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

The Captive

The Captive.

I had been asked by the late Mr. James Stewart, C.E, to act as guide to a party intending to go as near as possible to the site of the upheaval. We started from Rotorua on the morning of Saturday, 12th June. As we entered into what had once been Te Wairoa, we heard from beneath a mound (where we concluded a whare had stood) most distressing, bloodcurdling cries.

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The Teremakau River, South Island–associated with Whitcombe's pioneering hardships.(Rly. Publicity photo.)

The Teremakau River, South Island–associated with Whitcombe's pioneering hardships.(Rly. Publicity photo.)

body was taken from the place where Louper had buried it and interred in the cemetery at Grey.

This is only one story of the early struggles and defeats of the pioneers in New Zealand, but it is a typical one. But I have wandered far from Dunedin. When I was in Christchurch I asked John Schroder what was the sight that I must see in Dunedin.

“The sight,” he said, “is my dear old grandpa, Archdeacon Whitehead. Go and see him and tell him I sent you.” “I think not,” I said. “Archdeacons are hardly in my line.”

“This one is,” John assured me. “He is a revolutionary archdeacon. From that moment I was deeply interested in John's grandpa. The dear old gentleman! So brave, so persecuted ! And at such an age! Why, he must be getting on for ninety; grandson John was forty if a day, I knew. When I arrived in Dunedin I took a taxi to Selwyn College, of which he is the Principal, to meet him. The parlourmaid at the door told me that he was teaching at the moment, but would I come in and wait? I would. The Archdeacon's study was lined with books. Books were on every chair and table.

At last the Archdeacon came in. But, dear me!–whatever ….? This was no venerable old gentleman but a vigorous clean-shaven man in the prime of life. He could not be John's grandpa. But did John say “grandpa” or “godfather”? For the life of me, I could not remember. Fortunately, the Archdeacon had heard of me; he conversed on a number of subjects with considerable ease and tact. Also, better still, he rang for tea. Thoughtfully munching a chocolate biscuit I planned my explanation.

“I must tell you,” I said at last, “that John sent me to see you.”


My heart sank. Not a gleam of recognition shone in the Archdeacon's eye. He seemed never to have heard of John.

“John Schroder,” I quavered with a sinking heart. “I think you are his grand—er,–his godfather.”

“Not that I know of.”

“I don&t know if you have ever heard of a Christchurch editor named John Schroder,” I said desperately, “but he told me to come and see you. He said you were his revolutionary grandpa.”

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The Archdeacon had more than a gleam in his eye now. He had a twinkle which developed into a yell of laughter.

“That scamp! He has played a trick on you. He and I were at the ‘Varsity together years ago. I was three or four years older than he, so he used to call me grandpa.”

Well, the Archdeacon was neither venerable nor revolutionary, but he was kind and interesting, and his college was beautiful.

Dunedin abounds with fine educational buildings. The Otago University, the Medical School, the Dental School and the School of Mines, are all housed in fine and dignified buildings. The place is full of students, of course. I had the honour of lecturing to their Social Discussions Group one night. Before I spoke to them one young man drew me aside.

“I want to warn you,” he said earnestly, “not to introduce anything sentimental into your speech. Most of our lads are medical students and you know what they are—hard and cynical and disillusioned. They'd simply laugh at anything sentimental.”

When I stood up to speak to them I looked round the room for hard, cynical and disillusioned faces, but they were conspicuous by their absence. Whenever I am entrusted with this sort of secret I immediately entrust it to my audience.

“I have been warned,” I commenced, “that I must avoid anything sentimental in speaking to you because many of you are medical students and you are very hard and cynical and disillusioned. Now, as a woman of the world I want to tell you that I have found that hardness and cynicism are not characteristics of men and women in the medical profession, but that they are sometimes characteristics of immaturity. The medical student is a young person who, at a most impressionable age, is confronted by sights and sounds which shock and horrify him. If he is to endure such things he finds he must put on an armour of pretence or he will break down. Because his soft heart may betray him, he pretends to be hard. It is what Freud calls ‘over-compensation of a secret doubt.’ So if any of you are very hard-boiled, please know that I understand it. It is an infantile complaint and you will get over it in time.”

Several of the students laughingly told me afterwards that they thought my diagnosis quite correct. Interesting young people, I enjoyed my discussions with them very much.

New Zealanders always talk of Dunedin as being one of their coldest cities, but as to climate, it is 4 1/2 degrees nearer to the equator than any town in England; and its climate is similar to that of Venice. One of the most charming natural features of the city is the Town Belt, a reserve of five hundred acres of natural bush and shrub land. This delightful area is traversed by motor roads, and footpaths. People who are weary after the day's or week's work find it a haven of rest, refreshing the jaded spirit with its noble trees and green swards, its birds who sing unendingly.

Other healthful features, of course, are the harbour and the sea-beaches. At St. Clair there is a very fine natural bathing-pool hollowed out of the rocks by the action of the sea. With a little concrete work and the erection of
Mt. Rolleston (7,447 ft.), South Island, New Zealand. (Rly. Publicity photo.)

Mt. Rolleston (7,447 ft.), South Island, New Zealand.
(Rly. Publicity photo.)

sheds and diving-boards, this has made one of the nicest swimming baths in the Dominion. By and large, I consider that New Zealanders are the world's best swimmers. The climate here lends itself to six months' swimming in the year, and there is a sort of tradition extant that one must not only swim but one must swim correctly. Little children of two or three go into the water and teach themselves by means of dog-paddling, but they soon get ashamed of this primitive method of locomotion and by the time they are six they are usually doing a technically perfect hydroplane crawl that would grace an aquatic carnival.

(To be continued)

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Te Wairoa Village a few days after the eruption.

Te Wairoa Village a few days after the eruption.