by JAMES van SCHIE
When Bishop Pompallier first arrived in New Zealand in 1838, he was treated to some typical Irish hospitality, courtesy of the Poyntons. It was this warm Irish welcome that was celebrated recently when the first ambassador of Ireland to Aotearoa New Zealand, Peter Ryan, visited the grave site of Mary and Thomas Poynton in Bayswater on Auckland’s North Shore on May 29. Mr Ryan was joined by representatives of the Sisters of Mercy, the Marist Fathers, the Auckland diocese, local council, a member of Parliament and others with links to Irish heritage to mark the occasion.
Msgr Bernard Kiely, Auckland diocese vicar-general, led the blessing and spoke about the importance of this Irish Catholic “keystone” couple. He noted that the Catholic faith in this country has its roots in the domestic Church evident in the home of this Irish family. Thomas Poynton has been described as “Pompallier’s protector”, and this was evident from the Pompallier journal entry read by
Sr Mary Neven, RSM: “He [Poynton] willingly gave up to me the best of his wooden houses and undertook to build one for me.”
Mr Ryan was joined by the embassy’s deputy head of mission, Faran Foley, at the gathering. Both expressed their gratitude for being invited to this place where such significant Irish settlers lay. The gravestones were then blessed with water from New Zealand and water from Ireland — symbolic of the two “homes” of the Poyntons. The ambassasdor also noted that the Ireland the Poyntons had left behind was one in which it was not easy for them to practise their Catholic faith. He honoured their strength and perseverance in bringing their faith across the seas with them, and the way in which they have
contributed to New Zealand. Mr Ryan concluded the gathering by reading the Irish Blessing and placing some flowers on the grave site.
Those gathered also shared stories and memories of their Irish heritage, and Fr Chris Skinner, SM, led the group in song — in Gaelic, English and Te
Reo Māori. Fittingly, despite the morning being cold and windy, as the small group sang, the sun came out and “shone warm upon” the faces present.
Mary and Thomas Poynton’s graves can be found at O’Neill’s Point Cemetery, 122 Bayswater Ave, Bayswater.