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No. 56 (September 1966)
– 8 –

—Lovely Lady of the Ureweras

From where I sit I can see them, bush-clad and starkly blue against the clear winter sky—that remote, rambling range of mountains known as the Ureweras.

How would it feel, I wonder, to be a young woman, only two years out of Dunedin Training College, riding along a treacherous track in the bush on those most lonely mountains? Riding to an isolated village called Maunga-pohatu to occupy a position as teacher there. Not many of us today would wish to change places with Miss Irene Doris Paulger as she travelled 25 miles on horseback after leaving her previous post at Nuhaka, near Napier.

Little did she, or anyone else at that time, guess that she would spend 25 years of her life in devoted service to the people of the village.

It all began with a typhoid epidemic which was “on the rampage” when she arrived. She was drawn immediately into the life of the community, not only as teacher, but more urgently as a nurse. Later she extended her teaching to the sphere of religion, taking church services and teaching the children in Sunday School. Eventually she undertook all the work of the Presbyterian Mission, even conducting burial services and sometimes making the coffins.

In this lonely village, home of the prophet Rua, Miss Paulger ran the Post Office and to add to the fullness of her life, she brought up as her own, four children; Te Riini, a grand-daughter of Te Heu Heu, and Hiki, Meri, and Mare Kahukura. Miss Paulger saw to it that they each received a good secondary education.

Te Riini is now Mrs T. van Biene and a Kindergarten teacher in Birkenhead. Hiki became a nurse and is now married to a Northland farmer, Mr A. Pou. Meri became a Presbyterian Deaconess and is married to the Rev. B. Tucker. Together they carry on the Missionary tradition of their “adoptive” mother. Mare is married and works in Auckland.

The dedication and splendid work of his young woman was not lost upon the villagers. In time they recognised her as a chieftainess and gave her the name “Huhana”. A wife of Rua made her a cloak of kiwi and pigeon feathers. These were high honours indeed for a Pakeha lady.

This morning, a young Maori boy, himself a descendant of Rua, remarked to me that Miss Paulger used to teach his father and his mother when they were children.

There was pride in his voice—the pride of one who has heard about and understands the value and importance of the work of the lovely lady of the Ureweras.

L. A. Lew