Captain William Deloitte and the Pacific Trade

Captain William Deloitte operated trading ventures between Sydney and the Pacific islands in the 1830s-40s. He was particularly instrumental in the development of the New Zealand port of Hokianga on the North Island.

1830 - 1850

William Salmon Deloitte (1796-1870) was born in the English port of Kingston-on-Hull in Yorkshire. His father was Jean Baptiste Deloitte (1757–1823), a wealthy citizen of Arras in northern France, who is believed to have fled at the outbreak of the French Revolution.

In England, he married and had three sons, the eldest of whom, John Onuphre (1792–1863), went on to become the father of another William Deloitte (1818–97), founder of the international accounting firm Deloitte that still exists.

William Salmon Deloitte took to the sea as a young man and in 1826, captained the ship Faith on its first voyage to Sydney. It was to be the first of many such voyages between Australia, New Zealand, South America, Asia and Britain, calling at Sydney sometimes twice annually, where Deloitte dealt with the Sydney merchants Prosper de Mestre and James Bettington. He captained the former convict transport Florentia on its first voyage, solely as an immigrant ship in 1832, and his name became synonymous with that ship over the following years, earning a reputation for safety and an enjoyable passage. During one stay in Sydney, berthed at Millers Point, he hosted a spectacular dinner for the glitterati of Sydney onboard the Florentia:

Last evening Captain Deloitte, of the ship Florentia—entertained a highly fashionable party on board to participate in the pleasures of a ball and sumptuous supper... Within all was brilliancy, illuminations, and festoons of flowers hung pendant from every projection. A band of musicians in attendance played delightfully, when the melting waltz, the inspiring reel, and the fashionable quadrille contributed to diffuse true happiness to all present. The party did not leave till Chanticleer proclaimed the morn, all gratified with the kindness and urbanity of Captain Deloitte. Australian 24 Mar 1834, p2
Harpoon head c.1830-39
Māori greenstone chisel blade c1840

In 1838, Deloitte appears to have decided to establish his mercantile business on land, leasing buildings on George Street, near Grosvenor Street, formerly occupied by the Auctioneer Abraham Polack. (SG 11 Aug 1838, p4) In 1840, he purchased 2000 acres in the developing New Zealand port of Hokianga, and in 1841 bought Bettington’s former Millers Point home and wharf (now part of Barangaroo Headland). The Florentia was sold in London and continued to bring cargoes and immigrants to Australia until 1853.

Deloitte retired from the mercantile business and took up various positions with the NSW Government, advising on port management. He had married Elizabeth (Bessy) Marlay in 1838, raising twelve children, and like many former ships’ captains, retired to a villa overlooking the harbour, at Birchgrove. It was there that he died in 1870. Newspapers throughout the colonies carried notice of his passing, in deference to his contribution to immigration, commerce, and the development of the port of Sydney:

For thirty-five years Captain Deloitte laboured in this colony, – the first period in bringing many of our early colonists to these shores; and since his retirement from the sea in 1838, he has fulfilled the onerous duties of magistrate of the colony, director of a bank, member of the Steam Navigation Board, Pilot Board, Assurance Companies, and in many other ways where his large experience was found useful. Having chosen the sea (at an early age) as the quickest means of independence, he commanded his first vessel at twenty years of age, visiting almost every portion of the globe. He had the honour of being made a junior member of the Trinity Board before leaving England for this colony. Captain Deloitte was the first to open up trade with New Zealand, having planted the British ensign for the first time at Hokianga, and, was made a magistrate of that territory. A man of undoubted courage, combined with a gentleness of character rarely met with, he bore with fortitude and submission the loss of a fortune sunk in the colony by depreciation of property. Nine years ago he was struck with paralysis of the left side; since when all that the affectionate attention of friends and relatives could do has been done, and he has gone to his rest honoured and beloved by all. Goulburn Herald 17 Dec 1870, p4
Bettingtons property 1837
Bettingtons property 1837
Bettington's property, 1837
Bettington's property, 1837
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