Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.

GUARD, John

(c. 1800–?)

Early whaler and trader.

Very little is known of Guard's early life. He was born in London during the first years of the nineteenth century and went to sea at an early age. In 1823, as a joint owner of the schooner Waterloo, Guard began trading with the Maoris and plied between Sydney and the Taranaki coast. Early in 1827, while on one of his normal trading voyages, he sighted a pair of baleen whales in Cook Strait. This discovery suggested to him the possibility of establishing a permanent whaling station in the district. Later in the year Guard brought a whaling crew from Sydney and established his station at Te Awaiti, on Tory Channel. This was probably the first European settlement in the South Island. By September 1828 Guard had formed a branch station at Port Underwood, which shortly afterwards was visited by the Friends, of Boston. This was really the Cyprus, a convict ship which had been seized by mutineers who were about to embark on a career of piracy. On 3 February 1830 Guard landed his first cargo of New Zealand whale oil in Sydney. While he was there he married Elizabeth Parker (1814–65), whom he brought to Te Awaiti. She was the first white woman to live in the South Island, and her children, John, who was born in 1831, and Louisa, were the first white children born there.

In October 1833 the Waterloo was wrecked on Waikanae Beach and pillaged and burned by the Maoris. This loss forced Guard to abandon Te Awaiti to Dicky Barrett. He apparently returned to Sydney, where he bought a share in the barque Harriet and resumed trading. On 29 April 1834 the Harriet was wrecked off Cape Egmont and Guard, his wife, family, and crew were captured by the Maoris. Twelve members of the crew, including Elizabeth Guard's brother, were killed and eaten immediately, but Matakatea intervened to save the others. The Maoris agreed to ransom the remaining captives and Guard was permitted to go to Port Nicholson to collect payment. Captain Morris, of the Joseph Weller, agreed to take the ransom to Moturoa, but his ship was blown off course and forced to sail to Port Jackson. Guard's story drew wide interest in Sydney and Governor Bourke decided to send HMS Alligator to rescue Elizabeth Guard. On 22 September the Alligator arrived off Moturoa, where the crew members were readily handed over. As Elizabeth Guard and the children were detained elsewhere, Captain Lambert took an influential chief on board HMS Alligator as a hostage and proceeded to the pa where they were being held. Apparently Guard's son was at a more distant pa and there was some delay before he could be returned. At length some Maoris came down to the water's edge, one of whom carried the boy strapped on his back. Captain Guard, with seven of his crew and a few sailors from the Alligator, went to receive him. According to the report published in the Sydney Times of 14 November 1834, “One of the sailors reached the boy first and, finding him fastened to the man's back by an old mat, took out his knife, and securing the boy, deliberately drew his knife across the man's throat. The crew of the Harriet, finding the child safe, now determined to take full revenge for the murder of their shipmates, and there being about 103 natives on the beach, we fired on them; and the soldiers on the hill supposing that orders had been given for firing commenced a discharge of musketry upon them”. This incident was investigated by a Committee of the House of Commons in 1835.

Guard returned to Sydney in the Alligator, where a public subscription helped to tide him over the ensuing months. In 1836 the Guard family settled permanently at Kakapo Bay, near Port Underwood. In 1838 he piloted HMS Pelorus during her examination of the Marlborough Sounds and, later, he accompanied Colonel Wakefield in the Tory on similar surveys. On 1 September 1839 Guard bought Oyster Bay from the chief “Ta White” and, six days later, he and James Wynen bought a very large tract of land on both sides of the Pelorus River from Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata. On 28 January 1841 Guard applied to Governor Gipps to have these purchases recognised, but nothing further was done and the claims lapsed on 3 March 1880.

Although Guard's fame rests upon his having established the whaling industryin Cook Strait during the 1820s, he also led a whaling gang at Waipapa, north of Kaikoura, for several seasons in the 1840s. After this he faded from New Zealand history. It is most probable that he left whaling about this time and farmed around Kakapo Bay, where his descendants still live. He was an important figure among the early whalers and should prove a very fruitful subject for a biographer.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • O.L.C. 204, 207, (MSS), National Archives
  • Marlborough Place Names, Insull, H. A. H. (1952)
  • A Personal Narrative …, Marshall, W. B. (1836)
  • Historical Records of Australia, Series I, Vol. XVII (1923)
  • Sydney Times, 14 Nov, 9 Dec 1834.


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This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

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