Celebrating the Arrival of the ‘Blenheim’

In the early days of settlement in New Zealand, the so-called New Zealand Company and its offshoots were chiefly responsible for bringing out new settlers from Britain to New Zealand. While many Scots only arrived in the late 1840s, making their way to the newly-established Free church settlement of Dunedin, there were a number of Scots amongst the earlier arrivals to the North Island. In 1840, for instance, the ‘Blenheim’ brought around 200 Scots to Wellington. Many of them initially settled in Wellington itself, specifically in the area of Kaiwharawhara (click on the image to see larger version), which thus became known at the ‘Scotch settlement’. After the government’s purchase of the Rangitīkei land block from local Maori, however, a good number of the Kaiwharawhara Scots made their way north, …

A Great History

TanjaTurakinaSo there I was, back in New Zealand at the Turakina Highland Games. But this year was special as it marked the celebration of the 150th Games – what an amazing feat. The weather agreed wholeheartedly as it was a gloriously sunny summer day (and the only such nice day in a while). As local MP Ian McKelvie, who opened the Games, observed, ‘It was a huge success and a great credit to all who put so much effort into making it the spectacle it was. This is further proof of the vibrancy and resilience of our small rural communities.’

The Games began on Friday with a piper’s lament played at the village cemetery to honour the original Turakina settlers, followed by a function at the Ben Nevis Tavern when …

Celebrating 150 Years: The Turakina Highland Games

turakina-300x195Whether hailing from the Lowlands or the Highlands, their national identity was very important for many of the Scottish migrants who had made the journey from Scotland to New Zealand, settling in the British Empire’s farthest outpost. In the mid-nineteenth century, the journey to New Zealand could easily take four months, and life aboard ship was hard, especially for the steerage passengers. Migrants knew that they would probably never return to Scotland nor see family and friends left behind again. This explains why, after arrival in New Zealand, connections with fellow Scots were a real comfort and often helped ease the transition to life in New Zealand. As Bazil Thompson wrote in a letter home to Scotland, life was ‘rough and ready’ in New Zealand, but being with his brothers …

The 148th Turakina Highland Games

Welcome to TurakinaIt was my great pleasure to visit the Turakina Highland Games last Saturday — the 148th Games, making them New Zealand’s longest-running Highland Games. It was in early January 1864 that the residents of Turakina and the nearby villages first gathered for Highland Games. The first Games were not held on the Turakina Domain, however, but on the grounds adjoining the Ben Nevis Hotel. As a newspaper reported, ‘the weather was all that could be desired, and the various games were keenly contested, and appeared to give the lookers on great satisfaction’ (Wellington Independent, 2 January 1864 – click here to download an image of the newspaper page). ‘We have no doubt’, the paper concluded, ‘that this will be the precursor of numerous happy meetings in future years.’ …