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Today, we are left with very little knowledge of our ancestors - their characters, their aspirations, their life, associations or their personal experiences. We know a little of the places where they spent their lives, but it is mainly through events which, at the time, were of public interest.
Few of us record things unless obliged. Our private concerns, friends, views of life and affairs and those everyday occurrences are thought to be of little interest outside our immediate family circle, and because this was not written, those who follow, have a limited perception of the perils and the bravery, the trials and endurance and the hardship and toil of our pioneers. It was this courage and the self reliance that our first and each succeeding generation have displayed that has helped to colonise and develop our land.
It would have been wonderful to have read those letters sent back to the Homeland - to learn first hand of their struggles and difficulties and to view through their eyes the country as it was then. They would have conveyed so much of the writer and the atmosphere of the time. Each of us have had stories, often true experiences, told to us at a time when we are too young to comprehend; then life gets in the way and by the time we are ready to listen, the teller of the tales is no longer there.
From the images and experiences of others we realise what John and Ann Guilford and their three young sons, William, James and Henry John had to contend with as they left England in their small sailing ship - a trying and dangerous voyage of many months in duration and to admire their grit and determination as they stepped ashore at Lyttelton, breaking that last link and severing the past.
Their life began again under what must have seemed bewildering conditions. Gone were the habits and customs, routine of living, occupations, duties and interests that had remained unchanged from generation to generation. In this new land they had to make practically everything they required, carrying on an endless variety of work which was often new to them.
A home had to be established - very different from those of today and although primitive at first, a real home, under conditions which were inconceivably difficult and arduous. The country had to be tamed as it was practically roadless except for mud tracks, fit only for sledge or bullock dray. The work was hard and the hours long; the food was simple and frequently far from plentiful. Thrift was a necessity, leisure limited and an outing was a pleasure to be looked forward to and the memory of perhaps the one great event of the year, something to be treasured. A home, humble in dimensions and equipment, food and clothing, all achieved by the utmost effort of every member of the family, young and old, who were able to assist. Their faith, was their strength. We, their descendants, are the reward of each generation's individual effort and enterprise.
The gift of a Diary, written in 1911 by Henry John, one year before his death at the age of 65 years, is a legacy that will not be lost with time. Henry died the following year of Epthelionia (cancer of the tongue which had been removed some years before his death) and this misfortune resulted in his writing the family details. A man of courage and determination, his daughter Mary Cowen Angus stated" He dominated the household with a pad and pencil even after he could no longer speak."
My father was named after him and Nancy Winstanley wrote to me: "This is a story that your Dad, Henry Guilford told me at Christchurch at our first Guilford Reunion in 1976. He said: " Old John had much in common with Noah. He arrived in a new country with three sons and when they were grown, told them to go forth and multiply. In those days, they always did what their father said!" My father was a wise and astute man.
Cicero, a Roman statesman and orator said - "Not to know what happened before we were born is to remain potentially a child. For what is the worth of a human life unless it is woven into that of our ancestors".
Winsome Griffin (nee Guilford)