It was during a period of sickness in 1927 that I read through seventeen of my diaries and gathered from them events and facts which I thought would most interest my children, and perhaps a few others. It is now many years since I went to Melanesia and began to keep these diaries, and for the last twenty I have been on the active list in Australia and out of touch with Melanesia; yet I can truly say, like the Israelite of old: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."
The children of our State schools are always ready to hear stories of the islands, as are their teachers. They love to take part in imaginary visits to the tropics, standing under coco-nut trees watching dusky school boys and girls at their lessons and at their play; they have learnt how to clip fingers in approved native fashion instead of shaking hands to say "Good-bye." My diaries have helped me to correct the memories of seventeen years in the islands, and I think I can vouch for the truth of all I have written. But I am conscious of having left out much that might have been said, also of having risked dullness by giving certain details which may be of interest only to some who are closely connected with the Mission to-day.
[vi] I have made little or no mention of many men and women who, in my time, did yeoman service for it; such as John Palmer, one of Patteson's staff, whom I found in charge of St. Barnabas, Norfolk Island, when I went there; C. W. Browning of Florida, Eton's last representative in our Mission; W. C. O'Ferrall; Dr. Fox and H. J. Nind, who, having been in the Mission for thirty years, are, I am thankful to say, still there; Nelson Drummond, a valuable priest in any place in which he might be needed, whether in Norfolk Island, the New Hebrides, or the Reefs; J. M. Steward, missionary first in Guadalcanar and Florida, and then unanimously chosen as Bishop of Melanesia by the Staff; and many more. Some of these gave their lives: Welchman and Andrews in Bugotu, Godden in Opa, Bollen in Guadalcanar, Drew in San Cristoval, Sage in Malaita, and also Allen Buffett, a Norfolker, our faithful house-builder in the islands--lives so precious that I remember asking our men to try to save them and not lose them, as we had had more than enough martyrs in Melanesia. Neither have I mentioned Mrs. Colenso, Mrs. Comins, Mrs. O'Ferrall, Miss Julia Farr, Miss Hardacre, Miss Hurse, Miss Wilson, Miss Coombe, and many others, wives of clergy and unmarried ladies, who never spared themselves that they might give Christian wives to Christian teachers, and establish a high standard of Christian home-life in savage Melanesia.
In the spare time of a busy life it has been impossible to do well this that I have attempted. My [vi/vii] diaries might have been made to yield more, also many bundles of old letters upon which I have not drawn at all. I owe more than I can say to my wife for her advice and help. I have to thank the Ven. Henry Adams, Archdeacon of Bunbury, an old Selwyn man, for encouraging me to write this missing chapter of Melanesian history; I owe much also to my daughter, Mrs. Philip Clifton, and to Miss Shenston of Bunbury, who saved me the labour of typing and retyping.
The illustrations are from photographs taken by my wife and by Messrs. Beattie, of Hobart.
Bunbury, West Australia.
Since this Preface was written, we have been requested to express the sincere thanks of the Author for the care and trouble taken in the correction of the proofs by Miss Florence E. Coombe, whose knowledge of native words and place-names has been of special value; also to a friend who desires to remain anonymous, but who devoted much time and skill to the revision of the manuscript.