Title: Octavius Hadfield

Author: Barbara Macmorran

Publication details: 1969, Wellington

Digital publication kindly authorised by: G. H. Macmorran

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Octavius Hadfield


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After a few days at Waikanae the two missionaries continued ten miles up the coast to Otaki, the home of the Ngatiraukawa. These people were not as friendly and attentive as were the Ngati-awa at Waikanae, but it was decided Octavius would divide his time between the two and have a small house at each place. Two of the most promising young men the missionaries found at Otaki were Roha and Haua, sons of the chief Te Whatanui.

At Waikanae a young man named Ripahau, also known as Matahau, was the chief contact with the tribe for Williams and Hadfield at the beginning. He had been taken to the Bay of Islands some years before as a slave, and there come in contact with the Williams brothers and their Mission station. Later, when he had secured his freedom, he had returned to Otaki and then to Waikanae, and taught his people. He had brought some fragments of the New Testament and the Book of Common Prayer, and from the whalers at Kapiti had obtained paper and ink, with all of which he had proceeded to instruct the interested and intelligent in the art of reading and writing. It was through his teaching and influence that Tamihana Te Rauparaha and Matene Te Whiwhi had journeyed to Paihia to ask for a missionary.

The first few days were busy ones for the two missionaries. They were constantly required to talk and teach. They became involved in skirmishes following the recent battle. They lived in flimsy tents beset by wind and rain, by fleas and mosquitoes. Wherever they went they were asked for books, which largely they could not provide. Their stock was very limited, and more books and slates were urgently needed. Only a week after they arrived Hadfield recorded that at a service at Otaki about 700 people were present and he was surprised to find how many of them were acquainted with the catechisms' they had in use. Writing later from Paihia, Williams stated—"Our mission at Otaki could not be more successful, more men and more books are required. Hadfield says that if he had 5,000 more Maori New Testaments he would not have one left in a fortnight."

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On December 5, seventeen days after arriving on the coast, Henry Williams left Otaki to begin his long walk north through the centre of the island, via Wanganui, Taupo and Rotorua to Tauranga. At Tauranga he boarded a ship for the Bay of Islands, where he arrived on January 18, 1840. Octavius Hadfield was left, a thin and sick young man of twenty-five, among some thousands of Maoris.

* * *

The pa at Waikanae was situated at the river mouth among undulating sandhills. E. J. Wakefield wrote of it—"This was the largest pa we had yet seen. The outer stockades were at least a mile in circumference, and the various passages between the different courts and divisions formed a perfect labyrinth."

Outside the stockade were patches of cultivation, and some apple and peach trees which had been introduced by the traders and whalers living round the coast. Further up the river, Hadfield wrote—"There are many acres of land covered with grass, wheat, barley and oats mixed together, and fine trees." Behind the sandhills the bush encroached on the areas of cultivation and flowed back over the coastal plain to ranges of high hills which in turn merged into the Tararua Ranges. Describing the scene in "Reminiscences of an Old Colonist" Thomas Bevan wrote—"In those days the district was a perfect terrestrial paradise. Beautiful forests adorned the hills and plains, the woods extending to within a mile and a half of the sea-beach, while scattered along the coast were most beautiful lagoons." Thomas Bevan first saw the area as a child in 1845 as he travelled further up the coast to join his father who had started a rope works.

When the Columbine eventually arrived at Kapiti from Wellington, Hadfield went over to supervise the unloading of his luggage. Now, with his saddles and bridles arrived, he could do much of his travelling by horse instead of by foot. Now too, with the materials he had brought he could begin building his two small homes, the sites of which he had already chosen.

In his diary Henry Williams wrote—"Concluded with Mr. Hadfield that it would be most desirable that he should occupy this place (Otaki) with Waikanae from whence we had come this morning as his main stations as he could pass from one to the other with ease on horseback in an hour and a half, and keep a general oversight to the settlements all around until he should have page 22 more assistance, which it is highly important should be speedily afforded him." In a letter to his wife, Marianne, a few days later he repeated this last sentiment. "I want much to return home, to have a talk with Mr. Mason, and Mr. Burrows, if arrived. One of them must come here, for it will not do to leave Mr. Hadfield here by himself. We must have men and women down here, and that immediately." Again in his diary he recorded—"I regretted leaving Mr. Hadfield, a young man with ardent zeal but in very delicate health, alone in this extensive and most important field, which requires several missionaries at different stations to meet in a slight degree the wants of this people."

Hadfield's tiny whare at Waikanae was the first one finished, built on a small plot in a crowded part of the pa. As soon as it was completed he moved his meagre possessions out of his tent and installed himself into this the first home of his own. In spite of many irritations, fleas and mosquitoes and smells, noise and lack of privacy, inadequate food and continued sickness, isolation from his own people and lack of time for reading and writing—in spite of all these he was happy to be living and working in this particular place. E. J. Wakefield wrote of him and his two first homes in "Adventure in New Zealand". "No selfish views were seen to mingle with his duties. No one could say of him, as of most missionaries in New Zealand, that he had the best of everything in the place. He had not even so much as a garden at either of the two houses, one at Waikanae and the other at Otaki, between which he divided his time. That at Waikanae was in the most crowded part of the pa, hemmed in by fences, and cook-houses, and noisy crowds of Maoris. That at Otaki was among the barren sandhills close to the coast. At one, the outer fence of the territory which he occupied barely left room for the stock-yard, in which the two horses, absolutely necessary for his constant journeys, were tied up; and at the other, the fence pressed close upon the little kitchen and potato-store near the house. The furniture of both was such as was barely indispensable. Mr. Hadfield was most frugal in his diet, scarcely ever eating meat, but living principally on biscuit and an occasional fowl; and would never allow even his delicate state of health to interfere with his onerous duties." As time went by Hadfield came under criticism from his own fellow clergy for his austere way of life.

He had many allies in Maoris already converted to the Gospel tidings by the spread of news from the north. Ripahau, already page 23 mentioned, was there, and Hadfield had brought with him from the north a Christian Maori to help teach. At Waikanae he found an invaluable helper in Riwai Te Ahu, a brilliant young Maori of exceptional character and ability. Riwai, in Hadfield's words written in "Maoris of By-Gone Days", "was perhaps the most interesting Maori whom I ever knew. He was a fine handsome young man about 20 years of age (in 1839). He had learnt to read and write from Ripahau. Te Ahu was brought to my notice by the principal chief as a man who could write and who had copied prayers from the Prayer Book and passages from the New Testament and circulated them among his people. This was my first acquaintance with a man who from that time forward worked heartily with me till the close of his useful life. He was a member of Ngatikura, a sub tribe of Ngatiawa, of which Reretawhangawhanga, the father of William King Te Rangitake, was the chief. Te Ahu undertook two things, to teach me to speak Maori correctly, and to teach all who were willing to learn to read and write. Te Ahu was not baptised till some time after my arrival. My superficial knowledge of the language and consequent inability to explain Scriptural doctrines to my own satisfaction occasioned some delay. After his baptism I appointed him to be lay-reader at Waikanae, where during my frequent visits to Otaki and other places he regularly conducted Divine service. The Englishmen at the whaling stations at Kapiti habitually looked to Te Ahu for advice or assistance whenever they got into trouble while trading with Maoris." In 1855 Riwai was taken to Auckland by Bishop Selwyn for instruction, and the following year was ordained a deacon.

At Waikanae Octavius Hadfield was also befriended by the above mentioned Te Rangitake, son of the chief. William King, Wiremu Kingi, Wiremu Te Whiti and Te Rangitake—he went under all these names. In later letters written to Hadfield he signed himself Wiremu Kingi Whiti. He was to be a faithful friend of Hadfield's, although unwittingly he was to embroil the latter in probably the most serious trouble of his career.

From the very first days on the coast Hadfield was busy, teaching and learning. On December 15, a month after his arrival, he wrote at Waikanae—"We had school. In the evening I for the first time read the Maori service." On the 16th—"Rose at half past four and began school in the pa after service. There were about 180 men and boys engaged in four different classes, in learning to write on slates.

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We have but four able to teach. It was indeed interesting to see the old chief Reretawhangawhanga beginning to learn to write and read, and others as old. I have not yet derived a plan for the women; there were about 150 of them, but having no teachers or slates, they were instructed only in the catechisms." On the 17th— "Went to school at 5 o'clock. The numbers have increased since yesterday, but I have not yet sufficiently ascertained their knowledge to classify them. After breakfast rode to Otaki." There he visited two pas before riding back to Waikanae.

A few weeks after his Waikanae whare was built his second home at Otaki was finished, and as he had promised he divided his time between the two. But the people of Waikanae were more friendly and receptive, and during these early years it was here that he most enjoyed being. In a letter he wrote—"My congregation at one place about 400, and the other 150, but numbers of others in villages all about me." The former figure referred to Waikanae. Hadfield felt that the coolness apparent at Otaki was partly due to Te Rauparaha's jealousy at the missionary's obvious accord with the Ngatiawa tribe. Continuing his diary entry for December 16th he wrote—"Went after breakfast over to Kapiti and brought more slates. Old Rauparaha came and attacked me and said that I had forsaken him and carried all my things to the other side. I gave him a Testament and some small books. He used bad language and intimated to me that if I did not supply all his wants he would not favour the Gospel and that many would be influenced and guided by him. He stated moreover that he would stir up another attack upon Waikanae. In fact I was much disgusted with him, and must be civil to him on account of his great influence."

Hadfield and Te Rauparaha were to clash again, notably after the Wairau massacre, but by and large these two so strangely matched men worked out a strong and amicable relationship. Shortly after the episode quoted above Te Rauparaha began attending the school at Waikanae, and would sit patiently with a slate upon his knee, wrestling with the mysteries of reading and writing with the others. At Otaki his son Tamihana and nephew Matene, after their return from the Bay of Islands, became Hadfield's staunchest assistants.

But there were some who did not co-operate. In "Maoris of By-Gone Days" Hadfield related a story about the chief next in rank to Te Whatanui at Otaki, Matenga Te Matia. Sometimes on a page 25 Sunday when Hadfield was holding a service this chief would come "for the purpose of making a noise and interrupting us. On one occasion this interruption went rather too far." The next day Hadfield visited the chief "for the purpose of remonstrating with him. I found him in his garden with several of his people. But he took no notice of me. So I sat down on the ground and thoughtlessly took up a piece of kumara. and bit it. This was on my part an infraction of a tapu. It afforded him an opportunity, which perhaps he had been looking for, of ridding himself of me and my proceedings. He rushed at me with his tomahawk, and was about to strike me as I sat on the ground, when his daughter and the son of a chief immediately came and placed themselves between me and my assailant, placing their hands over my head so that it became impossible for him to strike me without first striking them. Others then came forward. After some time his rage abated, and he sat down.

I then endeavoured to explain that I, as a foreigner who had not been long among them, was not aware that I was doing anything offensive. But before I could finish my explanation the Maori priest, Hereiwi, who had gone through his karakia making the kumara ground tapu, interrupted by pronouncing a curse upon me which was necessarily to lead either to my death, or to my removal from Otaki. I told him his curse would neither affect my life nor influence my proceedings, but was much more likely to injure him. I then left them. Early next morning I went to Waikanae. On my return after a few days I learnt that Hereiwi had died during the night after the affair in the kumara garden. This produced a profound impression on the Maoris, who attributed his death to his cursing me. In vain I endeavoured to explain that I had heard from some Englishmen who knew him that he had been suffering from a complaint in his lungs, and that his death was occasioned by the rupture of a large blood-vessel. Not altogether convinced they resolved not to meddle any more with me, but to allow me in future to disregard all their tapu ceremonies, and go where I liked. After that Te Matia and I were on friendly terms, at least we lived in peace."

Another story on the same theme was published in the Marlborough Press in an obituary notice, December 14, 1904. "Throughout his life, his mana over the Maoris was perhaps greater than any other man's. Not merely in spiritual matters, but in political page 26 directions, it was exercised and feared. Archdeacon Stock used to tell how it was greatly strengthened. In the early days of the Wellington colony, Mr. Hadfield was constantly appealed to as an umpire in the ever-recurring land troubles, and had in one instance given a decision which greatly offended some of the West Coast Maoris. Returning from a pastoral visit to Wellington, as he passed through a pa in the neighbourhood of Porirua, he was met by the chief and the tohunga, who upbraided him in the most violent terms, worked themselves up into a frenzy of excitement which aggravated heart troubles, and as they were pelting him with oratical invective— cursing him up hill and down dale—both dropped dead. Henceforward, the awe-stricken Maoris regarded him as under the special protection of an all-powerful Atua, whom it was death to offend! All through the war and the Hau-Hau troubles, the Archdeacon travelled here, there and everywhere, risking at every turn the fate that befell Volkner and others, but absolutely undeterred by dangers."