Simon Crispe, Makea Karika George Ariki and Ngāti Makea Karika witness the clock’s return and learn more about its history. MELINA ETCHES/23080707
Resting magnificently in its timeless beauty on a brand new cabinet in the Makea Karika Ariki palace is the long-lost antique English made clock.
After 90 years, the clock, which was presented to Makea Karika Takau Ariki in 1933 by the then New Zealand Governor-General Lord Bledisloe (1930-1935) and Lady Bledisloe, has returned home.
To mark this occasion, a special turou (welcome) ceremony was hosted by Makea Karika George Ariki and Ngāti Makea Karika to witness the clock’s revival and learn more about its captivating history a week ago.
Auckland architect Simon Crispe and wife Marianne, and New Zealand senior journalist Jane Phare and her husband Byron were welcomed to the Makea Karika palace by a “karakia’ performed by Anautoa Rangatira, Tuaine Unuia.
The clock was repaired by Crispe’s father and
has been in his care for over 40 years.
No one had ever come back to collect the
clock, he said.
After being gazetted in the New Zealand
newspapers in 1987 for quite some time and with still no one claiming it, the
clock remained in the Crispe family.
In 2007, Crispe inherited the clock.
“My dear father looked after it for over 40
years, and when nobody came to collect the clock after it had been repaired he
didn’t know what to do and didn’t know where it belonged,” said Crispe.
“I think the problem with it was someone had wound the hands backwards and broken some of the parts inside, and so we’ve been able to fix it and I’ve just serviced it so it’s ready to go hopefully for another 100 years.”
Makea Karika George Ariki presents Simon Crispe with a pāte (drum). MELINA ETCHES/23080704
The timepiece is encased in oak, in a design known as the ‘Napolean hat case’, weighing about 2 kilos, it is an English clock made by the “Empire” clock company, explained Crispe.
“It’s a very nice movement striking on a big
gong - the movement is made of brass. And it has a very special sterling silver
plaque, probably made in New Zealand.”
The engraving on the silver plaque reads:
Makea Karika Takau Ariki from the Governor General and Lady Bledisloe 1933,
which intrigued Crispe.
“We had no idea what those words really
meant, we thought it was Māori (Aotearoa) and we talked to Māori people and
they had no idea where the clock had come from, and so we are absolutely
delighted to find its rightful owner.”
Crispe said he was uncomfortable owning it,
because he knew from the plaque that this was a very special item that had been
gifted by the New Zealand Governor General to the Cook Islands 90 years ago. He
wanted to return it to its rightful owners.
Last year, Crispe called on Phare to assist
with tracking down the clock’s original owner and extensive research and
discussions led to the clock's return to Rarotonga.
Phare initially phoned Ian Karika, one of
Makea Karika Takau Ariki’s great-grandsons who was at the hills of the Takitumu
Conservation Area when he received her call.
Karika distinctly recalled their conversation
because he was surprised the call even got through since phone coverage was not
always good in the area.
“I thought she was calling about the birds,
but it was about a clock which I knew nothing about,” he said.
Makea Karika George Ariki presents Jane Phare with a kumete (bowl). MELINA ETCHES/23080705