Title: Henry Lawson Among Maoris

Author: William H. Pearson

Publication details: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 1968, Wellington

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Paul Millar

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Henry Lawson Among Maoris


page 157 page 157

one of your pupils—is married. William Barnett, commonly known as Billy Barnett, remembers you well. I am living in the queer little school-house. It has lately been mended & additions, much needed, have been made. The tiny garden is gay with flowers & great cairns are in different parts of the large play-ground. They were built years ago with the loose stones which used to lie around.

The mountains are still fairly well covered with snow. We have some gorgeous sunsets and during the last fortnight we have had forty earthquakes, great & small.

The Hapuku river is still unbridged & is swift & deep at times.

I do not quite know how to address this but send it to the "Bulletin" office, hoping that it may reach you, also that you will not think me impertinent in bringing this out-of-the-world place to your mind again.2

One cannot know if Lawson recognised how much of this sad news concerned Ratima's children, Mrs Walsh recalled that Maraia Poharama had married Harry Jacob, Ratima's adopted son. She recalled that Okeor perhaps Maud-Jacob had married Harry Norton, who had lost four children, and that Mary Jacob had married Wi Poharama, who had lost one and had three ill.*

Lawson at this time was a lonely and dispirited man, who had been imprisoned more than once for defaults in maintenance and tended to brood on his wrongs, to see himself (as he put it seven years later in a letter to George Robertson) as 'a good, kind, proud husband and father & a generous friend-a cruelly wronged and innocent man'.3 As a writer he felt he had exhausted his subject:

Has Beens we who fight the cheerful jim-jams of the Written Out.4

He welcomed Mrs Moss's letter and was disposed to reconsider his memories of Mangamaunu. In an undated letter to Robertson apologising for an incident at his shop of the previous Tuesday, he wrote as an afterthought: 'Had a letter from my Maoris will send you a copy'. The letter ends: 'Will see you Monday 26th December'. The only years in which 26

* Records of Maori births, deaths, and marriages for this time are incomplete, and of Mrs Walsh's memories only not only that concerning Maraia Poharama and Harry Jacob can be confirmed by the Registrar-General's office. I have been able to confirm the other memories of Mrs Walsh from death certificates at the Registrar- General's office. It was Maud (or Irihapeti) who married Harry (or Rihari) Norton. Her death certificate, dated 1952, shows that she had made an earlier marriage to Lawson's shooting companion Bob (or Ropata) Poharama, who had presumably died. (According to Syd Cormack the Poharama family were subject to tuberculosis and in 1968 there were few survivors.)