Project Canterbury

General Report of the Melanesian Mission for 1907

Supplement to the "Southern Cross Log", April 11th, 1908.

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



Melanesian Mission

FOR 1907.


"My sole experience of the work of this Mission has been in the New Hebrides, and previous to this experience I was not in sympathy with the Missionary. . . . . . I have come to the conclusion that the Missionary in the Southern Seas is the greatest asset to civilization that we have."--Captain D'Oyley, R.N., late Commander of H.M.S. Pegasus, speaking at the Annual Meeting of the Melanesian Mission last November.

I. The two Traffics: Labour and Liquor.

THE year 1907 will be memorable for the Return from Queensland of the Melanesian Labourers, or "Kanakas," to their homes, and the cessation of the Queensland Labour Traffic. The first duty of the Mission during the year was to such of these nine thousand "returns" as belonged to our Diocese, and every effort was made to fit them into their new surroundings; to avert the evils that were to be feared when so many half-civilized natives came back from a land where the arm of the law was strong, to one where it was weak (many of them probably with a grievance against the white man for having cast them out and closed the door for ever against their return); and to reap the benefit of large numbers of Christian boys from Mission Schools in Australia, who might give valuable help to existing Christian centres, or open up new ones in heathen places. S. Paul found an Aquila and a Priscilla amongst the Jews whom Claudius deported from Rome. Who could tell that we       might not find such amongst these?

In a few months Messrs. Burns, Philp's steamers finished their work, and the face of the Islands was temporarily changed. Everywhere were seen men and women in European clothes, the men with thick boots, black hats, and blue serge clothing, the [1/2] women with gorgeous head decorations, and dainty shoes, very unsuitable for reef-walking. "English" was heard wherever one went. Questions were rife throughout Melanesia as to the price the white men had given for their land in the islands: the Brisbane land fetched so much a foot; had they here received as much? If not, let them measure it as they had seen men measuring land in their late home, and if the white man refused to increase his price ten or a hundredfold, let the Governor be written to. Money was very plentiful, and a few sticks of tobacco for a day's work, or half-a-crown a week for a boat's crew, was no longer sufficient. Daily Prayers in Church did not meet with the approval of the Queenslanders, nor did prayer in their own languages. Even boys from Church schools in Queensland were anxious at first to build churches where they could use the English Prayer-book instead of their own. As usual, nearly all the "returns" were ill for some months after landing, owing to the change of food and climate.

I do not think that any of us found an Aquila,--certainly there was no Priscilla. But there were many truly earnest Christians amongst them for all that, who, though they may not teach in the schools, will make their influence felt in the villages by their lives. In Mala, where the heathen element is very strong, and the bush men dangerous, the Christians who returned broke up almost at once what was to have been a large Settlement for Christian "Kanakas," because of the pressure of the heathen bushmen, and scattered, settling mostly in Mission villages. In all other islands the Christian "returns" suffered no risks on account of their faith, but settled quietly in their homes, building houses, making gardens, taking to themselves wives, and joining in worship on Sundays. I did not hear of ill-usage offered to the "Kanakas" anywhere. Nor, strange to say, did I hear one "Kanaka" regret having returned, or say one word against the white men for deporting him. The Deportation was a most popular event in the Islands; and although it caused in Mala much excitement, and with that, of course, bloodshed, yet Mr. Hopkins, on leaving one of the wildest parts of it, was able to feel less anxious about his little flock at NoreFou than he had ever been before. In other islands it made little or no difference at all.

It was natural that men with such a flow of "English," such clothes and boots, such knowledge of "white" manners and customs, and such command of money should have been felt to be rather overpowering by their simple, stay-at-home friends, and for a time they were the most important people in their islands. I came across two men in the Banks who were sadly vexing our teachers by claiming to have been ordained in Queensland, and therefore as having the right to officiate. One of them pointed to his long black coat, and two letters in long envelopes as proofs of his Orders. [4/5] The coat he said was a cassock, but the people said it was a macintosh. The letters he would not allow them to see, nor would he let me until I had been with him some time. Then he brought them to me: one turned out to be an official letter from an immigration agent saying where his brother might be found, and the other was a receipt for income tax!

The other "clergyman" was much more troublesome, for he had prophesied a flood which would destroy everyone in Vanua Lava, and nearly everyone seemed to believe him. He also put it about that "the Americans" were coming to turn the Britishers out of Australia and these islands. He was a priest, he said, and the Bishop would, when he came, give him his rightful position. As I moved down the coast towards his village, he gave out that I was dead, and this was another bishop who was coming. He promised to prove what he said by calling the new bishop by his name on his arrival. One day I met him with a band of followers. He came up to me, shook my hand, and called me Bishop Q. "Oh no, no," he said, "you are not Bishop Wilson, he is dead; you are Bishop Q." He took my own photograph out of his pocket and held it up, and said, "This was Bishop Wilson, and you are certainly not this one!" I argued for my identity for ten minutes before these people, nearly all of whom I had myself baptized, and whom I had seen repeatedly since, and I managed to persuade many that I was myself, but not all, and these retired, saying, "He is not he," and soon afterwards set to work to build a church for their "priest."

Of course the Return has enormously added to the strength of the pidgin-English undenominational Missions which have lately come to the Islands, for the great majority of the Christianized boys, in the Solomons at any rate, had attended non-Church schools in Queensland. On the other hand, the Florida, Torres, and Banks Islanders having been Church boys before they went, attended Church schools only if any, and have come back to swell our numbers considerably. This large increase in the strength of the Australian Undenominational Missions in the more populous parts of Melanesia seemed to make it necessary for us to reconsider our policy of throwing out a Bugotu mission into the sparsely  populated islands of the further Solomons, where in the last few years a strong Wesleyan Mission had already largely occupied the ground. It seemed better to fill up the gaps in Bugotu, Savo, and Guadalcanar, and supply teachers where they were being asked for there, than to maintain an ill-supplied Mission in Vella Lavella. For this, therefore, and other reasons, Mr. Andrews and his teachers were (temporarily) withdrawn, and Kia at the further end of Ysabel became once more our furthest outpost.

[6] The Anglo-French Convention for the New Hebrides was not signed until the end of the year, and pending its signature the sale of Liquor to the natives in the southern islands of that group was greater than ever. Our island of Opa was, according to Commander D'Oyley, "the hot-bed of the gin trade, and liquor was poured into it from all sources." "The settlers," he wrote in his report, "who are almost all French, make their living by the sale of gin and firearms to the natives." Besides the liquor imported here, there were said to be three stills for the local manufacture of "grog." In Ambrym, close by, I was told by the Presbyterian missionary, Dr. Bowie, that on May 18th there were landed at one trader's store 160 cases of this poison, and 200 cases more within the next two months. Patients with delirium tremens and other complaints due to alcoholic poisoning were constantly being dealt with at the New Hebrides Hospital, and accidents and deaths by gun-shot wounds caused by drunken natives were very common.

Happily, except in Opa, our natives escaped this abominable traffic. We saw no grog, grog-drinking, nor drunken men in any of our islands. It seemed to be confined to those further south in the Group, where white settlers are more numerous, and the islands more easily reached by small vessels.

However, it must be borne in mind that Melanesia is no longer the out-of-the-world place that it once was, and that our natives are now exposed to all the temptations incident to the growth of trade.

II. Work done.

I spent the first five months of the year in New Zealand and Australia, to attend the Triennial Session of the General Synod in the former, and to preach and lecture in the latter after an absence (except in passing through) of seven years.

The Meeting of the Synod was a fruitful one for the Mission, for besides passing a resolution "recognizing the responsibility of the New Zealand Church to support the Melanesian Mission as a primary duty,"it decided, as a practical answer to my appeal for help in the training and education of young men who offered for island-work, to set aside a part of the new buildings which the General Synod resolved to add to S. John's College, Auckland, to be a "Patteson Wing," for the use of students preparing for Melanesia. One of our greatest needs was thus most happily provided for.

Our friends in Australia filled up the two months I had given them to the full. It was a very happy time for me, and I am sure did the Mission good. One could not help having thoughts during such a tour, and some of them will not be out of place in this Report.

[7] 1. Support of Missions should be organized and worked from the top downwards, and not from the bottom upwards. The Bishop of a diocese should know more about the Missions of the Church than anyone else in the diocese, as he does about all the other work and organization. He should persuade his synod that the diocese that is non-missionary is a diocese in decay, and that missions are not a fad, nor a work of supererogation. The Synod should fix a Foreign Missionary Sunday in the year for Missions connected with the Australian Church, and see that it be kept. The clergy should persuade the people; and the people might form Associations, "islands," "rings," "bees," or parties for helping forward the Missions.

Exactly the opposite, however, in Australia seems to be the course that is followed. They are worked from below. The Bishop or missionary from the foreign field is allowed to come when he can, and address the associations, etc., comprising the really keen people. Many of the clergy will have none of him, and do not regard his Mission as any business of theirs. The Synod has other things thought to be more important to deal with. The Bishop is friendly and sympathetic; he knows a great deal about the history of the Missions of the Church, but too often forgets to mention them in his Synod address.

In fact" Missions" appear to be our work, and that of a few keen supporters in each place, and not the work of the Dioceses at all. Which seems all wrong.

2. As the Dioceses do not make Missions a primary duty, private persons, full of zeal and resolved that missionary work amongst the heathen shall nevertheless be undertaken, form associations, and open up work in different parts of the world. Then when some missionary from Melanesia or New Guinea comes, he finds the interest of the majority of the Church people diverted and absorbed in a Mission to China or India. He asks the clergy for collections in the Churches, and he is told that they support each its "own missionary" in far lands, and it is impossible to do anything for the Missions nearer home. He asks for crumbs, and is told that the private associations will give him their prayers. He says no more; S. James' answer is sufficient. "Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?" (James ii, 16).

It is excellent that so much more is being done for the evangelization of the world than formerly, and we rejoice to see Australia sending the Gospel to India and China; but it is not right to shut up the churches against the appeals of the people in the Islands and New Guinea; that surely is dictated by party-spirit and not by the love of Christ.

[8] 3. If I may say so, I do not think the friends we have sufficiently "boom" us when we do come. I am quite sure that a great deal more money would have come in at once, and more good done permanently, if large halls had been taken for the meetings, and they had been well-advertized. There are people enough who have no faith in Missions, without our appearing to have none ourselves.

4. I came to see the extreme usefulness of the S. Barnabas Association in gathering together all the scattered units who pity those who sit in darkness in the Islands, and would help them. The subscription should be as small as possible, and the chief rule that· members should pray for the Mission and people. They should buy the Southern Cross Log, and know what is going on. There is no reason why they should not join similar associations for other Missions.

During the early part of the year the Rev. A. I. Hopkins also was in Australia seeing the "Kanakas," and giving them information on the eve of their return. A report of his work in Queensland has already appeared in the Log (March), and I need not repeat what he has said. He returned to Mala in one of the "Kanaka" ships, having ten "boys" from the Selwyn Mission School with him who had promised to teach, and in June Mr. Sage, the missioner at that school, followed him.

Steady work has gone on at Norfolk Island, and the fruits of it are plainly seen there. Never did the station and farm look so well, or so well-cared-for. And the same may be said for the boys and girls. Without doubt they have made great progress in their studies, and I think also in other ways.

In the Islands we have had twenty-two members of the Staff at work, a larger number than ever before, but of course quite insufficient. Dr. Welchman in Bugotu presented 166 candidates for Confirmation on my arrival. Mr. Hopkins, who also had had two or three years with only a short break amongst his people, presented seven. Mr. Sage came in June, and cheered up the people at Fiu (Mala), and improved the Church and Services. Mr. Bollen and Hugo Gorovaka carried on the school at Maravovo (Guadalcanar), and opened up new work down the coast. I confirmed nine people on the opposite side of the island, at Tasimboko. Mr. Drew carried on Mr. Wilson's work in San Cristoval, and presented the first-fruits of Tawatana for Baptism. Mr. Steward had had but a year in Florida, and had decided to present no one for Confirmation. Mr. Ivens built a house at Ulawa, and Mrs. Ivens joined him.

[9] Mr. Nind spent seven months in Santa Cruz and the Reefs, and helped Mr. Allen Christian to build a house at Namu in Graciosa Bay. Mr. Durrad went back to the Torres in July after helping at Norfolk Island. There were seventeen of his people for Confirmation at Toga. Mr. and Mrs. Adams were all the year at S. Patrick's, Vureas, in the Banks, with some small boys, the nucleus of a Central School. The station showed care, and looked very well. Mr. Charlie Christian is helping here. I spent two months myself in Motalava and the Northern Banks, as we had no one else to put there, and found the new deacons working hard. Mr. Palmer was in the Southern Banks, and built (Allen Christian helping him) a new house at Mota. Mr. Stanley Howard joined us in March, and went to Opa in April to take up the late Mr. Godden's work. Mr. Drummond was ordained priest in June, and returned to Raga in July, where he built (Mr. Christian helping him also) a very nice house at Steep Cliff Bay.

Our New Hebrides Women's Station under Miss Hardacre has been open all the year, and that under Miss Kitchen in the Solomons the greater part of it. A very great deal of good work has been done at each of them. We have by them got into real touch with some of the women, and learnt how very ignorant we had been of their true condition and needs. It has not been altogether pleasant to have our eyes opened, but we could never have helped them without. I am most thankful for the work of these stations, believing as I do that very great good will come of them. The ladies teach daily in the morning school, and hold large classes for women later in the day. They teach sewing and cutting-out, and give medicine and advice to the sick. They visit the villages near the station on foot, and occasionally reach those at a distance.

The school at Tikopia was reopened after two years to the great joy of the people. That at Vanikolo also began again after a few months' closure owing to the return of the school people to their real home in Utupua.

Three voyages were made by the Southern Cross in the hope of reaching everyone of our islands. The extra voyage was useful in enabling us to carry down the timber for, and build, four houses instead of two, and it helped in other ways; but we did not carry out all that we had intended, and the extra cost to the Mission (£1600) threw us seriously into debt .

Two delegates of the Maori Mission in New Zealand, the Revs. H. A. Hawkins and Honi Papahia, came with us on the third voyage in order to make themselves acquainted with our Polynesian Islands, with a view to opening evangelistic work by [9/10] Maoris in them. They were greatly interested in Bellona, the Reef Islands, and Tikopia, and issued a favourable report, which will we hope be acted on. Mr. R. G. Coates, our Organizing Secretary in New Zealand, revisited the Islands, and our new Organizing Secretary in Australia, the Rev. C. E. Curtis, came all round before beginning his work.

The Rev. H. N. Drummond and the Rev. F. Bollen were ordained priests. Two more natives, both from Florida, began to study for the Diaconate at Norfolk Island.

It is natural to look for fruits of the Mission's work, and I think each of us could show some. First and foremost is the wonderful readiness of many of our teachers to leave their homes and go anywhere to teach. Especially striking was the longing of the Ra men to go back to Tikopia, although it meant not loss of home only, but loss of their goods through the dishonesty of these people. The desire for a more Christian life was shown at Rowa, where· every Saturday the people met in the school, and stood up publicly, and confessed their sins during the week. The reduction of suqe customs to a one-day feast in Motalava, and the cleaning up of all the villages; the revival of Christian living in Gaua; the desire for books in Florida and the Reef Islands; the whole of the martyr-isle Nukapu schooling, and many preparing for Baptism; Lauka, an unbaptized girl from Norfolk Island, teaching all the women and girls at Matema; the indignation of the Motalava men with a chief who was practising witchcraft to bring rain, and with a man and woman living an evil life;--these are matters which came under my personal observation, and I could add to them as many more, and doubtless others could the same.

III. The Outlook.

There are still worlds for the Mission to conquer within our line of islands from Ysabel to Raga. Still, Santa Anna, Santa Catalina, five Reef islands, Sikaiana, Bellona, Rennell, and the Duff Group know us not, except as they have seen us on a passing visit. Guadalcanar, Savo, Mala, and San Cristoval are still largely heathen. And everywhere the Church needs edification, the hardest task of all amongst a race like this.

Other Missions are in our field, but they do not in any way relieve us of our responsibility, or lighten our task; for whilst we rejoice that Christ should be preached, yet we believe that the people need not only simple Evangelical truth, but Apostolic order and teaching also, which will bind together into a. strong Church of living Christians all those who believe,--a Kingdom of GOD able to oppose an united front against the serried ranks of heathendom.

[11] Meanwhile, whilst other Missions are coming, our staff of missionaries is growing, though not so quickly as we would have it. Mr. Godden's death aroused the sympathy of large numbers of young men, and we had more than forty offers of service. Of those who offered themselves we accepted at once the Rev. Stanley Howard, the Rev. F. H. and Mrs. Petrie, Messrs. Moir, Reischer, and Sage. Besides these, our Staff was enormously strengthened by the return to Norfolk Island of the Rev. C. E. Fox. Five young men were accepted and sent to College at the Mission's expense, and two more (the Rev. H. Sprot and Mr. W. Sage) with the hope of joining us at an early date. Besides these, three ladies were accepted, to join us at Easter this year. Against this growth of our numbers, we have to put the loss of the Rev. C. W. Howard, and Messrs. J. H. Staples and O. Reischer.

Two of the oldest friends of the Mission, both closely identified with it from its beginning, Mrs. Selwyn, the widow of its founder, and the Ven. Archdeacon Samuel Williams, its most munificent benefactor, passed to their rest full of years and honours. The Mission was orphaned by the loss of them. "I would rather see you with a deficit than a balance;" "Go ahead, and send me the bill," were common sayings of the Archdeacon when from time to time we talked together over the needs of the Mission. It was not surprising that when he died we missed the strong prop upon which we had so often leaned, and fell into financial difficulties.

The situation was only temporarily relieved by Mr. W. T. Williams giving a guarantee to the Bank for £2000, enabling us to borrow money at five per cent. so as to go on, and we seemed likely to end the year with a heavy deficit. It must be remembered that we are not now in the position that we have long been in, of having a rich friend to help us out of our difficulties, and we must either reduce our expenses, or find new subscribers to the Mission's General Fund to make up for our loss. It is the greatest mistake to think that ours is "a rich Mission." Our endowments are not large; we very rarely receive a legacy; and our subscriptions are largely made up of the shillings and half-crowns of the poor. It is still more absurd to say that we are an "aristocratic" one, for in our experience "not many mighty, not many noble are called." Nor are we a "party-mission," unless being loyal to the Prayer-book, and as wide as the Prayer-book, makes us so.

We are the Church's Mission to the Islands of the Sea; but our numbers are few and, humanly speaking, inadequate; we are taken from the "foolish" and "weak things of the world," chosen "to confound the things that are mighty;" the field in which we work is immense, and the people longing to have the Gospel of Christ's love presented to them; our doors are open to men of all parties in the Church, and we ask for liberal contributions from [11/12] all parties. With us parties do not exist, but we have one heart and one mind, and so "strive together for the Faith of the Gospel." And as we ask for men and money from all parties, so we ask for the prayers of all, and specially that the Spirit from on high may descend on us all, and on the infant Church in the Islands, that the strength of each may be as the strength of ten, because all are indwe1t by the Holy Ghost.

When Bishop Patteson was killed at Nukapu, one of the native clergy, George Sarawia, travelled about in his boat from island to island, reassuring the people and telling them, --"This work is not man's, but GOD'S, and therefore it cannot cease with the Bishop's death." Thirty-six years have gone by since that time, and the work has never ceased. During those years the character of the Islands has been completely changed through it. But there is still a great deal to be done, and it is still GOD'S work and not man's. He can do it by many or by few. Our duty is simply to put ourselves at His Service, and whilst we do all that we can do, to beckon to others to come and be fellow-labourers together with GOD, and to help us to drag in the net.

Project Canterbury