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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 2, October 1964

The following hitherto unpublished extract from the Journal of the Rev. Vicesimus Lush, the first Vicar of Thames, was sent to us by Mrs Alison Drummond.

The Rev. Vicesimus Lush was appointed as first Vicar of Thames in 1868 by Bishop Selwyn. Though he knew little of the Maori people he was very interested and learnt as much as possible from the Rev. George Maunsell, who was in charge of the Mission station at Kauaeranga. He describes the following occasion for the benefit of friends in England. In the person of Mr Thorp of Paeroa, he met an old parishioner from his Howick parish, where he was also the first Vicar from 1850 to 1862.

21st December, 1868: Martin and I have had a delightful trip thanks to Mr and Mrs Mackay. Mr Mackay had been away up the Thames at Ohinemuri for some time past, treating with natives about opening the land for quartz diggings and last Thursday was the day previously fixed upon for a steamer to proceed up the Thames River to fetch Mr Mackay down. Mrs Mackay determined to go up and formed a party to accompany her. We all expected to be back in Shortland by Thursday evening, instead of which we were not home again till 10 o'clock on Saturday evening...The party consisted of Mrs Mackay, Mrs Hetley, Mr McKellar, Charlie Hetley (a boy of about Martin's age), Miss Roskruge, Miss Bunney, Mr Beere, Mr Thompson and Mr Tottin. We steamed off about 8 o'clock. It took us about four hours to reach Ohinemuri. After steaming away for three hours we passed Belmont, Mr Thorp's large farm - in one of his paddocks there was quite an encampment of Diggers awaiting the opening of the land; the tents and groups of men among the trees made a pretty picture.

We reached the native settlement by 12 o'clock... The natives were clustering along the banks, watching us with obvious interest. We disembarked on the side inhabited by the 'Queenites' (friendly natives) and then crossed over in boats to the Hauhau side of the river. On our side the Union Jack was flying, and on the Hauhau side a white flag - the Hauhau Flag - was hoisted. We walked through some fields of potatoes and wheat until we came to another Maori village, near the middle of which - on a large open common one might call it - the natives were assembled to decide the momentous question whether the Upper Thames should be thrown open to the Diggers or not. A strong party was in favour of this step - these were chiefly friendly Natives and sat in booths and open tents on one side with Mr Mackay. The opponents to the measure sat at some distance, opposite, the two parties forming two arcs of considerable span. Between them were placed a line of natives uninterested in the dispute, to keep peace between the contending parties.

All were seated on the ground, and a great silence and order prevailed, so much so that our party had to draw near as quietly as possible, and squatted down as soon as we could take all around in - but keeping in the background... The large whare opposite was occupied by Te Hira, who considered himself too great a Chief to be seen, and therefore remained within, out of the sight of the hoi polloi, but able to see and hear all that went on. His councillors squatted down in the form of a great semi-circle.

Opposite Te Hira's whare was Mr Mackay's tent. Whenever one of Te Hira's people got up to speak he walked forward towards Mackay's tent, till he came near to the neutral natives in the middle, and then stood and stretching forth his hand, began his oration, often accompanied with much action. But there was no applause, no interruption - each speaker was listened to quietly, and then walked back to his place. Up jumped one of the opposite side and confuted the last speaker. Some of the orators looked extremely picturesque as they came forward with a slow stately step with a Maori cloak hanging over one shoulder and with a long spear in the hand. Mr Mackay spoke often and well...

After dinner the korero recommenced and continued till near sundown, when Te Hira sent a message - or rather letter - ordering them all 'off'. Mr Mackay got angry at this, and turning to Ropata, suddenly said: "I accept your offer of your land and here give you £1000 (handing him a cheque for that amount) as part payment". This at once broke up the meeting, the others getting so angry that for a short time there was a fear least the two parties should come to blows...

All Friday and Saturday Natives kept coming to Mr Mackay to sign the agreement about offering their land so that the greater portion of the district will be available to the diggers.