Willoughby Shortland

Commander Willoughby Shortland RN (30 September 1804 – 7 October 1869) was a British naval officer and colonial administrator. He was New Zealand's first Colonial Secretary from 1841, after having arrived in New Zealand with Lieutenant Governor William Hobson in January 1840. He was later President of the island of Nevis and then Governor of Tobago.

Willoughby Shortland
Willoughby Shortland.jpg
Portrait of Willoughby Shortland drawn by his niece.
1st Colonial Secretary of New Zealand
In office
3 May 1841 – 31 December 1843
GovernorWilliam Hobson
Personal details
Born(1804-09-30)30 September 1804
Plymouth, Devonshire, England
Died7 October 1869(1869-10-07) (aged 65)
Courtlands, Devonshire, England
Spouse(s)Isabella Kate Johnston
RelationsEdward Shortland (brother)
Peter Shortland (brother)
John Shortland (uncle)
John Shortland (grandfather)
OccupationRoyal Navy, colonial administrator

Early life and naval careerEdit

Shortland, born in 1804, was the son of Captain Thomas George Shortland. His brothers were Edward Shortland and Peter Frederick Shortland. Willoughby was educated at the Royal Naval College, and entered the service on 9 January 1818. Being gazetted a lieutenant on 18 August 1828, he served in Galatea, 42 guns, and in the following year in Ranger, 28 guns, on the Jamaica station. His first command, in 1830, was the schooner Monkey. From her, on 21 March 1831, he took command of Skipjack, a schooner of 5 guns, and in her remained in the West Indies until June 1833.[1]

On 1 July 1864 he was gazetted a retired commander in the navy.[1]

Colonial workEdit

New ZealandEdit

In 1839 he accompanied Captain William Hobson, the first governor of New Zealand, to that colony, which had not then been annexed by England. Lieutenant Shortland was appointed colonial secretary and a magistrate.[2] An early court case related to the murder of European shepherd (Patrick Rooney) by Ngāpuhi known as Kihi, who was discovered and delivered up by other Ngāpuhi to the authorities at Kororareka. Shortland was in the act of a magisterial examination of the charge against Kihi on 20 April 1840 when Haratua, a chief arrived with about three hundred armed warriors and began a haka. Shortland, believing the warriors had hostile intentions, sent for the troops. Edward Marsh Williams, who was present as a witness and who spoke Māori and understood Māori culture identified that Haratua and the warriors did not have any hostile intentions, having come over to make a public display of their abhorrence of the murder. Edward Williams persuaded Haratua and the warriors to leave and explained in a quiet way that it was ignorance of Māori culture on Shorthand's part that made him call for the troops.[3]

Shortland proceeded to Port Nicholson, Wellington, and the English living there very willingly acknowledged Queen Victoria's authority and Shortland's nomination as their police magistrate. Shortland was appointed the first colonial secretary on 3 May 1841[4] and a member of the General Legislative Council courtesy of his post.[5]

On the death of Captain Hobson on 10 September 1842, the lieutenant administered the government of New Zealand until the arrival of Captain Robert FitzRoy on 31 December 1843. During Shortland's temporary government the Wairau Affray took place on 17 June 1843, and in his dispatches to the British government he expressed his disapproval of the conduct of the settlers, to which he attributed the massacre. This action made him unpopular, and, when a report of his nomination as Governor of New Zealand was circulated, a petition was sent from Auckland praying that he might not be appointed.[1] On 31 December 1843 he was dismissed from the colonial secretaryship by FitzRoy.[4]

Nevis and TobagoEdit

In 1845 became President of the island of Nevis in the Leeward Islands. After that, he was Governor of Tobago from 10 January 1854 until 1856, and then, returning to England, resided on his property, Courtlands, Charleton, Kingsbridge, Devon, until his death.[1]

Family and deathEdit

He married, in 1841 in Auckland, Isabella Kate Johnston, daughter of Robert A. Fitzgerald of Geraldine, County Limerick. He died at Courtlands on 7 October 1869.[1]

See alsoEdit

  • O'Byrne, William Richard (1849). "Shortland, Willoughby" . A Naval Biographical Dictionary . John Murray – via Wikisource.


  1. ^ a b c d e Boase, G. C. (1897). "Shortland, Willoughby (1804–1869), naval officer and colonial administrator". Dictionary of National Biography Vol. XVII. Smith, Elder & Co. Retrieved 21 December 2007.
  2. ^ Carleton, Hugh (1874). "Vol. II". The Life of Henry Williams. Early New Zealand Books (ENZB), University of Auckland Library. p. 22.
  3. ^ Carleton, Hugh (1874). "Vol. II". The Life of Henry Williams: "Early Recollections" written by Henry Williams. Early New Zealand Books (ENZB), University of Auckland Library. p. 21.
  4. ^ a b A. H. McLintock, ed. (22 April 2009) [1966]. "Shortland, Commander Willoughby, RN". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage / Te Manatū Taonga. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  5. ^ Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. pp. 25–28. OCLC 154283103.


Government offices
New office Colonial Secretary of New Zealand
Succeeded by