Friday, December 27, 2013

Wairoa: Cursed By The Church

While searching the NZ Electronic Text Centre website (run by Victoria University and often a good source of pioneering info), I found a passage from Pioneering Reminiscences of Old Wairoa by T.Lambert (Wairoa is in Hawke's Bay).
Written in 1936 (nearly a century after the events), its style is not easy reading today. So I took the liberty (hell, even that phrase sounds dated!) of modifying it a bit, and can now retell the saga of religious quarrels, native cannibals and...
How the Curse Came To Wairoa
"Since Adam's disobedience, we have had to deal with thorns and thistles. Down the ages these have proved a veritable curse to man.
Wairoa was a fertile land and so isolated from the rest of the world that many of the pests of today were delayed in their coming. Old Wairoa was a land of savages, and "long pig" (fat little white men) was not disdained as an article of diet. So when Samuel Marsden and Bishop Selwyn - those self-sacrificing ambassadors of the Cross - started, they took their lives in their hands daily and endured many hardships, as the natives had not yet emerged from a state of savagery. Indeed, the possession of guns had only wheted the appetite for slaughter and extended the range of man-killing raids.
As the missionary work spread, it fell into two great divisions. In the Wairoa district, one was represented by the Church of England (Rev.Hamlin) and the other by Bishop Pompallier and Rev.Regnier of the Catholic Church.
If there had been only one religion brought to the natives, they could have understood its precepts and accepted the dogmas but with two, each condemning the other, what were the maoris to think? Rev.Hamlin and Rev.Regnier did however agree, that blackberries were missing from Wairoa, whilst too the absence of the sweetbriar or dog-rose was mourned.
There is no denying that the blackberry, well grown and controlled, is a very fine fruit; and who can forget the perfume of the sweetbriar after an April shower in the Old Land. So Rev.Hamlin planted blackberry near Te Uhi pa [across the Wairoa River from the current Marine Parade], whilst Rev.Regnier set his loved dog-rose near his hut in Wairoa.
The blackberry spread quickly in Wairoa's genial climate and fertile soil, the seeds carried far and wide...and it is now the heartache of the farmer. The sweetbriar was equally energetic in covering the whole of the Wairoa and Orangitirohia flats until it became a matter of extreme difficulty to even ride a horse through it. The sweetbriar is now nearly all gone, but it had to be hauled out of the soil with bullock teams.
So the point of my narration is: that the two greatest churches in the world were responsible for the introduction and spread of the greatest pests that ever beset the farmers of Wairoa."

So there you have it - the Lord works in mysterious ways!

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