Writing Lines 5

Letter to my sister Frances in Nelson, 3 January 1861

Jan 3rd 1861
My dear Frances

It is so long since you or any of my sisters have written to me that I feel myself quite forgotten. I was terribly disappointed when the steamer came in last and no letter for me. Please to remember that I am very lonely and that sometimes can scarcely endure to remain and that your letters are everything to me. The little change I had a few weeks ago did me good at the time. I cannot give you a description of the parties now. I had every reason to be pleased and gratified. I’m told that my dress was most becoming and I certainly had as many partners as I wished.

We have removed into the house above John Veal’s but I do not altogether like it. Poor Mr Richardson is very ill and not likely to recover. He has suffered a great deal. He is now free from pain but getting weaker daily, he is quite resigned and would be glad to be released. Mrs Richardson has been unwearied in her attendance on him day and night.

Mrs Leech has been ill but she is getting better now. Mr and Mrs Gardner intend returning to England by the first opportunity, which may perhaps be in a few days. Mr Des Voeux is at the Waitara and will probably be there for some time. You must try to get a paper with an account of this last expedition. There are bands of Natives roaming about the country so that it is not safe to go out. Mrs Standish has been very unwell. I think she has too much trouble and care. Frank has got a commission as ensign in place of Mr Gardner. Have you any chance of attaining another situation and what is papa doing? I am longing to hear & ask him what I am to do with the boxes left with Mrs Tatton. Tell the little girls to write to me. Give my love to papa & mamma and the girls & to Mr Moore and believe me

your affectionate sister

P.S. I had written a long letter but on reading it over thought best not to send it.

MS copy of letter to sister Frances Emma Harris, Nelson. Written in New Plymouth, 3 Jan 1861.
Copying date unknown. Puke Ariki. ARC2002-190. Fascicle 1, pp. [16]-[18].

We have removed into the house above John Veal’s
Emily updates her sister about domestic developments and war news in New Plymouth at the outset of the new year. The Des Voeux and King families have made the move to the upper floor of Thomas Skinner’s house in Brougham St, its lower floor occupied by carpenter John Veale in February 1860. (‘List of persons’)

You must try to get a paper with an account of this last expedition
General Pratt’s northward expeditions culminated in the extended operation that saw battles at Matarikoriko, Kairau, Huirangi and Te Arei 29 Dec 1860-19 Mar 1861. Frances Harris would have been able to read about preparations for the offensive at Matarikoriko near Waitara in the Taranaki Herald of 29 dec 1860. Full coverage appeared in the following week’s edition of 5 Jan 1861.

Frank has got a commission as ensign in place of Mr Gardner
Frank Standish (1836-1923), eldest son of the Harrises’ friends Thomas and Mary Standish. His brothers were Arthur Standish (1838-1915), a solicitor who became Crown Prosecutor for Taranaki and first Mayor of New Plymouth, and George Frederick Standish (1840-1918). See photograph of John Oxenham and Frank Standish. (Puke Ariki. Military group portraits)

Hawera and Normanby Star 2 May 1923: 7. Personal Items. The death is reported by Press Association message from Ashburton of Mr. Frank Burgon Standish, aged 87 years, who arrived in New Zealand in 1844, and claims blood ties with Miles Standish, leader of the Puritan Fathers. He was a Maori war veteran, and saw considerable service in Taranaki. He was a well-known Canterbury pioneer. (‘Fifty-one’ states that the above corresponds with Mr. Frank Standish, who left Taranaki for the South Island: somewhere in the ‘sixties. If so, he would be a brother of the late Mr. Arthur Standish (Crown Prosecutor at New Plymouth for many years) and Mr. George Standish. The parents lived at Tukapa prior to the outbreak of war in 1860. The Standish boys were all educated at Beardsworth’s school.)

the boxes left with Mrs Tatton
The Tattons were neighbours on Frankley Road and were looking after possessions salvaged from the Harrises’ property. William Tatton married Mary Ann Webb at St Mary, Newington, Southwark, England, in 1834. Their children were Eliza, Emma (Des Forges), William and George. The Tattons emigrated to New Zealand on the ship Eden, arriving in Taranaki in 1850.

William Tatton was a collector of books and was evidently fond of poetry. An obituary for his daughter Eliza mentions that the family homestead on Frankley Road held a ‘splendid library’ which ‘was a general resort of neighbours seeking information on various subjects.’ (NZ Herald 10 Aug 1923: 8). Sir George Grey Special Collections in Auckland holds a first edition of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads (1798) with an inscription identifying it as a ‘dying gift’ from William Tatton of New Plymouth to William Wildman, who shortly after receiving the book presented it to Sir George Grey. William Tatton died 7 Aug 1886. See ‘Death of Mr William Tatton, Senior.’

William Tatton’s copy of WE Grayling’s The War in Taranaki, During the Years 1860-1861 (1862), now at the University of Auckland Special Collections includes an unattributed clipping from the Taranaki News (4 Oct 1860: 4) of Matthew Fitzpatrick’s poem ‘Assault on Kingi — 11th Sept., 1860.’ Unlike Emily Harris and Clara Fairly, Fitzpatrick glosses over the command to retreat, concentrating instead on the valour of the British troops:

Assault on Kingi – 11 Sept., 1860
(Air) “The young Crusader.”

O’er Waitara’s broad and lovely plains, all clad with verdant green,
The British trump’ of war is heard, and British troops are seen,
With firm step advancing quick, upon the rebel foe,
While the sun shoots down his brightest beams, to gladden all below.

Like wolves into their covert lair, to the bush the rebels fly, —
Too well they know that on the plains, to meet us is to die.
To the forest verge we follow them, led by our General brave.
Oh! let them show us fight , to-day−‘tis all, ‘tis all we crave.

Now from the British forces bold, loud sounds of cannon rise,
And quick as Heaven’s lightning-flash, the fiery rocket flies!
The shells burst forth like thunder-peals, and spread destruction wide,
While fierce consuming flames arise, from pahs on every side.

Now from the wood-clad hills on high, now from the ravine deep,
The flash of Maori musquetry, through smoke is seen to peep ;
But the rebel hands that fire them shake, with paralyzing fear,−
‘Tis hard to take a steady aim at Britons though they’re near.

Again the roar of cannon loud, is shaking earth and skies,
And with unceasing random shot, the Maori still replies,
Protected by his giant trees, he thinks (in vain), to vie,
With all the force of Britain’s pow’r−and has boldness to defy.

The storm of war now rages wild, our hearts are bounding high,
For vengeance on the rebel tribes, and victory seems nigh,
But though the sword is lifted up, we’re made to hold the blow,
And from the glorious battle-field, reluctantly we go.

Then proudly wave the British flag, throughout New Zealand’s coast,−
United let us round it stand, and vie who loves it most,
We have soldiers and militia bold, brave tars and Volunteers,
Who would bear that flag to Kingi’s pah, and hoist it with three cheers !

Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Private, 65th Regiment.
Taranaki, 18th Sept., 1860.