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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


STACK, James West


Missionary and student of the Maori.

A new biography of Stack, James West appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

James West Stack was born in a pa at Puriri in the Thames district on 27 March 1835. He was the eldest of seven children born to James Stack, of Tralee, Ireland, and Mary, née West. His father had originally come to New Zealand in 1824 under the auspices of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, but had transferred to the Church Missionary Society in 1833. After being with his parents at various North Island stations, Stack in 1846 became a pupil at St. John's College, Auckland. The following year he accompanied his father, who had suffered a nervous breakdown, to Australia, where he attended Sydney College. In 1848 the whole family was reunited and journeyed to England, where his father spent most of two further years in hospital. During this time Stack was a pupil at a commercial school in London and then a clerk in the Church Missionary Society offices. In 1850 his mother died. This happening, and his meeting Archdeacon William Williams and Tamihana Te Rauparaha in London, were probably decisive in his resolution to train as a shool teacher, for service in New Zealand, at the Highbury Training College during 1851. The following year he returned to New Zealand in the Slains Castle, Tamihana also being a passenger. In 1854 he became a catechist and, from then until 1859, served under the Rev. Robert Maunsell at Maraetai, Waikato Heads, and at Te Kohanga, 10 miles up river, when the station was moved there. Apart from teaching, where he felt the demands of discipline prevented his being too friendly with the students, his special responsibilities were clearing the land for cultivation and building a church.

In 1859 Stack was asked by Bishop Harper to become superintendent of the Christchurch Diocesan Maori Mission and, while at first reluctant to leave the C.M.S., he finally agreed. He moved to Christchurch, later to Kaiapoi. He was ordained in December 1860 and, the next month at Auckland, he married Eliza Jones, sister of the Commissary-General to the forces in New Zealand. Immediately afterwards, the Stacks briefly visited the Waikato with John Gorst and assisted in the establishment of a school for Maori girls there. They returned to Canterbury and settled at Tuahiwi. Stack's district extended as far south as Stewart Island and he was diligent in visiting all parts of his charge. In 1870, his house and school having burnt down, he moved to Christ-church. Ten years later he accepted the cure of Duvauchelles Bay, visited England in 1884, was vicar of Kaiapoi from 1885 to 1888, and then became vicar of Fendalton. In 1898 he left New Zealand, lived for a short while in Italy, and died on 13 October 1919 at Worthing, England.

Stack collected much information, mainly traditional, relating to the Maori. He published South Island Maoris; a Sketch of their History and Legendary Lore (Christchurch, 1898); The Sacking of Kaiapohia (Christchurch, 1906); and a number of papers in the Transactions of the N.Z. Institute, as well as other pamphlets and press articles.

by Michael Garnstone Hitchings, B.A., DIP.N.Z.L.S., Librarian, Hocken Library, Dunedin.

  • Early Maoriland Adventures, Stack, J. W. (1935)
  • More Maoriland Adventures, Stack, J. W. (1936).


Michael Garnstone Hitchings, B.A., DIP.N.Z.L.S., Librarian, Hocken Library, Dunedin.