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The Story Of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864

An Interesting Sidelight — English Memorial to a Maori

page 86

An Interesting Sidelight
English Memorial to a Maori

Living at Devonport, Auckland, is Mr Edward Kennedy, a member of a well-known Tauranga family, who resided here as a boy. He has visited Tauranga at intervals, and on his last visit here in 1935 he copied the inscription on the monument in the old Mission Cemetery to the memory of Rawiri Puhirake. This he forwarded to his former Commanding Officer, Brigadier-General G. B. Mackenzie, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.A., etc., etc., of 62 Duke's Road, Muswell Hill, London, who sent it on to the Dean of Lichfield. The result was interesting as disclosed in the letters received in reply by Mr Kennedy from Brigadier-General Mackenzie and from the Dean of Lichfield. The Dean in his letter states:—

“Brigadier-General G. B. Mackenzie has kindly forwarded to me, as representing Lichfield Cathedral, your very interesting note, and newspaper extract, about the monument in the military cemetery at Tauranga; and I write at once to thank you heartily as Dean and on behalf of all the Chapter, for your thoughtful courtesy in sending us this information, which we gratefully appreciate.

“The ‘English Memoral to a Maori,’ to which the newspaper refers, is in the Close of Lichfield, but not actually in the Cathedral. It was placed by Bishop Selwyn, when he came to this Diocese in 1867, in his Episcopal Chapel which he built on to the Bishop's Palace in this Close, immedately opposite to the North side of the Cathedral, where it still remains. But he did not add any inscription to explain the heroic deed which it commemorated. That story, however, was told in Bishop Selwyn's Life, which was written after his death in 1878; and therefore is known to all who are intimately associated with Lichfield Cathedral.

“To me personally it has a peculiar interest; because a cousin of mine, Captain Utterton, lost his life in the action at Gate Pa on 29th April, 1864; and I remember hearing, as a boy of 10 years old, when the news of his death came through from New Zealand how when he was lying wounded in the night that followed, a brave Christian Maori chivalrously brought him a calabash of water; and I never forgot that noble act. But I was not aware, nor was any one else here, that it had been so finely recorded in that local monu ment at Tauranga erected in 1914, until now when we owe our page 87 knowledge of it to your kind thought in sending us your copy of the inscription on it. I do indeed thank you sincerely for it.

“Your sympathetic account of this memorial will be carefully preserved among our Cathedral records.

Yours truly



Dean of Lichfield.”

Brigadier-General Mackenzie in writing explained that he had received a letter from the Dean, of which he enclosed a copy. This letter of the Dean's stated:—

“Thank you sincerely for your kindness in sending me Mr Kennedy's letter and enclosure, which is of real interest.

“The memorial window at Lichfield to which it refers is not in the Cathedral itself but in the Chapel that was added to the Episcopal Palace in the Close by Bishop Selwyn. There is no inscription there explaining its special commemoration; but that is recorded fully in Prebendary Thacker's Life of Bishop Selwyn.

“My copy of this book is now in our Reference Library here so that I cannot forward it to you for perusal; but the Librarian has kindly transcribed the account for me, which I now enclose for I think you may possibly be interested to see it. And perhaps I may venture to ask if you would be so kind as to send it on to Mr Kennedy when writing to him.

“I am writing to him to thank him for his thought, which I gratefully appreciate; and to say that his information about the monument in the Military Cemetery at Tauranga is quite new to us in Lichfield; and that I am particularly glad to have it, and place it with other notes about Bishop Selwyn in our Reference Library.

“I have a special interest in this story, because I believe it was at the engagement at Gate Pa on 29th April, 1864, that a cousin of mine, Captain Edwin Utterton, was killed. I remember hearing at the time that while he was lying wounded—shot through the neck, a Christian Maori by night, at the risk of his own life, brought him water in a calabash.”

The extract from the Life of Bishop Selwyn which the Dean had furnished was also forwarded by Brigadier-General Mackenzie to Mr Kennedy, and is as follows:—

“At the end of the war his (Bishop Selwyn's) services were publicly recognised by the medal, given to all the military who had taken part in the war, being granted to him; the officers and men to whom he had ministered, either on active service, or when sick and wounded, and the friends of those whom he had nursed and tended to the last, subscribed and gave him money for the ornamentation of his private chapel. It was with that donation that he procured the painted windows in the private chapel of the palace in Lichfield. All the subjects of those windows represent what page 88 may be called the Christian and specially chivalrous side of the soldier's life. All the lights on the south side are filled with subjects taken from the Old Testament; all on the north from the New Testament. … . But the most remarkable and historical window is one on the south side, representing David pouring out the water which the three soldiers had fetched from the well of Bethlehem at the risk of their lives (I Chron. XI, 17-19). This was intended to record a like chivalrous act of a Maori chief in the course of the war near Tauranga on the east coast.

“The Maori general in question was named Henare Taratoa. He had been educated by the bishop at St. John's College, from about 1845 to 1853. He was a very clever, thoughtful youth, but excitable, and not altogether to be depended upon, so that the bishop would not lead him on to the ministry for fear he might fall away from the faith. Once when the bishop was telling a party of natives Aesop's fable of the cat that was changed into a princess, and how the princess leapt out of bed when she saw a mouse, he suddenly turned to Henare, and said, “What's the mouse?” “Te vitenga Maori” (old native customs) was the reply. “What's the princess?” said the bishop. “The Maori heart,” said the conscience-touched youth. Henare sided with his country-men in the war, but held to the Gospel, as was shown by the action which the painted window records. He was commanding the native forces at the fight after the disaster that befell the English at the Gate Pa. The English charged their rifle-pits and drove them out; the Maoris slowly retreated, facing the enemy, and were all bayoneted, showing a courage that won the admiration of the English. When Henare's body was searched, they found on him the “orders of the day” for fighting. They began with a form of prayer, and ended with the words (in Maori), Rom. XII, 20, “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.” These were not idle words, for on the occasion of the panic that occurred amongst our troops at the Gate Pa a few days before, several English officers, naval and military, had got inside the Maori redoubt and were left there, severely wounded. One dying of his wounds was tended all night by Henare Taratoa. The dying man asked for water. There was none inside the Maori redoubt, nor nearer than three miles on their side of the Gate Pa; but there was water inside the English lines at the foot of the Gate Pa; and Henare Taratoa crept down amongst the fern within reach of the sentries, and filled a calabash with water, which he successfully carried back to refresh the parched lips of his enemy. The English officers told this story.”