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Sir Donald Maclean

Heuheu and the Missionary

Heuheu and the Missionary

Here comes in the Wanganui missionary, the Reverend Richard Taylor, a friend of Maclean's, but a less tolerant man, who was respectfully and hospitably treated by the big man of Taupo whenever he visited Taupo on his travels. We revert to the early part of the year when Te Heuheu had visited the West Coast at the head of his war party.

In Maclean's manuscript journal there is a record of a theological argument between Te Heuheu and Mr Taylor, in which the Maori ripostes are sharp and scornful. It must have been an amusing duel of tohunga tongues. Maclean includes some extracts he made from a manuscript journal which the missionary lent him.

Mr Taylor preached to the taua, the war-party from Taupo, at Wanganui on 5 January 1845.

“After preaching,” he wrote, “I went to see the Heuheu. He told me that our God was a child, he had only come to the land; his own gods had been there from the beginning. I told them that there was but one God, and exhorted them to listen to His words. Heuheu answered there were many gods, because one God could not make all things. One man could not make all houses, canoes, weapons, etc. Our God, he said, was an angry God to thrust all his enemies into the fire. He, Heuheu, was a god also. Tongariro Mountain was his progenitor, and continued so through all his generations.”

The debate between the chief and the missionary was continued on 7th January. Mr. Taylor wrote: “Had an interview with Heuheu, who spoke very largely about the wicked being sent to Hell. He said he would have a fight with God first before he went there. He said he would take Waitotara; and then he would soon make all the natives give up religion. I could not listen to his boasting and page 21 blasphemous language, without thinking of Sanakarib; and I could not think that the Lord would fail to manifest his power to bring to naught all the evil devices of this poor benighted savage.”

The horror of the missionary at this impious defiance of his doctrine of hell-fire must have secretly amused the Scot, for all his own Calvinistic training. He did not call the Heuheu a “poor benighted savage.” On the contrary, he wrote in his diary, after quoting Taylor's words: “Here I would remark that the manners of Heuheu are very attractive, so as to command respect, and even admiration; and were he to have more intercourse with respectable Europeans, he would no doubt advance in civilization.”