Mrs Rangitiaria Dennan—known to most people as Guide Rangi—has retired after 40 years spent escorting visitors through the thermal area at Whakarewarewa, Rotorua. She is well-known throughout the world, having met Royalty, leaders of many countries, church dignitaries, famous visitors, sports teams, thousand of tourists and of course, countless New Zealanders—adults and school children.
Her success as a guide is the direct result of a good education. She learnt Maori lore from her mother and grandfather and was educated at Hukarere Maori Girls' College. In her last year at Hukarere, she was dux and head prefect. Rangi taught at the old Whaka-
rewarewa Maori School, then at Ruatoki and at Torere—on the East Coast near Opotiki—and took up nursing for a short time before becoming a full-time guide in 1922. She travelled over the whole of New Zealand, and so was able to talk knowledgeably about our country to her many visitors.
Some of those she met were the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who visited Rotorua in 1927, the Duke of Gloucester who came in 1934, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who toured Whakarewarewa in 1954, the late Queen Salote of Tonga and the late Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt.
Her home at Whakarewarewa is beautifully decorated with carvings done by her grandfather, Tene Waitere. Inside are the carved bed and treasure boxes, and outside is the monument to Rangi's mother, whose family had lived for many years at Te Wairoa. In the house is a large and valuable collection … letters of thanks, mementos, photographs and autographs. There are also many footballs, cricket, softball and tennis balls autographed by members of touring teams.
There is a treasured photograph of the establishment of the first Anglican Church at the Buried Village, Te Wairoa. Rangi is proud of her long association with the Anglican Church, which began during her years at Hukarere.
One of her proudest possessions is the insignia of the M.B.E. awarded by the Queen in 1957 and presented to her by the then Governor-General, Sir Willoughby Norrie. She also received a medallion and citation appointing her a serving sister of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. This was given in recognition of her service to the Order at many hockey games in Rotorua.
Guide Rangi went several times to Australia where her concert party became famous. More recent visits were to the Phillipine Islands in 1960, and to Fiji in 1961. There, as in every other place she has been, she met people whom she had led through Whakarewarewa.
Not many people have made a bigger contribution to New Zealand's tourist industry than Guide Rangi, and with her retirement the industry has lost one of its most colourful personalities. But she won't be forgotten. Almost certainly the first question from many tourists arriving at Whakarewarewa will be … “Where is Guide Rangi?”
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