The Wairau Bar skull
Morning talks at Redwoodtown Primary School were a part of the day (usually Monday) when children shared a recent event in their lives with the class. This could be anything from a ferry trip to Wellington to the cat getting run over. It was always a good opportunity to impress classmates, and the best stories were always accompanied by a souvenir of the event.
A young lad in my class, by the important name of Kingsley Timpson, always seemed to have the most interesting adventures and the best mementos to show us. One Monday, just back from the holidays, he talked about his recent trip to Australia. We were in awe! Not only that, he had brought back a real boomerang! Kingsley was clearly in the running for best morning talk that day.
Click to enlarge
On this particular day I had taken the plastic bag from behind my parent’s bedroom door for my morning talk. I walked up to the front of the class after Kingsley had sat down. I had no story to tell, just that plastic bag. I looked out at my classmates as they waited patiently for my tale. I could only hold the bag aloft and say, “I’ve got this”. I reached my hand inside, moving it around to get a better grip. As I pulled it up, the bag caught on what was inside, so releasing my other hand from the handle I grabbed the base of the bag and pulled it away.
The class was silent, they had never seen anything like this before. Then came the gasps of horror and fascination. They were looking at a human skull my grandfather had found out on the Wairau Bar many years ago. “Is it real?” they asked. “How many teeth does it have?”. Is it a boy or a girl?”. I revelled in the attention of my classmates, the boomerang quickly forgotten.
Not long after, it was bought to our attention that human remains were best not kept in the home, and it was subsequently given to Marlborough Girls College by my sister, with a sticker on top proclaiming ‘Donated by Sherril Adams’. Whether anybody actually thought the skull used to be Sherril Adams is questionable. The skull, no doubt Māori, has since been returned to its home, and yes, I did win best morning talk that day.
2010. Updated May 2020
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Further sources - The Wairau Bar skull
- Brayshaw, N. (1962) Redwoodtown School Jubilee 1912-1962 [Blenheim, N.Z.] : Marlborough Express.
- Redwoodtown School jubilee booklet, 1912-1987 (1987) Blenheim, N.Z. : Redwoodtown School Jubilee Committee
- Lewis, P (2016, April 10) Rangitane welcome tupuna home to Wairau Bar in Marlborough. Marlborough Express on Stuff:
[note - this is not the skull found by Toni's grandfather, but it illustrates the importance of returning Māori remains to their owners.]