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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 9 (December 1, 1938)

Memories of Te Kooti

Memories of Te Kooti.

We who lived on the Old Frontier in the ‘Seventies and ‘Eighties, on the farms and in the military-founded townships, saw history in the making. The two farthest-out settlers at Orakau, which touched the confiscation line, were Andrew Kay and my father. Other farmers to the west lived near the Puniu River and thence to the township of Alexandra (now Pirongia). There were many vulnerable places, where any night a band of Hauhau raiders might come down on the settlements as they did at Poverty Bay. War memories were still raw. The official peacemaking at Manga-o-rongo—fifteen miles across the border—banished all the old fears. The military watch, by armed settlers and the Constabulary outposts, was no longer necessary; except for minor fanatic demonstrations, such as Mahuki's raid on Alexandra.

I first saw Te Kooti when I was a boy, in 1884. He and some of his people came out of the King Country and lived for a time on Andrew Kay's farm, where they had a neat camp of thatched whares and fished for eels in the swamp. The Government was anxious to settle its old enemy on a kind of community farm, and it was proposed at first to buy part of the Kay estate. But the area was rather too swampy and that bargain was abandoned. But the Government gave Te Kooti an allotment at Kihikihi, and there he spent a good deal of his time, enjoying the good things of his new life of peace, including the contents of the two bar-rooms in the township. We frequently saw him on the travel, with his retinue of mounted men and his staunch bodyguard consisting of his two wives, resolute-looking gaunt-featured women, who reputedly carried loaded revolvers hung round them under their blouses. But he retired to the King Country again, and in 1886 I saw his large kainga at Otewa, on the Waipa, a place of well-built nikau and raupo houses, with large cultivations of wheat, maize, potatoes, kumara and fruit. There he lived a patriarchal life, maintaining a strict discipline over his people and holding religious services twice a day. Later on still, Ohiwa, Bay of Plenty, became his home, and there he died in 1893, revered as a next-to-God by thousands of his people.