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The Piraki Log (e Pirangi Ahau Koe), or, Diary of Captain Hempleman


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It must have been about two years after 1875, the year in which I had gone to live at Piraki with my fellow traveller, Mr. F. P. Snow, of Oare, North Devon, that I first heard mention of any old Records in connexion with the Place; and at once became bent on their acquisition, whatever they might be, conceiving them to be in a certain measure part and parcel of our recently purchased property. Upon further inquiry I learned that old Captain Hempleman, who was jealously guarding his treasured private papers from public scrutiny in the interest of his 'claim' had promised them to Mr. Justin Aylmer, Resident Magistrate, Harbour-Master, Coroner, &c., for the Akaroa District (in return for many kindnesses), on his death; and when this took place in February, 1880, my friend, Mr. Aylmer, very kindly made the same promise to me.

I had, unfortunately, a very few years to wait before these interesting documents, coming into my possession, were restored once again to their place of origin; and though for the last five-and-twenty years I have been contemplating their publication, until quite recently both public and private calls upon my attention have prevented me from doing so, at any rate in such manner as might to some extent enhance the value of their contents.

The 'Log' and Diary will now be found printed in the following pages, exactly as written in the Manuscript, with all the mistakes in spelling or faulty expression (where decipherable) retained, and without any alteration or reconstruction whatever in the text. The Glossary-Index, which I have found it hard to keep within reasonable limits, page 6and the Map, on which are given the Place-names in use both formerly and now, should serve as helpful Guides to the History and Geography of that time; while the Photographs may reasonably be expected to bring the Natural features of the localities themselves more vividly before the mind's eye. A complete List of all Vessels mentioned in the Log has been added to those entered up as having been 'spoken' by the Bee before February 17, 1836, and of the 'Hands' on the Books; but only a few sample pages are given of the voluminous 'Slop Accounts', Lists of Stores in hand, Provisions served out, Whales caught, Gear lost, &c., which are of no present interest except as illustrating the old-time method of book-keeping on a whaling-station.

There is, however, much more to be learned from a careful perusal of these—quite the earliest—Canterbury (Middle Island) Records than the mere insight into the life of hardship, privation, and danger habitually endured by the adventurous Whaler in the Southern Seas of the ironically named 'Pacific' Ocean; for this particular 'Record' has the marked peculiarity of being at the same time a 'Diary' of events on shore, and a Master-whaler's 'Log'.

Thus, the sailor-like daily chronicle, during the winter months of the Whaling-season, of the wind and weather experienced some seventy years ago, should be of as much interest to the twentieth-century Meteorologist, as the man-on-shore's complaint (December 19, 1837) against the Midsummer blizzards, so often experienced, will be cordially endorsed by the Sheep-farmer of the present day. Owing, also, to this quasi-amphibious nature of the Piraki Settlement, we are enabled to fix the exact date of Bishop Selwyn's first landing in the South Island, on a visit of inspection into the Missionary progress and further needs of that part of his Diocese; and the approximate dates of the Ngai Tahu retaliatory expeditions against Rauperaha in Cloudy Bay; besides being afforded evidence of the changing formation of the coast-line along the Ninety-mile Beach, where the 'Mowry Harbour' of that time was.

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The phonetic spelling of Maori names by the illiterate scribe, who had not the benefit of the excellent Grammar and Dictionary then in use among the Missionaries, and could not, probably, have read it if he had, is more often than not an accurate guide to correct pronunciation, e.g. 'Peracky', 'Ekollacky'; and the quaint adaptation of words from one language to the other, regardless of any change in their meaning, as in the case of 'Tonguer' for Tonga, 'the river' for Wairewa, is worthy of a few moments' consideration.

But undoubtedly the special interest attaching to this Manuscript lies in the Unique Period with which it deals; beginning, as it does, in the wild cannibal days of 1835, witnessing the birth in 1840 of another infant British Daughter-State, and ending in 1844 with the peacefully-established settlement of three rival Nationalities, under properly constituted Magisterial authority, in the now civilized and prospering District of Akaroa.

It should be remembered that the North Island, whose Natives belonged to distinctly different tribes to the Ngai Tahus of the South, became a British Possession by 'Treaty' entered into at Waitangi in March, 1840, by the Government of New South Wales; and that, although Hempleman may have given formal notice of his land-purchase on Bankes Peninsula to the new Authority in the April following, the French—whose Captain L'Anglois professed to have made an exactly similar purchase from the Ngai Tahu Chiefs—would certainly not have admitted the inclusion of the South Island in that Treaty, if Governor Hobson had not 'made assurance doubly sure' by sending down H.M.S. Britomart to make formal 'Proclamation' of British Sovereignty at Akaroa, Piraki, and 'Price's Fishery' in August of that year (see Supplement). Beading between the lines of this Diary, it is evident that during the 'thirties Piraki Cove was the one chief centre of interest alike to Native on shore and Whaler off the coast. To the Native mind—especially while their war against Rauperaha was going on—this White Settlement, with Master-whaler Hempleman in occupation, and ready to page 8act genial host or domineering autocrat at will, was a power to be humoured or frightened into giving practical assistance, rather than an object for destruction, the very fear of which only united the band more closely round their leader; and to the whaling fraternity it was an obvious advantage to keep up friendly relations with such a conveniently situated 'Station' where whales were plentiful.

'Peracky' was, indeed, the stage on which a German and a French whaling captain were working out ambitious projects for acquiring—each in his own interest—the land of the Maori Chief, until in the year 1840 the British Lion—with dramatic suddenness—woke up just in time to administer even-handed justice, and secure for himself the future home of the Canterbury Lamb. Ten years afterwards, Mr. John Watson of Ballydarton, Co. Carlow, the second R.M. at Akaroa, had purchased fifty acres (U.S. 253) of land, at one end of which the whaling-station buildings stood; and Mr. Walter Carew, his first cousin, from Co. Waterford, was living there with his family. Twenty years afterwards, Mr. Carew's sheep were depasturing on an undefined 12,000 acres of Piraki 'Run', and the breeding of race-horses—such as 'Creepmouse'—had been started by his son Ponsonby. By 1870 Mr. Watson had gone to live in England; misfortune had attended the sporting proclivities of the young Irishman, and the property was on the eve of being sold to Captain Hawtrey, R.N., a son of the Reverend John Hawtrey, formerly Head Master of Lower School at Eton. In 1874 this gentleman was unfortunately drowned with two companions when sailing his own yacht round from Piraki to French Farm (Akaroa Harbour), a place which he held on lease from the Trustees of the Dicken family; and this historic property was subsequently bought from his widow by the present owner, in a partnership with Mr. F. P. Snow, which was dissolved in 1891 when that very old friend bought land and went to live at Hokowhitu, Manawatu.

In conclusion, let me add that—although in this one case of my own property I have brought the history of Piraki, in page 9brief outline, up to date—in the Glossary I have aimed at supplying such information only as will serve to fix the individuality of the Personages and Places actually mentioned in the Diary, or suffice to bring out the incidents of the Narrative into clearer light.

To the Many—most of them now dead—who have helped me to this end, I acknowledge my gratitude.

F. A. Anson.

September, 1910.

Ps. The old eight-roomed Piraki House, built by the Carews, considerably enlarged and supplied with every modern requirement by the present Owner, was completely destroyed by fire, with all its contents, on September 3, 1910.

F. A. A.