William Eppes Cormack (1796-1868).

William Eppes Cormack (1796-1868).


This man we meet on various occasions associated with Jeremiah Nagle, William Webster and the Abercrombie brothers. Little known in New Zealand history, he is a famous figure in Canada, his birthplace.

The highly-qualified people in eastern Canada are researching Cormack’s life with the intention of producing a book on him. I am indebted to them for assistance with this article. They are ‘retired’ Professors (emeritus) Dr. Ingebord Marshall, and Dr.Alan Macpherson of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. Here is the relevant part of their message to me regarding William Eppes Cormack. - Don Armitage 30th September, 2009.


“He was born here in St John's, Newfoundland, in 1796, of Scottish parents:  Alexander Cormack, merchant, and Janet McAuslin. 


He was their third and oldest surviving child. 


His middle name was Eppes, NOT Epps, after William Eppes, an American loyalist merchant who was responsible for the commissariat for the garrison in St John's;  Alexr Cormack was his deputy.


His father died in 1803 when WEC was  seven years old; his mother remarried in 1806 in Edinburgh;
his stepfather David Rennie, another St John's-Greenock merchant, was responsible for WEC's education at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities where he studied the field sciences: mineralogy and botany in particular.  So he was as much a naturalist as a merchant, if not more so. 

His stepfather put him in charge of a land settlement in Prince Edward Island in 1818; in 1819 and again in 1820 he brought a large number of emigrants to PEI and supervised their settling

His famous traverse of Newfoundland from Trinity Bay to St George's Bay in September and October 1822 and subsequent return to Britain was an interlude in his involvement in PEI, to which he returned two or three years later. 

In 1827 he returned to St John's and led an expedition into the winter quarters of the Beothuk which indicated that the tribe was extinct apart from one young woman attached to a planter-furrier's household in Notre Dame Bay.  Shawnadithit was brought to St John's in 1828 where Cormack
managed to obtain from her much historical and ethnographic information about the tribe and its decline.  In 1829 he returned to Britain, and later to the Canadian Maritimes.  In 1836 he emigrated
to New South Wales where he grew tobacco with convict labour and served as local postmaster around Stroud and Dungog.  In 1839 he went to North Island New Zealand where he negotiated land sales with local Maori chiefs on his own and others' behalf in the Piako and Coromandel.  He was present at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi to which he was much opposed, and returned to London* to lobby against it on behalf of the Maori chiefs as well as settlers like himself.  In 1851 he sailed to San Francisco via New York and the Panama Isthmus; little is known of his activities in California. In 1859 he moved north to New Westminster, capital of the mainland colony of British Columbia, where he served on the City Council, was an Indian Commissioner, and indulged his interest in wild plants and
animals that might have some economic value in Scotland.  He died in New Westminster in 1868, much respected by the community.”

I will add more information regarding William Eppes Cormack in the near future.- dja
30 Sept 2009.
1843 Rory O'More
The Rory O'More was a schooner built at the Great Barrier Island in 1841, and launched in October of that year. In the Southern Cross newspaper of 21st October, 1843, it was said that this vessel had sunk while transporting copper ore between the brig Tryphena and the mine. 
"By the arrival of Captain Nagle from the Barrier, we are happy to learn that the operations of the copper mines are being successfully conducted. The 'Trypena' sailed for Sydney with 80 tons of copper ore and 20 tons of sulpher, and we are informed that there are 200 tons of copper ore now ready for shipment at the mines. It would be well if the owners of the mines would charter a vessel to sail direct for England with a cargo of copper ore, spars and flax. It could not fail to pay. The 'Tryphena' was under the necessity of sailing without a full cargo, in consequence of the schooner 'Rory O'More' having sunk between the vessel and the Great Barrier harbour with 20 tons of the ore. The loss of the vessel has for the time occasioned much inconvenience. There are at present between thirty and forty persons employed at the mines."
Source: Southern Cross newspaper, 21st October, 1843. Page 3, column 1.  
The Rory O'More, registered No. 8 of 1841, and No. 2 of 1842, Port of Auckland, was a schooner of 22 tons register, built at Great Barrier Island in 1841, and her dimensions were: length 41.5 ft, beam 12.9 ft, depth 6.1 ft. The schooner, which was owned by William Eppes Cormack, of Auckland.....
Source: 'New Zealand Shipwrecks 1795-1960' Ingram 3rd edition.


* W.E. Cormack returns to Auckland from Sydney on his way back from England

Shipping List


March 18 - “Tryphena” Horn, Master, from Sydney with part of the cargo of the “Bucephalus”. Passengers, Rev. Mr Lawry, Superintendent of the Wesleyan Missions, Mrs Lawry, Miss Lawry, Miss A. Lawry, and Miss Hughes, Messrs W.E. Cormack, H. Lawry, Lowe and Bradbury; Mr and Mrs Clarke.

Source: Daily Southern Cross 25th March, 1844, p2.