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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 4 (July 1, 1935.)

Hallowed Ground. — The Old Military Cemeteries

page 47

Hallowed Ground.
The Old Military Cemeteries

Most of the pioneers of New Zealand now lie in their last resting place, “dreamless dust,” with yesterday's seven thousand years. Not a few sleep with British Regulars in those eternal memorials of the clash of Maori and Pakeha— the Military Cemeteries that are scattered around New Zealand. Happily, the majority were allotted a long span, and slipped off one by one in recent years to their long rest, greatly wondering the marvellous changes they had witnessed in this their adopted country.

Sometimes I pass by the old Symond Street Cemetery where rest many of those whose eyes beheld Auckland in her cradle days. Sentimentalist myself, I wonder if the New Zealander lacks that something in his heart—that reverent homage to those who bore the storm and stress of pioneering days?

Nearly 100 years ago, Hobson, first Governor of New Zealand, was laid to rest. Misunderstood perhaps, at the time, we know now how well and truly he had done his duty. How many of those who speed past in cars, on cycle and tram, have ever wandered quietly and reverently along those hallowed paths and communed with the past? Great is our debt to those who sleep there, but in an age where speed is King and Monarch, when excitement is as bewitching as the voice of “Lorlei,” there are few pilgrims to Hobson and “those others.” The City of the Dead is truly given over to the dead. But the weather-beaten and crumbling tombstones are tenacious of their trust, and reveal the price paid for peace.

The little cemetery at Tauranga is eloquent with history. The early Church authorities when dedicating the ground could little have dreamt that in a few years it would be filled with the harvest of Gate Pa. Gate Pa! what memories it awakens! Linked with Orakau it remains one of the classic episodes of the bravery and fighting prowess of the Maori warrior. The little cemetery is beautifully situated. At its foot the blue Pacific laps her eternal music. Yonder, at the back of the town, is the spot that was once Gate Pa, where British Naval guns belched fire and death and so many braves of two races fell. In fancy the white clouds become for a moment the whiffs of naval guns, and we are in the magic spell of the past. Across at the Mount we see the sheer forbidding cliff scene of pre-European bloody tribal fights. Maunganui forever holds your secrets. A skeleton here, a skull there, but the tale remains untold.

Out in the bay where is heard the chug chug of a launch, once flew the ensign on a “wooden wall of England.” There is food for much thought and inspiration for many a poem. Russell gives us other pictures. Sitting in that little Churchyard we think of Marsden, of Waka Nene, of whalers and rum-soaked sailors ashore to celebrate after their hard and oft-times brutalised life aboard ship. Looking up at Flagstaff Hill comes memories of Hongi and of the power and ascendency that the traders' guns and tomahawks so quickly and happily gave to him. Under our feet is the dust of many a warrior. Over at Pahia, across the harbour, in fancy we see Busby, the “man-o'-war without guns” valiantly endeavouring to carry out a hopeless task, and getting only knocks and rebuffs for his pains. And then the picture so fraught with the whole subsequent history of New Zealand, the coming of the man-o'-war with Governor Hobson.

Down at Te Awamutu we find another link with the old times, the little Anglican Church and its adjoining cemetery, where the brave of two races lie. Shadows gather over Pirongia, as perhaps they did on that fateful and never-to-be-forgotten day of the attack on Orakau, now so long ago. Pirongia is unchanged save for the smiling foot-hills,
(Rly. Publicity photo.) Morrinsville, on the Auckland-Rotorua Line, North Island, New Zealand.

(Rly. Publicity photo.)
Morrinsville, on the Auckland-Rotorua Line, North Island, New Zealand.

but it looks down on a changed world. Gone are the old Maoris. All have set off for Te Reinga. In the kaingas of the King Country the Maori to-day dresses Pakeha style. The gramophone and the wireless supersede the Maori flute and his adorable Jew's harp. Jazz challenges the poi, the honk of motor-cycle fades out the thud of galloping hoofs. The pride of the permanent wave replaces that of the tattoo. But Pirongia remains eternal, and save for the foothills she is little changed. In the dusk of the evening listen and maybe you will catch the echoes of the immortal challenge—“Ake! Ake! Ake!” “We will fight forever and forever.”