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The theft of a Parihaka taha

Among the treasures displayed at the ‘Masterton Museum – A Cabinet of Curiosities’ exhibition at Aratoi is a taha, a hollowed-out hue, or gourd used as a vessel to carry liquids. Written in ink on the exterior of the taha are the words ‘Got at Parihaka, 13 November 1881’.

The man who ‘got’ the taha was local businessman George Dalrymple, a member of the Masterton Volunteers who took part in the infamous raid on Parihaka in November 1881.

Dalrymple was a descendant of a very old Scottish family, and second cousin to the Earl of Stair. Born in France and educated there and in Belgium, he came to New Zealand in 1863 and after 13 years in the South Island, moved to Masterton.

Civically minded, he was captain of the first fire brigade formed in Invercargill in 1865, lieutenant in the Hokitika Brigade in 1870 and captain of the Masterton Fire Brigade in 1876.

He was active in the Masonic, Oddfellows and Druids lodges, holding high office in all.

He was also a member of the Masterton Rifle Volunteers, joining in 1877 and serving as a corporal at the time of the expedition to Parihaka. The Masterton troops were part of a large contingent of volunteers sent to the western Taranaki kainga to arrest the prophets Te Whiti and Tohu. The two men had gathered large numbers of adherents to their passive resistance to land confiscation as the result of the New Zealand Wars. When the troops entered the pa on 5 November, instead of being greeted by warriors they were met by singing children. None of the adults offered any resistance. Te White and Tohu were arrested and held without trial for 16 months.

Dalrymple did not take part in the initial entrance to Parihaka.

At a dinner given to celebrate the return of the Masterton contingent, he explained that the troops had taken part in a sham fight at Opunake as part of their training for the venture, and both he and the troop’s commander, Captain Ruck, had been injured and were incapacitated on the big day. They had remained in camp during the initial foray, the Masterton Volunteers being led by Lieutenant Edward Wyllie.

In the days that followed the volunteers and regular soldiers were the only people allowed access to Parihaka and it was during this lull that Dalrymple secured his prize of the taha. The Masterton troops left Parihaka on the 16th, returning to Masterton on the 18th, where a large reception and dinner was held for them.

Dalrymple died in 1908. He was remembered as a man who had always displayed a keen interest in the development of Masterton, and who had worked until he was in his late 70s.

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