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The Adventures of Kimble Bent


page 333

The following interesting supplementary particulars concerning Titokowaru, one of the leading figures in this book, were supplied to the writer by the Rev. T. G. Hammond, of Opunake, Wesleyan missionary to the Taranaki Maoris:

“It was Titokowaru's right eye that had been destroyed by a bullet in some engagement. He was about five feet nine in height and somewhat spare and muscular, with fine bone, an alert, active man, but by no means goodlooking. His skin was rather darker than the general run of Maoris, and his nose low in the bridge, with wide nostrils. His face rarely lit up pleasantly, and he was of reserved manner. His knowledge of tikanga Maori was considerable, and during the war he conducted the usual ceremonies to make the war-parties successful.

“The late Rev. Stannard, of Wanganui, told me that Titokowaru's name given him in baptism was Hohepa (Joseph), and I have heard from Tairuakena and others that Tito was one of the young men who accompanied the Rev. Skevington on his last visit to Auckland. (This was long before the Maori War.) They journeyed overland from Te Waimate to Auckland, Mr. Skevington going to attend the Auckland Synod. While in the old High Street Church, Auckland, he died suddenly. Titokowaru and the other young men returned to bear the news to the people, as he (Tairuakena) put it, ‘Ka hoki mai matou tangi, haere ki tena kainga, ki tena kainga.’ Mr. Woon succeeded Mr. Skevington at Heretoa, Te Waimate.

page 334

“I had one interview with Titokowaru which I shall never forget. I think it was in 1876, and before I knew Maori. Mr. William Williams, of Manaia, Taranaki, was going to visit Titokowaru at Omuturangi, on the Waimate Plains, and, as I was on my way to New Plymouth, he persuaded me to delay a day and go with him—a most unwise thing, as the Maoris had said they would shoot any one who crossed the Waingongoro. We went from Hawera to Normanby, and then picked up old Katené Tu-Whakaruru, who was just then acting as a Maori policeman. We rode along over these vast plains, with the cocksfoot brushing against our knees as we sat in our saddles. We came to a house on the edge of the bush, and found only one woman, whose face was deeply scarred; she had lately lost her child, and had been cutting herself in her grief. This woman told us that Titokowaru and the men were in the bush planting potatoes, and pointed out a narrow path, along which we galloped for a good distance, perhaps a mile.

“Suddenly we came upon about eighty Maoris, all men, and Titokowaru with them. They gathered round us as we dismounted, and Titokowaru came and took my right arm, and a big burly fellow my left. They sat me between them, holding me fast, while the smoke from the fire close by almost smothered me. An old bald-headed Maori began to speak in an excited manner, and when he had done a very rascally looking young fellow made a speech, coming up to me and smacking his thigh, and letting out an angry grunt at the end of every period. When he finished, Katené spoke, and did his best to turn away their anger; reminded them of the good the missionaries did in getting them released from bondage in the Waikato and the Ngapuhi Country.

“Then Williams spoke, and at the close of his speech a fine man in a piupiu (flax waist-mat) orated, and then came forward to hongi (rub noses) with me. After which there was a little fraternisation, and we came away. Even page 335 old Kātené looked very white while the row was on, but I did not know enough to be scared. It was a narrow escape; I, of course, know now what I did not know then. I thought at the time Titokowaru was protecting me, but I think now he was making sure that I did not get away.”

Titokowaru died at his village near Manaia, on the Waimate Plains—the scene of his olden battles against the whites—towards the end of 1889. To the end he was a sturdy enemy of the Europeans, and though he did not actually fight against them after 1869, he was the leader in many obstructive movements against white settlement, surveying, and road-making.