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

A Tattooed Ex-Convict

A Tattooed Ex-Convict

A tattooed pakeha named Robson lived on the Bay of Plenty coast in the very early days. An old whaler, James Heberley (known as “Worser” Heberley) discusses this Robson in the MSS. account of his life which is in the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington. Heberley says:

“… We sailed from Sydney in 1826 on the Caroline (Captain Swindle) for Campbell and Co. (We) were 9 months out from Sydney. We parted company with the Partridge and shaped our course for the Bay of Islands. We touched at Tanner's Island; we went on shore to trade … then sailed for the Bay of Islands. We touched at the Bay of Plenty; there we traded for pigs and potatoes. Our trade with them was muskets and lead. There was a man living among the natives; he was a prisoner of the Crown, or what is page 132 commonly called a convict. He was sent to Moreton Bay on board the Mercury brig. There was mutiny on board; they took the brig and put in at the Bay of Islands. Several of the prisoners went on shore to get some provisions. Captain Duke, belonging to the whaler called the Sea Eagle, captured the brig and took her to Sydney. The prisoner who made his escape went in the name of Robson; he got tattooed like the natives.”

Nothing has been traced that would identify Heberley's Robson as Hayes's companion at Omaewa in 1834, nor as to the manner in which the Ropiha who was associated with Hayes lost his life.

Hayes, who had a trading station at Waipiro Bay in 1840, entered into an agreement with Captain Rhodes, on 12 August of that year, to supply his firm—Cooper and Holt, of Sydney—with timber and produce. He promised to engage persons at Tolaga Bay and East Cape to saw timber and put it alongside ship at 16l-per 100 feet or £4/16/- per ton of 50 c.f. and the firm agreed to take all the timber he could procure during the next twelve months, and either pay him by bills on Sydney or Port Nicholson (Wellington) or provide him with goods in exchange at 40 per cent above Sydney prices. Hayes was to be provided with a two-masted boat, 32 feet long, for £40.

It was part of the arrangement that, if a price could not be agreed upon in respect of salt pork, it was to be shipped to Sydney at £4 freight rate, or to Port Nicholson at £2/10/- per ton. In lieu of freight being charged on live hogs, the parties were to divide equally the amount of the net account sales. Potatoes were to be shipped on the basis that Hayes found the tubers and Rhodes provided the freight. Half of the shelled maize shipped was to be taken by Rhodes in lieu of freight, and he was required to pay Hayes 2/- per bushel for the balance.

Writing from Port Nicholson to his firm (November, 1840), Rhodes stated that he had obtained his latest cargo from the firm's trading stations at Waipiro Bay (Hayes's), and at Poverty Bay (Simpson's). He had not called at the firm's station at Wyroa [Wairoa, which was under William Burton], as he had already filled up the Eleanor. He advised the firm that the vessel was too large for the New Zealand coastal trade, and added: “Should you not deem it advisable either to buy a smaller vessel or send the Eleanor with sheep (provided no offers of freight are made) I shall have to wind up all [our affairs] on the [East] Coast, which would be attended with loss, as we have gone to a great deal of expense in erecting houses and to keep possession of the land.”

Among Rhodes's records, which are in the Alexander Turnbull Library at Wellington, there are two invoices headed: “Invoices of New Zealand produce shipped on board the barque Eleanor at page 133 East Cape [presumably Waipiro Bay] for Sydney on account of, and at the risk of, John Hayes and consigned to Cooper and Holt, Sydney.” The first, dated 13 August, 1840, has this item: “420 baskets of shelled maize, supposed to be about 200 bushels, at 2/6, £25,” and the second reads: 2045 baskets of corn, supposed to be about 684 bushels more or less, at 2/6, £85/10/-; 4 live pigs at 20/-, £4.” On the second invoice are the words: “The above goods to be placed at the disposal of Captain Rhodes as per my agreement with him. Waipiro, October 24, 1840, JOHN HAYES.”

In the 1850's, Hayes was living at Reporua. He had two sons, John and Pene (Ben), who were half-brothers. Some weeks before John Hayes junior died in September, 1889, he gave an order for a carved coffin. So pleased with it was he that he sent for the maker and complimented him on his workmanship. He also had his grave dug and fenced in. Upon his instructions, large quantities of pork and beef were salted down for the tangi. When his death did not take place immediately, he explained to his friends that he did not wish unduly to delay dying; he was merely awaiting the return of Pene, who was on a visit to Wellington. Pene Hayes—also styled “Kairakau”—had passed his ninetieth year when he died in February, 1939.