'Cyclopedia of New Zealand' BURKE'S PASS


Burke's Pass

Water colour painted about 1880 by Rev. James Preston. The original is in the Canterbury Museum. The view is from the hotel looking down the road on the way to Fairlie with Mt McLeod in distance. St Patrick's Church at Burkes Pass is not depicted in the painting. The second cottage on the right is Alma Cottage but it is curious because it has a three gable roof which it never had - artist licence probably.

Lower left quadrant the Rollesby Valley Rd crosses a creek then and comes into Burkes Pass with a T intersection with Hwy 8. Opihi River to the right of the road. Across Hwy 8 there is Paddys Market Stream, (not the first but 2nd steam) heading down to a group of pine trees. The heights of the hills on the ridge  to the centre right are 787m (2562ft) ,  802m (2631ft) (to the right of the group of pine trees) and dropping down to 676m (2218ft). Looking down the valley towards Kimbell is Mt. Dobson, 2nd peak from the right, at 2095m ( 6873ft) capped with snow down to 1500ft (5000ft).  Mt Burgess is to the left at 1106m (3628.6m) just after Ross Stream and Aries Station on the right. May 1951. "Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library". WA-28110-F. Just around the end of the hills centre right is the site of Dornie, Smart/Willetts farm out of sight in this photo. On the left of the road the sloping fields were the site of intensive trapping in the 1940s. Carry on and you are at Horseshoe Corner and the crossing of the Opihi to Ashwick.

BURKE'S PASS, in the Fairlie riding of Mackenzie county, is on the way from Fairlie to Mount Cook, and is the last township on the route.  It is picturesquely situated amongst mountain ranges, and stands at an elevation of 1780 feet above the level of the sea. From the top of the Pass-2500 feet above sea level- a grand view of the celebrated Mackenzie country is obtained, with the enclosing mountains on all sides. A few miles farther, at a higher elevation, Lake Tekapo bursts into sight in all the beauty of its broad waters. Burke's Pass township has a public school, a church, a blacksmith's shop, a store, a bi-weekly mail service by coach, and a telegraph station. It is fifty-two miles from Timaru, and thirteen from Fairlie, and is well planted with trees, amongst which nestle cosy cottages. The population numbers about 100.

BURKE'S PASS PUBLIC SCHOOL is built of wood and iron, on concrete foundations. There are two convenient class rooms with accommodation for seventy children. Thirty-seven names are on the roll, and the average attendence is thirty-four.  The school dates from 1879, and is situated on a section of five acres of land.  There is a fine plantation, which covers two acres.

HAYMAN, FREDERICK JAMES, in charge of Burke's pass school, was born in Somerset, England, in 1860. He arrived in New Zealand with his parents in the ship "Blue Jacket," when he was about four years old and was educated in Canterbury.  In 1900 he was appointed to his present school.  Mr Hayman was married, in 1882 to a daughter of Mr. A. Bunting, of Sefton, and had four sons and two daughters.

BURKE'S PASS HOTEL, (Donald McMillan, proprietor), Burke's Pass. This hotel was established in 1866, and is situated twelve miles from Fairlie, the present terminus of the railway. The main route to the Mackenzie Country and Mount Cook is through Burke's Pass, and during the tourist season the mail coach and its passengers passes this hotel four times a week, The hotel contains twenty well furnished rooms, and there are chairs for forty persons in the well ventilated and comfortable dinning-room. Mr. McMillan has had considerable experience in hotel keeping, and began at Tekapo, where he had amongst his patrons Lord and Lady Onslow and party, Bishop Julius, and Mrs Julius and party.  At his present hotel at Burke's Pass he has enlarged pictures of Lord and Lady Onslow, who personally sent their portraits to Mr McMillan in commemoration of their visit to his house.

Mr. D. McMillan.  Ferrier, photo.McMILLAN, DONALD, the Proprietor, was born at Stornoway, in the Island of Lewis, in 1844, and in his early years he followed a seafaring life.  He came to New Zealand in 1865 in the ship "Helenslea," and followed pastoral life, chiefly in the Mackenzie Country.  He took a second trip home in 1881, and came back to the colony during the following year.  Mr McMillan was married, in 1875, to Miss McDowell, and they have five daughters and two sons. The eldest son, while still quite  a boy, distinguished himself as a bagpipe player, and gained first prize in good company at Timaru.


GRAMPIAN HILLS STATION (Mr W. Grant, proprietor; Mr Donald McRae, manager) Burke's Pass, Mackenzie Country. This property was originally taken up in 1856 by Messrs J.T. and H. Ford, and after changing hands several times it was purchased by the present proprietor in 1893. It contains 45,00 acres, of which 2500 acres are freehold, and carried 18,500 Merino and crossbred sheep.  The improvements consist of good buildings, and one hundred miles of good wire fencing, with plantations.

 McRAE, DONALD the Manager was born in Inverness-shire, Scotland, in 1868, and educated in his native country, and in Ross-shire.  He came to New Zealand in 1887 in the s.s. "Tainui."  At first he followed station life at Benmore, and subsequently entered the service of Mr Grant, who appointed him to his present position in 1895. Mr. McRae is an active member if the Caledonian Society and of the Collie Dog Club. photo

GUTHRIE, ROBERT, Runholder, Burke's Pass.  Mr Guthrie was born in Aryshire, Scotland, and was articled in Edinburgh to the profession of the law.  He found how ever, that the closeness of the work was impairing his health, and he withdrew from the articles and travelled to Canada and the Malay Archipelago.  Mr Guthrie returned to Scotland and came out to New Zealand in the ship "Corlic," which brought only twelve passengers, who paid their way and received land grants from the Government.  After travelled for sometime in New Zealand and Australia, Mr Guthrie came back to New Zealand and settled down to station life on "The Wolds," in the Mackenzie Country.  Four years later he received the management of Blamslie station, situated on the Opawa river, Albury.  He subsequently entered the service of  Mr. J.S. Rutherford as manger of the Mistake station of 80,000 acres, and held that position for ten years.  In 1893 he took up his present run, which is known as "Airies," on which he depastures a flock of about 400 crossbred sheep.  Mr. Guthrie is a member of the Mackenzie County Council and of the local school committee.  He is also an active official of the Mackenzie Caledonian Society and of the Mackenzie Agricultural and Pastoral Association, and is Justice of the Peace for the colony.  Mr Guthrie was married, in 1880, to Miss Rolleston, and has seven sons and three daughters. two photos Mr & Mrs.

McLEOD, MALCOM, Sheepfarmer, Burke's Pass. Mr McLeod was born at Bragar, Stornoway, Scotland, in 1859, and finished his education at the Glasgow Free Church Normal College, where he was qualified as a teacher.  After teaching in several schools in Lewis, he became headmaster of the Cross parish school when he was nineteen years of age.  In January, 1897, he arrived in New Zealand by the ship "Taranaki," Since his arrival in the colony Mr. McLeod (preferring other pursuits to his profession) has been in turn station clerk, shepherd, station manager, coach proprietor, and hotelkeeper, and he is now a sheepfarmer, with three small runs in the Mackenzie Country.  He devotes his properties chiefly to cattle gazing.  Mr McLeod has been chairman of the Burke's Pass school committee since 1892, and became representative for Tekapo riding in the Mackenzie County Council in 1892.  In 1883 he did much to organise the Mackenzie County Caledonian Society, which is now amalgamated with that of Fairlie, and was twice president.  Mr McLeod is Worshipful Master of the Fairlie Lodge of Freemasons.  He was married in 1885, to Miss Bain, daughter of Mr Donald Bain, of Highfield, Burke's Pass, and has three sons and three daughters. Ferrier, photo.

McGREGOR, JOHN, Sheepfarmer, Burkes' Pass.  Mr McGregor was born in Banffshire, Scotland, in 1840, and was brought up to farming.  He came out to Lyttelton in the ship "Chariot of Fame," in January, 1863, and immediately on landing was engaged on the Grampiams run, Mackenzie country  and he drove 3,000 sheep there from Waimakariri.  Mr McGregor stayed at "The Grampiams" for five years, and then had charge of Gray Hills and Whale's Back stations for several years.  In 1874 he bought Glenmore station, consisting of 40,000 acres at Tekapo, and carried it on for sixteen years.  Mr McGregor then went to Burke's Pass, and bought his present property of 500 acres known as "Glenavon." and carries on sheepfarming.  He also owns eighty acres with his residence in the township.  In 1902 be bought the Rona run of 1400 acres, which almost adjoins "Glenavon," Mr McGregor was for eight years a member of the Mount Cook Road Board, and in 1883 organized a petition for having the road district formed into the Mackenzie county.  He succeeded in his undertaking, and acted as chairman for the county council for ten years.  He had twenty miles to ride to meetings and yet he missed only three in the sixteen years of his connection with the road board and county council.  Mr McGregor has served on the local school committee and was a prompter of the Burke's Pass Domain Board of which he is chairman.  He was for nine years a member of the Waitaki Licensing Committee, and for twenty years was secretary of the Tekapo Jockey Club.  He has been a Justice of the Peace since 1882.  The first trout turned into Lake Alexandrina were brought from Christchurch by Mr McGregor.  He was married, in 1878, to a daughter of the late Mr Stent , of Melbourne, and has six sons and three daughters. Burford, photo

SAWDON STATION, Burkes' Pass. This station is the property of Mr. A.R. Thomas.  It was originally taken up in 1857, and was purchased by the present property in 1897.  It consists of 30,000 acres of freehold and leasehold land, of which 700 acres are are cultivated and laid down in grass.  There are 10,000 Merino sheep on the blocks, The homestead is situated 2000 feet above the level of the sea.  It overlooks Burke's Pass and is sheltered by twenty acres of well selected trees.

THOMAS, A.R. was born at Cardiff, South Wales, in 1869, and educated at Clifton and Bath.  He came out to the colony in 1887 and entered the Agricultural College at Lincoln to learning farming.  Mr. Thomas subsequently visited England, and on coming back to New Zealand he spent some time in the bush country of the North Island.  He was married, in 1899, to Miss E. Murray, of Greenpark.

Reference: Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Canterbury edition. Vol. 3  pages 960 - 962. Published 1903

The early Burkess Pass Hotel
Burkes Pass Hotel

Otago Witness, 15 June 1899, Page 30
June 3. This remote corner of civilisation has been sadly neglected hitherto in your columns, and possibly many of your readers have a somewhat hazy idea, of the snug little hamlet nestling coyly under one of the arms of the great Two Thumbs range at the southern entrance of the pass through into the real Mackenzie Country - a vast stretch of plain wholly, surrounded by high hills on the north-west sides by the celebrated mountains that so long defied the abilities and pluck of some of the most renowned Alpine climbers. There, amongst those majestic heights, can be seen the finest mountain scenery in the world; but I must not lay myself open to the accusation of being led away by admiration for the beautiful slopes, the rugged tops, the shooting avalanches, the sparkling cascades, the rushing torrents, the wonders of the glaciers, etc., etc. Burkes Pass, named so after the presumed discoverer of the opening some 50 years ago, is a pretty little township, boasting of its village smith in the person of Mr Souness, whose good qualities, I warrant, are well remembered by the Taieri people; a couple of stores; a public school, where some two score or more of the young ideas are taught by Mr Werry and his assistant, Mr Cartwright; its post office, with its squeaky wire connected so that it can hold social communication with lonely Tekapo or bustling Fairlie. This little resort can also boast of a commodious hospice, under the care of the genial old Donald M'Millan and his "guid wife," who makes her guests as comfortable as only a kindly woman can do. On the little hill close by has stood for the last quarter of a century a little edifice wherein worship is regularly held, chiefly by Mr Comria, the district minister, and on set occasions the Rev. Mr Hinson, of Geraldine, holds divine worship, christens not a few babies, and occasionally encircles a fond couple in the holy bonds of wedlock. We are well provided for in the way of shelter, for our little village justified in being proud of residents whose energy might well be admired by folks who live in towns of more ambitious pretensions. There are a number of cottages here pleasing to the eye and comfortable to live in; and though we are out in the back blocks, we are not not of the world, for we get our mails regularly three times a week. Anything appertaining to amusement is well appreciated here, as witness the high old time that was indulged in on the night of the 2nd inst., on the occasion of the spinsters' ball. A large crowd assembled and partook of the good things provided, and the way they enjoyed themselves must have been most gratifying to the fair givers of the feast. Never before did the schoolroom resound with so much jollification, and I am sure there was only room for two regrets - one by the old that they could not become young again, and the other by the young that the night was too short. Were I a married man I could convince the outside world that we have plenty of taste as well as an eye for the beautiful, but as I have no inclination to play the role of a critic on dress, I leave the young ladies' costumes severely alone, as well as their handiwork in connection with the decorations of the hall, and dismiss the subject with the hope that they will not overlook the writer on future occasions, or he will undoubtedly seriously consider the question of altering the state of his existence.

On Dit.- It is reported that several changes have taken place in the Mackenzie Country namely, that Mr Winter has been promoted by the New Zealand Loan Company from the charge of the Balmoral property to "a place in the north" ; also that Mr L. M'Donald has resigned the working managership of Glenlion station, being succeeded by Mr Alexander M'Rae, of Benmore station, and now has joined "The Macs' Company."

Thames Star, 24 November 1894, Page 3
Monday's nor' wester did some damage in the Mackenzie County. At Fairlie some trees were blown down, and the air was thick with soil blown off cultivated land. At Burke's Pass a house belonging to Mr M. Keefe was almost unroofed, and Mr Sibbald's woolshed was blown down. A number of men were in the sheds at the time taking shelter from the gale, and one of them, named Alexander Blackwood, was struck by the falling roof and considerably hurt. He was taken to Fairlie and attended by Dr. Dryden next day. The coach from Fairlie to Tekapo was brought to a standstill a few miles beyond the Pass, and had to stop until the gale abated. The coach from Pukaki arrived at the Pass on Tuesday, and the driver reported that there had been a very strong gale down the Tasman Valley, but no damage was done. The wind continued to blow but not violently on Tuesday morning, and about 3 p.m. chopped round suddenly to the south-west and brought up copious showers of rain. The front ranges received a late coat of snow.

Marlborough Express, 21 February 1903, Page 1
The Timaru Post says : A waggoner engaged in carting wool from the Mackenzie Country to the Fairlie railway station, had a unique, not to say thrilling, experience one day last week. He was coming down the long cutting beyond Burkes Pass, driving a waggon laden with thirty odd bales of wool. When some considerable distance from the bottom the tyre of one of the hind wheels came off. It raced past the horses without touching them, and, taking the turnings in good style, kept on the road. It had gathered sufficient momentum to carry it nearly to the top of the next rise. It then rolled back, and after see sawing about a few times went to sleep in the hollow. The break on the waggon in the meantime ceased to act, owing to the loss of the tyre the horses, were, of course, unable to hold back the cumbrous load. The waggoner, however, did not loose his nerve, and succeeded in keeping the leaders clear and the wheelers on their feet. The bottom of the hill was reached at a gallop, the tyreless wheel, strange to say, keeping intact. The owner at Fairlie was telephoned, and a man with a screwjack was sent up. It was found that the tyre could not be wedged on to the injured wheel. As a last resource an old dray wheel was borrowed from a resident near Burkes Pass, and it was found to be a perfect fit. The load reached Fairlie that night safe and sound, both the waggoner and the proprietor consider themselves lucky men, and justly so, all possibilities being taken into consideration.

North Otago Times, 21 November 1881, Page 2
Timaru. November 20. Spalding's at at Burke's Pass was burnt down on Friday morning. It was insured up to L350 of its value in the National and Standard offices.

Edmund Norman sketch of Burkes Pass, 1875
Preston's painting
A short history of Burke's Pass
/ compiled and written by the pupils of the Burke's Pass School, under the supervision of G.W. Parkyn. Publisher: Burke's Pass School, 1934, 12 leaves; 28cm.
Burkes Pass History recorded in 2008. 

Auckland Weekly News 06 FEBRUARY 1908 p4 Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19080206-4-1'
Auckland Weekly News Feb. 1908

McCarthy's store. Petrol pumps ca1950s, in winter. Still stands, now a private residence in 2014.

You can practically trace the history of the district and who lived there.

Taken on Easter Sunday 27th March. A month later the leaves turn. Monument to Michael John Burke, a graduate of Dublin University and the first occupier of Raincliff Stn. Erected at Pass, known to the Maoris as Te Kopi Opihi 1855. Top of the long cutting, Burkes Pass. There is a safe area to pull in. The Pass is 2200 feet  above sea level.

Oh ye who enter the portals of the Mackenzie to found homes, take the word of a child of the misty gorges and plant forest trees for your lives. So shall your mountain facings and river flats be preserved to your children's children and for evermore. 1917 T.D. Burnett

Look at that beautiful blue sky. Is that so far away?

Once over the pass good progress is made to Lake Tekapo.

Pine tree at the left back. Silver birch to the far right. In 1910 the Council had extensive planting of trees in hand; already there were between three and four hundred acres planted chiefly larch and spruce and some pinus ponderosa and the work is being steadily advanced  Pinus Coulteri and Pinus Ponderosa have large cones and both are North American West Coast natives as is their relative Pinus Insignis. P.Insignis is the major NZ N.I. specie in NZ but P. Ponderosa was the preferred specie for Mackenzie County Council plantings at least back in the 1930s & 40s. The trees are easy to spot on the side of the road when driving to Tekapo from Burkes Pass - they have long needles and a little paler green. There is a Pinus Coulteri at Dog Kennel Corner and one at parking area at Lake Tekapo the town side of the new footbridge.

The Lake Tekapo Regional Park on the eastern shore of Lake Tekapo down Lilybank Rd is predominantly a coniferous forest planted with Pinus contorta (Lodgepole), Pinus nigra (Corsican) and Pinus ponderosa (Ponderosa); and Larix decidua (European larch) being the main species. There are lesser numbers of secondary pines species including silver birch, oak and Australian gum species. Extensive tree planting was carried out by the Lake Tekapo Young Farmers, Waitaki Catchment Commission, Ministry of Works & Development and the New Zealand Forest Service and continued until 1976 with a total of approximately 385,000 trees. map. Lookout for rabbits. 

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project