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THE OLD CEMETERY, TAURANGA

A good deal of attention has been drawn to the condition of the old Cemetery, more especially with reference to that portion in which are interred the remains of upwards of one hundred of Her Majesty's Imperial and Colonial forces. It has not been merely the attention of those immediately in the neighbourhood of Tauranga or even inNew Zealand that has been thus drawn to this subject but articles and letters on it have appeared in the public press of the United Kingdom, in some of which Tauranga itself comes in for a decidedly unmerited share of blame. Primarily, of course, the duty of erecting lasting monuments to the defenders of JBritish interests in New Zealand on the spot where their bodies lie*, rested with the relatives, friends and comrades of the dead and the Government for whom they fought, and in some instances this duty has been faithfully and , lovingly fulfilled; besides these individual momentos there was erected by subscription, a substantial and lasting monument, though not a beautiful one certainly, on the faces of which are inscribed the names of those, both officers and men of all arms, who fell ia the memorable battles of Gate Pa (Pukehinahina) and Te Ranga, and which stews but the faintest traces of the ravages of time and the weather; we mention this in refutation of a statement conin a letter to the London Standard of December 15th 1886 signed J. EdgePartington, which says that unless something be done all trace of these men will soon be blotted out. The separate enclosure in which they lie has beefl kept fenced and sacred, and as opportunity offered the paths have been cleaned and the headboards repaired or renewed by members of the A.C. or police or crews of H.M. ships visiting the port. Now we come to the question, failing the primary source, on who did the duty of keeping the Cemetery in decent order and repair, secondarily devolve? The answer is not far to seek and it is, on those who exercised authority thereover. This opens another question, viz, who has hitherto exercised authority over the Tauranga Old Cemetery? The answer to this if contained in the following letter, and further borne out by an advertisement which appeared in this paper on June Ist, 1886.

Auckland, April 29, 1886. I hereby authorise John A. Clark, Esq., secretary to the Cemetery Committee, Tauranga, to take the place of the late Captain Punks as care taker of the Old Cemetery held at present as the property of the Church Missionary Society, and also to exercise all powers provided in the late Act of the Government, to regulate the burial or non- burial of the dead within such Cemetery, either in person or in his absence by the then acting secretary of the Cemetery Committee. — I am &o.

Robert Burrows, Secretary of the Land Board, C.M.S.

The least that the C.M.S. could have done when handing over their property to the Trust Board of the New Cemetery, would hare been to see that it was in such order as befits so sacred a Bpot; but nothing of this sort was done, and when in July 1886 the Tauranga Trustees, having no funds at their disposal, but earnestly wishing that proper reverence should be done to the graves of the officers, sailors, soldiers, and civilians whose mortal remains rested in the enclosure over which they had newly acquired jurisdiction, applied to the Secretary of the N.Z. Church Mission Board for a contribution of the paltry sum of £30, this Society, which has drawn its thousands from Tauranga, declined, and in tjhe face of the letter

quoted above the Secretary stated that "The Cemetery although originally the property of the C.M.S. was freely given up by the Society about 24 years ago to be used as a public cemetery, which it has been to all intents and purposes ever since. 1 ' Yet up to the date of his death some three years ago, the Society's local representative, the Yen. Archdeacon Brown, exercised complete and unquestionable control over the Cemetery, and after him the Society appointed Captain Tunks to fulfil his duties, and at his death in 1886 it was handed over, in the words of the letter printed above to the Secretary of the Cemetery Committee of Tauranga. Now this action of the JTew Zealand Board of the C.M.S., is to say the least of it, rather extraordinary and points to only one of two conclusions; the writing of the two utterly contradictory letters may be the result of a very unbusinesslike way of managing its affairs, or it is a mean attempt to shirk a paltry pecuniary obligation that rightfully belongs to it. Let us hope the former, as the least discreditable, is the right conclusion.

"We are now brought face to face with the problem that the Trustees of the New Cemetery felt themselves called on to solve. This is: — How are they with barely sufficient funds to attend to the requirements of the New Cemetery from which such funds are derived, to adequately repair and keep in order their newly acquired trust? Their application to the most natural source, the C.M.S., having proved in vain, to whom next should they apply? They tried the Government of the colony and got answer that for £50 voluntarily subscribed the Government would pay a subsidy of £50; this reply, in the depressed state of business and agriculture in and around Tauranga seemed almost a refusal so hopeless did the terms appear of being fulfilled. In the midst of this dilemma, a friend appears in the person of Admiral Field, M.P. for South Sussex, who having a little time back visited Tauranga and seen the state of the Old Cemetery took up the matter warmly at home and asked a question in the House in June last year, whether the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies would be pleased to call the attention of the Government of New Zealand to the very discreditable state of the Cemetery at Tauranga, in the North Island, where lie interred many naval and military officers, seamen, marines and soldiers, who lost their lives in the various engagements with the Maoris in the viciuity of the famous Gate Pa in 1864; that such steps may betaken as may be found necessary to put their graves, tombstones and other records in proper order. The secretary of the Cemetery Trust Board immediately communicated with this gentleman placing the true position of affairs before him hoping that he would be able to help the Trustees out of their difficulty by procuring subscriptions from persons interested in those whose last resting place is at the northern end of our picturesque town, and that thus the Board might be able to claim the £50 subsidy of the Government and secure a valuable contribution towards the funds required to adequately honour the memories of those who died in the services of their country, and to put the sacred plot of ground wherein they rest in fit and becoming order. In reply to the appeal of ; the Trustees' Admiral Eield writes as fallows : — The Grove, Goaport, December 22nd, 1886. Dear Sib,— Your Trustees will be will be glad to learn that my letter to the Press enclosing your letter to me, has borne good fruit. The Secretary of the Church Mission Society you will observe has been called upon to excuse or defend the Mission Board in New Zealand. It is not difficult to read "between the lines," that the London Board do not approve the answer given you by the Board in the colony. I have to-day had a long interview with the Rev. 0. Fenn the secretary, and I can see plainly that the London Board do not approve of the refusal in New Zealand to contribute to placing the; Tauranga Cemetery in proper order. Our brave sailors and soldiers by their death gave security to property in the district and brought peace and prosperity to a distracted colony. It is only seemly and right that their graves should be duly honoured and guarded by the colony they served so well. I sent you a copy of my letter to the papers by last mail. I have not received any monies from relatives of those buried in your Cemetery, 22 years is a long time and fathers and mothers are probably dead. I am glad to have been instrumental in assisting your Board to get help from the Mission Board, which you will I feel sure receive. You can use these letters as you deem best. Naval and military men are very angry over it all and talk of withdrawing their subscriptions from the Church Mission Society and forwarding them to your Trustees to assist in putting the Cemetery in proper order. — Yours truly, E. Field. Acting on the encouragement given in this letter the Trustees at their last meeting instructed Mr G. - Arnold Ward, to furnish them with a report and recommendations on the subject, and these after approval by the Trustees will be forwarded by them to Admiral Field for his information, and to assist him in his self imposed and most laudable task, and heartily do we wish him and the Trustees eyery success in their good work.

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/BOPT18870217.2.8

Bibliographic details

THE OLD CEMETERY, TAURANGA, Bay of Plenty Times, Volume XV, Issue 2102, 17 February 1887

Word Count
1,558

THE OLD CEMETERY, TAURANGA Bay of Plenty Times, Volume XV, Issue 2102, 17 February 1887

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