Saturday, 12 October 2019

The Karere (Messenger) and the Paihia Missionaries

Early Vessels and Visitors to Tauranga,  Part V:
The Karere (Messenger) and the Paihia Missionaries

A schooner rigged cutter ‘of 30 feet keel,’ Karere was constructed and launched at Paihia in the Bay of Islands by the sea captain and merchant Gilbert Mair (Snr) in 1831. ‘Of light draught,’ the vessel was built for securing provisions for the local mission stations from Maori coastal settlements, rather than for deep sea crossings. [1] Described by the missionary leader Henry Williams as ‘riding over the seas like a duck, scarcely shipping a drop of water,’ in moderate conditions, the little vessel was notorious for ‘kicking her heels’ in rough conditions and laying low with seasickness, every Maori and Pakeha who sailed as a passenger. [2]

The Karere accompanying Titore Takire’s fleet to Tauranga
Accompanied by Rev. Thomas Chapman and a Maori crew, Henry Williams sailed Karere to Maketu in October 1831, before travelling overland to Rotorua, where Chapman subsequently established a new Anglican mission station. The voyage south, however, was not without its challenges and after entering the Bay of Plenty, Williams recalled:
At four o’clock every appearance of bad weather, and being close to Tauranga, we decided to run in. Came on to blow very hard; could scarcely see Maunganui, though close to it. As we drew near we obs’d the breakers high and nearly across the entrance with a very considerable swell. However, by the good providence of God, we entered safely at 5.20 and found ourselves immediately in still water, to our no small joy. [3] 
Rev. Henry Williams
Rev. Thomas Chapman
In February 1832, the Karere and the missionaries Henry Williams, James Kemp and William Fairburn accompanied a Ngapuhi amphibious artillery expedition to Tauranga in the hope of making peace and to ‘terminate the horrors of war.’ Led by Titore Takiri, the leading war chief at the Bay of Islands following the death of Hongi Hika, the invading force comprised 80 waka taua and several Maori-owned sailing cutters carrying some 800 warriors and a siege train of ten ships’ cannon. [4]

The great fleet voyaged slowly south in three divisions, raiding the plantations of both enemy and allied iwi as it went. The voyage south was not without incident. Some rangatira were accompanied by their turbulent Pakeha-Maori fighting men. Outside Tauranga Harbour, Williams was compelled to remonstrate with a group of these heavily armed renegades aboard the Maori owned sailing cutter Taeopa. Having just returned from a raid against Maori on Mayor Island (Tuhua) during which they fired on the inhabitants with the Taeopa’s bow cannon, and supremely confident in their fighting skills and firepower, these men were acting as a tribe within the tribe. Drawing alongside on the Karere, Williams explained that their reckless manoeuvering among the fleet was endangering the unity of the expedition. How the Pakeha-Maori responded is not stated. [5]
On 6th March, Titore’s fleet entered Tauranga Harbour through the Katikati entrance and camped first on Matakana and then Rangiwaea Island. Williams, a former Royal Navy officer recalled that on Matakana he was approached by a group of Ngapuhi rangatira. ‘My opinion required respecting the proper charge for their great guns, declined the honour.’ [6]
Titore Takiri
Hone Heke
Aboard the Karere now anchored in the Otumoetai channel, the missionaries watched the Ngapuhi infantry launch successive attacks against Otumoetai Pa, only to be driven off by bands of Ngai Te Rangi musketeers who emerged from the pa to meet them. The Ngapuhi rangitira Hone Heke Pokai, who was to achieve fame as an anti-British ‘rebel’ before and during the Northern or Flagstaff War of 1845, was seriously wounded in the fighting and ordered home by the senior chiefs.

During the siege, the missionaries watched the Maketu-based Arawa trader Phillip (Hans) Tapsell sail his cutter Fairy into the harbour. Tapsell, whose wife Karuhi was Ngapuhi, delivered six additional cannon and munitions to Titore’s warriors. During the transfer of ordnance to the Ngapuhi waka, the Otumoetai defenders who had at least two cannon installed in their defences, bombarded, but did not strike the Fairy, Williams observing drily how ‘the shot fell short.’ [7]

‘Dejected in mind’ at being unable to negotiate peace between the two warring tribes, the missionaries left Tauranga for the Bay of Islands on the 15th March and did not witness Ngapuhi’s extraordinary day long artillery bombardment of Otumoetai Pa the following day and eventual withdrawal from Tauranga. [8]

If entering Tauranga Harbour through the Maunganui entrance in October 1831 had proved difficult for Karere and the missionaries, exiting the harbour in March 1832, proved a near fatal experience. Williams recorded later,
In the evening, being high water, weighed and made sail. The wind directly in. Passed safely over the various banks, but when close to the great hill which forms the south head, the vessel missed stays owing to the swell caused by the ebbing tide and there appeared every chance of going on the rocks, which was prevented by letting go the anchor, and taking in the sail. Everyone was much alarmed and the sea breaking on all sides, but as the tide was setting to windward, there was no strain upon the cable. In about an hour the sea subsided. We again weighed and in a short time were out of difficulties. [9]
Encountering foul weather and rough waters during the homeward voyage, Karere rounded Cape Brett three days later and at 8 am. the three missionaries landed at Paihia ‘unperceived’ by their families and resident Maori. [10]  Three years later, in 1835, Karere was put up for sale. There was great interest among local rangatira who were competing to acquire their own cutters at this time, but details of the sale price and the name or names of the purchaser/s are yet to be located. [11] 

[1] Williams, W and J; The Turanga Journals, Wellington, 1974: 44.
[2] Williams, H. The Early Journals of Henry Williams, 1826-1840, L. M. Rogers (comp.), Christchurch, 1961: 411.
[3] Carleton, H; The Life of Henry Williams, Archdeacon of Waimate, Vol. 1, Auckland, 1874: 94.
[4] Bentley, T; Tribal Guns and Tribal Gunners,  Christchurch, 2013:  69-71.
[5] Williams, 1961: 228.
[6] Ibid: 231.
[7] Ibid: 234.
[8] Bentley, 2013: 76-78.
[9] Williams, 1961: 212.
[10] Ibid: 213.
[11] Ibid: 406, 409.

1 Artist, Henry Williams, The Karere, Yate, W; An Account of New Zealand, London, 1835: 184.
2 Henry Williams, Sherrin, R. A. A; Leys, T W; Early History of New Zealand, Auckland, 1890: 263.
3 Unidentified photographer, ‘Thomas Chapman ½-025274-F Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, from Philip Andrews. Chapman, Anne Maria and Chapman, Thomas, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990, updated November, 2001. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand (accessed 12 October 2019)
4 Titore Takiri, Sherrin, R. A. A; Leys, T W; Early History of New Zealand, Auckland, 1890: 487.
5 Attributed artist John Gilifillan ‘Honi Heke [about 1846] A-114-003, National Library of New Zealand, Wellington.

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