A man with enormous reputation in the history of the Cook Islands is not very often mentioned or discussed. He was probably the wealthiest Cook Islander in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
He is the late Dick Charles Brown. “Tiki Paraoni” is what Cook Islanders call him.
His family is from the Island of Mangaia. He was a shipping magnate, trading within the Cook Islands, Tahiti and sometimes New Zealand. I can remember Tiki Paraoni owning three schooners and two motorised ships – it could easily be more.
Dick Brown’s ships had a bad habit of ending up on the Avarua reefs. After each wreck, he replaced it with another new ship. I recall the names of the five ships being the Inspire, Taveuni, Mahurangi, Rannah and Apanui. His insurance company must have been generous as he was able to buy replacements.
He was also a very successful pearl shell merchant. During the 1950s on two separate occasions, Tiki landed two huge brand new American limousines. Rumour had it that they were gifts from his very grateful pearl shell buyer. I think they were both Chevrolets.
Tiki had a reputation of being the slowest driver in Rarotonga – he drove about 15 miles an hour, second gear all the time.
I used to see him in Tupapa when he drove up to visit his mate Piri Tepuretu, usually after playing cricket. He had a bottle of 1 litre DB beer in one hand, drinking from it while he steered his car with the other hand. No problem with the traffic, there was none.
Tiki employed mainly his family of nephews and his brothers from the island of Mangaia. He had a reputation of being tight with his money. I have witnessed his workers line up at the Island Merchant counter, while I purchased ice cream before walking across the road to the Victory movie theatre. I watched them paid a florin, the equivalent of 50 cents each for a week’s work.
At the same venue, I used to see Tiki’s grandson, running around the office. He must have taught him how to count money! He was cute then. His name is Mark Brown, our present Minister of Finance – I have not made a progress check on the cute part!
Papa Dick Brown laid the foundation for self-government. Selfishly, many past commentators ignored this unsung hero. E te Metua Tane e Tiki Paraoni. E managanui taau I rave no toou iti tangata. Kua tupu rupe rupe e kua toro te aka o teia tumu rakau taau I tanu . E moe ra! E moe!
Papa Dick Brown, you have done so much for your people, the tree of independence you have planted has spread for us now to prosper and enjoy.
All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts. – Shakespeare.
The next impact person in our history is a man so different, a man awash with contradictions, enigmatic, brazen, impudent, cheeky and so difficult to define. Is he an angel or a devil? Firebrand or conciliator? Uniter or polariser? Scourge or healer? Such is the scorching reputation of George Oswald Pitt.
He can be described as a brilliant mastermind of surprises! Friendly, witty, pushy, thoughtful, outgoing, fearless,but searingly relevant. In life, George Pitt played many parts.
In his youth, he was a mischief-seeking lawbreaker, but he got over it. He became a firefighter in Auckland. Then he discovered God and became a pastor.
He returned home, to the place he loved so much. He invested in communications and property development. He owns the Cook Islands TV station and Radio Cook Islands. He owns several buildings as well.
George and his brother Charles publish a nippy, colourful weekly newspaper called the Cook Islands Herald. Savage attacks on selected prey is fair game. Usually politicians are the favourite targets.
George is the son of Leon Pitt and Mama Lingi. Leon Pitt was the last Executive Secretary of the New Zealand Government before self-government. He assisted the transition to self-government in 1965.
Leon Pitt had a good reputation with the people of the Cook Islands. Mama Lingi too has many close friends.
We need to pay close attention to this incredible family. They have contributed so much to our national development. They are very much tangata whenua Cook Islanders. George is currently suffering from illness at the Rarotonga Hospital.
Things are not too good, but George is a fighter.
Life can be so fragile and temporary. Let us not wait for the agony of parting before we say good things about people. The pain of not telling a person his finest qualities and importance is always regrettable.
To my dear friend George, I stand beside you, solid and firm. I salute your lifetime success! I treat you as a brother despite the low blows I got from you.
There were so many times I wanted to king hit you, to knock you out, but you always charmed your way back.
Tanapakani! Son of a gun! Get well dear brother, those who love you are quietly weeping and praying for your recovery. May God bless you and comfort the Pitt family.
Kua rava teia, ka kite!