Jimmy Robinson Clough was an British ex-convict, ex-whaler, farmer, boat and fence builder, a drunk, suspected bigamist and the first European to settle in Canterbury.
In 1837, after spotting a beautiful Maori woman in Akaroa where his ship had dropped anchor, he deserted his post and married her. They had 5 children together. In 1840 he was not only present when the British Flag was raised at Greens Point, Akaroa; he had made the actual flagpole. This dashed French hopes of a French Colony settling there. He had also acted as a translator between the Maori and the English.
He also was the guide that led William Deans up the Avon River and brought Putaringamotu (Riccarton) to William’s attention in 1841. After helping with establishing the beginnings of Riccarton Farm with the Deans, Gebbies and Mansons, Jimmy was hired as the first Manager of Homebush when John Deans returned to Scotland to marry Jane in 1852.
Jimmy built the first home (which is still at Homebush and fully restored) and farm buildings/fences at Homebush and planted a Black Poplar that still grows today, believed to have been a gift from the French. It is the oldest introduced tree in Canterbury. Jimmy was not alone as he brought two of his sons with him: Abner (12 years old) and George (10 year old and pictured here) to help him at Homebush.
What about school I hear you ask? Jimmy taught both of his boys to read from The Bible! At the tender age of 12, Abner was already an expert at sailing, cooking, shearing and thatching. His job at Homebush was to track down missing and lost cattle. The hill he used for this is still named Abner’s Head.
George Clough grew up to make his living on Banks Peninsula as a stockman and shearer. He settled at both Onuku and Littled River. He made a name for himself under the name of George Robinson as a wrestling champion and top athlete.
Later in life,, Jimmy grew vegetables and fruit, becoming a general handyman to make ends meet in his later years. Jane Deans even offered to put Jimmy in a old people’s home but Jimmy wouldn’t hear of it. He passed away in his Alford Forest home in 1874. He was buried in the Old Settler’s Cemetery in Ashburton.
In those few years he spend at Homebush, he left us his ‘straight to the point’ journal. He had some of the big names of early Canterbury come through his door – such as William Prebble of Prebbleton, James Edward Fitzgerald, John Robert Godley, J.C. Watts-Russell of Ilam and Walpole Fendall of Fendalton – and he didn’t mind letting them know that he didn’t like the intrusion! His journal is safety tucked away at The Canterbury Museum and can be viewed at request.