Project Canterbury

The Wake of the Southern Cross
Work and Adventures in the South Seas

By Cecil Wilson, D.D.
Bishop of Bunbury; sometime Bishop of Melanesia.

London: John Murray, [1932]

Chapter II. Norfolk Island

A few days after I was consecrated we steamed at full speed, which was only four miles an hour, out of Auckland Harbour in the Mission ship Southern Cross, a barquentine--that is, a three-master with square sails on the foremast, and fore and aft on the main and mizzen.

Built in England for Bishop John Selwyn, the Southern Cross was painted white and was beautiful to look at. At her stern she flew the blue ensign, for she was a yacht registered in the Royal Thames Yacht Club, London. She had a small auxiliary engine of 25 horse-power to take her in and out of anchorages or to drive her occasionally in a flat calm. As for comforts, she had none, and missionaries, I found, were not supposed to ask for any. Her small saloon lay amidships, with six bunks for missionaries behind the seats round the table. My cabin led out of the saloon forward, and there was a similar one for a guest the other side. In fine weather we passed our time on the upper deck, which was the top of the saloon. The smell of bilge-water came up from below through the companion-way into the saloon and was always terrible. There was, they said, no way of getting rid of it. The freshwater tanks were so placed that it was impossible [9/10] to drain away the mess under them. In rough weather the ship rolled heavily, and the drawers under the saloon seats would fly out, and tins of meat would roll from them and have to be chased.

There were large quarters for Melanesian boys on the lower deck, and terrible smelly ones for their wives in the after part of the ship. The crew slept on deck forward by the galley. The sanitary arrangements were primitive in the extreme. The ship had never been perfectly finished, and until we were able to find a thousand pounds to have her timbers properly bolted together, I believe that she might have opened out at any time in a storm. I did not know this at the time; all I knew was that her smell made me desperately sea-sick.

When we had been about four days under sail we sighted Norfolk Island, which lies six hundred miles to the north-west of Auckland and nine hundred to the eastward of Brisbane, and was to be my home, whenever I was not in the Islands, for the next seventeen years. It had been chosen by Bishop Patteson, and he had moved the headquarters of the Mission here from Auckland in 1867, because its climate was far better suited for his Melanesians; and because they would here be away from white people, and he could carry on his work undisturbed. He was killed at Nukapu in 1871, but Bishop John Selwyn, Dr. Codrington, John Palmer and others, had seen to. it that his work and sacrifice should bear fruit, and had continued to bring native boys and girls to be trained at this new Mission station.

[11] The island is very beautiful. A hill of 1,000 feet, Mount Pitt, rises to the north-west of it and on three sides falls down in ridges, with deep gullies between them, to the sea, terminating abruptly in red cliffs of 200 or 300 feet, or sloping gently to the edge of the black basalt rocks below. To the east and southeast the island is a plateau with frequent gullies. All the valleys, both of the hill and of the flatter land below, are wonderfully fertile, yielding coffee, bananas, oranges, lemons, guavas, arrowroot, and much else. Yet the island is only roughly five miles long by three to four broad, and is intersected in all directions by convict-made roads.

There was no place for a ship to come alongside a jetty, and so we were taken ashore in whale-boats by Norfolk Islanders.

These people are descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty, a ship-of-war whose crew mutinied under Captain Bligh when lying at Tahiti in 1789. The mutineers put him and nineteen others to sea in an open whale-boat, which ultimately found its way across four thousand miles of ocean to Timor, and they themselves reached the unoccupied rock of Pitcairn, where, having burned the Bounty, they settled with their Tahitian wives. Long afterwards (1820) a man-of-war found the sole survivor of the mutineers, John Adams, a benevolent patriarch among all their progeny, and the British Government pardoned him. On Pitcairn they remained until, their descendants having become too numerous for that little island, as many as consented to leave it [11/12] were in 1856 transferred by the British Government to Norfolk Island.

Before these half-breed Pitcairners, or Norfolkers, came to it, this island for fifty years, off and on, had been used as a penal settlement, and the ruins of the old prison were still standing by the landing-place. It is an island full of sad memories, and if the well-known Australian book, For the Term of his Natural Life, may be literally taken as a true history of those days, it had well deserved its name of the "Ocean Hell." When I landed in 1894 there were still standing large ruins of the old prisons and soldiers' barracks, also of officers' quarters in what was called "Quality Row," and of the old Government House. Beyond the Government House lay a large parade-ground with a cemetery, its gravestones recording the deaths of convicts who had been executed. A large mound was said to be the burial-place of thirteen convicts who were shot at one time of revolt. On one stone were the words, "Pray for the soul of Michael Murphy, late of Dublin, who died suddenly on the third of October, 1830. He was hanged."

The penal settlement came to an end in 1855, a year before the Norfolkers (or Pitcairners) were moved there. The last prison chaplain was Mr. Davenport, who later became an archdeacon in Tasmania. He told me he had never seen actual cruelty to the convicts while he was in Norfolk Island, but that the Commandant had acted rather like a cat with a mouse. He knew everything that [12/13] was going on. He knew that a boat had been built, for instance, at Bamboras, not far from the town landing-place. He took the chaplain, and showed it to him hidden under the branches of a tree, and told him he had been watching for some months the building of this boat. He said: "Now it is finished, and tomorrow I shall have out the men that built it, to burn it." The convicts, poor fellows, would get across at times to Philip Island, four miles away. Escape from there was impossible. Warders followed, and they were either captured or threw themselves over a cliff, 900 feet high, which goes by the name of "Convict's Leap."

A rusty pair of leg-irons, a relic of old times, was presented to me by one of the "Norfolkers" on my arrival.

The chaplain to the Norfolkers had lately been the Rev. George H. Nobbs, not by birth of Pitcairn, who found his way there as a young man, and then returned to England to be ordained by the Bishop of London for work among the islanders. He was chaplain on both Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands (in succession) for many years. His son Edwin and another Norfolker, Fisher Young, were killed with Bishop Patteson in 1871, and he himself died shortly before my arrival.

Our government in those days was primitive. The island was nominally under the Governor of New South Wales, but the Norfolkers were allowed to elect from among themselves a Chief Magistrate and twelve Elders. Unfortunately, they were not [13/14] always wise in their choice, and the man thought to be most lenient was too often elected to be Magistrate. The only taxes were paid in manual labour in the repairing of roads and ditches. All in the island were connected by marriage. There were a few names, such as "Nobbs," "Adams," "McCoy," "Quintall," "Christian," "Buffet," "Young," and not many others, to a population of 800 souls, and so, with but few new-comers from outside, they were all cousins or near relations. It is not pleasant to sit on a jury and help to find your own cousin guilty, and therefore no one ever was found guilty, or very rarely. There was no gaol in which to shut up a prisoner, although there were extensive ruins of old ones. The punishment for immorality was £10 for each of the guilty persons. If they married, the fine was remitted. I was told that the whole revenue of the island came from this source, and amounted to about £60 a year. For other offences a prisoner would be condemned to dig out drains by the sides of the roads. He could generally get his female relations and other friends to help him in this, and so the fine was soon paid. Yet it still was felt to be far better not to elect to the Magistracy a man who would be likely to condemn his own relations, even though it were for stealing one's cattle or other property.

It happened that an Englishman came and settled in the island and married one of the girls. He had children, and in a passion threw one of them down a well. The child recovered, but it was a difficult [14/15] case for the Magistrate. The stranger was by marriage related to everyone in the island, so he could not well be punished, and the jury acquitted him. The news leaked out to Sydney, and the Governor of New South Wales sent down a judge to try the man again. A Crown Prosecutor also came and a Counsel for the defence. It cost the Government nearly three hundred pounds, but still the jury was stubborn and would not find the man guilty. The judge therefore brought in a verdict of "unsound mind," and ordered him to be confined in prison during Her Majesty's pleasure. There being no prison in which to confine him, a stone hut of the old convict days within a court surrounded by a high stone wall was fitted up for the new convict. All the island sympathised with the prisoner, and showed it in a practical way. The Magistrate gave him a ladder by which to get over the wall, and also joined him at his Christmas dinner. Everyone sent food--turkeys and eggs and all that man could need. He was easily the luckiest and best-fed man in the island. Everyone else had to pay taxes in labour, but the prisoner paid none. All he did was to sit and look on whilst others worked. One would think he could have been satisfied, but after a time his quiet, easy life palled, and he wrote a letter to the Deputy Magistrate, Dr. Metcalfe: "Sir,--How long is this farce to continue? You know that I am no more of unsound mind than you are. Will you kindly let me have the key of the gaol that I may go in and out like a Christian and not have to get over the wall?"

[16] News of this also having reached Sydney, the authorities decided that another form of government was needed, and sent a retired Colonel to be Magistrate. They also nominated ten of the twelve Elders, leaving the people to elect only two.

The Mission station--for which Bishop Patteson had bought a thousand acres--lay two miles up from the town landing at the end of a mile-long avenue of Norfolk Island pines, planted by convicts sixty years before. The climate was subtropical and the land marvellously fertile. Bananas, sweet potatoes, oranges, and guavas grew wild, or with very little cultivation. Cattle did well, and food was generally plentiful. Our own land was like a great park with its Norfolk Island pines, sometimes 25 feet in girth, adding to the beauty of the meadows. It was an ideal place for the Melanesian school in many ways, and Norfolkers and Melanesians got on well together.

We had in the school about a hundred and forty boys and forty girls brought by the Southern Cross from many different tropical islands to the north, islands in which the languages or dialects numbered perhaps a thousand. In Norfolk Island the scholars were all taught in one language, that of the island of Mota in the Banks Group. Melanesians were at first much alike to me--brown-skinned, with outstanding frizzy hair in which red hibiscus blossoms nestled, and dark brown eyes, short in stature but very strongly made. The boys wore cotton shirts and short trousers and had bare heads and feet; the girls had short cotton blouses and skirts to the [16/17] knees. They, too, were bare-headed and barefooted.

At the end of the avenue the road ran through the Mission station and then dipped into a valley. On the right-hand side was the Vanua, in which boys and white men missionaries lived. Its gate opened on to a green quadrangle, on the upper side of which was the very beautiful Patteson Memorial Chapel, and on the other three a dining-hall, a house for thirty boys (Codrington's), and the shops for printing, carpentering and blacksmithing. Bishop Patteson's old home lay outside the quadrangle beyond the hall. On the left-hand side of the road lay the quarters of the married missionaries, whose wives, each of them, and the unmarried ladies, had six or seven girls to look after as their own children. These girls were betrothed in every case to one of the boys on the other side of the road, and had been bought for them by the boys' maternal uncles. (By native custom children belong to the mother and to her people, not to the father, he being of "the other side of the house." The mother's brother is therefore the boy's nearest relative and in charge of all his matrimonial arrangements.) On the left-hand side of the road also lay the cow-yards and the milking-shed. A quarter of a mile beyond the married quarters, across the Valis-we-poa, "the Big Grass" (the meadow where cricket was played), were the cliffs, two to three hundred feet high, with basaltic rocks at the foot of them. On the slope of a hill was the cemetery, beautifully kept and studded [17/18] with crosses, erected mostly to Melanesian boys and girls who had died here in their time of training.

The Patteson Memorial Chapel is built of stone taken from the reef at "Town" (Kingston), and paved with Devonshire marble sent out by Patteson's old Devonshire friends. It has a beautiful marble font at the entrance; and in the rounded apse a raised altar of oak, with a frontal carved in deep relief showing two palm leaves five-times knotted, reminiscent of those laid on the martyr's breast at his death, and behind it a carved oak reredos having knotted palm-leaves throughout. The organ was given by Miss Charlotte Yonge, the writer, Patteson's cousin; the lectern is of sandalwood from Erromanga in the New Hebrides (scene of another missionary martyrdom, that of John Williams). The seats, set east and west, are carved and inlaid with Christian symbols in mother-o'-pearl, done in their spare time by missionaries and boys. Twice a day the barefooted boys and girls would come in, kneel, and with scarcely a sound the chapel would be filled. A senior boy read the lessons, a native priest or deacon might read prayers, or preach on Sundays. At the Eucharist, and indeed at every service, the boys and girls behaved as if they felt that God was there. The house was very tabu. Only those who were lolomaran--"enlightened"--might enter it.

A small boy arriving from the islands for the first time must have found this new home of his full of surprises. First he would notice open spaces cleared of trees, which he had never seen before, then the [18/19] cows and horses; in his own land he had seen no animal larger than pigs and dogs. When he entered the Vanua, in front of him would stand the big stone chapel, as large almost as a Solomon Island canoe-house. This would be absolutely tabu, because his was a little dark heart and this was the House of God--the great Spirit of the white men, Who made them so clever that they could float iron; ships and be safe from charms and magic; about \ Whom he was to learn here, and become one of His great family. He would then be taken to one of the four large houses, where a white man would have charge of him, and the next morning be picked for a "cook-set" and become one of twelve boy "cooks" under the white head-cook, having the run of the kitchen for a week at a time. The next week he would be washing the clothes of all the rest of the school, and the week after that be in the printing-office helping with the printing of translations of Gospels, prayers, and hymns into twenty-five different languages, or perhaps be one of six boys who counted it as a well-paid privilege for one shilling a week to look after the cows, or of another six who looked after the horses.

On every day at six o'clock in the morning the first bell of the day rang, "Bell sugsug," as it was called--"washing bell"--when all must go to the wells and draw buckets of water for the morning wash. At seven the bell rang for prayers, for the unbaptised in Bishop Patteson's house, and for others in the chapel. Before nine it rang again for [19/20] school, when all went to their classes for lessons in Divinity, reading, English, or arithmetic. After school the boys fell in, in their several cook-sets, for a short drill, and then went out with farm implements to grow the necessary food under the lead of some of the white priests or laymen. Some would clear more land, some weed potatoes, and others plant new ones. For a new white chum, unused to such work, it was a backachey business; he had to keep going all the time, for if he stopped to straighten his back the forty or fifty boys under him would stop working to straighten theirs, and have a little chaff and play. Before one o'clock the dinner-bell rang, calling all into the large hall, where the white people sat at a table in the middle, and the girls, and the boys in their cook-sets, round the hall. Ours was a very simple meal, and theirs consisted of large plates of sweet potatoes or rice, with a little meat on three days in the week. After dinner they retired to their humpies to eat in their own fashion, talk their own languages and smoke, whilst we went to our houses for a cup of tea and sociability, and for rest until the two o'clock bell called all into writing school for an hour. From three to six one might ride or drive or walk, or play games with the boys. Then came tea-bell and then Evensong at seven; afterwards more school till about 8.30; at half-past nine a silence bell for private prayers, and at ten o'clock the bell for bed. Saturday was fishing day, when every boy went down the cliffs to the rocks (where these were not entirely precipitous) [20/21] and caught and cooked as many fish as he wanted, whilst quiet reigned in the Vanua. It was a day of great peace for us all.

This routine went on all the year round, except for a week or so at Christmas and Easter, and a few other holidays. It was impossible to relax for long, because the Melanesians were always with us, and something had to be found for them to do. Although very many of these lads came from islands still savage, and many had themselves practised cannibalism, or shot people with poisonous arrows, or taken part in raids, fights, and murders, according to the ordinary heathen custom, yet here in Norfolk Island all that was forgotten. They had thrown aside fear, kept no watch against treachery, were forgetful of black magic, had made friends with natural enemies, very seldom quarrelled, and were generally easy to manage. But had we lost control over them, there might have been serious trouble, for they came from fifty or more different places in the islands, and some were probably hereditary enemies. Once there was an outbreak lasting a few hours, when the New Hebrides and Banks Islands boys took up their bows and arrows against the Solomon Islanders. It was soon quelled, as some of our staff had been working for years with Melanesians (one, John Palmer, under Bishop Patteson) and knew well how to handle them.

But for all that, it was not an easy life. One felt there might be an explosion at any time; if, for instance, a betrothed girl looked at a boy who was [21/22] not her intended husband. From time to time we had epidemics of illness, when the white staff of men and women nursed their boys and girls as if they were their own children. At times we white people might get on each other's nerves. This, perhaps, was the fault of the head cook, who may have been the last man out from England, and never in a kitchen before. Our priests and laymen were asked to be jacks-of-all-trades, farmers, printers, teachers, and cooks; but the last thing that a new chum should have been made was head cook.

When I joined the Mission in 1894 our staff consisted of only eight white men (seven of whom were priests), with a few ladies, resident at Norfolk Island, and with two native priests and about six hundred trained native teachers scattered about islands covering twelve hundred miles. In some places they looked like angels of light against their dark surroundings. It was wonderful how they stood it. Many, indeed, did not. Some came back to Norfolk Island after ten years for another course of instruction before being ordained deacon, and again before priesthood was conferred on them. Eight thousand Melanesians were attending our island schools. Our teaching at St. Barnabas, Norfolk Island, was very irregular, because most of the missionaries would spend six months in each year looking after their districts in the islands. Though they were the "white corks of the black net," none of them spent more than six months of the year with their own island people. I lived in the [22/23] Bishop's house with thirty boys from different islands who called me "Mama" which meant "father." Some of the little boys called me "Besope," and very raw youngsters, who could not pronounce "b," sometimes called me by a name which sounded like "fish-hook." Whatever languages they talked among themselves, to me they talked Mota, and they did all they could to teach me to speak it too. They were much too polite to laugh at any mistakes that I made; in fact, I should call most of the Melanesian race gentlemen by nature. I taught small boys for three hours a day, and gradually made progress until in six months I was able, after a fashion, to preach in chapel.

The younger boys whom I taught to read, and who in their turn taught me to speak Mota, seemed to me very intelligent and almost equal to most young white children. But as they grew their brains did not keep pace with their bodies. I once set this problem to the top class: "I had a hundred sheep; ninety-nine fell over the cliff; how many were left?" With one consent they said, "One hundred and ninety-nine." I tried again: "I had thirty horses; I set two boys on each horse; how many were there?" They said," Thirty-two." "Figas," as they called arithmetic, was quite their weakest subject, and that is easy to understand, for their minds did not deal with things in the "abstract," but in the "concrete." If a native had to find out how many coco-nuts would be left if forty-nine were removed from fifty, he would take them away [23/24] one by one and so get the answer. To a boy going home to his island I once said, "Give my love to John." He looked down at my hand and asked, "Where is it?" "Love," for him, meant a visible token of love. In the matter of arithmetic another difficulty existed in that there is nothing terse or snappy about their numbers. Here is "eleven" in Mota: Sangavul tuwale o numei tuwale; and when it came to tables, "eleven times eleven," Sangavul tuwale o numei tuwale vaga sangavul tuwale o numei tuwale. With numbers of such inordinate length it is easy to understand their not being good at "figas."

Yet they could memorise from the written page extraordinarily well. Their knowledge of the New Testament, or at any rate of the Gospels, was wonderful. Our Lord and His disciples were very real to them, so were the Pharisees and Sadducees. I once took twenty of the boys with me to New Zealand, and happening to arrive an hour too early for a service in a church at Wellington, I allowed them to roam the streets and see the town. After a time they came running back to tell me of a marvellous sight they had seen. "We saw men," they said, "standing at a corner of a street blowing trumpets and making long prayers. They had words written on their hats. Were they the Pharisees?" They had not seen the Salvation Army before. Brought up to believe in an unseen world peopled by ghosts and spirits, they had no difficulty in conceiving of the new "unseen world" which [24/25] Christianity gave to them. The "Great Spirit" of their heathen days may have made men and women out of two buds of a sugar-cane, one on the right of it and the other on the left, one becoming a man and the other a woman. Or he had tossed pancakes of earth into the air; those he managed to catch as they fell became men, and those he missed became women., "Miracles," therefore, were no trouble to them. Once in Motalava I took a boy by the hand in a crowded school-house, and asked him to think that Jesus Christ was holding his hand. He was lying by a big fire shaking with ague and his friends thought he was dying. I asked him to think of Christ taking the hand of St. Peter's wife's mother, and how at once the fever left her. In a short time the boy sat up, the fever having left him. Those present said to one another, "He has worked a miracle"; but it was no surprise to them.

After his first two years at school, every boy went home for a holiday. When he came back after six months it was to be baptised and to become a Christian. It was then that he brought with him the little girl to whom he was betrothed. She came in order that he might have a Christian wife. After eight years he and she would choose the place where they would go and teach. His own island might call him, or that of one of his friends--the boy who had been his godfather, perhaps, when he was baptised--or the need of an island like Guadalcanar, which was just being opened up. He and his young [25/26] wife would go as missionaries, and have to take great risks.

A wedding day, when one or more of the boys were married to their girls, was a very festive occasion--the girl very shy and apparently reluctant, as likely as not having never spoken to her future husband, and having only seen him across the hall at meals or in chapel; the boy very smart, with tie and collar added to his raiment--worn now once and once only in his life--smiling and supported by a best man. After the wedding, gifts from all of us of saucepans, kettles, lamps and looking-glasses; a little house to live in on the other side of the road; a glorious feast under the trees; a cricket match all the afternoon for the boys; food, romps and laughter for the girls in their big sewing-room in the evening; and then, next day, we all settled down to work again, until the Southern Cross should come two or three weeks later to take us and the happy couples to their islands eight hundred to seventeen hundred miles north.-

When their time at Norfolk Island was finished, they left us, the boys with joy and pride, the girls in tears, because they would probably never see these friends or that home again.

In the year 1899 I married, and my wife and I then had six little Melanesian girls in our house across the road--that is, outside the Vanua, instead of my twenty or thirty sons within it. But our home-life was very much broken. I used to leave in April by the Southern Cross, with other men going [26/27] to their districts, and with the boys and girls going for their holidays or setting out for their new work, and would spend seven or eight months in the islands, not returning till early in December. During these months we did not expect to get home letters more than three or four times; nor could our wives expect letters from us any more often. If the life was hard for us men, it was harder for them. But there was much to make up for it. None of us will ever forget the joy of the home-comings. Only those who have had such, experience can possibly know what that joy can be.

Outside the members of our Mission staff, there were five white men on Norfolk Island who were practically institutions: Dr. Metcalfe, once a ship's surgeon, a well-beloved doctor indeed, who had resided in the island for many years, and married a granddaughter of the old chaplain, Mr. Nobbs; he visited the Mission every Friday. Then there was Kendall, the old carpenter, who could never get away again from the place because he suffered so terribly from sea-sickness; consequently he had lived there for forty years. There was "Nat," the dear old house-painter, who had arrived long ago in an American whaler. He preserved all our buildings , by covering them with paint and sand. There was Menges the printer, a German, who walked every morning seven miles from the other end of the island and returned to his home at night; and there was Bailey, the musical blacksmith, who I taught the boys to play piano and organ, and [27/28] did besides everything that could be done at a smithy.

The Norfolkers, a half-caste race, were a very simple-minded people. Old John Buffett used to say that they were a "peculiar people," and the older members of the community prided themselves on it.

One of their beliefs was that Queen Victoria had made them a present of the island, and occasionally they sent her a letter about things which interested them. When the Queen died they wrote to King Edward: "Your Majesty, the late Queen loved our people, and gave us this island. It is now our desire to erect a bronze statue to her memory. Could Your Majesty tell us how much it would cost?"

We were on the happiest of terms with the Norfolkers. We took services for them in the old Commissariat building which they used as their church, and also gave them passages in our ship to Auckland, where some had relations engaged in gold-mining. They sheared our sheep, shingled our houses, and boated us and our stores ashore, for which, of course, we paid them. They were fine boatmen, and many got an uncertain living by whaling. We joined in their cricket and tennis, and later in their golf. We taught them to play chess, went sometimes to their picnics, and took part in everything else with them, except their politics. The majority were Churchmen, but some were Methodists and a few Adventists. Philip McCoy, a Methodist of great stature, came to the Mission soon after my arrival and tried to convert me to [28/29] Methodism. We talked for an hour, and afterwards he told his friends that the Bishop had said, if only he had known all he had now heard earlier in his life, he would never have become an Anglican clergyman! In one of his sermons, I heard that he threw doubt on the literal truth of the reputed size of Og, the King of Bashan. The Bible said that his bedstead was nine cubits long; but if that were true, Og must have been thirteen feet high. He thought it would be nearer the mark if they agreed that he was only twelve.

I came to love these people and had good reason for doing so. Once, for instance, an epidemic of measles raged through our Mission school. Nearly all the Melanesian boys were down with it, and those who were not were crawling about in such a weak condition that they could do no work in the fields. Disaster was impending, for our two hundred Melanesian boys and girls lived on sweet potatoes; weeds had completely overgrown the crop, and in another week or two it would be utterly ruined. We knew it and could do nothing. One morning a body of Norfolkers on horses appeared at our gates and said they had come to weed our potatoes; and this they did. But for their help we should have been obliged to buy hundreds of bags from them to feed our big family, and they would have been many pounds the richer. This is only one of the many kind things these people did for our Mission at great cost to themselves whilst we lived amongst them.

[30] All the money in circulation, except the little earned by whaling, came to them through our purchase of their bananas and other food, and the employment we were able to give them.

In my early years on the island the steamer from Sydney (nine hundred miles off) brought mails only four times a year. Our own ship brought them three times from Auckland (six hundred miles), and so we had a mail on an average every two months. Whenever a ship came it almost invariably brought a cold with it, which went right through the island and was called after the ship that had imported it. Later we had a mail once a month, and generally an epidemic of influenza, or some other complaint then raging in the outside world, resulted from it. The greatest excitements in the life of the island were the shouts of "Sail Oh!" or "Boat-fast!" when a whale had been harpooned. After some years the Pacific cable was laid, with Norfolk Island as one of its stations, and a news-sheet was posted every day both on our dining-hall door and on one of the pines in the Avenue, giving us some news of the world.

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