Topic: Chevalier Peter Dillon (1788-1847)

Topic type:

Tauranga trader Chevalier Peter Dillon was living at Maungatapu Pa by 1835. The 6ft 4 ins (193 cm) tall, red-headed and heavily built Catholic Irish sea-captain claimed to know the South Seas better than any other European of his time. In 1826 he solved the mystery of the death of the French navigator, Comte de La Prouse (1741-1788). Two French frigates of the La Pérouse expedition, La Boussole and L'Astrolabe, had disappeared in the Pacific in 1788 after calling at Botany Bay.

Looking strange? see an archived version here

Chevalier Peter Dillon was born in Martinique, France on 15 June 1788 to Irish parents. He was raised in Ireland and later served in the navy. He arrived in Fiji in 1808 aboard a ship trading for sandlewood.

Dillon married Mary Moore on 22 September 1814 and travelled the Pacific, South America and back to France. Mary's father Patrick was an emancipist, businessman and farmer.

He worked on various trading vessels before Samuel Marsden asked him to visit the Bay of Islands. Marsden was interested in setting up the Church Missionary Society (CMS) there. Dillon would make six visits to the Bay of Islands before 1827.

He arrived back in Sydney in October 1834, on his way to New Zealand to establish a factory for the treatment of flax. As Melvin writes in the Journal of the Polynesian Society:

In July, 1835, Peter Dillon, the well known South Seas adventurer, visited Tauranga on a trading voyage. An old hand at the game, Dillon made it known that he had much powder and many muskets to trade for flax, and then sat back and waited.

Thus, beginning with Dillon's visit in July-August, 1835, Te Waharoa secured within the space of about seven months, three additions to his stock of firearms.

Dillon was living at Maungatapu on 14 August 1835 when Alfred Nisbett Brown, Williams Williams, William Wade and Phillip King from the Church Missionary Society (CMS)  arrived.

In 1838 the Dillon family returned to Europe.  

Dillon died in Paris, France, on 9 February 1847. 



Auckland Star (16 April 1888, p. 7).

Buck, Peter (1953). Peter Dillon. In Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia.

Daily Southern Cross (5 June 1872, p. 3).

Davidson, J. W. (1966). Peter Dillon (1788-1847). Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Declaration of Peter Dillon (17 May 1814).

Chevalier Peter Dillon: Pre-1839 foreigners in NZ.

Melvin, L. W. (1962). Te Waharoa of the Ngatihaua. Journal of the Polynesian Society (Volume 71, No. 4,, p 361-378).

New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator (19 June 1841, p. 3).

O’Malley, Vincent (1996). The Te Papa Block: A History of Church Missionary Society and Crown Dealings, 1838-1867 (p. 11).

Otago Witness (7 August 1863, p. 6).

Sydney Herald (27 July 1837).


How to cite this page: McCauley, Debbie (2016). Chevalier Peter Dillon (1788-1847). Retrieved from (Tauranga Memories, last updated: *insert date*). In-text citation: (McCauley, 2016). 

This page was archived at perma cc March 2017

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion

Chevalier Peter Dillon (1788-1847)

First Names:Chevalier Peter
Last Name:Dillon
Date of Birth:15 June 1788
Place of Birth:Martinique
Country of birth:France
Date of death:9 February 1847
Place of death:Paris, France
Occupation:trader, merchant sailor
Spouses name:Mary Moore
Spouses date of death:1840
Date of marriage:22 September 1814
Fathers name:Peter Dillon
Fathers nationality:Irish
Mothers nationality:Irish