asked Adelaide’s younger brother John to go to New Zealand with him as his confidential clerk. J. D., a fourteen-year-old boy destined for a possible career in the navy, jumped at the chance, and his parents did not object. He was the fourth child and third son of Francis Kirby Ormond, a retired naval commander, and his wife, Fanny (nee Hedges). They had moved to Plymouth from Wallingford, in Berkshire, a decade after J. D.’s birth in about 1831.
J. D. was sixteen by the time he arrived in Auckland in December 1847, off the Ralph Bernal. In a letter to a shipboard acquaintance he comes through as a cheerful, friendly boy, not at all the anti-social, taciturn man he later became.
After some time in Auckland, he travelled to Wellington with Eyre, to both work and live in Government House. It was a decrepit building: they slept on mattresses on the floor, avoiding drips from the leaking roof, and sat at their desks in hats and overcoats because of the cold wind whistling through the rooms.
Eyre soon became a figure of fun in Wellington. He was a fussy, pompous man, and given to wearing full dress-uniform all the time, which, complete with silver braid and gold lace, did not look so well under an overcoat!
By October 1849, J. D. had proved himself useful, and had been promoted to Private Secretary, and Clerk to the Executive Council, at £200 per annum. He must, however, have been lonely during this time, having little contact with people of his own age. It was probably shyness, but he began to be known as “bumptious” and was already becoming rather reserved.
Through his work he had made many useful contacts, and his first chance to explore New Zealand came in 1849, when Donald McLean invited J. D. to accompany him as his secretary on an expedition to buy Maori land for the Crown in Rangitikei. McLean, then aged twenty-nine, was the Inspector of Armed Police, but had such a knowledge of Maori language and customs that he was constantly used for negotiations with the tribes. J. D., a keen eighteen-year-old, accepted, and rode north from Wellington with the group.
Although McLean had said that this land was chosen because it had very few Maori owners, there were close on 4000 Maori assembled when they reached the end of their journey. The potential sellers – Ngatiapa and a few Rangitane – sat on one side of the meeting place, distinctly outnumbered by the thousands of non-sellers – mainly Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Awa – sitting glowering on the other.
Proceedings began, but no progress was evident. During the day, McLean sat in the middle of the two groups, listening to speeches. At night, he sat on his mat, courteously receiving visits from groups of two or three principal men and women from the various tribes.
J. D. became bored and went off to shoot birds for the nightly Maori hangi – the beginning of a life-long love of gun sports. He also spent three days on horseback, riding through rough country with the government surveyor and some Maori chiefs, being shown the boundaries of the intended purchase between
Photo caption – Donald McLean, who introduced the young John Ormond to Hawke’s Bay area when he took him on expeditions to buy land from the Maori. He remained Ormond’s influential friend in government.