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Story: Brind, William Darby

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Brind, William Darby


Master mariner, whaler

This biography, written by Jocelyn Chisholm, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990. It was updated in February, 2006.

William Darby Brind was born in England, the eldest child of William Brind and his wife, Elizabeth. According to family information he was born in 1794. He was baptised on 28 July that year at St Philip's parish, Birmingham. He went to sea on whaling ships at an early age.

Between 1819 and 1843 Brind commanded a succession of whaling ships for London owners: the Cumberland, the Asp, the Emily, the Toward Castle for two voyages, and the Narwhal for two voyages. No log-books or journals of these seven voyages have survived, but other captains recorded sightings of Brind's ships, noting whale catches made and assistance given at sea and in port. He was evidently held in high regard. Early charts of the Pacific Ocean show that Brind Rock (L'Espérance Rock) in the Kermadec Islands and an island in the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati) were once named after him. He came to New Zealand in his first command, the Cumberland, arriving in the Bay of Islands on 20 March 1820, and returned on subsequent voyages.

Long periods spent on shore at the Bay of Islands repairing and provisioning their ships brought the whalers in contact with Māori and the missionaries. Brind carried mail and supplies for the mission stations over many years and was generous in lending assistance when called on. He carried mercantile goods for trade on his long voyages, including arms which he supplied to the Ngati Manu leader Pōmare I in the 1820s in return for his protection. A daughter of Pōmare accompanied Brind to sea on the Emily in the 1820s and lived with him for a time at Matauwhi Bay, which was known for many years as Brind's Bay. This liaison continued at least until Pōmare's death in 1826.

While Brind was in command of the Asp in New Zealand waters between 1822 and 1825, he formed a close association with the family of the Reverend Thomas Kendall. In 1822, when the Church Missionary Society dismissed Kendall from the New Zealand mission, Brind supported his move from Rangihoua to Matauwhi Bay. In March 1823 Brind was godfather at Kendall's baptism of Maria Ringa, and in June at Matauwhi Bay was a witness at her marriage to Phillip Tapsell, first mate of the Asp. Kendall officiated at what Tapsell claimed was 'the first marriage that ever took place in New Zealand'.

After Pōmare's death there were shifts in tribal power at the Bay of Islands. Brind allied himself with Rewa (Manu), a chief of Ngai Tawake of Nga Puhi. From 1828 he lived with Rewa's daughter, Moewaka. Their daughter was baptised Eliza Isabella Brind by Octavius Hadfield in October 1839. By this date Moewaka may have died. The child was placed in the care of Elizabeth Roberton at Motuarohia, and in 1841 was murdered with the other members of the household by Maketū.

Brind also had an English wife. On 19 December 1835 he had married Eliza Anne Snoswell, at Gravesend, Kent. Eliza Brind had come to New Zealand by September 1839, and was living at Matauwhi Bay. She and Brind had at least five children. Three sons and two daughters were baptised in New Zealand.

Brind's friendships with Kendall and the Reverend John Butler, and his liaisons with Māori women, had earned him the disapprobation of the Reverend Samuel Marsden, who blamed him directly for the 'Girls' War' of March 1830, although Brind was absent, whaling in the Toward Castle, at the time. Rivalry between two factions of women was the immediate cause of this battle which cost many lives. For a time Brind's dealings with the missionaries at Paihia and Waimate North were uneasy and he was accused of licentious behaviour and trouble-making.

In the 1830s Brind purchased several areas of land in the Bay of Islands from Rewa and his brothers. These included 440 acres at Matauwhi Bay (bordered by what is now known as Brind Road), 4 acres adjacent to Matauwhi Bay, and 30 acres at Tapeka. Brind's claim to have purchased the island of Urupukapuka was later disputed. He also claimed 300 acres 'at the River Thames'. By 1827 Brind had built a kauri house in European style at Matauwhi Bay. It was replaced in 1836 by a substantial house built for him by Gilbert Mair. Brind ran horses and intended to farm his 440 acres. But ill health or injury led to his retirement from the sea in the 1840s and this brought about a decline in his financial situation. In 1845 he lost his house and other buildings, which were over-run by Kawiti's forces while he was in Sydney. Eliza and her family were evacuated to Auckland, where a son was born. Brind applied to Governor George Grey for appointment as harbourmaster and pilot at the Bay of Islands, but no post was available. In 1846 the family returned to Russell, and Brind applied again, unsuccessfully, for a government position. In 1847 he mortgaged his land at Matauwhi Bay.

Little is known of Captain Brind's last years. He died at the Bay of Islands in 1850, probably on 15 October. Eliza Brind and her surviving children went to England, probably late in 1851. In 1874 she returned to New Zealand, joining a son and a daughter who had earlier settled in Nelson. She died in Nelson on 7 August 1885.

How to cite this page:

Jocelyn Chisholm. 'Brind, William Darby', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990, updated February, 2006. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1b32/brind-william-darby (accessed 14 April 2024)