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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 9 (December 1, 1934)

Early Days in New Zealand

Early Days in New Zealand.

He arrived at Hokianga in January, 1838, and sailed up the great tidal river to Mangamuka, piloted by a European who was established at Omapere, at the Heads, for the guidance of timber ships. Hokianga was at this time the greatest kauri-exporting harbour in New Zealand. At Mangamuka the Bishop was gladly received into the house of an Irish timber merchant, Mr. Thomas Poynton, afterwards a well-known resident of Takapuna, Auckland. The little “Raiatea,” which had borne the mission party safely over such a large area of the South Pacific, was sent back to her owner at Tahiti.

Settled at last in the new land, which was to be the scene of his labours for so many years—a house was built for them at Totara—Pompallier and his staff applied themselves to the study of English and Maori. Inevitably
Bishop Pompallier in later years.

Bishop Pompallier in later years.

there were dissensions between the new-comers and the followers of the Wesleyan missionaries already settled at Hokianga. However, in this sketch we need not concern ourselves with the troubles which are common to all countries in which rival Christian churches are engaged in proselytising primitive peoples.

Pompallier had a rather hard and trying life of it, because instead of receiving funds and assistants from Europe at the end of six months, it was not until he had been at Hokianga seventeen months that they reached him. This was in June, 1839, when three priests and three catechists of the Society of Mary arrived at the Bay of Islands from France via Valparaiso. The vessel in which they crossed the Pacific, a schooner named the “Reine de Paix,” was even smaller than the little “Raiatea.” She was a forty-ton craft, and so cranky that she nearly capsized during the voyage. Pompallier walked across to the Bay of Islands to meet his priests, and he then decided to fix the seat of his Bishopric at Kororareka, now Russell.

In the meantime he had made several missionáary journeys, in particular one to the Kaipara district. He was received everywhere with the customary hospitality of the Maori, and especially at Mangakahia, at the head of the Northern Wairoa; there is a quite eloquent description of his reception and farewell there in his own narrative (published in Auckland in 1888). With the funds he received from Europe he bought a house at Kororareka, and presently built a church after further funds had reached him.

The Bay of Islands establishment was made the headquarters store for all the mission stations to which he sent his priests. His chief need now was a suitable vessel in which to make cruises along the coast and maintain communications with the South Pacific Islands on which Catholic missions had been set up.