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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

“Father of the East Coast”

Father of the East Coast

One of the most colourful figures on the East Coast in the very early days was Bill Ward. How and when he arrived there are matters upon which his descendants disagree. From all accounts he had been a seaman, but, whilst one story states that he was employed on a warship which he deserted at the Bay of Islands, another version makes out that he deserted from a whaler which called in at an East Coast roadstead.

During the hearing of the Mangahauini case (Waiapu N.L. Court minute book No. 27), Matiaha Pahewa stated that he was born in the year following Hongi's raid [1818]. In 1829, when he was “a young man,” he and Bill Ward (a European) saw a native baked and eaten at Te Ariuru (Tokomaru Bay). Ward and he had been present at other cannibal feasts there. That Ward lived at Tokomaru Bay as early as 1829 has not been confirmed. A story of his grim courage states that, whilst he was working alone in the bush at some distance from the pa—“a mile and a half” is the distance given—he broke a leg. Taking off his shirt, he converted it into a sling, with which he elevated his injured limb by passing one end around his neck. Adopting a sitting posture he levered himself along with the aid of his arms and his sound leg, and, it is added, eventually reached the pa!

In 1882 Ward claimed to be “The Father of the East Coast.” With great pride, he was wont to enumerate his numerous descendants. He was, indeed, almost persuaded to approach the Government for monetary recognition in respect of his colonizing efforts! Full of years, he quietly passed away at Tokomaru Bay on 10 February, 1898. The Native Land Court adjourned until after the funeral. Captain Porter told the Judge that the natives regarded Ward as one of themselves and, therefore, they wished to tangi (cry) over him. Ward, he thought, had resided amongst them since at least 1841. The exact date of Ward's arrival on the East Coast was, probably, between the years assigned to it by the Rev. Pahewa and Captain Porter.