On the occasion of Tamate’s address
to the Royal Colonial Institute in January 1887, Sir James Garrick,
Agent-General for Queensland, had said in regard to the Protectorate in
New Guinea, "It is clear that matters cannot continue as they are. There
is at present no security in British New Guinea for either life or
property. There is no jurisdiction under which the natives can be punished
for the most cruel offences, and no control whatever over the subjects of
foreign states. Such a condition of things must lead to reprisals, which
will have a very disastrous effect upon our future relations with the
natives. The remedy for this is to proclaim sovereignty, and to organise
our administration, which, while abundantly safe-guarding the interests of
the islanders, will adequately represent the Imperial and Colonial
The counsels of Sir James Garrick,
and of those who thought with him, would seem to have prevailed with the
British Government; for, on 4th September 1888, Dr. William MacGregor—afterwards
Sir William MacGregor—made a proclamation at Port Moresby definitely
annexing British New Guinea to the dominions of Queen Victoria, and
thereby raising its status from that of a mere Protectorate to that of a
Crown Colony. Sir William MacGregor, as Administrator of the Colony, laid
the foundations of British rule in New Guinea "with a true sense of the
native position," and earned the regard of the missionaries for the wise
and sympathetic quality of his management of the affairs of the colony.
Some years later, Tamate was able to say, "I am always in a difficulty to
know what civilisation is; but I can only say that, so long as Sir William
is Governor, he will help to make them (the New Guineans) a better people.
He has done all he could to help and
defend the natives, by refusing to allow them to be supplied with spirits
or with arms, and if they do not get spirits they will advance and become
better men and women." This good opinion was fully reciprocated by the
Governor, who put a proper value upon the wide experience and splendid
pioneer work of the missionaries. "The names, for example, of Lawes and
Chalmers," he once said, "will always be associated with the early history
of the colony."
In the Parliamentary Paper in which
the founding of the new colony was formally reported to the British
Government, it was stated that "all the preparatory arrangements have been
made for Mr. Chalmers to reside at Motumotu, a station from which the
important tribes inhabiting the country at the head of the Papuan Gulf can
be approached much more readily than from Port Moresby."
Tamate had made his home under the
roof-tree of Mr. and Mrs. Lawes’s dwelling, at Port Moresby, ever since
the death of his wife in 1879. He was now to be married for a second time.
When in England, he had obtained the promise of a widowed lady, Mrs.
Harrison of Retford,— who, as Sarah Eliza Large, had been an intimate
friend of the first Mrs. Chalmers,—to become his wife, and share with him
the privations, vicissitudes, and hopes of missionary life in New Guinea.
By arrangement, this lady followed Tamate to the Antipodes in 1888, and
the marriage took place at Cooktown, Queensland, on 6th October, the Rev.
Canon Taylor officiating.
Mr. and Mrs. Chalmers left Port
Moresby for their new home at Motumotu early in 1889. Dr. Lawes tells us
that he looks back upon the years that Tamate spent with him at Port
Moresby as the most memorable in his missionary life:
"we lived together; we talked
together; we prayed together." But the Port Moresby district was becoming
too strait for Tamate. "He seemed to lose interest when a place became
settled, and a teacher was stationed there." Dr. Lawes also notes that
since 1889 "his letters have been fewer, but his spirits have been the
same." This may account for a distinct falling off in the biographical
material relating to these later years.
At Motumotu, a village at the mouth of the Williams
River, he was in the centre of the wild tribe of Elema, and more than a
hundred miles nearer to his "cannibal friends" of Namau and Vaimuru. His
new district extended as far east as Port Moresby, and included the coasts
of the Gulf of Papua west of Motumotu, and the islands in Torres Straits.
The missionary’s house at Motu— motu was situated on an
exposed spot on the seashore. "It is close to the sea indeed," Mrs.
Chalmers wrote. "Big waves often wash nearly up to the fence. It is rarely
calm enough to land on the beach, and we have to go some miles round to a
point up the river to land." "I do wish you could see this house," she
wrote again. "The walls are of very roughly sawn planks, which overlap
each other, so that inside there are ledges innumerable from floor to
thatch, every ledge being a nice accommodation for all kinds of insect
life. I should think the house is fifty feet long, and divided into three
rooms. The partitions are the height of the outer walls only, and leave
the very high pointed thatched roof open from end to end. Tamate thinks it
a delightful place. I am not quite so much in love with it. At night it is
too lively; rats, mice, and lizards run all over in armies. I don’t object
to the latter. They are very tame, and make a cheery chirp. Best of all,
they hunt the spiders, tarantulas, cockroaches, crickets, beetles of all
kinds, and others, big and little. At night the bats fly in between the
walls and roof. Ants and mosquitos also abound. If you look down on the
mats and floors you perceive they are covered with life, even this paper
is continually covered with tiny moving things, which I blow off. There
are three thousand wild savages here —fine, handsome men, got up in truly
savage style. I do believe I would rather face a crowd of them than the
insects in the house."
Tamate Vaine (as the natives called
Mrs. Chalmers) and Tamate himself were not long in Motumotu before they
experienced the New Guinea fever. They had arrived at a bad season, and,
after fighting with sickness for some time, decided to return to Port
Moresby in search of rest and strength. We have made several quotations
from Tamate’s letters and journals in illustration of the dangers and
hardships of these coast voyages. Here is Tamate Vaine’s account of this
perilous run to Port Moresby:
"The long journey in the boat was
terrible. The first morning we were nearly upset, and shipped a big sea.
Everything was wet through, and completely ruined most of our provisions
were spoilt, too. Well, Tamate wrapped me in a blanket, and there I had to
remain until sundown. All day there was a rough; nasty sea, and very heavy
swell; but the wind and current fortunately were in our favour. I thought
at times that the waves must engulf us, but the little boat rose to them
splendidly; sometimes she seemed almost perpendicular, and then down into
a deep trough with waves as high as a house, behind and before.
"Arriving at Maiva, we were warned
not to land—the boiling surf looked dreadful, right along the beach. Two
splendid fellows swam out to us, and said we could not land in safety.
Tamate nearly lost his life here some time ago, when he attempted to run
the boat ashore in such a sea. It was sunset; I was ill and wet; we had
had nothing all day but biscuits and water; the wind was now right ahead;
and the boys would have to pull to Delena, fifteen or twenty miles off.
Tam-ate said we should not get there till morning, and so he determined to
risk it, especially as we had two fresh men to pull. I sat straight up,
and threw off the blanket. I think the excitement cured my sickness and
headache. Before turning the boat for the boiling surf, Tamate said, ‘Now,
Lizzie, in a surf like this, the boat, if she goes at all, will turn right
over; so do not cling to, but keep clear of her if possible. The boys and
everyone will think first of you, and if we get ashore alive, never mind
if all goes; the anchor will fall out and keep the boat.’ Then we faced
it. The men were so excited, but Tamate and Niami timed the pulling well.
We got over the first line of surf all right, and there was a great shout
from the shore; then a second and third line were crossed successfully. In
the last line we were a little too late, and should have been washed back,
and, meeting the next breaker, have been swamped, but dozens of the
natives rushed in up to their necks, and dragged us on to the beach. We
were pretty wet, but thankful. I went to bed. Some tea in a canister was
dry, so we could have hot tea and some biscuit. The sugar had all gone to
"We stayed from Friday night until
early on Monday. Tamate had four services; one at Maiva and three inland.
Of course he had to walk to the latter, and the sand was so hot that one
foot got badly chafed, and is only just getting well. Four young men were
baptized, and one baby.
"On Monday we set out on the next
stage, had a fair wind, and got in earlier than we expected. The sun was
fearful in the middle of the day; and though we had as much shelter as
possible, I had sunstroke and fever, and yet feel pain at times. One night
we spent at Delena, one at Boera, and then on here, arriving at 10.30 p.m.
Tamate says that, what with putting right out to sea to catch wind, and
then coming in to the stations, the distance travelled would be about two
hundred and fifty miles.
"It seems like getting back to
civilisation to get here, where they have many comforts and plenty to eat.
The beds at the various stations were horrid — especially after sitting or
lying in a boat all day—wooden planks covered with mats, sometimes a sort
of mattress made from the cotton they gather from trees. My bones have
felt so stiff and sore at times. The teachers themselves always sleep on
mats on the floor, but they all have a bedstead, and sometimes two, for
the use of the white missionaries.
"The cost of living here," Tamate
Vaine continues, with the interest of the housewife, "is something to
wonder at; everything
out of tins; nothing in the country to fall back upon
except sago (native made). We have not been able to get a native vegetable
for months, and very little fish. Here they get wallaby now and then. We
cannot even obtain that at Motumotu."
While Tamate and Mrs. Chalmers were
still at Port Moresby, the mission suffered a severe loss in the death of
the wife of Piri, the faithful and tried Polynesian teacher at Boera. Of
her Tamate wrote, "She was a splendid worker. . . . Wherever she went she
was at home. She could command the biggest, nastiest-looking savages, and
get from them whatever she wanted. She could take services, preach a
sermon, teach in school, superintend work about the station, take charge
of a boat, and handle it well in the worst of weather." Dr. Gill has told
us that she was a good house-wife, and scrupulously clean and neat. Once
again, Tamate and his colleagues were justified in their choice of their
dusky comrades and in the sound training they had been able to give them.