Death and Burial of Te Puni, 1870
Death and Burial of Te Puni, 1870.
The aged and well known chief, Honiana Te Puni, popularly known as Epuni, died at Pito-one on the 5th December, 1870, deeply regretted by his own people. Many old settlers also were grieved to hear of the death of this fine page 173 old chief; and not without reason, for Te Puni was always the staunch and unwavering friend of the settlers. Te Puni was a chief of high rank and wielded considerable influence. During the course of an unusually long life he was more or less connected with the principal transactions of the two races in the earlier years of the Colony's history, and was one of those who signed the famous Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
At half past eight on the 9th December (the day being declared a holiday for the Government Employees, Banks and Mercantile firms), an unusual stir was noticeable. Numbers of people, some of them wearing the uniforms of the different volunteer companies, were to be seen making their way towards Queens Wharf. The arrival of Colonel Reader was the signal to embark on board the “Rangatira.”
The weather looked threatening, a fine drizzling rain was coming up from the North-West. As the “Rangatira” approached Pito-one, the usual Hutt vans, and other vehicles, laden with passengers, began to roll along the beach.
The “Rangatira” passengers disembarked on the Pito-one beach, and a double line of volunteers was formed between the old chief's house and the cemetery (Te Puni Street).
A firing party was then told off from the Hutt Rifles. After the coffin was brought out and placed in the hearse, the following gentlemen ranged themselves as pall bearers:—The Hon. Donald McLean (Native Minister); the Hon. Mr. Fitzherbert; Messrs. Ludlam, Hunter, Lyon, J. C. Crawford and George Crawford. These were followed by Henare Te Puni*, Ngapaki Te Puni, the deceased's sons; Mohi Puketapu, Taniore Te Harawira and Karaka.
The volunteers reversed arms, and the bands played the “Dead March in Saul.” The procession then formed and moved off in this order:—Mounted Police; No. 1 Hutt Rifles; the amalgamated Bands; the carriage of the Bishop of Wellington; the Venerable Archdeacon Stock; the the Revs. Fancourt and Paterson, walking; the Hearse and Pall Bearers; Maori Mourners; Old Colonists ranged in the order of their arrival in the Colony. The carriages of His Honour the Judge, and Colonel Harrington; the Veterans; No. 1 Rifles and other volunteers, followed by vehicles and followers on foot. On reaching the grave, the funeral service was read in Maori by the Bishop of Wellington. The Native Minister (The Hon. Donald McLean), then addressed the native mourners in their own language. The following is a translation:—“Ngatiawa and the people of the other tribes now present,—The Europeans whom you see assembled have come to pay the last tribute of respect to their old and well tried friend, Honiana Te Puni. He was among the first who welcomed the Europeans to these shores, and has been their firm and well tried friend ever since.
“Rangikitua, Wharepouri and other chiefs also welcomed the Pakeha. They have passed away, but Te Puni, until now, and throughout his long career, gave constant proof of his regard for the strangers whom he first welcomed.
* Henare and Ngapaki Te Puni were gathered to their fathers during the course of time, and Henare's two surviving children, Honiana and Mary, lived for many years in a house, covered by a shingle roof, situated at the junction of the Hutt Road and Petone Esplanade. This house has recently been absorbed by Odlin's timber yard. Honiana was wounded during the late war and returned to Petone, where he died in 1926. Mary Te Puni, who is now the sole surviving descendant, on the male line, of the old chief, whose proper name, Mary says, is Te Whiti, lives in her new home, corner of Te Puni Street and the Esplanade, adjoining the Maori Cemetery.
“Many old settlers have come here to-day to show their great regard for your chief. He has gone in peace to his long rest, but it is hoped his actions and good conduct will not die with him. His thoughts will live after he has passed away, and will, it is hoped, be treasured up by his tribe and descendants. I am sure it is most gratifying to all the Europeans, as well as to the natives and friends of Te Puni, to witness the cordial good will that accompanies him to his grave, and this is owing to his freedom from faults and to his numerous good deeds gratefully remembered by his friends the Europeans.”
Three volleys were fired over the grave, when the procession broke up. The volunteers marched off to Host Valentine's, where refreshments had been provided for them. Each one wended his way from the grave as best suited him. The Hon. Defence Minister, the Hon. Mr. Sewell, His Honour the Judge, the Hon. Mr. Fitzherbert. Colonel Reader and many others journeyed to the Hutt.
The Volunteers comprised the following:—No. 1 Company, W.R.V., two officers and twenty-six men; Artillery, three officers and thirty-seven men; Veterans, three officers and forty-two men; No. 1 H.R.V., three officers and forty-two men; No. 2 H.R.V., two officers and forty-two men; Taita R.V., three officers and thirty-six men; Field Officers, Lieut.-Colonel Reader, Major McBarnett, and Major Ludlam; Mounted Officers, Captain Pearce, Capt. and Adjutant Humphrey, and Staff Sergeant Major Nelly. Between five and six hundred people were present.
Fig. 54—Te Puni. From an oil painting by Mr. C. D. Barraud.
“When I remember all
The friends so linked together
I've seen around me fall
Like leaves in wintry weather,
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed.”
Reference has been made, in the earlier portion of this chapter, to a knot of people who, in 1840, comprised hundreds of natives with tattooed faces, including Te Puni, their chief, who were anxiously awaiting the arrival of six pioneer vessels from afar off.
On the 24th March, 1928, eighty years after, hundreds of white people, but no natives were standing near the same spot welcoming the arrival of the crews of six racing skiffs (the Olympic eights).
Fig. 57.—Cup presented to Te Puni in 1846 by Alexander Currie, a member of the N.Z. Coy., on behalf of the English people. (Photos by E. T. Robson). Figs. 54 to 57 by courtesy Sir Douglas Maclean.
* Mr. J. Collett, Hutt Road, Petone, who was a drummer in one of the bands, well remembers the occasion.