BOYD, ship : There are various and conflicting versions as to who were actually the perpetrators of the massacre, but the facts relating to the destruction of the ship and the murder of almost her entire complement of 70 persons correspond in every detail-that while lying at anchor in Whangaroa Harbour about the middle of December, 1809, the Boyd was plundered and burned to the water’s edge, and all on board with the exception of four, killed and eaten. The four spared were an apprentice named Davies, a woman, and two children.
The Boyd, an English ship of between 500 and 600 tons register, was owned by Mr. George Brown, of London, and commanded by Captain John Thompson. Chartered by the Government as a transport for convicts, the Boyd and her human freight of 142 convicts, five of whom died on the passage, and a detachment of the 73rd Regiment, sailed from London on March 10, 1809, and arrived at Port Jackson on August 14. On November 8 of the same year the ship, under charter to Mr. S Lord, of Port Jackson, sailed with a cargo of timber, sealskins, coal, and oil for the Cape of Good Hope, calling at Whangaroa en route to load spars.
The first account of the destruction of the Boyd to be made public was that of Alexander Berry, supercargo on the ship City of Edinburgh, which had been lying at the Bay of Islands from the end of October, but as he derived his information from the Maoris, whose language he could only partly understand, it is not likely to be entirely correct.
In an account he sent to the owner, Berry stated that during his stay in the neighbouring harbour of the Bay of Islands he heard frequent reports of a ship in Whangaroa being taken by the Maoris, and her crew killed and eaten. In order to verify the truth of these reports, and to rescue, if possible, several people who had been spared in the general massacre, an armed party, which included Berry, James Russell, the mate of the City of Edinburgh,and Metanganga, a principal chief of the Bay of Islands, who had volunteered his services, embarked in three boats, and on December 31, 1809, left for Whangaroa. On arrival there the party found the remains of the Boyd, which was- lying in shoal water, near the present site of Kaeo, stripped of everything of value and burned down to the copper sheathing. Through the good offices of Metanganga they rescued a woman, a youth, and two children, the only survivors of the massacre. They also brought away as prisoners two of the principal chiefs, through whom they obtained a box containing Government dispatches.
The version, which has all the appearances of being the correct one, is that given by the Rev. Samuel Marsden, and elicited from questions asked of the ringleaders, the facts of which are as follows : Three days after the arrival of the Boyd at Whangaroa, in December, 1809, the Maoris, in revenge for the flogging and other indignities heaped upon the person of the chief Tara, who, along with another chief, had been a passenger on the ship, determined on and carried out the pillage of the Boyd and the massacre of almost her entire complement. In his book, Voyage to New Zealand, J. L. Nicholas described Tara as having a countenance which pointed him as capable of committing such an atrocity. He had made several voyages in whaling vessels, and was known to his European shipmates as “George”. Tara spoke English fluently, but was of a treacherous disposition and impudent bearing. It was his father, Pepio, of the Ngati-Uru tribe, who accidentally caused the fire on board the Boyd through the ignition of part of the plundered powder.
In trying a flint in a musket, the resulting spark caused an explosion which killed Pepio and four other Maoris. Marsden also ascertained that Te Pahi was guiltless of any complicity in the killing of the crew, but, on the other hand, made strenuous efforts to save the lives of five members of the crew who had taken refuge in the rigging, and actually had them in his canoe, but owing to his party being outnumbered, had to surrender them. The mistake Berry made in naming him as the principal culprit evidently arose from the similarity of his name and that of another Maori, Te Puhi, and the fact that he arrived on a trading expedition on the day of the massacre. Unfortunately, these facts were not known until some years later. After the burning of the Boyd seven whaling ships operating off the coast of New Zealand each despatched an armed boat’s crew, and an attack was made on Te Pahi’s island pa. Every man, woman
and child in sight was shot, and Te Pahi himself sustained severe wounds, from which he died a few days later.