Soaking up the history

We made a new friend yesterday; Waitangi.

One of the advantages of living in the Far North of New Zealand is that it qualifies you to become a ‘Friend of Waitangi’. We decided we would go along and find out what that involved and were pleasantly surprised to discover that after paying a small fee to cover the cost of a membership card, we could visit as often as we like at no charge. Which of course means that we are more likely to take visitors along.

When we were in Scotland last year we visited the town of Cullen on the Moray coast. Ruth was keen to start researching her mothers ancestry and this was where the bearer of her mothers maiden name had immigrated from. At the time of our visit Ruth was in contact with a historian in Whangarei who was writing a book about the early settlers to that city. Ruth’s great-great-great grandfather had left Cullen and settled in Whangarei. We spent the best part of a day in Cullen and Ruth found that quite a special occasion, she felt a connection with the town.She was keen to find out more.

Auld Kirk Cullen
The Auld Kirk in Cullen in te grounds of the estate that Ruth’s ancestor worked before immigrating to New Zealand.

We recently met the historian, at a ceremony in Whangarei, that unveiled a memorial to the early settlers whose graves had long since been lost to the city. Ruth found this event quite special and kicked her project back into life and has now made some interesting discoveries regarding her ties to the Bay of Islands where we now live.

Kerikeri inlet
We have been walking past these old buildings on a daily basis unaware that Ruth’s ancestors live here from 1819 – 1824, they helped to build the white mission house.

The first missionaries to New Zealand arrived in 1814 here in the Bay of Islands. We visited the site of that first mission station earlier this year. The settlement was relatively short lived and was eventually relocated to Kerikeri in 1819. We walk past the buildings associated with that second mission station every day, they are the oldest buildings still standing in New Zealand. What Ruth discovered was that in the ‘team’ that built the new mission station here in Kerikeri were one line of her descendants. In fact her connection here in Kerikeri goes back further than the one in Cullen. The daughter of the Kerikeri missionaries who arrived in 1819 was to marry a trader from Russell, on the other side of the Bay, in 1926 and their daughter (a first generation kiwi) would marry the new immigrant from Cullen in the 1840s.

The trader from Russell – I could see the resemblance to Ruth – well the lighting was subdued in the museum

Which takes us back to Waitangi which, is significant in New Zealand’s history as the place where the British and Maori signed a treaty in 1840 which is considered to be the foundation document for this country. When I first visited Waitangi in 1963 it was little more than a restored house that sits on a prominent headland in the Bay of Islands. Yesterday, we wandered through a relatively new complex that told the full story of the coming together of two peoples from their respective early navigators through to the present day including the part Ruth’s ancestors played in the pre-treaty days between 1819 and 1840.

The Treaty Grounds at Waitangi

We later grabbed a bite to eat at the cafe and then wandered up to the Treaty grounds. A Maori performance was about to start that took us through the process of being welcomed to the meeting house and gave a introduction to their culture. We decided that the place probably did not hold a lot of significance for most visitors to the country but the location, the polished presentation and an insight into Maori culture would reward any visitor who made the effort. The best part of the day was gone by the time we walked back to Pahia. We will probably add it to our list of attractions to take visitors, especially now that we are ‘friends’.

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