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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

At the Bay of Islands

At the Bay of Islands.

At this time there were three missionaries with their wives and families living; at Paihia, the Rev. H. Williams, the Rev W. Williams and Mr C. page 7 Baker. They resided in three separate and rather large houses, which with their houses for domestics, carpenter's and blacksmith's shops and storehouses, and the mission chapel and infants' storehouses in the middle composed the buildings of the mission station and made quite a little Tillage. In the autumn of the same year the Rev, W. Williams was transferred to Te Waimate, a station sixteen miles inland, and Mr Colenso went with Mr Williams, who was translator and editor of the Testament and other books in Maori which Mr Colenso was to produce. I may mention here that the most interesting picture of the Bay of Islands settlement at the time of Mr Colenso's arrival is to be found in Darwin's "Voyage of the Beagle". The Bay of Islands was quite an important place of trade even at this time much frequented by vessels engaged in the whaling, timber and flax trades. In 1836 no fewer than 160 ships put in at the Bay of Islands including 90 British and 50 American, while Kororareka, the chief settlement, had about 300 inhabitants exclusive of sailors whose revels were the chief cause of the disturbances which broke the peace of the settlement.

Mr Colenso has published in the pamphlet "Fifty Years Ago" a full account of his early printing operations; and it is not necessary to detail these here. It is sufficient to say that the first book, a portion of the New Testament, was printed in Maori, in 1835, and that the printing of the complete New Testament in the same language was begun in 1836.

In addition to this work, Mr Colenso took his share? in missionary labours, conducting services at the various settlements on the bay—at Waitangi where the British Resident. Mr Busby, page 8 lived, at Kororareka (now Russell) where the main anchorage was—and so on. When the printing of the New Testament was completed in 1838, he and Mr W. Williams took a holiday and visited Poverty Bay by sea, bringing back with them youths to be trained at the Mission Station as native teachers.

After the journey he offered himself to the Church Missionary Society as a travelling missionary, and this offer was accepted. In December, 1842, a Mr Telford arrived to take over the work of printing. It may be noted that by this time Mr Colenso had printed and bound nearly 7000 prayer books, 10,000 primers and 5000 New Testaments. Mr Colenso had in April, 1842, married, and was now apparently studying at Waimate for his ministerial duties. In a letter dated October 2nd, 1843, he stated that Bishop Selwyn had deferred his admission to deacon's orders and had told him that when licensed he would probably be placed at Ahuriri. On September 22nd 1844, the bishop admitted him along with Mr J. Hamlin to deacon's orders at Waimate, and shortly after he left the Bay of Islands.

Before quitting this part of the story it is well to add among the chief incidents he witnessed. The first was the visit of the Beagle with the celebrated naturalist, Darwin, on December 25th, 1835, with whom he says he spent a long and happy day, although neither noted the fact in his journal at the time. Lieutenant Hobson, the first Governor, arrived at Kororareka in January, 1840. Mr Colenso acted for some time as Government printer until he found it interfered with his duty to the missionaries, and was one of the witnesses to the famous Treaty of Waitangi, of which page 9 he has written an interesting account. At this timo there were perhaps 2000 English people living in New Zealand, some 500 or so being settled in the Bay of Islands, and many were attempting to purchase land from the natives for settlement. The missionaries, as we know, were obliged to protect themselves in a similar manner, but their purchases were modest beside those of other claimants, some of whom asserted a right to five, ten, or twenty million acres.

By the time the Governor arrived, the question of deciding the validity of these land claims had become of the first urgency. In January, 1841, Mr Colenso writes of "the ferment about the land question." He says: "It is a sign that we are living in the latter days when I perceive even here at the Antipodies the same anarchical, ultra-republican spirit which appears to have pretty nearly circumambulated with rapid strides the whole globe." And in other places he refers to the difficulties caused by the missionaries holding land, although in the circumstances of the country it is difficult to seo how else they could have provided for their families. ("Treaty of Waitangi," p 20)