A public meeting was held at the Exchange in June. 1843, after the arrival of the “Victoria” at the Port, bringing news of the conflict between the Europeans and Natives at Wairau.
On the 18th June, 1843, Capt. Richards, of the Government brig, “Victoria,” wrote as follows to Mr. A. E. McDonogh:—
“I have the honour to report that at the repeated request of the Chief Magistrate of Nelson, I consented, on his representation of the urgency of the case, to depart so far from the strict letter of my instructions as to convey that officer and a Justice of the Peace, together with 35 men, to the Wairau, to apprehend on a warrant, two native chiefs. That expedition having terminated disastrously with loss of life and total dispersion of the party. I deemed it proper to proceed here for the purpose page 119 of procuring medical assistance for any who might be wounded.I have, etc.,
(Vide New Zealand Journal. 25th May, 1844, p. 472.)
In “Wakefield's Adventure,” page 603, the following extracts occur:—“When we reached Tunuhaere, strange reports were shouted to us from the Pas and potato gardens as we glided lazily along in the glowing sunset.… . A shout came clear and distinct over the water, and I felt faint at each word: ‘There has been a fight’; and ‘Rauparaha killed Wideawake and 40 white people—no natives were killed.’ I tried to laugh it off, and ‘Kuru’ kept telling me it was all ‘tito’ (lies). But from each little settlement or hut the same story still rang, with varying additional circumstances, but all agreeing that Wide-awake was dead. I thought they meant my uncle in Port Nicholson, and could not understand how any fighting could have occurred There.… There was no longer any doubt. An Englishman had seen the Government brig arrive in Wellington and land Mr. Tuckett, the Chief Surveyor of Nelson, and two white men and a native who were dreadfully wounded, but had managed to escape from the combat which had taken place on the Wairau, near Cloudy Bay. It was supposed that no others had escaped out of a party of 40 Englishmen who had gone from Nelson to the Wairau Plains to assist the Police Magistrate and two other magistrates in executing a warrant upon Rauparaha and Rangihaeata. He knew no more details; but he knew that my uncle, Captain Wakefield and Mr. Thompson were among those slain, for he had received an account of this from Rauparaha himself at Otaki, on his way hither from Wellington.”
“This messenger also told me that about 70 volunteers had embarked with Colonel Wakefield on board the brig, and were going to Cloudy Bay in hopes of saving their fellow-countrymen, but he had, of course, learned at Otaki that they would be too late.”
“The deputation from the Wellington Magistrates, with Dr. Dorset, sailed for Cloudy Bay on Wednesday the 21st. On arriving there, they found that Mr. Ironside, the Wesleyan Missionary stationed at Cloudy Bay, had been to Wairoa with two boats' companies of whalers, had discovered seventeen of the dead bodies, and having no alternative, had already commenced their interment on the spot, according to the rites of the Church of England.
“The bodies of Captain Wakefield, Mr. Thompson, Captain England, Mr. Richardson, Mr. Howard, Bumforth, Cropper, Gardiner and Coster, were found near the spot where the last of those who escaped left them alive, lying within 20 yards of each other, in their clothes as they fell. Captain Wakefield's coat and waist-coat alone had been stripped off, and under his head was found a piece of bread, and a pistol across his throat.”
An answer to an address issued to natives on the 24th June, 1843, was couched in the following terms:—
“Friends—Listen to the above saying, and good is the saying of the white man to search out the truth of who is to blame—perhaps it is the white man, perhaps it is the Maori. Do not spread false reports respecting the matter; do not talk much about it, and let all the Maoris at every place know this.
From your friends,
Wi Tako, Moturoa, and Wairarapa.”
Mr. McDonogh's reply was worded thus:—
“Remain quiet on the subject of this lamentable event. Remain at your several positions, and pursue your intercourse with the people of Port Nicholson as usual.”*
* N.Z. Journal 6th January 1844, p. 339.