Peter Maxtone Graham
b.1927 - d.1963
(Papua New Guinea)
(Coffee Planter)
(photo 1940)
m1 - Gol Mugap
Son - Mungo Maxtone-Graham

m.1986 - Ann Kiss

Children - Peter Maxtone-Graham, Abby Maxtone-Graham, Zoe Maxtone-Graham

m2 - Nun Wiam
Daughter - Barbara Maxtone-Graham
Our Maxtone-Graham story
2001 Mungo and Ann Maxtone-Graham

In 1948 a British planter, Peter Maxtone-Graham, arrived in what was then the Territory of Papua New Guinea, administered by the Commonwealth Government of Australia. By 1949, Peter was planting coffee in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

The Highlands had been discovered in 1934 by gold prospectors - the brothers Michael and Daniel Leahy - accompanied by Patrol Officer James Taylor. Over a million people who had no previous contact with the outside world, living in constant fear of attacks by tribal enemies, were in awe of the white men who brought trading items with them such as steel axes, highly prized Kina and Cowrie shell and a wooden stick that, when pointed, let out a deafening sound and immediately despatched whatever the target was within its sights with ferocious effeciency. These things were magical compared to stone axes and bows and arrows. These white men were regarded as spirits from another world.

Settlement in the biggest of the highland valleys - the Waghi - did not occur until after the second World War. Gol Mugap's father, Kimen, witnessed the coming of the white man and saw that they had powers they never thought possible: aeroplanes, cars, salt - a highly sought after commodity. When taken to the coast and tasting salt water he told all in the village that as far as the eye could see there was salt everywhere.

The Australians had, by the end of World War II, pacified the people of the highlands. They were building roads, airstrips, developing land sold to the Administration by the people, planting coffee, tea, farming pigs, sheep and cattle. There was peace and harmony. Disputes were settled by the white man, his word was gospel. There were jobs developing, land for these farmers and getting paid in Kina Shell, which traditionally took years to aquire through the village trade from the coastal people. Kina was worth more than the funny round coins they tried to give the people.

Peter Maxtone-Graham then found a portion of land at Minj in the Waghi Valley that he thought suitable for growing coffee. After the formal procedures and applications through the Administration were complete, he set about the task of developing the coffee plantation. In 1950 there were only a handful of expatriate planters in the region and most of them, with the exception of Peter Maxtone-Graham, had had little experience in growing coffee or tea. It was a close-knit community where everyone helped each other and Peter was in great demand to assist where ever possible.

By 1954 Kimen's daughter, Gol, was an aspiring fourteen-year-old village girl who was ready to be betrothed to a clan member from a neighbouring clan. Marriages were arranged with neighbouring clans to keep the peace and ensure harmony with neighbours. Girls were sold for Bride Price, payment being in the form of Kina shell and pigs. When Peter Maxtone-Graham, through his head labourer, sought out Gol, Kimen could not believe his luck. "Here was one of these white men wanting my daughter as his wife. This gives me, us - the village - an 'in' with these strange but powerful people". Payment was exchanged: 4 axes, 3 pigs, some tobacco, salt and a handful of Kina shells.

In 1955, a son was born. He was named Mungo - so named after the Scottish side of the family Peter had left behind. But in 1960, Gol, much to Kimen's displeasure, didn't want the ways of the white man and returned to the village which she missed. Mungo stayed with his father on the coffee plantation which had been successfully developed and, in 1962, Peter married again - a missionary-educated woman named Nun.

In April 1963, tragedy struck. While Nun was carrying their first child, Peter was drowned whilst duck shooting in the Waghi River. They were in a light skiff. He was accompanied by a friend - who managed to make shore and get help - and by Mungo, whom he carried downstream and put ashore on a bank. Meanwhile, Peter continued downstream to recover the skiff; however he never returned. His body was found two days later by his fellow planters. He had lost a life whilst saving a life.

In that same year, in Wellington, N.S.W., Australia, Peter and Carlie Kiss had a daughter named Caroline Ann, their second child. Ann, as she became known, grew up to the country life and attended school in Sydney. In 1983 she attended Orange Agricultural College, and travelled to the Highlands of Papua New Guinea (which had achieved its independence in 1975) to do some practical work on a coffee plantation in between her semesters at college. Ann married Mungo in 1986 (no bride price!) and settled in Papua New Guinea, raising three children.