Sunday, November 25, 2012
Book launch in Petone Jail Museum
David McGill (centre) launched his new historical novel ‘The Promised Land’ in the Petone Jail Museum, where a good deal of the 1840s action took place as the adventurous Scottish narrator attempts to rescue his Maori friend incarcerated on a wrongful charge of horse-stealing. This follows a day at the races on Petone Beach with all of Wellington attending this public holiday, where the Maori lad dares to join the gentlemen jockeys.
The narrator is one of the many steerage passengers arriving in 1840 to what the promotional brochures promised was the Garden of Eden of the Hutt Valley. For a brief period Maori and Pakeha farmers enjoyed the promised land, until the corporate greed of those days supported by government policy saw the new Governor Grey send in the troops as Maori and Pakeha built their forts either side of the river.
The story centres on the circumstances driving apart the Maori lad and narrator in the build-up to the Battle of Boulcott Farm, depicted on the cover by Paekakariki artist Michael O’Leary (on author’s right), and the aftermath of the bloodshed as troops pursue Te Rangihaeata’s forces to his Pauatahanui pa. On the inlet waters they fight the only naval engagement in New Zealand waters between Maori canoes and muskets versus a whaleboat with a small cannon. Grey fails to defeat Rangihaeata, but he kidnaps paramount chief Te Rauparaha and captures six of the ‘rebels’ and imprisons them on a government warship, the narrator and his Maori friend included. The climax of this tale Michael O’Leary describes as ‘A Kiwi Huckleberry Finn’ is a fight to the death aboard the prison ship as Wellington has a ball to celebrate Governor Grey ending martial law.