WHEN Tamate returned to Port Moresby
he found, to his great disappointment, that a splendidly equipped
exploring expedition, fitted out by the Melbourne Age, had returned to the
coast, spoiled of all their goods, hungry, fever-stricken, and
disheartened—the leader of the party, Mr. G. E. Morrison, being himself
wounded. The expedition had started on 21st July 1883, and was back again
upon 14th October. Great results had been expected from this exploration.
Tamate had entertained hopes that his theory of plateaux and inland lakes
would be confirmed, and that "Morrison would tell such a tale of New
Guinea as had never before been told."
His chief concern, however, arose from the reports of
hostility on the part of natives in a district in which he had established
friendly relations with the people. Although he was sick, and many thought
it was too late in the season for inland travel, as the rains had
commenced and the rivers were swollen, he fitted out a strong party and
set off on 4th December for the scene of the alleged outrages, anxious to
know the cause of attack and to restore peace and amity.
In the course of a week, with a rest on the Sunday,
Tamate and his party were back in Port Moresby, having in that time
covered the hundred miles that had taken the Age expedition
three months. They had found the Varagadi villages deserted, but were able
to ascertain that native pilfering had led to reprisals and the use of
firearms. Certain signs, recognised by most travellers, had been given by
the villagers, but Morrison had not understood them, and had stumbled on
to his fate.
"I asked an old friend if he thought it safe for white
men to travel inland, as in a few months a large party might be coming. He
replied, ‘It is perfectly safe no one will hurt a white man.’ I told him
to tell all the tribes of our visit, and that we wished to bring them
peace and friendship, and that they must be careful as to how they meet
the white man in the future. He told us our inland .journey and its object
would soon be well known."
A week or two later, Tamate was away west at the Annie
River. This time he had an opportunity of seeing the Motu traders setting
forth on their homeward voyage. The building of lakatois,
consisting of twelve and even fourteen canoes lashed together; the filling
up of cargoes of tons of sago, peppers, and areca-nuts; the adventurous
crossing of the bar—all added to his personal familiarity with the customs
of the people.
At the Annie River he was in touch again with the
cannibals. "Two large canoes came in, with an average of fifteen men in
each; they were in quest of cooking-pots. They say it is very annoying not
to be able to cook their man and sago in pots, and, being without them, a
lot of unnecessary waste occurs, and, the gravy escapes. They have drunk
none for a length of time now. They visited us, and we visited them. They
were from a large village farther west than I had been last trip, and were
extremely anxious that I should accompany them to their home; but it was
out of the question."
Incessant work in the unhealthy climate of New Guinea
must have engendered frequent attacks of malarial fever, although Tamate
seldom makes his moan in his journals. On his return from the Annie River,
however, in January 1884, he had a severe illness, as we learn from Mr.
Gill, as well as from his own pen. "I was away on my restive New Guinea
steed again; hot, panting, excited, dreaming, moaning, groaning, burdened,
sick, weak, tired of life and all its belongings—down with fever, in a
word, and finally, nursed back by kind hands to convalescence."
By 6th February he was about again, and able to welcome
his old friend, the Rev. W. Wyatt Gill, who had crossed from Rarotonga in
the John Williams III., bringing with him a fresh draft of
Polynesian teachers for the New Guinea Mission. Mr. Gill, it may be
remembered, had been associated with the Rev. W. A. Murray in locating the
original band of Polynesian teachers on the shores of New Guinea in 1872,
and it was with particular interest that he now had an opportunity of
seeing for himself what twelve years of devoted labour and the Christian
gospel had done for the dark land. From him we get a snap-shot of the
colleagues at Port Moresby.
"Never did I see brethren cooperating together more
harmoniously. Both are able preachers in the Motu language; both in the
prime of life—men worth looking at; and a fine physique is not without its
value amongst savages. The calm, able translator and tutor is linked on to
the impetuous, fearless pioneer, whose name is loved from Bald Head to
East Cape, and far away into the interior." ‘When Mr. Gill left in 1872,
the languages of New Guinea were not understood by the missionaries; now,
he found the Motu dialect reduced towriting, and Matthew and Mark
translated into that tongue.
The next seven weeks were spent in showing Mr. Gill a
considerable number of the mission’s stations, where he renewed his
acquaintance with some of the Polynesian teachers whom he had known before
these had left the Hervey Islands. Teachers were gathered in from the
nearer stations, a conference of missionaries and teachers was held at
Port Moresby, and the new teachers were introduced— if so formal a term
may be used—to their future colleagues.
When the conference was over, Tamate and Mr. Gill
proceeded to various stations east and west, returning the teachers to
their spheres of work, and leaving under their care the new additions to
the staff, in order that these might become acclimatised while within the
reach of men and women of their own kind, who could tend them and cheer
them in their first separation from home and people. In these executive
journeys Mr. Gill had the opportunity of visiting Maiva and the coast-line
between that and Port Moresby, as well as the whole of the eastern coast
stations, as far as East Cape.
Mr. Gill had also the fortune to be present when
friendly communications were re-opened with Kalo, the scene of the
massacre of teachers in 1881. The village was visited, promises were asked
and given that the new teacher should be kindly treated, and a site for
his house was selected. The son of Quaibo asked Tamate to stay whilst he
cooked a pig for him. Cooked vegetables were presented; but Tamate
whispered in Mr. Gill’s ear, "Taste nothing: they are expert poisoners."
"The crowd of men, women, and children was great. In the excitement, the
children rushed into the river, although the well-known resort of
crocodiles, splashing about like South Sea Island boys and girls. Hundreds
of adults stood on the banks, large numbers standing round the boats, up
to their waists in water, selling food or curios.
The one cry was, kuku!
(tobacco). The excitement increased terribly. At length Kulu said
quietly to Tamate, ‘Go, quick! ‘" The boats were
shoved off, and the Kalo people were left to speculate upon the
possibility of their having a teacher located with them again. "When it
became known among the new teachers," adds Mr. Gill, "that it was proposed
to re-open the mission at Kalo, the Samoans volunteered for the forlorn
hope. The Raiatians, too, earnestly begged to be permitted to go. The
Rarotongans came privately to me to intercede with Messrs. Lawes and
Chalmers that the post of honour and peril might not be given to others.
Messrs. Lawes and Chalmers wisely said, ‘As Rarotongans were martyred, let
Rarotongans have the preference. If they show the white feather, let
In May, the new teachers were considered to have passed
the initiatory stage of acclimatisation, and Tamate made a long round in
the work of placing them at stations at which he had previously
ascertained that they would be acceptable and welcome. It is unnecessary,
however, for the purposes of the present narrative, to give any detailed
account of the places visited, or even of the by-excursions to Moveave,
Oiabu, and Mekeo among others, which Tam-ate took the opportunity to make
when his work of placing teachers brought him within a few days’ march.
The greatest importance was attached by Tamate to the
settlement of a teacher at Motumotu. "Ever since Mr. Lawes joined the
mission, the one cry of the Motu natives has been ‘Westward Ho.’ The
largest population, and the freest, kindest, wildest natives are there.
They, especially those in Freshwater Bay, care for no one, domineer the
other tribes, and think their sweet will is law. I know them well, and my
cry has also been, ‘To the West—to the West with our youngest, strongest,
bravest, best teachers.’ Again and again have the natives of Motumotu
asked for teachers, promising to treat them well, and to live peaceably
with their neighbours." "They have them now," he adds, "and they feel our
promise is sure, though often long delayed, through no fault of ours.
"Securing Motumotu means our filling up the whole Elema
district in a few years, and then pressing inland. I think 20,000 is too
low an estimate for the Elema population, and that, being once under
tuition, Namau and Vaimuru will follow in no far-away future; and so an
extensive coast-line will be open, or, rather, is even now open, to
Christianity and to commerce."
Of his Motumotu teachers and their wives he wrote: "We
bade our friends farewell, leaving these young men and women, who, for
Christ’s sake and from sympathy with Him in His great work of redeeming
the race, had left their comfortable homes, peace and plenty in Eastern
Polynesia, willing to endure sickness, want, and trials, relying upon His
care who alone can care for them. They are certainly the heroes and
martyrs of the nineteenth century."
For his dusky comrades, Tamate entertained the
sincerest affection and the deepest regard. Of them he said: "They are the
true pioneers in New Guinea, and to them travellers of all kinds,
scientists and explorers, as well as Christian missionaries, owe much." He
looked on them as pioneers of civilisation, as well as missionary
teachers. "Ten or eleven years ago," he said in 1887, "the natives of
Hula, Hood Point, had no plantations, and bought all their vegetables with
fish from inland pe9ple. A teacher of the London Missionary Society, a
native of Eastern Polynesia, was placed amongst them; he started
plantations of bananas, yams, and sweet potatoes, and the Hula natives,
seeing the large returns, made plantations for themselves which produced
much, and became a market for the Motu tribe and Kerepunu, so that now a
large and lucrative trade is carried on. It will be the same with whatever
we can introduce."
Of the spirit of devotion in which these men and women
have carried on their work, many tales are told, many testimonies are
given. When Mr. Murray first landed on Darnley Island, in 1872, an effort
was made to intimidate the teachers from attempting to settle upon another
island. "There are alligators there," it was said, "
and snakes, and centipedes." "Hold," said the teacher, "are there
men there? " "Oh, yes," was the reply, "there
are men; but they are such dreadful savages that it is no use your
thinking of living among them." "That will do," replied the teacher.
"Wherever there are men, missionaries are bound to go."
Another traveller, Mr. Hume Nisbet, the artist, writes
of "the noble devotion and self-sacrifice displayed by the coloured
teachers whom I met at the different stations—great simple hearts, who
live a life of purity and tenderness, reflecting, every hour of the day,
the noble example and instructions, of their white leaders. I think, on
the whole, I felt closer to God in the company of these South Sea Island
exiles, with their little Papuan huts, watching them go about their daily
duties in the midst of these savage sons of nature, than I have felt
before or since; their faith was faith unvarnished and utter, their
patience sublime to heroism. Great men, noble martyrs, they go to New
Guinea to lay down their lives for the cause of their Master, as their
instructors have taught them by precept and practice, and the result has
been wonderful, considering the time."
Of one of the teachers, Dr. Gill has written: "Ebera
had lost his wife and child through the terrible New Guinea fever; and yet
in his loneliness and sorrow he wrote to me the other day and said, ‘It is
a work of joy to me to be here in New Guinea, doing the work of Christ our
Master.’ These noble men and women," Dr. Gill goes on, "are the flower of
our churches; and their simple faith and wholehearted devotion to Christ
are worthy of all praise. They have their faults, doubtless, but the same
may be said of the ministry in other parts of the world."
It was one of these teachers who, believing himself
sick unto death, said to his missionary, "No good heart belong you too
heavy for this; by’n by God help you. S’pose I die, you send place belong
me, tell my people I die, plenty more man stop along Samoa he want to
However lame may have been the attempts of the coloured
teachers to master the English tongue, they proved themselves adepts at
picking up the New Guinean languages—allied in some instances to their
own—and several of them have rendered great aid to the missionaries in the
translation of portions of the Scriptures into the dialect of the district
in which they were settled.
In many cases the teachers were appreciated as friends
long before any heed was paid to their message, or the slightest attempt
was made to attend religious services. To these teachers Messrs. Lawes and
Chalmers said, "Persuade, pray, be patient; but on no account bribe or pay
them to come."
Tamate was careful in his choice of teachers, and fully
appreciated the value of physique. When the Motumotuans inquired whether
their teachers were to be "big men," and were answered in the affirmative,
they were greatly delighted. "Not only do the savages look for physique in
the teachers, but more civilised nations like appearance also. It is a
grand mistake to send out men of small stature to the savages. Pick the
giants, and they make their mark at once; the wild, kind, nobly built
savage will respect them."
Tamate was under no illusion when he bargained for the
admission of teachers to a village. "I sincerely hope no one will think
that it is because they wish to be taught the gospel that they desire
teachers, as they hope for tomahawks, knives, beads, tobacco, and
clothing, and they see that those places where teachers live are at peace
all round, and do not fear their neighbours."
This last remark was made in connection with the
request of Kabadi for teachers. He todk a short trip to see his old
friends on the subject, and was able, at the same time, to cement a peace
between Kabadi and Lealea. To the Lealeans, Urevado of Kabadi said, "You
have never been here before, because of our fathers. Enough, let that
enmity now die; and here is Kabadi before you to buy yams, bananas, and
sugar cane, whenever you like to come." And the Lealeans replied, "‘Tis
because of these, God’s men, we are enabled thus to meet; and we shall
certainly come here in future for food. Often have we seen the laden
canoes of the Boerans and Motuans pass our doors from here, and wished we
too could only secure some; but now we shall be as they are."
When we get as far as the point we have reached in the
narrative of Tamate’s pioneering work, we begin to find him more careless
in his records, and he, indeed, himself makes confession of a certain
staleness. "How stale things become! Perhaps of all things travelling
becomes stalest after long continuation. Visiting new districts in a very
little known land, there is little to write about that has not already
been written of regarding other districts; for what is written of one may
be written of nearly all."
But his buoyant spirits never forsook him. He still
could find "good fun" in wading across a large creek; he could enjoy the
discomfiture of "the true cannibals of New Guinea "—the mosquitos. "I lay
on the sand, inside my net, and heard the din of the attacking armies.
When I fell into unconsciousness they were in full force; and when in the
early morning I awoke to life, it was still to hear their songs and shouts
of vexation at being baulked of their prey. I wonder what Burns would have
written had he spent one night with these fierce, venomous ‘beasties.’
There would not be enough adjectives in the English language to suit him,
and certainly his Italian would egregiously fail. I have had more to fear
from these pests than from all the savages New Guinea can produce."