Scots Abroad: Stories of Scottish Emigration

Letter of John Salmond, 1865

Letter of John Salmond to his brother-in-law, Captain David Simpson of Rosemount, Arbroath, describing his life in New Zealand. Karnford, 27 October 1865:

Dear Brother

One mail time has slipped by therefore, to day I must make an effort. But how strangely this feeling on the brain indisposes me to do anything requiring physical exertion. The spirit indeed is willing, but truly the flesh is weak.

Your short note from Melbourne afforded us much pleasure, – your safe arrival there – opportune meeting with David – your kindly helping of our old neighbour Mrs. T. furnished us with happy thoughts.

Many thanks for the photographs enclosed. This of yourself is I think an excellent likeness. It brings you back again to us, and we almost fancy that we should hear playing on our ears the sound of your cheerful voice. I need not repeat the gratifications I had in your short sojourn with us, but I frequently express my belief that if you could have staid with us but a little while the liveliness and cheerfulness of your temperament would have quite electrified me into at least a higher state of bodily convalescency. 'A cheerful spirit doeth good like a medicine' so we read and so we often experience in life. David's photo, indicates him to possess plenty of courage & push. We will hope that some time or another we will see his face. He has not been successfull at the Auckland diggings.

Well, we who have the experience of a few more years know, that though to the generous and aspiring heart of young manhood, the lines of providence seem often very unequal and very hard yet without these adverse things laid across our way, we could never experience the higher discipline of life – could not taste its more delicious fruits – the superior gratifications of overcoming adverse things – by power of faith obtaining mastery of our position in our life's work and subserving even the promotion of good by the making even of the evil things to tend to that end. Blessed are those young men, who taking heed to their way, order it exactly after the prescribings of the Sacred Word.

In spirit, I follow you onward and homeward in your pathless course, and trust that you are now enjoying not merely agreable but also good Company. Hope you have encountered no serious gales. Here our Vernal Equinox has been as yet more moderate than even is usual.

Enclosed is Mr Adam's communication. The price of farm land in settled districts seems at present to range from say £1-10 to £6 or 7 an acre, according to varying Conditions.

By and bye, I will fancy myself in vision seeing you making preparation to 'bundle and go'. I desire to remember myself again to Mrs. Simpson and wonder if ever I will have the pleasure of shaking her by the hand, and rendering to her hospitality for hospitality. When I hear of the Arbroath folks making tracks for New Zealand, we will plant an extra patch of potatoes, that so in the words of the Good Book we may have plenty of "Corn and wine and oil and flax and wool and also we hope halesome hearts to give to you a cordial and substantial welcome to Otago.

Since you left Otago, the flax dressing industry is being entered into with great eagerness. If it is a permanent success it may really inaugurate a new industrial era on the Colony. The export of flax may soon equal if not exceed the export of wool. Besides it would give remunerative employment to large numbers of work people of a class not so well suited for the heavier & rougher work of field Culture, and to keep up and increase our home Colonial consuming market. Of the great strength of the fibre there can be no doubt, and I think also that its durability should be equal to, if not greater than the European. With what care the European grower of flax pulls his lint exactly at that stage of ripeness that furnishes to him the best quality of fibre. Now it is a well known fact to us old settlers that the pieces of rope used as "leg ropes" for tying back the cows for milking, which is constantly wet and dry – made out of mellow ripe flax leaf is by far the most durable rope. I think it likely that all the decomposing acids by the slow ripening process of nature will be completely eliminated from the leaf. I dont know but I think it is at least a five if not a seven year leaf. This may account for its past character of deficiency in durable qualities. For in all liklihood "leaves green and grey" would be indiscriminately taken to dress and make into rope. I hope ere long to see the hills and the valleys of Otago covered with flax plantations and the pleasant hum of numberless water-wheel flax-dressing mills greeting the ear in every direction.

My affectionate regards and kisses to our nieces. Will they not be enticed I wonder to this land and climate so pre-eminently suited for the Great Anglo Saxon race – will they not think of coming to help to lay the foundation and to build up the fabric of a goodly and great nation of men worthy of its honourable ancestry. Think of us ladies and pray be advised.

'All hail' to our nephews Pat and Joe when you see them again – from us. Let them think of the Little Britain of the South. Necessarily almost we must grow into a maritime people. Our coasting and inter-colonial trade must rapidly increase year by year – and the very curious configuration of the country itself – hills and valleys and streams of water in such profusion – indicates our future destiny on land and the scene of great manufacturing operations. Hence the splendid field for engineering genius. But enough for this first. Hope I will be able to write you again soon.

Yours truly

John Salmond