By John O'Hare
A small group of people braved the wind and rain to gather at the Buffalo Memorial at Whitianga’s Buffalo Beach on Saturday for the blessing of three small crosses that will soon be winging their way to Canada.
The crosses are associated with the story of Fancois Prieur – a French insurgent who was part of an uprising against British rule which took place in Quebec in 1838. Prieur and 57 others were sentenced to transportation to Australia for their part in the insurrection. The ship on which they were transported was HMS Buffalo – the shipwreck which now lies off Buffalo Beach at Whitianga.
Prieur recorded his ordeal in his book Land of a Thousand Sorrows, as well as a wish that a small cross be made from the timbers of the Buffalo for him as a memorial to the suffering he and others endured. Last weekend his wishes were honoured with the blessing of three small crosses, which, it is planned, will be returned to Canada in time for Patriot’s Day (May 22), and presented to some of Prieur’s descendants.
Whilst the Buffalo shipwreck site itself is protected as an archaeological site under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, the wood used for the crosses had washed ashore and been bought to the Mercury Bay Museum and professionally recorded.
The crosses were made by volunteers from the Whitianga Menzshed, and were blessed by Father Tony Delsink of St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Whitianga.