Topic: Henry Harpur Greer (1821-1886)

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Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Harpur Greer and family arrived in Tauranga on 10 March 1864 and made their home at 'High Trees', one of Tauranga's earliest houses. He was in command of the 68th Regiment during the Battle of Gate Pā at Pukehinahina (29 April 1864) and seven weeks later was commander of the entire British force at the Battle of Te Ranga (21 June 1864) when 151 Māori were killed, wounded or captured. This page has been compiled with the help of Henry's great great grandson, Mike Dottridge - Debbie McCauley.

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Henry Harpur Greer was born at Moy, County Tyrone, Ireland, on 24 February 1821 to Major Joseph Henry and Mary Greer (nee Harpur) who married in Tyrone, Ireland, on 5 June 1816Joe (Joseph) Greer (also spelled Grier in British Parliamentary records) was a Deputy Lieutenant in County (Co.) Tyrone, in the north of Ireland (the part which is still in the UK), a Justice of the Peace and (more relevantly) Grand Master of the Orange Order in Co. Tyrone. The Orange Order was an association representing Protestant sectarian interests, even though, as Deputy Lieutenant, he was not supposed to be partisan (and was criticised in a House of Lords inquiry in the 1830s)! This sort of background and experience - of discriminating against indigenous Catholics in Ireland - was shared by countless Northern Irishmen around the British Empire. 

Henry was educated at Royal School, Dungannon, County Tyrone, Ireland. He joined the 68th (Durham) Light Infantry (The Faithful Durhams) as an Ensign on 10 September 1841. His promotions are as follows (Well Done the 68th, p. 218): 

  • 1841 (10 September): 21-year-old ensign
  • 1844 (20 August): Lieutenant
  • 1847 (31 December): Captain
  • 1854 (29 December): Major
  • 1859 (18 February): Lieutenant Colonel 
  • 1864 (18 February): Brevet Colonel
  • 1869: Major General
  • 1881: Honorary Lieutenant General

Henry married Agnes Isabella Knox on 14 February 1850 at Lorrhar Church, County Cavan, Ireland. Agnes was the daughter of Venerable Edmund Dalrymple Hesketh Knox and Agnes Mary Hay. A marriage notice appeared in the Clonfeacle Parish Marriage Announcements, 1832-69:

GREER-KNOX. February 14th, at Lorrha Church, by the Rev. Marcus McCausland, HENRY HARPUR GREER, Captain, 68th Light Infantry, eldest son of JOSEPH HENRY HARPUR GREER, The Grange, county Tyrone, to AGNES ISABELLA, youngest daughter of the VEN. THE ARCHDEACON OF KILLALOE, and granddaughter of the late HON. THE LORD BISHOP OF LIMERICK (22 February 1850).

They had four children together:

  1. Joseph Henry Greer (1855-1934). Joseph Henry, generally known as ‘Harry’ and sometimes as Henry (even when he was knighted in the 1920s and became ‘Sir Henry’) but never as ‘Joseph’ [his daughter Emily Charlotte reported that her grandfather, Joe, had erupted at the boy’s baptism and insisted he be named Joseph, when the parents were intending to call him Henry] was born in Ireland on 9 February 1855He was educated at Wellington College, Wellington, Berkshire, England and at Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Berkshire, England, marrying Olivia Mary Beresford on 9 December 1886. Henry gained the rank of Captain in the service of the Highland Light Infantry. As an army Captain he was based in Singapore until his father’s death in 1886, but, perhaps more relevantly, he inherited a large sum of money from his mother’s sister in 1886 (the same year that his father died) and swiftly left the army to become a racehorse breeder, moving from Co Tyrone to The Curragh, in Co. Kildare, nearer to Dublin (Ireland). After Ireland’s independence he was a Senator in the upper house of the Dail – one of the representatives of the Protestant Anglo-Irish minority (the former ruling class in Ireland) for two parliamentary sessions. He was invested as a Knight Commander, Royal Victorian Order (K.C.V.O.) in 1925. Henry died, aged 79, on 24 August 1934.
  2. Agnes Mary Greer (1858-1934/35). Agnes was born on 11 September 1858. She didn't marry and was aged 28 when her father died. Agnes died in 1934 or 1935. 
  3. Emily Charlotte Greer (c1863-1929). Emily married Admiral Reginald Geoffrey Otway Tupper (1859-1945) on 30 April 1888. She died in 1929. Before her death she wrote a memoir, a portion of which can be found at this link: Emily Charlotte Greer (c1863-1929)
  4. Isabella Knox Greer (1865-1865). Born prematurely at Tauranga on 23 March 1865. She died a few weeks later, in June 1865. Tauranga's Mission Cemetery Records show that she is buried there (Index No. 85, p. 6).

Henry and Agnes were initially based in Ireland before going to Malta. Henry would spend his military career with the 68th Regiment, eventually rising through the ranks to become a commanding officer. 

Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Harpur Greer (1821-1886)

Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Harpur Greer (1821-1886) (Tauranga City Library)

During the Crimean War (1853-1856), Greer avoided most of the fighting (and his portrait as a General consequently does not include any relevant Crimean battle medals), as he was managing supplies, based in Malta for most of the time. In 1855 Agnes was back in Ireland for the birth of her eldest child, Harry. Henry's daughter Emily Charlotte recorded that her mother and the baby then travelled to Zante in the Ionian islands (Greece), after the end of operations in Crimea and before the regiment departed for Burma at the end of 1857.

A year earlier, on 5 November 1856, Henry had been involved in an accident; 'a youth called Camliche, whose father, a fine old gentleman, owned an estate in the N. of Corfu, shot Colonel Greer of the 68th all over the face. His eyes luckily escaped' (Well Done the 68th, p. 119).

After a spell in Burma while her eldest child, Harry, remained in Ireland, Henry's wife Agnes fell ill and returned home, with her husband following her while the rest of the 68th remained in Rangoon. Henry had been in command of the 68th in Rangoon at the end of the 1850s (1858-1863) where they provided soldiers to guard the Mughal royal family (exiled to Burma following the insurrection in India that the British still call the ‘Indian Mutiny’). 

Emily Charlotte recorded that the family lived in the early 1860s first in Portsmouth and then in Dublin (possibly going there when Henry Harpur’s father, Joe, died in 1862). They were consequently in Portsmouth or Dublin when the order arrived to travel to New Zealand. 

In December 1863 Henry, along with with his wife Agnes and three of their children, sailed from England aboard the Silver Eagle. They arrived in Auckland on 3 March 1864:

'The magnificent clipper 'Silver Eagle,' Captain W. H. Longman, arrived from London, on the 3rd instant. She sailed from Torbay on the 12th December, was two days at Pernambuco, not withstanding which nessary deviation, she has made the unexampled passage of eight-two days... The 'Silver Eagle' has brought, in heath and safety, an addition to General Cameron's forces of between 340 and 350 officers and men under command of Colonel Greer, 68th Regiment, comprising drafts fo the 12th, 43rd, 68th Regiments and Army Hospital Corps. These will not only be welcome but most opportune augmentations as well as in men, as in officers, to their respective corps' (New Zealand Herald, 5 March 1864, p. 4).

In 1864 the 68th (Durham) Light Infantry (‘The Faithful Durhams’) arrived in New Zealand from Burma. They arrived in Tauranga aboard the HMS Miranda under Colonel Meurant. The 68th built a defensive earthwork at Te Papa known as the Durham Redoubt [built over in the 1870s to raise the level of Hamilton Street. The redoubt was situated on the modern day area bounded by Durham Street, Hamilton Street, Cameron Road and Harington Street].

The Greer family arrived in Tauranga on 10 March 1864. They made their home in one of Tauranga’s earliest houses 'High Trees'. The house was close to Durham Redoubt. It was originally built near the Mission Institute by Revs Charles Baker (1803-1875) and Edward Blomfield Clarke (1831-1900), who were in charge of the educational establishment. Later it was occupied by businessman E.T.Baker, and then the Patterson family who owned a farm on Motiti island. 'High Trees' was eventually demolished to make way for the car park for the Commercial Travellers club which was later demolished for the Kingsview high rise apartment complex (Central Tauranga Heritage Study, p. 42).

High Trees: Tauranga Residence of Henry Harpur Greer

'High Trees' - Greer's Tauranga residence (Tauranga City Library)

Lieutenant-Colonel Greer commanded the full 68th Regiment of 700 men during the Battle of Gate Pā at Pukehinahina. His 'Report on the Battle of Gate Pa to the Deputy Adjutant General from Camp Puke Wharangi, dated 1st May, 1864,' can be found at this link.

Henry was commander of the entire British force at the Battle of Te Ranga on 21 June 1864 when 151 Māori were killed, wounded or captured. Before and after the battle he took time to hastily scribble notes to his wife Agnes which can be found here: Colonel Greer’s notes from the Te Ranga battlefield.

As a result of Te Ranga, Henry was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (C.B.). His report on the Battle of Te Ranga; 'Colonel Greer to the Deputy Quarter-Master-General, Camp Te Papa; Tauranga, 21st June, 1864,' can be found at this link.

Henry made another report to the Military Secretary; Camp, Te Papa, Tauranga, 27th June, 1864, which can be found at this link.

It was in the grounds of the Greer family home 'High Trees' that the surrender of arms by Māori took place on 25 July 1864.

Henry's wife Agnes and their daughter Agnes Mary both suffered from typhoid fever in Tauranga. The family did a good dealing of horse riding in Tauranga and Agnes had a horse bolt whilst she was riding. A week following this incident, on 23 March 1865, Agnes went into labour prematurely with their fourth child, Isabella Knox Greer, who died a few weeks later. Captain Charles Shuttleworth, an officer with the 68th Regiment, recorded the event in his diary  (Well Done the 68th, pp. 163-165):

  • 23 March: Mrs. Greer still very ill and in fact does not improve and I think the case is serious.
  • 24 March: Mrs. Greer prematurely confined last night and very dangerously ill this afternoon.
  • 11 April: Mrs. Greer getting better and Greer quite changed - does not care about these reports of natives breaking out again.
  • 15 April: Band played first time since Mrs G. illness.
  • 17 April: Greer not out himself - said he was ill.
  • 26 April: Mrs. H. Greer had Trent up to orderly room in my presence and pitched in to him for putting officers under arrest for trivial things and spoke well on the subject.
  • 13 June: Greer and Mrs. went off today to Auckland per steamer "Egmont".
  • 24 June: Greer returned from Auckland by steamer.
  • 8 July: Greer went to Auckland.
  • 24 July: Steamer came in this morning with Greer, Mrs. G and Miss Goring. Mrs. G. much better.

In 1866 the Greer family returned home. They firstly lived in a hut at Aldershot.

Henry retired from the 68th in 1869 to command a Depot in Ireland and finally retired from the Army in 1881 with the rank of Honorary Lieutenant General. He served as a Deputy Lieutenant for Tyrone.

Henry died, aged 65, on on 27 March 1886 at the family home, The Grange, Moy, County Tyrone, Ireland. His death was reported in the Bay of Plenty Times on 1 June 1886:

The death has been reported from the county Tyrone of Lieut.-General H. H. Greer, C.B., formerly commanding the 68th Regiment. He took a leading part in the New Zealand war of 1864-6. General Greer was son to a well knownTyrone man 'Joe Greer' commonly known as "Orange Joe" who held the office of Grand Master of the county Tyrone Orangemen for many years up to the time of his death and was succeeded by Captain Mervyn Stewart who held that office up to the year of his departure for New Zealand (p. 3).

The suburb of Greerton situated next to the suburb of Gate Pā in Tauranga is named after Henry, as is Greerton Road.

Agnes died on 4 August 1912. According to her daughter, Agnes had an excellent singing voice and was not at all bigoted (whereas Col. Greer’s father, Joe Greer, was considered by Agnes to be a 'bigot'). 



Bay of Plenty Times (1 June 1886, p. 3).

Central Tauranga Heritage Study (p. 42).

Clonfeacle Parish Marriage Announcements 1832-69.

Greer Family.

Identity and the Battle of Gate Pa (Pukehinahina), 29 April 1864 (5 August 2011) by Debbie McCauley (Tauranga Memories: Battle of Gate Pa, 1864 kete).

Mike Dottridge (personal communication, 2015).

New Zealand Herald (5 March 1864, p. 4).

Tauranga Mission Cemetery: Otamataha Pa Cemetery Records (1979) by H. Y. McLean and J. Willcock.

The Peerage.

The Story of Gate Pa, April 29th 1864 (1926) by Gilbert Mair [Reprinted by the Bay of Plenty Times Ltd in 1937 & 1964. Reprinted by Cadsonbury Publications in 2010. Reprinted by Tauranga Charitable Trust in 2014].

Well Done the 68th (1995) by John Bilcliffe.

How to cite this page: McCauley, Debbie (2012). Henry Harpur Greer (1821-1886). Retrieved from (Tauranga Memories, last updated: *insert date*). In-text citation: (McCauley, 2012)


This page archived at Perma CC in March of 2017:

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Henry Harpur Greer (1821-1886)

First Names:Henry Harpur
Last Name:Greer
Date of Birth:24 February 1821
Place of Birth:Moy, County Tyrone
Country of birth:Ireland
Date of death:27 March 1886
Place of death:The Grange, Moy, County Tyrone, Ireland
Date of Arrival:3 March 1864
Name of the ship:Silver Eagle
Date of sailing:December 1863
Port of arrival:Auckland
Sailed from:London, England
Date of arrival in Bay of Plenty:10 March 1864
Spouses name:Agnes Isabella Knox
Spouses date of birth:1831
Spouses date of death:4 August 1912
Date of marriage:14 February 1850
Place of marriage:Lorrhar Church, County Cavan, Ireland
Fathers name:Joseph Henry Greer
Fathers date of birth:17 April 1795
Fathers place of birth:Grange, Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Fathers date of death:22 November 1862
Fathers place of death:Dublin, Ireland
Mothers name:Mary Harpur
Mothers date of death:16 January 1867
Name of sibilings:Emily Greer, Jane Greer, Maria Greer, Anna Greer, and Thomas Harpur Greer
Name of the children:Joseph Henry Greer, Agnes Mary Greer, Emily Charlotte Greer, and Isabella Knox Greer
Military Service:New Zealand Wars and 68th (Durham) Light Infantry Regiment