Volume 46 1937 > Volume 46, No. 184 > Obituary, p 232-234
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- 232

IT is with very great regret that I have to record the death, on the evening of Monday, 7th December, 1937, of our President, the late Herbert William Williams, Bishop of Waiapu. I had quite recently had a letter from him returning a paper on Polynesian Grammar, to appear in the March number of the Journal, and he told me in his usual cheerful way that he had been ordered three months' rest. But he could not cease work even while resting, and the end came suddenly at a meeting with several of his fellow-workers about his bed.

He followed his father and his grandfather in his devotion to the church; both preceded him as Bishops of the see of Waiapu. His grandfather, Bishop William Williams, who had joined the Reverend Henry Williams as missionary in New Zealand in 1826, was consecrated first Bishop of Waiapu in 1859. His son, Bishop William Leonard Williams, was consecrated to the see in 1895, being succeeded in 1910 by the Right Reverend A. W. Averill, now Primate and Archbishop of New Zealand.

Bishop Herbert William Williams, the subject of this notice, was born at Waerenga-a-hika, Poverty Bay, in 1860, and began his education at Christ's College, Christchurch. Winning a University scholarship, he took his B.A. degree at Canterbury College in 1880. From 1879 to 1880 he was a resident of College House, Christchurch. He then went to Cambridge University, where he was a Rustat Scholar, and graduated B.A. in 1884 and M.A. in 1887. While at Canterbury College he was a keen Rugby player, and at Cambridge he was captain of the Jesus College fifteen. After two years as a master at Haileybury College, he was ordained deacon in 1886 and priest the following year, and - 233 returned to New Zealand in 1889 to become vice-principal of Te Rau Native Theological College, Gisborne. Having held this office for five years, he was appointed principal, and remained at the college until 1902. From that year until 1929 he was superintendent of Maori missions on the East Coast, and in 1907 he was appointed Archdeacon of Waiapu. On the resignation of Bishop W. W. Sedgwick in 1929 he was unanimously elected bishop, and was consecrated in St. John's Cathedral, Napier, on 9th February, 1930, being the sixth occupant of the see.

In his long pastoral career Bishop Williams won a unique place in the esteem of the Native people. Speaking of him not long ago, the Bishop of Aotearoa, the Right Reverend F. A. Bennett, said: “His associates of the past followed Tane, the spirit of the setting sun, and he stands by himself as a lonely figure. No other Pakeha occupies a similar position, and after he passes away no one will be left for the Maori to look to to give the sympathy, counsel, and guidance that he can. He occupies a unique position in the love and respect of the Maori race.”

The fifth edition of Williams' Maori Dictionary was edited by Bishop Williams in 1917. The first edition had been compiled by his grandfather in 1844, and his father had been responsible for an earlier revision. In recognition of this work, the New Zealand University conferred on him the honorary degree of doctor of literature in 1924, and Cambridge University did the same a year later. He also published, through the Government printer, a Bibliography of Printed Maori, a pioneer work in this field.

In addition to the works mentioned above, Bishop Williams published religious works, and edited the ninth and tenth editions of First Lessons in Maori, the second edition—making it almost a new work—of Gray's Nga Mahi a nga Tupuna Maori, and contributed to the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, as well as to the Journal of the Polynesian Society.

He was elected Fellow of the New Zealand Institute (now the Royal Society of New Zealand) in 1923, President of the Polynesian Society in 1929, holding this office at the time of his death; he was also present President of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He was lately appointed - 234 a member of the national historical committee for the New Zealand Centennial. He had been a member of the Honorary New Zealand Geographic Board since its appointment in 1924.

He was a member of the Polynesian Society for over forty years, and I have come into the closest personal contact with him in his capacity of President of the Society, finding him always helpful to me as editor, and always most ready to help. I have also come into close contact with him as fellow-member of the New Zealand Geographic Board, and I well know how much his knowledge and advice on the subject of Maori place-names will be missed by the Board.

The Polynesian Society has been fortunate in its Presidents—a notable trio being S. Percy Smith, Elsdon Best, and Herbert W. Williams whose loss we now deplore.