Ledger, James J, 1847-1907 : In search of a home at the antipodes

Ledger, James J, 1847-1907 : In search of a home at the antipodes
Ledger, James John, 1847-1907

Memoir written by James Ledger in Abbotsford, Australia between 1890 and 1893. The narrative primarily concerns Ledger's immigration to New Zealand in 1878, his four years in New Zealand and subsequent relocation to Melbourne, Australia in 1882. Some of the latter parts of the volume relate to events in Ledger's life up to 1893.

In the first section of the memoir Ledger recalls his voyage of 119 days aboard the barque `Cape Finisterre' from London to Port Lyttelton, New Zealand. He provides a very detailed account of shipboard life, his fellow passengers, the weather patterns and activities of the crew, the islands and land masses the vessel passes by. At one point on the voyage an iceberg is sighted and a pen and gouache drawing by Ledger captures the likeness. With his travelling companion `Fred' they publish a weekly newspaper called "The Cape Finisterre Weekly News". Upon arriving in New Zealand Ledger gains employment with the gas works for seven months in Christchurch. Throughout the journal Ledger provides detailed accounts of the characters he observes and meets. There are many sketches in this work and his drawings often match the textual descriptions he provides. Ledger continues to record his work experiences over the next four years as he lives the life of an itinerant worker moving from place to place chasing work. He spent time as an engineer, worked as a lithographer and a labourer. Later Ledger spent time in the Waimakariri Gorge employed with a survey party laying out railway lines, and then as a farm hand in South Canterbury on the annual summer harvest. After working as a clerk in Timaru Ledger joined the South Canterbury Contingent of the Volunteer Corps that were recruited to march on Parihaka in western Taranaki in 1881. Ledger has a fascination with local Maori and he recounts his meetings with Maori throughout the occupation of Parihaka and Pungarehu. Ledger continues sketching during his involvement with the military campaign and depicts both Maori and Armed Constabulary subjects. Returning to Timaru via Opunake he recounts the fate of Mary Dobie who was killed by Tuhi while sketching at Te Namu and is buried at Opunake. After returning to the South Island Ledger visits Dunedin and sells his sketches of Parihaka and neighbour surrounds with depictions of Maori life to a publisher for fifty pounds. These sketches are reproduced by Fergusson and Mitchell as a set of 12 sketches in 1882. Ledger became disillusioned with New Zealand and left for Hobart in November 1882 aboard the `Ringarooma'. Passing through Bluff he narrates a chance encounter he had with the Maori King, Tukaroto Tawhiao. The last section of the memoir deals with Ledger's reminiscences of his life in Melbourne, and includes drawings and photographs. One image is of the Federal Coffee House building in Melbourne. Ledger finishes his narrative with his marriage to Mary Florence Lawerence, finding work as an architect and the purchase of two properties `Hinemoa Cottage' and `Bella Vista'.

Included as an appendix to the volume is a section entitled "Colonial jottings" where Ledger refers to particular incidents throughout his travels. There is an inscription at the front of the volume to his godson John Bonsor Ledger, and the first stanza is quoted from the poem "To my sister" by the poet Adam Lindsay Gordon who emigrated to Australia from England in 1852 [poem written 4 August 1853].

Publication - Some of the sketches in this manuscript are based on earlier sketches in Ledger's published work `Pen and ink sketches of Parihaka and neighbourhood with scenes of Maori life, Dunedin, Fergusson & Mitchell, [1882?], 12 leaves of plates ; 24 x 31 cm.

Source of title - Transcribed from item

James (Jas) Ledger spent nearly four years in New Zealand from 1878 to 1882. He worked in many capacities including surveyor's hand, engineer, farm labourer and volunteer soldier with the South Canterbury Contingent at Parihaka in 1881. In 1882 he travelled to Melbourne, Australia and settled down to colonial life. He married Mary Florence Lawerence and worked as an architect living in Abbotsford.

Quantity: 1 volume(s) (102 leaves). 0.01 Linear Metres.

Physical Description: Holograph (25.5 cm; half binding with green leather and marbled endpages)

Memoir includes six black and white photographs; 35 sepia ink sketches.

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Partly restricted - Please use surrogate in place of original
1 volume(s) (102 leaves), 0.01 Linear Metres, Autobiographies, Book illustrations, Diaries, Manuscripts, Photographs, Personal narratives, Holograph (25.5 cm; half binding with green leather and marbled endpages), Illustration: Memoir includes six black and white photographs; 35 sepia ink sketches.
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Ledger, James John, 1847-1907. Ledger, James J, 1847-1907 : In search of a home at the antipodes. Ref: MSX-9415. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/36098671

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