Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1868 – New Zealand

Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard The Galatea.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1868 – New Zealand

In New Zealand, we went up to the White Springs and we all bathed with the Maories. You stand in the water warm as milk, close beside springs of boiling water, and occasionally a jet of steam makes you jump. The person of one of the guests, a very portly gentleman, suggested a practical joke to the Maori boys and girls, who dived in and swam up to him under water, pinched him and swam away with yells of laughter. The old boy, determined to preserve harmony, endured the torment with an agonised pretence of enjoyment.

“Very playful, very playful” he kept miserably repeating.

“Oh, very playful indeed. Tanaqui (how do you do), Tanaqui.”

We had an excellent lunch, of pig, fowls, and yams, all boiled on the spot in the hot springs. I saw a live pig chased by some Maori children into a hot spring, and it was boiled in a moment.

In this region I rode over soil which was exactly like dust-shot; the whole ground apparently consisting of ore. We visited the White Terraces, where, if you wrote your name in pencil upon the cliffs, the silicate would preserve the legend as if it were raised or embroidered. Some of the signatures had been there for years. I have since heard that the place was destroyed by volcanic eruption.

We witnessed the weird and magnificent war dances of the Maoris. Never have I seen finer specimens of humanity than these men. When, after leaping simultaneously into the air, they all came to the ground together, the impact sounded like the report of a gun. A party of the Chiefs came to pay a ceremonial visit to the Duke. It struck me that they looked hungry, and I said so. They want cheering up, I said. I went to forage for them. I took a huge silver bowl, and filled it with chicken, whisky, lobster, beef, champagne, biscuits and everything else I could find, and presented it to them. You never saw warriors more delighted. They ate the whole, using their fingers, and were greatly cheered.

It was in New Zealand that I had an interesting conversation with a cannibal; or rather, an ex-cannibal. I asked him if he ever craved for human flesh, and he said no, not now; unless he happened to see a plump woman. In that case, he said he lusted for the flesh of the ball of the thumb, which (he gave me to understand) was the prime delicacy.

Some of the half-caste women were of great beauty. Their savage blood endowed them with something of the untamed, implacable aspect of their ancestry. I heard of one such woman, who, outwardly attuned to every tenet of white civilisation, and received everywhere in white society. A native rebellion breaking out, she rejoined her tribe and slew a missionary with her meri –  the native chiefs badge of office. She cut off the top of the missionary’s skull, and used it thereafter as a drinking-vessel. Poor lady, she was (I heard) eventually captured and was executed.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

HMS Galatea on Wikipedia