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

Chapter XIV — Celebrities of the East Coast

page 115

Chapter XIV
Celebrities of the East Coast

Who were “Riki,” “Punga” and “Tapore”?—Runaway Sailor Consigned to the Oven—Bill Ward and His Colonizing Record—“Katete,” a Tapu Victim.

Strangely enough, pride of place for being the first pakehas to live among the East Coast natives requires to be awarded to three who cannot be identified. They were known to the natives as “Riki,” “Punga” and “Tapore.” W. L. Williams (Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, 1890, p. 459 et seq.) says that he was informed that they arrived before the days of the flax trade [which commenced in the late 1820's]. They had, he said, come and gone of their own accord. Bishop H. W. Williams told the writer that he had never received any information on the subject from his father. Matenga Waaka, of Muriwai, suggested that they might have been some early whites who spent some time at Whangara.

Even before the days of shore-trading, a few sailors from whalers took up their abode among the natives. With the advent of trading vessels, the runaways became more numerous. A surprisingly large proportion were foreigners, mostly citizens of the United States. Only one pakeha—a sailor named Taylor, who was known to the natives as “Tera,” or “Tiera,”—suffered the horrible fate of being required to form the “tit-bit” at a cannibal feast in this portion of the Dominion. Nothing has been learned as to his antecedents.

In Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century, p. 419, Smith says—apparently on the authority of Major Ropata—that, after the slaying of Ngarara by Hana (a Ngapuhi) on board the New Zealander at Whakatane in retaliation for the attack made on the Hawes on 2 March, 1829, the Ngati-Awa tribe, together with Whakatohea, Whanau-a-Apanui and Whanau-a-Ehutu, launched an attack upon Ngati-Porou, at the end of 1829 or the beginning of 1830, in the belief that the murder had been instigated by some East Coasters who were returning home on the vessel. The invaders are said to have “besieged” Omaru-iti, near Hicks Bay. Taylor was among their victims and his body was “burned.” His pakeha mate “George” escaped by swimming off to a rock, from which he was rescued by a boat from a whaler which happened to arrive in the very nick of time. W. Williams (Christianity Among the New Zealanders) merely states that “on that occasion an Englishman was killed.”

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A much fuller version of the episode appears in Story of Te Waharoa. Probably the author (J. A. Wilson) obtained it from his father, who was the first Anglican missionary at Opotiki (28/12/1839). It states that Ngarara was one of the leading chiefs of Whanau-a-Apanui tribe, which became enraged on account of his murder having occurred with the connivance of the captain of a pakeha ship and resolved to obtain utu (satisfaction) by slaying a pakeha.

As the nearest pakehas lived at Hicks Bay, Whanau-a-Apanui went there and attacked a pa.

“One poor fellow,” Wilson says, “was instantly killed, but the natives complained that he was thin and tough and that they could scarcely eat him…. The other European escaped in a marvellous manner. He fled and attempted to climb a tree. The native who pursued him, a Ngaitai man, cut off his fingers with a tomahawk and tumbled him out of the tree. We suppose the Maori preferred to make a live man walk to the kainga to carrying a dead man there; otherwise, another moment would have ended the pakeha's life.
“During the brief interval, our pakeha turned his anxious eyes towards the seas, when lo! an apparition. Was it not mocking him? Or, could it be real? Yes, it was a reality. There, walking the waters like a thing of life, a ship—not a phantom ship—approached, as if sent in his hour of need. She suddenly shot round Wharekahika Point, not more than a mile off, and anchored in the bay. ‘Now,’ said the pakeha, ‘if you spare me, my countrymen on board that ship will give a handsome ransom in guns and ammunition.’
” … As the Maoris wanted guns and ammunition, they took him to the landing-place, a rocky point, to negotiate the business. Presently an armed whaleboat neared the shore (the ship was a whaler) and the pakeha advanced a pace or two beyond the group of Maoris to the edge of the rock. He said to those on the boat: ‘When I jump into the water, fire!’ He plunged and they fired; he was saved and the natives fled, excepting such as may have been compelled to remain on the rock contrary to their feelings and wishes…. The unfortunate pakehas were proteges of Makau, alias Rangimatanuku, a Whakatohea chief, who had fled from Opotiki when Ngati-Maru devastated that place. Makau lost several men in this affair and always considered himself an upholder and martyr in the cause of the pakeha.”

Still another account of the occurrence was given to the writer in 1928 by Potene Tuhiwai, an elderly native of Hicks Bay. He said that he had been told by the elders of his tribe that, when Omaru-iti was attacked, neither Taylor nor his pakeha companion was engaged in the fighting. Taylor had just received for wife one Ripeka Hinewekuweku, and he was slain on what was to have been his wedding night. Taylor, he added, was not only killed in cold blood, but he was baked and eaten. Ripeka had eventually become his (Potene's) mother.

Dr. Wi Repa told the writer that it was common knowledge that Taylor was cooked and eaten by the visiting war party. page 117 He denied, however, that the conflict at Omaru-iti was in the nature of a siege. In strict fact, Omaru-iti was only a village. Taylor lived there and Ripeka was his wife. His slayers belonged to a party of marauders who had come from the Bay of Plenty. Ngati-Porou had not been in any way connected with this act of cannibalism. Ripeka subsequently married the Rev. Raniera Kawhia, and their only child, Erana Tongere, became the grandmother of the brothers Tuporo, of East Coast rugby fame. Finally, Ripeka married Tamati Tuhiwai, father of Wiremu Keiha (a noted Ngati-Porou warrior) and of Potene Tuhiwai.

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.

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“Old Geordie” (or “Hori Punehu”)

Some difficulty was at first experienced by the writer in ascertaining the identity of a pioneer who was known to the East Coast natives as “Hori Punehu.” One witness described him in the Native Land Court as “the red-headed, freckled, blue-eyed pakeha.” When Mrs. James Walker, of Waihau Bay, was consulted, she smiled and, pointing to her big son Jim, said: “There's a Punehu!” She went on to explain that Hori Punehu was an Irishman named George Taylor, who came out to New Zealand on a whaler. He married a native named Riria and they had a family of six daughters. The Grace family at Tuparoa were among numerous descendants on the East Coast, and there were others at Te Kaha.

In the early 1860's (Mrs. Walker continued) Isaac Walker, with a nephew (James Walker) came over from Australia to the East Coast. The uncle, who took for wife Matere, went in for cattle-raising and from Maraehara (on the north bank of the Waiapu River) he sent a lot of fat stock to the Auckland market in later years. James Walker married Maria, a daughter of George Taylor, and, in 1869, there was born to them a son, who was named James after his father. This son she (Mrs. Walker) had married. In turn, they had had the son James of whom she had said: “There's a Punehu!” James Walker senior was the first pakeha to be charged rent at Waipiro Bay, but the first instalment was returned to him in exchange for nails, which were required in connection with the construction of a chapel. He built the first hotel at Waipiro Bay. Later, he moved to Te Kaha. In 1876, he and his uncle took up the Woodlands property at Opotiki, but only the uncle went to live upon it.

Taylor assisted an American named William Martin to build a small craft at Reporua in the early days. A landslide enveloped the vessel and he narrowly escaped death. Martin, who had married Hariata Whakatangi, moved to Thames, but, eventually, he returned to the United States, taking with him his two half-caste boys. His daughter, Hariata, became the mother of the Akuhata family at Te Araroa. In 1854, Taylor was a trader at Whangaparaoa. Three years earlier he had gone to Auckland, where he had filled the post of court interpreter under the name “George Redhead.” Later, he set up as a trader at Whareponga. In the 1860's he squatted upon Wairongomai. Next, he moved to Ngamoe. In the 1870's, he ran sheep on Akuaku and Mataahu.

When he died in Gisborne on 29 December, 1885, the Poverty Bay Independent stated that he was born in 1807, and that he page 119 was “one of the oldest identities of the colony.” None of the witnesses at the inquest proved to be intimately acquainted with the deceased. T. J. Dickson (licensee of the Argyll Hotel) testified that he had heard that he had a wife on the Coast; that he was reputed to have received money from Home from time to time; and that he was known as “Old Geordie,” “Ginger” and “Carroty.”

Katete's Strange Fate

The only pakeha who, according to the natives, lost his life on the East Coast on account of committing a breach of tapu (native sacred law) lived at Omaru-iti (Hicks Bay). As he was a flax-buyer, he must have resided there in the 1830's. Potene Tuhiwai, of Hicks Bay, told the writer that this pakeha was known as “Katete.” It was believed that he was an American and that he a had landed from a wreck. Katete, he added, had walked upon a tapu spot known to the natives as “The Unquenchable Fire,” and, after a lingering illness, he had died from “the effects of burns.”

Dr. Wi Repa informed the writer that the story of Katete's fate was well-known in the Hicks Bay district. He was uncertain as to which English name “Katete” represented. It might, he said, have been Cassidy, or Castles, or Cadex or even Goddard. In a Hokianga old land claim (Turton's Maori Deeds, pp. 268–9) there is mention of one Tamati Katete, which name is translated as “Thomas Cassidy.” A trader named Castles, who lived at Omaewa in the 1840's, was known as “Katete.”

“In almost all Maori villages,” Dr. Wi Repa said, “there were sacred places upon which nobody was permitted to set foot. Such places were called ‘ahi taitai’; ‘umu pururangi’; and ‘kurepe.’ ‘Ahi taitai’ was the special prestige earned by a spot on which the navel cord or placenta of an ariki or other important personage had been buried. If anybody trespassed on it, he or she would become afflicted with a complaint not unlike an abscess caused by germ infection. ‘Umu pururangi’ was the umu (oven) where a tohunga had performed some purification rite, or had steamed the boil of some individual of noble lineage. Trespass on such a spot would lead to the offender's mara (cultivation) being visited by a plague of giant caterpillars. The ‘kurepe’ was much the same as the ‘umu pururangi’.”

According to Dr. Wi Repa, Katete must have been warned against walking upon one of these places, probably an “ahi taitai.” His act of defiance had occasioned an incurable infection (not burns) and he had died, to the satisfaction of his hosts, as their belief had been duly vindicated!

“The story,” Dr. Wi Repa added, “need not be true and, no doubt, it was a fabrication. But it has fixed the victim's place in the annals of the East Coast. Whenever anybody defied, or even disputed or page 120 doubted, the mana of such places to cause death, the fate of Katete was invoked to prove the efficiency of such spots as death-dealing factors. Katete did not leave any descendants on the East Coast.”

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.

Captain Duncan and His Coffin

Omanuka, that pretty little spot just to the north of Anaura Bay, was, in the 1860's, chosen for his home by a sterling old seafarer of Scottish descent named Captain Archibald Duncan. Born in 1802, he had served in the Liverpool-North American trade. Migrating to New Zealand, he had charge of various vessels on the Auckland-Napier run. With the consent of Pita, an Anaura chief, he built a very comfortable, wood-lined whare with a thatched roof. It also served as a lodging-house for benighted Maori and pakeha travellers. One end, which was used as living quarters by his wife and himself, resembled a ship's cabin. He was never to be seen without his pea jacket and sea cap. Unfailingly, also, he read a chapter of his Bible every night and, before retiring, had a tot of rum.

It was a sad day for the old sea salt when Jean, his devoted Scottish wife, passed on. In order that she might still be near him, he buried her in a coffin made with his own hands in his very tidy little garden at the back of his home. As the lonely years crawled by, the old chap became uneasy on account of a belief that when, in turn, his end came, he might be buried only in a flax mat. So he built himself a coffin and rested content when his native neighbours assured him that, when he died, they would put his body in it and inter it beside that of his wife.

But, after all, poor old Captain Duncan never occupied his home-made coffin and his remains were not interred in the picturesque spot at Anaura which he loved so much. In 1876 the superstitious natives of Anaura held that their white neighbour, by the exercise of witchcraft, had been responsible for the death of the old chief Pita, and they threatened to take his life. These were the people who had beggared him in bygone years by neglecting to pay him what they owed him. A subscription list went the rounds of Poverty Bay on behalf of the worthy old fellow and met with a ready response. When it was found that there was no accommodation available for him at the Indigents' Home at Auckland, W. L. Williams very kindly provided him with a suitable home, with a little garden, at Napier.

Bristow: Whaler, Trader and Mariner

Before Captain David Bristow (Rewi Pereto) made contact with the East Coast he had, in the 1830's, lived at the Bay of Islands, where he had married and had had a son, to whom he had given his own forename. On a flyleaf in his Bible, which is page 122 now in the possession of a granddaughter (Mrs. Charles Goldsmith, of Te Araroa), there appears a roll of his family. His first home on the East Coast was at Waiapu, where he married Umutahi. Their eldest child (Elizabeth) was born at Waiapu on 17 February, 1841. He then went off to Te Wharariki to engage in whaling. Tiring of the sport, he opened a store at Purehua (Waipiro Bay) in 1843. Again, however, whaling lured him north. His next child was born at Hicks Bay on 17 August, 1847. Mawhai then attracted him. Another daughter (Heneriata), who was the mother of Canon P.M. and Reweti Kohere, was born there on 27 December, 1848.

Shortly afterwards, Bristow became the husband of Ani, the widow of Kento (Keneto) the Dutchman. He was the master first of the Julia and then, in turn, of the Fancy and the Zillah, which were engaged in the Auckland-East Coast trade. Ani had eight children. A daughter born on the Zillah was named after that vessel. Two of the sons, Henare and Leonard, became well-known sheepfarmers in the Te Araroa district. Bristow left the sea to join Peachey in a storekeeping business near Te Kaha. So highly esteemed was he by the natives that they named a favourite horse “Pereto” after him. He was drowned in the Kereu River. Descendants use the spelling “Bristowe.”

Blind Charlie

Among the pioneer pakehas at Tolaga Bay was Nathaniel Goodhue Gilman, who became known to Europeans as “Blind Charlie” and to the natives as “Kirimana.” He reached Tolaga Bay in 1847 and married, in native fashion, Riripeta, a sister of Hirini Taurewa. After two children had been born, Archdeacon W. Williams came along and invited him to regularize the union by being married in accordance with the formula of the Church of England. Gilman talked the matter over with Robert Waddy, who was also living with a native woman, and they both got married on the same day. Riripeta died in 1862.

Second youngest of the Gilman family of ten, Mrs. Hall (previously Mrs. W. F. Hale) of Mangatuna, who was born in 1860, told the writer that her father was born in Kent on 25 April, 1814. When he was six years old, his parents migrated to Maine (U.S.A.). He became an apprentice in his father's furniture factory. As there were other Nathaniels among relatives who had also migrated, he was called “Charles.” Some years later, his Uncle Goodhue took him to Boston, where he was taught navigation. In 1835 his uncle put him on board a schooner which was sent “blackbirding” off the African coast. The vessel was captured by a British man-o'-war and sunk.

In 1836 Gilman came out to New Zealand in a whaler of page 123 which his brother was the master. Upon arrival at the Bay of Islands, he went ashore to have “a night-out” at a grog-shop. Trouble arose, the lights were extinguished, and, in a “free-for-all,” he was struck over the shoulder with a three-legged pot and incapacitated. His brother had to continue his whaling cruise without him. Deciding to remain in New Zealand, Gilman engaged in building work at Russell. Then he went to sea again, and, whilst his vessel was at Tolaga Bay, Te Kani-a-Takirau persuaded him to settle there, as he would be useful as a boat-builder.

During a visit to Auckland in 1864, Gilman remarried, his second wife being a half-caste Hindu, whose father was an officer in an Imperial regiment stationed there. When she arrived at Tolaga Bay she was presented with a number of petticoats by neighbours. Mrs. Hall remembered the occasion well, because the donors insisted that her stepmother should put on all the garments one on top of the other! Her father, in 1866, built for Captain Glover Tolaga Bay's first hotel. In 1868, he took over the ferry at Turanganui, but his principal occupation was boat-building. Some moa footprints—not the first to be found there—were uncovered by him on the north bank of the Waikanae Creek in the middle 1870's. When the supply became exhausted, he made some with a pocketknife and sold them to unsuspecting visitors. He died at Tolaga Bay on 29 September, 1895.

Jack Muck

Jack Lewis—also known as “Jack Muck”—was born in 1817. He claimed to have been present at the Bombardment of Acre in 1840. In August, 1840, he was aboard H.M. storeship Buffalo when she was driven on shore at Whitianga (Mercury Bay). With others, he went on to the infant settlement to which the name “Auckland” had been given. In their eyes, the embryo city had the greatest defect possible—it had no grog shop! They speedily set about to remedy matters by working the hull of an old brig along the seafront and shoring her up at the foot of the gully of which Queen Street is now the main feature. The bar was placed in the hold, and gangways were set up on either side of their “hotel.” Their opening day proved a memorable occasion. Finding his way to Sydney, Lewis met Joseph Carroll, who became the father of Sir James Carroll. The pair moved to the Bay of Islands, and then to Mahia. After engaging for some time at whaling, Lewis took up hotelkeeping at Mohaka. When the Te Kooti revolt broke out, he joined up with Colonel Whitmore's force, and narrowly missed death in what he used to describe as “the Ruakituri ambush.” In 1886 he settled at Te Araroa, where he died in 1913 at the great age of ninety-six years.