By Judy Waters, Warkworth & District Museum
The clipper ship Tornado left Liverpool on 10 June 1859 carrying 285 immigrants to New Zealand. Among the passengers were the Croker family, Dr Cruikshank and four of his sons, and Alexander Campbell, a single man from Saitcoats on the Firth of Clyde. By chance, they all became neighbours on bush-clad properties at Matakana.
Alexander Campbell, known as Sandy, kept a diary on the voyage and this, together with the letters he wrote home to his family in Scotland, form the basis of a book recently published by descendants. The letters themselves have an interesting history. A great granddaughter Margaret Moira Aitken (nee Smith) visited Scotland in the 1950s and found they had been preserved in a vault at Saltcoats. They were returned to New Zealand and are now on permanent loan to the Auckland Museum.In the book, readers will find information regarding settler life at Matakana including the acquiring of land, the beginnings of education, transport and communication. At a time when letters and newspapers were the only contact with distant family members, the mail was eagerly anticipated. The post office was at Lower Matakana (Sandspit) and the letters often mention going ‘down water’ to collect or dispatch mail. Alexander Campbell sent copies of The New Zealander and Daily Southern Cross to his family and, in return, received Scottish papers.
The young man at first worked for Mr Croker and the relationship appeared to have been cordial and mutually advantageous. By 1865, he had passed examinations to qualify as a teacher and he was appointed to the school which was built in 1862 for use as a classroom and for church services. He wrote to his mother saying he was very much in need of a wife and as there were few available in the colony perhaps she could find him one in the old country. However, in 1866, he found Susan Dodd, barely 18, but given permission by her father to wed.
On the day of the wedding Susan and the groomsman arrived at Matakana at 4.30 am having already travelled three miles. After breakfast, they rode on to Warkworth where Rev. McKinney performed the marriage ceremony. Susan’s uncle had a meal prepared for them and at 4pm they left to return home, arriving at the schoolhouse at 7pm. Generous gifts came from Scotland for the couple and Mrs Campbell Snr was anxious to know what her new daughter-in-law looked like. In reply, she was told Susan was wise, sensible, hard working and thrifty.
Year by year more bush clearing took place and the settlement grew large enough to have its own store and post office. As the school was centrally situated, Alexander could also manage to be the postmaster and rate collector. While many young men were lured to the Thames goldfields he was never tempted. He wrote to his brother regarding the prospects and was critical of the press for exaggerating the likely chances of making a fortune.
Alexander and Susan had eight children and there are now many descendants. Their homestead Parkhouse, like Sweet Hope (Crokers) and Rosemount (Cruikshanks), was well known in the district.