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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 9 (December 2, 1935)

Ruhe's Pathetic Chant

Ruhe's Pathetic Chant.

A variety of real and imaginary grievances, gradually simmering and at last boiling over, set Heke on the warpath and made the British flag on the Maiki signal-mast the special object of his hate. The story of all this is well-known; but what is not widely known is the fact that the chanting of a song was the culminating incident that set Hone Heke mustering his followers for battle. Maketu, the first Maori hanged by process of law in New Zealand was the son of the old chief Ruhe. The father acknowledged the justice of the death sentence (for the murder of the Robertson family on Motu - arohia Island), but the ignominious manner of death shocked the people, and the old man grieved over it continually. At last, in 1844, he went to Hone Heke at Kaikohe and chanted to him a lament for his son, beginning with these words:

“Kaore te aroha mohukihuki ana, Te panga mai ki ahau, me he ahi e tahu.”

(“Alas, this all-devouring grief, That burns within me like a flame.”)

This was an adaptation of an ancient poem in which a great warrior was called upon to avenge the death of a kinsman. Ruhe's chant aroused the intense sympathy of Heke and his Ngati-Hine and many other clans of Ngapuhi; it was probably the clinching element in the general feeling of rebellion against British authority, symbolised by the flag and the mast on which it flew on Maiki Hill.