The small farming-town of Duntroon is home to around 120 residents. It’s main economy is largely sheep farming and crop growing such as wheat and barley.
The town was bestowed its name by one of a handful of Robert Campbells that emigrated from the United Kingdom to Australia and New Zealand. It took quite a bit of unravelling and genealogical construction to discover which of the four generations of Robert Campbells was the relevant one associated with Duntroon. It seems that the name Robert was greatly favoured in the family.
The first Robert (#1) was a grand-uncle from Scotland who was the first merchant in the 1788 British colony New South Wales (Australia) and later a politician. Having built a private wharf at the time he is now referred to as “Campbell of the Wharf”. He had a son named Robert but his brother, John, also had a son named Robert (#2).
This nephew, Robert (#2), arrived in Sydney in 1806 and by 1818 he was the Director and afterwards the President of the first formal bank in Sydney, the Bank of NSW, today known as Westpac. Having also built himself a mercantile business on Bligh Street, Sydney, he became known as “Campbell of Bligh Street”. This Robert, unsurprisingly had a son also called Robert (#3), who was born in Sydney but chose to return to England and became a Member of Parliament from which he was unfortunately unseated threes month later. To distinguish him from previous Roberts’ he was given the appellation “Robert Campbell Tertius” meaning the third.
Finally the relevant Robert (#4), son of Robert Campbell Tertius, who was born in England in 1843, travelled to New Zealand early 1860s to either buy or lease land on behalf of the family. Robert became a successful sheep farmer, property owner and later politician. Together with his father, he owned a sheep station in the Waitaki District upon which they built a small town they named, Duntroon, a Scottish name possibly as homage to their ancestry and their ties to Clan Campbell of Argyll, Scotland.
Robert’s (#4) wife, Emma, bequeathed £6,000 to the parochial district with instructions to build a church for the benefits of Church of England members. The result was St Martin’s Anglican Church in a 14th century Gothic style, built out of limestone quarried in a nearby region. The side church door bears the Clan Campbell coat of arms. Sadly both Robert and Emma died childless and within a few months of each other.
By 1875 much of the acquired Campbell lands became plagued by rabbits that were imported in the 1830s and released for sport. Unable to curtail their rapid reproduction rate, by the early 1880s the pastures were depleted and hillsides eroded. This in turn produced lower quality wool thereby affecting the prices of wool. In the end, the devastation wrought in the region forced many sheep station owners into bankruptcy and the Campbell’s businesses in NZ were eventually wound up and ceased operating by 1920.
Just off the main highway is the Vanished World Heritage Centre, a fossil and geology museum that includes the fossils of two species of extinct genus of large penguins from around 27-28MYA. Known as Archaeospheniscus, the species is about the size of an Emperor Penguin. There was a third species, albeit a smaller one, in this genus that was discovered in Antarctica. These three species are the only ones currently existent in this genus.
Having left Duntroon, I’ve parted ways from Waitaki River which has been my companion since the Waitaki Dam and moved in a south-east zig-zag direction until I stopped at the Rakis Railway Tunnel, an old disused railway line. During the 1880s depression era the construction of the railway provided much needed unemployment relief. The 11mi (19km) line was in use from 1887 to 1930. Today the tunnel is only 330ft (100m) long and although it can be explored, a torch is needed because halfway in the tunnel curves cutting out all source of natural light.
Today will be by far my longest route of this entire journey, hence writing this letter on one of my rest stops. I look forward to rolling into my final destination, Oamaru.