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Herries Beattie Collection

James Herries Beattie manuscripts [cropped for carousel]

Herries Beattie Collection

The Herries Beattie collection has been digitised as part of Hocken’s Kāi Tahu Digitisation Programme. The collection includes correspondence, newspaper clipping books, notebooks, childhood diaries, manuscripts of published and unpublished works, typescripts, ephemera, plans, photographs, sketches and illustrations.


A significant part of the Herries Beattie collection are the records of interviews with South Island Māori (including from Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe and Waitaha) conducted by Beattie in 1920 in collaboration with H.D. Skinner of the Otago Museum. During his lifetime, Beattie travelled by train and bicycle to communities around Te Waipounamu and interviewed more than 130 South Island Māori, including people such as Eruera Poko Cameron, Tiemi Haereroa Kupa, Taare Reweti Te Maiharoa, Tuhituhi Te Marama, Teone Taare Tikao, Eruera Kingi Kurupohatu, Tieke Pukurākau and John Pūao Rakiraki.Together with iwi traditional knowledge, Beattie’s research notes have been used as a source of information on place names for Kā Huru Manu (the Ngāi Tahu cultural atlas), on biographical information for Tāngata Ngāi Tahu/People of Ngāi Tahu, and to inform the claims made to the Waitangi Tribunal under the Wai 27 claims district.


Other parts of the collection include papers regarding South Island history, gold mining, birds, and recollections of, and correspondence with, early Pākehā settlers in Otago and Southland that were subsequently published in Beattie's books and articles. The digitised Herries Beattie collection also includes maps held in the Hocken published collection.


The James Herries Beattie papers (ARC-0162) were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand register in 2018.


Hocken Collections acknowledges the support of mana whenua, the Ngāi Tahu Archive, the Kāi Tahu Digitisation Advisory Group, the University of Otago Alumni Fund, UNESCO Memory of the World Aotearoa New Zealand, and New Zealand Micrographic Services. Mei kore ake ko koutou tēnei kohika e puta ki te ao.




James Herries Beattie (known as Herries) was born in Gore in the South Island of New Zealand on 6 June 1881, the son of Scots immigrants James and Mary Beattie. As a youth he tried writing poetry, short stories and historical novels and he harboured a great curiosity on Otago and Southland history. By the age of 11, he had begun keeping notebooks recording the recollections of pioneering families in Gore and those of surviving whalers.


Beattie’s first attempt at a historical work was a biography of his uncle, William Adam, with whom he had spent holidays in Otokia. He soon began to develop a lasting interest in the traditional lifestyle and history of Ngāi Tahu. An influence was W.H.S. Roberts, who also provided him with information about early southern runs and runholders.


Beattie's writings were mainly based upon interviews, enhanced by information from family notes, genealogies and newspaper articles. His first publication was a short history of Gore, with his first major work entitled Pioneer recollections, a two-part history of early settlers. Accounts of southern Māori traditions, history and placenames were published in the Journal of the Polynesian Society between 1915 and 1922.


Beattie became a journalist for the Mataura Ensign in Gore, but in 1920, due to his publishing success, H.D. Skinner of the Otago Museum funded a year long ethnological survey of southern Māori communities. The survey, although a major achievement in Beattie's career and mined extensively for his subsequent publications, was incomplete, Beattie having had few resources and too little time to visit all parts of the South Island. Beattie’s notes from the ethnological survey (MS-0181) were published posthumously, in 1994, as Traditional lifeways of the Southern Māori, edited by Atholl Anderson.


In 1921, Beattie was employed as librarian at the New Plymouth Public Library until he purchased a bookshop in Waimate, which he ran until 1939, after which he devoted himself fully to writing and publication. He produced many works of lasting importance and by the end of his career he had produced 27 books. He was awarded the Percy Smith Prize for achievements in anthropology in 1967 and was made an MBE. He died at Timaru in 1972 and was survived by three daughters. From The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.


External links


Further taoka Kāi Tahu are held by the Ngāi Tahu Archive:

Ngāi Tahu Kā Huru Manu Cultural Mapping Project and digitised maps can be found at:

James Herries Beattie’s biography on the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography:


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Hocken Collections | Te Uare Taoka o Hākena

90 ANZAC Avenue

PO Box 56

Dunedin 9054

New Zealand

+64 3 479 8868