Buddle, Thomas
1812-1883; e.m. 1835

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Pioneer WM missionary in New Zealand. Born at Durham to an Anglican family, he joined the Methodists at 17. He served in the Daventry, Huntingdon & St. Neots and Peterborough Circuits before leaving for New Zealand on the Triton's maiden voyage, arriving at Hokianga in 1840. His administrative abilities proved to be of a high order and in 1844 he was appointed to Auckland to head the newly established Native Institution, set up to train Maori teachers. He acted as Walter Lawry's deputy in administrative matters and as financial secretary to the WM Mission. The remainder of his ministry was spent in European circuits. From 1875 to 1881 he was Principal of the newly-founded Three Kings Theological and Training Institute (later known as Wesley College) in Auckland, but retired in 1882 on health grounds. He died in Auckland on 26 June 1883.

Though his ministry on the mission field was brief, he was acknowledged as an authority on Maori culture and attitudes. He published lectures on Maori life and customs and on Christianity and Colonisation among the Maori (1873). He attended several of the triennial Australasian General Conferences and was elected Presidant in 1861. He was President of the first New Zealand Conference, following autonomy within the Australasian Church in 1873. Until his death he was General Secretary for Home Missions.

When the 'King Movement' (which developed particularly among the Maoris in the middle of North Island, seeking to protect their traditional land rights and achieve a measure of self-determination) was first mooted in the Waikato region, he attended an important meeting in 1866 at Ngaruawahai, along with other political and religious leaders and subsequently wrote a pamphlet on the movement. He was not in favour of Maori autonomy and his advocacy of the Treaty of Waitangi was at odds with his views on Maori ownership of large tracts of uncultivated land. When the Land Wars were looming he tried to persuade the Waikato chiefs not to become involved. His failure to do so led him into a somewhat ambivalent role during the conflict, when he provided intelligence for the Governor. He firmly believed that the land question lay at the heart of the troubles.He was a member of the first Senate of the University of New Zealand (1874-1880) and also served on the Council of the Auckland University College.

  • William Moister, Missionary Worthies 1782-1885 (1885) pp.405-7
  • Jessie Arthur (comp.), Rev. Thomas and Mrs. Buddle: Pioneer Missionaries to New Zealand 1840 to 1884 (Auckland, 1940)
  • Encyclopaedia of New Zealand (1966)

Entry written by: DJP
Category: Person
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