Lament for Lucy Takiora Lord


New Plymouth, New Zealand

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Artist's Description

Lucy Takiora Lord is a little known figure in New Zealand’s colonial history. Part Maori, part Pakeha she was never fully accepted by either culture and was forced to make her own way in very difficult times. She was ‘kupapa’ – a Maori working for the crown, seen as a traitor by her own people.

Working as the only known female scout of her time, she marched side by side with Gustavus von Tempsky (himself a contentious figure in New Zealand history and probably her lover) in the hunt for her outlaw uncle; feared warrior-prophet Titokowaru, who along with Te Whiti and Tohu, is central to the history of the Taranaki land wars of the 1860s and the events of Parihaka.

Lucy and the British troops had found a way into Titokowaru’s stronghold at Te Ngutu O Te Manu, but she was left out of the final raid by von Tempsky, possibly fearing for her safety, in favour of Horopapera, a guide from Waitara that led the troops right into Titokowaru’s ambush. Von Tempsky was killed in the subsequent fight and Lucy was alone; a traitor to her people with her protector now dead.

Her journal then tells that on October 27 1869, she informed the troops that some old people from Nga Ruahine had returned to their village and asked that they capture, not kill them.

" But when three of the old people were found, the two men, Wikiriwhi and Hami, were immediately shot dead and only a woman was taken alive. Grieving for her men, the old woman recognised Takiora as her betrayer. ‘When the old woman saw me she began to cry and beat me. I did not remonstrate, as I knew wrong had been done.’ " – James Belich

She had caused what are the last known fatalities of Titokowaru’s war.

This was a pivotal moment in her life: She now knew what it was like to be betrayed and never went out as a guide again. She went to Parihaka and was confronted by Titokowaru who told her that if she was not his neice she would already be dead.

After this confrontation she withdrew from Maori society and struggled for years to get the government to compensate her for her service in the war. Eventually she was granted land in Normanby, central Taranaki and married surveyor Joseph Dalton. Lucy Takiora Lord died in September 1893 and is buried at Te Henui Cemetery in New Plymouth.

My fascination with, and admiration for, Lucy Takiora Lord stems from her ability to survive as a woman caught between two cultures in colonial times. She was pragmatic and did what she thought she had to to get by. These were harsh and brutal times in New Zealand’s history and her strength of will and resourcefulness are inspirational. She was obviously intelligent; she spoke two languages, could read and write and lived into her 50s, which in itself was somewhat of an achievement in such an unforgiving environment.

One interesting note I have found while reading about her is that in early 1893 a Normanby publican took out a prohibition order to stop her supply of liquor. She died later that year, implying to me that years of scorn, sadness and hostility had taken their toll and driven her into alcoholism. I may well be wrong in this assumption; maybe she just didn’t pay her debts. Either way, an ignominious end to such a colourful life.

The history of the Taranaki land wars, Parihaka, Te Whiti O Rongomai, Tohu Kakahi and Titokowaru are much better told by people like Dick Scott in his book ‘Ask That Mountain’, James Belich’s ‘I shall not die: Titokowaru’s war’ and Michael King’s ‘History of New Zealand’ and should be required reading for all New Zealanders and anybody interested in the history of these turbulent times.

Some other fantastic resources can be found online at:” – museum website at New Plymouth” – Dictionary of New Zealand Biography” – Te Ara. The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Artwork Comments

  • JoanIreland1970
  • cdwork
  • abat
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