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

Escape to Mahia

Escape to Mahia

News of the Massacre was speedily conveyed to the settlers who lived south of Matawhero. Tipuna (father of Lady Carroll) and Henare Turangi notified the Harris and Ferguson families at Opou and other loyal natives rushed to warn Captain Westrup, the Dunlops and their neighbours. Some of the settlers paused to secrete money and other valuables. Mrs. W. S. Greene took £20 with her, but lost it. An oak chest, with silver mountings, was buried by Finlay Ferguson in the old orchard at Opou. He was slain on 12 December, 1868, and the secret of the “plant” died with him. Robert Read hid a large sum before he fled, but, as he had a poor memory, he never succeeded in recovering it.

Charles Dunlop (born in 1858), whose parents' home was at Te Arai, told the writer that, when the warning was received, some of the family were still in bed. The settlers—to the number of about a score—assembled just below the site of the bridge which now spans the Te Arai River. Captain Westrup told them that he would make a stand there, and instructed them to begin to dig trenches. Towards noon he changed his mind and told everybody to make for Tamihana's pa at Oweta. By this time the fugitives from Tutoko had arrived. Soon afterwards Captain Alex. Campbell (who traded for John Hervey near the mouth of the Waipaoa River) also turned up. Whilst he had been watching his native neighbours planting kumaras, three mounted natives, who were recognised as rebels, had come into sight. He was hidden in the bottom of a boat under mats and other wrappings.

The natives at Muriwai told the fugitives that they were not in sufficient strength to protect them, and advised them to go on to Mahia. It was arranged that Captain Campbell should take the women and children by boat to “Happy Jack's Landing,” and that Captain Westrup should proceed overland with the men. As the natives declined, upon various pretexts, to place a boat at the disposal of the party, J. W. Johnson sent for his whaleboat and for additional horses. Captain Campbell, who left at 2 p.m., took with him Mrs. Dunlop and her six children, Mrs. Firmin and three children, Mrs. Stevenson and child, and Mrs. Wyllie and family. Constable Firmin was one of the few men whom he called upon to assist in manning the boat. This party reached “Happy Jack's” at 6 p.m. in a famished state. “Happy Jack” (John Greening) at once set to work to regale them with fried page 264 fish and potatoes. As soon as he had cooked one panful he put on another. There was plenty of food for everybody.

The party which went overland took the Whareongaonga track. It was guided by Pimia Aata and comprised: Captain Westrup, Mrs. W. S. Greene, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Harris and child, Miss Isabella Ferguson (Mrs. J. Breingan), Robert Read, Mr. and Mrs. A. F. Hardy and child, Captain Harris and J. E. Bidgood, Wm. Greene, jun., James Dunlop, John, Finlay and Dugald Ferguson, J. W. Johnson, H. Elston, S. Stevenson, James Wyllie, J. Hawthorne and W. Benson. Among the friendly natives who accompanied the party was “Old Sue,” who proved an invaluable help to the women and children.

During the afternoon, the Eagle (Captain Loverock) reached Poverty Bay from Napier under charter to W. S. Greene, who was on board. Prior to sailing for Mahia to search for his wife and son, Greene picked up his sister-in-law (Mrs. F. G. Skipworth), her son, three members of his own family (who had been staying with her at Makaraka), Tom Goldsmith, his wife and child, T. Connor, Alex. Blair and Mrs. Byrne and her five children. The Eagle anchored off “Happy Jack's Landing.” It was decided to send a mounted party with refreshments to meet the fugitives who were en route overland. As the natives asked an exorbitant sum for the use of their horses. Greene went over to Walker's homestead and procured others. The fugitives were met not far from the end of their journey. Captain Read sent the Rover over to Mahia, and that vessel and the Eagle took the refugees on to Napier.