Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 74 (November 1973)
– 42 –

Williams Family
Commemorations

In May about 700 descendants of the pioneer missionaries Henry and William Williams gathered at Paihia to commemorate 150 years since Henry, the first ordained Anglican missionary, landed at the Bay of Islands. Also present were many of the Maori clergy, particularly of the Waiapu Diocese, to whom an open invitation had been extended. The four days of celebrations culminated on the Sunday when the Williams family were welcomed onto the Tiritio-Waitangi Marae.

In the morning a commemorative service of thanksgiving was held outside the stone church of St Paul, built in 1926 as a memorial to the missionary brothers. Here nearly 1,000 people assembled at a communion service celebrated by the Bishop of Auckland, assisted by the Bishops of Waiapu and Aotearoa and the Rt Rev. A. K. Warren, a former Bishop of Christchurch and a great-grandson of Henry Williams. Clergy from the Williams family and Maori clergy assisted with the serving of communion to this vast congregation. Pupils from the Bay of Islands College formed the choir and the sermon was preached by the Rt Rev. Manu Bennett, Bishop of Aotearoa.

Following the service the Williams family descendants gathered outside the marae and entered in a procession led by Canon Sam Rangiihu, Canon Nigel Williams, a great-grandson of William, and Dr Henry Williams, who as the eldest son of Henry Williams' eldest grandson is the senior member of the family. In a speech of welcome, Col. J. C. Henare recalled that the land at the marae had been given to the Maori people by the missionary Henry Williams. Canon Williams spoke of his regret that he could not speak Maori as his tupuna could, and recalled hearing his father, Bishop Herbert, speaking fluently with the great Maori men of his day, and that Bishop Leonard and his brothers and sisters spoke Maori as their own language, while William had made the first dictionary.

Among the items performed by the hosts was a powhiri especially composed for the Williams family reunion by Tupi Puriri and Selwyn Wilson, with actions by Mrs Emma Kawiti.

Haere mai te manuhiri tuarangi ki Waitangi
Haere mai ki te whakanui i te Kaupapa o te hui
Haere mai, haere mai, haere mai.
Haere haere mai ra ki tenei marae,
Ki te mihi ki o tatou hoa,
Kua hui mai, i te ra nei,
Mo o ratou Tupuna.
Hoki hoki mai ra, ki Waitangi e,
E nga uri o nga Wiremu.
Hui mai ra, tangi mai ra
Homai ra te Aroha.
E tangi ana ‘Te Wiremu’ e
He tangi tohu whakamahara
Ki a koutou, ki a matou
Puta noa te Ao katoa.

Dr Henry Williams then spoke, greeting the elders and referring to the recent death of Pohara Ramaka, an elder of the marae.

‘At this time when our family celebrates the beginnings of our ancestors’ missionary work in the bay, it gives us the greatest pleasure that the Maori people should wish to be joining with us; and I thank most sincerely, on behalf of us all, the tribal elders, for inviting us to the Ti Tii Marae.

‘When one reads of those difficult early days, one can’t help being impressed by the

– 43 –

great friendliness, indeed loving affection, of those chiefs who gave protection to the missionaries against the belligerent acts of the other tribesmen. I refer particularly to Te Rarawa, Te Aupori, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Porou, Ngati Maru, and of course Ngapuhi.

‘One must be struck by the splendid memorial to my great-great-grandfather that they placed in front of the Paihia church, on which they described him as the father of the tribes, surely a wonderful compliment, showing the affectionate regard they had for him.

‘So today on this historic spot, we join in honouring two great New Zealanders; William—scholar, teacher, and Maori linguist, who with Mrs Colenso and others translated the Bible and prayer books, that were so readily sought after as quickly as they could be printed, by Maori people from far and near; and Henry—peacemaker, disciplinarian, man of action, of far-reaching influence in Maori-Pakeha relations, such that the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi became possible after 26 difficult, often heart-breaking, and perilous years of labour by the followers of Samuel Marsden in their efforts to bring peace and Christianity to New Zealand. He gave this piece of land to Ngapuhi for a camping site, since when it has been shared by all tribes who are honoured and welcomed by Ngapuhi, and today is regarded by many as a national marae. It was here that the chiefs of the time met, deliberated, and debated at length whether or not to sign the Treaty, and so it is almost as important as the Treaty House itself.

‘Now, as one family, descendants of William and Henry Williams, we present to you this bell—we return to you the bell that those two brave men rang each Sunday morning, to remind the residents of the district that it was the sacred day. Since then its ringing has echoed round the country, wherever Maoris have answered the call, and taken their families to worship.

‘We wish, by making this presentation, to show with what high esteem we regard the Maori people, and by coming to this marae to meet you, we wish to shake you by the hand in friendship, forget any shyness we may have for each other, and for our various age-groups to enjoy one another's company. Thus we can show to the rest of New Zealand that after 150 years our family and the Maori people will always respect each other, and are proud to be fellow New Zealanders.

‘Good luck to you all, and may God go with you. Kia ora koutou.’

After the speeches, Dr Williams presented the bell, to be called ‘Te Wiremu’, which is housed in a belfry carved at John Taiapa's school of carving at Rotorua. The bell was dedicated by Bishop Bennett and rung by Bishop Reeves.

Ninth District Office

Wellington has been re-established as the ninth district office of the Department of Maori and Island Affairs, independent of Palmerston North. All Land Court records will remain at Palmerston North, and district boundaries will remain unchanged in the meantime. Wellington's new District Officer is Mr Don Glengarry, formerly Head Office's Senior Executive Officer, Housing and Special Duties.