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

King Dick and King Mahuta

page 19

King Dick and King Mahuta.

Interlude—a royal visit now and again to “my Maori people”; scene, King Mahuta's kainga at Waahi, on the Waikato, on the opposite side of the river to Huntly. Mahuta usually sent his beautiful war-canoe, the Taheretikitiki, as a royal barge, manned by a score or so of bare-backed paddlers, to ferry the “Pirimia” and his party down-stream from Huntly to the meeting-place. (One of our illustrations shows the Premier and party in the big canoe, in 1898). “Timi Kara,” otherwise James Carroll (he was not Sir James then) always accompanied his chief in his capacity of Native Minister. All the village played carnival that day; flags of Kingite designs were flying; Maori brass bands blaring away, all the aristocratic dames of Waikato beckoning us to them, undulating their pleasing forms in the ancient dance of welcome as they retired gracefully before us to the green marae. Timi Kara himself would take a stone mere or a taiaha or a paddle from the nearest Maori, and go through a stately dance of greeting in return, preceding his portly belltoppered and frockcoated Chief. Haere mai, haere mai, haere mail—and everyone delightfully noisy and merry; and then the dignified elders to greet each other, King saluting King, on the parade-ground, the speechmaking arena under the shining sun.

Those meetings with Waikato—they were invariably the same. The Maoris wished to discuss land grievances, and the Treaty of Waitangi. The Premier never wished to commit the Government to anything tangible. He was a perfect master of the art of oratorical bluff. “Now, my dear Maori people,” he would say, “all this will be looked into, and I must give you a word of advice in conclusion, because of my great love for my Maori people. Be industrious, set to work, farm your land, grow a lot of wheat as your fathers and grandfathers did before you. Keep away from the public-houses, do not gamble, do not go to the races and waste your money like the foolish pakeha. Do not forget what I say for I have great affection for my Maori people and I do not want them to become spoiled by bad pakehas. And now, I must run away, for my train is waiting for me to take me to the great city where we make all the laws for your good. Good-bye, and God bless you!”

And, so, the procession was reformed to the royal canoe; and Haere ra!

They were perfectly joyful interludes, those koreros on Waikato-side.

Mahuta and his people perfectly understood the Premier. They sat politely silent, while he dished them out grandmotherly advice and in return they dished out a bountiful feast whenever they could induce him to stay. They liked the big man; they admired his commanding form, his belltoppered leonine head; they liked his booming voice. And when he died, they composed the most eloquent and touching songs of lamentation for him. A Waikato farewell to the dead “Hetana” which I give at the end of this article is the most poetic piece of blended mourning and philosophy that I have ever read from a Maori tribe, a tribute that far transcends anything from the prosaic pakeha.

The statue of Mr. Seddon, in front of Parliament House, Wellington.

The statue of Mr. Seddon, in front of Parliament House, Wellington.