Title: Robley: Te Ropere, 1840—1930

Author: Timothy Walker

Publication details: University of Auckland, 1985, Auckland

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Timothy Walker

Part of: The Moko Texts Collection

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Robley: Te Ropere, 1840—1930

2. ‘Headhunter’

page 47

2. ‘Headhunter’

“Moko” was put into chapters … by a Mr B. Jones … [who subsequently] got married. At the reception, people not advancing to the tables I was [the] one asked to break the ice as it were. This I did by guessing the married ladies; asked all I could if their children liked sweets, wheedled their pocket kerchiefs in turn & filled with the most expensive sugar plums for them, and so was considered a nice sort of man for a headhunter — … this in 1896.”


Robley's name is inextricably associated with Mokamokai, the preserved Maori Heads he so assiduously and publicly collected. Although his interest in these was most fully realised in his ensuant study of moko, commentators have more usually concentrated their attention on the sensational aspects seen as implicit in the Heads and Robley's association with them. This approach has given rise to a confusion of the general apprehension of Mokamokai with Robley's motives for collecting them. In working from this assumed parallel fascination a number of writers have fabricated accounts of Robley's endeavours which go well beyond the support of fact.

It has been, and remains, a constantly perpetuated rumour that Robley removed a number of mokamokai from New Zealand when he departed in 1866. The truth of this is difficult to determine as such activities are surrounded, on the one hand by a desire to diminish their effect, and on the other by a tendency to sensationalise their ‘romantic’ fascination. There is suggestive, page 48 if inconclusive, evidence to both verify and dismiss reports of Robley's involvement in such activities.

David R. Simmons, Ethnologist at the Auckland Institute and Museum, reports that a number of the mokamokai in the American Museum of Natural History, New York (purchased from Robley in 1907) show signs of having been removed from the body and preserved in a manner at odds with the traditional Maori practice. This, together with Simmons' observation that the moko designs on a number of the Heads appear to originate from the Bay of Plenty area during the mid-nineteenth century, is the strongest evidence that Robley was, in the most literal sense, a ‘Headhunter’.2

The authors of a number of recent articles in New Zealand newspapers have managed to invest this suggestion with considerably greater, and more vivid, detail. The most ‘comprehensive’ of these, published in a Weekend Magazine Supplement, claims that “Robley returned home to England with more than 30” mokamokai. The author continues:

“How had Robley acquired them? — Some “specimens” were probably loot … held in Maori settlements Robley and his fellow soldiers over-ran during the conflict in New Zealand. Troopers looting these villages, knowing of Robley's liking for these items, could have taken them to him and received payment for their efforts. Some he may have picked out in battle, when the opposing forces closed for decapitated. The other obvious way … was to search the battlefield after an engagement, inspecting the dead for fine examples of native art. It would be a simple matter for Robley to sever the desired heads with his sabre and pay some Maori expert in the work, friendly to Europeans, to preserve them …”

Brian Mackrell3

It is, without doubt, incorrect to claim Robley removed “more than 30” mokamokai from New Zealand: if he, in fact, took any the number would be closer to one or two.

Being a newspaper article no references are given as to the sources of the ‘information’ used in this remarkable, that is to say incredible, report. Which, for example, are the Maori settlements (as opposed to purpose-built, fortified pa) “Robley and his fellow soldiers over-ran”; at what battle did Robley become involved in “hand-to-hand” combat with the Maori enemy? While such activities page 49 seem bound to engage New Zealanders' fascination with their ‘history’, it is difficult to resolve the tone of this account with others documenting the same events.

It would be naive to imagine, however, that Robley was (any more than his comrades) incapable of perpetrating acts of this nature. Certainly he subsequently appeared to be at his ease with mokamokai, and there is little evidence to suggest that he would have passed up any opportunity of acquiring readily available examples. In a letter to Gilbert Mair, written near the turn of the century, Robley sought his friend's help in adding to his collection of Maori artefacts. Admitting that his list was what the “Americans would call a tall order,” Robley asked for a huge range of items including the prow or stern of a waka taua, “any whalebone implements, any greenstone, Maori complete skulls, any findings in tombs, any bit of human skin tattooed.”4

If Robley did already possess a number of mokamokai at the time of his retirement in 1887 he managed to remain remarkably discreet about the fact — a characteristic not overly apparent in his subsequent pursuit of Heads in Britain and Europe. (It is unlikely, however, that Robley would have been keen to broadcast the fact that he had obtained, by whatever means, a number of preserved Maori Heads while on active duty in New Zealand. Because of this his own retrospective account of the manner in which he compiled his collection of mokamokai cannot be accepted without reservation.) Certainly in referring to his ‘headhunting’ he always maintained that the mokamokai he purchased from a London Phrenologist in 1893–94 was the first to enter his possession.

“It was more than 20 years after leaving NZ … that an accidental chance led to the supreme art of collecting and writing about [Moko and Mokamokai]. Passing one day along the Brompton Road SW, I espied from the top of an omnibus on which I was travelling a phrenologist re-arranging his window, & in the window was a Maori Head placed there to such base use as an advertisement to the cranium part of the human frame for the purpose of attracting attention to his doctrine. Its owner was a Mr O'Dell and following subsequent visits it became mine at a price …”


page 50

There are a number of factors which would appear to support Robley's claim that this purchase marked the beginning of his collection of mokamokai. If he had already possessed Heads in 1887 why had he waited a full five years before adding to his collection? It is equally difficult to understand why he would have refrained from drawing and discussing mokamokai until this purchase, whereafter he was constantly engaged in such activity. Whatever his anxiety as to the origin of items in his collection it is difficult to believe — in light of precedent and subsequent behaviour — that he would have gone to the trouble of mounting an elaborate and carefully carried through ‘cover up’.

On New Year's Eve, 1893, Robley had planned to deliver a lecture on Maori tattooing to the citizens of Selkirk, a small town near Edinburgh. In the event he was detained in London nursing a knee damaged in an automobile knockdown.6 Instead he forwarded his prepared notes — together with a carefully packaged mokamokai — to his friend, the Provost Craig-Brown, who delivered the lecture on his behalf. An account of the evening's programme, printed in a local newspaper, makes mention of a drawing which accompanied the presentation:

“There was also exhibited a clever sketch of the head in black and white on a scale large enough to permit of the tattooed lines being seen clearly from the furthest end of the hall. This was the work of General Robley …”7

[Note added by NZETC as annotator:]

Description: A black and white sketch of a mokamokai from “Provincial Medical Journal”, February, 1894.

This image is not available for public viewing as it depicts either mokamokai (preserved heads) or human remains. The reasons for non-display are detailed in the policy regarding display of images of mokamokai. If you would like to comment on this decision you can contact NZETC.

page 51

This drawing represented the Mokamokai purchased from Mr O'Dell. The notes of the lecture delivered by the Provost were published as an article in the February, 1894, “Provincial Medical Journal,”8 together with an illustration of a preserved Head. While differently rendered to the sketch exhibited at Selkirk, this drawing again represented the O'Dell Mokamokai.

Although all of Robley's subsequent references to his activities as a collector reiterate that this Mokamokai was the first he obtained, there is an essential ambiguity in many of these statements. The possibility that the rate at which he was to assemble his collection allowed him to disguise the correct ‘histories’ of a number of the Heads remains a very real one.

“… the row of heads that I have hunted, served for, waited for, begged, taken & refused to restore … & when coin was not to be offered, [I] have [paid] for in exchanges away [of] such things as I cannot replace, I knew that I was getting a unique collection … this is the only show in the world, I know from my hunts.”


“I only know the extraordinary hunting up of my specimens …”


In continuing to purchase mokamokai Robley advertised extensively, attended all New Zealand-related Auctions and Sales and visited the many Public and private Collections likely to contain Maori items. Having thus established the location of many of the mokamokai in British and European Collections he began attempting to persuade their erstwhile guardians to part with them. While he was successful in acquiring an increasing number, the reluctance of some owners togive up the mokamokai developed in Robley's enthusiasm to own them a degree of cunning.

“A famous specialist in leprosy [Dr Hutchinson of Halsemere] gave me a day at his place … lo and behold [there] was a “Tukipu”, that is fully chiselled man['s head]. It was impossible to tempt the owner and some plan had to be pondered over — thoughts of burglary might be forgiven a collector — … A large Burmese silver bowl … was bought — now I could offer the wife of my rich friend another beauty in exchange in art … [it] was accepted …”


page break
Robley's widespread advertising for Mokamokai elicited a predictably fascinated reaction from Britons. Victoria University of Wellington Library Fildes 1507/2

Robley's widespread advertising for Mokamokai elicited a predictably fascinated reaction from Britons.
Victoria University of Wellington Library Fildes 1507/2

page 52

In attempting to understand Robley's determination to compile a large collection of mokamokai it is necessary to regard it as the result of a changing, rather than regular, interest. The concentration on the ‘macabre’ aspects suggested by rumours surrounding his ‘headhunting’ fails to allow for the reciprocal effect the mokamokai had on Robley, on his collecting and art. Had his interest in the preserved Heads gone no further than a superficial fascination it is unlikely he would have become so totally consumed in their collection and study.

Robley was certainly bound to the time-honoured, if unstated, dictum of the Collectors' ‘code’ that it was important to out-collect or out-specialise others. Given his earlier encounter with, and interest in, the tattooing arts of the Maori it was perhaps not surprising that he chose to ‘specialise’ in collecting such decidedly singular items. Such is the nature of mokamokai however — and it is essentially due to the moko designs they bear — that the purchase of one, rather than satisfy the artistically interested Collector, will suggest further purchases.

The graphic imitation of moko, which Robley had renewed in his study of mokamokai for Moko; or Maori Tattooing quickly emerged as the most important catalyst for expanding the Collection. So variable were the designs Robley discovered carved on individual Heads, that in his desire to divine the ‘system’ which generated their seemingly infinite patterns he was encouraged to collect as great a number as his financial resources would allow.12

By 1896 Robley had acquired fourteen Mokamokai, three years later the Collection stood at twenty-one, and in 1905 he added the thirty-eighth Head to the extraordinary assembly.13

The ‘Museum’ in which he kept the collection was a small room adjacent to his residence in St Alban's Lane, London.14 As the number of Mokamokai had grown he had been forced to devise a suitable mode of storage: a specially designed tin box was ordered for each Head. These were only used during Robley's absence from London; at all other times the Mokamokai were displayed around his rooms.

“On my first visit to London in 1905 I called on Major General Robley and found him taking his ease at full length on a couch; around the page 53 somewhat small room were displayed 38 … preserved head with tattooed faces — they were on tables, sideboards, mantlepiece — everywhere. The possessor of them was smiling proudly at the gruesome display.”

T. E. Donne 15

While Robley often claimed to have understood and respected the tapu nature of mokamokai his interpretation of that law appears to have been somewhat elastic. The peculiarities of his situation — a retired Major-General, living alone with up to forty preserved Maori Heads with which he was publicly identified — were generative of singular attitudes. From without those circumstances, that Society, that time, it is difficult to approach an understanding of, much less a sympathy with, those attitudes and the actions to which they gave rise.

There is, in a number of the actions Robley perpetrated in relation to Mokamokai, a sense of an imagined complicity of purpose between Robley and the Heads. Certainly the public identification of the Collector with his ‘trophies’ and his own identification with Mokamokai were mutually reflective. The popular apprehension of the ‘headhunter’ was (and is) self-fulfilling. In reacting to what he saw as the public ‘ignorance’ of the Maori and New Zealand Robley appears to have elicited some pleasure from provoking, and playing up to their ‘fear’ of mokamokai and of his association therewith. Whatever his intentions, such behaviour merely exasperated public opinion — a fact which did not, apparently cause him any undue upset.

“[I purchased] a head from the private collection of the late Dr Paterson, Bridge of Allan — as soon as it became mine, to the astonishment of the sale room bidders, I hongied it, explaining the rubbing of noses was the correct greeting.”


“I remember when Seddon gave a cold meat banquet at the Holborn [restaurant] and I took a [tattooed] head with me — many of the young men were astonished at my lecture on it.”


“it appeared with explanation, “was 1st export of [preserved] meat”.


During the 1890's and the early years of the twentieth century Robley received frequent visits from the Maori who passed page 54 through London. His regular attendance at the Reading Room of the New Zealand Embassy meant that he was in constant contact with New Zealand tourists, many of whom were already familiar with his name and ‘hobby’. Since the inception of his Maori Collection (which included a wide range of artefacts besides mokamokai) he had made a point of interesting himself in the historical affairs of New Zealand. Whenever rare and valuable taonga turned up at Sales he would quickly notify the New Zealand Authorities, imagining they would be as keen as he to reinvest their country with lost relics of its past. In a similar way he supplied the New Zealand Press Office with a constant barrage of illustrated ‘Press Releases’, announcing each new addition to his Collection and reporting the results of major Sales of Maori items.

Robley was, at least in his own eyes, a member of the New Zealand community in London. Certainly the nature of his activities had created a general remove between him and fellow Britons. To a large degree he was accorded a similar reserve by the Pakeha, to whom his endeavours and enthusiasms meant no more than the doings of an eccentric old man. His fascination with New Zealand and the Maori, the root of this social alienation, was more with the past — that period of which he had experienced the latter stages — than with the Dominion's contemporary development. In the new New Zealand, Maori history was afforded a minor place, perhaps because of the commonly held belief that the Race had no future. Robley's offers to help restore valuable taonga to New Zealand Museums, for whatever reasons, often fell upon ‘deaf ears’: there was, he concluded, a “bias” against him in Wellington.19 The Mokamokai — which ‘enlivened’ his relationship with an almost mythical past — were his most direct link with New Zealand. His nostalgic longing for the country (and his youth) was for a ‘history’ which had apparently passed.

In 1902 and 1910, at the Coronations of Edward VII and George V respectively, and again during the First World War, Robley formally hosted a number of contingents of Maori troops — ‘sons’ of the warriors he had fought less than forty years earlier. For both the Maori and Robley these encounters must have thrown their other experiences in London into remarkable relief. We have only Robley's accounts of these meetings, at which he exhibited the page 55
Robley (seated) in the foyer of New Zealand House, 415 The Strand, London (c. 1925–30) The woman behind the desk is Miss Margaret Heath; the man she is serving, Mr. R.D. Steel. Alexander Turnbull Library

Robley (seated) in the foyer of New Zealand House, 415 The Strand, London (c. 1925–30) The woman behind the desk is Miss Margaret Heath; the man she is serving, Mr. R.D. Steel.
Alexander Turnbull Library

page 56 mokamokai (on the first of these dates) and his watercolours of New Zealand.
“[the Collection] was respectfully visited by the Maori who came to London for the last 2 coronations—These young men, some with historic names like Hone Heke and others, were awed, & admired — the decorations were even a study to them.”


“They were sorry that [the mokamokai] were in a land not of home & hoped women did not handle them.”


“I can remember a ‘tangi’ in my room by a Ngaiterangi over a portrait in wartime.”


“I sometimes talk with Maoris. I have to render up some portraits of ancestor, Tupuna.”


“I have met many Maori troopers, who are all dignified but there always seems a sad look in eyes of the race — I wish some day, … I [could] go rounds again of … NZ.”


“I do gaze on so many [Military] forces — even to Burmese I speak a little as some years there, but it is to the Maori here I am so often attracted & have shown pictures & portraits.”


It was precisely because the Collection ‘tied him down’ financially that Robley began to consider its sale as early as 1899.26 In the previous year the mokamokai had been placed on public display in London's Guildhall. Anticipating the exhibition, a reporter from the ‘Daily Mail’ advised Londoners that they would “see something probably more novel & impressive” than they had ever seen before.27 The event was, as it turned out, a popular success.

“800 to 1000 people a day come to see the Heads … & my visit there daily is a lecture almost — it is not advertised but people tell one another it seems.”


The Guildhall exhibition ran throughout 1898 and in December of that year the Collection was transported to the Liverpool Museum where it again went on public display.

“There are twenty-one heads, each tattooed in the most artistic manner possible … The Liverpool public owe Major-General Robley a debt of gratitude for his kindness in thus enabling them to become acquainted with these relics of barbaric art.”

Liverpool Daily Post29

page break
Hon. R. Seddonink sketch (on envelope)Alexander Turnbull Library Art Room; E280/1 Seddon was said to have been in favour of purchasing Robley's Collection of Mokamokai for New Zealand, but “other influences in New Zealand prevailed.” T.E. Donne ATL MS1387/17

Hon. R. Seddon
ink sketch (on envelope)
Alexander Turnbull Library Art Room; E280/1
Seddon was said to have been in favour of purchasing Robley's Collection of Mokamokai for New Zealand, but “other influences in New Zealand prevailed.” T.E. Donne ATL MS1387/17

Lord Jellicoe with moko retouched photograph Alexander Turnbull Library MS1387/5B “I sent … Lord Jellicoe a copy of this photograph … Lady Jellicoe told me that she was not certain whether she preferred the tattooed or the plain face.” T.E. Donne ATLMS1387/5B

Lord Jellicoe with moko
retouched photograph
Alexander Turnbull Library MS1387/5B
“I sent … Lord Jellicoe a copy of this photograph … Lady Jellicoe told me that she was not certain whether she preferred the tattooed or the plain face.” T.E. Donne ATLMS1387/5B

page 57

Well before the Liverpool exhibition was over (it ran for six months) — surprised that he had not already received an offer for the Collection from New Zealand — Robley wrote to the Government informing them of his willingness to part with the mokamokai. The letter, if received, was never replied to.

“The N.Z. Govt have never answered my offer of my tattooed heads. I will withdraw it after a time as the collection is such a beauty, it is a compliment to offer it.”


A year later, in 1901, he renewed the offer. It was received and referred to James Carroll on the 13th August of that year. Over the course of the following five years Robley's offer was referred to the Dominion Museum, to the Cabinet, back to the Museum and, on May 13th, 1906, back to Carroll.31

Robley received a letter later in the same year notifying him that his offer had been declined. Upset at the Government's decision and at its lack of consideration in answering so tardily, he began a more determined campaign to have the mokamokai returned to New Zealand. Enlisting the help of his many New Zealand friends — notably Elsdon Best, Dr Hocken and Gilbert Mair — Robley persistently lobbied the Government and its British agents. In spite of constant, and increasingly lucrative, offers from foreign Museums he ‘held out’, hoping for some reversal in the New Zealand attitude.

Recurring worries about his health plagued Robley from the turn of the century until his death thirty years later. In offering the Collection to New Zealand — a proposal which he thought would have been immediately and gratefully taken up — it is possible that he was anticipating a return visit to this country. The threat of his failing health, together with his lack of financial resources, meant that the immediate sale of the Mokamokai was the only means by which he could make the journey. The presence in New Zealand of Robley's son and his family, and the growing number of New Zealandes with whom he corresponded lent a keenness to what might otherwise have been a simply nostalgic desire to return to the site of past exploits. As well, Robley was adamant that no country other than New Zealand could afford the Mokamokai (and his endeavours in collecting them) the place of honour they deserved.

page 58

Robley was also worried that, should his death precede their sale, the Mokamokai would be dispersed by executors of his Estate. As well as effectively destroying his achievement in compiling the Collection, such fragmentation would compromise its historical ‘value’. In spite of this, and in the face of the ever attractive foreign offers, he continued to work towards the Heads' repatriation.

“This writer, when ill, could easily have let the collection go abroad — lots of offers now on, but I wait a bit as I know where it ought to be for my own conscience.”


“I am not so well as I was & it may pass to executors and be scattered to dealers who [would] gladly pay. I know the present Maori outlook to getting on & no historical lore but I am sure if it was placed to them [that the options were] to guard the tapus in NZ or let scatter …”


Robley's final offer, made a number of times between 1904 and 1907, was again left unanswered. The terms he offered, £500 immediately and the remainder over a number of years (£ 1000 total) made any claims of ‘profiteering’ completely ill-based. The sum was, in fact, well below those offered by foreign Museums.34

“I have offered so often — I could not be blamed if it goes abroad for it the very place where a little time will make history will not take its particular & solely peculiar relics — what is to be done? I would take installments rather than read afterwards its being made much of foreign capital. Surely I deserve a wire — Agent General knows my address — or some reply. I have arranged the Collection so that is value is priceless someday — it is a study to see it — and it can be seen that is displays the essence of olden times.”


The Government's determination to ignore the offer was, however firm — a fact many became resigned to before Robley.

“I can hear no more about purchasing your collection though I let no opportunity slip of referring to it … but I begin to fear that the [Government] is too wholly indifferent … I don't know whether [Augustus] Hamilton could not push them more. He has their ear as Director of the Museum ….

Dr Hocken36

This ‘indifference’, while regrettable, cannot be seen as surprising. While Robley appeared to be sincerely incapable of page 59 understanding the Government's continued refusal of his offer, there can be little doubt that the New Zealanders never once seriously considered making the purchase. Despite the fact that the country was in affluent circumstances, the expenditure of £1000 to £1500 on such sensitive items was likely to cause debate among Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders. The indignation with which Robley's persistence was viewed is suggested in the 1907 edition of “Murihiku”, a book written by the South Island Government M.P., Mr Robert McNab:

“In the midst of all the condemnation of the infamy of such a traffic however, it must be kept in mind, that the finest collection of Maori heads in the world is the private property of a major-general in the British Army and that every acquisition thereto is photographed and published in the leading papers of this colony…. Great pressure, too, has been brought to bear upon the Ministry of the day to purchase this collection, which at present is understood to consist of some 32 heads and to be under offer at £1500. 37 We should not blame the poor sealer, who in those far-away days traded with the Maori for the same article, but at a much lower figure. Some of the same heads which were then hawked about the streets of Sydney for two guineas apiece and the transaction considered a shocking crime, may now be in the collection mentioned and offered for sale to the museums of the world for £50 apiece, and their acquisition believed to be little short of obligatory on the part of the colony. O tempora o mores!”

McNab 38

Finally acknowledging the intransigence of the Government's position Robley desisted. “It isn't time,” he concluded.39 When the ever-keen Americans again made an offer, he accepted: thirty-five mokamokai were purchased by Mr Morris K. Jessup on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in 1907.40 The purchase price of £1500, which included a number of other items from Robley's Maori Collection, was a full £500 above Robley's final offer (of thirty-eight Heads) to the New Zealand Government.

“The [American Museum] wasn't haggling — all prices £ 60 or so for fine specimens was gladly given to secure & now it can show oldest Maori picturing where Wellington cannot. You [should] see letter of thanks from [American Museum] to me & place of honour promised [Collection].”


page 60
“I find American, German & other foreign Museum directors don't think only of keeping their places — when specimens are absent they agitate … & secure them as a kind of duty to next generation.”


Robley's insistence that the integrity of his collection be maintained — secondary only to his determination to see the mokamokai returned to New Zealand — was thus realised. He did not, however, sell all the mokamokai to the American Museum.

“[I] kept my best for myself when New York purchased, so many I had.”


In turning down, or refusing to acknowledge Robley's offer the New Zealand Government had ensured that the largest collection of mokamokai existing was to remain outside the country. They had not, however, heard the last of Robley or his Collection. Having perhaps concluded that the Government's lack of interest had been due to the intimidating size, and therefore cost, of the full Collection, Robley immediately placed the five remaining Heads on offer to the Dominion Museum. His earlier friendship with the Museum's Director, Augustus Hamilton, was apparently of no advantage in attempting to break through the resistance of the Cabinet. Indeed since the publication of “Maori Art” in 189644 — to which Robley had contributed a number of illustrations and notes — Hamilton's interest in, and correspondence with, Robley had quickly declined.

“I have written to Mr. Hamilton offering 2 or 4 heads all with long time for any payments suitable — I can't do more as I have offers in several places. £ 50 for perfect heads is not other than an opportunity for NZ as none are in [private] hands now.”


Hamilton, as seems to have been the norm, failed to reply to Robley's offer, as did Alexander Turnbull to whom the Heads were also made available.46 Finally aware that the Government's lack of interest was unassailable, Robley resigned himself to the fact that his attempts to provide future students of moko with what he knew to be the ‘fullest’ manifestations of the practice were to be unsuccessful. There is little evidence to suggest any motive of self-gain in Robley's negotiations with New Zealand.

page 61

It was Robley's enthusiasm for the designs of moko, and his wish that they might be available to subsequent artists which was at the root of his desire to see the mokamokai returned to New Zealand.

“It is odd that no relics of the fierce art are in the Dominion [Museum] … surely such patterns as I have said mine would have [command the] study of … art among future engravers.”


While Robley continued to notify New Zealand Government Officials of upcoming sales in which mokamokai would be available he proffered such information out of habit and with little hope that it would be acted upon.

“I begin to know N. Zealand Govt. authorities … [Seddon and Ward] were & are only paragraph hunters & nominees of small majorities.”


“I don't see why such difficult historial [relics] should not be got for Wellington, but there [is] a bias against me — I could show where [a mokamokai] is to be got for £ 50 in London — show it, and then be purchaser — as it [would] be to me persona grata, I think only.”


“Maori curios are rare now [1923] but I know some Hospitals where I could for [£] fifties get some beautiful heads — but no-one cares to back me up for NZ [Museum].”


Only one Mokamokai reached New Zealand via Robley; that he purchased on Dr Hocken's behalf in 1907.51 It is likely, because of the extremely sensitive nature of Mokamokai, that their continued estrangement from their country of origin, from their cultural context, will be regarded in many different ways by members of current and subsequent generations. To an extent the ongoing perception of, and attitude towards, Robley will remain inseparable from that issue.

page 62 page 63 page 64
Two examples of Robley's anecdotal illustrated postcards. He executed a great number of these — making multiple copies of many — during the last fifteen years of his life, including a large collection of illustrated incidents of the First World War. (see Alexander Turnbull Library Art Collection E24A) Auckland Public Library NZ Prints 594(22) and 594(35)

Two examples of Robley's anecdotal illustrated postcards. He executed a great number of these — making multiple copies of many — during the last fifteen years of his life, including a large collection of illustrated incidents of the First World War. (see Alexander Turnbull Library Art Collection E24A)
Auckland Public Library NZ Prints 594(22) and 594(35)

1 Robley-Donne:n/d AIM MS256 R66

2 personal communication; 1984–85

3 The Dominion, Saturday 22 September, 1984

4 Robley-Mair:n/d ATL qMS/1898–1922

5 Robley VUW 1507/2 p.1 (see Mokamokai 27; page 154)

6 newsclipping no source/date ATL MS16/4

7 ibid

8 ATL MS16/4

9 Robley-Buller: 1896 ATL MS48/27

10 Robley-Mairin/d ATL qMS/1898–1922

11 Robley VUW Fildes 1507/2 p. 4

12 Robley survived on a military pension of £4.00 per week, [Fildes-Adams:1931 ATL MS16/9]

13 1896 [ATL MS16/9] 1899 [Liverpool Daily Post: 14/12 1898] 1905 [ATL qMS/ca. 1903–1941]

14 Robley rented No 6 & 7 St Albans Lane

15 T. E. Donne ATL qMS/ca. 1903–1941 83–93/2 v. 6

16 Robley VUW Fildes 1507/2 (see Mokamokai 1: page 127)

17 Robley-Taine: 1921 T.E.R. Hodgson Collection, Wellington

18 Robley VUM Fildes 10/1

19 Robley-Donne:n/d AIM MS256 R66

20 Robley-Fildes:n/d VUM Fildes 10/1

21 ibid

22 Robley-Fildes:1928 VUW Fildes 10a

23 Robley-Best:1919 ATL MS16/2

24 Robley-Turnbull:1917 ATL MS57/77

25 Robley-Best:1917 ATL MS16/2

26 Robley-Mair:n/d ATL qMS/1898–1922

27 Daily Mail; no date ATL MS1387/5B

28 Robley-Hocken:c1899 Hocken Library MSI 488

29 Liverpool Daily Post 14/122/1898

30 Robley-Hocken: c. 1899 Hocken Library MSI 488

31 National Archives, Wellington IA 3/3 30 No. 2130

32 Robley-Mair:n/d ATL qMS/1898–1922

33 ibid

34 ibid

“The collection … was placed under offer to the NZ Govt for one thousand pounds. Sir James Carroll opposed purchase” [Donne:1907 ATL MS1387/19]

35 Robley-Mair:n/d ATL qMS/1898–1922

36 Hocken-Robley: 1906 Hocken Library MI 488

37 This relates to the earlier, 1905, offer.

38 McNab:1907 p. 161

39 Robley-Donne:n/d ATL MS1387/22

40 Philip C. Gifford; AMNH personal correspondence; 20/11/1984

41 Robley-Donne:n/d AIM MS256 R66

42 Robley-Hocken: 1909 Hocken Library MS1488

43 ibid

44 In Maori Art Hamilton refers his readers to Moko; or Maori Tattooing for an indepth discussion of moko and Mokamokai

45 Robley-Hocken: 1908 Hocken Library MSI 488

46 Robley-Donne:n/d AIM MS256 R66

47 ibid

48 Robley-Hocken: 19110 Hocken Library MI 488

49 Robley-Donne:n/d AIM MS256 R66

50 Robley-Fildes: 1923 VUW Fildes 10

51 This Mokamokai is now in the Otago Museum; D53. 413