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Norman George: Those who leave a giant impact on their nation

Tuesday January 21, 2020 Written by Published in Editorials
Ingram House, on the banks of Avatiu stream, has a proud history of retail. 20012009 (to come) Ingram House, on the banks of Avatiu stream, has a proud history of retail. 20012009 (to come)

OPINION: Business tycoons, farmers, public servants, sportsmen and women, doctors, policemen, composers, musicians and our share of miscreants, rogues and villains – it’s time to celebrate their best of Cook Islands.


This is not an attempt to write our history. I shall leave that to the history scholars, experts and specialists. I did not interview any of my subjects. Some have left us a long time ago.  

Those who are still around do not know I will write about them. I am the fly on the wall who watched and observed what I saw. Like a satellite in the sky, I zoom, blink and focus. No words exchanged.  

Some observations I made were in my teenage years in Rarotonga. Some things appear larger than life when you are young. As you get older perceptions change, some things get smaller. We pass this way but once, then disappear into the darkness of space … No parting words, no whisper, no sound. 

We will not be talking only about the dinosaurs, the mammoths and lions who once and still leave their footprints on our part of the planet! We will include the not-so-big who contributed in smaller doses.  

Many will be mentioned based on reputations and achievements. Some were noisy, others quietly made their lasting contributions without a song and dance. 

Not an overwhelming number will be politicians, but there will be some. There will be planters, business tycoons, farmers, public servants, sportsmen and women, doctors, policemen, composers, musicians and our share of miscreants, rogues and villains.

The one thing I can guarantee is that I will concentrate on the positive side of a person’s achievements, no one should be hurt or embarrassed by this work.  

There will be no particular order of selection or preferences. It will be a random selection. No one has attempted to do this kind of thing before, so here we go.


An incredible man whose enormous achievements have been understated or ignored was Tupuiariki Henry.

He was the eldest son of Albert and Elizabeth Henry. Tupui’s talents include building designs, political organisation and administration and athletics – sport. His lean body frame gave him an ageless physical appearance. Indeed he lived well into his 80s. Tupui was charismatic, a great orator with an overabundance of skillsets.

He was the right hand of his father Albert Henry, the founding father of the Cook Islands. They formed and founded the Cook Islands Party in 1965.

It is at 55 years old now, the oldest political party in the country. They won the general election of 1965, the first election to kick off self-government and they continued to reign by winning all general elections in the next 13 years.  

During that time, Albert Henry was the Premier and son Tupui became a cabinet minister. Tupui represented the island of Mauke in the Legislative Assembly. They adopted the philosophy of ‘People First’.  

Father and son opened access by the people to seek help directly to the leaders of the government. This was a new-found freedom. Compared to the cold face approach of the colonial bureaucrats, Cook Islanders discovered this opening up of government so exciting and overwhelming.

As the main mouthpiece for the government, doing radio broadcasts (no TV then) and press releases, Tupui sometimes stepped on toes and created quite a bit of controversies.  

A funny story was told by Stuart Kingan in his autobiography, about Tupui. He shared the same office building for social services as his Minister Tupui. One morning, Minister Tupui burst into his office enraged. Stuart asked Tupui what the problem was. 

Minister Tupui replied: “When I walked into the office this morning, none of the staff stood up for the Acting Premier of the Cook Islands.” He was holding the portfolio of Papa Albert, who had gone overseas.  

From that point on, everyone had to stand up smartly whenever the acting Premier arrived at work in the morning.

Tupui loved his country. He was a good family man. We became close friends in the last years of his life, despite my background of supporting the Democratic Party which ousted them in 1978.  

Tupui was related to both Nane and I, on his Aitutaki side with Nane and his Mauke side with me.


The next couple to mention are true dinosaurs of Cook Islands, Jim and Poko Ingram.

Poko was a very boisterous, attractive lady of great renown and distinction in the Cook Islands community. She held the Mataiapo title of Tepa under Makeanui Ariki.

They had businesses going from the 1950s to now. They operated the JPI store, a large merchandise supermarket. JPI stood for Jim and Poko Ingram Ltd. They had shops in Albert Street, Auckland City, and a beautiful home in St Stephens Ave, Parnell, Auckland.  

Their two-storey building on the banks of the Avatiu Stream is evidence of their business dominance. They also had a huge clothing factory in Arorangi, now the site of Timberlands Timber yard.

Jim was the quiet one. A tall Englishman, who found and married his Rarotongan princess, he always tactfully remained in the background. They ended up with quite a large family of very talented people. Many are lawyers.  

Their daughter Takiora is well-known in the Pacific Region. A grandson, Paka Worthington, owns a very successful black pearl jewellery shop next to CITC main store. Mama Poko was an elected member of the Legislative Council before self-government in 1965. She was a very powerful and effective public speaker.

Jim and Poko Ingram made a huge contribution to the success of the Democratic Party in the becoming the first opposition party to defeat the Cook Islands Party Government in 1978.  

Their son Vincent became a Minister under Prime Minister Sir Thomas Davis.

Without doubt Jim and Poko Ingram, with their children and grandchildren, left behind a gigantic impact in the economic social and political advancement of their beloved country Avaikinui, Cook Islands.

Kua rava teia, ka kite …

1 comment

  • Comment Link Dr. Takiora Ingram Tuesday, 21 January 2020 19:53 posted by Dr. Takiora Ingram

    Kia orana, I’d like to thank Norman George for this well-written article on our Cook Islands political history from the 1960s. Thanks Norman for your kind acknowledgement of my parents Papa Timi and Mama Poko and their involvement with the establishment of the Democratic Party. They were both very inspirational to all of us children and will remain with us forever. Meitaki maʻata! Takiora Ingram

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