This is taken from The Maori Battalion returns to Tamaki Makaurau, 30th National Reunion, March 2010.
Takurua Takao – Tag Wilson
Reg No 810606
“Take it away tag”
My humble beginnings began in a cosy little settlement called Waimana which is centred between Opotiki and Whakatane, Bay of Plenty. I was born on 3 May 1925 and had many brothers and sisters, all girls being adopted.
Music was the cornerstone of my life. It all began when I was knee high to a grasshopper with a chromatic mouth organ. I really didn’t know it then, but like most of my family I was born gifted with musical talent. I decided to learn to play the steel guitar along with many other instruments. There is something very peculiar and uncanny about the music world of “Maoridom” in those days, hardly any of us read music but relied on instinct or the common phrase used, “played by ear”.
The 1939 war began looming over the horizon and by this time, my sound waves were becoming more acceptable within the realm of reasonability. Even then I didn’t own a guitar. I remember the time that dad decided to make one. Instead of using proper strings, we improvised the use of plaited horses’ tail hair as substitutes and an oblong bottle was used instead of a steel bar. Talk about Hori ingenuity.
I have always admired mum and dad, for the way they brought us up in those times of trials and tribulations.
Music too me to Aucklandwith a friend. How exciting that was for simple country lads, I really thought that we reached the edge and were entering into 7th heaven. Tramcars climbing up Queen Street on railway tracks, for crying out loud; that left one wondering, how these monsters could do that and not slide back to the bottom of the hill.
During this time I got homesick and was longing to go home to my mother. My devious thinking was to make a fool proof plan to escape back home, this was by joining up, I would bump my age up four years to 22 and when they discovered my true age they would send me packing home to mum. My plan was doomed to failure unbeknown to me, rules were changed and three days after enlisting I was on my final leave to farewell my family.
Destination Maadi Camp – unbearable heat, training and then on to Italy, where there was massive war damage and much poverty. I was really horrified.
Finally, the front line where for two years of battles I became the invisible enemy as the bullets missed me, but I lost family and friends and saw many horrific sights.
I have never forgotten the time when the lads during the desert warfare decided to do the haka as they prepared to attack the Germans. Or when capturing an Italian village and hearing the Germans had told them the Maori were cannibals. Or the death of uncle Werewere Rakuraku.
Back to Aotearoa on the Dominion Monarch, from cold winter to scorching summer and many welcomes with my final destination being Waimana and my family. My next port of call,Auckland, to purchase the electric steel guitar and from here, Tag Wilson emerged, my stage name – I became a professional musician for many years.
In Auckland I met Dawn, the love of my life, who was to become my wife. We had five children Christopher, Denise, Terry, Marni and Sharlene. Today our children have families and their love and affection will remain in my heart forever.