Albert Edward Ihaka was born in April 1889 in Tauweru, the son of Piripi Ihaka and his English-born wife, Mildred Baker.
He was a grandson of Ihaka Te Moe and his wife Ripeka Te Kakapi-o-te-rangi Purehua.
Educated at Tauweru School, he was working for F. Tozer in Levels, near Timaru, when he enlisted in March 1918.
He embarked from New Zealand in late July 1918, marching into Sling Camp in England in early October 1918, with the 41st Reinforcements, but the war was over within months.
He stayed in England until July 1919, and arrived back in New Zealand in August.
In 1923 he married Pearl Evelyn Oliver – his brother William married her sister Myrtle the following year.
Ihaka spent the majority of his working life on Wairarapa farms – shearing, fencing and doing other rural work.
He later said he had worked on almost every sheep station in Wairarapa, and met most of the swaggers that were then common on the back road.
During that time, he developed an interest in carving, shaping the few pieces he made by using a pocket knife.
Once he retired he was able to follow this interest to a greater degree, and took to making various carvings, largely out of totara, once carving from a block of wood he rescued from a neighbour’s old house foundations.
He became known for his models of waka, and statues of Maori warriors, but his most famous carving was one of Russian Jack, working from a photograph by local man Bert Irvine, and from his own memory of having met the swagger many times. He did not accept payment for his work – he gave a lot of it away and some pieces went overseas, but he also kept many at his home.
Albert Edward Ihaka died in Masterton in 1977.
– Gareth Winter