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A Tribute to the Reverend Canon C. E. Fox, M.A., D.Litt., M.B.E.

By John Wallace Chisholm.

Broadcast on Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service, 13 March 1973.

[From Anglican Church of Melanesia archives, Honiara, Solomon Islands]

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2009

BY THE BISHOP OF MELANESIA [John Wallace Chisholm]

BROADCAST Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service, 13th March 1973.

In many places in Melanesia hearts will be sad, for their great friend Dr. Fox has decided, much against our wishes, to return to New Zealand and he leaves Honiara tomorrow. He has been here so long--over 70 years--he has thousands of friends, many of whom write to him regularly, and everyone has looked on him as part of Melanesia. This was his home since 1903--this is where he has wanted to live--and even though people thought him a fool when he first came to Melanesia, because of his health and because of his keen brain, which could have gained for him high posts in any University. In 1900 he obtained First Class Honours in the University of New Zealand in the sciences, and also First Class Honours in Theology. He obtained by examination his Doctorate in Literature in 1917--a fitting reward for the amazing collection of writings and translations which he has produced in Melanesia.

Charles Elliot Fox was born in Dorset, England in 1878 and migrated to New Zealand with his parents at the age of five. His father was a great Hebrew Scholar and became the Vicar of Gisborne--but because Charles was so delicate he did not go to school until he was fourteen, and while at the Napier High School he often walked to Wellington and back to keep fit. He was a great cricketer, soccer and chess player and a shell collector--and he has always kept up a lively interest in these hobbies and is still a keen reader of each edition of the Cricketer.

In 1902 he went as assistant master to the famous St.Barnabas School for Melanesians at Norfolk Island which was founded by Bishop Patteson in 1865. He was ordained the following year and later became responsible for establishing three other schools in the Islands--Pawa, Pamua and Alangaula, and later the Catechist College at Kohimarama. During his time an Priest in charge of San Cristobal he was adopted into the Arosi tribe and exchanged names with the young chief, and lived as a member of his household, taking part in the everyday work of the village people and acquiring a unique knowledge of the Arosi customs and language which resulted in the publication of his Arosi Dictionary. It was at this time, -that partly on account of his small stature, he was given the nickname Kakamora--the name of a mischievous sprite believed to live in the Islands. In 1933 he joined the Religious Order of the Melanesian Brotherhood, and accepted their rule and way of life, and he was living with the Brothers on Malaita when the last world war caught up with him, forcing him to remain in hiding throughout the Japanese occupation.

He is a remarkable man in every way--although old he is for ever young--small of stature but big in thought--never accepting a high position of authority even though it was offered several times, and yet having an authority and mana unique in the Islands. He is indeed a sprite--and he has never been afraid to criticise those in authority in Church and Government.

This is probably the reason why he has never received any high honour from Her Majesty's Government apart from the M.B.E.--a very small honour for one so great. He criticised only in order to stimulate us to more careful thinking and concern for the people of Melanesia. He has always thought as one of them and enjoy their love and respect--and indeed reverence--for they look on him as a holy man who has supernatural powers, and as one who is able to go a long way in solving their problems and difficulties. Hardly a day passes without a special request for prayers coming to him from people all over the Islands, and these letters have always been answered in that amazing handwriting of his, and in the language of the person who has sent the letter.

Seventy years is a long time to serve as a missionary--surely a world record! And indeed Dr. Fox is a world figure not only for his missionary endeavour--but also because of his scholarship which has won him acclaim everywhere. What changes he has seen in this Diocese as he worked during the regimes of eight Bishops! What changes he has seen in the country in Government and Commerce and the way of life of Melanesia! He has often told us stories of earlier days in the Islands--and we could not help but admire his courage and zeal as he trudged through the bush or sailed his whale boat and lived as one of people--working for some years as a labourer on a plantation so that he could get to know the conditions of the men. He has never ceased to praise the courtesy and kindliness of Melanesians and it has always been his great desire that all should come to know the Christian Faith and understand it as Melanesians. He has an uncanny insight into Melanesian thought forms and that is why we value so much his translations of the Liturgy and the Prayer Book into Modern English--they are based on a scholarly knowledge of Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and yet expressed in a way that is meaningful to Melanesians. His work as Editor of the Melanesian Messenger since 1910 will long be remembered as he tried to get Melanesians to express their own views rather than reproduce material gleaned from other countries. This desire has been fulfilled in the publication of Kakamora Reporter--a paper written by Melanesians for Melanesians. Above all, he has been ever ready to listen and learn and read--for he is a voracious reader of books new and old, and he has always kept abreast of the times in world events and world thought.

And now he has decided to leave us so that he can be near the members of his family in New Zealand--and he goes with our love and beat wishes. He will never be forgotten and I hope many of you will continue to write to him in his new home in New Zealand. He is going away--but his spirit will stay with us--the spirit of Priest, Scholar, linguist, writer, translator, sportsman and friend--but above all KAKAMORA--and because he is all these things he will live still in Melanesia to inspire us in the days to come. Let us not be sad that he is
going--but full of thanks to God for this great and wonderful man--faithful Kakamora in Melanesia.

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