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

Some Historians Deceived

Some Historians Deceived

Colenso (Transactions of the New Zealand Institute (1868), p. 64 and p. 67), twice lists the Agnes among vessels seized in New Zealand waters in the early days, and gives Tokomaru as the scene of the outrage. In the 1878 issue, p. 109, he states that Rutherford was at the great battle in the Kaipara district between Ngati-Whatua and Ngapuhi and that the head of Hongi's son Hare was “carried off in triumph by Rutherford's Maori party from the East Coast.” He adds: “Rutherford is in many respects a truthful witness, as I have good reason for saying, having formerly traced out not a few of his statements.” But, in August, 1896, he told the members of the Hawke's Bay page 70 Philosophical Institute that, shortly after he arrived in New Zealand in 1834, he made inquiries at the places described by Rutherford “without being able to discover any trace of him or of the events narrated by him, and had come to the conclusion that the story was largely mythical.”

Rusden, who was also completely deceived, states (History of New Zealand, Vol. 1, p. 116): “About 1825 or 1826, Hongi fought a battle against Ngati-Whatua and their allies. Rutherford, the sole survivor of the Agnes, destroyed by the Maoris on the East Coast in 1816, had been treated as a chief by the Ngati-Porou, and he accompanied his tribe, a war-party 500 strong … to Kaipara (as an ally of Ngati-Whatua)…. The march of the Ngati-Porou contingent from the East Coast shows the hatred entertained against Hongi over his southern raids.” The Rev. J. Buller (Forty Years in New Zealand, p. 251) also accepts Rutherford's story.

T. L. Buick (Mystery of the Moa, p. 47) adopts Rutherford as a witness to the silence of the Maoris on the subject of the moa when they discussed the natural history of their country with their earliest visitors. He says that, although Rutherford moved about in a part of the country where moas formerly abounded, “he does not appear to have encountered … the fabulous legends of the mountain-dwelling moas so common among the inhabitants of the East Coast.” Four years later, however, Buick, in the course of a reply to Francis Edwards Ltd., of London, on the question of the authenticity of Rutherford's narrative, stated that he thought Rutherford had been in New Zealand, but in what district or how he came to be there he did not know, nor did he think it would ever be known. He added: “How much of fact and how much of fiction, how much of Rutherford and how much of Knight and Craik, goes to the make-up of his narrative, it is equally impossible to say.”

W. L. Williams (who, earlier, had accepted Rutherford's story) made the important point, in an address before the Auckland Philosophical Institute on 6 October, 1890, that the East Coast natives had no knowledge of Rutherford, but, on the other hand, they had told him about three white men who had voluntarily lived among them just after the period during which Rutherford claimed to have been held in captivity. It was his opinion that Rutherford's account of his personal adventures was a mere romance; that he knew nothing of the locality in which he professed to have resided for nearly ten years beyond the name Tokomaru; and that, whether the years which he spent in New Zealand were many or few, they were spent in the north, somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Bay of Islands.

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On the other hand, if Rutherford had ever lived in or about the Bay of Islands, he would not have estimated the length of the journey which, he says, he made to the Kaipara district at as much as two hundred miles. Nor, in that event, would he have stated that the war-party to which he claims to have been attached allied itself with the opponents of Ngapuhi. It is also certain that, if he had lived in Ngapuhi territory, he would not have made the mistake of stating that Ngapuhi were defeated. Furthermore, if he had been acquainted with the Bay of Islands, he would not have felt it necessary to explain that Pomare had told him at “East Cape” that his place of residence “was in the neighbourhood of Mr. Kendall, the missionary.”

The fact that Rutherford places Hauraki Gulf between Kaipara and Aimy's domain affords the most reliable clue as to the locality in which he lived. Smith (Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century, p. 88) holds that he might have escaped either from the Trial or from the Brothers when they were attacked at, or close to, Mercury Bay on 20 August, 1815. Bishop H. W. Williams pointed out to the writer that the names which Rutherford applies to the chiefs with whom he claimed to have lived are more in accord with those in use by the tribes which inhabit the areas adjacent to Hauraki Gulf. [Rutherford's “Nainy” certainly does bear a close resemblance to Marsden's rendering of “Aneenee,” of Thames]. He was of the opinion that Rutherford was a deserter from an English vessel, and he did not share his father's contention that he underwent tattooing in the hope that it might enable him to escape detection. Such an attempt at disguise, he considered, would have served to draw particular attention to him.

What further heightens the probability that Rutherford lived just below Hauraki Gulf is a statement on page 184 of The New Zealanders: “that many fine veins of coal make their appearance from the sides of the mountains in the interior of the northern island.” Nobody (it is added) had previously made reference to the existence of coal deposits in New Zealand. If Rutherford had lived on the East Coast, it is most unlikely that he would ever have heard of them. Probably, much of his story was hearsay. He might have obtained some of the material from Caddell, and he might also have run across Jacky Marmon. Quite openly, he confesses that he did receive some information in Sydney from a survivor of the Boyd tragedy, and, perhaps, he was enlightened upon some other matters by members of the Herd expedition, which arrived in Sydney whilst he was there.