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The Voyage of the Buffalo

New Zealand Bound

Steam took over sail and fewer seamen where needed on the high seas so some unemployed sailors who liked open spacers headed to west Texas and participated in cattle drives and maybe this is how an old English sailor's song of New Zealand became rearranged to become the American west folksong "Range of the Buffalo," or "Buffalo Skinners."  The cowboys often sang ballads to the cattle to quite the heard.  This is the ballad of a fellow who signed on as skinner with a buffalo hunting outfit on the southern plains. The boss, named Crego, treated the crew shabbily and cheated them out of their pay. So they shot him, went home, and "left old Crego's bones to bleach on the range of the buffalo. The sailors in the ballad, "The Voyage of the Buffalo" unlike the buffalo skinners in the later song, were content with their officers. They worked hard, but had a good time ashore in New Zealand, and then headed home for England where "pretty girls abound."

In 1836 the ship left Chatham, England, carrying a load of colonists, not convicts, for Australia. This was a historic voyage, for these people founded the colony of South Australia. The vessel then continued across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, where the crew was put ashore to work. They cut a load of kauri pine for spars to carry back to England. The 2nd Master, of the ship was T.F. Cheesman, who kept a diary of the voyage. Into this diary he pasted a printed broadside ballad, which he later said was both composed and printed on board ship. He did not say that he wrote it. The diary was donated by Cheesman's son to the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ.

  "The Voyage of the Buffalo" 

Come all you jolly seamen bold, and listen to my song,
I'd have you pay attention, and I'll not detain you long,
Concerning of a voyage to New Zealand we did go,
For to cut some lofty spars, to load the Buffalo.

Chorus: Cheer up, my lively lads, to New Zealand we will go,
For to cut some lofty spars to load the Buffalo.

The Buffalo's a happy ship, from Portsmouth she set sail,
With South Australian emigrants, we had a pleasant gale;
For six long months in Holdfast Bay, our hands did work on shore,
Building houses for those emigrants, which grieved our hearts full sore.

In Sydney we did sport and play with lasses there so fine,
To the Angel and the Crown we went, where we drank grog and wine;
We kept it up both day and night, until we went away,
We spent our money freely, and we always paid our way.

When at New Zealand we arrived, our hands were sent on shore,
Our tents were then all pitch'd well, and provided with good stores;
At six o'clock we all rouse out, then such a precious row,
Come quick and get your grog, my boys, unto the woods you go.

With saws and axes in our hands, then through the bush we steer,
And when we see a lofty tree, unto it we draw near,
With saws and axes we begin to lay the tree quite low,
With cheerful heart strikes every man to load the Buffalo.

Now eight o'clock is drawing nigh, 'All off! All off!' 's the sound,
All thro' the trees it echoes loud, and makes the woods resound,
Then every man lays down his axe, and thro' the bush we come,
To get their jolly breakfast, every man does nimbly run.

Our breakfast being over, then to work we do repair;
Our work it is all pointed out, for every man his share;
There's roughters and refiners, and there's jolly sawyers too,
To lop and trim those lofty spars, to load the Buffalo.

When twelve o'clock is drawing nigh, 'All off!' again's the cry,
Then every man lays down his axe, and through the wood does hie;
Our cook has got a dinner that will make all faces shine,
With pork and murphies smoking hot on which we tars do dine.

'Grog ho!' is the next cheerful cry, we drink it up with glee;
We light our pipes when time is up and, smoking, go away
Unto the woods to finish well the spars that we began,
And when the afternoon's expired, then home comes every man.

And when we have our supper got, our barter we prepare,
With shirts and blankets in our hands, to the natives' huts we steer;
For toki, pigs and murphies we exchange our traps, you know,
For to suit us rakish blades of the saucy Buffalo.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays, at four o'clock we strike,
Each man to wash and mend his clothes whilst he has got daylight;
e've extra grog on Saturdays, to cheer up every man;
There's happy days on board the Buff ashore in New Zealand.

Our ship she is well loaded, and for England we are bound,
Where plenty of good rum, my lads, and pretty girls abound;
Farewell to Tonga - Maoris and wahines also,
They will oft-times wish to see again the happy Buffalo.

And now, my jovial shipmates, I will finish my new song,
I hope it is not tedious, nor any way too long;
Long life unto our Captain, and our officers all round,
May we all see many happy days, now we are homeward bound. 

April 1836History of the vessel  H.M.S. Buffalo

Built as a merchantman by Bonner & Horsburgh at Calcutta and launched
 4 January 1813 as the Hindostan.
Description: A merchantman. Teak vessel of 850 tons, beam 33'10", draught 16', gun deck 120' long
Figurehead: A water buffalo
Purchased into the Royal Navy for use as a store ship during the Napoleonic wars by The Commissioners costing over £6000 plus £600 for the Captain's table of 19 people.
Armament: Sixteen 24 pound cannon and two 9 pound long guns
Voyage: Feb to Aug 1813 - Calcutta to ENG
Owner: 7 Oct 1813 - sold to UK Navy
Name: renamed Buffalo 1813
Event: fitted for transport of mast timbers
Location: 1814 to 1815 - army depot at Bermuda, master - Richard Anderson
Master: Feb 1816 to W. Hudson
Location: 1822 to 1831 - at Deptford
Use: 1832 - quarantine service at Stangate
Voyage: 12 May 1833 to 5 Oct 1833 - ENG to Sydney with 187 female convicts
Voyage: 10 Nov 1833 - depart Sydney for NZ for cargo of spars
Voyage: NZ, Cape Horn, ENG with cargo of spars
Event: Jan 1835 - paid off
Event: Jan 1835 - recommissioned
Association: 9 Apr 1835 - convict fitting plans returned to Somerset House
Event:  July 1836 - fitted for emigrants
Voyage: 23 July1836 - ENG to SA, master John Hindmarsh, R.N. Crew of 96. 22 marines and 176 passengers. Souls total 294. Arrived Port Lincoln 24th December 1836. 158 days.
Voyage: 25 March 1837 to 6 Apr 1837 - Australia to NZ for kauri spars
Voyage: 13 May 1837 - depart Sydney for Plymouth with timber
Event: 9 Apr 1838 - helped refloat brig Emma near TAS
Voyage: 2 Oct 1839 to 12 Feb 1840 - Quebec CAN to Hobart Town with 143 male Canadian convicts. 82 landed Hobart, rest sent on to Sydney
Location: 19 Feb 1839 - arrived Sydney
Voyage: 5 Apr 1839 - depart Sydney for New Zealand to load kauri spars.
Event: loaded kauri spars
Wrecked: 28 July 1840 - She parted from her cables after being caught in a gale for three days and was driven ashore Mercury Bay, New Zealand to become a total loss and with the loss of two of her company out of 93 when the cutter they were in capsized in the surf. John Carnie, ship's boy and Charles More. Permission was granted by the Maoris to bury one of the sailors in their burial ground at Hukihuki. The Buffalo was anchored at Cook’s Beach but during the night her anchor chain broke and she began to drift towards Shakespeare Cliff. At 4.30 am she lost her rudder so the Captain Wood decided to place the ship on shore. She eventually came to rest just north of the Mercury Bay Hospital. A memorial cairn can be found along Buffalo Beach. Some of the wood off the Buffalo was used by the Maori to erect a fence with carved gateway and figureheads, which remained intact until the late 1880s.

Captain John Hindmarsh, KH, RN was the first Governor of South Australia, from 28 December 1836 to 16 July 1838. He arrived in South Australia in 1836, with a fleet of ships carrying the first British settlers for the colony. The ships in the fleet included the Cygnet, Africaine, Tam O'Shanter, Rapid, and Buffalo carrying Hindmarsh.

Joseph Burns was born in Liverpool, England, in 1805 or 1806 of Irish parents. He joined the Royal Navy as a ship's carpenter at about the age of 20, and arrived at the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, on the Buffalo in 1840. On 28 July the ship was wrecked at Mercury Bay, and Burns took his discharge; he was then employed by the government. He later moved to Auckland, where his first employment was with a local boatbuilder. Thomas Duder and William Oliver were his former shipmates from the Buffalo.

The wreck of H.M.S. “Buffalo” lies just to the north of the entrance of the Whitianga River. The vessel was wrecked in 1836, and in 1897 the ribs were just awash at dead low water, spring tides.

Poverty Bay Herald, 20 June 1913, Page 2 "Joe Kennedy"
Captain J. Kennedy, at his residence, New North road, Glenmore, Auckland, passed away peacefully in his 72nd year, after a prolonged illness, at 3 o'clock to-day. The late Captain Joseph Bond Kennedy was not only Gisborne's first harbormaster and pilot, put was one of the founders of Gisborne's shipping business. He was born at Kennedy Bay, Auckland in 1841. Kennedy's Bay is at the eastern, entrance to Waitemata harbor. This was named after Captain Kennedy's father. Mr Kennedy, senior, came to the colony in his Majesty's ship Buffalo, in 1836, to collect spars for the Admiralty. He loaded the Buffalo, and she went to England, but was lost on the return voyage to New Zealand. A second ship the Pelorus was sent out, and, Mr Kennedy loaded, her at Tairua under, the Shoe and Slipper Island. After paying the men, for the spars delivered. Mr .Kennedy left for the Bay of Islands in a cutter named the Three Bees, which he had built. lt was known that he had a large sum of money—over £4000 in his possession, and was taking it to deposit in the bank. It was on the voyage he was murdered and thrown overboard. The murderers landed at Tauranga and travelled overland to Hokianga, where they shipped on a vessel carrying spars to Sydney. Having committed other murders in New South Wales, one of the party was arrested, and confessed that his party had murdered Mr Kennedy and nine others. The murderer of course, paid the penalty, of the law. After Mr Kennedy's death, Mrs Kennedy, a native woman, removed, his son to Auckland, but Joseph a lad of nine years only, ran away to sea. Nine years later he became captain, and traded, for some time out of Melbourne. His first visit to Poverty Bay was in 1851, in a vessel called the Fly. Eventually he found employment with Captain Read, in the coastal- traders, having command, of the Tawera and afterwards the Julius Vogel. In 1874 Captain Kennedy, was appointed harbor-master and pilot at Gisborne but eighteen months later resigned to commence lightering operations. Subsequently he was joined in the business by the late Mr J.T. Evans and established the well known firm of Messrs. Kennedy and Evan's. It is worthy of mention that lightering operations in the early days were done with whaleboats, and years before the breakwater was constructed and the river entrance improved. Then came the steam, tender Noko, the pioneer tugboat. Subsequently replaced by the Taweri and Karoro. The business was purchased by the Gisborne Sheepfarmers Frozen Meat Company in 1906. Captain Kennedy was married in 1867 to half caste of the Opotiki tribes. Mrs Kennedy died in 1888, leaving a son and four daughters and a son by his second marriage in 1892 a daughter of Mr J. Palmer.