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Pioneering Reminiscences of Old Wairoa

Quips and Cranks

page 204

Quips and Cranks.

Not Abel Tasman, and not Captain James Cook were the discoverers of the land we call New Zealand, but those wonderful navigators we call the Maoris, who, without compass or chart, and nothing but the stars, the flight of the birds, or the "send" of the seas to guide them, made wonderful land-falls on these shores. Nearly 1,000 years after the birth of Christ, and fifty-four years after the death of Alfred the Great, who built the first English fleet; when a mighty warrior, Athelstane, ruled the British tribes (about 900), came Kupe over the seas and found New Zealand, still named in Maori song and story as "Kupe's Land." He had sailed to New Zealand from Tahiti or Rarotonga, a little trip of 1,625 miles or a little less. While at the latter place he observed the arrival of some birds, known as the long-tailed cuckoo, from the south, and then he knew there must be land to the south of him, and like Columbus he determined to find it, journeying from the North Cape to Wellington and down to the South Island, and then home. What a trip! King John was on the throne of England (1199) when Toi Te Huatahi (or Toi the wood-eater), with Whatonga, founded the first settlement in this land (1200). Henry III was in the fifteenth year of his reign when Manaia, Nuku and several other islanders brought over the Polynesian food plants, the kumara, taro and other plants (1220). Henry was still on the throne in his thirty-fifth year of kingly office when the Moriori settled on the Chatham Islands (1250). In the year 1350 the main island fleet arrived in New Zealand, when the plague or "black death" was taking heavy toll of the Englanders. Sebastian Cabot, another great navigator, landed in America in 1497, and three years later Tuwhirau sailed from New Zealand to the old Polynesian home, and in 1640, when page 205"the Long Parliament" sat in England, Pahiko and party followed. During the British Civil War (1642) Tasman visited New Zealand, and it was not until 1769 when Captain Cook looked in at Waikokopu, and that year the misguided British were despatching troops to occupy Boston in order to over-awe the inhabitants of the infant colony in America. It will be a great day in Maoriland when a statue is unveiled to Kupe or Toi, the eater of forest foods.

Wairoa had a link in early days with Auckland in the person of Jack Lewis, whaler and many other things. He joined the British Navy at an early age and was present at the bombardment of Acre in 1840. Soon after that he joined the Admiralty transport Buffalo which sailed for Hobart with convicts, the transport then coming on to Mercury Bay for kauri spars which were in great demand for refitting the ships of the Navy. While all the crew, with the exception of the watch, were on shore getting the required spars a "nor'-easter" sprang up and the ship became a total wreck. The crew dodged the usual fate of the white man—the Maori oven—and reached the Waitemata, They immediately set to work to remedy what they took to be the greatest defect in the civilization of Auckland, which then boasted of sixteen buildings, and ne'er a "pub." Lewis and his comrades soon set to work to establish one. They found an old unseaworthy brig on the beach, and worked her round the opening of the gully (now Queen Street), and after rigging up a windlass and laying down some sleepers, they hauled the vessel up among the raupo, shored her up, and erected a gangway on either side. Some bulkheads were put in and a supply of rum obtained, and Auckland's first hotel was fairly "floated." The crew comprised some choice (?) page 206spirits and many had to make themselves scarce. Lewis joined a whaling vessel and left for Sydney, where he met Sir James Carroll's grandfather. He then came over to New Zealand with the son—Joe Carroll of Old Wairoa—and began whaling at Mahia. Later, he embarked in the coastal trade between Napier and Turanganui. On the outbreak of the Hauhau troubles he was running a hotel at Upper Mohaka, and joined up with Colonel Whitmore, being present at Ruakituri when Captains Carr and Canning were killed. In 1888 he went to Te Araroa where he died in 1913 at the age of ninety-six years, in full possession of a wonderful memory, with the record behind him that he founded the Auckland liquor trade.

In the very earliest registers of Wairoa and Ahuriri there were entries of baptisms as early as 1841. Where they are now no one can tell—probably lost in the 1931 earthquake. In 1842 when the great Selwyn, the first Bishop of New Zealand, came out he brought with him the Rev. C. Dudley, who was intended for the Wairoa station, and though he worked for a time among the Natives he did not continue. Bishop Selwyn was on this coast in 1842 coming up from Ahuriri on 18th November of that year by way of Aro-pao-nui, close by the shore, along a beaten track. He says: "In many places the whole upper surface of the cliff is cracked and ready to fall, forming fissures of which we could not see the depth." These were the result of a fairly recent earthquake, and the Bishop's conjecture as to the possible fall occurred oh 3rd February, 1931. In all the Aro-paoa-nui area he did not see a single European. On 21st November he reached the Wairoa, of which he wrote: "It is a very pretty station, with a beautiful river winding through an extensive plain and communicating with page 207a chain of inland lakes." The river then entered the sea at Te Poti, up the eastern lagoon; on the 23rd he wrote: "Wairoa to Nuhaka. Path along the beach, with the chain of lakes closing us in on the land side. Nuhaka, a nice Native settlement, with the most civil and intelligent Natives," a high testimony to the then uncorrupted aborigines of Old Wairoa.

"The Law and the Police," not as a toast, but as a literary rôle for the people of to-day, may not be amiss. The first Resident Magistrate was Mr. C. Hunter Brown (1863). He was followed by Captain Sam Deighton in 1865, uncle of the late Mr. R. G. Deighton of this town. The clerk of his court was Captain G. A. Preece (who died in 1925). Mr. Hunter Brown followed for a second term in 1868. Then Major Fraser and Dr. Frederick Francis Ormond. With these later magistrates there must be mentioned a motley assortment of policemen of both races. At first there were only Native policemen, such as Kerehama Hurewaka, Te Wheto Mitipara, Rehania Te Aotea and Reti Kaukau (with whom ended the reign of the Native police). The first European policeman was named Carter, and I think he was drawn from the ranks of the British regulars. I could never find out anything he had done except to engage in game-cock fighting on Sundays in some cool and shady spot. Then came the late Joseph Gosnell, and he reigned till the appointment of Davie Maguire, and the former then taught the Wairoa school pupils their physical drill, and held a seat on the school committee! The last of the old school of police was John Dunn who was a "character" in his way. In the olden days politics ran very high and on one occasion in the old Jubilee Hall, near the Clyde Hotel, some of the electors were very noisy. John approached one with: "If yez don't shtop that noise oi'l lock yez up where yez shtand."