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Clay pipe discovery believed to be from legendary Fiordland explorer William Docherty

Date: 1 August 2018


Media Release 

A smoker’s clay pipe discovered during Real Journeys conservation work on Cooper Island, in Dusky Sound, is believed to have belonged to legendary explorer William Docherty, who lived in Fiordland’s remote Dusky Sound from 1877 to 1894.

The pipe was found by Real Journeys Nature Guide Richard Heyward, during a break from checking stoat traps around the shore line of Cooper Island.

“I thought it would be a good idea to check Docherty’s beach as it is close to Cooper Island and I was wondering whether it would be a good place to take our Discovery Expedition passengers on future trips,” says Richard.

An expert in Fiordland’s history, Richard had a good idea where William Docherty’s hut had once stood.  Richard landed the boat there and started strolling along the pebbly beach.

“And there it was. A little clay smoker’s pipe in perfect condition. 
I knew it was most likely Docherty’s pipe, and he wouldn’t have been pleased to have lost it as he lived a frugal existence prospecting for minerals.”

I knew it was most likely Docherty’s pipe, and he wouldn’t have been pleased to have lost it as he lived a frugal existence prospecting for minerals.

Richard Heyward, Nature Guide, Real Journeys

As per protocol, Richard notified Heritage New Zealand and then handed the pipe to the Department of Conservation in Te Anau.  Historic Ranger Pania Dalley says they’re delighted that the pipe fell into the right hands.

“So often people don’t realise the full significance of a find.  This is a piece of Fiordland history. Docherty was one of Dusky’s longest serving European residents and we have very few physical relics from his existence during this time, as his old hut site is slowly being absorbed by the Fiordland bush,” says Pania.

The pipe has the words ‘Davidson’ and ‘Glasgow’ on either side, with the remnants of a thistle etched into the end.  A Thomas Davidson was making pipes in Glasgow from the 1860’s, Docherty was born in Glasgow and arrived in New Zealand in 1865. 

Pania says the clay pipes were as “common as hen’s teeth”, but the fact that this one has survived intact in the extreme elements of Fiordland and its legendary owner is what makes it exceptional.

“I suspect it has been safely buried for a very long time and was brought up by a king tide.  We’re so pleased Real Journeys was doing its valuable conservation work on Cooper Island at that particular time as it wouldn’t have lasted long,” says Pania.

I suspect it has been safely buried for a very long time and was brought up by a king tide. We’re so pleased Real Journeys was doing its valuable conservation work on Cooper Island at that particular time as it wouldn’t have lasted long.

Pania Dalley, Historic Ranger, Department of Conservation

The pipe will be on display at the ‘Birds of a Feather’ Conservation Ball at Walter Peak this Saturday, which will raise funds for the ongoing Cooper Island Restoration Project.  There are still a few tickets left to the black-tie event.   Real Journeys foots the bill for the entire evening so 100% of the ticket price goes towards removing predators and returning birdsong to Cooper Island.


For more information:

Visit the Cooper Island Restoration Project web page and video.


For further information contact:

Tsehai Tiffin - Real Journeys Corporate Communications Manager
Mobile: +64 21 523 899
Email: ttiffin@realjourneys.co.nz