Analyzing everything from shipping records to death registers, this book takes an in-depth look at New Zealand's European ancestors, exploring the origins of the island's national identity. Using individual examples of immigrants and their families, it examines their geographical origins, their occupational and class backgrounds, and their religion and values to get a better understanding of the lives and motivations of New Zealand's first settlers.
About the Author
Jock Phillips is a former New Zealand official historian and is a general editor of Te Ara: The Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand. His previous books include A Man's Country: The Image of the Pakeha Male and Te Whenua, Te Iwi: The Land and the People. Terry Hearn is a historical geographer currently involved in investigating Treaty of Waitangi claims and issues. He is the author of several books and many articles dealing with New Zealand's gold rush and environmental and immigration history.
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New Zealand Immigrants from England, Ireland & Scotland, 1800â"1945
By Jock Phillips, Terry Hearn
Auckland University PressCopyright © 2008 Crown
All rights reserved.
HOW WE FORGOT OUR ANCESTORS
It was mid-summer, 9 June 1842. There were cheers from well-wishers onshore as the Duchess of Argyle was towed by the paddle-steamer Samson down the Firth of Clyde to begin its journey south towards New Zealand. On board were 178 adults and 128 children, nearly all inhabitants of the town of Paisley, close to Glasgow. The cheers temporarily hid the pain that accompanied the ship's departure. Paisley was a weaving town that had attained some fame as the home of the Paisley shawl. But the early 1840s were not a good time for weavers, or trade in general. In the ten months leading up to March 1842 a quarter of the population of Paisley, some 12,000 people, had been 'kept from actual starvation by means of soup kitchens' or charity. In consequence, a meeting of unemployed workers had resolved to ask the British government to support migration to Canada, Australia, the Cape of Good Hope or New Zealand.
In fact, a Paisley New Zealand Emigration Society had already been formed in the town. Originally it had been a Canadian society, in the belief that everybody who went to New Zealand 'was liable to be eaten up by cannibals'. But when no support for a Canadian venture was forthcoming New Zealand became the alternative, and there was a positive response. In April the Paisley Advertiser reported that the Colonial Land and Emigration Commission had decided to send two ships to 'that prosperous colony' of New Zealand, specifically to Auckland, 'the future seat of Government'. The commissioners called for tradesmen 'accustomed to prepare the materials for building' and people 'accustomed to field work'. Within two weeks 350 applications had been lodged, and in all 514 persons left aboard the Duchess of Argyle and her sister ship, the Jane Gifford. Among those on board the Duchess were Daniel Munro and his wife Elizabeth. For them, as for the other 500 souls, it cannot have been easy to set sail. Daniel came from a clan with some 700 years of history. He had been a soldier and a weaver. Paisley was his home-town. It must have been hard saying goodbye to friends and family. Elizabeth, the daughter of a shoemaker, and probably a Protestant, had already left her home, Cork in Ireland. For her, moving a second time may have been easier. But she had the anxiety of taking their four children, aged from two to thirteen, across tumultuous seas to a land where perhaps there would be cannibals to greet her.
Four months later, on 8 October, the Duchess of Argyle stranded on a sandbank near Auckland, and the next day the family disembarked. They waded ashore through mud and water, carrying their children and their boxes of precious possessions. They received a friendly welcome from Maori on the beach.
Today we would love to be able to look inside their boxes to see what the Munros brought with them. What did Daniel wish to carry to the new land from his Paisley background? What were the physical mementos, and what were the cultural traditions he brought? We know that when his eldest daughter, Ellen, gave birth to her first New Zealand child nine years later she followed Scottish naming patterns and called her son after his paternal grandfather. And Elizabeth? What did she bring from Cork?
Daniel and Elizabeth and their four children were among the first of the thousands of people, over half a million, who came out from Britain and Ireland to a new land on the other side of the globe between 1800 and 1945. They were a varied lot. In Auckland the Munros would soon be joined by Irish peasants who had come via Australia, and later by non-Conformists from the Midlands. There were miners from Cornwall, domestic servants from Belfast, hop-pickers from Kent, knitters and fisher folk from the Shetlands in the far north of Britain, even seamen from Jersey in the English Channel. Each came with a distinct accent, language and customs. Their habits, beliefs and prejudices were not erased the moment they stepped on board ship. Such people helped build the Pakeha culture that emerged in New Zealand and eventually came to dominate the Maori culture already established here. To get to know these people better we need to find out exactly where they came from, in what numbers, and what their backgrounds were. Providing a solid statistical basis for this understanding is an essential first step in explaining the origins of New Zealand's Pakeha culture.
It may seem strange that only in the last two decades have New Zealanders begun to explore this question systematically. The Munros' story was one of over a hundred such family histories that were collected in a 1990 competition held by the New Zealand Society of Genealogists to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi. It is striking how often the authors of these essays commented on their prior ignorance about their ancestors. Val Wood, wondering at the significance of her father's name, Charles Heaphy, asked, 'Who were we? Where did we come from? Where had the family lived before I was born and before my dad was born?' All she knew was, 'at the back of my mind I can hear someone saying he had jumped ship and covered up his tracks'. It turned out that her ancestor had nothing to do with the famous painter Charles Heaphy, nor had he jumped ship. He had been a labourer in County Galway, Ireland. He had joined the army, and eventually came out in 1847 with his wife Catherine as one of a group of ex-soldiers, the so-called Fencibles, who were given land in return for helping to guard Auckland.
Val Wood's ignorance of her family history is not unusual. Many New Zealanders remain surprisingly ignorant of their own particular immigrant ancestors. Maori, most of whom have Pakeha forebears, have stories of their founding waka, but rarely of their European ancestry. There are some intriguing possibilities as to why this collective amnesia exists. For some of the immigrants themselves there was little incentive to remember the family back home. There were those who had left to escape embarrassing or difficult personal situations, and for whom the new country offered a fresh start and a clean slate. Some may have been thrown out of their families after a youthful misdemeanour, others may have wished to escape an unfortunate marriage, while a few were born out of wedlock and wanted to escape the stigma of illegitimacy.
Marianne Dockery, the daughter of a Kent gardener, fled to Nelson in 1842 with her new husband when her parents opposed her marriage. Another daughter of a Kent gardener, Mary Small, came across from Australia under an assumed name to escape her husband, who mistreated her and her three children. Such people did not want to remember their families. A few would have been like the great West Coast explorer Charlie Douglas, who presumably hid the fact that he came from a middle-class Edinburgh accountant's family because it would have been a hindrance, not a help, among mates in the bush. On the other hand, Thomas Porter, a prominent soldier in the New Zealand Wars and the South African War, falsified his past to give himself airs. He claimed to be the son of John William Porter, a military officer serving in India, when in fact his father was a Surrey labourer called John Potter.
More common were those, like the Munros, who came to New Zealand because they were driven from home by declining financial circumstances and the fear of imminent poverty and hunger. Once they arrived in New Zealand such migrants often exaggerated the negative qualities of the Old World, and they had no great incentive to recall with affectionate longing the details of home life. Practicalities also made regular contact with the folks at home difficult. Although many, perhaps up to a third of nineteenth-century migrants, left New Zealand disillusioned, few except the rich went home just for a temporary visit to catch up. Quite a number of the first-generation migrants were not literate, and it was clearly difficult to sustain a correspondence when there was six months between writing a letter and receiving a reply.
There were countervailing factors. Most migrants had left behind friends, if not family, and many diaries recall the tears and the anguish, particularly from women migrants, as they boarded the ship for the 100-day journey to New Zealand. Once settled here, many new arrivals sent letters flowing back across the seas, often intended to encourage other members of the family or local community to make the journey. In 1885, to take one year, almost 1.1 million letters left New Zealand for Britain and Ireland from a UK-born population of about 230,000 – some five letters for every person born in the United Kingdom, or about one letter a month for each household. The continued importance of British family connections for second- and third-generation New Zealanders may be judged by the numbers of New Zealand-born soldiers who visited their relatives when they were on leave in Britain during the First World War. There is hardly a soldier's diary that does not record his efforts to find Mum's cousin or Dad's aunt.
But when those soldiers returned to New Zealand and travel back 'Home' declined, and as increasing numbers of Pakeha New Zealanders became the third or fourth generation to live in the new country, there was a diminishing incentive to recall family origins. As individuals moved around New Zealand the boxes of letters were lost. In popular writing, especially the autobiographies that flowed out in the years between the wars, there was an emphasis on the 'pioneering' experience in the new country rather than on the authors' particular Old World origins.
There was of course a general sense of New Zealand's 'British' heritage – Britain was still 'Home' until after the Second World War, and New Zealand went to war in 1939 on the principle 'Where Britain goes, we go'. But this was more an identification, drummed in at school, with Britain's cultural and military heritage rather than with any personal knowledge of an individual family's origins. The Old World heritage came increasingly to be redefined in terms of upper-class traditions, not the regional traditions from which a majority of New Zealanders had descended. Some members of the elite did recall their Old World origins because they had the resources to keep hold of their family heirlooms – such as portraits and diaries – and on occasion could afford to travel back to Britain. But even they tended to elevate the New World pioneers over their Old World ancestors – so in Dunedin there were the walls of portraits of 'early settlers', in Canterbury there were those who emphasised their lineage from 'the first four ships', and in Wellington there were proud members of the 'Founders' Society'.
Nor did the historians piece together New Zealand's Pakeha lineage. The first great New Zealand historian, William Pember Reeves, in his 1898 classic The Long White Cloud, was primarily interested in showing the New Zealanders as a 'British race' numerically dominated by 'whites' as distinct from 'browns' and 'yellows'. Pember Reeves stressed the transforming effect of the environment, which produced a bronzed 'island race' who lived close to 'trees, flower gardens and grass'. However, he did observe the comparatively large Celtic element, and noted the 'Scotch' in the south and the Irish in the mining districts. He argued that the 'Scotch' were prominent in politics, commerce, finance, sheepfarming and the work of education. He also suggested incisively – and this is a point to which we will return – that the New Zealanders were 'a British race in a sense in which the inhabitants of the British Isles scarcely are' because they lived together, met daily and intermarried.
These promising insights were not followed up. For the first half of the twentieth century, the view to be found in such texts as Maori and Pakeha, by A. W. Shrimpton and Alan Mulgan, was that New Zealand's immigrants were essentially 'better British'. Influenced by G. H. Scholefield, they argued that the superior character of New Zealand's immigrants followed from the selective process of immigration itself. Those who came by themselves had to pass the test of individual courage and enterprise, while those who came out with the New Zealand Company or in later schemes of assistance had been deliberately selected for their capacity and character. Even the goldminers were praised as 'a virile, energetic, warm-hearted body of men'. Their moral superiority was the important point about the cultural baggage of New Zealand's immigrants.
When serious academic historians interested in New Zealand emerged after the Second World War they tended to be driven by a nationalist vision that emphasised developments and influences in the New World. They were more interested in the transforming impact of the frontier, whether in the form of the bush or the frontier's indigenous inhabitants, than in the background of the immigrant groups from Britain and Ireland. The doyen of the Auckland historians, Keith Sinclair, positively relished describing the way frontier reality undermined Old World visions, and in A History of New Zealand he gave no more than a couple of lines to the great migrations of the 1870s.
There were other factors that led to a downplaying of emphasis on immigrants and their contribution. The Second World War itself had encouraged a perspective that looked to explanations based on environment over genetic inheritance – perhaps influenced by the reaction against Nazism and racism. Migration studies of a large enough scope to say something about New Zealand as a whole were difficult to pursue in a pre- computer age, and the absence of census schedules in New Zealand made detailed analysis more difficult than in other migrant societies such as the United States. The secularism of the nationalist agenda also deflected attention away from the range of religious traditions brought by settlers from the United Kingdom. The result was that for almost 40 years after the war studies of New Zealand's British and Irish immigrants were surprisingly thin – little more than a few theses on topics that were highly restricted in time and place, such as immigration into Canterbury in the provincial period, or to Hawke's Bay in the 1860s and 1870s.
Even historians (such as W. H. Oliver) who were interested in the cultural baggage brought from the Old World focused not on the migrants themselves but on the institutions and ideals established by the elite. There was discussion of democracy and economic individualism, and even Puritanism, but much less of the particular food habits or rituals that might have arrived here in the bags of people from particular places in the British Isles. In historical writing, as in the popular culture, the term 'British' became a catch-all, a term that was superimposed on a number of national and regional cultures and obscured the distinct traditions and aspirations brought by migrants to New Zealand. It also hid the very distinctive contribution of the Irish. Patrick O'Farrell wrote: 'The image and reputation of New Zealand is English: narrower even than the circumscribed British. Ireland and the Irish do not enter Keith Sinclair's Pelican History of New Zealand. ...' New Zealand, he concluded, 'was the only British colony where it was both possible and conceptually necessary to completely purge the Irish from national and historical consciousness'.
By 1990, in both popular culture and historical writing, knowledge about New Zealanders' 'British' and 'Irish' origins was surprisingly weak. In a survey of New Zealand historiography in that year, Jock Phillips noted the lack of attention that had been paid to the range of cultural influences in New Zealand and called for 'a cultural history, a history which can recover in loving detail the diversity of cultures that once settled here'. Two years later Erik Olssen also observed that the ethnic diversity of those who migrated to New Zealand had been the victim of a 'curious lack of interest'.
Excerpted from Settlers by Jock Phillips, Terry Hearn. Copyright © 2008 Crown. Excerpted by permission of Auckland University Press.
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Table of Contents
1. Setting Off,
2. The Ebbs and Flows of Migration,
3. The Settlers,
4. The New Land,