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The Autobiography of a Maori


When my grandfather went to Wellington, my father and mother moved to Te Araroa, which was then known as Kawakawa, where my father opened a small store. My family's sojourn at Te Araroa, for many years, was a very happy time, and I often look back to it with pleasure, for here I passed many years of my boyhood, and, as there was no school in the district, every day was a holiday.

There was an abortive attempt to open a school, about the year 1878. I remember how I listened with amazement to what I now learn to be a recital of the Lord's Prayer and the singing of the song, "Pull for the Shore, Sailor," from Sankey's collection.

At last, I was old enough to go to school. The master's name was McMahon, and he wore a long beard. Two long, double desks ran almost the whole length of the room, and, as the children sat on each side of the desk and facing one another, there was irresistable temptation to talk and make faces at one another, but the greatest commotion took place under the desks, where dangling legs, on one side, waged continuous warfare against the legs on the opposite side, for it was the easiest thing in the world to go over the frontier. Fortunately for the legs, the feet they carried were not encased in shoes and boots.

The children did very little work at school. The most we did was to look out for the approach of an old man called Boyle. He lived out in the country, where he had a hops garden and he often came to the school. His visits were too frequent, especially when they were timed to coincide with meal hours, page 24It was our duty to give warning to Mr. and Mrs. McMahon of Boyle's approach, and we never failed in the discharge of our duty. Often after we had sounded the alarm, we could hear the rattling of crockery as it was being hurriedly removed from the table. The children had no lunch, for bread was a rare item in those days. My family was the only one who ate bread with any regularity. Children often chewed the ripe fruit of the sweet-briar to assuage their hunger. When maize was ripe, we went after school into the fields and, lighting fires, we roasted the cobs whole and ate them greedily. Roasted maize is much nicer than maize boiled. It has a flavour of its own.