James Smith - His New Zealand experiences. 1840s-1860s

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James Smith -
 Came to New Zealand as a bound

New Zealand Bound

Jumped ship at Port Nicholson in 1840

The following is a transcript from the Otago Witness Thursday April 9 1896 page 40 by N.J.B.

In the "good old days" when men were more concerned in earning their bread than in the governing and politics of their country.

An Early Colonist.
Mr James Smith, left Blackwell, England in October 1840, a bound apprentice on board the Lady Nugent, which that trip brought out some 520 immigrants to these shores, the vessel calling at Tasmania the day the people there were celebrating their fiftieth anniversary, and reaching its destination, Port Nicholson, St. Patrick's Day, 1841. During the voyage out rough weather had been experienced, especially in passing through the Bay of Biscay, the captain giving his vessel over into the hands of the chief mate, an able seamen, who brought her safely through after many risks to the lives of those on board. Though Captain Sentry had behaved well to those under him, there was some slight mutiny among the sailors in coming out, which resulted in a number of the latter deserting the vessel whilst lying in Port Nicholson, not with a special desire to become colonists, but through fear of the punishment which they would receive and the rough time they supposed would fall to their lot on the return journey on account of their conduct towards their captain. They induced other sailors who had not taken part in the rebellious conduct to leave also, dwelling much upon the treatment they would also undergo at the captain's hands on the return voyage; and amongst the latter was Apprentice Smith, who even to this day feels sorry for having been induced by those men to leave the captain, who had, and probably always would have, treated him kindly; but being very young and impulsive he did not reason out the matter in his own mind, but allowed others to influence him, and thus it was that whilst in attendance on the captain the day he vessel was leaving and the clearance was being obtained, he ran away impulsively to a clump of trees some distance off the place into which his master had gone, and joined the other men in hiding there until the Lady Nugent was well out of sight.

The men obtained work in various parts of the new settlement, and after a very anxious period the young apprentice shipped for England as a seaman on board the barque Jane, under Captain James Crowe, returning to New Zealand on board the Tyne, under the command of Captain Richards, who was subsequently placed in charge of the Government brig Victoria. On this occasion Seaman Smith remained on land for some time, obtaining work on a farm near the heads of Wellington, during which employment he frequently, along with three other men, by name Simms, Williams and Phillips, went out in a boat to act as pilot, becoming well acquainted with the various difficulties experienced in coming safely into Wellington Harbour, which knowledge afterwards proved both useful and profitable in a way in which he had never anticipated.

Returning to England a second time, as a seaman on board the Tyne, he thought of seeking out his uncle, who had placed him a lad on board the Lady Nugent some years previous, but that something which shapes our destiny - be it fate or a controlling influence of which we know as little - had planned otherwise, for one day, whilst crossing over London Bridge, dressed in a common seaman's grab, his attention was drawn to an officer of the Queen's navy in uniform, to whom the young seaman politely touched his cap and half passed by, then turning as if to speak. The officer, noticing this slight embarrassment on the part of the young man, and his diffidence in approach, called him to come forward. Seaman Smith hastily complied and told the officer, who was no less a personage than Captain Stanley, so well known for his con-nection with the history of the colony during the period of trouble which arose in the forties between the early settlers and the rebel chief Rangihaeata and Rauparaha and followers, that he was a sailor, and had twice been to New Zealand, and would like to join the Queen's navy and wear the uniform, if the officer would help him to get a place among the navals.

Captain Stanley, who was in command of the H.M.S. Calliope, which was to act as flagship for the war vessels then about to be despatched from Portsmouth to New Zealand to quell the disturbance which had arisen between the European and Native population there (word of which had just been conveyed to England in a message by the Tyne from New Zealand), said he would be pleased to have the young man on board his own vessel, as from what he had learned from him he might prove useful to the fleet in acting as a pilot round the coast of New Zealand in that part encountered by vessels entering Port Nicholson, for which he had orders to sail and there learn the positions to be taken up in putting down the outbreak among the Maoris in that and various parts of the colony. Captain Stanley therefore had him enlisted, and sufficient money was given him to join the Calliope, which was then lying at Portsmouth Harbour along with H.M.S. Castor and Diver, the two other war vessels which were to accompany the Calliope to New Zealand.

Considerable importance was attached to sending of these, the first war vessels to New Zealand since its colonisation, and even Queen Victoria, then in the early years of her reign, visited Portsmouth, accompanied by her Ministers and attendants, to witness the despatch of the three primitive men-of-war from England to a much-spoken-of but little-known British possession in an isolated quarter of the globe, and situated in the midst of the mighty deep of the Pacific Ocean.

Whilst, onboard the Calliope, her Majesty and her Ministers were in conversation with the chief officers, Captain Stanley, with other matters, made mention of the fact that amongst all the crew ready to sail for New Zealand there was only one seaman who had ever been to the colony, and he was aboard the Calliope, and had been picked up by him whilst in London. Her Majesty thereupon demanded his appearance before her, and Captain Stanley commanded that all hands be ordered aft and roll called, and Seaman Smith came forward when directed to do so, and made a low obeisance to her Majesty when he discovered that she desired to speak to him. In a few sentences she elicited from him the proud fact that twice he had been to New Zealand, had acted a s pilot, and also knew the rebel chief - Rauparaha or Roporo - by sight, and had on one occasion entered his pah and been invited to dine there. He expressed his keen desire to be of service to her Majesty as a seaman of the navy. Along with his astonished comrades he was then dismissed to his quarters below deck. Some time after this event, and just before sailing, Captain Stanley gave him a pleasurable surprise by announcing to him the fact that her Majesty had seen fit, with the captain's consent, to appoint him coxswain of the Calliope.

Coxswain Smith was then a young and able seaman, and his new and unlooked-for promotion kindled fresh desires within him, and he longed to be of service to his captain and his Queen. He afterwards was both, especially to his Captain, whose life he saved some time later in New Zealand, and from whom, as well as the first lieutenant, he received a 10 pound note for his services in piloting the three war vessels into Wellington Harbour, on which occasion a salute of 11 guns from each vessel was fired as they approached the settlement which at present forms the Empire City of New Zealand.

Coxswain Smith's knowledge and usefulness was still further proved during the period of three and a -half years he was connected with the Calliope. In the first instance the gunboats were sent to assist the troops in quelling the Maori disturbance at Porirua Bay, where Rauparaha and his fighting chief Rangihaeata were stationed, after having put the whole country in an uproar. Colonel Montgomery was in command of some 200 troops, composed chiefly of men from the war vessels, who worked separately and independently of the soldiers.

The Natives occupied a fortified position on a hill, surrounded by the marines and troops below, who were somewhat exposed and within easy range of firearms, but ready for word of command; and it was in connection with this incident that Colonel Montgomery fell, it is believed, shot by one of his own men. The colonel had given word that no shot be fired by the troops unless he gave express command for them to do so. This treated with a great amount of disfavour by the soldiers, as the rebels had been a bloodthirsty lot, and all they wished was to be revenged for deeds done by them to helpless European settlers at their mercy. Captain Hunter, who had charge of the militia, said the command would be obeyed so long as none of his men were in the meantime shot by the rebels, when his men could return fire. Unfortunately this was what happened, for the Native rebels pouring in a deadly volley upon the troops, the militia returned fire, and it was they who, led by the marines, scaled the forts above them, and completely routed the pah, but not without some loss of life, as afterwards Colonel Montgomery, was found dead amongst the others, on the level ground beneath the hill.

The troops and marines searched in vain for the rebel chiefs, who made their escape, though some time after Rauparaha was discovered in an old whare at Kapiti; and the gunboat from the Calliope, manned by 30 of a crew under the lieutenant, went there to capture him. A marine, by name Simmonds, rushed un upon the notorious chief, who all but severed the anxious man's thumb from his hand by means of his sharp teeth and strength of frame, for which act he would have been killed on the spot by the others had not the lieutenant forbade such a procedure, and had him conveyed alive to his vessel, where captain Stanley secured him, afterwards sailing with him to Auckland, at which place he was released on condition that he restored peace between his followers and the European settlers, which he promised he would endeavour to see carried out, though it is doubtful weather it would not have been as well to have him kept for a State prisoner,, for he had not joined his followers any length of time before his fighting chief - Rangihaeata - and his warriors were again on the warpath.

The subsequent outbreak among the natives in the Taranaki district, the men of the Calliope being called upon to render assistance, which they did, landing some 100 bluejackets, who were led by the first lieutenant, Captain Stanley and his attendant following in the rear. It was on this occasion, as they were passing through some dense ferns and scrub, that Coxswain Smith saved his master's life. The main body of the company had passed on through the dense undergrowth some distance, when a willy Native scout, who had secreted himself whilst the others had passed on, sprang from his lair, and had he not been quickly observed by attendant Smith, who cutlassed the rebel on the spot, Captain Stanley would have fared badly indeed, as the Native had all but pounced on him unperceived. Captain Stanley did not forget this timely aid on the part of his attendant, and some time afterwards, peace having been restored and the other vessels recalled to join the Calliope, he tried hard to persuade Smith to go with them to England, where he would endeavour to obtain a consideration for services rendered to himself and country. Being still comparatively young and active, and having a desire to remain in New Zealand, Smith decided to obtain leave from his vessel and settle on the land which was granted him; Smith settled in Wellington, where he married, and subsequently came to the Wairarapa, where he is living a quiet and retired life to-day, and is now past his seventieth year.

Another early colonist.