Three wise men celebrated
Rotary Matamata couldn’t let such an important milestone pass without parting with a little wisdom.
We all know of the three wise men of Bethlehem, but what do we know of the three wise men of Matamata?, Lynette Stanley asked her fellow Rotarians earlier this month.
Three of Rotary’s own wise men played the roles of the important characters in Matamata’s history at a special Rotary meeting on December 1.
Don Stanley, Ross Bay and Barry Mckey all researched their characters of Wiremu Tamihana, Josiah Firth and the Reverend Alfred Brown and presented them in the first person, which culminated in a short skit written by Richard Prevett.
It was 150 years ago this December when Josiah Firth, an Auckland flour miller and entrepreneur, negotiated a deal for land that was to become Matamata.
The deal was struck with Tarapipi, the son of famous Ngati Haua chief Te Waharoa. Tarapipi was baptised as Wiremu Tamihana by Reverend Brown in 1839.
Tamihana became known for his oratory skills and Christian beliefs. Firth first visited the Matamata plains in 1859 and soon realised the area could be profitable. More than 50,000 acres of land, including the future site of Matamata, was leased to Firth in 1865.
‘‘Let Hohaia have the land,’’ Tamihana reportedly said. Tamihana died a year after the lease was negotiated.
On his deathbed he asked of Firth: ‘‘Do not leave me, continue to be a friend of my people.’’
Tamihana has since been labelled by the New Zealand Herald as one of the greatest New Zealanders over the past 150 years.
‘‘There is something very sad in the death of this patriotic chief, a man of clear straight forward views.
‘‘Sad that such a man, who possessed such an influence for good, should thus be ignored by government, when by his aid, had he been admitted to our councils, a permanent good feeling might have been established between the two races,’’ a minister of the crown said after Tamihana’s death.
Three Rotarians played the roles of three wise Matamata men. From left, Ross Bay as Josiah Clifton Firth, Don Stanley as Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipi Te Waharoa and Barry Mckey as the Reverend Alfred Nisbett Brown.