One story of welcome - Mary Ann Hodgkinson


A Traditional Challenge at the Port
Mary Ann Hodgkinson, who had just arrived on the Thomas Harrison with her family in October 1842, had been drilled in self-defence on board ship and warned about the possibility of being attacked by Māori;  she was standing on the beach at Nelson with her three children (George aged ten, Lydia six, and Emma three), while her husband unloaded their gear from the ship, when they were treated to an impromptu pōwhiri (traditional welcome), complete with kaiwerowero (a challenging armed warrior). 

Mary Ann Hodgkinson

Mary Ann Hodgkinson. Family collection.

Mary Ann wrote:

“I was feeling very shaky and stood gazing in wonder at the bush clad hills when along came a dark tattooed Maori advancing violently towards me with a club. My worst fears of cannibalism seemed to be realised.  After such a long journey thus we were about to die. Lydia and Emma promptly disappeared under my crinoline.  This astounded the Maori and at his next approach he bent down, eyes popping with astonishment, burst into laughter and said ‘Just like the hera’ (hen).  George promptly punched him on the nose.  At the flowing blood I felt more alarmed than ever but a happy looking Maori woman rushed up, shook my hand and explained that we were really being welcomed.  We went on foot to the depot erected by Captain Wakefield on what is now Church Hill … Back and forth to the port carrying bundles we went, helped by the same Maori who had greeted us so violently on arrival.  His wife came too and attached herself to little Emma.  Their names were Wera and Winnie and no kinder folk ever existed on this earth”.

Ongoing Relationships


Drawing of Arthur Wakefield in uniform, The Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection 114432/3

The relationship forged that day at the port between the Hodgkinsons and Wera and Winnie persisted for some time.  After a stay at the New Zealand Company’s depot in Nelson the Hodgkinsons started, on foot, for their property at Wakefield – to a bare section on which they had to erect accommodation and begin the formidable tasks of clearing and breaking in the land.  Mary Ann recorded the privations under which they struggled to reach Wakefield, made somewhat easier with the assistance of their new friends, Wera and Winnie:

“When our men returned we set off for our new home down past Nelson port around the rocks and beach then up through the fern to Wakefield.  Winnie and Wera went with us and helped with the bundles.  Captain Wakefield’s men lent us a little donkey but the going was slow because of the children.  We were four days and nights getting there, sleeping under trees with fern for beds, covered with our roll of rugs.  Wera kept a roaring fire going taking turns with Winnie.  They sat by the fire big eyes glancing right and left into the bush, sometimes a muttered word – what they feared we never knew, but waking and seeing those fierce tattooed faces grimly alert I felt a new safety as if their eyes and ears were aware of events miles away.  Finally we arrived on our land, made a fire and cooked a meal of potatoes.  The men soon had a hut of slab and fern to shelter us and after catching a supply of silver eels and kaka, Winnie and Wera took leave of us, tears streaming down our cheeks.  I gave Winnie my lovely paisley shawl.  She afterwards wore it proudly in Wellington.”

Unfortunately, the iwi and whanau connections of Wera and Winnie have not been identified.  There are other accounts of new arrivals being accorded traditional welcomes at or near Port Nelson.


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Further sources - One story of welcome - Mary Ann Hodgkinson



  • Hodkinson manuscript. Nelson Provincial Museum