Bellwood, James Charles (MBE)

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Also known as James Charles Robertson
Ngai Tahu (New Zealand Maori) teacher and coach

Bellwood was born James Charles Robertson to an unmarried Maori woman and a European salesman. He was fostered or adopted by the Bellwood family of Christchurch, who emotionally and physically abused him until he ran away at age 14. The experience made him totally self-reliant and disciplined for the rest of his life.

He worked as a farm laborer and sometimes was homeless. In 1938 he had a baby by a young woman and they lived together until he volunteered for the Army in 1940. He was taken prisoner and spent three years as a POW in Greece before escaping and being rehabilitated in a British hospital.

 After the war he studied at Loughborough College, Leicester, England, married an Estonian woman, Emilie Tökke, and returned to New Zealand in 1947. He went into the civil service and his wife became a college lecturer in Dunedin. He later became a university professor of physical education and athletics coach, training a number of famous New Zealand athletes, until he resigned in disgust after learning that one of his athletes had been using performance-enhancing drugs. In 1984 he was awarded an MBE for services to sports. After his wife died in 1987 his health began to deteriorate, and he died in a war veterans' home in Auckland.


Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Also available at:


Polynesian, Melanesian
New Zealand
Uk/great Britain
20th Century
Education, Teaching, Libraries
Criminal Convictions, Imprisonment
Multiple or Unspecified
Homelessness, Drifting
Formal, American/European-Type Adoption
Unmarried Mother, Single Parent (Mother or Father) Unable to Cope
Others ("Strangers")
Street Children, Children Who Grew up Without Adult Supervision (at Least Temporarily), or Ran Away
Unmarried Mother
Related Topics
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