Rev'd Cameron Pickering
I spent the first three weeks of my time back on the Mainland at a friend’s house. Joined by Victoria we managed to move into a furnished house in Lyttelton in mid-December. An interesting day December the 16th for making landfall in the port town, as it was December 16 1850 the Charlotte Jane landed in Lyttelton, followed in the afternoon by the Randolph, the following day the Sir George Seymour, and ten days later by Cressy. This is the closest my rather ‘less than established’ family lineage can get to The First Four Ships.
When we arrived, I remember thinking (in delusions of grandeur not unknown to my wife of her husband), like those first pilgrims, C of E to the bone, we were setting out on an adventure. To build up the body of Christ, proclaim the Good News in word and sacrament, enjoy tea, and plant oaks and willows. (You can leave the sycamores – jolly things seeding everywhere at presently in our new suburb!) We really enjoyed our time in Lyttelton, as I have serving alongside you all in the Parish of Merivale St Albans.
Of course, in making some connection to those first British migrants there are not a few glaringly obvious differences. I had driven the length of the North Island in a little over a day, Clive (the setter) perched up in the back of the Landy, a stop for a coffee here, a pub lunch there. Those 19th century immigrants were confined to a ship which in the case of the Sir George Seymour measured about 43m in length, 6.9m in depth. All this with up to 210 passengers on board allocated differing personal space depending the fare they had purchased. The journey from Plymouth to Lyttelton being 99 days.
If go a step or two back in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand we see Polynesian migrants arriving in these lands via arduous routes across the pacific. Their navigational skills exceptional, with only the most rudimentary of technology.
All this to get me thinking of our ‘confinement’ in the coming weeks as nothing short of ‘bleeding luxury’ compared to that of those ancestors/tupuna who settled this land. We have a resilience in our history which we ought to remember and draw strength from.
The three people and Clive who make up my bubble have an 800 sqm property to freely roam. With the adjoining RedZone as a ready-made promenade for autumn afternoon exercise. And walk we have done in relative seclusion yet freedom. Amidst the fruit trees and specimen trees of River Road, and Avonside Drive which used to demarcate the quarter acre sections of this suburb. It is a virtual street plan, without houses, or driveways, and it is very pretty, picturesque even when we consider the toll the earthquakes which caused this nature reserve took on the not only the inhabitants of suburbs like Avonside, but Cantabrians as a whole. We feel very blessed at this time.
As part of my rambling recently I sat for a while were the Avon River loops to form the Oxbow near the Gayhurst Bridge. I was quietly taken aback thinking of what had been there before, and how now nine and ten years on you wouldn’t comprehend the physical destruction and emotional distress which gave rise to the peaceful vista about me. We are not only resilient on our ancestral past, so too are we much more recently.
I think it is okay to acknowledge the fears and anxieties presently. Better still to talk to one another. We should also not pretend that whilst unprecedented in our time, there is novelty in having to work together to overcome seemingly stacked odds. Polynesian, and later migrants did. Cantabrians of the earthquake sequence continue to, and we too now take courage we will emerge from the circumstances in which we currently live, and love.
One of the passengers aboard the third ship which was to land at Lyttelton (on December 17, 1850) was Henry Jacobs. He is an interesting fellow and there is quite a lot of information about him available online. Charterhouse, Queen’s College Oxford, and for the Canterbury Settlement conducted the service at the opening of first church in Christchurch. By the time the settlement had its first Bishop appointed he had been a Professor at Canterbury College, Headmaster of the Anglican Boys School, Vicar of St Michaels and All Angels, and became our first Dean.
Although there are parts of 19th century poetry we rather weren’t there, as in Jacobs own poem below where the undeniable achievements of Maori civilisation are underplayed. If we acknowledge them as of their time, and so reinforce our nuanced appreciation for colonial history, they can still speak to us.
The other day, in lockdown, on the banks of the Avon, reflecting on the vista about me, the journeys we have all taken and will continue to take, the journeys of the past, Jacobs spoke to me afresh.
I include his poem for your reflection.
Fies nobelium tu quoque fontium. -Horace
I love thee Avon! Though thy banks have known no deed of note;
thy wand’ring course along no bard of Avon hath poured forth in song thy tuneful praise;
thy modest tide hath flown for ages on, unheeded and alone.
I love thee for thy English name, but more because my countrymen along thy shore have made new homes.
Therefore, not all unknown henceforth they streams shall flow.
A little while shall see they wastes grow lovely. Not in vain shall England’s sons dwell by thee many a mile.
With verdant meads and fields of wavering grain they rough uncultured banks ere long shall smile; Heaven-pointing spires shall beautify thy plain.