The First Fencibles arrived in 1847

Howick historian Alan La Roche continues his fortnightly column which provides some very insightful glimpses into Howick’s past in this, its 170th year. The area is preparing for big celebrations on the 175th anniversary.

On November 15th 1847 the first ship-load of Fencibles, from the Minerva, were transferred to the Government brig Victoria, with their wives and children and were brought ashore at Waipaparoa-Howick Beach. Near the Uxbridge stream on the tussock covered shell flats, two temporary 100 foot long sheds, one for women and children and another, well separated, for men.

They had been quickly erected by four carpenters and nine labourers from the Minerva and the Sir Robert Sale [who included Scotsman Lachlan McInness from a well-known family and John Trimmer, who later ran the ferry boat to Auckland] who were sent to Waipaparoa–Howick beach 10 days earlier to prepare for about 800 new immigrants.

The accommodation was promised to be “good and comfortable but all unnecessary expense was to be avoided”. James White called it “an apology for a pig sty” as gaps were filled with bundles of tea tree or raupo.

There was a sergeant in-charge of each building, family cooking areas were allocated, and all lights out by 9pm. Some preferred to sleep in the nearby bracken fern. A few found tents. Some women put up sheeting screens for their family. They were told in Britain that a two-roomed wooden cottage would be ready for them plus a quarter of their acre allotments cleared ready for planting. Nothing was ready for them! But it was better than life back in Ireland during the Famine.

Within a few days the St John’s college vessels Undine and schooner Marian arrived with timbers for All Saints Church, and Joseph Hargreaves loaned his bullocks and cart to carry them up the hill. The church was to have been taken to St Stephens School in Parnell but there was a greater need in Howick.

Rev Fisher and Rev Lloyd took services until Rev Lush arrived in December 1850. Vicesimus Lush saw the Minerva after leaving Auckland taking ballast to Hong Kong on December 2nd. The All Saints School started in October 1848.

In May 1848, the Roman Catholic church schooner, bringing timbers for their school and temporary chapel, ran into a storm and was wrecked near Howick. Fr. Antoine Marie Garin, the first catholic priest arrived on 2nd January 1848 to organise those in his care. In the last year he has been nominated for sainthood by the Catholic authorities.

Before Fr. Garin arrived Captain Alexander MacDonald probably took their Sunday services, as he had done on the Sir Robert Sale. Fr. Garin immediately planted grapes in his Picton Street allotment for communion wine. He had a horse and cart, hens, a cow, and bee hives plus two Maori assistants. The Government gave him 3/- (three shillings) a day for care of his horse. Fr. Garin became the Howick community leader accepted by all denominations.
The wooden “Our Lady Star of the Sea” church was erected in Picton Street 1854 beside the school classroom. The wooden church was replaced by a larger stone building in 1960.

Alan La Roche, MBE, Howick Historian.