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Hawai'ian visitors on Hastings pier (photo: Travel blog, Native Hawai'ian Travel Services)..

Hawai’ian visitors on Hastings pier (photo: Travel blog, Native Hawai’ian Travel Services).

Visitors help Hastings renew its ties with Hawai’i

Hastings has renewed its long-held ties with Hawai’i, nearly 138 years to the day since Kalākaua, king of the Hawai’ian archipelago, visited the town in 1881. HBC communications report.

A group of staff and students of the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa visited the town on Sunday 21 July as part of a Hawai’ian Youths Abroad study programme. They are following in the footsteps of Hawai’ian students who visited England and Italy during the late 19th century as part of an educational programme set up by King Kalākaua.

One of those students, Matthew Makalua (1867-1928), lived in Pevensey Road in St Leonards and trained as a doctor at Kings College Hospital in London. After qualifying, he married and lived in the town for the rest of his life.

The group arrived at the White Rock Hotel to be met by Ann Scott and Marilyn Saklatval of the Friends of Hastings Cemetery, and Sarah French, PhD student at Hastings Museum who is researching the collections of the Brassey family.

King Kalākaua’s friendship with Annie and Thomas Brassey was the reason for his visit to the town while on his famous 1881 tour of the world. As the Hastings Observer reported, the town turned out for the occasion as he visited the pier, inspected the White Rock Baths and had lunch with many dignitaries at the Brassey Institute, now Hastings Library. The students retraced these steps before making their way to Hastings Museum.

Rare pieces at the museum

Hastings Museum has several rare and precious pieces of Hawai’ian featherwork on display, including a royal feather cloak, known as an ‘ahu ’ula. They were owned by the Brasseys who visited Hawai’i at Christmas 1876 and enjoyed the New Year celebrations at the Iolani Palace.

Kalākaua bestowed upon Annie Brassey the Order of Kapi’olani for services to Hawai’ian culture, in acknowledgement of her descriptions of his kingdom in her best-selling travel journal, A Voyage in the Sunbeam.

Honouring Matthew Makalua's grave in Hastings Cemetery (photo: HBC Communications).

Honouring Matthew Makalua’s grave in Hastings Cemetery (photo: HBC Communications).

This was a unique opportunity to welcome the Hawai’ian visitors to the museum and hear their thoughts on seeing the objects that they feel a personal connection to. There were several comments on how well preserved the cloak is, while one visitor commented that it felt like “running into someone half way around the world.” They were seen as a ‘pilina’, or connection between Hastings and Hawai’i, an important value in Hawai’ian culture.

The group then proceeded to Hastings Cemetery to pay their respects to Matthew Makalua. A beautifully harmonized song of thanks was performed as well as the national anthem. Garlands of flowers (leis) were placed on the grave, along with Hawai’ian flags. Water was poured upon the resting place, brought with them from the island of Maui, where Makalua was born.


You can follow the students’ trip through their travel diary


Posted 17:48 Thursday, Aug 1, 2019 In: Town ties

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