In Memoriam: Archdeacon Palmer.
From The Island Messenger and Report, Auckland, March 1902, pp. 53-54.
Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2012
ON Saturday, March 1st, at Devonport, there passed away suddenly and unexpectedly to his rest, a pioneer Missionary of the Melanesian Mission, the Ven. John Palmer, B.D., Archdeacon of Southern Melanesia.
Archdeacon Palmer arrived in New Zealand a few weeks ago to officiate at the marriage of his eldest son, and had the joy of spending those few weeks in the society of his children. He had gone to Wanganui to see his boys, who are at school there, and while there he was taken seriously ill. He recovered sufficiently to travel to Auckland, but the fatigue was evidently too much for him, as he suddenly died a little more than an hour after his arrival. The cause of his death was angina pectoris.
When John Palmer was a young student at S. John's College in 1862, he offered himself to Bishop Patteson for work in Melanesia. He was accepted, and in January, 1863, he joined the Mission, which had then its headquarters in Kohimarama. Almost immediately after, the fatal sickness broke out among the Melanesians, which led to the removal of the Mission headquarters to Norfolk Island, and Palmer's first work for the Mission was to tend lovingly [53/54] the sick and dying Melanesians. He was ordained Deacon in 1863, and not long after went to the Banks' Islands, where he remained for a considerable period. He was the first white clergyman who resided for a length of time in the Melanesian Islands, and the results were so satisfactory that the example has been followed ever since by all the other clergy of the Mission. When it was decided to remove the headquarters of the Mission to Norfolk Island, it was to Mr. Palmer and a band of Melanesians that the pioneer work was entrusted. With his own hands, and helped by the Melanesians, he built the first house of the Mission, and then planted some acres of potatoes and kumeras to provide food. When Bishop Patteson arrived some months later, he remarked on the thoroughness with which the work had been done. Since then Mr. Palmer's work was chiefly in the Banks' Islands, until the illness and retirement of Bishop John Selwyn called him, as acting head of the Mission, to reside chiefly at Norfolk Island. During the long interregnum, Mr. Palmer quietly but wisely guided the work of the Mission, and then, on the arrival of Bishop Wilson, a recognition of his work was made by his appointment as Archdeacon of Southern Melanesia.
His loss will be keenly felt by the Bishop and staff of the Mission, who all appreciated his unselfish devotion to the Mission's well-being, his unostentatious piety, his wise counsel, based on a longer experience of the work than that possessed by any other member of the Mission. For nearly forty years he had given of his best to the Master's work, gladly sharing all the trials and self- denials of His service, and now has come the message. "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." "He rests from his labours, and his works do follow him."