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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 5 (August 1, 1935)

A New Zealand Duel. — A Story Of Early Akaroa

page 39

A New Zealand Duel.
A Story Of Early Akaroa.

Readers of the brief account “of the only regular duel ever fought in New Zealand” in the September (1934) issue of the “N.Z. Railways Magazine,” may be interested in another New Zealand duel which appears to have been quite as regular as the one that happened, after the close of the Maori wars, in a military settlement near Kaipara Harbour.

The scene of this other duel was Akaroa, and it was fought at the end of 1845, or the beginning of 1846, the “field of honour” being the sandy beach, since reclaimed and now occupied by part of the town's recreation ground and in part by Lavaud Street. The combatants were the Commissioner (an officer of the French warship, Le Rhin, then in port) and Dr. Renaut, the chief medical officer of the ship. Some trivial disagreement, the exact nature of which was not disclosed, led to a demand for satisfaction. From “Stories of Banks Peninsula” (third edition, p. 99) I take the details of the duel:—

“The people on shore were of opinion that something extraordinary must be going on, for the combatants, accompanied by their friends, went round the place on the morning of the duel discharging every little liability due to the townspeople.

“The duel was fought on the sandy beach where the Akaroa Recreation Ground has since been reclaimed. The distance (25 paces) was carefully and solemnly measured by the seconds in the presence of a group of officers, and the weapons, which were pistols, were carefully loaded and presented to the duellists. Lots were then drawn for the first fire, and the Commissioner won. Taking a steady aim he fired, but the cap was defective and did not ignite the priming. Dr. Renaut then raised his pistol and fired low. The bullet cut the trousers and grazed the right thigh of the Commissioner, but did no further damage.

“No doubt irritated by his narrow escape, the Commissioner called out angrily to reload, but the seconds declared that wounded honour was fully satisfied, and refused to allow the combat to proceed further.

“There was another circumstance which also tended to stop further hostilities. The Commodore (Berard, who commanded Le Rhin) was, of course, as well aware of what was going to take place as any officer in Le Rhin, but etiquette forced him to appear unconscious. During the time the preparations for the duel were being made he was pacing in front of the old Roman Catholic Church, at the back of
On the Glenorchy-Paradise Road at the head of Lake Wakatipu, South Island, New Zealand.

On the Glenorchy-Paradise Road at the head of Lake Wakatipu, South Island, New Zealand.

the site of Mr. Kerridge's stables, but before they fired he stepped behind so as not to see the duel. Directly he heard the shot, however, he hastened to the scene of the combat and, of course, the mere fact of his presence prevented it being carried further.”

I have also read that in the early days of Christchurch a duel was fought in Hagley Park, but the details have gone from my memory.

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