Topic: Oliver Macey Quintal: Sidetracked by a Solicitor by Vivien Edwards

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Sidetracked by a Solicitor by Vivien Edwards was an entry in the 2012 Memoir and Local History Competition.

Archived version here.

I did not plan to research Oliver Macey Quintal. His name kept appearing. After the Rena grounded I started investigating Tauranga’s maritime history. Quintal was the solicitor acting on behalf of the Crown at the enquiry into the wreck of the Nellie, which struck Astrolabe Reef on 13 January 1878 and subsequently foundered on Motiti Island. Months later on 29 November 1878 he was travelling from Auckland to Tauranga on the Taranaki when it was wrecked on nearby Karewa Island.

Newspapers reported that Quintal worked ‘indefatigably’ and ‘like a Trojan’ to help unload the vessel’s cargo. The captain gave him charge of a boat to land passengers and later at the request of E.M. Edgcumbe, Chairman of the Tauranga Town Board, Quintal arranged hotel accommodation for the lady passengers. But the ship’s boiler had rolled on his trunk and he lost important documents. This complicated a land deal of around 6,000 acres between a Jonathan Brown and local Maori, and the contesting of a Mrs. Moon’s will.

Quintal practiced in Tauranga from 1876 to 1883, though he visited the district for legal work after that period. At first he worked from the old BNZ building in Harington Street, then in Willow Street. He lived in McLean Street.

The story of who he was lies elsewhere. In early 2012 I saw his name on Norfolk Island, at the Cyclorama, a circular artwork depicting the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ story. Aged 14 he had arrived at Norfolk Island on the Morayshire in June 1856 after Queen Victoria granted the Pitcairners land there.

So how did a Pitcairner end up becoming a solicitor and barrister in New Zealand, I wondered? My interest in Oliver Macey Quintal was thus rekindled and I traced his lineage using the appendix in Robert Nicolson’s book The Pitcairners. He was the great grandson of Matthew Quintal on his father William’s side and of Fletcher Christian through his mother Maria’s family. A newspaper item also confirmed that Fletcher Christian was Oliver Macey’s great grandfather.

       From more than one source I verified that although he used his full name as a solicitor, he was called Macey, rather than Oliver. The Pitcairn Island Register records his birth on 10 October 1842. In 1853 it was thought he might not survive after his brother (unnamed) threw a knife. By using ‘The Pitcairners’ appendix I established that Macey was the eldest child of William and Maria. He had two brothers and six sisters, all born by 1855. The two youngest girls were twins. One died shortly before her 13th birthday. I learned too that Macey had at least one half brother from his mother’s first marriage.

He became one of eight Sunday School teachers on Norfolk. According to John Stacpoole’s book ‘Sailing to Bohemia,’ Macey was given by his family in 1858 to Bishop Selwyn of New Zealand’s Anglican Church to be trained for mission work in the tropics. He lived with Bishop Selwyn for at least nine years, for in 1867 Macey gave court evidence in Auckland over a cheque forged in the Bishop’s name, stating that he knew George Augustus Selwyn’s signature well, having resided with him since 1858.

It is unclear as to whether Macey or the Bishop decided he was not suited for mission work. I found few references for his early years in New Zealand. John Webster, previous curator at Ewelme cottage, says Macey is mentioned in the journal of Vicesimus Lush and that of his son, Charles Lush. Charles wrote that he played cards with Macey at Mrs Selwyn's in 1863 and Macey dined a couple of times at Ewelme Cottage.

Some time in the 1860s he took up work as a law clerk with Outhwaites. Thomas Outhwaite was the first Registrar of the Supreme Court, appointed in 1842. Universities were not yet teaching law studies and in May 1868 the NZ Herald reported Oliver Macey Quintal had satisfactorily passed his examination before Judge Moore to be admitted a legal practitioner of the Supreme Court of New Zealand.

In 1870 when he advertised for the sale or lease of a Gymnasium in Upper Queen Street he was practising in Kempthorne Buildings, Victoria Street East. By 1872, Messrs. Outhwaite and Quintal were in Waterloo Quadrant, taking claims against the Estate of the Reverend Patteson, Bishop of Melanesia, who was murdered in 1871 in the Solomon Islands. After Lady Martin’s pony strayed in 1873 Macey advertised for its return, either to him or to Judge Martin.

The Pitcairners had survived by working together, and when fire broke out in Henderson and McFarlane’s stores in downtown Auckland, he climbed Eaton’s verandah on to the roof, and helped firemen direct a hose. The tide was in, so a small engine and branch hose supplied sea water. This stopped the immediate spread of flames.

Popular in Auckland society, Macey attended several balls with the Outhwaites family. He served on various committees: organising the Citizen’s Ball given for the Governor Sir James Ferguson in 1873 and the 1874 ball in Honour of the new Governor, the Marquis of Normanby, George Augustus Constantine Phipps, and his wife. He helped organise moonlight concerts in aid of orphans and destitute women, and Sir George Grey’s reception in November 1875.

Macey was a keen sportsman. He played cricket for St. John’s College and later, the Auckland Cricket Club. In a football game, Parnell versus Grafton, the Auckland Star reported him as exhibiting ‘marvelous slippery and evasive capabilities in splendid style, sacrificing even his shirt.’

He wrote to Willie Outhwaite who studied law at Oxford and sent his love to all the ‘pretties’ who may enquire after him. During haymaking at Judge Swainson’s (where the legs were ‘something delightful)’ he and the Bishop’s son John buried Lizzie Goring, presumably in hay. He had wanted to be buried with her. (She was the sister of Captain Forster Goring who marched with General Chute around Mt. Egmont).

When he was living in Tauranga Macey played cricket. He served on committees for the 1879 Regatta, the Mechanics Institute (for which he was also a trustee), and to form a brass band. He was secretary of the Victoria Wharf Company.

The Marquis of Normanby arrived in Tauranga on 9 April 1878 and he was in the official welcoming party that boarded H.M.S. Wolverine at the man o’war anchorage. The others were Major Scannell, Commanding Officer of the Armed Constabulary; Herbert W. Brabant, Resident Magistrate; Dugald McKellar, Collector of Customs; E.M. Edgcumbe, Town Board Chairman and Chief Tareha. Later when the Governor came ashore Macey was at the landing with other influential townspeople to greet him.

He undertook a variety of legal work in Tauranga, including cases that today seem strange. Most bad debts were settled in court and he defended a case where chairs and a sofa had been stuffed with flax instead of horse hair.

His own reputation was at stake when in 1879 a client, William Shaw, who owned ‘Woodlands’ in Katikati tried to sue him. Macey appeared in the Auckland Police Court, charged with forging and uttering a certain bill of sale with intent to defraud. Newspapers reported the case and the story is told in Dean Crowley’s book ‘William Shaw: the Man Who Varnished his Cow Bails.’ Shaw was deep in debt. He had a drinking problem and was trying to recoup costs for seized cattle and equipment. The case was dismissed.

In 1880 the Bay of Plenty Times reported that a Captain G.B. Morris had been articled for a three years term to O.M. Quintal. Around the end of this time (mid 1883) Macey returned to Auckland. By 1889 he had married Jemima Buffett from Norfolk Island and they had a child, Laurie Ida.

His legal work seems to have lessened though it often involved native land cases that were not always reported. He returned to Tauranga in 1890 and advertised for land claim objections to be lodged at least 14 days before the Commissioner’s visit.

In Auckland in 1891 he was elected to the Northcote School committee, which he chaired for two years. He received a visit from Norfolk elders in 1891. Shipping had ceased and the islanders’ fresh produce could not be delivered or sold. There may have been a lack of funds to carry out ship repairs, but Macey’s suggestion to introduce an imports charge was not accepted by the Melanesian Mission. The committee approached Mr. Gates of the American missionary schooner Pitcairn, which commenced a service.

Macey and Jemima’s second child (Oliver) was born in 1892 and in 1894 he represented three Norfolk Islanders who had not been paid for seamen’s work on the Fleetwing. Some time after December 1894 Macey returned to live out his days with his people on Norfolk Island. He appears in a photograph of the 1902 Council of Elders in K. and K.A. Davies’ book ‘Old Norfolk Town.’

I found Oliver Macey Quintal’s grave in the cemetery on Norfolk Island. He died on 23 February 1922. 




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Oliver Macey Quintal: Sidetracked by a Solicitor by Vivien Edwards

Year:c.1850, c.1860, c.1870, and c.1880
First Names:Oliver Macey
Last Name:Quintal
Date of Birth:10 October 1842
Place of Birth:Pitcairn Island
Country of birth:Norfolk Island
Date of death:23 February 1922
Place of death:Norfolk Island
Place of burial:Norfolk Island Cemetery
Spouses name:Jemima Buffett
Date of marriage:1889
Name of the children:Laurie Ida and Oliver
Activities involved in:Norfolk Island Sunday School Teacher, Organising the Citizen’s Ball (Auckland), Played cricket for St. John’s College, Served on Committees for the 1879 Regatta (Tauranga), and Chaired Northcote School Committee (Auckland)
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Oliver Macey Quintal: Sidetracked by a Solicitor by Vivien Edwards by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License