Mystery of isolated memorial

By Allison Hess

1 comment
BAFFLING: William Joseph Douglas died 30km away from where the memorial stone lies.PHOTO/MATANUKU KAA
BAFFLING: William Joseph Douglas died 30km away from where the memorial stone lies.PHOTO/MATANUKU KAA

A mysterious memorial stone of a man linked to Tauranga, who drowned 30km away from where the stone lies, has the couple who found it searching for clues.

Matanuku Kaa discovered the stone near the remote community of Rangitukia, 150km northeast of Gisborne, while on a walk with his wife.

Curiosity got the better of Mr Kaa and his wife after seeing part of the white memorial jutting out from behind bushes on a small hill.

"Out of curiosity we decided to investigate and found a beautiful memorial stone of a man by the name of William Joseph Douglas," Mr Kaa said.

Read more: Major historical find in Otumoetai

When he was a young boy, Mr Kaa used to pass the little cemetery on the way to school and would see a cross jutting out of the gorse and long grass.

It was only last year that he actually noticed the "big and beautiful" white stone, because the gorse and grass had finally withered away after being sprayed.

The memorial revealed William Joseph Douglas was a shepherd and tragically drowned on July 22, 1911, while trying to cross a creek named Takapu, in Waipiro Bay, 30km from where the stone lay, Mr Kaa said.

The memorial also revealed the man's father, William John Douglas, and his wife Annie King were originally from Tauranga.

Mr Kaa was hoping to tap into the long memories of Tauranga residents to help unravel the puzzle, not only of who the man was but how his gravestone ended up 30km away from where he was supposed to have died.

"We are just so isolated out here ... We've been imagining how anyone was able to cut this huge stone, carry it and stick it up on this hill," Mr Kaa said. "We are looking for relatives. We cleaned it up as best we could but it needs more TLC as there is some repair work to be done."

Mr Kaa had already spoken to people with the surname Douglas who were residing in the Gisborne area, but they did not recognise the name.

Anyone who has any information about the memorial and the late William Joseph Douglas can email Mr Kaa at terangikaa@xtra.co.nz or call (06) 864 3040 or 021 0221 7129.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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