Paddy Connel

History of Paddy Connel

One day, while at the Observatory, I was greatly surprised at seeing one whom I took to be a Feejeeman, enter my tent, a circumstance so inconsistent with the respect to our prescribed limit, of which I have spoken. His colour, however, struck me as lighter than that of any native I had yet seen. He was a short wrinkled old man, but appeared to possess great vigour and activity. He had a beard that reached to his middle, and but little hair, of a reddish-grey colour, on his head. He gave me no time for inquiry, but at once addressed me in broad Irish, with a rich Milesian brogue. In a few minutes he made me acquainted with his story, which, by his own account, was as follows:--

His name was Paddy Connel, but the natives called him Berry; he was born in the county of Clare, in Ireland; had run away from school when he was a little fellow, and after wandering about as a vagabond, was pressed into the army in the first Irish rebellion. At the time the French landed in Ireland, the regiment to which he was attached marched at once against the enemy, and soon arrived on the field of battle, where they were brought to the charge. The first thing he knew or heard, the drums struck up a White Boy's tune, and his whole regiment went over and joined the French, with the exception of the officers, who had to flee. They were then marched against the British, and were soon defeated by Lord Cornwallis; it was a hard fight, and Paddy found himself among the slain. When he thought the battle was over, and night came on, he crawled off and reached home. He was then taken up and tried for his life, but was acquitted; he was, however, remanded to prison, and busied himself in effecting the escape of some of his comrades. On this being discovered, he was confined in the black hole, and soon after sent to Cork, to be put on board a convict-ship bound to New South Wales. When he arrived there, his name was not found on the books of the prisoners; consequently he had been transported by mistake, and was, therefore, set at liberty. He then worked about for several years, and collected a small sum of money, but unfortunately fell into bad company, got drunk, and lost it all. Just about this time Captain Sartori, of the ship General Wellesley, arrived at Sydney. Having lost a great part of his crew by sickness and desertion, he desired to procure hands for his ship, which was still at Sandalwood Bay, and obtained thirty-five men, one of whom was Paddy Connel. At the time they were ready to depart, a French privateer, Le Gloriant, Captain Dubardieu, put into Sydney, when Captain Sartori engaged a passage for himself and his men to the Feejees. On their way they touched at Norfolk Island, where the ship struck, and damaged her keel so much that they were obliged to put into the Bay of Islands for repairs. Paddy asserts that a difficulty had occurred here between Captain Sartori and his men about their provisions, which was amicably settled. The Gloriant finally sailed from New Zealand for Tongataboo, where they arrived just after the capture of a vessel, which he supposed to have been the Port au Prince, as they had obtained many articles from the natives, which had evidently belonged to some large vessel. Here they remained some months, and then sailed for Sandalwood Bay, where the men, on account of their former quarrel with Captain Sartori, refused to go on board the General Wellesley: some of them shipped on board the Gloriant, and others, with Paddy, determined to remain on shore with the natives. He added, that Captain Sartori was kind to him, and at parting had given him a pistol, cutlass, and an old good-for-nothing musket; these, with his sea-chest and a few clothes, were all that he possessed. He had now lived forty years among these savages. After hearing his whole story, I told him I did not believe a word of it; to which he answered, that the main part of it was true, but he might have made some mistakes, as he had been so much in the habit of lying to the Feejeeans, that he hardly now knew when he told the truth, adding, that he had no desire to tell anything but the truth.

Paddy turned out to be a very amusing fellow, and possessed an accurate knowledge of the Feejee character. Some of the whites told me that he was more than half Feejee; indeed he seemed to delight in shewing how nearly he was allied to them in feeling and propensities; and, like them, seemed to fix his attention upon trifles. He gave me a droll account of his daily employments, which it would be inappropriate to give here, and finished by telling me the only wish he had then, was to get for his little boy, on whom he doated, a small hatchet; and the only articles he had to offer for it were a few old hens. On my asking him if he did not cultivate the ground, he said at once no; he found it much easier to get his living by telling the Feejeeans stories, which he could always make good enough for them;--these, and the care of his two little boys, and his hens, and his pigs, when he had any, gave him ample employment and plenty of food. He had lived much at Rewa, and, until lately, had been a resident at Levuka, but had, in consequence of his intrigues, been expelled by the white residents, to the island of Ambatiki. It appeared that they had unanimously come to the conclusion, that if he did not remove, they would be obliged to put him to death for their own safety. I could not induce Whippy or Tom to give me the circumstances that occasioned this determination; and Paddy would not communicate more than that his residence on Ambatiki was a forced one, and that it was as though he was living out of the world, rearing pigs, fowls, and children. Of the last description of live stock he had forty-eight, and hoped that he might live to see fifty born to him. He had had one hundred wives.