In 1856, my great-great-grandfather John Collie (1834-1893), of Boyndie, Scotland, published a book : Poems and Lyrics
|In 1858 he emigrated to New Zealand. |
His book is available free online.
I‘ve been setting some of it to music over the past few years – along with some of his other descendants: my nephews Hans and Rhys Landon-Lane, my niece Celeste Rochery, and my sister Megan Edwards-Rochery .
“T’were a noble sight to see the mighty men of old, who bled that their countries might be free from the tyrants’ fatal hold – yet I’d deem it a nobler sight by far to behold the sons of the harp & lyre!
“[…] If aught can claim a spirit’s admiration, Sure it must be this beautiful creation“John Collie (1834-1893)
The Troubled Times (trio with Antony Milton and David Heath) also do an epic electric blues guest arrangement of The Dying Monarch (a key track that ties together the different strands of my music).
For me this is a major work-in-progress; an acknowledgement of my pākeha whakapapa (European ancestry); an inspiration for new music (a mostly folk style seemed fitting); a window into the culture of the time period and a vicarious travel experience (plans to visit Scotland in 2020 were ruined by the pandemic); a family precedent for DIY outsider art that puts fiffdimension in a deeper context; and it gives me renewed appreciation for the beauty and musicality of the English (and Scots) language.
Other pieces inspired by my ancestors include:
- The Ballad of William Knife (John ‘Totara Jack’ Edwards (1809-1889)),
- Ilhas Atlanticas (Manuel Bernard (1847-1928), from Flores island, Portugal); and
- Fiji 1976, a soundtrack to a film by my father, Alastair Edwards (1936-2010).
In 1858 John Collie emigrated to New Zealand, arriving in Dunedin aboard the Jura.
He first settled in Dunedin then, following the death of his first wife, spent his later years in the Wellington region.
He worked on infrastructure projects, including the original railway line across the Remutakas in the 1870s.
Nowadays the railway line is a walking and cycling track and its history is documented in the Fell Locomotive museum in Featherston.
Unfortunately, no later writings by John Collie in New Zealand are known to survive; but he appears in the historical records for his work on the Rimutaka incline project (and for being fined for public drunkenness and letting animals wander).
He died in 1893, from a tree-falling accident in Kaitoke, and is buried in Karori Cemetary in Wellington.