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The Island Mission: Being a History of the Melanesian Mission from Its Commencement

Reprinted from "Mission Life."

London: William Macintosh, 1869.


EARLY in the morning of the 7th October, 1851, the joyful news was brought to the College that the Border Maid had anchored off Kohimarama in the night. Immediately after morning service in chapel, a party were seen coming up from the vessel, and soon a long file of black boys became visible, and thirteen were counted as they came nearer.

The following account of the scholars is dated towards the end of the half year:--

"Five of the thirteen boys had been at the College before for six months or ten. They have all made considerable progress in reading, writing, and singing, and a few of them have got some idea of arithmetic; but, generally speaking, they are slow at figures. Singing has proved to be a most valuable method of instruction; for, over and above the steady attention that it requires to learn the notes, they are very fond of it: they have good ears and voices, and by these means they have learnt to sing correctly one of the Christmas Hymns, the Easter Hymn, the Evening Hymn, and the Te Deum. All these they have taken great [40/41] pains to learn to read, and to understand; and they can now give a fairly intelligent account of the matter. This has been a good foundation for the actual word of the Holy Scriptures. The book they read from, called the ''Melanesian Primer,' was printed almost entirely by one of themselves,--the Anaiteum boy, who has learnt composing since he has been at the College, and has shown great industry and intelligence. One of the young men who had been at the College for part of two years is very anxious to be baptized, and seems perfectly alive to the meaning of the rite and the great truths of the Gospel.

"The two Australians were further advanced when they came than the Melanesians are now, in knowledge of English. They have made some progress in their studies and trades; but one has been very ill the greater part of, the time. He is a most amiable lad, and worthy of all the care and attention he has required.

"Some of the more advanced Melanesians have learnt a little of some trade or industrial occupation, which they take to very willingly and cheerfully.

"Their moral conduct and obedience has been very satisfactory throughout. Of course there have been some occasional outbreaks of wayward tempers and similar difficulties to contend with; but on the whole the work has been more than promising. It has been productive of positive fruits, as may be seen from the following tale of the illness and death of [41/42] one of their number; so that we may humbly, yet confidently, trust that it has and will have the blessing of the Lord and Saviour whose Gospel it is our privilege to have received, and to impart to others:--

"Apalè was a Lifu boy who came with his cousin Thol, one of the Bishop's scholars at the College in a former year. At first he did not seem very promising; but after a little he won upon the regard and affection of his teachers by his cheerful and hearty good-will in doing whatever he was set to do. He was a tall slim boy, of sixteen or seventeen, and had all along suffered more or less from a sort of rheumatic fever, to which the people of that island are said to be subject. After he had recovered from that illness he was carefully watched and tended, for fear he should catch cold. But being a high-spirited lad, it was impossible to control his boyish recklessness, and he caught a cold, which settled on his chest. He was carefully nursed, but grew gradually worse and worse, till at last the physician declared his case to be hopeless. On the 25th May he seemed to be dying; and as it had been previously ascertained that he was fairly grounded in the truths of the Gospel, and as he expressed a desire now to be baptized, the nature and object of that sacrament was explained to him, both by his teachers and especially, through the medium of an elderly and very intelligent Nengonè boy, who knew the Lifu language well. He was baptized in the presence of his Melanesian brethren [42/43] by the name of one of his English teachers, to whom he was deeply attached, George N. H."

On Whit-Tuesday morning, June the lst, within half-an-hour of his death, he sat up in his bed, and dictated a letter to his father in Lifu, of which the following is a translation. He proposed to write the letter, and every word of it was entirely his own:--"Alas, my father! Farewell, father! I am gone,--I am dead in New Zealand. Go you (meaning his companions), and tell my father. Father, do not be angry: I am here seeking for good words. Mourn for me: come to New Zealand to see my grave."

After this he tried to cough up the accumulation of phlegm in vain, and the hand of death was upon him instantly, and he died within ten minutes of finishing these words. He retained his senses almost to the last; and died very easily and quietly. The same Nengonè boy that had taught him before about his baptism, knelt down by his bedside and prayed aloud, while his Lifu cousin sat at his head, weeping bitterly, and saying, 'Alas! my brother!' and the Bishop commended into the hands of the Lord Jesus "the first fruits of the Church at Lifu." On the afternoon of the 2nd instant, as the sun went down, his body was committed to its grave in St. John's College Chapel yard, with surer and more joyful hope that he will rise again, than that that same sun will rise next day--seeing that the Sun of Righteousness has gone before, and "risen with healing on His wings."

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