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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 2 (June 1, 1932)

Loot from the Bishop

Loot from the Bishop.

My old friend Captain G. A. Preece, N.Z.C., who in his day was Magistrate's Court clerk, then soldier and leader of friendly Maori contingents in the Hauhau War, later Magistrate, and lastly land agent at Palmerston North, was a gallant gentleman, who many times earned his New Zealand Cross. He was full of odd stories of life in the bush and on the warpath. Concerning his career on the Bench—he was R.M. on the East Coast for many years—he told me that he always had a kindly feeling towards youthful offenders, because he was a boy himself once.

“You know,” he said, “I robbed a Bishop once, and I was only sorry because I was found out.” This was the story told in his quiet dryly humorous way:

Back in the old bush days, the Rev. James Preece, Captain Preece's father, was a missionary to the Maoris. He established the first mission station in the Urewera Mountains; that was over eighty years ago. The station was at Ahikereru, close to the present little township of the Maoris at Te Whaiti. There, in the heart of the ranges, little George Augustus Preece was reared. The great Bishop Selwyn was his godfather, and it was after the Bishop that he was named. When George was about four years old Selwyn came tramping in to Ahikereru on one of his arduous visitations, and stayed with the Preeces a few days. The Bishop's camp-gear swag included a small copper kettle for boiling his tea-water; it was always kept brightly polished.

When the time came for the Bishop to pack up and take his departure, the little kettle could not be found. The Preeces searched everywhere in vain. At last the infant George was questioned. He confessed, but quite impenitently, that he had taken a fancy to the beautiful shining kettle and wanted to keep it, so he had hidden it down by the creek until the Bishop went away. It was with great reluctance that he led the family to the place and restored the treasure to the right reverend owner.

There were many things, said Captain Preece, that he had badly wanted in his long life, but none of them so badly as that episcopal tea-kettle that he unsuccessfully looted in his bush infancy from the illustrious head of the Church.