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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 12 (March 2, 1936)

Mr. Gittos at the Sawpit

Mr. Gittos at the Sawpit.

In a recently published book on the Waipu Highlanders, “The Gael Fares Forth,” by Mr. N. R. McKenzie, there are several references to Mr. Gittos's kindliness and his spirit of helpfulness so frequently displayed. In the early days of the Highland-Nova Scotian settlement he walked across from the Kaipara to Kaiwaka, Hakaru and
Rev. William Gittos.

Rev. William Gittos.

page 23 Mangawai once a month to visit the newcomers in those parts and hold services. As an example of his deeds of kindness and his practical knowledge, a Kaiwaka contributor to Mr. McKenzie's excellent history tells this story from his youthful recollections of the Nova Scotian's first years in the new land.

He [Mr. Gittos] came to our place, and my father and a neighbour were trying to break down a log with a pit saw. Through the saw being badly out of order, they had got the cut so rounded that they could hardly pull the saw. He had a look and said, ‘That saw needs setting and filing very badly; let me do it up for you.’ Then looking at the log, he said, ‘That is no good, anyhow. It is kahikatea [white pine]. Tip it over the side and put a log of that totara on, then you will have something that will last.’ He did up the saw, helped to break down the totara log, and lined out the flitches in one of the halves before he left. He was an absolute wonder. There seemed to be nothing he could not do. He was a living encyclopaedia to the early settlers, and nothing was too much trouble. As soon as he heard of a newcomer, he would be there with advice as to which timber to use for different purposes and which to discard, and he was very rarely wrong.”

The late Mr. S. Percy Smith, Surveyor-General, held his fellow-pioneer “Te Kitohi” in great admiration as the right kind of missionary to the Maoris. Writing of his first surveying experiences in the Kaipara country, 1859–1860, he said: “It would be difficult to find a finer people than the Ngati-Whatua were at that time; they retained all the best points of the Maori character, while the worst had been eradicated by the efforts of the missionaries, the Rev. Messrs, Buller and Gittos. They were strictly honest and honourable in all their dealings, hospitable to a fault, and appeared to me to follow the teaching of the missionaries in a true spirit of Christianity.” There were only five white men living in the whole of the Kaipara in 1859—besides a few temporarily engaged under Mr. Marriner in the timber business—and one of these was Mr. Gittos, whose headquarters were at Oruawharo.

“Te Kitohi's” perfect knowledge of Maori character, his diplomacy and tactfulness frequently smoothed over inter-tribal quarrels, and more than once prevented serious trouble between Maori and pakeha.