Port Underwood Life
Maryann Baldick in the 1830s
Port Underwood in the 1830’s became one of the greatest whaling harbours ever known. There could be up to 39 whaling ships at anchor there at one time. Every beach was stacked with smelling decaying whales and their oil; and the language of the whalers was equally offensive.
There were up to 7 grog shops in the Port Underwood area at that time, and the Port was a den of iniquity, with wild living and the breaking of every Christian commandment.
The first thing that would have struck Maryann Baldick when she stepped ashore would have been the smell. It would have been nauseating. Maryann’s stomach would have heaved as she clambered awkwardly from the dingy to the shore. In a futile effort to ward off the worst of the smell, she would have covered her nose with her shawl and held Maryann, her baby, close. Her other children, Harriett leading George, would have struggled through the loose shingle to where her mother waited with William clinging to her skirts. Together they would have scrambled up the beach to a rocky outcrop and stared, with disbelief at the scene below; the whaling season would have been in full swing.
At the other end of Tom Canes Bay huge soars hung with rope and tackle, they rose above a makeshift shelter. Beneath this, on a platform, lay the monstrous carcass of a whale, torn and bloody, men hacking at its sides, stripping off the blubber, exposing chunks of meat to the ever-present gulls and sea birds. People would be milling around, others bent over trypots; above them hung the thick oily smoke of the rendering down. It would have looked and smelt, like a scene from Hell.
Away from the beach there would have been nestled peacefully beneath the lush green hills, whitewashed cottages with thatched roofs, each with a little fence and a flourishing garden. The contrast would have been overwhelming.
For Maryann it was a new beginning.
Maryann was to marry 3 more times to WiIIiam Daken, Robert Register, and Jerome Flood.
It is said that the land in Whangatoetoe and Pipi Bay was given to Maryann by the local Maori when she was married to William Deakin. Maryann being a quite large women shielded a young Maori girl’s innocence with her apron and held her close, from a boat load of drunken, leering, uncouth whalemen.
Because of her act of kindness 200 acres of land was given to Maryann. They shifted to the Bay with her Baldick and Daken children. Maryann is quoted as saying “When I came here I had nothing and now I have this”. Much better than she would have had had she stayed in Rye, Kent.
When Daken left her, she quickly married Robert Register. They cultivated the land growing wheat, barley and potatoes and goats and pigs roamed the hills.
Robert and Maryann had 4 children, and her family now consisted of 4 Baldick, 2 Daken and 4 Register children.
Robert died when Maryann was 37 years of age, and he is buried in Whangatoetoe.
Maryann then married Jerome Flood. This was not a happy marriage as they both had fiery tempers. When Jerome made her sign her land over to him, she rushed into the sea, pretending to commit suicide. Jerome hurried out to stop her, but being a big strong women she grabbed hold of him and dunked him under many times. When he came up the last time he yelled to his sons “Ah be gosh save your father”
Maryann went back to her cottage, packed a bag and taking Rose with her left the Bay and walked to Hakana Bay. They slept on the beach that night, and continued on to Hakahaka Bay the next day, where a Priest tried to get her to go back to Flood. The next day she walked over the hills to Picton and left Port Underwood for good.
When Maryann reached Blenheim she set up a nursing home, for general sickness, maternity and for the old and senile.
Maryann suffered a stroke and died in 1884.
William was born in Birmingham, England in 1811. He was the son of a convict that was sent to Sydney town on the ship Britannia that was in the 3rd Fleet. William was a rope maker in England.
When William and Mary married in 1832 they decided to emigrate to New York, where William was a River Boat Captain. In the early 1830’s he “Went a Whaling” in the South Pacific, on the ship “The General Williams” jumping ship and finally settling in Port Underwood.
William worked on many Whaling Stations in Port Underwood and in Tory Channel and was present at the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on Horohora Kakahu Island in Port Underwood.
William and the recently widowed Maryann Baldick were married by Rev. Ironside at Kakapo Bay in 1840. As William had a very broad Birmingham accent, on the Marriage Certificate his name changed from Deakin to Daken.
They had 2 sons, Thomas who stayed in Port Underwood and Matthew who went back to find their father in America.
William left Maryann and Port Underwood in 1848 taking the 7/6d that she had saved from selling goods to the whalers from her garden.
William returned to America, to find that his 1st family had returned to England. He found them back in Birmingham.
The family became Mormon’s and they returned to America, following in the footsteps of Brigham Younq to Salt Lake City; Utah. William and his sons worked on the finishing of the Mormon Temple.
His other family stayed in Port Underwood and there have been Daken descendants living in Port Underwood ever since. William is buried in Cache Valley, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Written by Ruth Simonsen of HakaHaka Bay