Notes on Early Life in New Zealand
By the time a man has lived in this world for seventy years, I think he ought to have become interesting to some one. And if such a life should nearly all have been passed in these Southern lands, he ought to have a story that is worth the telling. And if he happens to be a minister who has been long in the same place, you need not suspect him of inordinate vanity, if he supposes that he himself, more than the public interests with which he had to do, may be rather interesting to his friends. It is with such a combination of claims that I venture to give you a very personal address to-night. In truth, I shrink, as much as most men, from talking about myself in public, but I am here under a sort of pressure. The story I am urged to tell cannot be told at all, in a way to hold your attention, without making myself the centre of the narration. I extract it from a selection of notes that were prepared to please my own family, and they allow me discretion to take from them what I think is within the limits of propriety.
Many friends tell me that one who has been at the beginning of such things as I have seen, may be allowed to say what in other circumstances might well be kept to the knowledge of one's more intimate circle, and, therefore, in deference to their wishes, I have consented to give you an account of what I had to do with the early history of New Zealand. I do it humbly, and with no disposition to show myself other than I actually was, but I know that, for good or evil, I had very much to do with the making of New Zealand history, and with bringing Maori and Pakeha to terms of mutual understanding.
The New Zealand of to-day is one of the fairest and most flourishing colonies of the British Empire, and I can simply say page 6 that all we see there now, has grown up within my personal recollection. I have long been detached from New Zealand affairs, but in various ways am still bound to the early scene of my interests by ties, only less strong than those which bind me to Tasmania. I seem to myself to have lived three lives—one in New Zealand, one in Tasmania, and one (of shorter duration) in England. Their associations are altogether separate, and though I am conscious of personal identity running through all, it is difficult for my friends in one place to link on to their knowledge the associations of the other. Being in for it, I think I may as well begin at the beginning. You may, if you like, take the notices of my childhood, as an old fellow's prattle about things that were once very interesting to him, and which he is apt to fancy may be nearly as interesting to the second and third generation of them that follow after him. But still I can hardly leave them out for whatever they may be worth.
About the year 1800, English whalers and scalers began to frequent the coast of New Zealand. The Maoris were anxious to procure firearms, and many of them, fond of adventure, shipped as sailors, for the chance of getting them. These men visited Sydney, and, in most cases, were tolerably treated, in some with great violence and injustice. There was a Bay of Islands Chief, named Ruatara, who, in the course of his wanderings, visited England under promise that he should be presented to the King. On arriving, however, in London, he was shamefully treated, and thrust ashore without wages, to shift for himself, and he nearly died from neglect and illness. By some means passage to Sydney was obtained for him in the convict transport, the “Ann,” and with nothing but a few rags on his back, he went on board, and sailed to the far South—that was in the year 1810.
Among the passengers on board the “Ann,” was the Rev. Samuel Marsden, the Chaplain of the settlement at Botany Bay. Marsden was greatly taken with Ruatara, pitied his misfortunes, admired his intelligence, was attracted by his disposition, and showed him great kindness. On landing in Sydney Mr. Marsden page 7 took him for some time to his own house, a kindness which Ruatara never forgot, and which stood us in good stead for the years that were to come. The interest Marsden took in his Maori friend on that voyage, was in fact the grain of mustard seed that grew into the New Zealand Mission, and that prepared the way more than anything else for the peaceful colonization of the country thirty years afterwards. You never know what will come out of personal kindness and consideration. It is the most fruitful of all seeds that we can sow in the world, and you never know whereunto the thing will grow. Before Marsden's arrival in Sydney, apart from the whaling and sealing expeditions that frequented the coast of New Zealand, there had grown up the Kauri trade. Kauri was in very high request at that time as the best known timber for the masts and spars of ships, and it was preferred before all other kind of timber, for the use of the British navy. Kauri was only found in the Northern part of the island, and it was most plentiful in the district between the Bay of Islands and the North Cape. Among other vessels in this trade, was one with a large crew, named the “Boyd.” In 1810 she made a voyage to Wangaroa, a fine harbour to the North of the Bay of Islands, to procure a cargo of the New Zealand pine. The “Boyd” had engaged some Maoris in Sydney to help in procuring a cargo of Kauri timber, and on the voyage the captain had tied a chief of high rank, named Tara (the sailors called him George), to the gangway, and flogged him twice on the bare back, with a cat-o'-nine-tails, because he was too lazy or too ill to keep on working the ship. To a Maori Chief the disgrace was worse than death. The man vowed vengeance for the insult and when the vessel arrived at Wangaroa, the whole crew were murdered, except a woman and three children, and the ship was plundered and burnt. Tara's joy over his glut of vengeance did not last long. Amongst the cargo brought on shore, were a good many casks of gunpowder, and while Tara was smoking near the haul it exploded, and he and many around him were forthwith blown into infinite space.page 8
Five English whalers, shortly after the “Boyd” massacre, visited the Bay of Islands, and under the mistaken impression that a Chief named Te Paki was concerned with the massacre (he had really tried to stop it) they armed all their boats and attacked Te Paki's village, killed all the inhabitants, burnt the houses and food stores, and smashed up their canoes. Te Paki, himself, fled severely wounded, and was killed by the Wangaroa natives because he did not take part in the massacre. Not long after, a neighbouring tribe, in sheer exasperation at the slaughter of Te Paki's people, attacked a whale boat, and killed and cooked several of the sailors. The Bay of Islands now became a very dangerous place to visit, and only now and then would an English vessel venture to anchor in the port at all, but they surprised villages, lured the canoes to come alongside, and then sunk them, carried off the women, and did such things as have been reported of the most lawless of traders in the labour traffic of our day, and which have led to so many murders in the islands of the Pacific. Among these whalers were not a few escaped ruffians from the penal settlement of Port Jackson, and you may be sure that they would not be likely to pay too much regard to the laws of justice and humanity, in their dealings with the Maoris. The competition between the ruthless savage, and the civilized villain ran high, and it was hard to say which had the best or the worst of it.
The intercourse of the whalers and the natives for the next four years was very troubled; there was much treachery and bloodshed on both sides, and Governor Macquarie tried by proclamation and by exacting heavy bonds from all ships going from Sydney to New Zealand, to stay the horrors that were done. Mr. Marsden, the Colonial Chaplain, and the founder of the New Zealand mission, represented strongly to the C. M. Society the growing evils of the traffic, and commended the intelligence of the natives and the possibility of teaching them Christian and civilized ways. In answer to his importunity, two laymen, Messrs, Hall and King, were at length sent out, and page 9 became the first missionaries who found a resting place at Rangihou, in the Bay of Islands. That was the first Missionary Station, which they founded in the year 1815.
In September, 1822, my father and mother arrived at Hobart, in the “Heroine,” as missionaries, on their way to Sydney, and from thence to New Zealand. Hopkins, Mather, G. C. Clarke (well remembered by some of us but no relation of the family), Walker, Worthy, Barrett, and other well-known Tasmanian colonists were fellow passengers. My father went on to Sydney and was detained at Paramatta for over a year, no opportunity offering of getting to the Bay of Islands. During this time he had charge of the establishment of Aborigines at Black Town, and it was during his sojourn there, that the speaker made his first appearance in this troubled world, at Parramatta, 29th June, 1823. There is one dear old friend among us who I know from hearsay, though I daresay she has forgotten it, used to go with her mother to see my mother, and, as a very little girl, found pleasure in occasionally nursing the baby. I refer to Mrs. Sprent, daughter of Mrs. Oakes, the first-born of Australian children.
Some time in 1824 my father embarked on board a French corvette, “La Coquine,” under the command of Captain (afterwards Admiral). D'Urville, the celebrated circumnavigator. Many years afterwards I met the first Lieutenant Barrard (I think then Commodore) at the French settlement at Akaroa, who told me that I was such a nuisance with my squalling, that more than once the officers were on the point of pitching me overboard. He was glad now that they had not done it.
On arrival at the Bay of Islands, the parents and the baby went up an arm on the western side of the bay, some fifteen miles long to the Keri Keri, the new station that had just been formed by Messrs, Buller & Kemp.
At that time there was a population of many thousands of Maoris on either side of the inlet, where all is silent and deserted now.page 10
The Keri Keri was the headquarters of the Chief, Hongi, or, according to his full name, Hongi Ika (“Smell Fish”). There is a fair summary of this man's character, “ferocious to enemies and faithful to friends,” and of his stormy and bloodthirsty career in Rusden (Vol. I.) He swept through the island like a consuming fire. I have a dream-like recollection of being carried by my nurse into his pah, and of his taking me in his arms. The Keri Keri was my baby world. It is a circle of low, bare hills, surrounding a beautiful little basin of water, in which a river, some forty yards wide, pours over a ledge of rock in a fall of eight or nine feet into the tidal water. The house stood by the water side, a few yards from the fall, and stands there still. I have a photo, of it as the oldest European house in New Zealand. It is built of heart of Kauri, and preserved itself well. My earliest child years were spent there. It now belongs to the Kemps. None of the hills are more than half a mile off from the centre of the enclosure, and they framed in nearly all that I knew from observation of the habitable globe. I could now throw a stone a quarter of the way across the basin, but it once seemed to me as great a spread of water as the widest part of the Derwent between Hobart and the Iron Pot.
I have visited it several times since, and the contrast between my earliest and latest impressions is like looking at a landscape, first through one end of a telescope, and then through the other.
I have never heard such music as the sound of the waterfall near which our house was built. The entrance to this basin from the sea is by a channel like the three sides of the letter Z, and you see nothing of the enclosure until you turn the corner and find yourself in it. Just at the entrance, on the side of the basin opposite to our house, was Hongi's famous pah Kororipo, surrounded on three sides by water, and guarded on the land side by long stretches of mangrove swamp that no enemy could cross. It was also defended by a deep fosse, and a strong stockade. There was a perfect network of pits and palisade ways inside. It is all gone now, except the remains of the page 11 trenches, which I examined as a stronghold, and greatly admired last time I visited the place, four or five years ago. As I knew it when a child, it was full of houses, and was impregnable to any assault of Maori warfare in those days.
Let me try and give you some idea of this Maori fortress, as I knew it in its strength. It was a double stockade of upright posts from fifteen to eighteen feet high, with a chain of pits between the two fences, and another chain of pits inside the second of them. The posts at the angles, and at certain intermediate distances, were, in fact, logs about two feet in diameter, the intervals being split logs, and they were surmounted by grotesque and carved hideous human figures, mostly head, with goggle eyes and protruding tongues, all looking outward as if in defiance of any hostile approach. So far as the faces are concerned, I have seen something like them in old English buildings. They have their counterpart in the gargoyles or projecting waterspouts which the old monks delighted to carve into contorted and agonised griffins, and dwarfs, and devils, squeezed down by the roof and struggling out of the super-incumbent weight that seemed to crush them. In the centre of the stockade was the ware puni, the Chief's state house. It was a wonderful specimen of Maori art. The beams and rafters inside were stained red, and were elaborately carved throughout after the general pattern of the moko or tatoo on a chieftain's face. The wooden posts which supported the ridge-pole were human figures after the manner of the osiride pillars in an Egyptian temple, or the caryatides round the temple of Poseidon, at Athens, though of course they were in wood, and far ruder in execution than the works of even the remotest Egyptian antiquity. I have seen many such chiefs' houses since, but none at all approaching the ware puni of Hongi for its elaborate decorations and carvings. Such specimens of Maori architecture have long since disappeared, and the fragments of carving that one sometimes meets with in museums give but a very poor notion of what was common enough in my early days. I could not have been more than five years old page 12 when all the artistic glory of Hongi's house passed away. I remember standing in our verandah and watching the conflagration which consumed it all, and I remember the comparatively paltry style in which the pah was rebuilt.
I hope you will be tolerant, but my childish recollections of the Keri Keri must necessarily take the form of prattle, and yet they are the recollections of such things as go to the making of every man's particular life. It was a time when fishing for sprats and eels seemed the noblest occupation of humanity. I had to do most of my fishing with bent pins which, in those days were so precious a commodity, that if the stock ran out you had to send to Sydney for more, and were very lucky if you could renew your supply within three months of the order.
I had no difficulty at all in believing that “it was a sin to steal a pin.” A real fish-hook was a rare treasure, and it made me as happy as a king. No prohibition would keep me from the water. I have a lively recollection of squatting on a stone (it has been maliciously suggested that it was a Sunday) in the act of hauling in a small eel. When I was hitched by the slack of my lower garments behind and pitched head over heels into the river by a newly arrived priggish old missionary puritan, whom to this day I have never forgiven, but my dear mother thought it a shame, and told my tormentor so, and she gave me more indulgence in consequence of my ducking.
I have a faint recollection of the death of Hongi. Some time in 1827 he made an expedition to Wangaroa to settle a quarrel in which he was involved with a closely related tribe, and was shot through the lungs in a skirmish. Immediately afterwards the Wesleyan station at Wangaroa was plundered and burnt, and the fugitives, among whom were the late Nathaniel Turner and his wife, came twenty roadless miles, utterly destitute, to the Keri Keri settlement. Many of you will have a kindly memory of these good people. They deserved the reverence that they received among the fathers and pastors of the Wesleyan Communion in these Southern lands, and it was they who laid the page 13 foundations of much that has now grown into superstructure in all these colonies.
I was about five years old, but I can remember joining the rest of our people, carried on my nurse's back, and crossing the river to meet the jaded and fugitive travellers, and bring them to our house. What struck me most was Mrs. Turner—it could have been no one else—with bare and bleeding feet, and but poorly and shiveringly clad. I am not sure, but I think Anne Turner, afterwards Mrs. Harcourt, was the baby in her arms.
The years 1827–8 were times of great peril to the missionaries. Hongi died. My father and Mr. Kemp determined to hold on to their post, but made an arrangement secretly to send off the wives and children to the Bay of Islands. For some days before my little head had been puzzling over mysterious hiding and burying of things, and I fancied that if I only had leave to hunt, I might find all sorts of treasures in secret places. Indeed the notion clung to me for many years afterwards, and even last time I was in New Zealand (a pretty oldish man), as I wandered over the old house, I noted what I long ago used to consider the most likely places for a treasure quest—under the stairs, down the cellar, under the hearthstone, in the lining of the walls, and so on. It is hard to reproduce those old sensations.
I was not much over four years old, but I remember a time between midnight and morning, being lifted out of my cot and told to be very still. In the dim light of a lantern I saw my poor mother enveloped in a cloak, and quietly sobbing, then father wrapping me in a thick blanket, and taking me in his arms, they crept stealthily out of the house and made their way in the starlight to a boat, with muffled oars, under the rock, Mother, and I and baby Sam, were deposited in the stern sheets and we glided silently to the entrance, and passed the sleeping pah, beyond which I can say nothing of my own knowledge, though I have been told that we went on to Paihia, in the Bay. Hongi died commending the missionaries to the care of his people, and his last words were: “Be brave! Be brave!” The page 14 crisis was over in few days, and we came back, and the disinterring of hidden treasures in the following weeks kept me in a condition of strained expectation that was altogether a great delight. I remember it with feeling if no one else does.
I think I began to learn to read very early, and I can still remember the lesson books I conned when three or four years old. One was a great favourite, which I learnt by heart, for I was a child of one book, as most of us were in those times. It had a fine, clear print, and my favourite lesson began, “Hark! it is the huntsman's horn,” &c. The other, a more advanced book, would hardly pass with the Board of Education. One sentence ran: “It is wicked to look at the sun, and to point at it with the finger,” and my conscience was greatly exercised to find out wherein the wickedness lay. I began learning Lindley Murray's grammar, and though I hated it, soon learnt it all by heart.
It must have been soon after our flight, on the eve of Hongi's death (1828), that the Rev. W. Yate joined the Mission and became for a long time an inmate of our house. I will tell, hereafter, how, after losing sight or report of the gentleman for many years, I met him again like a man from the dead, or who had dropped from the clouds, in the streets of Dover. Shortly after his arrival at Keri Keri, a sister was born into the family, who died in three months from whooping cough. An incident, associated with her death, made a lasting impression upon me. It always comes back to me with the sight and smell of cabbage roses, and is a sort of faint musk to my memory. My father had a short time before got a box of plants from Sydney, among them some precious cabbage roses, the first I suppose that were grown in New Zealand. Cabbage roses are best of all roses. I have heard of a thousand diggers in Colorado coming to look at an English daisy. My father carefully planted and tended them until the buds began to form. I remember his taking me by the hand, nipping off a half open bud, and then our walking into the study and his putting the flower in the dead baby's hand. I page 15 can not be sure, but I should think that was the first of our sweet English roses that ever bloomed in New Zealand. Then, too, by way of improving the occasion, I had to learn a hymn beginning—
“Tell me, Mamma, and must I die
“One day, as little baby did?”
that, I don't think I have seen for over sixty years, but I have not quite forgotten it yet.
In the end of 1828 the first missionary “Huihuinga,” or gathering of their adherents, was held at Paihia. The missionaries of all the stations, their families, and their Maori followers, all came together and had examinations and services, and kept high festival. I remember, because the Rev. Henry Williams—who had fought gallantly at Copenhagen, and on board the “Endymion” when she took the “President”—an old navy salt, had planted four carronades on the hill at the back of the station for show, not for defence, and I was frightened out of all my little wits by the banging of their guns over my head in honour of the meeting. The noise ended in grief, for a young Englishman in his eagerness to keep the guns going, loaded before the remains of the old cartridge were cleared out, and he, with his ramrod, was blown down the hill, losing some of his fingers, burning his face, temporarily blinding his eyes, and suffering other bodily delapidation.
Our parents did the best they could to keep us out of the sights and sounds of Maori savagery, and though the knocking of unfortunate slaves and prisoners of war on the head, and then putting them in the oven, was an every day occurrence around us, especially at the pah opposite, and on the return of a war expedition, I never, as a child, saw an actual murder, but I have watched the war canoes on their return from fighting expeditions with loads of backed humanity and crowds of unfortunate prisoners, who were jsut as likely as not to be massacred on landing by any of the fierce men or fiercer women who had lost father or son, brother or husband, in the battle. One evening when a fleet of war canoes returned with a score of page 16 prisoners in each of them, I was looking across the water at a scuffle on the landing. For tunately it was getting too dark to see plainly, but I did see the poor creatures jump out of the canoe with their thick mats thrown over their heads—which was always what a Maori did when he expected a blow from a “mere” or a tomahawk—and then there was a crowd and a rush, and yells, and the scream of a single fury rising high above all. I was sent to bed and kept out of Maori company all the next day, but managed to find out that the wife of some chief who had been killed in battle, rushed with a tomahawk upon the wretched captives and managed to kill eight or ten of them before she was stopped. She then deliberately strangled herself in a paroxysm of rage, grief, and despair, and more prisoners were sacrificed and drowned that night as “utu,” or revenge. I once saw a procession of over twenty women from the canoes pass through the settlement, each with a heavy basket on her back containing human flesh.
The murderous expeditions, begun by Hongi, kept up the supply, and the Maoris had not yet learned to be in the least ashamed of it. Even in times of peace it was not possible to escape the sight.
Many of the missionaries' servants were, in fact, war slaves, and it was often anxious work to keep them out of their owners' hands.
Fortunately, from the very beginning of their intercourse with the Maoris, the missionaries managed to keep the interior of their houses sacred from all intruders. Wild Maoris might cluster like bees at the windows, and flatten their noses on the glass in trying to see what was going on within, but they never entered a room without invitation. I fancy that there was some superstitious fear of the consequences of intrusion almost equivalent to a violation of their own tapu; at any rate, it often served us in good stead. Many a time when some cannibal friend was known to be prowling about the village, my mother has locked a poor slave girl in her room, or put a man page 17 into a cupboard, till the prowler was known to have gone. We children had to learn to keep secrets at such times from the Maoris. I remember, however, in one case at Paihia, where a slave was locked into a room and put under the bed for twelve hours, when a murderous old fellow named Marupo was after him, yet though he knew he was there, he did not venture to break in. One of my most soft spoken, but most gluttonous friends, was Tareha, the hugest man I ever saw, and whose usual residence was some miles down the Keri Keri river. Whenever he paid us a visit there was a scramble to put every slave in the place out of his way. Fortunately he was so fat and inactive a man, that he could not run his victims down. He used to try all sorts of wiles, grim enough, but very amusing, to get some unsuspecting wretch within the reach of his tremendous arm, for he knew that he could not pursue him. I once asked old Rauparaha how he made his way from the banks of the Thames to the neighbourhood of Otago, and he simply said: “Why, of course, I ate my way through,” which was almost literally true. In some unaccountable way, two or three of my Hobart friends have got the impression that it was I who said this, and not Rauparaha. I do not in the least believe the theory, as far as the New Zealanders are concerned, that cannibalism had its origin in their craving for animal food. The Maoris had an abundance of fish, captured vast numbers of birds and kiores (indigenous rats), and reared dogs, like the Chinese, for food. It was simply their half religious notion that it would appease their ancestors by a complete revenge, and that it was the most contemptuous settlement of the whole score of wrong, that a man, or a man's father might have received from another man, or from his fathers. No doubt in some cases it did develope into a real unsophisticated appetite for human flesh, but I think that such cases were altogether rare and exceptional.
At this time (1828) Maoris of the highest rank did not disdain to enter into a qualified service of the missionaries, prompted by the desire of learning our ways. Harriet, the daughter of page 18 Hongi, who was by descent on both sides one of the highest ladies in the land, and her cousin and future husband, John Heke, were in the family of the Williams and the Kemps, the one as a housemaid at the sewing class or wash tub, and the other as a general sort of upper servant. They were very docile, though they never forgot their high birth. I have often, as a boy, played with Heke, who attached himself to me up to the end of the war, and with the full knowledge that I was on the other side. The rank of these people made it necessary to be polite. In giving our orders, they were always in the form of invitations, and if they did wrong we could go no farther than express our disgust and call them to their senses by appealing to their honour as gentlemen and ladies, or to the dictates of the universal conscience.
My mother used to tell of her first batch of bread at the Keri Keri. After it was made, she put it into a portable oven and set a very great young lady to watch it. In due time she told the girl to take it out and bring it into the pantry. She brought something like an ill-cooked batter pudding, steaming with an intolerable odour which made my mother's heart sink. The explanation was that the girl had a fine fish, half dried and very odorous, and she thought that “Mother Karaka” would not mind her putting it on top of this queer stuff, bread, where it would cook so nicely. What was the use of getting out of temper about such things? The missionaries took it merely as all in their bargain, though they often had to grin over its humour and inconvenience.
In 1830, Mr. Yate had to go to Sydney, about carrying some translations through the press, and kindly took me with him.
At that time hundreds of blackfellows could be seen in the streets of Sydney, and one could see at a glance that they were a lower race than the Maoris by many degrees.
I was a little over six, and stayed with Mr. Marsden and Mr. Hassall for six months, having a very good time of it, and then returned home. There is somewhere an effigy of me at this age with a blue jacket, to which the nether garments were buttoned page 19 outside, and a frill round the neck. The precocity of collars in small boys was an outrage on propriety that had not yet come into fashion, and the frill made me thought rather fast for assuming such frippery.
It was in the same year, 1830, that the Waimate station was formed. Hitherto, the mission stations had been by the seaside. This was the first advance inland. My father and Mr. Hamlin cut a road—ten miles—for drays, and built several bridges, and with the steady work of the Maoris, in parties under their direction, they finished it in three months. They then built three small cottages, and when all was ready, two families emigrated from the Keri Keri, and another from Paihia, and settled down in the new station. I remember the flitting well. My mother rode a famous little white pony known as “Lion,” the most vicious and long-lived of all ponies I have known. My younger brothers and sisters were carried, and I walked part of the way and rode pick-a-back on a stalwart Maori's shoulder for the rest.
In 1832 Mr. Yate again took me to Sydney, and after a short stay there I was sent on to Hobart Town by a wretched little schooner called the “Admiral Gifford.” It was a long and tedious passage. We were half-starved, and when I landed, on a Sunday in January, 1833, I came to the house in Patrickstreet now occupied by Mr. Charles Walch, miserably weak and ill after the voyage.
Just a word of explanation as to how this came about. My dear mother, and my wife's dear mother, were closer friends than most sisters are. Mrs. Hopkins could not bear the notion of her friend's child being brought up through all his boyhood with no better surroundings than those of early missionary life in New Zealand, and she affectionately pressed upon my mother the duty of sending me away. She promised, and most sacredly she kept her promise, that she would be a mother to me if I could only come for three or four years and be educated with her own children, and thus, through her importunity, I got my first introduction to Tasmania.page 20
On that first Sunday I went to church with the other children. It was the Scotch Kirk that is now the school attached to St. Andrew's. I was very ill, and had as hard a time of it to get over my trouble as in emergencies most stray young boys know. I remember the old faces—the Walkers, Youngs, Gunns, Facys, Turnbulls, and the rest. They have all long since passed away, but their descendants to the second and third generation are among us still, and for the sake of the old past they are all very interesting to my feeling. In the beginning of July I went to school at New Town, at “Summerhome,” which has been for so many years our family nest, and made my first acquaintance with the forebears of my friend, Mr. Justice Giblin; but I need not take note of my early Tasmanian life, as Tasmania is not New Zealand.
On August 4th, 1836, I left Hobart Town to meet Mr. Yate at Sydney, and to return with him to New Zealand. On arrival, however, at Sydney, things were in great confusion. Charges of irregularity were brought against Mr. Yate, affecting his clerical character, which were so serious as to prevent his return to New Zealand, and he resigned his connection with the C.M. Society. He returned to England, and from that time to 1848 (twelve years) I never heard a word about him, except a vague rumour that he was preaching at some obscure village in Wales. I may as well finish at once what I have to say about this gentleman, whose faults, whatever they have been, could not quench my personal love and loyalty. Happily, I knew next to nothing of the gross charges or of their merits that had been brought against him. When I went to England, in the “Wellington,” in 1848, we were becalmed in the Straits of Dover, and Mr. Charles Seal, a fellow passenger, suggested that we had better land and take the train for London next day. We did so, left our traps at the hotel, and spent our time till evening in strolling over the Castle and seeing the lions of the place. On our return, when within twenty yards of the hotel, I heard Mr. Seal muttering over and over again, as was his wont when anything was on his mind, page 21 “Rev. W. Yate.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “There,” he said, pointing with his finger to a brass plate on the next door, “Rev. W. Yate.” While we were getting our dinner I asked the waiter about the clergyman next door, and he told me he had only been in Dover a year; that he was the clergyman of the Mariners' Church; and that he was exceedingly popular, especially among sailors; had a very large congregation; and then added: “He often comes in, Sir, of an evening, and most likely he will drop in for a few minutes to-night.” I asked where he had come from; the waiter did not know, but thought he had been some time in “furrin parts.” And so in the evening Mr. Yate came in. It was indeed a strange meeting. I recognised him in a moment, called him aside, and said: “Mr. Yate, do you know me?” “No, Sir, I cannot say I do.” “I am George Clarke, the little boy you took to Sydney sixteen years ago.” I thought the poor man would have fallen to the ground, but after some talk he asked me to go home with him to supper. We spent some hours in recalling old scenes and old faces. Next morning I went to breakfast with him, and his sister took me aside and told me that he had done nothing but pace up and down his room all night long. After I was settled at college, I came two or three times to see him. He died about thirteen years ago, greatly respected by the people of Dover for his consistent and benevolent character. He was a clergyman who had laid himself out especially for the help of sailors, and who had been on several occasions very active in looking after shipwrecked people.
But now to return to the end of 1836, or rather the beginning of 1837, when I got back to Waimate (age over 14).
I went to school again, and began to take to the Greek and Latin classics—alas! I have nearly forgotten them—with so much interest, that my tutor, Mr. Williams (afterwards Bishop of Waiapu), pressed me to go on. I developed a greed for reading of all kinds, except novels, which were not allowed by our mentors, though we managed to read them surreptitiously, and got started in a direction from which I have never wholly swerved to this day.page 22
Two years after—1838—Bishop Broughton visited New Zealand, and among other things, confirmed all the children of the missionaries above twelve years old. It was at this time that my old friend and tutor, Mr. Hadfield, late Bishop of Wellington, was received into priests orders at Waihia, the finest missionary in some respects that has ever been sent to New Zealand.
Towards the end of the next year Mr. Williams left Waimate to form a new station at Turanga (Poverty Bay), and persuaded me to go with him and to have a year's reading. When our vessel reached Poverty Bay the natives came off in crowds and landed us at the mouth of the river. After we got on shore the captain was uneasy about the position of the vessel, and was taking up anchor to shift to the other side of the roadstead, when somehow the Maoris got the notion that he wanted to make off with their missionary's goods. They at once overpowered the crew, cleared every bit of cargo out of the vessel, and took the whole on shore in their war canoes. The consequence was that the ship's copper was some feet out of water, and they had to make to the north shore for ballast to keep her steady. Fortunately the weather was fine. We really had nothing to do with it, but there was a great row, and the charter for the voyage expired in a storm of abusive slang, that might have unnerved Mark Twain himself. I spent a very happy year and a half at Turanga. The natives had built Mr. Williams a large house, nicely thatched, and with the walls inside beautifully lined with upright, pencil-like reeds. The position was half a mile from a very large Pah, and about eight miles inland from the beach. We had little peace for the first week. Hundreds of natives surrounded the house and all night long kept shouting in unison h-a ha, h-e he, hi, h-o ho, h-u hu, and so on through half the primer spelling book. I think they fancied that it was part of the missionary's “karakia” or worship. We had brought down with us a small primer in sheets, and had given away half a dozen copies, and this was the result.
It will be readily understood that the elder members of the missionary families had to take their share in teaching the natives page 23 to read, write, and cypher, as well as to conduct Bible classes on the Sunday. I have often taught a class in which two generations sat together. The language of the Maoris, like the other dialects of Western Polynesia, has sprung from the Malay. Its alphabet contains only fourteen letters, and every syllable ends with a vowel sound. It is to Dr. Lee, Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge, in the early twenties, that we owe the inestimable boon of Maori orthography. If you know the sound you can learn the whole art of correct spelling in an hour. The Maoris never make mistakes in spelling their language, incredible as it may seem to us, who have to learn our own orthography with so much labour and patience. The young people, perhaps, would like to hear the sound and swing of the language. Well, I will give you a very ancient “haka,” or war-song of the Ngatitoa tribe, as it will not take two minutes to recite. You must take it, however, as said and not as sung. It is difficult to show the measure of the rhythm, but you must imagine that it should be so delivered as to mark the step and swing of the tribal war dance.
Ka tito au
Ka tito au
Ka tito au ki
Nana-i tope tope
Tu Ke, Kaputi
Tu Ke, Mana
Tau Ke Aropaoa
Ko nga To hu-Tena
O taku tupuna
Na na-i wakatomene
Ka toro ke i au
Te wenua hei.
The subject of the song is Kupe, the heroic and mythical ancestor of the tribe, who, according to the legend, separated the North Island from the South by what we call Cook Strait, and planted the adjacent islets in the ocean.page 24
The words may be thus roughly Englished:—
“I chant a song, I chant a song,
I chant a song of Kupe;
He was the man
Who sliced the lands,
Apart stands Kaputi,
Apart stands Mann,
Beyond lies Aropaoa,
These are the wonders
Of my forefather
He who engulfed
The place of Titapu,
And hither I come,
To fire this land.”
The I of course is not the individual but the collective tribe.
Here, too, is an ancient love song that shows the sentimental side of the Maori character. I will give you the song first in Maori, and then render it into English as closely as I can. It is more than fifty years since I learnt it, and I have not heard it since, but I think it must then have been at least 50 years old. It is old and genuine Maori, untouched by Christian ideas, or by the after-thought of following generations, or the corruption of changing fashions of speech:—
“E to e te Ra! rehu-rehu ki te Rua,
Ringi-ringi a wai te rohnata i aku kamo,
He mea mahue au i te hikoinga wae,
Nou e Tarati e wakangato atu ana.
Nga Kurae koe, Wai-ohipa ra,
Waka-ahu ahi ana te taraki Mitiwai.
Kei raro taku Atua, e aroha nei au;
Kati te wairua te mahi te haramai,
Kia mutu ai ranei te rangikanehetanga.”
SONG OF THE SETTING SUN.
Go down, O sun, sink away to the Rua,
Thou pourest like water the tears from my eyes,
Belated thing am I in the stepping on of the feet
Of thine, O Tarati, fading from sight.
At the cliffs art thou, on to Wai-ohipa there,
All glowing like fire is the ridge of Mitiwai.
Gone Below is my divine one, whom still I am loving,
Let thy spirit cease from constantly coming,
So perchance may end this passion of longing.
“The Rua” is the under-world tunnel, into which, like the ancient Egyptians, the Maoris thought the setting sun entered at dusk, and travelled along through the night, to emerge again at the Eastern portal in the morning. The play between the setting sun and the setting love is too delicate to be easily translated into our language, but I have tried to give a hint of it in the rendering, which is as literal as even a slavish expert could demand. We think of the diversity of human nature and not enough of its sameness. Human nature is, at the heart of it, the same in all nations, and in all ages. Even a savage song like this may remind us that “He hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”
My fidus Achates at this time was Henry Williams, nephew of my old friend, the Bishop, and now a member of the New Zealand Parliament. I am afraid that we boys sometimes presumed on the deference, not to say, awe, of our savage admirers. The Pah near by swarmed with lean and hungry curs, who prowled about at nightfall in search of food, and if they could not find a bone, did not mind walking off with our boots; and then we had a few poultry that we had brought with us, and that we could not afford to lose. We put the case before the chiefs and got their reluctant consent to kill any offender we could catch on the premises after nightfall. So we constructed a box-trap, and often disposed of three or four of the marauders in the course of the night. One chief quietly encouraged us, as he wanted the skins of our prey to make a fashionable Maori robe for himself, and he often came to discharge with very good will the office of executioner. One night he came in great glee and said: “there is a fine fellow in the trap as black as night; I don't think there is a white hair about him, let me knock him on the head.” We said “yes.” There was a blow, the dragging out of the victim, and then the bitter cry: “Why this is my dog.” He was too ashamed to reproach us. However, that made him reckless, and the creatures page 26 began to disappear at such a rate that we were obliged in prudence to hold our hand. Turanga was famous at that time for its innumerable ducks and water fowl, and we often, after an hour's sport, brought home a dozen at a time. I bought a small canoe for duck shooting, and, thinking it as easy to sail as to paddle, rigged up a mast, and set a sail not much larger than a pocket handkerchief. The canoe was very crank, and the sail not very manageable, and though I could swim a little I was once nearly drowned, and was twice or three times upset.
About four miles from our house, there was a great preserve of wood pigeons, that was made as tapu as the native chiefs could devise. At a certain season, the pigeons came in vast flocks to feed on the white berries of the Ti tree (braccena) and got so heavy with fat that they could hardly fly from one tree to another. No gun was allowed in the place. The Maoris, with a long slender rod and a slip noose at the end, squatted under the leaves and noiselessly slipped the noose over the necks of the stupid pigeons as they were feeding. We wanted to have a shot, and argued for permission, on the ground that we were proof against all harm from the most dreadful tapu that the “tohunga” could weave. They did not see it, but they did not positively forbid us. It was a risky thing to do, but we went. We gave two or three hours to the sport, and then desisted, because our friends were getting annoved. However, we brought away two such bags of birds as we fairly staggered under. We did not venture to repeat the experiment upon the temper of the tribe and were rather ashamed of the rashness and folly of our adventure.
In the early intercourse of the Pakehas and Maoris, many, if not most, of their quarrels rose from sheer ignorance of each other's ways.
One very frequent cause was the inadvertent or careless violation of the laws of tapu. The “burial places,” or rather “sacred groves,” in which the bones of the dead were deposited, were carefully guarded against violation. It was death for a Maori to go into them at any time, except when the funeral rites were being page 27 performed, and though the rule was relaxed as far as we (the missionary families) were concerned, it was easy to give offence by straying into these grounds, and still more by carrying into them any particle of food. We had to be very careful about the approach to these places. To hold a picnic under the delicious shade would have been as deadly a sin as if we had committed a murder. Sometimes a chief was under the tapu vow for weeks or months together; during that time he dare not touch any food or food-vessel with his hand, and whatever he ate or drank was put by an attendant into his mouth. To touch his person with any kind of cooked provisions was a mortal insult. To spill a calabash of water upon him was nearly as bad. Especially the head of the chief was tapu. To say even in joke: “I will break your head,” was one of the forms of “kanga,” or cursing. Nay, the word for the head of a beast, and the word for the head of a man, were different, and to substitute one for the other was a great offence. To burn the hair of a chief when his head was cropped, would be awful sacrilege. The possessive pronouns as applied to his limbs or to his property are different. One of the earliest tragedies of our intercourse with the natives, the massacre of Captain Furneaux's men, in 1773, arose from an unintentional violation of the tapu. I heard the story from a very old man when I was once on a visit to Blind Bay. He said that when the “Adventure's” boat landed in the cove, the men sat down to their meal, and one of them refused either to return or to pay for the stone hatchet of one of the Maoris; and that the latter snatched up a piece of bread and ran off. The white man ran after him with some kind of tin can in his hand, and coming back to a group of the natives sitting round the boat, he, sailor-like, put the tin, as if it were a hat, on the head of a chief. It had contained food, and it was to Maori feeling a very gross insult, and-that, he said, was the direct cause of the massacre that followed. Of course, from our having grown up among this people, we became acquainted with their superstitions and prejudices, and we took care not to offend them, if we could help page 28 it, by carelessly disregarding them. This was one thing that established us in their confidence. We became at last recognized peacemakers, in their inter-tribal quarrels. Even if fighting was going on, our persons were sacred, and we were allowed to pass to and fro, between the contending parties, they sometimes deliberately suspending their fire, that we might pass unharmed.
While I was at Turanga, Mr. Williams projected a tramp to the East Cape, and on to nearly as far as Opotiki, and asked me to join him. No missionaries had as yet got a footing along this coast, but a number of slaves had been released in the North, and had found their way back to their own tribes. Some of them were partially instructed in Christian doctrine, and, acting as teachers, persuaded their people to build places of worship, and conducted Christian services as well as they could every Sunday.
After several days march we came to Waiapu, a pah near the East Cape, with a population at that time of two or three thousand. Mr. Williams was more than a persona grata to these people who, in fact, almost worshipped him. The reason, I think, was this: in 1833 a whaler lay becalmed off the East Cape with twelve of the Waiapu people on board, who had sent their canoe ashore. In the night the wind suddenly rose, and the ship was driven northward by a violent gale. The Captain did not know what to do with his unwilling passengers, but at last landed them at Kororareka, in other words, into the very jaws of their enemies. The Northern Maoris instantly seized them, and distributed them among four chiefs as slaves. The Missionaries appealed to the Ngapuhi chivalry—and as we shall see by and by they were as chivalrous a tribe as ever lived—showing how unworthy it was of them, as gentlemen, to take advantage of an accident that was equivalent to a shipwreck, and which put these men in their power. The chiefs proudly admitted the force of the appeal, and gave up the captives, and Mr. Williams took them back—four years before this visit of ours to Waiapu—with a score of other released slaves who were received as those alive from the dead, and whom no one expected to see again, anymore than we expect page 29 to see those to whom we have bidden our last farewell. So it was no wonder that we should now be received with enthusiastic welcome.
We got to Waiapu on a Saturday afternoon, and pitched our tent a hundred yards from the pah, on the edge of a deep ravine, and were hardly able to do it for the throng that pressed upon us. There were nearly as many dogs as men, and the human part of the assembly was as noisy and as wild and savage in appearance, as any crowd I ever saw. As the sun was setting, Mr. Williams settled that I was to stop in the tent and make arrangements for our morrow's dinner, while he went to have a short evening service in the spacious new church that had been built within the pah. He was very particular in his directions; we were sick of pancakes made without eggs, which were our normal substitute for bread. My chief care was to make a bolster pud ding, to mix the dough, roll it out with a bottle, spread over it the contents of our one jar of jam, then roll it over into a bolster and properly tie and boil it. We were to have it cold for our Sunday dinner; and I remember it all from the intense disgust with which my friend regarded the performance when the picce de resistance came to be discoveted the next day. It was beautiful and correct in form, that I know, but it was rather black in colour, and of the consistence of soaked leather. My friend got out of temper, but could not blame me for the absence of what we had not got. I learnt the lesson then that you cannot make a proper bolster pudding without suet.
To go back, however, Saturday evening was closing in when we were rather startled by the sound of a most melodious bell. It was simply a musket barrel, hung from the branch of a tree, and struck with a stone, but the effect was more musical than the ringing of many a bell I have since heard. One of its most astonishing effects, however, was that on its first stroke all the dogs around made for the bush, howling and yelping as if they were possessed. The explanation was, that the Maoris knew that the church was no place for dogs, and that the ringing of page 30 the bell was the signal for every man thrashing his cur out of all desire to follow him; thus, the association of the sound and the thrashing became a fixed idea in the canine mind.
You can readily imagine that in these rough tramps we had not much opportunity for the use of blacking. It was our practice every night to grease our boots with as much as they would absorb, and so we kept the leather supple and our feet dry. It was also our practice to keep a good stout stick at our bedside for any emergency that might arise. On this particular night there were some dozen Maoris sleeping round a fire some twenty yards or so from us, with their thick, thatch-like mats drawn over their heads. Towards the small hours of the morning we were disturbed by a shuffle in the tent. It turned out to be a dog walking off with my friends boots. Mr. Williams sat up, rubbed his eyes, gathered all his forces together, and with one fell swoop his stick came down on the head of the unluckly intruder. The wretch was only half killed, and we were in great fear lest his moans should awaken the sleepers outside, and let us in for a row. I advised a second rap, and then we sat up in our beds, and considered what we should do. I suggested that in the circumstances we were not bound to wait and explain, and that our volatile friends need not know that there was anything to be explained. So at last I took up the limp, nasty beast, and stepping stealthily, out of the tent door, I carried him gently away from the sleepers, and at the edge of the ravine hurled him into the depths below. It awakened no one, and to our great relief I got to the tent and turned in again, without any of our savage friends being a whit the wiser for what had occurred. It was very amusing, but still we knew that we were among savages, and that with all their expressions of joy at our visit, a breach of their laws of hospitality might give us a good deal of trouble. As it was the wretched dog did not seem to be missed, and we were relieved from all suspicion of unkindness.
Next day, I saw, perhaps, as wonderful a congregation as ever assembled for Christian worship. But first a word about the Church. page 31 It was a very fine specimen of Maori architecture, capable of holding more than a thousand people, unseated, and with few props or pillars to break the whole view of the interior. All the beams and rafters, which divided roof and sides into so many panels, were painted with Kokowai (red ochre) and pricked out with a pattern of white, the run of the lines being after the fashion of the tattoo on a Maori's face. A kind of framed pathway extended from the door to the opposite end, the space on one side being given up to the men, and on the other to the women and children. At the extreme end was the pulpit, or reading desk, resting upon a sort of dais, some two feet above the general ground floor. The pulpit was in fact the remains of a large oil barrel, the front left entire, but the back part sawn half away, the seat resting on the lower half. Like all the other wood in the place, it was plastered with red Kokowai relieved by the white Moko pattern. The spaces of the panels through the whole building were beautifully filled up with reeds, that looked like thousands of long, white cedar-pencils. An hour before the Sunday service one could see that great preparations for the ceremony were going on. Red ochre for the face, and shark oil for the hair were much in requisition. The least tag of European costume was utilized. Whether a jacket was worn as trousers or trousers as jacket, was altogether a matter of taste, and no one's fashion disturbed in the least the gravity of his neighbours. Many of them thought it highly proper that they should be armed with books. It might be an old ship's almanac, or a cast-away novel, or even a few stitched leaves of old newspapers. What did it matter? A book was a book, and every one knew that to hold a book was part of the ceremony in the new Karakia. Still there were a score or two who could read, and one of the most touching things was to see their books. Leaves of cartridge paper folded and stitched like a pamphlet, but written all through with the prayers of the Liturgy, or a chapter or two from the New Testament. That was the equipment of many an earnest helper of his country in those days. page 32 It was generally done with some mixture of lamp-black, or powdered charcoal, for ink, and I was often glad to exchange a printed book for some of these early relics of Christian labour. Many of them are lodged among the archives of the Church Missionary Society in England. Presently a bell began to ring and the dogs to howl, and on all sides there was a grave and quiet movement towards the house of assembly. We gave them time to dispose of themselves before we entered the church. Our first surprise was to see two grizzly old savages, nearly naked, plastered with red ochre and reeking with shark-oil from head to heel, on each side of the door, each brandishing a murderous club, and as far as looks went, threatening to brain any disturber of the ceremonies—be it man, woman or child. They were the door keepers of the Sanctuary, and their main office was to brain any dog who dared to put his nose inside the door, to frighten into fits the boys who were disposed to larking, and otherwise to keep order in the course of the proceedings. I have seen the guardians of the Mosque of Omar at Jerusalem, and they were truculent enough, but they were mere babes in ferocity compared with these Maori custodians. On entering, we found the place densely packed, more than a thousand people reeking with shark oil, and dressed, as far as they were dressed at all, in such a grotesque and fantastic variety of costume as no rag fair ever presented. The men were on the right side, the women on the left, and we passed along with all eyes following us, to the dais at the end, where the native “Teacher” awaited us.
Mr. Williams went into the pulpit, and after a few minutes gave out the Maori version of “With one consent let all the earth.” It was then a common custom for the “leader” to sing the first line by himself, and then the people joined in with a roar; Mr. Williams struck up the “Old Hundredth,” but when he got to the second line not a soul fell into the tune, and on all that sea of upturned faces there was a look of blank surprise and unmistakable disgust. The “Teacher,” however, rose to the occasion, and stepping up to the pulpit, said, “They don't page 33 know that tune, sir, let me start one they can sing.” So he made his start, and every face began to lighten. With a sound like the bursting of thunder, they took the second line out of the leader's mouth, and, as it were, carried off in a roar, like the noise of many waters, all the rest of the singing. It was terrible. They felt that now or never was the time to show their friends what good Christians they meant to be. Man, woman, and child were on the strain, holding their sides, stooping to the effort, gasping for more breath, and working till the perspiration made long brown seams, where it rolled down their red smeared faces. I saw our two old club friends gesticulating wildly in the distance (it was getting misty with the steam), and close by me there was a hoary old sinner, whom I could just hear gasping out “Kia Kaha, Kia Kaha” (sing louder, sing louder). Poor things they meant well, and were surely hearty enough, but it was hard to reconcile it with our notions of the Apostolic precept—“Let all things be done decently and in order.” The rest was comparatively calm, and Mr. Williams gave them a quiet, sensible sermon, to which they listened in rapt attention. This was the place, and these were the people that gave name to the diocese, and Mr. Williams liked nothing better than to be known in after years as Bishop of Waiapu. I afterwards took another tramp with my friend over what was, in a missionary sense, virgin ground, and we went South as far as Ahuriri, which was one day to be known as the district of Napier. Before the country was ceded to the Queen I had thus gone from one camp to another, and, as a rule, even the hostile natives who accompanied me were unmolested, provided that they did not carry arms. Of course things changed very much afterwards, but down to the time of the British occupation of New Zealand as a Colony, this impunity had, as far as we were concerned, the force of law. It was by this sort of training that I got such qualification as I had to deal with the natives in cases of dispute and difficulty when I afterwards entered the Civil Service, and it was by this know-ledge of their ways that I succeeded in averting many a quarrel page 34 that might have sprung from inadvertence, and yet have been as disastrous in effect as though it had arisen from some act of conscious and wilful injustice.
I was still at Turanga when Captain Hobson arrived in the Bay of Islands and concluded with the Northern Chiefs the celebrated Treaty of Waitangi, 6th February, 1840, in which the natives ceded the sovereignty of the country to the Queen on certain conditions. The signatures of nearly all the recognized chiefs in the country were afterwards appended, and Captain Hobson became the first Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony, under the general administration of Sir George Gipps, Governor of New South Wales.