An Hawaiian doctor in St Leonards on Sea

37 Pevensey Road

I was looking for someone in the 1901 census when I came across an unusual household at 37 Pevensey Road, St Leonards on Sea.

Matthew Makalua, age 35, surgeon, born Hawaiian Islands, Hawaiian subject, was married to wife Annie, 39, born Oxfordshire, with his son James, 10, born London. There was also a visitor and two servants.

I was astonished to find an Hawaiian. I looked for more on him, which was easy with such an unusual name (he is mentioned numerous times in the local newspaper). I was not, however, astonished to find three errors in that census return: he was not Hawaiian but American, as the USA had annexed Hawaii in 1898; his wife was actually 45 (her baptism states that she was born October 31st 1855, and she was clearly embarrassed by the age difference); and their son was Matthew, not James (which was his middle name). This shows that information in census and other records should be treated with caution.

Despite being a foreigner, he appears from 1900 on electoral rolls as a Parliamentary voter. His full name was Matthew Puakahakoililanimanui Makalua, and he was born in 1867 on the island of Maui, Hawaii.

As part of a programme to improve the health of the islands, he was one of three teenaged boys escorted to England to study in 1882. The idea was that he would get a medical qualification and return, but he never did so. This may be because he was a cousin of the Hawaiian Queen, and a coup had replaced her and her husband while he was away, and he may have anticipated problems. He went to a preparatory school, St Chads, and then obtained a degree at King’s College, London, in 1892, and became an MRCS the same year.

He had already married, 27 August 1888, Brompton Oratory, London, Annie Clementina Dewar, and their only child Matthew was born in 1890 in Kensington. In the 1891 census they were in a flat at 5 Sussex Place, Kensington, he a medical student, 25, with wife Annie, 31 (actually 35), an 8-month-old Matthew, a Dewar sister in law, and two servants. Not many medical students could have afforded two servants.

The 1895 medical directory lists him at 24 Magdalen Road, St Leonards. The Hastings Observer had earlier reported, 16 June 1894, the shocking suicide by jumping from an upstairs window of Percy Ainslie at that address, where he had been under the care of “Dr Makalua”. This is his first mention in the local newspaper. The annual Pike’s directory for Hastings and St Leonards lists him there from 1895 to 1898, with a Mrs Munn there instead in 1894 and 1899, suggesting she let it to Makalua. In 1899 he was at 37 Pevensey Road.

Matthew’s father in law David Erskine Dewar died in 1906 at 99 London Road, St Leonards. He had been an Anglican clergyman from 1852, but became a Roman Catholic in 1866, although he did not become a Catholic priest until 1889. 

In the 1911 census Makalua was again at 37 Pevensey Road. He stated that he was an American. Their son was a musical student, aged 20. Again they had a visitor and two servants.

Makalua became a naturalised subject in 1915 from his American citizenship. In the 1921 census he and his wife were again at 37 Pevensey Road, with two servants, in the 10-roomed house. Annie claimed to be 56, when she was 65. Their son was in Brighton with his wife, employed in the Benzine Department of the Asiatic Petroleum Company, and a Major in the Reserve of Officers.

His wife died 5 November 1927 in St Leonards, allegedly at the age of 70, but actually age 72.  

He died on the 31 December 1928, aged 61. The Hastings Observer, 5 January 1929, has a warm obituary, which begins “A popular and highly esteemed member of the medical profession, Dr M. Makalua, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., died on Tuesday at 30 Warrior-square. He was noted for his philanthropy, and both he and his wife, who died 14 months ago, were intensely interested in all work for the poor.” He had apparently moved to Warrior Square after his wife’s death, as he is only listed there in the 1928 electoral register. The obituary states that he was Medical Officer of the LGOC Convalescent Home, Caple ne Fearne, Albany Road, and that he was the “originator of the scheme for the Druids’ Tinfoil Cot in the Royal East Sussex Hospital.”

After an Anglican funeral at St Mary Magdalen, Makalua was buried in Hastings Cemetery.

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