Hayward's Auction House owner Kevin Hayward holds forged leg irons outside the Dunedin cave from which they were removed in the 1970s. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Hand-forged leg irons that might have been used to restrain
Maori political prisoners in Dunedin will go under the hammer
in Dunedin tomorrow.
Steve McCormack (60), of Dunedin, said he put the irons up
for sale at Hayward's Auction House in Dunedin.
He and his late brother had used a hacksaw to remove the
hand-forged leg irons from a cave in Portobello Rd in the
''It took three hacksaw blades to cut it,'' Mr McCormack
The cave had at that time housed many wrist and foot shackles
but the rest had ''rotted away'', he said.
Mr McCormack said he had worked at the Hillside Engineering
Workshops and used its furnace to preserve the leg irons,
which appeared to date from the early 1800s.
He was unsure who the leg irons had restrained but he was
sure they had been used in the Portobello Rd cave.
''No question about it because every one of those caves had
the steel rings pressed in to the floor to chain prisoners
He was expecting big bids at the auction tomorrow.
Otakau runanga elder Edward Ellison said Maori prisoners were
taken from Taranaki and forced to labour in Dunedin between
1869 and 1871 and helped build the Andersons Bay causeway and
It was unknown if Maori political prisoners were restrained
with leg irons in Dunedin caves.
''There is evidence they were in the caves. How they were
restrained is more likely by a locked door than leg irons.''
Although the caves were not a recognised historic site in the
early 1970s, the leg irons should not have been removed, he
''There is people with a level of attachment to the issues
surrounding their ancestors that were held, without trial, in
places like that so it is a bit insensitive to be selling
them without giving the opportunity to be purchased and
housed in the country.''
Hayward's Auction House owner Kevin Hayward said if the leg
irons sold tomorrow, any new owner, if they wanted to take
them out of the country, would need an export certificate.
Mr Hayward said there was no issue with the sale under the
Protected Objects Act, which regulated the export of
protected New Zealand objects, the illegal export and import
of protected New Zealand and foreign objects and the sale,
trade and ownership of Maori artefacts.