In the nineteen-twenties the Taranaki Maori Trust Board considered the idea of making a permanent memorial to Turi's arrival at Patea in the Aotearoa canoe about 1350 A.D.
The final decision to commence the building of the canoe was made in 1933. Mr Scottie Panenui was entrusted with the project. He obtained photographs of a canoe in the Auckland Museum and approached me with the idea of procuring marble figures from Italy which, he thought, could be painted brown. The proposition was vetoed owing to lack of
The Inside Story of the Building of …
time, as the Trust Board wished the contract to be finished within six months, and it would have taken at least eighteen months to have the figures made in Italy.
The members of the Taranaki Maori Trust Board were very pleased with my suggestion that the figures be cast in cement, but as the Trust Board had budgeted £400 for the whole project, only four figures could be supplied. These figures were cast and finished by me, Fred Jones, of Hawera.
The Maoris made five ponga figures, to make up the total number in the canoe.
In 1956, the Mayor of Patea at the time opened a subscription list for money to replace the ponga figures with permanent ones.
History tells us Turi's wife gave birth to a baby on the voyage, so Mr Whakarua. Secretary of the Maori Trust Board asked me to make a cast of the babe and place it on the Wahine's shoulders.
The prow and the taurapa (stern) were also made in cement and the intricate carving was meticulously carried out by hand and followed from a photograph of the canoe in the Auckland Museum.
This fine monument stands outside the Patea Council Chambers where it is a constant reminder of the courage of the real pioneers of the district.
Fred A. Jones
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