Thursday, 23 September 2021

James McKerrow, explorer and namer


                                                                                                           
During my 3 week holiday, I spent time travelling through the country that my Great Grand Father explored between 1861-63 at the head of Lae Wanaka and Wakatipu.
Above we see the Routeburn, Caples, Rock Brun, Beans Burn, the Rees and the Dart valleys he explored, surveyed and named. Photo: Bob McKerrow.
The west and east peaks of Mt. Earnslaw. Photo: Bob McKerrow. Photo: Bob McKerrow

James McKerrow was a prolific namer of features he surveyed. Over the years I have tried to climb, walk, raft or kayak, or just look and photograph the places he named..The map below conveys the extent of his work over one of the remotest parts of New Zealand


Since much of the country over which he passed was virgin, McKerrow took on himself the task of naming prominent features of the landscape. The policy employed in this work he described thus:

“ In naming of objects, those already in use in the district were always adopted, they are generally defined to a few creeks or perhaps a hill or two in the vicinity of the respective stations. The other names I either endeavoured to make descriptive or suggestive: this, in the case of the more prominent peaks, appears to me to be of much consequence to the traveller, for they become so many finger posts pointing the way. The great landmarks, Leaning Rock, Double Cone, and Black Peak, I found of much service in determining my whereabouts at the beginning of the survey; their names are legible in characters not to be mistaken”(1).

“ A great number of descriptive names were given thus: Cathedral Peaks, The Monument, the Beehive, the Crown, the Coronet, Tooth Peaks, Twin Peaks, the Minarets, Mt. Sentinel, Titan Rocks, Spire Peak, and so on and so on……

The mountain ranges were named after distinguished men in science, literature, travel and position, such as Kepler, Humbolt, Murchison,. Livingstone,, Forbes ( Professor of Natural Philosophy 60 years ago at Edinburgh, an authority on glaciers), Hunter (John, Anatomist) Sturt (Australian Explorer), Albert ( late Prince Consort)) Eglinton (Lord Lieutentant of Ireland and Lord Rector Glasgow University), Richardson (Sir John),Thomson, Hector, Garvie, Buchanan (local and well known), Goldie Hill and Bryce Burn were after my two men who were true and faithful throughout.” (2)

“ An island in Lake Manawa-pori is Poman, named in 1862 by James McKerrow, after the principal Island or “mainland” of Orkney Islands in Scotland.,” with a view to help the rhythm of the future poets, who will describe in flowing numbers the charms of beautiful Manapouri, as McKerrow prophesises…….

The Freeman was named by Mr. McKerrow in honour of Mr. Freeman Jackson, a very early runholder (3)….When Mr. James McKerrow was engaged with reconnoitring surveys during the years 1861-63, he named a number of places.” A few of these he named in the Wakatipu and Te Anau districts as follows: He gave the name Caples to one of the branches of the Greenstone, rivers….McKerrow named the Lingstone Mountains after Mr. D. Livingstine, the celebrated African explorer. David Peak(6802 ft/)in memory of Dr. Livingston’s christian name, Moffat Peak (5848 ft) , an African missionary and father-in-law of Livingstone. Eglinton River and Mountain after the Earl of Eglinton and Winton at that time Lord Lieutenanr of Ireland. Skelmorlie Peak (5933 ft.) and Larg Peak (5555 ft.)are both Ayrshire names. Mount Christina (8675 ft.) after a girl who was companion to Mrs. McKerrow in his absence. Clinto River, Te Anau, after one of the family names of the Duke of Newcastle, who was Colonial Secretary in 1863. Worsely Creek, North Fiord, Te Anau, named after the sheep farmer who drayed the boar for the surveyors from Manapouri Lake to Re Anau. Nurse Creek, after another sheep farmer, Lakes McKellar and Gunn after David McKellar and George Gunn….. Lake Fergus was named after Hon. T. Fergus in 1863. Bob’s cove was named after Bob Fortune, Mr. Rees’s boatman” (4)

“ In the Doon, Dean Hill, Bean Forrest, Afton and other Scottish names Mr. McKerrow honoured the land of his birth,(5) Mt. Pisgah was taken from the bible. It was the vantage point from which the promised land was seen.(6).

In his book, Otago Placenames (7), Mr. H. Beattie gives an exhaustive list of Mcerrow’s placenames. “ Besides J.T. Thomson, the most popular name giver in our history was probably James McKerrow”, he states. Mr. Beattie goes on to list more than 220 place names which are associated with McKerrow’s labours.

(1) Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol. V, July 23,1862. P 16.

(2) Letter to Hocken.

(3) Roberts, W.H.S. Place Names and Early of Otago and Southland, P.32.

" " Maori nomenclature, Early History of Otago. P.47

(4) Roberts. P.48. Roberts does not make it absolutely clear whether or not McKerrow gives the last two names.

(5) Kilmarnock Standard, 22nd August, 1903/

(6) McKerrow’s Reminiscences.

(7) Beattie, H. Otago Place Names, Pp. 78-86.
By 1861 there were several newly established sheep stations on the south end of the lake, when James McKerrow first arrived to carry out survey work. In 1862 McKerrow surveyed the lake in a whaleboat.

27 comments:

Gollum said...

Hi Bob

Not forgetting of course James McKerrow's activities in the head of the Landsborough - a place so dear to my heart and one that I fear I may not see or visit again.

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