Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 49 (November 1964)
– 4 –

The Very Rev. J. G. Laughton

Fifty Years of Service To The Maori People

the very rev. j. g. laughton, who for 50 years has worked among the Maori people as missionary and teacher, this year celebrated the golden anniversary of his ordination as a missionary of the New Zealand Presbyterian Church.

Most of this time has been spent with the Tuhoe people of the Urewera Country, among whom Hoani Rotene (to give Mr Laughton his Maori name) is regarded as one of the most honoured of elders.

Last July the Tuhoe people of Rotorua marked the occasion of his anniversary with a special service held at the Mataatua marae, Rotorua, when Mr Laughton was presented with gifts for use in his ministry.

Life Spent in Service of Others

All those who know Mr Laughton speak of him as being, in a very rare sense of the word, a good man. His great ability and driving force, combined with a true humility and love of his fellowmen, have been the foundation of a lifetime spent in the service of others.

Born in the Orkney Islands, Mr Laughton has some of the mystic qualities which give him an affinity with the Maori people. Fifty years ago, he commenced full-time work for the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand when he established the first church at Pio Pio. Here he ministered to both Maori and Pakeha, so it was a natural decision for him to accept the challenge to serve in the Presbyterian Mission in 1918.

Appointed to Maungapohatu

His first assignment was to assist in felling and splitting the timer and erecting two large temporary classrooms and a dwelling at Ruatahuna. In 1918 he was appointed to Maungapohatu, Rua's stronghold. Rua had just returned from prison and was extremely displeased to find that in his absence, arrangements had been made for a Mission School to be opened by Mr Laughton.

Mr Laughton's tact soon won over Rua and a friendship was started that continued until Rua's death. Rua's final instruction was that Mr Laughton was to perform the burial rites, and he also decreed that all the children of his people were to be brought up in the in-

Picture icon

Rotorua Post photo
The Very Rev. J. G. Laughton, shown here during a trip last year down the Whakatane River, did much of his travelling in the Ureweras on horseback.

struction of the Presbyterian Church.

During these years Mr Laughton acquired an expert knowledge of the Maori language, and became an authority on the history of the Ureweras.

In 1921 Mr Laughton married Miss H. Te Kauru. Throughout his career, Mrs Laughton has ably supported him in his work.

In 1926 Mr and Mrs Laughton moved from Maungapohatu to Taupo. He was appointed Assistant Superintendent of Maori Missions in 1933, and became Superintendent in 1936. In 1938 he moved to Whakatane when the headquarters of the Mission was established there.

In subsequent years he saw the work of the Mission grow, and each year he covered many thousands of miles by car, horseback and even on foot, visiting his scattered area.

Chairman of Maori Bible Committee

In 1946 Mr Laughton was appointed Chairman of the Maori Bible Revision Committee. His expert knowledge of the Maori language, his organising ability and hard, devoted work were of inestimable value in this tremendous task.

Acknowledgement of his great work for the Maori people was made when in 1948, King George VI conferred on him the honour of Companion of St Michael and St George.

In 1950 the task of revising the Maori Bible was finally completed, and Mr Laughton, with his wife, went to England to see the Revised

– 5 –

Maori Bible through the press.

Mr Laughton has been a member of the Maori Purposes Fund Board for many years, and of the Ngarimu Scholarship Fund Board since its inception.

In 1956, on the constitution of the Presbyterian Maori Synod, Mr Laughton became its first Moderator, a position he occupied until his retirement six years later. Since then he has undertaken part-time work in the Rotorua district, where he has greatly endeared himself to the members of the Tuhoe tribe now living there.

The following tribute to Hoani Rotene was written for Te Ao Hou by one of his mokai tauira, the Rev. Tame Hawea, of Wellington.

‘E kōrero ana ētahi kupu, “I tonoa mai he tangata e te Atua, ko Hoani tōna ingoa. I harere mai ia hei kaiwhakaatu, hei whakaatu mō te mārama, kia meinga ai nga tāngata kia whakapono.” Tūhoe nui tonu, otirā te iwi Maori nui tonu, ehara māku te whakamārama, te whakapuaki rānei i ngā mihi ki tēnei kaumātua; arā atu a nui mā. Engari he wāhi i tukuna mai ki a au. Me pēwhea ake hoki he kōrero i ngā kupu tonu o roto i te Rongopai. Ko Hoani Rōtene te tūturutanga o te Maoritanga. He tangata hūmārie i tuku i a ia tata tonu anō ki te mate mō tōna iwi, kia riro ai i a rātou ngā taonga e kōrerotia nei e tātou te whakapono, te tūmanako, te aroha. Rima tekau ngā tau i takatū ai ia mō tāua. Kei roto i ngā rekoata kua mutu tana mahi, kua ritaea. Ko ngā mea kei te mōhio ki tēnei kaumātua kei te mātau kore rawa e mutu tana mahi mō tōna iwi. Ko te wawata a tōna iwi kia tohungia ia kia tino aru te pai me te atawhai i a ia.’