Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 18 (May 1957)
– 10 –

The second Te Ao Hou Literary Competition was judged by Messrs M. R. Jones and W. Sparks, and Mrs E. Garrett. The first two of these judges selected Constable McFarland as the winning story, Mrs Garrett preferring The Burial. Rora Paki's A Home is Made was placed third. The judges did not think any of the entries were outstanding; yet the second competition was generally an advance on the first, in the number of worthwhile entries coming forward and in the intrest shown.

Prize Winning Story in literary competition

CONSTABLE McFARLAND

Hey!”

“What?”

“There's someone coming! Quick-”

“Hey, John! Someone's coming. Scram!”

“Right! Coming.”

“Each man for himself!”

“Hell, go where?”

“Anywhere, but get out of here!”

John ducked out of the dark alley way. He was keyed up now, alert for any noise. He ran hurriedly, urgently. Escape, he must. He could hear his mates running away. Swiftly he raced, and silently. His spine tingled. His breath came in great hissing gulps, which he tried to stifle. Away he dashed. And then it happened. A dark shape suddenly loomed ahead. He couldn't stop; he couldn't dodge. Head on he crashed into the soft yielding dark mass. A man, he thought, as he gasped and went sprawling. He heard a grunt and some cursing. Yes, a man.

“Well, well, my man, what's the terrible hurry?” John looked up. The man was towering above him.

Gee, a policeman, he almost cried aloud.

“I—, I—,” he hesitated, “I was catching a tram.” He struggled to his feet trying desperately to stop shivering.

“Is that so!” the policeman exclaimed, “Catching a tram, ch! Young man, there are no trams in this part of the city, Now, what's your name?”

“I—, I— was catching a bus. True!” John stammered. Somewhow a good excuse just would not come to him.

“Come on, your name, son! And you're a Maori lad too, eh.”

“Jo— John— Tai— Tairoa.”

“And where are you living, son?” demanded the policeman, now fumbling with a notebook.

“Union Street.”

“Where d'you come from in the first place?”

“I see. Now come with me to that street lamp over there. I want a good look at you before I take you in”.

– 11 –

As they drew closer to the lamp each was able to study the other more closely. John saw a colossal man in the characteristic black uniform. The uniform, especially the helmet, impressed him more than the man within it. It filled him with awe. It brought to his mind, all sorts of frightening pictures conjured up in the first instance during his childhood when his parents had threatened the policeman would do a host of terrifying things to him, if he did not behave. ‘The man in the black clothes will hang you by the neck till you die; he'll whip you in jail until you fall down dead, he'll punch you in the face and kick you in the head; he'll break your bones one by one, if you don't listen. So listen, my son. If you don't, that fallab will……….”

John shivered involuntarily. Although he now knew, the terrible things his parents had told him would not happen, there was yet fear in his heart of the unknown things the policeman might do to him.

“Well”, said the towering policeman, “You look to me as though you're only fifteen. How old are you?”

“I am sixteen”.

“Mm, a mere youngster. Now tell me all about it John and don't leave anything out. I like the look of you, young fellow. Pity you're such a young man to be going against the law.”

John's mind had been racing, racing to find a likely story, but none which he invented seemed good enough to fool the big policeman.

“Start from the beginning John, from back in R……when you decided to come here.”

John began his story, the true one.

“What do your parents do for a living,” asked the policeman.

“They milk cows when the cows are in.”

“And what, when the cows are not in?”

“Nothing much, except for odd jobs that my father found,” John replied.

“How many in your family John?”

“Ten.”

“I see,” the policeman reflected, “Now go on.”

John told him how his mother had prepared his few things which were packed into a small suitcase; of how he had departed full of golden hopes and magnificent dreams. One of his relatives had sent a telegram to a cousin of his working in Auckland to meet him at the bus depot. His cousin did meet him and he was taken to Nelson Street where he had to share a bed. His cousin tried very hard to find him a room and a job. He finally got a job in the freezing works. The rest of the story was only too familiar.

At first, the strange, bewildering and exciting attractions of the city; the cinemas, the amusement park, the dazzling splendour of neon signs, the billiard saloons, the bustling din, the dance halls, the spectacle of dense masses of people moving like a river in flood, the parties and the pubs. Then, loneliness.

As for the riches, they just did not last. He told how he eventually found a room in Union Street, with some other Maori boys he had met. With all good intentions, he had tried not to drink, but all his mates did and if he did not join them, he would be left alone with no one tor company. Anyway no one was interested in them. No one cared about them. There was no restraining hand. There were no friends to visit.

He told how he was gradually drawn in and accepted into the gang. Later, he discovered that the gang sometimes raided offices, shops and factories. If he pulled out he would be called “yellow” and this he could not face. This night he had accompanied them for the first time. He didn't want to, but, he had to. They broke into—–'s factory and were just searching the office when someone must have heard them.

“And that's your story, John. You'll be surprised young man, how many young fellows tell us a story just like yours,” remarked the policeman.

John's heart sank. Evidently the big policeman did not believe him.

“Now John, listen to me,” continued the policeman. “Lots of young men like you get into trouble just like you did. A lot of them finish up in jail, which isn't a very nice place for any young fellow to go to. A few—the decent fellows—get a chance. Now I think you deserve a chance.”

Like the magical moment when Tane, by his strenuous efforts, allowed the glorious daylight to flood the breast of Rangi, so did the policeman, by his word, brighten the gloomy world of John's mind.

“Here's an address, John. You meet me there at ten o'clock tomorrow morning without fail. Understand! Good, now go home and have a good night's sleep.”

“Thank you very, very much Mr—–,” John stumbled.

“Constable McFarland is the name, son.”

“Thank you, very much Constable McFarland,” the youth said and then he stepped into the night and was lost.

Some years later, Constable McFarland was thrilled to read the following letter.

Dear Mr McFarland,

At last, I feel free to write to you. I am still working at the same garage that the Vocational Guidance people sent me to six years ago. I am now an “A” Grade mechanic and earning good money.

I find it very hard to put into words, my gratitude for what you did for me. Thanks again.

Some hours ago my wife gave birth to a ten pound son. My wife and I have decided to call him McFarland. When he grows into manhood I sincerely hope he will put Constable in front of his name. Won't I be proud of my son—Constable McFarland Tairoa!

Kia Ora and best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

John Tairoa.