Edward Robert Tregear

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Edward Robert Tregear
( ca.1900 )

Edward Robert Tregear (born May 1, 1846 in Southampton , Hampshire , England , † October 28, 1931 in Picton , New Zealand ) was a New Zealand government official, politician, linguist, author of various books, co-founder of the Polynesian Society and The Journal of the Polynesian Society .


Edward Robert Tregear was born on May 1, 1846 as the eldest child of the married couple Mary Norris and William James Tregear in Southampton . His father was the captain of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and was rarely at home. Tregear's comfortable life ended abruptly after his father's financial ruin in 1858, possibly caused by gambling addiction. His father died a year later, leaving his family in poor conditions. In 1863 the family decided to try their luck in New Zealand.

Immigration to New Zealand

On June 27, 1863, they reached Auckland on the War Spirit and lived in Warkworth for three or four years , then moved back to Auckland . There Tregear reported to the Auckland Engineer Volunteers of the army and was used against Māori in the area around Tauranga . After the war effort, for which he received an award, he trained as a surveyor and worked between 1869 and 1871 in the gold fields around Thames and on the Coromandel Peninsula . He also tried his luck as a gold digger and participated in gold mining companies, where he lost his little hard-earned money.

From 1872 he then worked for two years in the Land Purchase Department as a surveyor in the Hauraki Plains and in the area around Tokoroa . After a few more unsuccessful years, he got a job as a government surveyor in the Taranaki region in 1875 , but fell ill from working conditions in the wetlands of the Taranaki bush. In 1877 he moved to Patea , where he worked as a freelance surveyor for road construction until 1881.

Political and social engagement

During his time working in remote areas of New Zealand, he came into close contact with the Māori , learned to speak their language and to appreciate their culture. He also used the time to devote himself to poetry and at the same time began to work on a dictionary for the Māori language .

On June 18, 1880, he married Eliza Emma Joynt in New Plymouth , with whom he had a daughter. In New Plymouth , Tregear got his first job in an office. He worked as a surveyor for William Fox's West Coast Royal Commission . In New Plymouth he also became a member of the Working Men's Club and publicly represented his socialist positions, which were less based on socialist theories and education, but were formed from his experiences.

After he got into financial debt in 1882, he briefly joined the free thinkers , through whom he got access to the country's more radical-thinking elite. So he came into contact with the liberal politicians John Ballance , William Pember Reeves and Robert Stout . It was then also John Ballance who had come to appreciate him as an expert on Māori matters and who brought him to Wellington in 1885 , where he became an active member of the Wellington Philosophical Society .

In 1890 Ballance tried in vain to win Tregear for political office and for the Liberals . After John Ballance became Prime Minister of the country in 1891 , Tregear was then more involved and became Secretary of the Bureau of Industries , which was renamed the Department of Labor a short time later . In this position he worked closely with William Pember Reeves , who had become Secretary of Labor under Ballance . Even when Richard Seddon took over the office, he worked for him.

In 1910 , disappointed by the changes in Liberal Party's politics , Tregear retired and turned to the New Zealand Labor Party after the Liberals lost a majority in 1912 . As a Labor politician, he was now elected to the Wellington City Council and achieved merit in the unification of the numerous factions within Labor at this time.

In 1913 he became president of the Social Democratic Party , in which Peter Fraser had taken over the post of secretary. After William Massey had brutally ended the New Zealand workers' strike in 1913, Tregear withdrew from all offices and devoted himself to poetry. In 1921 he moved with his family to Picton , where he died on October 28, 1931.

Intensive study of the Māori culture

Tregear began to study the Māori culture even more intensively in the 1880s and developed the theory that the Māori were of Indo-European origin , which he advocated in his book The Aryan Maori in 1885 and for which he strongly criticized in New Zealand, but respected in England has been. He received recognition from the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Historical Society , became a member of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland and the Philological Society in London . He came into contact with the ethnologist James George Frazer , with the writer and journalist Andrew Lang and with the linguist and religious scholar Friedrich Max Müller . Tregear represented his theory in numerous publications over the next 20 years.

In 1892, Tregear co- founded the Polynesian Society with Stephenson Percy Smith and was co-editor of the Journal of the Polynesian Society for the first eleven years .


Tregear was honored with the Imperial Service Order in 1911 and the Polynesian Society granted him lifetime membership.


Extract from his works:

  • 1884 - Southern parables . Thomas Avery , New Plymouth 1884 (English).
  • 1885 - The Aryan Maori . George Didsbury , Wellington 1885 (English).
  • 1885 - Hedged with divinities . Coupland Harding , Wellington 1885 (English).
  • 1891 - Fairy tales and folk-lore of New Zealand and the South Seas . Lyon & Blair , Wellington Lyon & Blair 1891 (English).
  • 1891 Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary . Lyon and Blair , Wellington 1891 (English, Classic Reprint: Forgotten Books , September 27, 2015, ISBN 978-1330372548 ).
  • 1904 - The Maori race . AD Willis , Wanganui 1904 (English).
  • 1907 - together with Stephenson Percy Smith : A vocabulary and grammar of the Niue dialect of the Polynesian language . Government Printer , Wellington 1907 (English).
  • 1919 - Shadows and Other Verses . Whitcombe & Tombs , Wellington 1919 (English).
  • 1989 - The Verse of Edward Tregear . Nagare Press , Palmerston North 1989 (English, edited and edited by KR Howe).


Individual evidence

  1. ^ McKenzie : Edward Robert Tregear, 1846-1931 . 2008, p.  32 .
  2. Howe : Tregear, Edward Robert . 1993.
  3. ^ McKenzie : Edward Robert Tregear, 1846-1931 . 2008, p.  35 .