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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

“Old Geordie” (or “Hori Punehu”)

page 118

“Old Geordie” (or “Hori Punehu”)

Some difficulty was at first experienced by the writer in ascertaining the identity of a pioneer who was known to the East Coast natives as “Hori Punehu.” One witness described him in the Native Land Court as “the red-headed, freckled, blue-eyed pakeha.” When Mrs. James Walker, of Waihau Bay, was consulted, she smiled and, pointing to her big son Jim, said: “There's a Punehu!” She went on to explain that Hori Punehu was an Irishman named George Taylor, who came out to New Zealand on a whaler. He married a native named Riria and they had a family of six daughters. The Grace family at Tuparoa were among numerous descendants on the East Coast, and there were others at Te Kaha.

In the early 1860's (Mrs. Walker continued) Isaac Walker, with a nephew (James Walker) came over from Australia to the East Coast. The uncle, who took for wife Matere, went in for cattle-raising and from Maraehara (on the north bank of the Waiapu River) he sent a lot of fat stock to the Auckland market in later years. James Walker married Maria, a daughter of George Taylor, and, in 1869, there was born to them a son, who was named James after his father. This son she (Mrs. Walker) had married. In turn, they had had the son James of whom she had said: “There's a Punehu!” James Walker senior was the first pakeha to be charged rent at Waipiro Bay, but the first instalment was returned to him in exchange for nails, which were required in connection with the construction of a chapel. He built the first hotel at Waipiro Bay. Later, he moved to Te Kaha. In 1876, he and his uncle took up the Woodlands property at Opotiki, but only the uncle went to live upon it.

Taylor assisted an American named William Martin to build a small craft at Reporua in the early days. A landslide enveloped the vessel and he narrowly escaped death. Martin, who had married Hariata Whakatangi, moved to Thames, but, eventually, he returned to the United States, taking with him his two half-caste boys. His daughter, Hariata, became the mother of the Akuhata family at Te Araroa. In 1854, Taylor was a trader at Whangaparaoa. Three years earlier he had gone to Auckland, where he had filled the post of court interpreter under the name “George Redhead.” Later, he set up as a trader at Whareponga. In the 1860's he squatted upon Wairongomai. Next, he moved to Ngamoe. In the 1870's, he ran sheep on Akuaku and Mataahu.

When he died in Gisborne on 29 December, 1885, the Poverty Bay Independent stated that he was born in 1807, and that he page 119 was “one of the oldest identities of the colony.” None of the witnesses at the inquest proved to be intimately acquainted with the deceased. T. J. Dickson (licensee of the Argyll Hotel) testified that he had heard that he had a wife on the Coast; that he was reputed to have received money from Home from time to time; and that he was known as “Old Geordie,” “Ginger” and “Carroty.”