Dear Dot - Uncle Jiggy's 1895 letter

Wednesday, June 23, 2010
"Dear Dot,
I live at a place called the Sixmile, about 13 miles from Fortrose. I live in a big tent, and I like it very much.
My father has a State farm. We are going to clear bush every four months in a year.
The other day whilst falling bush I cut my foot with an axe, which cut the side of my big toe, but it is getting better now. My father had to put two stitches in it. 
"Six-mile will be a pretty place in summer. It is all bush. There are a lot of native birds here, the biggest being pigeons and kakiis. I have a little dog, which was a good rabbiter when we were living in Fortrose, and he seems to miss the rabbits here, as there are very few.
Yours truly,
William Rosie, (aged 14 years)
Six-mile, October 17, 1895 "

Our Little Folks, Otago Witness, 1895.

This is the letter and portrait of my Great-great Uncle Jiggy (as he was known to the family), otherwise known as William Rosie Junior. (And yes, he was part-Maori). While in the Catlins earlier in the month, we discovered more of the history of my mother's family, the William Rosie's.

They settled in an area of the Catlins called Haldane - which was a thriving little community with two schools, of which my Great great Grandfather was a member of the board.
The New Zealand government offered settlement farms for pioneers willing to clear the bush and farm the land. My Great great Grandfather took one of these (block 3), and as you can tell from the letter above, tent-living was the norm until the land was cleared. The families willing to take the bush blocks were given a sack of wheat and 10 pounds.

We drove through Haldane (pronounced, Hardin) looking for the acreage belonging to my family back in those days (it was sold in 1906). You would never guess that it was once a busy community - all that is there now is an old schoolhouse and farm land stretching for miles. We did find the land that my family had though - this is what is there now.... an old hall which has been converted into a woolshed.

Looking at this place it is hard to picture the bush and the tent and all those children of 115 years ago. When it rained and the wind blew (and it does alot in the Catlins) it must have been pretty miserable in a tent. But the native birds would have been splendid and living with the hope of something better to come. What I love are the letters. They bring my ancestors alive. I heard alot about my Uncle Jiggy from my grandmother - the imprint of his personality lingers when the stories are forgotten. The memory of a fun-loving, well-loved member of a large and loving family. These letters and seeing where they lived make them real and it makes it seem like recent history.
And I adore 'dear Dot' from the Otago Witness newspaper. I found a treasure trove of letters written to her from all kinds of children and places across the South Island. I will do another posting on those some time.

1 comment :

Clara said...

Very interesting, Rachel! History is so fascinating... when we think we have life bad, it only takes a trip through history to know what a hard life really was!!

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