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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 12 (March 2, 1936)

Fish-Hooks for Luck

Fish-Hooks for Luck.

It was soon after this that Leigh, visiting Whangaroa Harbour in a whaleboat, was confronted on the beach with an alarming display of a crowd of naked savages yelling and flourishing weapons. He and his companions were in imminent danger of death, they imagined. (It may have been merely the “savages’” form of welcome.) However, he remembered that he had in his pocket a packet of fish-hooks for presents. He called out in Maori, “Wait, I have fish-hooks,” and he threw them over the heads of the Maoris. There was an immediate scramble for the treasures, and Leigh and his crew in the confusion were soon at a safe distance from the beach.

That timely shower of fish-hooks was as bread cast upon the waters. Leigh went back to Sydney, and returning in June 26, 1823, in the ship St. Michael, he again landed on the same beach in the inner part of Whangaroa. The Maoris recognised him and greeted him with cries of welcome and shouts of “This is the man who gave us the fish-hooks!”

The motau-throwing inspiration set the new missionary on a friendly footing among the people of Whangaroa. He established the first station of his church at Kaeo, at the head of the harbour and called it Wesley Dale. There he lived under rough conditions for some months. Then the Revs. John Hobbs and Nathaniel Turner arrived. They were a complete contrast to the delicate, scholarly Leigh; they were the pioneer stuff. Leigh, harrassed by ill-health and by mischievous Maori raids, had to give up the work. Robust frames and a general practical hardiness were needed and Leigh returned to Sydney, and thence to England.

The name of this pioneer Wesleyan is commemorated in coast nomenclature. The township at the beautiful cove called Little Omaha is called Leigh. This pretty and perfectly sheltered little harbour, fringed with pohutukawa groves, was a favourite place for call and rest of Archdeacon Henry Williams during his missionary cruises.