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Topic: Captain John Peter Bollons: a mariner and collector

Captain John Peter Bollons: a mariner and collector 1862-1929

In 1931, a collection of artefacts and natural environment specimens was acquired by the Dominion Museum following the death of prolific collector Captain John Peter Bollons, a mariner, naturalist and ethnographer (McLean 1996). Born in London in 1862, Bollons arrived in New Zealand on the barque England’s Glory, which shipwrecked in Bluff Harbour in 1881. After settling in Bluff, Bollons worked on several vessels and gained his Master’s Certificate in 1892. He became master of the Hinemoa in 1897, a yacht that, among other tasks, serviced lighthouses along New Zealand’s coastline (New Zealand National Maritime Museum 2009). In 1896, he married Lilian Rose in Invercargill, and the family moved to Wellington around 1911. After 24 years with the Hinemoa, Bollons commanded the government steamer Tutanekai for seven years, until his sudden death in 1929 at the age of 67.

Ethnological interests

Bollons had an interest in natural history and Mäori culture. His marine work, fluency in the Mäori language, and friendship with scientists and ethnographers such as Elsdon Best allowed him to pursue this interest. During Bollons’ time, the Hinemoa was actively used for expeditions as well as coastal inspections. Between December 1900 and January 1901, the vessel sailed to New Zealand’s Sub - antarctic Islands. In 1906, the Hinemoa collected sea lions, penguins and albatrosses for the New Zealand International Exhibition (1906–07) in Christchurch. Following Bollons’ death, his extensive collection was acquired in 1931 by the Dominion Museum through his wife Lilian. In a letter written to the Under Secretary, Internal Affairs Department, on 16 July 1931, Walter R.B.Oliver, the museum’s director at the time, welcomed Bollons’ collection ‘on account of the high ethnological value’.

An extensive collection

The collection comprises 5107 Mäori artefacts and specimens, 42 Pacific artefacts and 9 items related to Päkehä history. The massive number of Mäori specimens and artefacts reflects Bollons’ main collecting interest. Seven of the 42 Pacific items in the Bollons collection are from the Cook Islands: a kumete roroa (long bowl), a kete päpä (satchel), and a no‘oanga (seat), two toki (adze blades) and two reru (pounders). The precise provenance of individual objects is not recorded. Bollons may have purchased some of these items at the International Exhibition or at the New Zealand South Seas Exhibition held in Dunedin in 1889–90. It is likely that some items may have been gifted to Bollons, or collected by him during his marine work.

Sources:

McLean, G. (1996). Bollons, John Peter 1862–1929. Mariner, naturalist, ethnographer, collector. Dictionary of New Zealand biography [website], (updated 22 June 2007), www.dnzb.govt.nz. Accessed 20 October 2009.

New Zealand National Maritime Museum (2009). Hinemoa 1875–1944. The New Zealand maritime record [website], www.nzmaritime.co.nz/hin1.htm. Accessed 5 November 2009.

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