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Reverend William Yate
(19th century) New Zealand

William Yate

Clergyman

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The Reverend William Yate first arrived in New Zealand in 1828. In June 1836, after a highly successful trip to England (where he had been given an audience with King William IV), he was seconded to the Bishop of Sydney. It was there that scandals, both from New Zealand and on board ship, caught up with him.

Returning on the "Prince Regent" Yate had shared the cabin and the bunk of the third mate, Edwin Denison, and they lodged together in Park St, Sydney, scandalising the neighbours. Another seaman, Dick Deck, joined them in their bed, but left for a sofa because there was "so much tickling".

Samuel Marsden, head of the Church Missionary Society, confronted Yate, who denied any misbehaviour. Marsden made himself unpopular in Sydney by his persecution of Yate, and the position was complicated by Yate's involvement in a major controversy about religious education.

But in October, depositions arrived from six young Maori men in the Bay of Islands. Let's read them:

From Pehi:

Since we have been living in Waimate [North], after the return of Mr Yate from Waiapu [on the East Coast] he urged me. ... He said to me, "We will go together ... for a piece of tobacco for you." He said to me, "Unbutton your trousers." I said to him, "For what purpose should I unbutton them?" He said to me, "Kia titoitoi taua." (In order to masturbate each other.) ...He said to me, "W[h]akatoratorangia ti ti" (Make it erect [until it] tingles.) I went to him three times, once at Pateretere, ... he called to me, ... "I'll break your head with my penis."

(The missionary translators take refuge in Latin to say that oral sex followed.)


From Philip Tohi:

The commencement was a playing ... Mr Yate told the men to stand before him, to unbutton their trousers that he might see their ----. He was very merry ... He ordered me and said, "Let us two go to my room upstairs." ... He then came and took my hand and dragged me on to his bed. The buttons of my trousers were undone and of his also. We lay together on his bed. We took hold of each other's penis, kia titoitoi taua. He then gave me ten rings. I cannot count how many times I went to him.


From Samuel Kohi:

He said to me, "All Europeans act thus while they are single men. Then because they sleep with their wives, this practice is left off. But as for me, my wife is this, a hand." I said to him, "By whom were you taught this practice? He said to me, "By my father I was taught this practice in my childhood." ... I went to him three times before my baptism, and since my baptism I have been many times, more than I can count.


From Toatoua:

When I was a little boy,... He saw my penis and said it was no bigger than a rat's tail, and we did titoitoi. He gave me one pipe and one fig of tobacco.


Clearly, Yate's tastes were somewhat paedophilic and exploitive, nor were they confined to New Zealand: fellow missionary Richard Taylor, who had been on the "Prince Regent" with him, wrote "He was accused of the same crime at the Tonga Isles, New Zealand, Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania], and every time he visited this colony."

To Marsden's and the Bishop's disappointment, the Crown Solicitor told them Yate's acts were not (yet) crimes, since he had not committed or attempted sodomy in the strict sense.

In New Zealand, Yate's fellow missionaries imposed rough justice: after "a solemn day of fasting and humiliation", they burnt all his goods, shot his unfortunate horse, and renamed his mission station "The Vale of Achan".

Though unconvicted, Yate left Sydney in disgrace (but with his lover Denison) on December 17, 1836, and fell into obscurity: he was refused the chaplaincy of a workhouse at St James, Westminster, but in 1848 he was put in charge of a Mission to Seamen at Dover, where he died at "an advanced age".

Judith Binney comments: "Yate's tragedy lies, not so much in his persecution, as a man who was technically innocent yet morally guilty, but in the torment of mind he must have undergone in reconciling his desires with his Christian morality."


NOTE: tiitoitoi means to repeatedly or mutually tiitoi: originally tiitoi was a charm to ward off evil influences, to be said while retracting the foreskin, but in post-missionary Maori, it means "masturbate". (The missionaries did not mark vowel-length.)

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Source: Written by Hugh Young.

© 1995-2002 Queer History New Zealand - //www.queerhistory.net.nz/Yate.html

Adapted from articles in Outrage #57 by Robert French and Campaign, and #23 by Martin Smith. The depositions are from the State Archives of New South Wales.

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