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I Will Knot at Pompallier Mission

December 30

The art of tying knots is more than just right over left, left over right.

And this summer, children who happen to be in Russell on any Tuesday afternoon throughout January, will have the chance of moving beyond the good old Reef and Granny knots, and exploring the wonderful world of splices, spikes and other maritime bindings.

The holiday programme ‘I Will Knot’ takes place at Pompallier Mission – the historic building in Russell cared for by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) – and will provide guaranteed fun for kids of all ages.

“Our ship-mates from the R. Tucker Thompson will demonstrate how to tie some pretty cool knots. They’re the sort of knots that are often used on gaff-rigged schooners like the Tucker – so they’re the real thing,” says the Manager of Pompallier Mission, Kate Martin.

With a bit of supervision, kids will also be able to have a go with a marlinspike – a pointed iron rod used in separating the strands of a rope in splicing and knot tying.

“Russell and nautical activity have always gone hand in hand, and so our knot-tying lessons are a fun way of learning and taking away a strand of our maritime heritage,” says Kate.

There will also be something for pirates, buccaneers, privateers and other swashbucklers who happen to be in port for the holidays. As part of ‘I Will Knot’, spot prizes will also be awarded for the best pirate outfit.

“Believe it or not, Pompallier Mission – where Bishop Jean-Baptiste Pompallier established his mission headquarters in 1839 – does have a very tenuous link to piracy,” says Kate.

“When Governor William Hobson first caught sight of Bishop Pompallier’s flag flying on his schooner, the Sancta Maria, he rather harshly described it as ‘that pirate flag’ – being keenly aware of French aspirations towards colonizing New Zealand.”

Hobson himself was somewhat accident prone when it came to pirates.

“Our first Governor had seen active duty against the French as a naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars. He and his crew had also been captured by pirates in 1821, but were released after a week of ill treatment. Hobson was captured again two years later after attacking pirate strongholds, but was able to make a daring escape,” she says.

To make matters worse, one of the first things Hobson saw when he set foot on New Zealand soil for the first time in January 1840 – directly in front of Pompallier Mission as it happened – was the French national flag fluttering above the Catholic mission.

His response was not recorded – though he did invite Bishop Pompallier to Waitangi a week later.

“Nineteenth Century politics aside, our pirates at Pompallier Mission will be dressing up strictly for fun – just like knot tying of the maritime kind,” says Kate.

“It’s amazing what the Tucker crew can do with a bit of rope – and we’re looking forward to giving them the opportunity to show off their skills.”

I Will Knot: Every Tuesday afternoon at Pompallier Mission throughout January. Kids free – normal admission applies for adults.


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