Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Autobiography of a Maori

I Try to get into Te Aute

page 65

I Try to get into Te Aute

All such stories increased my wish to go to Te Aute, and, in 1885, my father and I were once more on the road to Gisborne. All my clothes were rolled in a swag and tied in front of my saddle. My father bought some extra things for me at Gisborne, then we parted and I went by boat to Napier. I was not at all lonely for there were other boys with me. Besides, the knowledge that I was actually on my way to Te Aute College, that seat of learning, inspired me. I had fully made up my mind to seek knowledge—the knowledge of the white man.

I found Napier to be an improvement on Gisborne. My first trip on the railway was, of course, an unforgettable experience. As the train sped past the college, handkerchiefs were fluttered from the windows to signal that pupils were arriving. At the Pukehou siding, we found boys awaiting our arrival. Our heavier luggage was put into a hand-cart and behind it we formed a small procession. The college was about a mile from the siding and as we drew near the outer gate I noticed an old-fashioned house on the left, amid tall trees. I afterwards learned that it was the home of Archdeacon Samuel Williams, who, in later life, I learned to respect and adore. We were greeted by a number of boys who were immensely enjoying themselves at football and other games. We were led into the large dining-room and were there given tea in enamel mugs, and bread with treacle. I, the greenhorn from East Cape, the country bumpkin, was at Te Aute College at last.

I first met Mr. John Thornton, the headmaster, at prayers that evening. He was a big and fine-looking man, upright, dignified and with a kindly face. He had a fine voice, and, though I knew very little English, he spoke so clearly and simply that I was able to follow page 66something of what he said. After the lesson and a short talk, Mr. Thornton offered extempore prayer. These, my first impressions of Mr. Thornton, were decidedly good.

After prayers I was ushered into a long dormitory where I noticed how scrupulously clean everything was and how neatly the beds were made. The white clean sheets and quilts shone in the candle-light.

As the bathroom was not large enough for the eighty pupils in residence, the boys got up in batches, the first batch getting up at six o'clock. Morning prayers were read in the schoolroom at seven o'clock, and, after prayers, a breakfast consisting of tea with bread and dripping was had.

After breakfast, Mr. Watarawi Paipa, the Maori assistant, called me aside and told me that, as there were more boys than there was accommodation for in the college, the headmaster had decided to send home some of the boys. I knew at once that I had no hope of staying, for I knew very little indeed, and, as a matter of fact, could not say the alphabet properly. Though I was disappointed, I put on my best face under the circumstances. Watarawi was also sad for besides my being a fellow-tribesman, I came of a distinguished family. However, there was no help for it. Mr. Thornton examined us and, as I knew next to nothing, I was the very first to be weeded out.

The next morning about ten of us rejects, all from the East Coast, left for Gisborne. On arrival, I was very glad to see my father who, fortunately, had not then left for home. I say that I was very glad to see him, but he was sadly disappointed upon seeing me perhaps because whatever hopes he might have entertained in regard to my future had been dashed to the ground by my appearance. My poor father! But he did not give in. He decided to leave me in Gisborne to attend the central school which several other Maori children page 67also attended. He arranged for me to stay at Paora Parau's, whose name a street in Kaiti bears.