A univer­sal story

Pakeha and Maori in the Hutt Val­ley co-ex­isted for a time but lust for land led to the erup­tion of vi­o­lence, with fight­ing across the re­gion. Who were the peo­ple in­volved? What led to the con­flict? What hap­pened after­wards? His­tor­i­cal writer David Mcgill’

Kapi-Mana News - - REGION - By JIM CHIPP

David McGill’s young hero Jamie Munro has landed in 1840 Hutt Val­ley in search of a new life but it is not long be­fore trou­ble rears its head in paradise.

Munro and his Maori friend Koro find them­selves on op­po­site sides of the war and both on the wrong side of the law.

‘‘The guy who had noth­ing in the old world, had noth­ing in the new world, and now – per­se­cu­tion,’’ McGill said.

The Hutt Val­ley was a gar­den of Eden, McGill said. Charles Hea­phy had stud­ied the val­ley and found 4.5 me­tres of fer­tile top­soil.

‘‘No won­der they grow enor­mous cabbages and pump­kins there,’’ McGill said.

‘‘Ev­ery kind of veg­etable grew huge crops.

Ini­tially the two peo­ples rubbed along to­gether.

‘‘ By agree­ment, the Maori farmed to the north of Boul­cott’s Farm and the pakeha to the south. The suc­cess­ful Maori farms kept the young Welling­ton set­tle­ment fed.

‘‘Maori were lead­ing the way. They were get­ting two crops a year of pota­toes in that area they were farm­ing, near Boul­cott’s Farm.

‘‘And what did they get for their ef­forts? Thrown out! I sup­pose it’s the same story all over the world.’’

The land had been promised to both Maori and pakeha, but both even­tu­ally lost out when it was all taken over by ab­sen­tee landown­ers, he said.

‘‘ So the Scots­man came all across the world to ex­pe­ri­ence the same as his fa­ther had in Scot­land – dis­pos­ses­sion.’’ It was not long be­fore set­tlers’ de­mand for land be­gan to en­croach on the Maori share, and con­flict en­sued.

‘‘It leads to the bat­tle of Boul­cott’s Farm, which was a story that had in­ter­ested me for many, many years – in the mid­dle of Lower Hutt,’’ McGill said.

‘‘ It was New Zealand’s first de­ploy­ment of troops against the Maori.’’

McGill said his two heroes were fic­tional but their tale played against a back­drop of real events and peo­ple – Boul­cott’s Farm, Pau­ata­hanui Pa, Te Rau­paraha, Te Rangi- Heata and Gover­nor Ge­orge Grey.

‘‘Quite a lot of the book takes place in the jail.’’

The two young men are thrown to­gether in the small cell where they be­come friends, and later en­meshed in the events of the his­tory of the val­ley, and their con­se­quences be­yond.

Grey’s vin­dic­tive na­ture was cen­tral to the story but there was more to the man and his re­la­tion­ship with Maori than mal­ice, McGill said.

Af­ter the bat­tle, one Maori was hanged, and six oth­ers, in­clud­ing Te Rau­paraha, were trans­ported to Tas­ma­nia as con­victs.

How­ever, Grey learned te reo and had writ­ten down the Maori sto­ries and Poly­ne­sian mytholo­gies, he said. McGill loves Pe­tone’s rich his­tory and has writ­ten about it many times.

He had planned to use a pho­to­graph he had taken of an old sketch de­pict­ing the Bat­tle of Boul­cott’s Farm.

He handed the photo over to care of the Hutt Li­brary, on con­di­tion it was avail­able to him to use if he needed it.

‘‘When I went back to the Hutt Li­brary so­cial stud­ies room, it had gone,’’ McGill said.

‘‘There was a chil­dren’s play area there.’’

He was un­able to find his pho­to­graph and his friend, artist and au­thor Michael O’Leary of­fered to paint a new im­age for the cover.

‘‘He has done this mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the fa­mous sketch of the early 1900s. It’s kind of an ar­che­typal im­age of a huge Maori war­rior and a tiny, lit­tle bu­gler.’’

A sun mo­tif vis­i­ble through a whare door and win­dow ‘‘is like look­ing into the eye of the sun . . . an ironic de­tail,’’ McGill said.

‘‘It’s a much more in­ter­est­ing cover than the one I was imag­in­ing.’’

Im­age’s im­age: Artist Michael O’Leary’s re-in­ter­pre­ta­tion of an early 20th cen­tury sketch of the Bat­tle of Boul­cott’s Farm in 1846.

The Promised Land by David McGill, pub­lished by Sil­ver Owl Press, will be launched at Pe­tone Jail Mu­seum on Novem­ber 23, at 12.30pm, and at St Peter’s Hall, Paekakariki, on Novem­ber 25, at 1pm. Visit www.davidm­cgill.co.nz.

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