By John O'Hare
A whānau that has played a key role in carefully preserving valuable documents spanning almost 150 years of New Zealand history, received special acknowledgement from the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage on April 29.
Descendants of James Reddy Clendon from around the country gathered at Clendon House in Rāwene to mark the recent addition of the 3000-strong Clendon Papers to the UNESCO Memory of the World Aotearoa New Zealand Register.
The Register entry officially identifies the collection as "an assemblage of recorded heritage of national significance."
The Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Hon Willow-Jean Prime, presented framed certificates of the inscription to representatives of the Clendon family.
Clendon was an early Northland trader, merchant, settler, farmer, government official and the first US consul in New Zealand. He was also a signatory to He Whakaputanga (the Declaration of Independence) in 1835 and Te Tiriti o Waitangi on February 6 1840, making history as one of the few Europeans to have his signature on both documents.
“The lives of missionaries in early New Zealand are well documented but the lives of early traders and merchants less so,” says Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Chief Executive Andrew Coleman.
“Although documentation relating to traders like Maning, Webster and Mair exist for the early period of New Zealand history, it often doesn’t exist after this. By contrast, the wide range of material in the Clendon collection, and the fact that the items relate to the life of an early trading family prominent in the Bay of Islands and the Hokianga for over 140 years, makes this collection unique.”
Clendon’s second wife Jane Takotowi Cochrane – the daughter of Irish settler Dennis Brown Cochrane and his wife Taokotowi Te Whata, a woman of considerable influence and mana – is a significant presence in the papers, some of which provide evidence of her determination to clear the near-impossible debt left by Clendon following his death.
The fact that the collection exists at all is largely due to the care with which generations of Clendon descendants have ensured that items have been kept and documented. Today, the collection is held jointly by Auckland Libraries Ngā Pātaka Kōrero o Tāmaki Makaurau and Clendon House in Rāwene, a historic property and Tohu Whenua cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.
“The Clendon Papers are closely linked to Clendon House with a good proportion of the collection still based there,” says Mr Coleman.
“Not only has the Clendon family ensured that this valuable collection of papers and other items remains is available to us today, they also had a strong kaitiaki role with the house itself. The Clendon whānau have made an extraordinary contribution to the preservation of important aspects of New Zealand history and we as a country owe them a tremendous debt of thanks.”
Following Clendon’s death in 1872, the papers go on to reflect the family’s life in the developing bi-lingual, bi-racial society of the Hokianga, extending to 1972 when Clendon House in Rawene was purchased by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, the predecessor of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.
The bulk of the papers cover from the 1840s to the 1940s with the collection totaling some 3000 items over the two locations. The papers include personal, business, and official correspondence and papers, letter books, registers, journals, memoir, ephemera, photographs and inscribed books.