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Taranaki Stories

These stories capture the very essence of Taranaki – the people and the landscape.
They record the achievements of those who live here, the struggles of the first settlers, the determination to overcome challenges, those who have made their mark on not only their own, but also future generations.
But the stories are not just about hardship – they are also inspiring, thrilling, mystifying, enlightening and entertaining.
 
 

 

Immigrants and Settlers

Survey ship the Brougham off the Taranaki coast. Image: Detail from a chromolithograph by George Duppa entitled "Part of the New Plymouth settlement in the district of Taranake, New Zealand - Mount Eg

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Immigration has helped make Taranaki what it is – a vibrant place filled with people of different cultures and viewpoints. The journey here for the early settlers was a long, tough and overwhelming one but their accounts show little regret. As people from all over the world came together under the mountain, prejudice, language barriers and isolation from their homeland had to be overcome. But from this melting pot of humanity came a society of many dimensions where the human dramas of love and life were played out. And the tradition of immigration to Taranaki continues today – ensuring that thread of vibrancy continues.

A Cairn That Tells a Tragic Tale – the sad story of William Marshall

There's a cairn down at Ngamotu Beach that tells a tragic tale.  It marks the final resting place of settler William Marshall, who arrived on the William Bryan in March 1841 and was dead by October.  Though few facts survive about him, some of his story can be told from what has been left behind.    Emigration Fever They called it emigration fever and William Marshall came down with it.  At 37,... more
 

A family of surveyors

It was Wellington who visited New Zealand first, travelling from Plymouth for a brief stay in 1835. He returned full of enthusiasm for the new country and, when the opportunity arose, encouraged his brothers to shift there. In 1840, Wellington was appointed chief assistant surveyor to the New Zealand Company. After working in Wellington (where work was washed out) and Wanganui he joined his... more
 

A Kiwi by Mistake

Ivy McWhirter has lived in the same house in New Plymouth for more than 60 years, yet it is only by a strange twist of fate that she was born in New Zealand at all.   When he was just 17, her father Wilhelm Klausen Lemberg decided to sail to America to seek his fortune. Along with three other young men, all of whom like Wilhelm had lost their mothers, he went down to the nearest dockyard to book... more
 

A Toast to the Yep Family

Every Friday morning over a cuppa and cakes, the Friends of the Opunake Library make a wee toast to Charlie Yep. "We always say, 'This is for Charlie'," says long-time resident Molly Harvey (88). The library is built on the site of the former Wai Yep & Co General Store, on the corner of Tasman and Havelock streets.    The store was closed in 1977, when Harry Yep sold up. He and wife Ruby... more
 

An Unknown Benefactor Rises From The Dust

Deep in the Puke Ariki Collection Room in special boxes and racks, in a specially dimmed and cooled environment, an assortment of Maori artefacts, pioneer clothing and World War I memorabilia known as the Watson Collection waited around to be sorted.   It was the job of Canadian intern, Andrea Melvin, to catalogue the 78 items, donated by Miss I. Watson in 1979, and add further details if she... more
 

Dear Father, Brother and Sisters

As a stranger in a new land, far from all things familiar, what kind of details would you wish to share with family left behind?   Letters sent by ship to England by some of New Plymouth's earliest settlers reveal an emigrant life of unexpected pleasures, and a few unwelcome surprises as well.   7 February 1842 From Jane Crocker to her father, Mr Samuel Crocker, Revelstoke, Devonshire.... more
 

Dicky Barrett Part 1: The Ngamotu Years

It's not known for certain, but it's thought Dicky Barrett was born in 1807, in either Durham or Bermondsey, both places of dirt and poverty, slums and alleyways.  An amiable, respected, simple fellow, he had already been a seaman for six years when he sailed from England for Sydney in 1828, at the age of twenty-one.  He signed on as first mate on the small Australian ship Adventure captained by... more
 

Dicky Barrett Part 2: Battle at Otaka Pa

If Te Wherowhero was coming, it meant war!  Kumara and potatoes were dug and piled in storage pits.  Men hurried to construct whare, dig ditches, build bullet-proof clay banks. The Otaka Pa stood on a steep hill, probably where the Moturoa Cool Stores are today, but it was a small pa compared to some. Te Atiawa people enclosed the villages of both Otaka and Matipu in a single line of palisades and... more
 

Dicky Barrett Part 3: Quest for Land

In 1839, the Tory pulled into the Sugar Loaves with Barrett and family aboard. For six years Barrett had been whaling at Te Awaiti at Queen Charlotte Sounds. Now he was employed by Edward Jerningham Wakefield of The New Zealand Company as interpreter to help negotiate the purchase of Maori land.  Together they had already bought land at Wellington - though not without sweat and tears - and... more
 

Dicky Barrett Part 4: On the Trail of a Whalers Descendent

Sitting across the table from John Honeyfield, I think he must wear the same kind of twinkle in his eye that Dicky Barrett did. John is a direct descendant of the Barrett family - his great-great-grandmother Caroline was Dicky Barrett's daughter.   It's interesting to meet John Honeyfield. We have a few things in common. My great-great-great-grandfather, George Ashdown, sailed with Dicky Barrett... more
 

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