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Moses South Part 2 1903-1949 

The life of Moses South, spanning over 80 years and an amazing range of diverse experiences, has provided a very interesting exercise in historical research. The lives of most immigrants in the first century of European settlement in New Zealand illustrate great adaptability and resourcefulness.

Leaving the familiarity of relatives and friends, of' Edmonton, which lay to the north of London, his father's brickworks, and their Primitive Methodist Church, he was taken with his father, his new young stepmother, three older brothers and sisters and one baby sister to voyage on the sailing ship, the "Buckinghamshire" to the other end of the world. They came to Dunedin in the south of New Zealand.

On board the ship they were accommodated in "assisted" immigrants quarters which were most likely in steerage. After a voyage of nearly three months the "Buckinghamshire" arrived in early winter at a fairley new Scottish colonial town. However, within the past decade, Dunedin had experienced the boom times of the Central Otago goldrushes and his father was able to establish a brick works within the first year.

A bright lad, Moses was the first son to move past primary education. This was a time when few families thought of enrolling a child at secondary school. These were expensive. Moses took the course towards matriculation taken by many intelligent children wishing to advance their education. He became a pupil teacher. This meant being a teacher's assistant or "apprentice" for four years. There was an obligation on the head teacher to provide instruction after school hours to prepare the pupil teachers for a series of four examinations. After these four years the successful students had matriculated and could apply for a teaching position. Most country primary schools in the nineteenth century were staffed by teachers who had qualified in this way. It was an alternative to secondary education. With matriculation came the right to enter University or Teachers' College.

Moses decided to attend Dunedin Teachers' College, the first in New Zealand. Such was the demand for teachers however that he did not complete the two year course and went off to teach in Southland, and then in a remote area of Central Otago, at Nevis where there was still a lot of gold mining activity.

It seems that he had a quality that made him a leader in all communities in which he was involved - the Forbury Primitive Methodist Church, the Nevis gold mining community and then after his marriage to Emma Dodd, the Maori settlements in the far north and in northern Hawkes Bay where he taught until his retirement.

From a study of the intentions of the Native Schools service and the requirements from its teachers it appears that Moses and Emma were the ideal couple. Certainly what we know of their lives up in Whangape and in Nuhaka makes it obvious that they both served the communities, their school, and their local church, with wholehearted enthusiasm, and became highly respected there.

Doubtless many nineteenth century immigrants' lives displayed the considerable range of experiences found in the life of Moses. It is good to follow the career of this boy whose mother was illiterate, whose father was a brickmaker, whose grandfather was a farm labourer, probably illiterate. He took advantage of the challenges of a new way of life and made his own unique contribution to our social history.

By J.A. Cranefield M.A.. Hist. (Hons.)

Moses South Part 2 1903-1949 

Whaneape Native school

Moses and Emma South arrived from Dunedin at the Whangape Native School for the beginning of the 1903 school year. The Native School service preferred to appoint married couples, and from the time they arrived both were involved in teaching there.

They were to make their mark almost immediately and within a year were very highly valued by the local Maori community and by the Inspector of Native Schools, James Pope, who visited in October on his last tour of duty before his retirement. His report is enthusiastic, and even effusive, about their work at the school (see Appendix A). His praise of their teaching, and of the school, contrasts markedly with his comments on other Native Schools in the Hokianga. In these, there was often lack of progress, and even for some of them, closure. This was not Just the result of unsatisfactory teachers, or of teachers leaving, but also of a series of epidemics causing illness and even the death of many pupils. Also, in some areas of the 1 Hokianga, many children were taken out of school to work on the kauri gumfields. This was to remain a considerable problem for some time.

In 1903, nationwide, there were 101 Native Schools with a roll of 3693 which was falling, due mainly to epidemics of measles, whooping cough and scarlet fever in the far north. In the Hokianga area there were 11 Native Schools when Moses and Emma arrived. The closure of one, Matehitide, during 1904, resulted in an increased roll at Whangape. They began with 70 pupils and by the end of 1904 there were 84. There were three teachers at the school by 1904. Moses, the Headmaster, with Grade E, earned a salary and house allowance of £289.9.7 plus £10 a year for conveyance of goods. This salary was considerably more than was earned by headmasters in other native schools. This may be due to the fact that a large proportion of teachers in the Native School Service were, unlike Moses, untrained .

Emma was paid £50 a year and Miss M. Clarkson £20 a year.

Moses and Emma taught at Whangape School from 1903 to the end of 1907. Their sons were born at the school house there, Laurie in 1904 and Les in 1906. Laurie's second name, Papahia, was that of the local Church of England minister who christened him. Joyce was born in Whangarei, when they were on their way south to Nuhaka at the beginning of 1908. They started that school year in Nuhaka rather late.

Moses' lifelong interest in music meant that lie immediately saw the musical potential of his pupils, and, as mentioned by James Pope in his report, the drum and fife band was making music enthusiastically in the first year at Whangape. Joyce remembers stories about how work stopped across the harbour at the mill when the drum and fife band, the pride of the district, played while the children marched into school. His daughter Muriel writes of Moses standing on the school side of the harbour blowing his bugle at a certain time each morning so that the children who travelled on the Whangape Native School Ferry would leave on time. A photograph of the ferry and its 60 or so child passengers appeared in the Inspector's report to the House of Representatives one year.

The school and the schoolhouse were built in comparative isolation across the harbour from the main settlement. Emma used to speak of how much she loved it there, watching the barges full of kauri logs travelling down the river.

By 1905 the requirements at native schools were practically the same as in "board" or state schools, with work extending up to Standard 6. With the larger roll the school building was already too small for the numbers attending, and by 1908 Inspector W.W. Bird, Pope's successor and a good friend of Moses, was able to report "at some of the schools European children are attending, and enquiries 1 made personally from their parents show that they are well satisfied with the instruction given and the management of their school"

In 1906 Mr Bird reported:

"The success of Whangape is all the more creditable when one takes into consideration the fact that, the school being situated between two rivers, the children are nearly all ferried to school, fifty or more crossing one river daily ... There are now, in the district, workshops at which instruction in carpentry is given, a new one having been established at Whangape during the year. At Whangape the committee and the people provided tile building... In not a few cases ... it has been made evident that the personality of a new teacher has effected a marked increase in the number of children attending ... and the Department now finds it necessary to make considerable additions to schools that were formerly comparatively in very low condition - a result due entirely to the power of the new teacher to make his school attractive"

(AJNZHR 1906)

Whangape Native School was itself enlarged with a new wing (made of corrugated iron!).

In his 1907 report Mr Bird is complimentary about the sewing done by the girls: "Six medals given to pupils at the recent Exhibition and this includes two gold medals won against all corners". Les remembers that the girls at Whangape School also won a competition with a dressed doll.

In their fifth year at Whangape, Moses was earning £274 a year, Emma £65 and Miss F. Barton £60 (including £30 lodgings allowance). By 1909 head teachers in native schools were being paid at the same rate as head teachers in state schools. The roll dropped in 1907 from 88 to 62 with an average attendance of 67.47% - 45 children had been admitted during the year and 71 had left. The school was closed for part of the last term, the "December quarter". Much further research into the history of the Hokianga area would be required to account for this state of affairs, but it is tempting to conjecture that the cause could have been the gumfields, or, again, an epidemic. Over the years the inspectors' reports write about schools being closed to be used as hospitals when a variety of serious illnesses including smallpox swept through Maori communities.

The Native School System

The policy of the system in which Moses taught was designed for the education of Maori children living in remote tribal areas. In 1879 the existing 64 native schools run by the Department of Maori Affairs were handed over to the newly created Education Department, which was to administer them. Their original objective was to place in Maori settlements European school buildings and a European family, the latter to serve as teachers and as " examples of the new way of life".

The inspector who carried out the inspection of the teachers and also of the organisation of these schools was James H Pope. "A schoolmaster of considerable skill and experience" (AJNZHR 1880), with a background of teaching at the Otago Boys' High School and the Otago Girls' High School, then as Head Inspector for the Taranaki Education Board. After 24 years he retired to be replaced by W.W. Bird in 1904. This totally separate system was to continue until 1969 when the Native Schools were all transferred to Education Boards.

Research at the University of Auckland by Dr Pat I lohepa in 1966 revealed that 43 out of the 67 Maori students at the University had received their primary education at native schools, and M.P. Mrs Tirikatene Sullivan quoted him as saying "Since two thirds to three quarters have been the product of Education Board schools ... there should be 130 or more Maori students at Auckland University who are the product of Board primary schools." Mrs Tirikatene Sullivan herself spoke of the value of her own native school experience.

The emphasis in the native schools was on the teaching of English. This was always paramount, and inspectors always insisted it was the single most important subject. Recent educational writers have deplored the policy in operation before 1930, because its main function was to help with the rapid assimilation of the Maoris into a European way of life. This may be too simplistic. James Pope, largely responsible for the community role of native schools and the programmes followed in them, was not a ruthless assimilationist, nor was W.W. Bird. They believed, as did the teachers, that:

"this was the means through which education would contribute to the survival of a race thought by the end of last century to be in danger of extinction. His faith in the village school system and the part of the schools and teachers could play in the development of rural communities was ahead of its time. It was always stressed that the role of the teachers should not be confined to teachings."

Teachers like the Souths won the confidence of the community. They were often considered extensions of the marae, and were an integral part of the tribe or hapu which saw the schools as their schools. The teachers were involved in the activities and troubles of the tribe, and their close co-operation with the district nurses, when they were appointed, had a considerable beneficial effect on the health and welfare of the children.

These teachers were concerned with Maori children whose parents and home conditions they knew well, and they understood any problems they may have had in the classroom. This did not happen in the public schools in which teachers had little or no knowledge of Maori life, and in which the Maori children attending them were often regarded as "slow learners". To make things worse, the general public, Education Department, and public school teachers saw little value in Maoritanga, and Maori children's sense of this disregard often induced an attitude of inferiority." In some districts there was even a dislike of Maori children turning up to attend Board schools.

A number of public school inspectors who had the chance to see first hand the work of Native schools concluded "Maori children make better progress in Native than in European schools. In the former the attendance is better, community stimulus is better, and the special treatment and training of the Maori is better understood."

Teachers in the Maori service had early formed a Native School Association and in 1915 they began publishing their own cyclostyled journal. The teachers were aware of their isolation which was made worse by not being eligible for membership of the N.Z.E.I.

Life at Nuhaka

Moses, Emma, Laurie, Les, and the new baby, Joyce, one month old, arrived at Nuhaka in northern Hawkes Bay a little late for the beginning of the 1908 school year. The school was a little larger than Whangape, with a roll standing at 77 at the end of 1907. It was to become, by 1914, the second largest in New Zealand with a roll of 105. In 1909 it was decided to pay native school headmasters at the same rate as headmasters of public schools. Moses' salary was, in fact, rather less than in his last year at Whangape. He received £220, a year. Emma's salary increased to £90, and their two assistants earned. £35 and £25. Moses, now an experienced and much respected head teacher remained on his E grading. By the time he retired the reports of the Inspector of Native Schools to the House of Representative no longer gave details on particular schools, or even districts. By the end of 1930 there were 138 schools, staffed with certified teachers, catering for 8257 children and having the high average weekly attendance of 90.9%.

Moses' and Emma's own children attended their father's school and then left borne aged 12 or 13 to go on to boarding school. Joyce and Laurie did return to Nuhaka, but Les and Muriel were only ever home again during the school holidays, except during the Depression, when Muriel lived with her parents in Napier and helped at a private primary school while waiting for the Teachers' College to re-open. Boarding school fees were a big expense for the Souths. Les won a Wairoa County Scholarship of £60 a year for two years and £40 of this pad for his board. (See Appendix B.)

At Nuhaka, Emma had a son, Patrick, who, sadly, was stillborn, and then Muriel was born in May 1913.

Music at Nuhaka

In their 23 years at Nuhaka Native School, Moses once again soon made his mark with music. Another drum and fife band was started, singing was held every day after lunchtime, and the annual school concerts, which often included an operetta, were a highlight of the community's year. Initially performed at the Latter Day Saints hall, they were often then taken to Wairoa. Emma used to make all the costumes and Joyce has childhood memories of drifting off to sleep to the whirr of the treadle sewing machine that continued late into the night.

The School Inspector's report of 1914, after remarking how scrupulously clean the furniture and floor were at Nuhaka School, commented: "It is a great pleasure to us to have presented at our annual visits such lists of songs as we received at ... [6 others] and Nuhaka Schools, where the rendering of high class glees and part songs is a matter of keen enjoyment to ourselves and of credit to both teachers and children." (A.J.N.Z.H.R. 1914) He elsewhere deplores the singing of "Music Hall ditties and ragtime music" in some schools visited, and recommends English ballads like It was a lover and his lass ... .. Ye Mariners of English," "Who is Sylvia," "Hearts of Oak." It is interesting to speculate about how much understanding the Maori children in very remote areas can have had of the words of such songs - no mention is made of Maori songs and chants.

At home, Moses would often sit at the piano in the evening and play on for hours in the growing dusk. He could improvise brilliantly and was also able to play the violin and the cornet and "make music on any instrument he picked up" (Joyce.) He played the organ in the Nuhaka and Morere Presbyterian Churches and would sing as a tenor at Masonic Lodge Concerts.

Family musical evenings were popular. When Bess was visiting she would recite at these, and Moses would keep the children enthralled with his stories of times past. Joyce remembers "he was a great storyteller in the best sense of the word." He was always the Master of Ceremonies for evenings of parlour games. Such events were a highlight in young Muriel's life. Emma also used to entertain and at church concerts frequently recited poems.

Moses always gathered together folk who could play anything, and when the railway was being put through from Napier to Gisborne and workmen's huts were on the former school property behind the school house, Muriel recalls Moses bringing up the men for a musical evening in the front room, and how the "weird sounds" from there kept her awake.

One of her earliest memories, when she was only five is of marching along with the people of Nuhaka and the surrounding area, leaving from the Post Office, crossing over the bridge to the school side of the river to Unity Hall, with Moses in front of his drum and fife band, augmented by any other instrumentalists who could march. The occasion was the Armistice Celebration at the end of the First World War in 1918.

All through his life Moses would write little poems for special occasions, like "Father's Day" by "Rhymster" (a thank-you letter in verse to the family for their gifts) and a delightful poem sent to Joyce on the birth of her daughter, Joy. Both these poems still remain. Goodness knows how many others he wrote.


Muriel writes:

"Moses used to fill in, taking the church service when a Minister was not available. This used to mean, if a service was due at Morere, riding his horse seven miles there and seven miles back, and even further sometimes, up the long hill from Morere to Wharerata. He took the service reading from a book of sermons, and dodging backwards and forwards to play !he organ for the hymns until I was promoted as organist on these occasions."

On his retirement in 1930, in the absence of a minister, they moved into the manse rent free and he took over the Minister's role without remuneration for nearly two years. The Presbyterian-Morere Church may well have survived because of their efforts, from "sale of works" to Sunday school teaching, and establishing new ministers and their wives in the old manse, originally at Morere. Everything would be ready for their arrival.

During the time at Nuhaka, Moses and Emma were approached by the Presbyterian Church to become Principals of the residential Turakina Maori Girls' College in Marton. They turned it down.

When they left Nuhaka in 1932 and retired to Napier, Moses became an elder of the Presbyterian Church there. A final move to Gisborne, following the family, saw Moses still active in the Church, and he looked after the collections at Church services until two years before his death. In Gisborne, Moses died in 1949 on the 4th of October. Ten years later, on the 16th of October, Emma died, in 1959. Their four children, Laurie, Les, Joyce and Muriel gave a belfry to the Morere-Nuliaka Presbyterian church in memory of their services to the parish between 1908 and 1932 (see Appendix E.)


While at Nuhaka Moses was a keen supporter of sport in the community, especially the local rugby football club of which he was secretary for some time. Also he organised voluntary help to fence off part of the school's horse paddock no longer needed, to put down a tennis court, and then built up a tennis team. In retirement in Napier he became an enthusiastic bowler.

Family and Community

The Souths always made an effort to keep in touch with the relatives down in the South Island. Moses sent donations for music to the Kew Primitive Methodist Church from Whangape. Emma wrote with family news when there was time. She regularly sent to Dunedin, usually at Christmas, studio photographs of themselves and their children who were always very smartly dressed in new clothes made on Emma's sewing machine. These photographs were taken in Auckland or in Whangarei. Les remembers very long train and ferry journeys south to visit the relatives in Dunedin, and memorable trips to both the Dunedin and the Wellington Exhibitions.

Muriel has provided a fascinating description of the Nuhaka township which she remembers. (see Appendix C.) The family entered fully into the life of the community. They were a home loving family "jolly, dependent on each other, for social contacts were few in the district" (Muriel).

During the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919, which killed thousands of New Zealanders, especially Maoris, the Nuhaka Native School was closed and turned into a hospital. Joyce and Muriel were sent to stay with friends, and Laurie and also Les, now 12, remained at home to help, while their parents, with district nurse Alexander and one local man, ran the hospital. This may well have been Moses' and Emma's "finest hour" writes Muriel. Remarkably, the whole family escaped this terrible epidemic.

Probably one of the greatest legacies the family received from their parents was their ability at, and their love of music. Sacrifices were made to let all the children have music lessons.

Moses' contribution to the two Maori communities he served and to the Maori education system were immense, A man of considerable local mana, he received handsome gifts when he retired which reflected his standing in the district. Joyce now has a fine carved walking stick that was presented to him, and from the Nuhaka Native School Committee he received an illuminated address. He also was presented with a magnificent presentation Maori cloak.

He served first the Primitive Methodist Church and then the Presbyterian Church with a wholehearted commitment wherever he lived. Moses and Emma fastened on their family a moral obligation to contributing in every way to good causes, and in this place and time this was based on their Christian faith." (Muriel). Also, all his life he retained his Temperance Society views - no spirits or wine were served at the weddings of his two daughters.

Always behind Moses was Emma, a remarkable woman and the source of much of his strength (see Appendix D). Her tireless work, and influence behind the scenes enabled him to leave behind such a remarkable record of service.


1.   "Wherever possible married couples will be appointed as teachers, with the wives acting as sewing mistresses to the girl pupils" Native Schools Code 1880 and - "A Native School is a lonely place and must not be entrusted to a junior teacher or to a bachelor, and it is not a fitting sphere for a single woman." Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives 1891.

2.   AJNZHR 1903.

3.   Kauri gum was tile solidified resin of the Kauri tree. It was used in the manufacture of

oil, varnishes and linoleum. A Royal Commission in 1893 had estimated around 9000

people were digging for gum. Many were children from the local Maori tribes. It was

dug up from deep in the swampy ground.

4.  In actual fact, although the photograph is titled "Whangape Native School Ferry" it shows two separate very large rowing boats. Children hold the oars upright in the picture.

5.  Barrington J.M. and Beaglehole T.H. "Maori Schools in a Changing Society".

6.  Ibid.

7.  A.J.N.Z.H.R. 1920.

Bibliography of Sources

Barrington, J.M. and Beaglehole,T.H. "Maori Schools in a Changing Society - an historical Review" pub. N.Z. Council for Educational Research 1974.

Appendix to the Journals of the N.Z. House of Representatives - Annual Reports on Native Schools 1904, 1905, 1908, 1914, 1931.

Acknowledgements:- Muriel Calvert, Joyce Hickling, Beverley Gow and Les South for written reminiscenses.

Dr David McKenzie for advice on source materials.


A. It is very pleasing indeed to find that this most important school is, after 20 years' rather precarious existence, now doing admirable work. This is due entirely to the efforts of the new teachers. 36 were presented for standards and 35 passed. The methods of teaching are good, the teaching being thorough. The attention to the preparatory classes and the excellent preparation they are getting under the mistress, deserve the highest praise. The extra subjects received special attention and the drum and fife band established by the master had attained a high state of proficiency. The Maoris of Whangape realised the benefit of the school and they turned out in full strength - old and young, men, women, babies and dogs. Their one request was that the master should not be transferred from their school".

         AJNZIHR 1903 - James Pope

B. Extract from a letter dated July 2nd 1914 from Emma South to Mary Ann South, Moses' stepmother

"&ldots;But really, Mother, I am just about tired of the backblocks, especially now the children are growing    up. They will have to go to College in a few years time. 1 shall hate to part with them. But I am hoping to live nearer town before then".

C. Extracts from a letter from Muriel Calvert, 14 March 1997:

"The district was made up of small-scale farmers, storekeepers, a Maori Presbyterian Mission, and a large proportion of the population Maoris with a bit of land grew vegetables, kept a cow or a horse, or pigs, or chooks. Nuhaka township (if you could call it that) consisted of clusters of houses and shops divided by the river. On our side were two general stores, a saddler, a billiards room, an Anglican Church, a Morman Church and a hall, and the Maori Mission Station, the meeting house, the Native School (as it was called then) and some houses, mostly Maori, and the Unity Hall (where the Bachelors' Balls and Spinsters' Balls were held!).

On the other side of the river were the Post Office with living quarters attached where the two Miss Irwins resided, and where I used to hear the Morse Code being tapped out as I waited for our mail to be handed over the counter - my after-school duty which I enjoyed as a change from the school environment; together with the butcher, the baker (both of whom delivered), a half-pie draper, the Presbyterian Church and later a hospital (really a nursing home. The nearest doctor was in Wairoa) run by the District Nurse. Nurse Alexandra helped to pull me through double pneumonia and always considered it a miracle I survived ... Laurie and Les remember the drama because they had to keep pouring water from buckets onto the roof and verandah to help keep the place cooler.

&ldots;. the houses on "the other side of the river" were mostly European and there was a small Public School that catered for pakehas, though some attended our school - we had a staff of four whereas the "Public" was a sole charge school. Later each side of the river had garages.

Saturday evenings were to become Picture Nights at the L.D.S. Hall: Tom Mix, Richard Dix et al. The other excitement was Sunday School on Sunday mornings and church in the afternoons. The Presbyterian minister lived at Morere and fitted in services at both places. Everyone arrived in horse-driven transport till later. The first car in the district arrived when I was eleven.

Two publications arrived weekly by mail, the Auckland Weekly News and The Outlook (Presbyterian). What made our household more alive than those around us was the music that we all enjoyed ..."

D. Extract from a letter from Joyce, 13 April, 1997 concerning her mother: "She was really a remarkable little person. Badly burnt as a child, her pinafore caught fire at a rubbish fire in the yard. She always wore long sleeves and I saw the arm affected only twice, shorter than the other, discoloured and shrunken with the sinews drawn tight across the inner elbow. It was never mentioned for any reason".

Extract from a letter from Emma South to Mary Ann South dated July 2nd 1914

   "You know, dear Mother, with school work, housework, cooking and the children to attend to, I get little   time for writing. ... We are an Assistant Teacher short just now so that makes extra work for us too."


The plaque to be affixed to the belfry will read:

"Erected in memory of MOSES AND EMMA SOUTH

for services rendered to

Morere-Nuhaka district parish from 1908 - 1932."

Moses and Emma South came to Nuhaka from Whangape in Northland in 1908. Moses remained headmaster of the Nuhaka Native School until he retired about 1930. During that period the couple served the community devotedly through school and church. Moses was an elder, taught Sunday School at Nuhaka, was organist at both Nuhaka and Morere churches each Sunday, secretary to the Home Mission Station and regular laypreacher at Wharerata and other outstations. When he retired from teaching the parish had no minister and Moses acted in this capacity, living in the Manse, until they retired to Gisborne in 1932. And all his travelling was done by horse!

Their four children, who give the belfry to this parish, remain well known in the district. They are:

Laurie South

Les South

Joyce Hickling

Muriel Calvert

They ask that their gratitude to Frank Hickling be recorded. He designed and constructed the belfry on their behalf. (this appears to have been printed in the Church newsletter)


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