Results of Excavations and Researches in and near the Moa-bone Point Cave, Sumner Road (Postscript).
G. W. Hall, Vice-president, in the chair.
“Description of a new Crustacean (Phronima novœ-zealandiœ),” by Ll. Powell, M.D. (Transactions, p. 294.)
“On the Occurrence of Leptocephalus longirostris, Kaup, on the Coast of New Zealand,” by Julius Haast, Ph.D., F.R.S. (Transactions, p. 238.)
“Results of Excavations and Researches in and near the Moa-bone Point Cave, Sumner Road, illustrated with maps, selections, and ethnological specimens,” by Julius Haast, Ph.D., F.R.S. (Transactions, p. 54.)
To this paper the following postscript was appended:—
Postscript.—In the Press of 13th August of this year I observe a paragraph headed “The Sumner Cave,” being a résumé of a paper read by Dr. Hector before the Philosophical Society in Wellington, for A. McKay, on the excavations made by me in that locality, end of 1872, and during which the said A. McKay was one of the labourers employed by me.
According to the Press, the summary of the New Zealand Times begins with the following sentence:—
“The exploration occupied seven weeks, and on its completion the collections and notes which were made were given to Dr. Haast, and the paper now read was chiefly occupied with the author's own views on the question—whether the moa-hunters were possessed of tools other than those of the rudest description, and whether there were any facts constituting a difference between them and the Maoris of later times.”
The beginning of this sentence, which I shall show in the sequel, consists of an untruth, might lead one to suppose that the so-called author has committed only an indiscretion, but when I read the résumé itself I found that
all the principal results of my excavations had been published without my permission or consent, and that thus a most flagrant breach of faith and trust had been committed.
Here are the facts of the case.
About three years ago, when examining some geological sections near the gorge of the Ashley, I found there a man of the name of A. McKay, usually working as a labourer at the flax-mills in that locality, but, having once been a gold-miner, he had been instructed to drive a gallery upon a supposed coal seam.
As this person appeared to be very fond of geology, and to have a great thirst to learn something, he was very anxious that I should take him with me on one of my journeys to look after the horses, etc., and upon his earnest solicitations I engaged him shortly afterwards for such purpose.
Returning from a journey lasting some months, during which I had found him zealous, I employed him in menial work at the museum, and sent him afterwards to collect fossils at the Waipara; during all that time I had been lending him books and doing everything in my power to help him on.
When I had collected the necessary funds for the expenses of the exploration to be undertaken in the Sumner Cave, I took him there with another working man I had engaged for the purpose, to make the necessary excavations under my own directions, and, as my report shows, superintending the work myself, generally going twice a week down to the cave to direct their proceedings in every respect.
Thus not only were all the principal discoveries, with one exception, made under my own eye, or I may say with my own hands, but all the measurements were also made by myself, and all the notes written on the spot; not trusting any one else with these matters.
When there was sufficient material collected, I took the same with me for deposition in the museum, properly labelled, and only in the last week, when great quantities of kitchen middens, both of Maori and moa-hunter origin, were obtained near the entrance of the cave, were they brought up together at the termination of the work.
As I thought I could place full confidence in the man's honesty, I explained to him always the nature of every object discovered (he did not know the difference between the bones of a bird and of a mammal), but, to give him real interest in the work, I not only spoke unreservedly before him about the results obtained, with scientific friends I took down during the time the work proceeded, but gave him also freely my views about the whole bearings of these interesting excavations, and when the work was finished, and he asked my permission to write me some notes on the same, I—taking an interest in his advancement—encouraged him to do so, which notes, three or four pages in quarto, if I remember rightly, after reading I tore up as of no value to me.
It will thus be seen that the statement in the beginning of the account given by the New Zealand Times is altogether devoid of truth, and only made to hide somewhat the dishonest action of filching another man's property.
I afterwards employed A. McKay to wash the specimens and varnish the bones, during which time both Mr. F. Fuller and myself gave him, unreservedly, all information upon them, and when shortly afterwards Dr. Hector came to Christchurch, I recommended the said person to him warmly as a zealous collector, upon which recommendation he was engaged to go to Wellington.
I therefore strongly protest against this most glaring breach of trust, of which no similar instance is known to me.
It deeply grieves me, that a man, for whom I have done everything in my power to help him on in the world, should thus, by betraying so shamefully the confidence placed in him, gain an unenviable notoriety, but I am still more astonished to see a person in Dr. Hector's position, actually help my former workman in this business. This is incomprehensible to me. The Director of the Colonial Museum cannot plead in excuse that he had been deceived himself by McKay, as I went to the trouble to take him myself to the cave a few weeks after the excavations had been finished, and to explain to him what had been the principal results of my excavations, towards the expenses of which I paid a fair share out of my own pocket. In one word, Dr. Hector must know that the abettor of such a perfidious transaction, is as guilty as the perpetrator himself.