Published date12 April 2023
Publication titleWest Coast Farming Times, The
"If you got sick in those days, you either got well or you died." Windswept and isolated in the eyes of visiting surveyors, Gillespies held a charm and was a challenge to folk who had escaped the harsh life in Ireland. Here was freedom and what they worked for was theirs

By 1877 the settlers had built a church and a school.

Explorer Charlie Douglas was convinced that these two institutions gave the families a feeling of permanence - the reason, he said, Gillespie's lasted so long.

The school's most well-known teacher was Henry (Harry) Williams who in 1888 married pupil-teacher Mary Sullivan (whose parents, Laurence Sullivan and Mary Vaughn had met and married at Okarito and moved to Gillespies, where they had eight children), cementing a memorable pioneering South Westland family partnership. They were among the 16 families left at Gillespie's by then.

But the gold was running out. In 1891 times were tough. The Crown was off ering parcels of land on the Cook River flats. Both Laurence Sullivan and Harry Williams accepted the offer and dispatched younger...

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