The ballad of the good ship Boyd
I am very sorry to have the painful
task of introducing myself to you
with an account of the loss of your
ship Boyd, Captain Thompson.
- Alexander Berry, City of Edinburgh, 20th October, 1810
Despite your fears please lend your ears
To a tale of long ago,
To the story of the good ship Boyd
And its testament of woe.
On March the Tenth, Eighteen O'Nine,
She sailed from London town
With convicts bound for Botany Bay,
And no one for their souls to pray
Nor bless them should they drown.
The captain, Johnny Thompson,
Was a dry man, harsh and bold,
Who bought the profit on his mind
With misery in his hold.
Around the globe he shaped his course
Without regret, without remorse
Unit his port was gained.
The Boyd spewed forth its human freight
To swell Port Jackson's sty of hate
Till not a soul remained.
The Boyd she tarried but a month
And took to sea again
On hire to Sydney's Mr Lord
With skins and oil and coal on board
And crew of fifty men.
And passengers there were to boot,
Like Captain Burnsides with the fruit
Of a long commercial life,
And Miss and Mistress Broughton too,
The Commissary's wife.
So seventy souls went forth on her
With thoughts of home in all,
The Cape of Good Hope beckoned those
Among the cast the Fates would choose
To reenact the Fall.
Now fore and aft the fated craft
Did feel the Tasman Breeze,
As Thompson planned his crew to land
To fell New Zealand trees.
For the Navy paid out shillings
For a well cut kauri spar,
And when he saw the silver wink,
John Thompson sallied far.
The Boyd arrived at Whangaroa
One hot December day;
The water gleamed, the natives beamed,
And nothing was quite what it seemed,
As she anchored in the bay.
She lay at peace for three whole days
Enchanted with the place,
The Maori there were keen to trade
And spars where cut apace.
The crew relaxed their vigilance
As token of accord,
And then the great Tippahee came,
The noble savage lord.
'Twas early morning and the sun
Had just commenced its daily run
When great Tippahee came.
And with him Ngatiuru braves
Who proudly bore the name.
The Boyd was soon surrounded
With a cluster of canoes,
And its captain waxed with anger
When confronted with the news.
Tippahee was not daunted by
John Thompson's lack of grace,
He'd met Port Jackson whites before
And entered through the cabin door
To meet him face to face.
"I want some bread to feed my men,"
He said respectfully;
But Thompson brushed his plea aside
And lead him to the vessel's side
And pointed to the sea.
The old chief's pride was sullied thus,
He stamped the deck with wrath,
He drew his cloak around himself
And from the Boyd went forth.
God only know what thoughts were hatched
Inside that savage mind,
As it brooded on its rude affront
In notions unrefined.
With breakfast done, the captain lead
Four hands with him ashore,
Expecting reverence as a white
But when his ship was out of sight
He heard a heathen roar.
He turned and fired his fowling-piece
And with it killed a child,
But then his skull was cleft in twain
By men he'd thought beguiled.
While this was done the chief returned
Once more unto the ship,
And those on board did welcome him
With cheer and fellowship.
With cheer they frankly welcomed him
And fifty braves was well,
And went on mending tattered sails
Or leaned upon the vessel's rails
Without a care to tell.
Tippahee summed the matter up,
His nod sparked off a cry,
And fifty hatchets caught the sun
And steams of blood began to run
From bodies piling high.
All pleas for mercy went unheard
From woman, man and child:
The lust for blood which fired the foe
Would not be reconciled.
Some sailors reached the mast-head,
But were later speared with ease,
And four found shelter in the hold
And later watched a scene unfold
Which made their blood to freeze.
The first was Mistress Morley
With her daughter hardly one.
Her spouse was a Port Jackson man,
A worthy publican.
The third was Betsy Broughton
Who'd seen her mother slain;
The fourth, club-footed Davies, saw
The Maoris view his limb with awe;
His life he did retain.
What follows was a spectacle
Too shocking to describe,
As corpses stripped of bloodied cloth
Were hacked apart in frenzied wrath
As morsels for the tribe.
They danced away the insult,
They sang away the stain,
And Pahi ate John Thompson's heart,
Who'd met him with disdain.
The natives cut the Boyd adrift
And let her run aground,
And burnt her to the water's edge
Where (later) she was found.
Twas Captain Berry found her there,
And learnt her sorry tale;
He rescued the survivors four
And from the scene set sail.
He left it as a savage place
Of impious men bereft of grace
Who'd flung the bones of his own race
Beyond redemption's pale.
© Terry Locke