A MAORI tribal flag – repatriated last October from a Borders museum to New Zealand – has been lovingly restored and now has pride of place in a permanent exhibition dedicated to the culture of that country’s indigenous people.
The Hauhau Flag, captured by Crown forces during the Battle of Omaruhakeke in 1865, was donated to Hawick Museum in 1921 by Selkirk-born artist Tom Scott RSA (1854-1927).
It had been presented to the famous watercolourist at a ceremony in Government House, Hawkes Bay – on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island - although the reasons he was given it are unknown.
In 2015, Scottish Borders Council acceded to a request from Hawkes Bay’s Wairoa Museum for the flag – considered a symbol of defiance against colonial oppression – to be repatriated.
Councillors agreed there was no good reason – apart from Tom Scott’s local connections – for the artefact to be kept in the Borders.
And in October last year, Nigel How, Wairoa Museum curator, travelled to the Borders to receive the flag.
In a letter to Shona Sinclair, his counterpart at Hawick Museum, Mr How explains how 150 people attended the recent re-opening of his museum after a £100,000 revamp with the Hauhau Flag the centerpiece of the main exhibition area.
He describes how the flag was painstakingly restored by the expert volunteers of the Wairoa Embroidery Guild.
“After much research on archival display methods, the flag was hand-sewn onto silk organza and hung from a wooden rod in a specially made cabinet protected by perspex.”
Mr How also reveals that on his return visit from Scotland he visited friends in Auckland.
“One of them is one of the foremost Pacific art and antiquities experts in the world and he proceeded to tell me I had seriously undervalued the flag for insurance.
“We had travel insurance of $40,000 [around £23,000] in place. Before the embroiders began their work on the Hauhau Flag, I had to tell them that the correct replacement value was $700,000.
“It took them a while to get over their nerves and get on with the job!”
Mr How says he remembers his visit to the Borders “with much fondess and a smile on my face”, adding: “The Hauhau Flag has become an essential part of our identity.”