Volume 3

My Koro James Mackay Junior and Kuia Chieftainess Puahere

Moyra Te Ariki Bramley nee Rameka

My name is Moyra Te Ariki Bramley nee (Rameka). I am a direct descendant of:
Toi Te Huatahi
Rangitihi and Tuhourangi


The family grew up knowing who our great grandparents were but not much about what they did. As children we did not deem it necessary to probe into these matters as life was too exciting as children, and there was too much fun to enjoy. I think that is the way of the world and most children.

Later, when we had children of our own, the need to find our roots did manifest itself. But by then, a lot of the old people who knew such things had passed on. The odd times we asked our kui (grandmother) who was her father, she would just say …'he was a government agent and a policeman'… but the conversation would end there so we did not question her any further. It was obvious she was reluctant to go into any detail.

My Maternal Grandfather showed us photos of Koro Mackay so we knew what he looked like.

This is my whakapapa to Puahaere:

Moyra Te Ariki Bramley nee Rameka

My Father...Kori Te  Oraiti Rameka

My Grandmother...Pareaohi (Arihia)

My Great Grandmother...Puahaere (Emma Te Aouru)

My Great Grandfather...James Mackay Junior

The Parents of Puahaere:

My Great Great Grandmother...Queen Aotea

My Great Great Grandfather...King Tawhiao

The Parents of Queen Aotea:

My Great Great Great Grandmother ..Ngawhare Te Hinaki

My Great Great Great Grandfather...Te Paratene Maioha

The Parents of King Tawhiao:

My Great Great Great Grandmother ..Whakaawi

My Great Great Great Grandfather..Te Potatau Te WheroWhero

My Great Great Grandparents

King Tawhiao Matutaera Potatau Te Whero Whero, father of Puahaere
From: Maori Paintings by Gottfried Lindauer

Queen Aotea, third wife of King Tawhiao, mother of Puahaere.


Potatou Te Whero Whero was chosen by several tribes as the first Maori King. Many tribes ceded their lands to him but not all. This was to give Maori some independant voice as they realised they were losing land and losing control of what was important to them. The intention was to form their own parliament and set their own laws as was done by the Queen of England, and hopefully regain some control over the continued confiscations that were happening.

Dame Te Atairangikahu, the recent Maori Queen was my cousin and is the great great grand daughter of King Tawhaio and his principal wife Hera. All succeeding Kings and Queens will come from that same whakapapa line.

King Tawhiao had three wives who were recognised as being the kahui ariki of the Royal Household of Potatau and the Tainui nation:
Wife no 1...was Hera; Wife no 2...was Rangiaho; Wife no 3...was Aotea.

The marriage between King Tawhiao and Aotea who was his cousin, was an alliance arranged between Ngapuhi and Tainui to ensure some form of political peace treaty. Aotea also had connections through her father to Kawhia and from her mother she was connected to Ngati Paoa and Tamatera. Consequently, Puahaere was not only a Chieftainess of Ngati Paoa through her mother but she was King Tawhiao's daughter as well. This gave her tremendous mana.

The Ngati Paoa Tribe gave James Mackay the power of attorney over the entire tribe so he acted for them legally in the many intricate dealings that were going on. They bestowed the title of Chief on him, and when they held a huge meeting at Whakatiwai to bring the bones of some leading chiefs back, he not only paid for the feast but also lead the great haka of 500 warriors to welcome the guests from all over. They came by any means available, and all boats in Thames were hired to transport people across to the meeting.

Puahaere, Chieftainess of the Thames district.
Photograph by the Thames photographers Foy Bros.

Puahaere and James Mackay Junior went through a form of Maori marriage, which in Maori terms is recognised as such. At the time of their marriage which would have been some time in 1870 after he left Eliza Sophie, Puahaere was then known as Emma Te Aouru. James Mackay and Puahaere had a daughter, Parearohi (known also as Arihia) who was born in 1870 and a son Ngawini who was born about 1876 or 1877. (His age was confirmed in land records which dated his birth to that time). Parearohi was my grandmother. She knew her father very well, and she was very adept at dancing the Highland Fling.

The relationship between James Mackay and Puahaere lasted for 14 years after the birth of Parearohi. They separated in 1884, and Puahaere went on to live with Nirai Reutana Te Ngaro at Ngongotaha where she had another daughter named Puahaere 2nd. Puahaere (Ema te Aouru) died on September 20th, 1901 at Waitukuri.

My grandmother Parearohi (also known as Arihia) died at the age of 90 in 1961 at Wairakei. This confirms her birth year as 1870. Her official death certificate (as extracted from the Maori Register) records that her father was 'Macky' and her mother was Pua (short for Puahaere).

Standing is Mackay's daughter, Parearohi (Arihia) aged 14. Seated is Mackay's wife, Puahaere with their son Ngawini. The photo was taken in 1884, the same year that James Mackay and Puahaere separated.

About 2005, I decided to research this man James Mackay Junior, and we started with the cartoon of him being described as the 'Thames Autocrat'. A series of weekly magazines had been published earlier, and an old woman who I delivered meals-on-wheels to had a complete series. Among those periodicals was the cartoon with an accompanying story of James Mackay and his adventures in the Nelson area, and the purchase of the land from Ngai Tahu. This gave us a starting point..

'The Thames Autocrat', a caricature of James Mackay, the Commissioner of the Thames Goldfield addressing a crowd of goldminers at Thames.
From: Punch or The Auckland Charivari, 1868.

The cartoon above labelled 'The Thames Autocrat' appeared in an Auckland newspaper 'Punch' in 1868. It depicts James Mackay, in the capacity of the Commissioner of the Thames Goldfields addressing a crowd of angry goldminers. In 1868, the miners were angry with Mackay because he was preventing them from prospecting on land owned by the Maoris. They were sure the next bonanza was in the forbidden land, and were desparate to enter. Mackay had been negotiating with the Chiefs since the previous year to allow them to enter but many Maori were reluctant. In the cartoon, Mackay is seen cautioning the miners and advocating patience while sitting on the stage next to him is a Maori lady. Comparing this lady to the photo of Puahaere shown above, she certainly looks very like Puahaere, especially the set of her eyes and the short bobbed hair with a slight wave which caused it to pile up on the top of her head. She is smiling knowingly in the cartoon, so perhaps is pleased with what Mackay is saying. The cartoonist implies that the lady on the stage was helping Mackay in his negotiations with the Chiefs over the land issues. Mackay would have needed all the help he could get. Editor.

An obituary for Ema Te Aouru (Puahaere) appeared in the Thames Star on 30 September 1901:

The Tangi now being held at Waitukuri across the gulf, is in honor of Ema Te Aouru, one of the most noted chieftainesses of the district, who died on September 20th in her 61st year. The deceased took an intelligent interest in the improvement of the conditions prevailing amongst the Maoris, and always gladly hailed the advent of anyone who had a comprehensive scheme for the advancement of the natives. She also took great interest in the opening of the Thames goldfields and assisted Mr James Mackay towards that end by showing the advantages to the members of the tribes. In many other ways she materially helped towards the progress of the district and her many friends will regret to learn of her death.


In his early years, James Mackay walked all over the top of the South Island as he explored the region seeking good arable and flat land suitable for farming. The Nelson Provincial Council had commissioned him for this task. He walked with Heaphy, Dommett and Clarke, with Pirimona Marino and other notable characters of those times. The stories were amazing, enthralling and captured our attention to the point where it kept me awake at nights.

He grew up on his father's farm at Wakapuaka in Nelson. As a young intelligent youth, it did not take long for him the learn te reo Maori. Julia Matenga and her husband Hemi Matenga were family friends and played a big part in teaching these Scottish tamariki her language and customs. This was to be the catalyst that played such a huge part in his future and the future of New Zealand.

In 1853, he came of age and inherited some money. He used this money to buy land at Farewell Spit and Puponga and leased a further 1500 acres. His cousin, Alexander Mackay also moved there with him, and they managed to clear-fell and fence 40 paddocks, build a homestead and plant an orchard. On June the 10th 1862, he married Eliza Sophie Braithwaite..

Gold had been discovered at Collingwood and soon there were 1300 European and 600 Maori miners working there. This caused much friction, and disputes were becoming a problem. James did try his hand at mining but found he made more money from selling produce from his farm to the miners. Being bi-lingual, he was called upon to mediate between Maori and Pakeha disputes. This began to take up too much of his time. Sir George Grey recognized the benefit of this man's talents so offered him the position as Gold Warden for Collingwood. James Mackay was also appointed the first Native Secretary, then a Land Purchasing Officer. Later in 1862, he was appointed the first Maori Land Court Judge, the second was Judge Munro, then Judge Fenton.

Not long after his marriage, Mackay was instructed to arrest some North Island Maori who had invaded the South, seeking recruits for the Taranaki war. This was done, and the prisoners were taken by ship to Auckland to await trial. It was during this time that word came through that gold had been discovered at Thames so he was again instructed to investigate and report back to (Governor) Grey. This was the beginning of a whole new career for Mackay, and saw him move his wife to Auckland. The farm was then sold to his sister Annie Barbara who had married a man named Davidson.

All of this information came from books in the library, like 'The Amazing Thames', and the Raupatu section of our library which holds records of actual reports from the man himself. As the information became available, and his life was unfolding, we realised we had an extraordinary koro and the need to find out more especially the connection to Puahaere was becoming paramount. I contacted the Alexander Turnbull Library, the Auckland Library, the Nelson Museum and any other institute that I could think of. We went to Thames and found very little in that museum so went to the Library and had the good fortune to meet David Arbury, the Thames Historian who was instrumental in procuring the Journal of Vicesimus Lush that released so much personal information about JM. I will be forever grateful to David Arbury who opened many doors and obtained many clues for us to pursue. David actually wrote a little booklet on James Mackay junior which outlines his early life and beginnings.

When we visited the Thames Museum we spoke with the lady who was in charge that day and asked if they had anything pertaining to James Mackay Junior, as there appeared to be nothing on show. During the conversation, she introduced herself as the great grand daughter of Vicesimus Lush, so after all these years the two great grand children of neighbours met in the Museum of Thames. This was confirmation for me that we chose the right day to visit Thames and we had spoken with the right people

James Mackay and his wife Eliza Sophie nee Braithwaite were living in Thames when The Reverend Vicesimus Lush arrived on 28 November 1868 to take up the position of Anglican Vicar of Thames. He dined with them the next day.

James and Eliza Mackay had two children, a son Edward James who died aged 8 months in 1867 and a daughter Emma Beatrice born on 20th March 1868.

The Reverend Vicesimus Lush in his Thames Journals describes at length an occasion when he joined Mrs Mackay and others on a trip by boat up the river to fetch her husband back. Martin was Reverend Lush's second son. The following are some relevent exerts from his description of the trip:

'21 December 1868: Martin and I had a delightful trip, thanks to Mr and Mrs Mackay. Mr Mackay has been away up the Thames at Ohinemuri for some time past, treating with the natives about opening their land for quartz digging and last Thursday was the day previously fixed upon for a Steamer to proceed up the Thames to fetch Mr Mackay down. Mrs Mackay determined to go up in her and formed a small party to accompany her...
The party was to assemble in Mr Mackay's office at half past 7 in the morning....We steamed off about 8 o'clock.. It took us almost four hours to reach Ohinemuri. We reached the native settlement by 12 o'clock. This is the largest and most populous native settlement I have ever seen; the natives were clustered along the banks, watching us with evident interest. We disembarked on the side enhabited by the 'Queenites' (friendly natives) and then crossed over in boats to the Hauhau side of the river. On our side of the river, the Union Jack was flying - on the Hauhau side a white flag, the Hauhau flag, was hoisted.
We walked through some fields of potatoes and wheat till we came to another village near the middle of which was a large open 'common' one might call it. The natives were assembled to decide the momentous question whether the upper Thames should be thrown open to the diggers or not. A strong party was in favour of this step; these were chiefly Friendly Natives and sat in boothes and open tents on one side with Mr Mackay - the opponents to the measure sat at some distance opposite, the two parties forming two areas of a considerable span...
The large whare opposite was occupied by Te Hira who considered himself too great a Chief to be seen and therefore remained within...Opposite Te Hira's whare was Mr Mackay's tent. Whenever one of Te Hira's people got up to speak he walked forward towards Mackay's party till he came near the neutral natives in the middle and then stood, and, stretching forth his hand, began his oration...Mr Mackay spoke often and well, I was so interested that I was sorry when dinner time came and the Korero ceased.
We Pakehas were summoned to our dinner which had been prepared for us about a quarter a mile away in a whare belonging to a Mr Way (formerly a Lieutenant in the Navy but living with a Maori wife in a Maori village and after Maori fashion). On this occasion he gave us a good dinner... Mrs Way is a good looking native with good manners and speaks English fluently: though I noticed she always spoke to Mr Mackay in her own tongue.
The next day..There being no chance of Mr Mackay being able to leave, two boats were secured and most of the party went for a row up the river...Mrs Mackay seemed in extravagant spirits and rowed for some distance, both going up and returning..
(During the night)..I am sorry to say, the sudden and alarming illness of Mrs Mackay. She did not make her appearance on deck till near dinner time and then was laid down on a mattress where she continued, more or less, till we reached Shortland at 10 o'clock Staurday evening.
Coming back the vessel was very crowded, chiefly with Natives - all (during) Friday and Saturday, Natives kept coming to Mr Mackay to sign the agreement about opening their land so that the greater portion of the district will be available to diggers.'

Vicesimus Lush's Journal entry for 29 December 1869 was the first sign we have that all was not well within the Mackay marriage:

'The School feast was to have taken place this afternoon in Mrs Mackay's paddock and while my kettle was boiling for breakfast, I looked out at my front door to see whether she was making any preparations in the shape of awnings - horozontal bars, &c.; - but nothing seemed done so I intended to call after breakfast to offer any assistance I could give and to urge on the preparations. Miss Maling, however, came up soon after and told me a sad tale: that Mr Mackay had written from Auckland to his wife a very cruel letter offering her the house and grounds at Shortland and so much income, but saying that he wished to be separated from her henceforward and would never return to live under the same roof as her.
This letter, Miss Maling told me had made Mrs Mackay so ill that the school feast at her house was altogether out of the question - for she and her Father and Mother and sister were in the deepest distress. I thought on Xmas Day the whole party seemed out of spirits and Mrs Mackay in particular from her going oftimes to the window to see whether a steamer was in sight showed her anxiety for the arrival of Mr M. and how she fretted about his absence.
Miss Maling told me he came that same evening and appeared cheerful enough, bringing all of them presents; that he remained all Sunday and left on Monday, and then on Monday night wrote back this letter of separation to his wife. This act of his has long been expected and feared by those who knew the unhappy state of their domestic life.
This alteration in the arrangements for the day gave me great trouble. I had to go round all the teachers - get boilers - kettles and all sorts of things, but by dint of hard work everything was ready soon after 10 o'clock and at 2 the Church began to fill with my young folk, all looking very happy and very gay in their best clothes. Teachers and scholars were evidently delighted at the change of place of meeting - near the Maori settlement instead of Mrs Mackay's paddock. In fact two or three of the Teachers came who had intended to have kept away had the original plan been carried out.
Poor Mrs Mackay - she would have enjoyed it I am sure had she been present and all the children would have been delighted to have seen her amongst them - but I am confident her absence did not lessen the happiness of the Teachers, for though she is very friendly towards the children, she has a peculiarly unfortunate stiff, haughty manner towards anyone above children.

30 December 1869: Called at the Mackays' to enquire for Mrs M. Miss Maling said she was still very ill; she added in a low voice: 'I hope she will soon be better. A pressure has been put upon Mr Mackay and he has promised to come home next Saturday.' A poor prospect of happiness for a wife when a husband requires 'a pressure' to induce him to return to her.'

Mackay had been elected to the Auckland Provincial Council on 16 December 1869, and he served in this capacity from January 1870 to October 1873 (Dictionary of New Zealand Biography). This would have meant he spent most of his time in Auckland from the time he wrote his separation letter in December 1869 onwards. It is perhaps significant that he did not write the letter to Eliza until after his appointment to the Council in Auckland. It is also significant that Puahaere gave birth to a daughter Parearohi in 1870. There has been no birth certificate found for Puahaere (since it was not compulsory to register Maori births at this time) but Parearohi's 1961 death certificate states that her father was 'Macky'. James Mackay did not return to live in Thames, living in Auckland until at least 1887.

Seven months later, Eliza Mackay was still at the house in Thames. Reverend Vicesimus Lush's diary entry for 9th August 1870 reads:

'Called on Mrs Mackay; there is but one room in that large house with furniture in it and that is the servant's bedroom, which the servant, Mrs Mackay and little Beatrice occupy together. I have seldom known such a sad reverse of fortune.'

Mrs Mackay remained in Thames and Reverend Lush made it plain in subsequent diary entries that he did not like her:

'15 August 1871:
After a long absence from the place, Mrs Mackay made her apearance among us again.

2 October 1871:
The starting of a (Sunday) School at Parawai is the consequence of Mrs Mackay not liking to be in a subordinate position at our Shortland Sunday School: she wanted to be Teacher, Superintendent and Minister, and finding that impossible and unattainable, she asked my permission to have a school at Parawai where she will reign supreme - and alone I imagine. But if she can gather together a score or two of the children, it will be a good work and I shall be glad to have got rid of her from St George's and glad to make use of her at a safe distance.'

James Mackay's efforts in organising the opening of the Gold fields in Thames and Ohinemuri brought New Zealand back from the brink of brankruptcy. Not only did he maintain law and order but he also had to negotiate with the local Maori to release their lands for mining. He also had to walk the land to identify whether it was suitable for the purpose. His document on the completion of that massive task is important from a historical point as it identified who was living on what Block, what activities were going on and how many people were resident in each area . His ability to converse with the Maori owners in their own language was a huge advantage and was the reason Sir George Grey and Donald McLean engaged him for this massive task.

There were so many James Mackays recorded in the different walks of life that we found ourselves going down a track only to come to the realization that it was the wrong James Mackay. There is confusion as his father was James Mackay senior, he had a cousin named James Tertius Mackay, who had been orphaned with his brother Alexander Mackay. Their uncle, James Mackay senior had brought them to NZ with the family when they emigrated in 1845.

Intriguing as this story was, we still had to find the connection to Puahaere. We knew little about James but we knew even less about this great grandmother. I was drawn to a bookshop with no particular need to go but someone was guiding me to this shop. Many books were on show and one particular book kept drawing me back to it, so finally I bought it and on arriving home, my husband asked what I had bought….
I said 'I bought a book.'
…'Why? You never buy books.'
…'I am not sure, it just told me to….'

It was called The Turbulent Times. It included the biography of King Tawhiao written by Robert Mahuta that listed as his third wife Aotea and their child as Puahaere. I was astounded. So now we had to confirm that this was our great grandmother. We made several enquiries at Tainui but no help was forthcoming so I decided to register with Tainui and listed my whakapapa as we saw it to James Mackay Junior and to Puahaere and gratefully it was accepted and confirmed.

There were many reports that showed this amazing man wielded much power and was called upon to settle many disputes and many purchases of Maori land that allowed gold mining to flourish and restore some stability to the New Zealand economy, and to rescue it from certain bankruptcy.

Not only was this eventually achieved, but he was instrumental in receiving the surrender of many tribes which brought to an end the wars between the Maori and the settlers.

James Mackay Junior in his latter years.

James Mackay resigned from the position as Commissioner for the Waikato, and the Gold Warden for Thames because opposition was beginning to manifest itself from within the ranks of the bureaucracy, and he found the situation untenable. Purchasing land on behalf of the government kept him busy for several years, and he had Land Agencies all over the North Island. But there were opponents that caused his one attempt to enter politics to fail. Some deals he had completed for the Crown were not honoured, and eventually this caused his downfall. He died on August 10th 1912, a poor crippled old man and is buried in the Paeroa Cemetery. Eliza Sophie died in 1915 and was buried beside him. The grave remained unmarked until 1942 when some old friends petitioned the Government to acknowledge this man who had played such a huge part in the history of this country and yet he remained in an unmarked grave. The Government agreed, and a plaque was placed on his grave.

There are so many fascinating anecdotes of his escapades during his life that it is very difficult to single out one particular item. His exploring of the South Island, his discovery of the first coal in Collingwood, the land he purchased and the settlement of the Maori Wars They are too numerous to record here.. I do not do justice to this amazing man named Mackay, but I hope to one day to begin to write his story, as he deserves to be recognized and acknowledged for all his efforts to make this country what it is. Without his organizational skills and fortitude, the Gold fields of Thames and Collingwood would not have survived.. to rescue New Zealand from certain bankruptcy This poses the question, what would New Zealand be like today, without the efforts of this incredible man, named……Mackay !! …my pakeha Koro.

James Mackay and the Chieftainess Puahaere were true partners, not only in their private lives but also in their working lives when she gave him invaluable assistance in his contact with the Maori peoples as he strove to open up the gold fields for the prospectors. The Maori were starving to death, and the Pakeha were also falling on straightened circumstances.

It is an amazing story involving two Peoples, who in coming together brought both nations back from the brink.


1. Punch or The Auckland Charivari, 1868. Vol 1, p181.

2. The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography: Tawhiao, Tukaroto Matutaera Potatau Te Wherowhero, Maori King, Waikato leader, prophet.

3. Maori Paintings by Gottfried Lindauer from the Partridge Collection. Published by A.H.Reed Ltd., third revised edition, 1977.

4. The Turbulent Times: Maori Biographies from The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Volume 2. Jointly published by Bridget Williams Books Limited and the Department of Internal Affairs in 1991.

5. The Amazing Thames, by John Grainger. Published by A.H. & A. W. Reed 1951.

6. In The Beginning, James Mackay Recalls the Opening of the Thames Goldfield. Thames Goldfield Information Series No 29; Published by David Arbury.

7. New Zealand's Heritage (The Making of a Nation Series) Vol 27. Published by Paul Hamlyn Limited 1971.

8. The Thames Journals of Vicesimus Lush 1868 - 82. Edited by Alison Drummond. Pegasus, 1975.

9. The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography: James Mackay.


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