(Last updated 5 April, 2021)
Although Richard (Dicky) Barrett’s place of birth has been regarded as uncertain, Anne Hodgson’s and Ron McLean’s research indicates there are records in the United Kingdom stating that Dicky was born in Cherry Garden Street, Rotherhithe, South London in 1807 to parents Matthew & Sarah Barrett. Dicky was their third child, one of seven children.
According to McLean, ‘…the South Bank [had became] a dumping ground for the dirtier trades that had been shut out of the City. Tanners and leather dressers were confined to Bermondsey because of the obnoxious nature of their trade, and by the end of the eighteenth century, Bermondsey was characterised as a place of slums and alleys’. However, despite his impoverished upbringing, Barrett did learn to read and write, as is evidenced from the journal that he went on to keep, and in other correspondence such as letters to his family.
There is a British Merchant Navy record of Richard Barrett, aged 14, being indentured in the British Merchant Navy, bound on 12 January 1821 for five years. This would link with the age of Dicky Barrett as he too was born in 1807.
What motivated the young Dickey Barrett to go to sea> Dicky was aged nine when his mother died. He may have been unhappy at his father’s re-marrying. Or he may have simply needed to get out and earn a living, which in those days would have been common for children at age 12 to 14 or younger. As Dicky’s grandfather was a ’waterman’; and his father was a ‘mariner’ and ‘lighterman’, it made sense for Dicky to seek a trade in the maritime industry.
After gaining qualifications and experience during his time in the merchant navy, on 12 January 1826 Dicky Barrett set sail as a crew member on board a trading vessel bound for the South Pacific. As we shall see, young Barrett was an adventurous, inquisitive and gregarious man, bound for a very interesting life.
By 1828, Dicky had become the first mate, with John (Jacky) Love as the captain, on the 60 ton schooner Adventure. The vessel was owned by Sydney merchants Thomas Street and Thomas Hyndes. Jacky, Dicky and their crew worked the trans-Tasman trade, leaving Sydney in February 1828 loaded with clothes and blankets, muskets and powder, tobacco, razors and rum, barley and corn, and discharging to storehouses in Kororareka (Russell) and in what is now known as Queen Charlotte Sound and Port Nicholson (Wellington). They returned to Sydney with pigs, flax and potatoes.
Arrival at Ngāmotu, 1828
On its second trip in 1828, the Adventure was intercepted off the coast of Taranaki by two waka (canoes) paddled by 40 warriors from the Te Atiawa tribe, led by rangatira (chiefs) Honiana Te Puni-kokopu (Te Puni) and Te Wharepouri. On board the Adventure along with Love and Barrett were George Ashdown, James Bosworth, William Bundy, Joseph Davis, William Keenan, a chap called Lee from the USA, a chap called Oliver, James Robinson and Daniel Sheridan, Robert Sinclair and .
The Adventure’s arrival off the coast of Taranaki came almost 60 years after Captain James Cook’s first voyage in 1769. Although Cook returned to New Zealand twice, he did not go ashore in Taranaki.
Up to that point Te Atiawa had limited exposure to Europeans. However, Te Ātiawa would have acquired some knowledge about the benefits of contact with Pākehā (European) traders – particularly from the acquisition of iron tools, woollen blankets and muskets – from the experiences of other iwi and from some limited previous contact, and were keen to build a trading relationship with Pākehā for the purposes of securing arms and other goods. While Pākehā had set up trading stations in other parts of Aotearoa, the lack of a natural harbour in Taranaki meant traders lacked the incentive to go ashore and investigate the potential for trade on their own initiative, let alone establish a permanent base there. Around that time there were an estimated 300 Pākehā living in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and at least 100,000 Māori (Te Ara: Maori-Pakeha Relations).
Love and Barrett, keen to expand their trade connections, agreed to go ashore at Ngā Motu (The Islands) to see what was available to trade, where they inspected flax and pigs. According to Bremner, ‘Te Atiawa, pressing for a trading post permanently occupied by Pakeha to ensure prosperity and preservation, presented high born Te Atiawa women to Barrett and Love. Barrett’s partnered Wakaiwa and he took the Māori name of Tiki Parete. Jacky Love’s Māori name was Hikirau and his partner was Mereruru Te Hikinua. By staying at Ngamotu (as the site is called now), Barrett, Love and their men became the fist European residents in the Taranaki region’.
The practice of giving a wife to distinguished visitors was a well-established custom within Polynesia as the people regularly travelled from their home lands to other islands. The relationships formed were accompanied with land transfers which in turn became inheritable by the offspring of visitors (History and Traditions of the Māoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand prior to 1840: Chapter V – The canoes of “The Fleet“).
Wakaiwa Rāwinia (also known as Rangi, but Barrett called her Lavinia, an anglicised version of Rāwinia) was the daughter of Eruera Te Puki-Ki-Mahurangi and Kuramai-Te-Ra and granddaughter of Tautara, the ariki (paramount chief) of Te Atiawa, and Maheuheu. Tautara, who resided at the Puketapu Pā (in the present day Bell Block), was the son of Te Puhi-Mañawa and Mairangi. Tautara was related to ariki in other iwi and could trace his whakapapa (genealogy) back over six hundred years, to the origins of Maori from the southern Cook Islands and Tahiti in East Polynesia. Angela Caughey traced Rāwinia’s ancestry back seven generations to Tukiarangi. Rāwinia’s full whakapapa is available here.
Being a woman of such high-ranking, Rāwinia’s marriage to Barrett was a reflection of the high status in which the trader was held by Te Atiawa.
According to research by Angela Caughey and others Rāwinia belonged to the Ngāti Rahiri and Ngāti Maru hapū of Te Atiawa (J & H Mitchell, p333) however there are no direct links from Rāwinia’s parents to those two hapū. There are many references to Rāwinia being of the Ngāti Te Whiti, and that is backed up by Rāwinia, her children and her father being recorded as Ngāti Te Whiti in the census completed by Donald McLean in 1847.
Rāwinia’s grandfather, Tautara has been described variously as belonging to the Puketapu, Ngāti Rahiri and Ngāti Tawhirikura hapū of Te Ātiawa. I have yet to find any evidence of a link to the Ngāti Maru.
In any case, Rāwinia can be unambiguously described as part of the Ngamotu hapū that was the dominant hapū in the area during her lifetime. See my posting on Rāwinia’s hapū connections for more details and analysis.
By the weight of evidence the Mitchells rightly concluded that, ‘By virtue of her own status within the tribes she afforded protection and support that helped ensure the success of her husband’s commercial endeavours’ (page 335). The Mitchell’s included Rāwinia in the section of their publication covering Nga Wahine Toa – brave women or women leaders.
Rāwinia was reputed to have been one of the most beautiful and talented Māori woman of her time.
Dicky and Rāwinia had three daughters. Caroline (Kararaina) was born at Ngamotu in February 1829, followed by Mary Ann (Mereana) in December 1831. Sarah (Hera) was born in June 1835 at Te Awaiti Bay on Arapawa Island in Tõtaranui (Queen Charlotte Sound).
Mary died in 1840 at the age of eight years. Sarah married William Henry Honeyfield on 5 April, 1853. Caroline married James Charles Honeyfield in 1865.
Departure from Ngāmotu
As well as being a trader, Dicky went on to become an explorer, a whaler, interpreter and agent to the NZ Company, a publican and farmer.
After leaving Taranaki in 1832 (covered in a separate posting) Dicky established a shore based whaling station in Te Awaiti Bay, Tōtaranui (Queen Charlotte Sound).
Not long after the New Zealand Company’s Tory arrived in 1839, Dicky was engaged by Colonel William Wakefield acting as interpreter in negotiations for the sale of land at Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Port Nicholson, Wellington), Tōtaranui and Taranaki. More details about the negotiations and subsequent disputes are covered here.
Wakefield apparently described Barrett as being fond of relating “wild adventures and hairbreadth scapes”. Edward Jerningham Wakefield (William’s nephew) described Barrett at the time they met as:
Dressed in a white jacket, blue dungaree trousers and round straw hat, he seemed perfectly round all over, and good-humoured smile could not fail to excite pleasure in all beholders (Adventure in New Zealand).
Ernst Diefenbach, naturalist on the Tory, noted Barrett’s sunny disposition. ‘His ruddy and good-humoured countenance showed, at all events, that such a life had not occasioned him many sleepless nights, and that in New Zealand a man might thrive, at least as far as regards his bodily welfare’ (J & H Mitchell, page 336).
The only known portrait of Barrett seems supportive of the Wakefield’s assessment.
Wakefield named a hazardous reef at the western side of the entrance to Wellington Harbour Barrett Reef, after Dicky.
There are other testimonies to Barrett’s skill for storytelling. McLean stated that:
[Barrett] regaled credulous settlers on numerous occasions with tales about the siege at Otaka Pa, including long and detailed accounts of cannibalism to shocked audiences. Other accounts included tales of being tied to a stake while Māori prepared to cook him for dinner (page 74).
Dicky went on to develop various business interests in the new settlement in Wellington, including establishing Barrett’s Hotel which became something of a civic centre in the new colony.
Return to Ngāmotu
Barrett’s whaling business suffered heavy losses and, after he was forced to sell his hotel in 1841, he led a party of Te Atiawa back to Taranaki and went on to help establish new settlers in New Plymouth.
While in Wellington however, Barrett, as the New Zealand Company’s chief agent for the proposed settlement of New Plymouth, was engaged by the Plymouth Company’s surveyor, Frederick Carrington, in January 1841, as a pilot / interpreter on Carrington’s mission to select possible sites for the establishment of a new settlement. As Barrett was already planning on returning to Ngamotu he set out to persuade Carrington to select the Ngamotu area as the new site. One of Barrett’s tactics was to guide Carrington around the steep and mountainous areas of land in Queen Charlotte Sounds, and the Te Atiawa settlement at Motueka, where the land was low, swampy and liable flood from the rising sea. The area then known as Nelson Haven, which on closer inspection had the advantage over Taranaki in having a natural harbour, was over-looked by Barrett.
A small number of Te Atiawa had remained at Ngamotu, keeping the home fires burning. They lived on one of the islands, Mikotahi, which was a semi-island fortress. Among this group of people were Rāwinia’s parents.
On 28 March, 1841, Dicky and Rāwinia were married by the Wesleyan missionary Reverend Charles Creed at the Mission House, Ngamotu. Their surviving daughters Caroline and Sarah were also baptised that day. In his December 1846 letter to Donald McLean (at that time the Inspector of Policy), Harcourt Aubrey wrote, “His [Barrett’s] marriage gave him additional influence over his wife’s people, for the natives seem now, fully as as well Europeans, to understand the binding nature of the marriage contract” (Papers Past, National Library). By then Aubrey would have got to know Barrett quite well, having came out to Aotearoa/New Zealand in 1840 as an assistant surveyor with Frederick Carrington. In his letter Aubrey described Barrett as “a remarkable individual”, having experienced much in his 20 years in Aotearoa.
At about the time of Barrett’s return to live in New Plymouth he wrote a letter to his brother asking for news of home and his family, but also complaining about previous correspondence not being replied to. It was not until 1842 that Barrett had news from his family in England, some 15 years after he had left home (McLean).
Barrett went on to be one of the first men to drive cattle from Wellington to New Plymouth, and he introduced new crops and vegetables to Taranaki. He established a cattle farm and horticulture business, while continuing in whaling and trading in flax.
Barrett and his crew regularly provided assistance to new emigrant arrivals in New Plymouth, providing them with temporary accommodation and assisting with the landing of cargo with his whaleboats. In a letter to the directors of the Plymouth Company on May 2, 1841, Mr George Cutfield wrote that,”Mr Barrett has done everything in his power to assist us in land the cargo [from the William Brian] with one of his whaleboats for which I shall have to pay him.” (Wells, B). The following watercolour painting by Arthur Messenger captures one such scene in 1842.
Barrett’s shore-based whaling station, consisting of trypots, harpoons, wind lasses and long boats that lay on Ngamotu beach, could be quickly utilised whenever spotters on the lookout at nearby Paritutu saw a whale offshore. ‘Once caught the carcass was floated back to shore where it would be stripped of baleen and oil and the remains were left to rot on the sand’. (from Ngamotu – more than just a beach, Puke Ariki Learning & Research).
As Barrett was instrumental in securing land at New Plymouth from The New Zealand Company, he was allocated Barretts Reserve A, 23 hectares (56 acres) between the Hongi-hongi Stream and what is now Pioneer Road (which used to be part of Barrett Road).
Another 68 hectares (168 acres) known as Barrett Lagoon (Barrett Reserve C & D) had been given over to Barrett by Rāwinia’s father, Te Puke Mahurangi when Barrett first partnered Rāwinia in 1828 (in keeping with the well-established Polynesian custom of giving local interests to distinguished visitors). The land allocated to Barrett would not have been a transfer of land ownership in the European sense as it was not Te Puke’s land to sell as all land was held by hapū collectively. In keeping with traditional Māori custom, the land would have been allocated to Barrett as a form of use rights.
The area contained Kororako Pā. Part of this – 5.67 hectares of what was part Barrett Reserve C & D – was either gifted by Barrett Honeyfield to the local authority in the early 1900’s as a reserve for the people of New Plymouth, or taken under the Public Works Act. The land containing the pā was acquired by the New Plymouth District Council in 2012 and is recorded as wāhi tapu (a place regarded as sacred to Māori) in the New Plymouth District Plan. The area is identified as an archaeological site by the New Zealand Archaeological Association, as site 19/52. The defensive ditches of the pā area not easily visible today and an old farm track that led over the pā is now used for pedestrian access (Barrett Domain Management Plan, New Plymouth District Council, August 2013). The photo below taken in January 2019 shows that pā on the left hand side.
The official name of Barrett Lagoon was changed to Rotokarei/Barrett Domain under the Treaty of Waitangi Deed of Settlement between the Crown and Te Atiawa in 2014. The reserve has a number of attractions and walkways. The location of the pā is set out in the map below (source: New Plymouth District Council).
Barrett’s land holdings were confirmed in being awarded 73 hectares (180 acres, being sections 23 and 37) by the Spain Lands Commission in May, 1844. Commissioner Spain also awarded 24,000 hectares to the New Zealand Company and 40 hectares to the Wesleyan missionaries (Dicky Barrett Part 3: Quest for Land, by Rhonda Bartle, Puke Ariki Learning and Research).
However, in August 1844 Governor Fitzroy, being critical of Commissioner Spain and Barrett’s role in the NZ Company land purchases – particularly in the transactions not having involved or recognised the interests of Te Atiawa who were absent or held in captivity by the Waikato at the time of the land purchases – set aside the Commissioner’s award of 24,000 hectares to the NZ Company, substituting it for a 1,400 hectare block which included the town site and immediate surrounding area. No change was made to Barrett’s land holdings.
In a letter to the then Inspector of Police, Donald McLean in December 1846, Harcourt Aubrey described Barrett’s farm as being the only one of any consequence in the Moturoa area. Aubrey noted “…the readiness with which Mr Barrett afforded me information on every required topic, and before we parted he required me to assure you that he should always feel the greatest pleasure in rendering you any assistance that lay in his power” (Papers Past, National Library).
Fitzroy was replaced as Governor by George Grey in 1845. Grey managed to purchase more land for European settlement in 1847, including blocks at Tataraimaka and Omata.
According to the Taranaki Maori Land Court minute No.7, page 205, Rāwinia was also awarded interests in Ngāti Rahiri sections 3 and 9 and Ratapihipihi A East block (H & J Mitchell, page 347).
Barrett’s role in the new community of New Plymouth diminished somewhat after being criticised by Te Atiawa and Pākehā alike for his role in what became highly disputed land sale negotiations between the New Zealand Company and Te Ātiawa.
It is worth noting however, that much of the subsequent land disputes giving rise to the Māori wars in the 1860’s was due to disputed land transactions between the Crown and Te Atiawa.
Despite setbacks in the community, Barrett’s whaling operations continued. Soon after Governor Fitzroy’s decision some twenty tons of oil and more than one ton of whalebone from Barrett’s whaling operations were shipped to Sydney (Wells).
As the two daughters of Richard and Rāwinia married Honeyfields, the Barrett land eventually came under Honeyfield ownership.
Richard (Dicky) Barrett died at Moturoa, on 23 February 1847, possibly from a heart attack or following injury after a whaling accident, and was buried in Wāitapu urupa (cemetery) at the seaside end of Bayly Road, adjacent to Ngāmotu Beach, New Plymouth, along side his daughter Mary Ann. They were joined later on by Wakaiwa Rāwinia in 1849 and Hannah, daughter of William and Sarah, in 1861. Wāitapu was the first cemetery in New Plymouth and the first recorded burial was Mary Ann.
Barrett’s will left one third of his estate held in trust to pay income to Rāwinia for life. The rest of his estate was left to his children.
According to a letter from the Crown’s Surveyor, Edwin Harris, to the Colonial Secretary dated 9 August 1847 (following the Crown’s purchase of the Grey Block on land in 1847) 120 acres (49 hectares) were reserved especially for ‘Barrett’s widow and children that they should have in exchange for land at Moturoa A block. The Moturoa native reserve included Otaka Pā, the Waitapu urupa as well as 56 acres of the estate claimed by the late Richard Barrett which has been cultivated and is in the possession and occupation of natives’ (Boulton, page 99). Boulton also stated that ‘Barrett and his whaling crew … in exchange for their skills as traders and whalers, had been given use rights to portions of tribal lands’ (page 54).
Indeed, of the crew who were on board the Adventure in 1828 and who went on remain with Barrett – Bosworth, Bundy, Robinson, Sinclair and Wright – were all granted sections of land at ‘Whalers Gate’ in 1847 (Mullon, p 5).
The exchange referred to by Harris appears to have been to formalise the return to the Ngāmotu hapū as native reserve the 56 acres of land that had been allocated to Barrett by the New Zealand Company. The transfer was negotiated by Donald McLean, who noted in his 17th August 1847 letter to the Colonial Secretary, that the Māori reserve “includes 56 acres of the Estate claimed by the late Richard Barrett, which had been cultivated and in the possession and occupation of the natives …. In the absence of an Executor to represent Mr Barrett’s interests, I have proposed to his widow and children that they should have in exchange for the above land at Moturoa, a block of 120 acres beyond and adjoining to Mr Spain’s award and forming, with two other sections within that award, a continuous block, of which a considerable portion was cultivated by Mr Barrett” (Papers Past, National Library).
The background context of the re-occupation of the land after Barrett’s death appears to have been in relation to a long-running dispute between Barrett and some of Rāwinia’s kin. Donald McLean, then in the role of Sub-Protector, Protectorate of Aborigines, noted in October 1844 that Barrett had complained to him that “Wiremu Kawahu and Poharama had fenced off the road upon which he carried his produce, and drove cattle to and fro putting him at considerable inconvenience as he would have to go a round of a mile with his horses and cattle” (Papers Past, National Library). According to McLean, the natives had various grievances leading them to fence off the road, including that Barrett had owed them for some timber that had not been paid. Making it harder for Barrett to earn an income to repay debt does not seen like a sensible intervention. The more likely cause was due to those who refused to accept the sale of land by the Ngāmotu people to the New Zealand Company in 1840, and in particular Barrett’s acquisition of land including the site of the old kainga (village) and associated cultivations. They also apparently had a dispute with “Barrett’s natives [including] the father [Eruera Te Puki-ki-Mahurangi] of the native women he is married to” – probably due to the land dispute. I feel it is worth noting that Eruera stood up to other Ngāmotu rangatira, representing further evidence of his being of rangatira standing.
We can only imagine the grief and stress that Rāwinia and her children must gone through after Barrett’s death, and to then have the land dispute with their kin manifest in occupation by those kin. McLean’s subsequent intervention and assistance to provide land in exchange for that returned to the hapū would no doubt have been welcomed by the Barrett family.
Donald McLean went on to play a substantial role in the colonial government, respected by settlers for his pragmatism, and by Māori for his te reo skills and understanding of their culture, but stained by his controversial role in land sale negotiations. He eventually became Minister of Native Affairs and Defence and a substantial land owner in the Hawkes Bay.
Wakaiwa’s native reserve lands passed through Native Court determinations to the Honeyfields. In the early 20th century one of the Honeyfield family gave a portion of a block at Ngamotu as a public reserve (H & J Mitchell, 2014: 347).
Wakaiwa Rāwinia died almost two years to the day after Dicky passed away, she was only 38 years of age.
In what appears to be an acknowledgement of Rāwinia’s contribution to the early history of New Plymouth, Rawinia Street was named after her. In the background provided in Kete New Plymouth, Rawinia Street is in the suburb of Moturoa and is located very near to the site of Otaka Pā.
Kete New Plymouth also has an historical note to describe Barrett St, New Plymouth, named after Dicky Barrett.
While Dicky and Rāwinia died relatively young, ‘they made a lasting impact on the history of New Plymouth and showed that a relationship between the two cultures could be beneficial to both’.
Herbert Mullon described Barrett as “one of the outstanding men in pre and early colonial days, respected by Maori and Pakeha (page 25)
Barrett’s name remains a legacy in New Plymouth and Wellington, with Barrett Street (named by Carrington) and Barrett Road and Barrett Domain in New Plymouth, and Barrett’s Reef at the entrance to Wellington’s harbour, named in Barrett’s honour by William Wakefield. A residential sub-division near to where the Barretts and crew members were allocated land is called ‘Whaler’s Gate’.