William Gilbert Puckey

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Portrait of Puckey

William Gilbert Puckey (born May 5, 1805 in Penryn in Cornwall , † March 27, 1878 in Kaitaia ) was a missionary in New Zealand .


His parents were William Puckey and his wife Margery (née Gilbert). On June 5, 1805, Puckey was baptized in Penryn. He left England with his parents who were lay missionaries for the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and had worked in other places such as Tahiti and Australia . These, as well as William and his sister Elizabeth, who would later marry Gilbert Mair , arrived in 1819 during one of Samuel Marsden's visits to New Zealand. William was 14 years old at the time.

He quickly learned to be fluent in the Māori language , which enabled him to cultivate friendships with influential Māori from an early age . He built solid relationships and an understanding of the Māori of the Northland region . Few other “ Pākehā ” could communicate well with the Māori at that time.

His father was a carpenter and both parents seem to have united Christian values ​​with an understanding of foreign cultures.

The missionary JG Butler recorded in his diary on Saturday, January 6th 1821 a bush fire caused by Puckey, in which major damage to cornfields was prevented only with great effort:

Looking after the stores in the morning; in the afternoon we were much alarmed by fire. One of the carpenters' sons, named Wm. Puckey, a boy of about fourteen years of age, set fire to the fern, which had like to have burned our standing wheat, the day being windy and the fern high. The fire raged with great fury, so that, with the assistance of a great many natives, we had great difficulty in saving the corn, and putting it out. Mr. F. Hall had some barley burned, but not much.

On October 11, 1831, in Te Waimate, Puckey married Mathilda Davis, the first European couple to marry in New Zealand.

There are other stories about Puckey that shaped his relationships with the Māori. One day, Puckey is said to have arrived when Māori tried to throw a Māori boy into a raging river. Puckey suggested they buy the boy from them and rushed to the mission station to get some money. When he returned, however, the boy had already been thrown into the river. Puckey saved him from the water. The boy joined Puckey's household and is said to have shown considerable admiration and respect for him for the rest of his life.

Puckey should also New Zealand's first vehicle for beach sailing have built and with it the Ninety-Mile Beach sailed along and part of the district's Far North District explored.

Influence on Northland

Puckley was a major influence on the Northland region during his lifetime. He was busy doing a wide variety of things and was both a skilled builder and linguist who correctly translated parts of the Bible into the Māori language. He spent much of his time translating parts of the Bible into the Māori language, and he forged new relationships not only between himself and the locals, but also between them and other missionaries. Māori who were “saved” in the sense of Christian proselytizing often lived in the mission station and helped convert other Māori. So Puckey contributed to the missionary work of the Ngāpuhi communities .

Puckey was considered a man of great integrity. He maintained strong relationships with the Church with the aim of converting the Māori to Christianity and translating the gospel so that they could understand it.

Even in old age, when he was bedridden and hard of hearing, he was always ready to share his wisdom with a young Māori who came by. He therefore enjoyed the respect of the chiefs of the Ngāpuhi , such as Paerata and Pana-kareao. When Puckey's daughter insulted Hongi Heke by telling his daughter that his head (representing a tapu ) would be cut off after an argument , a group of Māori warriors were sent to raid the Puckey settlement. Perhaps the only thing that likely saved his family was the great respect (or mana ) Puckey enjoyed among the Māori for his life's work in Northland.

On the other hand, there is also a report that Puckey fell overboard on one of his trips to the North Cape and was rescued by one of the Māori converts.

William Puckey left a legacy that enriched Kaitaia and Northland. A skilled builder, carpenter and architect, many of Kaitaia's original buildings and streets were constructed under his direction. Some of his tools are on display at the Far North Museum . New Zealand Minister of Health Pete Hodgson is one of his descendants . William Gilbert Puckey was buried in St. Saviors Church in Kaitaia. His wife Mathilda died on July 15, 1884 in Thames .

William and Mathilda had several children:

  • William George Puckey (1836–1917), he married Margaret Hunt in 1885 and had six children.
  • Margita Jane Puckey (1844-1930)
  • Caroline Elizabeth Puckey (1842-1849)
  • Frederick P Puckey (1847-1848)
  • Charles Iselton Puckey (1848-1934), who married Doris Sophia Subritzky on May 14, 1873 and had 9 children.


  • Nancy Pickmere: The Story of Paihia Calder's Design and Print . Whangarei, 2000, p. 26, ISBN 0-473-06767-6
  • Florence Keene: Kaitaia and its People . Allied Graphics, Whangarei, 1989, pp. 82-84, ISBN 0-908817-05-3
  • Nancy Preece: A Lamp Shines in Kerikeri . News Limited, Kaikohe 1969, pp. 10, 11, 12, 27, 28
  • AMSM Williams: Life of WG Puckey . 1932, pp. 1, 7, 11, 23
  • Journals and Letters of the Rev. WG Puckey - 1831 - 1868, Special Collections . Auckland Public Library, pp. 3, 98, 141, 201, 299, 385, 453
  • C. Fitzgerald (Ed.): Letters From the Bay of Islands: The Story of Marianne Williams . Penguin Books, Auckland 2004, pp. 61, 87, 251
  • Descendants of William Puckey

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Puckey . The Family Research of Monique Jones , archived from the original on July 15, 2011 ; accessed on September 21, 2014 (English, original website no longer available).
  2. ^ Earliest New Zealand: The Journals and Correspondence of the Rev. John Butler accessed 11 September 2007