Henry Mount Langton Atcherley and the New Zealand Wars – Part 2

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War, according to an old adage, consists of long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. In the first part of this story, we saw something of the terror that Henry Mount Langton Atcherley [] would have experienced when he took part in the Battle of Te Ranga. But what about the periods before and after battle, when men of action faced … inaction? Contemporary newspaper reports (digitised and put online by the wonderful Papers Past website) afford us a glimpse into the activities which helped to banish the boredom. They also show us that Henry Atcherley was an artist in the fullest sense – an actor and a musician as well as a painter!

Map showing (in red circles, from left to right) locations of Tauranga / Gate Pa / site of Battle of Te Ranga; Maketu, and Opotika, on New Zealand’s North Island.

It appears that after the Battle of Te Ranga, the 1st Waikato Regiment remained for some time at Tauranga, on the Bay of Plenty on the east coast of North Island. From the latter part of 1864, references to sporting activities for the troops stationed here began to appear in the press. The New Zealander’s correspondent at the military camp of Te Papa noted on 13 October that year that: “The monotony of the camp has been somewhat changed, and Colonel Greer, commanding the forces in conjunction with Colonel Harington, of the 1st Waikato Regiment, and the officers of both forces are fostering a keen desire for sports.”

As the southern hemisphere Summer of 1864-5 progressed, officers and men of the military at Tauranga were able to take part in (or watch) a variety of events, including cricket, a regatta, and horse racing. I have found nothing to indicate that Henry Mount Langton Atcherley competed in any of these, but knowing (from his later paintings) his love of boats and the coast, I can imagine him observing and perhaps also sketching the regatta.

It appears that by May 1865, one or more companies of the 1st Waikato Regiment were based at Maketu, another coastal settlement around 30 km south-east of Tauranga. Certainly, the Regiment’s 2nd and 8th Companies were there by the end of that year. On 23 November 1865, the non-commissioned officers and men of these two companies presented a silver cup to their commanding officer, Captain F C Leggett, as a testimonial to the captain’s infant son. One of the co-signatories of the address which accompanied the cup was Henry H M Atcherley, Colour Sergeant, No. 2 Company. Maketu, incidentally, was the site of a redoubt which became the subject of one of Henry’s paintings (see image below).

In 1866, the 1st Waikato Regiment was transferred, in whole or in part, to a garrison even further east along the shore of the Bay of Plenty: Opotiki. Newspapers mention the reinforcement of the garrison by 117 men of 1st Waikato Regiment from Tauranga and Maketu at the beginning of February 1866, and the arrival at Opotiki on 24 August of “wives and children of men of the 1st Waikato Regiment, to be permanently located at this post.”

I have yet to discover precisely when Henry and 2 Company arrived at Opotiki, but they were certainly present by September 1866. “The long looked for sports have at last commenced”, The New Zealand Herald’s correspondent there wrote on the 20th of that month. He reported on rifle shooting, horse racing, and athletic sports. The latter, in addition to the expected foot races, hurdle races, hop, step and jump, and putting the shot, featured “Two Men in One Pair or Trousers” (which was described as an “amusing race”!).

Once again there is no evidence that Henry Atcherley engaged in the sports, but he was involved in the programme of events which was laid on for the enjoyment of the troops. On the evening of 24 September, “the O.V.R. Club gave their first entertainment in the store of Mr. Litchfield, which was kindly placed at their disposal by the proprietor.” The programme featured a quadrille, a recitation, songs, a reading, and solo performances including an “Air, with variations, ‘Blue Bells,’” on the piccolo by Sergeant Atcherley. The Herald’s correspondent went on to say:

To the lovers of music, this evening’s entertainment was perhaps one of the greatest treats that could have been given them; as nothing could excel the masterly style in which the airs on the organ flutina, flutina, and piccolo, were executed by Messrs. Thom, Palethorpe, and Atcherly. […] After a well executed hornpipe and jig by Private Clutterbuck, we were allowed an interval of ten minutes, after which the entertainment concluded with the well-known farce of ‘Slasher and Crasher:’—Blowhard, Mr. Llewellyn; Slasher, Mr. Atcherley; Crasher, Mr. Palethorpe; Lieut. Brown, Way; Rosa, Miss Knight; Dinah, Mr Jane; the whole of which characters were well chosen, and most perfectly carried through […]

The entertainment of 24 September was repeated the following evening, and further opportunities to see and hear Henry Mount Langton Atcherley on the stage were to follow. The following report from the New Zealand Herald’s man in Opotiki not only tells us about Henry’s next performance, but also gives a flavour of what life was like for the denizens of that young settlement – and the ups and downs of military life there at that time:

November 6th, 1866. […]
Rumours have reached us of an intended attack by the Hauhaus. If those fanatics do pay us a visit they will, without doubt, receive such reception as will effectually prevent them coming a second time. By the by, can you or any of your numerous readers inform me from what quarter the rumours emanate? An answer to that question will oblige.
Notwithstanding the alarming tidings (the compositor requested not to put the two last words in capitals), just referred to, the folk here seem bent on enjoying themselves. The theatre has been crowded nightly, and the lovers of cricket (and by way of parenthesis, where is the Englishman to be found who does not love cricket) have begun operations in earnest. The other evening the farce of the ‘Rendezvous’ was performed with the following cast—Quake, Mr. Llewellyn; Captain Bolding, Mr. Atcherly; Charles, Mr. Mahoney; Smart, Mr. Farrer; Simon, Mr. [Palethorpe]; Lucretia, Miss Jane; Sophia, Miss Cambay; Rose, Miss Knight. As the actors were all well up in their parts, the farce went off without any of those distressing ‘hitches’ which usually occur during the performances of amateurs, and which are so trying to the nerves and patience of their friends in the house. We have also been favored with a visit from the G.V.B. minstrels.
Messrs. White and Kelly have put up new stores, and the hotel will soon be opened.
A certain gentleman will, upon his arrival here, meet with a hearty welcome. I allude to the paymaster. Four months’ pay is due to many of the men, and this ‘trifling sum’ ought to be in the hands or pockets of the militiamen; not in the keeping of government officials. In consequence of being kept so long out of their money, the men are compelled to adopt the tick, I beg pardon, I mean the credit principle; and the credit principle is not a good one for storekeepers or their customers. ‘The next time,’ said a man in my own hearing the other day ‘that the detachment has a march, instead of stepping off to the enlivening strains of ‘Old John Brown’ it ought to advance so the tune of ‘Hard Times come again no more.’ The latter song is likely to become a standing favourite with the Opotiki detachment.

The “Hauhaus”, referred to at the beginning of the above report, were extremist followers of a Māori religion known as Pai Mārire, founded in Taranaki in 1862 by the prophet Te Ua Haumēne (pictured left around 1922). Although the words Pai Mārire mean ‘Good and Peaceful’, followers of the cult were promised deliverance from domination by pākehā (European settlers) – and losses of Māori lands on North Island inspired many followers to seek their deliverance through violence. The ‘Hauhaus’ were not the only Māori ‘rebels’ active during the time when Henry was stationed by the Bay of Plenty. One of the victims of the many attacks launched by disaffected groups was Māori interpreter James Fulloon, who was killed aboard the cutter Kate at Whatakane in July 1865. It is interesting to note that in 1877, one of the paintings exhibited by Henry Mount Langton Atcherley was of “Fulloon’s Grave.”

As for the pay which was overdue to many men of the 1st Waikato Regiment (quite possibly including Henry), this was just one of the problems experienced by the militiamen for which the New Zealand government was to blame. I will say more about this shortly.

On 28 December 1866, the New Zealand Herald published this report from Opotiki:

December 12.
After a very long interval, which of course left it open to conjecture that they were going to give us something to astonish the natives, the G.V.B. Club issued posters that a performance would take place this evening, commencing with ‘I Couldn’t Help It.’ […] Followed by a selection of songs by the G.V.B. Minstrels. To conclude with the farce of the ‘Two Gay Deceivers’ […] And, certainly, we were not disappointed, for they were two of the best pieces ever introduced on the stage at this place, and from the beginning to the end there was not a single hitch, one and all being well up in their parts. The get-up of the female characters was most perfect, especially Mrs. Digby Precision, and had she been of the sex she was representing, would have given great cause for jealousy amongst the male portion of the community.

A man whose name appeared as “Mr. Atcherby” played the roles of Mr. Digby Precision in the first farce, and Black (the other characters being White and Grey) in the second. In a further report dated 21 December 1866 and published in the Herald of 8 January 1867, the paper’s correspondent opined (in respect of two further performances of these plays): “It is almost unfair to criticise an amateur performance when all are perfect, but still we could not help noticing the very precise way the part of Mr. Digby Precision was carried out from beginning to end […]”. He added: “l am sorry to hear that our amateur performances are likely to be put off for some time as many of the principal performers are likely to be away from the settlement for some time.”

I do not know whether or not Henry Mount Langton Atcherley was one of the performers who were “away from the settlement” after December 1866. I have not found his name (or variants of it) in the New Zealand papers again until 1870. I do know that after the 18th of December 1866, Henry was no longer serving with the 1st Waikato Regiment. Under the terms of the agreement under which he signed up for duty back in 1863 he should have received, on the termination of his service, land and further support from the New Zealand government. It seems unlikely that he did however. The following report, from the Daily Southern Cross of 14 September 1866, is one of many in a similar vein:

A number of men in the 1st Waikato Regiment, whose three years have expired, taking their discharge, these men are consequently struck off pay; but who would believe the generous Government of New Zealand have likewise struck them off rations, and not an inch of land broken into allotments! This proceeding on the part of the authorities is quite inconsistent, and totally at variance with the conditions under which these people agreed to serve. And I trust some one better qualified than myself will defend the legitimate rights of these poor and deceived men. In terms of the conditions these men were entitled to 51 acres of land, a Crown grant of the same, with one year’s rations immediately after their time was completed. The Government have broken faith, and steps should be taken to compel them to make good their promises.

When Henry Atcherley’s name appeared once more in the New Zealand newspapers, in 1870, he had either returned to Opotiki or had remained there since 1866. The first report, in the Daily Southern Cross of 8 February 1870, stated in respect of Opotiki that: “We have also a dancing-school, which is well attended, and with our favourite and really capital musicians—Messrs. Atcherly and Palethorpe—forms no inconsiderable attraction for all.”

Just seven weeks later, on 29 March 1870, Henry’s name appeared again in the same newspaper, as “Atcherly, Henry Mount Langton”. It was in a schedule appended to a notice issued by the Crown Lands Office, Auckland, under the heading “Militia Crown Grants”. Henry (along with his musical accomplice Thomas Palethorpe) had finally been granted the land he had been promised.

Picture credits. Map showing locations of Tauranga / Gate Pa / site of Battle of Te Ranga; Maketu, and Opotika: Adapted from War Map in The Long White Cloud by William Pember, published 1899 and therefore out of copyright; taken from the Project Gutenberg website. Redoubt, Maketu, New Zealand [1864?]: Painting by Henry Mount Langton Atcherley, image from Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, Ref A-196-009. Te Ua Haumene photographed around 1922: Adapted from a photo by James Cowan which is now in the public domain; taken from Wikimedia Commons. Notice of Militia Crown Grants in Daily Southern Cross, 29 Mar 1870: Image from Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.


[1] New Zealander, 19 Oct 1864, page 5. “Tauranga.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[2] Daily Southern Cross, 29 Oct 1864, page 6. “Cricket.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[3] Daily Southern Cross, 26 Oct 1864, page 6. “Programme of Tauranga Regatta.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[4] Daily Southern Cross, 21 Dec 1864, page 5. “Camp Te Papa.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[5] Daily Southern Cross, 3 Jan 1866, page 5. “The Last Presentation.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[6] Daily Southern Cross, 5 Feb 1866, page 4. “Bay of Plenty.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[7] Daily Southern Cross, 14 Sep 1866, page 4. “Bay of Plenty.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[8] New Zealand Herald, 19 Oct 1866, page 4. “Opotiki.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[9] New Zealand Herald, 26 Nov 1866, page 5. “Opotiki.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[10] Pai Mārire. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 22 April 2018).
[11] New Zealander, 7 Aug 1865, page 3. “The Murder of Mr. James Fulloon, With Captain Pringle and Mate of the Cutter ‘Kate’, at Whatakane, and Destruction of the Vessel.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[12] Daily Southern Cross, 7 Aug 1865, page 5. “Mr. James Fulloon.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[13] Daily Southern Cross, 7 Aug 1865, page 5. “Whakatane. Murder of Mr. James Fulloon and the Crew of the ‘Kate.’” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[14] Auckland Star, 26 Nov 1877, page 3. “Artists’ Exhibition.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[15] New Zealand Herald, 28 Dec 1866, page 6. “Opotiki.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[16] New Zealand Herald, 8 Jan 1867, page 5. “Opotiki.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[17] Daily Southern Cross, 8 Feb 1870, page 4. “State of the Opotiki District”. Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[18] Daily Southern Cross, 14 Sep 1866, page 4. “Opotiki.” Copy viewed at Papers Past.
[19] Daily Southern Cross, 29 Mar 1870, page 5. “Militia Crown Grants”. Copy viewed at Papers Past.