Copy of a letter written by John Kemp Kings Lynn Norfolk England to his son Benjamin in New Zealand – circa 1862
My dear Benjamin,
Yours dated Panga Totara 27 March.
I duly received and it gave me great pleasure to hear you were in the land of the living.
What a mercy my dear boy that you was not taken off in the midst of your sins for we have all sinned. I am truly rejoiced to hear that you have turned to be a Christian in true repentance and to take up your cross and follow your saviour through evil and good report the Almighty has Laid his hand on you for some purpose for he do not willing nor grieve the children of man but it is a warner a gentle tap at the door of your heart and I hope you will benefit by it.
It gives me great pleasure to hear that you are good then all the gold you could have sent me from New Zealand.
To save your soul in a treasure beyond all wealth for what can a man do if he gain the whole world if he loses in his own soul. It is a great privilege for you to hear the gospel sound in a strange land the same God the same Saviour to see great and good men leave their homes their dear and true friends to preach the gospel to lost sinners to be faithful servant to their heavenly master and spread the gospel through all the earth to every nation and tongue.
Now my dear boy your father is getting an old man and have also been afflicted and laid on a bed of sickness and was also expected to die but in mercy the lord has spared me for a little season as I cannot expect to be hear long as my Age is now three score years and ten and quite lame but my bodily health is good and bless the Lord my intellect quite good.
Your brother John is dead now, he died last year poor wanderer and James has been in poor circumstances but I am happy to say he is now better off.
Your dear sisters are all good and virtuous girls hold good situations none of them married I expect them home for the holiday. Abigail lives in London Susanna at Antwerp in Belgium and Mary Ann at Swapham. She received your letter by the same post I received mine and pleased to hear from you.
I still keep the Sarah Mills she has been a good little ship to me but everything is very dull in shipping.
Your old school master Mr Carver often inquires about you, he sends his kind respects to you. The Avines all send regards to you. They are none of them married yet. John is at the Cape of Good Hope. Your Aunt Lil sends her love to you. They are all very pleased to hear from you.
Great changes have taken place since you left home, you must give our sincere love to your dear wife although unknown to us and hope you will be happy together.
It is a very near tie and dear also. We may never see her but I send her my blessing and may the Almighty God for ever watch over and after this life receive her into glory.
Robert Watts and Susan Watts sons has been to New Zealand in a vessel called the Young America. I think it was to the Otago or Dunedin but somewhere in the gold Regions.
We gave him your address where you were last you wrote. I did not receive your last letter where you said you were married. I was not to know it till you wrote this letter. The Wolverton people send King Respects to you. Also Mr and Mrs Lynn wishing you success and joy.
I cannot think of any more at present to write so my dear child I must say farewell and all that you have done to wound my feelings is past and forgiven and may the Almighty in his great mercy shower his blessings down on you and lead you in a plain path and at last receive you into glory, is a sincere prayer from your affectionate fateher, john Kemp
P.S. I must say a little to you about your mother. She sends her kindest love to you and wife. She very often speak of you was a favourite of hers and she was also a kind friend to you all and did her duty towards you and I hope that you will never forget to write to her should anything happen to me. She has been kind and good to me and mine which I hope you will never forget. Mary still lives with us, sends her regards to you so once more farewell and may we all meet as one family in another and better world. J.K.
- Panga Totara is a tiny settlement near another settlement called Ngatimoti in a valley near Motueka.
- Note: I believe the letter is copied verbatim from the original including spelling and punctuation errors and paragraph structure. I have not seen the original and am unsure where the copy has some from also.
- Note: 27th March is Benjamin’s birthday.
- Note: Pangatotara was the site of the first Nelson gold rush in about 1854–55 – could this relate to the gold reference John Kemp made?
- Note: Reference to Mr Carver – 1841 census shows Benjamin at boarding school St James Street Kings Lynn age 11. His mother had died when he was about 2 years old and his father was frequently at sea as a Master Mariner.
- Three score years and ten = 70
- Appears to be written before Benjamin had any children. His first child, a son was born in 1864 and named John.
- The Mary referred to in the letter is likely Mary Pooly born Wolverton – a servant in the house at 13 Friar Street on the 1861 census.
- John Kemp married second wife, Sarah Loose on 14th Feb 1843. She was Benjamin’s step-mother.
- Ship – “Sarah Mills”. His 2nd wife was named Sarah and his neighbour, a navigator living next door in 1851 was named John Mills. Go to the CLIP (Crew lists) website for more info on the Sarah Mills. https://www.crewlist.org.uk/