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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]

Major Robert Parris

Major Robert Parris was born at Chard, Somerset, and came of an old West of England Roundhead family, who had their property confiscated by James the Second. He arrived in New Plymouth in 1812, by the barque “Blenheim,” and was accompanied by his wife and family. On the Constitution Act coming into force, he was elected to the Provincial Council of Taranaki. In 1857 he entered the Government service as Land Purchase Commissioner, and in 1859 was appointed assistant Native Secretary, a position he held till 1865, when he was made Civil Commissioner for the district. During the whole of the war Major Parris gave invaluable assistance to the military authorities and to the Government of New Zealand. On several occasions he narrowly escaped being murdered by natives. Major Parris was attached to the Imperial troops throughout the whole of the trouble with the Taranaki Maoris, and had command of native levies, with the rank of Major in the New Zealand militia. His name was often mentioned in the despatches. Sir H. J. Warre, in a letter to him thanked him for the great services which he had rendered as interpreter, and for the valuable information he had given, and for his skilful dealings with the natives. It was in consequence of the information and the assistance given by Major Parris that the Imperial troops were able to drive the Maoris from White Cliffs to Stony river. It may be said, too, that the peace which ensued was largely owing to his diplomatic management of the natives; and in the disturbances of 1868–9, Major Parris' influence with the Opunake natives restrained them from joining the rebels of the southern portion of the district. He was made a Justice of the Peace in 1868 by Sir George Grey. In 1876 he retired, and the Government acknowledged his great services to the colony. He was afterwards requested to assist Sir William Fox and Sir Francis Dillon Bell on the West Coast Native Commission, and on the final report being sent to the Governor, Sir William Fox referred in most eulogistic terms to Major Parris' services. Major Parris died at New Plymouth, on the 19th of September, 1904; aged eighty-eight years.