Friday, April 17, 2009

The fate of Maori bones, 1843

The other day, I had a bit of a trawl through a reel at the Auckland Library which had fragments of early New Zealand papers on it. For the first time I got to see the result from Henry Falwasser's mangle, the Auckland Times, which appeared from September 1842 until his death in January 1846. Not only did he proclaim the mangle-produced issues as "Printed on a mangle", but when he ran out of type of one set, he substituted others, so in the middle of his sequence, his paper had a delightful anarchic effect to it.
There was also the Auckland Chronicle and New Zealand Colonist. W Mervyn Lusty, writing in the New Zealand Railways Magazine, describes it this:
"At intervals in the course of its career the “Times” had a spirited rival in the “Auckland Chronicle and New Zealand Colonist.” The first number was issued on 8th November, 1841. It suspended publication the same year, but was revived in October, 1842, only to disappear again in July, 1843. It made a third appearance a short time later, and finally died in 1845. It was printed by Mr. Moore in the interests of the Government. The “Times” referred to it as “that administerial thing called the ‘Chronicle’—bah!” The “Chronicle” retaliated by calling its rival “the Old Lady of the Mangle,” and by advertising “For sale, a mangle, apply to the proprietor of the ‘Auckland Times’.” The “Southern Cross” in its first issue had the following biting reference to the “Chronicle”: “For sale or hire, in about a fortnight, a defunct Government engine used for stifling the fire of people; rather shaky, having lately stuck fast in the swamp of Queen Street…. Has been well greased lately, its head turning with marvellous facility in any direction. Apply at the ‘Chronicle’ office.”
The following, from the Chronicle dated 11 October 1843, is among the earliest references I've found to the Whau district (of which Avondale was part), spelled in this instance "Wou".
"DREADFUL MURDER!! On Friday morning last, two persons named Sharkey and Kirkland gave noitice to the Police that they had found the body of a man, half-buried, at the Wou, who apparently had been murdered, as the blood still continued to stream from the head; and a coat and some other articles were lying scattered around. "The Chief Police Magistrate, with that promptness and energy which eminently distinguishes him immediately, started for the fatal spot, accompanied by the Chief Constable, and two other Constables named Newman and Oliver, and on arriving at the place described were thrown into a state of the most fearful consternation, and hearts thrilling horror, on discovering the bleached bones of a Maori infant, which had been but imperfectly buried, probably some six or seven years before! "The skull, the ribs, and the thigh bones were in the most perfect state of preservation. Oliver carefully gathered them together, and brought the treasures home in his pocket handkerchief; they will probably be dispatched to the British Museum the first opportunity. The most intelligible construction that can be put upon this matter is, that a Maori woman had given birth, either to a still-born infant, or one that had died soon after birth, and had buried it there, leaving the old coat that she had folded it in, and the wooden spades behind, in conformity to the articles of her religion, respecting the sanctity of tabooed places. (Faugh!)"
I take it that the editor of the Chronicle, but that last sentence, wasn't all that supportive of the removal of the child's bones from its grave. There's no further word on whether this was a true story or not, or what happened to the bones if the story was indeed correct.


  1. Interesting indeed Ice. In the early 1900's some of the locals at Whakapirau were raiding Maori Bones and grinding them up in the flour mill at Batley to use as fertiliser. Very very sad but it happened. YUK!


  2. Those of us of European ancestry have a history of this going on in the ol' background. Ground up bits of Egyptian mummies, the bones from battlefields in Europe down to the Battle of Waterloo raided and used as fertiliser -- gruesome form of recycling.