Infamous Sheep Rustler Jailed In Lyttelton – 15th March 1855

No one knows for sure when James MacKenzie arrived in New Zealand but he first appeared in Nelson. He bought himself two bullocks, a border collie he named Friday (pictured) and a dray. Taking on jobs as he traveled, he made it down to Mataura in Southland.

In 1855, J.H.C Sidebottom was informed by his two Maori ranch hands, Seventeen and Taiko, that 1000 sheep were missing from the flock under his charge. The three worked at the sheep station known as ‘The Levels’, which was owned by William and Robert Rhodes in Timaru. They tracked the sheep westward into the low plains that are now known as the MacKenzie Country.

After escaping capture, James walked to Lyttelton bootless, the journey being around 100 miles. He entered town limping and was arrested as the law was on the look-out for him. He was tried in the Lyttelton Court and was sentenced to 5 years hard labour. He escaped twice and was recaptured.

Friday, James’ trusted partner in crime was herself banished from Canterbury soil.  In a lovely turn of events, a few years later she was back at ‘The Levels’ and became George Rhodes’ most favourite dog.

James was pardoned in 1856. He boarded a boat for Australia after his release and disappeared into history.

For a more in depth look at James MacKenzie, please check out the following link: http://www.peelingbackhistory.co.nz/james-mackenzie-1820/

* image courtesy of http://folksong.org.nz *

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