The Autobiography of a Maori
Chapter IV — At Te Aute College
At Te Aute College
In the second chapter I said that I first went to school at Te Araroa and I learned hardly anything. When the school closed down the nearest school was at Wai-o-Matatini and news was frequently heard of the remarkable progress of the pupils there. Both my father and my mother were anxious that I should go to school and I was keen too, so keen that a friend of mine named her first child Tawhai-kura (or Straining-after-school). Unfortunately the child did not live long and later when my youngest brother was born he also was called Tawhai-kura.
I Attend Wai-o-Matatini School
It was arranged that I should attend the Wai-o-Matatini school and that I should stay with a family at Te Horo. Tuta and Maraea were exceedingly kind to me. My father supplied flour, which at the time was not in general use among the Maori people, so I always had bread for my lunch, but without butter. All the other children of the pa had potatoes baked in hot ashes. The potatoes were strung together and hung over one's shoulder. During the lunch-hour the children went into the scrub to cook the potatoes and there would often be a number of fires burning at the same time. A stick was pushed through several potatoes and one end of it was stuck into the ground so that it slanted over the fire. I immensely enjoyed this mode of cooking and often exchanged my bread for some potatoes thus cooked. The only children who had bread and butter were those from the small white settlement at Port Awanui.page 64
Although I enjoyed going to school and Tuta and Maraea were exceedingly good to me, after a while I began to be homesick. So homesick did I become that often, on the way home from school, I would ascend a little hill from which I could see the Pukeamaru Range, for somewhere in that vicinity was my home. Finally, my father had to take me home to Te Araroa.
Wai-o-Matatini was one of the earliest schools, if not the earliest, on the East Coast. About the year 1876 a school was established at Te Hatepe, my grandfather's old pa, but the conduct of the children was so bad that it had to be closed down and the teacher was transferred to Wai-o-Matatini, where he opened a school in the Native Land Court house.
Paratene Ngata, father of Sir Apirana Ngata, told in the Native Land Court, how my grandfather, Mokena Kohere, restricted Ngati-Porou lands from alienation. The chief would not even have the lands surveyed, for he contended that a survey led to the Land Court and this went on to the land sales. When the court house was built at Wai-o-Matatini, Mokena Kohere threatened to set fire to it. He was compelled to narrow down his reserved area to the lands across the Waiapu River, and, finally, to Marangairoa No. 1. The imputation1 that Mokena Kohere wished to sell Marangairoa is, therefore, the more malicious.
When I returned home, Sir Apirana Ngata had already been to Te Aute College and education was such a rare thing among Maoris, that exaggerated stories about the wonderful performances of Te Aute boys were quite common. One such story was that an old Te Aute boy was keeping the books on a cutter, in fact, he was said to be the purser. I later met this same "boy" and am sorry to say he is not as he was reputed to be when he was a boy.page break
Canon A. F. and Mrs. Williams. Canon Williams prepared Te Aute College pupils for confirmation.
A group of old Thornton boys. Back: Sir Maui Pomare, M.D., D.S.O.; Ven. Archdeacon H. Hawkins, L.Th.; Sir Peter H. Buck (Te Rangihiroa), Kt., D.S.O., M.D., Ch.B., D.Sc., M.A. (Yale), F.R.S.N.Z., F.R.A.I. Front: Hamiora Hei, LL.B.; Sir Apirana Ngata, Kt., M.A., LL.B., D.Litt.; Rev. R. T. Kohere, L.Th.
I Try to get into Te Aute
All such stories increased my wish to go to Te Aute, and, in 1885, my father and I were once more on the road to Gisborne. All my clothes were rolled in a swag and tied in front of my saddle. My father bought some extra things for me at Gisborne, then we parted and I went by boat to Napier. I was not at all lonely for there were other boys with me. Besides, the knowledge that I was actually on my way to Te Aute College, that seat of learning, inspired me. I had fully made up my mind to seek knowledge—the knowledge of the white man.
I found Napier to be an improvement on Gisborne. My first trip on the railway was, of course, an unforgettable experience. As the train sped past the college, handkerchiefs were fluttered from the windows to signal that pupils were arriving. At the Pukehou siding, we found boys awaiting our arrival. Our heavier luggage was put into a hand-cart and behind it we formed a small procession. The college was about a mile from the siding and as we drew near the outer gate I noticed an old-fashioned house on the left, amid tall trees. I afterwards learned that it was the home of Archdeacon Samuel Williams, who, in later life, I learned to respect and adore. We were greeted by a number of boys who were immensely enjoying themselves at football and other games. We were led into the large dining-room and were there given tea in enamel mugs, and bread with treacle. I, the greenhorn from East Cape, the country bumpkin, was at Te Aute College at last.
I first met Mr. John Thornton, the headmaster, at prayers that evening. He was a big and fine-looking man, upright, dignified and with a kindly face. He had a fine voice, and, though I knew very little English, he spoke so clearly and simply that I was able to follow page 66something of what he said. After the lesson and a short talk, Mr. Thornton offered extempore prayer. These, my first impressions of Mr. Thornton, were decidedly good.
After prayers I was ushered into a long dormitory where I noticed how scrupulously clean everything was and how neatly the beds were made. The white clean sheets and quilts shone in the candle-light.
As the bathroom was not large enough for the eighty pupils in residence, the boys got up in batches, the first batch getting up at six o'clock. Morning prayers were read in the schoolroom at seven o'clock, and, after prayers, a breakfast consisting of tea with bread and dripping was had.
After breakfast, Mr. Watarawi Paipa, the Maori assistant, called me aside and told me that, as there were more boys than there was accommodation for in the college, the headmaster had decided to send home some of the boys. I knew at once that I had no hope of staying, for I knew very little indeed, and, as a matter of fact, could not say the alphabet properly. Though I was disappointed, I put on my best face under the circumstances. Watarawi was also sad for besides my being a fellow-tribesman, I came of a distinguished family. However, there was no help for it. Mr. Thornton examined us and, as I knew next to nothing, I was the very first to be weeded out.
The next morning about ten of us rejects, all from the East Coast, left for Gisborne. On arrival, I was very glad to see my father who, fortunately, had not then left for home. I say that I was very glad to see him, but he was sadly disappointed upon seeing me perhaps because whatever hopes he might have entertained in regard to my future had been dashed to the ground by my appearance. My poor father! But he did not give in. He decided to leave me in Gisborne to attend the central school which several other Maori children page 67also attended. He arranged for me to stay at Paora Parau's, whose name a street in Kaiti bears.
I Attend Gisborne Central
My attendance at the Gisborne Central school for a year and a half was really the turning point in my life. Even then a man was so unkind as to tell me that I was too old to learn anything and that my best plan would be to go home and look for a wife.
Paora Parau was a fine-looking old man. He was fully tattooed but always dressed like a European and was always neat. His son, Epiha, was also a fine specimen, well-educated and moved in the best pakeha circles. Unfortunately, he later got into bad company and was led astray, his beautiful wife being broken-hearted over the sad incident. They both died soon afterwards.
During my sojourn in Gisborne I learned much more than the three R's—I learned other things which I would not have learned had I gone home. For instance, I learned to cook and to wash up, something that I was never permitted to do at home. As there were two of us in the house who were attending school, it fell upon us to get up early in the morning to light the fire and prepare the breakfast. Fortunately, there were no cows for us to milk.
On the first morning, my father himself took me to the school where I met Mr. Triomas Morgan, the headmaster. I owe much to this gentleman, much more than he could ever have realised. With his cheery and encouraging words, he won my young heart and I felt that although I was only a green Maori boy who had been suddenly taken out of his natural surroundings and dropped in the midst of pakehadom, I had a friend in this headmaster.
I was first put into the infant school, although I was by no means an infant. The headmistress, Miss Daw-page 68son, showed much interest in my welfare—I both saw it and felt it—and so was encouraged. When I stood in line with other children, I towered over them as did Gulliver over the Lilliputians. Strangely enough, due to the encouragement I received from the staff, Miss Dawson, Mr. Fred Faram and others, I did not feel my position. Mr. Morgan led me to understand that he considered it an honour that I, a descendant of a chief, and a distinguished one at that, should be in his school. Despite the handicap of a strange language, I progressed remarkably well. I was moved from the infant school to the second standard and placed under the charge of Miss McIntosh. She was a strict Scotswoman, but she never once showed anger with me and perhaps that was for the best for I found that I was now making rapid progress.
Among some Maori boys who attended the school were Pare Keiha, Lady Carroll's brother, and Albert Karaitiana, the latter being reputed to be wealthy. They were, of course, in the senior classes and I wondered if I would ever be able to speak English as well as they did, never dreaming that I should one day be writing my own life story in that language. Albert Karaitiana, who was envied by the whole school because he had a bicycle of the bone-shaker type, later married a white girl. He died early in life, but Pare Keiha lived until quite recently.
Only once did my father come to the school to see me. He took the trouble to bring me a kitful of kao or dried kumaras, and also brought my pony, Karakara, and later sent my little model boat to me by Skinner's schooner. I think somebody must have told my father that I was making good progress with my lessons for he seemed very pleased. He gave me his Rotherham watch which I mention here because I later had the sad experience of losing it. I was wearing a shirt into the pocket of which I had placed the watch without page 69fastening the chain to the shirt. I was standing on the Gisbome wharf watching a schooner leave when a man on board called to me to let go the hawser. As I stooped to untie the rope, my watch slipped from my pocket and dropped into the water. I was stricken with grief over the loss of my treasure and that night, when the tide was out, I actually took my clothes off, though nobody saw me, and went into the water to look for my watch. In spite of my efforts I did not recover it and I nursed my sorrow for days.
Every Sunday, a number of students from Te Rau Theological College came to take divine services in the old church. I enjoyed their hymn-singing, especially that of Hone Papahia of Ngapuhi. He came from one of the leading families of the north and was much loved by his people. Young though I was, I felt instinctively that I was listening to and seeing a great man, as indeed he was. Years later I entered Te Rau College as a tutor and edited the Te Pipiwharauroa, which, in later years, chronicled the life and death of Hone Papahia.
Davis, the Ferryman
I must mention Mr. Davis, the ferryman. He was a rough old chap who kept a firm hand over the children who needed his services. In the morning we had to be down on the Kaiti side of the river on time, and the same applied to our arrival on the town side in the afternoon, for if one of us was late he would miss that trip and would then have to wait until another passenger arrived before being taken across. As a rule, the children were punctual on their way to school in the mornings, but on their way home, after school, there was always trouble with the boys. From a boy's point of view it was the right, or perhaps the excusable, thing to be late. How could a boy hurry away from his after-school game or rush through the town without a page 70word with a pal or without looking at the lovely things displayed in the windows? He would not be a boy if he did not do such things. Old Davis was not a boy, and though he had been one once, it was a waste of time to expect him to view the situation from a boy's angle. The boys had no choice but to face the lion in his den. It was his delight to leave us sitting on the bank of the river awaiting his pleasure. After being punished on the bank of the Turanganui for being late, extra punishment awaited us for the same crime on our arrival home. It began to dawn upon me that this was an unjust world.
When I got the "sack" at Te Aute, to add insult to injury, a fellow-tribesman borrowed two half-crown pieces from me, promising to pay them back "next week." Hundreds of weeks have now come and gone and I am still waiting for my money.
Davis was a tyrant, but he was also a fine disciplinarian, and, although we hated him, I must confess that it was he who impressed on my mind the importance of being punctual. But, nevertheless, when you come to think of it, punctuality is not everything, is it? Just think how much is missed on a country roadside because our every step is timed. Recently we—my cousin and I—divided time into two categories—pakeha time and Maori time. We have found that there is something to be said for Maori time which really means any time.
A Native Minister, hardly a month ago, was timed to arrive at the carved meeting-house at Te Araroa at eleven o'clock in the morning. Although the leaders of the local tribe had assembled, no Minister turned up; he had changed his mind, excusably enough, and had gone to Hicks Bay. He appeared on the scene at two o'clock in the afternoon. We thought nothing of it, for, being a Native Minister, the gentleman seemed quite in order in carrying on racial traditions by observing page 71Maori time. As it was nothing untoward happened; at any rate, the meeting was a success and the Minister was able to keep all his appointments that day. The only hitch was that the Maoris had to wait a long time. What of it? We were Maoris and accustomed to anything, and that was the end of the matter.
"What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare."
Ultimately, a time came and we had our revenge on old Davis. The Gisborne Borough Council resolved to span the Turanganui River with a bridge. We hailed this idea with jubilation for we knew that it would mean the end of Davis's career with his ferryboat. As the work of construction proceeded it seemed to us that a kindly providence was providing us with a citadel from which we could fire our broadsides at the ferryman and his boat. Long before the bridge was finished we began using it and Davis's days were then absolutely numbered.
My First Circus
Before I close this account of my days at the Gisborne Central School, I must say something about my first circus, which was St. Leone's. I was dumbfounded to see two horses with a man standing with one leg on the rump of each horse, galloping around the ring with more horses in front. I was in a seventh heaven. I did not know that anything could be so grand. I was spell-bound and felt that I would give anything to be that gorgeously-clad rider. Then there was the dog race—real dogs ridden by real monkeys decked in bright robes. I looked on, amazed. The clowns playing the fool in page 72their quaint costumes delighted me immensely. I was so excited that I felt I was in another world altogether.
Many years passed and then a circus came to Te Araroa. My daughter and her little brother went to see it, taking with them sufficient money for one night only, and with the strict injunction that they should come home the next day. The children did not turn up the next day and when they did come home the girl explained that she could not get her little brother away from the circus grounds. When I asked how they fared in regard to money, she said that she did not go to the circus on the second night but that her brother stood outside the tent while the fun was on. I fully sympathised with my son, understanding his feelings. Then the boy tried hard to persuade his mother and me to buy Silver Mane, the performing pony, as a birthday present to him.
I Enter Te Aute College
In 1887 I again tried to get into Te Aute College and this time was more fortunate. My friend and fellow-tribesman, Watarawi Paipa had died and Warihi (Wallis) Puha, another fellow-tribesman, had taken his place as a teacher. Wallis was then a famous rugby player.
Because I was a big boy—I was sixteen years of age —I was put into the third standard. I still had not mastered the English alphabet. Whenever I tried to pronounce the word "lord" I pronounced it "rod," much to the amusement of my classmates and the neighbouring two classes. This went on for days, but at last I conquered the word. Of the arithmetic set for my class, I had no more idea than had the man in the moon, so I used to watch the boy next to me do his sums. It was a good thing for me that the teacher did not pull me up for copying, for I was not actually copying, but page 73was studying hard. I soon conquered this also, and at the mid-year examination I was head of my class.
During my five years at Te Aute, I was consistently head of my class, and during my last year I was dux of the college. I passed the matriculation when twenty years of age, and I really deserved to get on for I worked very hard, like a person quickening his steps at the approach of night.
I Buy a Webster
Although I was good at all subjects I was particularly fond of English and I remember Mr. Dunn, our master, commending me to the whole college when he discovered that I possessed a large and well-bound Webster's Dictionary. He wished me success with it. I think I may say that for whatever knowledge of English I may now have, I owe much to Mr. Dunn. I have forgotten all else I learned at school and at college, but English literature and English poetry remain as one of the chief solaces of my life. I have always maintained that English is one of the chief subjects that young Maoris must concentrate on. Apart from the accomplishment, it is the key to all other subjects, for with a good knowledge of English one is able to continue one's education to the end of one's life.
How Mr. Thornton Taught English
It is remarkable how well Te Aute boys speak English considering that they are cut off from European company; their only models are their teachers. A member of the Board of Governors of the Gisborne High School once stated that the finest spoken English he had ever heard had been spoken by Te Aute boys. This statement has been qualified to refer only to what are termed Thornton boys, that is, pupils who were at the college during Mr. Thornton's regime.
Mr. Thornton was not a university graduate, but he page 74made up for what he lacked. Apart from his own excellently spoken English he took much trouble to impart English to his classes. His favourite method was oral teaching, and I think this was the secret of his success as a teacher of English.
Sir Apirana Ngata, Dr. Wi Repa and myself once spoke at a public meeting in Hastings and a Presbyterian clergyman remarked afterwards that he was struck by the fact that all the speakers seemed to have the same English model. I do not think there are any better speakers of the English language than the first two men I have mentioned above.
Reminiscences of Mr. Thornton
I have been told again and again that there has never been a generation of Te Aute boys like the Thornton generation. John Thornton was a remarkable man in many ways. He was a very strict disciplinarian; strict, I am sure, because he felt his responsibility to the young lives placed under his care and whose character he was expected to mould. He enforced neatness and cleanliness and, though many of the boys were very poor, he often held inspection parades at which the boys had to appear with clean boots and with every button intact. He would not tolerate haphazard work of any kind. At morning prayers, at seven o'clock, every boy had to be in his place before the arrival of Mr. Thornton and we knew it was his habit to have a cold bath regularly every morning. I have often wondered why the school woke up at six o'clock right throughout the year, for only those who have lived at Te Aute can realise how bitterly cold it is in winter. It was Mr. Thornton's intention to harden the boys and to accustom them to early rising. Every morning, he had a gang of boys working in the gardens or in the fields and every flower garden had to be well trimmed and the lawns neatly mown. My own love for neat gardens and mown page 75lawns must have been obtained from Mr. Thornton's teachings.
Mr. Thornton was a man of firm religious faith. I always enjoyed his evening talks on religion and his sermons in the village Church on Sunday evenings. I well remember the rage Mr. Thornton got into when a clergyman read the Commination Service. It was the first and only time I ever heard such a service read, so perhaps Mr. Thornton's wrath was justified. Good Friday was observed by the college only in the morning. The Venerable Archdeacon Samuel Williams and his family were also evangelical, as were their missionary forbears, so the religious atmosphere of the whole settlement was decidedly evangelical. I considered the religion I learned then sufficient, and I did not want anything external to augment it in the way of forms, ceremonies, and such.
Mr. Thornton was also an out-and-out teetotaller. This was a very important point in his character and must have had a great influence over the boys. Accustomed as they were to drunken scenes in the pas, meeting a white man, who never touched strong drink and who was the headmaster of a well-known college, must have been a wholesome lesson to them.
Mr. Thornton was a simple man in all his ways and tastes, was always plainly but neatly dressed and there was nothing of the Epicure about him. He had one aim in life and that was to conduct his life as a model to the boys under his care. He inculcated in their minds the elementary rules of health; for instance, never to sit or lie on damp ground; he also taught them never to wear damp clothes or boots, to avoid draughts, to be careful with money, and numerous other things necessary to remember. All ray life I have endeavoured to avoid lying on damp ground, and have been blest with good health, for which I think I must, to some extent, thank Mr. Thornton, He did not give us any set page 76lectures on health, but he imparted the lessons occasionally, and then, generally, out in the fields.
During my long life I have had many controversies with people on the subject, "What is the Noblest Calling or Profession?" Most people, of course, maintain that either the medical profession or the clerical profession is the noblest. I maintain that the teaching profession is the noblest and I am usually hauled over the coals, but I still maintain that view. My concrete example of the nobility of the teaching profession is Mr. Thornton. The teacher moulds the character of the child and he also moulds the body and leads the mind to appreciate the aesthetic. A doctor may repair a broken limb, a parson may mend a broken character, but the teacher moulds them both.
Mr. Thornton could never stand lounging about or putting one's hands in one's pockets. When he sent a boy to fetch something, the boy had to either run or step it out, but could not drag his feet. I often heard him ask a boy after the class had shown him its work, "Rangi, why must you always be the last." I suppose he even knew that boys might develop inferiority complexes. Constantly, in season and out of season, he watched the boys with a fatherly care and took every opportunity to teach and guide them to useful and good lives.
The boys revered Mr. Thornton and among themselves always referred to him as "Jack," as though he were one of them. In private company Mr. Thornton was jovial and entertaining and boys felt perfectly at home with him.
Before coming to New Zealand, Mr. Thornton was headmaster of a mission school in India, and his appointment to the headmastership of Te Aute College in 1876 followed his being headmaster of the Oamaru Grammar School. Owing to his failing health he resigned from the college in 1910 and died on July 4th, page 771913, at Hastings, at the age of 69 years, and he was buried at Te Ante.
When I found myself established at Te Aute, I felt elated, as though my name had already been engraved in the scroll of honour. Sir Apirana Ngata was then still a student, but in a senior class. At the college there were representatives from all the tribes in New Zealand, from the North Cape to the Bluff. Some could speak English very well, but others, like myself, could speak only in halting English.
Life at Te Aute
The boys did all the work in the college except laundry work and scrubbing the bedrooms, this being done by maids. Washing the sheets and clothes was also done by the boys under the supervision of the matron. The most coveted position was that of assistant masters' waiter, for this flunkey was permited to eat what was left on the table. The college meals were not appetising, and I often yearned for the varied meals of home. The food was, however, wholesome, and the boys certainly thrived on it.
During the football season boys became very hungry and enjoyed their simple meal of tea and bread and butter. If a boy wanted more pieces of bread he indicated the number by the fingers he put up. It was by no means unusual to see a boy with all his fingers up, and there would often be a competition to see who could eat the most pieces of bread at one meal.
As a rule, boys who came from a distance and who could not afford to go home for the winter holidays, stayed at the college, but those who, like myself, had friends in Hawke's Bay, stayed with them. It was during the winter holidays that we had meals like the ones I generally had at home. There is nothing a Maori likes better than puha1 with pork, fish of any kind, and page 78shell-fish of all kinds. Even Maoris who attended the university never lost their taste for the simple foods of their fathers.
We Discover the Vegetable Caterpillar
During the winter-holidays I led two expeditions and was a member of two others. The first expedition I joined was to discover the vegetable caterpillar. I had heard of this extraordinary object but was somewhat skeptical about its existence. Our field of exploration was known as Tatham's Bush and we found this, though not extensive, still intact. As we entered the bush we had a feeling of great adventure and of curiosity, perhaps somewhat akin to the feelings Jason experienced as he approached the little bush in which was the Golden Fleece, the difference here being that we were spared the dragon's teeth and the ferocious dragon. Our trusty guide looked confident and we felt hopeful. After wandering about the bush and closely studying its floor, the guide called out, "Here's one!" We all rushed towards him. His finger was pointed at a little plant sticking out of the ground, then with his knife he dug around the growth and gradually unearthed the perfectly shaped body of a caterpillar. It was about two inches in length and the growth which looked like its tail was just as long. We found about half-a-dozen which we carried home in triumph.
Failure to Scale Ruahine
I led the next expedition myself during the Easter holidays, and its object was more ambitious than vegetable caterpillar-hunting, for it was no less than the scaling of one of Ruahine's snowy peaks. We allowed ourselves just a week and, if favoured with fine weather, might just manage to achieve our objective. We carried everything, provisions, equipment, etc., on our backs. Our first camp was near the cave at Groome's page 79and we inspected this and saw, for the first time, stalactites and stalagmites which we found to be in a perfect state of preservation—I mean, they had not been damaged by vandals.
We started early next morning and crossed the Ruataniwha Plain which, after the luxuriant growth of the English grass we had been accustomed to seeing at Te Aute, looked like a desert. After crossing the plain we passed near the small village of Hampden, but not a soul did we see. Not far from Hampden is Tikokino where we spent our second night out and here the mighty Ruahine appeared to be much nearer. The next morning we would make the final dash, even though the top of the range seemed so far away.
We really did bestir ourselves early the next morning. None of us knew the country so we were, in a sense, resorting to blind flying. Undaunted, we entered the forest and for hours we worked our way up the steep spur. We had made good progress by lunchtime, for which meal we had only bread and butter. After lunch, we had only travelled a few chains when we came upon a deep gully which lay between us and the snow-capped ridge. We were debating whether to descend into the gully or to follow the ridge for some considerable distance further, when the sky suddenly darkened and rain began to fall. We sheltered under some large trees but as there seemed little prospect of the rain ceasing and as our supply of food was running low, I gave the order to retrace our steps. We had no compass and in the darkness of the forest we lost all sense of direction. By a stroke of luck we struck a survey line which we followed until it brought us to a grassy opening where, to our delight, we saw a hut. It was, by this time, almost dark. A lonely shepherd gave us a hearty welcome. He had just baked a large loaf in a camp-oven and he offered it to us for our tea. We were famished and finished the whole loaf. The page 80shepherd told us that we were wise in turning back for, had we descended into the gully we would not have been able to go much farther without more time and a good supply of provisions, and, besides, we would probably have become bushed. Dan Ellison was the only member of the party about my own age, the rest being junior boys. I often wonder why people persist in attempting to scale the Himalayas; I think it is very foolish; and yet Ruahine might easily have been my own and my companions' Himalaya.
During the mid-winter holidays I led a walking expedition over a large portion of Hawke's Bay and, though it was not attended by any unusual incidents it was more utilitarian than the abortive attempt to scale the heights of Ruahine. This expedition launched the Young Maori Party.
Te Aute and Football
Te Aute College is famous throughout Australasia for rugby football, and Tom Ellison, who was a member of Warbrick's Maori team which visited England and other countries in 1886, could be regarded as the greatest exponent of the rugby code. I was a member of the first Te Aute College team that went on tour in 1888. This team went as far as Timaru and won the majority of the matches played against leading clubs. The team was welcomed with open arms, particularly in the South Island. It was an eye-opener to young Maoris to meet charming young gentlemen at parties.
The author clad in Maori garments.
The author, an undergraduate at Canterbury University College.
A group of students at College House, Canterbury University College, Christchurch.
First Matakaoa County Council, 1920-29. Back: R. T. Kohere, W. Walker, Kingsford Reid, A. E. Kemp, C. R. E. Wood, Dr. Wi Repa. Front: C. I. B. Beckett, W. F. Metcalfe (Chairman), D. J. McNaught (County Clerk).
Historic Roto-a-Tara and a Sad Event
Before my admission to Te Aute College, Karetai, a very popular boy from Otago, had been drowned in Roto-a-Tara1 when swan-hunting on its waters. He was in a canoe and while chasing a young swan the canoe had capsized and, being unable to swim, the boy was drowned. The body was recovered the next day and was finally taken to his home in Otago for interment. The gloom of this tragic happening still hung over the college when I began to attend.
The name Karetai is easily recognised as one of the greatest in the Maori history of the South Island, and should be classed with those of Tuhawaiki, or Bloody Jack as he was familiarly known to early settlers, Taiaroa and Tainui, of the West Coast.
Roto-a-Tara is itself a celebrated name, and the little island near the eastern shore of the lake is of particular interest. Peach trees once grew on the island and human bones could once be seen lying about. Its name, Peach Island, was a natural adoption. When the peaches were ripe, of course, boys, having no scruples, used to eat and enjoy them, but the old Maoris regarded the island as tapu, and this also meant that the peaches should not be eaten. When young Karetai page 82was drowned, they attributed the sad fatality to the desecration of the sacred island by boys from the college. The students never again chased young swans on the waters of Roto-a-Tara, although they continued to catch eels in its marshes.
A Historic Island Disappears
Both the lake and the island have since disappeared for, due to the enterprise and engineering skill of Archdeacon Williams, the Waipawa river was diverted and the lake was drained into the dry bed of the Waipawa.
It was to the little island that Pareihe and other Hawke's Bay chiefs once betook themselves and their tribes for protection against attacks by tribes from Taupo, Waikato and elsewhere. When they considered their position untenable, the defenders migrated in a body to the Mahia Peninsula where they could be safe under the protection of Te Wera, the Ngapuhi chief who had equipped himself and his men with firearms. It was here at Mahia that Kakatarau, my grand-uncle, once came to ask Te Wera, Pareihe and other chiefs to help him to avenge the death of his father Pakura1 and this they consented to do. I do not know whether Kakatarau actually reached Roto-a-Tara, but it is affirmed that chiefs from Wairarapa joined Kakatarau's war expedition in 1836.
While I was attending the college an old man, who lived at Wiwipatiki on the shore of the lake, asked me if I was a descendant of Kakatarau and, on being told I was, showed great interest in me. At that time I did not know the reason that prompted the question but I learned that later.
1 See Chapter I.
Huhuti Swims to Her Lover
The little island in Roto-a-Tara was also the home of Whatuiapiti, the grand-ancestor of the Hawke's Bay page 83tribe. He once met a young chieftainess, named Huhuti, of a neighbouring tribe and made advances to her, but her people opposed the match. Huhuti took matters into her own hands and ran away to Roto-a-Tara. She arrived on the shore of the lake at night and, failing to find a canoe to take her across, she decided to swim to the little island on which her lover lived. Arriving at the island she waited in the water until somebody came along and she then sent a message to Whatuiapiti that she had come and was waiting for him to take her to his home.
Friends I Adore
I cannot conclude this chapter without paying tribute to some of the people whom I learned to respect and adore during my sojourn at Te Aute.
I first saw and heard the Venerable Archdeacon Samuel Williams at evening prayers at the college one Friday evening. He read the short service in Maori. He was a venerable-looking old gentleman but the point that struck me most of all was that he spoke excellent Maori, He spoke the language as adeptly as a Maori.
Apart from taking a service in Maori once a week at the college, the Archdeacon had no other means of coming in contact with the students of the college of which he was founder. Not until many years after I had left the college were boys occasionally invited to tea at "the House," a name by which the Archdeacon's home was familiarly known. When I later joined the college staff, I found more freedom to go across to "the House" where I always received a welcome. When I attended Canterbury College and taught at Te Rau College, it was my habit to spend part of my holidays at "the House." I now count it as a privilege for me to have been permitted into that home, an ideal English home. What may be refined in my character is due page 84in a large degree to my association with that home; what principles I may have formed were strengthened by the inspiration I received there. Others more or less shared the privilege with me. "The open door policy" to young Maoris, adopted at Archdeacon Williams' home, I would say, advisedly and sincerely, was brought about by the influence of Miss Keith who was a companion to the Archdeacon's blind daughter, Lydia, and a more unselfish being I have never met. I am sure that this opinion is also held by the large number of people who knew Miss Keith. The Rev. Canon A. F. Williams and Mrs. Williams also adopted the "open door policy" towards the boys of the College.
A Religious Revival
When a religious revival took place in the college, its results were far-reaching: One or two of the senior boys decided to surrender their lives to God. They began holding prayer meetings and reading their Bibles. When Mr. F. A. Bennett, late Bishop of Aotearoa, visited the college and spoke to the boys, religious enthusiasm was set ablaze. Students in a train on their way to play football at Napier, sang hymns instead of their usual songs and this proved rather disconcerting to people who kept their religion to themselves.
It was as a result of this revival that the Young Maori Party was launched and bands of students tramped the country, preaching the Gospel and social reform. Though there were a few who tried to damp the ardour of the young reformers, other helped them as much as possible. It was to help these young enthusiasts and to show sympathy with them that the "open door policy" was adopted both at Archdeacon Williams's home and at that of his nephew, the Rev. Canon A. F. Williams.
At first, a Christian Endeavour Association was formed in the college and this ultimately merged with page 85the Students' Christian Union. As might be expected, the Christian Union met with some opposition among the boys themselves. This opposition manifested itself in what was called the "Te Kooti Gang," one of the leaders of which was Henare Wepiha Wainohu, well-known as the Padre of the Pioneer Battalion which distinguished itself during the first World War. A fine monument which was erected to the memory of Wepiha can be seen in the town of Wairoa North.