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

Eyewitness's Account of Rising

Eyewitness's Account of Rising

Much surprise (and not a little alarm) was occasioned in official circles in Wellington in July, 1868, when a message was received from Napier stating that the rebels had seized a schooner at the Chatham Islands, and, with Te Kooti at their head, had landed at Whareongaonga, about eight miles south of Young Nick's Head. Nothing further was learned by the authorities until the arrival of the Rifleman (the vessel on which the prisoners had journeyed to the mainland) twelve days later. Chief Officer Payne, who was in charge of her, explained that he had not put in either to Poverty Bay or to Napier because he considered it his duty to make all haste to Wellington. Adverse winds had delayed him.

The Rifleman, Payne said, reached the Chatham Islands on 3 July. Next day rain interfered with the landing of the cargo, and, whilst Captain Christian and some of the crew were ashore, the page 232 rebels slew one of their guards and overpowered the others. They then seized the vessel and compelled him (Payne) to steer in the direction of Poverty Bay. Prior to their departure Captain Christian had been seen walking along the beach and some other persons, women as well as men, also appeared to be enjoying their liberty. Upon Te Kooti's orders, a rebel had been thrown overboard during the voyage.

In his account of the rising, Michael Mullooly, of Tolaga Bay (one of the guards), states that many of the prisoners filed into the redoubt at about 2 p.m. on 4 July, and soon the barracks and the cookhouse became crowded. When he pointed out that it was too wet for flour to be brought up from the beach, he was told by one of the prisoners that they were there upon Sergeant Elliott's instructions.

“At about 2.45 p.m.,” he continued, “I walked out of the barracks room; it was so full that I could hardly move. I had not gone more than seven paces when I was seized by three or four prisoners, laid face down very gently and bound hand and foot, my hands being tied behind my back … I saw them break open the magazine, roll out the ammunition, take possession of the rifles (which they loaded and capped in great haste) and the bayonets …
“When I had left the barracks room I met an old fellow who had been sick for six months and I remarked to myself: ‘What business has he here?’ … They left me on the ground for about five minutes and then carried me into the barracks room. I saw Constables Cotter, Muirhead and Johnson, who were also tied hand and foot. They told me that Constable Michael Hartnett [a single man, whose father was a pensioner at Onehunga] had been tomahawked. I saw them open all our boxes. They took all the money they could find, but nothing else, out of the barracks room.
“About three shots were fired, and then they brought in Captain Thomas and laid him down. He was tied very tightly and, I believe, suffered very much. I saw them drag in Constable Hemmington with his trousers torn off his back (sic). He looked rather fierce; I saw them handcuff him. As I was suffering a good deal of pain in my wrists, I got them to unbind my hands and handcuff me also. Captain Thomas also asked them to handcuff him, but they took no heed. He called out to me to ask them to handcuff him. The man in charge said that he had got no more handcuffs, so I showed him where he could get a pair.
“A fellow then came in and told Captain Thomas that they wanted him at the courthouse to talk with Alick [Mr. Shand, the interpreter]. They took him away, well watched. One fellow followed him with a long rope. I thought they were going to hang him … A few minutes afterwards the prisoners commenced to karakia (pray) in Elliott's room. They then formed a circle in the barracks square and began to pray again. I think it was a Hauhau karakia, for I heard them say: ‘No. 1; No. 2, etc.’ They had another prayer at the gate, then shouted and left.
“Two civilians came in and loosed us. We saw they were all on board the Rifleman. They cast the Florence adrift and she went ashore on the beach. I do not know who the fellows were who tied me up. I saw Te Kooti walking about doing nothing … I did not hear him page 233 speak. He seemed quite pleased. I saw Pohipi No. 4 on the parapet, apparently doing sentry go …”

The rebel whom Te Kooti ordered to be thrown overboard during the voyage to the mainland was Warihi Potini (his uncle). Warihi was an old man, and he tried to save himself by clinging to the rail. According to one account, this wanton murder was committed because adverse winds were being experienced and Warihi was regarded as a Hona (Jonah). It is added that the winds then became favourable. Another version states that Warihi was abandoned to the waves because he refused to follow the example of the other rebels, who obeyed an order to throw overboard their heitikis (neck ornaments) to appease “the god of the winds.” Still another story says that Warihi was blamed for reporting to Captain Thomas that Te Kooti was making a practice of imposing upon his followers by rubbing phosphorus from matches upon his hands and displaying them in the dark.

Throughout the voyage, a native armed with a sword stood over the helmsman and sentries patrolled the deck at night as well as during the daytime. Whareongaonga was reached on 10 July at 7 p.m. During the night and for most of the next day the work of landing the cargo proceeded. The party comprised 163 men, 64 women and 71 children. Three men and one woman had remained behind. Among the cargo were large quantities of flour, sugar and general stores and some barrels of beer. The escapees also brought back 33 rifles, 8 d.b. guns, 7 revolvers, 29 bayonets, 3 kegs of powder, 4,584 cartridges, 6,670 percussion caps and some swords, which they had taken from the redoubt. In addition, they had stolen £522 in notes and coin, including £397 of Crown moneys and £102 belonging to Hartnett, the murdered guard. Te Kooti sent some casks of water on board the vessel and then bade Payne and his crew to go about their business.