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THE author of this collection of Maori legends and reminiscences of old New Zealand was a man whose name will have an enduring place in the annals of pioneer life and endeavour in this Dominion. Few men, even in the most perilous days of our islands' history, had such an adventurous life as that on which Captain Gilbert Mair looked back. As Pioneer Surveyor and Explorer, Soldier, Government Official, and Farmer, he did more than most men to make this land of ours fit for peaceful settlement. He was of a type that will never more be seen in New Zealand, for the conditions that produced and developed his peculiar genius have vanished for ever.
Captain Mair, the son of Mr. Gilbert Mair, a splendid Scottish pioneer who settled in the North of Auckland a century ago, was born at Tawa-tawhiti, Whangarei, in 1843. In his teens he was engaged in helping his elder brother buying kauri gum from the Maoris--many of them Arawa, who had temporarily camped on the Northern gumfields--and he acquired early a thorough knowledge of the native language and an uncommon insight into their modes of thought and ways of life. In 1860 he was articled to the Surveyor-General to learn land surveying, and he secured his provincial certificate in 1864. Shortly before the Waikato War began he was engaged in surveying and cutting up a large area of native land between the Waikato Heads and Raglan. Later he was appointed clerk and interpreter at Tauranga, and when the war was renewed in the Bay of Plenty district in 1866 he was given an opportunity of developing his natural military talents, conjoined with his native knowledge of bushcraft and his athletic, tireless physique.
When operations were set on foot in 1867 against the Piri-Rakau natives, in the forest country inland off Tauranga, Mair accompanied the expeditions, at first as volunteer and interpreter, and soon distinguished himself by his dash and daring and his intrepidity and enterprise in bush scouting. This was the beginning of a military career in which he, like his gallant elder brother, Major William Mair, gave his country high service and won the confidence and admiration of both Pakeha and Maori for soldiering vigour and fearlessness. Most of his work was done in command of Arawa friendlies, to whom "Tawa," as he was universally known, was the ideal type of a soldier chief. Their only complaint against him was that when on the warpath in pursuit of an enemy his pace was so impetuous and tireless that very few of his men could keep up with him!
From 1867 to 1872 Gilbert Mair was almost constantly in the field on active service, and that service the most harassing and difficult in the whole range of the Maori wars--scouring wide areas of the wildest country, and, in the last two years of the campaign against Te Kooti,
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searching the Urewera mountains from end to end, in conjunction with other officers, and repeatedly inflicting defeats on the rebels.
The exploit of February, 1870, near Rotorua, which brought him his captaincy and the rare decoration of the New Zealand Cross, was a particularly dashing and intrepid performance, a lesson to future generations in the disregard of heavy odds. Ohinemutu would undoubtedly have been the scene of a terrible massacre by Te Kooti had it not been for Mair's splendid enterprise and personal gallantry in the running fight of nearly twenty miles that day with a force greatly inferior in numbers to Te Kooti's column. Here nothing but Mair's own persistence and straight shooting averted a rebel success. His defeat of Te Kooti was the turning point in the last war.
Because of his special knowledge of the Maoris and the country, Captain Mair was often selected by the Government to accompany distinguished visitors through the Rotorua district, and his charm of manner endeared him to all whom he guided through that then rather remote wonderland. In 1870 he was chosen to take H. R. H. the Duke of Edinburgh to Rotorua and the Rotomahana Terraces. Thirty years later he had the honour of greeting our present King and Queen at Rotorua. He was in charge of the arrangements for the reception of Their Majesties by the Maoris at that great gathering, and he was indeed the most prominent pakeha New Zealander there, in his capacity of interpreter of the speeches and chants of the Maoris, and the messages of the King.
Many years ago Captain Mair suffered an irreparable loss by the destruction of his great collection of manuscript matter in a fire in Wellington. In this disaster he lost the substance of long researches in Maori history and folk-lore. Had these notes been available, he would have embodied them in a book, or several books, long ere this, but it was impossible to gather the data again. What remained was but a fragment of the vast store of knowledge he acquired from the chiefs and tohungas of the vanished generation.
Had Captain Mair chosen to write of his military record, he could have given us a book of thrilling adventure, of perilous deeds almost without end. In the present volume he, however, preferred to write chiefly of his beloved Maoris, among whom he spent the greater part of an extraordinarily well-filled life, and for whom--old foemen as well as comrades--his loving sympathy was keen in these later days, when the native race is all but submerged by the stronger race. These stories have their definite historical value; they preserve pictures of a life that we shall see no more, and they give us vivid glimpses of the real old Maori, his peculiar mental processes, his ways of life in peace and in war.
It is fortunate that a pioneer with so many-sided a career should have turned in the evening of his days to chronicle the varied and often curious episodes of a romance-filled past; it is unfortunate that we shall have no more from his pen.
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CHAP. I. A LONELY GRAVE ................ 1
CHAP. IT. TE ARATUKUTUKU'S REVENGE.. .. ...... 5
CHAP. III. THE MARTYRDOM OF FRIGHTENED PHEASANT .... 8
CHAP. IV. THE DECLINE OF THE MAORI............ 13
CHAP. V. IN HOT WATER.................. 17
CHAP. VI. TE POKIHA'S GREAT NET ............ 19
CHAP. VII. THE MURMUR OF THE SHELL............ 23
CHAP. VIII. THE PORTRAIT OF ROTA...... 27
CHAP. IX. WHEN DOCTORS DIFFER.............. 29
CHAP. X. THE STORY OF WETEA'S FAREWELL........ 31
CHAP. XI. PIERRE DE FAUGERAUD: A ROTORUA MEMORY .. .. 37
CHAP. XII. THE KOTAHA: A WEAPON OF OLD MAORIDOM .. .. 39
CHAP. XIII. HATUPATU, PIONEER OF ACCLIMATISATION...... 41
CHAP. XIV. NOTHING BUT LEAVES .............. 46
CHAP. XV. THE LOVE TRAGEDY OF WAIAROHI.......... 49
CHAP. XVI. ON MAORI NAMES ................ 52
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CHAP. XVII. THE TALE OF THE JEALOUS SISTERS ...... 54
CHAP. XVIII.-- A TRAP FOR A LOVER.............. 58
CHAP. XIX. THE KAINGAROA PLAIN AND THE RESURRECTION OF PERANIKO ................ 61
CHAP. XX. PUMICE THE PRESERVATIVE .......... 69
CHAP. XXI. A MEMORY OF GOVERNOR GREY.......... 72
CHAP. XXII. WHEN MOUNT EDGECUMBE TREMBLED ...... 76
CHAP. XXIII. A VANISHING RACE: THE STORY OF THE MORIORI.. 81
CHAP. XXIV. ANTHONY TROLLOPE IN NEW ZEALAND...... 88
CHAP. XXV. THE TRAGIC STORY OF THE RANGIHEUEA FAMILY.. 91
CHAP. XXVI. A NIGHT ADVENTURE IN THE HAUTERE FOREST.. 94
CHAP. XXVII. THE STORY OF MOTUTAWA ISLAND........ 99
CHAP. XXVIII. THE STORY OF HINE-TE-KAKARA ........ 104
CHAP. XXIX. THE GHOST WITH THE BIG FEET ........ 109
CHAP. XXX. THE EARL AND DOCTOR ............ 111
CHAP. XXXI. A SCOTCH LASSIE .............. 115
CHAP. XXXII. DEATH OF CAPTAIN GILBERT MAIR: FUNERAL CEREMONIES--FAREWELL ADDRESS TO THE MAORIS ................118