Following our article on Sister Annie Henry in Issue 70, we received a letter from Mrs Elsie Little expressing her enjoyment in reading of her old friend and mentioning that she had had similar experiences in Waiohau. We suggested that she tell us of them, and are delighted to receive these extracts from her diary.
Memories of Waiohau
At the Presbyterian Bible Class Camp at Napier in December 1917, an appeal was made for teachers to open schools in Maori settlements.
At the end of April 1918,* Misses Hariana Te Kauru and Elsie E. Webber said goodbye to friends in Auckland and set off for Waiohau on the edge of the Tuhoe, where we had been appointed to teach. At Frankton we met Miss Grace Johnston from the South Island who was to join us in the school at Waiohau. After saying goodbye to more Bible Class friends at Rotorua, we caught the service car to take us as far as the Rangitaiki River at Te Houhi, 12 miles from our journey's end. The Rev. J. G. Laughton was on board on his way Maungapohatu to open up a school at Rua the prophet's headquarters. He said he would visit us in three months' time, when we had had practice at cooking.
As we neared the end of our 50-mile drive, we spied a buggy and a dray on the
27 April: Our luggage had not yet arrived by Goodson's waggon, so we were invited to stay until it did. That day we rode down on horseback with Miss Grant to spy out the land of our future labours. We were shown
* Miss G. Johnston is now Mrs Gladstone Hughes, Miss Te Kauru is now Mrs J. G. Laughton and Miss E. E. Webber is now Mrs E. E. Little.
the school and our dwelling-house, lent by two of the Maori families. We then made our way to the meeting-house where the rest of the people were grouped. After shaking hands we listened to several speeches of welcome. Soon after this we left in time to order a tin chimney to be sent out from Rotorua for our house.
28 April—2 May: We were obliged to spend a week at Te Houhi, because when our luggage did arrive, the river was too high to take it across.
3 May: At last, the drays were piled with our belongings, and we mounted the horses brought up from Waiohau by Alice and Annie, two young Maori women. We thoroughly enjoyed their company on the way down.
4 May: We had a great day, making order out of chaos, and by night-fall we had the house fairly comfortable. Most of our pieces of furniture were the kerosene boxes which had held our supplies, but a neighbour kindly brought us a table and some chairs.
5 May: While were were wondering how we should approach the people about a Church service we saw that quite a number had gathered at the meeting-house. Thinking that they wanted us to open school that day, we made our way over to tell them that it was Sunday, but to our surprise and delight we found that they wished to have a service. Miss Johnston gave an address on ‘The Sabbath’ while Miss Te Kauru interpreted. In the afternoon we held Sunday School for the children and I suppose they felt as strange as we did. A few understood English, but with Miss Te Kauru's help we were able to make ourselves understood. In the evening we took a lamp over to the school-room, where we sang hymns, as quite a crowd had gathered.
6 May: There was great excitement when a kerosene tin was hit and the children lined up ready for school. Parents were in and out all day giving anyone who did not attend a poke in the back. We had no school furniture but a stool, two small painted blackboards, and only half the slates that should have come. The drill took the fancy of the older folk, one of whom went through the exercises behind my back.
11 May: In the afternoon the election of the school committee took place in the meeting-house, while in the evening a dance was held to celebrate the opening of school.
12 May: A Maori minister came to church so we took the service between us, he giving the address.
13 May: We began night school. Both adults and children came, all sitting on the floor.
15 May: We had just resumed school in the afternoon when someone outside called out “Motor car”! The three men who had come for some shooting drew up at the school and gave the children rides. Then wasn't there a scatter when the driver tooted the horn as the car stopped. No other car came down after that for 10 years as the road was so rough.
3 June: We went to the bush for a picnic with the older children. Such a scramble it was, clinging to anything we could lay hands on, the earth very often slipping from beneath our feet. But the view from the top was magnificent. On the horizon rose the three snow-capped peaks and to our right the peaks of Tarawera and Edgecumbe. Between us and these rose range after range of low hills, while at our feet lay the beautiful Waiohau Valley with the Rangitaiki River wending its way through. As we were returning home the children suddenly surrounded us, covering us with large fern leaves with which, they said, they were crowning us.
27 July was bitterly cold, and snow began to fall. The children remarked “What funny rain!” I couldn't keep my eyes from the
window and in the end we went outside to make snowballs. The younger children were taken to the house while the rest of us tried to get warm around a tin of manuka embers.
16 August: We had a box of lovely daffodils sent from Auckland, and took some to an elderly woman and a man who was ill.
24 August: We took the children to the bush where we had a great scramble over the slippery rocks. We came across a beautiful waterfall, the wind blowing showers of spray over us. After lunch some clambered over the hills while the rest sat in the open playing ‘I Spy’.
2 September: The arrival of a small folding organ given by the Bible Class girls was a great event. Sophie (Hopaia) brought it down on horseback from Kopuriki. She arrived rather late, but as soon as the notes from it were heard, over rushed a number of children. It was the same the next morning. The children didn't want to leave during the interval either but said they wanted to hear the organ.
November: That terrible influenza epidemic struck Waiohau. Nearly everyone was down with it, those not so ill trying to attend to the others. Miss Johnston visited the distant homes on horseback, while we other two cooked or visited the nearer places. One day Miss Webber rode up to Kopuriki with the mail and went on in the gig to Murupara where she visited Sister Annie of Ruatahuna and Miss Jack of Te Whaiti, both down with the ‘flu there. Dr Murray had been sent there by the Government to set up a relief camp for the sufferers. So Miss Webber went along to ask help for the Waiohau sick ones. The doctor kindly rode down with Mr Grant of Te Houhi the next morning, attending to patients on the way down.
A few days later Miss Webber caught the ‘flu, but recovered sufficiently before the holidays to ride slowly up to Kopuriki and thence to Auckland for the Christmas holidays where she gradually recovered her strength; thus being able to return to Waiohau in 1919 to commence another year's work.
Land at Te Houhi had been sold to the Government, so in March 1919 great preparations were made by the Maoris of Waiohau
On 10 March crowds of riders and drivers arrived at the pa. One party of horsemen who carried ‘the bones’ was greeted by the firing of guns, after which the bundles were placed at the left of the meeting-house. The usual Maori welcome was given to each group of visitors who arrived. Later there was a disagreement over the ownership of certain remains, but it was finally settled.
The children were asked to help with the singing at the graveside, when Rev. Paora conducted the burial service. It was much appreciated by those present. There were 23 Pakehas in all at Waiohau marae that day, some from the Whakatane Road Board. When dinner was prepared we were invited to sit beside a tablecloth spread on the grass in the shade of kowhai trees (transplanted there for the day). All manner of good and appetising food was placed before us. At the end of the meal, we were told to take away with us whatever we liked.
In the evening we watched hakas and listened to speeches in the meeting-house, after the usual church service.
Easter 17.4.19: Miss Johnston went to Wellington to meet her brother returning from the front, while Miss Jackson and I set off for Ruatahuna on horseback. We reached the boarding house at Murupara about 10 p.m. All was in darkness, but we managed to find beds for the night.
18.4.19 Good Friday: We set off, but returned to have a shoe fixed on my horse's foot. We reached Te Whaiti at lunch time and met Mrs Gorrie going to the store. After lunch, we set out by waggonette with Miss
Jack and party, who had been waiting for us. What beautiful bush scenery was to be seen, but we had to walk up several of the hills and darkness came upon us before we had reached our destination. Many places were lit up with glow-worms which was quite pleasant, as we had to walk around a dangerous curve. The lights of the boarding-house at Ruatahuna were very welcome and so was the good dinner produced at a moment's notice. Mrs Gorrie and Miss Jackson walked the other four miles to the Mission House, while Miss Jack and I stayed at the boarding-house for the night. It was a rough enough road in the daylight! In one place, Obstacle Gully, we had to squeeze through a fence, descend into a gully and cross a stream on a log. Oh! but what a welcome we received, when we reached Sister Annie's home, ever open to visitors. What an honour did we feel in belonging to such a band of mission workers. Their school and house were made of split palings, which gave them a quaint look. Rev. J. G. Laughton from Maungapohatu joined us and preached one of his usual splendid sermons after which we had a sing-song at the fire side.
20.4.19: This was really the day of that Easter gathering. The Rev. J. Laughton conducted a baptismal service for three of Sister Annie's Maori children. The school room was tastefully decorated with ferns, etc. In the afternoon we went to Matatua where Rev. J. Laughton again gave an address in front of the big beautiful meeting-house. Oh! such carving! In the evening he gave us a talk on the significance of the Lord's Supper. Just as surely as the bread and wine was there in tangible form, so was Christ in the spiritual.
21.4.19 Easter Monday: We reluctantly parted from Sister Annie and her other guests, and were driven to Te Whaiti by Miss Monfries who harnessed up at the boarding house after a great chase to catch the horses.
22.4.19: We rode down from Te Whaiti to Kapuriki where we stayed the night. Miss Johnston joined us the next morning so we were able to ride down together. She had been told she was to leave Waiohau and be sent to another school, probably Te Whaiti.
At Ruatahuna we had decided to spend our May holidays together in Rotorua. What a happy time we had all together there! A really lazy holiday on the whole, calling on a few friends. One, Mrs Munro of Ohinemutu, told us of their curate who had just lost his wife and of how in a prayer, he had thanked God, for allowing them to live together for so long.
We had a great day on the round trip. The driver pointed out the mountains where Rua lived, but said there was no white person beyond Murupara. We let him know we were teaching in those very parts. After that he entertained his tourist passengers by telling them of what he and we had said.
6 July: Mr Mainland, one of the farmers who had helped us over the river when we first came had sold his farm and was leaving the district. He was teased by his neighbouring farmer, as arriving with a swag on his back and leaving with a wife, three children and a waggon-load of goods. This time we crossed the river on the cradle which had been swung over the river. Later, this was replaced by a bridge, called by the people ‘the rabbit bridge’, because these animals used to cross it to reach the vegetables and crops on their farms. They remedied this by placing a gate on the bridge.
To go back to Waiohau School. The children soon began to learn the English language and were able to pass from class to class. We had the usual inspectors' visits twice a year; one a surprise visit; one a notified inspection visit. As an inspector rode up one day, he said, “I could have ridden on for miles and miles,” You may be sure the children responded well that day. At the end
I must not forget to say that after we had been three months at Waiohau, the Education Department said that they would take over the school, providing we would put up with existing conditions, which we agreed to do. But in 1923, a new school and dwelling were built by the department on the land given for that purpose by the Maoris.
So the years went by Some of the children
Later she had several bad turns, so Sister Ivy Jones sent a message to her people at Waiohou. Later I received a message to go to the hospital as Minnie could not possibly last the night. My brother, Reg Webber, Sister Ivy, and Mr and Mrs Jack Currie kept me company. The nurses moved Minnie to a larger and quieter room. We were delighted to see Minnie's father and cousin
walk in. They stayed that night with her so I went home to rest. I received another phone call in the morning to go to the hospital where I found Minnie much worse. We lingered at her bedside all that day and night and at 1 a.m. the next day she passed away. My brother whispered, “And her end was peace.”
The authorities gave permission to Mr McCauley to take her body home for burial, provided the casket was not opened on the way. He gave his word and kept it in spite of pressure put on him to open up the lead coffin, as some of the people wanted to see if it were really Minnie. The mourning group went on ahead to Waiohau; several of us went down a few days later for the burial. When I finally reached Keira, Minnie's mother, we put our arms around one another and cried and cried. A great puff of wind nearly took the roof off the shelter where we were.
After lunch in the meeting-house and a walk to the school house, I came back to Minnie. Rev. J. Laughton then conducted a service there and again at the graveside. Again in the evening the service was handed over to ‘Hoani’ (Rev. J. Laughton). In a few days we were told by Minnie's father that that tapu had been taken off the grave and we could go up whenever we wished.
Another Easter Gathering: This time at Waiohau 2.4.20:
Miss Hepetema from Karioi had taken the place of Miss Johnston as assistant in the school. She rode up to Kopuriki for the mail and brought down word that four of the visitors we were expecting for the Easter Holidays were riding down that evening: the rest were driving down the next day. What
I could speak, too, of other gatherings at Te Whaiti, Taupo, Nuhaka, Waimana, Ohope, etc., where friendships were renewed, as we met for business discussions and worship. Our numbers seemed to increase year by year, as our beloved Maori people joined our ranks and entered into our fellowship.
1923: There was great excitement, when building material arrived for the new school buildings. Great credit is due to Mr Eric Hutton of Murupara who travelled many lonely miles with his waggon and team of horses to bring some of the needed supplies. We were pleased when he was able to purchase a motor lorry for his work. At last the day came when we were able to transfer our school equipment from the old school to the new. The people came in and out as before and enjoyed the novelty of it all. We couldn't of course make use of our kerosene boxes and cretonne in the new school residence, so I sold some building shares I had and with money I had saved I bought furniture and floor coverings, which were sent out from Rotorua, for our new home.
1930: A party of surveyors arrived to plan a new road from Murupara to Te Teko,
These visitors had ridden down from Kopuriki in 1919. Miss Grant, wearing a riding skirt, is with Misses Jackson, Johnston and Webber
30.1.31: Again we were returning to Waiohau after the summer vacation. We arranged with Lees' Brothers to motor us right in. Nearing Waiohau, we saw many tents and men working on the new road. One called, ‘Hey! do you know where you are going?’
I said to the driver, ‘We should, seeing we have been living here about 12 years.’
We met many grand men at that camp. One Allan North, Assistant Engineer, later went to Dunedin to train as a doctor. After a period in the islands during war time, he was sent to Te Whaiti as a Welfare Officer. He has been a great helper of the Tuhoe people and can tell of many visits up hill and down dale to help them in their sickness and trouble. I have missed filling in my diary a great number of times, otherwise I might have had a few more interesting items to add.
When I went to Waiohau first I was told I spoke Maori “like a Scotsman”, but when I left, a Maori who called at the door, said “You have a good mouth for speaking Maori”.
Later on, Sir Apirana Ngata's farming scheme took shape at Waiohau. Fences, milking sheds and dwellings were built, those involved paying back one quarter of their cream cheques each month, until final payments were made. What we noticed, when with my brother and his wife (Rev. and Mrs S. W. Webber) I was invited to attend the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Waiohau School, was what wonderful progress had been made since those early days when the land was covered with manuka and bracken fern. Now there are comfortable homes surrounded by well-fenced green paddocks. A tar-sealed road runs between Murupara and Te Teko instead of rough tracks. The Matahina dam has been built a few miles away. The meeting-house brought down from Te Houhi in 1909 has been raised, the interior decorated with scroll work and louvre windows placed in the back wall. A dining hall accommodating 250 has been built. But to me the greatest result was the love and kindness which the people bestowed upon their children, who were well cared for, well-dressed and well-behaved. One woman on picking up a babe in arms, murmured “My precious bundle”.
The well-kept schoolground, new school buildings, the football field, formed from a shingle bed with a stream running through, as well as the monuments erected, all speak of hard work on the part of many. The sense of comradeship between the present teachers and their scholars, speaks for itself. Former
At the Golden Jubilee celebrations from left: Mrs Tupe, Rev. Tom Hawea, Hieke Tupe, Mrs Little and Miss Milroy
We were like one happy family on this Saturday 13.4.68 at these Waiohau Jubilee Celebrations. The action songs given by the older people on the marae and later by the children on the schoolground proved a fitting welcome to the visitors present.
As I was the first Head Teacher of the school I was asked to unveil a plaque, given by the South Auckland Education Board, thanking the Waiohau people for their gift of land on which the school was built.
After a number of speeches, I was asked to accept a beautifully woven whariki of kiekie as well as a kit, thus honouring not only those who had worked with me, but the church who had sent us in.
The Jubilee cake, nicely iced, was duly cut and handed round. The Chairman of the school committee placed his taxi at our disposal and took us from marae to school, from school to dining hall, where ample justice was done to the hangi-cooked food, sweets, fruit, soft drinks and tea served by the young people. On account of the rain in the afternoon, the basketball and football matches planned between past and present pupils, could not be held.
On Sunday morning the Jubilee Church Service was conducted in the meeting-house by Rev. Ron Mathews of Auckland who spoke on the different cultures and what these entailed for each one. In the afternoon Miss Milroy, ‘The Rangatira of Waiohau’ as she was called, was asked to hold the communion service in the meeting-house instead of in the mission hall, as it might be the last time some of us would be able to meet here. And so it proved—Miss Milroy herself meeting with an accident from which she died; Huia, the maker of the whariki and kit and Taurua—these last two being the only surviving adults from when the school was opened. What a sense of the presence of God, as Rev. Charlie Maitai, the Moderator of the Maori Synod, spoke to the congregation, after which the bread the wine were dispensed by Miss Milroy and Mr Hieki Tupe, the newly ordained elder.
As I surveyed the gatherings of old and young that day. I felt a deep sense of joy, that God had enabled me to give 16 years of my early life in service for Him, in this place.
Isaiah 55:11 has been much in my thoughts since my return. “So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”