We extract the following interesting account of the melancholy catastrophe of the Boyd, at New Zealand, in 1809, from
Chevalier Captain Dillon's "Narrative of the Discovery of the Fate of La Perouse." The author is detailing the substance of a conversation
with a New Zealand chief, named Moyhanger:—
"In the course of our conversation he informed me that his tribe had assisted Mr
Berry of the ship City of Edinburgh, to receive
the survivors of the Boyd from the people of Wangaroa, His mentioning this
circumstance induced me to enquire of him what he knew of the fate of that ship, which he readily agreed to relate to me.
"Before giving Moyhanger's story, I must relate some circumstances anterior to it, which I am myself acquainted with, and which will serve as a prelude to the tragedy.
"The first European vessel that entered Wangaroa was the Star, an English South- seaman, commanded by Captain Wilkinson, who arrived there in 1805 or 1806. The head chief of Wangaroa at that period was named "Peepee" (or Cockle), who had a son. The chief requested Captain Wilkinson to take his son with him to Europe, where he might procure some tokees (iron tools) and fish-hooks for his father and tribe. The young man accordingly embarked with an attendant on the Star, and sailed with Captain Wilkinson to the seal fishery at the Antipodes Islands. While on board the young prince obtained the name of George, which he retained till his death, which happened in 1823. On the Captain's return from the seal fishery, he touched at Wangaroa, where George requested to be landed, and was accordingly restored to his friends, having been treated by the good captain with particular kindness during the voyage.
"The next vessel which visited Wangaroa
was the Commerce brig, which came here for spars in 1807.
"After her, in 1808, the Elisabeth, belonging to Mr. Blaxcell, of Port Jackson, and Commanded by Captain Stuard, bound for the Fejees, touched At Wangaroa on her voyage. It was in this vessel that Prince George a second time quitted his friends and native country, to try what he could gain by adventure. He performed the voyage to the Fejees, and from thence to Port Jackson,
where he arrived in November of the same
year. Here he met his old friend Captain Wilkinson of the Star, and did not require much persuasion to induce him to embark
with him upon a sealing expedition to the
"It may be necessary to observe in this place, that the rate of payment in whaling and sealing ships entirely depends upon the success which may attend the voyage, there being a certain proportion of the skins or oil allotted to each individual, according to the capacity in which he engages, or his skill in the fishery. Hence it is not improbable that the adventurers may, on some voyages, make a very handsome "lay," as the South-sea-men term it; while, it is equally possible, that they may have nothing for a long and tedious voyage; the whole depending, as
before stated, on the success which they
The vessel in which George shipped was employed till late in 1809 in a fruitless search after the seals, and the consequence was, that after twelve months' labour and fatigue at seas, poor George had nothing to receive: a circumstance which preyed on his mind, being incapable of reasoning on the fairness of the system of pay in the sealing trade. It was sufficient for him to know that he had worked enough for the white people to be entitled to some compensation, and not receiving any, he considered himself
On his return to Port Jackson he shipped on the Boyd, without either tokees or nails, to return to his native country, almost as poor as he quitted it. The Boyd was a ship of nearly 500 tons burden, and was commanded by John Thompson: she belonged to the highly respectable firm of Boyd, Buckle and Buchanan, of London. She was chartered by the British Government early in 1809 to convey convicts and stores to New South Wales, where having arrived, she was partly chartered by Mr. S. Lord, of Sydney, to proceed to Wangaroa for spars, which were to be discharged at the Cape of Good Hope. Mr. Lord also put on board a quantity of New South Wales mahogany, seal skins, oil, and coals, for the same market, in all amounting to
"There was an East-India Captain, named Burnsides, who was a passenger in her, and who having by industry accumulated a for- tune of £10,000, was on his return to end his days among his friends on the banks of the Liffey. This was an object poor Burnsides had always kept in view: it was the goal of his long and arduous exertions; a subject to which with such fondness he constantly adverted during the period I had been intimately acquainted with him. But, alas! he was doomed to end his days far otherwise than among friends: he never again beheld the populous banks of the river Liffey; but was murdered on the savage shores of Wangaroa.
"Having premised thus much, I shall now proceed with Moyhanger's narrative.
"A few days after the Boyd had sailed for Port Jackson, the cook, by accident or neglect, threw overboard in a bucket of water a dozen of pewter spoons belonging to the captain's mess. Apprehensive of incurring a ropes-ending for his negligence,
he formed the fatal resolve of exculpating himself by a lie, which, as it in the event proved, was the cause of the destruction of the ship, of the loss of seventy lives, British subjects, who were killed, roasted, and devoured, and of the demolition of property to the amount of nearly £40,000.
"The cook, to screen himself from blame, informed the captain that George and his attendant had stolen them; and the captain, without sufficient investigation into the affair, ordered the New Zealand chief before him, and directed the boatswain to punish him, who, being a powerful man, performed this office with severity. In vain did George urge that he was a chief, and ought not to be degraded by punishment: Captain Thompson only replied that he was a cokey (slave), thus adding insult to the injury. George still insisted that he was a chief, and that, upon their arrival at New Zealand the Captain should see it! His, remonstrance, however, was of no avail, and he received a punishment the marks of
which he bore on his back when he rejoined
"Captain Thompson's behaviour in this affair cannot be too much censured. Savages are characterised by a peculiar susceptibility
of Indignity, while they are equally susceptible of gratitude. In fact, the extreme to which these opposite passions predominate in their breasts, forms one of the principal traits in the uncivilized mind. There cannot be the least doubt that, from the moment George's appeals were disregarded, the Boyd and those on board were marked for destruction, as the only means of appeasing his thirst for revenge.
The ship arrived at Wangaroa, I believe, late in December the same year, and George, with his attendant, instantly landed, having apparently forgotten his recent chastisement, but inwardly vowing deep revenge. He hastened to his friends, and informed them that he had served the White men for two raw-mathies,* but had not received anything in return; that he came back nearly as poor as when he first departed from among them; and that, to crown all his wrongs, the Captain of the Boyd had severely beaten him but a few days before. He then uncovered his back and exhibited the marks, yet livid from the effects of the lash. This sight roused the feelings of George's subjects to the highest pitch of indignation, and they vowed revenge on those who had thus mal- treated their chief. The show of friendship towards the devoted captain was still kept up to the last; and the next morning was appointed by Captain Thompson to proceed the forest where the spars grew, which was situated about nine or ten miles up the
"George now planned the massacre, which he successfully and fatally carried into effect on the following day. He directed those of his countrymen who stopped behind in the village to get on board the ship by dusk in the evening, and that he with the party who accompanied Captain Thompson
and his men would murder them, and clothing themselves in the European dresses, would under this disguise join their countrymen on board before any tidings of the affair arrived, and when there they would complete
the destruction of every white survivor.
"The captain's arrangements in the morning unfortunately afforded too great a facility to the execution of this murderous project, having taken three boats with their crews up the river, and leaving very few hands to take care of the ship, or to defend
her in case of an attack.
"George before setting out reminded the villagers to obtain admittance to the ship before dusk, as arranged the evening before: this they faithfully performed. In the mean time the Europeans proceeded up the river, accompanied by George and his tribe, until they arrived at the spar forests, where they debarked, and proceeded into the recesses of the wood in quest of trees fit for their purpose. The captain began to object against one that it was too crooked, another as being too large, and a third as too short, when George threw off his New Zealand cloak, and in very plain language told him that he should have no others, and continued 'Captain Thompson, see how you have served my back' (pointing at the same time to the marks of his punishment). The throwing off the cloak was the signal for a general massacre; and George had scarcely finished the last words, When his brother dashed out the captain's brains; and in a moment, before the least opposition could be offered, every European was laid dead on the spot.
"The bodies being then stripped, were placed in the canoes, to be conveyed to the village and devoured, while George and a party of his men corresponding to the number of the murdered whites, attired themselves in the European clothes, and embarking in the boats, proceeded down the river to join the ship; which they too successfully effected before any tidings had reached those on board respecting the bloody affair.
"Here another dreadful scene of carnage ensued. The villagers, who, faithful to their chief's orders, had been some time in the ship, immediately began an indiscriminate slaughter of all those on board, in which
they were instantly joined by George and his party, yet reeking with the blood of the hapless captain and his boat's crews! Terror and dismay seized all on board, and of the whole crew and passengers only four escaped! These were: Mrs. Morley, wife of a publican of that name at Port Jackson, with her child; Miss Broughton, daughter of the acting deputy commissary-general at Port Jackson; and the cabin-boy, whose name was George, and who had behaved with much kindness to the New Zealand chief during the voyage from New South Wales. Even these were forced to conceal themselves during the sanguinary scene, and were spared the next morning when discovered, the fury of the savages having by that time in a great measure subsided.
"During the hurry of the slaughter six or seven seamen took refuge in the maintop, whither the murderers did not choose to pursue them; and they also might have been spared, were it not for the following circumstance. Tippahee, a chief from the Bay of Islands, who had been to Port Jackson twice, and was friendly toward Europeans, happened to put into Wangaroa on a fishing party while the dreadful tragedy was acting. The sailors, immediately recongnising him, besought him to save them by taking them on board of his canoes, to which he consented, desiring them to leap overboard and make the best of their way to him. In attempting this, however, some of them were overtaken and destroyed by the Wangaroans, while those who succeeded in gaining the canoes shared the same fate, Tippahee not being powerful enough to defend them from the fury of their enemies.
"But the most horrible part of this
scene was yet to be performed, a scene at, which humanity must shudder—namely, the dissecting, baking, and devouring of our unfortunate countrymen; seventy "human" bodies were about to glut the horrible appetites of cannibals. As the description of the scene would only disgust the reader, I will spare his feelings, and drop the painful
"On the day after the massacre all the
gunpowder was got on deck for partition, among the natives, some of whom went on shore with their allotments; while other, less prudent, remained on board, brooding over and rejoicing at the complete success of their bloody operations, which put them in possession of so great a quantity of that which they prized above all other things. Among the latter was a chief who had possessed himself of a musket, and pleased with his acquisition, was carelessly snapping it, to ascertain, as may be supposed, the goodness of the lock; but happening to repeat the experiment over a quantity of loose gunpowder, it ignited, and communicating
with some that was lying on the deck, exploded, destroying several of the natives then on board. By this means the ship took fire, and was quickly burnt to the water's
"Mr. Berry, then lying in the Bay of Islands, on board the City of Edinbro', hearing of the melancholy occurrence, and understanding that four people had survived the massacre, in the most philanthropic manner succeeded in ransoming them from the savages, and restored them all to their
friends; except Mrs. Morley, who died at
Lima." [*Raw-mathey signifies a year: literally a dead leaf, or the fall of the leaf.]