Project Canterbury







[The Ven. Reginald Hodgson]





1916 + 1924

[Privately published in New Zealand in 1966]


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


On leaving the Melanesian Mission, the Venerable Archdeacon R. Hodgson served in the Diocese of Waiapu as Vicar of Waerenga-a-hika, Rotorua and Mount Maunganui.

These notes were written on his retirement thirty-six years after. With this lapse of time I trust that any irregularities that may occur may be overlooked.



These are the reminiscences of a very ordinary Priest who had the very good fortune to be on the staff, for over eight years, of one of the most romantic missionary dioceses in the world, the Melanesian Mission. The sphere in which this mission works, and has worked for over one hundred years, is in the Pacific. The three great groups of island are named respectively, Melanesia (black islands), Polynesia (many islands), and Micronesia (small islands). It is in the first named that the mission of which I was a member worked. The people are not black, but a lovely dark chocolate colour, of fine physique, with mops of fuzzy hair combed from the scalp. The area worked by this mission embraced the northern New Hebrides, Banks Islands, Torres Islands, Santa Cruz, and the eastern islands of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate.

My terms of service extended from early in 1916 to the end of 1924. In those days it was fashionable to speak of the people inhabiting these islands as a child race. Even if this was ever true of these people it is not longer so to-day. Previously they had been outside the main stream of so called civilization, but the second World War dragged them, willy nilly, into it. Nowadays civilization has arrived with a vengeance, and they are in the melting pot, but quickly adjusting themselves to their new conditions with the help of an understanding government.

There has been a tremendous change in the conditions of life in the islands since the war. My last job in the islands was to start, and put in the foundation of the senior school at Pawa on the Island of Ugi. This school began in a small way, and now under successive headmasters such as the veteran mission Priest, Dr. C.E. Fox, Rudgard, and the man who really placed it right on the map, Rev. A.T. Hill, the present Bishop, it has grown, or [1/2] rather developed to be what one leading government official has called it, 'The Eton of the Pacific'. This school has produced many of our native clergy who are a fine and consecrated body of priests, as well as men holding high and responsible positions in the government and the teaching profession, and some of the members of that remarkable order of RETATASUI [sic], or the Melanesian Brothers, who work amongst the heathen in Melanesia, and even as far afield as New Guinea.

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During the First World War (you know the war to end war), shipping was rather scarce in the Pacific Islands, and Van Lucknow was on the prowl in the "Sea Adler". So the British Solomon Islands, and New Guinea, instead of having separate ships run by Burns Philp to serve the two groups, had one ship which passed through the Solomons, and then on to New Guinea. On one of those voyages was the Bishop of New Guinea. When the ship arrived at Tulagi, and the Bishop of Melanesia was made aware of his presence, he invited him to come ashore for the weekend while the ship worked her cargo. On the Sunday his Lordship of Melanesia invited his opposite number of New Guinea to preach at one of the services on the Island of Gela. But, said New Guinea, I don't speak your language and you don't speak mine. However, he was assured that there was no unsurmountable problem there. So the two Bishops, and the Gela Priest stood together for the address. New Guinea spoke in English, Melanesia translated into the lingua franka [sic] of the Mission, the language of the Island of Mota (which has the whole, or part of the Bible printed in 34 different languages), and Rev. Johnson Tome was expected to translate it into the local language of Gela. New Guinea started off with bringing greetings from the church in New Guinea to the Church in Melanesia. This was faithfully translated by his Lordship of Melanesia, and nothing came from the local Priest. There were a few more flowery introductions, which Johnson passed by. Then the sermon proper began, when Johnson came to life with the terse remark 'Sakai vamua', which literally means, 'All that doesn't matter', and he faithfully [3/4] translated for his Bishop the sermon proper.

"Tuwale Apena" is in the Lingua Franka language of Mota what the other is to the Gela people, literally it means, 'there is one thing', but it is used in a casual manner to mean, 'it doesn't matter', 'it is of no importance'. So now you know why this little book was started. It is not of great importance in any case.

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Supported by the Ripon and Wakefield Diocesan Missionary Association, I was sent to train for the Priesthood at St. Paul's College, Burgh, a College affiliated to the University of Durham. The course took four years. All the students were volunteers, and pledged to work in the Mission Field. My first principal was Canon T.H. Dodson, a real Man of God, who had been a Missionary in South India. His rule was very strict and very fair. Life was rigorous and intended to make us ready 'to endure hardship'. We had a most beautiful chapel, designed by Comper, which was the centre of all our activities. His first words to any new student were, 'you haven't come here to pass examinations, but to be trained to be Priest, but, of course we shall expect you to study hard, and do your best in the scholastic field.' But the emphasis was always on the priestly life, and its demands upon each of us.

At the College was a very faithful retainer who was the handyman about the place. His name was Dan Richardson, and he was a favourite with all the students. He was a native of Lincolnshire, dependable, faithful, and a very willing worker who never seemed to get ruffled nor upset although he led a busy life. On one occasion one of the senior students failed to satisfy the examiners of Durham University when he sat for his final degree examination. Dear old Dan, hearing of this, [4/5] sought out the student who had been ploughed, and commiserated with him in this way. 'EE Mr. Smith (which is not his name), I do ear as you aint passed your examination, I be very sorry to hear it, but look here Mr. Smith don't you worry, some on us as got brains, and some on us hasn't.' He was quite sincere and meant well, and it had the desired effect for the same student saw the unintentional joke and roared with laughter after Dear old Dan had withdrawn.

Those happy years soon came to an end. The Priest, Rev. Osbert Goddeston Mackie, who after my mother, has had the most influence on my life, was in correspondence with the Rev. P.M. Scott in North China regarding my serving in that Diocese. Then news came through that the Rev. W.F. Long who had only recently gone out from our parish, Leeds Parish Church, had been drowned at Norfolk Island, the headquarters of the Melanesian Mission, while attempting to save a Melanesian student. So I was told by the Rev. O.G. Mackie that he would wish me to go to Melanesia to replace Rev. Long. (At one period of my time in the Melanesian Mission there were four of us all from the Leeds Parish Church serving on the staff, three priests, and Miss H. Broughton, the others were the Revs. R.J. Simmons, and A. Mason).

After ordination by the Bishop of Rochester we sailed, the first ship out of Tilbury Dock since the s.s. "Persia" had been torpedoed by the Germans in the Mediterranean Sea. After a good deal of excitement zig zagging by day, and going like scalded cats at night in the Mediterranean Sea, we duly arrived at Port Said, and eventually at Sydney where I left the ship. Orders were awaiting me to proceed to Norfolk Island to await the arrival of the Mission ship "Southern Cross V". We duly arrived at Norfolk Island after seven days, and I was met by some of the headquarters' staff, and got my first glance of the Melanesians, such charming, virile, [5/6] and vivacious people, so friendly, clean and wholesome they seemed to me.

Norfolk Island to-day is a tourist resort, but in those unspoilt days it was a really delightful place, and the Norfolkers were very friendly to the members of the Mission, and very good to the Island boys. The only direct contact with the outside world was from the Cable Station, and Burns Philp steamers. The staff of the Cable Station were good enough to publish a foolscap sheet of war news daily. This was fastened to one of the magnificent Norfolk Island pine trees in the centre of the Island.

The headquarters of the Mission were at the end of a mile long avenue of these majestic trees. Here were over 100 boys and women from the New Hebrides, Banks, Torres, Reefs, Santa Cruz, and many of the Solomons Islands, from some thirty islands, speaking as many languages. The very soul of the place was the glorious and beautiful Bishop Patteson Memorial Chapel of St. Barnabas. The services were conducted in the lingua franka of the Mission, the language of the Island of Mota.

Owing to the war, funds were low, so instead of the usual two voyages of the "Southern Cross", there was only one that year, 1916. So the teaching staff were taking extra classes with the boys, and had no time in which to teach me the Mota language. So I had to learn it the 'hard way', by copying out by hand Dr. C.E. Fox's excellent 'First Lessons in Mota'. It was the hard way, but the best and surest way, and to-day, 40 years afterwards, I can still think and speak in the language. It may be of interest that the first words I picked up were 'mawmawui', 'ngala', 'malakalaka' [6/7] which mean, in that order, 'work, tired, happy'.

My sense of humour nearly landed me in trouble. There was a boy there from the Island of Raga, a land of fighting warriors, whose name was Nelson Qiqi. This name was written in chalk on the wall where he hung his loin cloth. It was easy to alter Qiqi to Qaqae, which means 'fool'. Nelson, when he discovered this went right off the deep end. After a while it was explained to me what all the bother was about, and when I tried to explain our sense of humour the boys settled down. It didn't take much of a spark to excite their war-like spirit. But they too have a sense of humour, which is a gift of God.

One night one of the lads from a very lonely island went mad. Of course it would be at night. Armed with a huge club, with plumes of pampas grass in his fuzzy hair, he began dashing about banging on the buildings as he passed. Barefooted he moved silently about, except for the noise his club made. All hands were on the alert to intercept him. Presently the Warden, Rev. N.H. Drummond, called out, 'Who is that fool with the hurricane lamp?' That fool happened to be myself, so the lantern was extinguished, and in the blackness of the night one waited, never knowing where the lad would appear next, until he had passed silently by you. In due course he ran out of steam and the Warden caught him, and took him to his own room to spend the night.

As I was to have charge of a district consisting of five islands, the Warden got the Norfolkers to take me out boating with them. They are marvellous boat handlers. So off we went to fish. They caught over half a ton in the six hours we were out. I did say 'they', for I was as sick as a dog. I had taken some lunch, but I didn't feel the least hungry. [7/8] They ate away and, out of kindness offered me some of their own food which they call 'pilhi', which is a rather stodgy pudding of cooked kumara, or sweet potato. I think that set the works going again. I did go out again with them, and gave a much better account of myself, and learnt some of the a, b, c of handling an open whale boat.

While there, one could see the whales blowing out at sea. One day the word went round that these hardy and tough seamen had harpooned a whale, and all the islanders went down to the Cascades Bay to see them come ashore with their catch. It was a never to be forgotten sight. They had towed this huge whale fifteen miles, rowing all the way. The tackle from the beach was made fast to the whale ready for heaving the huge carcase up to the melting down pots. Then the boat's crew removed their hats and all present sang the Doxology, three cheers were then given and the mammal was heaved up, and the men with the flencing tools began to remove the thick blubber. The meat was thrown back into the bay which, by this time was absolutely full of sharks of all sizes, some of which in due course were speared and their livers removed in order to extract the valuable oil.

In due course the good ship "Southern Cross" arrived from Auckland, stores were landed, and we began our voyage north to the real islands of Melanesia. The good ship was yacht built, with a knife keel, and excellent, seaworthy ship, but notorious for rolling and pitching. The steward cheerfully informed me that she would roll in a heavy dew, and promised me quite a lively trip with no holds barred. And he was right as I know.

The "Southern Cross" was a ship of just over 400 tons register. Her Captain was Harry Burgess, who understood all her moods, and knew the islands as probably no one else did. He was a great skipper and a dependable friend to every member of the staff of the Mission.

[9] So we moved off to experience the playful pranks of the Peaceful Pacific. Our first call was Vila on the Island of Effate, the entry port and capital of the New Hebrides Islands, with a Condominium Government, often called the Pandemonium. The order of the day was pitch and roll with extraordinary variations which were all unan-nounced. It wasn't a heavy dew we were encountering, but the real thing. Some of us were very, very sick. At last when I did crawl out on deck I was greeted by the Bishop C.J. Wood, with the remark, 'If Bishop Selwyn had been aboard he would have had you holystoning the decks.' Not appreciating this doubtful joke, I am afraid that I replied that neither Bishop Selwyn, nor any other Bishop would make me do anything just then.

Because she was yacht built and was an honorary member of the Thames Yacht Club there were some silly folk, not many, who thought that yachting on the "Southern Cross" must be great fun and rather envied those who were fortunate enough to travel free on her. I am told that one misguided person did express such sentiments. She was not at all a gentleman's private yacht. There was no electricity on her. The lighting arrangements were kerosene lamps handing in their gimbals and keeping in time with the motions of the ship. There was no refrigerator, and so the tinned butter when served rather resembled gravey in consistency, and spoons rather than butter knives were used. She left Auckland with one hard cheese which was eaten avidly, and finally when it got too tall it was dropped overboard. Tinned cheese had to be opened carefully after being placed in a dish of cold water otherwise it resembled a geyser and shot upwards till it reached the ceiling where it registered a mark for all times unless it was immediately removed. With new chums it was the thing to ask him to open a tin of cheese. In this case the warm cheese didn't reach the ceiling, it stopped when it reached the face of the innocent opener.

[10] In due course we arrived at Vila and it was delightful to feel terra firma once again.

Burgess was a most considerate skipper, he would always give you the leeside when coming alongside in your open whale boat. Sometimes he would invite you on to the bridge and point out a reef on the chart, and say 'That reef isn't there, it is here', and later one would hear that the chart had been altered accordingly.

The cabins on the ship were small and very hot in the tropics, so one dragged one's mattress out and laid it on the floor of the saloon at night. This was the dining saloon, it was also the Chapel when sliding doors were fastened back, revealing a beautiful sanctuary with a reredos of Christ walking on the sea, which had been provided from the proceeds of Christine Rosetti's [sic] book 'The Daisy Chain'. When possible there was a daily celebration of Holy Communion, when quite often the Celebrant was barefooted in order to get a better grip on the deck of the lurching ship. There was a bracket jutting out from the reredos with which to stabilize the chalice. Occasionally it was rather hazardous as the ship pitched and rolled. On one occasion the service ended abruptly when the Bishop let go his grip of the stantion in the saloon and for some reason slid gracefully to port and finished up under the dining table. In another occasion when we had as second mate a man named Bullock, we were sitting down while the lesson was read at Evensong when there was a slight commotion and Miss France, who later became Mrs. R.M. Sprott, sitting near the port alleyway called out, 'Mr. Bullock, the cow', as a cow we were transporting to the islands stepped over and wished to join us in the service. The Bishop was rather upset at the restlessness of the lady and the persistence of the cow. Oh we hadn't much money (our [10/11] stipends were £120 per annum), but we did see life.

To anticipate: the day was to come when I was Chaplain on her for thirteen weeks and never missed a meal. The Chaplain's job had nothing in common with the duties of a Bishop's Chaplain as understood in civilization. It meant making up teachers' pay of calico, saucepans, fish hooks and lines, axes, reels of cotton, needles etc. And landing in an open whaleboat at each village and island in order to pay our teachers, and if there was not a resident priest to stay overnight and give them the sacraments and be fully occupied until the time the ship picked one up the next day.

On one voyage the cook left us in Tulagi. A little while afterwards the steward said he had a dose of malarial fever, so I advised him to turn in, and so I became chief cook and steward. This was quite easy. We had plenty of native vegetables, yams, kumara, banana etc. As regards the meat, that too was quite simple. Everything came out of a tin, so if you desired roast beef, you popped it in the oven, if you needed boiled beef, well you placed it into a saucepan of boiling water. All went well, and with my native assistant cook we had a lot of fun. It rained very hard and I asked the sick steward where the clean tea towels were, only to get the astounding reply, 'They are all dirty, so I am using the soiled bed sheets.' No wonder the food had a flavour all of its own. Needless to say he wasn't our usual steward, who was a great chap, and didn't attempt to improve the flavour of the tinned bullamakaw in this dubious way.

[12] To anticipate further. A memorable day for people of my generation was 11th November, 1918, the Armistice day which ended the First World War.

We were oblivious of the progress of the war as we only got a mail every three months, and there was no wireless in the islands in those days. On that day I was coming up to New Zealand, after 2_ years in the islands, for my first furlough. We were on the island of Vanua Lava in the Banks Islands. We had landed at one of our boys' schools to play soccer with the boys on 10th November, and Captain Burgess was with us. The ship's siren began to wail loud and long, and we were all ordered aboard. The Mate showed the Skipper the barometer which had fallen in a dramatic way. As it was then the hurricane season, we all know what that portended. A second anchor was lowered, and as the North Westerly wind grew stronger and howled, the ship's engines were put at full steam ahead to enable us to hang on to our anchorage. As darkness fell, which it does suddenly in the tropics, we had to up anchors and clear out to the open ocean. The ship's head was put into the wind and the engines were at full speed, with the result that in twenty-four hours we had made seven knots. At 3 p.m. on the next day, Sunday, the Skipper reported that everything was under control, but that visibility was only 50 yards, and that we could just hope for the best. Two seabirds found sanctuary in the ship's rigging, and were as sick as dogs. But with superb seamanship of the Skipper and the chief engineer, Mr. Logan, we came through, whereas many schooners and other craft were never heard of again. Oh, yes we had cause to remember Armistice Day 1918.

Just at sunset on the 11th the sky cleared for a brief period and we knew our position. Only twenty miles away was the huge reef of the Island of Rowa. It was the superb seamanship of the officers, engineers, and native Melanesian crew which saved our lives on that momentous occasion.

[13] We showed ourselves on the Monday morning to the staff and scholars at the school, and then cleared away for Vila where we learnt that the war had ended a fortnight before. This is a poor tribute to a gallant little ship and her most dependable officers and native crew, no better sailors could have served more faithfully and well Laus Deo.

But the greatest fright the "Southern Cross" gave us did not arise from 'storm and tempest'. The time I was Chaplain on the voyage was in 1917. At this stage of the war Count Von Lucknow was making his presence felt in the Pacific Ocean. He was in command of the ship "Sea Adler", and was having quite a lot of fun and games. He had an embarassing way of camouflaging his ship to suit the occasion. He had scuttled one ship on the New Guinea run, after bunkering his depleted coal stocks. The "Southern Cross" had sailed from Auckland this voyage with sealed orders to be opened and read after a stated time. The gist of these orders were, that if he was hailed by any ship he was to be on his guard, and if ordered by the same ship to heave to, he was, in duty bound, to open the ship's sea cocks and scuttle the ship rather than allow the "Sea Adler" to replenish his bunkers from the coal on the "Southern Cross". We were well off the usual sea lanes, coming up from the very isolated Island of Tikopia when we sighted a ship on our port quarter, sailing our way and likely to cross our bows. The nearest land was the Island of Vanikoro where the explorer Le Pereuse had been wrecked many years before, and where the officer and crew 'had been disposed of' to the satisfaction of the inhabitants of the island. Orders were given to stand by the sea cocks and all preparations were made in regard to the ship's lifeboats, and we steamed along on our course towards the Solomon Islands proper. Fortunately it was a false alarm and nothing came of it. We, of course did not 'speak her', nor she us. We learnt much later that she was a ship sailing from Sydney [13/14] to Ocean Island for a cargo of phosphate. She probably got a greater fright than we did for the reason that the "Southern Cross" was nearer the size of the "Sea Adler". They were not invented then, but it would have been on such an occasional that one needed a certain brand of sweets.

The "Southern Cross" was open house to all who wished to come aboard. The only ones we had to watch for theft were the Tikopians. The chief engineer wished to go ashore at one station when it was his watch, so he asked the second engineer to keep an eye on the engine room. This he promised to do, and the chief went ashore. Presently a single manned canoe came off, and the native climbed aboard. The second engineer had one glass eye, and being a scrupulous man he removed it and placed it under his hat on top of the cupboard outside the door leading to the engine room. The canoeist, of course, seeing the hat, decided to try it on his head, and on lifting the hat saw the eye gazing at him. He let out a yell, dropped the hat and made a bee line for the ship's side and paddled madly ashore, and doubtless had some unbelievable story to tell his compatriots.

On another occasion, at a very lonely island, the Mission printer, who was on board for the round trip, removed his false teeth, and offered them to one of the natives who was paying the ship a visit, but the lad wouldn't touch them, and didn't look at all happy. It was far too uncanny for him

[15] The people of Motalava had a delightful custom. Quite often in the evening we would be sitting in the men's clubhouse yarning, with a good deal of leg pulling. When anyone scored an extra good one at the expense of another, to show that no offense had been taken, and that the score was a good one, the loser would stretch out his hand with the fingers apart, and the scorer would place one bent finger into the other's fingers, and they would pull part with a loud click, and a great deal of laugher from all present. It was equal to saying, 'Oh, that's a good one, you certainly scored that time.'

Occasionally there was a slight embarrassment when one of the whites of the Solomons had been on the spree in Sydney, and had celebrated the visit by imbibing too freely.

Later a lady, an ex barmaid from Sydney would arrive in the group seeking her husband whom she had married in Sydney when he wasn't quite himself, or responsible for his actions. However, as she had a copy of the marriage lines to prove her claim, there wasn't much room for argument. The lady wasn't attractive to the island climate, and having established her claim, and been promised financial payment, she then withdrew to civilization to enjoy her married bliss. And the husband was a wiser, if poorer man.


These are a group of island embracing the New Hebrides, eight Banks Islands, and four Torres Islands under a Condominium Government, usually referred to in my day as the Pandemonium. There was a British, French and Neutral Governor, in this case a Spaniard. There were two sets of Postage Stamps, two police forces (French and British), two government steamers, and where, on occasion one felt rather ashamed of being a Britisher, because of the injustices done to some of the natives. (It is only fair that one should say that from what one hears, and reads to-day, conditions there are much improved, and there is more semblance of justice, and that far more interest in the welfare of the native people is in evidence. There was certainly much room for improvement).

The Presbyterian Church was the first in the field to evangelize in the New Hebrides, so that when Bishop G.A. Selwyn arrived to open up work for the Anglican Church, the Presbyterians gave him a great welcome, and work was commenced in the northern islands of the group, where they ceased their operations, and went further north to the Banks and Torres Islands. This happy relationship has continued all through the years.

Arrived at Vila the capital of the group, I was sent ashore to find the officer in charge of the native British police force, and arrange a soccer match with our lads on the ship. I asked directions, and went towards the office of this gentlemen. On my way there I met another white man and inquired if he was the man I was looking for. 'Oh no' he said, 'I am a prisoner.' 'Oh, and what are you in gaol for?' said I. 'Murder' said he. 'I have been sentenced to a year in gaol for shooting and killing a man.' I suppose someone would say that it was upholding the white man's prestige to sentence him for a crime, which he admitted commit-[16/17]ing. I need hardly say that the man who was shot was not a white man. We had an exciting and enjoyable game of soccer, then moved on north away from civilization.

I was informed by the Bishop that I was to be put ashore on the Island of Aoba, to assist a priest named Hart, whom I had met in London when he was on furlough, while an Australian priest named Webb whom I was to replace was to take charge of the five northern 'Banks' Islands.

Again I was sent ashore to find Hart and Webb. I found them, and had a great welcome from the former, who said, 'If the Bishop places you here with me I will resign', quite a welcome?

The Rev. C. Godden, one of our priests, had been killed on this island sometime before; and Hart and Webb had, with a good deal of publicity, been sent to re-evangelise the island, and they had only been there a few months when I arrived on the scene. So that happy partnership remained on Aoba, while I went on further north and was placed in charge of the five northerly Banks Islands. These had the delightful names of Mota, Motalava, Vanualava, Rowa and Ureparapara which, is an extinct volcano with one side blown clean away forming a bay which is well nigh bottomless, and a beast of a tide rip to negotiate on entering the bay. Two lady missionaries were placed on the island of Mota, while I lived in a native house with an earth floor on the Island of Motalava. There I remained for two and a half years.

The language of Mota was the lingua franka of the Mission. Provided one could speak it well one could always have an interpreter anywhere in the whole area worked by the Mission, consisting of over thirty islands, because all the Norfolk Island trained teachers had been taught in this language. This language is a pure language and most effective. It has singular, dual, trial, as well as plural, [17/18] and inclusive and exclusive pronouns, for two, three or more. The natives were the kindliest teachers of the language, and when one made, as one often did in the early days, a faux pas, they corrected you in a very nice way. And mistakes were easily made.

Preaching once at Norfolk Island one of the white clergy meant to say, 'We are all sinners', in which case he should have used the inclusive first person plural 'INIA', instead he used the exclusive "KAMAN', and as he was a European, it meant to the native congregation's delight, 'We, white folk (excluding yourselves) are all sinners.' He had a great sense of humour, a most necessary thing, and had to stand a good deal of banter from both natives and whites.

I made a lovely bloomer when a child who had got quite friendly with me, the only white person he know, and used to toddle over to see me in my native house. When I returned from a boating trip round my parish, having been away some time, he was too shy and gave me a wide berth. So I meant to say to his mother, 'he is shy' (apemaragai), instead of which I said, 'he is an old man' (tamaragai). It wasn't long before the bush telegraph got busy and wherever I went, I was greeted with a grin and the query, 'how is the old man to-day?'

The parish car for this district was an open 20 foot whale boat, with lug sail and jib sail, five 14 foot oars and a like size steer oar, because a rudder was useless in landings in any kind of surf. I had an excellent native boat's crew who were very loyal and who were prepared to row for hours on end when we were becalmed. They never panicked in a storm, or in the rotten tide rip, when entering Ureparapara. [18/19] The worst feature was at the end of a long gruelling day to have to chop down rolling chocks and manhandle the boat up the beach above high water mark. They were a cheery lot and from them I learnt a great deal about boats, and about the outlook, beliefs and customs, of my parishioners.

Beside the two white lady missionaries on the Island of Mota there were four other white men and myself in my parish. The other four were engaged on copra plantations, i.e. the dried oily product of the coconut palm. The largest of these had been floated during the rubber boom and grandiloquently known as the Oceanic Rubber Planting and Trading Company. There might have been on solitary rubber tree on the place. Three whites were employed by this company on two plantations. The other white man had married a native lady and had a rather large family. He, in his younger days had been engaged in the 'black birding' business of recruiting natives for the plantations, which had been the cause of the death of Bishop J.C. Patteson, and had been suppressed by law.

I put in one night with one of these whites who said he hadn't seen any other white man for ages. He was delighted to have me there. He said, 'have you a mosquito net, for the skeets are rather fierce here?' I replied, 'You bet I have'. The skeets certainly were bad, outsizes and very hungry. Then he laughed and said, 'You know Walter W,' mentioning the eldest half-caste son, to which I replied in the affirmative. 'Oh,' said he, 'he called in here one night when it was very rough and he couldn't make home. He hadn't a mosquito net, but said he had been born in the [19/20] islands and his skin was too tough for the skeets. So we turned into bed and I was awakened by a rather peculiar noise. I pulled out my revolver and turned on my torch to behold my guest with his feet stuck into the corners of a mail bag, trying to hold it up and pacing the floor, which was made of concrete, which had been laid down when some Frenchman had lived there working some deposits of sulphur. One could see the bullet holes in the walls where the previous residents, having consumed too much wine had got jittery in that isolated place.

In those 'good old days' before a great deal was discovered about malarial fever we were all subject to its attacks, and dosed ourselves with five grains of quinine nightly. There was an old chestnut, which was practised on each new chum. The conversation was steered round to books, when the question was asked of the newcomer whether he had read a book named 'The Mosquito', invariably he would ask the author's name. Oh, it's by Ivan Elovonitch.

During the First World War there was no wireless contact with the outside world, our chief contact, excluding the "Southern Cross", was my means of one of Burns Philp boats called the "Iduna". She met the ship from Sydney at Vila and then proceeded north, arriving at the headquarters of the Oceanic Rubber Planting Company, which was her northern terminus every three months (more or less). So we received our mail in this way. But I was based on another island, and sometimes I didn't receive my mail for another fortnight. So only every three months did we learn of the progress of the war in Europe.

On one occasion, as I learned later, there had been a free fight on the ship, and the Manager had clean forgotten to place the mail on board. And so the outgoing mail didn't leave for six months. So I was rather surprised months afterwards to receive a letter from my mother, to ask if I was still alive, [20/21] because she had not heard from me for so long. Fortunately I was able to set her fears at rest and answer in the affirmative.

I think it used to be said that 'the Americans eat what they can, and can what they can't.' As we were dependent on tinned food I suppose we ate what they couldn't. All our food came out of a can, or a tin, not an American one, but really good palatable food from New Zealand and Australia, it was really good stuff too. Bread was an unknown item in our daily rations. We ate ship's bread, or Navy bread. This came to us in large airtight tins, but the weevils were not respecters of airtight tins. They didn't seem to need air on which to live. So the drill was to hold each large biscuit up to the light, and try and spot the weevils in the punctured holes, break them wherever they lurked and much away in peace until you crunched the hidden culprits with your teeth, then of course you just carried on, and they seemed to be quite nutritious.

The Banks Island people were fine cooks. Vegetables were in good supply, and included yams, taro, kumara, breadfruit. These all grew well. Some of them were only at their best when cooked in the native oven, which was called an 'um'. The method was to scoop out a hole two or three feet in diameter and six to nine inches deep. Build a huge fire of wood, on which were placed many rounded stones. When the fire had burnt through and the stone were white hot, some of them were removed and the vegetables, fish and puddings were placed in the shallow pit and the white hot stones laid on top and the whole covered by large and plentiful leaf mats. If it was desired to steam the contents, then salt water, usually sea water, was poured in from a large bamboo, and the whole covered over. This is the only way to satisfactorily cook breadfruit and taro. The pudding mentioned above do not subscribe to our ideas of puddings. They consisted of cooked vegetables, which had been pounded on large wooden platters to which grated nuts had been added, these [21/22] were wrapped in large green leaves (banana or canna) and cooked to a turn. One can imagine that these puddings were not very light and fairy [sic] to eat, or very digestible. Yet if one was offered such pudding it was obligatory and good manners to eat, at least, some of the proffered article. And this could be very hard work. With this problem in mind I once approached the 'Grand Old Man' of the Mission, Rev. Dr. C.E. Fox, and asked his opinion. He admitted that it was not easy, but he always managed. His formula was this, 'I say to myself, come on Fox, this is strawberries and cream, and you know old man, it really is.' What a gift it must be to have such a vivid imagination?

One of the greatest honours in this way was the way one was treated by the members of the two secret societies. Wherever I went on my parish I would, ceremoniously, be offered food cooked in the men's clubhouse. And I would be offered food cooked in the oven of the highest rank of the society. My boat's crew would also be given food cooked in this way. But then it would be pointed out who were eligible to eat the puddings from the different ranks. They seemed to know, although we were from a different island, which rank each one of my crew had attained. But without this warning, not one of them would have tasted food of a higher rank than he had attained. It would be tapu to him.


There were two Secret Societies in the Banks Islands called the Suqe and the Salagoro, both, of course, for men only. The policy of the Melanesian Mission, was to disturb as little as possible the social foundations of the people. What was good was conserved and blessed, what could be allowed was blessed, and what was essentially heathen and beastly was excluded. It was a sane attitude which did not compromise, with that which was incapable of being Christianized, but conserved and edified what was good in the social fibre of the people. The attitude was never 'what is pre-Christian must of necessity be wrong and therefore condemned.' So the two Secret Societies were allowed to continue.

The beastial rites performed at the initiation of the young men were ostracised and the Societies were allowed to continue so long as the un-Christian rites were not performed. At times there was a cleavage of opinion amongst the staff, but the Societies continued, the chief criticism which could be leveled at their continuance was, perhaps, the question of indebtedness which sometimes occurred when a man wished to enter a higher rank, and of which, of course, he needed many yards of native shell money. In some ways, apart from the kudos a man acquired, it was an investment society. The higher ranks getting a bigger cut out of the entrance fee. The Suqe clubhouse was in the village, the Salagora clubhouse, always in the bush, and always near a huge banyan tree. Each house was a very long house built of bamboo and had the usual sago palm thatch roof. It was divided not by partitions, but by different levels on the floor, each one of which contained a native oven. The different ranks cooked their food in their [23/24] own oven, beginning at the lowest, nearest the one entrance door. The Salagora was the most secretive, and no one, least of all any of the women folk would dare to approach it.

Once a year there was an event which was an awful fright for the children when two members of the Suqe with huge conical hats made from the pith of trees and covered from head to foot with rustling palm leaves who were called QASA (which means baldhead) would come prancing into the village, and restlessly prance about amongst the children telling them what would happen to them if they didn't mend their ways. It had a salutary effect on them, at least for a time.

Once a year there was an initiation ceremony in the Salagoro in the bush. This was heralded by the most awe inspiring noise one could ever experience, and was known as the voice of the God, although it sounded more like the voice of the devil in the utmost agony. This took place in the stillness of a pitch black night, and was enough to give the listeners the jitters, which, of course, is what it was intended to do. It certainly succeeded.

So on one occasion I went to where the voice of the god was being produced, in the very heart of the bush. It was really a stupid thing to do, as I didn't know what kind of a reception I would get. However, I claimed that I was their parish priest, and so had a right to know what was going on.; The two men who were busy on the job of producing the voice were, to put it mildly, surprised, to see me there, and after consultation with the rulers of the clubhouse, said they would allow me to go, conditionally, that I never revealed how it was done, which promise, of course, I have honoured. I was later approached by some of the leaders of this Secret Society, and invited to become a member. Whether this was meant to confer an honour on me, which I believe it was, or whether they wanted my [24/25] entrance fee, I do not know. A predecessor of mine in that same area was reputed to have joined the Society, and had intended to publish what then transpired, but on returning to England he joined one of the Societies there, which are pledged to secrecy, and did not publish it, which I considered was the proper thing to do.

The natives never wear anything on their heads, they have huge bushy heads of hair. So it was rather intriguing to find that they had a word for HAT. The word is 'tamate'. It can also mean a ghost, or a dead man in separation from the body, and it comes from the hat or headdress worn by the members of the Secret Society, who wear these masks or hats on ceremonial occasions, such as I have described. So when the natives saw their first white missionary wearing a hat, the law of association said he is wearing a tamate or hat.


The sea in the islands doesn't team with fish, but there is a plentiful supply. To gaze down the side of a boat on a calm day, as one is approaching the island, is to gaze into a veritable Aladdin's cave. Coral of every colour, shape and size is to be seen, and swimming about in and out, are fish of every colour and shape. The highly coloured ones, have not the flavour of the grey fish like mullet etc.

On one place on the Island of Vanua Lava there is a small bay, one day when we were rowing out from the shore prior to hoisting our sails, we counted over thirty large sharks lazing and just waiting for a shoal of fish to turn up and enter the pay.

Twice in the year at the full moon in October and November the un annelid palalo viridis, commonly known as the coral builder, swarmed on the reefs. If these days happened to fall on a Sunday, it did not make any difference, and the church gladly allowed the taking of these small worm like, peasoup coloured delicacy. The canoes would be out in force on the reefs, with plenty of the finest nets and great quietness as the people scooped them in and placed them into any container they had with them in the canoes. They were most carefully washed in sea water and cooked in the native ovens which were awaiting them. They had rather an unusual flavour and were greatly enjoyed.

The flying fish season had a time all to itself, and was awaited with great gusto. When the time arrived the out-rigger canoes would put out to sea. One man to each canoe, he wore a string of beads round his neck strung on very strong native fishing [26/27] line. His fish hook was made from a carpenter's two inch nail, bent at right angle to which he had fastened the flesh of a hermit crab. When the fisherman got a strike he paid out his line, stuck the stick to which it was fastened in the string of beads on the back of his neck and paddled hard away from the fish, so drowning it. There was always a crowd of us waiting on the beach for the first canoe to land, with a fire alight. The fish were gutted, then placed on the embers and cooked, and never did fish taste so good, eaten with nature's own tools, fingers and thumbs. Those were the days.

An interesting way of fishing was to cut down many fronds of green coconut leaves, take out the huge mid rib, and with the rest make a very long rope. This was taken out at high tide and laid on the sea out on the reef, which at this time was fully covered. When the tide began to recede, and the fish wishing to return to deep water were confronted with this obstacle. When the tide was sufficiently low, we went out on the outside of the coconut rope, armed with our bows and arrows, and shot the fish as they tried to run the gauntlet. Of course the natives were experts, but to a new chum, it took quite a while to shoot fish swimming in the water, and of course, the natives would chivvy you when you missed your quarry.

Another way of catching, fish was for the people at a certain time of the year, and at a certain time of tide, to strew the sea on the reef with the leaves of certain trees, and then at a given time to go searching on the reef and they would return with lots of fish which seemed to have been stupefied by the leaves, but which had not affected their edibility.

On the Island of Malaita in the Solomon Islands they went kite fishing, inside their huge lagoon. You would see a man in a small [27/28] canoe sitting there flying a kite. You could have thought, that he, was rather old for that childish sport, but he knew what he was doing. He was fishing for garfish, the long snouted fish which seems to be the smaller edition of a swordfish. To the tail of his kite he had attached a length of strong fishing line, and to this he had attached, of all things a cobweb, no bait, but in the cobweb there was a piece of pearl shell, which resembled the under belly of a small fish. What a peculiar way to fish you say, he couldn't possibly catch anything with that gear. But you would be wrong, as the fisherman knows from long experience what he is doing, and moreover, that that is the only way can catch a garfish.

In the islands you find tarantula spiders with bodies large as the thumb of an adult, And, of course, the web he builds is correspondly large. When the garfish spots the pearl shell he goes for it, and having got entangled in 'that' spider's web he is caught. The kite kicks and ducks and carries on like a mad thing, which the fisherman coolly pulls in the kite, and with his paddle finishes the garfish, and nice eating they are too.

While I was stationed on the Island of Guadalcanal in the Solomons with some young teachers who had come to me for a refresher course they requested that they might go out on the reef two nights a week to fish. I accompanied them a few times, armed only with 16 inch cane knives, and each carrying a torch, made from dried coconut leaves, which we caused to blaze by wafting them in the air. We waded out on to the reef and the lads with their very good eyesight would spot a fish, bring his torch to the blaze, and strike the fish with his knife and place it in the bag. We were usually up to our knees in water. One night we got 26 crayfish for our efforts. It was good fun, though rather weird on a pitch black night to be out on the reef.

[29] However, one experience rather took the spice out of it for me. I spotted a fish, and the fish instead of stopping where it was dazzled by the light of my torch, darted away, and I gave chase. When I got nearer to it, it emitted some fluid which made it impossible to see the fish. The lads came up with me, and I described what had happened and they calmly said, 'Oh, that would be an octopus, they do that.'

The virile native young men have very good digestive systems, and seem to be able to eat almost anything. So on occasions we went out in the station whaleboat, looking for clams. These grow to a huge size and can be very heavy. The drill was to row out to a likely spot, when one of the lads, wearing a pair of home-made diving glasses, would dive down in search of our quarry. Having located it we would row over towards it, the diver would immediately close on it, and we would heave the clam aboard. Some of this species would be over two feet across the mouth and would weight well over an hundredweight. The large shells can be seen on some of our New Zealand churches where they are used as baptismal fonts, they lend themselves to this purpose, but they are terribly heavy to handle when it comes to emptying them of water.

At one station where I was placed for a while in the Solomons I bought two nets, each eleven fathoms long. At a suitable tide we would venture forth, as the tide was falling, and set our net in the form of a semi-circle, with a lad at each end. We then proceeded to beat the water, moving in a straight line towards the net and driving the fish before us. Of course our luck varied, but we usually got quite a good haul.

One day the cry rang out, 'pagoa, pagoa', which means shark, so we made some extra noise, with the result that the shark, about eight feet long, got really windy, and went for its life, and ran herself aground on the reef which was above high water [29/30] mark just then. When we came up with it and dispatched it, it coughed up six young sharks about a foot long.

Dynamiting fish in the Solomons was illegal, but nevertheless it was practiced by the traders and the men on recruiting schooners. One of those would tell you, 'Oh, it is quite easy and quite safe. You just get your plug of dynamite, and fix a fuse, just about the length of the width of four fingers, and throw it into the middle of the shoal of bonito. I knew two men in the islands who had blown off their arms up to the elbow, in following this practice which is "so simple and quite safe?" Needless to say I never tried this way of getting g fish. After the explosion the native boat's crew would dive after the fish which were stunned and throw them into the dingy. By this time, of course, sharks had appeared from nowhere to get their share of the fish. When asked, the natives usually said, 'Oh, it's quite safe so long as you don't go for the fish the sharks are after.' Very rarely, did one hear of a native being attacked by sharks, under these circumstances, but I did have one young man with me whose right arm had been torn off at the shoulder, in this way. When asked who performed the surgery, he said his own people had fixed him up. And it was a job any surgeon could be proud of.

Of course, in these days the fish hooks are metal ones, bought from the trader. But their own home-made fish hooks, which they made before the arrival of the white man, are works of art, and beautifully and skillfully constructed from shell, bone and mother of pearl, with tortoise shell for the hook proper. I have some mother of pearl small fish hooks, with which we caught [30/31] sprats, as they shoaled in their thousands. You did not need any bait with these hooks, as each hook resembled a small silver fish.

There are two kinds of crabs in the islands. The land crab, which can grow to a very large size. As its name implies it lives ashore, but to spawn it migrates to the beach. It is rather a fearsome sight, to see the whole landscape on the move, as countless crabs move down towards the beach. If one approaches them in the evening, you have a picture of a mighty army, with their two huge claws up in the air, ready to attack anyone or anything that crosses their path, and, of course, if you have any sense you do not cross it.

The other land crab is the coconut crab, which is considered a great delicacy to eat. It has only one large claw, but it is an outsized one. It climbs the coconut tree, and with its huge claws tears off a coconut and drops it to the ground. Then leisurely in reverse gear, descends to tear away the husk and get at the fruit. The natives say that the best way to catch them, is to note the presence of the crab up the tree, climb the trunk with some grass, which is tied round the trunk, and descend. The crab descending backwards, touches the grass, believes it has reached the ground, releases its hold and falls to the ground, and is then quickly dispatched, and taken away, cooked and eaten with great relish. This type of crab is reputed to have broken a man's wrist with its businesslike claw, and one could quite well believe it.

The people of the Banks Islands, where I was stationed, had a lovely fish story. It concerned a man who was out fishing for flying fish, when a very large fish or mammal came up and overturned his outrigger canoe, and swallowed its single occupant, fortunately feet first. He remained in the innards of the fish for [31/32] some days. Fortunately he saw, from his grandstand view, a coconut floating by, which he clutched and ate. This happened again, most opportunely, when he was again hungry, and he repeated the action. His sleeping quarters becoming uncomfortable, he then remembered the piece of sharp bamboo, affixed to his beads, and began to work on sawing away on the fish's innards. It would seem that the fish rather resented this, and expelled the dissatisfied guest. They do not record whether he lived happy ever after.


Belief in witchcraft was a stern reality. The people who live so near to nature, do not need to be taught, that the more important part of any person, is not the conscious, but the subconscious.

The people of my first parish were all nominal Christians, and yet at heart, and understandably they all believe in, and some practised, witchcraft.

There was a tremendous stir one morning on the Island of Mota, while I was there, when it was discovered that during the previous night, someone had been busy exhuming bones in one of the local cemeteries. Of course, this only meant one thing, that someone was acquiring some fresh tools of trade, to carry on his business. And it had a marked effect on all the people, who mentioned it in whispers.

On the nearby Island of Motalava (Large Mota) I was called in to minister to two men who were bewitched. The facts emerged later, and they were these. These two men were accused by a jealous husband, of paying attentions to his wife. He therefore engaged a man skilled in witchcraft, and who had all the paraphernalia of his trade, to accomplish their death. The husband paid a deposit, and the dirty work at the cross roads began. The two men were, of course, unaware of these intentions, and were rather careless. The gentleman employed collected some hair from one of the accused, which he had been careless enough not to burn, and from the other some of his excrement. Then in a secret place on the beach he went to work. The result was that both men, were stricken with what, amounted to paralysis from the hips downward. It came on suddenly, but they did not suspect witchcraft for quite a while. When they did the man with the reputation for witchcraft was approached. This man proudly admitted that he had been busy, named his price to cancel the job, this was paid, and the two men recovered. The point is that neither suspected [33/34] witchcraft, neither were guilty of the accusation, and neither had any grounds for being suspicious. The story however has a moral. The man engaged to do the job, said that if the jealous husband, who had employed him, had paid the full sum agreed upon at the time of his engagement, both would have certainly died. Goods on credit, are not as secure as those for which one pays cash in full.

The power of mind over matter is demonstrated in the daily life of these people, and to see a healthy strong man lying inert on the ground, having announced that he is about to die, and feeling powerless to do anything about it, is a very saddening experience.

On the voyage when I was chaplain on the 'Southern Cross' we had picked up a boat's crew from the New Hebrides, and a fine body of young healthy noisy lads they were. One day at the headquarters of one of our clergy on the Island of Gela, on which Tulagi, the then capital of the Solomons was situated. The boat's crew had worked happily landing stores and finished their work a five o'clock, had a swim in the sea, jumping from the ship's rigging, and appearing to be on top of the world. About nine o'clock the ships bosun came to me very perturbed, saying, 'you had better come at once.' I went with him to the tween decks where the crew slept, to find one of the crew, flat on his back and rigid, saying repeatedly in our own language of Mota, 'I have heard that I am going to die', over and over again he said it. I did all I could to reason with him, reported to Captain Burgess, who at great risk, upachored and we moved very slowly nearer Tulagi, where there was a government [34/35] hospital and the good Doctor O'Sullivan. He came aboard as soon as he was notified, and we moved the lad to one of our empty cabins. He asked where the lad came from, gave him an injection for the heart, advised us what to do [and] told us what he feared would happen. Happen it did at 5 a.m. next morning, despite the fact that we had sat up all night with him, and had done everything possible to help him. His body was buried the same morning before noon, less than twenty-four hours from the time when he had his dream in his bunk. Quite a number of the recruited labour on the plantations died in this way. Presumably the man, feeling lonely and yearning for his kith and kin, realising the impossibility of being repatriated before he had completed his term of engagement, determined to die, and die he did.

One plantation manager, would have me visit one of his employees who was in this condition. He was very angry, feeling that he was being cheated by a man whom he tended to despise, who was getting the best of him and robbing him of his labour, and the cost of his recruitment, he was glum.

There were cases too which responded to the service of exorcism, which gladdened one's heart, and restored a man wholely.

There was no anchorage on the Island of Motalava, where I had my headquarters when I was stationed in the Banks Islands. So when the 'Southern Cross' came in we went off in my whale boat. The skipper always gave us a good lee, although he could not come in too close to the shore. If there was a sea running we would stand off, and on, and wait for her to roll our way, pull in quickly alongside and jump straight on to her deck ignoring the Jacobs ladder, and grab the hatch coaming [35/36] before she rolled to starboard. On one of these occasions, the Bishop ordered me aboard to act as chaplain. This, as I have explained earlier was not a cushy job, but meant landing on all kinds of inhospitable beaches, in order to give the teachers their annual pay. At one place in the Torres Islands were there was no resident priest, I was landed, the Bishop saying that I would be picked up at 10 a.m. the following day. There were children to baptise, marriages to bless, the school children to be examined, cases of discipline to be investigated, and lots of private interviews, with people seeking advice and encouragement. There was the Evening Service, and preparation for Holy Communion to be celebrated next morning. They hadn't had the joy and privilege of making their Communion for over a year. At this service the collection consisted of bows and arrows, woven baskets, and kits, which we went on to Auckland where they were purchased as curios.

After the evening occupations I was alone in the little native house which they had offered to me to sleep in. It had no door or windows, just holes cut in the bamboo walls. I had a Deitz hurricane lantern and was having a quiet read, before turning in. I had not heard any noise, but sensed that there was somebody around. So I called softly in the native language, 'Who is there?' To which I got the reply, 'I'. He was invited to enter. And in came a man with fear written all over his face. We talked about this and that, because it is considered very bad manners to ask point blank, 'Well what do you want?' and in due course he came round o discuss what really brought him to see me.

He said, 'I am being bewitched,' and gave me his reasons for arriving at this opinion. Now it is no earthly use to tell such a person to forget it, it is too real to him. We had a long interview well into the night, the service of exorcism, which drove out his fear and dread, and he went off to his [36/37] home quite happy, and appeared to be a very happy man, when I met him at the service the next morning.



When the "Southern Cross" arrived at Norfolk Island after I had enjoyed my first furlough in New Zealand. The newly consecrated Bishop (J.M. Steward) ordered me to go to the Solomon Islands, to take charge of the hospital buildings. The hospital had been closed since the doctor in charge had joined the Medical Corps, and was overseas with the British Army. The hospital was situated on the Island of Guadalcanal, only about forty miles from the port of entry Tulagi, where a steamer arrived every six weeks approximately. This was a wonderful improvement on the three monthly service in the New Hebrides.

Here I had a group of lads from the various islands of the group. They spoke fifteen different languages, but we all spoke the language of the Island of Mota in the Banks Islands. They were teachers who were sent to me for a refresher course. All virile, strong, healthy lads and great pals of mine.

We arrived there at the time, when the land crabs were migrating to the beach to spawn. And one can well appreciate the story Dr. E.E. Fox tells in his delightful book, 'Kakamora' about the Rev. J. Edwards, who had rather a dread of them. Turing to the congregation during the celebration of Holy Communion, the congregations were astonished to hear him say, 'hear also what St John saith, will one of you please put that awful land crab outside', as he saw it deliberately and of set pur-[37/38]pose, marching up the aisle to where he was standing at the altar.

This was the year 1919 when the price of copra had boomed and the plantation owners, who had had quite a thin time during the war, were hopeful of making their fortunes,. The doctor's house, which I occupied, had been empty for three years, and the ants were enjoying themselves, so much so, that they resented my arrival, and the first two nights they turned me out of my bed.

The Norfolk Islander we had in charge of our headquarters station on the Island of Florida, left to make his fortune, and I was transferred there, nearer still to Tulagi, and so nearer [to] receiving our mail. We were merely fifteen miles, by water, from Tulagi. Here we seemed to be quite civilized, and we saw quite a few schooners as they passed through recruiting, or returning labourers to their homes on the island of Malaita.

On one occasion a schooner anchored for the night just off our beach. On hearing the schooner, I was answered by Mr. 'Buster' Bell, the resident Government Officer of Auki on the warlike island of Malaita, who replying to my invitation to come ashore for the evening, said that he could not leave the ship because he had a 'harvest festival' aboard, consisting of eleven murderers, whom he had arrested in his district. This was not an over-statement. Mr. Bell was the natives' best friend, he was justice personified, fearless, who would travel through the bush at night, surround the village with his armed native police, and call on the villagers to surrender the man he wanted. On the occasion mentioned above the court sat, and fifteen men were sentenced to death.

[39] It was very noticeable that many old and experienced hands were killed in the Solomons, when they did something out of character. Buster Bell was a case in point. Later on he and his white assistant were killed, together with 19 of his Armed Native Policemen, at a place named Sangara [sic] on the Island of Malaita. He was engaged in collecting the unpopular poll tax, and to prove to the people that he was on a peaceful mission, he ordered his men to stack their rifles. He had never done this before, and he didn't live to do it again. In fairness to the natives, it should be said that they did not kill wantonly, but always as the result of real or imaginary injustice to their people, by a member of the white race.

Another example of this carelessness occurred in my time there. A Malaita man's brains had been knocked out, on one of Levers Pacific Plantations Limited one Saturday morning, when a 'new chum', in the absence of the manager, considered that a Malaita labourer was very cheeky and truculent. Our judge had been seconded to Fiji. So the accused and two of his mates were taken to Fiji for trial. Stories were circulating in Suva, the capital, that it wasn't safe to move about in the Solomons without packing a gun, despite the fact that we always went unarmed, and went into the wildest places. The men were acquitted of murder, criminal assault, and common assault and freed and returned to the Solomons, But wisely they were repatriated to Australia.

After this it was common knowledge that "the price was out for a white man's head." All the whites in the group knew this. Yet one old, respected and experienced recruiter was killed some time later. He did some-[39/40]thing he had never done before. It was the custom when recruiting for two dinghies to leave the schooner, one to land the recruiter, the other manned by dependable natives, to row up and down the beach fully armed to cover their master ashore. On this occasion he landed at a place where he was well known and respected, without his covering dingy, and Jack L paid dearly for his one careless act.

The gallows on which they were hanged, was situated just outside the room where the matron of the hospital resided. The hangings took place at dawn.

On one occasion they forgot to warn the matron this was to take place at dawn, but she hurriedly vacated her room when she realised what was talking place. (Hanging for murder is not longer the law there now.)

Another day, a Sunday, the ship's launch of the Burns Philp boat came to visit us. Among the passengers was a lady, who was introduced by the Captain of the ship, as a world traveler, who was accepted as a Red Indian Chieftainess, and as a Chieftainess of the Eskimo people. She said she was collecting material for a book, she proposed to write of her experience on the voyage.

Now such a person, lady or gentlemen, is fair game to be told the biggest whoopers any of the old hands can produce. And obviously, a lady who could claim such distinguished honours, was just "Asking for it.' And of course she got it. How can a person who does not live with the people, doesn't know their language, or their mentality, how can she claim to write about them? Remember the voyage took only six weeks, and only called at ports and plantations, never got off the beaten track, and never saw the people in their own environment. Remember also that there were no roads in those days only tracks, no vehicles, not even a bicycle. Yet some months afterwards I read a review of a book by [40/41] this lady of her hair-raising experiences, while in the "Very Wild Solomon Islands'. It went something like this: 'The author was with the chief engineer driving in a motor car, when going through some 'very bad country' the engine stalled. Never did an engineer work so frantically, to get the engine turning over. He succeeded just as the cannibals were coming out of the jungle.'

Another visitor, on old hand in the Group, and a great friend of mine, anchored offshore one night. He was returning some labourers from the plantation to their home on Malaita. He and his made [mate] came ashore for the evening. He was a Captain McC. He had had some strange experiences, which are very hard to account for. He had told me this many months before. There were two days in the year, when if possible he would not to a thing, or lift a tool. The reason for this attitude was this.

On the same day in May, on two occasions, he had fallen down a hatch, and caught typhoid fever. And on a certain day on two occasions, in November, he had blown his arm off to the elbow when dynamiting fish, and had his house and store burnt down.

When he anchored and came ashore, knowing that I would not laugh at him, he said, 'You know I should not be here.' To which I replied, 'Why?' and he said, 'Look at the date.' It was the black date in May. He also said, 'You know I have a feeling that the old schooner (named 'Annie') will go down under me.' To which I replied, 'Oh I hope not.'

After supper they went back aboard. It was a beautiful starry night, the lagoon where he was anchored was very still. About 2 a.m. one of my lads awakened me to inform me that the schooner was on fire, and so she was. What had happened was that it had begun to rain and the natives who were sleeping on deck went down below taking the Deitz hurricane lamp with them Unknown to the skipper the engine was vapourising, an explosion ensued and the schooner burn below the water line of her [41/42] copper sheath. The two whites lost everything, eight natives were burnt, one very badly from which he died when we had taken them all through to the Government Hospital at daybreak. Could it be called a mere coincidence or not???

He was a scrupulously honest man. When he told me of his fears I said, 'Of course the schooner is insured' to which he replied that she wasn't. I said, 'Why you have just come from Tulagi, why didn't you insure her on your way through?" to which he replied, 'Oh, I couldn't do that because if anything did happen to her, it would look rather suspicious." And so he lost everything.

There was no residential hotel in Tulagi until Tom Elkington opened one. All liquor therefore was purchased from the different stores, and if the ship from Sydney was late on arrival it could, and in fact it did happen, that the stocks were very low, and on occasions were exhausted. So that when the steamer was due to arrive there would be quite a gathering of schooners and launches round about Tulagi, and the Island of Makambo, where the wharf was and also Burns Philp store. When some of the lads of the village laid their hands on the 'hard stuff' and relieved their tortured throats, there could be fun and games with inebriated gentlemen, seeking their friends, who they would try to press to help them celebrate the arrival of the steamer and the end of the 'drought'. It did not often happen but there were occasions when revolvers had a bad habit of popping off, though nobody ever got hurt, it was just another exhibition of high spirits. On one of these rare events it is recorded that an unpopular gentleman who was acting Commissioner in the absence on leave, of the Resident Commis-sioner, Mr. C. Workman, was on board the steamer "Mindini' celebrating the [42/43] arrival. When going down the companion way to the Government boat to be rowed over to Tulagi he placed his foot on the step of the companion ladder, which was not there, and he fell into the sea. Immediately the cry of 'Man overboard' went up, and Captain Voy, the skipper of the 'Mindini', came to the ship's rail with the query, 'Who is overboard?' When he was informed who it was he replied, 'Let the B drown.'

With the advent of the hotel, the law was altered, so that the stores were only allowed to sell liquor in wholesale quantity. One of our priests who did excellent work on the island of Guadalcanal, came into port some time afterwards. He was an Irishman and a great favourite with everybody. Into Burns Philp's store he marched to order some stores, amongst which he included a bottle of wine, which he needed for the service of Holy Communion. He was politely informed that he could be supplied with one dozen bottles, but not with just one. He was very cross and told the manager that he would go over to Tulagi see Mr. Workman in person. This he did and the Resident Commissioner was understanding enough to inform him that he could get just one bottle whenever he wished. He stalked down the hill from the Residency very pleased with himself, and his great friend, the priest in charge of the Island of Gela, headed the launch toward Makambo, and the store. Our Irish friend asked why he was heading for Makambo, to which he received the reply, 'to get the bottle of wine of course.' He was not prepared for the retort, 'I will never buy wine there as long as I live.' Whether it was the Irish in him that did it, or whether it was the tropical climate that made him act in this way, [43/44] is for the reader to decide. Because the missionaries in the islands were in a quandary.

There were those who said, 'You must have been mad to come out here', or, just as devastating, 'now you are here you must be mad.'

But it was the unanimous opinion of those of us who worked there that we would not swap out lot, with anybody in the whole world. As was said earlier, we hadn't much money, but we did see life. And anyone who was absolutely certain of his vocation enjoyed life to the full. And there were very few misfits, very few indeed.


The capital of the Solomons nowadays is Honiara on the Island of Guadalcanal. It has an aerodrome quite handy, and a resident population of 1000. It actually has roads, with real motor cars running about on them, a thing to behold.

In my day there were only a few white people, and they scattered over the entire Group, most of them living, or having their headquarters in Tulagi, Makambo, and Gavutu, which was the headquarters of Levers Pacific Plantations Limited.

While Graves, the priest in charge of Gela was on furlough, and I was at our headquarters on the same island at Siota, seven white people died within a period of three months, and I was called upon to conduct their funeral services. The Government launch 'Ifa' would come through the Boli Passage in charge of a Fijian Lieutenant of Police, and anchor just before the very short twilight ended, with a note requesting, that I proceed to Tulagi at dawn, in order to conduct the burial service of the person named in the note. On arrival the next morning the whole white population would be waiting my arrival, and we proceeded straight to the cemetery for the service and committal. It was the accepted rule for natives and whites, that a person who died before noon, should be buried the same day, or if decease took place in the afternoon or evening, the burial took place as early as possible on the following day. Needless to say the white community were rather shaken at so many deaths, in three months. But this was not as bad as in New Guinea, during the days of the gold rush where it is averred they held a sweepstake, on whom would be the next death. This was rather macabre I think, even if it was realistic.

[46] Here are two true stories told, one by Buster Bell, the Government Officer mentioned above, the other by an old timer named Captain Kouper [Kuper], who had been a officer in the German Navy in the First World War; and who had settled down on the island of Santa Anna, off the coast of San Cristoval, as he was a planter. He was a very loyal citizen and held in esteem by all who knew him, and enjoyed his friendship.

Said Mr. Bell to me, 'Have you heard of the death of Mr. Daniel, a missionary member of the South Sea Evangelical Mission.' He was stationed on Malaita. He stayed at this post, although he knew there was the price out for a white man's head. His head was collected by a professional at the job, and he went with the head of Daniels to collect the money from the chief. The head was examined and questions asked. When the chief discovered it was the head of Daniels, whose name as known to him, he refused to pay out with this very cryptic remark, 'Daniels wasn't a white man, he was a missionary.' That, perhaps, is one of the finest testimonials, to the worth of the missionary, in the scale of values in the eyes of a wild heathen. He might have been regarded as a fool, but it was realised that he was there for the welfare of the native people, for the missionaries did not trade, and were always at the service of the people, either Christian or heathen.

The other story concerns an old character who had spent many years in the employ of Lever Pacific Plantations. His name was Tom Butler, whom I had never met. When he retied from Lever's service, he decided to forsake civilisation and live on the Island of Ulawa, rather off the beaten track. The natives were fond of him, and built him a very good [46/47] native house, and for inner walls he hung lots of white calico. One day, Captain Kouper related, he called in to see Tom. The natives were delighted to see him, because they were very worried as Tom was in a coma, and not the first one. He stayed with him until he came out of the coma. When the natives asked him what they should do if it should happen again; he gave them some sound instructions in pidgin English. He said something like this, 'Suppose 'im he all same one time more, you keep 'im, three day, four day, five day, suppose 'im he no stink, you leave 'im be. Suppose 'im he stink little bit, you bury 'im along ground all same white man.' They said they fully understood, and so he left them and went on to his home.

The next time he called in to see Tom, he was regaled with this story. 'Well master we keep 'im all same you say, we keep 'im along six day, and me fella think 'im die finish. So we dig 'im hole alonga ground, and we wrap 'im up along calico belonga 'im and we fella look sad too much. Me fella tell 'im altogether boy 'im he gotta bukabuka (book) he take him then we put 'im alonga hole belonga 'im, and me say, when I say one, two, three, altogether, boy throw him sod alonga hole all same white man.' This was too much for the 'corpse' who gave vent to his feelings in no uncertain terms and he vowed and declared that he would report them to Mr. Woodford, the then Resident Commissioner. The 'mourners' went for their lives, one, braver than the rest scaled a nearby coconut palm and watched the contortions down below with grave dread. Finally he plucked up courage, descended the tree and with his knife cut the knot in the calico which bound the ankles, grabbed one end and ran for his life, while poor old Tom gradually unwound the further the native got [47/48] from the grave, holding the end of the calico shroud. Tom's language and threats could be plainly heard by all the 'mourners'. Them were the days. I could not say that 'he lived happy ever after', but his name was still evergreen in the Solomons.

While relieving the headmaster (Rev. W.J. Durrad), who was in charge of our large school for boys in the New Hebrides, we received the first pupils, from the two out of the way islands of Tikopia and Anuda. There islands were peopled by people of Polynesian stock, and a fine race they were too. There was no malarial fever on these islands. A little while after arriving at St. Patrick's School, one of the lads named Marara, got his first does of malaria. So I went to dose him with some quinine in tablet form. He was invited to swallow the stuff, but he steadily refused to do so. This was rather puzzling, but I found the reason for his lack of co-operation later, when he had learned our lingua franka of the Mota language. When asked why he would not take the medicine given to him, he replied, 'Why should I? I thought it was lizards' eggs,' which you often see stuck on the uprights and ridgepoles of the houses. These are laid by the indoor lizards, which are found in all native houses, and which live on the insects which are never far away in the islands.

The men of Tikopia are big powerful men, mostly six feet in height, who wear their hair long, while the women's are close cropped. I first landed on this Island from the 'Southern Cross' in the year 1917. The chief, a huge powerful man was seated when we entered his [house], bending down on our hands and knees to crawl through the small doorway we were presented to him. He was then a heathen, and his word was law, and his commands were strictly enforced. He allowed one of his sons Rangiata to come away to school with us. On that voyage of the ship was a lad named Mark Firamoarik, who had been at St. Patrick's School, for two years and was greatly looking forward to seeing his relatives. But they [48/49] were not there to greet him. The reason, we learnt accounting for their absence, was, that one of his brothers had been found guilty of theft, and he and his relatives had been condemned to an awful death. They were placed in a large canoe with water and some coconuts, and pushed off the beach never to return under penalty of death. The nearest island was some two hundred miles away. So when their food and water was exhausted they would throw themselves into the sea and be devoured by sharks, as many others had done before them.

Seven years later I was on Tikopia, but it was a very different island then, because the great chief had in the meantime been converted to the Christian Faith, baptized, and confirmed. And it was my great joy and privilege, to celebrate the service of Holy Communion, at which the same chief made his communion with his people. The bad old days were ended. And yet, even today, there are those who say, 'Why don't you leave the heathen alone.' They are quite happy as they are.

The Irish priest mentioned earlier had a dry sense of humour. He married one of the lady missionaries. The priest who celebrated the nuptials was a great friend of his, and was more nervous than the groom. He said, 'Please say after me, 'with this wing I thee red,' to which the groom, in a very friendly way said, 'nay, that's wrong'. The groom was in the midst of a bad dose of malarial fever, while the service was proceeding, and afterwards he said to the celebrating priest, 'I suppose you think you married us the other day, but you didn't you know, because when you thought I said "I will' what I really said was "I'M ill'. But they lived very happy ever after, and the groom lies buried on the Island of Santa Ysabel, and the bride remained at her post on the same Island all through the Japanese occupation, and received the M.B.C. decoration. We hadn't much money, but we did see life.


It must have been very galling for the non British races, i.e. the Germans in Samoa, with their colonies to have to use Pidgin English language, in dealing with their native labour. It is a definite language, very crude and very forthright, it also incorporates quite a number of swear words which are very expressive to say the least. We never used it except when dealing with labourers on the plantations, who did not speak our lingua franka.

A native desiring to know the name of an organ, went about it in this way. He asked. 'What name him something, suppose you fight him strong, he sing out too much?' Another wishing to know the name of a saw which he had seen for the first time asked, 'What name him something push him he go, pull him he come, he kaikai tree all time.' To which he replied, 'Oh, he brother belonga axe.'

But even this language can be misunderstood, as happened once at the store at Makambo. The trader having ordered his stores, gave a bottle of gin to his launch boy, with the injunction to 'place him close up along engine.' His business completed he went aboard and ordered the lad to start the engine (there were no self starters in those days). But in vain did the lad try to start her up. At the finish the trader said he would try. He too was unsuccessful, and in the very cramped quarters he got very hot and very thirsty. Se he asked his launch boy to give him the bottle he had entrusted to his care. The lad fairly staggered him when he replied, 'Oh master you tell im me [50/51] fella put him close up along engine, so me capsize im along engine,' (he had emptied the contents into the benzene tank). His master replied, 'No wonder she won't go the D thing is shikkared."

While we were without a resident judge, one was brought over from Fiji to try some natives accused of murder. Six white people sat as assessors. The judge said to the first accused, You kill im this fella?' to which he replied, 'me kill 'im', the judge said, 'the prisoner pleads guilty.' One of the assessors asked permission to cross question him, leave was given. 'You kill im finish?' to which the accused replied disdainfully, 'Mi kill im one time no more.' He admitted striking him which is a very different thing from 'kill im finish', which means striking to cause death to ensure. Yes it is a definite language indeed.

'Im bugger up finish' leaves no doubt in one's mind that the launch engine has broken down, and needs urgent attention to make it go again, it is very crude, but it is to be admitted that it is very definite and final. It leaves no room for argument and the fact has to be faced.

So it was in the account of the trial for murder in Fiji recorded above. The deceased brother said to Captain Turner, who was in charge of the Armed Constabulary in the Solomons, after the accused had been discharged, asked him what the verdict in the court was. On being informed he replied, 'Oh you savvy im he killed brother blonga me, by and by we fix im.' And at a later date a man who had no connection whatever with that crime, paid the penalty with his life, on one of the beaches of [51/52] the Island of Malaita. Their reasoning was that a member of that race should pay the penalty. Doubtless we can see the injustice of this reasoning, though we may be able to sympathise with it.

But, by and large, I do not believe that the natives killed just for the sake of killing.

It rather reminds one of the morality of the Old Testament of 'a tooth for a tooth, and an eye for an eye' irrespective of whose tooth or eye, happens to be taken in the process of this perverted sense of justice. Tribal feuds had been in their blood for countless generations from the 'good old days' when headhunting was one of their favourite pastimes. It would seem that, understandably the native in his wild state regarded an injustice meted out, by one of the white race to one of the native race, had to be avenged by them.

Quite often we have cause to remember our birthdays. Usually it is because some friend of ours threw a party, or because someone, knowing our likes and dislikes gave us something they knew would be acceptable and appropriate, such as a book. But I celebrated one of my birthdays in a most unconventional way. It had not been arranged and planned by anyone, it just happened and we were shipwrecked, and we had to abandon ship,

Having served for seven years on the staff of the Melanesian Mission one was allowed to go on furlough to England. I had only had one short furlough in New Zealand during that period, so naturally one was looking forward to a return to the Homeland. I was then in charge of a large school, training young men as teachers, on the Island of Ugi, which is one hundred and fifty miles from the port of Tulagi, from where the ship sailed for Sydney and civilisation. It was arranged for a schooner to call and pick me up and convey me to the port in time to connect. The schooner duly arrived and we made our way north arriving in nice time. The good ship 'Mindini' then left, her first [52/53] scheduled call being Brisbane, on the Australian coast. At 3.57 a.m. on 7th March, 1923 we were rudely awakened and found that our bunks were no longer horizontal, because the bows of the ship were higher than they should have been. The First Mate was on his way to the bridge, to take over the watch from the Fourth Mate, when the ship struck Mellish Reef. Being abreast of the Master's cabin he very dutifully knocked on his cabin door and said, 'I have to report, sir, that we have struck Mellish Reef.' The Captain walked to the ship's rail and replied, 'and you have made a damned good job of it, man the lifeboats.' The ship was making water in the bows where she had struck the reef, so Sparks got busy sending out S.O.S. messages, and giving the ship's position. He kept at his post until the water reached the ship's dynamo, and before this happened he was able to report, to our relief, that the message had been picked up by a ship, sailing on her course from Sydney to Nauru Island, and that she was changing course and coming to our assistance. This she did and thirty-six hours later, took us aboard.

Mellish Reef is a large reef with a large part of its surface above high water mark. Here we landed in the ship's lifeboats a half tide. They crew had time to store food in them, and to get together some canvas for coverings while ashore, and so we all got safely ashore. We had time to get together our personal luggage, which, quite rightly, we had to handle ourselves. I lost a valuable large case of curios, which I had intended donating to the British Museum, including a weaving loom from the Santa Cruz Islands, but that could not be helped. We were only too grateful to get ashore with the knowledge that, thanks to modern wireless, we would in due course be rescued.

There were hundreds of every kind of seabirds on the reef and thousands of eggs, some of which were very 'ripe' and occasionally exploded. We set up the canvas on oars to get out of the very [53/54] hot sun, we were only about ten degrees south of the Equator. The food was quite good, but the water must have been in the boat's beakers for a long time, and later on we all came out in a body rash. We had not any sugar, but fortunately, one of the passengers was a diabetic, and he had some saccharine, which he willingly shared with those of us who take sugar in our tea.

As the tide rose the First Mate came round and called out, 'All hands and the cook turn out, and pull up the lifeboats.' There are no "Passengers" in a shipwreck--all are crew, and quite rightly so. That was a new phrase to me; bet we understood and pulled with a will.

On the "Mindini" was the Captain, his wife, and the officers and crew, of an American four masted sailing ship, carrying copra direct to the American seaboard. Their ship had caught fire and they had had to abandon her at the port of Gizo in the Solomons. The Captain's wife was a very large person, and the story was that they had missed her when they were abandoning ship. They eventually found her, she had returned to her cabin to retrieve her corsets. They were rather a pessimistic and superstitious lot and seemed to delight in informing us, that these things always went in threes, and that something was sure to happen to the ship, which was on its way to our rescue. Fortunately they were wrong. The one I recall most of this strange bag was the First Mate of the sailing ship. He had the filthiest tongue of any person I have ever met. At last to our great joy the good ship "Nauru Chief" hove in sight, and after some time we all went aboard her, sailing past our good [54/55] ship "Mindini" on the reef, as he took us on to Samarai, one of the ports of New Guinea. Here we pulled up alongside of a sister ship of the "Mindini", named "Morinda". We clambered over the ship's rail with our worldly goods. Profusely and sincerely thanked our rescuers, who then resumed their voyage to Nauru and Ocean Island. We had a short, but very sincere service of thanksgiving on the deck that evening.

The "Morinda" was a full ship on her way from New Guinea to Sydney. On the wrecked "Mindini" were some ten lady passengers. After the Captain of the "Morinda" had spoken in very plain language, some of the men folk offered their cabins to our lady passengers. We, mere men, were given one flannelette blanket, and we made the best of it. Things were only middling and so a small committee was elected from the "Mindini" passengers, of which I was one, and we waited on the chief steward to tell him just what we thought about him. He didn't seem to be edified or amused. I think that I was only chosen in the hope that I would be a restraining influence. I agreed with all that was said on that occasion, it was enlightening.

So we moved off on our voyage to the Australian coast, and we arrived at Cairns. Here was another sister ship belonging to Burns Philp named the "Marella". We were told that it had been built on the Kaiser's orders, so that he could tour the world after he had conquered it. That could easily be true, for she was a beautiful, well appointed ship with every comfort. We received a heart-warming reception from the Captain Mortimer, and we were treated like lords, by the delightful Chinese [55/56] stewards. We duly arrived in Sydney where we were besieged by reporters, from the newspapers.

It is to be remembered that I had not been in civilisation for four years. I had to go out into the city the next day, in order to purchase some decent clothes, but I was so appalled and overcome by the noise and bustle of Sydney, that I feel sure that I wouldn't have ventured on to the streets that first night, if anyone had offered me a large sum of money.

By being shipwrecked, I had missed my connection with the steamer sailing to England. But by chasing her overland I caught her in Adelaide. I had dodged the confidence tricksters in Melbourne, only by taking refuge in the offices of the Australian Board of Missions, and staying there until the train left for Adelaide.

Almost the first man I met on the "Suevic" was a man who had been a fellow passenger, seven years before, and with whom I had not had any contact or correspondence in all that time, he had been in Singapore.


On the completion of my English furlough I returned to my station in the Solomons, by way of Sydney. In the meantime Captain W. Voy, had received the command of another Burns Philp ship. When I presented myself as a passenger he looked me up and down and said, 'My word you have a damned cheek to come back again with me.' The only other member of the crew of the ill fated "Mindini" on board was the wireless officer, and we had quite a few yarns about the good old days on the Mellish Reef. This voyage was accomplished without any untoward incident and we were one large happy family.

On this voyage was an ex army officer of whom I had heard, but never met. He had persuaded some of his brother officers to purchase a copra plantation in the Manovo [sic] Lagoon, and appoint him as the manager. He was very adept with a Crown and Anchor board and on a previous voyage he had managed to win the sum of _800 from one man between Sydney and Tulagi, _800 in seven days wasn't bad going. He assured me that he had been paid too. The 'mug' was a well known old timer, who should have had more sense, or should have realised that you cannot mix drinks, and beat the crown and anchor board in the hands of an expert.


Our people, both men and women, never wore anything above the waist line. The reason being hygienic. They might possess two calico shirts or loin cloths, and when they got wet or perspired freely they could change them. Whereas if they wore anything over the body and got very wet they would not have a change of clothes, and pneumonia would follow. But one did see some strange arrays occasionally. One of my teachers in Banks islands had been a labourer on the sugar plantations of Queensland. I met him one day clad in his loin [57/58] cloth, with a torn shirt overhanging it, a pair of old Bleucher boots and an umbrella.

On the "Southern Cross" came a gentleman wearing a loin cloth and a waistcoat, while another sported a loin cloth, and a red army tunic, he felt himself to be quite a swell.

The people, men and women as well as the children of the artificial Islands off Malaita wore no clothes. They had fine physique and were very healthy. Once we were regaled by a gentleman wearing a loin cloth and a top hat, some swell?


Where the villages were situate on, or near the coast the problem of sanitation was easily settled, the people used the beach and the tides did the rest. But it wasn't so easy in the inland villages, and it could be very embarrassing too. Outside such a village there would be a fairly large area set apart with young trees, and shrubs, with a strong wall of coral blocks erected as a fence. Here were kept the village pigs who were the scavengers. To this place one had to repair armed with many stones, to shy at the animals.

On the occasion of a marriage pork would be on the menu, but it soon became known that one didn't eat pork.

Perhaps the healthiest of our people lived on the artificial islands. Built up from the floor of the large lagoon, with the rise and fall of the tides, sanitation was well nigh perfect.

One may hold very strong views about millionaires. But certainly one millionaire made very good use of his wealth, how-[58/59]ever acquired. This was the Rockerfellow [sic] Foundation, which financed the Hookworm Campaign in the Pacific. Doctor Lambert came to the Solomons, while I was there, and I acted as his interpreter and his agent. They did a wonderful and thorough job in the Pacific. With the beaches used as mentioned above the hookworm had an easy time of it. It found entrance into the human body by climbing in between the toes. So it found entrance to the blood stream, where it consumed one drop of blood per day, to keep itself alive. As many as 200 hookworms have been discovered in one human being. So it was necessary to collect samples for the good doctor. In those good old days the treatment was to take a generous dose of Carbon Tetrachloride, the stuff used by dry-cleaners nowadays, the vilest stuff one could possibly swallow. It is insoluble, and has the taste of a combination of kerosene, benzene, turpentine, and what have you. So I lined my sixty lads up, gave them the drill, and then took the first dose. I wondered whether it wasn't going to be the last thing I should swallow, because it kept repeating for hours afterwards. The lads downed their portion with sundry grimaces, but they did down it. The next item on the programme was a strong dose of good old Epsom Salts. The results of the treatment was really wonderful. The skins of their bodies fairly glistened, and their eyes sparkled, and all their lethargy disappeared. Good old Rockerfellow Foundation. Dr. Lambert recorded his experience in 'A Doctor's Paradise', a very readable book for all, and not only doctors.


Melanesian society is based on matrilineal descent. So the paternal uncle, is of more importance than the father when it comes to the time of arranging a marriage. This could, and did take place, when the parties were mere children. When the great day of the actual marriage arrived everybody in the village lent a helping hand. All the natives' ovens in the village were kept busy for the preparation of the food, and especially the puddings, there were many ready and willing helpers. Sometimes the contracting parties had never spoken to each other previously and they were abominably shy. For this great occasion the bride would wear a calico blouse, made from the smallest amount of red or white calico, and fairly bursting at the seams. They would stand before the altar, turning away from each other and perspiring freely. The officiating priest, had to provide the wedding ring, these I purchased from Sydney at a cost of five shillings per dozen, and, needless to say, they were not eighteen carat gold.

Usually these arranged marriages worked out well. But sometimes the consequences were disastrous.

I had one case of a widow on the Island of Vanua Lava, which demanded that some definite action was called for in regard to this custom. This lady, so I was informed, on my visit, had gone off the rails with another man. Martha was well known to me, and this action of hers, was out of character. So I had quite a long interview with her, and got her to give me her confidence. And this is her true story.

The people of the village had made it plain that they considered that she should marry a certain man, this she did under duress. But, said I, 'do you love him?' No word crossed her lips, but her answer was most eloquent. The Mota word for [60/61] lips is 'ngusui', and the word to hate is 'ngustup'. She just pursed her lips and conveyed to me that she despised the man, she had been compelled, owing to public opinion, to marry. If the reader will try to purse the lips in order to pronounce this word and have a glance in the mirror, he will realise how eloquent it is and also how convincing.

So afterwards it was the custom to interview the parties separately, in order to be satisfied that the marriage had a reasonable likelihood of working out well.


The sphere of the Melanesian Mission is in the hurricane belt, and hurricanes are not a joke, or to be treated lightly. For about eight months of the year the South East trade wind blows. Then any time from the beginning of November, to the end of March, the wind boxes the compass, and blows from the North West. Usually the change is almost unannounced, and comes with terrific force taking everything in its stride before it. (I have already recounted the hurricane which we experienced on Armistice Day 1918.)

At our boys' school, St. Patrick's, on Vanua Lava, another priest and I, were relieving while the headmaster had his short New Zealand furlough. We went to bed one night, a lovely calm night, and without any warning whatever, the wind changed and a first class hurricane came along. We were fortunate that near the house was a huge banyan tree facing north west. This took the full force of the gale, and opened out just like an inverted umbrella and saved our house. Sheets of iron were ripped off the roof and sailed hundreds of yards away, one 600 gallon tank, full of water we found next day 100 yards away. It would have been extremely dangerous to have gone outside while the hurricane was at its peak. So all we could do was to [61/62] boil the old billy, and make a cup of tea, and wait for it to blow out and for daylight. And what a mess greeted us in the morning. One school room made of native material was a total wreck, and most of the others had suffered damage. However, the natives are great philosophers, and took it quite placidly, and it is surprising what tea and biscuits can do to regain one's morale. There were hundreds of coconuts down, and trees and huge branches strewn all over the place. But the worst feature is the destruction of the sago palm trees, on which we were dependant, for the leaves, from which we construct the roofs of the native built houses. On this occasion we had fifteen inches of rain in twenty-four hours. The school was sited on a red clayey soil. When one looked out to sea it was all discoloured red where the fresh water had not, as yet mixed with the sea.

On the island of Raga a church and timber house had been erected, which were supposed to be hurricane proof. When the 1918 hurricane struck both were reduced to match wood. Fortunately there were no residents in it.


The islands where the Melanesian Mission worked were fortunate, in that, there were no poisonous snakes, with the exception, perhaps, of a small black whip snake on the Island of Guadalcanal. There were, of course, plenty of snakes, but they always seemed to be in a desperate hurry to get away. Neither whites nor natives liked them. The largest I saw would be six feet long, though there were larger ones on the Island of San Cristoval, where at one time [62/63] the people worshipped the sacred snake, until it was killed, when an earthquake caused the cave where it lived to cave in and kill it.

It was possible to have some fun with them. Returning for work in the school gardens where we grew our food, one day we killed quite a few of these reptiles. A large tree had fallen across the path and had not been cleared away, so one had to step over the trunk. We carefully placed the snakes where the other lads would strike them as they stepped over the trunk, and withdrew into the bushes near the tree to watch the fun. In due course the lads returning home came along laughing and talking, stepped over the trunk and connected with the heap of snakes, and let out quite a yell as his bare feet touched, and he instinctively knew what was there, and bounded into the air. They then joined us, to see the fun when the next lot of lads came along and they were not disappointed.

We had quite a number of crocodiles too. One could often see their spoor on the beach in the early morning. The people of one village on the Island of Ugi, worshipped their sacred crocodile and offered it sacrifices. I stayed the night in this village. They had erected a barricade, and in it were two crocodiles, which they had taken alive for a feast. In the morning they cast a noose over one of them, about fifteen feet long, pulled it to the side of the stockade, and killed it by cutting its throat. It was then heaved out of the stockade, keeping a careful watch on the other one, and laid it out in the centre of the village. One of the lads of the place, feeling quite brave then sat on its tail. When the muscles of the crocs tail contract-[63/64]ed and rose a little into the air the lad didn't feel a bit happy, and with a yell vacated his seat, to the amusement of the villagers. They then cut it up and cooked it in the native oven ready for the feast. It had nice pink flesh like that of a rabbit.

One would sometimes, on a still night, hear a dog barking rather furiously, then there would be a sudden silence. This usually meant that a crocodile had got a dog for supper.

There was a government officer on San Cristoval, who nearly provided himself for a croc's supper. He was returning home about the time of sunset, (there is practically no twilight in the islands). When he heard a sound behind him, he turned to find that a croc was chasing him, probably a female whose nest was in the nearby mangrove swamp. So he began to match his speed against the crocs, and was proving a poor second. When he regained his senses, and remembered that despite its short legs, and length of tail it would overtake him in a straight race, so he commenced to zig zag in his pace, and the poor croc, not knowing any better, did likewise, and so lost her supper.

There was a case on record, on the Island of Malaita, of a native woman being taken by a crocodile and the trunk of her body was found in the mouth of a creek, ten miles from where she had been overtaken.

There is a sea snake which we called the mai. It was rather a handsome thing, but was rightly feared by all. It had grey and silver stripes round the body. In traveling, it moved on the surface of the sea at a great pace, gliding on the tip of its tail. When fishing with the net, and wading in the sea, one always got out of its way and made as much noise as possible, to divert it from oneself.

[65] The insects were in very great variety, from the very very small ones to the sixteen inch millipede, and the ten inch centipede. Scorpions were rather a nuisance too. One had always to carefully shake out one's socks, and examine one's shoes, before wearing them. Scorpions were attracted to books, and before reading a book it was advisable to bend the covers back, and look down the slack of the binding, to make sure that you were the only person interested in the book at that time.

To discover a six inch centipede in one's trousers, as a friend of mine did, and to shed the same pants without unduly disturbing the beast is a fine work of art. This he did to his great relief.

Iguanas, which grew to a length of three to four feet were very fond of taking the fowls eggs. They could run as fast as greyhounds, and were very hard to shoot. Invariably they would climb the nearest coconut tree and could only be shot, if there were two persons present. He would hang on to the off side of the palm, and when you went round to locate him he would go round the other side. So the drill was for the man to remain where he was, until his mate went round the tree. His nibs then came round your way, and he was a sitting shot. They were harmless reptiles, and could travel at an incredible speed.

The bite or sting of a centipede is most painful. At first the only way to deal with it, was to open the sting up with a penknife and placed in it plenty of permanganate of potash. The best value I ever got for ten shillings, I received from a native one night, when one of my lads had been very badly stung by a centipede. I was called and proceeded with the prescribed treatment. One of the natives then said, 'I can cure it, and he will soon be asleep, but it will cost you ten bob'. So we made a deal, he went down to the beach and in a little while returned with the grated kernel of the fruit one of the trees, which he proceeded to [65/66] make into a hot fomentation which he applied. And the patient was asleep in about half an hour.


Before the civilised world's discovery of peroxide with which to bleach the hair, and convert the natural coloured hair into what has come to be known as 'bottle blond', the Melanesians were practicing the art. Only they used lime with which to 'blondie' their hair for a dual purpose, namely to kill the livestock and to bleach it. And very effective it was too on both counts.

They had other noticeable adornments too. The lobes of the ears were punctured, and weights suspended therefrom, until the lobe was large enough to take a plug of wood, plaited earsticks, pieces of bone, and a bundle of rings made from tortoise shell. Sometimes in the process the lobe would part company but this did not happen very frequently.

The prizewinner for this competition, surely was a Solomon Islander in the Maravo Lagoon, who could insert a thirteen inch alarm clock into the lobe of his ear.

Another adornment was to pierce the septum and insert a nose stick. Occasionally the nostrils were also pierced. One of the lads at school with me from the Island of Utupua, had all these adornments together with one broken lobe.

Another habit in the Solomons which did not add beauty to the follower, was the habit of chewing betel nut. This is the fruit of the areca palm. It was chewed together with the leaf of the pepper tree and some lime. This combination produced a [66/67] blood red saliva. If the Captain of the Mission ship saw anyone chewing this mixture on his ship, he always requested him not to expectorate over the side of the ship, if he did it would burn off the ship's paint. This is not imagination, but fact.

The teeth of the men who were heavy betel nut chewers, were almost jet black. If a man was a heavy addict it could make him rather dopey.

Practically everybody was tattooed more or less. I have seen women so adorned even to their breasts. Almost everyone would be tattooed with the frigate bird, on the cheek bone, level with the eyes.

Their heads of long fuzzy hair was often ornamented with the combs they used to comb their hair, from the scalp outwards. These were home made and some were handsome pieces of work, and in the Solomons often inlaid with mother of pearl.

The ladies in the Solomons wore grass skirts, sometimes as many as twenty, and they certainly knew how to swing their hips in order to make them swish, and so call attention to themselves.


The Solomon Islanders are very musical, and have some instruments of their own fashioning, made from the different sizes and lengths of bamboo, and played like the pipes of pan. We had no musical instruments for our services, except at our schools, where one of the lady missionaries would be the organist. The services in the village churches were all unaccompanied. In the Solomons they harmonised naturally and satisfactorily. But on the Island of Motalava [67/68] where I had my first headquarters, they were willing enough, but they lacked what it takes to be a choir. On Sundays when we sang the hymns and chants for the canticles the precentor (don't shoot the precentor, he is doing his best), would intone the Te Deum on a very high note, with the inevitable result that we would get flatter and flatter. Then the precentor came into his own again, and up we would go, until, once again, we descended into the depths again, where he was waiting for us to boost us on our way. When this happens three times, in one Te Deum, by the time we finished singing it we were exhausted, but I am quite sure the angels smiled, and really enjoyed our efforts.


The members of a boat's crew were carefully chosen, and were usually very dependable, and never panicked in the worst conditions and landings. Some landings were quite a picnic, whilst other beaches, were beasts and needed great skill. Rumatari on San Cristoval was one of the latter. On one occasion the Bishop, who was a good boatman, took the steer oar in a nasty sea. As we neared the shore the crew pulled away, and one of them offered the bishop some advice, which he declined to follow. When we got into the huge breakers the bishop called out what sounded to all of us 'sua paso' which means stop rowing. They obeyed, and the next thing was that the boat broached to, and we were all thrown into the sea, with the bishop spread eagled on his back, then the huge steer oar knocked him overboard. We righted the boat, and scrambled ashore with the help of the villagers. The bishop was very angry and wanted to know why they had ceased rowing. He averred that he had said, 'sua taso', which means keep on rowing. He appealed to me, but I had to agree with the boat's crew, that it sounded to me that his order was cease rowing. He was most indignant and said why, 'nobody but a fool would tell a boat's crew to stop [68/69] rowing in such strong breakers which were then running.' When we all cooled down we had a good laugh at the funny sight we must have cut in the eyes of the people on the beach. We had quite a lot of fun getting away from that beach, but we managed it, and returned safely to the ship.


Some of the names given to the children were very beautiful, one was 'Mantiaswena', the one who loves to pray for rain. 'Ro esu mulema' was another, she who brings life, 'Ro singa' the shining one. But some were unintentionally humorous as 'Shalansom' which means shilling money. One highly esteemed lady missionary was called Sister Kate, so one of the native clergy baptised a little girl, and called her Sister Kate. Another lady missionary was named Miss Bridges. In my absence in visiting round my parish, the native deacon took it upon himself to baptise a little girl, and on my return I said to the mother, 'what about baptising the child'. To which she replied, 'Oh but she is already baptised, and when I asked what the child's name was, I was surprised and rather dumbfounded to be informed Missis Britches, and so she lived happy ever after.


The members of the Mission were, rightly, forbidden to engage in trade. But we had to buy food sometimes for our schools, which consisted entirely of vegetables. For this there was a recognised price satisfactory to buyer and seller. Money wasn't any use, because there were not any stores where you could spend it. So all our trading was with fish hooks, fish lines, stick tobacco, clay pipes, beads and, very rarely a bottle of kerosene. But we managed.

[70] There are still people who do not believe in missions, who, in their ignorance say leave the native in his happy, unspoilt state.

Returning to the islands from my English furlough at the end of 1923, I stayed with my brother in Paterson, U.S.A. I was asked to preach on two Sundays at the church which he attended. The Americans were very intrigued in those days, 1923, for the vast majority of them had either never heard of the Solomon Islands, or they knew very little about their situation, or the conditions which prevailed there. They were most interested. They know from bitter experience now, for thousands of their young men are buried there.

During the Second World War, I was traveling by train from Auckland to my home in Rotorua, New Zealand. In the same compartment was a young American flying officer, with whom I opened a conversation. He was on furlough from the Solomons. He informed me that, when they were briefed for duty each man was given, among other things, a slip of paper, on which were printed instructions, what to do if they were shot down or had to make a forced landing. The first item said, 'when you land, ask for the teacher boy, and if there is one, you should be comparatively safe.' Until recently the only schools in the Solomons were those erected and staffed by the various missions. So even if it was a heathen area there would be at least one Christian there. He informed me, what I already know, that of all the flying men who were shot down, or had to make a forced landing over 80% were returned safely to their bases.

For a very fine account of the loyalty and dependability one should read the excellent book entitled 'Mission to Melanesia' by [70/71] Miss Ida Wench, who spent many years in the service of the grand old (one hundred and fourteen year old) Melanesian Mission. It was founded by Bishop George Augustus Selwyn in 1849, and its first Bishop, John Coleridge Patteson, was murdered on the Island of Nukapu on 20th September, 1871.


There was no taxation of the native people in the Solomon Islands, until early in the nineteen twenties when I was stationed at Siota, the headquarters of the Mission on the Island of Florida or Ngela as we and the native people called it. Then a Poll Tax was levied. It was on a sliding (very) scale. The islands of Ngela, and Santa Ysabel, were wholly Christian, and so each adult man was levied one pound per head. Guadalcanal, which was fairly settled were levied ten shilling per head, while San Cristoval, Ulawa, and Ugi, were required to pay five shilling per head. Malaita, the largest and wildest, the island of warriors which supplied the labour ranks on the copra plantations, were not taxed at all.

One does not need to be very clever to be able to assume why the tax was not, at least at first, levied on the Malaita menfolk. (It was later on this island that Buster Bell, his white assistant and nineteen native police were killed at Sangara [sic].) And in passing it is interesting to note that the majority of the Native Armed Constabulary were ex prisoners and were very smart and dependable, and carried out their duties (which were arduous) with zeal and without favour.

One evening a large canoe came to our beach and the occupants requested permission to stay the night at our station. Permission was readily given and they came ashore. They had traveled about ten miles and were on their way to Tulagi, the seat of Government. The District Officer had ordered them to proceed there, in order to pay their tax. Tulagi was fifteen miles away, and to reach it one had to traverse the Boli Pass through which the tide ran very swiftly. That is why they wished to stay the night in order to go through on the tide. 'But', I said, 'Captain T, the District Officer has no right to make you go through to Tulagi, it is his job to come to you and collect it.' Then I [72/73] said, because I had a bone to pick with this gentleman, 'will you lend me your canoe, and I will go through and talk to him.' This was readily granted and we soon had a very willing crew from my school lads, and we went through in style. I fully enjoyed the trip and the few things I had to say to the Officer, from whom we got some satisfaction, and a promise that it would not happen again.

One of the owners of the canoe who had asked leave to stay, seemed to sum up their feelings when he said to me, 'There's too much bloody humbug going on now.'

I said that all the people of this island were Christians, yet I have a feeling that he did not learn that little bit of English from any member of the staff of the Mission. But of course I knew what he meant, and how he felt, wouldn't you?

It was also while I was in charge of Siota, and had been elected by the other members of the Mission to represent them that the Government promulgated, a law which was senseless, and a hardship on the native people, and against which we protested. The new law said that no native must leave his village to visit another one, where he proposed to stay for longer than two weeks, without having received written permission form the District Officer. Apart form interfering with the liberty of the person, it could mean that he would have to travel a long distance to the headquarters of the District Officer, in order to acquire the permit. It is only fair to state that when representations had been made to the powers that be this law was withdrawn.

Whilst I was at our headquarters at Siota we held our first synod. This was presided over by Bishop J.M. Steward. To it came the Secretary of the Mission from Auckland. He was not a great favourite because he rather demanded that things should be done very strictly according to the [73/74] letter of the law, and we were a very free and easy going crowd.

White and native clergy were present from all areas of this wide flung diocese. We did not possess enough beds for everyone, but fortunately we had enough mattresses. The Secretary had a mattress on the floor. He complained of having malarial fever, to which we were all subject. So he took himself off to his mattress and went to sleep. This was reported, and we procured six empty wine bottles, into which we inserted six candles, which we placed two on either side of the mattress, and one at each end. The candles were lighted without waking the sleeper, and we withdrew. He was not at all amused when next we caught a glimpse of him. He really should have been grateful, at least he was alive, despite the evidence to the contrary. "Are not some people deficient in a sense of humour?"


If one asks the average person, 'which is the oldest language in the world?' One would receive a variety of answers, and I fancy the answers would not be the correct ones. Hebrew, Assyrian, Babylonish, Greek, Latin, would be among the answers given. But if one considers for a moment, of course, the answer is 'the oldest language in the world is the universal one of 'sign language.'

We were made to realise this once when we landed from the "Southern Cross" on the Island of Nifilofi in the isolated group of the Reef Islands, well off the beaten track of shipping. It was an heathen island, and were desirous of getting two boys to take away to one of our central schools in the Banks Islands. They did not speak our lingua franka of Mota. Fortunately we had another Reef Islander who spoke a language akin to the Nifilofi dialect, but it did not get us very far in our conversation. One man armed with bow and arrows was pacing the beach when we landed. He notified the others of our approach and arrival and landing. It was very noticeable that no women were in evidence, which was not a cheering sign and meant, as we afterwards learnt, that they were at war with the folks of the neighbouring island. We made very slow progress in our request, and the natives didn't seem enamoured with the idea. The atmosphere was very tense until the chief gave an order, and presently a native woman brought forward a basket of dried breadfruit, not very appetizing either to the view or to the taste, but it was the most welcome food that one ever cast eyes upon, for it meant that we were accepted as friends, and that we could eat and not be regarded as enemies or food for thought, or for the pot.

[76] Though in fairness it should be said that the Reef Islanders were never cannibals, Never did one enjoy a meal so much, before or since, though it was unappetising fare. That conveyed more to us than if the chief had made a most impassioned speech.

We got our two boys, whom long afterwards, and after careful preparation, I baptised, and one of whom is, at his own request, my godchild.


On arrival at my first 'parish' in the Banks Islands I enquired of a brother priest in the group, twenty miles away, 'what does one do in regard to purchasing books and such like?' Said he, 'Oh just write to such and such a firm of booksellers in Sydney, mention my name, and say that you understand that they will send the books ordered, and that when they require settlement of the account they will say so.' I did this and my last invoice told me that I owed them just under two pounds, and would I send them a cheque. I forthwith sent them a cheque for _2.10.0. But as we were the terminus of the ship's voyage, it was three months before it again left the group on its way to Sydney. In the next mail I received seven letters from these booksellers, stating in unambiguous terms what they thought of me. One choice specimen said that they had discontinued doing business with people in the islands, because of bad debts, but had made an exception in my case because of the 'cloth' in inverted commas. Another letter in the same thirteen week mail said that if I did not settle the account forthwith, they would notify my Bishop, and take legal proceedings to garnishee my stipend, for the amount owing plus all legal expenses. I had not met the word garnishee before but it didn't look too nice. But I consoled myself that I was hundreds of miles away, but I was very angry. I wrote to this gentleman and told him that, he had said on paper something which, if he had said it to my face, I would have punched him. In the next mail came three more unpleasant letters, a receipt for my cheque, and an apology. There was really no excuse for him, because he had accepted my terms, and should have known that our mail only arrived every thirteen weeks, on a ship from his own city.

On another occasion, unknown to me, a New Zealand friend had sent me a framed religious picture. I never saw the picture, but I did get a [77/78] bill for just under three pounds. He should have sent it free on our Mission ship, "Southern Cross", but instead he sent it via Sydney. The launch bringing it to me capsized, and all I received form the wreckage was the frame, and it certainly was not worth nearly three pounds. But it was cash on delivery with a vengeance.


Another experience I had while living in the Solomons.

One day while returning from visiting my people, I was walking home alone, on a narrow track through the bush, when darkness fell. I missed the track and got lost. I feared it would mean spending the night in the bush. Looking around I saw something shining nearby. To my great joy I found it was a luminous toadstool; holding this in my hand I was able to regain the track, which led me out of the bush.


During the time we had Bishop Alufurai staying with us in April, he insisted that a record of the early days of All Hallows' School, Pawa should be written, and I offered to help in this way, as I was the Founder and first Headmaster.

When I was on furlough in 1923 I spent a whole Sunday on deputation at the Church of All Hallows', Hampstead Heath. The Vicar was the Revd. A.T. Hatt. He, and one of his prominent laymen, promised that if we would name the school after their church, they would strongly support it by prayer and money. This promise was accepted in good faith,

Dr. C.E. Fox, when he was at Raubero on San Cristoval, was friendly with a Mr. J. Dickenson, a Planter-Trader, who had, together with Peter Waitasi of Ugi, a piece of land on Ugi, leasehold, and which they were anxious to sell. They approached Dr. Fox, who in turn reported to Bishop Steward. The Bishop requested first refusal. Captain Harry Burgess and I were sent to inspect the land and report back. We were not impressed and reported accordingly. The plantation was badly neglected; many of the trees were overgrown with creepers; the living quarters were in poor shape--they had iron roofs and walls, but were unlined--the floors were made of split areca palm and many of the foundations were rotten. There appeared to be little native material for building. But, I suppose because he had asked for first refusal, the Bishop felt obliged to purchase. It was then, I think, that we realised that the land was not freehold.

Dickenson put a team of ten boys on the plantation and they made quite a good job of clearing the place up before we arrived to start the school and began to settle in.

[81] There was a feverish lot of packing-up to do at Siota before we could sail for Ugi. We got all our gear on the "Southern Cross" and sailed from Siota on 1st June, 1922. On our way, calling at many different places, we bought all the food we could. On board were myself, Mr. W. Lea, Wilson Warite, my first assistant, and some thirty-six youths, some of whom had colds and four had pleurisy. We actually landed on Ugi on Friday, 9th June, 1922.

Dickenson's boys had made a good job of clearing up the place, which was encouraging, but no preparations whatever had been made with regard to buildings needed for the boys to sleep in, eat in, work in, or worship in. We settled on the site where the few buildings were, near the northern boundary of the property.

We began regular school routine on Monday, 24th July. In the interval between landing and starting school, we had all worked like galley-slaves, building a food store, sleeping houses, dining room, boat house, and a really beautiful church which was first used on 11th July. Our faithful Wilson Warite died on 19th July.

We cleared and planted adequate gardens, cleared and made a footpath, cleared and laid out a football ground, tried to dam up the stream to make a bathing pool and generally improved the place. Once we were settled our numbers grew and we were one large happy family. The boys were keen to learn, and live and work together in harmony.

In those days all our teaching and speaking was in the language of Mota. Although we had to rough it and work terribly hard, we were all the better for it, and this was the beginning of the very fine spirit which as been found at Pawa all through. Alangaula was then owned by Levers' and a Norfolk Islander named Charlie Buffet was the manager. His niece was with him as his housekeeper. We used to make our copra and take it to Alanguala [81/82] to sell at Levers'. I owned a four-seater canoe which the boys used monthly to collect trochus shell which we also sold to Levers'. This formed the boys' freewill offering to the Church.

On Sunday evenings after church we had an open forum in the dining hall. There was voluntary attendance and pipes were allowed. The boys fired questions at me and discussed freely whatever was on their minds, on the fair understanding, that if I did not know the answer, I said so. I think it was the most profitable hour of all when we got nearer to each other, and read each other's minds. They were great days.

On 12th November, 1922, James Rajia of Ysabel replaced Warite and he did an excellent job. While I was on furlough, Fr. Joe Gilvelte of Motalava replaced me as priest. Mr. Lea resigned for health reasons. Mr. Rudgard, now Archdeacon Rudgard, was at Pawa when I returned from leave early in 1924, and a deacon, the Revd. A. Butchart, joined me on 7th June, 1924.

Note: This article was received at Pawa only a short time before Archdeacon Hodgson died within a few days of his Golden Jubilee to the priesthood. Pawa mourns the passing of our Father-Founder and gives thanks to Almighty God for his life of service and sacrifice, especially for his work in Melanesia. May he rest in peace.

[83] Extract from a letter written to his wife on September 1956. He was called to higher service the following September 1966.


"I have no premonitions, but I do wish to say this:

I have found from daily experience the "Christian Faith" to be the most practical thing in Life.

I believe "single heartedly and whole heartedly" all the articles of the Christian Faith, held and taught and practiced, by that branch of the Christian Church in which I have had the honour to serve, as a Priest for so long. The fine and grand old church of our fathers, the Anglican Communion.

When I come to fall asleep, I shall do so with a full trust in God's infinite mercy, and the forgiveness of all my sins, in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to Eternal Life. This earthly life has been good and kind to me, and I am deeply grateful, but the best is yet to be."


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