A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Taonga Return Home After 82 Years

By Margaret Butterworth

Acts of love and kindness shown by a young Pākehā woman were acknowledged when taonga given to her on the eve of her wedding more than 82 years ago were returned to Parihaka. These significant gifts are a sign that the respect and love were mutual. That young Pākehā woman was my aunt Mary Brigid Brophy, who was to marry Timothy Hughes. The taonga were a beautiful korowai (tassled cloak), piupiu (skirt) and tipare (headband) made by the women of Parihaka especially for her as a token of their esteem and thanks for all she had done for them. 

This story has its beginnings in coastal Taranaki at Parihaka Pa. The sanctuary was established by Te Whiti O Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi as a place of peace and refuge in the mid 1860’s. It was to Parihaka that my aunt would travel at least once a week by horse and gig to help the women in childbirth or

Tim and May Hughes on their wedding day. May is wearing the gifts of a korowai, tipare and piupiu.

by nursing ill children. May, as she was known, would accompany Marist Father Frank Wall, Maori Missioner at that time. May helped him to instruct the children in the Catholic faith.

The Taranaki Daily News January 24th, 1940, reported on the Pungarehu farewell for May. She and Timothy were leaving the area to make their home in Auckland. This article speaks of the regard in which she was held.

“The presence of both Māori and Pākehā showed that she endeared herself to the people of the district by her unselfish work in the interests of both races.  Miss Brophy had done marvellous work among the Māori – no other young woman in the district had done more valuable work than she.”

Father Wall said he was touched by the eloquent tribute paid to her by the Māori in which they showed their deep appreciation of her good work among them.

“I had no more faithful supporter than Miss Brophy and I want to publicly acknowledge my gratitude for her consistent support. I particularly

Aroaro Tamaiti, Te Whiti o Rongomai Mason and Margaret Butterworth at the reception of the taonga

appreciated her loyalty. She has been loyal to the beautiful ideals instilled into her by her parents Mr Patrick and Mrs Catherine Brophy, who moulded her character from the cradle. She will bring honour to our district in wherever she lives”. 

The beautiful taonga stayed in the family for 82 years: once May passed away in 1978 they were handed onto her son, Jerome, in Sydney.  Upon his death in 1995, his younger sister Kate Payze in Perth became the custodian of the garments.

It had been Kate’s intention to return the taonga to Parihaka in 2019 accompanied by May’s other daughter, Mary O’Driscoll (Dublin), but Covid prevented that. Sadly, Kate passed away suddenly in 2021. Recently Kate’s children Sefton Payze and Bridgit Marciano with Kate’s five grandchildren travelled to New Zealand with the taonga. On the 7th July 2022, a very moving mihi whakatau took place at Parihaka Pā and the taonga were handed back to the Parihaka Papakāinga Trust for safe keeping until a new visitors centre is built. There they will be displayed along with other Parihaka treasures.

Parihaka Photos Credit: Stuff/Taranaki Daily News

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