(This is a reprint of an article that first appeared in "Highland Fold News" Issue No 5, 2003)
Over the years various parties have made a number of claims and counter claims, as to exactly when the first Highland animal set foot on New Zealand soil. The absolute truth of the matter is clouded in deep mist heavier and thicker than the worst possible night within the Glens of the High Vales. It probably needs to be accepted that finite and irrefutable proof will never be firmly established. However examining and debating the merits of each case over a ‘long dram’ on a cold night makes life a little more interesting. The following case never the less requires serious consideration.
Tim Murray, a retired Mackenzie Country runholder who after retirement lived a Pleasant Point in the South Island, until his death, presents one of the more solid cases for the New Zealand First. He clearly recalls that in the 1920’s his Grandfather Mr George Murray, who at the time owned Braemar Station in the Mackenzie Country, imported direct from Scotland a number of Highland Bulls and Cows.
Tim’s own father, Mr Bruce Murray, sailed to Scotland to select and purchase the animals. Once his task was completed, he then hired an experienced Scottish Cattle Shepherd to look after the stock on their boat journey to New Zealand. Tim Murray cannot recall the exact date involved and his Grandfather’s diaries were destroyed by fire, but Donald Burnett of Mt Cook Station, who was a lad at the time, can recall the excitement on the wharf that the Highland’s arrival created. Tim goes on with his story saying that the cattle were transported to Braemar Station where they were bred in fenced paddocks and in that situation were easy enough to handle. However, when let out to higher blocks of the Station, tended to revert to their original wild demeanour.
“My Grandfather decided to send them down country to his Temuka Farm to fatten them but getting them to the Temuka saleyards and then railing them from Temuka to Addington was something of an ordeal. The Highland cattle proved to be quite cantankerous and I recall being told that my Grandfather purchased beer at the Temuka Pub to give to the handlers to provide them with Dutch courage. The cattle eventually arrived at Addington and were sold but, as soon as they were put with other cattle they went berserk, one rushing across a Christchurch backyard, through the back door of the house and out the front - to the owners consternation”.
Tim Murray remembers that the Christchurch stock agents, Matsons, politely wrote to his Grandfather saying that they were happy to continue to do business with him but “please do not send anymore Highland Cattle”.
Reproduced from Highland Fold News: Issue 5