Project Canterbury

In Memoriam. Joseph Atkin.

[By J. J. Halcombe]

From Mission Life: An Illustrated Magazine of Home and Foreign Church Work, ed. Rev. J. J. Halcombe, M.A. (London: W. Wells Gardner, 1872), Vol. III Part I (new series), pages 131-145.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2006



BY THE EDITOR. [The Rev. J. J. Halcombe, M.A.]

IF Englishmen admire and delight to honour those who are the first to mount to the deadly breach, or move on, undismayed, whilst shot and shell work their deadly havoc on every side of them, they are not less impressed by the far higher courage shown by those who, under no excitement, and as a mere matter of the routine of daily duty, deliberately place themselves in a position in which the peril to life is not one whit less than in the breach or the battle-field. Thus, deep and universal as has been the grief which the death of Bishop Patteson has occasioned, it is even now being swallowed up in admiration for the character of the man. Englishmen already regard him as one who has "fallen in action," under circumstances which make them proud to call him their countryman, and feel that his death, so far from discouraging others from following in his steps, will but serve to brace many another to incur as calmly the same risks.

At first it is natural that every thought, whether of grief or of admiration, should be concentrated upon him who was not only the leader of the enterprise--for such the Melanesian Mission, in its every aspect, may well be termed--but whose "manifold gifts" make his loss, humanly speaking, so irreparable. But as time goes on, and all the accessories of the terrible story are more fully realised, it cannot fail but that the thoughts of many will turn to the companion, who, with the same innate gallantry, was ever ready to share with him any danger.

We have already spoken of the constant risk to life which attended the work of all those engaged in the Melanesian Mission. The risk was naturally greatest in the case of visits being paid to islands from [131/132] which no scholars had previously been obtained, and where the object of the visit was consequently more likely to be misunderstood. On such occasions it was Bishop Patteson's invariable rule to go on shore in the first instance alone, and so to avoid, as far as possible, exposing any life but his own. Even the boat in which he left the vessel, and from which he usually swam or waded ashore, was always manned by "volunteers."

No one seems to have been a mere constant companion of the Bishop on such expeditions than the Rev. Joseph Atkin. He was with him on a previous occasion, when the boat was attacked at the Island of Santa Cruz, and when two of the crew were fatally wounded. He was not only with him on this last sad visit to another island in the same group, but, wounded as he was, he headed the party who were, if it might be, to rescue, or if not, to ascertain what had befallen him.

The peril, which in life was so often the bond of union between him and his beloved friend and leader, has at last united them in death.


From his early youth Joseph Atkin--Joe, as he was familiarly termed by all the members of the Mission--had been brought continually under the Bishop's influence. He had been educated at St. John's College, Auckland, the first head-quarters of the Mission; and his home was close to the Mission-station afterwards formed at Kohimarama, some two miles from Auckland. All the circumstance of his home-life and early training, too, were such as to render him peculiarly susceptible of the impressions which such a work as that in which the Bishop was engaged was well calculated to produce. His father, who, before settling in New Zealand, was originally a yeoman-farmer in England, was a man of strong religious feelings. Belonging formerly to a Nonconformist body, he had become a Churchman from conviction; and for many years had taken an active part in all Church matters, being one of the churchwardens of his parish, and a regular attendant, as the representative of his district, at the Diocesan Synod. Mrs. Atkin--a sister of the well-known Mr. Newman Hall--was also a person of thoroughly earnest though unpretending goodness.

The family consisted of one son and a daughter. They were well-informed, though what would be termed self-educated people. Fond of reading, and always supplied with a good store of a better class of literature, their home was in every way an admirable type of that of the best class of New Zealand settlers. The "homestead" was a cottage, with a verandah running round it, and standing in a garden, well-stocked and well-cultivated, and full in the summer of every kind of fruit. The farm, too, which stretched down to the sea at Kohimarama, also showed signs of careful and skilful cultivation; Mr. Atkin being an excellent farmer, and regarded as an authority on all agricultural matters.

As a boy, Joseph Atkin was sent to the grammar-school at Auckland, [132/133] from which he removed to St. John's College, Auckland, an institution founded by Bishop Selwyn* [Footnote: * For some years Bishop Selwyn resided at the college himself, and was, in fact, its Principal. He had a kind of cathedral establishment--clergy to send out to the various districts round Auckland, and educational establishments for all ages, and embracing the three races, English, Maori, and Melanesian.] in the early days of the colony, with a view (1) of training candidates for Holy Orders; (2) of giving a general education to other young men. The college was at this time under the care of the Rev. S. Blackburne, who has kindly furnished the foregoing particulars about his old pupil. The course of study was much the same as at an English public school, or for "Poll men" at the University; the theological students adding the study of divinity, practice in writing sermons, reading the Liturgy, &c. All the meals were taken in the common hall, any ladies resident at the college joining the party--an innovation in college life, but not the less exercising a very civilising effect.


(From a Photograph)

Atkin soon proved himself to be possessed of very good abilities; and shortly after entering the college was elected to one of the scholarships attached to it. His father had always intended to bring him up as a lawyer; but having taken the trip, as an amateur, with Bishop Patteson, he became so fond of the work, as to lead him to wish to take Holy Orders, and devote himself permanently to it. Nor was his father's consent to the change of plan difficult to obtain. "I was not the man to oppose such a wish so strongly expressed," was his own comment to one who was recently speaking to him of his son's choice.

Atkin had many special qualifications for the peculiar work of the Melanesian Mission. He was not only very fond of boys, but excelled in cricket, boating, swimming, &c., and was always bright and cheery, and a general favourite with every one. He also proved himself remarkably quick in acquiring languages, and very painstaking in the study of them.

[134] The first mention we find of Mr. Atkin's name in connection with the Melanesian Mission is in 1863.

For some years before this, a "winter school" (i.e., a school held from about May to August) had been established at Mota, one of the Banks Islands--the Bishop, or some of his party, always staying there for some weeks or months during each voyage. This year school was to be commenced there on rather a larger scale than before; and a goodly supply of tables, forms, black-boards, and all the apparatus for school-keeping, having been shipped on board the "Southern Cross," Atkin was landed there with two other members of the Mission, young men form Norfolk Island, and a large number of scholars.

A great change had been effected in the island since Bishop Selwyn's first visit in 1856. On that occasion no landing even had been effected. "The narrow beach was crowded with men; we counted more than fifty swimming round the boat; all were apparently friendly, but the landing was difficult, and the number of people too great."

Now a school of nearly a hundred scholars cold be assembled at a few hours' notice, besides those who came to the small schools, kept by former scholars, natives of the island.

Atkin's first experience of keeping a "winter school" was not favourable. For the first fortnight all went well; but after that, so severe an epidemic of influenza and dysentery broke out, that, on the Bishop's return shortly afterwards, it was found necessary at once to break up the school.

In 1864 Atkin again sailed with Bishop Patteson. This year he had more than usual opportunities of estimating the risks which the work of the Mission entailed upon those engaged in it. At three different places at which the "Southern Cross" touched--at Tasiko, Leper's Island, and Santa Cruz--difficulties arose with the natives. At Tasiko a quarrel suddenly broke out between the natives of two separate villages, who had come to the beach to trade, and the Bishop had to retreat amidst a shower of arrows, not, indeed, intended for him, but falling, nevertheless, thickly round him. At Leper's Island he was sitting amidst a crowd of people, when a man rushed upon him with uplifted club. Not wishing to show any want of confidence, he remained sitting, and merely held out an offering of a few fish-hooks. Happily, one or two of the men near sprang up, and, seizing his assailant, forced him off. It afterwards appeared that a relative of this man had, a short time before, been killed by one of the crew of an English vessel for stealing a piece of calico.

The sad events which marked the visit to Santa Cruz are touchingly described by the Bishop himself, in a letter only lately published:--

"I have had a very heavy trial since I wrote last to you. Two very very dear young friends of mine, Norfolk Islanders, of twenty-one and eighteen years [134/135] dear to me as children of my own, though too old to be children, too young to be brothers, have been taken from me. Fisher Young (eighteen) died of lock-jaw on August 22, and Edwin Nobbs (twenty-one) on September 5, in consequence of arrow wounds received on August 15, at Santa Cruz Island. Edmund Pearce (twenty-three), an Englishman, was also struck; the arrow glanced off the breast-bone, and formed a wound running under the right pectoral muscle. I measured it after I had extracted it, five inches and three-eighths of an inch were inside him. He is, thank God, quite recovered. Santa Cruz is a fine and very populous island. The people are large, tall, and muscular. It is no doubt a very wild place--books of hints to navigators will tell you the wildest of the Pacific, but such books contain endless myths. In 1862 I landed at seven different villages on the north (lee) coast, amidst great crowds, wading or swimming ashore in the usual manner. They treated me well, and I was hopeful of getting some two or three lads to come away with me on a second visit, from whom I might learn the language, &c., after our wont. In 1863 I could not get to the island, the winds being contrary. We were six in all. Rowing and sailing along the coast, I reached two large villages, where I went ashore and spent some time with the people--great crowds of naked armed men at each. At last, abut noon, I reached a very large village near the south-west point of the island. I had been there in 1862. After some deliberation I got on the reef--uncovered, as it was low water. The boat was pulled off to a distance, and I waded across the reef, 200 yards or so, to the village, In the boat they counted upwards of 400 men all armed (wild, cannibal fellows they are) crowding about me. But you know I am used to that, and it seems natural. I went into a large house and sat down. I know only a few words of their language. After a time I again waded back to the edge of the reef, the people thronging round me. The boat was backed in to meet me: it is a light four-oared whaleboat: I made a stroke or two and got into the boat. Then I saw that the men swimming about had fast hold of the boat, and it was evident by the expression of their faces that they meant to hold it back. How we managed to detach their hands I can hardly tell you. They began shooting at once, being very close. Three canoes chased us as we began to get way on the boat--men standing up and shooting. The long arrows were whizzing on every side, as you may suppose. Pearce was knocked over at once, Fisher shot right through the left wrist, Edwin in the right cheek. No one, I suppose, thought that there was a chance of getting away. They all laboured nobly. Neither Edwin nor Fisher ever dropped their oars nor ceased pulling, dear noble lads! and they were as good and pure as they were brave. Thank God, a third Norfolk Islander, Hunt Christian, and Joseph Atkin, an excellent lad of twenty, the only son of a neighbouring settler near Auckland, were not touched. Not a word was said, only my 'Pull port oars: pull on steadily.' Once dear Edwin, the fragment of the arrow sticking in his cheek, and the blood streaming down, called out (thinking even more of me than of himself), 'Look out, sir, close to you! But indeed it was on all sides that they were close to us. In about twenty minutes we were back on board the schooner. I need not tell you about the attempts I had to make at the surgical part of it all. With difficulty I got the arrows out of Pearce's chest and Fisher's wrist. Edwin's was not a deep wound. But the thermometer was raging from 88º to 91º, and I knew that the Norfolk Islanders (Pitcairners), like most tropical people, are very subject to lock-jaw. Oh! my dear friend, on the fourth day that dear lad Fisher said to me, 'I can't think what makes my jaw so stiff.' Then I knew that all hope was gone of his being spared. God has been very mercifully to me. The very truthfulness and purity and gentleness and self-denial and real simple devotion that [135/136] they ever manifested, and that made them so very dear to me, are now my best and truest comforts. Their patient endurance of great sufferings--for it is an agonizing death to die--their simple trust in God through Christ, their thankful, happy, holy disposition shone out brightly through all. Nothing had power to disquiet them: nothing could cast a cloud upon that bright, sunny Christian spirit. One allusion to our Lord's sufferings, when they were agonized by their thirst and fearful convulsions, one prayer or verse of Scripture always calmed them, always brought that soft, beautiful smile on their dear faces. There was not one word of complaint--it was all perfect peace. And this was the closing scene of such lives, which made us often say, 'Would that we all could render such an account of each day's work as Edwin and Fisher could honestly do!'--'I am very glad,' Fisher said, 'that I was doing my duty. Tell my father that I was in the path of duty, and he will be so glad. Poor Santa Cruz people!' 'Ah! my dear boy, you will do more for their conversion by your death than ever we shall by our lives.' I never witnessed anything like it; just when the world and the flesh and the devil are in most cases beginning their work, here was this dear lad as innocent as a child, as holy and devout as an aged matured Christian saint. I need not say that I nursed him day and night with love and reverence., The last night when I left him for an hour or two at 1 a.m. only to lie down in my clothes by his side, he said, faintly (his body being then rigid as a bar of iron), 'Kiss me, Bishop.' At 4 a.m. he started as if from a trance; he had been wandering a good deal, but all his words even then were of things pure and holy. His eyes met mine, and I saw the consciousness gradually coming back into them. 'They never stop singing there, sir, do they?' for his thoughts were with the angels in heaven. Then, after a short time, the last terrible struggle, and then he fell asleep."* [Footnote: * Spectator, January, 1872.]

Two years after this Mr. Atkin again visited Santa Cruz with Bishop Patteson. On this occasion they did not go on shore, but a large number of the natives, whom they allowed to come on board, spoke freely of the attack on the boat, and asked whether those who had been wounded had died. Northing, however, could be learnt as to the motive of the attack.

The following year the Bishop again landed, and went about on shore just as he had done before this event happened.

The year 1865 saw Mr. Atkin settled with the Mission at the new station at Kohimarama, and taking an active part in all the work which was going on.

Kohimarama is thus described by the Bishop:--

"Take a look at our New Zealand establishment. This beautiful place we dignify by the name of St. Andrew's College. Healthily situated on a dry sandy soil, a stone's throw from the beach, it is protected from the cold winds and at a convenient distance from the town. Miss Yonge, you know, gave me £1,000 towards the buildings; and her part of them, the stone hall, kitchen, and store-rooms are really collegiate in appearance."

The engraving on the opposite page, taken from a photograph kindly sent by Mr. Blackburne, represents the college at a somewhat later date.

"Beginning," Mr. Blackburne writes, "from the right, the first building is the Bishop's house (since removed bodily to Norfolk Island); then comes the [136/137] hall and kitchen (of stone). The group to the left contains the dormitories (cabins), rooms of the clergy and teachers; lastly, class-rooms and temporary chapels. On the hill to the left was the property of Mr. Atkin."


(From a Photograph)

Both in 1865 and 1866 Mr. Atkin again sailed with the Bishop, and in the accounts of the latter voyage his name frequently occurs. In 1867, the head-quarters of the Mission being moved to Norfolk Island, Mr. Atkin and Mr. Brooke, who divided the Solomon Island scholars between them, were the first to go and take up their abode there with the boys under their charge.

On Christmas Day, 1867, Mr. Atkin was admitted to Deacon's orders, Mr. Brooke being ordained Deacon and Mr. Palmer Priest at the same time--the ordination taking place in the church of the Pitcairn settlement.

Two or three letters from Mr. Atkin will best carry on his history for the next two years:

Writing in June, 1868, he says:--

"Last February typhoid fever broke out amongst the Pitcairn Islanders. Our station is three miles from their village, and Bishop Patteson used every precaution that he could to keep infection from our school; but although we were preserved so long that we began to hope that we should escape it, it was not to be. On the 26th of March, we had six ill, and in Easter week we had seventeen. This was the worst time; none were decidedly better, and almost every day we had fresh cases. The next week, on the 17th, one of our lads from Ysabel died, but almost all the others seemed to be recovering. On the 28th, another Mahaga lad, who had been very ill, but had seemed to be getting better a week before, died, and on the same day we had three new cases. One who was taken ill about this time died on the 17th May. He was one of twin brothers from Meralar (Star Island), one of the Banks group. His brother was still in danger when I left Norfolk Island on May 29th. He was the only one seriously ill at that time. We had had no new cases for three weeks, and all the others were quite convalescent. None of the English of our party were attacked. Our Bishop, with Mr. Codrington and Mr. Palmer, took all the care of the sick, [137/138] nursing and watching, because he said older persons were less liable to this form of low fever. We shall make no voyage to the islands this winter. All our scholars will spend another year at Norfolk Island. The Bishop is afraid that some might carry home with them the seeds of the fever, which, in the hot climate of those islands, where there are no doctors, no nurses, and no strengthening food, would be deadly. Our schooner, "Southern Cross," returned to Auckland. Mr. Brooke and I returned on leave for three months. Mr. Brooke has the Thames gold-fields as his district while in Auckland. I am relieving the clergy in the town, or visiting country districts. On Sunday week I baptized two children, and had two services at Kaipara and Mahmangi, where there had been no clergyman for six months. The Southern Solomon Islands are to be my division of our island work. If we had been able to visit the islands this year, I was hoping to spend a few weeks at Bauro, the most important of the group."

Writing about the same time to a friend in England, Mr. Atkin says:--

"Last summer, as Norfolk Island was new, we worked at perhaps a little too high pressure: at least the Bishop did with his classes. This year we have settled down to steady work. The Bishop would tell you all about the ordinations, confirmations, and baptisms that we have had here. It will be a long time before we shall have so many candidates for baptism again; we hope next spring to have a large school, but none that come then for the first time are likely to be baptized in less than two years. Bishop Patteson thinks that we could with our present staff get on very well with 200 scholars, as several would always be fit to act as teachers and monitors. The Rev. George Sarawia is to be left in charge at the station at his home (Mota) next summer; Bishop Patteson wishes to spend as much time with him there this winter as he can, but I don't think that it will be more than two months. I am hoping to spend two or three weeks at Wango on St. Christoval, and to get together a party of boys to come away in the schooner. She is to make two trips this year, and so everybody here will have a voyage. Our friends at the islands will be wondering what has happened to us.

"Our farming and gardening operations are going on very well. We have ten horses, almost forty head of cattle, a flock of sheep, and more pigs than we want--wild ones and our neighbours'--they come into the gardens and eat our kumaras, and we eat them. This is an admirable climate; we can grow strawberries and we can grow pineapples. We are planting the latter like cabbages, but we have not got them to grow so large yet. Our bananas are growing and bearing well, and we have a splendid-looking crop of yams, but we can't grow wheat or potatoes well. We are going to try to make maize a substitute for flour; we have a mill coming out from England to grind it. It will be very little extra expense; having a large number here, food is so very small an item. If the maize succeeds, sugar, tea, and coffee will be our only large imports, except clothes. Sugar-cane grows well, but I should think that there is too much labour in making sugar, for us to care to do it."

In 1869 Mr. Atkin writes again at some length about his work:--

"To judge by the outward signs of progress, the year that is just ending has been a most prosperous one, and we hope and trust that the progress is more than outward, and deeper than we can see. On the 24th of January there were nine scholars confirmed and sixteen baptised.

[139] "Our work both in school and out of doors went on very well through the summer and autumn. We planted crops to feed the large school that we hoped to have in the spring, and fenced another hundred acres of land for our cattle and sheep; printing was carried on vigorously by the Rev. G. Sarawia, under the Rev. J. Palmer's superintendence. Until last month there has been some building always on hand, and in another month or two our carpenter will begin again. The 'Southern Cross' arrived from Auckland on June 16th, and I was then delayed a week off this island by bad weather. She suffered some damage, which would have hindered us very much if we had met with bad weather on our voyage.

"Bishop Patteson, Rev. J. Palmer, Rev. C. H. Brooke, and I, Rev. G. Sarawia and a party for Mota, two lads from Ambrym, one from Santa Maria, three Ara (Saddle Island) scholars, one from Bauro, and a few from Florida and Ysabel, were passengers. Twenty-eight were left at Norfolk Island with Mr. Codrington and Mr. Bice.

"On the 4th of July we put the two Ambrym boys on shore at their home, and on the next day Bishop Patteson and the Rev. J. Palmer went ashore at Mota. The timbers, &c., for George Sarawia's station were landed on a stormy day, but there were plenty of willing helpers on shore. The damages our schooner had sustained at Norfolk Island had not yet been repaired, and she suffered more in the fierce squalls that day off Mota. All on board were glad to bear up for the quiet little harbour of Vanua Lava (Great Banks Island).

"After being George Sarawia's guest for two or three days, the Bishop took the Saddle Island party home by boat. We met with the warmest of welcomes at Ara, as the part of the island nearest to Mota is called. It has always been a pleasure to visit this place. We made a tent of our boat's sail on the beach, and sat late talking to the people.

"A number of people had been taken away from this island to work in the sugar or cotton plantations of New Caledonia, Fiji, or Queensland. We did not hear of any having been taken away from this island by force; but none who went knew what they were going for, and all expected to be returned home soon. The English Government has lately taken steps to check this traffic in 'free labourers,' which was fast becoming a slave trade in everything but in name.

"The next day, as we were walking round the island, the people showed us the place where they had attacked a boat's crew from a vessel that had taken one cargo of their people away, and came back for another. The only reason they gave for it was that they had not brought their friends back as they promised. They did not tell us so themselves; but we heard afterwards that they seized the boat, and, having wounded all the crew, were going to kill them, but let them go for fear the Bishop would be angry if they killed them.

"Next morning we went back to Mota to spend another week while the schooner was refitting. On July 19th, the Bishop, Mr. Brooke, and I, went on board again, leaving the Rev. J. Palmer and G. Sarawia at Mota. We spent a short time next day at Santa Maria, and then sailed to Santa Cruz. The weather was not very favourable; but we spent two days on the north side of the island, the people coming out freely in their canoes, and coming on board without hesitation or fear.

"On the second day Bishop Patteson landed for the first time since our boat was attacked in 1864. He met with nothing but kindness and friendliness; but could not get any scholars. On July 30th the bishop left me with Stephen Taroniara, who had been confirmed in January, at Tawatana, a small village on the north end of St. Christoval. Some of Stephen's relations were living there, [139/140] and his little daughter with them. His wife had been taken away by her father while he was away, and given to another man. I had time, during the few days I spent at Tawatana, to go to all the neighboring villages.

"From Tawatana we went by canoe to Waiio, a large village about twelve miles (nautical) to the S.E. We went in the night, as by day the trade-wind is too strong to pull against. The St. Christoval canoes are models of lightness and beauty; and ours, with a crew of boys, went faster and easier than a whaleboat; but unfortunately, she was very wet, being both leaky and shipping a great deal of water form the head sea. Another inconvenience, at least to a novice, is, that one must sit in the middle of the canoe or she will upset; but, well-handled, one of them will live through a surf as well as a boat.

"Waiio is the place where I hope at some future time to have a permanent station, although it may perhaps not be before a competent head is found amongst those we are now bringing away to Norfolk Island. It was the rainy season while I was there; but I found the climate very pleasant--the nights quite cool. I do not think that an Englishman would find the climate unhealthy in the winter months.

"We have two lads from Waiio now at Norfolk Island, Ben Tara and Sam Ranmaran, who have been away from home more than three years. They are going to have their holiday next winter; and, if it can be arranged without interfering with the visit of the 'Southern Cross' to the other islands, I am to go with them, and to spend May, June, and July at Waiio, or in visiting neighbouring islands. They are to stay with me while I am at Waiio, and help with a school from which we can choose a party to take back to Norfolk Island in August.

"I was made welcome at Waiio. The people had heard that the Bishop had left me at Tawatana, and so were expecting me. There was a new house built for the Bishop, which was made over to me at once, and I bought another to cook in and for my companions to sleep in. A fire is always kept burning in the houses at night, and as the door is shut and there is no chimney, it is difficult to breathe in them; but it does not seem to hurt the natives, and they cannot sleep without it.

"After I had been two or three days at Waiio I went to another village called Haué. There was fighting going on between Haué and Waiio, six miles apart, and all the neighbouring villages were engaged on one side or the other. All the Waiio men were afraid to go; but Taki, the chief, sent his little son, a boy ten years old, with me, and a present to the chief of Haué. The path up to the village was very steep and covered by a stockade, with a raised platform from which to throw spears upon assailants. There was great excitement and tumult when I went into the village; scarcely any of the people had ever seen a white man before. I was led into the public meeting-house; but I found the language a difficulty. My 'Arosi,' or northern St. Christoval dialect, was not understood here, and I could scarcely make out a word of the 'Bauro' dialect, which is spoken in the centre of the island. Fortunately there was a man there from the opposite side of the island who knew something of both, and was ready to interpret. All the people were anxious to hear about Waiio, and were not sure whether I was not to be looked upon as an enemy because I came from there.

"There were a great many nice-looking boys here, and they promised to let some go when the 'Southern Cross' came back, but they did not. Takana, the chief, did not come to this popular assembly; but I went afterwards to his house to see him, and he met me before the door, and hung a handsome present of native money round my neck. I sat some time in his house, and all the principal men came together. He could not talk Arosi, but understood it [140/141] pretty well when it was about a familiar subject, such as fighting with Waiio. I advised them to make peace; and, to my surprise, after a good deal of talking, they settled that Takana should go back to Waiio with me to see Taki and make peace; but some still said it was of no use; Waiio would not make peace.

"On the way back we met the whole force of Waiio, scarcely a mile from Haué, fully armed, on the look-out for any stragglers from the enemy; but they all went back with us, assenting to the peace.

"The day before the 'Southern Cross' picked me up, the 'nagu,' or peacemaking was held. It was a very pretty sight. All the forces on either side came fully dressed and fully armed, and before the business of the day they held a kind of review. Each party charged in turn up to within three or four yards of the other, which was seated on the ground, and one of the leaders made a long speech about those who had been killed in the war, running backwards and forwards all the time, brandishing his spear and offering to transfix the chief with it, who takes no notice of the performance until the end, when the orator takes some money out of his bag, and he steps forward and accepts it. They have a curious custom, but one which is not peculiar to this group, of paying for all who are killed in battle. When peace is made, every one who has killed another pays the relatives of the man he has killed, so that the victorious side has most to pay.

"Wherever I went I found the people most friendly and hospitable; but it was hard to interest them on really important subjects. They would listen with interest to an account of Norfolk Island--the wonderful houses, animals, different kinds of food, number of scholars from so many islands; but when they heard of what these scholars were there for, and what we were teaching them, 'We don't know anything about these things,' was the usual answer. I found that all had a real faith in supernatural powers. Very few of them could give any account of their belief. Their ancestors are, for the most part, their gods, but not always, or at least not with all of them. They do not worship images; they carve figures of men and animals, which they call 'Atua,' but do not hold them in any respect. Their sacrifices are usually money or food thrown into the sea.

"Although a phlegmatic people, they show taste and skill, and take great pains in decorating their canoes, &c. Their shell ornaments show that they have both ingenuity and patience. St. Christoval is very thinly peopled, as also are the neighbouring large islands of Malanta and Guadalcanar. Most of the population live on the shore. Some of the small islands lying near are, on the other hand, thickly peopled, but the population has plainly decreased during the last three or four years. Two years since dysentery went through the group, and, by their own account, carried off nearly a third of the people; but they say that before that they were decreasing, and judging by the small proportion of children one can really believe it.

"There is an additional obstacle to this Mission in the Solomon group, one which it has not yet had to contend with in the Banks group--intercourse with Europeans. Whalers and traders often visit these islands; and although of the former, as a class, I have the highest opinion, and think the latter are often judged by the worst specimens; yet still the good that the better class do the natives by their visits is far more than counterbalanced by the harm that even one or two really bad ones may do, for naturally the natives are not brought into close connection with the former, while they are with the latter.

The 'Southern Cross' returned for me on the 18th of August, having spent the time in cruising in the Indispensable Straits, leaving the Rev. C. H. Brooke at Florida, where he spent ten days, visiting Ysabel, and Sana, and Malanta. [141/142] There were already on board a Solomon Island party of twenty-seven. After visiting Marau Sound, a bay on the south-east side of Guadalcanar, Malanta, Ulawa, Ugi, and Tawatana on St. Christoval, we sailed for the Banks Islands on August 24th, with ten more scholars, including my friend Stephen. Bishop Patteson went on shore, and the Rev. J. Palmer came on board at Mota. On the 27th of September our party of sixty-one Melanesians--fifty-six men and four girls--landed at Norfolk Island. Next day the 'Southern Cross' went back, with the Rev. R. H. Codrington and C. Bice on board, to return in five weeks with Bishop Patteson and a party of fifty Banks and New Hebrides islanders."

Stephen Taroaniara, who is mentioned above, will be at once recognised as the native teacher who was in the boat with Mr. Atkin when it was attacked at Nukapu, and who died shortly afterwards of the wounds he received.

On December the 19th, 1869, Mr. Atkin and Mr. Brooke were ordained Priests in the Pitcairners church.

"The Rev. G. H. Hobbs [Nobbs], who is more than seventy years old, assisted in the service, with the Revs. Codrington and Palmer. Almost the whole of the Pitcairn people were there, and about fifty of our Melanesian scholars, whose devout and reverent behaviour would put to shame many congregations of better educated Christians."

Next year, 1870, the voyage to the islands was delayed, first, by the illness of the Bishop, and afterwards by the "Southern Cross" being caught in a gale, and having to put back to Auckland for repairs; but on June 1st Mr. Atkin again started for a sojourn of several weeks, with his Solomon Islands scholars, San Cristoval being on this occasion his headquarters. On the school re-assembling at Norfolk Island, there were no fewer than 180 Melanesians under instruction, the largest number ever gathered there at one time.

On June 19th, 1871, Mr. Atkin was landed, with a party of Solomon Islanders, at Wonga. Here he remained until the 23rd of August, when the Bishop called for him. After visiting various islands, the "Southern Cross" stood for Santa Cruz. Mr. Atkin having previously heard from that captain of a "labour vessel" that he was bound for the same place, the Bishop determined not to go there until he had ascertained whether this vessel had been there before him. For this purpose he made for some small reef islands, about thirty miles from Santa Cruz, and forming part of the same group. The sad events which followed are thus described by Mr. Atkin, in a letter dated September 20:--

"This morning we were a few miles to leeward of Nukapu, a small island, about twenty miles north of Santa Cruz. At half-past eleven we were within three miles of the islet. Four canoes were a little to windward of us, and, by their keeping away, seemed to be afraid of us. The Bishop said, 'We had better lower the boat, and go to them.' When we were all in the boat, the [142/143] Bishop said, 'We had better take some more things to give as presents if we go ashore.' Having got them, we pushed off and pulled to the canoes; they did not come to meet us, and seemed undecided whether to pull away or no. They recognised the Bishop, and when he proposed that we should all go to shore, they assented. We pulled to a part of the reef about two-thirds of a mile from the island. Here we met two more canoes--making six in all. The natives were very anxious that we should haul the boat up on the reef, but at last, when we would not put her ashore, two men took the Bishop into their canoe, and, after another delay of about twenty minutes, two canoes went with him, Taula and Motu, the two chiefs of the island, in them. The met got out, and dragged their canoes over the shallow water on the reef into the deeper lagoon inside, and paddled to the island. We saw him land on the beach, and then lost sight of him. We were four in the boat, Stephen Taroaniara, John Nonomo, James Minipa, and I. The Bishop had been ashore about half an hour; we were already looking out for him returning, and were drifting about in company with the canoes, trying to talk to them, when, with no warning, a man stood up in one, with a bow in his hand, and called out, 'Do you want this?' or something to that effect--picked up an arrow, and fired at us. The men in the other canoes began firing almost simultaneously. We pulled away, and were soon out of range, but not before Stephen, John, and I were wounded--Stephen in six places, one very severe. James only escaped an arrow in the chest by throwing himself backwards off his seat. John's wound and mine are slight, and, but for the fear that the arrows may be poisoned, we should think nothing of them. We made sail immediately we were beyond range from the canoes, and so reached the 'Southern Cross.' I went back with Mr. Bougard, mate of the 'Southern Cross,' and a boat's crew (with arms) to seek tidings of the Bishop. The tide was rising, but not high enough for us to cross the reef, so we lay outside, watching the people on shore with a glass. At about half-past four we crossed the reef, and pulled slowly towards the shore; we now saw a canoe drifting down from the shore towards us with apparently nobody in it; we pulled to it, and found our worst fears were confirmed. On the canoe, wrapped in a native mat, was the body of Bishop Patteson. There was a loud shout on the shore when the corpse was lifted into the boat and no attempt was made to molest us. When we left the canoe drifting, one or two others put out from the shore to save it. With the corpse was part of a cocoa-nut leaf with five knots tied on the leaflets; what this meant we cannot guess. From the nature of the wounds death must have been instantaneous; but there had been no mutilation after death; the clothes were all taken away except boots and socks.

"The Bishop had frequently visited this island, and always found the people friendly and well-behaved. Last year we landed, and our boat lay on the beach about an hour, while the Bishop was with the people in the village. Until this year the canoes used to meet us three or four miles from the island, and the people to clamber on board the vessel without the least fear. The only account to be given of this change of feeling--one that is unfortunately justified by what we have seen and heard wherever we go--is, that a vessel has been here, and committed an outrage, perhaps killed some of them, and that they had resolved to take the life of the first white man who fell into their power."

To appreciate fully the spirit which prompted Mr. Atkin to go himself in search of the Bishop, we must bear in mind the fact mentioned by Mr. Dudley, that by every motion the poison which the arrow had probably left in his wound was being diffused more completely through his system. In spite, however, of his knowledge of this fact, "because it was his post [143/144] to command the boat, and he alone, from his habits of constant, patient observation, could pilot her safely," he does not seem to have thought for a moment of allowing anybody to go in his stead.

For some days it was uncertain what the effect of their wounds might be either in Mr. Atkin's or Stephen's case. On the 21st, Mr. Atkin, writing to his mother, says:--

"Stephen is in great pain at times to-night; one of the arrows seems to have entered his lungs, and it is broken in, too deep to be got out. John is wounded in the right shoulder, I in the left. We are both maimed for the time, but, if it were not for the fear of poison, the wounds would not be worth noticing. I do not expect any bad consequences, but they are possible. What would make me cling to life more than anything else is the thought of you at home; but, if it be God's will that I am to die, I know He will enable you to bear it, and bring good for you out of it."

Again, on the 23rd, he writes:--

"Saturday, 23rd.--We are all doing well. Stephen keeps up his strength, sleeps well, and has no long attacks of pain. We have had good breezes yesterday and today--very welcome it is, but the motion makes writing too much labour."

The sad termination of this period of suspense we know but too well. It is well, perhaps, that we should not attempt to draw a veil over the closing scene of suffering, which is thus described by Mr. Brooke:--"Mr. Atkin became suddenly worse on the 26th, and spent a night of acute pain; the whole nervous system was being jerked and strained to pieces. Almost leaping from his berth upon the floor, in his intolerable agony, he cried, 'Good-bye!' and lay convulsed upon a mattress on the floor. About seven o'clock in the morning of the 27th I asked him would he have a little sal volatile. 'No!' 'A little brandy?' 'No!' 'Did he want anything?' 'To die!' These were his last words, and, after another hour's acute suffering, he passed away."

Mr. Atkin's death was followed, on the day after, by that of Stephen Taroaniara. "His sufferings for two days," writes the captain of the "Southern Cross," "were dreadful; it was heartrending to see him."

On the same day both bodies were committed to the deep, Mr. Brooke read the burial service in Mota and English.

Thus, in one short week, were Bishop, Teacher, and Scholar called from the busy scene of their labours. The sacrifice of life itself, which, for their work's sake, they had ever been ready to make, was accepted. It was but a year before that Mr. Atkin and Bishop Patteson had together visited the grave of one of those who had fallen in the same cause. "A visit," writes Mr. Atkin, "to the grave of one who had suffered for Christ, was felt to be the fittest way of passing the afternoon of Sunday. From Ara [therefore] we went to Vanua Lava, and spent Sunday on board the 'Southern Cross,' in Port Patteson. In the afternoon [144/145] we went to see Fisher Young's grave. A pretty creeper, with a blue flower, had spread all over the enclosure, and was in full bloom.

Full of meaning, and full of comfort too, to many a sorrowing heart, must now be the recollection of that visit to the grave of one who had, in like manner, "suffered for Christ." Very dear, indeed, had he who lay in that grave been to both of them. Yet who can doubt that it was admiration, far more than regret, that was the prevailing feeling, as they thought of him, or that they read aright the message of that grave to them, telling them how great things they, too, might be called upon to suffer for Christ's sake?

With what better words can we conclude than with those which, immediately after the Bishop's death, and with the possibility of his own far more painful end full in view, Mr. Atkin himself writes:--

"It would only be selfish to wish him back. He has gone to his rest, dying, and he lived, in his Master's service. It seems a shocking way to die; but I can say, from experience, that it is far more to hear of than to suffer. In whatever way so peaceful a life as his is ended, his end is peace. There was not sign of fear or pain on his face--just the look that he used to have when asleep--patient, and a little wearied. What a stroke his death will be to hundreds! What his Mission will do without him, God only knows, Who has taken him away. His ways are not as our ways. Seeing people taken away, when, as we think, they are almost necessary to do God's work on earth, makes one think that we often think and talk too much about Christian work. What God requires is Christian men. He does not need the work, only gives it to form or perfect the character of the men whom He sends to do it."

Solomon Islanders.

(From Photographs)

From Mission Life, Vol. III (Part II) (1872), page 530.


WE have to thank the Bishop of Auckland for kindly forwarding a letter from Mr. William Atkin, of Auckland, the father of the Rev. Joseph Atkin, who was killed with Bishop Patteson. We are very glad to be thus enabled to correct several errors contained in the paper in memoriam of the Rev. Joseph Atkin, published in the March number of Mission Life. Mr. Atkin writes:--

"It is the first time I heard that I was 'an authority in all agricultural matters.' Nor is it a fact to say that I formerly belonged to a Nonconformist body. From a child I have always belonged to the Church of England. Nor is my wife, Mrs. Atkin, 'a sister (or any relation) of the well-known Mr. Newman Hall.'

"My boy for some years attended the Church of England Grammar School at Bornell [sic: Parnell] under the head mastership of the Rev. John Kinder, but never the Auckland Grammar School. Nor had I 'always intended to bring him up as a lawyer.' Nor did he after 'his amateur trip with Bishop Patteson become so fond of the work as to lead him to wish to take Holy Orders.' The fact is, that after the first trip he declined to join them. It was not until after their boat had been attacked at Santa Cruz, and two lads lost their lives, that he decided to join the Mission, and I not only gave my consent, but was glad of his choice, and it is a source of consolation to know that Bishop Patteson never repented having had my dear boy amongst them. The Mission boat was not manned at any time by 'volunteers:' it would have been out of the question."

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