Matawhero NZ Wars memorial

Matawhero NZ Wars memorial

Makaraka Cemetery (also known as Houhoupiko Cemetery) is located on State Highway 2, 5 km north-west of the East Coast city of Gisborne and 2 km north-east of Matawhero. Makaraka was Gisborne’s first cemetery. Now closed to burials, it is maintained as an historic site.

This memorial stands in the north-east corner of the cemetery (the Old Section), near the south bank of the Taruheru River. The memorial records the names and ages of 33 European victims of the Matawhero ‘Massacre’, 28 of whom are buried nearby.

In the early hours of 10 November 1868, a war party led by Te Kooti Rikirangi of Rongowhakaata struck the small settlement of Matawhero. Some 70 Māori and Europeans, including babies and the elderly, were killed. Eight months later, many of the European remains were exhumed from the scattered graves in which they had been buried and reinterred in a section of riverside land set aside as a cemetery.

The exhumation was recorded in the military orderly-room diary for Thursday 1 July:

Fatigue party ordered to Matawero [sic] at a.m. for the purpose of Disinterring the remains of the Victims of the late massacre.

The reinterment took place around midday on Friday 2 July 1869. The Hawke’s Bay Herald reported that ‘the whole population, civil and military’, attended a ceremony conducted by Archdeacon William Leonard Williams. The service closed with a volley over the graves from a firing party.

Williams documented the day’s events in his journal:

The weather has turned out better today than we anticipated being fine & clear though cold. The funeral was to have been at 11, but did not take place till nearly 12. Twelve coffins had been made & the remains of our poor friends were collected into them yesterday & put into the Matawhero Schoolroom. The mounted volunteers went out this morning to act as escort & the coffins were brought in two carts to the Govt paddock at Makaraka, a portion of which has been set apart by the Govt as a public cemetery. There was a large attendance of the European population & a number of natives most of whom walked up. The procession formed at the further end of the paddock. The graves were dug in two rows of six, and the coffins were placed in the following order, the uppermost being next [to] the river bank.

  River ------>
 1. Cadle1. Dodd & Peppard (2)
 2. McCullock & family (4)2. M. & A. Goldsmith [2]
 3. Walsh (3)3. Edwd Moran
 4. Jane Farrell4. Newnham (3)
 5. Padbury5. Mann (3)
 6. Biggs (3)6. Wilson (4

The whole of the proceedings recalled most vividly and painfully to our recollection all the circumstances of the 10th of November last.

There are discrepancies between Williams’ burial diagram and the memorial inscription. ‘Edwd Moran’ is recorded on the memorial as being 60-year-old John Moran. The memorial records only two Manns, John and Emma; it is possible that the one-year-old ‘Munn’, recorded further down the face, should in fact be ‘Mann’. Only three members of the McCullock family are recorded on the memorial. It is possible that the ‘Infant’ listed on a different face was their unnamed child. However, it seems more likely that all the members of a family would be listed together on the memorial.

Further remains were discovered on 28 September 1870:

Bones found on what was Dodd & Peppard’s supposed to be Rathbones, corresponding with place where he was supposed to have been shot.

On 1 October:

Rathbone’s remains placed in coffin and brought to cemetery. No word from [Major Charles] Westrup about a burial service.

The burial ground was later marked with this ‘handsome monument’. A third of the £155 cost was met by subscriptions contributed from all parts of New Zealand. The Matawhero memorial was unveiled on 10 November 1872, four years to the day after what many contemporaries considered ‘one of the darkest days of New Zealand’s history’.


Back of the memorial Detail from memorial Detail from memorial Detail from memorial


Front face:

To the memory of / those massacred / by Te Kooti. A.D. 1868 / “In the midst of life we are in death: / of whom may we seek for succour / but of thee O Lord.”

Face [A]:

Massacred Novr. 10th 1868
Reginald Newton Biggs,
Major Commanding and R.M. of this district   Aged 38 years
Emily Biggs     [Aged] 19 [years]
George Biggs    [Aged] 1 [years]
James Padbury, late Sgnt P.B.M.R.V. [Poverty Bay Mounted Rifle Volunteers] [Aged] 32 [years]
Jane Farrell    [Aged] 26 [years]
James Walsh, late Lieut P.B.M.R.V. [Aged] 33 [years]
Emma Walsh    [Aged] 26 [years]
Nora Ellen Walsh   [Aged] 1 [years]
John McCullock    [Aged] 28 [years]
Jane McCullock    [Aged] 25 [years]
Emily Jane McCullock   [Aged] 2 [years]
Mary Mcdonald    [Aged] 7 [years]
John Cadle    [Aged] 28 [years]
Richard Rathbone

Face [B]:

Massacred November 10th, 1868
Finlay Ferguson    Aged 26 years
William Wylie     Aged 14 years
Benjamin Mackay    Aged 14 years

Face [C] :

Massacred November 10th, 1868
James Wilson    Aged 32 years
Capt. N.Z. Militia
Alice Sweetman Wilson   Aged 30 years
Alice Wilson    Aged 6 years
Edwin James Wilson   Aged 4 years
Jessie Gertrude Wilson   Aged 1½ years
John Mann    Aged 29 years
Emma Mann    Aged 23 years
Robert Newnham   Aged 60 years
Jane Newnham    Aged 45 years
Munn     Aged 1 year
John Moran    Aged 60 years
Maria Goldsmith   Aged 15 [?] years
Albert Ed. [Edward] Goldsmith  Aged 4 years
George Neville Dodd   Aged 40 years
Richard Peppard   Aged 25 years

Further information

  • James Belich, ‘A new kind of war’, in The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict, Penguin, Auckland, 1998, pp. 203–34
  • James Cowan, ‘The Poverty Bay massacre’, in The New Zealand Wars: a history of the Maori campaigns and the pioneering period: volume II: The Hauhau Wars, 1864–72, R.E. Owen, Wellington, 1956, pp. 263–9
  • Joseph Angus Mackay, Chapters 28 to 30, in Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z., Joseph Angus Mackay, Gisborne, 1949, pp. 245–74
  • Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips, The sorrow and the pride: New Zealand war memorials, GP Books, Wellington, 1990, p. 19
  • Poverty Bay’, Hawke’s Bay Herald, 9 July 1869
  • Poverty Bay’, Hawke’s Bay Herald, 31 August 1869
  • Nigel Prickett, ‘Te Kooti’s War, 1868–72’, in Landscapes of conflict: a field guide to the New Zealand Wars, Random House, Auckland, 2002, pp. 132–8
  • [Untitled], Nelson Evening Mail, 29 November 1872, p. 2

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