Maori and Missionary: Early Christian Missions in the South Island of New Zealand
Chapter One — The Rev. James Watkin
The Rev. James Watkin
A Pioneer has Been Defined as a “Foot Soldier with Spade and pick-axe who goes ahead to prepare the road for the advance of the army”. Not only the army, but every sphere of conquest has its pioneers. The missionary who with axe or tomahawk cuts away the tangle of superstition, and with the spade digs out the undergrowth of antagonisms, and with the grubbing axe cuts away tangled roots of prejudices, is a pioneer worthy of our esteem.
The first Christian minister to visit the South Island was the Rev. W. White, in April, 1836. The next Wesleyan missionaries to visit the Island were Revs. J. H. Bumby and John Hobbs in June, 1839. The object of their visit was to ascertain whether it was practicable to establish a South Island Mission. They agreed that it was a promising and needy field and left behind them several native teachers. They reported favourably to the Wesleyan Mission Board in Sydney.
The appointment of the Rev. James Watkin to the post was due to various circumstances. Mr. John Jones, owner of the Waikouaiti shore whaling station, with a sincere desire for the welfare of the pakeha and Maori, applied to the Wesleyan Mission Board for a missionary.
In 1839 the Otakou chiefs, Karetai and Taiaroa, were in Sydney and they urged their claims, supporting Mr. Jones's request. They ‘desired schools for their children in order that they might read and write like the Maori children of the North Island. They desired them to learn the truths of Christianity. They were anxious for their wives and daughters to cook and sew and care for the sick and aged. As a result of these various representations, Mr. Watkin was appointed to Waikouaiti, now known as Karitane, as a centre from which he could visit the various kaikas of the south.
James Watkin was born in Manchester, England, on September 9th, 1805, and was of Welsh ancestory. He had the advantage of a sound Christian home training, and in early life felt a call to the Christian ministry. It is reported that a friend, seeing his unusual ability, urged him to enter the Oxford University and take orders in the Church of England, offering to pay all fees and the expenses page 2 involved. James Watkin, however, felt a strong desire to enter the ministry of his own church. Accordingly he applied himself assiduously to the prescribed course of study required for the Wesleyan Methodist ministry, with a view to Foreign Mission work.
In the year 1830 quite a number of young men were designated for the mission field. In the same year, fifteen young men were notified to appear before the Mission Board in London; among them were W. Moister (who became a noted missionary and author), W. Woon, and James Watkin. Mr. Woon was destined to fill an important place in the missionary records of New Zealand; and it may be said in passing that his eldest daughter ultimately became the wife of the Rev. J. F. Riemenschneider, and with him spent some years of faithful service at Otakou.
When the young candidates appeared before the London committee it was not without considerable trepidation, for the august committee included some of the most eminent ministers of the church; among them were the Revs. Dr. Townly and Richard Watson, the latter being the leading administrator of the denomination. Three of the candidates, Peter Turner, William Woon, and James Watkin, were appointed to the Friendly Islands, Tongan group.
Mr. Watkin was ordained in the Sloane Terrace Church, Chelsea, London, on 17th June, 1830. The ordination certificate, a copy of which is to be seen in the Otakou Memorial Church, bears the names of the Rev. James Townly, D. D., Rev. George Morley (President of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference), and the Rev. James Taylor, who conducted the ordination service.
Prior to his ordination, on the 25th March, Mr. Watkin appeared at the Mansion House before the Lord Mayor of London, the Rt. Hon. John Crowder, and “subscribed to the several oaths”, and was duly licensed as a minister of the Gospel, before “the said Lord Mayor”.
On 30th June, 1830, Watkin married Hannah Entwisle, a niece of the Rev. Joseph Entwisle (sen.), twice President of the British Methodist Conference, and Principal of the Theological College, of whom it was said that he possessed “a sound and discriminating judgment, and that his discourses were well studied, judicious and instructive”. It is worthy of note that some of these characteristics appeared in the young bride. The Entwisle family1 was related to the Rev. Edward Irvine, the Scottish divine, and also to the Right Rev. J. W. Colenso, Bishop of Natal.
1 From manuscripts provided to the writer from Miss Watkin, granddaughter of pioneer. Also Pioneering Days of Southern Maoriland, by M. A. Rugby Pratt.
Mr. and Mrs. Watkin sailed for Tonga in the ship Lloyd on August 30th, accompanied by the Revs. Peter Turner and William Woon. As the ship proceeded from Gravesend she passed the Royal Barge, on the deck of which stood King George IV. When the King was informed that there were missionaries on board for a distant land, he walked to the stern of the barge and stood with hat lifted until the ship passed out of sight. As Mr. and Mrs. Watkin beheld the shores of their beloved England fading in the distance from their view, it was with feelings of sadness, and yet they had the conviction that they were in the line of God's will, for which they counted no sacrifice too great. It was a final farewell, for they were not privileged to see their Homeland again.
The ship Lloyd arrived at the Bay of Islands on January 7th, 1831. While in New Zealand they were much refreshed in the congenial company of fellow Christian missionaries. They made the most of their brief visit and did not arrive at the Tongan Islands till March 10th, 1831. For six years and six months they toiled for the Tongan people and battled against untold difficulties, tribal wars and ill-health. It was a hazardous undertaking to go from island to island by canoe or boat in stormy weather; but the difficulties were faced and overcome.
James Watkin had a natural gift for acquiring languages and he soon became the most expert speaker in the Tongan language. His friend, the Rev. S. Ironside, said of him, “in Lufuka and Haabai, the chief scene of his labours, many thousands of natives were won for Christ and His Church”.
Among his converts was George, the reigning prince of Haabai, heir to the Tongan throne. At Lufuka there was erected one of the largest and finest churches in the South Seas. This church had a unique pulpit and Holy Communion table and rail which were formed of clubs and other weapons that had been used in tribal wars in former days.
During his term of service in Tonga, Watkin was distressed to hear of the heathen customs which prevailed in Fiji; of the hardships and dangers endured by the missionaries, and of the pathetic need of reinforcements. When a chief died his wives were strangled. Burying alive was another Fijian custom. Cannibalism and infanticide were rife. On one occasion, as stated by the Rev. J. Blacket, 200 bodies were consumed at a single feast. One chief used the bodies of living men as rollers on which to transport his canoe from sea to land. page 4 The wail of the strangled Fijian widow and the throb of the death drum of the cannibal temple were heard by Watkin, and taking his facile pen at the request of colleagues, he appealed to English Methodists on behalf of Fiji. In burning words he wrote his pamphlet. Pity Poor Fiji. This appeal was heard, and its message moved the hearts of the Methodist people in England, and the Revs. T. J, Jaggar, John Hunt and James Calvert were appointed to reinforce the small staff already on the field. The conversion of the Fijian people and their king reads like a second Acts of the Apostles. The publication of Watkin's pamphlet did much to pave the way for the annexation of Fiji to the British Empire. The native people, fearing the designs of other nations, and being involved in financial trouble, the king, Cakobau (Thakombau), at their request, handed over the islands to the care of the British Empire. Dr. J. E. Carruthers, President of the General Conference of Australasia, 1917–20, said that Watkin's pamphlet, Pity Poor Fiji, alone is sufficient to entitle him to a place among the outstanding figures of Australasian Methodism in the first half of the 19th century.
In 1837, Mr. and Mrs. Watkin were transferred to Sydney. The change was necessary due to Mr. Watkin's failure in health. It was certainly a mistake to call the group “Friendly Islands”. The London Missionary Society had appointed ten missionaries to the Islands in 1796. Four years later the Mission was abandoned, three of the Mission party were murdered, and the rest had to take refuge in the rocks and caves of the Island, were stripped of all their clothing, and subjected to the most horrible insults, but managed to escape in a passing vessel.
The hostility was caused mainly by some escaped convicts who poisoned the minds of the natives against the Mission. The first renegade who found asylum in Tonga was named Morgan, a convict from Botany Bay. He told the chiefs that the missionaries had been sent by the King of England to destroy the natives and take their land. He affirmed that they were doing this by witchcraft and incantations. Said he: “You see, these people are singing and praying, by means of which they are killing you all.” Two men, two dissolute sailors named Ambler and Connelly, also sowed seeds of distrust; a man named Veeson dressed himself like a savage and lived like one, attached himself to a native wife or wives, and lived on a plane lower than savages themselves. The natives at that time were constantly at war, and were notorious for cannibalism, polygamy and heathen practices.1
Makers of our Missions, by J. Telford, B.A.
Missionary Triumphs, by John Blacket.
The work of Watkin and his co-missionaries was by no means a failure. Before Mr. and Mrs. Watkin left Tonga, a gracious work of Grace took place, and the various missionaries had the joy of seeing the fruit of their labours. Idols and heathen temples were destroyed. Finau, the chief of Vavau, set fire to the temples and the gods were burned with them. At Lufuka, where Watkin lived, in six months the converts increased to more than a thousand.
The Friendly Islands (Tongan Group) today are thoroughly Christianised, and, more than that, many of the converts enjoy a vital Christian experience. Practically the whole of the Tongan people are Methodists, and Queen Salote is a devout member and class leader.
When Mr. and Mrs. Watkin left Tonga they did so with very sad hearts, for Mr. Watkin was a sick man, physically and mentally. Appointed to Sydney, after a brief rest, and although still feeble in health, Mr. Watkin's preaching attracted large congregations, and a great scheme was organised for the erection of a large church in York Street. In 1840, however, the Mission Board appointed him to Waikouaiti, New Zealand, in order to establish a Mission.
“It was not until May 1st, 1840, that we left Sydney, when we embarked on the barque Regia for New Zealand. We were accompanied to the ship, indeed, to the Heads of the Harbour, by a considerable number of our Sydney friends, from whom it was painful to separate. We were soon at sea, and the usual concomitant of the commencement of a voyage—sea sickness—soon appeared. It began with the youngest and before we had got many miles on our way five of the mouths owned by our family were acting the part of occasional fountains, James and myself only escaping the horrors of sea sickness. In a few days all were well …page 7
“Our voyage commenced on the 1st and terminated on May 15th, in the evening of which day we cast anchor in the Bay of Waikouaiti, in which place we were to commence operations and fix our residence. Our voyage, though short, was towards the last somewhat perilous. We were one night very near being shipwrecked, and the captain for a time despaired of escape. This was no comfortable position for us to be placed in, with five little children and all our worldly goods (not much, by the way) had she been wrecked…. In our extremity we called upon God and He delivered us, for which we were grateful. I shall never forget the night. Rain fell very heavily, but not a breath of air to stir our sails, which were flopping idly against the masts. The vessel had not steerage-way upon her, but was at the mercy of the current. The moon emitted a sickly light by which we were made conscious of the proximity of danger as the gleam of the white breakers and their horrid roar struck our eye and ear. I have been in danger at sea before, but I was never more afraid of shipwreck, concern for the mother and children who were sleeping below in happy unconsciousness of the danger being the paramount feeling in my mind. ‘In perils of the sea’, modern as well as ancient missionaries must expect to be. Missionaries to New Zealand are no exception to that rule. We had two other narrow escapes before we got fairly ashore, but I need not trouble you with any more of our hair-breadth escapes. We got ashore at this place on May 16th. For 10 days we had unhappy accommodation, but in the end we got our present little habitation rendered fairly comfortable. Small as it is, it is our own, and we are well satisfied to endure until our new home shall be finished. It will be a good one, and will be built at the expense of Mr. Jones, whose kindness I have previously mentioned. His conduct ought to be set forth as an example of Australian benevolence for English imitation. Can any good thing come out of Botany Bay!—as New South Wales is sometimes called by people at home.
“Waikouaiti is on the eastern coast of the middle Island and about 800 miles from Hokianga, our principal New Zealand mission station—principal because the first established, not the most important, I think. I shall have no direct means or communication with the other parts of the mission, and shall be four or five hundred miles, I think, from our nearest occupied station, viz., Port Nicholson. I shall have to communicate with the chairman through Sydney. It will not be wise, some time hence, to continue this island as part of that district (viz., the Australian Synod). There will be hardly a possibility of my ever attending a district meeting (in Australia) unless steamers or other vessels play along the coast, which will not be yet…
“This island is like what I have seen of the North, one comprised of hills and mountains, there being very little level country page 8 as far as I have seen it. The land appears to be generally good many tracts of it being heavily bushed. There are rivers and rivulets in abundance, and the climate in winter is much warmer than corresponding latitudes in your hemisphere. This island would with proper culture, produce food for millions, but it is next to solitary. It has never been so prosperous as the North Island within the memory of the inhabitants, but it has been much more populous than it is now within the last 10 years. The measles carried off hundreds if not thousands, of all ages, and a ‘churchyard’ cough has been equally destructive within a few years. War has thinned their number greatly through war with the North Island natives, who appear to be more bloodthirsty than these, though that party were invested in several of the last engagements, yet such is the fear of the people that scores of miles before you reach Cook Strait, which separates the two islands, you cease to meet with a native. Those who have escaped the exterminating wars waged against them by Taraupaha (Te Rauparaha) have settled here and at other places more to the southward…. Taraupaha has been a Tamerlane upon a small scale…. The people of the island are a good deal scattered and will require several missionaries. If they were nearer together, they might do the work. To visit the people by land in some cases is impossible, and by boat or canoe dangerous. In the language, I make progress slowly, being different to the North Island dialect. The North Island books are of little use to me…. I am getting on, but the school operations will be hindered for want of books. I am preparing my first book, and must have it printed in Sydney. I have printed several books with the pen, and they are much prized. I think many of the people here will soon learn to read. I intend to teach them the writing of the printed characters at the same time. I am about to get schools built, and hope soon to commence schools in earnest. Of my success you may hear in a further letter. The natives began to observe the Lord's Day as soon as we arrived, and in that respect shame the whites who are resident in these parts. 1 have also two English services on the Lord's Day, one at a place about four miles from this, and the other here. The whalers will go out in quest of whales on Sunday as well as on other days, though it is opposed to Mr. Jones's wishes. It is remarkable, however, that they have not yet taken a single whale on a Sunday during the season.”
The foregoing letter explains itself, but there are other details worth recording. Mr. Watkin was at that time 34 years of age, and it was no small matter to travel with a wife and five little children (the youngest being an infant of ten months) in order to establish a Mission under trying and adverse circumstances. Regia, the vessel by which they travelled, was a small craft of 180 tons. In addition to the passengers on board, there were sheep, cattle and horses, the latter suffering from sickness and the close confinement.page 9
On the 11th the vessel battled against a fierce storm and much anxiety was felt by the captain for the safety of the passengers and the ship. Next morning the Solander Island was sighted and the Regia entered the Foveaux Strait. The wind dropped, the ship began to drift with the current. By 10 a.m. island after island appeared in close proximity, and there was great alarm. The ship drifted past these perils, however, into the greater danger of Waipapa Point, off which it was enveloped in a thick fog, and in the sickening roar of the breakers was warning that the vessel was leading for destruction. Providentially a breeze sprang up and the Regia escaped from the prospects of shipwreck, and the captain was able to pronounce to the terrified passengers that they were out of danger. Mr. Watkin wrote in his Journal, “surely our grateful hearts sent up ascriptions of praise to the Great Deliverer.”
Mr. Watkin conducted the first Christian service in the South Island on May 17th, and he reported to the Mission Board, London:
“This day I held a service in English which was pretty well attended by the men from the whaling gang, some of the agriculturists sent down here by Mr. Jones, and a considerable number of the natives who, of course, could not understand me. I opened my commission in New Zealand by preaching from the old-fashioned text, 1st Timothy 1–15, This is a faithful saying, etc.' The attention was great. May the word spoken not have been in vain.”
Thus the first messenger of the Cross began his mission—it was the beginning of a new day and of a new era. It was pioneer work, hard, plodding, and in some respects depressing.
1 The name Karitane has caused much discussion. One version is that the Wesleyan Chief, Rawiri Te Maire, made the proposal to perpetuate the name Creed as they had already perpetuated the name Watkin by changing the name of the mountain known as “Hikororoa” to Mount Watkin. His proposal was to change the name of Waikouaiti to “Karitane”. Thus “Kariti” Creed, and “Tane” man—the man Creed—“Karitane”. The other version is that Karitane means “Bruised Man” and that it refers to an incident in the siege of Te Wera's pa by Taoka. It must be remembered that the present town of Waikouaiti only received that name in recent years. Previously it was known as Hawkesbury.
In the first years of the station there were only two white women in the place; one was the wife of Thomas Jones, a brother of the station owner, and the other was the wife of W. McLachlan, a cooper. Some of the European men were living with Maori women as their wives. One can easily visualise the whaling station—the row of huts occupied by the whalers; the wooden shed where the barrels of oil were stored; the whalers, assisted by the Maoris, both men and women, stripping the blubber and carrying away junks of meat for cooking purposes. The foreshore and beach were strewn with the bones of the monsters of the deep, and the air was permeated with the evil smell of boiling blubber. Mr. Jones's store with its various commodities was the centre of attraction to those who had money to spend—such was the whaling station of old Waikouaiti.1
A few weeks before the arrival of the Watkin family the population was augmented by the arrival of the passengers on Magnet, the first regular shipload of settlers for Otago. The list of passengers included several names of persons who contributed their share in the founding of the Otago Province and whose descendants fill useful vocations in the Church and civil life. The first problem for the missionary to solve was the difficulty of obtaining a house for his wife and five children, and he wrote as follows:
“May 18th: Went today to Matanaka, the agricultural settlement, where it was said my house was built. I found the place totally inadequate to the reception of my family for its size, and that living there would defeat the great object of my coming to New Zealand, namely, the spiritual welfare of the aboriginal inhabitants. I determined not to reside there, and to get a temporary residence of some kind in Waikouaiti itself, which I have some hope of soon being able to accomplish….
“May 20th: We have found a site for a house, and a native house in an unfurnished state which may be rendered tenable at a small expense of materials and time and the carpenters are to be set to work to floor part of it and weatherboard the sides. It will be miserable enough when done, but we shall be under our own roof once more, a most desirable thing for comfort's sake and our family welfare. The house stands on a considerable elevation (Hau-tekapakapa hill) overlooking the sea, and commands beautiful prospects in every way. May the views of mountain and sea scenery ever lead us to adore Jehovah the Creator who ‘weighed the mountains in scales, the little hills in a balance, and who meted out the waters with the hollow of His hand.’
1 History of Waikouaiti, by J. Christie.
Early Waikouaiti, by W. Mallock.
“May 24th: We have not had a public service this day, the day being very stormy without—preventing the people from assembling, and the house in which we are, being too small to accommodate many. In the evening I had a service with my own and part of Mr. T. Jones's family.
“May 26th: This day we have taken possession of our house (hut), the whole of it not too large for two people, in which, however, seven of us must cram, with some indispensable articles of furniture, and then we must do our best until we can enlarge our borders.
“May 30th: Have been very busy for the last few days in getting our little hut in order, unpacking, placing, etc. We have plenty of visitants, but they hinder rather than help, etc.
“May 31st: Another Lord's Day, the third of our residence in this strange land—in the afternoon I held a service in the English language. The carpenter's shop was fitted up for the occasion and had an excellent and attentive congregation of my own countrymen, to whom I recommended righteousness of life. A considerable number of the natives were present to witness the Karakia bora, the English mode of worship. I hope soon to be able to make known unto them in their own tongue the wonderful words of God.
“June 7th: I conducted two English services at which I read a considerable portion of the Liturgy in the morning at Matanaka, where the agriculturists in the employ of Mr. Jones are located, a number of whom attended the service, etc…. It is a pleasing circumstance that the natives have begun to abstain from work on the Lord's Day, from the very imperfect manner in which I have been able to set forth the claims of that day of sancitity.”
The following day Watkin reported: “Have nothing remarkable to note this day, unless it be that we have got our little hut improved considerably by having the house place floored with planks; the earth floor was both damp and cold and which was felt acutely by us who have been ten years without feeling intense cold, but especially our children who, born most of them within the tropics, feel the cold of these high southern latitudes to be intense.”
Six days later—“I preached twice in English to small but attentive congregations, in the morning at Matanaka, to which place I was conveyed in a whale boat by the kindness of two American captains who had come the preceding night from Otago for the purpose of attending religious services.
“I had a better congregation than on the preceding Sunday and the people there appear anxious that I should continue to visit them, which I propose doing every Lord's Day morning, weather permitting. In the afternoon I preached at this place and read part of the Liturgy. I had Americans, Australians, English and New Zealanders in the congregation. The attention paid was great by all present. I am sorry to have to report that the conduct of the page 12 whites is worse in reference to the Lord's Day than that of the natives themselves; the latter do no work on that day, and will, I confidently hope, be brought ere long to a religious observance of the day…. The natives in this respect of abstaining from labour, setting an example to the whites living among them, who pursue their worldly avocations on the Lord's Day despite their better knowledge, etc.
“June 24th: Today I have been a good deal pleased with Sunday conversations I have been able to hold with the natives, and among other subjects that of the Resurrection of the body was talked about. I made them to understand me tolerably well. It is to them a strange subject. Inquiry after these things excites attention to the missionary and God's Book—subjects of general conversation. I was a good deal startled today by seeing a human jaw with the teeth serving as a pendant to a man's ear. Upon inquiry I found it belonged to one of his children and was kept by him in affection towards the deceased. Poor fellow, he appears to have lost six children in rather quick succession. I asked him of what they died. He told me the cough Te Mare (the churchyard cough of consumption). ‘Ah,’ I said, ‘that has carried off a great many New Zealanders.’ ‘Yes,’ he said, with a melancholy shake of his head and a sorrowful expression of countenance which I shall not soon forget, ‘Nui, nui raki’ (a great many).”
Having lived in a temporary hut for about four months, a mission residence was built and Watkin wrote, August 24th: “Our new house will be ready shortly and I then shall have part of our present one to the purpose of learning the language myself and teaching the Natives the truth of God which will banish from their minds the superstitions by which they are at present enslaved, and restrain them from acts of bloodshed, for which they have so strong an inclination.”
The new Mission parsonage was a quaint little four-roomed cottage with an attic and had a commanding view from the high terrace where it was situated on the south side of the river as it takes its final bend to the sea. The chimney was the first constructed of bricks in the South Island. They were brought from Sydney.1
1 This little parsonage was, in later years, taken to Seacliff, where it did duty as an annexe to a baker's shop; it was subsequently burnt down.
The language difficulty had to be faced at once, and this was no easy task. Watkin was much helped by his accurate knowledge of the Tongan language for there were similarities in construction and pronunciation.
On May 30th, he wrote: “I am sorry to find from the little I have been able to pick up of ‘Te Korero Maori’ (the New Zealand language), that it differs very materially from the language in the North Island; this will involve much labour, and much expense, for as the books printed at the Mission Press, Hokianga, will be of very little use here; it will be necessary to begin afresh, and from the alphabet, to write the hitherto unwritten language. I have read from the New Zealand Testament published at Paihia, but it appears a strange language to this people, many of the words bear considerable resemblance to words spoken here but others are quite distinct. I don't think there will be any need here for the foolish gna (nga) of the North Island.” At another time he remarked: “I am still at the language but it is not very easy work to act the pioneer in this respect. I do not regret that I have to do it, but rejoice in it as I shall do something towards smoothing the path of others.” Later: “I am making progress in the Korero Maori (New Zealand language) but should be glad if it were more rapid. I pick up words and phrases with considerable facility but should do so with much more rapidity if the language spoken here were the same as that of the Northern Island. At present it is like a man travelling in the dark in a path unknown to him.”
On June 5th he could report: “I have collected words and phrases to the number of nearly four hundred, though I cannot say that I have them all in my memory. I am increasing in a knowledge of the language daily, and what with the broken English of the Natives and what I have acquired I can manage to understand and make myself understood on common subjects.”
Watkin had a flair for languages and in four months from the time of his arrival at Waikouaiti he was able to preach in Maori. On September 14th he wrote: “Yesterday I conducted the usual Sunday services … in the afternoon I ventured to address the natives extempore; a considerable number were present and their attention was deep whilst I endeavoured to make known to them the great truths of Revelation. I believe that I was generally understood and my hearers could well adopt the language of the Athenians and say, Thou bringest strange things to our ears.' I have often felt something like shame that I have been so long in acquiring an ability to deliver myself extempore in four months, but the difficulties of acquiring a language which has never been previously learned by page 14 anyone can only be appreciated by those who have had a similar task, now my way will be comparatively easy. I have had many hindrances, and have still, but hope to master every difficulty and lay a foundation upon which others may build.”
From the beginning of the Mission in Otago, Watkin was obliged to compile a vocabulary, construct a grammar, and thus start from the beginning. For example, the Southern Maoris' use of the letter “I” has no place in the North. The “ng” of the North appears as “k” in the South. “Kainga” becomes “kaika”, “ngaio” becomes “kaio”, “tohunga” becomes “tohuka”, “Tangaroa”, the god of the sea, is known in the South as “Takaloa”, “Waihora” becomes “Waihola”, “Waitangi” becomes “Waitaki”. These are some of the differences, and there are many others. In former years students of the Maori language, knowing the northern variation only, have regarded the southern differences as depraved Maori, for which they have blamed the whalers. Even Mr. G. Clarke, Protector of the Aborigines, in his book Early Life in New Zealand, referring to the southern dialect spoken by the Otakou Maoris, says, “The jargon they speak in their common talk is low Maori.” He was certainly mistaken.
Watkin's son James, nine years of age, was quick in acquiring the language and was a real help to his father. The chief, Haereroa, was an able assistant and patiently suffered himself to be questioned daily in this difficult quest.
Having acquired the language, it was the missionary's task to reduce it to writing and prepare books for his numerous scholars. This involved hard work, seeing he was obliged to write by hand all the books required. Primers and a translation of St. Matthew's Gospel in the southern dialect were prepared and sent to Sydney for printing; but much time elapsed before they came to hand. In the meantime he continued his toil as best he could. He wrote prayers which the Maoris committed to memory, hymns for congregational singing, the Liturgy, and the Catechism. The Ten Commandments, in the southern Maori, were recited almost daily. Watkin's vocabulary may be seen in the Hocken Library, Dunedin.
The missionary was sadly hindered in his educational work by lack of equipment. Slates, paper, ink and pens were not easily obtained, and he was obliged to make the best of the situation.
On August 1st, 1840, he reported: “Have been employed during the week in printing alphabets with the pen, which I must continue to do until I can get aid from the press. The Natives are anxious to learn, which cheers me in my efforts to teach them. Tonight our kitchen furnished a scene which might have done for a painter, and which would have pleased the philanthropist and gladdened the Christian. A considerable number of young men with their books in their hands conning over, a, e, i, o, u, etc., and while I was teaching page 15 some others of them would be soliciting the instruction of one of my little boys, with E ha tenei, Wiriamu? (What is this, William?). Some of them learn rapidly and before they went away could say many of their letters. O that I had books!”
Watkin's son James, nine years of age, and his brother William, although scholars themselves, assisted in the school. On August 10th Watkin wrote: “The Natives still manifest their desire to learn, though I have no books. If I could get a native house built as a school … I am greatly retarded for want of accommodation.”
The following shows his method of work:
“I have been much employed during the week and in a similar manner in preceding weeks … have school for men and boys at early morning, and one for women and girls in the evening, both well attended … all ages and grades, old, young, chiefs, people, faces furrowed with time as well as the tattooing instrument.”
Watkin's zeal as a spiritual leader was without the slightest tinge of fanaticism. With unfaltering confidence in the uplifting and saving power of the Gospel, he expected it to work its saving results through the awakened and active intellect, and the instructed conscience, and not merely by rousing the devotional susceptibilities of man's nature; he set a high value on education as a civilising, elevating, refining and restraining power in the individual and a true handmaid of the Gospel of Christ.
He thought of education as the gift of a new power; and was anxious that this power should be used, under the guidance of Christian principle and a sense of responsibility, for the good of the person in whose individual mind it had been created. His first object was to answer the design of Christian education, by forming the minds of the youth, through Divine aid, to wisdom and holiness of life. In all his attempts to educate the people, Mr. Watkin was ably assisted by his wife. Notwithstanding all her duties, cares and responsibilities, Mata Wakina (mother of all), as she was known, applied herself to her onerous tasks. What a high degree of courage and devoted attachment there must be in a woman who sacrifices domestic ease of a home life to follow her husband, and share with him the privations of pioneer missionary work. Mrs. Watkin not only assisted with ordinary school work, but she assembled the women and girls and taught them to sew, to wash and iron clothes; she taught them to care for the aged and sick and instructed them in the rules of elementary hygiene. The women had as much reason to be thankful for the Mission as the men, and more so, for the status she gave them in the family life of the community.
When Mrs. Watkin had persevered with her lessons for only a few months, the girls who had never before handled needle or scissors could cut out and make up garments for themselves and their families, which were worn with harmless pride. The new page 16 accomplishments and the improved appearance of the girls greatly pleased their families and added to the influence Mata Wakina was daily acquiring. There was singing also and prayer; and all unconsciously her pupils drank in the Christian faith which showed itself so beautifully in her unselfish efforts on their behalf.
It has been argued by some that the Maori people owed their ability to read and write as much to the traders and whalers as to the missionaries. The answer to this argument is that Watkin's marriage register reveals that while the Maori brides could write their names in clear, well-formed letters, their pakeha partners could only make “marks” thus, X; and the irony of it is that the Maoris who attached their signatures as witnesses to the authenticity of the pakeha marks could do so in an expert manner. It is evident that the whalers did but little for them in this respect.
In order to make full proof of his ministry this intrepid missionary toiled to gather everything regarding the ethnology, history and tribal life of the people that he might be the better able to meet their intellectual and spiritual needs. Seldom has a missionary accomplished so much in one year as Watkin accomplished in 1840. His classes for the training of native pastors and teachers stands out as a marvellous achievement.
In the early days of the Mission the Watkin family suffered severely from lack of provisions and supplies. Very little in that direction could be obtained at the whaling station, for they also lacked the needful commodities. For five months no communication was received from Sydney and no supplies of any kind arrived. This caused considerable distress to the missionary and his family arid his sick parishioners. Potatoes, flour, tea and sugar could not be obtained; their food consisted largely of cockles and Maori cabbage. Watkin wrote: “I could be content,” but the distress of his family and those depending upon him weighed heavily upon his mind. Watkin was deeply attached to his wife, and keenly regretted that his duties kept him so much apart from her. They were of one heart and one mind and shared together the joys and sorrows of their lot.
To his children he was a most devoted father, delighting in their society and ever feeling the greatest concern for their welfare and his own high responsibility for them. He was indeed naturally fond of children, and confessed that he could spend hours (if that were possible) in watching them, enjoying their happy confidences arid high spirits. He was always ready to listen to them, and on them his loving, gentle spirit expended its full force.
Watkin himself at this time suffered from lowered vitality and depression of spirit, for he had not fully recovered from his physical collapse at Tonga, and he was unable at times to put his best endeavour into his duties. However, after weeks of delay and page 17 disappointment, one evening he reported “we were gladdened by the report of a gun, which proved to be from the Magnet direct from Sydney; her arrival was gratifying for we had been five months without word from civilised life, etc.” … “Life,” it is said, “is largely made up of sunshine and shadow,” but sometimes the shadow seems to obliterate the sunshine.
At the time mentioned, a chief named Kurukuru had occasion to go to a kaika north of the Mission Station where his people were cutting flax, and Watkin remarked, “Alas, it was to be his last voyage. On the night of the fourth I was startled by a fearful cry of many voices, and on running out to ascertain the cause was told that Kurukuru was drowned…. The aged Korako, who had lost his two and only sons, a daughter-in-law and a grandchild, was in a despairing grief, rolling on the ground and roaring in agony. The mother of one, and the father of two of the sufferers, relatives and friends, all uttering the cry of misery. How they perished must remain a mystery, none surviving to tell the tale. The most of the boat, mast and sail, have drifted on shore on the very spot to which she was bound, but not one body of the unfortunate ones who perished in her have as yet been recovered…. I have lost my best scholar and those of whom I had the greatest hopes. Kurukuru, his wife, his daughter and his brother, the brother of his wife and nephew and three others are swallowed up. This place has since been a place of weeping. It was rumoured that one of their human sacrifices would be made to the maues of the deceased, and Mr. Thomas, Mr. Jones's superintendent here, and I went to the people and told them what we had heard. I stated that such a procedure would be very wicked and an aggravation of the evil under which we are suffering, and contrary to, and would be punished by, British Law. I told them the man that should murder the slave named to me would render himself liable to the punishment of death by hanging. Korako assured me that nothing of the kind would be done. Another said, ‘We have heard you say, “Thou shalt not kill,” and we are afraid of doing what we used to do.’ I think this lamentable event will be sanctified to the good of this people.”
Later: “This place has been one of considerable excitement … and but for the presence of the missionary might have been one of war and bloodshed; as it was, a sham fight served the place of a real one, which I thought sufficiently horrible.” He remarks that “the New Zealanders have been accustomed to war.”