Robert Maunsell - Missionary, linguist, translator New Zealand VIEW SOURCE
Place of migration
Migrated to/Born in New Zealand

Robert Maunsell (1810-1894) was born at Milford, Co. Limerick, Ireland, on 24 October 1810.

He was the seventh child of Frances Magrath Fitzgerald, the second wife of George Maunsell of Milford, a collector of customs and later a banker who built Milford (part of the Maunsell Estate) in the late 18th century. George Maunsell was the fourth son of Richard Maunsell of Ballywilliam.

  • In 1833 Robert Maunsell graduated from Trinity College Dublin with honours in Classics, having won a prize in Hebrew.

  • He then attended the Church Missionary Society Training College at Islington, London, England, where his teachers included the scholar of Māori, Samuel Lee. 

In 1834 or 1835, Robert Maunsell married Susan Cherry Pigott, of Camberwell. There were four sons and three daughters of this marriage.


In 1835, Robert and Susan Maunsell embarked for Australia and continued on to New Zealand on the Active, arriving at Paihia, Bay of Islands, on 26 November.


In August 1836 they established a mission station on the southern side of the Manukau Harbour.

In June 1839 they moved to Maraetai at the Waikato Heads, a location chosen for its large number of Māori visitors and within a year there were some 700 pupils in various classes around the district. The Maunsells established a model school at Maraetai in 1847. 

  • Robert was the only Anglican clergyman in this area initially.

  • He was also the first minister to conduct a Christian service in Auckland, in 1840.

  • An exceptionally able linguist, he was the first to translate the Bible into the Māori language

  • In 1842 he published Grammar of the New Zealand language and several other books were published in the 1840s.

  • He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Trinity College, Dublin, for his work.

  • His exceptional knowledge of the Māori language made him more sensitive to Māori culture than most Europeans. He respected and was respected by many Māori. 

Susan Maunsell died in October 1851. On 30 September 1852, Robert Maunsell and Beatrice Panton were married and remained in the area until evacuated to Aukland in October 1863. They returned to Kohanga as soon as possible to resume teaching and preaching.

In 1864, Beatrice Maunsell died at Kohanga and Robert Maunsell moved to the parish of St Mary's in Parnell, Auckland where he remained until his retirement in 1882. He died at Parnell in 1894.

Additional Information
Date of Birth 24th Oct 1810
Date of Death 19th Apr 1894
Associated Building (s) Milford House LIMERICK Long Room Library, Trinity College Dublin  


  • see this connection to the Maunsell family also

    George's father Richard was from Ballywilliam, Rathkeale


    Thursday 20th August 2020 03:18PM
  • That's so interesting...

    Rathkeale school in Wellington NZ (established in 1963) gets its name from its location - the homestead of Rathkeale farm (previously owned by the Maunsell family). The farm's name comes from Rathkeale in County Limerick, Ireland, where the Maunsell family was originally from.

    Even though the Rathkeale homestead is now known as School House, and the school was officially called "St. Matthew's Collegiate School for Boys" it has always been known as Rathkeale College. Do the people of Rathkeale in Limerick know about this delightful connection?

    Rua, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘︎

    Thursday 20th August 2020 10:16PM
  • Very interesting and just now shared to our Rathkeale and districts historical society Facebook page


    Saturday 9th January 2021 05:38PM

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