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The Story Of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864


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On June 14th., 1924, in the Special Issue of the Bay of Plenty Times produced to commemorate the opening of the railway to Tauranga, appeared a story of the battle of Gate Pa, fought on April 29th, 1864, written specially for the issue by Captain Gilbert Mair. The story was then presented with the following remarks:

“When the issue of this Special Number was first planned it was recognised that, as one of the most notable engagements between the British and Native forces in the earlier days of New Zealand's history, the Gate Pa fight would necessarily have to occupy a conspicuous place. The Editor naturally turned to the late Captain Gilbert Mair, N.Z.C., who was then living in our midst, to undertake the task of relating the story, and furnishing other relative historical facts, for it could truthfully be said that throughout New Zealand no one more able could be found for such a work. He readily undertook it, with the result that we have here presented a story, or rather stories, of that memorable engagement. Other historical events are interestingly told, and cannot fail to command that appreciation the manner of telling deserves. In forwarding the matter to the Editor, the late Captain wrote:

‘I assume that you would wish to give a brief history of the interesting Ngaiterangi tribe, the career of which in the acts of diplomacy and great warlike courage, have been very remarkable, enabling it, under its warrior leaders, to win its way by strategy or desperate bravery along 300 miles of coast, through the most densely inhabited parts of New Zealand as at that time existing.

‘I have brought in a few striking historic events, but excluding much interesting matter. This brings the date up to the eventful Gate Pa episode. Next comes ‘The Battle of the Gate Pa,’ and then ‘A Maori Survivor's Story—How the Ngaiterangi Repulsed the Pakeha,’ with a preface written, at my request, by Mr James Cowan. After a life long experience in such matters I declare this Maori-told story as the finest thing of its kind ever produced. It was related by my dear old Maori friend Hori Ngatai, or Taiaho, to a number of distinguished officials, including several Members of Parliament, at Wellington in 1903.

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Sir James Carroll (the Native Minister), Hon. A. T. Ngata, LLB., M.P., and other Maori experts, declared the narrative to be absolutely correct, and in accordance with historic facts. Each sentence as uttered was translated by me, typed by the Hansard reporter, and placed on record. I kept a copy of the same from which this is written.

‘This is the only known instance of an account written or dictated by a Maori, with the exception of the story of Orakau, translated by myself from the lips of the late Ngatiraukawa Chief Hitiri Te Paerata, which an English writer lately quotes as an epic.

‘I have always been struck with Taiaho's comprehensive, modest and truthful account. I believe it will be a great feature in your publication.’

The demand for copies of that Special Issue was so great, particularly in view of Captain Mair's interesting story of Gate Pa which it contained, that I have been prompted to now publish the account of that memorable engagement in pamphlet form.”

This was done in 1926, and the supply of that publication being in turn exhausted I am now re-publishing the story with additional matter and illustrations.

In searching for new matter the difficulty experienced has been to know just where to draw the line between a story of the Gate Pa battle and relative incidents, and what could very easily, and perhaps appropriately, resolve itself into a history of Tauranga. But as my desire is to keep this booklet as nearly as possible to the story as written by Captain Mair, adding only such other matter as has a more or less direct bearing on the incidents leading up to and following the famous battle, the larger undertaking has not been attempted.

W. H. Gifford

Editor, Bay of Plenty Times.
Tauranga, February, 1937.