On 29th July 1867 – 153 years ago today – the greatest snowstorm in history hit the South Island of New Zealand. Snow fell for six days, with but a brief respite on the fourth day, when temperatures rose enough to briefly turn the snow to rain. Coming as it did at the start of the lambing season, losses of stock were high, leading many farmers to sell up and move away. Those sheep who had not suffocated under the weight of 5-6 feet of snow were often found up to their fleeces in mud where the rain had filtered under the snow, drowning as they stood because their fleeces had grown too heavy to move. It is thought that 90% of the year’s lambs were lost and 50% of the adult sheep.
The storm affected Applecross Station and the neighbouring Combe Station. As you will see in Book 4, The Cedar Trees (due for publication late 2020) the Mackenzies and Lawtons approached it in different ways. Over the next few days we will relive the snowstorm with extracts from The Cedar Trees. Here is Day 1 :-
With a start, Sophia realised that James had got out of bed and was standing at the window. She turned over, privately enjoying his handsome silhouette against the light outside.
“What is it?” she asked. “Is it still raining?”
“No, my dear, come and look,” replied James, pointing out through the window.
She went to join him, shivering as her bare feet touched the stone cold floor. James wrapped his arms around her to keep her warm, and they stood together surveying the scene. The rain had turned to snow while she had been lying in bed thinking back over the last few years. Snow fell in huge clumps, like the snowballs the children would want to throw at each other later on. It was yet to stay long on the ground, falling onto the wet surface it melted almost immediately, but it wouldn’t take long for it to begin to build up at this rate. Though it looked pretty as a picture, James, with a farmer’s eye, saw it as nothing more than a curse.
“Come on, wife,” said James, reluctantly removing his arms from around Sophia’s familiar body and tapping her bottom as if he was issuing orders to a recalcitrant servant. “We all need a hot breakfast before we get to work today.”
To read more about the families of Applecross, go to www.amandagiorgis.com