History and traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand, prior to 1840
Many of our Taranaki settlers know the name "Harriett Beach," but comparatively few of the later generation know the origin of the name, and still fewer have ever heard particulars of the wreck which gave rise to it. In what follows, the very full account given by Dr. W, B. Marshall, R.N., of the proceedings that the wreck gave rise to, are abbreviated, for this work is very scarce. It is entitled, "A Personal Narrative of Two Visits to New Zealand in her Majesty's ship 'Alligator,' a.d., 1834," published in London 1836. The Maori account of the affair also follows, as written by Te Kahui. This was the first occasion on which H.M. Troops were ever employed in New Zealand; they consisted of a company of the Fiftieth "Queen's Own Regiment" (sometimes called "The Dirty Half Hundred,") a regiment which also assisted in the Native war of the sixties. Their operations on the Taranaki coast in 1834 were not such as to add much lustre to their arms, as we shall see.
* Mr. McNab's "Murihiku," third edition, received long after the above account was written, first mentions John Guard as sailing from Sydney on board the " Wellington " for New Zealand in the latter part of 1823.
" There are no Europeans living on that part of the coast except one Oliver,* at Moturoa. The name of the tribe who have my wife is 'Hatteranui' (Ngati-Rua-nui)…. There are only about one hundred Natives in all Moturoa; the tribes could not raise more than three hundred men altogether, and about two hundred muskets…. I have been trading with the New Zealanders since 1823, and have lived among them…. Before we were attacked, two of the crew deserted to the Natives, taking some clothing and cannisters of powder. I am positive they supplied the Natives with the powder with which they attacked us."
* The fact of Oliver being at Moturoa when Guard and his party arrived there shows that he did not accompany the other party with Barrott and Love when they abandoned Moturoa, and wont south with 'Tama-te-naua' migration (see Chapter XIX.) He had probably remained behind with his Maori wife, and was either living with the refugees of the Nga-Motu tribe on Paritutu or Moturoa Island. The Maori accounts also state that the chief of the party from Nga-Motu who had charge of Guard and party, was Poharama, who, in Chapter XIX., is stated to have been taken away to Kawhia after the siege of Mikotahi. He must therefore have returned to Nga-Motu with Ihaia Te Kiri-kumara prior to the wreck.
The landing party then went up to the pa, which they found deserted, and the party then divided into two to pursue the fugitives. In the meantime an attack was made on the boats, which the Natives succeeded in securing and plundering with the exception of one, which the midshipman in charge managed to get away with. On the return of the two parties after a fruitless pursuit, they occupied the pa (Te Namu), a very full description of which the Doctor gives, and shows it to have page 528been a very strong place. He says that on the only two sides where it was practical to escalade it, projecting stages had been erected with breastworks, behind which were great heaps of stones ready as missiles to be cast down on any invaders. The landing party now proceeded to make themselves comfortable for the night in the pa. At daylight the following morning, the 29th September, in consequence of a request made by Guard, a party was sent out to reconnoitre some huts he had seen, but returned without seeing any people; whilst the picket left at the pa reported a large number of Natives had been seen to the southward, with whom Captain Johnson tried to open communications, and on coming up with them the interpreter was sent forward to speak to them, the Doctor accompanying him. They found the Natives behind a strong breastwork, on the top of which stood a Native brandishing his tomahawk and addressing his comrades. They learnt that Mrs. Guard had been removed to Waimate, and laughed at the idea of that pa being taken, and accused the English of treating Oaoiti (or O-o-hit, as the Doctor calls him) very badly and declared that he had been killed. From the Natives they got back some of the things taken from the boats, but failed to make them believe that Oaoiti was still alive, or to secure an exchange of prisoners. Captain Johnson then returned to Te Namu and set fire to the pa and the palisades, which were completely destroyed. The party now returned on board. The Doctor says all the officers were disgusted at the brutality practised against Oaoiti by Guard and the boats' crew.
On the 30th September the ships removed to opposite Waimate, and the boats were sent ashore, the Natives crowding the heights and the two pas of Ngaweka and Orangi-tuapeka; Mrs. Guard was brought down to the beach, and was distinctly seen warning her deliverers off, for she knew that the Natives intended treachery, whilst the Natives called out "Haere mai Haere mai!" and commenced a war-dance. The boats returned at 3 p.m. without effecting a landing, and after having put ashore the young fellow who voluntarily came on board at Te Namu, so that he might inform his countrymen of the safety of Oaoiti. At 5 p.m. another boat was sent in to try and learn the result, as the Natives were, seen in excited groups evidently discussing the situation, but nothing was effected.
On October 1st two boats were sent in with Oaoiti whose anxiety to be released lent him sufficient strength for the occasion, though his wounds would have been sufficient to have killed outright an European —says the Doctor. He stood up when the boat came within hearing and harangued his people, on which numbers waded out, bringing with them in a canoe Mrs. Guard and her infant who were soon safely on page 529board the ship. "She was dressed in native costume, being carefully enveloped from head to foot in two superb mats, the largest and finest I ever saw; they were the parting presents from the tribe among whom she had been sojourning."* She stated that after her removal from Te Namu, she had been in the custody of Waiariari, the principal chief of the tribe, who, on seeing the firing from the boat, had forced her out of the pa and taken her to some huts, where they passed the night, and the following afternoon they arrived at Orangi-tuapeka. One of the Natives, under the impression that Oaoiti had been killed, snapped his musket at her, but it missed fire, and on his trying a second time she turned the muzzle away and rushed to Waiariari, who ordered the man to desist. She expected death in retaliation for Oaoiti, but beyond some threats they treated her as before. On the arrival of the news of Oaoiti's safety by the other young man, they all said, "Let the woman go," and on the night of his return everybody gathered to hear of his adventures on board and his description of the ship. Oaoiti now had his wounds dressed, and after putting on all the clothes that had been given to him, was sent ashore, his friends wading out to meet him.
Whilst the boats lay outside the surf after landing Oaoiti, supposed signs of treachery were reported by Battersby (the interpreter) and Lieutenant Thomas returned on board still leaving Mrs. Guard's elder child with the Natives, who were, they said, awaiting his owner to give him up. At 1 p.m. the senior lieutenant again approached the shore, when a musket ball whizzed over his head, fired from Waimate pa, and on the return of the boat to the ship, this having been taken as a signal of defiance, the drums beat to quarters and both vessels commenced a furious cannonade at the two pas and the canoes on the river, which lasted three hours. When the firing commenced, the Natives hoisted a white flag twice, but with no effect, and soon after a tall Native got on a house top and held up the little captive and waved the white flag. The cannonading, however, continued. The Natives displayed the utmost fearlessness and ran about on the beach tracking the shot, and occasionally returning the fire from the ship. The Doctor says …"Having crushed all the canoes that were in sight, busied ourselves with shooting at a rock, and wasted a large amount of ammunition with no beneficial result, we stood out to sea once more."
* See Te Kahui's narrative infra.
On October 8th six officers and one hundred and twelve men, including sailors, soldiers, and marines, were landed without opposition at a beach about two miles south-east from Wai mate, together with a six-pounder, the first gig being sent to lie off the pa with a flag of truce. So soon as the party reached the top of the cliff, the Natives met them and expressed the desire to settle the affair amicably. Some of the party being still left on the beach, there suddenly appeared to them about a dozen armed Natives, headed by a stately chief, bearing the captive boy on his shoulder; behind him came Oaoiti. One of the sailors snatched away the child and ran off with him, and immediately a firing from his comrades on the beach took place, followed by those on the cliffs, upon the unfortunate Natives who had brought the child, who retreated hastily, some falling as the shots took effect, whilst others sheltered behind the rocks. All this time the flags of truce were flying, says the Doctor. The two officers of the 50th, Captain Johnson and Ensign Wright, did all they could to stop this insane firing, and only after some time succeeded. " Nothing can justify so foul a deed of blood," says the Doctor. It was then decided to retire to the boats, but a shot from the Natives having been fired, it was determined instead to advance, and the Natives were driven before the advancing party, some men being wounded and a young woman killed. After an hour's march the party reached an old fortification called "Oberakanui," and a mile beyond that they arrived before Waimate and Orangi-tuapeka pas, when a firing commenced from the latter, aided by a party concealed in some brushwood below. The Doctor gives a description of the two pas from the point they had then reached, which shows them to be very picturesquely situated (see Plates Nos, 18 and 19). The places were being abandoned as the English arrived, and the Doctor describes with great admiration the cool, stately retreat of the chief, who he supposes to be Waiariari, from top to bottom of the pa, loading and firing on his enemies as they poured volley after volley at him, without hastening his pace. He effected his escape safely. Both pas were now rushed, and the British Ensign was soon seen floating on top of Waimate as a token to the ship of their success. The Doctor then enters into a long description of both pas, from which we learn that, they were places of page 531great natural strength situated on the sea-cliffs and cut off from the land by ravines, with a fine stream of water (the Kapuni) separating them. They were crowded with houses, and the store-houses full of provisions.
Before evening Lieutenant Thomas visited them from the ships, but stove his boat in so doing, so all the party had to remain in the two pas over the night, during which the whole place was nearly burned down owing to the carelessness of the men.
On the 9th the sea was too rough to attempt embarking the force. During the course of the day the men discovered the head of some unfortnnate European, which, strange to say, neither Mr. or Mrs. Guard recognised. Who could this wanderer have been? Perhaps a runaway sailor or convict from Kapiti, where there were several at this time. It was not until the 14th October that the sea was sufficiently smooth to allow of the approach of the boats to take off the members of the expedition. Before leaving both pas were burnt to the ground. The Doctor's narrative is very lengthy and gives many details of interest, and he winds up with some just remarks upon the unnecessary loss of life and property, and the bad judgment displayed all through the conduct of the affair, in which the reader will perhaps be inclined to agree with him. The ships called in at Kapiti on the 12th October, and after interviewing Te Rau-paraha, sailed for the Bay of Islands, where they arrived on the 24th October, 1834.
Having given the official relation of the Harriett affair, we will now hear what the Maoris say, as written by Te Kahui some fifteen years ago. After describing the rejoicing of the Taranaki people at the discomforture of the Waikato tribes before Waimate (as related in last Chapter), the writer says, "So Mata-katea and his people remained in their pa at Nga-teko (or Nga-ngutu-maioro at Waimate), and both Taranaki and Ngati-Ruanui were proud of their feats of arms against Waikato. They remained quietly at their pa for many days, and then came news that a ship had been wrecked at Okahu, not far from Rahotu (near Cape Egmont). Mata katea and his people at once went to the scene of the wreck, and on their arrival he and his own particular people of Taranaki commenced to save the casks of powder. They secured two casks, whilst Ngati-Ruanui turned their attention to the other goods; they did not secure a single cask of powder for themselves; and thus they became angry and commenced to kill the ship-wrecked crew, who were camped on the shore. Six of these people were killed, but Taranaki did not see this deed done. Ngati-Ruanui were about to kill a woman named Betty (Mrs. Guard), and two blows had been made at her, when a man of Taranaki, named Oaoiti, seeing what was going on, rushed page 532up and warded off the finishing stroke, so that it missed its object, and then the woman was taken away by Oaoiti. He then shouted out to Taranaki that the white people were being killed. The man who had wounded the woman followed with the intention of finishing his work, but she and her children were taken by the Taranaki people under their protection. Mata-katea shouted out to those who were following up the white woman, 'Return hence, all of you! If you persist I will fire at you!' The Taranaki people now all crossed the Okahu river to Pari-moto, where it was resolved by the chiefs that if Ngati-Ruanui followed them they would be fired on. They did advance to the opposite side of the river, when Mata-katea again told them to retire and not attempt to cross the river.
"Upon this Ngati-Ruanui retired, and then made ovens in which to cook the bodies of the white men they had slain; but before, this could be done, Mata-katea went over with a party and burnt the bodies. The Ngati-Ruanui people were much vexed at this, for their desire had been to eat them. Thus Betty and her children were saved, but her husband (Guard) had gone to Nga-Motu, or away in one of the boats.
"Then everyone proceeded to help themselves to the goods from the wreck. Some made native ovens and attempted to cook flour, sugar and soap, all in one mass, but when the ovens were uncovered, the sugar had melted and disappeared, the flour was still white, and the soap a mass of foam. They tasted it and found it very bitter." Wiremu Hukanui Manaia, who was present at this scene, told me that they first thought the flour was some kind of sand, and threw a lot of it away. But when they discovered the soap, they concluded they had come across the real food of the white men, but on tasting it found it horribly bitter. One genius then suggested it was so because it was uncooked, and hence the cooking described by Te Kahui. Great was their disappointment on opening the ovens to discover nothing but foam, and many were the sarcastic remarks made as to the peculiar tastes of a people who could live on such stuff!
"As for the gold and silver coins found"—says Te Kahui—"they did not know what they were, so used them for draughtsmen, and finally threw them away into a swamp. The powder and other goods were stored in the ruas, or underground store-houses, at Okahu pa.
"After a stay of about two weeks the whole of the Maoris returned to Nga-teko and Waimate, taking with them Peti (Mrs. Guard) and two children, for whom Ngati-Ruanui had ceased to have any thoughts."
Te Kahui's account of what follows confuses the several attempts to secure Mrs. Guard's escape, so it is not repeated here. He says that page 533when she was taken to the boat, her Maori women friends, sisters of Oaoiti, dressed her up in three valuable cloaks—two korowai, and one parawai, besides giving her a greenstone eardrop. He adds that Mrs. Guard was very apprehensive that some evil would befall Oaoiti when he waded out to the boat, and frequently warned him not to go too near—with what result we have seen from Dr, Marshall's account. At the bombardment of Waimate pa, only one man named Pohokura was killed by a fragment of a shell, according to Te Kahui. We learn by a paper published in the "New Zealand Mail," February, 1891, that Oaoiti was killed at Waitotara by a raiding party of Whanganui in 1834. The paper is entitled" Reminiscences of Old New Zealand; a Trading Voyage to Whanganui in 1834."