George Clarke - Autobiography
This brief account of my life and life experiences has been ‘specially’ compiled for my grandchildren and their descendents.
Too often people pass on through this life into oblivion and generations later their descendents are left to ponder as to what he/she was all about, their life style and achievements, what life was like during their time, and what were some of the priorities of their bygone era.
The name issue:
I was born 3 July 1949, Mum named me George Kelly after Paapi (Bobby). However, Dad decided to name me Houkamau, after the Great Ngatiporou Chief, Te Iharaira Houkamau, everyone else called me Bino, its origin unknown. To further complicate the name issue, Brother June tells me that Dad had also named me Henry after Natty Manual. I was born with many identities.
Throughout my youth, I was known as George Fox. December 1968 after obtaining my birth certificate, I discovered that the person George Fox did not exist. Accordingly, my identity had once again changed. My birth certificate had assumed me a new identity. That being “George Kelly Clarke”
Early days at the Porahu:
I was 5 years old when Dad died; I ‘barely’ recall his presence during that short time I got to know him. I recall the Cojack hair style he displayed and memorably the tent on the lawn at the Porahu where his coffin laid.
Mum often recites Dad’s prediction only days before his death. Gathering his children around to bid his final farewell, he pointing in my direction and said to Mum, “When this little one leaves school, he will leave New Zealand, never to return”
(Photo - myself with Dad’s car)
This is the case, I left New Zealand 32 years ago (December 1969) for Australia. And as sure as Dad’s dying words, Australia is and will always be my home, and here in due time I shall be laid to rest.
After his death, Mum was left to raise four young school age children, Derna, Kaura Mahiti and I. Mum assumed the role of both mother and father. A role she treasured and full filled with total commitment and distinction.
I had always envied my older brothers and sister Mary, they were raised with Dad around and in an era when the farm was in its ‘hey days’. Food and money was plentiful. Dad was one of the first in the district to own a motorcar.
During our time, life was tough. Mum tried her best to comfort us and meet our every needs. Too often she did not have enough money to full fill our needs and expenses. Never the less she had us all smartly dressed when ever we ventured out to Tikitiki or Ruatoria. Her patients and budget would always be pushed to the limit attempting to meet our selfish demands. Especially when we stubbornly set ourselves on cold concrete shop floor calling at the top of our voice. “Pirangi Ahi kirimi au!” ‘I want an ice cream.!’ or “Pirangi Tatua au!” ‘I want some licorice lollies!’
‘If brother John was around he would give us tatua alright’ across the backside.’
(Photo - Self, Derna, Kaura and Mahiti)
I vividly recall the many hunting trips with brother John. One long weekend (3 days) trip to the ‘Te Awakari’ water falls during 1960. I was made to carry our bread rations. By the time we arrived at our first overnight base at Te Arawhata, I had eaten the entire 3 days bread ration. You could imagine the counselling I got.
Our next camp was at the base of the first waterfall at ‘Te Awakari’. We arrived in the late afternoon cold and hungry. We lit a camp fire and built a makeshift hut from nearby ‘Nikau’ palm leaves.
In the twilight hour John and I ascended to the upper water fall. We noticed a massive old tree trunk inside the waterfall. It had a large gaping crack which disappeared into the depth of the water. John stretched his arm deep inside of the crack. He felt the slipperiness of an eel. He was speechless when he realised the enormous size of the eel. It was Huge!. The movement of John’s eye balls and his facial expressions indicated to me that he had made contact with something out of the ordinary.
We wrestled ecstatically with the monster for approximately half an hour in the deep waterfall. It curled around us a number of times as it fought for survival. John and I were persistent, fighting for our pride. We were not about to give up on this one. With brute force we managed to hook the monster and drag it out onto dry land. We were dripping wet and completely exhausted as we dragged our catch from the top waterfall to our camp site below. It was one of the largest eels ever caught.
Our camp fire was ablaze all night. However, unfortunately the Nikau roof of our makeshift hut was systematically consumed by our horse which was tied close by. John decide to move his horse away from the hut. All night it feasted on ‘Raurangiora’ leaves. The next day his horse could barely maintain its posture. It was drunk and disorientated from the raurangiora leaves it had consumed. It too was seriously counselled by John with a meter long piece of (Pirita).
Wild Pig Hunting:
Another memorable hunting trip John and I went on was in the same location of ‘Te Awakari’ It was in the late afternoon when our dogs (Hobbo, Trigg and Lass) were faintly heard barking deep in a faraway gully.
We hurriedly tied our horses and ran down the main ridge towards where the dogs were barking. It was difficult trying to keep up with John. I had always dreaded every time when his dogs barked. He would not stop nor wait for anyone. Fit! He was super fit. Sometimes I thought he was possessed.
It was dark by the time we approached the deep gully where the dogs were barking. John was about 15 meters in front of me when I heard him call out at the top of his voice.
“He piki tariana. Ko pakaru katoa a tau kuri iaia!” “It’s a gigantic boar. It has ripped our dogs to shreads”
I came to a sudden halt when John called out in panic. “Kia tere te piki ki runga rakau. Kei te piki haere atu te tariana poaka nei kia koe.” “Quick. Climb up a tree. The boar is heading up your way!”
You would not believe it! There were no trees for miles; I was surrounded by low lying ferns and small manukas. I could faintly see movements in the dark, the ferns below were being parted as the boar ascended the ridge leading towards me. I was directly in its pathway and he wasn’t about giving way to anyone.
(Photo - Trigg, Hobbo and Lass with some of the tusks of wild boars they had caught. Person in the photo is Sam Taare)
I leapt to the top of a nearby ledge as the beast brushed aggressively beneath me.
I continued to where John was. I could see one of the dogs in the moon light. It was ‘Hobbo’. Lying still. His stomach and intestines were exposed. Blood from another dog reflected on the fern fronds it was lying on. John could not believe the damage the boar had done to his pride hunting trio. It was an experienced beast which knew how to deal with the best of hunting dogs.
Hobbo, Lass and Trigg had caught many huge boars, but this night they met their waterloo.
Hobbo who caught the brunt of the boars tusks was wrapped up and carried from the scene, the other two Lass and Trigg followed slowly in pain and in disbelief. Their reputation in tatters.
John informed me later that the same boar which had claimed the lives of other pig dogs soon after was caught and shot.
John was a legend as far as pig hunting was concerned. Rarely would he use a gun to bring down wild boars, regardless of their size. Good pig dogs, dexterity and a knife made of high tensile bush saw was all that was required.
I believed that John equaled, or for that matter, bettered the pig hunting reputation of our uncle ‘Harry Hovell’. John’s skill, nerve, knowledge and experience in this field is second to none and will never be equaled.
Mate Maori (Maori sickness – Witch-craft – Kauae Runga):
This is a ‘grey’ area where most Maoris are either ignorant of or are not conversant with.
Like indigenous people worldwide, the spiritual realm of our culture controls its material aspects. It must be respected at all times and treaded with absolute caution.
Whether we like it or not, the genes of our Maori forbearers within exposes each one of us to the realm of the ‘Kauea Runga’.
At 9 years of age, week and defenceless, I was subjected to a spiritual experience (Witch craft) which almost proved fatal.
I was gravely ill at the Porahu. I could not eat. Any food Mum offered me I brought up.
She decided to take me to Te Puia hospital where X-rays and intense medical examinations were performed. Still they could not establish the causes of my illness.
My condition had deteriorated overnight. The doctor informed Mum that they could not do any more for me. I was skin and bones and light as a feather. Mum decided to return me to the Porahu.
As our bus stopped outside of Hautonga Ngatai’s home along the Maraehara Road, Mum noticed a cat accessing the bus. It made straight for me and sat directly under my seat. It was then she became suspicious.
As we arrived at the Porahu, I notice many cats in the doorway. All colours. However, I was the only one that could see them. I told Mum and others.
Mum was 100% certain then that it was ‘Mate Maori’. She rang Hori Keti ‘George Gage’ a tohunga in Omaio. Hori said to her. “Why are you ring me? Why don’t you call your own mother, she’s a tohunga too!”
Mum called her mother ‘Kataraina Poi’ who resided at Pukemanuka – Poroporo, about 15 to 20 miles away.
When Mum informed her of my illness she told Mum off.
“Why didn’t you ring me up earlier! That boy’s illness is ‘Mate Maori’ Pakeha doctors can not help him!”
My Nan continued. “Now listen very carefully to my instructions. I want you to turn around and face the door leading into the kitchen. To the left of the doorway is a cupboard, blue and yellow in colour. I want you to open the cupboard door to the left. On the bottom shelf you will find a lone glass desert bowl. Its serrated edges have a red tint. I want you to take that bowl down to the Maraehara creek. Smash it up and throw it into the creek. Meantime bring that boy to the phone and put the received to his ear.”
Mum did as Nan instructed.
With the receiver placed against my ear, I could hear my Nan’s ‘Karakia’ Prayer in Maori. I experienced an eerie feeling as she removed the evil curse from my body. I began to feel hungry.
Mum arrived from the Maraehara creek and took hold of the receiver. Nan said to her. “That boy will be alright now. He will feel very hungry. But give him a little amount of food at a time”
I was given food. I kept it down. I continued to beg for more food.
Eventually I was back to my old self again. Rescued from the evil jaws of the ‘Kauau Runga’.
Ironically, the desert bowl was given to my brother John as a 21st birthday gift by Hautonga Ngatai a year prior.
Horse (Mode of Transport):
Horses were our only mode of transport at the Porahu and whenever we ventured out to Rangitukia and Tikitiki.
Late one evening Mahiti and I doubled up on our horse ‘Swanee’ and rode to Rangitukia to the movies. The movies then were held inside Hinepare dining hall. Entry fee was one shilling (10 cents), big money to us.
Mum did not have one shilling for each of us to see the movies. On arrival at Rangitukia, we nudged our horse to the nearby rear window of Hinepare dining hall where we watched the movie through the window and on the comfort of ‘Swanee’.
After the movies, many of those children from the Maraehara Road decided to ride to Tikitiki where there was a late dance. There must have been about 15 kids mounted on 10 horse. Mahiti decided to double up with Richman Gerrard on the favourite speedster, Boidy Hollis’s horse, ‘Dollar Shade’.
We all lined up in front of Rickards shop and spurred our horses into a sprint towards Tikitiki (approximately 4 miles away).
I was in the middle of the group as we passed Tom Lima’s. I gave Swanee the stick. He gathered extra speed.
Passing Wetini Tuhoro’s home, Swanee edged to the front. I had overtaken everyone including the favourite Dollar Shade and his two riders, Mahiti and Richman. I sped across the ‘Taumata o Puhi’ bridge comfortably in front.
All of a sudden I heard a thundering crash on the bridge. It sounded fatal. I pulled Swanee to a sudden halt and cantered back to the bridge. I could hear the sound of water splashing hurrily to the ground. In the moon light I notice a horse to the right of the bridge. It was disorientated. . It was attempting to maintain its posture on three legs. Its front left shoulder and entire leg had been severed from its body. Blood was gushing out at a tremendous rate.
By its facial markings, I recognise the horse to be ‘Dollar Shade’ I also knew that Mahiti was on Dollar Shade.
It appeared that the favorite ‘Dollar Shade’ had hit the side railing of the bridge in full flight.
Whare Gerard who was on his own horse also recognised that his brother Richman was on Dollar shade.
We called out Mahiti and Richman’s names allowed. But there was no response. We mounted a search and rescue, and found both Richman and Mahiti down in the river bed. They were unconscious. There was no life in either of them.
We heaved Richman onto the front of Whare’s horse and Mahiti to the front of my horse. We spurred the horses off and continued our gallop to Tikitiki.
On arrival at Tikitiki we unloaded our passenger (still unconscious) dragging them into the ticket box of the football field between the school and Na Taare’s.
Some two hours later, when the dance had ended, we returned to pick up our passengers. They had regained consciousness, but were still disorientated. Both had severe headaches. Before they knew what had happened to them, they were hoisted back on to our horse for the return trip home.
As we galloped pass the fatal bridge, we could see the body of ‘Dollar shade’. Dead, lying in his own pool of blood.
Breaking in wild horses:
Riding overland to Te Araroa I notice a beautiful chestnut stallion leading a group of horses at Te Arawhata. Upon arrival at Marangairoa, I asked Uncle Boy Huriwai who owned the stallion. He said to me:
“Boy! These boys of mine have been trying to catch that bloody horse. If you can catch the bugger you can have it.”
The next day I returned to the Porahu to get my little horse ‘Scalliwag’. I went after the stallion. Very early the next morning I began the chase, all over ‘Te Arawhata’. I pursued the chestnut stallion desperately down steep ravines, cliffs and gullies. After 4 hours in pursuit I changed my mounted to the fresh Scalliwag’. The chase continued until the late evening. I ran the chestnut stallion to the ground. I roped it and took it back to the Porahu where I broke it in. The following week I rode it back to Te Araroa.
(Photo - Self & Hono on Keller. Mahiti & Kaura on ‘Boy Going to school’)
When uncle Boy Huriwai saw me riding in on the chesnut stallion he commented in amazement:
“Caught the bugger ah boy!” I just smiled and humbly replied. “Yeah, Thanks uncle.”
When I came to Australia I left my stallion with John. He now rides a chestnut mare shired by my chestnut stallion.
Little Boy lost
During the summer school holidays of 1962, brother Douglas and I were laying a fence line along the boundaries of the Porahu and Te Arawhata. We had camped out there for weeks. On the weekends we would come down from the hills.
Doug had a horse called ‘Bluey’ who had gone missing. We looked everywhere but could not find him. Doug asked me to seek further afield.
It was an overcast morning. I walked for miles over hills, down gullies through bushes. In the very late afternoon I found ‘Bluey’ near Boy Huriwai’s old house below the trig station. I chased him till I was able to corner and roped him.
It began to rain and darkness had settled in. I went to seek shelter in the nearby derelict homestead of Boy Huriwai. As I approached the deserted home, I noticed light shining out of one of its paneless windows. I also heard voices. At first I was scared! “Could they be real people? … or are they Kehua’s of the original owners waiting to greet me?”
I was soaking wet and hungry as I dismounted ‘Bluey’ and entered the dilapidated homestead.
I was elated to find out that the house was in fact occupied by real people and school friends for that matter.
Hune Apanui, Ashley and John Brooking who were out pig hunting had also decided to seek shelter from the darkness and the rain. They had an open fire burning. It was so warm.
They gave me dry clothes, hot drink and some food.
The rain poured heavily all night. I rinsed my wet clothes and hung them up in front of their open fire to dry. We played cards and told old stories all night.
(Photo - Douglas working on the fence line during the time of the above incident)
Early the next morning after the rain had subsided, I caught ‘Bluey’ and rode over the main ridge and ascended down to the Porahu. I arrived at the Porahu to Mum’s amaze.
“I whea koe ngaro ana!. Kei te maharahara katoa a Gi kua whara korua to hoiho. Nui atu ratau kei runga hoiho e rapu haere ana i akoe. Tae atu ki te Pirihimana o Te Araroa. Kei te pohehe ratau ko ngaro koe i ro ngahere”
“Where have you been!? Douglas is worried about you. He thought that you had fallen off your horse and injured your self. There are many people out on horse back at Te Arawhata looking for you. Even the Policeman from Te Araroa is out there with them. They also think you may have lost your way”
It was obvious that Douglas was in panic mode. He had come off the hills, gathered a search party, and returned to the hills to look for me. At the same time he had telephoned Mum.
I replied to Mum. “Me pehea au e ngaro ai. Mohio katoa au i nga haeretanga o enei whenua.”
“How can I get lost in this area? I know the place extremely well.”
With that, Mum rang Te Araroa. Meantime, I mounted ‘Bluey’ and back tracked to the boundary line.
Respecting and living with nature:
When the Pipiwharauroa sings melodiously in nearby forest, it is time to plant.
We had some of the best gardens in the district: kumaras, corn, pumpkins, melons,
etc etc. Our lives were enriched with the knowledge and laws of nature. We could identify and interpret birds and animals calls, their behaviors and their migration habits. Weather patterns, temperature variations, seasons and the blooming of certain native trees indicated to us the beginning of certain events.
We knew when the ‘Tuna Matamoe’ was about to migrate, and how to trap them, etc. Medicine herbs etc. We knew them all and used them effectively. The Tutungawai, Toatoa, Kopakopa, Kowhai etc etc. We used them regularly and treated then with total respect as our forefathers did.
(Photo - Myself with large kumaras and Photo No. 5 Porahu vegetable Garden)
On our recent visit to the Porahu, I heard one of Kaura’s hen clucking and behaving in a specific manner. I said to Stella, “That hen is telling us that she wants to lay its eggs” Approximately 2 hours later the same chook made further sounds which was different to the previous sound she had made. I said to Stella, “The hen is now telling us that she has laid her eggs.” Sure enough, we found the nest and all the eggs. Stella said, “How did you know all this!?”
This was how our grandparents related to nature. However their knowledge, understanding and respect was more diverse, total and committed. They had the advance knowledge to relate to and decode messages made by many animals and birds.
Furthermore they could communicate effectively with them.
Attending School in Auckland:
During 1959 I went to Glen Innes, Auckland, to accompany Edith to school. I was there for 1 year until Edith felt comfortable enough going to school alone.
I didn’t enjoy the city life. It was too confined and regimental. I was a country boy sent to the city. I missed all my Rangitukia school friends and the freedom and openness of the Porahu. There were no trees to climb, no rivers to swim in, and no possums or wild pigs to hunt.
I remember one day Edith had to come home from school alone. I stayed back after school for Rugby League training. She was picked on by a little boy with glasses. I recall his surname being McCorcandile. He lived not too far from Centra Place, Glenn Innes.
The next day I followed the culprit home and gave him a wolloping. In the process his glasses fell to the ground and cracked.
As I left school the next day, I was confronted by the boy’s mother. She was wheeling a big stick. The boy said to his mother pointing at me “That’s him! That’s him!” I have never seen such an angry mother. (Thinking of it now, it reminded me of a recent video I have of Kaura’s pig ‘Hana’ trying to protect her suckers from being caught and castrated) She chased me. I bolted. She could not catch me. I changed my route home so she did not know where I lived. From then on I kept my distance from the boy, but more important I kept an eye out for his mother.
(Photo - Edith, Joe and I taken during 1959)
My best friend at Glen Innes school was Tommy Thompson who was a relation of Mary’s Husband John Tana. We enjoyed one another’s company and were in the same class. Often I would stay for the weekend at his place and we would play golf on the road. The golf games did not last long before we realised that our golf balls were crashing into houses and parked cars.
Although our life at the Porahu was enriched with Mums aroha and the surroundings of nature, it was desperate at times. I recall one Christmas, Just Mum, Mahiti and I were at the Porahu, everyone else had moved on. We did not have any money to celebrate Christmas. Mums bills had mounted up and all shops had refused to allow her any supplies until she had paid her bills. Mum had a couple of eggs in which she made a cake. Mahiti and I decided to go and try and catch a rabbit or hare for our Christmas lunch. There were no guns in the house to shoot the rabbit/hare. I said to Mahiti. “May be we could out-run it and catch it” We came back empty handed, they were too fast for us.
Unlike in Australia, possums are a pest in New Zealand. Although it seems barbaric now, killing possums was an exciting past time for Mahiti, Kaura and I. Aged between 9 and 13 we would venture out in the darkness of the night armed with our long steel pipe handled hay-fork.
One particular event I still recall.
One moonlit night we found a possum silhouetting high in the willow trees by the swamp immediately below the home stead.
Our plan of attack was simple’, I was to climb to the top of the tree and force the possum down to a lower level where Kaura awaited with the deadly hay-fork.
He would jab the hay fork into the possum. Wait for a while and lower the hay-fork with his catch to Mahiti who was on the ground.
If the possum leapt and landed on the ground, Mahiti would release the puppy dog he had on a chain. The puppy would give chase and cause the possum up another tree.
The plan did not go accordingly. The possum’s movement was unpredictable. It took an almighty leap from the top of the willow tree. As it fell from the tree top, Kaura paniced and threw the hay-fork at it. He missed the possum completely and the heavy hay fork struck Mahiti.
A shiver of fear went through me when I heard Mahiti’s blood curdling scream in the dark as the hay-fork struck him. I thought ‘Hell’! the spikes must have pieced his head and killed him! How were we going to explain to Mum that we have just killed our little brother by accident! And Te Puia Hospital was miles away.
Fortunately, and thank God that on its flight down, the hay fork struck a low lying tree branch causing it into a spin. It was its handle which struck Mahiti’s head.
Gathering Wild Honey:
Gathering honey from wild bee hives I also enjoyed.
I recall an event whilst staying at the Poroporo with my nanny.
Uncle Tom Noble and Uncle Jack Manual (Papa Jack) called me to assist them in gathering wild honey from a hive above the waihuka homestead. I was 15 years of age.
I took two large plastic buckets with me and walked across the creek to waihuka. Papa Jack and Tom Noble who greeted me said, “Where’s your mask boy!” I said “What for!” He replied “To Rob the hive!. ‘A kuni keo ka timoia te pi’” “The bees will sting you!”
As we climbed towards the ‘kauka’ tree where the hive was, I noticed my mates lingering behind me.
I called out:
“Ma korua whatiwhati mai manuka mo ta tatau ahi. Maku tope te rakau.”
“You two can gather green manuka for our fire while I begin cutting into the tree.”
I was not aware that both my helpers were paranoid about bees, until they called out.
“Ma maua whatiwhati mai nga manuka. Kia reri koe, mahau tiki mai.”
“We will gather the manuka down here. When you are ready for it you can come down here and collect it.”
After cutting open the hive I came down to get the green manuka which uncle Tom and Papa Jack had gathered. As I came towards them they moved further away maintaining the same distance between them and me. A large number of bees followed from the hive.
I lit the fire and smoked out the bees from the hive. Whilst gathering the honey, I heard a fatal scream coming from one of my helper. I later learned that Tom Noble had secretly stuck a sharp thistle into the rear of Papa Jack. Papa Jack thought a bee had stung his back-side, hence the fatal scream.
I gathered 2 buckets full of delicious wild honey and shared it with Uncle Tom and Papa Jack.
Often I thought, I only went to school to play football and eat my lunch.
Other kids I know of were less fortunate. They only went to school to play up and eat other children’s lunches.
Tapere nui a whatonga or Rangitukia native school was my first experience of school. Here everyone spoke fluent Maori. During my early teens I attended Tikitiki Maori District High school and later Rerekohu Maori District High School.
1965 after the death of my grandmother I came to live at the Poroporo where I attended Ngata Memorial College. Academically, I was an average pupil, although I excelled in Maori, Art and Biology.
(Photo - Self in Ngata College Uniform)
I was a competitive sportsman. Athletics I enjoyed. Regularly I would win the 100 meter, 200 meter, 110 meters huddles, high jump, long jump, triple jump, shot put and discus events, often breaking the occasional record.
Rugby, I had a passion for, I trained hard and played hard.
My first senior rugby game was at the age of 14. Jacky Huriwai and I were sitting together awaiting for the Te Araroa Wanderers team to run onto the field against arch-rival Hicks Bay. Surprisingly, Babby Henare came up and threw two wanderers football jumpers at Jacky and I.
“Come on boys we need two players! Put the jumpers on and come into the changing room.”
I said to Babby:
“I have already asked June if I could have a game. He told me to go and play marbles.”
Anyhow, Jacky and I did manage to play our first game of senior rugby for Wanderers that day. We were both placed on the wings. I recall scoring a runaway tries that day and the Wanderers won the game.
(Photo - Representing East Coast athletics in the East Coast Poverty Bay Competition – Equaled high jump record)
After the game, Babby Henare shook my hand and said.
“Good game boy. You’ll be playing again next week. And by the way, don’t worry about June, I’ll get him a packet of marbles.”
Rerekohu High School had an excellent first fifteen rugby team during 1963. I recall trying out for it. The only position that was available was on the right wing. It was a tussle between Leslie Horua and I. Leslie had the most potent crash tackle in our school. He was fit, solidly build with massive thighs and shoulders. (Aussie’s would say, “he’s built like a brick shit-house”). I was marking him during the trials.
I was in full flight when I received the ball from the centre. All of a sudden, I was hit front on by Leslie. I felt as if I had been hit by a runaway train. It drove me back two meters. It was devastating! I could not get up. I was in a lot of pain. I literally saw stars for the first time. They left me up to carry me off the field. I bluntly refused to leave the field. I tried to regain my posture. I fell to the ground several times. It took me a while to pull myself together. Everyone gathered around me.
Eventually I was able to stand up alone and walk back to take up my position on the wing. I could see Leslie glaring at me.
I said to myself, “I must stand deeper next time!”
Soon after, the ball came down our back line again. Upon receiving the ball from the centre, I slowed down to a trot. I notice Leslie in full flight and on a collision course. Suddenly his whole body left the ground and propelled towards me like a rocket. Head and massive shoulders in front. Hurtling directly towards my mid rib area.
I came to a sudden halt. I took one step backwards and quickly raised my right knee. I struck him just above the right eye. He fell motionless to the ground. Blood gushed profusely from a gaping wound in his forehead. A stretcher was required for him, and he was rushed to hospital. He needed 10 sutures to close the wound. He was off rugby for the rest of the season.
It was the first time in my life I had been selected to represent a high school first fifteen rugby side.
I recall one school holiday, Kaura and I were working for Wally Kaa, scrub cutting at Makomako station, back of Tokomaru Bay. Weekends we would come off the hills to watch football.
During one game, Jim Leach, Manager for Paikea Rugby Club ‘Tolaga Bay’ invited me to play for Paikea. We won the game and I scored 4 tries. When the school holidays were over I returned to the Poroporo.
Two weeks later, I received a phone call from Jim Leach asking if I could play for Paikea against Hicks Bay for the ‘Whakarua cup’. They picked me up from the Poroporo and we went on through to Hicks Bay. It was a tough game. Paikea just won. I scored three tries in that game.
At the presentation that evening, Ian McDonald, captain for Hicks Bay rugby side gave me a mouthful.
“I hope that school boy playing for you today would make up his bloody mind who he’s going to play for!”
Everyone knew I played senior rugby for Ruatoria United. But there were no jurisdiction against school boys. They could play for any team they wished.
The following year Ian McDonald and I played in the same team, East Coast.
I clearly recall a ‘pay back’ shot on me whilst playing for Ruatoria United against Waiapu.
I was always a thorn in their back side.
The district of Waiapu was where I lived and the entire team, somehow, was related to me.
Waiapu’s management recruited a new and big hard running centre who was solid, quick off the mark and fast. His name was Tip Babbington. He was on a mission to immobilise me.
Our Captain Tom Poi informed me of Waiapu’s strategy and to be careful.
Before Tip Babbington had warmed up on the field he was stretched off unconscious.
A simple Leslie Horua style crash tackle had put him out of action for the entire rugby season.
I was starting to enjoy and master the art of crash tackling.
However, I knew Waiapu’s ego had been devastated as the injured Tip Babbington was being removed from the field. Their big guns would ensure swift revenge.
Sure enough. As I went down in a ruck soon after, an irate Joe Manual came in boots, fist and all. I was carried off the field with a gaping hole on the side of my head where his boot had brutally wounded me. My left ear was hanging and there was blood everywhere.
I was rushed to Te Puia Hospital where about 12 sutures were inserted. My ear was repositioned and the gaping wound closed.
With my head and ear heavily bandaged I returned to the rugby field the following weekend against Hikurangi where I continued my rampage with two tries.
This was Ngatiporou rugby at its best. Hard, tough, rough and not for the faint hearted. But that was the only rugby I knew and I enjoyed every minute of it. It sorted out the men from the boys.
My fitness program was strenuous to say the least. It included non stop cross country runs from the Poroporo to the Porahu and return about 15 to 20 miles one way.
After breakfast at the Poroporo I would begin my run. Soon after Auntie Girlie would ring Mum up at the Porahu and informed her that I had left the Poroporo. As I descended the steep hill of Matamata Hipera overlooking the porahu homestead I could hear Mums voice echo in the valley:
“A rake aia e heke mai ra. Ka mau tana wehi”
“There he is running down that ridge. He is incredible.”
I would spend a few hours at the Porahu with Mum, have lunch with her and return to the Poroporo that afternoon.
On the return trip, I would run non stop from the Porahu Homestead to the top peak of Matamata Hipera, scaling fences and gates in my path.
At the highest peak I’d wave back at Mum who would be watching from the paddock below the homestead. Disappearing over the peak I continued my run to the Poroporo.
I was super fit. My body was able to absorb hard brutal tackles. I would scale over barb-wired fence and gates like a bird. Mum would often say “Akuni ana poro ka tihaea te papu wae.”
January 1969 I began working with Dalgety’s in Gisborne. Pat Ransley came to the ‘Waitemata Youth Hostel’ and asked me to play for Marist with him, John Collins, Bill Maby, Graham Allens and others.
I recall one Saturday, Marist was playing at Whatatutu. I was in as five-eight and Pat Ransley was outside centre marking Busby Smith.
We swung the ball out swiftly to the wingers. As soon as Pat Ransley had released the ball to his outside, he was steam-rolled by Busby Smith. He was unconscious for a while. I assisted him from the field after he had regained conscious. On our way from the field I said to Pat. “It’s ok Pat, Busby Smith is my relation.”
We won the next scrum. I received the ball quickly from the half-back. It gave me time to kick a high ball above my cousin’s head. While he was waiting for the ball with arms wide open, I steam-rolled him at full flight. My knees struck him in the chest region and right elbow nudged swiftly into his throat. ‘E koe!’ I muttered.
That was the end of my cousin. He was removed by stretcher from the theatre of play. I never saw him on the football paddock again.
Mid 1969 I moved to Auckland where I began work at the Pacific Steel mill in Otahuhu.
Mum, Mahiti and I had a flat in Station Road, Otahuhu.
December 1969, along with fellow steel worker Wayne Aoake, I left the shores of Aotearoa for BHP Newcastle steel works, Australia. The mission was to buy a car in Australia and return to New Zealand 12 months later. Little did I know, Dad’s prediction of 1954 was about to eventuate.
In Newcastle, Wayne and I played first division rugby with Mayfield East. BHP employed about 15000 workers in its Newcastle steel mills.
Soon after Mahiti and Kaura joined Wayne and I in Newcastle. Mum came to live with us for a while. Our flat then was in Station street, Waratah. We all worked at the BHP Steel mill. For a short time we had a band which did a few gigs around the clubs.
When Mum returned to New Zealand, Mahiti followed, Kaura was the next to return to New Zealand.
January1973 I decided to join the NSW Department of Corrective as a Prison Officer. I went to East Maitland MaxiMum Security Prison for the interview. I passed and commenced 3 weeks training at the Long Bay Prison Complex. June 1973.
I found the job rather exciting and challenging. I was 22 years of age, energetic and adventurous. I joined the NSW Department of Corrective Services at a critical time. It was going through a time of dramatic changes.
After 8 months into the job a major riot broke out in prisons throughout NSW. This began with the February 1974 Bathurst riot.
I vividly recall the day of the riot. I was on 10 post duty in the Long Bay MaxiMum Security Remand Centre when an inmate came up to me and said. “Boss. Crims in Bathurst will burn the gaol to the ground today!” I called the Deputy Governor of the Long Bay Central Industrial Prison, Mr Tim James to write my name down to go to Bathurst to help out should a riot erupts.
(Photo - Prison officer 1974)
Sure enough, 4.30 in the afternoon I received a call from Deputy Governor James to report to his Office. 25 other Long Bay Prison Officers of various ranks had also gathered there and were briefed by Mr James.
“Officers, as you are aware, Bathurst Gaol is burning. The prisoners tried to take officers hostage. Many Officers were injured. But more critical the inmates have control of the Gaol. You are required on your arrival there to get the gaol back at all cost. There are 365 inmates on the rampage who are armed with knives, chains and they may even have guns. Good luck!”
We boarded our bus and with Police escort began our hurried trip to Bathurst.
Upon arrival at Bathurst Gaol we collected full riot gear from the gatehouse and entered the inner wall of the prison. The stench of burnt furniture and mattress was overbearing. Electricity had been cut off and inside of the gaol was dark and eerie..
With brute force, we began to reclaim the Gaol. 21 prisoners were shot in the confrontation and many more injured by other instruments of restraints.
The next day I was asked to assist in the transfer of troublesome inmates from Bathurst Gaol to Parramatta Gaol. All in all I work a total of 32 hours without a break.
The following week we were called on stand by as riots broke out in Goulburn Gaol and Maitland Gaol.
1976 a special security unit was completed and opened within the Long Bay prison complex to house terrorists. It was given an aboriginal name ‘Katingal’ (‘House of learning’).
Staff underwent special training prior to being employed in Katingal. The unit housed up to 40 of the state’s most dangerous inmates.
I was fortunate to have been accepted to work in this unit.
It was the most challenging units I have ever worked in. Those inmates who were transferred to ‘Katingal’ were troublesome every minute of the day. Never a day passed when they did not try something evil against the system and the staff within.
(Photo - D. Katingal Staff Reunion – Back Row First Class Prison Officer Geoff Robertson. Superintendent Joe Baldwin. Superintendent Vere de Alwis. Superintendent Wally Hinks. Seated: Director Special security Units Ian Sanders. Senior Assistant Superintendent David Hollaway. Superintendent George Clarke)
Attempts were made by external criminal organisations to bomb the building. High explosives were strapped to the outer wall of the building and detonated.
Attempts were also made to execute those staff who worked in Katingal.
1980, I was transferred to Grafton Gaol as a Senior Prison Officer. I moved my young family to Grafton. There I enjoyed the slower pace. Two years later I returned to Sydney’s Long Bay Gaol.
1986, I was commissioned and obtained the rank of Assistant Superintendent.
From 1986 through to 1994 I ascended the executive ranks, reaching the rank of Superintendent Grade 1 in 1994.
During February 1994 I was appointed as Governor of Parramatta Gaol .
It was established that I had been the first Maori Prison Governor in both Australia and New Zealand
Parramatta Gaol was a troublesome centre with entrenched cronyism and corrupt work practices. Unions dictated to previous Governors the directions of the gaol and controlled its social club activities.
Parramatta Gaol is the oldest and one of NSW’s larger Correctional Institutions.
Within a period of 6 months and with a certain degree of persuasion, changes came to the centre. A number of senior executive staff and union executives were promptly transferred from the centre and new blood introduced.
(Photo – Governor Parramatta Gaol 1994)
A new social club was formed, family days for staff and inmates were introduced, cultural sensitive programs became part and parcel of the centre’s core program and budgetary constraints were developed.
Measuring mechanisms were introduced to evaluate programs.
Middle Managers were made accountable for their budgets and their performances were measured accordingly.
Within a period of 12 months, staff issues were promptly addressed and resolved. All operations and programs were within or under budget. Monitoring systems were put into place to ensure conformance.
Unfortunately, during September of 1997 Parramatta Gaol was closed.
The Government of the day deemed the centre unsuitable, archaic and not conducive to today’s modern penal programs and rehabilitation.
Although parts of the gaol were built in 1842, I have always and still believe that the age of a building has no bearing on its management performance and outcomes.
(Photo - E. Frank Bloxham and I in front of the old Governors residence Parramatta Gaol. Franks grand father “Francis Edward Bloxham” was Governor of Parramatta Gaol between 1898 and 1904)
I have always challenged modern day prison philosophy of offender management and rehabilitation. In particular when it fails to acknowledge and respect indigenous traditional cultural values and principals.
It was through this philosophy of inmate management and rehabilitation that I was able to link in with Sir Norman Perry, Executive Chairman of New Zealand’s Mahi-Tahi prison Program.
For many years Sir Norman and I continued to exchange notes, experiences and ideas on a philosophy which was developed during 1933 by great Maori leaders such as Sir Apirana Ngata, Paora Delemare, etc.
The Westminster system must accept and co-exist with traditional cultural values and principals for any indigenous offender to benefit in the long term. For 200 years this effective tool of offender management and rehabilitation has been ignored.
(Photo - G. Former Superintendent Vere De Alwis, Sir Norman Perry, and I)
I remained at Parramatta Gaol for several months as caretaker Governor before I was assigned to the position of Superintendent - Prison Operations. This position enabled me to monitor and evaluate cultural programs statewide.
May 1999 I assumed the position of Regional Superintendent – Metropolitan Region.
It has always been my goal to travel the world.
During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when we were fortunate to fly from Gisborne to Whenua pai airport in Auckland with Mum, I would collect BOAC and Pam American pamphlets. I recall reading about the cost of an Auckland to London return airfare being 450 New Zealand pounds.
Weekends I seeked casual worked on the farm and earned a few pounds. I bank as much as I could. I would also work out my bank balance to see how much more was required to reach 450 pounds.
The move to Australia to a better paid and more stable job enabled me to travel.
Over the last 32 years, I have traveled the world extensively. I have visited over 50 different countries. I have visited ‘off the beaten track’ places such as Siberia, the Amazon jungle, upper and lower Egypt, the Arctic Circle, the lost city of the Incas, great walls of China, etc.
(Photo - Family photo taken in New Orleans USA)
I have driven through over 20 states within the USA.
Each place I visited was different, and I enjoyed the exotic cultures, history and more so its diverse people.
There is no definite place I would call the best. However I can categorically state that we do live in the best part of the world.
I have visited memorable places such as the gas chambers of Dachau extermination camp of Nazi Germany in Munich, the birth place of the blues in New Orleans, the O.K. Coral in Tombstone Arizona, Copacabana beach in Rio, Buckingham Palace, the Pyramids of Giza, the old capital of the Inca’s ‘Cuzco’, Tupelo Mississippi, The birth place of Elvis etc etc.
I have always encouraged my children to travel. It broadens ones horizon to all aspects of life. It makes you appreciate what you have.
During the mid 1970’s I met a lovely young Indonesian / Chinese lass by the name of Barbara Setiawan. Soon after we were married.
Without Barbara’s loving support and total commitment I would not have achieved many of my life’s ambitions.
There is credit in the saying, “Behind every successful man is a hard working and totally committed woman.”
(Photo - Barbara Setiawan and I)
We have two healthy and lovely children, Bradley James and Stella Maree.
The earlier stages of our life together were focussed on building a comfortable home for our children. We also ensured they were exposed to the best available education our budget could afford.
(Photo - Self, Stella and Bradley)
It appears that Dads dying prediction of 1954 will inevitably come true. However, my heart and thoughts will always be where it all began: The Porahu.
Looking back in time, I believe that I have endeavored to live life to the fullest. I have ventured far beyond the horizon of my dreams. Furthermore, I have enjoyed the many challenges along the way, some events more challenging than others.
“Whaia te iti kahurangi, mehe mea ki te tuohu koe, me he maunga taitai.”
“Strive in earnest to full fill your dreams. Should you falter, you will not achieve them”
48 years ago, no one but Dad would have predicted that a five year old boy from the isolations of Tapere nui a whatonga would venture far beyond the horizon of the banks of the Maraehara river and shores of Aotearoa and achieve goals others only dream of?
And for this I must give the glory back to God our creator who has provided me with support and guidance through good times and through times of adversity.
This is best described in the 23rd Psalm:
‘The lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the lord for ever” ’.
Special Thanks must go to sister Derna for the inspiration and my daughter Stella for making this a reality.
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