He literally “killed himself by excessive drunkenness and his wife is very much addicted to the same vice” – The fate of William Puckey (1776-1827)

In November 2022, I wrote an article for the German Historical Institute London, where I summarized one specific archive finding during my research fellowship, which I kindly received from them between September and November 2021. The interaction between Missionaries and Whalers at the Bay of Islands is considerably well recorded at the Bay of Islands’ history throughout the 1820s and 1830s – thanks to the CMS records but also local newspapers such as those in Sydney talking about local developments and incidences in Aotearoa New Zealand.

On the example of William Puckey Senior (1776-1827), I would like to demonstrate how fruitful, promising and eye-opening the consideration and inclusion of different types of sources and “layers” can turn out in historical research. As I have shown in the mentioned GHIL blogpost, it was a very common practice for Missionaries to visit anchoring whaling ships occasionally in order to communicate with them, exchange goods, knowledge and newspapers but also to give Divine Service to the seamen.

Probably for similar reasons, CMS member William Puckey visited the whaling ship “EMILY” under Captain William Brind, who remained at the Bay of Islands on Christmas evening in December 1825. I do not know what exactly happened onboard of the ship during these days, but it surely shaped the first CMS quarterly meeting only some days later in January 1826.

Henry Williams and the rest of the missionaries on land, however, seem not to have been happy at all with Puckey’s behaviour and his amusement with the whalers. On the 2nd of January 1826, it was recorded in the minutes that:

H. Williams begged to call the attention of the Committee to the late conduct of W. Puckey, who on Christmas Eve [1825] took his family onboard the ship Emily, and remained until Tuesday following, when he and his wife come [back] in a most disgusting state of intoxication. On Thursday, he returned by himself to the ship to renew his shocking conduct and remained until Saturday morning last, when his son obliged him to return home.

W. Williams suspended him from further work […] until the opinion of the committee should be given.

The committee is of opinion that from the repeated disgusting conduct of W. Puckey, he should not be permitted to work longer for the Society and that his suspension should remain in force.

CMS Quarterly Local Meeting Minute, 2nd Jan. 1826, in: Series C N 4/ (a), p. 138, AJCP: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-2668474019/view, [12.01.2023].

Therefore, in January 1826, the Quarterly Meeting decided then to sent William Puckey (1776-1827), his wife Susanne Puckey, and daughter Elizabeth Puckey to Sydney. The son William Puckey (1805-1878) however, seem to have remained at the Bay of Islands.

In the following months and years in Sydney, while waiting to be sent back to London, the Puckey parents however did not show any remorse. In contrast, they continued consuming even higher amounts of alcohol, which eventually culminated in the father’s death in 1827. Samuel Marsden, witnessing Puckeys’ behaviour in Sydney, did not show any mercy too and would later simply tell the CMS-Secretary that William Puckey literally “killed himself by excessive drunkenness and his wife is very much addicted to the same vice”, yet Marsden adds at the same time, that “the children were notably different from their parents.”1.

The fate of the Puckey parents is recorded in detail in an article of the Sydney Newspaper “The Monitor” of 12th November 1827.

Mr. Puckey has a daughter who some six weeks back was married; at which period the scene of intoxication commenced which eventually put a period to his existence.

Deaf to the calls of prudence and religion, he indulged in the debasing propensity, his wife being a willing partner in his excesses, – pledging and selling all that she could come at to uphold his debauchery until a few days ago when they became so exhausted as to be compelled to seek that relief from their neighbours, which with proper management they had been well able to have afforded themselves.

On Sunday the old man ventured to walk out; he was then much emaciated from a want of proper nutriment, and his wife had also so far recovered her strength as to be enabled to comply with the advice of a friend, to go home and look after her husband.

This she did until Monday afternoon, when the deceased, in attempting to lie down on the bed, fell on the floor, having complained of giddiness in the head. She ran out to obtain assistance to lift him, and to her dismay found upon her return that the vital spark had become extinct.

The man had been placed in the coffin before it occurred to those acquainted with the circumstances of his case, that it was necessary to summons an inquest, which was convened on Wednesday morning, when the Jury found that “the deceased died by the visitation of God.”

Domestic Intelligence, in: The Monitor, 12.11.1827, p. 7, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/ 31759112/4230039, [12.01.2023].

At the end of the text, the newspaper editor justified the length of the text: “We have entered thus at length into the details of this case, in order to point out to others, the ill consequences directly proceeding from an intemperate use of ardent liquors.”2 During the time in Port Jackson, daughter Elizabeth Puckey married Captain Gilbert Mair, and together with her new husband, she moved back to her Brother William Puckey to the CMS station at the Bay of Islands, where Gilbert Mair opened a local store in order to trade with Māori, Missionaries, Settlers and Whalers.

How ironic!

  1. Gunson, Niel (1966): On the incidence of alcoholism and intemperance in early pacific missions, in: The Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 1, 1, pp. 43-62, p. 50, DOI: 10.1080/00223346608572078 []
  2. Domestic Intelligence, in: The Monitor, 12.11.1827, p. 7, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/ 31759112/4230039, [12.01.2023]. []

“He Whenua Rangatira. A Māori land”

This short Youtube clip is part of the exhibition of “He Tohu”. He Tohu has been presented by two leading institutions in Aotearoa/ New Zealand – Archives News Zealand /Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga as well as the National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa.1

Comprising the time period between 1200 and 1300 and 1839, the video illustrates the first recorded initial Māori settlements on both Islands and both the first European visitors bus also the first Maori travellers outside of Aoetearoa. The brief clip is separted in several ‘chapters’:

1200-1300: Māori arrivals

1300-1500: Pā Sites

1500-1700: Iwi Migrations

1500-1800: Trade routes

1600-1840: European arrivals: Explorers

1600-1840: European arrivals: Missionaries

1600-1840: European arrivals: Whalers

1769-1840: Māori explore the world

1835-183: Signing off He Whakaputanga

He Tohu is a permanent exhibition of three documents, that sustainably changed and formed Aotearoa’s history.2 In 1835, several years after his appointment, and afraid of a potential French annexation, James Busby gathered 34 Māori Rangatira together in order to organize them under the He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni, which is also known as the “Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand”.3

The second document, which the exhibition consists of, is the “Te Tiriti o Waitangi – Treaty of Waitangi” of 1840.4

And the “Women’s Suffrage Petition – Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine” in 1893.5

  1. He Tohu, in: National Library of New Zealand, https://natlib.govt.nz/he-tohu, [last Access: 15.07.2022]. []
  2. See Aotearoa’s founding documents at He Tohu, in: Wellington NZ, https://www.wellingtonnz.com/experience/see-and-do/he-tohu/, [last Access: 15.07.2022]. []
  3. He Whakaputanga, in: National Library of New Zealand, https://natlib.govt.nz/he-tohu/about/he-whakaputanga, [last Access: 15.07.2022]. []
  4. Te Tiriti o Waitangi – Treaty of Waitangi, in: National Library of New Zealand, https://natlib.govt.nz/he-tohu/about/te-tiriti-o-waitangi, [last Access: 15.07.2022]. []
  5. Women’s Suffrage Petition – Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine, in: National Library of New Zealand, https://natlib.govt.nz/he-tohu/about/womens-suffrage-petition, [last Access: 15.07.2022]. []

A (maritime) CMS Station at the Bay of Islands?

In the past few months, I had the opportunity to dive into the history of the Church Missionary (CMS) stations and settlements in Aotearoa/ New Zealand in the early nineteenth century, and in this brief post, I would like to share some observations. Reading and thinking about the Church Missionary stations on the Northern Island of Aotearoa/ New Zealand in the period 1815-1840, I realized not only 1) the importance of the sea for missionaries, but also 2) the maritime background of missionary members, who were sent to Aotearoa/ New Zealand.

As soon as the first Māori persons worked and travelled onboard of colonial whaling ships in the early 1800s or visited Port Jackson such as the Māori rangatira Te Pahi, missionary efforts have been done to establish a CMS settlement on the Islands of Aotearoa/ New Zealand. The first efforts came from Marsden, after he had meet Te Pahi for the first time in 1805. Reverend Samuel Marsden, who had settled already in 1794 in the New South Wales colony and later joined the CMS, was so impressed of him, that he urged the CMS to establish a settlement in Aotearoa/ New Zealand too.

Formed in 1799, the members (and ideas) of the Church Missionary Society quickly spread by establishing mission stations across the world and in the Pacific Ocean.

The ´institutional infrastructure´ of the CMS consisting of a ´headquarter´ based in London and the increasingly growing number of mission stations outside the British islands enabled the circulation of letters, correspondences, goods, and people from one place to another. From 1813 onwards, the CMS office in London forged and brought the local report of each mission station together into Annual periodicals, printed every year, which were then distributed again across the mission stations. These, (highly processed), annual periodicals are today online accessible at the website of the Yale University Library.

In the following 10 years, it were ships, which enabled contacts and interactions between young Māori men, who travelled and worked onboard of European vessels and went across the oceans and as far as London. Te Pahi visited 1808 Port Jackson onboard of European ships in order to complain about the violent behaviour of sailors. Marsden, who was at this time in London, met Ruatara 1809 in a port of London and sailed with him back to Sydney.

During a stopover in Rio de Janeiro onboard of the Missionary ship ACTIVE, William Hall informs Samuel Marsden in a letter, that he had picked up a Person from New Zealand on the Islands of Madeira, in order to bring him back home.1

When he and Thomas Kendall arrived on a ship in Sydney 1810 in order to sail further to the Bay of Islands to install a CMS settlement, they learnt of the so-called Boyd Massacre – named after the ship BOYD, which came under attack during a stopover in Aotearoa/ New Zealand. 2

The Boyd incidence delayed any missionary settlement effort and it took several years until in November 1814, the missionary ship ACTIVE (Capt. Hanson), brought a group of 35 persons to the Bay of Islands. Marsden recorded in his Journal of his first visit from Sydney to Aotearoa/ New Zealand:

On Monday the 28th [Nov. 1814] we weighed Anchor, and got out to sea, the number of persons on board (including women and children), were thirty-five – Mr. Hanson, Master, his wife and son, Messr. Kendall, Hall, and King with their wives and five children; – 8 New Zealanders, – two Otaheitans and four Europeans belonging to the vessel, besides Mr. Nicholas, myself, two Sawyers, one Smith, and one runaway convict (as we found him to be afterwards).

Marsden’s First Visit to New Zealand, p. 41-42.

The diversity of the first missionary settlement as well as the fact that it came under the patronage of several Māori rangatira at Oihi shows that the settlement was included in various networks. Angela Middleton has observed several systematic similarities but also differences among other CMS Stations throughout the Pacific Ocean:

“[1] They all depended on the patronage and support of powerful indigenous people like the Pomares in Tahiti, Kamehameha in Hawaii, and in New Zealand, Ruatara and Hongi Hika. […]

[2.] In all these cases, the missions were reliant to a large extent on the local population for much of their food supplies, as well as labour for building and maintaining the missions.

[3.] The distances between missions and “home” societies in England meant that there were huge delays and difficulties in communication, with replies to letters and requested supplies taking up to 2 years to be received.

[4] Missionaries in these locations found themselves caught up in local wars and internal conflicts and politics.3

Map of the Bay of Islands, drawn in a letter of William Williams to CMS Secretary, in Cadbury Research Library Birmingham, CMS/B/OMS/C/ N O 95/ 23/ p. 3 – Private Picture – 30.09.2021.

From the very beginning, the CMS station members seem to have been included not only in the missionary networks, but were also closely connected with Māori settlements, with Samuel Marsden and the Penal colony in NSW and Van Diemens Land, (therefore connected within the so-called Tasman World)4, and of course with the whaling ships, which regularly anchored at the Bay of Islands. Thus, ships formed the only possible means for the CMS station to remain in touch with the Marsden in NSW but also to the CMS Secretary in London, and also to receive crucial supplies, and information.

While conflicts and a constant lack o supplies shaped the first ten years, the arrival of Henry Williams in 1823 and his brother William Williams in 1826 promised better times. The majority of the CMS members, who arrived either at the beginning or came afterwards to the growing numbers of CMS stations, consisted of carpenters, who had knowledge in designing or constructing ships, had retired from the Navy or had ancestors working in the Navy. At the Bay of Islands, they were in touch with Māori Individuals, who surely had a distinct knowledge of the sea too.

Early after his arrival, Henry Williams instructed William Puckey, one of the Missionaries, to design and built together with Māori a missionary vessel, which they named HERALD, a 55 ton schooner. Their own ship, so the intention, would allow and enable them a certain degree of economic independency. Captains like Gilbert Mair, Hanson or Capt. Peter Dillon (also known with the French title Le Chevalier) were names, that were quite familiar to the Missionaries.

Reading about these “maritime influences” I had to think about the maritime influences of the NSW colony, as David Haines and Jonathan West stress in their articles of 2018 called “crew cultures in the Tasman World”. And indeed, the first four colonial Governors had Navy background, which was “unique among British colonies”.5 Men from the Navy constituted also Sydney’s civil service to an important extent, while also ship “Captains had magisterial authority” with all the consequences and dynamics, which comes with it.


Primary sources:

Hall, William (1809): Letter to Marsden, 28.09.1809, in: Cadbury Research Library, CMS/B/OMS/C/N E/2.

Marsden, Samuel (1814): Reverend Samuel Marsden’s First Visit to New Zealand, In: Marsden Online Archive, MS/ 176/001, http://www.marsdenarchive.otago.ac.nz/MS_0176_001, [last Access: 27.01.2022]

  1. Hall to Marsden, 28.09.1809, in: Cadbury Research Library, CMS/B/OMS/C/N E/2 []
  2. This surely needs to be topic of another post here []
  3. Middleton, Angela (2008): Te Puna – A New Zealand Mission Station. Historical Archaeology in New Zealand. New York: Springer, p. 79-80 []
  4. This needs to be topic of another post here as well []
  5. Haines, David; West, Jonathan (2018): Crew Cultures in the Tasman World, in: Steel, Frances (Ed.): New Zealand and the Sea. Historical Perspectives. Wellington, pp. 181-200, p. 186. []

My working space

My working space – The Cadbury Research Library – is in the cellar of the Muirhead tower.
– Private Picture – 8.9.2021.

After arriving in Birmingham, I thought to have now – apart from my archive visiting – plenty of time for preparing blog articles. After the first ten days, I have to admit: No, I do not.

In Birmingham I have these manuscripts in mind, which I want to go through:

CMS/B/OMS/C/N E: Early Correspondence, 1809-1821 (1 box)
CMS/B/OMS/C/N O 49/1-18: Hall, Francis, 1819-1823 (1 box)
CMS/B/OMS/C/N O 55/1-58: King, John, 1820-1854 (1 box)
CMS/B/OMS/C/N O 93/1-231: Williams, Rev. Henry, 1823-1861 (2 boxes)

My first step is to go through the sources of the most important Missionary individuals (I ascribe the term “most important” to those, who were regularly mentioned or quoted in secondary literature). Then I take pictures of EACH manuscript page, which means that I am adding roughly 300 pictures every day.

Taking pictures during the day – Private Picture – 8.9.2021.

Afterwards, I copy and remove them from my camera card into my research cloud and separate and distinguish each manuscript number. During the six weeks, in which I stay in Birmingham, do not allow me to additionally read all of them. The aim is to forge a detailed source corpus, which I then can consult and use for my next writing process, when I am back in Trier.

Organizing them in the afternoon/evening. Private Picture – 8.9.2021.

So, taking hundreds of pictures during the days and importing and categorizing them in the evenings, do shape my time here. For the rest of the remaining day, I enjoy lunch breaks in the sun and discover the city centre of Birmingham.

As soon, as I finish with the manuscripts of the individual missionaries, I will go a step further and will take the Mission books and the letter books of the research collection in to account.

Hello Birmingham (Cadbury Research Library)

It took me a while to write this blog article, not due to its planning, but rather because I had a busy time with a lot of Covid-related travel preparations and restrictions.

In May 2021, I applied successfully for a three-month research scholarship of the German Historical Institute London and now, at the end of August, fully vaccinated and equipped with (german and british) Negative Tests and visa, I was finally ready to travel and arrive in the UK.

As this research blog emerges with my current research, I had two different ideas to proceed with the next articles; Either I could start chronologically and explain step by step what I have done so far and what I intend to do in the future. Or I let you dive with me right in my current situation and then provide you with the historical background.

Private Picture – 1.9.2021

I decided for the second way and therefore, I will explain why I travelled to Birmingham in the United Kingdom. I will spend the next six weeks here in order to visit and read the manuscripts of the Church Missionary Society Archive (1799-2009) at the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham.

You might ask yourself: “Wait, what? Why does he talk about missionaries? I thought this is all about Quaker Whalers and Māori.” Well, history is unfortunately very complex and one cannot tell all its strings at the same time, yet I will, nevertheless, only focus on the interactions of Missionaries with Māori individuals and Whalers.

Until the next blog post, I will leave you with two monographs of Ballantyne and Middleton, which are two very helpful sources to start with the history of the Church Missionary Society and their encounter with Māori individuals in the early 19th century.


Ballantyne, Tony (2014): Entanglements of Empire. Missionaries, Māori, and the Question of the Body. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Middleton, Angela (2014): Pewhairangi. Bay of Islands Missions and Maori 1814 to 1845. Dunedin: Otago University Press.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search