Palmerston North Tiki Tour



by W.S. McCallum


Palmerston North is less than an hour's drive south-east of Wanganui, and about an hour and a half's drive north of Wellington. 


Background info: 


My mission was to investigate the Manawatu Savage Club, but there are a few other tiki sights to be seen in Palmerston North. 


The Square has two imposing carvings, standing over a series of sculptures carved by Maori and Pacific Island sculptors:


And then there is the façade of the Maori Battalion Hall, completed in 1964:


Detailed view of the right-hand series of panels:


And a close-up shot of the carving over the entrance:


The 28th (Maori) Battalion was a unit that fought as part of the 2nd NZ Division in the Mediterranean theatre from 1941 to 1945 (Greece, Crete, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Italy). It fought at the battles of Monte Cassino, Tobruk, and El Alamein, among others. 


Unit history: 


Just down the road a bit and around the corner at 100 Campbell Street is the Manawatu Savage Club:


There is a spacious hall for social events:


The tiki décor is more low-key than it is in the Wanganui Savage Club, but is there nonetheless:


As well as these reminders of the Manawatu Club's reputation for being very musically oriented:


Of all the Savage Clubs, it is noted for its major focus on music, and continues to stage varied concerts and shows, not only on its own premises, but in public venues in Palmerston North. 


The building itself is an old church hall which the club purchased in 1972, although the club itself is now 103 years old:

Grey River Argus, 23 April 1908, Page 3


Like its Wanganui counterpart, the Manawatu Club adopted the trappings of Maori culture, and did so from its earliest days. On 11 May 1908, the Manawatu Daily Times reported that, through its protocols and practices, the club wanted to establish ties with the traditions of the local Rangitane Maori. This went to the extent of giving Maori titles to the officers of the club, with the Chief Savage being called the "Toa" (war leader), and concerts were to be referred to as "koreros". 


The club's song:


For ceremonial occasions, members also dressed in Maori costume, as shown in this photo of the Rangatira (President) Cyril Stevens, which dates from 1956:


Various of the Rangatiras' old cloaks have been preserved:


Along with other mementos and memorabilia from the club's early days:


The club's crest (named "Tane-nui-a-rangi"):


The crest was featured in various pennants and posters commemorating the Manawatu club's "raids" on other Savage clubs:


And featured on the blazers worn by club members:


Like the Wanganui Savage Club, photos of past members and Rangatiras feature prominently:


And various of them feature a Maori doll as the club's mascot, which can be seen more clearly below:


And here is the mascot, still intact today:


Also, stored in a back room, is an old sign that used to stand outside a now deceased member's house:


It is fondly remembered as a place where members could repair to after Savage Club meetings for drinking sessions... 


The Manawatu Savage Club currently has 85 members and is active, although like the other Savage Clubs, it could do with some younger members in order to provide a new generation to keep things going. 


I would like to thank Murray Jamieson, a past President and the current Secretary of the Manawatu Savage Club, for showing me around, and for providing me with a copy of the book "Entertaining the Manawatu: The Manawatu Savage Club's Century of Achievement", by Noel Watts (2009), which I drew on for details of the club's earliest days. 


© W.S. McCallum 21 November 2011








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