Queer History New Zealand
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender
New Zealand History
Reverend William Yate
The *Reverend William Yate* first arrived in
New Zealand in 1828. In June 1836, after a
highly successful trip to England (where he had
been given an audience with King William IV),
he was seconded to the Bishop of Sydney. It was
there that scandals, both from New Zealand and
on board ship, caught up with him.
Returning on the "Prince Regent" Yate had
shared the cabin and the bunk of the third
mate, Edwin Denison, and they lodged together
in Park St, Sydney, scandalising the
neighbours. Another seaman, Dick Deck, joined
them in their bed, but left for a sofa because
there was "so much tickling". (All hands on
Samuel Marsden, head of the Church Missionary
Society, confronted Yate, who denied any
misbehaviour. Marsden made himself unpopular
in Sydney by his persecution of Yate, and the
position was complicated by Yate's involvement
in a major controversy about religious
education. But in October, depositions arrived
from six young Maori men in the Bay of Islands.
Since we have been living in Waimate [North],
after the return of Mr Yate from Waiapu [on the
East Coast] he urged me. ... He said to me, "We
will go together ... for a piece of tobacco for
you." He said to me, "Unbutton your trousers."
I said to him, "For what purpose should I
unbutton them?" He said to me, "/Kia *titoitoi*
taua/." (In order to masturbate each other.)
...He said to me, "/W[h]akatoratorangia ti ti/"
(Make it erect [until it] tingles.) I went to
him three times, once at Pateretere, ... He
called to me, ... "I'll break your head with my
penis." (The missionary translators take refuge
in Latin to say that oral sex followed.)
From Philip Tohi:
The commencement was a playing ... Mr Yate told
the men to stand before him, to unbutton their
trousers that he might see their ----. He was
very merry... He ordered me and said, "Let us
two go to my room upstairs." ... He then came
and took my hand and dragged me on to his bed.
The buttons of my trousers were undone and of
his also. We lay together on his bed. We took
hold of each other's penis, /kia titoitoi
taua/. He then gave me ten rings. I cannot
count how many times I went to him.
From Samuel Kohi:
He said to me, "All Europeans act thus while
they are single men. Then because they sleep
with their wives, this practice is left off.
But as for me, my wife is this, a hand." I said
to him, "By whom were you taught this practice?
He said to me, "By my father I was taught this
practice in my childhood." ... I went to him
three times before my baptism, and since my
baptism I have been many times, more than I can
When I was a little boy,... He saw my penis and
said it was no bigger than a rat's tail, and we
did /titoitoi/. He gave me one pipe and one fig
Clearly, Yate's tastes were somewhat
paedophilic and exploitive, nor were they
confined to New Zealand: fellow missionary
Richard Taylor, who had been on the "Prince
Regent" with him, wrote "He was accused of the
same crime at the Tonga Isles, New Zealand, Van
Diemen's Land [Tasmania], and every time he
visited this colony."
To Marsden's and the Bishop's disappointment,
the Crown Solicitor told them Yate's acts were
not (yet) crimes, since he had not committed or
attempted sodomy in the strict sense. (See
1885 in the Chronology.)
In New Zealand, Yate's fellow missionaries
imposed rough justice: after "a solemn day of
fasting and humiliation", they burnt all his
goods, shot his unfortunate horse, and renamed
his mission station "The Vale of Achan".
Though unconvicted, Yate left Sydney in
disgrace (but with Denison) on December 17,
1836, and fell into obscurity: he was refused
the chaplaincy of a workhouse at St James,
Westminster, but in 1848 he was put in charge
of a Mission to Seamen at Dover, where he died
at "an advanced age".
Judith Binney comments: "Yate's tragedy lies,
not so much in his persecution, as a man who
was technically innocent yet morally guilty,
but in the torment of mind he must have
undergone in reconciling his desires with his
- adapted from articles in Outrage No 57 by
Robert French and Campaign No 23 by Martin
Smith. The depositions are from the State
Archives of New South Wales.
*/tiitoitoi/* means to repeatedly or mutually
/tiitoi/: originally /tiitoi/ was a charm to
ward off evil influences, to be said while
retracting the foreskin, but in post-missionary
Maori, it means "masturbate". (The missionaries
did not mark vowel-length.)
Written by Hugh Young. .
Go Back to Chronicle, Part 1