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The Autobiography of a Maori

Chapter VI — At Te Rau College

page 94

Chapter VI
At Te Rau College

When I left Canterbury College, before completing my B.A. degree, I was appointed assistant tutor at Te Rau Theological College. The principal was the Venerable Archdeacon H. W. Williams who was later appointed Bishop of Waiapu. I found that when I taught, the Archdeacon knocked off for the day, yet there was ample work for both of us. I also considered the curriculum adopted by the college to be antiquated. All the teaching was done in Maori and, consequently, the students did not read any books in English. The field of study was very limited.

When the Rev. F. W. Chatterton was appointed principal of the college, a new system was introduced. Students who had had a good education were prepared for the Grade Examinations, Mr. Chatterton taking the class while I took the older men. The college became very popular and many old Te Aute boys joined it. Several of the students became members of one of the town football clubs and some of them played for Poverty Bay in representative matches.

While teaching, I also studied for the Grade Examination and passed the Fourth Grade. This examination was by no means an easy one, so it is a credit to the college and to Mr. Chatterton that four others besides myself passed the examination. The others who passed were Pine Tamahori, Tamati te Kanapu, Wiremu Tureia Puha and Wiremu Panapa. Every holder of the Fourth Grade Certificate was entitled to wear the black and purple hood and to have the letters L.Th. affixed to his name. It is not every European Anglican clergyman in New Zealand who wears the purple hood.

page 95

Mr. Chatterton commenced his career as a bank clerk and later took holy orders. He was vicar of the parish of All Saints, Nelson, before he was appointed principal at Te Rau College. He always evinced the greatest interest in the Maori people and even a week or two before he passed away at Tauranga, he expressed, in a letter to me, the wish that, if he were ten years younger, he would once more work among the Maoris.

Mr. Chatterton was an able teacher and scholar, a fact which many people would not suspect. That many of his students passed the Grade Examinations was testimony of his abilities as a tutor. He was exceedingly popular wherever he went or worked. Although he was evangelical in his creed he was quite broadminded.

When Mr. and Mrs. Chatterton went to England on leave, the Rev. E. Ensor, of the Nelson diocese, was appointed locum tenens, but before the college re-opened he was drowned while bathing at Waikanae beach. Archdeacon H. W. Williams was appointed to take charge of the college and this meant that I had to do most of the work by myself. After teaching all week and preaching oh Sundays, by the end of the year I was thoroughly fagged out. I could not trust myself to sit down in the lecture room for the fear that I should fall asleep. So tired was I, and so anxious to get away for a rest, that, when the college closed for the summer holidays I walked out of the lecture room, out of the college gates and stepped into the gig in which my wife was waiting, and we immediately drove to Whangara, fifteen miles up the coast.

Due to the fine type of men we had to train, I found work at the college very absorbing. Every Sunday, students went in many directions to conduct services at various settlements, Mr. Chatterton and I also taking our full share in these duties. I usually concluded the day by taking an English service in the page 96country and three times held services in the Holy Trinity Church, Gisborne.

I considered the work at Te Rau important and even today I look back on my thirteen years at the college as the best work in my life. Today, in many parts of New Zealand, there are clergymen who were once my pupils. The first and only Maori Archdeacon, and one of the two Maori Canons, are both old pupils of mine. Surprise was expressed on all sides when Bishop Cherrington appointed Hori Raiti Archdeacon. But when I met him in 1934 I found him to be a mature, impressive and attractive personality. Canon Keretene would also make an excellent archdeacon. When Raiti and Keretene left college the latter was far more promising than the former, but time willed otherwise.

When the movement to appoint a Maori bishop was afoot the Maori clergy in the Auckland diocese unanimously decided to nominate me for the position although I was not then in active service. I was told later that when these clergymen sought information from the East Coast they were informed by somebody, who should have known better, that nobody cared for me. When I received the letter asking for my consent to the nomination, I felt humbled, but at the same time was pleased that my old pupils thought their old tutor worthy of the high position of bishop. I, of course, declined the offer.

I have always felt that no honour that man could confer on me could ever be greater than the fact that I am descended from distinguished ancestors.

When I became editor of Te Pipiwharauroa, I at once attacked, with much zeal, tohungaism in all its various forms. I was fully convinced that it was all humbug and said so, and, naturally, for this attitude, those who believed in it, disliked me. I was uncompromising in that attitude.

In the year 1922, by the decision of the bishops, Te page break
Rangiata, the author's home at East Cape.

Rangiata, the author's home at East Cape.

The family at home. From left: The author, Hinekukurangi (eldest daughter), Paratene (eldest son), Kakatarau, Oha, Mrs. Kohere. In front is the dog, Rowe.

The family at home. From left: The author, Hinekukurangi (eldest daughter), Paratene (eldest son), Kakatarau, Oha, Mrs. Kohere. In front is the dog, Rowe.

page break
Rotorua sight-seeing in the old picturesque way. The author is second from the right and the coach is standing alongside the Blue Lake.

Rotorua sight-seeing in the old picturesque way. The author is second from the right and the coach is standing alongside the Blue Lake.

A Poverty Bay group of Maoris clad in a wide variety of garment. Back: Paul Amohau (huru-kuri or dog's hair), Haare Hone, Tute Nihoniho—well-known Ngati-Porou cheif, Matenga Taihuka—Povery Bay cheif, Hati Poutu. Front: Charles Ferris, Tom Porter (Kiwi), R. T. Kohere (korowai), Paratene Tatae, Hatea (paaki or rain-cape).

A Poverty Bay group of Maoris clad in a wide variety of garment. Back: Paul Amohau (huru-kuri or dog's hair), Haare Hone, Tute Nihoniho—well-known Ngati-Porou cheif, Matenga TaihukaPovery Bay cheif, Hati Poutu. Front: Charles Ferris, Tom Porter (Kiwi), R. T. Kohere (korowai), Paratene Tatae, Hatea (paaki or rain-cape).

page 97Rau College was closed down and the students were transferred to St. John's College, Auckland. This action was very much criticised by the Maori people. At a Church meeting at Te Araroa, presided over by Bishop Sedgwick, Dr. Wi Repa moved a resolution condemning the precipitate step taken by the bishops. He contended that the bishops could, at least, have taken Church leaders among the Maoris into their confidence. I supported Dr. Wi Repa by pointing out that the greatest training given at Te Rau College was the practical work undertaken by the students at various settlements. "The students at the college enjoyed taking these services and the people appreciated the visits, but by transferring Maori students to St. John's, they would be cut off from their own people. Bishop Sedgwick took the resolution ill—he did not like it. In 1937, Maori students attending St. John's were transferred to Te Aute College where they are still being trained, thus justifying the attitude adopted by Dr. Wi Repa and myself.

Among the numerous friends of the students in Poverty Bay were Mr. and Mrs. Tom Halbert. Tom, in his time, was a great worker and this probably hastened his death. He was a remarkable man in many ways; strict and unbending. He neither smoked nor drank, which was a very remarkable thing for a man brought up as he was. He was an enthusiastic Church worker and endeavoured to live a consistent Christian life.

A sad incident happened during my residence at the college. A number of the students put out to sea in a dinghy. Not one of them was a boatman or had any idea of the habits of the sea. A southerly gale had been blowing and, though the sea looked smooth, there was a swell running in. The students, instead of pulling out into deep water, sailed too close inshore, and, as they pulled across a reef, the sea rose up and page 98swamped the little boat. Fortunately, the mishap was observed from the shore and a little steamer went to the rescue, but one of the students, a young man named Cartwright, had disappeared. Here, again, was an accident caused by an error in judgment.

At this time several Maori boys had come to Gisborne to work. Some were employed in offices and others were engaged in trades, and, to assist them, they were permitted to board at the college. I do not think any of those boys continued long in their jobs. I do not blame them altogether, for they probably found it was impossible to make ends meet.

A letter from an old Te Aute boy who used to work in Auckland was published in Te Pipiwharauroa. It was a very pathetic letter, telling of the terrible time they had endured in Auckland until they found it was impossible to carry on with the small earnings they received. The writer died soon after penning the letter.

I have not been an advocate of employing young Maoris in cities, either in the professions or at trades. A Maori could never compete in business with a pakeha or a Chinaman. It was not the life of his ancestors. Further, I also do not think a Maori could compete with a pakeha in a profession unless he be brilliant. A doctor, to be able to progress, must go out of New Zealand for further training. I do not know of any Maori who has been successful in a profession. The open life is the life for a Maori, not the cramped town life. We must ever remember that, though man made the town, it was God who made the country.

I tried to put by as much of my salary as I could, in view of marriage. A Maori, as a rule, never worries about providing a decent home into which to take his bride, his policy being to find a wife first and the house can look after itself. I am, in a sense, eccentric.

During the visit to Gisborne of Lord Ranfurly, there page 99was quite a throng on its way to the Botanic Gardens. During the crush I bumped into two girls to whom I apologised most profusely. I thought, at the time, that one of them looked very pretty. That girl later became my wife and faithful sharer of my somewhat up-and-down life.

Both my wife and I were of some standing in our own tribes and the correct thing, therefore, was to hold a big feast to which anybody could come and eat as much as he could and could carry away as much as he liked, and when the wedding was over the young couple would have nothing with which to start life. To carry on my eccentricity, we decided our wedding should take place in the Holy Trinity Church, Gisborne, and that "the breakfast" should be a simple one.

In one of Mark Twain's books, the author gives an account of an island monarch who broke a bad custom when he was drunk by sitting among the women in the Church. Mark Twain remarks that this was the best job liquor ever did, for it put an end to a bad custom.

We lost our second baby, a beautiful boy. My wife was much distressed over the child's illness and death. She had tried everything she knew and had even implored me to call in a second doctor, but it was too late. I mention this sad event in our united life because, now, with experience, we can see that we need not have lost our child for the matter was just a summer trouble but we did not then know how to stop it. Infant mortality among my people is great. I hailed with all my heart, therefore, a measure which the Labour Government has introduced in New Zealand, that of providing mothers with free medical service. Could anything be more Christian?

We—my wife, two children and myself—severed our connection with Te Rau College when we shifted to East Cape at the end of 1908. I had then been ordained curate and wanted to go home. Perhaps it was the page 100call of the wilds. Whatever it was, it was irresistible. When, owing to an accident, I lay on my back for many weeks with only a nurse for a companion, I longed to re-visit my old boyhood haunts. I dreamed of them— I dreamed I was re-visiting the scenes of my boyhood days.

On our arrival at Te Araroa, the whole place was in mild excitement over the decision of the Native Land Court in the Wharekahika Block case, and it seemed that hardly any notice was taken of our arrival. A change had already set in, not only in the attitude of the people, but also in the whole atmosphere. Here I was destined to work as a country parson for over a decade, with only a pittance of a stipend.