One of Mokau’s most captivating characters was David Coburn or “Rewi”. He joined the Maniapotos as Wetere Te Rerenga’s taurekareka, or slave. However, he was treated well enough was given five wives in his time and was father to no less than twenty-five children.

 Rewi Coburn was Born 1843 in Scotland, and was a foot soldier at White Cliffs military Redoubt (Garrison). This Military Redoubt was to defend the newly settled land of Waitara and New Plymouth from raiding parties from the north. 

 

A young reporter, Dick Craigh wrote this about him. The most interesting denizen of this bush sanctuary I ever met was the white man. It was on the second day of our canoe voyage, twenty miles up the river. He was an old bushman by the name of David Coburn, an old tired-looking fellow, with bowed back, deep-sunken eyes and great bushy eyebrows; a man with a strange wild career behind him. He had lived with the Maoris since 1865, when he deserted from the military settlers force at Pukearuhe. He made for the Mokau and “took the blanket” for life. 

 

I asked him where he was at the time of the raid in 1869 – Wetere’s Expedition to White Cliffs – for rumors has connected his name with the expedition. He declared that, on the tragic day he was up the river on a canoe trip. He was an expert river man, the old runway, and indeed a master of all the bush craft of the Maori.

 

Coburn died 6 May 1918 some this was some years after Wetere and was buried in the Maori cemetery on high headland overlooking north end of Mokau Bridge, his casket was placed across and near to Wetere’s feet. 

 

Some years afterwards all buried in this cemetery were taken up, conveyed to the Awakino River heads and reburied. An old Maori supervised the whole of this work. The only grave not disturbed was Rewi Coburn’s and his is the only one still on the lonely headland.