What made William Boag walk from Lyttelton to Pigeon Bay to seek work straight off his ship in 1851, we may never know. Was it watching the hundreds of pilgrims pile over the Bridle Path, that made him take off in the opposite direction with no money, nothing going for him except the determination that was at the core of most of the early settlers?
William found work at Annadale, the farm run by Ebenezar Hay. As he ploughed Pigeon Bay, he fell in love with Ann Firmager, an orpan who was in the care of the Hays while she worked for them. A year and half later, William moved his career to the Canterbury Plains, learning dairy work in the employment of Mr. Thompson.
In 1853, his new wife at his side, William leased 200 acres from John Deans I, with right to purchase in 5 years. That was the birth of Burnside Farm, the name meaning “at the side of a small stream”. William had saved all his wages and with Ann leaving the Hays with a few dairy cows as her wages, the Boag’s began to build themselves a life. William didn’t take the 5 years to get his land in freehold. With the import of Shorthorn Cattle, Clydedales and Leicester Sheep, the Boag’s were making a name for themselves with their fine stock. They also began to purchase more land in earnest. The Boag’s eventually owned 1700 acres. As he and Ann began to grow into a larger family, William built a fine homestead that became the centre of Burnside Farm. It was located at the head of the current Avonhead Road but sadly was destroyed by fire in 1925.
There is an interesting story about William purchasing a plough and when it arrived via a ship in Lyttelton, he decided to take it home over the Bridle Path with the help of a Bullock. Things were fine going up but doing down, the plough would run into the back of the Bullock’s legs causing the poor animal to gallop down the Port Hills with the plough bashing down after it and a red-faced William chasing them both on foot. He ended up having to jump on the plough over and over to push it into the hillside, causing it to slow down. Eventually, he untied the Bullock and eased the plough the rest of the way down with man-power…these pioneers were tough!!!!
The start of the subdivison of Burnside Farm began just after World War One. In 1935, land was purchased from the Boag’s for the Christchurch Airport so you can imagine how huge Burnside Farm once was. For another example, Charles Church Haslewood purchased land from William in 1853 and called his sheep run “Coringa”. His run is now the Coringa Golf Course out at McLeans Island; Burnside Farm was HUGE! Burnside Farm remained a part of Fendall Town (Fendalton) until 1959 when the city council made Burnside officially a suburb.
William is buried in Addington Cemetery.
*William Boag image courtesy of http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz *