The Gregory-Hunt connection

Celine Gregory-Hunt comes from a long proud line of Pitt Islanders. This magical island is in her blood.

Celine's great, great, great, grandfather, Frederick Hunt settled on Pitt Island in the Chathams group in 1843. He made a living from farming and trading with sealers and whalers. Frederick Hunt He was also reputed to have a healthy income from smuggling and was once fined 100 Guineas for avoiding excise duty. Even today, the remains of his illicit trade are there to be seen, with the "smugglers cave" on the Paramata coastline, painstakenly carved out of the cliff face in the secret cove. Inside can be found the remains of machinery, signs of a more recent occupation, but just as entrepenuerial as Frederick's activities. Along the limestone cliffs, just above the water line are the carved slots where posts were inserted. Planks were laid upon these and cattle and barrells were towed and floated out to the open sea where they were picked up by a long boat that then towed them out to the waiting anchored ship, returning with the reward in illicit liquor.

The photo to the right shows some of thePitt Island residents (circa 1888.) Frederick Hunt can be seen as the cheerful looking gentleman with the white beard and walking cane.

Celine draws her inspiration from the history, the spectacular scenery and her connections to this land and these islands. Celine has a range of photographic images available for purchase, either as digital files or printed on canvas through her official Celine Photography website..

Frederick Hunt was born at Sleaford in 1818, yet was destined to end his existence on one of the remotest Pacific Islands in 1891. The story of Fred's pilgrimage from Lincolnshire to Pitt Island is certainly worth reading for these events happened during the legendary age of colonial expansion and mass emigration, when people, attracted by stories of treasures and riches all over the world, endured the most incredible hardships to reach the fartherest corners of the globe in the hope of being the one to discover the mother lode or the promised land. New Zealand was one of the lands of promise at this time.

The Sleaford Hunts decided to try their luck in Aotearoa. They sold up their meager possessions and embarked at Gravesend on July 5th. 1840 on the 621-ton ship the "Martha Ridgeway." The Martha Ridgeway is the three masted vessel just to the left of the flagpole in the picture below. On board were Fred aged 23; his wife Mary aged 27; their son aged one year; Fred's father and mother; his three grown up sisters Caroline, Emily and Naomi (all three described as seamstresses) Fred's three young brothers and his youngest sister aged ten years. The passage to New Zealand was long and stormy and ended at Port Nicholson, the port of Wellington, on Nov. 14th. 1840 having taken 130 days.
Having settled his wife and his relatives in the Hutt valley, Fred joined a survey party working it's way up the West Coast of the North Island. He seemed to have a talent for making friends with the native Maoris, all of whom regarded him as some sort of divinity, because of his skill with a tupara "shotgun." The famous maori warrior Te Rauparaha heard of his prowess and invited him to settle down with his tribe. He declined to do this and continued northwards with the survey, and he is reputed to be the first white man to negotiate the formidable Manawatu gorge. On his return to Wellington, Fred encountered another Maori chieftain who told him about the attractions of the remote Chatham Islands. This group lies in the South Pacific Ocean 880 kilometres toi the East of New Zealand, (latitude 44-45 degrees south, and longitude 176-7). There are three main islands Chatham, Pitt and Rangitira. Hunt was so intrigued by what he heard that he decided that his future lay in this remote speck in the South Pacific. An intriguing aspect of this saga is the great desire of the Maori chief, Apitea, to obtain a red military jacket belonging to Fred. Apitea owned Pitt Island, in addition to territory on the mainland. The well-authenticated story is that he bartered Pitt Island, all 45 square miles of it, for this red jacket, merely reserving for his people fishing and game rights. Although this seems like a tall tale, at the time Fred certainly had no monetary resources to use for the purchase.
He then set to work to make a home for the family on the Island, and two mysterious settlers named Matthew Gregory and James Langdale shortly joined him. Frederick Hunt imported cattle, sheep, poultry, potatoes and vegetable seeds and very soon built up a prosperous business catering for the needs of the whalers who put into the Islands harbour for supplies.  In the early eighteen-fifties a Lutheran Pastor by the name of Schermeister, one of a number of missionaries, who had settled on the Chatham’s, quarreled with his colleagues and with his wife and two children settled on Pitt Island. Hunt built him a small house and engaged him to tutor his children.

In exchange for fresh produce. Hunt obtained from the whaler's large quantities of rum and tobacco (without benefit of duty, of course!) The authorities in Wellington got to hear about this and sent out a customs officer to investigate. He ordered that duty should be paid on this traffic, which made Hunt very angry indeed. He declared that he was king of Pitt Island and would pay neither taxes nor duty! By 1865 whaling traffic had decreased to negligible proportions and very few vessels were calling at Pitt. To replace this trade "King" Fred built up a market for his produce with the mainland centered on the port of Lyttelton and his wares were of such excellent quality that several young men were persuaded to settle on the Hunt lands on Pitt Island. There are records of constant clashes with authorities on the question of taxes and customs, but to the end Hunt refused to recognize the jurisdiction of Wellington. He died on Pitt Island on Oct.2nd. l891. Although Frederick had six children, including two boys (both deceased him); the seventies found him with only his daughters Mary Ann and Elizabeth still with him. He made them enter into marriages of convenience with Langdale and Gregory, a condition being that the husbands should assume the Hunt surname. So one branch of the family became known as the Langdale-Hunts and the other the Gregory-Hunts. In 1882 the Langdale-Hunts left Pitt for the mainland so that the possession of the Hunt lands passed to the Gregory-Hunts. James Gregory-Hunt; grandson of Matthew Gregory and great grandson of "King Fred, was, in 1968 the owner of virtually the whole of the Island. At that time, he had twelve surviving children; seven boys and five girls; fifty- one grand children and one great grand child. Surely enough to ensure continuance of the name and the succession! Today in 2012, James' son: William Gregory-Hunt, with his wife Dianne still farm an 1100 acre property named Rauceby, (after Frederick's birthplace: Rauceby is in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.) A large proprtion of the remainder of the island is now in Crown-owned Conservation Reserve, but all but one of the remainder of the farms on the island are still farmed by direct descendants of Frederick Hunt. His legacy lives on in the families that inhabit this far flung outpost of New Zealand. It takes a special type of person to live here. There are no shops, cafes, doctors, dentists or entertainment venues. The weather can be bleak and deadly and there are times when you are stuck and effectively cut off from civilisation. On the other hand, the island boasts some of the best scenery available and the people are friendly and resourceful.

Celine is a great, great, great, grandaughter of Frederick Hunt. Her links to this land are as tenacious and entrenched as the place in which Frederick carved out his niche. There really is only two ways that you can get to become a true "Pitt Islander" and that is either to be born there, or buried there.

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The Martha Ridgeway picture was sourced