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No. 55 (June 1966)
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Women pay their last respects. Right, Mrs Ngoi Pewhairangi


The foremost Maori action song composer and teacher of recent times—the late Miss Tuini Ngawai—was paid appropriate honour at Easter, when a national Maori hui and memorial services were held at Tokomaru Bay.

The ceremonies marked the unveiling of a memorial to Miss Tuini Ngawai and commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the celebrated Hokowhitu Atu Maori Cultural Club, which she formed in 1936.

Miss Ngawai died on August 20 last.

The official party at the celebrations was led by the Minister of Maori Affairs, the Hon. J. R. Hanan, who had come specially from Invercargill because of the importance of the occasion. Mr Hanan was accompanied by his wife and daughter. Also in the party were the Bishop of Aotearoa, the Rt. Rev. W. N. Panapa, and the M.P.'s for Eastern Maori, Mr P. T. Watene, and for Gisborne, Mrs Esme Tombleson.

Friends and admirers of Miss Tuini Ngawai and Hokowhitu Atu came from many

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parts of New Zealand, with particularly strong contingents from Auckland and Wellington.

The dominant theme of the sentiments expressed was that Miss Ngawai was a genius, unique, and that her like would never be seen again. Other brilliant composers and teachers there would be, but they would be of another generation and of another time. Tuini's great contribution as a composer of war-time songs, classics of language and style, and of folk-music peculiar to the rural East Coast of her generation would live forever.

Mr Hanan promised that he would recommend to the Maori Purposes Fund Board a proposal to grant £500 if necessary to assist in publishing a volume of Tuini's collected works, which Mrs Ngoi Pewhairangi, the present leader of Hokowhitu Atu, has been compiling.

Mrs Pewhairangi was secretary of the committee which organised the hui, and extremely well organised it was too, in the best tradition of the great East Coast festivals.

It was a time of nostalgia and humour as the marae meeting house and concert hall again rang out with Hokowhitu Atu in full cry, giving forth Tuinui's famous Maori songs of World War II and her sometimes robust, sometimes mellow, sometimes tragic and sometimes humorous folk songs.

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Mr Hanan takes the first child into the new children's playground

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Asleep in the meeting house

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Hokowhitu Atu shared the stage for the Sunday night concert at the local theatre with another renowned club, Waihirere of Gisborne, who also were in good form in paying their tribute to Tuini.

Miss Ngawai has composed some 300 songs, many of them classics, and the stories behind them were retold and relived during the hui. Her compositions comprise action songs and songs of lament, love, war and comedy.

Memories and stories of Hokowhitu Atu were also relived, particularly its patriotic work during World War II. Its forerunner the Ruataupare Club was founded in 1936. During World War II its name was changed to Hokowhitu Atu.

The weekend programme began on Good Friday afternoon with the tangi and powhiri to guests.

Saturday afternoon was given over to sports, highlighted by a rugby match between Brooklyn, of Wellington, and United, of Tokomaru Bay, which was won handsomely by United.

On Saturday night the anniversary ball, regarded as the social event of the year in the district, was held. It was attended by the Minister and his party and was well patronised locally. Hokowhitu Atu entertained and gave an exciting foretaste of the entertainment to come during the weekend and a wistful reminder of the mood-creating magic of Tuini's songs. The fact that the young people of Tokomaru Bay, as well as the old, still know how to present a formal ball was remarked on by the visitors.

On Sunday morning, following the church service, at which the preacher was Bishop Panapa, Mr Hanan unveiled a memorial stone to Tuini and also opened the Moetu children's play park, a further memorial.

This was followed by the anniversary dinner, an unforgettable banquet.

The climax of the events was the Sunday night concert by a variety of artists and the Hokowhitu Atu and Waihirere Clubs.

A quiet sense of occasion and dignity transcended the entire hui. Tuini was paid appropriate honour. As her memorial stone says:

A woman of dignity and true faith,
A genius, author and composer.

The special place which she has in the heart of the Maori people—particularly Ngati Porou and Te Whanau a Ruataupare of Ngati Porou was never more evident than at Tokomaru Bay at Easter and never more assured than it is today.

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Sister W. Meijer Evening Post photo

Rescue in the Rimutakas

A fortunate coincidence led Mr G. Wyeth to the home of Sister W. Meijer, a registered nurse, when he was seeking help for an injured companion, Mr L. Robinson of Te Marua, in the Rimutakas last February.

After the Hutt Police and the Free Ambulance had been notified Sister Meijer returned with Mr Wyeth through rugged hill country to dress the wounds of the injured man, who had been hit by a ricocheting bullet. She then walked out of the bush to her home, a distance of about 2 miles, for food and coffee for the two men.

Meanwhile ambulance men arrived on the scene, after cutting a ¼-mile track through the bush for their Landrover and then having to follow the bed of a stream on foot for about 2 miles. All the necessary first aid had been administered by Sister Meijer, but they had the task of getting the man out.

Mr B. Lahman, an ambulance man, said, “We could carry him only about 10 ft at a time. Then we had to stop and carve out a track. We all took turns, but progress was very slow and our patient was in terrible pain at that stage.”

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Sister Meijer, returning with food, met the party coming down a ravine. She administered morphine to the patient. About a mile from the road the first of the Hutt Tramping Club members arrived and by the time the road was reached about 20 men were assisting. The patient was taken to the Hutt Hospital, where he was operated on.

Mr Lahman said that he couldn't pay too high a tribute to Mrs Meijer, “She was simply terrific.”

Sister Meijer, described by the Hutt Police as a ‘Flōrence Nightingale’, later said that although she had attended people injured in Rimutaka road accidents this was her “first real big bush job”.