A Strenuous Life Closed - Romahapa 31 Dec 1907
? ROMAHAPA in located in the Catlins region of Otago. It is located 15km south of Balclutha, 17km north of Owaka and 95km south of Dunedin
? Cannibal Bay is 21km south of Romahapa
? Port Molyneux, lies 5km west of Romahapa
The last store closed in Romahapa in 1977
- but in Oct 2006 the Romahapa School celebrated its 150th anniversary
from the Lore and History of the South island Maori
... The Molyneux River which now enters the sea south of Coal Point near Kaitangata used to have its exit at Port Molyneux. Port Molyneux is now dry land, but in its day saw a considerable amount of coastal shipping. Its European history is admirably told by Colonel Waite, M.L.C., in his centennial publication. When Captain Benjamin Morrell, the American whaler, visited Port Molyneux on January 7th 1830, he found 200 Maori dwelling there. When George Willsher came on the scene in 1840 the native population had shrunk to half a dozen persons.
When Frederick Tucker, the surveyor, on May 7th, 1844, was at Port Molyneux, or to give the place its Maori name Maranuku, he found the following Maori dwelling there:
? Toke, the widow of Tahu and aunt of Tuhawaiki
? Makariri her daughter, who became George Willsher's wife
? Maihou and Tauwera, both old men
? Raki raki
? Kinihi Kurupohatu
? and three children.
The reason for so few inhabitants being found there was the introduction of measles and influenza epidemics by Europeans. At Measley Beach, near Wangaloa, can be seen hundreds of graves (as at other places), which according to Dr Ellison, a Maori authority, reduced the South Island Maori population from 30,000 to approximately 3,000 souls; a greater scourge than war.
The old-time native villages near the mouth of the Molyneux River were called Murikauhaka, Otapatu and Matai pipi. Port Molyneux and the Nuggets (Tokata) are to-day favourite pakeha (white man) holiday resorts, easily visited from Balclutha by rail or motor. The Maori connection goes back to the time when a Ngai Tahu chief Waitai, joined up with a Ngati Mamoe chief named Rakitauneke and commenced slaughtering the peaceful folk of the Waitaha II Tribe. This warfare started after Waitai left Pukekura (Otakou) and prior to his arrival at Mokamoka (The Bluff). A few of the place names date from this period.
* Taumata o te rakipokia is the hill behind the Nuggets Point Lighthouse
* Campbell's Point and the creek there is called Owaea
* Taumata kotare is the hill nearby
* the spring at Hay's Gap is named Puna a wai toriki
* Jenkinson's Creek bears the name of Wairawaru
* Willsher Bay, named after the pakeha settler, is known to the Maori as Te Karoro
* Taukohu is the spur running from the Karoro Creek to Omaru Hill near Romahapa
* The cave on the north side of the Lighthouse Point is Te Ana o Ngatiwairua, name of a hapu of the Ngati Mamoe Tribe
* The hills behind Port Molyneux are called Tamahika
* Parauriki is Kaka Point
* Fisherman's Hill near Willsher Bay bears the name of Taita
Early in the 1850s settlers went to South Clutha. In 1854 there were 5 families in the district, those of Messrs:
? HAY, George (1818-1876) & Jane (nee Grant 1815-1898)
... travelled to London from Keith in Scotland on the 'Ajax' arriving in Port Chalmers in Jan 1849 with their children, William (1839-1914), Jessie Margaret (1841-?), Jane (1843-?), George (1846-1932) & 4 month old son John (1848-1907). A few weeks later the family set sail in a small cutter, Jumping Jackass, for Port Molyneux. John was carried ashore from the Jumping Jackass by Makariri, the daughter of a Maori chief and ?wife? of George Willsher. Mahariki took John up the beach to a whare (hut, home) and the frantic Hay family disembarked and took chase. When they finally found John he was surrounded by Maori women. They had taken John?s clothes off and were examining him carefully. The women had never seen a white baby before. From then on Makariri took a great interest in John calling him her ?Jackie Boy?. The Hay family lived at Willsher Bay close to the local Maori settlement for four years
? MERCER, Andrew
... born Dumfermline. Came out on the 'Philip Laing' in 1848. In conjunction with his partner, Mr George Ross, he bought land before leaving Scotland, started storekeeping, but in 1851 he settled on his Clutha section, resuming business in Dunedin as a grocer in 1860; retired in 1880, going to live at Portobello. Member of the City Council of Dunedin for 7 or 8 years and Mayor in 1874-1875; J.P. from 1872
? WILLSHER, George
... together with Thomas Russell, came over from Australia with cattle and squatted at Port Molyneux, the beauty spot known as Willsher Bay, being named after him. The venture proved a dismal failure, the cattle taking to the tutu and all dying except one. At this juncture the Maori in the locality were afflicted with a craving for a bit of "long pig"(white man, hence the district name Cannibal Bay) when a chief's daughter begged for their liberty, she having fallen in love with Willsher. The appeal was good naturedly compiled with and a tragedy was thus turned into a romance, for Willsher natuarlly married the girl, but the result was not quite in accord with fairy tale endings; Mr Willsher eventually tired of his life's companion, and the isolation began to be unendurable. However, they were still living at Willsher Bay when the first white settlers, Messrs A. D. Fuller, his brother and a few others, arrived in an open boat, after a rough passage down the coast. They were struck with the comfortable appearance of Willsher's hut and surroundings, but not withstanding this, the pioneer was glad to take work with Mr Fuller and eventully went Home with him to the grief of his native wife, who had no children. Willsher, notwithstanding the failure of the first attempt, introduced the first cattle to Otago, going back and forwards to Sydney several times
from Edward Jollie reminisces 1841-1842
... Willsher and Thomas Russell arrived aboard the Portenia from Sydney on the 28th of June, 1840. The other settler Russell lived close to Willsher in a little hut surrounded by a garden in which he grew enough wheat and potatoes for his own subsistence. The wheat he ground between two stones. His live stock consisted of a few goats, which often trespassed in Willsher?s garden, and as Willsher?s cattle often trespassed in Russell?s garden, there was a very violent and continued feud between them. He (Willsher) was a quiet inoffensive man, the other was morose and quarrelsome and would have domineered over the former effectually had it not been for Makariri who was more than his match when it came to words and was active enough to avoid blows
? ARCHIBALD brothers
The Maori had a track from Port Molyneux to Clinton, going via Glenomaru, Romahapa, over a saddle to the Puerua Valley, over the Waiwera saddle to the destination
THE LATE Mrs GEORGE (Jane) HAY , a Strenuous Life Closed
Otago Daily Times 8 January 1908
... On the last day of the year there passed away at Romahapa a link connecting the present with the past history of Otago, in the person of Mrs Hay, relict of Mr George Hay. She was 96 years of age, born at Keith, Banffshire, and arrived by the 'Ajax' (Captain Young), January 6, 1849. After spending six weeks in a tent at Port Chalmers, she, with her late husband, sailed in an almost open boat, the Jumping Jackass, for Port Molyneux, and was landed near Willsher Bay. She had with her her young infant son John, who afterwards became chief surveyor of Otago. The landing was a thrilling experience, old Makariri, Willsher's wife, taking charge of the baby through the surf (see WILLSHIRE, George above). For a few years the home of the Hay's was behind Willsher's place, where they lived a happy and simple life. The day's food was largely found by their son Willie, by shooting and fishing. For 54 years her home has been at Hilly Park, Romahapa. She leaves behind her three sons and two daughters, 50 grandchildren, and 30 great-grand-children. Mrs Peter Miller, of Dunedin, is one of her daughters, and Mr W. G. Hay, solicitor, her grandson.
Many a time in the early days had Mrs Hay walked all the way to Dunedin and back, some 65 miles (104km) each way. On one occasion she carried her infant son James all the way.
At Tokomarario the river was so flooded that a Maori moki (MOKIHI, flax raft) had to be built to carry the party over.
Many a time the writer heard from her own lips her experiences - experiences that would astonish the younger generations. From those early days until the present, Hays' homestead has been noted for its generous hospitality. Many a wayfarer enjoyed the cheerful welcome and hearty homely comfort of Hilly park; and in those early times of colonisation a centre such as that was a blessing that it is now impossible to estimate.
Mr William Hay, the deceased's eldest son, has been a member of the Clutha County Council for 27 years, and chairman of that body over and over again.
Her daughter Jane became the wife of Mr John Begg of Lochnagar, in the Highlands of Scotland. Her late Majesty, Queen Victoria, became deeply attached to her, and on the death of Mrs John Begg some 10 years ago the London papers alluded to the esteem and friendship that had existed between her Majesty and Mrs Begg.
The funeral which took place recently at the Puerua Cemetery, was one of the largest ever seen in the district, a great many old settlers being present, among them being
? the Hay family
? James Paterson and sons
? Mr Shiels
? Mr Jenkinson
? Mr Bullock
? Mr Tilson
? Mr McLay
? Mr McIntosh
? Mr Lindsay
? Mr Wilson
? Mr A. Melville
? Mr McVicar
? Mr Latta
? Mr A. Saunders
? Mr Thomas MacKenzie, M.P.
? Mr A. Simpson
? Mr McLaren
? Mr Wyley
? Mr G. Smith
? Mr Abernethy
? Mr J. Hutton
? Mr R. Sinclair
? Mr Jackman
? Mr Peter Miller
? Mr Murray
? Mr King, Maori Chief
and many others.
The Rev Mr Dalrymple, M. A., officiated at the house and grave. The volume of the Scriptures from which he read had the following on its first page:- "To Mr George Willsher, Molyneux harbour, New Zealand, from Robert Cole, M.A., minister of the Church of England for the district of Wellingtin, May 18 1844"
The late Mr George Hay died in 1876, and now, after 32 years, his wife is laid to rest by his side in the lovely Puerua Cemetery.
The "passing" of a good woman like Mrs Hay, full of years and full of honour, conveys no feeling of sadness. She was ripe for another sphere. The service at the grave, with its surroundings, might with truth be called beautiful. The gentle and scholarly clergyman read and prayed with feeling and devition. The sun shone brightly overhead, and the air was full of the music of birds and the perfume of Nature's trees. The kowhais, totara, black pines in and surrounding the cemetery were perfect in their beauty; while immediately behind groves of rata were bursting into a gloriuous crimson, the background being filled in with almost untouched native forest
? John Hay, THE LAD FROM ROMAHAPA
? SOUTH OTAGO
PURAKAUNUI FALLS, 33km south of Ramohapa, Otago