KIRIBATI AND BULLY HAYES
TRADING IN THE LINE ISLANDS
When Hayes bought the Leonora from
Glover, Dow & Co., he apparently obtained written authority from them to wind
up the business of their various trading stations in the Islands. This gave the
South Sea buccaneer a wonderful opportunity, and he forced each of the Shanghai
firm's agents not only to hand over the goods in their stores, but also whatever
balances in cash he could get ouf of them In this way numbers of traders in the
Western Pacific swore that they had been badly victimised.
And they needed to beware of him in
more way than one, - witness the experience of Tom Day, the trader on Nikunau,
Gillbert Island. Day, on going off to the Leonora to do business, found
himself treated so well in the matter of entertainment that he hardly knew
whether he was standing on his head or his heels, and he had to be lifted into
his boat, on departing. like a sack of potatoes.
Just as the boat was pulling away,
bully Hayes tossed a canvas bag aboard and called out: 'Hi! Tom! Here are your
hundred dollars for trade.'
The bag chinked with the sound of
Chile dollars as it landed on the flour boards.
'Th-thank'ee. boo'-bye. Pleas'
voyage,' stuttered the drunken Day as he clung to the tiller in a vain attempt
to hold himself erect in the stern sheets. And with that the Leonora up anchored
and sailed away.
Some hours later, when Tom Day had
slept off the effects of his spree, he found on opening the bag that it
contained iron washers instead of Chile dollars.
On the Leonora's next visit to
Nikunau, tom came hustling on board, well rimed with strong drink and determined
to have it out with Bully Hayes. He was received at the gangway by the mate, who
told him that he must have just missed the skipper, who had gone ashore to look
for him. 'Anyway, he'll be back directly. Have a drink,' ended Mister Mate.
Tom had several drinks - the Leonora
was always a very hospitable ship. At last the moment came when the trader knew
no more. This time either the mate tried to outdo his skipper or else, as some
say, he acted under orders. He shaved the wretched tom Day's head and then
tarred and feathered him before lowering him down into his boat.
The Leonora never showed up at
Nikunau any more; so the outraged Tom Day went to the Marshalls in search of
her, being still intent on squaring accounts. but he and bully Hayes never came
face to face again. tom Day was last heard of at Truck Island in the Carolines,
where he was in partnership for a while with Captain Narrrulin.
In saying that the traders in this
part of the Pacific were the greatest scoundrels unhung, Bully Hayes was by no
means exaggerating, for even as late as 1873 they consisted mostly of deserters
from the whalers and escaped convicts from Norfolk Island. The Line (or Gilbert)
Islands and those to the north and south of them had been known to the New
Bedford and Nantucket whalers for something like fifty years, the Line grounds,
as they were called, being very prolific in whales at one time. Indeed, in the
early days of the fishery it was no uncommon thing for dead whales to be washed
up on these atolls. Occasionally one of these stranded whales would have the
wheft of some well-known spouter still waving above his hump. Though the
deserters from the whale ships were not perhaps such hardened villains as the
convicts, they were as a rule men whom the whale ships were by no means sorry to
get rid of.
It was the custom of South Sea
whalers to refit at Honolulu in November or December and leave for the Line
grounds either late in December or early in January. Then after cruising from
about 10 S. u through the Carolines, they sailed for the Japan grounds, which
were worked until about the end of March. According to Island tradition, the
convicts were also landed from whalers. Most of these had escaped from Norfolk
Island, but a few of them had been old lags in New South Wales and Van Diemen's
Land. these men belonged to a sort of convict brotherhood. They had their signs
and passwords so that they could know each other. For instance, their password
at one time was 'D cut D' (diamond cut diamond), and in those days of long locks
the sign of a Van Diemen's Land ex-convict was a carefully cultivated curl right
in the centre of the forehead. There was, however, one sign of the convict wh8ch
gave him away utterly and which he never was able to conceal, and that was his
way of walking. The man who walked with short, jerky steps on a south Sea beach
advertised the fact that he had done a long service in chain gangs. There was
one other mark of the ex-convict that as a rule was common to all criminals.
this was a pair of large, shapeless ears. Yet if the ears were normal and the
forehead curl was absent, and the halting drag of the feet was concealed, say,
by a limp, there was still one other way in which these men could be identified
as ex-convicts. The old Norfolk Island convict had only to take off his shirt
and expose his back to the light to disclose to view great furrows of
discoloured flesh, the terrible marks of the cat-o'-nine-tails.
It was in 1826 that Norfolk Island
was made a convict settlement, and from the start the most desperate cases were
sent there, and the disciplining of these poor wretches was too terrible for
words. Many a convict put an end to his existence by some outlandish form of
suicide, and only the most desperate, the most hardened, and, one might say, the
most brutalised lived through the Norfolk Island regime; and the most daring
amongst these were the convicts who took their lives in their hands and managed
In 1841 there were eleven escaped
convicts and deserters from whale ships on Pleasant Island, headed by a fearful
ruffian with the significant name of Monster Jones. This desperate character
decided that there were too many white men on the island, so he invited the
whole lot of them to a grand feast with unlimited toddy of treble strength and
food which he had previously poisoned. Seven of his guests were quickly under
the table. The monster laughingly jeered at the weakness of their heads; but
there was no chance of disguising the true facts - the four survivors knew death
then they saw it - and as they realised the truth, a slow horror crept into
their eyes. In vain the murderer blustered and chaffed and swore; not a bit of
food would the cautious four touch, and they even refused to drink fearful that
the coconut spirit had been doctored. And so the feast broke up.
But Jones bided his time. He was
determined to get those four canny ones somehow. And with his old Tower musket
he took to lurking in the shadows. A few days later the first of the cautious
four was picked up dead on the beach with a bullet, evidently fired at extreme
range, in the back of his head. The turn of the other three came very quickly.
Each one was killed by a rifle bullet from behind.
In this way Monster Jones cleared
the island of his rivals; but he outreached himself, for the horrified natives
refused to have anything to do with him; so in the end he was obliged to leave
the island on a whaler, which he afterwards deserted at Guam. At Guam he shipped
on a vessel bound to England, and that was the last heard of Monster Jones.
On February 1st, 1843 the Giraffe,
Simpson master, hove to off Pleasant Island on her passage from Sydney to
Manila. She was boarded by a man named George Lovett, who said he was a deserter
from the London whaler Offley. He told Captain Simpson that there were
seven Europeans on the island at that date, but that on the day before the
ship's arrival one of these had been killed in a drunken row after a debauch on
In 1845 no less than twenty-seven
convicts from Norfolk Island were landed at Pleasant Island by different
whalers. Some of these soon crossed over to the neighbouring Ocean Island,
whilst some half-dozen left Pleasant Island in the whaler Sallie, which was
never heard of again. Not all the convicts remained on these two islands, but a
few of the more restless gradually worked their way north and settled eventually
in the Carolines.
It was entirely due to the renegade
white men living on such islands as Pleasant, Ocean and Drummond that whalers
and trading schooners were cut off and their crews massacred by the natives. On
December 4th, 1852 the brig Inga of New Bedford was treacherously
attacked and captured, and after the captain and most of the crew had been
murdered, was set fire to. This story of the cutting off of the Inga is
told in detail in Rolf Boldrewood's Modern Buccaneer, the planning of he
whole affair being ascribed to the white traders, led by the old lag, Bob
Ridley, who after this affair left Pleasant Island and became the boss white man
on Ocean Island for seven years.
The one need of the white man was
rum, and it was often for this reason alone that they urged on the natives to
attack unsuspecting ships. Amongst these white riff-raff the burly form of bully
Hayes lorded it like a king; they were pliant tools in his hands, and, as we
shall see later, those of them who tried, as they would say in their own
language, to double-cross him, received a punishment which they did not forget
in a hurry.
Bully Hayes had a way with him that
even the most hardened and sophisticated trader found it hard to resist. It is
not surprising therefore to find a native king or chief falling an easy victim
to his wiles, utterly beguiled and fasincated by his jovial, smooth-spoken
sociability. Even that great mountain of flesh, Tembinoka as he was generally
called, the tyrant of Abemama and the greatest force in the Gilberts, succumbed
to his masterful personality.
'Bully Hayes and Robert Louis
Stevenson were the only two white men that olf Tembinika had any use for,'
declared Captain Si, as he and I discussed the rover's trading success in the
'I should have liked to see the huge
bulk of Tembinoka chambering board the Leonora by means of his special
accommodation ladder,' I remarked. 'Which of his costumes do you suppose he wore
to impress Captain Hayes? Was it the tarnished naval uniform with its heavy
epaulettes of his short-tailed green velvet coast and trousers? And when he got
aboard, what sort of a bargain did he make with that slippery customer? Possibly
some of the clocks, musical boxes, blue spectacles, umbrellas, knitted
waistcoats, fowling-pieces, sewing machines and stoves, noted by Stevenson as
filling up the houses within the precincts of his palace, were bought in the
trade-room of the beautiful Leonora.'
A war chief, Line Islands
'Mebbe tho' I callate I can lay
hands on the fly bird who sold Tembinoka the sewing machines. It was old Jim
Bland, skipper of the schooner Island Maid. Every skipper and supercargo
in the South Seas knew Tembinoka's delight in anything new; an' you should ha'
seen the clock-work toys, the flashy gew-gaws and Yankee notions, which were
offered the king in exchange for the copra. but Jim Bland scooped the pot when
he brought the first sewing-machine to Abemama. They say Tembinoka's eyes fair
started out of his head when he saw that machine buzzing in the Island Maid's
'Of course Captain Jim guessed it
was too priceless to part with, Tembinoka swallowed the bait good and easy. The
sewing-machine may ha' been worth four quid. Bland let the king have it for a
good fifty dollars' worth of copra. And then and there he received an order for
a hundred more. Waal! hang me if Captain Jim did not play the dirty like many
another fool trader before him - but it don't pay, say what you like, it never
don't pay - Jim got a black name in the Line Islands and in the end the Long
Handle Firm gave him the sack.
'What did he do, you say? Why,
hunted wi' a fine tooth-comb through all the second-hand and pop shops in Sydney
and in the end landed old Tembinoka with a hundred broken-down and worn-out
sewing-machines. Wasn't the king angry when he found out that he'd been had! For
the next few years every canoe in the island had a new kind of anchor - a
'Another unfortunate purchase by
this Napoleon o' the Gilberts was a steam pinnace - I ain't dead sure, but I
think it was Stevenson's steamer, the Janet Nicoll, that brought the
pinnace along on her deck. Anyway, Tembinoka bought it and detailed one of his
sub-chiefs to take on the job of pinnace's engineer.
'After just one day's instruction,
given him by one of the steamer's engineers, this unfortunate chief was ordered
to take his king and the whole royal harem for an outing. Steam was raised and
away went the pinnace puffing gallantly round the lagoon.
'Presently Tebinoka tired of the
throbbing boat and the smell and smoke and gvae orders for the boat's head to be
turned towards the little pier. Then the native engineer began to act strange.
Just as the pinnace had almost reached the landing stage, he put the helm hard
over and sheered off. Then, making a wide sweep, he came for the pier again, but
again he shoved his tiller down at the last moment and the pinnace went rushing
off in a wide circle. This time Tembinoka was not amused but angry.
"What's wrong?" he asked. Jeersalem! but it must ha' been funny! That gol-darned
chief had forgotten how to stop the pinnace!!
'But old Tembinoka was a manof
action, yes, siree! "I'll soon stop it," he roared, and seizing the tiller, he
ran the pinnace full tilt on the reef - that was the end of the Abemama
At the time when the Leonora
was trading in the Archiipelago, the gilberts were for their size perhaps the
thickest populated part of the whole Pacific. The coral atoll of Abemama, which
is ten miles long running N.W. and S.E. and five miles in width from north to
south, only rises some twenty-five feet above the surface of the surrounding
ocean, yet in 1870 it supported a population of about 5,000. The island of Kuria
is about half the size of Abemama and its population in bully Hayes's time was
only 1,500, though it had been much greater a few years before.
In 1841 the United States exploring
ship Peacock took off an Irishmen from this island, a man named John Kirby, a
deserter from an English whaler, who had dared being roasted and eaten alive and
had swum ashore there on February 11th, 1838. He declared that the natives of
the Gilberts only ate human flesh occasionally, their usual food being fish.
Hardworking, but still harder to
handle, the islanders were great favourites with Bully Hayes - he always had
several of them in his foc's'le. they were wild but very reliable fighters. They
possessed terrible weapons, made of shark's teeth, and woe betide the man who
dared to make love to another man's wife in the Gilberts, for Line Island
husbands used to be the most jealous of human beings - indeed it was hardly safe
to speak to a young woman for fear of being scarred and lacerated by their awful
Findlay advises caution on the part
of ships trading in the Gilberts owing to the large number of inhabitants and
their being prone to mischief and treachery, especially against weakly manned
ships. Such a vessel as the Leonora had, of course, little to fear, but
there was a favourite whaling ground in the vicinity of the gilberts which was
much frequented by American spounters about this time, and Findlay's warning was
for the whalemen as much as for the Island traders, for the former were very
casual in the way in which they landed upon the islands of the Pacific and
fraternized with the natives, the cutting off of whalers being more common in
the fifties and sixties than of any other vessels, not even excepting
Nor was the trader's lot in th early
days exactly a bed of roses in the Line Islands. Stevenson has told us how
Tembinoka used the white man and even the missionary - how he allowed them to
stay on Abemama whilst he probed their brains for all the knowledge he could get
out of them, and then sent them packing on the first schooner that called in.
But the other island chiefs were not quite so sophisticated as Tembininoka, nor
as long-suffering; and it was often the shark's-tooth sword which cut short the
trader's activities rather than a berth in a schooner's cabin.
BULLY HAYES OUTWITS WEBER OF
When the Leonora arrived in
the Line Islands in 1871, the traders were chiefly in the employ of the German
firm of Godeffray & Son, which at this date was all-powerful in the Pacific.
Starting in Cochin-China this firm,
under the direction of Johan Caesar Godeffroy in Hamburg, gradually spread like
a giant octopus throughout the South Seas, with centres of operation at Apia and
Valparaiso, and a fleet of trading barques, brigs and schooners, which combed
the islands from China to the Pacific coast. By their steady pressure and
unscrupulous competition the well-known Tahiti house of Braqnder & Hort was
squeezed out of existence, and even Captain Towns found them poaching on what he
considered were his preserve.
Miss Gordon Cumming, writing in
Bully Hayes's time, calls them the 'Grab-alls of the Pacific.' Stevenson wrote:
'The firm is Gulliver among the Lilliputs.' They were not popular in the South
Seas - their methods were too thorough, too inhuman, too cold-blooded and
In Apia they stimulated war by
supplying arms and ammunition from their own arsenal at Liege, secure in the
knowledge that no one, native or foreign, was powerful enough to stop them. For
these war materials they took in payment something like 25,000 acres of the
finest alluvial soil, on which they started their plantations of cotton and
other crops, to work which over 1,000 labour recruits had to be imported from
Melanesia. Nor were these acres of blood-stained Samoa their only agricultural
lands; another plantaion of 3,000 acres was later started at Yap in the Pelew
Group: in the Ellice Group, too, the island of Nukufetau was acquired on account
of its fine harbour. At Apia they had a shipbuilding yard and repairing sheds.
They never insured their ships and they only paid their captains very low
salaries, selom more than five pounds a month, but to this was added a
commission of three per cent, on the net profit of each voyage. Their ships
always left Apia under sealed orders, not to be opened till a certain latitude
was reached; thus they were of no use as mail carriers, nor yet for passengers.
All their business was conducted in
the well-known Prussian style of discipline and with a mystery which was worthy
of a European secret service. No moral considerations were ever allowed to
interfere with business plans and Godeffroy's were considered a great
anti-Christian force by the missionaries. They even required their traders to
take native women into their compounds without even the island pretence or
marriage. Nor were any awkward questions asked as to the character and
antecedents of these same traders, who received no salaries, but only trade for
bartering and materials wherewith to build a house. Godeffroy's did not worry
how a trader treated the natives, so long as he managed to collect a sufficiency
of copra or coconut oil, pearl-shell or sea-island cotton.
Amongst the shareholders was
Bismarck, John Caesar Godeffroy being an old schoolfellow and a close friend of
the German Chancellor. Bismarck undoubtedly had vast colonizing plans in the
Pacific, but the Franco-Prussian War not only interfered with these, but
involved the firm in difficulties. Barings came to the rescue with a loan of
60,000 pound sterling, but the whole business was finally wound up and its
property, agencies, stores and ships taken over by the 'Deutsche Handels and
Plantagen-Geselleschaft zum Sud-See Inseln,' which has always been known
throughout the Pacific as the 'Long Handle Firm.' The change-over did not come
until after Hayes's time, in 1880 to be exact.
The maker of Godeffroy's in the
Pacific, their figurehead, manager and controller, was a German named Theodor
Weber, who also found time somehow to act as consul for the city of Hamburg. Her
is R. L. Stevenson's vivid sketch of this man:
He was of an artful and commanding
character: in the smallest thing or the greatest, without fear or scruple;
equally able to affect, equally ready to adlpt, the most engaging politeness or
the most imperious airs of domination. It was he who did mot damage to rival
traders; it was he who must harried the Samoans; and yet I never met anyone,
white or native, who did not respect his memory.
This was the man, almost
all-powerful in Apia, against whom Bully Hayes dared to pit his wits.
In 1871 the traders of Godeffroy's
in the Line Islands were mostly British and American ex-sailors of bad habits
and worse morals, with the business methods of so many sharks. Everywhere
they were wearing out the hospitality of their wild hosts, and on many islands
had been warned to leave at the first opportunity, which turned out to be the
Leonora. For directly Bully Hayes realised the condition of affairs, he made
it his business to call at island after island, offering each trader a passage
to Apia for fifty dollars. This was a very reasonable charge and one and all
they gladly agreed. Most of them also shipped aboard the Leonora all the
oil and copra they had collected, without making any conditions as to
As soon as the Leonora had
taken the last of Godeffroy's traders aboard, Bully Hayes called the men into
the cabin ahnd addressed them as follows:
'Now, boys, all your cash and trade
is aboard my ship - and I don't know what's yours and what's Godeffroy's, do I?
As regards the dollars, you can shell out right now - fifty apiece for your
passage money - and any you have over, if you're wide, you'll stick to. You know
the Dutchman's way o'carryin' on. He'd turn your soul-cases inside out to make
you cough up y'r last dinaro. Hang on to the coin an' day nothing. Ha! Ha! Ha!
That'll be a good one on friend Thodor!'
The traders, each with a gin and
water-very little water-in his fist, roared at this sally until their laughter
made Bully Hayes's precious china ornaments rattle.
'As for the oil and copra,' he want
on, 'I'll tackle friend Weber for my freight and you may lay to that. I reckon
it ain't none o' your pigeon anyway.'
A chorus of hasty' noes' greeted
'That's bully, sons. Now, you savvy
the play, it's time for another drink-but---' and here his voice lost its usual
jovial character,' the man who thinks he'll pal up to Weber by double-crosin' me
had better look out for squalls.'
it was either on February 10th, 1872
or a day or two before that the Leonora arrived at Apia with her cargo of
Kingsmill and Gilbert Island traders. On landing, the captain of the Leonora
went straight to Godeffroy's and asked to see the manager.
Theodor Weber greeted the notorious
sea captain coldly with raised eyebrows. But this did not trouble Bully Hayes
and he proceeded to regale the German with a lurid account of the dangers from
which he had rescued the firm's traders. He ended up genially with a casual
allusion to the business side of the transaction.
'They're big eaters and heavy
drinkers, those traders o' yours-I reckon there ain't a bottle of squareface or
a bottle of cabin pickles left aboard my brig. Guess I must ask you to pay me a
trifle for their passages - say fifty dollars apiece. The Leonora's fair
loaded down wi' their oil and copra.'
Without a word Weber sent for his
cashier and had the money counted out in Mexican dollars. After which Bully
Hayes swaggered along the water-front dangling the bag of dollars, coolly
unconcerned at the stares of amazement which greeted him on every side. Serenely
indifferent to the fact that the last time he was in Apia he was under detention
by the authorities on the charge of kidnapping, he even dared to look into the
British consulate and take a drink off the flabbergasted Williams. And it was
duly noted on the beach that their interview lasted a good half-hour.
'Where the devil's Ben Pease?' asked
one beachcomber of another, and 'What's all this about Godeffroy's traders being
chased outer the Line Islands an' Bully Hayes savin' their bacon?'
In a short while the whole of Apia
was buzzing with the wildest canards. The Samoan port of entry had a liberal
allowance of pot-shops - the common expression at that date for English
public-houses and American saloons. Into these rolled Godeffroy's traders,
intent on what they humorously called the delights of civilization. They were
already half-seas over and their accounts of their adventures were too lurid and
confused to be received with any credence, yet two facts emerged - Bully Hayes
was not only in sole command but was owner of the Leonora, which when she
was last in Apia was the Pioneer under Captain Ben Pease, and secondly, he had
cleared all Godeffroy's traders out of the Gilberts, Marshalls and Ellice and
brought a full cargo of their copra and oil.
'Pretty good business' - 'Some cute'
- 'Mighty slick'=were the comments heard on every side.
That afternoon there was still more
cause for this chorus of admiration. Weber had sent lighters off to the
Leonora to unload the oil and copra. Presently these came back empty, but
the foreman stevedore bore the following note to Theodor Weber:
Brig Leonora, Apia.
You have forgotten that you have not
yet mad any arrangements with me about the freight of your oil and copra. I now
demand freight on 200,000 pounds of copra at one cent per pound, 2,000 dollars:
for the oil, a lump sum of 500 dollars; in all 2,500 dollars.
Unless the freight is paid at once
and delivery taken forthwith I will proceed to New Zealand and sell to recoup
Signed: W. H. HAYES.
In daring to mulct the all-powerful
German octopus of this 2,500 dollars, bully Hayes knew that he would be making
himself extremely popular with all the British and American residents in Apia,
not to speak of the Samoans themselves, for even at this date politics were
running high between the rival nationalities, and in addition the firm of
Godeffroy was heartily loathed in Samoa.
Yet the South Sea buccaneer must
have realised that he was making an enemy who was by no means to be desp;ised.
Weber was furious at the way in which he had been made a fool of by the
smooth-spoken filibuster, but he was quick to see that Bully Hayes had won this
deal; and he paid up with such promptness that the latter actually had the cheek
to compliment him upon it. This was almost too much for the self-control of the
sorely tried German. Yet he bit his lip and held his tongue, conficent that
before long his chance to et more than even would come.
Theodor Weber's opportunity came
sooner than he could possibly have hoped.
At the very moment when the head of
Godeffroy's and the captain of the Leonora were playing the game of
diamond cut diamond, the United States stem corvette Narraagansett
dropped anchor in the harbour of Pago Pago for the purpose of annexing the
island of Tutuila. the ceremony, indeed, was in full swing, and the hoisting of
the American flag, to the strains of the ship's band and with the salute of her
guns, was just about to take place, when the momentous news reached Captain
Meade that the notorious brig Leonora with her law-breaking buccaneer of
a master, Captain bully Hayes, was actually lying quietly at anchor in Apia
We may make a pretty good guess as
to who sent this important bit of information together with a full category of
the captain's sins to the commander of the American corvette. Theodor Webber's
message must have been couched in the strongest terms possible, for Captain
Meade acted with astonishing haste: the ceremony of annexation was left
unfinished and the warship got under way for 'Apia in what the ship's log-book
declared to be record time.*
*Richard W. Meade was
considered one of the tautest hands, and the stream corvette Narrangansett
one of the smartest ships in the United States navy. During a commission which
lasted from March 1871 to January 1873 the Narrangansett made a record
for sea duty which has never been exceeded in the U.S. naval history. She passed
418 days at sea, and sailed close to 60,000 miles, being always under canvas
except when entering or leaving harbours. During this time she beat cery United
States warship which attempted to contend with her in sail drill and minutes,
and had then made sail again to royals in three minutes. Her time for shortening
sails to double-reefed topsails from the order until the topsail yards were
hoisted, was two and a half minutes. From all plain sail she had shortened down,
and in the middle of it shifted all three topsails, and then made all sail again
in fifteen minutes.
Her evolutions in port were
just as smart. With royal and topgallant yards across she had sent her
topgallant yards and masts on deck in a minute and twenty seconds, had sent down
her lowermasts and topmasts in four and a half minutes, and been all ataut again
with royal yards across in sixteen minutes. Her record for sending up topgallant
and royal yards, and loosing the sails was just four minutes, and she had manned
and armed all her boats for service in less than five minutes. to prepare for
fire took just over a minute and ahalf after the crew had reached their
quarters, and to prepare for battle by day took two and a half minutes, and by
night five minutes.
The times of all these
different exercises had been made without any previous notice being given before
the order. On one occasion, when drilling in competition with another ship, she
had her light yards and topgallant masts on deck before her opponent's
topgallant masts were unfidded. This latter had claimed to be a champion ship
until the Narragansett bet her at every exercise.
Not content with this,
Captain Meade made treaties, collected indemnities for injuries to American
property, and adjudicated on many cases of injustice throughout the South Seas,
and carried out these many duties without sickness, death, or a casualty of any
This is a truly remarkable
record, and one may safely say that Captain Meade, throughout his commission,
only had one cause for dissatisfaction, and that was a case of adjudication in
which he absolutely faqiled to bring the offender to justice - the case, namely,
in which he attempted to get the better of Bully Hayes.
The harbour of Apia will always be
remembered for what has been named the Calliope hurricane of March 1889,
when out of seven men-of-war only the British corvette succeeded in escaping the
coral fangs of the reef-bound shore or the destroying fury of the immense
rollers which raged in through the bottleneck entrance. As a rule, however, the
anchorage is calm enough, and safe, as anchorages go in the south Seas, though
it is coral bottom and reef-bound from Matautu to Mulinuu.
When the Narragansett came steaming
in under forced draught, she found perhaps a dozen vessels lying off the white
sandy beach almost within the shade of the coco palms and entirely within the
scent of the fragrant hibiscus bushes which, in their glory of yellow and
crimson flowers, filled the whole harbour with their sweetness.
Farthest out of the fleet lay the
peerless Leonora with her white sides glistening in the sun, her yards
squared to a hair, her sails harbour furled and awnings spread fore and aft.
Blowing out from her main truck was a big name pennant, whilst from the
flagstaff at her stern waved the brilliant stars and stripes. Thus the American
corvette had no difficulty in picking out her quarry from amongst Godeffroy's
German barques and a mixed lot of island schooners.
The splash of the Narragansett's
bower anchor and the rattle of her chain running out, as she brought up within
point-blank range of the brig, caused not the slightest sign of interest aboard
the Leonora, in spite of the fact that every glass on the warship's
quarter-deck was levelled at the South Sea corsair.
But if the arrival of the man-of-war
seemed to have little interest for the rover, this was far from being the case
ashore. Throughout the length of the beach there went a buzz of eager talk - a
dozen different wiseacres announced her business in a dozen different ways.
Every storekeeper and bar-tender began to get ready for a sudden access of work.
The consuls, too, of three great nations hastily pored over their files and gave
orders for their best uniforms to be brushed and pressed. Even the beachcombers
were roused from their lethargy and either slunk away into the palm-thatched
huts of the natives or gazed with uneasy eyes at the graceful corvette.
Both Captain Silas and his mate
happened to the present in Apia at this critical moment in the fortunes of Bully
Hayes - the one on an island schooner and the other, as he admitted grumpily, on
At this date there were scarcely a
couple of hundred houses and sores in Apia, including the British, American and
German consulates; the roman Catholic College and Cathedral; a Congregational
chapel; the headquarters of the London Medical Mission; and the offices of the
newspapers Samoan Times and South Sea Gazette. The Barrack-like
stores and offices of Godeffroy's lay out at the western end, on the edge of the
Molinuu peninsula; close by at the village of Matafele were the German consulate
and sundry Hamburg and Holland stores. The bridge of Mulivai divided the Teutons
from the Ango-Saxons, whose reed-roofed, white-walled houses and stores,
half-hidden in luxuriant greenery, together with the brown conical huts of the
Samoans, formed the village of Apia.
To the east across the river of
Vaisingano lay the village of Matauto, also almost hidden in foliage. Here was
the British consulate; and at Matautu Point, in perhaps the finest position of
all, stood the house of Bully Hayes, where the South Sea buccaneer dispensed
dispensed uproarious hospitality during his short visits and where, in his
absence, his much respected wife and two pretty daughters, Leonora and Laurina,
lived very quietly.
I must not forge to mention, also,
Hayes's son, Fred, a tall, handsome boy who, I believe, is still well remembered
atg Levuka, to which place the South Sea pirate's widow and family removed in
The twins were educated at the
French convent, where four French sisters and two Samoan sisters devoted
themselves to about sixty pupils, mostly native and half-cast girls. Miss Gordon
Cumming, in her Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War, has a great deal of
praise for the peaceful convent. Her remarks on Bully Hayes, written at Apia in
the very hour of his death, are interesting as a reflection of the official and
missionary opinion in Samoa regarding the south Sea buccaneer. She writes as
A considerable number
of the bright, merry girls at the good Sisters' school are half-casts -
the children of Samoan mothers by French, English, or German fathers.
Amongst these, two gentle, modest-looking lassies were pointed out to me
as the daughters of the notorious Bully Hayes, of whose piratical exploits
I have heard many a highly seasoned yarn from the older residents in Fiji,
where he occasionally appeared, as he did in all the other groups, as a
very erratic comet, coming, and especially vanishing, when least expected,
each time in a different ship, of which by some means he had contrived to
get possession; always engaged in successful trade with stolen goods; ever
gland and winning in manner, dressed like a gentleman, decidedly handsome,
with long silky brown beard; with a temper rarely ruffled, but with an
iron will, for a more thoroughgoing scoundrel never sailed the seas. the
friend who trusted to his courteous promises was his certain victim. If he
was in the way, he was as likely as not to have his throat cut, or to be
turned adrift on a desert isle. If the owner of the vessel, he was
probably landed to make arrangement for the sale of his cargo, while Bully
Hayes was already on his way to some distant port to sell the said ship
for his own benefit, and then trade with the ship, till it became
inconvenient to hold her, when she was deliberately scuttled.
It is about twenty
years since this notorious pirate first made his appearance in the
Pacific, when for some reason he was landed on the Sandwich Isles,
apparently against his will. He was then accompanied by Mrs. Hayes, the
mother of these two girls, who now lives at Apia in respected solitude.
For many years her lord has cheered his voyages with companions from all
manner of isles, whom he has contrived to dispose of so soon as metal more
attractive presented itself.
Bully Hayes's chief cronies in Apia
were Williams, the British consul and his family, who, since being brought into
close contact with the rover during the Atlantic kidnapping inquiry, had been
completely won over to his side by Hayes's extraordinary magnetism. At this date
the son of the famous missionary seems to have delegated his consular duties to
his own son and to have become interested in trade, no doubt partly owing to the
influence of the Leonora's captain.
Another great ally of Bully Hayes
was Captain Edward Hamilton, the Apia pilot, who had the unpleasant duty of
bringing the Narragansett up to Apia anchorage, when he knew that her errand was
to arrest his notorious friend.
Then there was Captain Turnbull,
another retired master-mariner, and according to Louis Becke 'the most
respected storekeeper in Apia - a stout old man, slow of speech, and profoundly
but not abtrusively religious.'
The people used to wonder how it was
that 'Misi Pulu,' the shrewdest business man in the group, would supply Hayes
with 1,000 or 2,000 dollars' worth of trade and merely take his IOU, while
refusing to give credit to any other soul. Spoken to on the matter, the gruff
old man replied, 'That's my business, but I will tell you why I trust a man like
Hayes and won't trust anyone here. I know the man, and I've told him what none
of you would dare to tell him, that I looked upon his course of life with
horror. He laughed at me and said, with a dreadful oath, that if ever he could
do me a good turn he would. That pleased me, and when he came to me a week
afterwards and said that he wanted new canvas and running gear, but that the
Dutchmen would not sell him any on credit, I said I would - and did, and he paid
me, and I will give him a few thousand dollars' credit any day.
There were also many less reputable
companions and hangers-on, such as the rollicking, kava-drinking, white-haired
skipper Wills - an old-timer who could speak at least twenty of the Pacific
dialects fluently and was a perfect mine of Island lore. He was well-known as
the fun-maker of Apia, a light-hearted veteran with no more serious occupation
than attending sailors' sing-songs and native dances.
To return to the Narrangansett.
No sooner was her anchor down than an armed boat's crew was sent to take
possession of the Leonora. The officer in command of the boat, on
boarding the brig, was told that the object of his search was below, and on
entering the cabin he was extremely surprised to see seated at the table a
quiet, stoutish man, who, after bowing politely, greeted him affably with the
'Welcome on board the Leonora, sir.
Have you come to seize my ship and myself? Sell now, don't apologise, but sit
down awhile until my steward brings you a glass of wine, and then I'll go and
see what all this is bout.'
This coolness, accompanied by a
genial smile, completely took the Narrangansett's officer aback, and
before he knew what he was doing he had complied with the invitation and was
taking a drink and talking cordially with the man whom he had been warned to be
on his guard against as a blustering, stick-at-nothing ruffian, the man who,
according to Island gossip, had been guilty of every imaginable crime, from
murder to girl-stealing, from berratry to open piracy.
As soon as the Narragansett's
officer had had his drink bully Hayes stood up and said he was ready to
accompany him aboard the man-or-war. As the boat pulled alongside, the rail was
crowded with the heads of her crew, every man of which was anxious to get a
glimpse of the famous pirate.
The whole scene was witnessed by the
pilot, Hamilton, who, in a state of uncontrollable excitement, recounted it in
every bar in Apia. After punctiliously saluting at the gangway, Bully Hayes
marched calmly up to Captain Meade, standing on his quarter-deck surrounded by
his officers, and said:
'How do you do, sir? I am happy to
see my country's flat again in these seas; but what the hell do you mean, sir,
by putting an armed crew on my deck? By God, sir, if you don't give me good
reasons I'll make you repent it.'
This blustering speech had little
effect on such a taut disciplinarian as Captain Meade, though it raised a
quickly suppressed titter amongst the corvette's officers.
'I pardon you your offensive
language, Captain Hayes, as I daresay you feel excited,' returned the commander
of the Narragansett,' but if you will come below I will show you good
authority for my action. I have orders to arrest you and investigate serious
charges against you. I trust, however, that you will be able to clear yourself.'
The quiet voice and calm, easy
manner of Captain Meade showed the quick-witted Hayes that bluff and bluster
were no earthly use with this superior specimen of an American naval officer;
and immediately the fierce glitter died out of his blue eyes and his whole
appearance changed as he reversed his pan of campaign.
Bowing with hat in hand to the
corvette's captain, he turned to the group of officers and said with his mot
'Gentlemen, I apologise to your
Commander, for my rough, ill-bred speech. I spoke hastily and without thought as
an irritable man is liable to do: but I heartily apologise for my lack of
self-control and hope you will over look the lapse. As for any charges against
me, I can assure you that they will be found to be merely the vapourings of
jealous rivals in business and the idle misconceptions of those to whom a little
honest inquiry would have revealed my innocence.'
After this suave speech the South
Sea buccaneer was taken below, where the warrant for his arrest was read out to
him. Captain Meade gave him the liberty of the ship whilst the charge sheet
against him was being prepared and also allowed him to send letters ashore.
In Apia the Germans consul proved to
be the only man ready to prefer charges against Bully Hayes, and he strove with
very little success to produce Godeffroy's traders as witnesses and sufferers by
Hayes's illegal actions in the Islands.
We have several contemporary
accounts of the trial and acquittal of Bully Hayes aboard the Narrangansett.
Here is the letter of the Reverend T. Powell, who had assisted in the arrest of
Hayes by Maunga, the chief of Pago Pago, in 1869, written on February 21st, 1872
from Samoa to the Reverend J. P. Sunderland of Sydney, agent for the London
After examining Hayes's p0apers, and
crew for three days, Captain Meade could find no evidence sufficient to
warrant him sending Hayes to 'Frisco for trial, and so let him go with a
warning. How is it that with such a mass of evidence as was collected on
his detention here, which is in British blue books proving his kidnapping
of the people of Manahiki, that he is allowed to go at large?
Captain Meade's entry in the
official log-book of the Narragansett, made on February 18th, 1872, runs as
On February 21st Captain Meade wrote
in his log-book:
These entries give us no information
as to what actually took place at inquiry. The charges against Hayes seem to
have fallen to the ground owing to the refusal of Williams, the British consul,
to produce his evidence yet this same Williams wrote officially on February 24th
in the following strain:
On February 19th, 1872 the
American corvette Narragansett arrived here and arrested William Henry
Hayes of Atlantic notoriety. It was announced that Hayes was to be sent
to California for trial under a guard in the Leonora, now under the American
flag, formerly the Pioneer of Shanghai under the British flag, and previous to
that the Waterlily of Aberdeen. But to the astonishment of the Apia
residents, Hayes was acquitted and is now walking his own quarter-deck. I have
not heard any particular, for the trial was held on board the Narragansett.
Two British naval officers in the
South Seas hint clearly that Williams made no effort to produce evidence against
Bully Hayes. commodore Stirling of H.M.S Cleo wrote as follows on
December 11th, 1872:
Captain Meade of the Narragansett
told me at Samoa he had Hayes aboard the Narragansett for three days, and
as Mr. Williams, British consul at Samoa, declined to produce sufficient proof
against Hayes, he was liberated.
Captain Simpson of H.M.S. Blanche
was thoroughly examined and searched by the American corvette
Narragansett. This having been done at Samoa, I conclude that the British
consul, Mr. Williams, would have represented to the commander of the
Narragansett the fact of Hayes's previous escape from the island when
detained by him, and the grounds of his detention, when the matter would
have been thoroughly sifted.
Louis Becke declares that Captain
Meade, after breaking up the court and liberating Hayes, wrote officially to the
consuls stating that owing to the unreliable and contradictory evidence, and the
'skulking and terrified manner' of the witnesses, he did not feel justified in
taking Hayes to the United States. Becke also credits Bully Hayes with the
following speech, which he apparently addressed to the court as soon as he was
informed that he was a free man:
Gentlemen, I thank
you for your kindness and courtesy to me. You have done me a good service.
If I went to the States now and told how I had been seized by a tyrannical
American officer, it would make me a rich man. I could run for President.
I could get in too. I could paint you all as a crew of piratical ruffians,
disgracing the uniform of the greatest country in the world, and the
papers would back me up. They would make me president of a big bank, and
the Secretary of the Navy would keep the Narragansett at sea for another
two years - to save you from getting lynched by an indignant nation. but I
am just going to be good and generous and remain in obscurity; and
to-morrow night I shall be proud and happy if you will honour me by coming
to my house and see the pirate in his lair.
The moment he was free, Bully Hayes
'dressed ship' and then gave his crew liberty in order that they might celebrate
his acquittal in true sailor fashion ashore. That night there was a wild riot at
Matafele in the German quarter. The crew of the Leonora, after filling up with
drink, proceeded to beat up the houses of the German residents. In this drunken
spree they were not only joined by a lot of flash Samoan bucks, but, it must be
confessed, by a number of uproarious liberty men from the Narragansett herself.
The Germans, especially those representing Godeffroy's, were very unpopular, and
thus Bully Hayes's method of revenge for the German consul's attempts to get him
convicted received the full approval of the rough element, both on the beach and
otherwise, and it was said that only the interference of the Narragansett's
officers saved some of the Germans from being very roughly handled.
It was not until more than a year
after the Narragansett episode that Consul Williams paid the penalty for the
double-dealing in the matter of the trial of bully Hayes. On November 16th, 1874
Commodore Goodenough sent the following report to the British Admiralty:
I was at Samoa in H.M.S.
Pearl in November 1873; the ketch E. A. Williams was then there under
repairs. She belonged to the sons and daughter of Consul Williams, one of whom
Samuel Williams, is doing duty as acting consul under a warrant from his father.
Samuel Williams told me nothing of his intentions regarding the ketch E. A.
Williams, but gave me to understand that Hayes was a great rascal, and
offer4ed to obtain evidence against Hayes. Yet on December 3rd, 1873 he actually
enters into communication with this man, against whom he had pretended to give
I consider the whole affair
as mot unsatisfactory, even regarding Mr. Williams as a trader. In the position
of Her Majesty's acting consul I consider that he has been guilty of dishonest
behaviour, rendering him unworthy to continue to occupy such a position.
This report resulted in Samuel
Williams being dismissed from the British consular service. He was undoubtedly
hand in glove with the South Sea rover, and, as we shall see later, it was after
a trip in the ketch E. A. Williams, which had a rendezvous with the
Leonora at the Mile atoll in the Marshall Group, that Louis Becke was taken
into the employ of Bully Hayes as supercargo of the Leonora.
After celebrating his acquittal out
at Matautu Point with all his old cronies, Bully Hayes sailed gaily away from
Apia, secure in the knowledge that the Narragansett inquiry left him with little
to fear from man-of-war or consul, of whatever nationality, throughout the South
Before sailing the confident rover
collected a number of his friends in Apia and offered to place them on the
islands so lately vacated by Godeffroy's traders, thus still further
accentuating his triumph over the discomfited Theodor Weber.
Bully Hayes has generally been
credited with opening up to trade many tiny atolls, previously marked 'doubtful'
on the Admiralty charts. In the Ellice Group his traders were: Bill thompson at
Funafuti; James Porter at Nui or Egg Island; bob Marshall at Oaitapu or Tracy's
atoll; and, later on, Jim Garstang at Nukulailai. Amongst the Marshalls his
chief traders were: George Brown on Aour; Captain Jack on Mille; and a trader
named Resin on Meduro or Arrowsmith.
The most unfortunate of these
traders of Bully Hayes was an American named Henry Gardiner, who, owing to the
wreck of the Leonora, was left attended on the little Arrecifos atoll. He
afterwards told his story to F. J. Moss in the following words:
Hayes left me for five
years on the little island of Ujeland to get copra for him. there were only a
few natives and we made what copra we could, but he never came near me again. I
was nearly dead, living on fish and coconuts and tormented with anxiety to get
away. At last by great good luck a vessel called and rescued us. I never saw
Hayes afterwards, but if he were to come here now and slap me on the back with
one of his jovial laughs and begin chaffing me about Ujeland, I won't say you
mightn't see me shaking hands with him in less than ten minutes and ashamed to
talk about being left at Ujeland any more.
After saying good-bye to
Gardiner on Ujeland, or Arrecifos as it was generally called, Hayes made the
round of the Carolines, and then, instead of returning to Apia, boldly sailed
away for San Francisco.
Bully Hayes-South Sea Pirate-The Final Years
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