Letter written by George Woollett in
New Zealand 1874

This letter was kindly sent to me by Cecily Harvey in New Zealand.  She has worked hard to "sort out" much of the Woollett family history in that country.  Cecily may be contacted at cecily@paradise.net.nz

It gives a fascinating insight into life during those early days of settlement in New Zealand.  The letter has been transcribed word for word by Cecily but I have added some line breaks to make it a little easier to read.  As you can see from the extract, it was originally in a narrow newspaper column format.

George appears on the tree "Descendants of Arthur Woollett circa 1560" click on this link to go to that page.

This letter has been transcribed from "The Labourers’ Herald" December 25, 1874. It was written by George WOOLLETT who was born in Thornham (Thurnham), Kent on 25 April 1840. George emigrated to New Zealand with his wife Ellen, nee WHITE, and family on the ship ‘William Davie’ which arrived in Bluff, New Zealand on 12 April 1874.



Are continually being received from emigrants, and forwarded to us for insertion.

Harrisville, Invercargill,

New Zealand, July 5th, 1874.

Dear Brother and Sister, - I write these few lines to you hoping to find you all quite well as, thank God, it leaves me at present.

George, I wish you were here as your trade is the best out here, and it is a job to get a carpenter. You would get from 12s to 14s a day for eight hours; it is all eight hours here.  Labourers get from 8s to 10s a day; last summer carpenters were getting £1 per day, and labourers 11s a day.

My boy Lewis and myself are cutting cordwood in the bush, 8s a cord. We cut anything down we come nigh, mostly red, white, and black pines. We get to work about nine o’clock in the morning and leave off at five o’clock, and I get 10s a day on the average, but I shall be able to get a little more soon as it is winter here now.

I never had such a winter in all my life before. We have had no snow, we had a few frosts, but not so sharp as you get them at home. The climate is very much like England, and I like it very much. I should be very sorry to have to put up with England now.

Invercargill is a large town for the colony. I should estimate the population at 10,000, so it is not so wild as my sister Ellen anticipated. There is plenty of wood in this colony; I go out the back door and cut down a tree when I want it, so we don’t sit cold out here. The cottages are all wood, but they are getting a few brick ones now in the town.

You can buy anything you want here the same as you can in England.  There are some very large shops here, and about 30 hotels in the town, but there is nothing less than sixpenny drinks; let you have what you like it’s all sixpence.  I brought a great lump of beef home on Saturday night for which I paid 2½d per lb. Bread, tea, and sugar is about the same price as in England.

Tell your Harry I wish he had come with me for there would be plenty of work for him at Bluff Harbour on the ship at 14s a day. They will forward you to any place in the colony you like to go to by steamboat. There are a good many emigrants coming out, but we want them, for it is an extensive country, there being no fear of over-stocking it. The people here are all English, Irish, and Scotch, no black people; there are a few natives in the north island, this is the south.

Get the horsewhip at my brother Thomas’s and drive him with you to Mr Simmons’ at once. This place would just suit him for there are thousands of rabbits here and wild ducks, and swamp turkeys, and the farmers are pleased to see anyone shoot them – any amount of rabbits. Tell all the single girls to come here, they’ll get about £40 or £50 per year. Tell Tom there is no gun license to pay here, but powder and shot is dearer.

Don’t stop in England to starve; come here. George, let all my brothers know how I am getting on, for I can’t write to them all at once; I should want a clerk. I should like Bob’s address if you have it. My daughter Annie has got a good place, and is as fat as a pig. Give my kind love to all enquiring friends and Johnny White and all the rest of them. I must conclude with kind love to Ellen and all of you. Come at once to old Busser,


( Formerly of Kent ).

This page last updated 1st November 2000