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Worlds collide

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The blowing up of the Boyd, 1889, Steele, Louis John (1842–1918), Watkins, Kennett (1847–1933), Auckland. Purchased 1992 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

 
  • Explosive relations
  • 'Ship buster'
  • Broken relations
  • Flagging authority
  • Fighting figure
  • Double barrel, dual purpose
  • Mixed victory
  • Guns for decoration
  • Details of war
  • Weaving peace

Explosive relations

The Boyd incident is among the most notorious in New Zealand’s early history.

In 1809, a Ngāti Pou chief returning from Sydney on board the British ship Boyd was wrongly accused of theft and flogged. This injustice prompted his tribe to take revenge. They attacked the Boyd in Whangaroa harbour, killing around 70 people and accidentally destroying the ship by igniting its cargo of gunpowder.

Some 80 years later, Pākehā (European New Zealand) artists were searching New Zealand’s past for subject matter. Here, Steele and Watkins show the Boyd’s dramatic end, depicting the Māori attackers as panicked and cowardly. In the Pākehā mind, blame lay firmly on the Māori side.