Flight Place.jpg Flight Place sign (2019). Mike Gooch. Word on the street image collection.

Flight Place in lower Vogeltown was named after Josiah Flight, a remarkable early Taranaki settler.

Born in Devonshire in 1800, Josiah was persuaded by an advertisement for the Plymouth Company to invest everything he had in the purchase of land shares in Taranaki. He arrived in New Zealand with his wife Sarah Anne, two-year old daughter Annie and a flock of twelve Southdown sheep on the Timandra in 1842.

Flight and his wife both kept diaries during their journey, which give fascinating insights into shipboard life – whale sightings, birthday celebrations, brutal seasickness and the inevitable squabbling between strangers forced to share cramped quarters for four long months. Josiah continued to keep his journal for another decade, providing an invaluable record of the pleasures and pain of pioneer days in New Plymouth.

He noted everything from the appearance of a comet, to the names of much loved family pets, his relationship with local Māori, the constant battle against caterpillars in his garden, a range of alarming medical ailments and delicious snippets of community gossip.

Not always popular with his fellow settlers, Josiah nevertheless assumed a leading role in New Plymouth society. He became one of the first Justices of the Peace, a director of the first bank and helped found the city’s first public library in 1848. Offered the position of Resident Magistrate in 1852, he was also made Coroner and Captain of Militia during the Second Taranaki War (1863-66).

Deeply religious, Flight was instrumental in the establishment of no fewer than three churches and two temperance societies. Yet despite his many responsibilities he still managed to find time to enjoy trout fishing and writing poetry for his wife and three daughters.

Josiah Flight died on 7 March 1884 and is buried in Te Hēnui Cemetery.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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