THE SONS OF PUHIWAHINE
Earlier in this account some mention was made of the two sons of Puhiwahine, John (Hone) and George (Te Oti). She had no more children, and it was on these two boys she lavished all of a Polynesian mother's care, especially on George, who was her pet.
With regard to their early schooling the early notes were taken from an old undated newspaper cutting. Miss Nola Millar, Reference Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, who did a great deal of research work on “John Gotty and family,” in her notes dated 11th January 1949, has stated:—
‘There was no Rev. Marshall living in New Zealand in the ‘fifties but the reference is probably to W. Marshall, later Reverend, a school-teacher who kept a school first at Wellington, then at Napier. As I found the “Masters Gotty” travelling alone from Wanganui to Wellington in July 1855, it is possible that they had been sent down by their father to Mr. Marshall's school.’
The reference to the enrolment of John (1860–1863) and George (1861) at Nelson College was from information supplied by the Principal in a letter to the writer dated 5th June 1959. Miss Millar in her notes, however, has noted that, a
‘John and George are named in the Register of Nelson College as having attended that school from 1861–1864.’
After their Nelson College days the references to John and George in a number of newspaper articles are not very clear. According to George's surviving son, Hone (John) Rangimatiti, his father did not accompany his brother John to Europe. But one newspaper article (New Zealand Herald, 24/10/1950) has this note:—
‘Gotty made sure that his two sons, John and George, received a good education. They went first to Nelson College, and were later sent to Europe. Tradition says they got as far as Paris, then cabled home for more money, all their father sent them was their fare home again. However, John went on to St. John's College, Oxford, and also revisited Germany.’
A copyright article, recorded by J. H. S. for “The Advocate” of Marton, has a reference to John having been awarded a volume of Macaulay's “Lays of Ancient Rome,” with solid clasps as a first prize for elocution, of which he was very proud. The present-day members of John's family say that all his personal papers were left by him with a solicitor who has since died, and that none of them has seen the volume mentioned.
The author of the article also added that the volume bore the signatures of W. E. Gladstone and G. A. Selwyn, and that John won his prize in competition “with all England.”
The reference to this presentation volume would indicate that John won it in about the year 1868, as it was in that year that G. A. Selwyn, first bishop of New Zealand, was in England to attend the first pan-English synod, and the bishopric of Lichfield becoming vacant he, after some hesitation, accepted it.
The writer has written to the Chancellor of Oxford University for some record of John, or of he and his brother, having attended St. John's College, Oxford. Inquiries might also be made in Germany.
In the meantime this account will deal with the later period in the lives of these two men. The writer was personally acquainted with George, who on the death of his first wife in the Rangitikei district, came to the Tuhua district. Here he met and married Te Waiata, daughter of Rangawhenua of the Maniapoto tribe, and at the beginning of this century came to live at Ongarue, where we lived.
In their lifetime these two brothers were never able to make use of their education, and in the case of George he worked as a timber worker. Occosionally he was involved in Maori Land Court proceedings. On one occasion he displayed remarkable mathematical ability in closely estimating the quantities of millable timber of various species on a tribal block of land. (Part of Puketapu Block near Taumarunui). He opposed the selling of the land and timber at the price offered by the sawmilling company, which had been accepted by the paramount chief of the tribe, who was his cousin. Operations on the remaining part of the same bush has since proved conclusively that George was correct.
He was noted for his command of the English and Maori languages, and his services were often availed of as an interpreter. He never obtained an interpreter's licence and the work he did was done gratuitously. When in his cups he would break into rollicking German songs. It was said that he was a good German linguist, and could also speak French. He was very good to children, and we would often ask him to talk in these languages, but the writer cannot vouch that when he spoke to us he was not ‘having us on.’
He had a family of three sons and two daughters. His sons were Ketu, Thomas Maraku, and John or Hone Rangimatiti, and the daughters
were Puhiwahine and Teehi. The last-named was of the same age as the writer and it was on account of the vowel similarity in our names (the writer's was Peehi) that the teacher suggested that mine be changed to Pei. The writer likes to think that he raised no difficulty over the matter because of a youthful sense of chivalry.
George died in the Taumarunui Public Hospital in 1919, and was buried alongside his wife, Te Waiata, in the hill tribal cemetery of his wife's people at Te Koura, ten miles north of Taumarunui. Only two sons survived him, Thomas, who died recently, and John who now lives at Oruaiwi.
With regard to the elder brother, John, his life after he married was spent with his wife's people. Her name was Riria, a daughter of Aperahama, a chief of the Parewahawaha sub-tribe. John and Riria had a family of five daughters, Te Raunatia, Ema Te Kune, Roka, Te Keehi, and Meipera, and one son, Te Oti (George).
A cutting of an obituary article in “The Advocate” (1917) gives a brief note that, on John's return to New Zealand from Europe, “where his education was completed, he joined the armed constabulary and served for some considerable time.” This note would indicate that he was a member of the armed constabulary for some time after he was married, as one of his two surviving daughters, Te Keehi and Meipera, is in her eighties.
John farmed on his wife's land at Ohinepuhiawe for many years. “The Advocate” article also refers to his literary contributions to that paper. The writer has only one cutting of these literary contributions. It is dated 11 December, 1915:—
Oh, hail Electra, Goddess bright,
Bulls you illume with radiant light,
Indeed, it is a glorious sight,
Sign of prosperity.
Now darkest night is turned to day
Bultonians now see clear the way,
And every heart is made light and gay
Ah! wondrous electricity,
A power supreme all must agree;
Its uses unto all are free,
Now to Bulls especially.
The poem continues for sixteen stanzas and shows considerable wit, eloquence and versatility in rhyming. Rangitorihi, the daughter of Te Kune Ema, the second eldest of John's daughters, was a favourite of his to whom he often recited his poems. She still remembers three fragments of these poems; one of them eulogizes education; another, dealing with the First World War, declares that the human ‘instinct to fight’ is ineradicable; while the third celebrates the death of Captain Scott in the Antarctic.
According to George, his brother, John could speak seven languages. The late Sir Apirana Ngata, who met John on a number of occasions, is the writer's authority for the description of him as a ‘formidable figure lost to the public life of this country.’ His impeccable speech and fine delivery, his ready wit and extensive vocabulary, said Sir Apirana, was a treat to hear and a thing at which to marvel. A fine tribute, indeed, from one of the greatest orators this country has ever had.
John was a particularly well-read man. He had a wide knowledge and clear understanding of public matters, and was a keen student of world affairs. Among other stations in life, with his academic qualifications, John could have filled with distinction the highest post in the diplomatic service.
It was rather a tragic sort of thing, and queer quirk of fate, that the academically well-equipped sons of Puhiwahine should have been ‘all the voyage of their life bound in shallows.’
They were men of independent character who never sought favours from anyone. As has often happened through the ages, it could have been a case of envy against men of high intellect, and a denial of selection to high office of such men by the perversities of democracy.
John died on Thursday, the 1st of November, 1917, at his home at Ohinepuhiawe, and was buried in the tribal cemetery nearby.
(to be continued in our next issue)
“In New Zealand, a vigorous climate and an inexhaustible supply of suitable timber stimulated a greater development in the woodwork of houses and the Maori builders embarked on a course which was to culminate in the highest peak of wood-carving in Polynesia.”—Sir Peter Buck.
“Superficial observation in the past has dwelt on the grotesque and barbaric side of Maori art, to the exclusion of the decorative designs which reflect the height of Maori genius. The forms of tree and flower, of birds and cloud and mountain, the story of the tribes, the soul and romance of native life, are expressed in these designs, evolved during many centuries of life in a country of great natural beauty. It would indeed have been strange had the Maori not absorbed the spirit of this beauty and interpreted it as best he could in the materials at his hand.”—James Cowan.