Story: Moore, George

Page 1 - Biography

Moore, George

1871–1947

Salvation Army officer, businessman

This biography was written by C. R. Bradwell and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 3, 1996

George Moore was born at Brunnerton, Westland, New Zealand, on 23 April 1871, the son of William Moore and his wife, Ruth Twigg, who had emigrated from Australia around 1868. William was a miner, later a mining engineer, and George also trained as a mining engineer on leaving school. After the Salvation Army arrived in Brunnerton in August 1890, George and his close friend Alexander Armstrong underwent a conversion experience and offered themselves for full-time service. They were commissioned as officers following six months' training in Christchurch. Both then volunteered to work among Maori on the Whanganui River, where Staff Captain Ernest Holdaway had begun a mission in June 1888.

Moore worked at Otaki and then, with Armstrong, at Jerusalem and various other settlements on the Whanganui River. They travelled around the district in an effort to win converts. In September 1892 Moore was promoted to captain and placed in charge of the work at Parikino. During that year he met Lieutenant Catherine Emilia Gillies, one of a number of women officers serving under Holdaway's direction.

After an appointment at Normanby and Eltham in 1894, in 1895 Moore again worked in the Wanganui and Waitara districts with Armstrong, and then in early 1896 they were sent to the Bay of Plenty where Holdaway planned a further Maori mission. Because of the poverty and unemployment among Maori people, Salvation Army assistance was welcome and converts more easily gained.

George Moore and Catherine Gillies were married in Gisborne on 15 November 1896. They worked together in the Whakatane–Opotiki area for some months, then in July 1897 transferred to Gisborne, where Holdaway had established a training school for young officers preparing for work among Maori. George and Catherine's knowledge of the Maori language made them capable teachers.

From 1898, four years of ministry in mainly Pakeha centres (Hastings, Otaki, Petone, Woodville, Oxford and Linwood) were followed by a return to Whakatane in February 1902 to oversee the Maori mission in the Bay of Plenty area. George and Catherine Moore had five children: Helen Puna (who was born in 1897 but died in childhood), William (1900), Thomas Rangi (1902), Ruth Marie (1904), and Douglass Hinau (1910). In the early years of their marriage the couple worked together in the field. They took their young children with them when they rode to Maori settlements to conduct meetings. As their family grew, Catherine took a less active role in Salvation Army work, although she continued to support her husband's efforts. In 1904 George shifted his headquarters to Tauranga, and after making contacts with Maori at Bethlehem, Judea and Te Puke, he began work on Matakana and Rangiwaea islands, among Ngai Tuwhiwhia, Ngati Tauaiti and Te Whanau-a-Tauwhao hapu. In this he was greatly assisted by a Maori convert, Motu Hinau (Joseph McCarthy).

As a means of providing an income for Maori, in 1907 Moore established a fishing and fish-drying industry, first of all on Rangiwaea and then at Sulphur Point, where a small freezing plant was set up. The Salvation Army covered the costs of equipping the operation. He arranged an assured market in Auckland, and his old comrade Alexander Armstrong was seconded to assist him for the next two years. This enterprise, Te Ope Fish Supply Company, was sold to Sanford Limited in 1913.

George Moore became a trusted friend of the Bay of Plenty Maori. He was doctor, chemist, veterinary surgeon, sanitary inspector and farming instructor, as well as spiritual adviser. During the smallpox epidemic that spread through the Maori villages near Tauranga in 1913, Moore was seconded as a health inspector to visit the sealed-off villages. The same thing happened in the Opotiki district in 1923.

Until he retired from active service in 1929, George Moore continued to be responsible for the Salvation Army's work with Maori in the Bay of Plenty. He was promoted to major in 1922. As the holder of a first-grade interpreter's licence, he often acted as a court translator. He was a justice of the peace, a member of the Tauranga District High School committee, a founder member of the Tauranga Gun Club, and a member of the Opotiki Masonic lodge.

Ill health was a reason for his retirement from active service in the Salvation Army, but he continued to work, becoming manager of Sanford's fishmarket in Tauranga. He earned £5 per week and 10 per cent of the net profit. From 1931, when Sanford's decided that the operation was no longer viable, Moore leased the site from them and in 1942 began purchasing it in instalments. George and Catherine continued their community service and Maori welfare work. He died at Tauranga on 20 June 1947; she had predeceased him in 1945. An expert linguist and an able businessman, George Moore brought both spiritual and practical assistance to his converts.