Jade River: A history of the MahurangiDr Ronald H Locker
First published 2001; second edition 2001; online 2014—
This online edition is a work in progress.
William Sullivan and family
John Sullivan’s only son, William, was educated in Auckland. He then became a hand on the cutter Mahurangi.
The family story is that John took William from this apprenticeship in sail to put him in command of his brand new schooner Rosella. It was an ill-conceived voyage: taking a company of would-be diggers from Ōnehunga to the Hokitika gold rush. The money offered must have been good to provoke such a lapse of judgment. The sad tale of this harrowing 50-day voyage and its disastrous end on the Hokitika Bar is told elsewhere.
The register does not record the master. It seems far more likely that for such a hazardous voyage, John would have put command of his new ship into more experienced hands than those of his 17-year-old son, but perhaps he let the boy go as crew. William is said to have then spent the next five years learning the trade of shipwright. However the call of the sea was stronger, and he resumed the seaman’s life. He became master of the cutter Janet Grey, which in 1870–4 belonged to his brother-in-law, William Jackson (see below). A long career under steam began when he became the second master of the ss Kōtuku. This tiny screw steamer was the first Waihou River trader, launched in 1880 to service Josiah Firth’s great land scheme around Matamata.
For a while, after his father’s death in 1883, William returned to Mahurangi to live. His father had acquired 12 acres of the Tungutu Block (where the Sullivan house now stands) from Ponui in 1866, and sold it to William (and G Holdship) in 1881. However the sea was more to his taste, and he was soon back as master of Kōtuku, now in the service of the Colonial Sugar Company (from 1889), carrying sugar and towing sugar lighters between Chelsea and Auckland. It seems he also worked as a ferry skipper, since there is a photo of him at the wheel of the very early paddle ferry Takapuna. In 1891 he entered the service of the Northern Company, and so began a long command on the already familiar ground of the Thames and Hauraki river ports. Beginning as skipper of Te Aroha, he switched in the same year, 1891, to Ōhinemuri and then to Paeroa. He became skipper of the new Waimaire in 1896 and finally of Taniwha. He was popular with both passengers and crew.
A little before his career in steam began, he married Miriama Houkura, who like his mother, belonged to Makoare Ponui’s family in Ōtarawao. A daughter, Miriam, was the only child of the marriage, born 1879. (She married Tee Wynyard Davis in 1904, and died in 1912). The Sullivan family were then living in Auckland. In 1906 Miriama died, and in 1907 William was married again, this time to Ngārewa Roa. Although now 59, William lost no time in making up for the smallness of his first family. Eight children were born of the marriage: William Ngārewa, Tee Davis, John Roa, Iraihi Kataraina (‘Girlie’), James Ngaio, Thomas Mahurangi, Harry Katene, and Julia Mary. The love of the sea was handed down. Of the six sons, only Thomas did not become a seaman. Julia married one.
Since Thomas was a full time skipper on the Thames run, the new family lived at Takapuna, where they went to school at Belmont. Iraihi, born in 1911, was about ten when William retired and brought his family back to Mahurangi (ca. 1921). They settled on their land beside William’s sister Julia and brother-in-law William Jackson, who had been established in the north end of the bay since 1874. The villa the Sullivans lived in had been built in the nineties, it is not clear by whom (perhaps by Holdship). It is now the Park ranger’s home. A Winkelmann photo of 1898 shows the villa, and the two-storied Jackson homestead at the north end of the bay, where the second ranger’s house now stands.
(It should be noted that the Tungutu Block, taking in the northern part of Ōtarawao and the southern part of Mita Bay, and extending across to Te Muri Estuary, was granted by the first Native Land Court in 1866 to ‘Makoare Ponui, Miriama Houkura and Mere Hae’, the only such grant to have female owners. They appear to have been part of Ponui’s small residual family. It was an unusual relationship in that Merehai became John Sullivan’s wife, while Miriama became William Sullivan’s wife. The Sullivans never owned any of the Ōtarawao Block, which takes in the rest of the bay and the western head).
Ngārewa, William’s second wife, was the granddaughter of William and Hawakirangi Grant. Their only daughter Rawinia (‘Winnie’) married carpenter James Raynes. The couple lived in Ōpahi Bayoriginally: Waikato Bay (Opahi Bay)., where a son James was born. Mrs Ani Matekino, last of the old folk of Ōpahi Bay, was her half-sister. Rawinia’s marriage did not last, and both partners remarried. Around 1877, Rawinia married Roa Rangitia (also known as Pūhoi Roa), a local chief said to have links to the Māori King. A photo survives of him in a chiefly cloak, a handsome man with the air of a rangatira. Their new home was a whare in the north end of the next bay, which today appears erroneously on the map as Meter Bay. At that time an old Māori man named Mita also had his whare and garden there, and it was from him that the bay took its name. There were 13 children of the marriageAs published: There were three sons and three daughters of the marriage… ‘In fact, they had a total of 13 children.’ Pers. comm. Jacqui Gill née Sullivan, great-granddaughter of Rawinia and Roa Rangitia, 4 November 2017, of which one was Ngārewa. She was much younger than her husband, William, who died in 1925, aged 77.
The Sullivan children now went to the Mahurangi West School. When the Warkworth High School opened in 1923, the older ones went there by the school launch Lavona. Iraihi, the eldest daughter, had piano lessons from her cousin Julia Jackson, then resident in the bay and who would ride out to her pupils.
Iraihi, married George Paul, of Pūhoi stock, and was postmistress at the Pukapuka when George worked at the mill there. As a widow she lived in Warkworth, the last of the Sullivans to reside in the Mahurangi. Julia (now Balderstone) is the only survivor of the family. Iraihi, who died in 1991, has been a principal source of this family history. The other major source of early Sullivan history, has been Mrs Anne-Marie Wallace of Wellington, granddaughter of Emma, the elder daughter of Daniel Sullivan senior.
Rawinia Roa and her husband came to live with William’s family in their old age, and she lived on with them as a widow. She commanded great respect in the family circle. A handsome woman of regal bearing, she identified strongly with her Māori heritage. It was unusual for the daughter of a Pakeha settler to wear the moko on her chin, probably acquired during her marriage to Roa. She tried to teach her grandchildren Māori by asking in that tongue for things at the table. She left two valuable historical lists: of local Māori place names, and the location of settlers there, about 1864 (written down by a descendant, Gertrude Tahu, in 1937).
She was also one of the characters of the Mahurangi. Several anecdotes about her survive. Victor Schischka used to find her fishing from the little island in Te Muri Creek. She would ask him for a cigarette, which he did not have, but she would roll herself one from his pipe tobacco. She also smoked a clay pipe. She was an ace crib player. Her pride was a 12-foot clinker dinghy, which was immaculately kept, and strictly her personal conveyance. No-one else in the family was allowed to use it. She would row it across the harbour on pension days to collect, signing the receipt as Grant-Roa.
Iraihi told how one summer day she was sitting on the floor of the hall, Māori-fashion, trying to keep cool, when a figure from her past came up from the beach. It was the elderly Davey Darroch, the scow builder, who had come ashore from his big launch to call on her. They talked for a long time of the old days. As he left, he told her she was a fine-looking woman when he knew her as a girl, and she still was. Perhaps he had fancied her in his youth. Her encounters with the postmistress are told elsewhere.
Iraihi also tells how grandfather Roa was fated to be a kind of pied piper, with a troop of grandchildren trooping after him wherever he went. He would take them fishing in a tide pool by the Pudding, where he would take his trousers off and wade in, collecting kina and scooping out leather-jackets with his hands. In the last years of his life he left his wife and Mahurangi family to live in the Waikato, near Pirongia. Whether it was to be near his daughter who lived there, or a return to end his days on ancestral ground is not clear. Rawinia used to visit him until he died and was buried there. When their beloved younger daughter died there, Rawinia came back from the tangi and cut off her beautiful long hair.
Sometimes Rawinia’s maternal cousin, Hari Paora (Harry Paul) and his wife would visit, bringing fermented karaka berries, which Rawinia relished, but Iraihi would not touch. They lived in Te Kapa, near the Andersons.
The Ratana movement swept through the north in the twenties, and the Sullivans became part of it, largely because of the enthusiasm of Rawinia and her half-sister, Ani Matekino. Ngārewa Sullivan went along, and William thought a little religious instruction would do their children no harm (there was not much about). The little blue pamphlet, courier of the faith, was collected each week with the mail. On Sundays there would be a gathering of their west-side neighbours for a midday meal, singing and study of the pamphlet. Fred and Mina Jackson, George and Lou Jamieson, Jim and Cora Scott and Mrs Matekino would come. The gathering rotated about their various homes. Sometimes William (surname forgotten), an itinerant Māori preacher of the faith would be present.
I doubt that my great-uncle George, ex-scowman, went for the good of his soul, but he would have enjoyed the good company, and the food. He was so inordinately fond of kūmara that local Māori nicknamed him ‘Hori Kai Kūmara’.