Pita Poi Poi and Winifred Alderton
Winifred Alderton was born in Lambeth in SE London in 1898, and in 1901 was living in Bullow Road Fulham with her father Edward, her mother Maud and her 4 brothers and sisters. They were a well established Walton family and after Maud’s death the family moved to Church Walk in Walton to live with Edward’s sister Eliza. Winifred was 13 at the time of the 1911 census, so she would have spent most of her schooldays there.
Her marriage to ‘Peter’ George Poi Poi took place on 25th May 1916. His residence is given as 6 Belmont Villas, Mayo Road and Winifred’s as Atherstone, Terrace Road. Winifred was 18 years old and ‘Peter’ was listed as 38. They apparently had 3 months together before Peter (Pita) sailed on the hospital ship “Marama” for New Zealand on August 25th 1916 from Southampton. Winifred followed on the “Remeura” on 19th September 1916 from Plymouth.
Pita Poipoi’s background was pure Maori. He was born in 1872 so was a man of some experience when WW1 started. The son of Ripeke Maranga Poipoi (born Te Hanene in 1840 and died in 1910) and Hoi Poipoi, he had eight brothers and sisters. They lived in Mahia, Oritama, Hawkes Bay and were sheep farmers.
He embarked for the Dardanelles in February 1915 with the New Zealand Maori Contingent via Suez in Egypt, arriving on 26th March of that year. Pita was 43 years of age, so 5 years older than the age given at his marriage to Winifred Alderton. (note conscription maximum age was 42) Pita was only in Gallipoli for 2 months when he became very ill with Enteritis, Cystitus and Pneumonia in spite of his reported ‘splendid physique’ in the newspaper marriage report. This resulted in a couple of months in various hospitals, including Gibraltar, before being invalided to UK on HS Panama. His movements became quite complex between several convalescent hospitals until his final “home” at Mount Felix. He was there on 23 March 1916 when he met and married Winifred Alderton shortly afterwards in May 1916.
It is said “marry in haste and repent at leisure”, and as we know Pita and Winifred’s marriage was not to last. New Zealand was undoubtedly a huge culture shock for Winifred – Pita was a lot older than she and from a traditional Maori family. It seems that he had a whole way of life alien to her and a strong and possibly complicated character.
There had seemed to be a very strong movement in New Zealand over three decades within the Mormon Church of America questioning the Maori people’s traditional practices and beliefs in “Tohungarism” which largely promotes spiritual healing. Pita Poipoi believed these ideas so passionately, to the extent of putting himself forward as a ‘prophet’, attracting a considerable following. However it seems Winifred had had enough and sought a separation order in that same year of 1921. They had only been married for 5 years and had four children. Their eventual divorce did not happen for another 17 years when Pita was 66. He died in 1952.
“BETWEEN BICULTURALISM AND ASSIMILATION”
The Mormon Church Influence on Maori Beliefs and Ideals
This is a very long and complex article explaining the late nineteenth and early twentieth century conflict between the principles of the Mormon missionary Church and the Maoris which had come to a head. Intervention from the New Zealand Government had resulted in The Tohunga Supression Act of 1907. However, this did not stop the conflict and other ‘prophets’ stood their ground. The following extract is from the published article –
“The resulting disappointments may well have heightened the attraction of various contemporary Maori Prophet movements. The continuing movement of such prophets and their material promises to Maori Saints in the early twentieth century is suggested by the influence of PITA POIPOI of Mahanga (East Coast North Island). In a journal for 17/9/1921 the mission president George T Taylor accused PITA POIPOI of claiming to be a prophet “who is going to bring gold to the Maori people” through investment in his company. Taylor remarked that many (East Coast) Saints “have gone wild over it and are following him blindly” including the presidents of two local branches. With reference – Taylor – In an entry for the following day Taylor wrote that the two branch presidents who had followed PIT A POIPOI were released from their positions, both charged with practising ‘Tohungarism’.
Note: Poi is a traditional dance.”
The Maori Contingent (Te Taua Maori)
Pita Poi Poi, who was invalided to Mount Felix in 1915, was a Maori Soldier from the Maori Contingent. This information is taken from blog.tepapa.govt.nz:
Some Māori were keen to be accepted as part of the New Zealand nation, and hoped that participation in the First World War would confirm their membership of the British Empire and the nation. A Māori contingent went to Gallipoli and was subsequently re-formed as the Pioneer Battalion to serve on the western front, where 336 men were killed. Here the battalion performs a haka before the visiting prime minister, William Massey (right), and his deputy Sir Joseph Ward.
There is a famous song, Te Ope Tuatara (The First Contingent), composed by Paraire Tomoana and Apirana Ngata for the recruitment effort during WWI.
Te ope tuatahi – The first contingent was
No Aotearoa – from throughout New Zealand,
No Te Wai-pounamu; – including the South Island;
No nga tai e wha – they were from the four tides.
Ko koutou ena – You there
E nga rau e rima,- the five hundred
Te Hokowhitu toa – the brave Battalion
A Tu-matau-enga: – of angry-eyed Tu.
I hinga ka Ihipa, – Some of you have fallen in Egypt,
Ki Karipori ra ia – some in Gallipoli.
E ngau nei te aroha, – Love gnaws within us
Me te mamae – and pain also.
Te ope tuarua, – The second echelon was
No Mahaki rawa, – from around Gisborne
Na Hauiti koe, – from Tolaga Bay,
Na Porourangi: – from the East Coast.
I haere ai Hënare – Farewell, O Henare
Me tö wiwi, – and your clump of rushes
I patu ki te pakanga, – who fell while fighting
Ki Para-nihi ra ia. – in France
Ko wai he morehu – Who will survive there
Hei kawe korero – to bring the story back
Ki te iwi nui e, – to all the people
E taukuri nei? – in sorrow bowed?
Te ope tua-iwa – The ninth contingent
No Te Arawa, – is from near Rotorua,
No Te Tai-rawhiti, – from near Gisborne,
No Kahungunu. – and from Hawkes Bay.
E haere ana au – And now I am going
Ki runga o Wiwi – to the conflict of the Frenchmen
Ki reira au nei, – and there will I
E tangi ai. – weep
Me mihi kau atu – I salute you as I disappear
I te nuku o te whenua, – out of sight of the land
He konei ra e, – Goodbye
E te tau pumau. – my own true love