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Halting communications

On 22 March Colin had complained to Fransoni of the scanty news from Oceania.[1] A month later he received Pompallier’s letter of 28 August 1839 in which the bishop speaks of entrusting letters to French whalers in spite of the fact they take a lot of time hunting, adding with as many words, that the route via Sydney and London was faster![2] On 22 April, Colin, or rather Poupinel, wrote two letters in an attempt to repair the halting communications between Oceania and France. A curt letter begs Pompallier not to rely only on French whaling vessels, but to make more use of the speedier way via Sydney and London.[3] He also wrote to Polding to assure himself of the archbishop’s help.[4]

Ironically, within weeks news from Oceania rolled in. Apart from Pompallier’s letter of 28 August 1839 (his number 16) that we assume to have arrived just before 22 April, Colin received a parcel of letters on the 12 May in which he found the bishop’s letter of 14 August and sent with the Orion (number 14).[5] The two letters had taken eight months and were the first news Colin got from Oceania for over a year.

From Bonamie he had confirmation of Captain Cecille’s visit to Pompallier.[6] From Franques in Le Havre Colin heard via Peters, the captain of the whaler France that the missionaries were building a new chapel in the Bay of Islands and that Pompallier was extremely popular. By the end of April Colin had to hear from Peter Dillon in London that Petitjean and his companions had reached Sydney on 23 October.[7] In early May Colin also knew that the British government had sent a governor to New Zealand whereby it became a British colony.[8] One thing and another must have shown Colin and Poupinel that communications between Lyon and Oceania could be improved.

A thing they overlooked was keeping the missionaries informed of how the Society was doing in France. Did it continue to grow? Who were the new Marists? What works did the Society take on? From his isolated post along the Hokianga River, Baty asked Claude Girard to do something along these lines. Colin restricted his letters to a spiritual exhortation. Spreading news he left to others. But without an organized plan, the missionaries were for a long time dependent on casual remarks and on the stories of new comers.[9]

In New Zealand: Arrival of the third group

While in Europe, Pezant, Tripe, Bertrand and Duperron were preparing for their departure, Petit-Jean, Viard, Chevron, Comte and Attale Grimaud came in sight of New Zealand. On 9 December 1839,[10] their ship dropped anchor in the Bay of Islands. Pompallier received them with his episcopal blessing and immediately set to rearrange his personnel.

A week after the arrival, 17 December, a ship left for a trading cruise to the tropical islands and Pompallier sent Chevron and Brother Attale to Wallis and Futuna. Chevron was to reinforce the group.[11] Attale would take the place of Marie-Nizier whom Pompallier called to New Zealand. They were given to understand that they would reach Wallis in about three weeks.

Pompallier appointed Comte to Purakau to replace Servant as assistant of Baty. He called Servant to Kororareka, because he was planning to be away for a long missionary trip around the North Island. Brother Florentin, who had arrived with the second group six months earlier, would go with Comte and replace Michel Colombon who was likewise changed to the Bay. Comte got a letter away to his family and the two left on 9 January with fifteen carriers to cross to the west coast.[12]

In early January Pompallier appointed Epalle and Petitjean with Brother Elie-Regis to open a mission at Whangaroa where he had been able to buy a property. They were assisted by an energetic and able convert chief, called Amoto.[13] Viard was to stay at Kororareka with Maxime Petit and Brother Marie-Augustin, soon to be joined by Servant and Brother Michel.

Having sold the Reine de Paix, Pompallier asked Colin by letter of 7 December, to let Captain Lateste of Le Nérée, who carried the letter, buy a ship for the mission in France and sail it to New Zealand.[14] In early January he uses the opportunity of the Meuse under Captain Pelletier leaving for France to get two letters away. In the first one he recommends Pelletier as a back-up to Captain Lateste. The next day he realizes he had not even acknowledged the arrival of the five missionaries of the third group. He corrects it quickly. Grateful for their arrival he mildly excuses them for having taken so long in Sydney before making the trip to New Zealand which should not take more then 8 to 10 days. He expresses his satisfaction with the much easier quicker and cheaper travel via London and Sydney, but regrets that there was only one Brother in the group. He could use three Brothers for every priest! No acknowledgment of Colin’s letters that the missionaries had carried with them.

He tells Colin lightly that ‘the Fathers on Wallis en Futuna are well and that their missions are making reasonable progress.’ In fact he had had no news from them for half a year! He tells Colin he has sent Chevron and Attale to visit the two islands. ‘You must have received the news from these two interesting missions through the long letters I sent you six months ago’, forgetting – or disregarding – the fact that he had entrusted their mail to another whaler, the Pallas, which was to go hunting before returning to France. In a P.S. he expresses his satisfaction at the appointment of Victor Poupinel.[15]


  1. CS, doc. 147, cf. above p. 164.
  2. LRO, doc. 37 [1].
  3. CS, doc. 154. CS, doc. 185 [4] gives the end of April as the time of arrival. On what precise date Colin received Pompallier’s letter of 28.08.39 we do not know. If Colin had indeed received it on 22.04, then why does he not mention it? If he had not, Colin’s letter does not make sense. Of this letter there is only a summary, not the usual concept (minute) from Poupinel’s hand. Colin had probably received Pompallier’s letter it and the résumé is only an incomplete summary of a letter written by Colin himself in Poupinel’s absence. Poupinel must then have made the résumé from hearsay afterwards. We know he was preaching missions in the diocese of Moulins in early April, cf. CS, doc. 151 [7].
  4. CS, doc. 155.
  5. Pompallier asks for pictures of the pope and Colin passes the request on to Cholleton in Rome. LRO, doc. 33 [11] and CS, doc. 173 [17].
  6. Bonamie to Colin, 16.09.39. APM, 2231/10449. Cécille had arrived in Brest on 22 August, cf. Marc Boulanger, L’Amiral Jean-Baptiste Cécille, p. 52. Bonamie met with him and was told that Cécille had given Pompallier all the help he could. The visit of Cécille on the Héroïne was already known from Pompallier’s letter of 14.05.38, that Colin had received on 10.11.38. Cf. above, p. 73.
  7. Dillon to Colin, 24.04.40; Colin to Dillon 02.05.40, CS, doc. 159 [11].
  8. Colin to Fransoni, 05.05.40. CS, doc. 160 [2]. Colin can on 5 May hardly have referred to the Treaty of Waitangi (6 February 1840). He must somehow have heard that William Hobson left London in August 1839 to New Zealand for the purpose, cf. Michael King, The Penguin History of New Zealand, p. 156.
  9. LRO, doc. 66 [2]. The first index of the Society appeared in 1872!
  10. Pompallier gives 10 December, Chevron 8 December, LRO, doc. 62 [2].
  11. Colin had recommended Pompallier to keep Chevron with him for some time! Cf. Rozier, op. cit., doc. 6.
  12. LRO, doc. 54 [3].
  13. For details of this foundation, cf. Simmons, op. cit. p. 45f.
  14. LRO, doc. 44.
  15. LRO, docs. 46 & 47.

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