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by Doreen McBride
"Frustration! I peered out of the bus window through the gloom. The rain was coming down in what Ulster people would describe as stair rods. Spectacular scenery obscured by weather. Just like home. The rain had a soporific effect. Jet lagged I slept. An unknown something caused the bus to lurch.
Relaxed I nearly fell off my seat and awoke with a start. What was that? Puzzled I strained my eyes out the window. What was that? A whin hedge complete with bank and ditch. How amazing. I was reminded of Ulster. Twelve thousand miles from home people, with the same ancestry as myself, had settled as pioneers in 1875 and fenced their land as they would have done in Ireland.
George Vesey Stewart, the leader of the colony, confessed in his pamphlet "Notes on the Origins and Prospects of the Stewart Special Settlement, Katikati", published in Omagh in 1877, to liking the old fashioned ditch-and-bank fence found at home because "it is permanent, offers shelter and gives a prettier and more homely landscape".
How touching to find the type of fence Stewart liked still in existence in New Zealand more than a hundred years later. Admittedly Stewart preferred quickset white thorn to whin but the thorn quicks proved susceptible to a fungus disease. They did not survive in their new environment. The whin thrived."
This article examines the Ulster connection to New Zealand, looking at the Katikati settlement.