Maurice Warawi, software specialist whose life began with an epic sea voyage
10 November, 2017 — By Eric Gordon
MAURICE Warawi, who has died aged 71, spent much of his early years as a child on exotic sea voyages.
In the late 1940s he sailed to a South Sea island with his family, although they returned to England – by boat again – three years later to a more prosaic life in Camden.
His mother, Winifred Warawi, had got homesick for London – especially for the red routemasters buses – and had insisted on going back. Mrs Warawi, a Camden Town working class woman, was a single mother with three daughters and a son, when she met her second husband during the Second World War, a French sailor stationed in naval barracks in Regent’s Park.
When the war ended, she joined him on his return to his native island near New Maire, off New Caledonia, a French protectorate. First, the family travelled by rail to Marseilles where they boarded a ship for Panama carrying a mixed lot of passengers, including Germans, some of them suspected Nazis, fleeing from the Allies.
The voyage, via the Panama Canal, would have taken several weeks before the family reached the father’s island where he had been a chieftain before enlisting in the French navy. Mrs Warawi’s daughters took it in turns to look after Maurice, while the family, like the Swiss family Robinson, explored the island, living off the wildlife as shown by the father. But by the time Maurice was four years of age his mother surrendered to her homesick yearning for London and back the family went, again via Panama and a long sea voyage.
On their return, Maurice took some time to adjust because he could only speak French. Post-war conditions were harsh in London, and Mrs Warawi reluctantly realised she had to put Maurice into care in a St Bernardo’s home at the age of five. On leaving St Bernardo’s at 14, he returned to his mother’s home on Regent’s Park estate in Camden Town and lived through troubled teenage years like many others on the estate.
He applied himself and worked first for a travel agency in the 1960s and then for a photographic laboratory in St Pancras Way, Camden Town. Later, he helped to develop specialist software for use by architects, until his retirement three years ago. He died at a sheltered home in east London.
Maurice had a son, Paul, by his first wife, Jacqueline Hampton, who became a Labour councillor in Hackney, and then Mark by his second wife Evelyn.