Project Canterbury















Southern Cross
No. 7.

 Price 6d.


[London, ca. 1950]


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

The Hospital of the Epiphany, Malaita

Godden Memorial Hospital, New Hebrides

From a Letter

". . . perhaps at times I have given the missionary less than his due. I stand rebuked by a letter I picked out of a recent Pacific Islands Monthly. It quoted an eminent authority who wrote in the middle of the nineteenth century and reminded his readers that the missions had appreciably reduced 'the power of an idolatrous priesthood--a system of profligacy unparalleled . . . infanticide . . . bloody wars where the conquerors spared neither women nor children. In a voyager, to forget these things is base ingratitude; for should he chance to be at the point of shipwreck on some unknown coast, he will most devoutly pray that the lesson of the missionary may have reached thus far'.

"The letter-writer reminds us the author of these words was no missionary, nor was he rated a good Christian. Many called him an atheist or freethinker. He was Charles Darwin."


From a Doctor in Paradise. Lambert

'. . . forth into the seed-beds of disease, to work and to study, and cure if possible. I say this for the benefit of smug stay-at-homes who ask us: 'why do you waste your time and money on these niggers who live in another world from ours?' Yes: but do they?

Out little planet is moving faster every day. If sanitarians go on bungling their way through bogs and forests and mountains, maybe it is to save you from a peck of trouble some fine morning, Mr. Homebody."





and at



The need. It is imperative, clamant, appalling. Most diseases of a cosmopolitan nature are to be found in the islands together with such tropical diseases as ankylostomiasis (hookworm), beriberi, epidemic jaundice, filariasis (elephantiasis), yaws, leprosy, dysentery and malaria.

Disease is caused, encouraged, and developed by the supposed malign influence of evil spirits and the inertia due frequently to the fatalism that is the consequent accompaniment of much sickness.

By the absence of sanitation--almost everywhere.

The bad ventilation of the sleeping-houses.

The custom of numbers of people crowding as visitors about a patient.

The unwashed.


Numbers of the people are normally very much below par. In fact their reputed laziness is often the result of disease.

Men and women are disabled by the deformities caused by disease, often contracted while in childhood. Mentality is lowered and the race in general lives under a very heavy handicap. Far too many babies die. Strong men and women die, as it is said "before their time". Much of this--most of it--is preventable.

The understanding of the Christian Faith is the only means by which heathen beliefs will be cancelled out. Better sanitary arrangements would end hookworm trouble and do much to eradicate dysentery. The matter of ventilation is tied up with the destruction of the mosquito--or the use of nets. The native shuts his house [5/6] up tight at night and keeps a smoky fire going for the purpose of stifling the mosquito, the bites of which are a nuisance. He rarely connects the bites with the malaria that follows. A good deal can be done by natives to destroy mosquitoes. In any case mosquito-nets are available to most coastal natives and there is no longer the need to sleep in a smoky atmosphere. Continued emphasis on the danger of infection has made a difference to the number visiting at one time. In some villages the chiefs impose a strict control.

Still there is the need of telling the Gospel story of the Christ to whom the devils were subject. There is repair or ambulance work waiting. There is the long slow business of instructing Melanesians in hygienic ways of living.

The difficulties of the task. People do not live in masses in large villages or towns, but are scattered over large areas in groups of anything from twenty to two hundred people. There are no roads as we know roads and the tracks that serve almost invariably pass through rivers, rushing streams sometimes and shallow and slow running at others. The islands are separated from each other by miles of sea, from fifteen to upwards of sixty. Boats or canoes are not always available or weather good.

Prejudice. Certain natives claim to know means of curing some of the ills of their fellows. They are generally very unwilling to tell a white person what means they use, even when offered money to do so. The native generally prefers to go to a native and pay for treatment rather than to a white man and be treated for nothing.

This is really not so strange when one remembers the number of people at home who "Don't believe in doctors", and won't go to them till too late. It is just that which happens in Melanesia over and over again. The native treats the native until it is too late, and a patient [6/7] dies, who if he had been seen by the missionary in the early stages of his trouble would have lived.

The problem here then is:

To get the missionary doctor or nurse and the patient together, and
To break down prejudice by familiarizing the native with the white workers (or coloured) and their methods.

The first qualified Melanesian nurse

An Assistant Medical Practitioner

"There is no question of the need"

"Full scope for the ministry of healing"

What has been attempted? The Mission has always tried to have, at least, one doctor on the staff. In 1888 Dr. Welchman came and worked on Ysabel till he died in 1908. Between 1910 and 1949 there have been, in succession, six doctors, Marshall, Maybury, MacPherson, James, Thomson and Hemming. The Welchman Memorial Hospital was put up on Guadalcanar by Marshall. With money given for the purpose Maybury built a hospital of the Epiphany on Malaita (Fauabu). The later doctors have all worked at this Hospital. The Godden Memorial Hospital in the New Hebrides (Lolowai) has never had a full-time European doctor, but has always been in full operation. From time to time white Sisters have been alone. Latterly an Assistant Medical Practitioner (Melanesian) has been attached.

The Hospital of the Epiphany has beds for sixty patients. It is usually full to overflowing. It has a fully equipped operating theatre, doctor's and nurses' quarters.

These Hospitals serve a certain area in their immediate neighbourhood with ease and convenience to all concerned. Patents from a distance come either by canoe, mission launch, or Southern Cross.

Obviously they must wait the occasion when a launch or the ship is available. This is a great drawback in serious illness. The doctor, who cannot be away from his base for long, takes short trips through the villages doing what is possible as he goes. A launch [7/8] was set apart for the doctor's use and it was possible for him then to go farther afield and also to carry a certain number of patients back to the Hospital, with him.

The work of these Hospitals and their staffs is too great to measure. The devotion of the workers has always been beyond praise; but it is clear that two Hospitals situated as these, only touch a small part of the problem.

Itinerating missionaries. In the normal course of his work the white priest, unless settled at a school or college travels constantly within his district. Most men have had some training in medical and surgical matters before going out. Drugs and dressings are always carried and there is usually a lot of work to be done. This is a very valuable effort. The people know the missionary and he knows them. He can probably talk their own language and that gives them some confidence. There are many small troubles which, if untreated, would result in severe illness and death. A particular medicine used at the right time cures rapidly. Pain is relived, "sore-legs" cleaned and bandaged. This appears difficult when as sometimes happens, the patient says he has a "sore leg along throat", the pidgin-English way of saying he has a sore throat! Eye troubles are very frequent and a bottle of healing lotion left behind will often relieve and cure. The teacher probably asks for a few things; some cough-medicine, quinine, iodine, and a few dressings, and he is given what can be spared. It will probably be some weeks before the missionary is in the villages again. People get ill between the visits of the missionary, accidents occur and recovery takes time. The missionary is continually on the move and no one knows exactly where to find him. Village people have no special liking for caring for, and nursing, sick folk. The native doctor is on hand with his magic and he is called in. Patients suffer and die. For many years this was the only way in which attention could be paid to the sick.

[9] Dispensaries or District Hospitals. At settled stations such as the Schools there was usually a small Hospital for the sick of the station. A trained nurse lived at each of the Schools. Gradually the natives of the neighbouring villages began to attend as "out-patients", accidents were brought in and the prejudice against the white people's medicine was broken down. It became possible to receive villagers as in-patients and visits by relatives were encouraged. The patient in coming to a station in the neighbourhood did not suffer great inconvenience and difficulty as would be met in a long journey by sea.
A number of selected schoolboys were trained in these school hospitals. Some of these have since become fully trained and are Assistant Medical Practitioners.

Latterly, with the growth of women's work, and the acceptance of these workers by the natives, a number of out-stations have been established and staffed by qualified white nurses. These are at Kerepei, Siota, Ysabel, Lamalaña, Pamua, and in a smaller way, at Buñana and Torgil.

Assistant Medical Practitioners. A venture was made at one of the Schools and boys were trained to work as orderlies in the School Hospital. A step forward was taken when some of these boys became employed as orderlies in the Hospital at Fauabu. Their work was excellent. A selected few were trained by the doctor and upon their return to their homes they built small dispensaries and became very effective workers among their own people at home. This was the first medical work done independently by Solomon Island natives.

Then a Medical School was established in Fiji by the Government of the South-West Pacific. Mission school boys entered this school and several of them, qualified, are back in their homes, or in districts elsewhere working as Assistant Medical Practitioners. Some [9/10] are in the employ of the Mission and others are used by the Government.

Native women nurses. Because of the prejudice against teaching women and employing them in positions of responsibility it was not possible to train women nurses. During the war, ninety years after the beginning of the Mission's work, the training began and it has gone on without interruption. It is hoped that in time there will be no one in Melanesia who is out of reach of skilled medical help, as trained nurses will be available in every populated place, and, not too far away, there will be, at least, an A.M.P.

Definite instruction in the Schools about disease, its causes and prevention

The supposed influence of evil spirits and the effects of "magic" are covered naturally in the usual course of religious instruction.

Scholars are taught the relationships of dirt to disease and that no Christian can be indifferent about sickness--their own or others. More, that it is a definite duty to seek health for themselves and for others, and to use every known means of retaining or recovering it. Also that it is a disgrace--nay a crime--to do anything that may favour the spread of illness.

The results of this teaching have been so good that the hearts of the teachers leap high with hope for the future. This is a slow but very certain line of progress towards a healthy community.

Note.--No. 6 of this series particularly deals with Leprosy, and No. 8 with Mothercraft and Infant Welfare.

Why should everyone help the medical missionary work?

Jesus said, "Preach the Gospel . . . Heal the sick."

The Gospel is the promise of the life that now is as well as that which is to come.

[11] Because medical work is a guarantee of the truth of the Gospel which can be understood by the simplest minded person. A heathen boy was very seriously wounded by a companion who was "mad". It would be more accurate to say that he was "possessed." The other heathen present could do nothing to help.

They would do nothing as they were afraid of interfering with the intentions of the evil spirit who had brought the attack about. His attentions might be diverted to them! The wounded boy was, after a long struggle, nursed back to health in the house of the missionary. Daily the heathen expected to see one of the white people fall ill or meet with an accident. They were not at all sure that the house wouldn't fall down upon them!

The immediate result of the boy's recovery was the breakdown of a barrier of prejudice and suspicion. The men asked for a Christina teacher, saying, "We are sure now that there is truth in what you say". Later on, eight men were baptized, one of whom ultimately became a teacher himself.

"Freely have ye received, freely give."

The position to-day:--

The Solomons

Hospital of the Epiphany, Malaita, sixty beds.
Nursing Stations, Ugi, Gela, Ysabel, Buñana.
Mothercraft School, San Cristoval.
Leper Colony, Malaita

The New Hebrides

Godden Memorial Hospital, Aoba, sixty beds.
Nursing Station, Raga.

[12] Government financial assistance is:--

The Solomons--£200 per annum towards expenses of a white doctor. £50 per annum for each white nurse. A grant of drugs in kind.

The New Hebrides. The British Administration gives £350 per annum for general medical work and a grant for drugs. It also pays half of the salary of an Assistant Medical Practitioner.


To maintain a Hospital Bed costs £25 per annum. Under Deed of Covenant a subscription of £14 will meet this.

To train a native nurse costs £30 per annum. Under Deed of Covenant a subscription of £16 will cover this.


Questions on Medical Section

1. What are the causes of sickness in Melanesia?
2. Do you think that treatment of the physical causes alone will remove sickness in Melanesia?
3. Name two main difficulties that hinder the work.
4. Indicate the need for a hospital.
5. Why will hospitals not meet the need completely?
6. How is the need met outside the hospitals?
7. What is an A.M. P.?
8. What is done in the schools in order to create a right opinion about disease?
9. What has been done to train native workers?
10. What effect has medical work upon the heathen?


Printed in Great Britain at the Church Army Press, Oxford 8661

A patient arrives

Doctor, Staff and Probationer nurses

Project Canterbury