Childhood and Early Life
Thomas McDonnell, Jnr was born to Thomas McDonnell, Snr., an early British merchant and speculator who served a brief term as Additional British Resident, and his wife Anna McDonnell (née Patterson). He was raised first in Sydney, then Horeke, Northland. There he learned to speak Māori and how to use the traditional taiaha weapon. He tried his luck on the Victorian goldfields from 1853 to 1855, then returned to New Zealand where he obtained a post in the Native Land Purchase Department under Alfred Domett in Auckland. After being paid eight months late, McDonnell resigned from that job and went sheepfarming in the Hawkes Bay with his brother William, only to be defrauded by a third party. He returned to Auckland in 1862, and was appointed interpreter to the resident magistrate at Thames, panning for gold on the side.
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