HAYES, Captain William Henry: “Bully”
Goldfields hotelkeeper, blackbirder, and pirate.
A new biography of Hayes, William Henry appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Hayes was born at Cleveland, Ohio, one of three sons of Henry Hayes, a lumberjack and grog-shanty keeper. He was a “close relative” of Rutherford Hayes, who became President of the United States. After little or no education Hayes served in the United States Navy in China, but was dismissed in 1846. Thereafter his movements are doubtful. He “traded” as far afield as Singapore, Sydney, San Francisco, and Calcutta. He married three times. After facing bankruptcy in Adelaide (1858) and Sydney (1860), he sailed the Cincinatti to Otago (September 1862), and there joined the Buckingham family entertainers, following them to Arrowtown, where he married Rosie Buckingham. He opened a hotel, the Prince of Wales (1863), where the “inimitable Thatcher” (q.v.) played. His reputation however, had followed him, and he and Rosie left Arrowtown for Nelson, where she was drowned (19 August 1864). There his ship Black Diamond was seized by Sydney bailiffs. On 26 July 1865, at the Royal Hotel, Christchurch, Hayes married Emily Butler, by whom he had a son and two daughters.
His subsequent career attracted the attention of the British, French, and United States Governments; Hayes, however, proved too elusive. In 1867 he rescued Rev. J Chalmers, a noted missionary whose party had been wrecked at Niue.
It was not long before Bully was again featured in newspaper headlines throughout Australia and New Zealand. Early in March 1869 Hayes' brig Rona, with passengers and cargo, left Huahine, in the Society Islands, for Hawaii and California while his brigantine Samoa left the same port for Apia. Ten days out Rona ran into a storm and sprang a leak. On 2 May the water flooded the pumps and the ship had to be abandoned. After 12 days in open boats, Bully brought his party to Rierson's Island and later to Manihiki where, to his astonishment, he learned that the Samoa had run aground the previous month. The survivors of both ships reached Samoa on 20 August 1869, after a perilous voyage in a boat constructed from timbers salvaged from the brigantine.
In 1875 Hayes sold his schooner to some political escapees at Manila for a good price. When accused of complicity, Hayes claimed his vessel was stolen, due to Government negligence. On this score he eventually won monetary compensation. Hayes was murdered in the Marshall Islands in March 1877, during a mutiny of his own provoking.
His nickname “Bulli” – Samoan for “elusive” or “evasive” – was given him by Dr Rabone, the famous missionary.
Although Hayes had a flair for attracting trouble, which ensured him considerable notoriety during his lifetime, there is little evidence to suggest that his conduct was worse than that of the other trader captains of his day. At that time the Pacific was one of the world's great “frontiers” and Bully Hayes was its Hickok.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- Early Days in Central Otago, Gilkison, Robt. (1958)
- Hayesiana, Moore (MSS.), Turnbull Library.