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The General Report of the Melanesian Mission for 1906

From The Southern Cross Log, Vol. XII, No. 143, Sydney, April 10, 1907, pages 121-130.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2010

for 1906.


THE year 1906 was a fruitful and eventful year for the Mission.

I. For thirty-five years it had laboured not without danger, but without accident, without even the natural death in Melanesia itself of one of its workers. Did this mean that the hard work was done? was the age of pioneering finished? or, was the Mission resting on its oars? Young men were not offering their services in any numbers; were they feeling that there was nothing left for them to do in the islands? Young fellows love a spice of danger; did the Mission to the islands seem to have passed beyond that, and to have entered on the more prosaic age of building on foundations already laid? Perhaps it was forgotten that men may often be in danger and not speak of it; and may describe their work in dull reports, leaving out all that might seem to be blowing their own trumpets. Then Charles Christopher Godden fell in Opa, one of the safest islands in all Melanesia, and men have awoke to the fact that after all Melanesia is still a field of work calling for courage and all the manly virtues of a good Christian. Many a time Godden had said that he should like when he died to die like Patteson, He has had his wish and his death has [121/122] sent a thrill through Australia, his native country, as well as through the Church in England and New Zealand. The earthquake promises to be followed by a tidal-wave of Christian enthusiasm, and desire for Christian revenge, which shall first overwhelm Opa and the New Hebrides, and pass far on into the further islands of Melanesia. The end of the year has been marked by more offers of service from young laymen than I have ever had in a whole year previously, and by the offer and acceptance of one young clergyman, the Rev. Stanley Howard, Godden's old chum at Moore College, Sydney, to take his place at once in Opa.


Six of the best native teachers were ordained; three in Norfolk Island on Palm Sunday, and three in the islands, later on in the year; our staff of native clergy thus rising from eight to fourteen. There has never before in the Mission's history been so large a number advanced in one year to the diaconate.

It is well that we can fall back on our own people in these days when clergy of our colour are so scarce. None joined us in 1906, but we suffered the loss of the Rev. W. C. O'Ferrall and the Rev. E. S. Wayne, in addition to C. C. Godden, who was killed. Thus in one year we lost three of our white clergy against not one new man. As a consequence our white clergy are now outnumbered by their native brothers, the clerical staff consisting of thirteen white and fourteen native clergy.


We were glad to welcome three new ladies, Miss Hawkes, Miss Coombe, Miss Ollerenshaw. Against these we must place the loss of Mrs. O'Ferrall, Mrs. Wayne, Mrs. Godden and Miss Kiddy.

No new laymen joined us, but Brother Bourne was invalided home to England after two years of work under Dr. Welchman in the Solomons. The laymen are now five, and the ladies number fifteen. These with the white clergy, including the Bishop, make up the numbers of the Mission to thirty-four.


After eleven years in San Cristoval the Rev. R. P. Wilson felt himself obliged to relinquish a district which called for so much boat journeying. At first it was feared that his serious illness of the previous year had so undermined his constitution that he would be forced to leave us altogether. However, a few months at Norfolk Island brought him new strength, and he decided to ask for a post in the islands where he could do his work without the boat journeys which had so tried him. Mr. Drew took over his district in which he had already helped for some time, and the Rev. Simon Qalges, a native deacon, joined him in May.

[123] The new central school of S. Patrick's, Vureas, had only just got into full swing when most unfortunately the health of Mr. and Mrs. O'Ferrall, who were in charge, broke down, and the Rev. H. V. and Mrs. Adams had to be diverted from Motalava, where they were about to make their home, to this important station. They have now Charles Christian, a young Norfolk Islander, to help them, and thirteen small boys as a beginning of a school, and are happily engaged in preparing these for S. Barnabas, Norfolk Island.

The Torres Islands once more were given a resident priest, the Rev. W. J. Durrad, who landed in April with two Norfolk Island carpenters, Messrs. H. Bailey and C. McCoy, and put up at Loh the house which had been brought down for Mr. Adams at Motalava. Mr. Durrad stayed in his little district until September, when his health began to run down and he was ordered the change of a voyage in the Southern Cross. One result of this trip was that the large but sparsely inhabited islands of Vanikolo and Utupua were added to the Torres Islands district.

Florida, after being without a missionary for a year, was given into the Rev. J. M. Steward's charge, without his being taken altogether from his old district of Guadalcanar. This latter was left to the care of the Rev. F. Bollen under Mr. Steward's supervision. With the help of Mr. Allen Christian a very nice house was built on Bunana, the small island acquired by the Mission in 1905.

Miss Minett took Miss Hardacre's place at the ladies' station at Hogo, Florida, with Miss Kitchen, while Miss Hardacre, having Miss Hawkes to help her, opened a new ladies' station in Mr. Drummond's old home on Raga, New Hebrides.

Mr. J. C. Palmer took over Mota and stayed six weeks there at a stretch. For his father's sake as well as his own he was warmly welcomed by the people. This year the Mission will build him a new house on this island, and will, we hope, next year open here its third ladies' station, to reach the Mota and Motalava women.

Dr. Welchman began work amongst the ex-head-hunters of Vella Lavella, an island at the further end of the Diocese, two hundred miles beyond his station in Bugotu, sending Mr. Andrews to a place called Bai, on one side of Paraso Bay. Here, with the help of Bugotu teachers two schools have been opened. Mr. Andrews twice rowed round the island, and after some months found the people no longer looking rather askance at him, but inclined to receive him in a very friendly fashion. An attempt was also made at a place called Tabataba, at the further end of Choiseul, the last island of the British Protectorate. Here, however, some Wesleyan teachers from Fiji were before us, added to which our teacher, a native of Bugotu, fell sick and was unable to do any work during the four months that he spent there.

[124] In Mala there was but little change save that the island fell into an unsettled condition owing to the return of the kanakas from Queensland, and there was a revival of the old days of blood-shedding, twelve murders occurring in six weeks, in and around Mr. Hopkins' station at Norefou, North Mala. James Ivo, one of our young Florida teachers, was killed in the mission village by a returned kanaka living in the bush. In the south end, although it was the second year of Mr. Ivens' enforced absence in England, ground was not lost, I think; yet none was gained.

In Santa Cruz I spent four months myself during Mr. Nind's absence on sick leave in England; and a new place was bought in Graciosa Bay, well situated and cool, with a good stream and an excellent landing in all weathers, which Mr. Nind on his return in September decided to make his headquarters. All the villages in this large bay were visited, with good prospects of success another year. Three new schools were opened in Santa Cruz, and boys from three new villages were taken to Norfolk Island.

In the Reef Islands the school at Nukapu was re-opened, with the result that the whole population, now only forty, joined it, including the sister of Bishop Patteson's murderer. The schools at Pileni and Nifiloli were also re-opened, after having been closed for a year, giving us, with Matema (a very flourishing little school), four Christian centres in the Reefs. These, with five in Santa Cruz and two in Vanikolo, eighty miles away, but manned by Ben Teilo of Matema, give us eleven in the whole district.


A few notes on the native clergy may be interesting to those who follow closely the fortunes of the Mission, particularly in these days when the white clergy are few, and we are forced to rely more than ever on our native fellow-workers.

(i.) William Vaget, priest, works with John Palmer. The latter, a layman, depends upon the native priest for his own Communions as well as for those of this people. Vaget administers the Sacraments throughout the whole of the large South Banks district, his home being at Merelava.

(2.) Joseph Qea, deacon, a Merelava man, is leading a mission from his island in Gaua, on the weather side of Santa Maria, Banks, and, in spite of much fever to which he and his people are very liable in other islands than their own, they are doing great good. A large new village, with a very fine native church, is rising at Voto, into which the scattered school people are being gathered together.

(3.) Meshac Sisis, a Motalava native lately ordained deacon at Norfolk Island, is in charge at Lakona, on the lee side of Santa Maria, Banks, heading a mission of Motalava teachers, Unfortunately for [124/125] him and his people, Motalava is not so ready to send missionaries as it was a few years ago, and five of his village schools are without teachers. He is brave and cheerful over an uphill and discouraging work.

(4.) Benjamin Qorig, a deacon lately ordained at Norfolk Island, is now in charge at Motalava, Banks, his own island. For more than a year he had been away, and because of the absence also of a white missionary, he found his people on his return in no very satisfactory condition. He is a strong man, but he is dealing with some of the best-educated natives in Melanesia, who may not be the easiest to manage. This North Banks district is one of the gaps which most need filling by a white man at the present time.

(5.) William Qasvar, Rowa, Banks, one of Bishop Patteson's old boys, has made little Rowa a model island, and now at his own request has received deacon's orders, in order that he may work also with authority in Vanua Lava and Ureparapara.

(6.) Robert Pantutun, deacon, a native of Mota, Banks, after having worked on the Torres and other Islands, is spending the evening of his life amongst his own people.

(7.) Simon Qalges, deacon, of Ureparapara, Banks, after helping Mr. O'Ferrall to lay the foundations of the central school at Vureas, Vanua Lava, has gone to San Cristoval, in the Solomons, to help Mr. Drew and encourage the Motalava teachers working there. He is opening up work amongst some hitherto untouched people.

(8.) Clement Marau, priest, a Merelava, Banks, man, has done twenty years work in Ulawa, in the Solomons, but lately has had a good deal of trouble with his people and would, perhaps, now do better in another place. Occasionally he visits Saa and other South Mala schools, thirty miles away across the sea.

(9.) Alfred Lobu, priest, lives in his own island, Florida, otherwise Gela, in the Solomons, and has a very great influence with the people. He is old now and unable to move about, but from all parts of his island men come to him for advice. He is still able to take part in services in his own village, and the communicants of thee different parts of Florida come to him on special Sundays for Holy Communion when the white priest is away.

(10.) Reuben Bula, deacon, also lives in Florida, Solomons. He, too, is now old, but of unflagging energy. His district lies on the opposite side of Florida, most of his relations being Guadalcanar people. He has also great influence there, and uses it entirely for the furtherance of Christianity in that island.

(11.) John Pengone, a newly-ordained deacon, is a Florida man of a later generation. He has lately built a very fine stone church in his village of Vunutha, Hogo, where the ladies' station is. His work lies in his own island.

[126] (12.) Hugo Gorovaka, priest, is one of the oldest of our clergy. After beginning his ministry in Bugotu, where Bishop John Selwyn first found him, he returned to his own country, Guadalcanar, Solomons, with his brother, George Basile, and won the first opening for mission work on that great island. He has been at Maravovo, the head station there, ever since, and is now a patriarch amongst the school people who have risen up around him.

(13.) Hugo Hebala, deacon, a native of Bugotu, Ysabel, Solomons, one of Dr. Welshman's boys, was ordained last year for work in that district.

(14.) Luke Masuraa, lately ordained deacon, a native of the Maramaseke Channel, one of the wildest parts of Mala. After ten years' training at Norfolk Island and as many as a teacher at Port Adam, he is entrusted with the care of the schools at the south end of Mala, under Mr. Ivens.


With our new ship we have been able to do a good deal more work in two voyages lasting over five months than we could in the old ship in three lasting over eight. Nevertheless, we have seriously considered making three voyages a year, in order to make certain at least one annual visit to every island in the Diocese. We have decided to do this in 1907, but last year we once more tried the two voyage plan, and each time reached Vella Lavella and Choiseul, at the end of the Diocese, but, owing to want of coal, found it necessary to leave out some of the outlying islands--Sikiana Bellona, Ticopia--which we had visited the year before. It is to make sure of leaving out no islands at all that we have decided to revert to the old plan of three voyages a year. The cost of two voyages has been about £4300. A third will probably bring the annual bill for the ship up to £6000, but we shall have the satisfaction of visiting all our people.


For fifty years there was but one Mission in all the twelve hundred miles of the Diocese of Melanesia, viz., ours. Unfortunately, it was not well supplied with either men or means and it remained, as it were, a tiny stream, whilst it should have been a broad river and covered the whole. Now other streams have begun to flow in--one Roman, confined as yet to Shortlands, Guadalcanar and New Hebrides; one Wesleyan, starting in Rubiana, but now in Choiseul, and stretching towards Ongtong Java, two hundred miles to the north; one "Undenominational," the Queensland Kanaka Mission, confining itself to the Mala coasts; and one Plymouth Brethren, in a small part of Raga, New Hebrides. Compared with these the Melanesian Mission is of course by far the largest and stretches from end to end. But still the fact must be [126/127] faced that we are not alone any longer and unless the Mission is better supplied from the upper waters in Australasia and England the time will come when it will lose the advantages it now has. We have done our best to make the Mission known to the Church by publishing monthly the Southern Cross Log and by maintaining Organizing Secretaries; but the Mission does not grow as it should. It is minute for the work it has in hand. Its little staff of men and women may work ever so hard, but it cannot do more than it is now doing. The only way in which the Church can make her Mission really prosperous and successful is by increasing the number of missionaries. This sounds unpractical, and useless verbiage perhaps, in days when bishops everywhere find it almost impossible to provide clergy for their parishes. But the Mission can make good use of laymen, and there are many young laymen who want to come to us, whom we would gladly accept if the Church would admit them to her Theological Colleges and give them theological training, excusing them, if necessary, the University course. We can give them practical training when they come to us, e.g., hospital work, teaching, boating, island life, etc. But they should have a good knowledge of the Bible before they come to us that they may have a message to teach. They should understand the Prayer Book thoroughly that they may know how to take services. They should be well read in the history of the Church. It is this elementary training in theology that we cannot, for lack of time, give in the mission field, but which, if given before joining us, we can build upon by steady reading whilst engaged in mission work. The difficulty of training and preparation stands now as a wall against young laymen ready to devote their lives to Christ in the mission field, and if the Church does not break it down by opening its Colleges to missionary students I do not see how the Mission is going to hold its own Where there is one lad like Godden who finds friends amongst the clergy to send him to college and so to realize his ambition to be ordained there are probably ten turned back and lost to the ranks of the Church's ministry. They manage these things better in other bodies of Christians and their Missions prosper in consequence.


There are now in the Solomon Islands 110 white men and 25 women. The islands are a British Protectorate, extending from Choiseul and the Shortlands to Santa Cruz and as far even as Vanikolo, under a Resident living at Tulagi in Florida. Messrs. Lever Brothers, the great soap manufacturers, have in the last year or two bought up very large interests and extended trade enormously, so that two steamers call regularly now in every five weeks to carry away the copra--that is, dried cocoanut--bought [127/128] by their traders and others from the natives. There is, I believe, no grog sold to the natives, the whole quantity imported in one year being of a total value of only £732. Firearms and ammunition are not sold by the traders, but in Mala and the wilder islands their possession is extremely common, the Queensland labour-ships having driven a very profitable trade in them notwithstanding the regulations of Government to the contrary. Visits of men-o'-war have been short and rare of late years.

In the New Hebrides, including the Banks and Torres Islands, there are about 280 white men and perhaps 100 women. An arrangement was arrived at during the year by the British and French Governments by which the group was not divided, but allowed to remain as before, with improvements, under the jurisdiction of a British and a French Resident, both living at Vila.

There are nearly always two men-o'-war in the group, except in the hurricane season, and last year infractions of the law by white men and outrages by natives were summarily dealt with by them. A far larger quantity of spirits has been imported here than in the Solomons, amounting, according to the Resident's statement, to a value of £3900; and it is no secret that large quantities of gin and other intoxicating drinks have been carried, in British and French vessels, and delivered to traders, by whom they have been supplied to the natives. Captain D'Oyley, of H.M.S. Pyramus, did splendid work in overhauling ships carrying liquor contrary to the law and making them destroy their illegal cargoes. The French authorities, I was told, were equally energetic in dealing with this pernicious traffic, and the British Resident now assures us that under the new Convention the sale of gin to the natives will almost cease. Firearms are very common, although, I believe, the sale of them, except shot-guns, is forbidden. There is a three-weekly French service of steamers to Sydney, and a monthly British one.

The Queensland labour traffic ended with the year. A trade which offered men every facility for escaping with the wives of others, which kept 9000 natives in Queensland and only brought 3000 of them into touch with Christianity, which sent back the great majority bereft of all respect for white men, and supplied the island plentifully with firearms and ammunition, could not be viewed with kindly eyes by anyone who had the good of the island-people at heart. At the same time all honour be to the few in Queensland who did try to civilize and Christianize the Melanesian when he was brought to their doors. It is vain now to regret that Church-people did so much less for them than others did, the result of which is that of those who return Church-boys are few and far between, and the schools started by Queensland Christians are generally of a dissenting pattern.

[129] What will be the outcome of the cessation of the traffic under the peculiar circumstances arising out of jealousy of coloured labour in Australia it is impossible to say. In past days I often received letters from boys in Queensland begging me to come like Moses of old and lead my people out of captivity. Now that Pharoah has decided not only to let them go, but to make them go, although for the most part quite willing to do so, there are questions asked us as to the why and the wherefore which are not so easy to answer. It is generally supposed that the reason is that the white man wishes "to work for a spell," and will, after a year or two, recall the boys.

Personally, in the islands I have heard no bitterness of feeling expressed against us for the action of the Australian Government, but no doubt there must be some amongst those who wished to stay for various reasons. The people in the islands are all pleased that they are coming back. The only regret, perhaps, is amongst the young men who are sorry that the outside world is to be sealed up to them. The return will certainly cause great excitement. Those who feel bitterly will try and stir up feelings against the whites in their country, who should be treated, they will say, as they have been. Old scores will be paid off against those who had escaped from native justice, and now have been obliged to return to meet their judges. White men will certainly, I think, carry on their work under greater danger than previously. The returned labourers who have attended schools will, however, be a restraining influence on the others and will quicken the spread of Christianity. The great cocoanut and India-rubber plantations will be well manned. by pidgin-English speaking men accustomed to work hard, and, after a year or two when the excitement of the return has passed away, it will be found that the kanaka deportation from Queensland has helped forward the civilization of the islands.

It was hard for any man to see the Hand of GOD working in the labour traffic, based as it was on white men's desire to get cheap labour, let the toll of human lives, the demoralization of the natives and the depopulation of the islands be what they might. Some tried to bring good out of the evil, or to turn the evil into good, but the numbers of those really benefitted by the traffic were infinitesimal compared with those who, in the islands or Queensland, suffered irremediably by it. This trade in the souls of men had hung like a curse on the islands for fifty years and has now been cleared away, I trust, never to return. Thus, in one year, the twin evils of the liquor traffic in the New Hebrides and the Queensland labour traffic were swept away. We can see the Hand of GOD in this.


A year of Melanesia is never likely to be without many troubles and much to cause anxiety, and last year, as has been shown in [129/130] this report, we had our full share of them. Besides those already mentioned, we suffered a series of epidemics at the beginning of the year at S. Barnabas, Norfolk Island, of altogether unexampled severity, by which we lost some of our best boys and girls, and one our own little ones was taken Home. Without doubt these sorrows called out increased sympathy for the Mission and its people, and made many, who could not give themselves, open their hearts and give what they could more liberally than ever. So we were spared once more the worry of an empty exchequer, with mouths to feed and stations and teachers to supply without the money for the purpose.

All our friends who rallied to our help and comforted us in dark days we wish most heartily to thank. We thank, too, all those who, as commissaries, secretaries members of committees, collectors of money, distributors of the Southern Cross Log, workers for sales, workers of clothes for Norfolk Island, patrons of scholars, "island chiefs" or "islanders"; we are most grateful to them all. I hope they will believe that it is our great desire in the Mission to use the money well which is given and to be not unworthy of the prayers and sacrifices which are made on our behalf. Our troubles and anxieties have drawn us all more closely together. We have realized more than ever that the work is GOD'S before it is ours: that the smallest seed we sow grows into a great tree; that every work we attempt in His Name is blessed; that mistakes and weaknesses are pardoned, and failure in the long run made impossible. Thus, few in number, but with boundless confidence, we follow Him unto Whom all power is given both in Heaven and earth.

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