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Title: McIlrath, James L to McIlrath family, 1862
CollectionThe McIlrath Letters: A family history in letters from New Zealand to Ireland (1860-1915) [Bassett, McKee et al.]
SenderMcIlrath, James L
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationcattle driver
Sender Religionunknown
OriginCanterbury, New Zealand
DestinationKillinchy, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
RecipientMcIlrath family
Recipient Gendermale-female
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count1068
Genrework, prospects, local economy, account of the country, acquaintances
TranscriptCanterbury, September 8th 1862

Father Mother and Brothers,
I received your letter dated 22nd June and was sorry to hear that you
father had been ill but happy to hear that he is feeling better again.
Your fears about us I am glad to inform you all was groundless we
are in good health for my own part I never was better you would not
believe that I am about 11/2 stone heavier than I was at home. It is a
fact that I received your other letter on the 21st May and I sent it to
Hamilton as he was thinking of writing home, I think he has wrote to
you before this if you would write to him every second letter he would
have a better chance of writing than waiting until I send them to him.
We did leave the digging as we were afraid of the winter and well we
did for it was a very severe one indeed both frost and snow. There
was double the frost in one night than ever I seen at home. We both
were placed directly. I had a letter from Hamilton. He was saying we
should buy some land and I am glad he is in the same mind as myself.
I don't know that we should live on it if we had it but we can not put
the money to a better use. We can buy good land for £2 an acre free
for ever flat and clean and we can let it on a purchasing clause. Many
comes here with family and is not able to buy land for themselves.
They rent it at a low rate of about 3 shillings an acre with a purchasing
clause that is they pay the rent for 5 years at which period it is theirs
for £5 an acre which is a good percentage for money expended on land
and if anything happens in case of nonpayment of rent or refusal of
purchase their improvements such as houses, fencing, breaking up
and the like is the landowners. We intended to buy 100 acres for a beginning, land will be valuable here yet. There is some carrots on
the place where I am about 41/2lbs weight, the second crop without
manure. I am about 40 miles from Christchurch managing a dairy
station of 50 cows. I have a horse to ride and my work is to take out
the dry cows and fetch in the ones at the calving. Sometimes they are
calved and then it is a task to get them in from the wild cows. There
is no fences here in this run there is thirty thousand acres, there is
about 1200 cattle 12000 sheep and about 100 horses not to
mention the wild pigs that are here in any quantity and turns
the land up for acres together in search of roots. The run holders has the land from government for about one penny per acre
and some less it depends on how they stock it. The more stock
the less rent - but any person can choose a piece of that land
where he likes and buy it from government at £2 per acre which
is the price of all government land title crown grant. The places
here is from 5-10 miles apart there is not a house in view but one
solitary shepherd's hut and that is on the other side of the river. I have
been here six months and I have not seen above 20 different persons
since but we are never less alone than when alone, I feel as happy as
a king, I have not been to Church, mass or meeting but twice since I
left home and that was in Australia. There is not a house of worship
within 25 miles of me. I used to have some queer notions about religion
and you need not be surprised if they are queer still (such as no
personal Devil yet Devils many) I have Nature in her truest form and Revelation for my guide and with God for friend and Father I may
be little worse than many who like the Parson's horse find their way
to the church gate but then they leave their religion behind and if far
from church be near grace. I am far enough from church but I sincerely
believe New Zealand is as near heaven as any country. But for
the people in it I can not say. You say there is a great many leaving for
here I suppose Ireland will soon be abandoned altogether. I hear it is
in a disturbed state up the country they have not forgot their old tricks
they will be useful here to fight the Maories I hear the Secretary of
War is for taking the soldiers from here and leaving the colonialists to
fight for themselves. I have not seen Thomas Lemon nor Hans Shaw
but I have seen a McClellan of Drumreagh that came with them I
have not seen William Cooper yet I would much like to see him. I
have seen William Gourley and family. He lives in Christchurch I
have also seen David Moorehead Mrs and Mary Ann Moorehead now
Mrs Skilling she is married to Sam Skilling. I have seen Robert I
believe they are all here now I have also seen Thomas Logan William
Adams John Heron and Thomas MaColloch. Miss Martin and Miss
Thomson I met in Christchurch and thought I should know them but
was not sure until later Miss Thompson was married to James Shaw,
he is dead. Sarah McCafferty is married but I don't know who she has
got. Mr W Jas Alexander is well he is a young man the longer I know
I think the more of. We are all the same as brothers when we get
together we can enjoy a good chat and the discourse is generally about scenes at home. I was sorry to hear of our Aunt's death. Hamilton
never got that letter that I know of. When you write to me please add
L or Logan to my name as there is another of the same name on the
next station. He has opened three I got from Hamilton Christchurch
Canterbury will find me at any time. Hoping you are well.
I am yours affectionately

James L Mcllrath