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Thursday, August 25, 2016

BLACKBIRDING AND THE BULLY




BLACKBIRDING AND THE BULLY

First, the historical fact should be observed that whenever two cultures have clashed on an economic basis, ethics go out the window. England’s maritime supremacy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was owed to great Elizabethan sea captains whose acts would be considered arrant piracy today, and shocking social conditions contributed in no small way to the success of the Industrial Revolution. And the cruel practice of slavery, where African men, women and children who were prisoners of tribal raids and wars were treated as cattle, to be transported to foreign lands to work without pay for conscienceless plantation overseers, was due to economic pressures of the time, as well.

And so it was with the so-called ‘black-birding’ trade of the nineteenth century Pacific.  
‘Blackbirding’ is a pejorative term for the practice of recruiting Pacific Islanders - particularly from the New Hebrides (modern Vanuatu) and the Gilbert and Marshall Islands (modern Kiribati) - and transporting them to Queensland, Samoa and Fiji, where the captains who had carried them earned 'head money' from sugar plantation owners in need of cheap labour.  However, the trade, now considered extremely cruel, had a surprisingly benign origin, and its roots lay in cotton, not sugar.

Blame the American Civil War. With no supplies of cotton from the Southern States, the cotton mills of Bradford, England, were grinding to a stop. In 1863 the hunt was on for replacement plantations, and Queensland, Fiji and Samoa were considered ideal. The problem was that cotton is a labour-intensive crop, and to get the enterprise going, plenty of cheap willing labour was necessary.  And this is where a man by the name of Robert Towns stepped in.

Originally an English sea captain who carried speculative cargoes to Australia, Towns was a hugely successful entrepreneur.  One of his most profitable ventures was in sea slugs — bêche-de-mer — which sold well in the Orient as the main ingredient in a virility-boosting soup.  This had been harvested in Vanuatu, so he knew those islands well.  So, he bought land upriver from Brisbane , and sent out his schooner Don Juan to the islands to recruit natives to weed and harvest the fields.

The vessel arrived back in Brisbane on 15 August 1863.  According to the Queensland Guardian, ‘seventy-three South Sea Islanders for Captain Towns’ cotton plantation’ were on board.  This was not slave-trading, because the natives were on board of their own free will.  Not only did they know Towns from his record in the sea slug lagoons, but often they were keen for adventure and fun, away from the social strictures imposed by the missionaries.  And, what’s more, money was involved, as they had signed a contract: they were to receive ten shillings a month (in an era when a cook on a plantation earned five pounds a year), with abundant food, clothing and shelter provided.  As well as this — and most importantly — Towns had promised to return them to their homes within a year, a commitment he did not fail to meet.

Unfortunately, many men were not as honest as Towns, and it was a system that begged to be abused.  Other plantation owners had no scruples about hiring wicked men to kidnap Islanders with false promises and fake contracts, and in the lawless ocean of the time, there were plenty of conscienceless captains.  One of the worst, ironically, had started off in Towns’ employ, a recruiter by the name of Ross Lewin.

Lewin was deservedly notorious.  He used to pose as a missionary — Bishop John Patteson being a favourite — and abduct the men and women who had come to his ship in search of a sermon or a prayer. He also captured natives out of their canoes by dropping large stones into their craft, and sinking them.  However, the blame for all this was shifted to another man — Bully Hayes, while Lewin was lost to history.  Much later on, in a story published on 14 May 1899, the New York Tribune named Hayes as the man who posed as a bishop and sank canoes with heavy stones, triggering a myth that was retold many times, in particular by the solo circumnavigator Joshua Slocum, who loved to tell a racy yarn about this particular bête noir.

So, did William ‘Bully’ Hayes feature at all in the brutal labour-recruiting trade?   

Not often, it seems, and not very successfully. As so often happened, his own misdeeds caught up with him, with highly unexpected results. 

In December 1868, the British Consul on Tahiti reported to London that ‘about 150 natives of Savage Island’ had been carried into port by Hayes on the brig Rona.  None of them had complained about bad treatment.  And the same kind of report was published in the Westport Times (New Zealand) on 31 August 1869.  But the following year a much more sensational report appeared, first in the Sydney Morning Herald, and then in other papers as the story evolved.  Hayes was under arrest in Samoa for kidnapping a cargo of Islanders — and the brave fellow who had arrested him was a Samoan chief!

When Hayes had been hired by a man named Frederick Sievewright to recruit labourers for Fiji, the job looked straightforward, as he was on good terms with the people of Manihiki, having carried them to neighbouring islands on his vessels before.  His device for getting them on board was characteristically devious, involving fake contracts and false promises.  By the same he called for fresh water at the Samoan island of Tutuila, the natives were suspicious enough to make a complaint to Mauga, the local high chief.  With Mauga’s connivance, the natives made their escape, and Hayes, when he pursued them in a towering rage, was apprehended by Mauga’s mighty warriors.  And so Hayes was carried under arrest to Apia, the main settlement of Samoa, where he was confined at large, there being no prison to keep him.

Naturally, he escaped. And that is the end of reported kidnappings.  After that, Hayes turned to blatant robbery, seizing the property of lonely copra and coconut oil traders.  The time for transporting natives was over.  At the islands where he set down his own traders, he mistreated the locals, forcing them to work for his men, but once he had sailed away their lives returned to something like normal, as within months Bully’s traders needed rescuing by the captains of the British and American ironclads, who found them destitute of goods and on the verge of starvation.

So, why were those navy captains hot on his trail?  Because Hayes was charged with blackbirding?  Not necessarily.  When Commander Richard Meade of the US ironclad Narragansett arrested him in Apia in February 1872, it was not for kidnapping natives and transporting them to plantations for head money.  Instead, it was on a charge of violating the Navigation Laws — or so Meade told the British Consul — for Hayes flogged his crew, carried enough arms and men to equip a privateer, had marooned one of his chief mates on a waterless atoll, and was running a protection racket in the islands.

And none of it was proven.  As usual, Bully Hayes talked and charmed his way off the ironclad, and strutted ashore.  Then he sailed off with celebratory bunting flying from his topmast rigging, to carry on with his multi-crime career -- which was of all the above, with the probable exception of blackbirding.

Sources:
The history of blackbirding in the South Seas is a grim and engrossing one, about which much has been written. Useful were: a paper read by E.V. Stevens to the Historical Society of Queensland, 23 March 1950, called ‘Blackbirding, A Brief History of the South Sea Islands Labour Traffic, and the Vessels Engaged in it’, and Doug Hunt, ‘Hunting the Blackbirder: Ross Lewin and the Royal Navy’, in Journal of Pacific History, vol. 42, No. 1, June 2007, 37–53. The letter from Consul Miller at Tahiti to Lord Stanley, 16 December 1868, was quoted in Lubbock's, Bully Hayes, Buccaneer, 147–148. A biography of Robert Towns can be read in the online Australian Dictionary of Biography.

The journal kept by John Chauner Williams, British Consul in Apia, Samoa, was studied at the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, as part of the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau series (micro-ms-coll-08-0037). The complete collection of handwritten testimonials is held at the New Zealand National Archives, Wellington (as item R19684924, also available as micro S3623). The despatches presented to both Houses of Parliament regarding accusations of kidnapping and slave-trading against Captain W.H. Hayes of the Atlantic were published in the Queensland Government Gazette, 28 August 1875. While the case of Hayes is not mentioned, a very good background discussion is given by Reid Mortensen, as ‘Slaving in Australian Courts: Blackbirding Cases, 1869-1871’, Journal of South Pacific Law, article 7, volume 4, 2000.

Spinoff, activists, and amendment

It has been a strange week.

On Monday, the online magazine Spinoff published a piece that I wrote and that was edited by the inimitable Spinoff books editor, Steve Braunias, and headed THE MONDAY PIRATE.

Within hours, it had been pulled.  Because of something we wrote?  No.  Because of something we did NOT write.  

We had neglected to call William 'Bully' Hayes a slaver.

According to the Oxford dictionary, it is a person who deals in slaves, and a slave is a 'person who is the legal property of another or others and is bound to absolute obedience; a human chattel.'

Bully Hayes was, for a short time in his nefarious career, a 'blackbirder.'  But was a blackbirder the same as a slaver?

Much more on this to come.  Meanwhile, here is the amended version.

The pirate who came in from the cold

On Monday we ran a piece about 19th century sea captain William Hayes by his biographer, Wellington historian Joan Druett. Some readers were appalled it made no reference to his involvement with slavery, or “blackbirding”. The story was pulled.

We have reposted a slightly amended version today – and await a review of Druett’s book by journalist Michael Field, who was among those angered by the original post’s glossing of the more unsavoury elements of his past. 

Captain William “Bully” Hayes was a cheat, a bigamist, a conman and a “blackbirder” – that is, a captain who enticed Pacific Islanders on board his ship, and then carried them off as cheap labour for the plantations of Fiji, Queensland and Samoa. A notorious celebrity in his own lifetime, after his death he became an enduring mythical anti-hero, the so-called “Pirate of the Pacific”.
But was he any kind of pirate? Or was he a man virtually invented as a pirate?

True, he cheated merchants, and once disappeared over the horizon with an unpaid cargo in his holds. Yet these crimes were common enough. They were the acts of a simple crook, not a pirate. Hayes never boarded a ship with a sword in his hand and a knife between his teeth. He never killed a man. He didn’t even drink hard liquor. Yet somehow the newspaper writers turned him into a legendary corsair.

But how, and why? It was mystery that fascinated me, and inspired my biography The Notorious Captain Hayes: The Remarkable True Story of The Pirate of The Pacific.

I discovered that the first to create the myth was a newspaper proprietor in Honolulu. Henry Martyn Whitney was a true American entrepreneur, full of ideas and ambitions and energy. As the publisher of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser his aim in life was to publish breaking news. On September 24, 1859 he published the story that was to trigger the Hayes legend. The headline: THE HISTORY OF A CONSUMMATE SCOUNDREL.

For the first time breathtaking swindles were exposed, along with details of a dissolute life. It was stirring stuff, compulsive reading, reprinted by newspapermen all about the Pacific, without any questions being asked.

In the years that followed there were occasional updates on his exploits – in 1868, the Wanganui Herald mused that Hayes “had a great deal of the pirate in his disposition”, and a Sydney newspaper in 1873 exaggerated him as “the notorious Captain Hayes, freebooter, swindler, pirate and murderer”.
It took until 1876 for the legend to firmly take root, and once again it was courtesy of Henry Martyn Whitney. As the owner and editor of the Hawaiian Gazette, he published an article headlined SKETCH OF THE NOTORIOUS CAPTAIN HAYES.

Hayes met a violent death the following year. Good career move: it turned him into an even more compelling figure. The metamorphosis was spearheaded by the San Francisco paper, Daily Alta California, which summarised his story under the title, The last of the pirates. In May 1899 the New York Tribune published a racy, even more imaginative version.  Not to be bested, the editor of the New York Sun produced his own lurid yarn – BULLY HAYES, PIRATE OF THE PACIFIC, THE THRILLING STORY OF A DOUBLE LIFE.

Writers of trash fiction jumped on the band wagon. Albert Dorrington published Bully Hayes’ yarns in London magazines, depicting him as “half pirate, half hero”. Down at the bottom of the world, colonial readers loved this kind of sensational stuff. In 1903 the editor of the Christchurch Press asked for letters from anyone who remembered meeting Hayes. They were duly rewarded with colourful descriptions. “He was of a courteous and gentlemanly demeanour, a big man and well-proportioned,’ wrote WR Turner. Another reader, Alfred Gee, write that he would never forget meeting Hayes — “a man of splendid physique, fully six feet in height, and proportionately well built”.

Naturally, many books followed this kind of outpouring, some serious, and others not so, with titles like Bully Hayes, South Sea Pirate. The strange result is that Captain William Henry Hayes – a common conman, blessed with a certain charisma – has become enshrined as a flamboyant buccaneer of the Pacific.

The Notorious Captain Hayes: The Remarkable True Story of The Pirate of The Pacific (HarperCollins, $18.99) by Joan Druett features in the latest best-seller chart at Unity Books.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Kiwi Dads not interested in Father's Day?

Perhaps not....






Great review from Linda Collison


The American-born seafarer William “Bully” Hayes was a notorious celebrity in his own lifetime and in the century after his death became the antihero of numerous accounts, novels, secondhand memoirs — and a Hollywood movie starring Tommy Lee Jones and Michael O’Keefe.  At least two Pacific watering holes have called themselves Bully Hayes — one in Hawaii and one in New Zealand.

Much has been written about this 19th century adventurer, accused of countless cons, crimes, swindles and brutalities — some true, some embellished, some pure fiction. Overshadowing his misdeeds, or perhaps driving them, is the portrayal of Captain Hayes as a charismatic and dauntless character —  an enduring, mythical,  antihero.  This image was created largely by the popular media of his time, says maritime historian Joan Druett. Her latest book, The Notorious Captain Hayes; The Remarkable True Story of William ‘Bully’ Hayes, Pirate of the Pacific, is the most definitive biography written about the man, the myth, the legend. The author has spent years reading everything in print about Hayes, studying contemporary newspaper articles, letters, diaries, ship logs and shipping lists in an effort to separate fact from fiction.

The result? An objective but very engaging popular history of a sea captain, trader, showman and blackguard known for his many dupes and crimes — some mere swindles — others abhorrent (rape, coercion, and blackbirding — the transport of poor refugees as cheap labor). Joan likens the mythical Captain Hayes to Hollywood’s Captain Jack Sparrow. The bad guy we love, an enduring archetype.

 From Linda Collison.com

Read more, for the interview

Linda is a seafarer and a very fine writer, author of the haunting Water Ghosts.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Bully Hayes on Spinoff

The Monday pirate: The true story of a swashbuckling Pugwash



Joan Druett goes in search of one of the great pirate legends of the Pacific.

In 1903 the editor of the Christchurch Press asked for letters from anyone who remembered meeting Captain William Henry “Bully” Hayes – a man virtually invented as a pirate.

True, he cheated merchants, and once disappeared over the horizon with an unpaid cargo in his holds. Yet these crimes were common enough. They were the acts of a simple crook, not a pirate. Hayes never boarded a ship with a sword in his hand and a knife between his teeth. He never killed a man.
He didn’t even drink hard liquor. Yet somehow the newspaper writers turned him into a legendary corsair.

But how, and why? It was mystery that fascinated me, and inspired my new biography The Notorious Captain Hayes: The Remarkable True Story of The Pirate of The Pacific.

I discovered that the first to create the myth was a newspaper proprietor in Honolulu. Henry Martyn Whitney was a true American entrepreneur, full of ideas and ambitions and energy. As the publisher of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser his aim in life was to publish breaking news. On September 24, 1859 he published the story that was to trigger the Hayes legend. The headline: THE HISTORY OF A CONSUMMATE SCOUNDREL.

For the first time breathtaking swindles were exposed, along with details of a dissolute life. It was stirring stuff, compulsive reading, reprinted by newspapermen all about the Pacific, without any questions being asked.

In the years that followed there were occasional updates on his exploits – in 1868, the Wanganui Herald mused that Hayes “had a great deal of the pirate in his disposition”, and a Sydney newspaper in 1873 exaggerated him as “the notorious Captain Hayes, freebooter, swindler, pirate and murderer”.
It took until 1876 for the legend to firmly take root, and once again it was courtesy of Henry Martyn Whitney. As the owner and editor of the Hawaiian Gazette, he published an article headlined SKETCH OF THE NOTORIOUS CAPTAIN HAYES.

Hayes met a violent death the following year. Good career move: it turned him into an even more compelling figure. The metamorphosis was spearheaded by the San Francisco paper, Daily Alta California, which summarised his story under the title, The last of the pirates. In May 1899 the New York Tribune published a racy, even more imaginative version.  Not to be bested, the editor of the New York Sun produced his own lurid yarn – BULLY HAYES, PIRATE OF THE PACIFIC, THE THRILLING STORY OF A DOUBLE LIFE.

Writers of trash fiction jumped on the band wagon. Albert Dorrington published Bully Hayes’ yarns in London magazines, depicting him as “half pirate, half hero”. Down at the bottom of the world, colonial readers loved this kind of sensational stuff. When the Press invited readers to post their reminiscences, in 1903, they were rewarded with colourful descriptions. “He was of a courteous and gentlemanly demeanour, a big man and well-proportioned,’ wrote WR Turner. Another reader, Alfred Gee, write that he would never forget meeting Hayes — “a man of splendid physique, fully six feet in height, and proportionately well built”.

Naturally, many books followed this kind of outpouring, some serious, and others not so, with titles like Bully Hayes, South Sea Pirate.

The strange result of all this breathless, exciting literature, more fiction than non-fiction, is that Captain William Henry Hayes – a common conman, blessed with a certain charisma – has become enshrined as a flamboyant buccaneer of the Pacific.

The Notorious Captain Hayes: The Remarkable True Story of The Pirate of The Pacific (HarperCollins, $18.99) by Joan Druett recently made the best-seller chart at Unity Books.
Illustration from Captain Pugwash: A Pirate Story (1957) by John Ryan.

Friday, August 19, 2016

whale skeleton on display again

From stuff.co.nz

  
Canterbury Museum's blue whale on display again

It's been in hiding for 22 years, but the longest blue whale skeleton in any collection in the world is ready for its big moment.

The 26.5 metre long blue whale skeleton has been in the Canterbury Museum collection since it arrived in Christchurch on a horse and cart in 1908, but the bones slipped from public view in 1994.
There is no space in the museum large enough to display the bones, but they will be the star of a planned future upgrade for the complex of historic buildings.

The Blue Whale was 26.5 metres long when it washed ashore in 1908.
CANTERBURY MUSEUM/SUPPLIED

The Blue Whale was 26.5 metres long when it washed ashore in 1908.
Almost 200 bones have been in storage since the Garden Court – where they were displayed from 1976 – was covered over when the museum expanded in 1994. The bones were carefully restored over four or five years from 2003.
 
The whale bones arrive at the Canterbury Museum on a horse and cart in 1908.
CANTERBURY MUSEUM/SUPPLIED
The whale bones arrive at the Canterbury Museum on a horse and cart in 1908.

The whale has been dead for more than a hundred years and was born two hundred years ago, but the bones still exude oil and retain a distinctive smell. The whale's lower mandible bone is the largest single natural history object in the world, weighing 418 kilograms.

****
This is not the only whale skeleton the museum owns.  Back in the day, on 25 May 1874, the American whaleship Eliza Adams killed a humpback whale just outside of Akaroa Harbour.  Wrote the third mate, Abram Briggs:

"[took it] with our boats & the volunteered assistence of the Steamer that came down to see the whale we towed him to the Ship at 3 PM quite a number of visitors come on board to see the whale, next day took the whale on the beach at high water & at low water went & took the blubber off of him & gave the carcass to parties on shore for the Christchurch museum."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Book launch: the Notorious Captain Hayes

Hosted by the very new Ekor Bookstore, College Street (opposite Moore Wilson), Wellington

A talk by Joan Druett about the The Notorious Captain Hayes.

  •  
Join us for a wonderful evening talk by leading maritime historian and award-winning author, Joan Druett as she focuses her telescope on a new subject:

THE NOTORIOUS CAPTAIN HAYES
The remarkable true story of William ‘Bully’ Hayes, 
Pirate of the Pacific

Starts at 6pm with drinks & nibbles on Thursday 25 August at
Ekor Bookshop & Cafe Ltd 
17B College Street, Te Aro, Wellington.

‘Talk in the South Seas is all upon one pattern; it is a wide ocean, indeed, but a narrow world: you shall never talk long and not hear the name of Bully Hayes.
— Robert Louis Stevenson, The Wrecker

  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Tsunami and Tupaia





Tupaia, the great Tahitian high priest and navigator, testified to Captain Cook that Polynesians had sailed great distances from Tahiti, and history tells us that one of those great distances involved the 3,000-kilometer voyage from the cradle of Polynesia to New Zealand.  In the meantime, however, the lore had been lost -- when Tupaia arrived in New Zealand in 1769, no one from Tahiti had been there for the past three or four hundred years.

Something had happened.  But what?

According to geological theory, the east coast of New Zealand had been struck by a huge tsunami sometime in the fifteen century. An immense wall of water, probably 12 meters high, had struck the coast and roared inland, leaving devastation in its wake.  Gardens, plantations, house, and fishing beds were destroyed -- along with the massive voyaging canoes.

Great men had died -- the craftsmen, the shipwrights, the priests, and the star navigators. Voyages back to Hawaiki -- Raiatea -- became impossible, because not only the craft, but the lore had been lost.

Or so the theory went.  Now, it has been demonstrated that the theory is right.  The tsunami really happened.  An article in the Dominion Post today describes it.

 A new study shows the East Coast was struck by three or four large tsunamis as high as twelve metres over the past 1200 years.



The GNS Science study which involved the digging of a 90metre long, two-metre-deep, trench at Puatai beach, 30km north of Gisborne, revealed shells and wood that could be radiocarbon dated to establish the dates of numerous earthquakes and tsunamis.

The tsunamis produced waves between nine and twelve metres high and would have travelled up to hundreds of metres inland. The last tsunami occurred about 300 years ago.

"The study provides the first really concrete evidence of what we have long thought likely, and it shows that hazard preparation in the east coast area is on the right track," said lead author Nicola Litchfield.

"The tsunamis would have affected the entire East Coast of the North Island. It is hard to estimate from just this one study how big a particular tsunami would have been at various places along the coast. However, we know from past fieldwork and from modelling that 5metre-plus tsunamis can strike anywhere along the East Coast," Litchfield said.

It has been known for a long time that the area is seismically active and that there is a high risk of tsunamis, but hard evidence about tsunamis has been rare. The study provides solid evidence that the tsunamis occurred.

The investigation showed there were three large earthquakes in the region around 1800, 1200 and 400 years ago. Each quake was around magnitude 7.2 and uplifted coastal land by about 3.5metres.




Sunday, August 7, 2016

Bully Hayes - the radio interview

The real Bully Hayes

The flamboyant Captain William Henry 'Bully' Hayes was a  'thief, pirate, plunderer and kidnapper' according to newspaper headlines of the time and in subsequent books and movies. But what's the true story of this Pacific maritime legend? In her new book The notorious Captain Hayes, nautical historian and writer Joan Druett has investigated the fact and fiction surrounding Bully Hayes.  As Lynn Freeman finds out, he was accused of everything from bigamy and slavery to theft and murder.

Interview with Lynn Freeman