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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 3 (July 1, 1933)

The Missionary and the Prophet

The Missionary and the Prophet.

Lately I narrated in this section of the Magazine a story of the mingled shrewdness and courage of the Rev. Samuel Williams, second son of that splendid figure in early New Zealand history, the pioneer missionary, Henry Williams. Sam Williams (afterwards Archdeacon), was the hero of another story, the scene of which was Omahu, about nine miles inland from Napier. There was a large palisaded village there in those days, the middle Sixties. Williams was asked by the Governor, Sir George Grey, to combat the Hauhau rebel propaganda on the East Coast. After visiting Poverty Bay on his mission, he landed at Napier from the page 52 Government steamer “Sturt.” The Hauhau apostles were at work among the Ngati-Kahungunu. He went out to Omahu, and found the large meeting-house there filled with people. The old chief of the place, Mr. Williams' friend Te Hapuku, was sitting outside the house with his blanket over his head, a token of resignation to some dread fate.

“Oh. Hapuku,” asked the missionary, “what are you doing here, and what is going on?”

The chief replied: “They have been be-witched and have become mad. I am awaiting my death.”

Mr. Williams went inside, followed by Te Hapuku. At the far end of the crowded house a Hauhau prophet was holding forth and uttering all kinds of gibberish incantations; he professed to speak all the languages of the world.

“Stop!” said Mr. Williams. “You are talking foolishness to this ignorant crowd. Let us two talk in the Hebrew tongue, for that is the language of the gods.”

“I do not know the Hebrew tongue,” said the prophet.

“What? You profess to be a prophet of the gods and do not know the sacred language? Who are you? You must be of this earth, and very low down in it, too!”

And with inimitable skill of language he thoroughly frightened the Hauhau orator. The apostle of rebellion crouched down among his sympathisers at the end of the house; he cut a hole in the raupo wall and slipped out into the darkness and off.

By this time Te Hapuku had come up to Mr. Williams, the blanket off his head and down over his shoulders, and he was rejoicing at the changed situation.

Later, when the Hauhau war party from Te Haroto, on the Napier-Taupo track, came down to the plains in order to attack Napier, it was Mr. Williams who gave timely information about the raiders' intentions, and Sir Donald Maclean acted so promptly, in conjunction with Colonel Whitmore, that the rebels' strength was completely smashed and Napier town was saved from invasion. This was the battle of Omarunui, in 1866. A memorial to the fight stands on the farm of Mr. W. Kinross White.