Thursday, October 20, 2016

‘If you want to have a good life, you do it helping other people’ – Jock McEwen, administrator, historian, linguist, composer and master carver

Jock McEwen, administrator, historian, linguist, composer and master carver, was a well-known figure in the Māori world and the wider Pacific for over half a century.

Born in Cheltenham near Fielding in 1915 he was brought up with a strong Presbyterian work ethic, which he retained until his death in 2010. Jock came into early contact with the Māori community at Aorangi, where he learned to speak fluent te reo and developed interests in whakapapa (including his own) and tikanga Māori. With initial help from a relative, he developed his interest in Māori carving and its many regional variations.

In the mid 1930s Jock commenced his public service career in the Native Department, which became Māori Affairs. He came into contact with Sir Apirana Ngata with whom he later visited Māori communities throughout New Zealand. Jock was a founder member of both Ngāti Pōneke Young Māori Club and later Māwai Hakona Māori Association. In 1953 he was appointed Resident Commissioner for Niue Island, followed later by appointments to head the Island Territories and Maori Affairs Departments.

During this time Jock travelled widely throughout the Pacific. He visited the United Nations several times on decolonisation matters affecting New Zealand’s Pacific territories, spoke at UN conferences in Brazil and Cameroon, and chaired a UN visiting mission to Papua New Guinea.

In retirement Jock gave 35 years of voluntary service to the community including helping to establish Ōrongomai Marae in Upper Hutt. He taught Māori carving to Māori trade trainees, inmates of Rimutaka prison and others, producing many of the carvings that adorn meeting houses including those at Pipitea and Ōrongomai maraes as well as other buildings.

 In Te Oka – Pākehā Kaumātua, author Mary McEwen, Jock’s daughter-in-law, gives many insights into the complex nature of this man and his times.

RRP: $49.99 | ISBN: 9780473360337 - Reviresco Trust


About the author:
 Dr Mary McEwen is a retired Wellington ecologist, married to Andrew McEwen. They have two children and four grandchildren.

Her first book, Charles Fleming – Environmental Patriot, a biography of her father, was published in 2005 and was a finalist in the 2006 Montana Book Awards. Mary then edited and published the diary Charles Fleming had kept during his year as a coast watcher in World War II on the subantarctic Auckland Islands.

Between 2005 and 2010, Mary was involved in caring for her husband’s parents in their final years. Following Jock McEwen’s death and tangi at Ōrongomai Marae, Mary decided to write a biography of this very unusual, but remarkable, Pākehā.

No comments: