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Historical Records of New Zealand

Destruction of The Boyd

Destruction of The Boyd.

We mentioned in our last that Captain Chace had received at New Zealand a particular account from an Otaheitan of the loss of the above vessel, which we premise by stating, upon the foregoing authority, that when the Boyd went from hence she had on board four or five New Zealanders, who made part of her crew. These people were displeased at their treatment on the passage, and determined on revenge. On their arrival they communicated their complaints to their friends and relatives, who were of the page 307 Whangarooa party, and frequently at war with Tippahee and his subjects; and the design of taking the ship was formed in consequence. It being Captain Thompson’s intention to take in a quantity of spars, he applied to the natives for assistance in procuring them, which they promised, but, in order to entice him on shore, artfully objected to perform until he should accompany them to point out such as he might best approve. The Captain was thereby prevailed on to leave the vessel, accompanied by his chief officer, with three boats manned, to get the spars on board, the natives who had arrived in the ship being of the party, which was accompanied by a number of others in their canoes. The boats were conducted to a river, on entering which they were out of sight of the ship; and, after proceeding some distance up, Captain Thompson was invited to land, and mark the spars he wanted. The boats landed accordingly, the tide being then beginning to ebb, and the crews following to assist in the work. The guides led the party through various parts of the wood that were less likely to answer the desired end, thus delaying the premeditated attack till the boats should be left by the efluence of the tide sufficiently high to prevent an escape; which part of the horrible plan accomplished, they became insolent and rude, ironically pointing at decayed fragments, and enquiring of Capt. Thompson whether they would suit his purpose or not ? The natives belonging to the ship then first threw off the mask, and in opprobrious terms upbraided Capt. Thompson with their maltreatment, informing him at the same time that he should have no spars there but what he could procure himself. The captain appeared careless of the disappointment, and with his people turned towards the boats, at which instant they were assulted with clubs and axes, which the assailants had till then concealed under their dresses; and although the boat’s crew had several muskets, yet so impetuous was the attack that every man was prostrated before one could be used. Capt. Thompson and his unfortunate men were all murdered on the spot, and their bodies were afterwards devoured by the murderers, who, cloathing themselves with their apparel, launched the boats at dusk the same evening and proceeded towards the ship, which they had determined also to attack. It being very dark before they reached her, and no suspicion being entertained of what had happened, the second officer hailed the boats, and was answered by the villains who had occasioned the disaster that the captain, having chosen to remain on shore that night for the purpose of viewing the country, had ordered them to take on board such spars as had already been procured, which account readily obtained belief, and the officer was knocked down and killed by those who first ascended the ship’s side. All the seamen of the page 308 watch were in like manner surprised and murdered. Some of the assassins then went down to the cabin door, and asked the passengers and others to go on deck to see the spars, and a female passenger obeying the summons was killed on the cabin ladder. The noise occasioned by her fall alarmed the people that were in bed, who, running on deck in disorder, were all killed as they went up except four or five, who ran up the shrouds, and remained in the rigging the rest of the night. The next morning Tippahee appeared alongside in a canoe, and was much offended at what had happened, but was not permitted to interfere or to remain near the ship. The unfortunate men in the rigging called him, and implored his protection, of which he assured them if they could make their way to his canoe. This they effected at every hazard, and was by the old king landed on the nearest point, though closely pursued. The pursuit was continued on shore. They were all overtaken, and Tippahee was forcibly held while the murder of the unhappy fugitives was perpetrated. A female passenger and two children, who were afterwards found in the cabin, were spared from the massacre, and taken on shore to a hut, in which situation Mr. Berry and Captain Pattison, of the City of Edinburgh, found when they rescued them. Tippahee was afterwards permitted by the Whangarooans to take three boat loads of any property he chose out of the ship, firearms and gun-powder excepted; and the bulk they divided among themselves. The salt provisions, flour, and spirits they threw overboard as unpalatable; the carriage guns they did the same with, considering them useless; the muskets they prized very much; and one of the savages, in his eagerness to try one, stove in the head of a barrell of powder, and filling the pan of the piece snapped it directly over the cask, the explosion of which killed five native women and eight or nine men, and set part of the ship on fire.

From the foregoing details it appears that neither Tippahee nor his son Mytye had any share in the barbarous acts committed by those sanguinary miscreants; but that the old chief had, on the contrary, endeavoured to preserve the lives of several of the crew; and if we consider the order in which the incidents are narrated, we must at least conclude this to be the most probable account received of the doleful event before us; and the more especially so as it is the report of an Otaheitan, who was on the spot at the time, and who, as an alien, not being interested on the part either of the Bay of Islanders or of the Whangarooans, may still more be entitled to credit.

In the principal facts, alas! all accounts unhappily coincid; and while we have to deplore the calamity, we cannot forbear expressing a hope that the commanders and crews of vessels page 309 traversing these seas will temper friendship and humanity towards the uncivilised islanders with prudence and caution, and be ever guarded against surprise and treachery, to which numbers of our countrymen have become the victims.*

* Reprinted from Sydney Gazette, Ist September, 1810. The accounts of Tippahee’s action are very conflicting. See statement of the officers of the City of Edinburgh, ante, p. 294.