This year marks the centenary of the birth of the great Polish pianist and patriot, Ignace Jan Paderewski, possibly the greatest pianist the world has known, certainly the most celebrated. For nearly fifty years he toured the world in princely style—he was the pianist, as Caruso was the tenor, and as Picasso is now the painter. But this is not all. A fierce Polish patriot, he became his country’s Premier and President, and was transported in state to the Versailles Peace Conference in a British battleship.
Paderewski visited New Zealand twice, in 1904, when he was at the zenith of his career, and again in 1927, when he was an elderly man. He has left a lively account of his 1904 visit in his Memoirs, including what was evidently a memorable visit to Rotorua. This is what he said:
“I was very anxious to try the baths at Rotorua which had quite a reputation as a watering-place in New Zealand, but as a neighbouring village was more interesting and comfortable, we decided to stop there. The entire population was Maori. The only white man was a gentleman by the name of Nelson, a Britisher of course, who came some forty years before to the place as a surveyor and was so impressed, so enraptured by the country and by the people especially, that he decided to live there to the end of his days, which occurred some ten years after our visit.
“We lived in the Hotel Nelson and it must be said that nowhere in the world did we ever enjoy such quiet, pleasant and absolutely undisturbed peace as there. All the Maori people were most interesting to me. They were educated, some of them having been at high school and so on, but they lived just as their ancestors had lived for a thousand years. Some of them even knew who I was and they showed me so much respect and affection, and such courtesy as I’ve never really found elsewhere.
“From time to time we made some little excursions. Everywhere in that wonderful land there are geysers and hot lakes. The bath I enjoyed there (and which quieted my nerves very much) was called an oil bath, because the water was so fat and came from natural sources. It must have been something very particular. It was very heavy and naturally very hot. I think it some 85 or even more degrees.
“Our guide was a Maori girl bearing the poetic name of Maggie Papakura. She was quite a lady—well-educated. She married, afterwards, some English lord.” (Not true: Paderewski was misinformed. Maggie Papakura married twice, and her second marriage was to a Mr Staples-Brown. She died in England and was buried there.) “She was recognised chieftainess of that little tribe and she always offered, most graciously, her services as guide to that delightful land. She published an interesting book later about the district of Whakarewarewa. She guided us most carefully. She would take my wife by the hand, and then to me, following, she would say, “Now be careful, very careful. Don’t go to the right. Just follow me exactly.’ I asked why. ‘Because there is an abyss here which you cannot see. It is boiling mud—it is on your right, only a yard away. So be very careful.’ And then she threw in, by way of warning, ‘A few years ago my aunt made a mis-step and sank into that abyss, and disappeared for ever.’ Well, I can assure you that I followed her advice! I was very careful.
“On one occasion she showed me a Maori fishing with a line in fresh and very cold water for trout. He caught one, and without moving from the place where he stood, he threw that trout right into a little pond only two yards away from him. Then drew in the line, took off the fish, put a little salt on it, and ate it! It was thoroughly cooked.
“At that time, some of the geysers were playing, but not at their greatest height and splendour, not high enough for their guests of honour, as we were considered by the Maoris. They were extremely proud to have us staying with them. So one day they decided to give us a ‘soap of honour’ as they call it. In other words, a treat. What was it? You can never guess. Well, they bought twenty pounds of soap, put it into the hole of one of the geysers, and the geyser immediately jumped about 150 feet in the air because the soap increased the gas. It was a thrilling sight and we watched in amazement.
“We saw the interesting lake of Rotorua. The lake is of icy cold water, but right in the centre of it there are a few small islands containing geysers of boiling water jumping very high into the air. Another lake, still farther away, had a temperature of 140 degrees. Amazing.
“The country was not strictly beautiful, but so uncanny and so interesting, and full of constant surprises.
“One day, we expressed a desire to go to a waterfall in the neighbourhood, which was one of the wonders of the country. Mr Lemmone applied to the Governor for permission to visit it, and the Minister of the Interior, Sir Joseph Ward, notified us that the Government would be very pleased to have me visit the place and the chief guide of New Zealand, Mr Warbrick, would call on me and make all the necessary arrangements.
“Mr Warbrick came to our hotel and to our surprise told us that it was an excursion of at least three days. There was no hotel there, just a cabin, so we had to carry our own food and bedding, which was something of an undertaking. Well, everything was arranged and we were to start at five in the morning. Suddenly at midnight, somebody knocked at the door. It was Mr War-brick to tell us that the excursion was off. He deeply regretted it, but he had just been notified that there had been an earthquake in the vicinity and the waterfall we were to visit had disappeared!
“The Maori people were a source of great interest to me. They were brown in colour and very good-looking. They were supposed to have come from Tahiti. (sic) They travelled at least a thousand miles before they established themselves in New Zealand, and they are said to have come in boats made from one log of wood. These Maoris are a fine, handsome people, but the women become perfectly abominable when they are married, for they immediately tattoo their chins horribly—an awful sight. As long as they are girls, they are very pretty to look at, but as married women they are perfectly hideous.
“Mr Nelson claimed that they were very intelligent. He said, ‘Ask any Maori about his ancestry, and he will tell you, 32 generations back, the names, not only of those who founded the colony, but of everyone belonging to that tribe. More than that, they will tell you the particulars of everyone, at what age he died, and so forth.’
“I have known several Maoris of exceptionally high education. One was a member of the Cabinet of New Zealand (Sir James Carroll), who received the Duke and Duchess of York during their visit here. He gave an admirable address at their reception, and then took them afterwards to the Rotorua district, of which he was a native. Then, to add to his prowess, he actually took part in a war dance before the royalties and finally, at the grand finale, tried to frighten them by putting his tongue out almost to his navel! Of course, in the dance, he had to wear another and special attire which completely disguised him. After the dance he made a little address in Maori, and created a tremendous impression. Later on at the reception he sat with the royalties at the table, and the Duke of York said, ‘Tell me, who was that wonderful dancer who made such a fine address afterwards, and who danced with his tongue hanging out so long?’ ‘Oh,’ replied the Cabinet member, ‘it was myself. I am a Maori, you know, and a fine dancer.’
“It is to be added that as well as their own Maori language, they all speak English, which they learn at school.”
NO RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
There is no racial discrimination in Rotorua district, according to Mr B. Adam, the man in charge of the Maori apprentices’ hostel at Rotorua. “I have never been questioned on the fact that a boy I bring along for a job is a Maori,” said Mr Adam. The hostel warden was speaking at the 23rd annual conference of the Women’s Health League, held at the Kearoa Meeting House, Horohoro, recently.
“Maori youths are accepted equally with Europeans in the Rotorua area,” added Mr Adam. “People often ring me up and ask me for another boy like the Maori youth they have working for them already. I have had to turn down nine offers of apprenticeship recently because I did not have the boys to fill them. I would appeal to all Maori people to keep their children at a high school for at least two years, three if they can manage it. I know that this is often difficult, but I believe that Maori youth should be trained to take a full part in the development of New Zealand—a task that they are so well fitted to carry out,” he said.
MAORI WELFARE LEAGUE
The Dominion President of the Maori Welfare League was the guest of honour at a luncheon in the P.D.C., Palmerston North, some weeks ago, given by the Ngati Pamutana Branch of the League.
The President, Mrs E. J. Magee, welcomed Mrs Hirini, the Mayoress, Mrs G. M. Rennie, the patroness, Mrs M. Durie, Aorangi, and members representing Maori groups. In reply to Mrs Magee and Mrs Rennie, Mrs Hirini said that it was an honour and a privilege to be with the group. She had lately been travelling throughout the Ngati Pamutana League’s district—Otaki. Tokorangi, and Palmerston North, and the direct contact with the Maori groups would be of valuable assistance to the council. This was, she said, the first time a Dominion President had visited the area and it was her intention to tour the whole of New Zealand.
“We must be of one mind,” said Mrs Hirini, “pull the canoe and forge ahead with the work for the betterment of the Maori people. New Zealanders are one people and we must work to that end.”
(1860 – 1941) was a Polishpianist and composer who became a spokesman for Polish independence. In 1919, he was the new nation’s Prime Minister and foreign minister during which he signed the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I.