Over our morning cuppa I watched those clouds build up and huddled into my jacket.
Let’s check out Gisborne, I said. It’s only ten minutes drive back along Highway 35. We could wander around the shops, look at the river, and check out Tairawhiti Museum.
The history of early European settlement here, as with many parts of the country, is fraught. I didn’t learn this at school or at Uni. I learned it from a novel – a trilogy actually: The Season of The Jew. Maurice Shadbolt turned me on to my own history. His novels helped me see things with different eyes; from both sides. From reading them I know that every bay, each bend in the rivers, and every street corner has a story to tell.
And they tell those stories well here. So well, we never quite made it to the museum. We got close. Very close, but we got side-tracked, twice.
This cottage, which is next to Tairawhiti museum, was built for Kate Wyllie.
It was the first European style cottage on this particular side of the Taruhera river.
The cottage is small; they didn’t have much room to stretch their legs in those days. The stairs are narrow, not the sort anyone would take two at a time.
On display are a range of artefacts from Kate Wyllie’s life, including a Bible with her signature on the fly leaf. She was born in 1840, the year Te Tiriti O Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi) was signed, and was of European and Rongowhakaata descent. She married James Wyllie, a Scotsman. These circumstances meant she had a foot in both worlds, which can’t always have been easy.
And she knew Te Kooti! The Te Kooti Maurice Shadbolt brought alive for me in his novels.
It was Kate who tried to warn the early settlers that Te Kooti was planning a raid on the tiny settlement of Matawhero. No-one listened. Fifty-four Maori and European were killed. And Kate’s son, William, was killed a month or so later in a skirmish with Te Kooti.
There are several photos of Kate on display in the cottage. She was rather short. I like that! She may have been a small woman but she was a woman who stood up for what she thought was right. I like that, too.
Actually, she sounds formidable. The younger, more timid me, might have been wary of her, perhaps even intimidated. But this older me would love to sit down with her, to get her talking. I think I’d learn a lot from her. About sticking up for what you believe in. About walking in two worlds. I reckon she’d be a great gossip – wouldn’t it be fun to get the inside low down on all those historical figures she knew.
Oh, for time travel! Too bad that Stephen Hawkins says it not very likely. Otherwise where are all the time travelling tourists – people like me with a yen to know what it was really like, back then?
If you believe places like this might be haunted then I should tell you, despite all the tales of Kate’s formidable character, her home has a friendly atmosphere.
On the other side of the museum is a different sort of house, entirely.
C Company house. The story of our experience there deserves a post of it’s own. Watch out for that on Monday. For now, I’ll tell you that by the time we left it was too late to visit the museum. Maybe tomorrow we said.
We wandered along Gisborne’s main street. The cafe at Muirs, a vey well-known bookshop, was closed. I did buy a book, though, the first actual book in more than a year.
Like my home town, Gisborne is quiet outside of the tourist season. It’s easy to imagine Kate Wyllie arguing the toss with one of her opponents not far from this street corner.
Do you enjoy historical novels? What have you learned from them?
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Forces of Nature.”
I’ve submitted this post to Photo101 Rehab, the photos in this post are amongst the first I have shot in RAW format.