Guide Sophia


Mary Sophia Hinerangi Gray, also known as Te Paea, was the principal tourist guide of the Pink and White Terraces at Lake Rotomahana before the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886, and later guided at Whakarewarewa.

At the 100 year anniversary of her death, the descendants gathered to unveil a memorial to celebrate the life of Mary Sophia Hinerangi Gray at the entrance of Whakarewarewa.

Her mother, Kotiro Hinerangi, was of Ngāti Ruahinerangi, (Ngāti Ruanui) who was captured by a Nga Puhi raiding party. Kōtiro married Alexander Grey (or Gray), a Scotsman who had arrived in the Bay of Islands in 1827. 

Sophia was born in Kororāreka in the early 1830s. Mary Sophia Gray was baptised by William Williams at Kororareka in 1839.  Sophia was raised by Charlotte Kemp at the Kerikeri mission station before attending the Wesleyan Native Institution at Three Kings in Auckland.

In 1851 Sophia married her first husband, Koroneho Tehakiroe, and her second marriage, to Hori Taiawhio in 1870.  Sophia had children in both marriages.  Living at Te Wairoa on the shores of Lake Tarawera, Sophia became a renowned guide to the world famous Pink and White Terraces.

Attractive, well educated and bilingual, Guide Sophia established a reputation as 'guide, philosopher, and friend' to thousands of tourists. Eleven days before the 1886 eruption she was leading a tour group when suddenly the lake level fell, then rose again. This phenomenon was accompanied by an 'eerie whimpering sound'. Shortly afterwards, a phantom canoe appeared with a sole paddler. The canoe grew bigger as it approached the tourists and by now boasted a crew of 13, each of whom had a dog's head. The ghostly waka then shrank and disappeared. Tuhoto Ariki, a Tuhourangi tohunga, interpreted this as a warning; the exploitation of the terraces as a tourist attraction showed no regard to ancestral values. Guide Sophia herself saw these omens as a sign that her time as a guide at Rotomahana was near an end.

On 10 June 1886, the night of the eruption, over 60 people took shelter in Sophia's whare at Te Wairoa. Unlike many of the buildings in the village her home withstood the destructive power of the eruption due to its high-pitched roof and strong reinforced timber walls. Tuhoto Ariki also survived the eruption and was dug from his buried house four days later.

Sophia continued her guiding work when she moved to nearby Whakarewarewa. In 1895 she joined George Leitch's Land of the Moa Dramatic Company, playing herself on a tour of Australia. In 1896 she was appointed caretaker of the Whakarewarewa thermal reserve. A number of royal parties were amongst the many that Guide Sophia led through Whakarewarewa. She encouraged a number of local women to become guides, helping to establish this occupation as a lucrative form of employment for Tuhourangi women.

Sophia was also heavily involved in the New Zealand Women's Christian Temperance Union, becoming president of the Whakarewarewa branch in 1896.

Guide Sophia died at Whakarewarewa on 4 December 1911.

This Moko was created with a vision to interpret the life story of Te Paea hinerangi in a manner that was complete and effective. Like all Moko, the kaupapa (meaning) behind the design is personal and special to the recipient, thus the decscendants of Te Paea hinerangi and those that share a common link with her are the intended bearers.

This type of moko design is known as a Moko Heke which depicts Whakapapa. The shape of the design is an acknowledgement of her maunga Taranaki, of which was her right of birth to Nga Ruahinerangi. The two Manaia are symbolic of Te Paea's two families, and their lineage to Rahiri and Tuhourangi. The Puhoro represents Te Paea's many children and their offspring from Te Mahurehure and Tuhourangi. The Raperape, Patikitiki and Taupoi highlight the legacy that Te Paea forged in the geothermal area as Principle Guide both in Tarawera and Whakarewarewa. 

Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

He Whenua Rangatira
MLC Pānui - September 2022


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Monday, 15 July 2024

Captcha Image