A First Year in Canterbury Settlement (1863)

First edition title page (BII FIR 1863.2)

In 1859, just after graduating, Butler set sail for New Zealand with the aim of making a living as a sheep farmer. Despite emigrating with no knowledge of farming and little idea of how he would go about finding work, Butler took to his new surroundings and freedom immediately and soon acquired companions and equipment that enabled him to explore the little-known territories of the South Island. He settled on an estate adjacent to the Rangitata River, built a hut to accommodate himself and his co-workers, and named his sheep-station ‘Mesopotamia’.

Over the next four years, Butler’s father collected together and edited his son’s letters from New Zealand, along with extracts from Butler’s journals and articles he had previously published as an undergraduate in the St John’s College magazine The Eagle. The resulting text ranges from personal accounts of journeys undertaken, through scenic descriptions and observations of nature, to instructions on building and managing a sheep station.

Cover of the 1964 edition

Cover of the 1964 edition (BII FIR 1964.1)

Although Butler was not pleased with the style or content of the writing (most of which had been composed with only a private family audience in mind), A First Year in Canterbury Settlement is now regarded as one of the most valuable and vivid accounts of life on an early New Zealand sheep station.

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