The Gregory-Hunt connection

    Frederick Hunt (centre) in approximately 1888

    Frederick Hunt, the ‘original’ European settler on Pitt Island, great, great, great, grandfather of the Rauceby farmer, Martie Gregory-Hunt and the Chatham Island Photographer and Artist, Celine Gregory-Hunt, settled here 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, painstakingly 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 possibly just as entrepreneurial 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 barrels 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.

    Smuggler’s Cave, Paramatta, Pitt Island

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

    The artist and photographer, Celine Gregory-Hunt, draws her inspiration for her photography and artworks 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 England 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 farthermost 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 New Zealand. 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, in 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 Maori, all of whom regarded him as some sort of divinity, because of his skill with a tupara “shotgun.” The famous Maori warrior Te Rau Paraha 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.

    Motapu, Pitt Island

    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 to 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 October the 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 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 2017, James’ grandson Martie Gregory-Hunt farms an 1100 acre property named Rauceby, (named after Frederick’s birthplace: Rauceby is in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.) Despite a large proportion of the remainder of the island now being Crown-owned Conservation Reserve, all but one of the remainder of the farms on the island are still farmed by direct descendants of Frederick Hunt. The Lanauze, Preece and Gregory-Hunt families dominate the social scene on the island and all can claim ancestry from Frederick Hunt.

    Another Grand-daughter: Bernadette Mallinson (and her husband) run Flowerpot-lodge on Pitt Island. Grandson, Kenneth Lanauze (and his wife) run a farm and a homestay on the North Eastern end of the island.

    Celine Gregory-Hunt, Photographer and artist is also a Grand-daughter of James Gregory-Hunt and a great, great, great, grandaughter 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.

    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.

    This unique logo (to the left) which adorns some of Celine’s apparel products, represents the Pitt Island Wild Sheep. Genetically they are from the same flock that are now known as Arapawa Island sheep. They were introduced to the Chatham Islands back in 1841 and first released on Pitt Island in 1843. These resilient and beautiful animals have adapted to the sometimes harsh environment and number in the thousands.

    (The Martha Ridgeway picture was sourced  )