George Ellison

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Tono kōrero mai

Unedited interview with George Ellison, Māori elder from Otākou on the Otago Peninsula. He talks to Jim Sullivan about his whānau history and his own life.

His grandfather Raniera Ellison discovered gold at Skippers - Māori Point after swimming across the flooded river.
He talks about his grandparents' courtship and marriage. His grandmother was Taiaroa''s grand-daughter Nani Weller, the daughter of Edward Weller. She was a descendant of Ngāti Awa with connections to Te Rauparaha and the couple had to elope as their families opposed the marriage initially. The couple built their house on her land at Otākou. He says their marriage united the two principal Māori families of the south.

He talks about his family's rugby prowess. His uncle Tom Ellison was the first Māori lawyer and a great footballer, credited with introducing the silver fern as part of the All Blacks uniform, as well as several innovations in rugby formations.

The interview then moves to George's own life at Otākou. He was born in 1907. He says the local population in his childhood was evenly split between Māori and pākēha, but the pākēha seemed very Māori to him, with many speaking te reo. He talks about his childhood and schooling. His secondary schooling began in Dunedin at Otago boys' High School which he reached via horseback, ferry and train. Eventually he was sent to Otaki College and his brothers were sent to Kings College in Auckland.

His father was a surveyor but other local people worked for the Harbour Board and also at a nearby quarry. His father's family were very well-educated. Local people were strong in their Māori traditions during his childhood but things faded when a lot of the older people died, especially after World War II.

After secondary school he found work with the government's Marine Department on boats servicing light-houses around the New Zealand coast. He was also involved in transporting several Governors-General, such as Bledisloe and Fergusson on tours around New Zealand and the Pacific. He sailed with his uncle Dr Ellison, treating patients on various Pacific island leper colonies.

He left the boats after joining the Waiata Māori Choir which toured the world for two years in the late 1930s, just prior to World War II. He visited Buckingham Palace and performed to packed houses everywhere.

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Year 1983

Reference number 321419

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits Ellison, George Tukitaharangi Grey, 1907-1991, Interviewee
Sullivan, Jim, 1946-, Interviewer

Duration 00:36:34

Date 1983