Author(s): Louise Deans
William Deans who arrived in New Zealand in 1840 tells his own story of his ten years in this country through this carefully crafted novel of his experiences here.
WILLIAM DEANS, an extraordinarily passionate, often overlooked, early New Zealand pioneer, was a prolific letter writer. This most unusual work of Historical Creative Nonfiction is reconstructed from the letters he wrote. Told in the first person, his story brings alive not only his struggle to survive in this new land, but also fascinating historical events he was witness to, including: the complete failure of the New Zealand Company and Edward Gibbon Wakefield to prepare for the first settlers’ arrival on the shores of Petone in January 1840; the breakdown of social order in the new settlement; the establishment of the first republic in New Zealand; the Company’s and other settlers’ complete disregard for Maori, their land and their culture; and later, in Canterbury, the vicious attacks against him and his brother by John Robert Godley. William was an intelligent, well-educated young man, resourceful and energetic. He wanted to make his own way. He decided that the Port Cooper (Canterbury) Plains would be perfect for farming and brought his staff and stock to Putaringamotu (Riccarton) in 1843, setting there and farming in partnership with his brother John. Since the South Island had not been claimed by any government, the brothers took a lease with Ngai Tahu, sanctioned by the Governor, for six miles in any given direction from Putaringamotu. This area is now the city of Christchurch. When John Robert Godley arrived to establish and take charge of the Canterbury Pilgrim Settlement, their situation rapidly changed for the worse. Representing the Church of England and The New Zealand Company, Godley was in no mood to abide Scottish Presbyterians. He refused to acknowledge their status as legitimate leasees with Ngai Tahu and fought hard to throw them off their land. William stood his ground and battled fiercely for his rights. He won the battle but died doing so. While William Deans did not live to see the success that his family made of their settlement in Canterbury, the name Deans remains synonymous with the development of what is one of the most productive provinces of New Zealand.