In the interesting article by Mr. Robert Pattie in a recent issue of "The Mail" it was mentioned in connection with the cutting of the first track over the Takaka Hills that this work was done by Messrs. Lock and Curtis, and it further stated that Mr. Curtis and Mr. Lock with Mr. Brent came from Prince Edward Island (now in Dominion of Canada) in a small vessel of their own named the Lady Grey which was not more than 80 tons, and the voyage took eight months. At the invitation of "The Mail" to supply, if possible, some additional information and particulars concerning the vessel and her voyage from Prince Edward Island to Nelson, New Zealand. Mr. W. Lock writes: -
I comply with this invitation and herewith give some further information, in fact most of the information bearing on the subject I have been able to gather.
It appears that the owners, or at least two of them, Messrs. Brent and Lock, who both had families and were desirous of emigrating to Nelson, New Zealand, either built or purchased the vessel Lady Grey, which according to an entry in the Nelson Customs, was a schooner of 60 tons register. Mr. Brent was a fine man who I understood was a master builder, and had a wife and family. The latter I do not know the number of, but I well remember two sons and one daughter and this daughter was married to Mr. Lightband who lived at Brightwater later.
My parents had no less than four children when they arrived here. Mr. Curtis and a young man named George Hooper also came by the vessel.
Since looking up some old papers I have formed the opinion that the owners did not build the vessel but purchased her. The whole party had a good reputation for honesty and probity, and probably for piety, as they were all good Methodists or Wesleyans at that time.
The crew at the time of sailing comprised a captain, a mate and three seamen. The others on board were the owners, Messrs. Brent, Lock, Curtis, and a young man named George Hooper.
The vessel left Prince Edward Island for Boston with a cargo of timber, and there secured provisions for the long voyage. She then returned to Prince Edward Island, where she remained for three weeks, sailing on the 26th November 1854 for New Zealand.
On the third night out a terrific storm was experienced, but the vessel escaped with little damage. She called at San Jago Island and remained there for one week, took in fresh water, and continued the voyage without calling at any other port until reaching King George Sound, South Australia.
She remained there for about fourteen days, replenished the fresh water supply, and took in about 3,000 kangaroo skins, and twelve passengers and sailed for Adelaide, and reached there in fourteen days from King George's Sound.
At this part they discharged both the captain and mate, and two sailors were ill, nearly the whole of the voyage, and the owners had to do sailor's duty. They stayed in Adelaide about a month, and took in general cargo for Portland Bay, and made the passage in three days, which was regarded as very quick time. They remained there about 14 days, discharged cargo, and sailed for New Zealand. It took 20 days to reach Nelson where the vessel arrived on the 22nd July 1855. When the vessel was quite close to the port, the pilot, Captain Cross, came out to bring her in. The vessel had too much way on that her captain could not slacken speed with safety, and sailed right into the old harbour entrance. Captain Cross, the pilot, called out to keep clear of the rock. A Captain Saunders was in command of the boat and brought her from Adelaide.
The Lady Grey was leased or chartered to a firm and traded for a time in NZ. She was run heavily into debt and was ultimately sold to the French Government to carry mails to New Caledonia. The late pilot, Low, informed the writer that he remembered the Lady Grey well, and that she was a fine built little vessel.
THE LATE GERSHOM CURTIS
(By One Who Knew Him)
Naturally enough few among the present generation would know much of the late Mr. Curtis. In common with our older colonists he belonged, as it were, to a bygone period of our history. Hence it is that the works of our pioneer settlers are too often unappreciated. Though they have each borne a part some of them a conspicuous part in the great work of colonisation, it is not pleasant to remember that the only event which nowadays awakens even an ephemeral interest in their labors is the announcement that one or the other of them have "crossed the bar."
No matter how keenly we may regret the loss of our friends and acquaintances, we cannot deny that, after all, death seems like a merciful dispensation, at least in the case of the aged.
The great majority of their contemporaries have passed away, and they, even in the midst of their fellows, lead a desolate existence, because none of those around them remember their achievements or appreciate the vicissitudes they have undergone.
It is not possible to depict, though some of us may imagine, the utter loneliness of old age. The hopes of early life vanished and perhaps bitterly disappointed, the old man can have little to interest him in this busy, thoughtless world of ours, and we may be certain that not infrequently he looks upon the approach of death not only without apprehension, but without regret or fear.
Since the writer was a mere child he enjoyed the pleasure, and he will add, the advantage of a close acquaintance with the late Mr. Curtis. A more perfect type of the true gentleman he never met. Judged perhaps by the standard of those who look upon "success in life" as the best proof of human worth, Mr. Curtis fell below the average of his fellows.
But those who knew him best know that he possessed qualities which would adorn men who have achieved much greater things.
His acquaintances can say with truth that a coarse or ungentlemanly remark was never heard from the lips of the old man whose mortal remains were laid to rest at the Orowaiti Cemetery on Sunday last. On the contrary, his conversation was always edifying and his manner at all times graced by that politeness, when not affected, as in his case, constitutes one of the most exquisite ornaments of human character.
A native of Prince Edward Island, Mr. Curtis was born 83 years ago. In 1854 he came to New Zealand with his wife and family, and made the journey to this colony in his own yacht, the Lady Grey.
To follow the "ups and downs" of his career in New Zealand is not my purpose which is rather to write a brief appreciation of an old friend than to attempt a biography.
Suffice it to say that Mr. Curtis had more than his share of misfortune. Perhaps captious critics will say that he had faults. Well, who has not? But if the old man had a proportion of those failings which alas are our common inheritance he also possessed qualities which too few possess.
In addition to high educational attainments the late Mr. Curtis was endowed with fine intellectual powers, and in earlier years he evinced a warm interest in social and political questions.
Well do I recall how he fired up with animation in describing how the Liberals of his native land prevented some greedy person from obtaining a Crown grant over the seashore of Prince Edward Island and how they compelled the Government to make permanent reservations for the poor fishermen.
As a boy I have learned from him the masterpiece of English poetry, Grey's "Elegy in a Country Churchyard." I have heard from him the story of the siege of Troy, as related by Homer in the "Iliad", but never once have I ever heard him utter anything rude or unbecoming. To how many could such a tribute be paid? What better recollection could one hope to leave behind him.
I could fill pages about my old friend, but there is no need to tell the story further. Let me add in conclusion that I am pleased to learn that in his last moments there were not wanting kind friends to minister to him.
To speak the last the parting word
Which, when all other sounds decay,
Is still like distant music heard,
That tender farewell on the shore
Of this rude world when all is o'er,
Which cheers the spirit ere its bark
Puts off unto the unknown dark.
Wellington, June 25
The obituary was published in the Westport Times and Evening Star newspaper on 1st July 1901. The writer is thought to be a High Court Judge in NZ at that time or a reporter on the Nelson Paper later to become Chief Justice O'Leary.
In a letter written to Mr. G. A. Lightband on 8th Sept. 1976 Fred Horne, the Archival assistant at the Public Archives of Prince Edward Island wrote about the Lady Grey:
A search of the Ship Register of ships built and registered in Prince Edward Island from 1853 - 1855 unearthed the final item of interest to you:
Dated 7 August 1854. "Lady Grey"; 64 tons; Matthew Walker, Master; built at Saint Mary's Bay in Prince Edward Island in 184 as appeared by the certificate of William Hicken and John Hicken, the builders, dated 7 August 1854.
Specifications: one deck; two masts; her length from the inner part of the main stern to the fore part of the stern aloft is 61 feet 5 tenths; her breadth in midship is 16 feet 3 tenths; her depth in hold at midship is eight feet 7 tenths; she is a schooner.
Owners: William Brent of Charlottetown 34 shares
Gershorn Curtis of Charlottetown 15 shares
John Lock of Charlottetown 15 shares
Recorded by Custom House, Prince Edward Island, 20 March 1857, that registration transferred to Wellllington, New Zealand . . .
Shipping Register of NZ.
Lady Grey: Schooner 64 Unladen 21*44 tons Laden 35 tons.
Dimensions 61' 5" x 16' 3" x 8' 7".
Built at St. Mary's Bay, Prince Edward Island, 1853. By John William Hicken.
Regd. No. 56/1854 Port of Charlottetown 7/8/1854
Regd. Port of Wellington 1857.
Regd. Port of Sydney 1859.
Registration closed 2/7/1859 on sale of Vessel to the French Government.
Master Archibald Kennedy.
It is believed that both the Locks and Brents had four children. There were two young men as passengers on board: George Hooper and James Robinson. The master was a Captain Wilkie.
Further to the above account the Lady Grey was advertised for sale upon arrival in South Australia. The advertisement in "The South Australian Register" from Tuesday 5th June until Friday 8th June 1855 read:
FOR SALE: THE FINE NEW CLIPPER-BUILT SCHOONER "LADY GREY" 64 TONS REGISTER. CARRIES ABOUT 120 TONS ON A LIGHT DRAUGHT OF WATER. THIS VESSEL WAS LAUNCHED AT SAINT MARY'S BAY, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, IN AUGUST LAST. IT IS FORE ND AFT RIGGED AND IS ADMIRABLY SUITED FOR THE COASTAL TRADE. FOR PARTICULARS APPLY TO THE CAPTAIN ON BOARD AT THE QUEEN'S WHARF OR TO G. H. FOX AND COMPANY.
A week later and they must have had a change of heart as the next advertisement on the 13 June read"
FOR WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND, THE FINE NEW CLIPPER SCHOONER, "LADY GREY" 120 TONS, IS ON THE BERTH FOR THE ABOVE PORT. FOR FREIGHT OR PASSAGE APPLY TO BAKEWELL AND MANNING HINDLEY STREET.
On June 11th the newspaper "The Argus" of Melbourne reported:
SAILED 4 JULY, FROM PORTLAND "LADY GREY" FOR NELSON, NEW ZEALAND.
Under Cptain Suanders they arrived in Nelson. The newspaper "Nelson Examiner" of 25th July 1855 announced the arrival as follows:
ON 22ND JULY 1855 THE SCHOONER "LADY GREY" 65 TONS, SAUNDERS, MASTER, FROM ADELAIDE. PASSENGERS MRS BRENT AND FOUR CHILDREN, MRS CURTIS AND FOUR CHILDREN. THE SCHOONER, "LADY GREY", WHICH ARRIVED HERE ON SUNDAY IS FROM PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND IN BRITISH AMERICA AND HAS BROUGHT THREE FAMILIES, NUMBERING, WE BELIEVE, 21 SOULS TO SETTLE IN THIS COLONY. THIS IS THE FIRST DIRECT IMMIGRATION WEARE ACQUAINTED WITH FROM BRITISH AMERICA TO NEW ZEALAND AND WE HOPE THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE ENTERPRISING IMMIGRANTS IN COMING HERE WILL BE FULLY REALIZED.
THE VESSEL WAS PURCHASED FROM THE STOCKS FOR THE PURPOSE OF THE VOYAGE BY THE PARTIES WHO WERE WISHING TO COME HERE AND HAVING REACHED HER DESTINATION SHE IS NOW TO BE SOLD.
THE "LADY GREY" HAS CALLED AT ADELAIDE AND PORTLAND AND THIS HAS NECESSARILY LENGHTENED HER PASSAGE.
In the "Nelson Examiner" of 1st August 1855, the following advertisement appeared:
FOR SALE, BY PRIVATE CONTRACT, THE SPLENDID NEW SCHOONER, "LADY GREY",
105 TONS OLD MEASUREMENT, 65 TONS NEW MEASUREMENT. WILL CARRY 100 TONS OF DEAD WEIGHT, DRAWING 8 FEET 6 INCHES OF WATER. THIS FINE SCHOONER WAS LAUNCHED LAST FALL AT PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND AND HER VOYAGE TO THIS COLONY IS THE FIRST SHE HAS MADE. SHE IS WELL FOUND AND CAN PROCEED TO SEA IMMEDIATELY. FOR PARTICULARS APPLY ON BOARD OR TO CAPTAIN SAUNDERS AT THE TRAFALGAR HOTEL.
Westport February 14th 1895
Mr. Alfred Curtis,
I see by the papers that you and Charlie have found a good quartz reef. Perhaps you know best but I think if it will pay yourselves and you can manage to work it, you should not sell any part interest in it to anybody. There is no instance in New Zealand of the original prospectors doing anything with a company, they are all a set of rogues, thieves or worse, if possible, for theydo it in a way that they keep clear of the law.
If you sell at all sell clean out for cash and let it be known in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin where there is plenty of money, anf if it will stand inspection make an offer in the advertisements to come and inspect it. George McLeod was offered forty thousand pounds for his share in a reef near Auckland but would not take it. He was only a digging when I last heard of him.
I hope you will keep clear of all the scoundrels as G. Wise or any such not as legal managers. I trust you have got some person that could manage all the business without a loss to the owner, but he intended to have your money before he began. I thougt you knew him, I did well.
There is nothing doing here. Henry is trying to knock out a precarious living by fossicking up the Buller, but it is a very poor one, and I have tendered for almost every carpenter's job that came out, but they are all taken so low that the carpenters often get in debt. The last I tendered for but didnot get, the men who got it will earn about 2/6 per day and find themselves. I have not done any work for six months except a little gardening, and am so crippled up with rheumatism that carpenter's work is all that I cando.
Hoping that the reef may exceed your expectations and that you and all are well and with love to all.