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

Into Exile: “Go on to the Boat!”

Into Exile: “Go on to the Boat!”

Major Biggs and Captain James Wilson were the officers in charge at the Bay after the fighting of 1865. They were persuaded to keep Te Kooti in custody. Biggs made enquiries from the local chiefs, Paratene Turangi and others, as to the truth or otherwise of the charges, and what they were told by his enemies confirmed their belief that Te Kooti was a dangerous character to have around one's kainga and would be much better out of the way. So off to exile the offender must go.

When the steamer for the prison isle came to an anchor off Gisborne, and the hundreds of prisoners were marched down to the beach to embark, Te Kooti was ordered to accompany them. He was escorted to the embarking place between files of men with loaded rifles. The whaleboat was on the beach waiting. “There the autaia was,” said Tuta, “driven like a dog to the boat.” (“Autaia” means a lively lad, a roystering blade, a troublesome fellow). Te Kooti turned to Major Biggs, to Captain Wilson, to Paratene Turangi (who was the grandfather of Lady Carroll, of Gisborne), who were standing there watching the embarkation, and cried:—

“No te aha au ka whiua tahitia nei me nga Hauhau ki runga poti? E hara au i te Hauhau!” (“Why am I singled out to go with the Hauhaus into the boat? I am not a Hauhau!“)

But what was that to Biggs, to Wilson, to Paratene Turangi? said Tuta. They would not listen to Te Kooti's protests.

“Go on to the boat!” said the white officer impatiently. “Go on to the boat!” And Paratene, imitating as well as he could the English of his white officer friends, said imperatively: “Ko ana ki te poti! Ko ana ki te poti!” (“Go on to the boat!“)

At Napier he protested to Sir Donald Maclean, Government Agent in Charge of East Coast Affairs, but Maclean would not listen. He concluded that Te Kooti's guilt had already been proved at Gisborne.

So Te Kooti went. On the Chathams he stayed two years, but he never forgot those contemptuous words, and the spurning of his protests against transportation. He remembered them when he plotted revenge, and when he by a master-stroke of skill and daring seized the three-masted schooner Rifleman at Wharekauri when Captain Christian was ashore, and compelled her mate and crew to carry him and his followers back to the New Zealand coast. He protested repeatedly that he did not deserve exile, and he asked for a trial or court-martial. But he was never tried, and this deportation without trial was an injustice over which he and his fellow prisoners continually brooded in their prison island. They were kept there on a kind of indeterminate sentence—the punishment that someone long afterwards in New Zealand called a “Kathleen Mavourneen,” because, in the words of the old ballad, “it may be for years and it may be for ever.”

No formal sentence was passed on the Maoris selected for exile. They were under a loose kind of Government order. Chatham Island was a convenient dumping ground for rebels against the Queen. Many injustices were done in the name of martial law. Some men no doubt deserved punishment, but the guilt of others was doubtful. It was no wonder that some of the Maoris summarily transported to the distant island meditated bitter revenge.