Gallops – and they’re off and racing! 11th November marked the beginning of the NZ Cup and Show Week 2017 in Canterbury. Every year during the middle of November, Canterbury celebrates the province’s anniversary holiday.

Will you be going to the A & P Show or having a flutter on the horses? I love the gallops events at Riccarton Park Racecourse. The thrill of their speed pumps my adrenaline.

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The tiger ate my arm is no excuse!

A Canterbury trooper, 3rd New Zealand Mounted Rifles (Rough Riders)
A Canterbury trooper (not Leopold Acland), 3rd New Zealand Mounted Rifles (Rough Riders), preparing to depart for the Boer War (1899-1902)
This amazing story from World War I raises the “dog ate my homework” excuse to a whole higher level. “The tiger ate my arm” is no excuse for missing military service it seems. How would that play in these PC and health and safety conscious times? Leopold George Dyke Acland (1876 – 1948) was the author of a well known series of books – Early Canterbury runs and served in the First World War despite having lost an arm in a tiger attack.

Acland lead an adventurous life. He began his working life on high country stations Mt Peel and Cracoft Station. He then bought Glentanner Station near Mt Cook.  He served in the Boer War with the 3rd New Zealand Contingent known as the “Rough Riders”. In 1902 he joined an expedition to New Guinea.

After the war he sold Glentanner and briefly owned Lavercost Station at Amuri. He sold this in 1906 and went on a tour to India where he lost his left arm in a tiger attack. Acland’s obituary in the Press described the event. Acland, an English officer and an Indian sergeant major set out bait for a tiger that had been attacking local people. They managed to wound the tiger but while tracking it were suddenly attacked. Acland was dragged away by his arm and only rescued when the sergeant major managed to kill the tiger. Asked what he felt he replied “Oh! I felt no pain but what worried me was the stinking breath of the beast after it had been feeding on dead horse”.

From India he went to Japan and managed a shipping office in Kobe. After a trip on the trans-Siberian railway to Moscow and St Petersburg, he went on to London and then back to New Zealand buying more sheep stations – Braemar in the Mackenzie Country followed by North Clumbar at Hororata.

At this point the First World War came along and despite his missing arm he joined the Army Service Corps and won the Military Cross at Gallipoli. The NZASC was not usually a front line unit, providing logistical and administrative support, but at Gallipoli geography changed that. The army would not normally have taken a one armed man on overseas service but Acland had past army service and good connections so that was probably how he managed it. His later army service  on the Western Front was on the staff of General Alexander Godley (nephew of John Robert Godley) who was commander of the ANZAC troops at Gallipoli and later on the Western Front. Acland rose to the rank of major, was mentioned in dispatches three times and was awarded the O.B.E.

Digitised map used to illustrate The early Canterbury runs Other stations he owned during or after the war included Loburn and Cecil Peak. He continued farming part of North Clumbar. Early Canterbury Runs was published in 1930 and revised in 1946 and he wrote numerous newspaper articles. He was famed for his wealth of stories (not all of them printable) about early days in Canterbury. He married his childhood sweetheart in 1935. In later years he lived at Hororata.

This man surely deserves a book and somehow dying at Number 50 The Esplanade Sumner, in 1948,  seems a rather tame ending.


Thanks to Richard Greenaway who asked the question of Te Ara “how come he was allowed to serve in the military?” and Te Ara for forwarding the fascinating information about Acland’s military record.

Those wonderful men with their farming machines

Farming has its heritage along with the rest our society, and its technology has a bit of fascination even for us townies.

A lot changed in terms of technology in a short time in the twentieth century. It always amazed me that my father went to church in a horse and buggy in his childhood, and that he saw men landing on the moon. That’s a lot of change for one lifetime.

PhotoIn farming terms it was perhaps as startling. He worked a horse team as young man and never lived down landing the whole lot at the bottom of a gully when ploughing on a steep hill.

Perhaps that was the reason he just loved farm machinery. He was the first in his district to obtain a header when they became available, a huge step up from threshing by hand and the threshing mills. He used to bring in the cereal crops for the whole district.

Not everything was such fun though. The first tractors had metal wheels with metal lugs on them and metal seats – as you can see on tractor in  this photo – and they were hell to spend all day driving on. In good New Zealand number eight wire style, our farm yard used to be littered with machinery which was originally horse-drawn and had been adapted to pull behind a tractor. The machine being pulled here looks very familiar.

It is the traction engines I remember most though. As now, they emerged from retirement at every agricultural show and sometimes we saw them still in action on farms in our district. Wonderful behemoths that even a science fiction writer could not out do.

Browse the farming images in our collection.

Hurrah for the country life

The Selwyn District collection of heritage photos contains some wonderful glimpses of country life as it used to be. An imposing collection of hats lines up at the annual ploughing match in Waddington in 1909.

Oat stacks as art form. A reminder of skilled farm work.

The collection of photographs of the Selwyn district
is from the Weekly press and the Canterbury times between the 1860s and the 1920s. They have been produced as a joint project between Selwyn District Council and Christchurch City Libraries. They were photographed from the newspapers by Stephen Wright.

Boys of the High Country

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live on a farm, miles away from any town with only your family for company?  For some people this may be your worst nightmare, but for Ben and Mark Smith this is a life they love.  Ben and Mark: Boys of the High Country is a great new book from Random House New Zealand, written by Christine Fernyhough and John Bougen that gives an interesting insight into life at Mount White Station in the Canterbury High Country which is managed by Ben and Mark’s parents, Richard and Sheri.  The book illustrates what life is like for the boys who have grown up helping out on the farm.  It is filled with information on farming life, such as the animals they look after, their daily routines and what they do for fun. 

The easy to read text and stunning photos make this a great book for children and adults, and would be a wonderful educational resource for teachers.