The Mahurangi Magazine

Select Page


Mahurangi was one of the more fortunate of the Auckland settlements. Only thirty nautical miles from the capitaluntil 1865, it was able to develop, in spite of the absence of roads. The traffic in the tideway was the lifeline of the settlers, from the earliest cutters to…

read more

Art of the chartmaker

During his voyages of 1833, Henry Williams records scrambling to the south end of Kawau ‘to take bearings of the various islands points etc. around us’ and climbing Motutapu ‘to take similar bearings around the Waitematā.’ We are reminded…

read more

New Nova Scotia coast

Sheltered coves and good timber were prerequisites for shipbuilding. These the Mahurangi coast had in abundance, but the third ingredient was shipwrights. Outstanding among the pioneers of the industry here were the Scots immigrants from…

read more

Boatbuilding begins in the Mahurangi

Some of the first vessels to be built in the Mahurangi may well have gone unrecorded, since registration was a little haphazard in those times. But it is clear that the first shipwrights established themselves after the Mahurangi Purchase of 1841 and…

read more

Early end to 1800s Mahurangi boatbuilding

This substantial boatbuilding activity at Mahurangi declined in the late seventies and died in 1880. The reasons do not appear to be local. It was not due to lack of human or material resources. The original major builders had died or grown old, but…

read more

Cutter era

Although Mahurangi settlers were not far from Auckland, the journey overland was arduous and to be avoided. By water it is only thirty nautical miles to the Waitematā, via the semi-sheltered waters of the…

read more

Steam comes to the Waitematā

In the wider world, the great age of steam was well under way, a product of the inventive spirit of British engineering. As railways crisscrossed Britain in the 1830s, the first steamships were being built, and were destined to have a profound impact on global navigation. The first…

read more

Steam comes to the Mahurangi

Henry Pulham in 1889 recalled the beginnings of steamboat service to the Mahurangi. He said the cutter Francis was the only means of getting to town, although for some weeks in 1855 the steamer Wonga Wonga ran here. Some settlers were persuaded…

read more

Casey’s empire

After these three abortive starts, the honour of establishing the first lasting steam service to the Mahurangi fell to the paddle steamer Lady Bowen. Her owner was the Irish entrepreneur, Jeremiah Casey, born in Cork in 1820, son of a farmer. Around 1845 he married Anne Millbank, daughter of a…

read more

Deadly rivals

The Rose Casey was bought late in 1888 by Alexander McGregor, who had just left the management of the Northern Steamship Company (which he had founded in 1881; see later). He kept her on her well-established runs, advertising at New Year 1889 improved services and weekend…

read more

Lifeline of the north

The Northern Steamship Company was the brainchild of Captain Alexander McGregor, another shipwright, mariner and entrepreneur of the Nova Scotian breed, who had come to New Zealand by way of Australia. In 1847 he built a small schooner, the Random, in the bay that bears his name. He then…

read more

Mahurangi elegant punt

On the Mahurangi, getting to work, to school, or to social events; meeting the steamboats, cream launches or neighbours; or bringing home necessities such as firewood, usually meant rowing, often for miles at a time. Some of the more epic rowing stories are told in the next chapter. For the shoreline families, a good…

read more

Extraordinary rowers

Importance of good rowing boats to the settlers is emphasised in the previous chapter. A number of rowing stories survive which deserve inclusion here. In these days when most boatmen appear to need an outboard to get from the beach to their…

read more

Life aboard the Kasper scows

I left school at 14, having passed standard sixthe ‘proficiency exam’, then the culmination of schooling at year eight, and went to work for Warnock Brothers, the big soap people at Grey Lynn, wrapping up sandsoap. I stuck it out for about four months and then joined my brother Jim at Donald Brothers fellmongery. This meant…

read more

Memoirs of a scowman

The scows out of Auckland are a colourful part of the history of the province, and have an enduring fascination for latter day sailors. The hardy scowmen were seldom given to literary expression, and most of their stories died with them. We must be…

read more

Kauri logger to back aboard

Tudor’s apprenticeship on the Kasper scows came to an end during the First World War. He went into camp at Trentham and had sailed for the front when the troopship was turned around by the armistice. Tudor went back to the family home in…

read more

As mate of the Jane Gifford

When I was on Jane Gifford with my brother Reg, we would leave Warkworth if the tide was favourable at 3.30 am. Reg would go down to the Collins’ home by the Masonic Hall, bang on the door to waken me, then return to the boat and heat up…

read more

Receive Mahurangi Magazine updates

Join the mailing list to be notified of new pages.

Thank you for subscribing to Mahurangi Magazine!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This