Story: Boyce, Ann

Page 1 - Boyce, Ann

Boyce, Ann

1827?–1914

Founding mother, herbalist

This biography was written by Katherine W. Orr and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 1, 1990

Ann Cave, whose name sometimes appears in family records as Mary Ann, was born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and was baptised on 20 November 1827. Her mother, Susannah Dockrell, and her father, Samuel Cave, also known as Charles Samuel Cave, married in Sydney. Both arrived there from England as convicts. They emigrated to New Zealand and settled in Port Underwood some time in the second half of the 1830s. Ann's father supported the family by farming and working as a cooper for the local whalers. Ann and her sister were educated at home and Ann apparently acquired considerable knowledge of farming. She grew up in very close contact with Maori people and the Maori language.

Ann Cave married William Boyce, a sea captain, on 20 May 1842 at Ocean Bay, Port Underwood. The officiating minister, Samuel Ironside, reported: 'She is very young – not sixteen. But reports to her discredit having prevailed, whether true or not, rendered it prudent for them to be married at once.' According to one family tradition, the marriage was designed to prevent her abduction and marriage to a local Maori. After her marriage Ann Boyce continued to live at Port Underwood. She was probably there when Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata visited her father to discuss the land claims issue shortly before the Wairau incident in June 1843. Later in 1843 her eldest son was baptised at Ocean Bay by Samuel Ironside. Despite this early Methodist contact, and evidence that her parents and her husband were Anglicans, Ann Boyce's death certificate described her as a Presbyterian.

At least 12 children were born to Ann and William Boyce. By 1849 the Boyce family were living in their own house in Nelson. William Boyce still described himself as a mariner, but subsequently the family moved to Motueka and William took up farming. According to the reminiscences of Ann's grand-daughter, on one occasion after taking to farming, William Boyce decided that he wanted to make another sea voyage. He departed, leaving the farm with a manager. Ann took a dislike to the arrangement. She hired a whaleboat and two men to row her over Cook Strait, and fetched her husband back to agricultural pursuits. Her grand-daughter also records that in Motueka, with its large Maori population, Ann became increasingly knowledgeable about the medicinal properties of plants. She is said to have gained renown as a herbalist, and was often called on for medical help, particularly by Maori people.

William Boyce died on 14 March 1895 at Motueka: Ann Boyce died there on 28 February 1914. She was a woman of considerable vitality. Her appearance seemingly reflected her character: 'She had coal black hair, keen black eyes and was as thin as she could be.' Her early upbringing seems to have given her a respect for and ability to relate closely to her Maori neighbours, which was probably more unusual in later generations.