Amanda Giorgis, Author

Sophia’s house


At Toitu, the Settlers Museum, in Dunedin there is an example of the kind of home that George would have built for Sophia. Cob walls with wooden rafters and thatched roof, it would have been a sturdy little building but quite cosy for a small family. Sophia may have lain grass on the floor, or perhaps woven a rag rug, and George would have made the bed frame from the branches of trees around them.



The South Island is unseasonably cold and wet. In the last few days we have had the sort of rain that filled the river so quickly that it got in the way of George getting home from a difficult lambing. Our braided rivers are fed from the Southern Alps and melting snow and consistent rain has swollen them to bursting point. At times like this you realise why the river beds are so wide – they really do fill with water, creamy torrents carrying debris and causing a mist to form above the churning water. Truly an amazing sight!

Here’s the report of the day’s flooding in Otago, a little further south than us, but territory with which Sophia and her family and friends would be very familiar.

North West Arch

Today is a NorWester Day in the Mackenzie. Just like the day that Sophia had to rescue her washing as it flew off the line. When we first came to the basin we knew nothing of the strength of the wind (and we lost a couple of garden sheds because of it), but we are used to the routine these days, and have packed away the outside furniture and made sure the trees are still tied to their stakes. Now we just wait for the wind to turn on as if someone had flicked the switch. The line of clouds is forming above us along the ridge of the Ohau Mountains. Here is New Zealand Geographic’s description of this strange phenomenon :-

The Canterbury Norwester

The faces of the early settlers

Toitu – the Settlers Museum in Dunedin was a source of much information in writing The Wideawake Hat. The portrait gallery is an inspiring place with walls covered in the faces of those early settlers. Here’s an interesting story of two young girls who would have been born at about the same time as Heather Mackenzie.…/sta…/an-early-settler-time-machine


Mackenzie and his dog

Something a bit different today for you country music fans!

Introducing FRIDAY


Introducing FRIDAY. There is no doubt that Friday existed as James Mackenzie’s faithful and unusually clever working dog. There are differing theories as to what happened to her. (Yes, Friday is a girl – that rather surprised me when I was doing some research). It is possible that she was shot because she would not work unless spoken to in Gaelic, but one theory suggests she saw out her days at the Levels Station where she became something of a celebrity. There is even a photo of her there, although she would have been at least 17 by the time this was taken. Who knows? Read The Wideawake Hat to find out what I think became of this clever wee dog!

Photo Credit – Sheep dog owned by James MacKenzie. Ref: 1/2-007818-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23198202

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