Kate Middlemass was born on 8 November 1824. Her mother was Rangitukia of Whakatane and her father a European named Middlemass (Maori Land Court, 2002).
She was a guide at Te Wairoa around the same time as Sophia. She was described by James Froude as ‘…a big, half-caste, bony woman of forty, with a form like an Amazon’s, features like a prize-fighter’s, an arm that would fell an ox, stone deaf and her war whoop might be heard for a mile (Blainey, 1985)'.
|Guide Kate, Guide Sophia and Ngareta at Hinemihi, Te Wairoa circa. 1861-1881.|
Rotorua Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa (CP-2396)
|James Anthony Froude|
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-18941027-400-1
She may not have been much of a conversationalist as Froude remarked that, 'She would show us all that was to be seen, and we should escape conversation. Froude’s description of Kate the next morning was more flattering, she looked picturesque, with a grey, tight-fitting, woolen bodice, a scarlet shirt, a light scarf about her neck, and a grey billycock hat with pink riband. (Blainey, 1985)'. Froude's remark on Kate's conversation may have been due to the fact that she also had a headache on that particular day and was a little out of sorts.
|Kate native guide to Whakarewarewa|
Alexander Turnbull Library, Martin Album, PAI-o-334
The incident took place on Saturday, 21 February 1882, on Lake Rotomahana. Stafford (1986) describes the incident, 'a group had left Te Wairoa to visit the terraces. A little after mid-day they left the White Terrace in a canoe to cross Lake Rotomahana and visit the Pink Terrace. The canoe wasn’t sturdy and in it were 6 visitors. Three of the visitors were from Auckland, one from the South Island, a surveyor and Mr Bird from Te Puke. Also on board were Kate and two paddlers. As the canoe neared the lake centre a sudden squall caught them, a wave broke aboard causing the vessel to fill and capsize. Mr Bird disappeared under the water and as soon as Kate was aware of this she dived for him. She dived once more before she found and bought Mr Bird to the surface. The capsized canoe had been seen and another canoe was soon heading towards them. Kate swam to this canoe and got Mr Bird safely aboard. She returned to where the capsized canoe had been righted and assisted others. The group eventually made the shore near the Pink Terrace and were soon soaking in one of the hot baths. Their clothes were dried and shelter given for the night by local Māori. The next day the group returned to Te Wairoa'.
|Guide Kate wearing her bronze medal|
Rotorua Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa
Kate’s bravery was recognised by the Royal Humane Society and she was awarded the bronze medal. The depth of the water in Lake Rotomahana at that time was about four fathoms (approx. 7 metres).
|Scanned pages from the case book where Kate's bravery is recorded.|
Royal Humane Society, Case Book, p77, Case Number 21873
The medal was presented to Kate in June of 1883 by Mr H. W. Brabant, the resident magistrate.
|H. W. Brabant, Magistrate|
Tauranga City Libraries Image 03-500
|Newspaper coverage of the day that Kate was presented with her medal|
Papers Past, Bay of Plenty Times 7 June 1883, p2.
|Guide Kate's brave deed covered in the New Zealand Herald|
Papers Past, New Zealand Herald 27 January 1882, p5.
Post written by Ani Sharland with thanks to Rotorua Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa Rotorua Museum, Tauranga City Libraries, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library and The Royal Humane Society UK.