Monday, January 23, 2017

'Sometimes, the silence screams': Bruce Munro on New Zealand's slaving history

Publishing a book is like putting a message into a bottle and throwing the bottle into the sea. One is never sure whether or where the bottle will wash up; one is grateful if anyone finds it, and reads the text it has been carrying. 

I've been delighted with the response to The Stolen Island over the last couple of months. Beachcombers in New Zealand, Tonga, Australia and New Caledonia have unbottled my message, and discussed it in print, on the internet, and over the radio. 

I'm particularly pleased about two articles that Bruce Munro published in last weekend's Otago Daily Times. Munro wrote about The Stolen Island a month or so ago, and noticed the book's call for more research into New Zealand's role in the nineteenth century Pacific slave trade. He has been busy researching. 

In an article called 'Document Confirms a Slaver's Character' Munro introduces readers to Edith Cromie, from Waihao Downs in South Canterbury. Cromie is the custodian of a fragile letter, handed down through her family, that was composed by Phillis Seal, who in the 1860s was the widow of one of Hobart's wealthiest shipowners. 

Phillis Seal had entrusted a brig called the Grecian to Thomas McGrath, a veteran Tasmanian whaler, but instead of cruising the Pacific for a year and returning to Hobart with barrels of whale oil McGrath had dumped most of the ship's crew, recruited new hands, and raided the Tongan islands of 'Ata and Niuafo'ou in search of slaves. After selling Tongan captives to a slave ship bound for Peru, McGrath used his cash to buy large quantities of liquor and food. He took the Grecian down the western side of New Zealand, avoiding busy ports, and landed quietly on remote Stewart Island, which had only recently been annexed by New Zealand. 

When she wrote her letter, Phillis Seal did not know about Thomas McGrath's slave raids; she only knew that he had vanished with her property. A rage at the whaler's impudence can be detected behind the epistle's circuitous, lawyerly sentences. 

McGrath eventually visited Campbelltown, the port that is nowadays known as Bluff, where he was arrested and charged with customs offences and with appropriating the Grecian. The ship was returned to Tasmania, and to the Seal family; McGrath was found guilty of stealing the Grecian and breaches of customs law, and spent time in prison, but he was never brought to justice for his slave trading.

In a longer article called 'Chained to a Sorry Trade', Munro reports on his research into Otago's connections with the Pacific slave trade of the late 1860s and early 1870s. He refers to a couple of texts listed in the bibliography of The Stolen Island, but he has made new discoveries in the vast online Papers Past archive. 

Munro describes how the Dunedin steamship the Wainui would ram and destroy smaller, Melanesian vessels then pull the survivors of its attacks from the water and into captivity. He names Charles Clark, a Dunedin businessman, as the owner of the Wainui, and like me he links the ship's raids with the slaying of John Coleridge Patteson, the first Anglican Bishop of Melanesia, in 1871. Munro introduces two other Otago-based ships, the Lismore and the Queen of the Isles, that also carried slaves. 

In his article's eloquent conclusion, Munro describes the eeriness of encountering history in old newspapers:

[T]he digitisation of newspaper archives means the link [with the past] is restored. The reports of ships' crews kidnapping people, the talk of buying niggers, the clamour for the trade to be stopped is now all continually available, soundlessly waiting, bending the important, horrific events of 1871 towards the present day for anyone who cares to seek them.
Sometimes, the silence screams.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton] 


Blogger Richard said...

Your Blog is like a ship whose keel is encrusted with barnacles and thus runs less efficiently in the sea and has to be cleaned periodically!

But it can be exciting for a historian to find these things.

New Zealand is not uninvolved in atrocities or injustices to "native" peoples. Thus it is not clear we can criticise the Israelis for colonizing Palestine. Their holocaustic actions were a sped up version of our and in general Europeans' slow decimation and pollution of the Pacific in more ways than just the environmental. Religion, organised is perhaps one of the pollutants, greed for cash another. McGrath could be seen as a dark but perhaps a colourful character of the times.

Now Trump is getting oil pipelines built. He is not interested in pandering to any ideas of the 'environment' as he puts employment as an urgent priority....

Reading the Listener it seems that in fact Obama (or under the Obama administration) employment increased and the US economy was in excellent shape...I wonder if it will now get really bad and Trump will convince everyone, marvelous raconteur that he is, that all is beautiful, that America is now great...

Trump is not keen on immigrants or Afro-Americans, women a Gung-Ho Capitalist he might have endorsed McGrath as a man of enterprise. Asked about how men in real estate such as himself in many ways contributed to the origin of the 2008 crash (with mortgage bundling esp. for workers where the jobs were to go and they lost the ability to repay leading to a stock-market meltdown): asked about the misery caused in the US and elsewhere and he said:
"That's business."

But that aside, I enjoyed your book very much. Be good to see the Great South Road epic when it hits the press...!

10:42 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Thanks for your comment Richard. This blog is certainly getting encrusted with barnacles! I've been sick and then on holiday at Waipu beach recently, and the whole vessel has suffered from torpor for some time. I have to decide what direction to sail the thing in! Hope your work assembling a mss for BC is going well...

9:49 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes. Hope it was a good holiday. I got caught up in a chess tournament. But I have talked with BC and there seems some time as he has a few projects. However I need to get a move on for sure!

11:26 pm  
Blogger ardiansyah putra said...

Saya mau berbagi cerita kepada teman-teman melalui media internet yang dulunya saya berkerja sebagai tukang ojek yang pendapatan tak seberapa untuk menapkai istri dan ke-2 anak saya, namu suatu hari saya merasa kebingungan karna anak saya kepingin lanjut sekolah dan ingin mencapai cita-cita nya,namu saya berbicara dalam hati apakah anak saya bisah melanjutkan sekolah dan mencapai cita-cita nya sedangkan penghasiln yang aku dapatkan tidak tertentu berapa sehari cuma cukup/paspsan untuk buat makan aja. Dan aku merasa sedih melihrt anak-anak saya yang selalu termenung dia takut kalau putus sekolah, namu suatu hari aku berusaha mencari pinjaman kepada orang namun tak satu pun orang yang mau membantuku karna aku tak punya apa-apa yang bisa diambil sebagai jaminan, aku merasa kebingungan dan aku pasrakan pada yang maha kuasah karna kalau memang sudah takdir dan kehendaknyan pasti anak saya sudah tidak bisah lanjut sekolah lagi, kami terima atas ketidak sanggupan saya sebagai orang tua yang tidak mampu membiayai sekolah anak saya. namu suatu hari aku mengantar seseorang kedesa sebrang di situlah aku mendengar cerita pada teman-teman kalau AKI ARSO bisah membantu orang yang lagi kesusahan, namun saya dulunya tidak percaya dengan yang namanya peramal, tapi saya juga berpikir tidak ada salah aku mencoba, dan aku memikirkan anak saya yang penuh semangat ingin mencapai cita-cita nya, saya coba bergabung dan menjadi member AKI ARSO dan saya menghubungi AKI ARSO di nomor 085295323157 meminta angka jitu/gaib hasil ritual AKI,walau saya harus mencari pinjama uang untuk membayar mahar supaya aku bisa mendapatkan angka gaibnya, alhamdulillah atas pemberian dan bantuan AKI ARSO kami menang togel Rp.375 juta, atas keberasilan aku memenangkan togel semua hutang-hutang aku telah terlunasih. Termasuk uang pinjaman di koprasih, dan anak saya juga sudah bisah lanjut sekolah lagi mudah-mudahan bisah mencapai cita-cita yang selama ini dia impi-impikan dan sekarang kami sekeluarga mau berbagi kepada teman-teman semua jika anda mau merubah nasib seperti saya atau butuh angka jitu/gaib hasil ritual HUB AKI ARSO di 085295323157 atau kunjungi di dijamin 100% tembus dan saya sudah buktikan sendiri, bukan cuma pada saya tapi banyak orang yang berhasil melalui bantuan AKI ARSO, jika anda yakin dengan adanya angka gaib silahkan buktikan.

10:30 pm  
Blogger Luana Rodrigues said...


Hey Guys !!! Am amat gembira saya mendapat lombong dari Luana. kad ATM kosong saya boleh mengeluarkan $ 2000 setiap hari. Saya dapat dari minggu lepas beliau dan sekarang saya mempunyai $ 14,000 secara percuma. Kosong ATM mengeluarkan wang dari mana-mana mesin ATM dan tidak ada nama di atasnya, ia tidak boleh dikesan dan kini saya mempunyai wang untuk perniagaan dan wang yang cukup untuk saya dan keluarga saya untuk hidup .Saya amat gembira i bertemu Annie kerana saya bertemu dua orang sebelum beliau dan mereka mengambil wang saya tidak mengetahui bahawa mereka adalah penipuan. Tetapi gembira sekarang. Annie menghantar kad melalui DHL dan saya mendapat dalam dua hari. Dapatkan kad anda sendiri dari dia kini dia tidak seperti scammer lain berpura-pura mempunyai kad ATM, Beliau memberi ia keluar secara percuma untuk membantu orang walaupun ia adalah menyalahi undang-undang tetapi ia membantu banyak dan tiada siapa yang mendapat terperangkap. im berterima kasih kepada Annie kerana dia berubah cerita saya dengan tiba-tiba. kad ini berfungsi di semua negara kecuali, Mali dan Nigeria. Alamat e-mel Annie adalah

9:54 am  
Blogger Laura Jacobs said...

Ini untuk memberi tahu masyarakat umum bahwa Nyonya Mabel Nasiru, pemberi pinjaman pinjaman swasta telah membuka kesempatan finansial bagi setiap orang yang membutuhkan bantuan keuangan. Kami memberikan pinjaman dengan tingkat suku bunga 2% kepada perorangan, perusahaan dan perusahaan dengan syarat dan ketentuan yang jelas dan dapat dimengerti. Hubungi kami hari ini melalui e-mail agar kami bisa memberikan syarat dan ketentuan pinjaman kami di: (redeemersloanfirm@

1:17 pm  
Blogger Muhammad Ramzan said...

Do you need a loan .We are Legitimate and guarantee loan lender. We are a company with financial assistance. We loan funds out to individuals in need of financial assistance, that have a bad credit or in need of money to pay bills, to invest on business. I want to use this medium to inform you that we render reliable beneficiary assistance as We'll be glad to offer you a loan Contact us via Email:

Services Rendered include

*Debt Consolidation
*Business Loans
*Personal Loans.
*Car Loans
*Rent and House Loans

Write back if interested with our interest rate of 4% annual. Contact us via Email:

Please Note: All interested individual must send a message to our email for urgent response and details to obtain a Loan.

Best Regards.

8:15 pm  
Blogger Ibu Sri Marwani said...

Kami sekeluarga tak lupa mengucapkan puji syukur kepada ALLAH SWT, dan terima kasih banyak kepada aki bromo atas bantuan angka ritualnya yang aki berikan 4D dan 3D ternyata itu benar" tembus 100% aki. dan alhamdulillah sekarang saya bisa melunasi semua hutang-hutang saya yg ada sama TETANGGA dan juga BANK BRI dan bukan hanya itu aki insya Allah saya akan buka usaha sendiri demi mencukupi kebutuhan keluarga saya sehari-hari itu semua berkat bantuan aki, sekali lagi makasih banyak yaa aki. BAGI SAUDARA" YANG PUNYA PERMASALAHAN EKONOMI ATAU TERLILIT UTANG SILAHKAN HUBUNGI AKI BROMO DI: 085 - 288 - 958 - 758 insya allah anda bisa seperti saya menang togel ( 455 JUTA ), dan anda tidak usah ragu lagi akan adanya penipuan atau hal semacamnya sebab saya sudah buktikan sendiri, Sya Jamin aki bromo tidak akan mengecewakan. SEMOGA SUKSES AMIN...!!! ATAU KLIK DI SINI

1:56 am  
Blogger Christian Morgan said...

nilah solusi terbaik untuk kebebasan finansial, menjadikan tahun Anda sukses dengan mengunjungi layanan pinjaman christian morgan dimana Anda bisa mendapatkan pinjaman untuk memulai bisnis impian Anda tanpa stres dan mendapatkan pinjaman Anda disetujui dalam satu minggu .. Apakah Anda mencari pinjaman? Atau pernahkah Anda ditolak pinjaman oleh bank atau lembaga keuangan untuk satu atau lebih alasan? Anda memiliki tempat yang tepat untuk solusi pinjaman Anda di sini! Kami memberikan pinjaman kepada perusahaan dan individu dengan tingkat bunga rendah dan terjangkau sebesar 2%. Silahkan hubungi kami melalui e-mail hari ini melalui


1) Nama Lengkap:
2) Negara:
3) Alamat:
4) Negara:
5) Jenis Kelamin:
6) Status Perkawinan:
7) Pekerjaan:
8) Nomor Telepon:
9) Posisi di tempat kerja:
10) Pendapatan bulanan:
11) Jumlah Pinjaman yang Dibutuhkan:
12) Durasi Pinjaman:
13) Pinjaman Bunga:
14) Agama:
15) Sudahkah anda melamar dulu;
16) tanggal lahir;

Terima kasih,
Ibu Christian

9:05 am  
Blogger Osman raheem said...

Hello Everybody,
My name is Ahmad Asnul Brunei, I contacted Mr Osman Loan Firm for a business loan amount of $250,000, Then i was told about the step of approving my requested loan amount, after taking the risk again because i was so much desperate of setting up a business to my greatest surprise, the loan amount was credited to my bank account within 24 banking hours without any stress of getting my loan. I was surprise because i was first fall a victim of scam! If you are interested of securing any loan amount & you are located in any country, I'll advise you can contact Mr Osman Loan Firm via email

First name......
Middle name.....
2) Gender:.........
3) Loan Amount Needed:.........
4) Loan Duration:.........
5) Country:.........
6) Home Address:.........
7) Mobile Number:.........
8) Email address..........
9) Monthly Income:.....................
10) Occupation:...........................
11)Which site did you here about us.....................
Thanks and Best Regards.
Derek Email

7:54 pm  
Blogger Abdullah Moses said...

Hello Everybody,
My name is Mrs Sharon Sim. I live in Singapore and i am a happy woman today? and i told my self that any lender that rescue my family from our poor situation, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to him, he gave me happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of S$250,000.00 to start my life all over as i am a single mother with 3 kids I met this honest and GOD fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of S$250,000.00 SG. Dollar, he is a GOD fearing man, if you are in need of loan and you will pay back the loan please contact him tell him that is Mrs Sharon, that refer you to him. contact Dr Purva Pius,via email:{} Thank you.

6:43 am  
Blogger Abdullah Moses said...

We Offer Loan At A Very Low Rate Of 3%. If Interested, Kindly Contact Us via email now (

1:07 am  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home