The documentary, “Land of a Thousand Sorrows Revisited”, struck a chord with a full house of Mercury Bay residents and visitors at Mercury Twin Cinemas in Whitianga on Saturday night last week, with its fateful connection to HMS Buffalo and the Mercury Bay coastline.
Among those attending the New Zealand premiere of the film were 16 descendants of Canadian, Joseph Marceau, who was one among the political prisoners transported to Australia aboard the Buffalo in late 1839/ early 1840. After dropping the prisoners off in Tasmania and New South Wales, the Buffalo continued her journey to New Zealand where she ran aground in Whitianga in July 1840.
Canadian filmmaker, Deke Richards, has artfully pieced together a documentary that traces the background of both the Upper Canada and Lower Canada Rebellions that saw several men hanged, and 141 Canadian and American nationals exiled to Australia.
The rebels were soundly defeated by Britain. Queen Victoria had ascended to the throne not long before the insurrections were quelled and sent an envoy to Canada to look into the legitimacy of the Canadians’ grievances. The envoy recognised that the Canadians had reason to be concerned and eventually Upper Canada and Lower Canada were reorganised as a single Province of Canada, and afforded the status of “Responsible Government” in 1848.
The Canadian insurrections were one of the most important events in the foundation of the British Commonwealth. When Queen Victoria recognised Canada’s Responsible Government and subsequently pardoned “Les Patriotes”, as those who fought in the Lower Canada Rebellion are known in Canada, the groundwork was laid for New Zealand and Australia to gain the same recognition.
Joseph Marceau was the only Canadian political prisoner transported to Australia to not return to Canada following his pardon. Today, his descendants are living throughout Australia and New Zealand, including some in Whitianga. While their connection with the documentary, and with the Buffalo, is obviously personal, “Land of a Thousand Sorrows Revisited” tells a much larger story of colonisation and the evolving maturity of the British Commonwealth. It’s a well-paced, engaging film.
Representatives of the Royal New Zealand Navy and the HMS Buffalo Re-examination Project have also attended the screening on Saturday. Afterwards, they shared their aspirations for the wreck of the Buffalo, a recognised underwater archeological site 50m from Buffalo Beach.
Pictured are some of the descendants of Joseph Marceau who attended the New Zealand premiere of “Land of a Thousand Sorrows Revisited” on Saturday last week.