By Trevor Reeves
I gazed at the tidy grave and looked up at Maunganui--Nui for short. She was staring down quietly and looked at peace with the world. Her mother, she told me, died in 1972. But I could see that. Nui was of the Mormon faith. That, she explained, was why there was no concrete cover over the grave. The spirits must have no unnatural impediment between the body at rest and the sky.
Many Maoris belonged to the Mormon faith. They had, through their labour being cheap, helped to build many of the Mormon temples around the country. Nui told me that Lena's maiden name was Watson, which I found very interesting. It had taken me, and a distant cousin many years to track down the Maori branch of our family. Thomas Reid, Lena's husband had been the son of Thomas senior who was the son of--yet again--Thomas, his senior. This Thomas Reid senior had come to the country in 1872, but around the turn of the century, Thomas number two, shall we say, had vanished. We found that he had died in a mental home in Nelson in 1943. He had left two sons from a marriage that had broken up because of his drinking and general mental derangement. One, Charles had drowned--but no body found and therefore so record of his death. The other son, Thomas had twelve children with Lena --nee Watson.
Nui, a sprightly and alert 73-year-old told me when we first met, after she had answered one of my "blanket" letters to all the Reid's in Nelson, that she had 12 children herself, another sister had twelve, another had eight, and she, herself had forty two grandchildren and twenty three great grandchildren. Not bad I thought, but what about this name, Watson? Lena Watson, suggested that one of her parents was a pakeha--a white European--and that Nui herself was only one quarter Maori.
Not so, said she. She was a Tauhauroa, from the North Island of New Zealand. A full blooded Maori, and I could see that from the rare photograph I had of Thomas the third and her together with their first child, back in 1918, after Thomas had come back from the Great War--unscathed, I am pleased to say.
The Tauhauroas were from the Waikato. They were still at "war" with the long dead warrior, Te Rauparahau and the Ngai Tahu tribe--the three contesting possession of the Nelson area from early times. In the 1880's Tamati (Thomas) Tauharoa used to call in to the Picton post office to collect his mail while on his fishing trips from the Waikato.
The way it went was this: The pakeha story about how Tamati Tauharoa became a Watson was that the postmaster had told Tamati that his name, Tauhauroa, was unpronounceable, so he would call him Watson. Soon enough, Tamati Tauhauroa became Thomas Watson.
The Maori version was different. Tamati used to call in to the hotel bar at Picton and ask for a bottle of Watson's whiskey. He quickly became Tommy Watson. Watson is one of the commonest names in the Picton phone book now.
(A publisher and editor for the last thirty years,Trevor Reeves currently edits and publishes Southern Ocean Review (New Zealand). A journalist, he also writes fiction, having published in many magazines online and in print since 1965. Recent appearances are in (online) The Free Cuisenart, Kimera, Razor's Edge, EWG, WWW2, Eclectica, Blue Moon Review, 2River View,
Poetrynow, Equinox and ( in print) Takahe, Glottis etc. Nearly 60. Trevor is a member of The Green Party, New Zealand, and an