I’m about to drive to Wanganui to get for tomorrow’s (Thursday) 2pm meeting in the War Memorial Hall.
Grey Power president Graham Adams says feedback suggests we’ll get twice their usual audience and may fill the venue.
Wanganui is not just famous for being given an optional ‘h’ over the protests of 80% of its residents. It was also where six members of the Gilfillan family were tomahawked to death (‘barbarously murdered by natives’, as the above family gravestone puts it) in 1847.
Read for yourself the chilling testimony of Sarah Gilfillan.
The butchering of the law-abiding farming family was typical of the Maori custom of avenging a small slight with the mass murder of innocents.
As I wrote in my first Truth column to Willie Jackson (a point to which he has yet to reply):
- in 1772 in the Bay of Islands, 27 French sailors were killed and eaten — supposedly for fishing in the wrong bay.
- in 1809 at Whangaroa, 66-70 men, women and children were killed and eaten — because one man had been flogged in error.
- in 1868 at Matawhero, nearly 60 men, women and children were massacred by Hauhaus — because Te Kooti thought he’d been wrongly imprisoned.
And so it was at Wanganui in 1847. According to Mike Butler, whose great-grandfather and great-great uncle were living in Wanganui at the time:
“a teenage midshipman [Crozier] … was paying chief Hapurona Ngarangi for a raupo whare on the beach, when a dispute arose over the price.
Crozier went into the house, got a pistol and pointed it at Hoporona, trying to force his terms.
Hoporona grappled with Crozier and the gun went off, wounding Hapurona in the cheek … it was found the wound was not serious …
Hapurona said the shot was fired accidentally and he did not wish to retaliate.”
Others did, however. And the victims they chose were the settler family furthest from town.
“On the following Sunday, John Gilfillan staggered into town with an axe wound in the back of his head.”
The rest you know.
While friendly Maori brought the four killers in and they were hanged, rather than accept this punishment rebel Maori used it as an excuse for more bloodshed.
It took Governor Grey, 600 troops and ten months before peace was restored. (But not before Mike’s great-grandfather had his house plundered by rebels, then destroyed by troops.)
I hope to see you at the Wanganui War Memorial Hall at 2pm tomorrow. It’s a public meeting, so do email all your friends in the area.