Smith Family Reunion
From Schmidt to Smith to Mete. Nevertheless, as the family proverb goes … ‘Nga Wharerau o Tetahi’ … it all boils down to the same thing. And so it did when 700 members of this family met in Nuhaka over the Easter period to honour their ancestors. From Dunedin to North Auckland they came 120 years later to the burial grounds of their forebears. Oh to know the thoughts of these great people if they were there in the flesh to witness such a scene Sleeping quarters were set up round the Manutai hall, the Nuhaka school, and Tanenui-a-rangi Marae in the valley.
Johann Hacken Schmidt (John Jackson Smith) was born in Koenigsburg, Prussia, on 12 June 1811 and died two days before his 82nd birthday. As a young man he joined the Prussian army, but longed to go to sea, so made his way to England where he worked his passage to New Zealand as a cabin boy. In Nuhaka he married Tauarai Paraparakurekure, and they had 13 children: John, William, Tom Puru, Jimmy, Mary, Peter, Charles, Hera, Henrietta, William (II), Fred, George and Jimmy (II). The second William and Jimmy were named after their older brothers, the first William being captured and taken to Hawaii by the captain of a schooner, and the first Jimmy dying at sea when he became entangled in a rope as it was fed out. The family members became renowned in the Nuhaka area as boatbuilders and whalers.
Along with his partner Peter Bartlett, John Smith built his own boats for whaling. This was the boom business of that period, the oil being used for lighting, and for beauty aids. Playing a whale was a painfully strenuous job, and the boats could be dragged upwards of 50 miles if the wrong spot was hit. This was the secret with whaling. Harpooning in the right area cut the playing time down to an hour.
After a whale was tied to the boats they rowed back to Mahia, where a whaling station was set up. The women could see the boats from the hills, and the minute one was sighted they piled coal and wood onto the fire so the men were able to burn off their calluses as soon as they reached home. This enabled them to return to sea directly another whale was spotted from the lookout.
John's wife Tauarai was descended from a long line of tohungas, one famous ancestor being Pita Koterowai, who owned a walking stick called Kahukura. His incantations would send Kahukura flying out to meet its victim. If it came back covered in blood, Pita knew it had done the evil deed he sent it out to do. However, he was converted to the Christian faith shortly before his death. Another ancestor, Tekauwaha, longed for a son to carry on his tohunga line, but instead he had a strong-willed daughter called Paku, who married against her father's wishes. Nevertheless,
Smith children on Manutai marae with pictures of their ancestors in the background, beneath some of their whaling equipment
The Easter reunion began with the powhiri at 8.30 a.m. on Good Friday, with the karanga given by Zena Maitai and Tuehu Smith, and Maureen Haira, responding, with the host Rev. Charles Matai, formerly of Manutai and now of Auckland. The visitors were welcomed onto the marae by Roger Karangaroa, and members of the Smith family branches replied. Nine branches had been set up to prepare for this occasion; two groups in Wellington, and others in Auckland, Gisborne, Rotorua, Hastings, Napier, Wairoa and Raupunga-Nuhaka.
A sports programme was arranged for the afternoon, and in the evening a concert was held in the beautiful Kahungunu hall. The children watched entranced as the Rongomaipapa group of Rotorua, led by Tommy Taurima, put on a varied performance of song and dance and comical numbers. They were particularly delighted by ‘Alamoana Annie’, the overweight horserider.
At 6 a.m. on Saturday whakapapa were given in the Kahungunu hall, with many interesting stories of Smith family members being told. After breakfast, there was a choice of trip either to Morere or Mahia, and after lunch the Smith family representatives beat Nuhaka at football in the pouring rain. At the ball that evening 15 debutantes were presented to Mr Bill Nolan, Wairoa County chairman. It was most enjoyable — even the kuias could not resist a bit of ‘go-go’, led by 80-year-old Mana Walker.
An interdenominational church service was held at Manutai on Sunday morning. The first speaker, Bishop Christie of the Mormon church, praised the fact that the Smith family had obeyed the first commandment given to man, to multiply and replenish the earth. He urged the children to study and to follow the example of one family member who now knew five languages. The Rev. Charles Maitai endorsed these remarks and went on to say that knowing where one came from, the whakapapa of a human being, was of far greater importance than that of a racehorse. He told other stories with a moral, and urged all members of the family to work together as a team. Two Smith family and two Lewis family stones were unveiled later that afternoon. A banquet dinner was served and the evening's talent quest was won by Boydie Campbell, with his daughter Robin second.
Most of the buses left after breakfast on Monday morning. Tents were folded, and only the huge marquee stayed up for the teenage barbecue that evening.
Those who attended would, I am sure, join me in praise of the cooks and kitchen hands who worked behind the scenes on this enormous project; head cook Juno Kemp,
Stan Smith, Dan Smith, Herbie, Glory Haronga, Tody Smith, and the women Myra Smith, Joyce Haronga, Mrs Kemp, Piki Atkins, Tangi Walker and the waitresses. Without these people, many of them visitors, the weekend would not have run smoothly. Our thanks to them.