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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 3, April 1965

By Wm. Hammond

William Francis MacWilliams, better known as Daldy, was born at Papakurain1861. He was one of a large family who were among the first settlers at Mackay-town. There were Harry, Jack, Jim, Ted, Bob, Charley, and a sister Matty. Harry was a wanderer, about 6ft. 3ins. in height and a great Prospector round Karangahake and Waitekauri about 1875 and afterwards in Queensland, though later he returned to the Coromandel area.

In 1879, when Daldy was 18, he had an exciting experience. The Government had purchased the Pukehane native block of land at Rotokohu, between Paeroa and Te Aroha. This was to be surveyed and subdivided by Messrs Bayldon and Crump and men were wanted for line cutting and general survey work. Here was an opportunity for the youthful Daldy to earn some money and have some fun with the wild pigs. He approached his friend Himiona, a Maori, and suggested his joining the party. "No fear", said Himiona, "the Ngatihako will shoot you".

Some months previously the Ngatihako tribe had stopped snagging operations [removal of logs and other obstacles to navigation - E] in the river, seizing the boats and gear of the County, and now they claimed ownership of the block, threatening to kill anyone who molested it. However Daldy, thinking this all bluff on the part of the Maoris, decided to join the survey party, and a half-caste named Tom Powdrell joined as his mate.

To quote Daldy's own words: "We had barely reached our camp when an accident happened which seemed to be an omen of disaster. A bill-hook attached to a pack-horse worked loose, and when the animal lashed out the sharp blade gashed the fetlock, leaving the hoof hanging. The animal had to be destroyed. That night we were under canvas, and just as we were about to retire, Maori voices could be heard on the ridge above our camp. As I understood Maori a little, Bayldon asked me to get as close as possible and ascertain the object of the visit. However by the time I got to the vicinity the party had left. Next day we went on with our work of line-cutting, and at sunset we again heard the voices of Maoris. Once more I worked my way silently through the fern until I had almost reached the ridge, and again the Maoris had disappeared. We came to the conclusion that they were a party of pig-hunters returning. I noticed, however, that Bayldon examined his revolver and placed it carefully within reach when retiring for the night".

The next morning, because his clothes had got wet the previous evening, Daldy put on clean white canvas trousers and a clean shirt. This attire proved to be his undoing. At about 1 p.m. just after lunch he was engaged cutting down a tawa tree when he heard a growl from his dog. Glancing round he saw a number of gun barrels pointed at him. He was holding the axe close to his head, when a Maori, stepping out said, "You die, white man". The bullet whistled by Daldy's head cutting the tips of his finger and thumb and splitting the axe handle to shivers. At the same time others let fly and pieces of cut up lead peppered him from throat to shin. As he jumped to get shelter behind the tawa tree another Maori fired and the bullet struck Daldy behind the hip. The impact threw him on his face and he lay there shamming death. Around him gathered the Ngatihako shooting party, about nine of them. One seizing Daldy by his thick mane of black hair, threw him on his back. "What a pity to kill the young fellow", he exclaimed "He's not the Rangitera of the party". The white trousers and shirt that Daldy had donned had caused the Maoris to think he must be the boss,

Daldy thought. "Shall I tell them I am alive and ask them to spare mylife?" However he remained still,

Then came the order, "Load up". "Ah", he thought, "they are going to finish me off."

But no. One of them, taking a tomahawk, cut off a lock of Daldy's hair, for he was the mata-ika, the first killed in battle, and the hair was a trophy. Awaythe party went in the direction of the camp.

Bang! Bang! Bang! The firing commenced again. "Ah thought Daldy, they are getting Bayldon and the others. But Bayldon and Party were not there. On the first sounds of firing they had taken time by the forelock and made a hasty retreat. Tom Powdrell, Daldy's mate, was not so lucky. In his endeavours to escape he became entangled in some creeping Mange mange [Lygodium articulatum – lowland forest vine - E] and the Maoris made a detour in order to get a better shot. However he managed to break free and hid for some time. When he realised that Daldy had been shot he ran for help, and kept going till he reached Mackaytown. He was in such. a state of exhaustion that he could scarcely speak, when he met Mr. Dodd who realised that there was trouble and informed Daldy's family. They set out to investigate. John MacWilllams, Clem Cornes, and Kate Thompson comprised the relief party, and they were later assisted by Carol Nash who was then Proprietor of the Mackaytown Hotel.

Meanwhile Daldy was endeavouring to reach a hiding place, fearing a return of the Ngatihako. The bullet that had knocked him down had come through the lower part of his body in front, exposing his entrails, so he stripped off his shirt to tie round his wound. Finding that he could not walk he dragged himself along the ground till he came to a small creek at the bottom of the hill near Quinn's farm. He felt very thirsty but was afraid to put his mouth down to drink lest he would not have strength to lift his head again. The sandflies commenced to attack him in thousands but he was too weak to brush them off. All sounds of human beings had gone. There he lay through the afternoon till the sun sank, and darkness came on.

Daldy said that his one wish was that he might live to see his mother again. The full moon rose and still he lay there. Higher and higher rose the moon. Then came the noiseless flight of the morepork. Watching it, he fancied he could hear faint sounds as of human voices. They came nearer - - he tried to call out. His tongue was swollen, his throat dry, and no sound came from his lips. Would they find him?

By good luck they did, and at once set out to carry his now unconscious body home to Mackaytown, but at the top of the hill they were met by young Cornes with a horse so conveyed him straight to Paeroa, whence Tom Powdrell had already galloped to inform the Police Sergt. Russell and a party proceeded to the scene of the shooting with Tom, but found that Daldy had been rescued. On returning to Paeroa they learned that he was already there in a very serious condition. Meanwhile Mr. Thomas Snodgrass of Paeroa had ridden to Thames with the news and Sub-Inspector Kenny and Dr. Andrews left immediately for Ohinemuri, Mr. Puckey of the Native Dept. and. Mr. McIlhone leaving at daybreak the next morning.

The small steamer "Te Aroha" that had just arrived, from Thames immediately began its return journey, taking Daldy to the Thames. Thence he was conveyed to the hospital, a small building surrounded by a low verandah, with only male nurses in attendance. Daldy always remembered the three distinct odours he encountered there - the almost overpowering smells of carbolic disinfectant, the linseed meal being boiled for poultices, and that of whisky, the great pick-me-up.

He lay there for many months showing no sign of improvement until a visiting Doctor probed the wound and extracted a piece of shirt that had been driven in by the bullet. He then made a rapid recovery after his narrow escape, the bullet having just missed the femoral artery.

The Maoris responsible for the shooting Pakara and Epiha made their escape and it was not till long after that they were brought to justice. However they served only a short term of imprisonment, being pardoned when Te Kooti received his pardon. Daldy petitioned Parliament for compensation on several occasions, but without result. Years later he and I actually met some members of the shooting party, and it was remarkable that there were no signs of enmity on either side.

When Te Aroha Goldfield opened in 1880 the MacWilliams brothers tried their luck there. Another seeker for a fortune was Daldy's old friend Himiona, the Ngatikohi, who was mysteriously murdered one night after intimating that he intended to ride to Paeroa. Often there was a rough element in the mining camps, and in this case several men were under suspicion, but the real culprit escaped. I was a boy attending the WaioKaraka School when one man was being tried, and in the lunch hour several of us looked into the Court House to see him, and listen to some of the evidence.

In 1882 Daldy MacWilliams was associated with Mr. John McCombie when the famous Talisman lode was discovered at Karangahake and for several years he was very active on both this field and at Waitekauri.

I first met Daldy about 1887 when he was mining at Thames. I was in my 18th year and Daldy would be about 26 years of age, but we were both beginners at Jack Carter's Boxing School where we gathered once a week. One night on the way home, Daldy said to me, "Bill we will never learn boxing at this rate. It is like a person learning music - one hour a week gets you nowhere. We should get a room somewhere and every night practise the hits we are learning". We did this, and boxed by candlelight, eventually purchasing proper gloves. Daldy was as quick as lightning, and his footwork was superb. He seemed to anticipate every move of his opponent and had a counter ready. Later he became an Instructor and conducted a Gymnasium. He was a born leader and. could always keep a thing going.

About 1895 Daldy opened a Hair Dressing Saloon in Thames and did quite a lot of writing. He contributed articles on mining to the Auckland Herald and to English Papers, for a period of over 40 years.

He had always been noted as a great footballer, playing in the three-quarter line. He neither smoked nor indulged in intoxicating liquor, nor did I ever hear him use bad language, yet he was the most popular man in Thames. I have seen him coming down the Karaka Creek Road on a Saturday morning after work, and the small urchins waiting to give him lemons to take to the football ground in the afternoon. The kids were proud to be noticed by him, and he certainly was a good influence among both young and old. Thinking back to the games we played, the talks we had and the expeditions we shared, I still regard him as one of the best friends I have ever had.

Daldy married Miss F. Payne the talented daughter of Mr. Nat Payne of Thames and they left Thames in 1901 to settle in Waihi where he was for 25 years on the Staff of the Magistrate's Court. I amsure Waihi old identities will remember Mrs. MacWilliams' great musical ability and the concerts she and Daldy organised to raise funds for many a good cause, such as a much needed Ambulance as wellasfor Patriotic Purposes during the First World War. Directing "Jack the Giant Killer" and her Operetta Company Mrs. MacWilliams raised over £1300 throughout Ohinemuri.

On his retirement in 1927 Daldy was tendered an unusual farewell in the Magistrate's private room at the Waihi Court-house. In total ignorance he was ushered in by the Clerk of the Court, Mr. T. Morgan and there found representatives of the Court, Bar, Mines Department and Police. Mr. F. W. Platts, S.M. in the chair, addressed him thus :-

"Prisoner, we have discovered that you intend to leave the service of the Justice Department. You are going to leave us in the lurch to our great regret".

Then followed expressions of good will and high appreciation the speakers being;

Messrs Platts, S.M., T. Morgan, Matt. Paul, Sen.Sergt. McLean. J.B. Beeche and Peter Koeford, (Auckland) a school boyfriend who added a glowing tribute to Daldy's stirling qualities as a gymnasium instructor and a great helper of the young. A presentation followed.

Daldy MacWilliams died in 1931, leaving his wife and 3 children -- Noel, formerly of the Southland Electric Power Board, now retired; Zoe, Mrs. Kennedy of Raumati South, and Dallas (Dux) Mrs. Paddy O'Byrme [or O'Byrne - E] of MataMata.