It may be a tattered teddy bear with one ear, but for rock star and U2 frontman Bono, it’s a precious gift that once belonged to his close mate and Māori musician - the late Greg Carroll.
“U2 loved my little brother,” says Greg’s older sister Christina Asher. “He was your typical cheeky young Māori boy and would turn up to their homes with kai and cook them up a feed.”
Greg tragically died in a motorcycle accident in 1986 in Dublin while he was working as U2’s assistant. He was 26. He met and became close mates with the legendary band when they toured Auckland in 1984 and they asked him to join their crew.
U2 returned to Greg’s marae in Kai Iwi, just outside of Whanganui for his tangi. It was there Bono and his wife Ali were given Greg’s teddy bear as an everlasting memory.
“It was the teddy bear that mum gave to him when he was born, because he was given away,” Christina says. Greg was whangai (adopted) to one of Christina’s aunties and he kept his teddy bear close to him at all times.
Christina says that renowned photographer Mark Nixon recently asked Bono and Ali for a precious momento to photograph – and they gave him Greg’s teddy bear.
“Ali, Bono’s wife, still has the teddy but she sent this picture. It’s gorgeous,” Christina says.
Ali told an online website that the teddy bear is a memory of “one of the most incredible men in my life” and Greg's death had left a giant hole in her and Bono’s lives.
“Greg Carroll became a great friend to me and Bono,” she says. “Greg was a Māori, and at his tangi a mate of his handed us this one-eared teddy bear. It was Greg’s, and it has been with us ever since. A fragment of Greg’s reality, gone but never forgotten.
U2 wrote the hit song One Tree Hill in Greg's memory and gifted their gold record to his mother.
“Greg’s teddy smiles when his good ear hears it played” Ali says.
Tonight, Native Affairs talks to Christina Asher about her brother and her recent Mana Wahine Award, which she received at the Māori Film Festival in Wairoa over the weekend.