Stolen trea­sures re­turned to Kerikeri

The Northland Age - - Local News -

Fif­teen pages of a ledger book from the Kerikeri Stone Store have been re­turned after be­ing bought at auc­tion by the New Zealand Her­itage En­dow­ment Fund, a char­i­ta­ble trust set up to ac­quire arte­facts of im­por­tance to New Zealan­ders, with Her­itage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga as the sole ben­e­fi­ciary.

“The pages of the ledger date back to 1868, and are be­lieved to have been stolen by an op­por­tunis­tic thief in the 1960s, when the ledger was on open dis­play at the Stone Store,” Kerikeri Mis­sion Sta­tion prop­erty lead Liz Big­wood. “Over the years the odd page has been re­turned to us by peo­ple who have pre­sum­ably felt a bit guilty about hav­ing im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments in their pos­ses­sion that don’t be­long to them. Hav­ing so many pages re­turned to us in one go like this has never hap­pened be­fore, how­ever, and is ab­so­lutely won­der­ful.”

Dat­ing from Oc­to­ber 1868, the pages in­clude ref­er­ences to well-known per­son­al­i­ties at the Church Mis­sion­ary So­ci­ety mis­sion, in­clud­ing James Kemp Ju­nior and Henry Tacy Kemp. A range of trans­ac­tions are recorded, in­clud­ing a 112-pound pig, which was sold for 18 shillings and six­pence.

“The ledger pages are an im­por­tant record of the sort of com­merce that was tak­ing place on a daily ba­sis at the mis­sion sta­tion in the 1860s, and can po­ten­tially tell us a lot about what was go­ing on at the time, so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally,” Ms Big­wood said.

Her­itage En­dow­ment Fund trustee David Ni­coll, who spot­ted the pages listed in an auc­tion house cat­a­logue late last year, said he had to act.

“I felt strongly that the ledger pages had to come home,” he said. The Auck­land-based lawyer sub­se­quently found him­self in a fierce bid­ding war by phone with a pri­vate pur­chaser. He ac­quired the pages for just un­der $3000, five times the es­ti­mated price.

Fol­low­ing the auc­tion Ms Big­wood phoned the auc­tion house to ask who might have bought the pages, and was told that they had been ac­quired by “a very nice fam­ily who wanted to do some­thing good with them”.

“We could never have guessed that these pre­cious pages would be re­turned to us,” she said. “We’re ab­so­lutely thrilled to have them back.”

Mr Ni­coll, who is also on the board of Her­itage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, re­cently trav­elled to Kerikeri with wife Rosey to present the pages to staff at the Stone Store.

“The ledger pages are back where they should be at last,” he said.

PIC­TURE / SUP­PLIED

One of the ledger pages that has been re­turned to the Stone Store half a cen­tury after it dis­ap­peared.

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