VISIT | Respecting New Zealand's Maori Past at Letcombe Regis | Oxfordshire
Remembering a Maori Chief So Far From Home
Discover the story of a Maori Chief whose memorial lies at this picturesque Oxfordshire village of Letcombe Regis
Where New Zealand history meets English history
Uncover the truth of the young man, his heritage linking him to the Treaty of Waitangi and the 19th century history of Britain in New Zealand
"...this astonishing legacy with some puzzling questions..."
In 1867 a young man of just fifteen years of age left his home on the coastal west of North Island in New Zealand on a wool ship bound for London. He was accompanied by missionaries, intent on bringing him to England to be educated and bound as a Christian teacher and Minister.
Whatever the rights or wrongs, the questions or the underlying issues of this journey – he was to spend four years in England. Before he died aged just nineteen years in 1871.
His name was Hori Kingi Te Moana Hipango. A Māori Chieftain in his own right. He was of the Ngati Tumango, of Te Ati Haunui-a-Paparangi. One of the Whanganui Maori.
He died at the home of the Rev. Lanfear who was living in Letcombe Regis, another missionary who had seen time on the East Coast of North Island, New Zealand.
In truth there is little evidence of what happened to the young man referred to as George King Hipango. Record suggests that he died of tuberculosis, the scourge of the 19th century known as consumption. A sad end indeed to a young man born of more than this English village and this Anglican churchyard.
He had been sent to England to receive an education, purportedly by his father. But his father had died two years previous in 1865. Seemingly though his father, the chief Hoani Wiremu Hipango developed the relationship with the English missionary Richard Taylor.
Hoani Wiremu Hipango was known by many in the Wanganui territories from Putiki as being one of the most influential leaders with his control extending up the river. He adopted the Christian faith and took the name John Williams in the 1840s and became one Māori to work with the Pākehā or European descended colonisers or settlers. He even visited Britain with the Rev. Richard Taylor and met with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1855 bringing with him gifts from the Whanganui tribes including a rare green stone Mere from a fellow chief and cloaks made from kiwi feathers. Sent as tokens of allegiance and friendship. Proof that they were no longer enemies.
Despite this, Hoani’s return home led to the reality which was continued strife between the Māori tribes particularly in the Whanganui area and the wider Taranaki tribal lands. By the 1860s, Hoani was actively involved in fighting against the renegade Pai Mārire or Hauhau force, a spiritualist group that wanted the Europeans gone. But in 1865, Hoani led an attack on Ohoutahi, a Hauhau stronghold – it was captured but Hoani was fatally wounded. He was given a military ceremonial funeral and was buried at Korokata Hill where there was an obelisk marking his end.
Hoani was even a signatory of the Treaty of Waitangi 6 February 1840 – the first treaty between the British and the Māori of these great islands. Now it maybe that his father approved or Hori wanted to leave to go the place where his father had visited and had talked about, about meeting Queen Victoria and seeing the other side of the world, of studying Christianity and becoming a teacher of the religion – there seems only suggestion or conjecture. But one thing remains – that in this most quaint of English villages, the body of a Māori chieftain was laid in the ground underneath the ancient Yew Tree in Letcombe Regis. Far, far from home. And even now, his memory persists in quiet obscurity.
The grave is marked in slightly sorry appearance. An obelisk that once proudly held the spot is now weathered and cracking. And the memorial words are falling to erosion. But the words are still legible:
To the memory of
George King Hipango
A Maori Chief
Died June 29 1871
Beneath this ancient Yew Tree’s shade
A young New Zealand Chief is laid
From friends and kindred far away
The saviour was his strength and stay
Revealed to him his precious love
And led him to the realms above
A metal plaque repeating his grave memorial without the epitaph is sited on its base.
Iwi refers to the people that Māori belong to, the ‘tribe’ that each Māori were born into – stemming from the original Polynesian peoples that came to the islands of what became known as New Zealand. The Māori originally called the North Island by the name Aotearoa. Iwi literally means bone – and this case the bones of Hori Kingi Te Moana Hipango or George never made it home. They lie in the shady spot by the Yew Tree at this English church in the shadow of the prehistoric Ridgeway in this pretty Oxfordshire village of Letcombe Regis. But I hope in some far corner of North Island New Zealand, they remember their ancestor Hori Hipango and I hope his spirit made it home.
Kia okioki i runga i te rangimarie.
Directions and Map |
Find the St Andrew's church in Letcombe Regis south west of Wantage in South Oxfordshire