The Battle of Addisons Flat, 1868
The so-called “Battle of Addisons Flat” took place on 3 April 1868. A month earlier, an Irish procession headed by a priest had broken into the Hokitika cemetery and had erected a Celtic cross in honour of three Fenians recently executed in Manchester. A similar but more peaceful demonstration took place in Westport on St. Patrick's Day. Soon afterwards, news arrived of an Irishman's attempt to assassinate the Duke of Edinburgh in Sydney. Fearing a Fenian uprising, the authorities concentrated troops in Hokitika, arrested the Irish leaders, and arraigned them on charges of riot and seditious libel. All were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms and fines. The outbreak at Addisons Flat, a predominantly Irish gold-miners' tent town 8 miles south of Westport, occurred when a party returned from Westport where they had celebrated the Duke's escape from the assassin's bullet. As they marched into Addisons Flat singing patriotic songs, they were met by a hail of stones from the assembled Irishmen and forced to retreat. During the next days Irishmen from the surrounding districts mustered in force at Addisons Flat fully expecting an attack by Government forces, while in Westport the loyalists vainly urged the authorities to allow them to march against the enemy. Thanks to the moderating influence of A. S. Kynnersley, the local warden, an armed clash was averted and the opposing forces never met.
In later years the story of the “Battle of Addisons Flat” has been much embroidered, but there is no reason to doubt Kynnersley's report that “all the wounds received did not require ten inches of sticking plaster, and all the property destroyed would be well paid by a ten pound note”.