Retired High Court judge Sir Rodney Gallen was accorded a full-school haka as he was carried from the Lindisfarne College Chapel yesterday at the end of a funeral celebrating a judge who didn't like judging.
He didn't like judging people, said Justice Joe Williams, another judge of the High Court and former Chief Judge of the Maori Land Court. Justice Williams also observed Justice Gallen didn't like prisons, yet visited them all so he would know the conditions criminals were off to, and where he would then go to see how they were getting on.
Justice Williams was delivering one of the tributes at a two-hour service before about 800 people. Sir Rodney's casket was adorned with a judge's wig and korowai, representing the two cultures that dominated his life.
His knowledge of Maori was to serve him well as he guided negotiations over ownership of the bed of Lake Waikaremoana enabling it to be leased back to the Government in 1971, for power generation and with funds going to a new trust board to protect the owners' interests.
Sir Rodney lived at Havelock North and died on Saturday, aged 78. He had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour.
He had learnt to speak Maori when his father was postmaster at Tokomaru Bay. He moved to Hawke's Bay where he went to Waipawa District High School for two years before transferring to Napier Boys' High School for 1950-51. Only the shortness of his time there appears to have stopped him becoming dux, for in 1951 he topped French, English history, geography, Latin and maths. He also went close to winning the senior track and field championship, winning the mile and the 880yd, and finished second in the 440yd. He repeated the half-mile win in interschool sports.
He left school as one of four students with a United National Scholarship, but it was perhaps his receipt of the W.B. Ayling Memorial Prize that best pointed to his future. It was for the most thoughtful and conscientious boy in Scinde House, where he boarded.
Such traits were prevalent in comments by those who spoke of him yesterday. The eulogy was delivered by close friend Fred Sanders, who first met Sir Rodney when they were in class together at Napier BHS, and other tributes came from niece Verena and her husband Conrad Waitoa, Tuhoe elder Pat Winitana, who made his way up the aisle singing the waiata Te Ariki, and Mr Waitoa's father, Togil. Mrs Waitoa drew attention to her uncle being credited with the All Blacks winning the Rugby World Cup - not that it was a serious claim, given the modesty of the man.
It turns out it was Rodney Gallen who talked the Presbyterian Church into putting proceeds from the sale of Te Whaiti land into a scholarship at Lindisfarne. He reckoned if the scholarship hadn't been awarded to Israel Dagg New Zealand wouldn't have won the cup.