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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.
 
 

 

Law and Order

Masked Man: Who was behind this disguise? Image: Courtesy of M. Vanstone

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There are those who walk a path very close to the legal line – some through necessity, some through disillusion and some through sheer cussedness. One of Taranaki’s most colourful characters to fall foul of the law was New Plymouth’s very own highwayman who modelled himself on Robin Hood – discover how he was caught and who he was. The tales of a charlatan pharmacist and a bridegroom who was a woman are also caught here.

A Highwayman Came Riding – children’s version

A masked man hides behind bushes. He is waiting and watching as a man on a horse trots towards him along Mangorei Road. The sound of clopping gets closer. Dust sprouts from the horse's hooves. When the rider nears the bush, the masked man leaps out waving a gun and yells: "Halt! I demand your money, or I will put a bullet through your brains!" The terrified horseman hands over a few... more
 

Murder at Te Namu

Overlooking the lake at Opunake is a little graveyard. Underneath the towering macrocarpa, surrounded by a wrought iron fence is a white marble gravestone. The memorial is to Mary Beatrix Dobie, murdered on the last day of her holiday in the region.   Murder at Te Namu  It was a bright November afternoon in 1880 when Englishwoman Mary Dobie set out on foot from Opunake with a sketch... more
 

Remembering a Highwayman

New Plymouth's infamous Highwayman paid dearly for his crimes, say some of his close friends. "He spent the rest of his life living it down," says Rex Brewster, whose father was a good mate of the man behind the mask. "He was only a boy living out a romantic dream." Robert (Bob) Wallath and Edgar Roy Brewster (also known as the Beehive Man) became friends when they lived in Upper Mangorei Rd... more
 

The bridegroom was a woman – Amy Bock

The excited guests were assembled, a lavish wedding breakfast laid, the bride was arraying herself in finery, the hour fixed for the ceremony was drawing near – there was only one problem – the bridegroom, Percy Redwood, was a female... Despite the persistent rumours that the bridegroom was a woman in disguise, the wedding went ahead. Amy Bock, New Zealand's most notorious female con artist had... more
 

The Monument Builder

Though he ended up infamous in Taranaki, Salaman's story really begins in India.  Born at Amritsar in the Punjab around 1885 or 1886, his parents were Muslim and his father a herbalist.  Perhaps that's what made him decide to go into the same kind of business.   But first, at the age of 14, he set out to travel the world.  When he arrived in New Zealand around 1903, he became a silk merchant in... more
 

The True Story of a Highwayman

In broad daylight on Easter Monday, 1892, a gun-toting masked man rode into New Zealand folklore. At 5.10pm on 11 April, New Plymouth settler Henry Jordan was riding his horse towards his Carrington Road home when he was accosted by a mysterious figure, soon to be known as Taranaki's notorious highwayman. A feature story published in the Taranaki Herald after the highwayman's capture the... more