Buttle, George
1810-1874; e.m. 1838

WM missionary in New Zealand, born at Snaith, Yorks. It was his pious mother who was the chief influence on his life. Converted at 17, by the age of 20 he was an active local preacher. He was accepted for the ministry in 1838 and during the following year undertook supply ministries in the Deal and North Shields Circuits.

Having offered for missionary service, he was appointed to New Zealand the following year and travelled out on the Triton as a single man. His first appointment was to Kawhia, where he spent three years, initially under the superintendency of John Whiteley, in order to learn the Maori language. A year later he opened a new mission station at Mokau, where he lived in extremely primitive conditions. Still unmarried, he went to Australia to find a wife, but was unsuccessful. On his return he remained in Wellington until mid-1843, when he became the first minister stationed in Auckland, charged with the task of 'holding the fort' with the English congregation until the arrival of Walter Lawry as Superintendent in 1844. During this time he was ordained and probably married his first wife, Jane Newman, towards the end of his time there.

He was already handicapped by serious deafness and on his appointment in 1844 to take over the Waipa mission station fromThomas Buddle, his name caused some difficulty to the local Maori, who called him 'Te Patara' - the deaf one, to distinguish him from his predecessor. His first task was the rebuilding of the main chapel at Te Kopua, the main settlement on the Waipa River. He was a faithful worker and did not have an easy time. Labour was hard to find because the growth of the European population meant that isolated inland stations were in decline since better returns were to be had where the European centres were forming. An outbreak of measles followed by dysentry in 1854 also had a serious effect on the work. He remained at this station until 1858, and left it because his wife's death in March 1857, had left him with a family of six sons and one daughter, all under the age of 13.His sister-in-law Mehetabel had arrived in New Zealand in 1844 and had lived with them since then. With the approval of the District Meeting he returned to England in 1858 and spent four years in circuit work, first in the Nottinghamshire region, then at Mansfield and finally at Abingdon from 1860 to 1862. His sister-in-law had travelled back with the family.

The time in England seriously affected his health and he became a supernumerary in 1862. He returned to New Zealand and settled on land he owned at Otahuhu, Auckland. He remained active in church affairs as far as his health permitted and, at the end of 1873, married his sister-in-law in Melbourne. He died at Auckland on 10 July 1874.Possessed of a quiet humour which 'made him a most agreeable companion', Buttle exercised a notable ministry at Waipa, despite the restriction imposed by his deafness. He was remembered for his strenuous labour in difficult and often lonely circumstances, and particularly for his generous hospitality and his evangelical fervour.

  • William Moister, Missionary Worthies 1782-1885 (1885) pp. 222-23
  • W. Morley, History of New Zealand Methodism (Wellington, 1900)
  • G.I.Laurenson, Te Hahi Weteriana: Three Half Centuries of the Methodist Maori Mission 1822-1972 (Auckland, 1972)
  • New Zealand Herald, 14 July 1874