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No. 5 (Spring 1953)
– 9 –

TE RANGIHIROA NOW RESTS IN HIS HOMELAND

After waiting for almost two years, the people of Urenui were able, on August 4, to celebrate a tangi over the ashes of one of their greatest sons, the late Sir Peter Te Rangihiroa Buck. Standing in the morning bustle of the Wellington Railway Station they saw the ashes—brought from Honululu by the Minister for Maori Affairs, the Hon. E. B. Corbett—carried out of the Auckland train by four bearers in ceremonial dress: T. T. Ropiha, M. R. Jones, R. Royal and P. P. Tahiwi. Even in the midst of the passers-by and the milling crowd waiting for the express, it was a moving and imposing ceremony, and the procession from the station, preceded by Anania Amohau as challenger, was marked by sincere but dignified grief.

The ceremony in Ngati-Poneke Hall on August 4 was sober and simple. Speakers expressed their gratitude to the Hon. Mr Corbett for bringing home the ashes, and prominent pakeha representatives paid tribute to the late Sir Peter Buck. Memorable among the speeches of the many statesmen, foreign representatives, and scientists present, was the story of Mr T. E. Y. Seddon, a lifelong friend of Peter Buck's, who gave a fine description of a starry night in 1904, when the two of them were travelling from New Plymouth to Auckland on the old ferry. Looking into the darkness, young Peter talked about the big change that had just come into his life: the elders of his tribe had taken him into their confidence, he had been told the traditions of his people and the old songs had been confidede [sic: confided] to him. One can imagine the two young students together: the pakeha, moved at the sight of his friend who has suddenly lost his carefree ways and has assumed the heavy burden of his race; the Maori, thinking of what has been revealed to him.

Mr Seddon was also able to relate some valuable anecdotes, including one describing Peter Buck on the battlefields in France, concentrating on reading French poetry.

As it happened, the unveiling of the Buck Memorial Cairn at Urenui occurred less than two weeks after the arrival of the ashes. The ashes will not be buried, it is said, until next year, in a memorial yet to be built. The unveiling ceremony at Urenui, on 15 August, was attended by a mixed Maori and pakeha gathering of 300–400 people. Canon W. E. W. Hurst consecrated the stone.

The Hon. Mr Corbett, who was present, together with a number of other distinguished

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Ashes of Sir Peter Buck reposing at Te Tao o Te Po meeting house at Petone.
Photo: W. H. Love

official visitors, told the people that while he was in the U.S.A. recently, scientists had told him that the late Sir Peter Buck was, in their view, the greatest New Zealander to come to America since Lord Rutherford.

After the ceremony was over, the guests had lunch in the delightful dining-hall of the Ngati-Mutunga, completed very shortly before this celebration. On the marae, the M.P. for Western Maori, Mrs Iriaka Ratana, thanked the Minister for bringing the ashes. After lunch a number of speeches were made.

Conspicuous among these was one by Dr Roger Duff, partly in fine Maori, which greatly impressed the gathering, and an eloquent plea by Hamiora Raumati—that the people should be inspired by the achievements of the late Te Rangihiroa to build a better future, and that the best memorial to him would be the building of a church at Urenui. Followers of Te Whiti, the people of Urenui, had not had a church since three were burnt down in the Maori Wars.

The function was presided over by Mr A. B. Witten Hannah.