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From Tasman To Marsden.

Chapter X. — The Massacre of the Boyd, 1809 and 1810

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Chapter X.
The Massacre of the Boyd, 1809 and 1810.

On Sunday, 12th November 1809, readers of the Sydney Gazette found the following in the columns of that day's paper:—

“On Wednesday sailed the Boyd, Captain Thompson, for the Cape of Good Hope, with coals, cedar, and other plank and timber."

This vessel was owned by Mr. George Brown, and had sailed from the Thames on 10th March 1809, with convicts for the young Colony. There she landed on 14th August, and was now leaving port with a valuable return cargo, which her captain intended to still further supplement by calling in at New Zealand and taking on board some spars.

A large number of people belonging to the Colony ad vertised their intention of leaving on board of her, and a perusal of the list shows the names of Captain John Thompson; Ann Morley, Ann Glossop, and Catherine Bourke, or Rourke; and Messrs. R. W. Wrather, James Moore, John Budden, Robert Thomas, Mordica Marks, John Petty, Thomas Martin, William Allen, John Thomas, William Mahoney, and Denis Desmond. In addition to these, the Native called Tara, who had served as a sailor for some time on the sealer Star under Captain Wilkinson, was on board bound for his home which was Whangaroa. The presumption is, therefore, that the Boyd was sailing direct for that port.

We last left the City of Edinburgh in the Bay of Islands completing her cargo of spars, with the Natives more eager to undertake a punitive expedition southwards than toil unceasingly at the work of felling and transporting huge trees. The date would be about the middle of December 1809.

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Mr. Berry describes the receipt of news of a shipping calamity at Whangaroa in these words:

“One morning very early, on leaving my cabin, I observed a number of strangers sitting on the gangway, and Tarra in deep conversation with them. Tarra perceiving us preparing to despatch two boats for spars, immediately left the strangers, and desired us not to despatch the boats until he had had some private conversation with the captain and myself. Being admitted into the cabin, he first desired us to purchase what we wanted from the natives, and then to dismiss them, when he would inform us of something which deeply concerned our own safety. His request being complied with, he then informed us that he had received accounts from those people of the capture of a ship by the natives of Wangerooa, who had killed and eaten the captain and crew; that the Wangeroons having procured the firearms and ammunition of that ship, and, elated with their victory, although only the result of surprise and treachery, had determined to come round, and attack our ship. Therefore, he observed, you must no longer weaken yourselves by sending away boats for spars, but must keep all your men on board, and quit New Zealand as soon as possible;—and, besides, while it may be necessary to remain here, you ought to receive on board all my friends and dependants to assist in defending you. Tarra, on being further questioned, informed us that the vessel carried 20 great guns, and 40 men."

The first instinct was to discredit the statement, and to attribute it to the desire the Natives had to get rid of the City of Edinburgh, so as to enable them to carry on the warlike operations they had been contemplating, but, after thinking the matter over, it was decided to steer a middle course, and neither reject Tarra's advice, nor give him the chance of scoring a triumph by his advice being adopted and the information proving incorrect. The work of completing the loading was accordingly hastened up, greater caution and vigilance was employed in providing against attack, and the idea of there page 127 being anything in the story was discouraged amongst the sailors. For some time even the Natives discredited it. This went on until the loading was completed, when circumstances were related which hardly admitted of being attributed to Native invention, and Berry determined to put the matter to the test and send round an armed party to see for themselves, and, if things were as alleged, and there were captives who had escaped the massacre, use every endeavour to have them released.

When the question of attempting the relief of the survivors was first mentioned, the Natives at the Bay took up an attitude of the strongest opposition, and absolutely refused to take part in it. They considered it ungenerous to ask them, after the faithful service they had rendered, to embark themselves in war with the Natives of Whangaroa, who were bound to take their revenge after the City of Edinburgh sailed. Though they would not go, they gave every direction of how to guard against surprise. Only one Native—Towaaki, who was going in the City of Edinburgh as a sailor—was induced to accompany the Expedition. Berry had only 24 muskets, and, as 22 were required for the Whangaroa trip, Tarra and Tupe's muskets had to be borrowed for the defence of the ship; these were up country at the time and Berry could not await their arrival, so he took the risk and set out in three armed boats, leaving the ship guarded by her two six-pounders and some defective muskets. Fortunately bad weather drove the boats back, when they found that the muskets had arrived and that the Native chiefs were on board the ship prepared to defend her.

While making preparations for the second attempt to reach Whangaroa, a singular incident overcame the objection of the Natives to accompany Berry. A Tahitian had run away from the ship with a young Native woman, and one of the mates now reported to Berry that the absconder had been accompanied in his flight by a Native who was under Metenangha, a chief then on board. Berry went straight to Metenangha and asked him to use his authority over his dependant to get the Tahitian back, but the chief replied page 128 that he could not. Then Berry, in great heat, said “that it was a pity to see a man of his rank disgrace himself by decoying away our sailors, after all the attentions we had shown him," and straightway turned on his heel and walked contemptuously away.

Berry's reply, and, more than anything, his demeanour, was felt very keenly by the chief, who called out to him, and, when he found that was useless, ran forward and seized his arm, declaring at the same time his friendship, his innocence of the charge, and his inability to remain on the ship under such accusations. Seizing the opportunity, Berry offered his hand and his friendship “if he would accompany me to Wangerooa." “Yes," replied the chief, “I will go with you; my presence will insure you everything you require at that place; you will see what a great man I am; the men of Wangerooa are a small people, and must do what I order." By the accidental circumstance of the Tahitian running away, Berry was therefore able to proceed to Whangaroa, accompanied by a chief who possessed great influence there. Mr. Russel, the mate, also accompanied the party.

Arrived at their destination, a distance of some fifty miles N.W. of the Bay of Islands, the Expedition visited the remains of the ill-fated vessel, which they found lying in shoal water at the top of the harbour. The ship's cables had been cut, and she had been towed up the harbour until she grounded, and had then been set on fire by the Natives, and burnt to the water's edge. Remains of the coal, salted seal skins, and planks, were visible in the hold, and on top of them were the guns, iron, and standards, where they had fallen when the decks were burnt. Well did Berry describe it as “a most melancholy picture of wanton mischief."

The procedure at Whangaroa was left in the hands of Metenangha who landed first, and directed the boats to a more convenient spot, where he afterwards joined them with two of the principal chiefs and some of their friends who had been engaged in the massacre. Berry describes these men as all dressed in canvas which had belonged to the Boyd; they approached their visitors with the greatest confidence, page 129 and held out their hands as if welcoming old acquaintances. They showed no hesitation about referring to the massacre, nor secrecy about its details, regarding it as a British tar would regard “some successful attempt against an enemy's ship of superior force." The reason given for the attack was that one of their chiefs had secreted a carpenter's axe, and had been detected before leaving the ship, with the result that he was tied up to the capstan, where he was kept for several hours and threatened with flogging. This indignity to their chief could not be forgiven, hence the massacre. They admitted there were several who had not been killed.

Berry now commenced negotiations for the release of these survivors. He put down a number of axes, and mustered his men; to the Natives he offered the axes, if the survivors were handed over peaceably; but told them, that if that proposal was not accepted, war would be declared against them by the forces they saw in front of them. After a moment's hesitation the reply came that “trading was better than fighting" and the captives would be given up for the axes. It was the old story of Cook's superiority over Marion, when dealing with the Natives always to keep buckshot in reserve. In modern dealings between nations the same policy has a wide circle of supporters.

On the suggestion of the Whangaroan Natives, an adjournment to the Settlement was decided on, but the chiefs were rather nonplussed by Berry, who brushed aside their proposal to walk overland and meet the boats at the Settlement, and compelled them to get into the boats with him. As they proceeded up the river, some Natives who were concealed among the mangroves fired off their muskets, but for what reason was unknown. At the Settlement crowds met them, and they were told that the captives were up the country, but would be sent for and delivered next morning. As a matter of fact Mrs. Morley was in the bush, and so near at hand that she could hear the conversation.

The Natives than urged Berry to spend the night with them, promising to supply a plentiful meal of fish and potatoes, and, strange to say, the two Bay of Island Natives seconded page 130 the invitation “with great earnestness." Berry, however, was taking no risks of having his last meal on fish and potatoes, and intimated his preference to sleep with his men on a small island near the remains of the Boyd. The tide was now ebbing and there was a danger of the boats getting aground, so their departure was hastened, but even then there could be detected “slight attempts to detain us by compulsion." Telling the story afterwards Berry mentions, as one reason for the course followed,

“we had seen the mangled fragments and fresh bones of our countrymen, with the marks even of the teeth remaining on them; and it certainly could not be agreeable to pass the night by the side of their devourers."

Anyone can understand the thoughts that passed through Berry's mind, when, after gazing at the wreck, transferred for the time being into a Parsee Tower of Silence, and weeping over the picked bones of his countrymen, he is coolly asked to spend the night, as a bed companion of the vultures.

That night was spent on a small island, consisting of a perpendicular rock, and so situated as to be capable of defence against any force of New Zealanders, by the small band that accompanied Berry. At one in the morning Towaaki visited the camp and stated that the captives would be delivered in the morning; he said he had seen the woman, and that the cause of the delay was the chief in whose possession she was.

In the morning the Natives brought over Mrs. Morley and her little child, and a lad of fifteen years named Thomas Davis, an apprentice on board the Boyd. In answer to Mr. Berry, Mrs. Morley stated that the infant daughter of Mr. Commissary Broughton was alive and was still among the Natives. Berry knew Broughton, and at once asked the Whangaroa chief where the child was, as Mr. Broughton was his “brother," using the term in the sense used by the New Zealanders. The chief replied that the child was with a chief on an island at the entrance of the harbour, and that one of the Natives would be sent to order its release. This did not satisfy Berry, who expressed doubts whether the order would be obeyed or not, but the chief assured him that it would be page 131 all right, but that he himself would not go down as the sea was too rough. Berry at once took the extreme step of ordering the two principal chiefs and some of their attendants into the boat, and taking them off with him, to the no small consternation of the party. Arrived at the island, a Native was sent ashore for the child, and, after an hour's delay, little Betsy Broughton was brought down to the boat, clad in a linen shirt which had belonged to Captain Thompson, and in a very emaciated condition. As the poor little girl saw the white people round about her she feebly cried out for her “mamma," who had, alas, perished at the hands of the human brutes of Whangaroa.

The captives were now liberated and the reward earned, and, of course, the axes should have been handed over and the chiefs put at liberty. Here Berry's action cannot be defended. Instead of liberating the chiefs he demanded all the Boyd's papers to be handed up, and stated, that until that was done, they would be kept prisoners on board the City of Edinburgh and taken to England to answer for their crimes. He would listen to no reason, whether the “tears, entreaties and persuasions" of the captive chiefs, or the remonstrances and protests of Metenangha, who accompanied him from the Bay of Islands and to whom the bloodless success of the mission was due. Berry knew he was wrong, and refers to his own act as one “more of policy than of justice." He, though not an owner of the Boyd, was going to have these papers, regardless of every prohibition in the moral code. On reaching the ship, the chiefs were put in irons.

It was not long until the papers of the Boyd were forthcoming, and were found to consist of a few books, a box full of letters containing the Government dispatches, and a variety of detached letters which included a packet in Berry's own handwriting, containing “bills and documents to a great amount." Was this the reason why every honourable instinct was trampled on to secure them?

These admittedly dishonourable acts were followed by a number which can only be characterised as petty beyond page 132 measure. Berry himself is our authority for the statement that he “made a great merit" of liberating the unjustly detained chiefs, and even then exacted a promise from Metenangha that the liberated men “would be degraded from their rank, and received among the number of his slaves." Of course it was ignored. After liberation the chiefs wrote thanking Berry for their liberty, but suggesting at the same time that it was good policy on his part, as any injury to them would have provoked retaliation by their friends. To add to the culpability of Berry it has further to be mentioned that, when sending a Report to the Governor of New South Wales, he gave as a reason for liberating the Natives, that there was no opportunity of sending them to Sydney, ignoring alike the contract with them in the first place, the condition imposed upon them in the second place, and the reason he had given to Metenangha in the third place.

So far nothing has been said descriptive of the massacre. Our first authority is Alexander Berry. He heard the first account of the tragedy, he organised the Expedition to rescue the imprisoned people, he conversed with the Natives at Whangaroa and heard them tell their story unrestrained by any thought of punishment, he had the full services of Metenangha, but more than all, he had the survivors on board his ship, and two of them were quite old enough to appreciate what went on around them. All these things make Berry's version of the tragedy stand out beyond all others, and, in the event of challenge, call upon all contradictory versions to be examined with suspicion.

The Report, under date 6th January 1810, subscribed to by Captain Pattison, Supercargo Berry, and Mate Russel, is as follows:—

“This unfortunate vessel (intending to load with spars) was taken three days after her arrival. The natives informed the master on the second day they would shew the spars. Next day, in the morning, Tippahee arrived from Tippanah and went on board. He staid only a few minutes, and then went into his canoe, but remained page 133 alongside the vessel, which was surrounded with a number of canoes which appeared collected for the purpose of trading; and a considerable number of the natives, gradually intruding into the ship, sat down upon the deck. After breakfast the master left the ship with two boats to look for spars. Tippahee, waiting a convenient time, now gave the signal for massacre. In an instant the savages, who appear'd sitting peaceably on the deck, rushed on the unarmed crew, who were dispersed about the ship at their various employments. The greater part were massacred in a moment, and were no sooner knocked down than cut to pieces while still alive. Five or six of the hands escaped up the rigging. Tippahee now having possession of the ship, hailed them with a speaking trumpet, and ordered them to unbend the sails and cut away the rigging, and they should not be hurt. They complied with his commands and came down. He then took them ashore in a canoe and immediately killed them."

In a letter to the owner of the Boyd, dated Lima, 20th October 1810, Berry supplements the above with some further interesting information. That morning Te Pahi had asked Captain Thompson for some bread, but it was refused him and he left in an angry mood. Thompson went ashore with four hands and only one fowling piece, which, when fired in defence, killed a child. The boy Davis escaped into the hold, where he lay concealed until the Natives were fairly glutted with human flesh. Ann Morley was discovered by an old savage who was so moved by her tears and embraces that he took her to Te Pahi and obtained permission to spare her life. At that time the deck was covered with human bodies which were being cut up. A few minutes after Te Pahi sent the sailors ashore, the woman went ashore with her deliverer, and the first thing she saw was the dead bodies of the sailors lying on the beach. When she landed several made to come towards her to kill her also, but her life was saved by the interposition of some women who rushed in between them and covered her with their clothes. The second mate begged page 134 his life, and was kept alive for about a fortnight, when he also was killed and eaten.

Berry was of opinion that had Captain Thompson treated Te Pahi civilly the latter would have warned him about the plot to massacre him for punishing the chief.

It had been a promise to Tarra that the boat used to procure the cargo would be given him when the loading of the City of Edinburgh was finished. When this promise came up for fulfilment he asked for some writing to prove how he came to have the boat, fearful that it might be thought to have come from the Boyd, or to have been stolen from some other ship. A Certificate to this effect was accordingly given him:

We……….certify that we gave Tarra, the bearer of this, a small flat-bottomed boat as a reward for his good conduct, and the assistance of getting us a cargo of spars.

Given on board the ship City of Edinburgh, Captain Simeon Pattison, Bay of Islands, January 6th, 1810.

Simeon Pattison, Master.

Alexr. Berry, Supercargo.

James Russel, Mate.

Berry, in 1819, states that this fact will be invaluable to the future antiquarians and historians of New Zealand, by showing the antiquity of naval registers in that country. To-day and here his prophecy is fulfilled.

One other chief had a boat—the jolly boat of the Boyd—given him, with a like Certificate, and, as late as 1815, when Nicholas visited New Zealand in company with Marsden, the chief showed him the tattered remains of his quaint “naval register."

In addition to notices to shipping masters, signed by the Captain, Supercargo, and Mate, of the City of Edinburgh, telling of the disaster and warning all who might be interested, Berry wrote an official letter to Governor Macquarie, shortly giving the facts, and stating that the Despatches would be forwarded. It is not on record to whom he gave the letter to Macquarie, but probably he left it with one of the friendly chiefs to hand over to the first vessel bound for page 135 Port Jackson. Strange to say the letter to the Governor contained no details of the massacre.

It should also be mentioned, before closing the narrative of the events surrounding the massacre, that Te Pahi, a short time before the incident, visited the City of Edinburgh, where he was treated with every attention and had every expressed desire gratified, yet, after the relief Expedition to Whangaroa, he never once paid his respects to Mr. Berry, and, when the ship's boats called at his Settlement, he did not come near them. Whether rightly accused or not, his demeanour was not calculated to negative the presumption of his guilt.

On or about 6th January 1810, the City of Edinburgh set sail from the Bay of Islands with the four survivors of the ill-fated Boyd as passengers. After she left the Bay the first vessel known to have visited it was the Cumberland, under the command of William Swan, which came in on the seventeenth, and sailed on the twentieth of the same month. Tara showed Berry's letters to the Captain, and received from him a present of several gallons of oil, for the way in which he and his tribe had acted.

About the middle of February, the whalers Ann and Albion called in at the Bay, and they also were told the news by Tara, and were shewn the letter Berry had left with him. These two vessels left the Bay on the eighteenth, and the following evening met the colonial oil and sealing vessel King George, under Captain S. R. Chace, who came on board the Ann and was told the news, Captain Gwynn reading it off a paper, which, owing to the late hour and his desire to return to his vessel, Chace did not copy. As a result of this the King George did not enter the Bay, but Chace gave a whaleboat to a Native, to go on shore with another New Zealander who had been three years in the King George, and whom he armed with a warning letter to shipping masters who might frequent that spot.

Chace reached Sydney on 9th March, and was the first to give the news to the people there. Three days afterwards Robert Campbell, Naval Officer and Magistrate, directed by Governor Macquarie to investigate the information regarding page 136 the loss of the Boyd, examined Chace, and a copy of his Declaration was forwarded to England. Probably because he had not been able to copy the document in Captain Gwynn's possession, Chace stated that Te Pahi's son Matara was the principal leader, which of course could not have been stated by Berry, as he records the death of that chief as having taken place before the City of Edinburgh arrived at the Bay the second time.

While the story told by the officers of the City of Edinburgh was the version of the massacre which was given to shipping masters at the Bay, the version given to the people of the outside world was Chace's, which differed somewhat from the former, in importing the name of Te Pahi's son, and in attributing to the father the negotiations for the supplies of timber.

The Natives of the Bay of Islands told Mr. Berry that the Whangaroan Natives were the remnant of the tribe which had killed Marion and his men in 1772, and that they had fled from the Bay after the terrible punishment the French had inflicted upon them for the death of their leader.

About the middle of February, while the City of Edinburgh was in Lat. 57° S. the rudder was lost during a gale, and then commenced a series of calamities. In a helpless condition the ship drifted about amongst the southern ice until she was driven into a bay on the west coast of S. America, about forty miles south of Magellan St. There all the anchors and cables were lost, and the ship was saved only by being kept fast to the rocks. About the end of May Valparaiso was reached, and, after the vessel had been repaired, a course was steered for Lima, where she arrived in August.

At Lima, Berry remained ten months with the City of Edinburgh, and during that time Mrs. Morley died, but the circumstances surrounding her life were not such as to evoke much sympathy when the end came. The lad Davis went home to England in the Archduke Charles, and continued in Mr. Brown's employment. The two little girls were taken ashore. Betsy Broughton was put under the immediate care of the wife of Don Gaspar Rico, and became such a favourite page 137 in the house that the good lady—who had no children of her own—was with difficulty prevented from keeping her. The other child remained with her mother until the latter's death, when she also was placed in a Spanish home.

It would be about June 1811 when the City of Edinburgh left Lima for Guayaquil to load for Cadiz. The little girls were brought on board, after a great deal of trouble and considerable expense on the part of Mr. Berry. Betsy Broughton by this time could speak Spanish like a Native, and when she came on board, and found the English language used only by the sailors, she would not condescend to speak a word of it for months. After loading, Berry set sail for Rio Janeiro, and reached there in December 1811, two full years after the massacre. In the harbour was a South Sea whaler called the Atlanta, under the command of Captain Morris, and just about to sail for Port Jackson. It was a singular coincidence that Captain Morris, in the Atlanta, formed one of a punitive expedition, which, after Berry left, attacked Te Pahi in his island home in the Bay of Islands, in March 1810. The Captain was personally acquainted with Mr. Broughton, and offered to take charge of his little daughter and deliver her safely to him; he also agreed to perform the same duty in regard to the little girl Morley; both were accordingly given into his care and he sailed for Port Jackson.

On 19th March 1812, the Atlanta arrived in Sydney, and Captain Morris had the pleasure of handing over the two little wanderers to their friends.

The following month—April—the City of Edinburgh foundered in the Atlantic Ocean, to the S.W. of the Western Islands, and Towaaki, the New Zealander, lost his life.

Alexander Berry, the hero of the massacre, lived to a ripe age, and was a prominent figure amongst the public men of his time. In 1820 he explored part of the Shoalhaven County in New South Wales, and received a large grant of land there. In 1856 he became a Member of the Legislative Council, and his death took place in 1873. A volume of “Reminiscences" of his life was recently put into private circulation.