Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Maori and Missionary: Early Christian Missions in the South Island of New Zealand

Appendix — The Rev. Samuel Ironside

page break

The Rev. Samuel Ironside

The Rev. Samuel Ironside (Te Haeana) Was Closely Associated with the Rev. James Watkin, for they were the first Christian missionaries to reside in the South Island of New Zealand.

Watkin was appointed to Otago early in 1840 and Ironside to Marlborough in December of the same year. Though separated from each other by miles of coastline, these two devoted servants of the Christian Church, by letters, kept, as far as possible, in close contact with each other and thus shared their burdens.

The Revs J. H. Bumby and John Hobbs had visited Marlborough in 1829 and had left several native teachers there as pioneers.

In order to reach Marlborough, Ironside, 26 years of age, and his wife not yet 23, left Kawhia in the Hannah, a schooner of 28 tons. Unfortunately the little craft was wrecked soon after her departure, but the two missionaries were among the survivors. Their next venture was in the Magnet which, after a passage of seven days, arrived at Cloudy Bay on December 20th, 1840. The vessel anchored off Kakapo, better known as Guard's Bay, and landed the missionaries and their goods on the beach, and afterwards sailed for Port Nicholson. These two young people of “gentle birth and good upbringing” applied themselves to their difficult task. The place was a whaling station. Men of various nations were living there and some at least were the dregs of society. The only shelter available for the missionaries was a disused native cookhouse that had neither chimney nor door. It was roofed with rough slabs of timber. Generous gaps showed between the slabs which enabled them to view the stars. The problems that the missionary had to face were enough to chill the zeal of a strong man, but with heroic faithand sublime devotion, he and his wife faced up to their difficult calling and persevered with indomitable courage.

The European whalers sadly needed the missionary's influence, but the natives needed it more, for to them he had been sent. He felt that the Ngati-toa people “needed the Gospel more than any other tribe in New Zealand”.

He remarked in his Journal:

“Grafted upon their original heathenism were the vicious and unclean habits they had acquired from the example of the white men of the whaling establishments. Maori women were hired, very page 174 frequently for the fishing season, by payments such as a half keg of tobacco or rum. Some of the chiefs were living upon the proceeds of this vicious traffic. The narrative of their drunken, wretched orgies, given me at times by competent witnesses, revealed a most disgraceful state of affairs. Their language was vile in the extreme, though a few wished for better things.”

Mr. Ironside commenced his ministry on Christmas Day by marrying five traders to native women. The work prospered, but it was necessary, for the sake of the Maori people, to move to Ngakuta Bay and thus be freed from the influence of the whaling establishment. The site chosen was at the head of the inner harbour of Port Underwood. A narrow range separated it from one of the coves of Queen Charlotte Sound. This, which meant about an hour's walk over the hill, provided facilities for considerable extension. From twenty to thirty native villages were formed into a circuit, in addition, Mr. Ironside made occasional visits to D'Urville Island, Nelson and Motueka.

At Ngakuta a temporary church about 25 feet square was built of raupo. It answered the purpose of church, school and dwelling-house. The bedroom was a corner partitioned off from the rest of the building by rugs. Provision for home comforts was very meagre, and in the frequent absences of her husband, the position of Mrs. Ironside, left alone, was no small trial of faith and patience. But extracts from her Journals show her to have been a woman of unbounded faith, bent always on doing what she could to uplift her Maori sisters. In the portrait gallery of the heroines of the New Zealand Missions, no obscure place must be assigned to Mrs. Ironside.

The British and Foreign Bible Society sent to New Zealand an edition of the Maori New Testament of 5,000 copies. Of these, 400 copies were sent to Cloudy Bay. On the day appointed for their distribution, 700 Maoris assembled, each one eager for a copy. The books were set in heaps near the pulpit. The names of the teachers were read out, village after village, and each received the portion for his people. Mr. Ironside proceeds to say: “I have often wished I could reproduce the scene in a picture—Heaven smiling from above, the valley and the surrounding hills clothed in the richest verdue of early autumn; the crowd of the Maoris, all with strained gaze looking at the distribution; the teacher, as his name was called out, springing up and rushing to the stand, leaping over the heads of those who squatted in front of him, clutching the heap assigned to him, and away back to his place, hugging to his breast the coveted treasure. An angel in his flight might have been arrested by the scene.”1

Two or three weeks later the Maori people gathered from far page 175 and near to express their appreciation of the gift of the Word of God. They brought 600 baskets of potatoes, Indian corn, pumpkins, and seven good-sized pigs.

At the end of the pile of good things there was a parcel, and Hoani Koinaki, chief of the Wekenui village of the Sound—the place of honour having been ceded to him by the Ngati-toa chiefs of Cloudy Bay—sprang to his feet and, with his taiaha in his hand, said: “Here is our feast. Take it and give it to our loving fathers in England; it is all we can do to show our love to them for their great kindness in sending us the Pukapuka Tapu” (Holy Book). Mr. Ironside wrote: “In the little parcel at the end of the pile (to which the chief had pointed) was a lot of silver dollars and crown pieces, English, French, Spanish, American. These had been in their possession for years. Many of them had been bored through and used as ornaments by the women. But they were freely sacrificed on this occasion. They amounted to £9 17s. 6d. The 600 baskets and the pigs I sold to one of the traders for £25. I had the pleasure of remitting to the British and Foreign Bible Society £34 17s. 6d. as our Cloudy Bay contribution in return for their splendid gift.” Then the missioner, remembering the sad state of the natives but a short time before, exclaimed: “So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed.”

The Mission prospered to such a degree that it was necessary to face up to the problem of erecting a large and permanent church. The missionary became architect, bush-feller, carpenter and supervisor of the whole. About one hundred Maoris gave their labour. Trees were felled in the bush on the nearby hills, rolled down the slopes, split, and prepared for the building. The frame was of long, huge slabs of pine, two or three inches in thickness. Saw pits were constructed and each trunk was cut into three or four slabs. These were adzed to a perfect smoothness as though done by a carpenter's plane, and then set up for walls. The women gave their best skill. They lined the interior walls with tall reeds. These were stained with various pigments and the combination of colour added to the beauty and dignity of the House of God. The doors and window frames were purchased in Port Nicholson.

No wonder the missionary was proud of his people, and no wonder that they looked forward with eager anticipation to the dedication of the church.

Mr. Ironside recorded in his Journal: “Friday, August 5th, 1842, was our grand church opening day. There was an immense gathering of the clans from far and near, all full of high and holy expectation. All the villages in the Sound, the Pelorus River and the distant D'Urville Island, as well as those in Cloudy Bay, furnished their quota of worshippers. After the morning prayers and lessons, a sermon was preached from I Samuel 8:12, ‘Ebenezer! Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.’ No collection was made; the people had not page 176 silver or gold to give. They had been willing workers in the building of the church in the preceding five months. They had also exhausted their monetary resources for the New Testaments. Saturday, the 6th, was devoted to the examination of candidates for baptism, who had been meeting in class on probation for more than twelve months and had given satisfactory proof of discipleship. The majority of them could read the New Testament; all of them were well acquainted with our second Catechism, and repeated the first seven chapters verbatim. This panuitanga (general recitation) was deeply affecting to me. Sabbath, the 7th, dawned upon us bright and balmy; all was joy and animation. At 9 a.m. the candidates for baptism were gathered and all arranged in rows in front of the pulpit to prevent confusion. The bell was rung, and the mass of people flocked in. Between the prayers and the sermon I received into the visible church 163 adults and 34 children. After dinner not the least interesting of our opening services was the marriage of 40 couples who had been living together in a heathen state, but were desirous now of being united ‘in the holy estate of matrimony’. To meet the needs of these, Mrs. Ironside sacrificed a number of brass curtain rings which she had brought with her from England. Afterwards we joined together at the Sacrament Table, and thus closed one of the most interesting Sabbaths the Middle Island of New Zealand had ever witnessed.”

The success of the Cloudy Bay Mission and its widespread influence was enormous. In less than three years, sixteen churches were erected in the various settlements by the Maori converts, thirty native teachers were spreading the evangel, 680 adult Maoris and 168 children received Christian baptism and 188 couples had been united in Christian marriage. Then came the shadow of disaster—the land dispute!

The trouble originated in a land dispute between Te Rauparaha and Colonel Wakefield, of the New Zealand Company. The area in question was occupied by the Rangi-tane tribe, which had been conquered by the Ngati-toa under Te Rauparaha. Wakefield claimed that the land had been sold to the New Zealand Company. This was denied by Te Rauparaha and his kinsman, Rangihaeata. The ownership of the land was also claimed by the chiefs living at Wairau.

One of these was Rawiri Kingi Puaha, a Wesleyan native teacher who had been baptised by Ironside. Captain Wakefield a brother of the Colonel, approached Puaha with the offer of a small schooner and some goods if he would state that the disputed land had been purchased by the Colonel. This, Puaha refused to do. Despite protests, Wakefield proceeded with the survey of the land. Ironside knew how keenly the natives clung to their rights in landed property. He strove to his utmost to induce the representatives of the New page 177 Zealand Company not to be precipitate in endeavouring at that critical moment to include the Wairau in the Nelson survey. He expressed his fears that the consequences might be serious in the extreme. He also informed the chief surveyor and the Company's agent that the resident natives and Te Rauparaha were already at issue about the land to such an extent that the former, if left to themselves, would withdraw from the Wairau and treat with the agent for the sale of it. The wise counsels of the young missionary were disregarded by Magistrate Thompson. Blunder followed blunder and ended in the tragedy of June 17th, 1843. It is not necessary to relate the details of that tragedy. They are found in every New Zealand history book. In all, twenty-two fell in this misguided attempt to obtain forcible possession of the land.

The following day the fateful news reached the Rev. Samuel Ironside, and he at once hastened in a boat to Ocean Bay and met Te Rauparaha and Rangihaeata. The missionary asked permission to go and bury the dead. Rangihaeata said it would be better to leave them to the pigs, but gave his permission. Ironside then, with his Maori crew, proceeded to Tua Marina in order to inter the bodies of the slain. “We made a large, deep grave,” says the missionary, “and laid them side by side in sadness and tears, which none of us could restrain, reading over them the solemn yet comforting and hopeful words of the funeral service.”

It was a heart-breaking experience to Mr. and Mrs. Ironside after the years of toil and achievement, and they could only wait patiently the issue of events. Their one consoling thought was the fact that their converts had not taken part in the regrettable affray.

Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata, flushed with their success, determined to return to their North Island territory and forestall the reprisals they felt sure would follow. The people of Wellington feared an attack upon their settlement from Kapiti and the West Coast.

After the excitement of the massacre had died down, a meeting of the natives was held, at which the missionary was present. Te Rauparaha informed the meeting of his intention to return to the North Island. The Ngati-toa, the principal tribe, agreed to follow him. The Ngatiawa, at Queen Charlotte Sound, had for some time been anxious to return to Taranaki, whence they had been driven by the Waikato many years before.

As a temporary measure, Mr. Ironside, who found it necessary to take his wife to Wellington by reason of her failure in health, put the Mission Station and the few natives left in the vicinity under the charge of Paramena, one of his teachers. A District Meeting (Synod) was held at Ngamotu, when all matters in connection with the massacre, and its probable effects upon the Mission, were considered. The Natives from Queen Charlotte Sound who page 178 had come to Taranaki were hopeful that Mr. Ironside would follow them and still be their missionary, but it was resolved, for the time being, that he should live in Wellington, and along with the Rev. G. Smales, who was then in Porirua, do what he could for the Ngati-toa, who had returned to that pa from Cloudy Bay.

Mr. Jenkins, a lay missionary, was sent to Cloudy Bay to take care of the station. Three months later Mr. Ironside reported: “I have very good news from Mr. Jenkins. The natives have received him with open arms, and are quite delighted with the appointment. It should be observed that the Cloudy Bay natives have removed to this side of the straits, sixteen miles from Wellington, but about twenty stragglers remain. The large body of the natives belonging to the circuit are in Queen Charlotte Sound, and to them Mr. Jenkins devotes his chief attention.”

The Cloudy Bay Mission has been described by some writers as “The Mission that failed” and as “The wasted endeavours of Missionary Ironside”. It was certainly disappointing, but did it fail? It lives today. Some of Ironside's native teachers assisted James Watkin in Otago. The Ngati-awa who returned to Taranaki would be able to join up with the Wesleyan Methodist Missions in those districts. The Ngati-toa, who returned to Kapiti and the West Coast, would be able to link up with the Mission Stations functioning in those areas and, as before stated, the Ngali-toa who located themselves at Porirua came under the direct influence of Messrs. Ironside and Smales.

Samuel Ironside served for five years at Wellington, for four of which he was Mr. Watkin's colleague, then five years in Nelson, where he met, no doubt, many natives who had known him in the Cloudy Bay Mission days, and then three years in New Plymouth. In 1858 he left New Zealand for Australia, where he continued in active service for another twenty years. On becoming a super-numary in 1878 he went to reside in Hobart, where his long and useful life closed in 1897. He was 83 years of age.

Samuel Ironside was born at Sheffield, York, England, on 9th September, 1814. In his early life he was influenced by Dr. Adam Clarke, the noted Bible commentator, and the Rev. Richard Reece, who was President of the British Wesleyan Methodist Conference in 1835. In 1836, Ironside was accepted by the Conference as a candidate for the ministry and entered the Hoxton Wesleyan College. London, for training. There he made the acquaintance of Rev William Arthur, the gifted author of the Tongue of Fire, and John Hunt, who was known afterwards as “the Apostle of Fiji”. Hunt and Ironside were preparing themselves for missionary work in Africa, but Watkin's plea, Pity Poor Fiji, widely circulated in England, resulted in Ironside's appointment to New Zealand and Hunt's appointment to cannibal Fiji.

page 179

Ironside was married to the lady of his choice, Sarah Eades, little more than twenty years of age, in the Trinity Church, Sheffield, on the 24th August, 1838.

On the 20th September they sailed from Gravesend in the James with a missionary party of 23 persons. They arrived at Hokianga on 19th March, 1839, and were welcomed by the resident missionaries. On the sixth Sunday after his arrival, Samuel Ironside delighted the Maoris by reading the morning service to the congregation in their own language. It was read perhaps imperfectly but the Maori people understood. He preached his first extempore sermon in the native tongue five months after his landing.

With his mastery of the language, Ironside began to exert an ever-widening influence. Ten months after his coming to New Zealand, Captain William Hobson was negotiating for the cession of these islands to the Sovereignty of Queen Victoria. He summoned the chief to council at Waitangi on 5th February, 1840. A contingent of chiefs from Hokianga set out for the meeting place, led by Tamati Waaka Nene and his elder brother, Patuone. It was deemed expedient that some of the missionaries should accompany them. Samuel Ironside was chosen and John Warren associated with him. Ironside foresaw that the signing of the Treaty might well be the most important event in the history of New Zealand and he did much to convince the natives that the British Government would throw the shield of protection over the Maori people and preserve them from certain threatening evils.

When the Hokianga party arrived at Waitangi, proceedings had already begun. From the outset it was clear to Ironside that sinister influences were at work. Much of the day was spent in warm and spirited debate. Hone Heke violently opposed the signing of the Treaty and told Hobson to return to his own place. Tamati Waaka Nene came to Ironside and said he was grieved at the way Captain Hobson was being treated. Grasping the opportunity for which he had waited, Ironside replied, “Well, if you think so, say so.” Acting on the impulse furnished by the missionary, Tamati sprang up. Mr. Lindsay Buick states that “as he stepped into the arena of debate the storms were laid still and a general calm suppressed the rising excitement”. Tamati's fervid and impassioned declaration that too long had they been at variance with each other and needed a guardian and a guide, produced an effect that was electrical, won the day for Hobson and his cause, and led to Ironside next day being asked to attach his signature as one of the witnesses to the signatures of the chiefs on the historic document.

The Rev. T. G. Hammond, who for many years was the Superintendent of Maori Missions, has written regarding Samuel Ironside as follows:

“My first recollections of Mr. Ironside were when I was a page 180 little lad; he came to the Richmond day school and gave the teacher one shilling to buy marbles for the boys (characteristic of the man). The same morning he celebrated a marriage, and in mounting his horse after the ceremony he fell and broke his leg. I met him … afterwards when he visited New Zealand from Australia, and 1 always regarded him as an exceptionally fine type of man, who could have sustained any position in life had he not been called to the work of a missionary.”

Samuel Ironside was a keen student and book-lover. As a preacher he had considerable ability, often remarkably instructive, graphic, pointed and powerful. He possessed the benevolence and humility which always accompany eminent piety. Self-sacrificing and unassuming, he was an example to the younger men in the ministry with whom he associated. Those who knew him best loved him most. He could claim in the lines of Charles Wesley:

“All my treasure is above,
All my riches is Thy love:
Who the worth of love can tell?
Infinite, unsearchable!”

1 Centenary Sketches of New Zealand Methodism, by W. J. Williams.