30 May 2012

Massacres: The Boyd 1809

 By Jennifer Linforth

The second mate was killed and eaten even after he survived the attack of the Boyd. As for the four others who were rescued, their nightmare would long be remembered.

It began in 1809 with the journey of the Boyd, a brigantine convict ship sailing on through Whangaroa on the coast of New Zealand. Under the command of Captain John Thompson, she carried 70 people one of which was Te Ara, son of a Maori chief working his passage on the ship.

Details are unclear as to what Te Ara did or didn’t do to work his way on the ship. What is clear is that Te Ara was flogged. One report says he was punished for refusing to work at all once underway citing his noble birth prevented him from doing so, another says he was falsely accused of theft. Upon reaching Whangaroa and his tribe, Te Ara reported his punishment. The Maori, strict in their customs, planned revenge.

The clash of cultures would have devastated effects. Under British law the Captain’s word is law upon the seas. Flogging was a common practice for all crimes at the time and he was justified in his rulings against Te Ara. But under Maori rule, a chief’s son is above any law and the physical punishment caused the Maori chief to suffer a brutal loss of “mana,” or face, in their culture. Revenge would be swift and violent.

Louis John Steele's The Blowing Up
of the Boyd
(1889) - Source: Wikipedia
Their plot involved inviting Captain Thompson, his chief officer and three others on a scouting mission up the Kaeo River. The Maori attacked and killed all five. They stripped them of their clothing donning them as a disguise while other members of the tribe carried the bodies to the village to be eaten. The disguised Maori, backed by other tribe members in in canoes, boarded the Boyd at nightfall stealthily killing the entire crew. Only five survived, but were pursued by the Maori in the end.

When news reached European settlements the City of Edinburgh under the command of Captain Alexander Berry, undertook the rescue mission. The four remaining survivors found and taking on board. They also found piles of human bones on the shoreline, many evincing cannibalism.

News of the Boyd Massacre spread across Australia and Europe. A notice was printed for all missionaries and circulated Europe advising against visiting New Zealand at the risk of being eaten by cannibals.

Shipping and trade to New Zealand diminished over the years after that… 

Jennifer Linforth expands the classics by continuing The Phantom of the Opera. and her books are available now. Look for future books based on the classics, in addition to her unique historical romances. "Ms. Linforth's prose is phenomenally beautiful and hauntingly breathtaking." ~ Coffee Time Romance