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Encyclopedia > Dicky Barrett (trader)

Richard "Dicky" Barrett (1807-47) was one of the first white traders in New Zealand. He was a key figure in the establishment of the settlement of New Plymouth and and lent his modest translation skills to help negotiate the first land purchases from Maori in New Plymouth and Wellington. New Plymouth is the port and main city in the Taranaki region on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. ... For other uses, see Wellington (disambiguation). ...


Sailor, trader and whaler

Barrett was born and raised in the slums of either Durham or Bermondsey. He spent six years as a sailor and arrived in Taranaki from Sydney as a mate on the trading vessel Adventure in March, 1828. He and captain John Agar Love established a trading post at Ngamotu, trading muskets and trinkets for flax, maize, wheat and vegetables grown by local Te Atiawa Māori. The trading post attracted increasing numbers of passing ships. Durham (IPA: locally, in RP) is a small city and main settlement of the City of Durham district of County Durham in North East England. ... Bermondsey is a place in the London Borough of Southwark. ... A trading post is a place where trading of goods takes place. ... Muskets and bayonets aboard the frigate Grand Turk. ... Binomial name Phormium tenax New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax), known as Harakeke by New Zealand Maori for many centuries, was and still is one of the most versatile plants in the world. ... Languages Māori, English Religions Māori religion, Christianity Related ethnic groups other Polynesian peoples, Austronesian peoples The word Māori refers to the indigenous people of New Zealand and their language. ...

Barrett picked up a rudimentary understanding of the Māori language, was given the name of Tiki Parete and married Rawinia, the daughter of a local chief[1]. Māori or Te Reo Māori, commonly shortened to Te Reo (literally the language) is an official language of New Zealand. ...

In 1832 Barrett and his former crewmates joined local Maori in the Otaka pā at Ngamotu to aid their defence in the face of an attack by heavily-armed Waikato Māori, firing on the invaders with three cannon, using nails, iron scraps and stones for ammunition. The siege lasted more than three weeks before the Waikato withdrew, leaving a battle scene strewn with bodies, many of which had been cannibalised. In June Barrett and his white companions migrated south with as many as 3000 Atiawa Māori.[2] Te Puni, Māori Chief Māori is the name of the indigenous people of New Zealand, and their language. ... Pā or Marae were the pre-European, Māori forts considerd the Tribal social centre and socio-political center of all Iwi. ... Waikato is the name of a region in the North Island of New Zealand. ...

Barrett established whaling stations at Queen Charlotte Sound and Port Nicholson. Queen Charlotte Sound is the easternmost of the main sounds of the Marlborough Sounds, in New Zealands South Island. ... For other uses, see Wellington (disambiguation). ...


In September 1839 Barrett sailed from Queen Charlotte Sound to Port Nicholson aboard the Tory with representatives of the New Zealand Company to help negotiate the purchase of land there. The party remained there for about 10 days, ultimately securing the signatures of 16 Maori on a deed (written in English) for the purchase of an estimated 64,000ha in the Wellington area. The Waitangi Tribunal noted in its 2003 report on the Port Nicholson land purchases[3] that Barrett – who it describes as having "marked incompetence as an interpreter" – was unable to translate the deed into Maori and "quite incapable of conveying its meaning ... to the assembled Maori". The New Zealand Company formed in 1839 to promote the colonisation of New Zealand. ... The Waitangi Tribunal is a New Zealand court empowered to compensate Maori people for land obtained by fraud or by force since 1840. ...

Barrett was later described by a contemporary as speaking "whaler Maori, a jargon that bears much the same relation to the real language of the Maori as the pigeon English of the Chinese does to our mother tongue".[4]

In November 1839 Barrett arrived in Taranaki on the Tory to negotiate the purchase of land from his wife's iwi, remaining there while Wakefield continued north to Kaipara. On February 15, 1840 he translated Deeds of Sale and obtained 72 signatures to formalise the purchase of a vast area of Taranaki, extending from Mokau to Cape Egmont and inland to the upper reaches of the Whanganui River. Payment was made with guns, blankets and other chattels. Iwi (pronounced ee-wee) are the largest everyday social units in Māori society. ... Location of Kaipara Harbour The Kaipara Harbour is an inlet of the Tasman Sea located near the base of the North Auckland Peninsula on the western side of the North Island of New Zealand. ... Mokau is a small town in northern Taranaki on New Zealands North Island, located at the mouth of the Mokau River on the North Taranaki Bight. ... Cape Egmont is the westernmost point of Taranaki, on the west coast of New Zealands North Island. ... The Whanganui River is a major river in the North Island of New Zealand. ...

J. Houston, writing in Maori Life in Old Taranaki (1965), observed: "Many of the true owners were absent, while others had not returned from slavery to the Waikatos in the north. Thus the 72 chiefs of Ngamotu cheerfully sold lands in which they themselves had no interest, as well as lands wherein they held only a part interest along with several others."[5]

The Maori were not aided in their understanding of the deal by Barrett's translation skills. In Wellington he was said to have "turned a 1600-word document, written in English, into 115 meaningless Maori ones".[6]

Harbour master

Barrett returned to Wellington to open a hotel, but returned to New Plymouth in 1841 with Frederic Alonzo Carrington, a surveyor commissioned by the New Zealand Company, who began surveying the planned town. He married Rawinia the same year, describing himself on the marriage certificate as "a whaling master of full age".

Barrett remained in New Plymouth as the settlement grew, becoming an unofficial harbour master, helping immigrants ashore as ships arrived. He later became a soldier, police officer, gardener and farmer. He drove the first cattle and sheep to Taranaki from Wellington and introduced a wide variety of new crops and vegetables. It is said he missed the landing of the first settlers, who arrived on the William Bryan in March 1841, because he was out in the country, picking peaches.

When the Land Claims Commission held hearings in New Plymouth into disputed land purchases in 1844, it awarded the New Zealand Company 24,000ha of "legitimately purchased" land, including 72ha for Barrett and his family.

Fall from favour

According to Puke Ariki Museum in New Plymouth, Barrett became a persona non grata and was ostracised after being blamed by Atiawa Māori and Governor Robert FitzRoy for contributing to tension over settlement of Māori land with his initial negotiations.[6] The tension later spilled over into war. Look up Persona non grata in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy (5 July 1805 – 30 April 1865) achieved lasting fame as the captain of HMS Beagle and as a pioneering meteorologist who made accurate weather forecasting a reality, also proving an able surveyor and hydrographer as well as Governor-General of New Zealand. ... The Taranaki War is a conflict that took place between Maori and Pakeha in New Zealand from March 1860 to March 1861. ...

Barrett died in 1847 after being injured killing a whale off the coast of New Plymouth and was buried at Wahitapu Cemetery off lower Bayly Rd, New Plymouth. A headstone shows he is buried with his wife and eight-year-old daughter.

His legacy remains in New Plymouth with Barrett Lagoon, Barrett Reef, Barrett Domain, Barrett Road and Barrett Street.

For more information, see New Plymouth. New Plymouth is the port and main city in the Taranaki region on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. ...


  1. ^ Puke Ariki information on Barrett
  2. ^ Puke Ariki museum essay
  3. ^ Waitangi Tribunal Report on the Wellington District, pages 63-65
  4. ^ Protector of Aborigines George Clark in "Notes on Early Life in New Zealand", cited by Waitangi Tribunal Report on the Wellington District, page 52).
  5. ^ "Maori Life in Old Taranaki" by J. Houston (1965) as cited by J.S. Tullett, "The Industrious Heart: A History of New Plymouth" (1981), page 8
  6. ^ a b Puke Ariki museum essay.

Puke Ariki museum resources on Dicky Barrett



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