The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Buller, Sir Walter Lawry

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Buller, Sir Walter Lawry, K.C.M.G., D.Sc., F.R.S., the descendant of an ancient Cornish family and the eldest surviving son of the late Rev. James Buller, was born on Oct. 9th, 1838, at Newark, Bay of Islands, N.Z., and was educated at Wesley College, Auckland. Having early acquired a knowledge of the Maori language, he was appointed Government interpreter at Wellington in 1855, and started and edited a weekly Maori paper called Te Karere o Poneke. In 1859 he was made Native Commissioner for the Southern Provinces, and carried through the partition and individualisation of the Kaiapoi Native Reserve. In 1861 he acted as honorary secretary to the Kohimarama conference of native chiefs, convened by Governor Gore Browne; and in the same year edited the Maori Messenger, a fortnightly paper in English and Maori, being afterwards also promoter and editor of the Maori Intelligencer (both of them Government publications). In April 1862 he was appointed Resident Magistrate of the Manawatu; and in April 1865 Judge of the Native Land Court. In the same year he was present at the taking of Wereroa Pa (Volunteer Staff), for which he received the New Zealand War Medal. On that occasion, declining the protection of a military escort, he carried the Governor's despatches at night through forty miles of the enemy's country, attended only by a Maori orderly, for which gallant service he was mentioned in despatches. In 1866 he became Resident Magistrate and Sheriff of Wanganui, which office he held till 1871, when he went to England as Secretary to the Agent-General. For a continuous period of fifteen years he had held various official appointments, chiefly in connection with native affairs, and had on eight different occasions received the special thanks of the Colonial Government. He entered as a student at the Inner Temple on Nov. 20th, 1871, and was called to the bar on June 6th, 1874. In the same year he returned to New Zealand, and practised as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court with remarkable success till 1886, when he visited England as Commissioner in connection with the Colonial and Indian Exhibition. For his services on this occasion he was created K.C.M.G., having been made a C.M.G. in 1875 in recognition of his researches in New Zealand ornithology. In 1876 he was elected F.R.S. on the same account. Sir Walter remained in England till 1890, and took an active part in all public movements affecting the colonies. He was on the Mansion House Committee for the Paris Exhibition 1889, and was elected a member of the Executive Council. For his services on that occasion he was decorated "Officier" in the Legion of Honour. As early as 1865 he obtained the silver medal of the New Zealand Exhibition for an "Essay on the Ornithology of New Zealand"; and subsequently published a splendidly illustrated "History of the Birds of New Zealand." In 1882 he prepared for the Government a "Manual of the Birds of New Zealand," and in 1888 brought out a second edition of his larger work. Besides enjoying the dignity of a British order, Sir Walter is a Knight (First Class) Austrian Order of Francis Joseph, First Class Order of Frederick of Wurtemburg, Order of Merit (First Class) of Hesse-Darmstadt, and "Officier de l'Instruction Publique" (Gold Palm of the Academy). He has been awarded the Galileian Medal by the Royal University of Florence, and has received the honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Tubingen. In 1881 he received the gold medal of the New Zealand Exhibition for science and literature, and was elected a governor of the New Zealand Institute, of which he was also one of the founders. He married, in 1862, Charlotte, third daughter of Gilbert Mair, J.P., of Auckland, N.Z., who died on Nov. 1st, 1891.