Letter from P. Wilson
dated Xmas. Day 1848
Xmas Day 1848
My dear McLean,
We shall have an opportunity to-day of drinking your good health; and wishing, for our own sakes, your speedy return to New Plymouth. For the Wanganui Kings, as of old, are to take their dinner with us; all except Dan Samuel, who always came on the day after; though, as he is now a married man, he may not mind being pestered with the everlasting olacking of the women folks. This will be the seventh anniversary, and would have been the eighth, but for the circumstances of the Wanganui men scattering our forces.
Only fancy our folks having become infected, by Wanganui example, with the mania of horse racing; and this day week, of 1st of 1849, is to be unhallowed by the first exhibition. They have got a very good two-mile course out at the Moturoa, near to the whalers' sections. They came to me for a subscription, but I gave them such a phillipic on their folly that they went away more yes than no disconcerted at
their reception. No lack of ready subscribers to horse races, but closed purses to all matters of utility. Where is the Mechanics' Institute? Where the Waiwakaio bridge? where a thousand other objects that are wanted, and might benefit the settlement? But if the blockheads wanted a day's field amusement, why not have instituted an agricultural feat, such as ploughing, mowing, reaping, etc.? and no risk of making themselves gamblers and drunkards, and blacklegs by the experiment. One industrious fellow might have gained a plough; another a pair of harrows; a third something else to forward him on in agricultural life; and so on, to the utter exclusion of public house benefit; and to the saving of our gentry from making asses of themselves. The only argument that was urged to me was that they had Races at Wanganui; and my rejoinder was a silencer. Wanganui abounds in two classes, - first, - Officers who have nothing to do either with their time or pay, but glad to get rid of both in any way that promises to purchase them a respite from ennui, being as old Horace says, the mere "fruges consumere nati" of society; and secondly, - civilian settlers who have made lots of money by the said soldiers sojourning among them. But whence come
our funds for the sustaining of such folly? And where is our time to devote to it? This is an industrious community, earning its livelihood by the sweat of the brow. Therefore every idle inducement that is presented, having a wayward tendency, merits reprobation. Besides, what want we with blood racing weeds? We want good heavy Clevelands that can carry our honest men to market, or drag a cart or plough, as occasion may require. We must make a dead set against this horse-racing; and you may tell Sir George from me that he cannot render the Colony a better service than by discountenancing it also; and recommending in lieu agricultural and cattle shows, ploughing matches, and all the other et ceteras of farming emulation. Now if you want matter for a really useful Official, here you have it.
You went away in your usual hurry, and forgot to give me a note of introduction, or recommendation, to Tamati Williams, - the great Chief of upper Paradise. But I have got a chap of Tapuae, who promises to cut down some bush and fern for me, say 4 acres, which I wish to lay down in grass; and I do not see that I can conveniently do more this season.
I hope Mr. W. Fox has listened to the prayer of my letter, regarding the hundred acres due to me.
He had better let sleeping dogs lie, for most assuredly I shall not be done quietly out of my right, where the Company to award me ten times over 750 acres, by way of compensation; and I know who will be the greatest loser in the long run. But I by no means wish again to be pitted against the Company or its Agents. But if they will drive me to extremities, let them eventually blame themselves.
My prickley pears at Omata are doing most remarkably well. None of you understand or appreciate as yet the value of this species, to the Colony; but speaking from experience in Spain, I may say that, ab origine, there has not been a more useful esculent introduced into the Colony.
I ride your mare occasionally. I found her at first, sadly given to starting on the road; and in terrible panic for the consequences. She therefore must have been cruelly badly ridden, for since I took her in hand, treating her quietly and gently, she starts very little; and when she does, I lay the reins on her neck, let her look at the affrighting object, and then she goes, ashamed of her timidty. Lady Charlotte and her colt present themselves in front of us daily. She is as fat as she well can be;
and so is her young one.
I presume this will find you somewhere in the vicinity of Wanganui, so I shall direct it to you there.
Mrs. W. and Pat desire their kindest remembrances, and I remain,
My dear Mac,
very sincerely yours,