal of it, which I accomplished successfully, after which I got her launched and sent away. During the Sabbath I spent there I was enabled to preach twice; in the morning in the open air, and at night in Mr Kiljonís music Hall, which he very kindly lent me for the occasion. These were the first gospel services held in Greymouth.
During one of my morning services at Kauiere, a gentlemanly looking man came forward and listened till the close, when he warmly shook me by the hand, and expressed his delight and astonishment at hearing the gospel preached in such a place. He kindly inquired who I was, where I had come from etc. I then found that I was speaking with Mr Mannering, a relative of Mr George Mullerís of Bristol. He was bringing a mob of fat sheep, from his station in Canterbury to Hokitika, and had camped close to the township, and hence, our meeting. A young man was with him, Mr Groves, son of Doctor Morris(?) Groves, the well known missionary. He appeared to be very haughty and rejected my advances to him on the subject of salvation. He did not return to Canterbury with Mr Mannering, but went mining, so I lost sight of him. About two months after, I felt led to visit Westport, distant 80 miles from Hokitika, and as there were no churches and no gospel preaching, I had a strong desire to speak, but was long asking for divine strength and courage before I got it. At length, one dark evening while seated on a log close to the Buller River which fronts the town, my attention was arrested by the bell of the town crier who was announcing an entertainment at "Libbies Hotel" at 8 oíclock. He came along close to where I was sitting. I called him over. "Youíre a Scotchman," I observed. "Yes," he replied. "A Presbyterian I suppose?" "O yes man. But since we came to the colonies the wife and me have no been liven as we should." "I am sorry to hear that. Well, when you are done ringing for Mr Libbie, will you kindly inform the public that Mr Virtue from Hokitika will preach the gospel here on the landing at half past eight oíclock this evening?" "Iíll do that man, we pleasure." I then offered to pay him, but he refused with pious indignation to take anything for Ďsuch a jobí, so he went on with his ringing through the town till 8 oíclock, when the bell stopped. There was a few minutes pause, then it resumed. I listened for the announcement. When I heard with dismay that the Reverend Mr Virtue from Hokitika would preach etc. My first impulse was to run and correct my friend, but on second thoughts it occurred to me that the new title might have the effect of drawing more people together. So I let him go on. At the appointed time there was a good attendance, and at the close of the service, a poor boatman came forward and thanked me, and said, "If it were not for the likes of you we would hear nothing about these here things." The two following evenings I spoke at the same place, and these were the first gospel services held in Westport. I now took my passage on the P.S. Southland, for Hokitika, and while standing on the shipís bridge just before starting, I saw a young man in a very dilapidated condition come on board. I thought I knew him, but for some time could not bring him to remembrance. At length I recollected. Groves! and down I went for him. He tried to preserve his incognuity, but it was no use. I brought him forward to the poop, and got from him a relation of his adventures as a miner. He was greatly impoverished and humbled. He then told me that he was present at all my services in Westport, and was impressed with he truths put forward. I then asked him his precise views regarding the gospel plan of salvation, as I feared from some of his remarks, that he was still unquickened. His reply confirmed my fears. I then preached Christ to him, showing that as guilty, ruined and lost sinners we are "justified freely by grace, through the redemption that is in Christ," and the Lord opened his heart to receive the message. He believed and passed from death to life.
I now understood why I had been led to go to Westport. My dear brother has been in India now for over 20 years, and has, I understand, been labouring for the Master during that time.
A few months after my return to Hokitika I had a singular experience. One of Mr Spurgeonís sermons fell into my hands, in which, speaking of service for Christ, he said, "If the preacher is not successful in winning souls let him rest assured that he has not been sent, and as I did not actually know of any saved through my public ministration I concluded that I was not sent by God, and therefore resolved to discontinue. On the following Sunday I went to Kauiere and preached as I thought and intended, for the last time. I returned home with a heavy heart. I could not understand why the Lord had rejected me as a servant, for though I was deeply sensible of my infirmities and insufficiency, yet I felt in some measure the "constraining love of Christ." My spirit made diligent search for the reasons, but none appeared sufficient. My mind was confused, and full of unrest, but at length I felt that I could submit quietly to His will. On reaching home, I found a long letter for me from Mr Steel, my fellow passenger on the "City of Dunedin" to Wellington. He gave me a deeply interesting account of his soul troubles after we parted, and how at length he found peace in believing. He then warmly thanked me as the instrument if his conversion. At once I felt that Satanís snare and device to silence me was broken. I again took courage and went forward.
Before this time we had one or two very remarkable answers to prayer which I must record to Godís glory. I lost my pocket book which contained a cheque for forty pounds. I was greatly concerned, and told a Christian friend of my loss and further stated that I could not help suspecting the poor woman that did our washing. He at once went round to her tent and asked if she had seen the pocket book. She said "No." but there was something in her manner which confirmed my suspicions. My friend now urged me to take out a search warrant, but I declined. He then wanted to inform the detective, but I could not let him. In surprise he requested to know what I did intend to do. "Let us kneel down," I said, "and tell the Lord all about the matter, and leave it in His hands." So we prayed. We mentioned our suspicions about the poor woman, and asked for forgiveness if they were wrong, but if correct, to forgive her, and cause her to return the book with contents. Two days after, I was standing at our store door, talking with a friend, when I perceived the woman on the opposite side of the street. She appeared as if she wanted to come over, but hesitated. I then turned my back to her, and put my hand behind it, as if done casually, and went on talking. She came over and put the book into my hand. I turned my head and thanked her. I saw that she was weeping. I found the cheque and other things in the book intact. My Christian brother was greatly surprised at this complete answer to prayer, and observed that he had never seen it "in this fashion before." I then pointed out to him the great danger we had escaped. "Suppose," I said, "you had taken out a warrant, and had the poor woman searched by the police. It is more than likely that she would have taken the precaution to render it unsuccessful, probably she would have burned the book and contents, then she would have complained of the cruel treatment of your gospel preacher towards a poor innocent woman, and my mouth would have been shut. But God has again defeated the enemy-"and compassed us about with songs of deliverance and praise."
A short time after this event my dear friend Mr Falconer accompanied by another young brother came to my house in a state of great distress. It appears that during his temporary absence from his shop someone had entered the little room adjoining, and stolen twenty pounds-which he had saved up to pay his rent. The two friends were on their way to inform the police but thought they would just call and see me first. I dissuaded them from going near the police station, but instead we would together "take it to the Lord in prayer." We then all knelt down and spread out the matter before God. We besought him to help our brother in this time of need, and to incline his landlord to be lenient with him in the matter of rent; secondly, to forgive the thief and constrain him to return the money. We rose from our knees "filled with joy and peace in believing." Friend Falconer then wrote to the landlord, Mr Coates, who resided at Greymouth, regretting his inability to remit the amount from the cause narrated, and received from him a most kind and gracious reply. Mr Coates enjoined him to keep his mind perfectly easy, as he cordially forgave him the whole debt.
A few weeks after, a young man whom he never suspected, called upon Mr Falconer, and with many tears, confessed the theft and, handed him twenty pounds with interest added. And here I would stop to observe, after a long experience of Godís faithfulness that the words contained in I John 3.21,22 are literally true, "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not then have we confidence towards God, and whatsoever we ask we receive of him because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."
Using the means in numberless cases is disguised unbelief. To illustrate. My then dear and much esteemed brother and master, Mr MacIntyre, hung a loaded revolver at the head of his bed. I asked him what he intended in doing so? "Shoot robbers should they come in," was his prompt reply. "Well then," I rejoined. "you will in all probability have to use it, for God will not share the honour and glory of protecting you with that instrument. He perceived the force of my indirect reproof, discharged the revolver, and laid it aside. Many Christians, with regard to this case would reason after this fashion, "Do you mean to say that if a robber broke into your house and threatened to take your life you would not be justified in shooting him or that it was wrong to make provision for such a contingency?" I answer, "You ask God to protect you, and faith rests in the assurance that He will. Whether it would be right or wrong to shoot a person under such circumstances is beside the question. To make extraordinary provision for our protection proclaims that you do not wholly rely upon God, your faith is divided, and consequently faulty. A part of the protection you sought from God, is to keep away robbers, yet you make provision to meet the thing which you ask him to prevent. Such is the inconsistency of partial faith. I speak with all reverence when I say that God dislikes human interference though he often puts up with it, because of our infirmities. It is sweet and refreshing when we can implicitly trust Him. "Perfect love casteth out fear." When we apprehend his perfect love towards us we can then stay our minds upon Him alone, but if we do wrong or doubtful things, or get into wrong or doubtful positions then we cannot possibly have perfect confidence in God. We must have a conscience void of offence both towards God and towards man. At the same time we must take care that our consciences are Scripturally instructed and not seared or blinded.
As there were no steam tugs to assist sailing vessels across the bar for some months after my arrival, the shipping casualties were very numerous. I saw more than twenty vessels lying stranded on the beach at one time. Some of which were afterwards launched into the river, but the greater portion became total wrecks. No lives, however, were lost, and the cargoes were nearly all saved. It is to be feared that many of the owners of these vessels, embraced the favourable opportunity of disposing of them in this way for their insurances. All the coast there for miles was a low sandy beach, so that the danger to life was not very great. There was much truth in Thatcherís ditty, "All the vessels old and leaky, are laid on for Okitiki." I had a very peculiar and dangerous adventure in connection with a strand. An ocean steamer, the "Hero," from Victoria with passengers and cargo, arrived in the roadstead. To tender her, a long narrow, wretched looking steamer, formerly used as a river boat in Australia, and named the "Wakoot" went out. In returning from shear lack of steam power, she went ashore about a mile north of the entrance to the Hokitika River. She stuck fast on an outer sand bank about 200 yards distant from the beach, a deep channel running between. Her position was very critical as from her frail construction she would soon go to pieces, and it was impossible to get near her to render assistance to the passengers, about twenty in number. Here she remained for some hours, when a dog swam ashore from her, having the end of a small cord fastened to his neck. A stout lasso was attached to the shore, which was then pulled on board, and in this way connection was established between the steamer and shore. But a new difficulty presented itself. She lay broadside to the land, and when she rolled inwards the rope sagged, going many feet under water in the centre. Under these circumstances no one would venture. Committing myself to God, I went along the rope and after one long deep immersion succeeded in reaching the vesselís side. I urged the passengers to jump as close to me as possible. At length a female ventured. She went under, but I caught her and took her along the line for some distance, when I handed her over to a brave fellow who had followed me, and then returned to the steamer, and succeeded in getting all the passengers ashore. During the time these people were in imminent danger on board it was deeply interesting and suggestive to watch their proceedings. A woman was reading a book, which we after learned was a Bible, and all the others were listening to her on their knees, and appeared to be intensely devotional, while the danger lasted. But when it was past the old nature asserted itself. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh."
These shipping disasters usually brought a good deal of embarrassment to the agents, if not to the owners of the vessels. Excessive and often fictitious charges were made for ropes and other appliances, needed or said to be needed, which as a rule, assurers had to pay. To bleed an insurance company appeared to be not only permissible but highly meritorious. No sooner did a vessel beach than the owner or agent, if possible, got on board, and immediately after, a written notice was tacked to her side inviting tenders for discharging the cargo. These were sent in, and the lowest accepted within an hour. Then a general average was struck and an average bond drawn up, binding the consignees to pay any amount on the advance levied should it be required. No goods could be obtained till the bond was signed and full amount of freight paid. In some cases the cargoes were so much injured that the consignees elected to them, surveyed, and sold by auction on the beach. The vessel was also surveyed by two sea captains who ordered that she should either be launched or abandoned Ė as the owner wished Ė generally.
One fine morning I witnessed a very peculiar case of strand. An old two funnel paddle steamer called the "New Zealander" (said to have run the blockade during the last American Civil War), full of passengers and cargo from Dunedin was lying at anchor in the roadstead. The weather was beautiful and the sea, perfectly calm. Presently, up went the signal on the flagstaff. "Take the Bar," and in about half an hour, the paddles of the steamer began slowly to revolve, when she headed for the entrance. But as she drew near at a funeral pace, her nose came gently round till she was facing where we stood, a good quarter of a mile to north of entrance, when she came on for the beach. The temaphone arm flew up, pointing to the south. The signal man shook it violently to attract attention. We tried to ward her off with our hats, and as she drew nearer and nearer we shouted "to stand off," but all was in vain. The old steamer with the new name drove up among us. The whole affair so astounded the spectators that they gave vent to their feelings by three tremendous cheers. The Yankee Captain stood calmly on the Bridge, guessing, chewing, and squirting tobacco juice. Her end was in pieces, and I believe the owners recovered the insurance.
As a specimen of a night on the beach with a wreck, I give the following. One afternoon a fine bugantine, "The Sir Francis Drake," stuck fast at the entrance to the river when coming in. It was thought, as the sea was comparatively smooth, that she should be got off at neat flood tide, and so she was made as secure as possible under the circumstances. Ropes from her were fastened to logs embedded in the sand, after which all hands left her, intending to return at midnight when it would be flood tide. But as our firm was very anxious, having a considerable quantity of goods in her, I went down in company with our storeman, shortly after ten, when we found that the sea had greatly risen, and had washed the vessel away from her position. She was now lying on the beach about half a mile north of the channel, with her deck to sea, exposed to the full force of the Pacific waves which struck her with tremendous effect. At every blow, broken timber and cargo came floating ashore. My friend and I, with the aid of a lantern went about securing what goods we could lay hold of, and placing them above high water mark. It was a fearful night with darkness, wind and rain. The roar of the sea, and the crashing and smashing up of the doomed ship, made things impressive. About 12 oíclock a customs officer appeared upon the scene to protect her Majestyís interests. But he was so drunk that we made him sit down on a case, and covered him up with a tarpaulin, and thus extinguished the officer without injuring her Majesty. When the morning broke, what a sight! The "Sir Francis" was a perfect wreck. Her masts were all gone, and the hull lay upon its side, battered, broken, and shapeless. For a mile along the beach it was covered with goods, and consignees were now seen busily engaged in picking up their stranded property. The day following, a tall well known auctioneer, Mr Reeves, was seen standing close to the wreck with a small crowd, around him. After reading the conditions of sale, and expatiating for a few minutes upon the "golden opportunity for making a haul," the bidding began, and after a few rapid advances, all that remained of the gallant Sir Francis Drake was knocked down for thirty seven pounds.
I had not been more than a year with Morrison Law & Co, when their Hokitika manager, Mr MacIntyre, died at Nelson in his 25th year. He had been a kind master and warm friend to me. I cherish his memory with affection and gratitude. In every benevolent work and effort for the Lordís glory he was always to the front. Although so young he had splendid business abilities. The management of the business was now entrusted to me till it was closed, about nine months after, when I was again cast upon the Lord for temporals. After much prayer I rented an office, where I quietly waited upon God, Who came to my help "right early," for I made during the first week, more in commissions than the weekly salary received from Mr Lobe. In a short time two large Melbourne houses, James Terac & Co, and I McEwan & Co, favoured me with their confidence, and made me their agent for the coast. My business gradually went ahead till I took the position of a merchant of some standing.
Here I would make a remark or two about the business and the Lordís gracious dealing with me. In the first place I never advertised, nor did I solicit employment, not that I considered it wrong to do either, but as I did not know what to do, or in what way it might please Him to help me, I, after much prayer, thought it best to leave myself entirely in His hands. It afterward transpired that Mr James Morrison, on his way home from the colony to London, called at Melbourne, and being well known to the two firms mentioned, he spoke favourably of me to them, without my knowing it. They were pleased to repose perfect confidence in me, for I held both of their P. Accounts(?) for the whole of the coast. In this waiting on God, although often greatly tried, I enjoyed much peace, and was enabled to continue my labours for Christ without distraction.
Not very long after I had commenced business on my own account, I received a small consignment of flour from a firm in Melbourne for sale and returns. In their letter of advice they informed me that they had drawn against shipment at one or two months, I forget which. Well as I thought it wrong at that time to give bills, I allowed the draft to go back and stated the reason at the same time assuring them that I would lose no time in selling the flour and remitting proceeds. In taking this step I knew that it was unusual and that I would most likely lose the agency, but my conscience approved, and I felt happy. But see what happened. A month or so afterwards I received a cablegram from Messrs Duffield & Co, millers of Adelaide, advising full cargo of flour, with another to follow. This was the beginning of a long and valuable agency which lasted about six years, till our own New Zealand manufacture rendered further importations unprofitable. I knew nothing of these clients, and never before did anything with them, and yet they trusted me to the extent of several thousands of pounds, without any security with letter and never drew against shipments. So wonderfully did God reward my poor little act of faithfulness
..... page missing .....
by a small seditious paper named the Celt. It was resolved to do honour to the criminals by a mock funeral procession and burial in the Hokitika Cemetery. All sympathisers were enjoined to, in this way, pay respect to the memory of the "illustrious dead." Three coffins were procured, on each of which was affixed a plate bearing the name and age of the ruffians. A hearse was engaged in which the empty coffins were placed. A band preceded it, playing the "Dead March." From six to seven hundred feigned mourners, with green sashes followed, two deep in order to make it as long and imposing as possible. When the procession reached the cemetery it was found that the gates were closed against it, by order of the authorities. But in defiance of them and the law, some of the leaders advanced and took the gates off their hinges and thus forced an entrance. A shallow grave was dug in the Roman Catholic quarters in which the coffins were deposited. After a burial service had been read by Father Larkins, several notables then delivered funeral orations of a highly sensational and seditious character, after which the grave was filled up, and a wooden tablet recording the names and deeds of the patriots and heroes, was placed at itís head. When the vast assemblage dispersed, these high handed and illegal proceedings caused great excitement, not only in Hokitika, but throughout the coast. But owing to an overestimate of the number and strength of the delinquents, the authorities were afraid to arrest the leaders. As an earnest of the coming storm, that very night, three Scotchmen, dressed in Highland costume, entered the cemetery, smashed the monument and threw the fragments over the hill, and then paraded the streets playing the bagpipes, but nothing further was done till news arrived of OíFarrels murderous assault upon the Duke of Edinburgh at Sydney, when the pent up feelings of the loyal coasters broke forth with tremendous fury. A monster meeting was held in the Duke of Edinburgh Theatre. Speeches were made, and resolutions passed of a loyal character, and condemnatory of the recent seditious proceedings of Father Larkins and his followers. It was also agreed to have a Loyalist procession on the following day. A committee of management was chosen, after which the meeting broke up. Next day the demonstration took place. It was estimated that about five thousand walked in the procession, all having rosettes of a bit of blue ribbon fastened to their coats. At night bonfires burned in several vacant places throughout the town, at which Loyal speeches were delivered. A whole bullock was roasted in the camp preserve and distributed. Casks of beer were placed in several streets. The whole town rang with cheers, bells, songs, music and dancing. This demonstration dispelled the illusion regarding the number and strength of the law breakers, so Inspector Broham proceeded to arrest the leaders, including Father Larkins. About a dozen of them were locked up. Next day a report flew over the place that a great number of Irishmen from some of the inland mines were marching upon the town to assist their brethren and rescue the prisoners. Immediately several hundred of the citizens were sworn in as special constables. Detachments were placed under approved leaders, and the whole town was patrolled for several nights, till it was found that the enemy was not coming. However it was deemed prudent to retain the specials till after the preliminary trial of the prisoners which shortly took place. They were all committed on the charge of treason, and at length appeared in the dock of the supreme court which was presided over by Judge Richmond, who displayed consummate wisdom and ability throughout the trial. The grand jury of which I was one, found a true bill. The prisoners who were defended by Mr Ireland, a celebrated barrister whom they had brought over from Victoria, pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to short terms of imprisonment, and thus ended this sensational affair.
During the whole of these "troubled times," the minds of our little Christian band were much exercised. Some of them thought it was a duty to voluntarily offer themselves to the authorities to assist in preserving the peace. Others believed that unless pressed they were justified in remaining quiet and passive on the grounds that Christians, though in the world, were not of it, and its contentions. I can hardly at this distance of time state what my own views were on the subject, but it appeared to me that the matter was one for personal decision before God, that everyone ought to be fully persuaded in his own mind. One thing I do know for certain, that those of our number who enrolled themselves as "specials," deeply regretted having done so as they were associated with some very ungodly men, to their spiritual damage. Many sincere and faithful Christians are often taunted about their "strange notions" of passivity, by the ungodly, and more "liberal" Christians. "You," say they, "enjoy our protection, but refuse to aid or help in anyway to maintain it." We answer, "No, we obey magistrates unless asked to do something clearly opposed to the word of God! but a voluntary offer is a different thing altogether. We are perfectly justified in using our liberty by abstaining from taking a part in the worldís contentions, and leaving the issues with God. In this, as in all other matters, the Christian should walk by faith. However, we found that the divine declaration, "That all things shall work together for good to them that love God," was fulfilled in this event. We were led to examine the word more closely in order to get a better understanding of Godís mind and will in such cases, and we found that we had sadly failed as regards His command set forth in First Timothy, second chapter, 1st and 2nd verses, "I exhort that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and for all that are in authority that we may lead a quiet peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." The pilgrim attitude does not warrant identification with the world, either in its pleasing or contentions. Jesus said "My Kingdom is not of this world, if my Kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight." But as I am not, and never was polemic, I will leave the consideration of the question to others.
Shortly after this event, trouble of a very trying and painful nature was introduced into our little Christian gathering. For some time before, we had premonitory signs of its coming. Letters, tracts, etc from "Exclusives" were poured in upon us, bearing in laboured and mysterious terms, upon the "question," as it was called, which had for over 60 years rent the assemblies of Brethren in twain throughout the world. These efforts began to produce the desired effect on the consciences of some of our friends. I was some time hopeful that our isolated position would in some measure at least, preserve us from the cruel leaders of the Exclusive faction, but I was mistaken. A breach was made in our gathering chiefly through the instrumentality of the enemy and a Mr Wigram who had come out all the way from London on this wretched mission of "separating the Brethren."
In vain I tried to stop the mischief. Our assembly was broken up. Saints, who for years had loving and undisturbed fellowship together with the Lord were now alienated from each other by this awful thing, which was profanely termed "The Sword of Levi." The whole matter so mystified, worried and grieved me that I became ill. I could neither sleep nor rest. When in this state, one of the most violent of our seceding brethren, (a German), called at my office and made a furious assault upon me to drive me over into their camp. Among other things he accused me of having preached in a Presbyterian church at Greymouth, and thus "committed spiritual adultery with the churches." At length as a climax to his effort, he called upon "God to have mercy upon my soul." I became intensely concerned and excited. The extraordinary spirit and intolerance of the thing alarmed me. And just at this juncture I felt something snap like a thread in the back of my head. Then presently there was a sensation all over my head similar to that which is known by the name of "pins and needles." My assailant left. I felt that I was seriously injured. I could not stop the arguments I had used against him. They went on and on. I tried to stop them but could not. I cried to God for help, but my distress increased to such an extent that the doctor had to be called in. He gave me sleeping potions, and did all he could to relieve me, but without avail. My sufferings were indescribable. He advised a trip to Dunedin. I left with my dear wife, and got among my many friends in that city, who were exceedingly kind to us. Thinking my trouble was only mental instead of physical they kept me preaching nearly every night for some weeks in Farleyís Hall and Theatre. But I only became worse. So after a sojourn of about a month in Dunedin I returned home. It is wonderful to relate that my ministrations in Dunedin during this period of intense suffering were wonderfully blessed. The Brethren were refreshed and many souls saved.
After returning to Hokitika my affliction intensified, and as I imagined that I would obtain relief if I could get clean away from the scene of my distress, my dear wife and I again left the coast this time for Victoria, where we arrived after a five dayís passage. Here we stayed for about five weeks, residing with my dear old Father at Cobury. I consulted two of the leading practitioners in Melbourne, who both, after careful examination said I had ruptured a small blood vessel in my head, and that the intense suffering was caused by a small clot of blood resting on the brain, which could not now be absorbed or dispersed-relief could only be obtained by having it removed by trepanning, and that this operation could only be successfully performed in London, but as this would entail a cost of at least three hundred and fifty pounds, we had to abandon all thought of it. Dr Robertson gave me a very powerful medicine which almost killed me. Whether there was any ultimate benefit from it of not I cannot say, but the change of climate and new scenes did produce a slight improvement. Still I could not stop the distressing debate going on in my head. Or could I procure more than a few minutes sleep at a time with the assistance of opiates. I was generally up and about the greater part of every night. This state of things continued for many years. While I am writing this, after a lapse of more than twenty years I am still suffering from the shock, but have in a most wonderful way been sustained and kept by the power of God.
With regard to those who were the cause of my terrible and protracted sufferings, I have said little or nothing about them. God gave me grace to keep silence. Nor have I cherished a single angry thought towards them. I wish them every blessing for time and eternity. No doubt they thought they were "doing Godís service." I am indeed thankful that He has kept me from the God dishonouring bitter "strife of tongues." Oh that He may in his great mercy ever give me the rich grace of speaking under every circumstance, "the truth in love" and bearing patiently the keenest reproach for His name. All will be put right when He comes. So I desire to "judge nothing before the time." During my long illness I received much sympathy and kindness from many Christian friends. Mr Button was unwearied in his efforts to help me. I have him ever in affectionate remembrance.
As the Brethrenís meeting was now broken up and dissolved, I, with my family took refuge in the Presbyterian Church, at that time under the pastorate of the Reverend I Kirkland, now of Otago. With this faithful minister I often laboured in the gospel. We had several evangelistic services together which resulted in blessing. I just mention this to show that God did not lay me entirely aside during my long and terrible illness. For this mercy I have abundant cause for gratitude. Nor was
..... page missing .....
our beloved daughter. Mimie(?) was long ill with heart disease, the result of rheumatic fever. For many months before her death she required almost daily medical attention, so that my wife and I became alarmed about the expenses. Every visit we feared would be either 10/- or 7/6. As our business was rapidly failing, we could not see how to meet the difficulty, as a one hundred pound prompt cash was more than we could raise. But we had one unfailing source of life, the Lord, and we applied confidently to Him, and He came to our succour in a remarkable way. We had in stock a quantity of old potatoes of little value and almost unsaleable. All at once a brisk demand for them set in, and the price went up till they were four or five pounds per ton. We cleared them all out at that figure and netted about seventy five pounds, more than they would have brought under ordinary circumstances. Mimie heard of the matter and with a beaming countenance said, "Father, that will pay my doctors bill," and so it did. We knew Who our helper was.