The Strange Death of King Coal

Big K

The first six years of my life were in South Wales. I am from Abergavenny – it’s down in the Vale of Usk, but it’s more of a tearoom and market castle town than a “Valley” valley, most famous for its incarceration of Rudolph Hess, and a brief time in the 14th Century when Abergavenny declared itself independent from the rest of you lot.  I’m not from a mining town.

But Abergavenny lies on the very edge of the South Wales Coalfield, that stretches 90 miles west of the town, through Blaenavon, Merthyr, the Rhondda and Neath right out to Pembrokeshire. So in those few years I learned about the mines, as you do in that part of the world.

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South Wales Coalfield. Source: Flikr|thereggy

I remember the slag heaps on the hill side and the day trips to the Rhondda Heritage Park.  I also recall heading over the top of the Blorenge, the mountain that looked over my garden, to Big Pit in Blaenavon, the mine-turned-museum. The tour underground was run back then by ex-Miners, a few of whom managed to stay in the industry as tour guides, and I think a few are still there. I never did that part of the tour. I had a chance, when I was young, but I was scared of a cave-in, probably because I’d just been taught about Victorian kids (younger than me) dying in mines.

It’s silly really, but that’s how my generation, those of us who aren’t from a mining family or old colliery town, were told about the mines. They were something past relics of the days when kids and pit-ponies and men with rickets were sent away from the daylight to work the pits. It’s what kept them alive (that, and the canaries). That’s not what mining is anymore. Coal is still being hauled out of the ground. Mechanised and safer than ever before, but still tough, until the end of today’s shift it’s still the lifeblood of those who work the last face at Kellingley Colliery.

Nowadays it’s all about the environmental factors too. Coal kills the planet, and clean coal isn’t a sufficient alternative. Coal is choking us, so apparently we’re moving onto gas until that chokes us too. They’re closing the coal-fired power stations next, and everybody important is happy about this. It makes us ever-so-slightly greener as a country. Shall we build another runway at Heathrow?

Those in charge don’t really care about the green stuff. The government has made that pretty damn clear. But in any case, British coal isn’t going to be part of this country’s future. As life beats past us, it brings with it in the backwash a whole host of nostalgic feeling; you may have noticed some of it in my first few paragraphs. People love a bit of nostalgia, and it takes on many forms. There’s the nationalistic stuff, and in the week where Benedict Anderson passed, you can find tales of how coal built a nation, or built an empire – which in Brit-nostalgia, is rose-tinted, ignoring its brutal past and economic endurance (just think about where the coal is coming from now).

“The country used to be called Great Britain, and coal is part of what put great into that name” said Chris Kitchen, General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, last week. Britain is an imagined community built of coal and steam, and these images are frequently wrapped up in ideas of “Better Days.” This blog isn’t about that. Not today, at least. Kellingley’s closure isn’t about the death of John Bull or any of that Victoriaphilian nonsense.

There’s the other nostalgia. The moving stuff, the part that makes the Financial Times squirm  because other people are feeling emotions that they cannot comprehend. The centuries of stories of how entire communities went underground, mined the heart out of the place, looking after the town, their families, and each other. Because they were miners, and that’s just what they did. Many hands lighten the load, as the Haitians say. However outdated coal may be as an idea, Kellingley marks the end of a way of life, a popular culture complete with its own folklore, music, humour and so many histories. It is always sad when a way of life dies out, and deep mining dies today, not with a strike, but a whimper.

This isn’t Brassed Off, or Pride. The end doesn’t happen with a defiant march through the streets, with heads held high.

THAT’S NOT ENOUGH.

The resilience of downtrodden communities can be an inspiring thing to watch from the outside, and the capacity for human renewal in such places is symbolic of the most impressive qualities of our society. But all the obituaries of two centuries of life in the coalfields can be a distraction from the final act of the systematic destruction of mining life in this country. Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing.

The death of deep mining threatens the existence of the NUM, once the most powerful, government-felling union in the land. Thatcher mortally wounded the miners and the NUM during the strike of 1983-1984. Incarcerating without cause, the police beat the picketers, they beat their partners and their children too. The press burned them in daily written effigies. Over the latter half of the 20th Century, mines were increasingly underfunded and the jobs ebbed away. Successive governments did not care about the future of such places. In the 1990s, the Major government set up a few generous pension schemes as it closed dozens of mines, but work never returned, and nor was it encouraged. Mining towns were given an expiry date, nothing more.

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March in Glasgow in support of the Miner’s Strike, 1983. Source: BBC News

A few places found an economy in mining heritage. A couple of ex-Miners could run the tours down Big Pit, now part of the Museum of Wales, but really it’s plugging the dam with a fingernail. Blaenavon has tried a few things to stay afloat, even attempting to mimic Hay-on-Wye as another Welsh “book town,” but to no avail. They haven’t given up yet.

Modern, mechanised mines like Kellingley, first sunk in 1960, were able to carry on for longer. Extracting over 2 million tonnes of coal a year, Kellingley is full of cutting-edge tech. The miners drop down the shaft, at over 40mph, to a depth of 800 metres below the surface, before boarding a train for a five mile ride to the coalface, which is finally reached in one final commute aboard a conveyor belt (that itself can be another two miles long).

At temperatures of nearly 40˚C, the coal is extracted from the face using the Shearer, which resembles a gigantic pizza-cutter. While that works its magic, the seam, itself over 300m long, is held open by a series of mechanised roof supports that press upwards to keep the face clear. As the Shearer surges onwards, the roof behind the supports is allowed to collapse. Each supporting post in the passages holds at least three sensors to forewarn of danger. (More info here at UK Coal website)

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A modern mine. Source: UK Coal

These days, miners wear more than just a hard-hat, but it’s still a tough, risky business down in the pit. Collapses still happen. Miners carry a device called a “self-rescuer” that provides emergency air in case of fire. Three miners, Don Cook, Ian Cameron and Gerry Gibson have died at Kellingley in the last decade. Shifts at “The Big K” are 12 hours long, of which 3 is spent just getting to-and-from the coalface.

Romanticised accounts on these aspects of mining alone do not really exist; the sentiment of the closing of the pits is attached to the death of a way of life so important to many people alive today. Those who mourn the end of mining do not want people risking their lives in cave-ins and explosions. We do wish for communities to not be left behind in the past as evaporating towns where kids with prospects throw a bag on their backs and never return, and everybody else ends up on the dole or in a Sports Direct depot as in Shirebrook.

Modern miner

Modern miner. Souce: UK Coal

It’s at that point where we shake off the intoxicating nostalgia of the pit town. The end of deep coal is an end of security. As the NUM declines to almost nothing, and as the trade union movement itself comes under increasing threat, the ex-miners in these towns find their friends are also ebbing away. The canteen in Kellingley now has a makeshift career service – there are jobs advertised for a nearby Wind Farm factory in Hull. 14 of them (at its peak, Kellingley employed 2000). There are plans to build a Waste-to-Energy facility on the site, but that comes with just 38 full-time positions.

The NUM is angry about all of this; Dave Kitchen explains that the skills of deep-mining are honed and unique, and the miners have also been damaged from years in the pit. In any case, the planned re-training and re-employment schemes offered are little more than lip-service.

“Now we have miners at various stages of that journey entering the job market. Employers will be interviewing men who know how to work hard but who aren’t as healthy as they should be because their back’s not right or they have a weak chest.

We haven’t been in this situation before because previously when a pit has closed there’s always been the option of transferring. The Kellingley miners have specialised skills but nowhere to take them because theirs is the last pit.”

Many who came to Kellingley, like Welshman Carwyn Donovan, followed the coal to Yorkshire after their old mines bit the bullet. The pension schemes provided by a £10m grant to UK Coal from the Government are a shadow of those given out in the ‘90s. One miner, laid off in August, was only told at the start of his last shift that at the end of the day, he would no longer have a job. Even the UK Coal website claims to this day that its mines closed this year would be open until 2019.

This is a disinterested assassination of a town and the final stage of a thirty-year dismantling of the lives of coal miners. This isn’t about the Paris Talks or climate change or worker safety or merely the passing of time. Britain hasn’t abandoned coal yet, just its miners. Coal from abroad comes in at £13-a-ton less than from below our feet. The buyers don’t care about the welfare of those who brought that coal to the surface either.

The price is all that matters, and the overheads of a modern mine are high. It needs to be preparing the next face as the current one is worked to maintain profit. Starved of investment, UK Coal pulled the rug quickly from Kellingley and Thoresby (in Nottinghamshire) this year to cut losses. It’s cheaper for the buyers to buy no-questions-asked coal whilst the argument is spun that deep mining was an old nag who had to be put out of its misery.

The Kellingley miners are going to march tomorrow through Knottingley, the nearest village. Organised by two local women, the march will begin “one last pit party” for the town. But then the town will go into Christmas, short of 450 jobs and full of uncertainty. “We’re all off on gap years, aren’t we?” said one miner, wryly.

Pam Ross of the GMB Union, finds a flaw in the nostalgia.

We will lose skills, traditions and culture associated with coal mining, and obviously suffer the social deprivation from communities losing their source of employment. It’s ironic that there are so many coal mining museums in the UK – obviously the general public has a lot of empathy for miners and mining, pity the UK Government did not share that empathy.”

Ross would like to have seen mining continue until at least 2025. Maybe that wasn’t possible. But through better pension schemes, training and local investment the Government could have at least ensured a better future for ex-mining towns, so that mining need not be remembered as the better past.

The last tonne of coal pulled out of Kellingley is going to go on display at the National Coal Mining Museum next year. Like in the Rhondda and Big Pit, heritage is all we have left of the mining life. Perhaps in remembering the struggle and spirit of the mining past Knottingley, Blaenavon and other ex-mining towns can continue to endure the hard times and hope for a future that is more than a story of permanent decline. That is the culture of mining that doesn’t have to die.

Deep coal mining in Britain is over.

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Dave King, Kellingley miner (left) and Keith Poulson of the NUM, at the Kellingley Miners Memorial. Source: Daily Mirror

PS I have read somewhere that the Memorial is being moved the National Mining Museum in Wakefield and Kellingley Miners are raising money toward this aim. If anyone has more info on this/how to give please let me know.

Source of header image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror

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“Cultural Challenges:” From Haka to Cibi, Stories of Rugby’s War Dances

te lomu

Te Rauparaha’s Ascent

Te Rauparaha was on the run. The Chieftain of the Ngati Toa iwi (Maori society) was retreating from a meeting that had gone spectacularly wrong. The Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto groups rejected his request for aid, and instead demanded his life. A taua was formed, guided by a Tohunga (“scholar/priest”) who cast tracking spells to help home in upon their target.

These were the musket wars of New Zealand in the early 19th Century. Te Rauparaha arrived in Motu O Puhi, the village of the iwi Te Wharerangi, his famously hairy neighbour, who granted him asylum. He hid the fugitive within a kumara (sweet potato) pit, and on top sat his wife Te Rangikoaea, for it was said that the sexual organs of a woman could act as a ward to the malevolent spells cast by the Tohunga.

Hidden from view, Te Rauparaha could hear everything as his enemies arrived in the village. They were suspicious. Te Wharerangi attempted to mislead them; Yes, Te Rauparaha was here, he told them, but you are too late, for he had long since left for the Rangipo desert. The confidence of the hidden chief was failing. He whispered to himself, over and over;

Ka mate, Ka mate

(I die, I die)

Eternities passed under the feet of Te Rangikoaea; Te Rauparaha could do nothing but wait.

Ka mate, Ka mate

Finally, the voices grew distant, and with them, the iwi in the kumara pit grew optimistic in turn.

Ka ora, Ka ora!

(I live, I live!)

His trust put in Wharerangi and Rangikoeaea was rewarded. As he climbed from his cage, he was reborn.

Tenei te tangata puhuru huru
Nana nei I tiki mai
Whakawhiti t era
A upa….ne! Ka upa…ne!
A upane kaupane whiti t era!
Hi!

(This is the hairy man* who fetched the sun and made it shine again! One upward step! Another upward step! Another, another…the sun shines!)

These were the words said to be composed by Te Rauparaha as he emerged from the pit, and to honour his saviours, he put these lines into a ceremonial haka; the enduring dance of Maori folklore, the “symphony of the body,” and he performed it for his hosts that afternoon.

The Natives Dominate

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New Zealand Natives, 1888. Source: rugbyfootballhistory.com/allblacks

Nowadays, “Ka Mate” is known and performed the world over. As the oldest “cultural challenge” laid down by the New Zealand All Blacks, this haka has become one of the most famous symbols of Maori culture across the globe. The haka, alongside the pre-match challenges of Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji, have become an emblem of the vibrancy and endurance of Polynesian and Melanesian culture over the past century. Rugby (not just Union but League and Sevens also) has been the vehicle for this, and the coordinated challenge is but one of its expressions.

But the movement of modern sport across the planet is a story inseparable to the imperial spread of Europe; rugby union, the sport of the “gentleman” and the pride of Apartheid, has perhaps been affected by this more than any other. Its relationship with the Islanders of the South Pacific is one of tension, marginalisation, resistance and renewal.

From its English roots, rugby union travelled the world, but it did not move at random. It followed cricket to the settler colonies of Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Canada**, travelling with imperial officials who had picked up the game during their gentlemanly training at Oxford, Cambridge and the public schools of the Southeast.

It even followed cricket to the Southern Cone, outlasting the bat-and-ball sport in Argentina and Uruguay, albeit enduring here too mostly as an elite, white endeavour. Exported for the ‘gentleman’ of colonial high society, this sport more than any other was ostensibly for white men only, but in all realms the hand-egg was picked up by the colonised with varying degrees of popularity. Even in South Africa, rugby has always been played by black Africans (most famously Steve Biko), but apartheid ensured that this participation remained invisible.

Joseph_Warbrick,_rugby_player.jpgJoe Warbrick. Source: Wikipedia

The Maori of Aotearoa took up the game soon after its arrival; brought to the colony by Charles Munro, who brought it home from Christ’s College London in 1870. Eighteen years later, the New Zealand Natives were formed by Maori Joseph Warbrick, who wished to create an all-Maori team to tour Great Britain. However, five Pakeha (white people***) were selected due to problems with player availability and prior commitments (work and study) from first-string Maori. In Britain the Natives wore black and performed the first haka in rugby (said to be Ka Mate, on occasion), met with “great curiosity” by British crowds and the confoundment of those who had turned up to watch a team they expected to be comprised of “savages.” Said one Scottish reporter in 1888,

“They are not unlike Europeans…that is their resemblance is great when one remembers that they were a savage tribe no further back than their generation.”

It is typical imperial logic deployed to credit the Maori’s *lack* of savagery with the influence of Europe. And so it was thought in New Zealand that bringing the team under ‘official’ administration would help improve the team, especially after reading frequent criticisms of ‘foul play’ from English officials who turned a blind eye to infringements from their own. But after a tour that lasted over a year, after 78 wins, 6 draws, and 23 losses, the Natives returned home as the best team in Aotearoa. They formed the backbone of the first New Zealand international teams, including the preposterously (but tellingly) named “Originals” who toured the UK in 1905.**** The All Blacks, the greatest team to play rugby union, was founded by Maori: the haka, the black jersey, and the innovative, creative style of play, were the legacies of those pioneers.

But it was not to last. As rugby arrived in New Zealand, the Maori were defending the last vestiges of their land from British squatters and soldiers. The land of Te Rauaparaha had long been extorted from him; he himself had tried to resist the rising tide of squatters and spent his final years in jail. As the Natives were formed, the use of Te Reo Maori was being marginalised and removed from schools. Polynesian culture was being slowly deleted from New Zealand life. The All Black Haka endured, but was far from unaffected. Perhaps that is why Ka Mate became the standard haka of the All Blacks; Te Rauaparaha’s celebratory dance of cheating death and rebirth symbolising the persistence of the Maori in trying times, although there is much in its story of mortality and uprising that could happily find its home on the rugby field.

Maori became sparse in the All Black ranks. They were purged completely, in fact, whenever the All Blacks went to South Africa, for the Apartheid state would not allow any non-white players to grace a Springboks game. Those of Maori heritage maintained a nationwide team (The New Zealand Maori) who would play at home whilst the Pakeha were in South Africa.

The Famished Sea Eagle

In the early 20th Century rugby continued its journey east. Missionaries, settlers and traders from Australia and New Zealand landed in Fiji, bringing rugby with them. It swept across the archipelago, and leagues were swiftly set up. However, they were to be segregated by race until the 1930s. In 1939, the Fijian national team (now integrated and largely Melanesian) embarked on a tour to New Zealand. The captain, Ratu Cakobau (later the first indigenous Governor General of Fiji) went to the local spiritual chief to ask for a dance to match the haka. He was given a Cibi (pronounced Shimbi); like Ka Mate, not strictly a battle cry, but instead a Fijian celebratory dance to laud warriors as they  returned home victorious from battle.

Fiji’s style of rugby (especially in Sevens) replicated the ethos of these dances; aggressive, skilful, quick and creative. It is true of all Islander rugby; the spirit of the challenge laid down is carried through the match. In Tonga, as with the haka, performants of the Sipi Tau are encouraged to lay down their challenge with passion and innovation, as they cry out the words;

Teu lea pea tala ki mamani katoa
Ko e ‘Ikale Tahi kuo halofia
Ke ‘ilo ‘e he sola mo e taka
Ko e ‘aho nit e u tamate tangata

(I shall speak to the whole world
The Sea Eagle is famished unfurl
Let the foreigner and sojourner beware
Today, destroyer of souls, I am everywhere)

For Siale Piutau, to perform the Sipi Tau is to replicate the pledge of the first Tongan King to God, as such combining the warrior tradition of the dance, the Christian missionary origins of Tongan rugby, and the call to the ancestors (familial ancestry, and the ghosts of Tongan rugby past) for their strength and experience. It is the transfer of warrior culture to the rugby field, for it is said the war cry of the Islander is to call forth the honour and pride of Polynesia and withstand all that threatens that enduring tradition, altered through the years, but never diminished.

Let me become one with the land

It is this adaptive, creative element of the dance that many self-titled rugby union “purists” ignore when they deride the cultural challenge. The haka bears the brunt of their repeated criticism, despite its overwhelming global popularity. Scroll down any comments section (I dare you) under an article on New Zealand rugby and you will find voices calling the challenge anything from “unfair,” to “outdated,” from “uncouth” to “savage.” Trolling or serious, these purists indulge in descriptions of savagery and cannibalism; they do not want Pacific culture in rugby.

It would not be tolerated were it to come from another culture, they tell us.

It is only because these cultures are “primitive” that the “PC” World Rugby permits them, they tell us.

It’s ridiculous, in a way, to call it outdated and old-fashioned. The haka is constantly updated. Ka Mate is younger than Jerusalem (sung by England cricket), and the haka has only recently been truly resurrected by the All Blacks. For decades the predominantly Pakeha team performed it with less fervour than a rotund goldfish. Check out this infamous 1973 attempt.

In the ‘90s, led by Maori like Carlos Spencer, the haka became more than a routine. It was more than an evocation of tradition, but like the Sipi Tau, a celebration of the proud past of the All Blacks, one the most successful teams in the history of sport. It’s true of all codes. When the NZRL Kiwis took on Leeds Rhinos this autumn, Kylie Leuluai and Ali Lauitiiti, playing for Leeds, joined their countrymen in a special haka, in a shared celebration of heritage.

The challenge continues to evolve with the times. Samoa and Fiji have both recently updated their challenges to the Tiva Sau and the Bole respectively. The former aimed to inject more aggression into the cry of the Manu Samoa, the latter ensured that the Fijian challenge is now a bona fide Melanesian call-to-arms, rather than the pre-emptive victory celebration of the Cibi. The haka in rugby is no longer limited to male teams (there have always been mixed and female haka in Maori culture); the dominant New Zealand Kiwi Ferns (League) and Black Ferns (Union) perform a haka before every match. In 2005, the All Blacks debuted “Kapa o Pango” (All Blacks), written especially for the team, to reflect its modern multi-cultural makeup.

Kapa o pango kia whakawhenua au I ahau!
(Let me become one with the land)

Hi aue, hi! Ko Aotearoa e ngunguru nei!
(This is our land Aotearoa that rumbles)

Ponga ra! Kapa o Pango, aue hi!
(Silver fern! All Blacks!)

This new dance was not without its controversy; Tana Umaga, All Black of Samoan descent, leading the haka, drew his arm from the sky and moved his thumb across his throat, beckoning in vital energies to fuel the oncoming effort. It was, instead, misinterpreted by the Sydney Morning Herald as a “violent throat-slitting gesture,” and the Telegraph in all its glory compared it to a “back-street alley” intimidation. The western world could not remove interpretations of savagery from its gaze. Following repeated calls for its removal, the gesture was dropped from Kapa o Pango in 2007.

The purists returned, now arguing that such changes made the challenge ‘inauthentic.’ If it is not traditional, they said, what is even the point? If the dance is not from time immemorial, why can’t anyone perform the haka? Why can’t England perform a Morris dance before a game? (They always go on about Morris dancing).

Short answer is, there’s nothing stopping them. England started singing the old slave song “Swing Low” in 1988, when a group of public school boys from Douai School, Woolhampton belted it out one afternoon in Twickenham. Nowadays, they all sing it, and nobody really knows why (I’d rather they busted out a Morris dance, to be honest).

Long answer: shouts of ‘inauthenticity’ are a symptom of a wider, continuing, lack of understanding of the significance of the Pacific war dance in rugby. The appropriation of the haka, these days, knows no bounds. If you can stomach it, check out the “Hakarena” by Matt Dawson (who, not for the first time, falls foul of a Days of Dial-Up blogpost). Maori and Pakeha alike were unimpressed.

It all ignores what the history and the folklore whispers, and needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Maori and Pacific rugby matters so much, to the sport and to the Oceania region. On contested terrain, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Maori have adopted the game and made it their own, and it is all transmitted through the challenge of the Cibi, Sipi Tau, Siva Tau and Haka; defiantly traditional, ferociously modern. As Dawson and others continue to misappropriate these dances, Pacific cultures have adapted the war dance once again to honour rugby players whose lives were cut short. In 2013, Samoan legend Brian Lima took to the field, barefoot and shirtless, to lead the Siva Tau in honour of Peter Fatialofa, who died suddenly aged 44.

When talented All-Black Jerry Collins passed earlier this year following a road accident in Southern France, a tribute match was held in his honour. Those who knew the Samon-born All Black in Perpignon paid their respects to Collins with an honourary Siva Tau.

These dances, that call forth the spirit of Polynesia have been adopted, movingly, as a guard of honour for those who embodied everything they meant. Nowhere has this been more appropriate when the greatest of them all, Jonah Lomu, suddenly died just two weeks ago, on the 18th November 2015. He was 40. The great winger, the gentle giant, a rugby league player in his youth who went on to transform the game of rugby union with his ferocity and his grace. The legendary All Black of Tongan descent who demolished England and tormented all who dared oppose him on another inevitable run towards the try-line. The great ambassador of Pacific rugby, who went from a difficult childhood to worldwide fame, playing through the pain of nephrotic syndrome, from Auckland to Cardiff. Said Mana ‘Otai, coach of Tonga.

“He gave a lot of hope to young Tongans, both male and female alike…He was one who could inspire others, myself included.”

“Although he played for the All Blacks, he was known worldwide as a Tongan. For Tonga, as a small island nation, that’s something Jonah has provided for us.”

The haka was performed in his honour; his old school led the cry, at his funeral on Monday, his team-mates followed. How else could you honour Lomu, the very embodiment of the struggle, endurance and triumph of Polynesia, than with the words of Te Rauparaha?

This was the man who fetched the sun and made it shine again!

 

NOTES

* The accepted translation of tangata puhuru huru is the “hairy man,” understood to be a tribute to Te Wharerangi, but allblacks.com suggests instead that it in fact alludes to the spiritual qualities of Te Rangikoaea, which Te Rauparaha believed saved his life.

** Rugby arrived in Canada incredibly early, even as it was still being codified in England. However competition from American (Gridiron) and Canadian rules Football meant that rugby never took on the predominance it did elsewhere in the Dominion. Nowadays North American rugby focuses on 7s.

***”Pakeha” is a translation of the Maori word for “of European descent.” Some have claimed that it is a perjorative word, but its use is accepted in most New Zealand publications, and there is no evidence that it has ever been used in a derogatory sense by Maori. I am therefore using it to describe New Zealanders of European descent, for both brevity and to emphasise the focus of this article is on the Maori. For more info, read this

****In 1905 the “Originals” performed the haka in Swansea, to be met by a chorus of “Hen Wlad Y Nhadau.” It is said that this was the moment when the song, penned in the 19th century, became the national anthem of Wales.

Title pic is Jonah Lomu and Te Rauparaha