Unpacking the Kists:The Scots in New Zealand, by Brad Patterson, Tom Brooking and Jim McAloon (Otago University Press, 2013), 412 pp., $70
In the nineteenth century John Polson, my maternal great-great-grandfather, downed tools as a cooper in the herring trade in West Helmsdale and said goodbye to his family at their croft in Marrel, a neighbouring village in Sutherlandshire, Highland Scotland, and sailed for New Zealand/Aotearoa. He arrived in Lyttelton in 1862 and sailed on to Port Chalmers. By chance a fellow passenger, contracted to walk a mob of sheep to Morven Hills Station, fell ill during the journey, and John, with apparently little experience in shepherding, manned up for the gig. Perhaps he travelled the Pig Route to the Maniototo Plains, or alternatively on a track the miners took to the goldfields, starting in Outram, West Taieri, on to the Lammermoor Range at Rocklands, and across the Rock and Pillar and over the Knobby Range, descending to cross the Manuherikia River near Alexandra, then on to Tarras and the Lindis Pass to meet John (Jock) McLean, one of the first leaseholders of Morven Hills who, according to John’s grandson Ian Polson, ‘saw his mettle and employed John as a boundary rider on the spot’.