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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 3 (June 1, 1940)

The Voyage Of The “Tory” — Birth Of Wellington — Colonel Wakefield's Preliminary Arrangements for the Settlement of the City

page 27

The Voyage Of The “Tory”
Birth Of Wellington
Colonel Wakefield's Preliminary Arrangements for the Settlement of the City

When the barque “Tory” sailed into Port Nicholson on 20th September, 1839, the settlement of New Zealand was begun. This is a landmark in our history as clear-cut as Tasman, Cook, or the Treaty of Waitangi. The arrival of the “Tory” was the first step in the development of Wellington. Cook Strait was full of whaling-ships, dozens of them, but with the exception of a small missionary schooner, Port Nicholson had not been visited by any ship for many years. The voyage of the “Tory” is a very important, interesting, but little-known story in the growth of this colony.

The barque “Tory” in Port Nicholson, 1839 (Detail from a sketch by Charles Heaphy).

The barque “Tory” in Port Nicholson, 1839
(Detail from a sketch by Charles Heaphy).

The settlement of New Zealand by the New Zealand Land Company in 1840 was preceded by the preliminary expedition in the Tory, led by Colonel William Wakefield, brother of Edward Gibbon Wakefield. The expedition was dispatched from London to make necessary arrangements for the settlement of the colonists who were to arrive early in January, 1840. The Tory herself carried no colonists, in fact, apart from the officers and crew, there were only six cabin passengers aboard. Of this important party, many later played a conspicuous part in the development of the colony. Colonel Wakefield guided the infant city of Wellington through its first critical years. Edward Jerningham Wakefield, Edward Gibbon's only son, was prominent in the political life of the colony and published a most exciting account of the first years of the settlement, Adventure in New Zealand. He came out as a mere youth of nineteen, as he said himself, in search of adventure. Another mere youth, Charles Heaphy, was employed as draftsman to the company. His record is a particularly creditable one. He left behind a magnificent collection of paintings and drawings, did great exploration work, was Commissioner of the Thames goldfields, fought in the Maori Wars, reaching the rank of Major and earning the Victoria Cross. The naturalist was Ernst Dieffenbach, New Zealand's first political refugee, a Berlin medical student who had been exiled to London. His explorations and reports were notable contributions to the development of the colony. He was, incidentally, the first white man to climb Mount Egmont. Dr. Dorset, a popular figure in early Wellington, was surgeon to the company and was proprietor of a well-known establishment in Wellington, the Medical Hall. The only other passenger was a native Nayti. who had found his way to Europe in a French vessel, and returned as interpreter to the expedition. His services were dispensed with soon after the arrival in New Zealand. He is the only member of the party who is lost in oblivion. The pace of European development was too much for his simple outlook and like so many of his fellow natives he has been disregarded as a factor in the bestowing of the blessings of civilisation. The master of the Tory, Captain Edward Main Chaffers, a distinguished naval officer, had been master of the H.M.S. Beagle, the survey ship with Charles Darwin aboard, which had called at the Bay of Islands in 1836. He also remained in Wellington as unofficial harbourmaster, where he rendered incalculable service by charting the harbour and discovering the passage at the entrance which bears his name. Several of the crew also remained in New Zealand, but the master and his cabin passengers certainly occupy a most prominent and creditable position in the history of the colony.

The Vessel.

The Tory was a three-masted barque of a trifle over 384 tons burthen. Her length was only III feet. She was regarded by all who saw her as a particularly trim craft with fine lines and exceptional sailing qualities. Captain Chaffers was most enthusiastic about her ability and reported on the voyage out that they passed every vessel they had come up with, including some large ships. He even expressed the desire to fall in with a man-of-war to put her to a real test. One interesting feature was her figurehead, which was a large reproduction of the Duke of Wellington, and which strangely enough had nothing to do with the naming of the city. The Tory was the only vessel the New Zealand Land Company ever owned, all the others being chartered. She was built in 1834 and purchased in November, 1838, for £5,250 from Joseph Somes, the Deputy Governor of the page 28 page 29 company, after whom Somes Island is named. Joseph Somes was a most interesting character. He had begun life as a lighterman apprentice on the Thames, and by 1838 was reported to be the largest ship-owner in England.

He died in 1845 worth something between one and two million sterling. The London Times in his obituary stated: “… in the city he was very highly esteemed and naturally enjoyed the great influence which arose from high character and ample capital.” He was, however, a very able man and performed valuable services to the Land Company in arranging the shipping even though he may have been performing valuable services to his own company at the same time. Of the details of the arrangements we are not here concerned. After many setbacks the vessel finally left Gravesend on 5th May, 1839. A very elaborate public luncheon had been held on 29th April, at which the Earl of Durham was present and on 5th May the passengers of the Tory dined with a few friends before going aboard.

The Tory ran round to Plymouth, nearly ending her voyage at the beginning by fouling a schooner on rounding the breakwater. After a delay of four days she finally left England on her adventurous expedition.

The Voyage Out.

The trials of the past few weeks soon disappeared, with the hills of England, which many of them were seeing for the last time. The next day running before a fair channel breeze at a steady
The meeting of the “Tory” and the “Cuba” in Cook Strait, March, 1840. (From a sketch by Charles Heaphy).

The meeting of the “Tory” and the “Cuba” in Cook Strait, March, 1840.
(From a sketch by Charles Heaphy).

eight knots the Tory began to settle to her long voyage and the passengers to the details of their life aboard. Captain Chaffers kept to the east and ran down the coast of Portugal. On the 22nd, the little party saw in the distance the hills of the island of Palma, one of the Canaries. This was the only sight of any land on the whole voyage. Captain Cook had remarked on one of his voyagers on not seeing land for 1,098 miles but the Tory did 16,000 with a faint glimpse of Palma and 14,680 without any sign of land.

On board, life was very dull, and a weekly manuscript paper and a debating club helped to pass the long hours. One interesting, if dangerous experiment, was performed by Edward Jerningham, who hypnotised Charles Heaphy. Colonel Wakefield reported the incident, giving details of Heaphy's conduct, which was apparently very violent. Some days later Heaphy was again, “magnetized” as they called it and Colonel Wakefield this time tersely dismissed the incident by reporting: “Nearly same effect as before.”

The Tory, though an excellent craft, was particularly foul in the hold, and various efforts were made to destroy the foul air which was so strong as to blacken the paint in the forecastle. The health of the crew was very bad during the voyage, but they did not appear to see any connection between this and the ship's condition. It is strange to think that to-day this would be an obvious explanation.

On 7th June, the Tory crossed the Equator, twenty-six days out of Plymouth. On 10th July the Cape of Good Hope was doubled and the run, almost direct to New Zealand, along the Roaring Forties, began. On several days, runs of over two hundred miles were registered, and finally to everybody's delight land was sighted on 16th August. This proved to be the high land on the West Coast not far south of Cape Farewell. The voyage had taken 96 days, which was a remarkably fast passage. This was the fastest passage for many years to come and certainly the fastest of any of the company's ships. I have been unable to find the date that the Tory's record was beaten, but it was certainly many years later. The speed in reaching New Zealand was very fortunate for the company as there would have been much confusion if she had taken even a moderately long voyage. The Cuba, with the surveying party aboard, took 157 days. Then the immigrants had left England well before word was received of the Tory's arrival and it can well be imagined what their plight would have been if the Tory had not made such a fast passage.

In New Zealand Waters.

On the morning of 17th August the vessel slipped slowly between Long Island and Motuara into historic Ship Cove in Marlborough Sounds. The next morning she was moored within 300 yards of the shore by a hawser to a nearby tree, thus occupying nearly the same position as Captain Cook during his three earlier visits to this anchorage. The Maoris who spoke “more or less English,“ page 30 page 31 were very friendly with advice about moorings and helpful with some fresh food, while the passengers were glad to try their land-legs again. The party stayed here, refitting for nearly a fortnight.

“A basket of potatoes weighing 20 lbs. sold for a pipe, and a blanket which cost eight shillings in London fetched three pigs 80 lbs. each and this was considered a liberal scale of barter on our part.”

On 31st August the expedition left Ship Cove for Te-awa-iti, even then corrupted into the now familiar “Tar-white.” Here the ubiquitous Dicky Barrett came aboard and though the confident visitors were not aware of it (they were reduced to mirth at Dicky's appearance) the new settlement was at last on the road to success.

Three more weeks were spent in the congenial if roystering company of the whalers, and Captain Chaffers charted Tory Channel (and its western extremities) naming it after the ship. Points Dieffenbach and Heaphy; Colonel Wakefield took an expedition up the Pelorus River. At daylight on 20th September the Tory weighed anchor and slipped through the narrow and treacherous entrance, across Cook Strait and under all sail raced along the rugged coast to Port Nicholson heads, where even against a stiff nor'-wester, no difficulty was experienced in beating into the harbour under the instructions of Barrett. Somewhere up the channel probably from Seatoun, two canoes put out and the two principal chiefs of the harbour. Te Puni and Wharepouri, came on board, where they were welcomed by Barrett, who was related to them by marriage.

The Tory stood on up the harbour and finally anchored north of Somes Island (Matiu). The chiefs stayed aboard and even at this early stage excellent progress was made with negotiations for the sale of land. They invited Colonel Wakefield to inspect the land immediately and during the next week the ship and all on board were kept busy. Colonel Wakefield and Edward Jerningham explored the valley, Dieffenbach and Heaphy went on a huia expedition into the Orongorongo Valley, and Captain Chaffers and Te Whare spent five days with one of the boats surveying the entrance of the harbour, of which an excellent chart was made. There were fishing expeditions led by the chief mate, Richard Lowry, to a small bay which thereafter carried the name Lowry Bay.

Amidst this hurly-burly of activity Colonel Wakefield arranged the details of the purchase of the land. On the deck of the Tory on 27th September the goods were displayed and the deeds signed by the chiefs and witnessed by Barrett, Lowry and Nayti. On 30th September, the famous celebration took place on the beach. Thus was the city of Wellington born, and on 4th October the Tory slipped out of the harbour leaving a contented Maori people enjoying the full benefits of the muskets, jews harps, razors, nightcaps and sealing-wax.

The Tory put into Cloudy Bay on 5th October, but Colonel Wakefield decided that it was unsuitable, and left on the 13th for Te-awa-iti.
Facsimile of the first page of Colonel Wakefield's diary, now in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

Facsimile of the first page of Colonel Wakefield's diary, now in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

Barrett was left here and on 16th October, the Tory anchored off Kapiti just too late to see a battle between the Ngatiawa and Ngatiraukawa which had taken place that morning and had finished on the beach in view of the whalers. Eventually, however, the sale of land was arranged, a sale which was later repudiated by Te Rauparaha and a further sale was arranged in East Bay in the Sounds where Barrett rejoined the party.

On 17th November, after many delays, the Tory set off up the coast calling at Wanganui and Sugar-loaf Islands (New (Continued on page 34 ).

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page 34

The Voyage Of The “Tory.”

(Continued from page 31).

Plymouth where Barrett was left to buy land and Dieffenbach made arrangements for the ascent of Mount Egmont. The Tory headed north to Hokianga where no sale of land was arranged and on 19th December, she put in to Kaipara but was wrecked on entering the channel. Great difficulties were experienced and all the passengers were nearly lost in the long boat, but after much cargo had been jettisoned the Tory was taken up the harbour, run ashore and repaired near Beacon Point.

This long job necessitated Colonel Wakefield's hurrying across to the Bay of Islands and chartering a small brig to return to Port Nicholson to receive the first immigrants expected early in January, 1840. The Tory was finally roughly repaired and arrived back in Wellington on 7th March. No further use could be found for her in Wellington so on 19th April she set out for Sydney for repairs and cargo for home. The first mate, Richard Lowry, was in command.

The Loss of the Tory.

The rest of the story is shortly told. It is a sordid ending to such a romantic performance.

The Tory arrived in Sydney on 7th May, and refitting was begun. This was a costly process and was made more expensive by large expenditure on liquor. Finally, on 15th September, she left for the East Indies for cargo, with Richard Lowry as master and Nicholas Lowry as first mate. Richard Lowry died after leaving Batavia and Nicholas was often confined to his cabin, drunk, leaving the ship virtually in the hands of William Elgar, the boatswain, who, incidentally, was the father of the well-known Elgar brothers, prominent settlers in the South Wairarapa.

Apparently, Nicholas Lowry's habits were known to the company, for on hearing of Richard's death, efforts were made to remove Nicholas from the command of the vessel. However, Nicholas unwittingly managed to forestall them by wrecking the ship on Half-moon shoal in the China Seas on 21st January, 1841. Here, however, we meet one of those episodes of the sea, so many of them unrecorded, which are epics of endurance, hope, despair and frustration. Two small boats with twenty-nine men, no fresh food, in a treacherous sea, surrounded by islands inhabited by head-hunting natives, were a thousand miles from a European settlement. These hardy men, however, set off for the nearest land, 55 miles away, and after landing, cooking the beef, and filling every available vessel with water, set out on the long voyage back to Singapore. This port was 900 miles distance, but the necessity of keeping land in sight added another weary two hundred miles to the voyage. The dangers from the sea were added to by dangers from the shore and on at least two occasions Malayan proas gave chase and were only avoided by a long run out to sea. One moonlight night a sail was seen and after frantic efforts to come up with it, it was found to be a small rock covered with guano, like white-wash. However, on 10th February, twenty-nine exhausted men reached Singapore after a voyage of seventeen days. After recuperating the men returned to England, Nicholas Lowry meeting death on the way home by being lost overboard.

Thus ended the career of the splendid little Tory after an important and romantic voyage. She has left behind a name that will live with the names of her celebrated passengers when the discreditable epilogue to the voyage is forgotten.

Purchase Of Wellington.

The following is the approximate cost of Wellington to the New Zealand Land Company. In some cases the amounts are doubtful, but the available information makes it clear that the total must have been very close to this figure:

£ s. d.
120 only muskets at 15/- each 90 0 0
2 tierces tobacco 50 7 7
48 only iron pots 3 4 3
2 cases soap 8 4 10
4 only fowling pieces at 15/- each 3 0 0
11 only fowling pieces at 18/- each 9 18 0
1 cask ball cartridges 0 7 0
1 case for fowling pieces 0 8 6
1 keg lead slabs 6 0 0
1 keg for lead 0 4 0
100 only cartouche boxes at 3/6 each 17 10 0
100 only tomahawks at 1/- each 5 0 0
1 case for tomahawks 0 10 0
40 only pipe tomahawks at 4/- each 8 0 0
10 gross pipes at 2/3 per gross 1 2 6
1200 only fishhooks at £1/0/6 per thousand 1 4 8
12 only bullet moulds at 1/- each 0 12 0
6 doz. shirts at 2⅙ per doz. 6 9 0
6 doz. shirts at 25/6 per doz. 7 13 0
20 only jackets at 7/4 each 7 6 8
20 pairs trousers at 3/9 per pair 3 15 0
300 yards cotton duck at 4 ½d. per yard 5 12 6
100 yards check at 4 ½d. per yard 1 17 6
2 doz. slates at 3/10 per doz. 0 7 8
200 only pencils at 4/6 per thousand 0 0 11
10 doz. pocket knives at 4/3 per doz. 2 2 6
4 doz. pairs scissors at 2/6 per doz. 0 10 0
6 doz. pairs scissors at 9/6 per doz. 2 17 0
1 doz. umbrellas at £1/9/6 per doz. 1 9 6
2 lbs. beads at 2/9 per lb 0 5 6
1 gross iron jew's harps at 5/- per gross 0 5 0
1 doz. razors at 3/6 per doz. 0 3 6
1 doz. shaving boxes and brushes at 2/4 per doz. 0 2 4
1 doz. sticks sealing wax at 8/3 per doz. 0 8 3
100 only red blankets at 11/5 each 57 1 8
21 kegs gunpowder at 21/- each 22 1 0
21 kegs for gunpowder at ⅙ each 1 12 6
2 doz. spades at 28/- per doz. 2 16 0
50 only steel axes at 2/- each 5 0 0
60 only red night-caps at 8/- per doz. 2 0 0
200 yards calico at 3 ½d. per yard 2 18 4
10 doz. looking glasses at 5/- per doz. 2 10 0
1 doz. pairs shoes at 67/6 per doz. 3 7 6
1 doz. hats at 9/- per doz. 0 9 0
100 yards ribbon (price per yard not given) 2 3 11
10 doz. dressings combs at 3/- per doz. 1 10 0
6 doz. hoes at 15/- per doz. 4 10 0
2 only suits of clothes at 80/- each 8 0 0
2 doz. adzes at 20/- per doz. 2 0 0
2 doz. handkerchiefs at 6/- per doz. 0 12 0
£365 11 1
page 35
John Gully (1825–1888).

John Gully (1825–1888).