The Rev. Father James Durning

Rev. Father James Durning (1909-1997) arrived in New Zealand in his late teens. In the 1920s he worked at the Roman Catholic centre at Pukekaraka, close to Otaki. He transferred to do mission work  and for over half a century served among the Māori people of Taranaki, Whanganui, Central Hawkes Bay and Horowhenua, learning their ways and their language.

When he went to  Pukekaraka in the early 1920s he didn’t know a word of Māori. But was determined to adopt it as his second New Zealand language. In time he could orate on many marae and it was said his mastery of the language was so great that when he was in Wanganui he spoke in Wanganui dialect, when in Taranaki he adopted that dialect and when in Hawkes Bay he reverted to the Kahungunu dialect. This speech was delivered at the 1967 opening of the Aotea meeting house, Mākirikiri, on the southern fringe of Dannevirke. It was a hui on a big scale, visitors coming from Hawkes Bay, Waitomo, Rotorua, Taupo, Whanganui and Taranaki.

The Prime Minister, Keith Holyoake, opened the meeting house, for it was in his electorate. Another notable visitor on the day was Cardinal McKeefry, as many of the Māori people of the area were Roman Catholics.

Whaikōrero - Father Durning at Mākirikiri

A panel hosted by Wiremu Parker (1914 – 1986) ) nō Ngāti Pōrou, Tamati Kruger nō Tuhoe and Ruka Broughton (1940 – 1986), discuss the recorded whaikōrero of Reverend Father James Durning SM, at the opening of the Wharetipuna (meeting house) Aotea at Mākirikiri, Dannevirke, 1967.

The Panel

Wiremu Parker ex Te Ara

Wiremu Parker broadcasting to the nation. Photo via Te Ara.

Wiremu Parker (4 Feb 1914–10 Nov 1986) - Ngāti Porou

A widely known and respected broadcaster in the Māori language and in English In addition to more than 40 years of broadcasting work he was a lecturer in adult education, and a teacher and translator of the Māori language.

Ruka Broughton (21 April 1940–17 April 1986) - Ngā Rauru

A tohunga and authority on Nga Rauru and Taranaki history, esoteric lore, whakapapa, and the interpretations of ancient karakia and waiata. He also trained and served as an Anglican priest, and a university academic.

Tamati Kruger - Tuhoe

A recognised authority in Māori language and customary practices and an Māori advocate and social/political analyst who has spent much of his life working in tribal research and development. He has also lectured in Te Reo at Te Pū Wānanga o Anamata

This series was produced by David Somerset in 1981 for the Continuing Education Unit of Radio New Zealand.