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The Old Whaling Days

Appendix “G.” — Watkin's Journal, 1840. — Extract from the Journal of the Revd. James Watkin, the First European Preacher Stationed in the South Island of New Zealand

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Appendix “G.”
Watkin's Journal, 1840.
Extract from the Journal of the Revd. James Watkin, the First European Preacher Stationed in the South Island of New Zealand.

May 1st, 1840.

This day we left Sydney to take our appointment in New Zealand, tho' not the exact appointment given by the Committee the place to which we are proceeding being in the Middle (or South Island as it is called) and which place is called Waikouaiti a whaling station belonging to Mr. John Jones Ship owner of Sydney, who with a princely liberality towards our Society, and a Christian concern for the welfare of the Natives has offered to give land for the Mission Station, to convey the Missionary, his goods and stores free of charge and £50 Sterling towards the commencement of the Mission…. We were accompanied' to the ship by a considerable number of the excellent friends in Sydney, among whom was Mr. and Mrs. Weiss, Mrs. and Master Matthews. Mesdames Iredale, Orton &c. &c., besides the Revd. Messrs. McKenny, Schofield, and Webb, and Mr. and Mrs. Jones and part of their family, it was a painful parting from very very dear friends…. The vessel's name is the Regia, and a more comfortable one could hardly have been found, our accomodations are of the first order, and everything Mr. Jones could do to make us comfortable has been done, his kindness cannot be overpraised. Our friends accompanied page 482 us to the Heads a distance from the anchorage of six miles…. Three cheers were given, as the boat with our friends left us and returned by the ship's company, the pilot after taking us out. took his leave, and we once more launched upon the open sea, and soon left New South Wales behind us….

May 2nd.

Land out of sight tho' it is high, and our vessel not the quickest sailor on the sea…. The poor horses, cattle and sheep on board seem to suffer a good deal from the violent motion of the vessel. Neither are the passengers the most comfortable, and from the same cause. The passengers are ourselves and a young man of amiable manners.

May 10th.

We have seen one vessel but did not speak her. She appeared to be bound for some port in N.Z. more northerly than ours. …

May 12th.

Last night was one of storms and being at no great distance from the land one of considerable anxiety. We were hove to (as the sailors term it) good part of the night, and considerable alarm was occasioned about 5 o'clock in the morning by “a light” being announced, the captain was roused, the ship put about with no small noise but the light turned out to be the morning star, we were far enough away from the mainland. Soon after six o'clock Solander Island was seen on the weather bow distant 9 or 10 miles. This was a glad sight, as it indicates the entrance to Foveaux's Straits through which we have to pass. The Straits are bounded on the South by Stewart's and a number of small islands, and on the North by the Middle Island of the group, which is generally called New Zealand. We entered the Straits with a staggering breeze but before we had quite cleared them, the wind died away, which had well nigh proved fatal to the Regia, the captain not having passed them before kept well to the eastward hoping thereby to clear all danger but by so doing ran into it, for at 10 page 483 o'clock Island after Island appeared in fearful proximity as the wind was dying away, and the appalling sound (and sight too) of breakers grated on our ears. For some hours we were in extreme jeopardy…. We were drifted by the current past the danger, for wind there was none… After a while a little breeeze sprang up and we were removed to a distance from the rocks, and out of the heaving of the surf, the roar of which is awful even when you are on shore, but when on board it is most awful. …

May 15th.

For the last three days we have been off the coast of New Zealand, but owing to calms and contrary winds we have not been able to make much progress, or we should have been at anchor ere this in our own or a neighbouring port. We are now off Otago distant from the place of our destination only 12 miles, we can distinctly see the heads of the harbour but there is a dead calm, so that we make little progress except the drifting occasioned by the current which we fear will carry us past if a wind should not spring up, it is tantalising not to be able to get in tho' so near….

May 16th.

We are now at anchor in the harbour of Waikouaiti, last evening the calm was succeeded by a very strong breeze, and having been boarded by some of the people from Mr. Jones Whaling Station at that place, we made for the harbour and about 7 o'clock had our anchor down, which was a cause of rejoicing to us, as it terminated our voyage, the harbour is an open one and much exposed, as we found before the night was over, the wind was very strong and came in fearful gusts, making the vessel labour as much as if she had been in a heavy sea with a heavy wind. The strain was so great upon the anchor that the chain parted and about 10 o'clock the unpleasant announcement was made “the chain has parted and the vessel is drifting.” The roaring of the wind, the dashing of the rain, and the hissing of the water as the vessel made stern way, added to the roar of page 484 the breakers to leeward, produced a sensation in my mind which will not soon be forgotten; the second anchor was let go arid all the chain that could be was given her (ninety fathoms) but with slight hopes that she would be able to ride by it until the morning; so that we had the melancholy prospect before us of being compelled to get out to sea again if we could and if not to go ashore with the certainty of the vessel being dashed to pieces, even if our lives should have been saved. Thro' mercy the wind moderated about twelve o'clock tho' it continued to blow hard all night, the chain held and in the morning I had my first view of the scene of my labour. We were soon visited by the people from the Shore English and Natives, and as far as looks and gestures went, I could see that they were well pleased at the arrival of a Missionary among them. For New Zealanders they appeared to me to be docile. I hope they will ere long be Christians. About noon we got ashore, and found miserable lodgings in a house which Mr. Jones had intended for us solely, but which we found occupied by his brother, who made us as comfortable as he could. …

May 17th (Sunday).

This day I held a service in English which was pretty well attended by the men from the whaling gang, some of the agriculturists sent down here by Mr. Jones and a considerable number of Natives who of course could not understand me. I opened my commission in New Zealand by preaching from the old fashioned text 1 Tim. I. 15. This is a fearful saying. The attention paid was great. May the word spoken not have been in vain. Amen.

May 18th.

Went to-day to Mataina (Matanaka), the agricultural settlement where it was said my house was built. I found the house totally inadequate to the reception of my family for size, and that living there would defeat the great object of my coming to New Zealand, namely, the spiritual welfare of the aboriginal inhabitants. I determined not to reside page 485 there and to get a temporary residence of some kind in Waikouaiti itself, which I have some hope of being able to accomplish. Much inconvenience and some privations will have to be endured… Those who commence a New Mission in a barbarous country must make up their minds to suffer something perhaps many things, and especially when there is a large family of small children.

May 20th.

We have found a site for a house and a Native house in an unfinished condition which may be rendered tenantable at a small expense of materials and time and the carpenters are to be set to work to floor part of it and weatherboard the sides, it will look miserable enough when done, but we will be under our own roof and more a most desirable thing for comfort sake and our family welfare. The house stands on a considerable elevation and commands beautiful prospects every way….

May 24th.

We have not had a public service this day, the day being very stormy preventing the people from assembling and the house in which we are being too small to accomodate many. In the evening I had a service with my own and part of Mr. T. Jones family.

May 26th.

This day we have taken possession of our house or rather hut, the whole of it not too large for two people, into which seven of us must cram with some indispensible articles of furniture, and then we must do our best until we can enlarge our borders….

May 30th.

Have been very busy for the last few days in getting our little hut into order unpacking, placing &c. We have plenty of visitants but they hinder rather than help, and I am sorry to find from the little I have been able to pick of the N.Z. language that it differs very materially from page 486 the language spoken in the North Island, this will involve much labour and much expense for as the books printed at the Mission press Hokianga will be of very little service here; it will be necessary to begin afresh and form the alphabet, and write this hitherto unwritten language. I have read from the New Zealand Testament published at Paihia, but it appears a strange language to this people. Many of the words have considerable resemblance to words spoken here but others are quite distinct. I dont think there will be any need here for the foolish “gna” of the Northern Island.

May 31st.

Another Lords Day, the third of our residence in this strange land, in the afternoon I had a service in the English language the carpenters shop was fitted up for the occasion and I had an excellent and attentive congregation of my own countrymen, to whom I recommended righteousness of life from the death of the righteous being so desirable. A considerable number of the Natives were present to witness the “karakia bora” (the English mode of worship) I hope soon to be able to make known unto them in their own tongue the wonderful works of God.

June 5th.

I have collected words and phrases to the amount of nearly four hundred, tho' I cannot say that I have them all in my memory, I am increasing in a knowledge of the language daily and what with the broken English of the Natives and what I have acquired I can manage to understand and make myself understood on common subjects. The inhabitants of this Island in common with some savages are very superstitious, their faith in the power of their priests is slavish, and all sickness is ascribed to supernatural or perhaps infernal agency. Taipo being the supposed author of the disease whatever it may be. Taipo is a foreign word, its native place and etymology I cannot trace, but as it appears to mean the Devil and is of universal use I shall not disturb it. These people have many gods, an old page 487 Chief gave me to understand the other day that there were plenty tens, and then lifting up his hands and repeating ten ten ten many times over…..

June 7th (Whit Sunday).

I conducted two English Services at which I read a considerable portion of the Liturgy in the morning at Matiainak (Matanaka) where the agriculturists in the employ of Mr. Jones are located a number of whom attended the Service, and a much greater number of Natives who were very attentive tho' they could not understand a word that was said. The afternoon service was at this place (Waikouaiti) and a mixed congregation as at the other place. I dwelt upon subjects suitable to the day. It is a pleasing circumstance that the natives have begun to abstain from work on the Lords day, from the very imperfect manner in which I have been able to set forth the claims of that day to sanctity.

I have begun to dispense medicine, and during the cold time shall have plenty to do I fear. We feel the change very much ourselves from the dry and warm atmosphere of Sydney to the damp and cold of N.Z.

June 8th.

Have nothing remarkable to note respecting this day unless it be that we have got our little hut floored with plank, the earth floor was both damp and cold, and which was felt acutely by us who have been ten years without feeling intense cold, but especially our children who have most of them been born within the tropics and feel the cold of these high southern latitudes to be intense.

I am still at the language but it is not very easy work to act the pioneer in this respect. I do not regret that I have to do it, but rejoice in it as I shall do something towards smoothing the path of others. May the giver of wisdom give me wisdom.

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June 14th.

I am making progress in the N.Z. language. I pick up words and phrases with considerable facility. The New Zealanders here are heathens deteriorated by their connection with wicked whites, and I feel them sufficiently trying particularly in trading for the articles we want for household consumption, such as potatoes and firewood. They are exhorbitant in their demands, this I suppose is caused in some measure by two rival trading establishments, one at this place, another at Otago about 12 miles distant, a place rivalling in proportion to its population the Bay of Islands in wickedness than which the Sun shines not on a worse in the whole world.

At Otago some few months ago, a Native shot a white man in a drunken squabble, the whites on the coast of whom there is a considerable number insisted on the New Zealander being put to death, and collected at that place for the purpose, when it was determined that he should be sent to Sydney for trial, but before this could be carried into execution, he put a period to his own existence and to that of his wife in the same moment. The account is that he dressed himself in his best clothes, and tho' in irons managed to possess himself of a loaded musket, he then his wife sitting behind him and clasping his body, pulled the trigger with his toes and the shot passed thro' his own heart and into (that) of his wife killing them both. It is supposed that fear of being hanged in Sydney led him to perpetrate suicide, but had he gone to Sydney, he would either have been acquitted or found guilty of manslaughter under circumstances which would have mitigated the sentence to its lowest degree.

The white men almost generally are living with native women and my coming here is looked upon rather suspiciously by them, for they know enough of Xy to be aware that if it prevails they must marry the women or lose them. Another objection to the Missionary is that it will make the Natives too knowing i.e. in matter of trade, but from the specimens I have had already, I think my duty would be page 489 to make them less knowing. If they increase their knowledge of this kind this will be a most expensive mission indeed.

June 16th (?15th)*.

Yesterday I preached twice in English to small but attentive congregations in the morning at Matainach (Matanaka) to which I was conveyed in a whaleboat by the kindness of two American captains who had come the preceding night from Otago for the purpose of attending religious worship. I had a better congregation there than on the preceeding Sunday and the people there appear anxious that I should continue to visit them, which I purpose doing every Lords Day morning weather permitting. In the afternoon I preached at this place and read part of the Liturgy. I had Americans, Australians, English and New Zealanders in my congregation. The attention paid was great by all present. I am sorry to have to report that the conduct of the whites is worse in reference to the Lords day than that of the natives themselves, the latter do no work on that day and will I confidently hope be brought ere long to a religious observance of the day.

[As the South Island was “Proclaimed” on 17th June, further entries are outside the scope of this work. The Author.]

* The journal was evidently written up on Monday. Sunday should be June 14th according to the other dates. The Waikouaiti mentioned throughout the narrative is not the present town of that name but the old whaling station at the mouth of the river. (The Author).