For some of our earliest settlers, it didn’t take stepping off the emigration ships for their new life to begin; for some, opportunities presented themselves right there on the poop deck. This was the case of John Dyer and his older sister Mary Ann. She fell in love with fellow passenger Charles Parsons, and John’s destiny was sealed.
Born in 1828 at Stoke-by-Nayland near Essex, Dyer grew up in a farming family. Upon his arrival in Lyttelton aboard the ‘Canterbury’, the Canterbury Association’s 16th ship, he tagged along with his new brother-in-law Charles and agreed to go halves on 40 hectares in Governor’s Bay. Together they set up a farm though it was said of Dyer that he never really took farming too seriously. The property was called ‘Parakiraki’.
John really entered into our history in 1858 when he began his dealings with the Canterbury Provincial Council concerning an old historic dirt track that began close to his house. The Council wanted to turn the track – used by the Maori for centuries – into a passable road between Governor’s Bay/Head of the Bays and Christchurch. This remained just talk – until 1862 when actual work begun – and Dyer couldn’t have been more helpful. Not only did he advise the surveyors and engineers of the best routes through the wild thick native surroundings but also provided free meals for the workers without even being asked. He made quite an impression on all who met him.
And so, the quiet days for Parakiraki ceased as those who wanted to drive their stock over to Christchurch (and vice versa) had to cross John’s private land; it remained nothing more than a cattle road well into the 20th century. This road was first referred to as Dyer’s Pass Road in 1869 and officially became part of the city in 1911 – a year after it was made passable for wheeled transportation. The attached photo was taken on Dyers Pass Road in 1910.
Sadly, John Dyer died by an accident on 6th January 1876, leaving a widow and five children. He was only 47 years old and is buried at St Cuthbert’s Anglican Church in Governor’s Bay. The Dyer’s Pass Road of today actually passes right through where John built his home and raised his family.
*Image courtesy of the Press & T.W. Young – http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press*