1811 Dec 13
William Colenso born in Penzance,
Cornwall, England - the eldest of nine
William became a printer's
apprentice in St Ives, Cornwall
He started work for Richard Watts - a
London printing firm to the Church
William left for Paihia, Bay of
Islands on behalf of the Church Missionary
Society to run a small printing press
He published many pamphlets and books
translated into Maori including 27,000
copies of the Book of Common Prayer which
he took with him on journeys into areas
covered by the Mission and beyond
William persuaded a reluctant Bishop
Selwyn to accept him as a candidate for
Inland explorations became more
adventurous both to spread the word but
also to collect botanical specimens - an
interest that had been boosted by the
visit of Darwin in 1835.
Bishop Selwyn tried his best to delay the
ordination by setting out pre-requisites.
One of these was marriage to a suitable
partner. Elisabeth Fairburn was the
daughter of a lay missionary who happened
to speak fluent Maori and satisfied the
They were married at Otahuhu,
William spent most of his time away
Frances Mary Colenso born
1 Feb 1844
Elisabeth became instrumental in
the translation of the Bible into Maori
which Bishop Selwyn was keen to have
finished and for William to oversee its
publication and so delayed the ordination
Finally William was ordained Deacon. 22 Sep 1844
In December William, his wife and
daughter leave to set up a new mission at
Hawke's Bay which covered a vast area
allowing William to pursue both
Evangelical and Botanical interests.
However, his wife was isolated on the
1845 - 1853
Ridley Latimer Colenso born 23
Such isolation with a young family
bred resentment and to avoid conflict
William found himself seeking solace in
the company of Ripeka Meretene who was a
Maori girl that had been brought from
Paihia as part of the household.
Ripeka Meretene was married in 1850 but
was already pregnant with William's
Wiremu (William) Colenso was
born 28 May 1851
Frances and Ridley are taken to
Auckland by their uncle.
William was suspended as a Deacon and
dismissed from the mission.
Elisabeth left in 1853 with Wiremu to
rejoin her own family but they would not
accept Wiremu and sent him to his
relatives in the north.
William spent the next few years as
a recluse suffering the ridicules of the
Maori people whom he had chastised for
various sins including adultery
Having reassessed his life William
put his interests into local politics.
Wiremu returned to his father in 1861.
In the same year William was
elected to the General Assembly
representing Napier Town. He was
commissioned to publish a Maori dictionary
- but the work was never finished and only
a small section published.
During this time Elisabeth took
Frances and Ridley to England. Some
events indicate that Elisabeth was
known to Queen Victoria who was mourning
the death of Prince Albert. Both Frances
and Ridley returned to New Zealand with
their mother in
was not long before Ridley left
for England again.
It was apparent that Wiremu was
also in England at this time.
William was appointed a School
In 1894 the
suspension as Deacon was revoked and
William was readmitted to the Anglican
William died. He left money to the
town of Penzance which was used for the