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Chapter Twenty-Three — The Life of Sir James Carroll, K.C.M.G., M.L.C

page 207

Chapter Twenty-Three
The Life of Sir James Carroll, K.C.M.G., M.L.C.

A lonely cabbage tree growing on the bank of the Wairoa River and an ornate tomb in a private burial ground in Gisborne, mark the beginning and the ending of the life of Sir James Carroll, K.C.M.G., M.L.C. For sixty-nine years Sir James lived, to become one of New Zealand's most illustrious sons, and to be mourned at his death as perhaps no other person of Maori blood has ever been mourned. The Takitimu House, or, as it is also called, the Carroll Memorial Hall, stands nobly beside the same river on the banks of which Sir James was born. It thus stands as a two-fold memorial, firstly to the browned Vikings of the Pacific who migrated from sunnier lands, and as one of their many landfalls, guided their canoe up the Wairoa River to the spot where Takitimu House is now built. It also memorialises the man who on the 20th August, 1858, was born under the now historic ti-kouka or palm-lily tree, a mile or so downstream.

The father of Timi Kara was Joseph Carroll, of Irish extraction, said to be one of the most distinguished men ever to set foot in New Zealand, and Wairoa's first sheepfarmer. His mother was a notable Chieftainess, Tapuke, who was descended from a noble line of ancestors of the Ngati-Kahungunu tribe. James was the sixth of eight children born to these two, and never was Maori and pakeha blood fused to better purpose. One has written, "Does it not seem strange to us that the son of an Irish father and a Maori mother, should all his life have been proud to think of himself as a Maori, and all his life have acted as a European." If it was this mingled ancestry that made him great, it was his insistence on his Maori blood that sealed his greatness. He was acceptable to both races. The story of the period of transition which faced the Maori people in their gradual conversion to pakeha ways of life, might have contained many more sad tales of misunderstandings and heartburnings had he not lived.

At the age of three years, Timi, as he became known, was page 208adopted by one of the most influential chiefs of the Wairoa district, Ngarangi-Mataeo, a close relation of the mother, as shown in the following whakapapa:

A black and white diagram showing the whakapapa of Sir James Carroll.

The old chief first took the lad to his pa, Matiti, across the river from Ruataniwha pa. This land later became the property of the father, Joseph Carroll, and is now part of the Huramua estate at present farmed by Mr. A. T. Carroll. After staying here one year, Timi was taken to Hikawai, nearer Frasertown. He was taken in hand by two of the most expert tohungas and was grounded in the classical lore of the Maori race, and introduced to the very inner shrine of the mystic rites of his people. The training culminated in the initiation and solemn ceremonial of the tohi or dedicatory rites. It was not only solemn, but physically severe. It included bodily immersion in water and the biting of a crossbar of the latrine, these rites, according to Maori belief, giving immunity against the attacks of adverse spirits or ill-designing gods.

On the death of the aged relative the mother succeeded in getting her child back to attend school. In 1861 a type of mission school was established in Wairoa by a Mr. and Mrs. Deerness. In 1863 James attended this school with his brothers and sisters. The roll at the time showed twenty-six scholars, with thirteen Maoris, eleven half-castes, and two pakehas. The daily average attendance was twelve.

During this period the residents of the Wairoa district were seriously threatened by the Hauhau fanaticism which was then rising. Naturally schooling was much disturbed and neglected. In 1865 a temporary schoolhouse was erected on the riverbank between the present Grey Street and Kai-mango or Spooner's Point. On Christmas Day of that year, a fight took place between

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An informal photo

The Hon. Sir James Carroll, K.C.M.G., M.L.C.

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The Grave of Sir James Carroll, Gisborne

The Grave of Sir James Carroll, Gisborne

The Historic Adze, "Te Rama-apakura," held by the rightful owner, Te Here-pukapuka Greening (M.T. Eria), a niece of J. H. Mitchell.

The Historic Adze, "Te Rama-apakura,"
held by the rightful owner, Te Here-pukapuka Greening (M.T. Eria), a niece of J. H. Mitchell.

page 209the Hauhaus and the Europeans and loyal Maoris, at Omaruhakeke, near Maru-maru. In 1867 the Hauhau gospel had spread and become so dangerous that schooling was impossible. Mr. Andrew Thompson, the schoolmaster, left for Napier, where he established a boarding school, and James Carroll was sent to Napier as a pupil. It seems that he stayed at school for over a year and finally broke away and returned home. He was a wild lad, physically perfect and full of devilment. Before we finish with this period of his life, two stories may be told as sidelights on his education. The first concerns the visit of Sir James to Ireland, when at the height of his fame. While the guest of some very aristocratic people, his hostess suddenly asked him, "Tell me, Sir James, what University did you attend?" Lack of the old school tie did not embarrass our hero, for, with a twinkle in his eye, he replied, "My lady, I was educated in the University of Nature."

The second concerns a train conversation between Sir James and the writer of this book. At the time of their journey, Sir James's party, the Liberals, had just been put out of power, and Sir William Herries had been appointed Minister of Native Affairs in the Reform Cabinet. One of the measures which Sir William sponsored and had passed, concerned the Europeanising of Maoris. One of the qualifications which a Maori required to attain European status was the passing of the fourth standard in Primary school education. While this measure was under discussion, Sir James mentioned that he would have no hope of being Europeanised as he had not this educational qualification.

After leaving the Napier school, young Timi found Wairoa an adventurous place in which to live. Te Kooti had escaped from the Chatham Islands and was roving around the East Coast with a large band of fanatics. The rebels had massacred many Poverty Bay residents on December 10th, 1868, and this was followed by the Mohaka massacre in April, 1869. In such times, stock running on Wairoa's unfenced flats was unsafe. Even apart from the Hauhaus there were many lawless unsettled Maoris roaming about. Timi was employed by his father to mind the wandering stock. In 1871 an expedition was led against Te Kooti by Mr. F. E. Hamlin and Lieutenant Witty. Young Carroll, as yet only fourteen, was one of the volunteers and carried his rifle through the tremendous hardships of the Urewera campaign, one of the most romantic expeditions in the country's history. The boots wore off his feet, but he continued with the page 210band. During five months the force gave Te Kooti no rest, captured 150 prisoners and forced many of the rebels to swear allegiance to the Queen. At the conclusion of the campaign, Timi was mentioned in despatches, awarded the New Zealand Medal and given a gratuity of £50, a princely sum in those days.

We continue our record by quoting the subsequent movements of Sir James as told on page 14 of the book of Hansard, No. 1, 1927. The speaker was the Right Hon. Mr. Gordon Coates, who as Prime Minister, moved the motion accorded to all deceased legislators. After reviewing Sir James's early years, Mr. Coates said:

"Soon after this he was appointed a cadet in the office of Mr. Locke, Native Commissioner for Hawke's Bay. While so engaged, Sir James attracted the attention of Sir Donald McLean, who transferred him to the Native Department in Wellington. After a year's service in that Department he was promoted and appointed Native Interpreter to Judge Rogan of the Native Land Court. In 1879 he was appointed Interpreter to the House of Representatives, which office he resigned in 1883 in order to contest the Eastern Maori Electorate against Wi Pere, but having only two weeks in which to contest the seat, Sir James was defeated by twenty-three votes. In 1887 he again contested this seat against Wi Pere and was returned. In 1892 he successfully contested the Waiapu European Electorate, and in the same year was appointed a member of the Executive Council, without Portfolio, representing the Native race. On the 21st December, 1899, he became Minister of Native Affairs, which portfolio, together with others, he held until the resignation of the Ward Ministry in 1912. Sir James was a Minister of the Crown in the Ballance, Seddon, Hall-Jones, and Ward Governments, and was Acting Prime Minister during the Right Hon. Sir Joseph Ward's absences in England in 1909 and 1911. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1911, on the occasion of the coronation of King George V. He continued to represent the European Electorate of Gisborne, which he successfully contested in 1908, until 1919, when he was defeated. In 1921 he was appointed to the Legislative Council, and continued in that office up to the time of his death, on the 18th October last in his sixty-ninth year."

We now mention some of the more important political achievements of Sir James, as Minister of Native Affairs in the Liberal Government. For twenty years he was arbitrator between the Maoris and the Government, a position that required infinite page 211patience and tact. He proved a wonderful arbitrator. Distrust of the pakeha and long-standing grievances he pushed gently aside with earnest wisdom. The Ureweras distrusted the Native Land Court and had named their great tract of forested ranges, Te Rohe Potae (the encircled reserve). They had threatened to shoot any surveyors who attempted to divide the land. Sir James won his triumph at the now famous Ruatoki meeting. He said to them: "You must turn over the pages of the past; you must open a new page for the things of to-day and to-morrow." The result of his personal persuasion, reasoning and tact was that 650,000 acres of land were surveyed and investigated, and to-day the Wairoa-Rotorua highway divides and has opened up the great tract.

Then there was the Waikato trouble. The Waikatos bore deep grudges against the pakehas. In 1857 an Act had been passed giving the Maori King of the Waikato the absolute right to govern his vast territory. Sir James, by patience and perseverance, succeeded in getting King Mahuta to submit his sovereignty to the New Zealand Government. This was partly secured by giving the Maori monarch a seat in the Legislative Council. A cartoon was published at the time showing Sir James putting a hook in the mouth of King Mahuta. The bait was "M.L.C.," while Mr. Seddon was shown at the end of the line expressing his gratification, saying, "I have at last caught my long-wanted fish." The result was that the whole of the King Country was opened for settlement by the pakeha. This event was well described by the late Hon. Wi Pere, M.L.C., who, in a humorous speech, welcomed His Majesty to the Council. In his speech he told the following parable:

"There was a certain owl who lived in the darkness and fastnesses of the forest. While in his protected surroundings he was one day attracted by the joyful crying of the other birds outside the forest. 'Oh!' thought the owl, 'what a lot of good things there must be there.' He flew through the trees, but on reaching the forest edge his eyes were blinded by the light and he was obliged to perch on a tree. A man saw the owl and took a firebrand in one hand and a stick in the other. As he neared the owl it prepared to fly, but the man blinded the bird with the firebrand and stunned it with a stick. He then put it in a cage and made an ornament out of it." Then, speaking directly to King Mahuta, Mr. Wi Pere said, "The owl is you, and we, the Members of Parliament, are the other birds. The man is the Prime Minister, the firebrand is the bundle of notes for your page 212salary, the stick is your oath, and the cage is the house of Parliament."

Another of Sir James's wise measures was the Maori Councils Act of 1900, which empowered Maoris to form their own Councils for the local government of pas, and the improvement of health, conduct and education. It also contained disciplinary powers. This Act has been shamefully allowed to fall into disuse, by succeeding Governments and the Maoris themselves.

The Maori Lands Administration Act of 1900, which governs the disposal of land by Maori Land Boards by sale or lease, and the Native Land Act of 1909, which opened all Maori lands, reserved or otherwise, for sale or lease, were two other wellconstituted measures. During his life Sir James was jeered at for his "go slow" or taihoa policy, but to-day it has been proved correct a hundred times over.

Sir James was on one occasion the centre of one of the most dramatic scenes ever witnessed on the floor of the House of Representatives. We quote from the pages of the book of Hansard mentioned earlier. The words are those spoken by the late Sir Thomas Wilford, M.P., on the motion concerning the death of Sir James.

"I remember one of the most wonderful scenes in my twenty-eight years' experience here, a scene I shall never forget. There may be some other honourable members here who can recall it. It occurred in the old chamber. The night was one of tense excitement. Mr. Seddon was Prime Minister, and alongside him was seated Sir James Carroll; I was sitting behind Sir James Carroll. The galleries were crowded; every secretary was in his place on the chairs at the side of the Speaker, and all available space was taken up. I came into the House that night wondering what the occasion was. It was not long before one was let into the secret of the gathering. An indictment was taking place that night of the administration of the Native affairs of this country, of which Sir James Carroll was the administrator, by the then Opposition, headed by our late respected friend Sir William Herries. I remember hearing that indictment. It seemed to me unanswerable when I heard it, and I remember leaning over the desk to Sir James Carroll, who appeared to me to be half asleep and hardly listening, and saying to him, 'You are taking no notes; are you not going to reply?' He just shook his head, and said nothing; and Sir William Herries, quoting from documents, day and date, finished an indictment which seemed to me to be over-page 213whelmingly against the party I was supporting. Slowly and leisurely, after Sir William Herries resumed his seat, Sir James Carroll rose. He began speaking in such a soft tone of voice that those round the House called on him to speak up, but as he warmed to his subject his voice increased in strength. Then, without note or paper for reference, he answered every charge that had been brought against him in the House so completely and so thoroughly to the satisfaction not only of the Government of the day, but also to the Opposition, that something occurred that I had never seen before. The man who had indicted him, Sir Wiliam Herries, walked across the floor of the House and shook hands with him and congratulated him on his reply. The House then adjourned."

Years after that incident, Sir James journeyed to Tauranga to speak at the unveiling of the memorial to Sir William Herries, who, though his political enemy, had been his lifelong friend. Sir James in his speech spoke that phrase which to-day has been preserved as one of the most beautiful phrases to have fallen from the lips of this silver-tongued orator. His speech began, "Standing by this memorial erected to the memory of one of the greatest statesmen this Dominion has known, and as simple and brave a gentleman as ever looked with human eyes upon this passing show, my mind is as a hive to which are homing a hundred honeyed memories."

Less than a fortnight later those honeyed memories were no more. Sir James Carroll himself suddenly passed on along the spirit track to the spirit world of Te Reinga. Then there was seen the sorrow of the native race lamenting the falling of this giant totara. It seems that every newspaper in the land honoured his memory with a special editorial, for there is in existence a very lengthy file of these tributes. One of these tributes, taken from the Dunedin Star, says:—

"Nature was bountiful to Sir James in the gifts of a prepossessing exterior, a commanding figure and majestic bearing, and a demeanour devoid of affectation. He was distinguished by a modest self-possession. His voice by its compass, steadiness, and variety, was ever audible; he was never hurried, inarticulate or indistinct. His delivery was free from anything artificial; it was simple, elegant, impressive and carried conviction. Imagination, imagery, metaphor and simile enriched his speeches. Though not remarkable for industry, it might be said of him—that he possessed prudence, tact and a sense of justice in framing page 214policy measures to promote the mutual welfare and interests of both races.

There are other sides to the life of our subject that we can only mention briefly. He was of immensely strong build and in his earlier days triumphed at athletics, or in matching his strength against others. His humour was such that he would even enter prankish or undignified contests if it suited the mood of the moment. His interest in horseflesh amounted to a passion. He owned his own successful racehorses, and even while ill, on one occasion, risked a serious relapse to secretly steal away to attend a meeting. "As good to die on a racecourse as anywhere else," he said. The result was that he did very nearly die.

After his death in Auckland, his body was brought by sea to Gisborne. Strong pleadings were put forth by the Wairoa Maori people to have him buried near his birthplace, but his tomb was prepared in Gisborne. While his body lay in state, the great sorrow of the Maori people expressed itself in the pageantry of a great tangi.

We close this sketch of his life and activities with the words of "Hare Hongi," in which he expresses his sympathy to Lady Carroll: "O Lady, great is our grief at the sad news. Jimmy has gone; the great one of Wairoa, farewell! O Father, the sheltering rata tree, the sweet-voiced songbird of the fascinating manners, with which you cheered multitudes with your oratory, whether it be in Maori pa or in the Council Halls of the Empire, Farewell!"