Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Those Who Have Gone Before

We Owe A Debt of Honour

In the early years of European settlement in New Zealand, the missionaries with few exceptions proved a remarkable lot of folk.  The Williams brothers (Henry and William) who arrived in 1823 were prime examples.

Here is Victoria University Librarian, Harold Miller's account of Henry Williams:
Henry Williams was a sailor.  He had served against the French in several parts of the world and had received a wound in a fight off the coast of Mauritius that was to trouble him for the rest of his life.  But he was still young (in his thirty-third year), he had been trained in a hard school and he was possessed by a simple faith; he was the kind of man that Maori chiefs could respect even when they found him hard to understand.  He had none of the Maori gift of eloquence but he had a way that inspired fear; and chiefs who took to human slaughter as to a game found it hard to look him straight in his eye.  "He is a tangata riri (an angry man)," said a Wanganui chief to young Wakefield, "who shuts his tent-door upon us and does not sit by our side and talk kindly to us as you do; but he has the atua (god) upon his lips, and we are afraid of his anger."
Image result for Henry Williams missionary death
Henry Williams

When a notoriously savage chief named Tekoikoi came from a distance to see him, the local chiefs cautioned the missionary to say nothing of "the place of fire and brimstone", for so great a man would never suffer himself to be so insulted.  "But I asked Tekoikoi if had never heard of that place; he replied, 'No'; I therefore told them that God had declared that 'the wicked shall be turned into Hell and all the nations that forget God', exhorting them to flee from the wrath to come and to lay hold of eternal life."  The chief did in fact take offence and demanded reparation with menaces, backed by a crowd of armed men; but the missionary stood his ground, and the chief later returned without arms and offered gifts.  When the tohunga, Tohi, came to put the evil eye upon him, the missionary folded his arms and looked him straight in the eye, and the witch-doctor wilted and slipped away in confusion.  On more than one occasion, when a chief laid hands upon him, the tough young sailor knocked him down like a log.  [Harold Miller, New Zealand (London: Hutchinson's University Library, 1960), p. 13f.]

Numerous times, when tribes and sub-tribes were at war, the Williams brothers and their colleagues would endeavour to stand in the middle and remonstrate with the warriors, attempting to calm them down and make peace.  Putting their lives in jeopardy was a "normal" part of missionary service.

Williams died in 1874.
Henry Williams’ family built a new church at Paihia as a memorial to him. It was dedicated on 17 November 1873. Soon after, as a tribute to him, the Maori people erected a stone cross in the churchyard. It was unveiled on 11 January 1876, and on it is the following inscription:
Te Wiremu
He tohu aroha ki a ia na te
Hahi Maori
He tino matua ia ki nga iwi katoa
He tangata toa ki te hohou rongo i roto i nga riri Maori
E 44 nga tau i rui ai ia te Rongo Pai ki tenei motu
I tae mai ia i te tau 1823
I tangohia atu i te tau 1867

Henry Williams
A token of love to him from the
Maori Church
He was a father indeed to all the tribes
A courageous man who made peace in the Maori Wars
For 44 years he sowed the Good News in this island
He came in the year 1823
He was taken away in the year 1867

No comments: