South Scotland

Maori war flag heads home from Hawick

War flag Image copyright Scottish Borders Council
Image caption The war flag is being handed over for repatriation to New Zealand

A special ceremony is being held in the Borders to hand over a Maori war flag for repatriation to New Zealand.

It will leave its current home in Hawick Museum for the Wairoa Museum.

The flag was taken by Crown forces from a Maori tribe during the Battle of Omaruhakeke in 1865.

Councillors in the Borders unanimously agreed it should be repatriated last year after an approach from the New Zealand museum and descendants of "key parties" involved in the battle.

The exact details of the flag's journey to the south of Scotland remain something of a mystery.

It was donated to Hawick Museum in 1921 by local artist Tom Scott.

Image copyright Scottish Borders Council
Image caption Artist Tom Scott gave the flag to Hawick Museum in 1921

The flag had been presented to him by the secretary at Government House in New Zealand's Hawke's Bay but the reasons why he was given it and in turn passed it on to the museum are unknown.

After being approached by Wairoa Museum, councillors agreed there was no good reason - apart from Mr Scott's local connections - for the flag to be kept in the Borders.

A ceremony at Hawick Museum will see the flag handed over to Nigel How who works at the New Zealand museum.

He was among those who sought the return of the item as a "powerful symbol" for the resolution of 160 years of social, economic, political and spiritual turmoil for the Maori people in that part of the country.

Image copyright Scottish Borders Council
Image caption Mr Scott was a renowned artist but it is not known why he was given the flag

In a letter to Hawick Museum, Mr How said Maoris were living in a time when "the ghosts of the past" were being laid to rest.

"This is not only between Crown and Maori in general, but also between Maori ourselves in acknowledging and embracing the different decisions and actions our ancestors undertook," he said.

"Genuine resolution of all these matters has been a long time coming."

Efforts to repatriate the flag started more than two years ago after a visit to Hawick museum from a New Zealand national who enquired about the flag.

Mike Spedding, director of Wairoa Museum, then made the request for its return on behalf of descendants of noted Maori leaders involved in the battle.

All costs of the repatriation of the flag are being met by Wairoa Museum.

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites