Photo of Samuel Hayward Ford, courtesy Cally Whitham
When Samuel Hayward Ford died on the 19th of July, 1876, shipping in the harbour at Russell in the Bay of Islands had their flags at half-mast. He had established a hospital in the area in 1858 “for destitute seamen and others”, and it is said that at least two “whaling babies” were born in the Ford household, American “whaling wives” having accompanied their husbands on their round the world voyages. He was well-respected in his community, and his son Ernest Ford would be elected one of the first councillors on the Bay of Islands County Council in 1877.
Born c. 1811, Samuel H. Ford qualified as a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries in 1832, and Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1833, after studying at St Thomas’ in London. He proposed to Martha Wilcox when he was 17 years old, and was rejected, but three years later succeeded with a second proposal in Belgrave Square. They married in December 1834, and the couple initially took up residence in Hampstead.
In 1836, Ford volunteered for service as a medical missionary with the Anglican Church Missionary Society, and arrived at the Paihia Mission Station in 1837. The Fords left Paihia for Te Wahapu in 1842, officially due to Ford’s poor health at the time, but unofficially there may have been problems between himself and Archdeacon Henry Williams. Even so, the two men got along amicably enough, as long as they worked independently of each other. Ford attended the Archdeacon during the latter’s last illness at Pakaraka.
Hone Heke’s war in 1845 meant the Fords had to leave Te Wahapu, although reluctantly, to live in Auckland for a time. From the obituary for Martha Ford in 1894 (NZ Herald), this remembrance of those turbulent times:
“On the day succeeding the sack of Kororareka (of which event and its surrounding circumstances, even when four score, Mrs. Ford had a clear recollection) she received a letter from Hone Heke desiring that she would come to his camp at Uruti, as he desired to see her. A chief named Paumuku had been killed in the previous day’s fight, and one of Heke’s requests was that Mrs. Ford would get the body across to Paihia, so that the deceased chief might be buried at the Paihia Mission station. Mrs. Ford agreed to do so, and got the seamen from the American warship to tow the body over to Paihia, she and some of her children going ahead with a flag.In 1849, they returned to the Bay of Islands, and there Ford spent the rest of his life at Russell. Out of 10 children, only Ernest survived into adulthood; four of the others had perished during a scarlet fever outbreak in Auckland in 1848.
“While this was going on Dr. Ford was away on board HMS Hazard, attending to Capt. Robertson, who had been wounded in the action. Archdeacon Williams got uneasy at the isolated position of the Fords at Wahapu and sent a boat across to bring them to Paihia. From thence they went on board the North Star, Sir Everard House, commander. Capt. McKeever, of the U.S. St Louis, kindly sent some of his men to bring off as much of their effects as could be saved, and they came to Auckland.
“Mrs. Ford had a kindly feeling towards the memory of Hone Heke. She stated that he was averse to the evacuation and sack of Kororareka, and exclaimed, “Why do you go away? We have no quarrel with you. The settlers should stand aside and let the Maoris and the Queen’s soldiers fight it out.”
His widow Martha outlived him until January 1894, and died at the age of 83.
There are two reasons why Dr. Ford (although, according to A Most Noble Anchorage, A Story of Russell and the Bay of Islands by Marie King, he preferred being addressed as Mister, because he was not a doctor but a surgeon) is of interest to me in terms of Avondale history here in Auckland. His ownership of Crown Grant titles for Allotments 66, 67, 70, 71 and 72 from May 1845 meant that, while John Shedden Adam owned the part of today’s New Windsor that lies south and west of New Windsor Road, Ford owned most of the remainder to the east, as well as Allotment 81 where today’s Miranda and Ruahine Streets wind their way through Housing New Zealand subdivisions between Taylor Street, Wolverton Street, and Blockhouse Bay Road. So Samuel Hayward Ford was an early owner of a considerable amount of Avondale and Blockhouse Bay areas.
The second reason comes from his wife Martha’s family.
Martha’s sister Helena married Lt. Joseph Henry Wright in 1845. He was serving with the First Madras Native Infantry, the son of a chaplain of the East India Company. He later rose to the rank of Major. Helena and Joseph’s son, Martha’s nephew, was Ernest Edward Hamilton Wright (1847-c.1895) who lived in the Bay of Islands and married Sarah Atkinson there in 1873. After a failed attempt to manage a plantation in Fiji, Ernest’s wife and children left him. He was killed by tribesmen in the Solomons.
His eldest son was Reginald Hayward Wright, known last century simply as Hayward Wright in most sources, the horticultural experimenter and businessman who developed the kiwifruit cultivar named after him and a range of other plant types at his nursery on Avondale Road, in Avondale from c.1901 until he retired in the 1940s.
Hayward Wright was therefore the grandnephew-in-law to New Zealand’s first resident surgeon, and one of Avondale’s early landowners.
Margaret Edgcumbe, who was the first to tell me about the Ford and Wright connection, and provided me with information on the Wilcox, Ford and Wright families.
Obituaries in the NZ Herald
R E Wright-St Clair, Medical Practitioners in New Zealand From 1840-1930, 2003
Marie King, A Most Noble Anchorage, A Story of Russell and the Bay of Islands, 1992