Emigration To New Zealand

An extract from a letter by Mary Ann Hunter, now in the possession of Ruth Hunter. Additional material by Maureen Brook.

Mary Ann Hunter emigrated, with her family, to New Zealand in 1862. This letter is written to Andrew Johnson, the shoemaker at Henshaw and great-great- grandfather of Ruth Forster, who now has the letter. Andrew Johnson was a leader of the Henshaw Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. Many of the descendants of the families she mentions in her letter still live either in the village or in the surrounding area.

Kemvera (?) New Zealand April, 1867

Dear Friend,

It is now four years since we arrived in New Zealand andwe have only one letter from Mary Liddle to tell us how you are all getting on about Henshaw. It seems such an age since we parted from all the people,the companions and friends of my childhood and at last in despair of getting a letter from anyone else I now write to you. We wrote once to Mary Liddle and she sent no answer to it so we did not write again to her.

We live about two(?) miles from Auckland at a place called Kemvera. Mother keeps a grocer's shop. I have been living at a place until just lately and now I have come home and go into town every day to learn the dressmaking, as I tired of being at service, though from 6s to 12s the common wage, I had 9s a week and I was 3 years in one place. But the servants do not work half as hard here as they do at home, such a thing would never be thought of as a woman going out to work in the fields and, as for milking cows, that is a man's job and the women in general would be scared of spoiling their fingers.

The Maoris as a race are very savage and they have got a new religion they call the Hawau and they run round a pole and all sorts of nonsense and they have had missionaries among them and two Church of England ministers that had been with them for a long time they one day took them prisoner and horribly murdered one of them but the other managed to escape.

Thatched House Henshaw

Thatched House Henshaw

It is fearful for anyone to fall into the hands of the rebels but the people of Auckland are not in the least frightened. We feel just as secure here as you do in Henshaw but I must bring my letter to a close. Give my kind love to Mrs. And Mr.Ridley, if they live there still; to Bob English, the Hendersons, old Willie Thompson and family, Mary Smith, the Cooks of the Highshield, Willie Cook, Margaret Robinson, Jane Johnson, John Sharpe and all these old friends when you see them and to Jane Dent if you see her. Then there is the Pattinson girls, the Armstrongs, Margaret Bell and, in fact, everyone, that is to say all my old friends, not forgetting old Parker, give my kind love to him and tell him I often think of my school days and how often I think of you all and wonder how you are all getting on, if you are still the same or how much are you changed? And then there is Mary Liddle and Sarah and Jane, tell Mary to write and not forget, give my best love to them and in fact to every one I know.

Dear friends think of and pray for us sometime, and if we never meet again here on earth may we meet in heaven. You will perhaps want to know whether we are all happy, taking everything in general we are. Mother is very little changed, she is much the same kind-hearted woman.

Write next mail, please and tell me about everyone. I have sent you my portrait but it is not much like me as I look so sulky. Give my address to anyone who will be friendly enough to write and once more, farewell and accept my love from paper and believe me,

Ever I remain,

Your sincere and affectionate friend,

Mary Ann Hunter

Census returns for 1861 (before the familiy emigrated) record Mary's mother, also Mary Hunter, as a farmer of 27 acres living at Archey's Flat. She was a widow with three children - Mary (aged 12), John (aged 8) and William (aged 4). Obviously, the Widow Hunter remarried - the "father" her daughter refers to is actually her stepfather.We have no idea what happened to Mary after she wrote this letter.