Letter from P. Wilson
to Donald McLean
dated 6th. August
6th. August 1854
My dear Mac,
Your welcome epistle to self and wife reached us to-day.
You will be grieved at the intelligence of the death of your old friend, Rawiri. He died this morning in Hospital, at half past one o'clock. As despatches go by this conveyance, as to how and why he came by his death, I need only specify that the ball which caused the fatality, entered the right side of the chest between, and at the convexity of the 7th, and 8th, ribs, without fracturing either, passed the lung, and made its exit a little above the nipple of the same side. As he was wounded on the 3rd, at 7 a.m. he thus lived 66Â½ hours, which gave me to hope that nature might carry him forward to a cure; but as day declined yesterday, it became very obvious that there was not a chance. I have secured for you a small lock of the worthy Chief's
hair; and Turton has got his greenstone, which I understand, he is to request the widow and friends to consign to you. I have five other cases of the same class of wounds now in Hospital, --- one, --- Pirikau, your swift-footed messenger. The ball entered the arm, passed through that, comminating the bone as it went, then struck over the ribs, and passed under the sternum, so that nothing of it can be felt or traced. This may eventually require amputation at the shoulder joint; but hitherto, has evinced no untoward symptom so as to make interference a business of mine. The next bad case is a fracture of the thigh, but the ball has not lodged; and as he was late in coming in, and swelling having taken place, I have not yet been able to ascertain whether or not the bone is comminated as in the above; but if so, I fear it may also require operation. The third, the ball passed through the fleshy part of the forearm, and is doing favourably. The fourth, the ball entered at the top of the shoulder, passed under the shoulder blade, and I hope, is there quietly immersed among the muscles, as he makes no complaint about it; and I am not disposed to hunt for it, on a cold scent. The fifth is a claw on the head by the butt end of a gun, and is doing well. Maori blood
is a very healing balsam. I dressed the head of one fellow on what may be called the field of battle, two hours after the action, by merely bringing the edges together, of a three-inch long, skull deep incision. He did not come in, but yesterday morning made his appearance, when I found the edges quite united. I would recommend you, always to keep a bottle of it by you in case of accidents. Four I found dead as door-nails on the field, and among them poor Isaac, and Rawiri's brother, Paora, dying, since dead, --- a ball having entered the left eye, and passed through the brain. Rawiri's funeral takes place to-morrow, when it is expected some more fighting will take place; so I shall not close this to-night.
7th. Rawiri's friends mustered this morning at the Hospital, and at 11 o'clock the body was moved towards its final home, the spot he fell on at the Mangareka. As Katatori had vowed with his usual bounce that he would oppose, per vi et arnis, the burial, and as the friends of the deceased, as stoutly vowed that he should be buried at that spot, I went down with Cooper and H. Halse, to render any professional service that might be required, in case of collision; which indeed we thought was certain. We stopped at
the Pa a little beyond Cooke's, where our party eat a hearty meal; and Turton here read the funeral service. These finished, we started to the destination, being on the way reinforced by Tomate Walker's party of about 30 armed men. We had, now, I presume, somewhere about a hundred belligerents on our side, --- a too numerous host for Katatori to venture within his own defences, and left us to bury the gallant Chief in becoming peace and quietness. His pall was my plaid of the 42nd. Tartan, so that he had the colours of a gallant Corps to cover him; and his friends were gratified therewith. After which a volley was fired over the graves of the murdered men; and after a little talking among themselves, Cooper, Halse, and I left for town; and they adjourned to the house of Rawiri, to have a cry. They put a Tapu on the road leading to the Waitara, but it does not extend to Pakehas, who have liberty to go to and fro.
Report is current that the fellow will disinter the bodies, and so he may; for the man who would cut down and shoot defenceless men, is dastard enough to do so unmanly a deed. Yet I don't believe he will, but from a fear of the consequence.
Upon the whole I was greatly gratified with the gallant, determined bearing of our party to-day;
and of the Chiefs, I would particularise no one, for all behaved like fine fellows. Honi Ropiha pronounced the funeral oration; which, however, was Sanscrit to me, so I can tell you nothing about it.
Turton has earned laurels throughout this affair.
The call with many here is for soldiers. I think we will be better without them, yet some means should be tried to bring Katatori to the bar of justice; but soldiers, unless in fully efficient force, will do as they did at Wanganui, more harm than good, and for years retard the progress of the settlement. So please deprecate the sending of troops to us. The white people have not the slightest cause for alarm. It is altogether a Maori affair; and upon the whole, I believe that the sanest policy is to leave the matter entirely to themselves.
James Ritchie is busy manufacturing a Report for that poor driveller, Flight; and as neither of them know much of the affair, and the latter has a leaning towards Katatori, you must not attach much value thereto.
You may say to Dr. Sinclair, that, with regard to my Requisition for the Hospital stores, of the 6th. February last, this affray found me without a single strip of adhesive plaster, and without a
morsel of lint, or a sufficiency of mattresses, or a change of sheets, or of medicines of almost any sort. Thus, as even Colonial Secretaries seem not "to know what a day will bring forth", I would recommend that the House of Representatives be moved to legislate that all such Bigwigs be ordered to give immediate attention to the requisitions of Colonial Surgeons; otherwise they, the Colonial Secretaries, may get a rap over the knuckles, when they, the Colonial Secretaries, least expect it.
Ritchie sends to you, by the Policeman, who takes up a prisoner, a tin case of Red herrings, with his kind regards. They are "Kapai", and frae our ain town, Dunbar, --- the very ugliest town in all Scotland, but a capital place for herrings.
Please tell the Governor that if he sends you down here, you will do more to put these Maori squabbles on the square than all his regiment; and all will be most happy to see you; but don't be expecting public feasts every time your Highness comes amongst us.
I remain, my dear Mac,
ever faithfully yours,