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Grand Old Lady of the Bay 1874-1950

BY JULIE JOHNSTONE. An extract from history.

The whole of the Coromandel Peninsula is mourning the death of Mrs Davis of Wharekaho, affectionately known as “The Grand Old Lady of the Bay”. Mrs Davis who was born on December 14th, 1874, was one of the last direct descendants of the famous Ngati Hei tribe and was regarded as the last surviving chieftainess of the Ngati Hei’s. Regal in bearing and active and alert in mind right up to the time her death, Mrs Davis was respected and loved by Maori and Pakeha alike, which was evident by the huge crowd that gathered on Sunday at Wharekaho when she was buried in the ancestral burying ground of the Ngati Hei.

Mr Alf Lee in discussing the history of the Ngati Hei tribe says: - “It does not appear until a band of people, under the leadership of Hei, settled here, founding the tribe Ngati Hei that Whitianga was again recorded with the early colonisation of New Zealand. Hei was tauira or sailing master of “Te Arawa”, one of the fleet of seven canoes carrying, about 1350 A.D., the last great migration of Tahitian Polynesian to these “mist moistened lands in a far-away Southern Ocean, as their ancestor, Kupe, had christened them. Hei brought his canoe and its load of immigrants safely to New Zealand, and he sought out a quiet place therein to establish his family.”

Sunday was symbolic of the unity of the Maori and Pakeha when descendants of the original Maori Chief of this part of the country walked side by side with countrymen of the first Pakeha to visit New Zealand (Captain Cook) as they wended their way up the hill to the tribal ‘urupa’ to pay homage to the memory of a woman who had endeared herself to the hearts of all who knew her. Many of the residents of Mercury Bay expressed deep regrets that they could not attend the funeral on Sunday as they had not learned in time, that Mrs Davis had passed away. Mrs Davis is survived by a large family to carry on the traditions and history of the Ngati Hei, they are: - Messrs Joe, Blake, Ned, Benny and Reuben Davis of Auckland, Mr Martin Davis of Rotorua, Mrs Winiata and Mrs Martin of Whitianga, Mrs Ridell of Matata, Mrs Fleet of Otahuhu, Mrs Johnson of Devonport, and Miss Alice Davis of Rotorua.

Our sincere sympathies are extended to them all.

Our history – loss of a great woman EDITORIAL. VOL.2. No 7. From GRATIS WEEKLY Tuesday, 16 May 1950.

Caption: Julie Johnstone is a long-standing member of the Ngati Hei community.


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