Maori and Missionary: Early Christian Missions in the South Island of New Zealand
Chapter Two — Changes in the Maori Way of Life
Changes in the Maori Way of Life
A Happening Occurred Which Caused Much Comment Among the Maoris and Europeans. A Maori woman named Tautaki died, aged 35 years. Her husband forsook the Maori customs of his fathers and requested that his wife should have the benefit of a Christian burial according to the rites of the Church. In doing this he broke away from the old law of tapu and Mr. Watkin wrote as follows: “I trust that the ‘tapu’ has received a blow in this place which will issue in its abandonment…. A Native whose wife died yesterday has abstained from all that was previously held sacred … and is acting in the way usual among Christians. He did not remove the dying woman from his dwelling to die in an outhouse; he did not abstain from the use of his hands in eating he did not tie up the body of the deceased in some old blanket and put it in a hole two feet deep, but procured a decent coffin; a deep grave has been dug and tomorrow she will be interred in the presence of most of our worshipping Natives according to the rites of the Church.”
“July 4th, 1842: Yesterday conducted the usual services, and buried a Native woman in the Christian burial ground, and near the grave of Mrs. T. (Mrs. Thomas, the wife of the superintendent of Mr. J. Jones's station), who was interred the previous Tuesday; this has given huge offence, as I am told, to some of the most Christian (?) whites, who are highly indignant at such a blow against white superiority being struck, for according to their notions, superiority exists after death as well as during life, an opinion from which I am a most sincere dissenter. I gave some reasons for the same to my white congregation in the evening, by which they might learn that I thought, if superiority exists, that it belongs to the natives and not to them. Some of the offenders are Americans, who with their vaunted declaration of rights staring them in the face, ‘all men are free and equal’ … The natives of this country, with all their vices, are better in every way than the creatures who calumniate them. The aborigines of this country need protection.”
The trouble was that Tautaki's grave was close by that of Mrs. Thomas. The Americans and several others were furious because Watkin had the audacity to bury a Maori in a plot close to the grave of a pakeha. It was an insult, monstrous, they said.page 19
While still smarting under Watkin's words, death was busy gleaning his harvest and the missionary was again called upon to officiate at the burial of a man who had died in the horrors of delirium caused by excessive drinking. Most of the Europeans attended the funeral, at which the missionary, in a brief address, referred to the evils of drunkenness. He reminded them that the previous October three boats had been wrecked and that six out of eight of those who perished were drowned whilst drunk. He showed how morally indefensible was the practice that sapped their vital forces, debauched their manhood, broke the hearts of their women and despoiled the lives of innocent children. The same night, going down to the store, Watkin found a number of men in an advanced state of intoxication. His courageous attitude in rebuking these excesses did not increase his popularity with a certain section of the community, and he wrote, “Their blame must be my praise. I should suspect myself if I had their encomiums.” He could say with the Apostle Paul, “We both labour and suffer reproach,” but “we trust in the Living God.”1
Another incident is given by Watkin in his Journal regarding the evil of excessive drinking. This happening took place at Otakou before his arrival. On February 15th, 1840, a Maori named Teuteraki Pauwa, who was the son of a chief, after heavy drinking on a whale ship went on shore and entered the whare of a man named Brown. A fight took place and a window was broken in the struggle. Some of the glass struck the Maori, who in his fury seized a musket and took aim at Brown. The gun was fired, but the bullet missed Brown and killed a ship's carpenter. The Europeans seized the Maori and were preparing to lynch the offender in American style. However, not being in America, they changed their minds and locked up the native and his wife and put them under guard, determined to send the Maori man to Sydney for trial. The unfortunate offender was so alarmed that he begged the Europeans to shoot him. By some means he got possession of a gun, probably from his guard, and, putting on his best clothes, got his wife to clasp his body from behind. He then put the muzzle to his chest and pulling the trigger with his toes the bullet passed through his heart and into that of his wife, killing them both. The Maori people in the district were furious and made preparations for revenge. The Europeans were afraid of a general rising and induced d'Urville, the French navigator, who was at Otakou at the time (April, 1840), to take Brown and his wife to the Bay of Islands.2
1 Watkin's Journal and Rugby Pratt.
2 Watkin's Journal and Rugby Pratt's notes re same.
“My schools and services, weekday and Sunday, are as well attended as can be expected, the desire to learn to read and write is intense in many, and surely good will come of it; the natives love the missionary, though some of his own countrymen curse him. I read a letter from a native this week in which he styles me ‘Father’ and expresses his indignation at some evil words spoken by some worthless European. The native is an instance of quick intellect and great perseverance, he having with but slight assistance learned to read and write remarkably well.”
“Yesterday (Nov. 16/40) I conducted five services, three in Maori and two in English, besides walking eight miles of not the easiest road in the world. I am encouraged by the attention which the natives pay to the word spoken and I trust that from these small beginnings there will be great results…. If the Mission had been established here ten years ago, what lives would have been saved, what knowledge would have been diffused and enjoyed! The race, alas, is fast decreasing, the remnant only will hear the Gospel.”
Watkin's native converts were simple-minded and sincere believers. They knew nothing of any subtle philosophy of Salvation. One thing they knew, “they had passed from death into life.” They knew they were free from the dark and tormenting tapu and from the tyranny of taipo. Their knowledge of God was still imperfect, but it was real as far as it went. To quote from M. A. Rugby Pratt1: “The flower of a new life was only beginning to unfold. But they had heard whispers of love, faint at first, like an echo pulsing through a dream. In their genial fellowship with the All-Father the old haunting horror of grim gods had melted like a wraith of mist.”
The Maoris began to advance in their general manner of life. Community houses, in which all sat or slept together, gradually fell into disuse. Each family built its own whare or cottage, and family habits and household customs were gradually changed to the Christian way of life. Cleanliness and habits of industry were inculcated, and “amid the wreckage of an ancient order a new life began to emerge.”
On January 27th, 1841, the first adult Maori was baptised. The candidate's name was Mere Kuri, and the same day Mr. Watkin joined her in the holy bonds of matrimony to James Spencer—the first Christian marriage performed in the South Island. James Spencer had arrived at the Bluff in 1824. He had served at Corunna and Waterloo.
1 Pioneering Days in Southern Maoriland.
These candidates chose their own names, and this young catechumen, named Mahaka, when asked what Christian name he desired, replied, “I want your name,” and thus he was baptised Hemi Watkina (James Watkin). This convert really represented the first fruits of Watkin's toil in a remarkable manner. Another … “Yesterday held three services, in the afternoon baptised a native by the name of Joseph (Hohepa) who has learned to read and write and who has renounced the gods of superstition of his forefathers, and who has been very usefully employed as a teacher at Port Levy….I trust he will act worthily of his Christian profession publicly made. I also baptised my own last born child. He too was called Joseph—may he be the Lord's.”1
Hohepa was a typical Maori teacher, and did good service for the church. He was one of a band of travelling preachers sent out from the Wesleyan Mission at Cloudy Bay which had been established by the Rev. Samuel Ironside at the close of 1840.
Other baptisms followed. Watkin was never in haste to baptise his converts. Adults were received into Church fellowship only upon confession of faith, and after a period of probation. In a letter to the London Mission Board he explained his position and attitude as follows: “I make no haste to baptise or I might have scores to report; I wish them to know what Christianity really is before they embrace it. The administration of the Rite does not confer the thing signified, though it may be received with it. I urge them to believe that they receive the promise of the Spirit.”
In the same letter he remarked: “I am pleased with those who meet in class, some of them, I think, are very promising, it does me good to hear them pray.” He was satisfied, as proved by the correctness of the language they used, and the sentiments they expressed that they were sincere in their profession of Christianity.
1 Joseph H. Watkin became Mayor of Ashfield, Sydney, in 1888.
Mr. Watkin wrote regarding their chanting: “The Maoris are very fond of chanting the Catechism, which they do with a great zest and in a tone rather agreeable than otherwise.” His expositions of Scripture never failed to be illuminating, and he succeeded in bringing home its teaching to the hearts and conscience of the people Miracles and incidents of Bible history and story which would appeal to the Maori mind were rendered as vivid as he could make them in order to arrest attention. The results were conviction in the hearts of the people and amendment in daily life and conduct.
Singing on the part of the Maori people was very much in evidence; many of them were in possession of sweet, melodious voices which they used with telling effect. In the early morning the whole valley was vocal with song.
The missioner, like the early adherents of Wesley, observed the various Christian festivals. The first of these after his arrival at Waikouaiti was Whitsunday, June 7th, 1840:
“I conducted two English services, at which 1 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, and a much greater number of natives who were attentive, though they could not understand anything that was said. The afternoon service was held at this place (Waikouaiti), and a mixed congregation as at the other place. I dwelt upon topics suitable to the day, and trust that the word spoken will be blessed of God.”
“Trinity Sunday: Had good congregations of natives, to whom it was a pleasure to hold forth with Word of Life; being Trinity Sunday I endeavoured to direct their minds to that which is assuredly believed among us, the glorious doctrine of the Trinity.page 23
“To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost be everlasting praise.”
On the 25th he observed the Christmas Festival. This was Watkin's first Christmas in New Zealand and he conducted two services. The preacher's heart, no doubt, warmed as he discoursed upon the fact of the birth of the Prince of Peace—the world's Redeemer. The Dayspring from on High had visited them, and His mandate had gone forth, “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.” The note of gladness was heard, the “glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.” The missionary appealed to the people to offer their best, as the wise men did of old, giving their gold of adoration, their frankincense of love, and their myrrh of praise, for “unto you is born this day a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.”
On Boxing Day the missionary and his wife gave the natives a feast as best they could from their frugal store, at which many Maori and European games were played. The Maori girls especially entered with zest into their pretty posture dances, with their twirling balls manipulated to the accompaniment of rhythmical movements of the body and the notes of lilting melodies.1
Good Friday was a special opportunity, and he wrote: “Good Friday we observed here as is the wont at home. I held three services, two in Maori and one in English, and I hope our hearts were affected the right way while considering the first hour of the Son of God. May we hate the sin which caused our Lord to bleed. An instance of the gross ignorance of a ‘Christian’ some thirty or forty years old has come to my knowledge in reference to the object for which the day is observed. My informant stated that he was applied to for information on the point, the individual stating that no person to whom he had applied for the information could tell him. If they had asked the Maoris they might have learned the fact it commemorates and the number of years since its occurrence. Easter Day was, I trust, a day of rejoicing in some degree to us in this corner of the earth. Some here rejoice in a Risen Saviour, may they more fully seek those things which are above.”
On April 7th, 1844, his last Good Friday in Otago (Waikouaiti), he reported: “Good Friday was observed by us at home by abstinence from food and labour and by religious services.” April 8th: “Yesterday, Easter Day, was employed as usual; preached on the usual topics to the usual congregations. May God add His blessing.”
The first public celebration of the Holy Communion to Maori participants did not take place till January 29th, 1843. Watkin wrote feelingly about this event: “We partook of the emblems, and I felt some of the benefit resulting from the death which brought us life—the first instance here. May these young professors stand fast in one mind and in one spirit, striving for the hope of the Gospel.”
1 Pioneering Days, Rugby Pratt.
The communicants were Iraia, Haimona, Pita Mutu, Paura Tua, Aperahama, Mohi, Rawiri Te Maire and Toati Witiwhiri (Whitefield in its Maori form). Mrs. Watkin also participated. This celebration brought home to the Maori converts the reality of the bond that united them to the pakeha missionary and his wife whose lives had been given up for them. Watkin was ill and low in mind at the time, and four days later received medical attention from a ship's surgeon.
Watkin, like all the early Methodists, observed frequent Love Feasts. These were meetings for devotion and fellowship which Wesley, in the 18th century, revived from the practice of the ancient Primitive Church, known as the Agapae. They had long been discontinued by the church. The New Testament Greek word Agapae stands for “love”, for genuine community sharing, as in Acts 2–46. After dispensing bread and water, the meeting was devoted to religious experience that, as Wesley said, “we might together eat bread as the ancient Christians did, with gladness and singleness of heart, being fed, not only with the meat that perisheth, but that which endureth to everlasting life.” These Love Feasts were a regular practice in the days of the Mission in New Zealand,
The work of the Mission was much hindered by lack of literature, and particularly of the Scriptures, but the best was made of a difficult situation. When, however, a supply of Bibles arrived at the Mission Station there was cause for much rejoicing. On the day of their arrival the missioner exclaimed, “This day must be reckoned among the very best … by the arrival of books! Kapai rawa. The arrival of books has infused a little life into my soul, and affords no small pleasure to my people.” Referring to the arrival of copies of the New Testament, he continued: “It would, I am sure, very much please that blessed British and Foreign Bible Society to see the pleasure which their noble gift of the New Testament affords in this distant place. And who can calculate the good that will result from their Christian benevolence! May God bless its active agents and all who contribute to its funds.” Again: “Thanks to the British and Foreign Bible Society. The anxiety for the books is intense. The arrival caused great joy. Already I have had applicants from seven, ten and thirty miles distant and they say, 'Let me have a book! Let me have a book! … had almost stunned me! Let me have one for my wife, my sister, my brother, girl, boy, as the case may be, has often been urged. Never did such a precious case reach this place before. Cases of clothing, useful and necessary, have reached me, but this, this good thing, the better, the best thing that any ship has yet, or can possibly bring them—The Word of Life.”
When the weather was favourable, Watkin conducted his services in the open' air, and when the weather was cold or wet, any available page 25 building was used. Later the services were held in a native structure which was used as a chapel, known as a Whare Karakia.
The increasing success of the work necessitated a building of larger dimensions, steps were accordingly taken to provide a new place of worship,1 and on June 18th, 1843, the people worshipped in the frame of the new church. It was a great occasion and the record is as follows:
“It was a high day in this place, we had natives from Ruapuke at the south and from Cloudy Bay on the north, so many that we were obliged to worship in the frame of our new Chapel, made as comfortable as circumstances would allow. I baptised 21 natives and a native child. It has been my lot to witness many baptismal occasions; but I know not that the baptising of hundreds ever gave me more pleasure than administering the Rite as yesterday—I never saw a better behaved congregation, nor candidates who behaved with greater solemnity. The names chosen were chiefly scriptural, from Enoch downwards … names which will be had in everlasting remembrance, such as John and Charles Wesley and some of less note. Today I have married four couples who had previously been married in Maori fashion (custom). The Register will be a curiosity, I expect, to any professor of caligraphy. I have been much today in answering questions and writing explanations of words and phrases. A small commentary would be an acquisition to the Maoris.”
“It is worthy of mention that among those baptised were the chief, Horomona Pohio, who became the first native pastor and teacher at Ruapuke, and the chiefs, Hoani Weteri Korako and Tare Weteri Te Kahu, who became pastors and teachers at Otakou. It was an event long to be remembered.
1 The section on which the church was erected was not claimed as a Methodist Church property. The policy of the Methodist Missionary Society discouraged the acquirement of native lands. The Hon. W. B. D. Mantell, the surveyor, in reporting on January 13th, 1849, to the chief secretary, stated that he had asked Mr. Creed if he would prefer the site of the Waikouaiti Mission Station to be included in or left out of the Native Reserve, and that Mr. Creed requested him, if possible, to include it in the Maori Reserve, and that this was done. Similarly Sir Walter Buller reported in March, 1862, that four and a half acres at Kaiapoi had been offered as a “Wesleyan Church Endowment” but that the church did not accept it and the land still remained in the possession of the natives.
2 The new church possessed a sweet toned bell that had originally done duty on a Botany Bay convict ship. It was later purchased by Mr. John Jones and was used as a ship's bell on the Magnet. Mr. Jones presented it to Mr. Watkin for the new church. In the ‘fifties it was placed on the Presbyterian Church reserve in Dunedin, and used as a time signal, from which “Bell Hill” takes its name. The old bell now rests in the Dunedin Early Settlers’ Museum.
“Opened our new church and baptised five young men. May they act worthy of the Christian name…. About fifty Maoris received the Rite…. Most of them can read the Scriptures and have some portions of the Word in their hands.” It was truly a great day in the history of the Mission. The unpretentious sanctuary seemed “lit with celestial glory”, for out of the black night of heathenism those Maoris had come into the glorious Light of the people of God, and they proved their profession by Christian words and deeds. It was quite natural that the missioner's heart was gladdened because of this success, for those converts performed an important part in the history of the Mission and Colony.
The five young men who were received into fellowship were Hoani Maka Wharepirau of Waikouaiti, Anaru Takairaki of Stewart Island (Rakiura), and three from Moeraki, including the chiefs Matiaha Tiromorehu and Rawiri Waiteri Mamaru. The latter chief, two months later, was appointed a class leader at Moeraki.
Although these converts had broken away from their pernicious customs, and had turned away from old vices, they were not perfect. This could not be expected. It was difficult for them to abandon their former practices, and the sparks of passion were ready to leap again into flame. “But, although the drift of heredity still carried them, a new resistance had become manifest—the entail of sin had been broken and applied Grace proved sufficient for their needs.”
The Maori people regarded the missionary as their friend, and was able to write: “The natives bring their trouble to me, for I am regarded as their friend, and the poor things need a protector. I was pleased yesterday with what I heard from one of the natives, and which proves that already Christianity has some influence. He stated that he had been wronged by one of the white men and that the latter proposed fighting as a termination of the matter. ‘No,’ said the native, ‘I will not light, for the missionary says we must not.’ This circumstance, though a little thing, was encouraging.”
There were other difficult problems, and Watkin reported to the Mission Board:
“The white men almost generally are living with native women, and my coming here is looked upon rather suspiciously by them, for they know enough of Christianity to be aware that if it prevails they must either marry the women or lose them. Another objection to the missionary is that he will make the natives too knowing, i.e., in matters of trade, but from the specimens I have had already, I think it my duty to make them less knowing.”
Watkin's parsonage was not only a residence for himself and family, but, small as it was, it was also a dispensary and hospital. Sick people from near and far came seeking his aid. Watkin was page 27 not a certified medical practitioner, but, like many missionaries, he had a working knowledge of diseases and their remedies and he knew how to treat them, and entered the following in his Journal: “I have begun to dispense medicine, and during the cold weather shall have plenty of patients.” The lady of the parsonage was more than a nurse. She was Mata Wakina (Mother of all), and cared for the women and girls. It was no small matter to find room for those who needed beds and her constant care.
Another onerous duty fell to the lot of the missioner, that of being a miniature Justice of the Peace. He was called upon to settle differences and prevent quarrels, particularly among the pakeha residents. He was obliged to intervene in Mr. Jones's affairs, and he reported on July 14th, 1842: “Yesterday was a good deal employed about Mr. Jones' affairs which, though foreign to my office, I consider imperative upon me to prevent as far as I can further injustice from being practised towards him. There is no other interested person here or near and competent at the same time or I should have avoided the care and odium, for there will be some of the latter from the unprincipled persons who have been preying upon him, but I should suspect myself of something very bad if I had their moral judgment.”
The following month he reported: “The state of things here becomes more alarming, property is insecure and life not much more so; robberies have been rather numerous lately and on two nights Mr. Jones's store has been broken open and robbed. I have dwelt among people called savages and amidst ‘war's alarms’ but never felt such a sense of insecurity as I do at this place. Things are nearly as bad as they can be. Let us hope they will begin to amend…. Love of strong drink appears to be the source of much of the evil here.”
Seeing that Mr. Jones was a patron of the Mission, and that he occupied an important position in the affairs of early Waikouaiti, it is necessary to record some details of his life.
John Jones was born in Sydney in 1809. He first saw the shores of New Zealand as a boy on a sealer when the sealing industry was already languishing. He visited New Zealand again at the end of 1839 and returned to Sydney in one of his own ships early in 1840. He was married to Miss Sarah Sizemore in March, 1828, a lady who proved a most devoted helpmeet. Watkin states: “On this date (August 5th, 1843) we had an unexpected arrival from Sydney in the family of Mr. J. Jones…. May it be a benefit to them and to the place.” Alfred Eccles and A. H. Reed, in their book John Jones of Otago, state that the elder children arrived on the above date, and that the parents and younger children left Wellington for the South on September 1st in Jones's vessel the Scotia.page 28
Mr. Jones, in his desire for the appointment of a missionary to Waikouaiti, agreed “to afford a missionary and his family a free passage to the station in one of my ships; to give a suitable piece of land for the use of the Mission; to send the missionary supplies from time to time free of charge, and shall present to the Society towards the expenses of this Mission a donation of £50.” The authors of John Jones of Otago call attention to the Rev. M. A. Rugby Pratt's statement in his Pioneering Days that Jones broke almost every clause of his undertaking. In this statement Mr. Pratt was mistaken. In a sworn statement, made in connection with his land claims, Jones included the following figures: “Cost of establishing a missionary for and at the request of the natives. Passage from Sydney for himself, wife and six children, with luggage and three head of cattle—£100. Cost of erecting a house of six rooms with kitchen and also a schoolroom for the use of missionary—£250.” The above shows that Jones's promise regarding Mr. Watkin was honoured; Watkin in his Journal repeatedly refers to the kindness and liberality of his patron. It was also the whaler's intention to give to the Mission an endowment of 100 acres of land, but as the Government did not recognise his land claims he was unable to fulfill his desire. During Mr. Creed's term, for a time, the feeling between Mr. Creed and Mr. Jones was not so cordial. Mr. Jones was regarded by the people as the most important person in the district. He was a farmer, shipowner, and general merchant. The whaling station was closed in 1848. In 1854 he moved to Dunedin. He established a fleet of steamships and was the principal owner of the Harbour Steamship Navigation Company, which ultimately developed into the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand. Mr. Jones was a man of strong character, of a benevolent mind, and his liberality to worthy causes won the respect of those who knew him. When he moved to Dunedin he became an adherent of the Anglican Church. Mr. Jones died in 1869, aged 60 years. Mrs. Jones died in 1864 at the age of 57 years.1
1 The Rev. J. Watkin baptised Mary, the daughter of John and Sarah Jones, at Waikouaiti on January 14th, 1844. She was the second daughter of the above and was married to Henry Nelson, M.D., at the Church of England, Dunedin, on September 10th, 1862. Dr. Nelson died on May 18th, 1867. Mrs. Nelson was re-married at St. Paul's Church, Dunedin, to Alfred Eccles, F.R.C.S., on April 29th, 1869. Mrs. Eccles died at “Beverley”, Torquay, England, on August 2nd, 1886, at the age of 42.
“My duties during the week have been much as usual, the four services on Sunday, the two on week nights with the schools, have engaged my attention. I have been informed that my plain speaking has given huge offence to certain of ‘The Christians’ and that I am to be punished by their non-attendance in future. ‘The viper and the vile.’ … I have had to interfere in the case of brutal violence perpetrated by a white man upon a native boy. Instances of this kind were frequent formerly, and the inclination is by no means wanting now.
“A great alteration for the better has taken place even in the Maori people who have not embraced Christianity, and those who have become Christians are, all things considered, equal to their more favoured brethren, the pakehas.”
The chief and tohunga, Korako, told Mr. Watkin that his coming to Otago had put an end to the vile brutalities inflicted upon the native race, and had also terminated cannibalism, murder and other evils that were formerly frequent.
The missionary toiled on amid many difficulties and much success, so that he could write to his friends in Australia in terms like these: “I am endeavouring to seek more of the mind which was in Christ. I love society, as you know; but I trust that God knows I love the poor natives more.”
One bright summer's day in 1843, Mr. and Mrs. Watkin and family went for a picnic up the Waikouaiti River. They tied the boat to the riverbank and sat on the grass for a meal, when a wild cat passed them with a bird in its mouth. A Maori boy chased the cat, which at once dropped the bird. Picking it up, the Maori boy gave it to Edwin Iredale Watkin, aged about four years. The child proceeded to the edge of the river in order to put the bird in the boat, and in doing so fell into the river. Seeing that the boy did not return immediately, Jabez, a brother two years older, was sent after him. To his amazement he saw his young brother lying in several feet of water with a number of eels surrounding him. The boy shouted for help, and soon the unfortunate little chap was rescued. He was nearly dead, but restorative measures proved successful. In this way the Rev. Dr. E. I. Watkin was saved to the Church.page 30
In October, 1843, Dr. E. Shortland, Protector of Aborigines, visited Waikouaiti and conversed with Mr. Watkin. It was a brief visit, but it afforded pleasure to the inmates of the parsonage. Shortland had been at Otakou and wrote: “After having remained there a few days, hired a boat to take me to Waikouaiti, Mr. J—'s whaling station. At that place there was also a small body of natives, and a Wesleyan missionary, who had very hospitably offered to give me a bed in his house. I accordingly set sail at daybreak on a misty morning, but with a fair breeze off the land, which carried us the whole distance, about eleven miles, in two hours and a half. We landed on the bank of a small river, which gives its name to this place and flows into the southern extremity of a sandy bay…. On the first establishment of the (whaling) station very few natives, by all accounts, resided at Waikouaiti; but they soon increased in number, coming from all parts of the country for the sake of tobacco, clothing, etc., which they could exchange for their labour or for pigs and potatoes. They now possessed several boats, which they had purchased. Two native women had married whalers, and nine had formed similar connexions without the solemnity of the marriage ceremony. The fruit of these unions were fourteen halfcaste children. The remaining native population stood thus: Men 41, Women 32, Children 28: total 101. Here I saw for the first time, on a large scale, the native method of grinding the ‘pounamu’, or greenstone, from a rough block into the desired shape. The house belonging to the chief, Korako, was like a stone cutter's shop. He and another old man were constantly to be seen there, seated by a large slab of sandstone, on which they, by turns, rubbed backwards and forwards a missshapen block of pounamu, while it was kept moist by water which dropped from a wooden vessel. While one rubbed, the other smoked. They made, however, so little progress during my stay that it seemed probable it would be left to the next generation to finish the work.”
In the years 1842–3, Mr. Watkin suffered constantly from impaired health. Death had often bruised him and passed by. The seven years in Tonga had taxed his physical and mental constitution to the last limit. There were days and nights of pain and mental depression. He blamed himself for his imagined failure, but he lashed himself to his arduous tasks. At one time he “hopes to be soon where he can obtain proper advice and treatment.” He is willing “to resign and leave his charge and make room for a stronger man.” He imagined “his work was falling short of success.” He had no comradeship with intellectual equals nor any real spiritual fellowship—“his loftiest thoughts had to be caged in his own lonely heart.” At another time he “fears to die and leave my wife and so young a family as mine.”
Mrs. Watkin carried a heavy load of care. Twice she had been page 31 “near unto the gates of death.” At another time, suffering from the torture of neurasthenia, Watkin wrote: “This has been a poorly week; on Monday night I was cupped by a German surgeon attached to a Bremen whale ship then at Otago (Otakou), and which to the honour and glory of the owner, be it told, carries a chaplain, the first instance I have heard of a whale ship doing so. Let England and America blush and imitate Bremen. The vessel is named Juliana, owner Mr. Fritz. Nine glasses were used, the scarifier containing fifteen lancets and two applications were to each place. I fear that the quantity of blood taken was insufficient to secure relief, powerful medicines were prescribed and taken, and altogether I have been a good deal weakened.” He felt keenly his inability to do what he regarded a full day's work, causing him to depend upon his native pastors to supply his lack. He expressed his willingness to leave the district in order to make room for a person physically fit and more capable to endure the strain of the long journeys involved in such a far-flung parish. He said: “The people hereabout love me … and I feel a strong concern for their interest…. I often think my days are numbered. Thou Judge of all the earth will do right.”
On another occasion, having passed through some distressing experiences, he wrote in his private Journal that the excitement had caused him much dejection of mind and he felt himself unequal to his task, but he reasoned, “though the exercises of a station like this must be borne by someone, why not by me? Mrs. Watkin has been seriously ill this week, which has served to increase the gloom of a dark week. May God fit us for either suffering or doing ‘His righteous will’.”
Notwithstanding illness, discouragements and the disappointment consequent upon his task, he proved himself equal to the burden. He saw the native people rising above the environment and sad conditions of their surroundings. Neat whares began to rise in the kaikas which took the place of the unhealthy community houses where the people slept together. Family life was established upon a Christian basis. Habits of cleanliness were adopted and there was a great improvement in the whole round of domestic life. All these changes for the better were sources of great joy to the missionary and his wife. They were greatly helped in their work by further gifts of Bibles from the British and Foreign Bible Society:
“I cannot but express the gratitude I feel for the help of the Bible Society in their gift of copies of the New Testament, and for the ability possessed by so many of the people to read the same. The Scriptures have a most telling influence in the life of the people.” Later: “This morning I have been pleased by the perusal of a number of native letters from far south … and the anxiety for books and instruction. New Zealand is now receiving the Gospel page 32 from end to end. It would have done the Bible Society good to have seen my congregation yesterday with their New Testaments in their hands and intently reading those portions of Scripture on which the preacher dwelt. It did me good…. They have generally bags or little baskets of a size sufficient to contain the Testament and Hymnbook slung round their necks and occupying the situation erewhile occupied by powder, flash and cartridge box.”
The year 1843 was one of ingathering, and by the close of the year he had baptised over two hundred converts in his far-flung parish, and Watkin wrote: “On the 24th (December) had a series of interesting services. In the forenoon had perhaps two hundred present, baptised more than forty persons…. In the afternoon held a Love Feast (Agapae), a considerable number spoke. In the evening heard Hoani Weteri (Korako of Otakou) address the congregation, and was pleased. Afterwards I held a sacramental service, and had a large number to partake. May they all be partakers of the spiritual life through the death of Christ whom we commemorated.” The next day, Christmas Day, was a time not to be forgotten, and although the weather was unfavourable the services were well attended. Among those persons baptised on the 24th were twelve from Otakcu, including the chief, Wiriamu Poteki (Potiki), and Hana Wera (Weller), the grand-daughter of the chief, Taiaroa, and mother of Mr. David Ellison (Iwi Erihana). There were also eight candidates from Purakanui who received baptism.
In July of this year (1843) Watkin received a letter from his friend Samuel Ironside informing him of the Wairau tragedy which had taken place on June 16th. Watkin replied on August 11th:
“Yours of July 26th reached me yesterday. My sorrow has been stirred within me by the sad news contained in yours. Oh! this land of blood. Our countrymen sent to their account in battle, natives killed, and the most promising station we have, broken up. May God bring good out of evil. Surely there must have been some rashness. Of course the missionaries will be blamed for it. The New Zealand Company's people hate missionaries. That is clear from their publications. You being nearest will come in for a share of the blame.”1
On that fateful day twenty-two Europeans were killed and five were wounded. Mr. Frederick Tuckett, who in 1844 took part in the Otago survey, was one of the survivors.
1 The New Zealand Company disliked some of the missionaries because they opposed their questionable land transactions with the Maori people.