A FATAL FIRE. (BY TELEGRAPH .) Dunedin, March 5.
By a fire at Toira, near Balclutha, early yesterday morning, four of the young children of James Christie, farmer, lost their lives. The servant girl had to rush out of the house, being almost suffocated by the smoke, and says she had not time to save the children,
FULLER PARTICULARS. The Otago Daily Times reports: Information was received from Balclutha last evening of a sad fatal fire, about 5 o'clock on Sunday morning, at Toiro, by which four of the youngest children of Mr James Christie, farmer, lost their lives. The children, with a servant, slept in a small cottage of four rooms, the children occupying one room, and the servant the other. Mr and Mrs Christie slept in another house, a new one, some 300 or 400 yards distant. About 5 o'clock in the morning the servant was awakened by the smoke, and, finding the place on fire, at once directed her attention to saving the children, the youngest of which was only about three years of age, white the oldest was about eight. She caught up the youngest child, and was rushing out when the little thing jerked itself out of her arms. The servant girl had to rush out of the house herself, being almost suffocated with smoke, and the four children were unfortunately burned to death, The fire is supposed to have orginated in the vicinity of the range, but that is not quite certain, nor is anything known as to the cause of the outbreak. Needless to say, very much sympathy is felt for the parents in their sudden and awful bereavement. The house and furniture were insured in the Royal Insurance Company, but the amount cannot be ascertained. -North Otago Times, 6/3/1900.
FATAL FIRE AT TOIRO.
THE INQUEST. An inquest on the remains of four children of Mr James Christie (who is well known throughout this district, having unsuccessfully contested the Mataura seat against Messrs Richardson and McNab in 1893), burned to death at Toiro on Sunday morning, was held on Monday. Mr Christie stated that he had no idea as as to the origin of the fire. Saturday night was the first time he and his wife had slept away from Keithmore while the children were there. Lonie Walker, the servant girl, deposed that she went to bed about a quarter to ten on Saturday night. Before doing so she banked up the kitchen fire by putting a shovelful of coal and a shovelful of ashes on top. She thought she shut the door of the range, but could not be certain. The floor of the kitchen was wood, and a sheet of iron covered with a bag lay in front of the range. When awakened by the roar of fire in the morning the side of the room next the kitchen was on fire. She jumped up and found the house on fire. Being unable to get in at the door of the children's room she went round and raised the sash of the window and got inside. Went to the cot for the baby. Got hold of her, but she jumped out of witness' arms. Being almost suffocated, she was obliged to go out of the window. The side of the room next to the kitchen was then on fire. Ran to the hut and wakened Hugh Ross. Witness slept in a room across a passage from the children. When she got to the window she heard the eldest boy speak. Asked him where he was and he replied that he had got out of bed to see where his father (who used to sleep in the same room) was. The fire was strongest near the kitchen. The children's room was full of smoke, and quite dark. She made another attempt to get in at the window, but the room was full of fire. Hugh Ross, who slept in the men's hut, said that on being wakened by the girl Walker, he rushed to the house and pulled off some of the weather boards, but could not get in for the fire. The jury returned a verdict that the fire was purely accidental, and that no blame was attachable to anyone. -Mataura Ensign, 8/3/1900.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8,
At 12 o'clock sharp.
IMPORTANT CLEARING SALE AT KEITHMORE, TOIRO.
The N.Z. LOAN & M.A. CO. (Ltd.) Have received instructions from Mr James Christie to sell by public auction at above time and place, all his stock, implements, household furniture, and sundries, consisting of —
12 Draught Mares and Geldings, 3 to 10 years old
6 Hacks and Light Harness Horses
5 Milch Cows
200 Sheep, Ewes, and Hoggets
1 reaper and binder, 3 drays, 1 waggon, 1 spring cart, 1 gig, 1 buggy, 2 d.f. ploughs, harrows (4 and 6 leaves), swing plough, seed sower, drill plough, drill grubber, quarry tools, carpenter's and blacksmith's tools, 2 sledge huts, disc harrows (10ft), and other implements, tools, harness, and sundries too numerous to particularise.
Owing to domestic reasons, Mr Christie has disposed of all his interest in Keithmore and every lot will be sold without the slightest reserve. All the horses are in first-class working order, and sound and staunch, while the implements are mostly new, and in good condition. The Berkshire breeding sows are an especially good lot.
Owing to the large number of lots to be disposed of, the sale will start punctually at 12 o'clock.
N.Z. LOAN & M.A. CO. (Ltd.), Dunedin. THOS. McDONALD, Agent, Balclutha. -Clutha Leader, 24/7/1900.
IN BANKRUPTCY. Thursday, Februarv 7.
(Before His Honor Mr Justice Williams.)
RE JAMES CHRISTIE, OF TOIRO, FARMER. Motion for payment of money by a creditor to the official assignee. Mr Thornton appeared for the official assignee; Mr Hosking for the creditor, the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company. In support of the motion, Mr Thornton said it was for an order asking the Mew Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company to pay over to the official assignee the sum of L3I9 15s, the balance of moneys now in their hands as the result of a sale that took place on the 8th of August, 1900. The grounds of the application were — (l) That on the morning of the 8th August, and prior to the sale, Christie committed an act of bankruptcy, and that prior to the sale the company had notice of the bankruptcy; (2) that the powers of sale conferred on the company, as granted by instrument duly registered, over certain chattels of the said Christie, had been exercised and exhausted by the company a long time prior to the 8th August — viz., on or about the 22nd April; (3) that the instrument by way of security was fraudulent and void as against the official assignee, for the reason that in the schedule thereto the chattels mentioned were not described in accordance with the provisions of "The Chattels Transfer Act, 1889," and, so far as it related to stock, such stock was not described by some brand or other mark as to be reasonably capable of identification.
Mr Hosking said that, to save time, he might state the position of the company at once. They claimed all the live stock on the farm at the time they took possession. They claimed, in addition, the implements on the farm at the time the bill of sale was given. Subsequently acquired implements they did not claim, but he did not include, in subsequently acquired implements the implements Christie bought in at the first sale. The implements he bought in at the sale in April 1898, would remain subject, he contended, to the bill of sale. It was really no sale at all, as it was a purchase by himself.
Evidence was given in support of the motion by John Henry Brown (sheriff's officer), James Christie, Andrew Todd, Charles Turnbull, and Charles C. Graham (official assignee). No evidence was called by Mr Hosking. Counsel addressed the court, and further hearing of the case was adjourned to the sitting in Chambers to-day. -Otago Daily Times, 8/2/1901.
THE TRANSVAAL WAR
A cable message has been received in town from South Africa to the effect that Quartermaster Christie, of the Fourth Contingent, who belongs to Toiro, near Balclutha, and who was a member of the B Battery, has accepted a commission as second lieutenant in one of the regiments attached to the South African field force. -Evening Star, 18/6/1901.
The official assignee announces a first and final dividend of 3s 9d in the pound on all accepted proved claims in the estate of Mr James Christie, Toiro. Otago Daily Times, 22/6/1901.
WITH THE BUSH VELDT CARBINEERS.
IN THE NORTHERN TRANSVAAL.
(By James Christie.) No. 1.
After many days I find myself away in the north of the Transvaal in the bush veldt country — a country only just recently occupied by the British. I am writing this in the bush 25 miles out of Pietersburgh, where a troop of 22 of the Bush Veldt Carbineers are located along with two companies of the Wilts Regiment. Our horses are picketed in a mealy patch (about an acre and a half), surrounded with brush, on the bank of a stream, which runs in a small rivulet deep down in silt and gravel, and only shows itself where there is a rocky fall. We are in a "nek," and hills rise on both sides covered with small trees and prickly scrub — but not very dense — right to the top. On the tops are being built sangars and rifle pits. The days are very hot, and the nights cold and long with heavy dews and frost. None of us have tents and we Carbineers sleep in the open behind the horses on the mealy patch, which has the advantage of being soft and sandy. The only game I have seen in a patrol from Pietersburg to here were a hare, a rabbit, and two, what I'd call paradise ducks. There are said to be any amount of monkeys, snakes, etc, a little further out, but I have not seen any yet. We are a mixture of all sorts, shapes, and sizes, and comprise New Zealanders, New South Walers, Victorians, Canadians, West and South Australians, Queenslanders, West Indians, Cape Colonists, Natal men and Boers — who are fighting against their own people, and who only can speak English with difficultv, though one of them rejoices in the name of McDonald. Londoners, Shetlanders, Scotchmen, and men from the States are all represented, so we are a motley crowd. Most of the men have seen service before, and represent almost all sorts and conditions of society. Our Lieutenant is a short, squat, rubicund-hued English Colonial, who has not, so far, troubled us with drill or unnecessary work. Our sergeant is an Africander, who has served through the war in the Imperial Light Horse, and our corporal is a Scotchman, who has been five years in Cape Colony. The majority of the men can speak Dutch or are able to converse in it and also in Kaffir, which is very handy on patrol. We sent in five Boers under escort yesterday, captured without a shot being fired, and every day nearly there are a few caught. There is reported to be a commando of 200 near here, and yesterday we had a Kaffir chief brought in to arrange with him for runners and guides. He is a little fat old chap, and drove up in a very dilapidated daisy cart, with a miserable, skinny horse, and escorted by half a dozen mounted men of his own tribe on equally skinny mokes. He accepted a chew of tobacco from me in quite regal style. He had a fine sjambok with him, but I could not get on a trade. He was dressed in European syle except that his shirt hung out of his trousers in quite a negligent style. This part of the world where we are to be for 10 days, is only being now entered into by the British, and the railway line to Pietersburg from Pretoria has only been recently opened for traffic being held by the Boers, and the authorities apparently left this part to the last in the hope that the Boers would fall back and congregate here and further north. We were expecting to be attached to Plumer's column to the north of this, where a company of our regiment is, but the 50 men who came up country with me are split in two and the other troop is camped some 16 miles from here, so that our patrol comes in contact with their patrol every day. I have seen some of the Sixth N.Z. Contingent but none I knew. They were escort to some 40 prisoners. We passed them in the train this side Pretoria. From all accounts we heard that the Boers were foodless, shoeless, and with only a few rags about them through which the wind whistled 'Rule Britannia,' but the squad I saw with the commandant were well set up, and with jolly good comfortable clothes, while the commandant sported velvet cord riding pants with buckskin strappings, and looked healthy and well. Our tucker so far has not been bad. We have fresh meat mostly when in camp, and sometimes bread; at other times it is bully beef, McConnachie's road rations, jam and biscuit. The horses are a miserable lot; we got a lot of culls — weedy, half thoroughbred, ponies — about 13 hands high and very low in condition. Some of them are Argentine horses and out of our troop here there are, say, three or four stallions. Mine is one, and it is no stretch of imagination when I say it would be no great effort to carry him. We have the promise of others, however, very shortly. It seems a shame to see a big 6ft 3in man, with his kit and a day's rations for himself and his mount on top of one of these creatures, — yet even mine has done wonders except that he has an inclination for devotional exercise at most inopportune moments. We expect as we get further back to commandeer some horses, but the samples seen go far leaves us little room for hope. This sort of warfare is now the most dangerous for patrols as there is so much scrub that one cannot see any distance ahead or on either side, so one never knows the moment a bullet may send him to kingdom come, and with all that we get careless. We are likely to get a lot of hard work with no glory at all, as unless we can locate the commando in the mountains there is not likely to be anything but sniping. We are armed with the 303. Lee Enfield Magazine rifles and carry 50 rounds in our bandoliers and another 100 in our holsters. I am in a mess with the corporal of the troop (a Scotchman), a New South Wales man, a Cockney, a York, a Southland chap, and a halfbred Dutchman; and a Kaffir boy to attend to our cooking at L2 a month. I am in good health and have so far contrived to let them see New Zealand and the New Zealanders are not to be sat upon, but there are none in the crowd I have chummed up with except in the sense of stopping in the same tent in camp or messing together in the field. All the country about here is goldbearing to a greater or lesser extent, and should be good grazing land for cattle, of which some fine herds were recently commandeered. Our transport mules are good, and if we had great-coats and good horses we should feel happier. I am wearing the C.M.R. leggings instead of putties, and though I used to swear at them in the corps, I find them the most useful of any kind here. Being wide and comfortable, I have part of a scabbard of a bayonet fixed inside, and this carries my knife, fork, and spoon, while towels, handkerchief, comband various other trifles are carried in them. I have only had my boots off once a week to change socks since I donned khaki and ammunition belts, and I can sleep on rocks with only a waterproof sheet under me as comfortably as on a spring mattress, while the bed on the mealy patch I have just now is pure luxury. -Clutha Leader, 11/10/1901.
In this report from South Africa can be found clues as to James' state of mind while leaving his home and homeland.
WITH THE BUSH VELDT CARBINEERS.
IN THE NORTHERN TRANSVAAL
(By James Christie.)
Still in the same old 'nek' with no excitement except that to-day we got our first mail and I had two letters from Warepa, but no papers. We are just in from a parade when it was read out in orders that the Commander-in-Chief is pleased to recognise our services, and General Plumer is highly satisfied with the fighting capabilities of the squadron of B.V.C's. attached to his column. This brings my news down to date, but I long for a paper to see what is going on in far away New Zealand, and the world at large.
There is no paper published in Pretoria, which is a half finished sort of town with real good buildings and tumble down shanties side by side. No footpaths to speak of, and you may at a street corner find a drop of two feet from the so-called pavement to the street, while verandah posts are in the middle of the path and an open waterrace in the middle of what is left of the pathway.
If you want a few notes of my doing since I left the Clutha, they might be summarised as follows: I left Toiro on March 8th, en route for Dunedin, and found I had a hope of getting a passage to the Cape in the S.S. Otarama and went on to Lyttelton on Saturday by train and left there on Tuesday 12th. Had no time to say good-bye to anyone and even when I left Dunedin was not sure I was going. I signed on the articles as a deck hand, and got amongst a mixed crowd, I can tell you. You know the Otarama was famous over the murder case when I left, which happened on board her at Port Chalmers, also by the train load of cargo for her that was wrecked at Port Chalmers by a collision, by three firemen getting locked up at Timaru, and three more at Lyttleton on account of refusal of duty. However I got on not so bad, and was not sea sick or anything, and we only had one squall when off the coast of Australia, and 16 days landed us in Freemantle to coal. I took a run up to Perth, 12 miles 1s return, and saw the lions of the city, which is rather a pretty one from an architectural point of view and they can give New Zealand a start in railway management, though I don't like their small side carriages. The land here I have no time for, it is all sand. Saw some of the Sixth West Australians and talked shop to them; they were waiting for transport. The vessel took in some 600 tons coal, and we got away the following evening with four new hands in place of four who had run away, and next morning we were richer by two stowaways who, after being threatened with all the pains of hell and jail were introduced to a 'banjo' — a coal shovel — and set to work. All the way over we were pretty well working coal, and did not do any ship work, except wash down about every second morning and on Saturdays, while we got a tot of rum every day. The tucker was, on the whole, fair for sailors, but a lot was spoiled by bad cooking after our cook got laid up and the chief steward was put on in his place. The first mate was a real good sailor and a man who knew work and when it was done. The captain never saw anyone in his peregrinations about the quarter-dock. The other officers were only visible on the bridge during their watch. On the whole I got on well with the men, and some of them turned out not bad sorts When we got to Durban, 21 days out from Freemantle, I got leave to go ashore and got my discharge there instead of Capetown as the plague was rife at there. I landed on a Friday morning, got a first-class discharge from the skipper, went up from the port (which was crowded with shipping, and 12 steamers lying off at anchor waiting their turn) to Durban about a mile in a 'rickshaw' and had a look around. Saw there was no chance of getting a pass up country unless I volunteered, so looked out, for the one giving the best terms. Started with the Imperial Light Horse, Darnell's Artillery, Prince of Wales', Johannesburg M.R., Cattle Rangers, Pioneer Railway Corps, and hosts of others. Found Steinaker's Horse offering 8s a day, and had a confab on the subject. Seventy-five per cent. had to be able to talk Dutch or Kaffir, and the field of operations was near Delagoa Bay, a most unhealthy locality; besides most of the recruits were foreigners of some sort. So I had a go at the Bush Veldt Carbineers, seven bob a day to oversea colonials, and signed on, and was examined the same afternoon, so you may be sure I was hustling round. -Clutha Leader, 25/10/1901.
THE SHOOTING OF BOER PRISONERS.
AN EYE-WITNESS'S ACCOUNT.
SOME STARTLING STATEMENTS.
(SPECIAL TO "THE PRESS.") DUNEDIN, April 11. The Clutha "Leader" to-night publishes a continuation of the narrative of "An Eyewitness" of the events that led to the trial, condemnation, and execution of Lieutenants Morant and Handcock, of the Veldt Carbineers. The following is an extract from a letter as written at Port Edwards, Spelonken, in October last: —
"We heard Boer waggons to the south and east of us, and presumed, as usual, that they were trekking in to surrender. We had been some four or five days out of camp, when the Corporal told eight of us that we were to go out and bring in three waggons with four men with them, and some women and children. We said; —
" 'Leave them alone, they are trekking up this way out of fever country, and will come in.'
" 'No,' he says, 'we are to go out. None are to be brought in.'
" 'What do you mean?'
" 'Oh,' said he, 'We've got to blot a lot out.'
" 'What! Shoot kids?'
" 'Yes, of course.'
" 'Whose orders are those?'
" 'Never mind, that's orders.'
"We all pooh-poohed the idea, but he told us seriously that such was the case. Then I opened out, and asked him what sort of men did he take us for. Others chipped in, but he still adhered to his statement, except that he softened it by saying if we brought them in we should have to feed them. I was for no such duty. He said he could get plenty more. Next day the patrol went out, and the sequel was that two children were shot dead - one three and another nine years, and a girl of nine was shot through the neck, and the lobe of her ear taken off. Some cows were also shot. This was done about eight o'clock at night, and, although the men and women called out that they surrendered, the firing still went on, and when finally it ceased the above were the casualties. With the exception of three men all the others told me before they went out they would not fire on the women and children. They were albout 200 yds or 250 yds off the waggons when they opened fire. Next day I was ordered out, with a Transvaaler called Cootzee, to go to Koodoo River and take over the waggons from Corporal Ashton and take them to the fort. I left camp and met the waggons. There were a lot of armed Kaffirs with the party, who had taken part in the firing, and who had looted the blankets, utensils, etc., when the firing ceased. The Boers never fired a shot. When the Lieutenant saw the extent of the damage he said (this was told me):
" 'My God! I didn't think this would happen.'
" 'What the ---- did you think would happen if you fired at women and children?' said Hampton, an outspoken Londoner. 'You won't get me on an outfit like this again.'
"Hatfield, a bluff young sailor of Nova Scotia descent, bound up the wounds and helped to stop the bleeding, and told me he had seen some sights in his time, but he felt more sick over this business than anything he had ever been mixed up in. The Boers were made to inspan in the darkness and trek away, in case the firing might have been noticed by some other Boers, and a dead infant and a dying one were put on board and trekked away to where I was to meet them. The second boy only lived two hours, and the grief of the parents was loud and pronounced. The three waggons now contained four men, four women, and twenty-two children (all of tender years), and two dead bodies. Father Piet Grobler asked leave to bury them, and a coffin was made out of some boards lying about the store. The Kaffirs were put on to dig the grave, and the men themselves made the coffin. I felt we were round what was one of the saddest sights of the war — sad because quite unnecessary.
"On the last day of our trek I was some two hours, ahead waiting for them at noon, when I heard some news which turned me sick. The eight Boers I previously mentioned had all been shot by three officers, a non-com. and two privates, under circumstances which led me to the conclusion that it was not a fair deal, and that some foul play was at the bottom of it. They were surrendered men, and had no arms, and then I thought of my little lot coming along, and the danger they were in. I cannot describe my feelings. My informant was a neutral man, and of course would not speak, but later on I had afternoon tea with his wife, and got, though she was cautious, something of the story. I decided to trek still further that night, but did not let my refugees know the real reason. We halted, outspanned, and lit our evening fires, but slept not that night. I remembered how the six Boers who had surrendered and were said to have attacked our men had all been shot. I remembered Van Buren, one of our own men, being shot while outflanking. He was supposed to know too much. Now here were eight blotted out, and the same old yarn — that they had gripped at a rifle and fired at our men, and in a melee all were shot, no casualties on our side, and here was I, coming in with another lot, and 'just within firing line,' as we called it. At daylight a captain, the officer commanding the district, and a native commissioner; Balala (murderer, the natives called him) drove at full gallop in a buggy and pair and asked how my men were. I explained I had a wounded girl in the waggon.
" 'How did that happen?'
"I told him our men opened fire on the women and children, and two little boys had been killed.
" 'Indeed,' he queried; 'you had better keep that quiet.'
"He looked at the girl's wound and gave me an order to see the hospital doctor. Heard too, that a missionary who had been up at the hospital with a patient had been shot dead on his return at Bandolier Kopjes. He had been present just before or immediately after the eight men had been shot; that one of our lieutenants had left the fort after the missionary secretly; was seen by the grazing guard to go in the direction the missionary had taken; that the lieutenant returned to the fort late, etc., etc. Much more I weeded out of him.
"We inspanned, and were moving off, when I sighted that same lieutenant and two men galloping up after me. My mind was made up that though it should be a crisis in my life I should shoot that lieutenant if he opened fire on my charge. He galloped up with two men. When I saw the men I knew they were out for no good purpose, for both of them would always do as they were told, though they had no fancy for it. However, the hospital was too close, and I was told to go on to the fort. I said: —
" 'Very good, but I have my orders from Captain — —.'
"He looked as if he doubted my having seen Captain — —. 'Go on' he said, 'and I'll catch up on you.'
"The Boers, who saluted him, not knowing his nature, seemed hurt that he did not recognise, or in any way notice them. By-and-by up he came, and then conversation took place between him and me, starting with the shooting of women and children, and its unfortunateness.
"'Oh,' he said. 'They had no business there,' and went on to argue in an ignorant, brutal way, that they should all be shot.
"I kept back my feelings; that he had been mixed up in what were pure and simple murders, and argued on broad grounds that conduct such as we were pursuing would give the corps a bad name — would, in fact, made it a hissing and a reproach on the army. He went on to say that they were justified in shooting everything in sight, but it was a long yarn, and I got emphatic, and argued that once a man put his hands up he could not be shot, unless after a proper trial. All this time I held my rifle across my saddle bow, and if he had dared to put his hand to his revolver I would have dropped him like a buck. The man I found to be ignorant, and a cowardly bully. I forgot for a moment I was speaking to my superior officer, and expressed regret, etc. When he wanted me to go back and see the donkey waggon, I said: —
" 'Oh, it's all right,'
" 'It's not all right," he said.
" 'Well' I said, 'it's come about 100 miles, and no one has looked after it, and it's not likely to run away now.'
"However, I called out on Cootzee to wait for the donkey waggon. Thinks I, my fine fellow, if you think to get me away from these waggons you have struck the wrong party. That was how the others were always 'done in.' A party came out from the fort. 'Oh, you can go home, we'll take the waggons in.' The result was that every one of the surrenderers were butchered. 'Not me, I'm going to take those refugees in, or there will be a scene.' And take them in I did, and then I learned fuller particulars from some of my chums as to the goings on. The arrival of the refugees, and my safe arrival, were the cause of much joy amongst a section of us who did not hold with the carryings on. As our mates were coming in with another lot, we speculated on their success, and how we could get word out to them as to what had taken place. But to no purpose. We were watched like hawks by officers and their minions, but we swore that if anything came over 'Charlie' and 'Jake' we would 'hands up' officers, and put them in irons, or, if necessary, take the law into our own hands, and shoot them. The trouble was to get a sufficient force of our view to take such a step. One had to move warily in the matter.
"The night I got my lot in it started to rain and blow, and the men were to be taken and put in a cage barb wire enclosure about 20 feet by 10 feet, with an iron roof. I offered to guard and be responsible for them in the waggons. All of no use. The sick man was, however, left in the waggon. The others were put in the cage and a guard with fixed bayonets put round them. It blew and rained all night. Some of us got some sacks and cavalry cloaks for them, and they sat and shivered in the rain all night, and these were the men who had come in and voluntarily surrendered, and whom we had escorted for five days through the veldt without a guard. It turned some of us sick to see the treatment meted out to them. The next morning they were to trek for Pietermaritzburg, put I was not allowed to go with them. I told them that they could take the sacks — three of them were my own, as it was still raining. Soon after an officer came to me in a tearing passion, and wanted to know what right I had to give Government property to prisoners. I told him that some of the sacks were mine, but that if I had given away any Government property inadvertently I would get them back, so I went and got two Government sacks back. The corporal fell out with me for taking them back, and said, 'If he (the lieutenant) wants to get you and me into a row, let him, I'll put him up as high as a kite.' And so we took comfort in the fact that together we would help to hang him before we were much older, unless we shot him. At the time of writing our mission is nearly fulfilled, for he is in 'clink' with seven others, charged with murder."
The "Eye-witness" in question turns out to be James Christie, of Clutha, who got his discharge from the Bush Veldt Carbineers with first class references, and has since joined the district military intelligence at 10s a day and found. The Clutha "Leader" further states: — "We notice a paragraph in an exchange that the Bush Veldt Carbineers are now known as the Pietersburg Light Horse, from letters of which we have had a perusal we think this is hardly correct. The Bush Veldt Carbineers were disbanded entirely some time about September last. Those members who were held as witnesses in connection with the charges against the officers were temporarily attached to the Pietersburg Light Horse headquarters, pending the court-martial, and a few others joined voluntarily. We do not think there is any other connection between the Carbineers and the Light Horse." -Press, 12/4/1902.
This story was found while searching for James' unit name. Picton is reported and having been cashiered (an old term, surviving from the days when officers' commissions were bought) after being found guilty of manslaughter at the same trial which condemned Lieutenants Morant and Handcock to death.
HOME AND FOREIGN
AWARD OF MEDAL CANCELLED. The award of a medal to Lieutenant Picton, while a Corporal in Loch's Horse, and prior to his Lieutenancy in the Bush Veldt Carbineers, has been cancelled. -Press, 8/5/1902.
LETTER FROM MR JAS. CHRISTIE.
Mr James Christie, writing to a friend in Balclutha, from Pretoria, under date July 19th, says he got his discharge from the Field Intelligence Department four days previously — a very good one, also a letter of recommendation from the officer commanding. He says this should go to show that the representation of the C.M.R. was upheld by him, and the kudos he gained from his superior officers he takes as due to the good training he received in the corps. His officer commanding writes: "I have pleasure in stating that while a member of the late Bushveldt Carbineers you performed excellent and daring service, earning a very high character as an efficient scout. The district in which you operated was a difficult and vast one, and called forth very arduous duties, in all of which you acquitted yourself most creditably. I had pleasure in mentioning your good work in despatches of Nov. 14th, 1901." This he wishes placed to the credit of the C.M.R. Mr Christie says he thinks he will come back to New Zealand. Pretoria and Johannesburg are full of men looking for billets; said to be 30,000 in Johannesburg, looking for work. He landed at Pretoria after a three days' train journey, and put up at a hotel. He was unfortunate enough to get the whole of his kit stolen from the hotel. It contained all his private papers, and some interesting and valuable curios. He made a claim of L50 against the proprietor of the house, and a court case was pending. He met Tom Gawn, and says be has developed into a tall, stout chap, and is looking well. South Africa agrees with him. Large numbers of Boers with their families may be seen in the trains going out to their farms. They are in open trucks, and are an interesting study. In Johannesberg crime is rampant, and for a time matters will be in a critical stage, till the unemployed difficulty is settled. — Kind regards to all Clutha friends. -Clutha Leader, 29/8/1902.
James returns home.
At Balclutha on Friday evening a complimentary supper was given to Mr James Christie by a number of his friends as a welcome home to him on his return from South Africa. The Mayor presided, and Captain Watt, of the Clutha Mounted Rifles, occupied the vice-chair. The evening was spent in reminiscence of the early history of the Clutha Mounted Rifles, of which Mr Christie was a foundation member, and the doings of Clutha friends whom he had met in South Africa.
Mr Christie, in response to the toast of the guest, of the evening — proposed by the Mayor and spoken to by his neighbours, some of whom had known him from boyhood — expressed the pleasure it gave him to meet again in social circle all those with whom he had been associated most intimately in business life, as neighbours, as well as those with whom he had been associated longest in local societies, and with the Clutha Mounted Rifles. He regretted that Mr Thomas Gawn and Mr W. F. Dunne were not present that night to share the honour done to himself, and then the joy would have been complete, as both these Clutha men held honourable records for work, both military and civil, in Johannesburg and Pretoria respectively, and had left a name behind them which, was a credit to themselves and to the Clutha district. As to whether he would settle down again in the Clutha district as had been so earnestly hoped by his friends, the matter was under consideration, but whether or not he would ever have a kindly remembrance of those true-hearted neighbours who, in years past and now, spoke so kindly and sympathetically of him. He had gone to South Africa "on his own." There was no intense patriotic feeling burning within him, but a change after the dark days of five years ago — when all that he treasured was lost to him for ever — seemed imperative. Amid fresh scenes and strange people a new page had opened up to him. The free open-air life agreed with him, the spice of danger was just the thing he liked, and though he had the credit of being a reliable, daring scout he would say that very often what gained him the greatest credit was done simply as a matter of duty without great thought of any attendant danger. In Pretoria after the war, when an Overseas Colonials' Association was mooted, he had joined in but when that project fell through he joined heartily in the founding of a New Zealand Association, pure and simple, and that association was from the start a success. He took no credit for that success except as a unit of the club. His regret was keen on leaving Pretoria, where he had met many sterling men — Maorilanders in particular, — but the call homeward when his work was finished was clear. The record he had left behind him was a clean one, for he had never forgotten to uphold the best characteristics of the true-born New Zealander, the honoured name he had inherited, and the corps to which he belonged.
Several toasts were proposed and responded to. Mr D. Murray (Glenfalloch) responded for "The Agricultural and Pastoral Interests," and trusted their guest would see his way to settle down with them and take that keen interest he had always done in the local Agricultural and Pastoral Association. The rise in wool meant a big increase in the wealth of the colony, and on the whole settlers had nothing to complain of.
Mr John Christie, president of the Farmers' Union, gave the toast of "The Clutha Mounted Rifles," which had such a worthy record for good men who went to the front, and had left some of its brightest and best members to sleep for ever in South African soil — viz.. Captain Harvey, "Buff" Smythe and Bob Lang.
Captain Watt responded, and said that though the corps in point of numbers was not much below what it had always been, they were a steady, earnest class of men. There were a few of the old type of hard-riding, fearless, clashing horsemen still in it, but when he recalled the earlier days, when their guest was leader in all the reckless feats of horsemanship, he could almost wish again to have their camp livened up with some "real willing goers" across country.
The musical portion of the programme was assisted by Messrs D. Munro and J. Deaker, while Dr Fleming and Mr J. Landells contributed recitations. Mr Christie, by special request, recited Kiplings "East and West." Lieutenants Grigor and McKay, Messrs T. Gawn Senior, J. O'Hara, A. Moffat, (Kaihiku) and others, in addition to those mentioned took part in the proceedings, which terminated at midnight in "Auld Lang Syne" and the national Anthem. Mr Ludlow provided an excellent repast for the occasion. -Otago Witness, 25/1/1905.
The question arises at this point - where was Florence McAdam Christie, James' wife, in all this? A clue can be taken from the following detail in a 1900 story under the headline "A Meeting of Creditors": Mr Gascoigne appeared for the bankrupt, Mr Thornton for Mrs Christie and Mrs McAdam, the mortgagee, Mr Cook for the late Wm. Christie's trustees, and Mr Brugh, of Balclutha, for Mr Hogg, Toiro. (Clutha Leader, 24/8/1900).
It seems that James had borrowed money on the farm from his mother-in-law. It is possible that Florence took her mother's part in the matter ("all that he treasured was lost to him for ever") and this, on top of the fire deaths made his departure to South Africa something more in the way of an escape. If so, James' "escape" might be the reason for the use of Florence's maiden name on the family headstone.
THE COURTS. TO-DAY
SUPREME COURT. — IN BANKRUPTCY.
(Before His Honor Mr Justice Williams.) James Christie, of Toiro, farmer. — Motion for order of discharge. Mr. Solomon, appearing in support of the motion, said he understood that the Official Assignee’s report was favorable. — His Honor said that was so. The debtor seemed to have been before the Court for four years. — Mr Solomon: Yes, he has been to South Africa. — The order was granted. -Evening Star, 8/5/1905.
The 'Bruce Herald' has teen taken over from the present proprietor, Mr R. L Pyke, by a private company, at the head of which is Mr James Christie, who unsuccessfully contested the Mataura seat in 1893. -Lake Wakatip Mail, 8/5/1906.
Not long after this appointment, an unusual death notice appeared in the Bruce Herald and also Dunedin papers. It is odd in its wording, which echoes the epitaph in the children's grave. It is very odd, in my experience, as appearing eight years after the event. Had James and Florence managed to come to some kind of personal arrangement, not quite reconciliation but at least an agreement on how their children were to be remembered?
CHRISTIE — On Sunday morning, March 4, 1900, at Keithmore, Toiro, Alison James (nine years). Douglas McAdam (seven years), Fowler Stewart (five years), and Helen Baxter (three years), children of James Christie and Florence McAdam.
They felt no sword. They drank no cup.
'Twas but God's shadow on their face,
As low He stooped to lift them up.
They were beautiful and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.
And the City shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets. -Bruce Herald, 5/3/1908.
MR JAS. CHRISTIE.
FAREWELL AT MILTON.
Mr James Christie, who has been editor and manager of the Bruce Herald for a period of over four years up to June last, and who is now to sever his connection with Milton, having been appointed teacher at the Puketiro School, on the Catlins railway works, was farewelled by the people of Milton on Thursday night, and a large and representative gathering of about 70 residents of' town and country, in the Bruce County Chambers. The Mayor (Mr J. A. Duthie) presided. During the evening Mr Christie was presented with, a handsome gold chain and pendant, and a Bruce rug. The pendant was inscribed "Presented to Mr James Christie by Toko friends, 25/8/10." The presentation was made by the Rev. J. C. Small, who was most complimentary and appropriate in his remarks. Besides the Mayor, Mr Thos. Hitchen (President of the Farmers' Club), Mr J. W. Petrie, Mr Hall, Mr D. T. Fleming, and others spoke of Mr Christie's many good qualities, his energy, ability, and common sense, and joined in the general regret at his departure from Milton, and wished him a full measure of success and happiness in his new sphere. Amongst the apologies was an appreciative telegram from Mr James Allen, M.P. On Saturday evening Mr Christie was the recipient of a further gift from his friends in Milton, this time a case of Loewe pipes and tobacco pouch, from his boarding companions in the Bungalow. Mr John Parlane made the presentation. It is quite evident that Mr Christie stands high in the estimation of the people of Milton, and goes away carrying with him the good opinion and best wishes of a very wide circle. Clutha Leader, 30/8/1910.
Online searching led to a photo of the school that Mr Christie took over, with a parade of pupils and teacher in front, dated 1910. I'm not able to show it for copyright reasons, so here is a link. Is James Christie the bowler-hatted teacher in front of puketiro school?
Further searching of local cemetery records found another child of James and Florence buried in the Northern Cemetery plot. The report of the fire does state "four of the youngest children" so it was not a big surprise to find Monica, who was born in 1900 and died in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. In the photo below she is first on the left, having won a piano duet prize.
|Photo: Otago Witness, 26/9/1917.|
CHRISTIE. — At private hospital, Dunedin. Monica Aldosthe (of influenza-pneumonia); born 1900, died, 9th November, 1918. Fifth and only surviving child of James and Florence McAdam Christie. -Otago Daily Times, 11/3/1918.
Mr James Christie, headmaster of Loburn school, died last Friday, aged 57 years (says the "Dunedin Star") He was for a number of years engaged in journalism, and was at one time, connected with the "Waimate Times," "Clutha Leader," ''Otago Daily Times," and "Bruce Herald." Deceased once stood for the Mataura seat at a Parliamentary election, but was defeated. He was a prominent member of the old Clutha Mounted Rifles, and was a capital shot. He was in the South African war, joining up with the Bushveldt Carbineers, whose misdeeds towards the close of the war were graphically depicted by him. He had been in charge of Loburn school for five years. Press, 15/2/1921.
Florence lived in Dunedin and ran on a Labour ticket for the City Council and Hospital Board in 1925 - she was unsuccessful. Her address in the cemetery records is a Dunedin one but the newspaper report of her death states that she died at Waitati. Was it at the "inebriates home" there, or am I being unkind - her burial record shows a Dunedin address. She lies beside her five children.