Williams Family Reunion 200th anniversary, 1823-2023.

This coming weekend will see a significant family gathering take place in Waitangi, Bay of Islands, when descendants of Henry and Marianne Williams, and William and Jane Williams, will gather to mark 200 years of living in and contributing to this land of Aotearoa New Zealand: https://www.williams2023.co.nz/. The event will be hosted by the hapū of Te Tii Waitangi and will take place alongside the 200 year commemorations of the founding of the Paihia township – in effect, the outgrowth of the Paihia mission settlement founded by the Williams and their Church Missionary Society colleagues under the protection of local chiefs.

I will be attending the Reunion and have the privilege of presenting a paper on Friday night on the Williams’ influence in shaping Christianity, culture and nation in Aotearoa New Zealand – just a small topic! That paper I hope to share at some future time; however, it seemed appropriate to share now a talk I gave in 2014 at the Paihia church, St Paul’s, the site of the old mission settlement.

That talk was entitled Land and Memory: reflections on the Williams’ story, from Pēwhairangi to Pouerua, and I focused especially on the role played by Henry Williams in the 1830s, and by his sons some 50 years later, in preserving the Te Tii Waitangi land in the possession of the local hapū, Ngāti Rahiri. The lecture text is appended below.

Photograph of the meeting house, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, at Te Tii, on the banks of the Waitangi River, shortly after its construction, c. 1880; ref. PAColl-8454, Alexander Turnbull Library.

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