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Pioneering Reminiscences of Old Wairoa

The Runner's Story

The Runner's Story.

The story of the old runner was to the effect that early that morning and long before dawn, as was the custom in the warfare of the Maoris, a strong band of the Hauhaus, led by Te Kooti, Paora Toki, Paerau Rangikaitipuake, Anaru Matete, Whenuanui and Te Poki had swept down through the hitherto peaceful valley of Mohaka.

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They had arrived the previous night at a pretty spot called Arakanihi, and from there attacked the Maori village of Maungaturanga—now the scene of important railway works at present under construction. Four men who vainly essayed to thwart the raiders, fell at this spot, but not a shot was fired lest the prey to be had lower down should be alarmed and make its escape. The "braves" under Te Kooti knew by their scouts that all the men of the Ngatipahauwera were on the warpath at Te Kiwi up the Waikaremoana road, and so they counted on an easy victory. But it was not so easy as the raiders anticipated, as the story of the women's part discloses. Te Huki was taken by treachery, the enemy stating they were simply on their way to Wairoa, to attack Toha, a prominent chief at the Wairoa Heads. This chief, it is stated, had at one time captured a Native woman of note at Ngaputahi, near Putere, with some others, and kept them prisoners at Maungaturanga. They escaped while the Mohaka Natives were in the field and got back to Ngaputahi. Then when Te Kooti's band came down by the lake they made a treaty of blood with these dwellers in the Urewera country, who had a good take, or excuse, for war, and as the bulk of the men were engaged at Te Kiwi the way was open, not only to Mohaka but to Wairoa also. The story of the runner embodied in the foregoing was disbelieved by the military authorities, but gradually the full significance of the tale became real, at least, to civilians and the Maoris. Steps were taken to send women and children to Napier, the Natives saw to the page 202palisading at their pas and a local business man constructed a bastion to help in guarding his home. Soon discipline was scattered to the winds, men got on horseback and were about to start for Mohaka, half-armed and without orders, and one had to be lodged in the guardroom. Captain Withers, the senior officer, was that day at Te Kapu (Frasertown) conducting the annual prize-firing, and Captain Spiller, who was in charge of the local forces, decided to move on Mohaka at once, and in half an hour he had forty-six men under arms, and supplied with 140 rounds of ammunition per man, and in ten minutes they would have been off. But just then Captain Withers returned from Te Kapu, and cancelled the expedition on the grounds advanced by Captain Taylor, the volunteer officer, that the enemy's objective was Wairoa. When a force did go out from Wairoa and from Napier both movements were so slow and badly handled by the officers that this chapter does not appear in the "Heroes of New Zealand," except the part played by the late "Rowley" Hill, one of four Wairoa scouts, who ran the gauntlet of the raiders, got into the pa and helped in its defence, for which he was awarded the New Zealand Cross. When the Ngatipahauwera were seen filing over the hills the raiders commenced the retreat taking away considerable loot on the horses they had stolen and made back for the Urewera country, leaving a large number of dead on the field. The defenders also suffered heavily, the official figures being killed, fifty-seven Maoris and seven Europeans, but the former is overstated and the latter under-page 203estimated. Among the raiders were Rangi-Tahau of Taupo, Baker McLean, and the notorious Timoti-te-kaka, a triumvirate equal to any deed of savagery. The part played by the Maoris might be called an epic worthy to rank with the deeds of ancient heroes. But what of the Pakehas? From beginning to end it was a shameful exhibition of ineptitude, not so much on the part of the men as the officers. Brave enough one must admit, but vaccilating, unskilful, and perhaps not too keen to help the people whom their fellows were so quickly dispossessing of their heritage. Yet there were Pakehas involved in the slaughter, for coming down the valley that early April morning the raiders surprised the two little Lavin boys while sailing their toy boats on the river, and tomahawked them. The parents fled up a scrub-covered spur, and there they were found dead, locked in each other's arms, by Mr. A. Graham, a member of the relieving force, which didn't relieve. The deed was credited to Te Kooti but wrongly so, for Lavin, an Ensign in the volunteers, was armed, and with his revolver he shot his wife and then himself, when he saw that escape was impossible. So though the tragedy of Mohaka is still remembered there is no monument to be seen inscribed—"To the Women of the Pa."

What better Birthday or Christmas Present than a copy of this Booklet?