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Life in Early Poverty Bay

Over The Side — Sailor who Slipped Ashore at Kaiti. — Echo of Earliest Whaling Days. — Why William Brown Never Returned To England

page 151

Over The Side
Sailor who Slipped Ashore at Kaiti.
Echo of Earliest Whaling Days.
Why William Brown Never Returned To England.

Not long after Captain J. W. Harris, grandfather of Mr. Frank Harris, of Kaiti, settled in Gisborne at the dawn of the 30's he and his few pakeha helpers were surprised to find in their midst a new settler in the person of one William Brown or, as he became known to the Natives, Wiremu Parone, a sailor whom they had previously seen ashore with some of his comrades prior to the sailing of a whaling vessel that had called in at the Bay.

One of the Very Earliest Settlers.

As to the date of William Brown's advent, even as to the name of the vessel from which he ran away, history is silent. In the past, it has been supposed in some quarters that he came here about the same time as Capt. Harris, if not before. Enquiries, however, go to show, conclusively, that the vessel by which he came out to New Zealand was an English boat and that her object in calling was to pick up oil, whale-bone and provisions. It is also known by his descendants that he landed on the Kaiti beach and that, at the time of his arrival, Capt. Harris was not the only pakeha resident here. As Captain Harris did not commence whale hunting at Papawhiriki, near Tuamotu Island, until about 1837, it would seem, therefore, that that would be about the date of Wm. Brown's advent.

Late Wi Brown, Son of William Brown, the Runaway Sailor.

Late Wi Brown,
Son of William Brown, the Runaway Sailor.

Even so, it requires to be set down that William Brown was one of Poverty Bay's very earliest settlers. Unfortunately, the names are not known of all the pakehas who assistted Captain Harris in his trading and whaling activities. Some, it would seem, moved about a great deal and would be only temporary residents. Tom Ralph was, of course, one. Barnet Burns, it was, in the early days, thought was another, but Burns' account of his strange exploits on the East Coast indicates that he visited here a year or two earlier, prior to settling at Tolaga Bay. Maybe, Mr. Thos. Halbert, father of Pitau, Wi Pere and Thos. Halbert, Junior, of Makaraka, was, like Capt. Harris, also established here before Wm. Brown's day. That Mr. R. Poulgrain, Mr. Espie, senr., or the U'Rens preceded him is not supportable.

Lucky in Love.

What led this William Brown to forsake his roving life on the ocean wave to partake of the hardships incidental to pioneering life in this isolated part of the Dominion amongst Natives who had, up till that time, come into contact with but few Europeans, is not known. It is, however, well authenticated that he did not page 152 leave the vessel with the master's permission, for he had signed on for a three years' voyage. In short, William Brown quietly slipped ashore one dark evening on the Kaiti beach and succeeded in keeping under cover until his good ship could not be detained any longer and had to resume her voyage to England.

From what can be learned, William Brown came of a good family. His people, it is generally supposed, were English, but, even on that point his grandchild, Mahaki Brown, of Puha, for instance, is far from emphatic, having come to the conclusion that he might also have had Scottish blood in his veins. At all events William Brown had some petty difference with his people and, in consequence, he decided to quit the British Isles and see something of the wide, wide world for himself.

In those early days of pakeha venturesomeness in these parts it was highly advantageous for an intruder to get into the good books of an influential Native chief, and it so happens that it was William Brown's good fortune to find favor with no less a Native nobleman than Kahutia, for history records that, very soon after he landed here, Kahutia gave him for a wife one of his relatives. Maybe, this particular damsel may have lured William Brown from his duties aboard ship.

The young Native woman who became Mrs. William Brown could trace her descent thuswise—Te Kaapa begat Ruku and Tu Tapu. Ruku begat Kahutia, who begat Ripirata Kahutia, who begat Lady Carroll. Tu Tapu begat Apikara, who begat Hine Whati o te Rangi, the wife of William Brown.

Survivors of the Union.

On every hand it is agreed that the matrimonial alliance was a most happy one. It was blessed by the advent of five children—

Wi Brown, who lived near Makaraka, dying in 1895.

Mere Kingi Parone, a resident of Manutuke.

Eruera Parone, who died at Makauri in 1920.

Paku Brown, of Makauri, who was killed at Tiniroto by Te Kooti rebels whilst carrying despatches from Gisborne to Wairoa in 1868; and

Kato Ruru (the esteemed mother of Henry Ruru, of Te Karaka) who very kindly, at her son's request, supplied much of the information now being placed on record concerning her father.

Incidentally, it may be mentioned that Kato Ruru, Wm. Brown's youngest daughter, married Karaitiana Ruru, who was a son of Henare Keepa Ruru, who was the donor of the Waerenga-a-hika Mission site of 600 acres to the Rev. W. Williams, a property which to-day is worth probably up to £60,000. Henare Keepa Ruru was the first Native buried with military honors in this district, his burial taking place at Waerenga-a-Hika in 1873. It was to him, according to Mr. Henry Ruru, that the Native rebels after the Waerenga-a-Hika rising, laid down their arms.

What is further of interest concerning Henare Keepa Ruru is that Mr. Henry Ruru claims that Kahutia and his grandfather were the last Maori males to be tattooed in Poverty Bay. Many of the females of high rank subsequently underwent the operation. To-day, however, tattooing is a thing of the past for Maori female as well as Maori male in this district. Mr. Ruru also says that in different districts the tattooing differed and that the tattooing of the East Coast can be readily recognised by experts. In fact the old experts could give the name of the operator on studying the markings. Both Wm. Brown's daughters were tattooed.

Sets Up As Storekeeper.

It has been suggested in some quarters that Wm. Brown, when he ran away from his ship, managed to get ashore a chest of tools. This, however, is not well established. What is certain, however, is that when he landed he had with him an old-style large English Bible, which he greatly treasured and which, much to his sorrow, was burnt in a fire at Makaraka many years afterwards.

page 153

William Brown, strange as it may appear, never became a master of the Native language. However, he quickly gained a sufficient smattering to enable him to converse and even to teach English to Natives with whom he came into contact. He conducted family prayers every morning and taught the Scriptures to his wife and family on Sundays, and to Natives who cared to join in his religious observances. Being an industrious man and of a quiet disposition he got on remarkably well with the Maoris, who showed him every consideration.

In due course, William Brown set up shop at Ngawaierua, which was on the side towards the sea between Awapuni and Opou, his stock-in-trade consisting for the most part of clothing, blankets, etc. Barter was, in those days, the only means of exchange and with the produce which he obtained from the Natives in return for goods he was abJe to enlarge his stocks in the course of trading with vessels calling in to Poverty Bay. William Brown was also given in return for goods the right to use certain lands.

Prior to the Hauhau trouble oreaking out in 1865 Wm. Brown had established himself as a flour miller on the Flats near Makaraka. Where he got the plant does not seem clear, but it was probably obtained from Sydney. The Natives as well as the few white settlers thereabouts brought their wheat to the mill to be ground. A pakeha named Neri (Ned) Paranohi was his chief assistant. Oftentimes, helpers came from the Waerenga-a-hika mission station to assist, and, not infrequently, the growers of the wheat lent a hand. The mill had, however, to close down when the rebellion started and Wm. Brown and his family came in to the Kaiti redoubt. After the Hauhau trouble had subsided he opened a store in the Makaraka district. It was destroyed by fire in 1878.

Plan to Visit England Frustrated.

William Brown sustained a heavy blow when his wife died in the middle 60's. For a long time he had contemplated re-visiting England, but his love for his wife and children restrained him from taking the step. Up till then, he and his relatives in the Mother Country had maintained correspondence. When Mrs. Brown died, he firmly made up his mind to return Home, but the elders of his late wife's tribe would not agree to his proposal to take with him two of the boys. They told him that if he wished to go he could go by himself. Off he went, but on reaching Melbourne, he began to miss his family so much that he retraced his steps. It seems that the elders were afraid that he would not return if he took any of the children with him. His relatives abroad now ceased to write to him and their identity remains unknown on account of the destruction of all his correspondence in the fire at Makaraka.

In later life, William Brown became a most conspicuous figure on the streets of Gisborne by reason of the fact that he wore his hair long. After the death of his wife, he would not suffer his hair to be cut and it hung down to his waist. This decision on his part was questioned by members of his family, but he would invariably reply that keeping his hair long was a token of respect for his dead wife. He lived to the advanced age of 87, dying at his home, “Brown's Point,” not far from Makaraka, and near the old Kia Ora Coy.'s factory, in 1889.

Miss Minnie Parker

Miss Minnie Parker