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

Waddy, the Autocratic Waterman

Waddy, the Autocratic Waterman

Mariner, whaler, boatbuilder and ferryman were the occupations which, in turn, Robert Waddy followed in the infancy of settlement at Tolaga Bay. He claimed to have landed in New Zealand in 1834, and that, for some years, his first home was at the Bay of Islands. When he was drowned early in 1884, the Telephone (Gisborne) stated that it was believed that he was related to an English military officer of like name. Waddy's half-caste daughter, Lucy Hame, who died at Puatai in 1936, was in her nineties. Kate Waddy, a granddaughter of Waddy, was born at Tolaga Bay in 1865. After Waddy's death, relatives in England made inquiries concerning his children.

According to old land claim 318 c/924, two brothers named “Te Waru”—they would be Waddy and his brother Richard—assisted Albert John Nicholas to build a vessel at Uretara (or Nicholas) Island in Ohiwa Harbour in 1839. Later in that year, Nicholas sold the island to Thomas Black and left for the south. When the Rev. C. Baker went to Tolaga Bay early in 1843, Waddy was a resident, as also was Nicholas. Waddy was master of the cutter Nimrod, which carried live pigs, potatoes and corn to Wellington. In 1853 he was master of the cutter Ira, which was trading between Tolaga Bay and Auckland. In 1850, Richard Waddy, who was also a master-mariner, joined a schooner at Sydney. En route to the East Coast, she became windbound off the Great Barrier Island. He went on shore for a stroll and was never seen again. A skeleton which was believed to be his was found in May, 1880.

During the early 1870's, Robert Waddy provided a ferry service, by boat, on the Uawa River. On 16 March, 1874, the Tolaga Bay correspondent of the Poverty Bay Herald described him as “a very respectable old man,” and added that it was a matter for keen regret that, in carrying out his duties, he frequently became the victim of attacks by drunken Maoris. In an obituary notice, the Telephone said that Waddy had always claimed to have a monopoly of the ferrying business, but by whose authority nobody had ever been able to ascertain. The only ferry regulations in his day were the conditions which the old man saw fit to impose and the charge that was levied was the amount that he deemed proper! Accounts vary as to how he lost his life. He had built a boat to which he had attached handles, or shafts. The general opinion was that it became unmanageable page 121 and capsized. On the other hand, his family believed that he might have been murdered by a native with whom he quarrelled because he could not exact a fare from him.