TAMATE and Mr. Savage spent October
1889 in visiting all the stations from Hall Sound westwards, and also
instituted four new stations. They were gratified to find that the two
Motuan teachers stationed at Kivori had been doing really good work. "They
have more children who can read than our South Sea Islands teachers have."
In November, the Governor, Sir
William MacGregor, called at Motumotu, and invited Tamate to accompany him
in an exploring trip up the Fly River. But, having sickness among his
people, he was compelled to decline this first opportunity to exploit the
more remote parts of his new district. "I am sorry; but it would never
have done to have left sick folk; and besides, I have begun training my
own teachers for the Gulf. They are all Christians, who have been some
years connected with the teachers, and have helped them much. We shall
take none but church members."
In the beginning of 1890, however,
he was able to join the Governor in a further expedition to Torres
Straits. In this way he was able to render valuable assistance to the
civil administration of the colony, and at the same time to carry out the
wishes of his missionary colleagues.
The party sailed in the Governor’s
yacht, the Merrie England,
a vessel of four hundred tons, and the cruise extended
from 22nd January until 27th March. During this protracted period Mrs.
Chalmers remained in charge at Motumotu, and "kept the people working."
It will be remembered that the Fly
River district had been the scene of the earliest efforts of Mr. M’Farlane
and of the teachers located by him. When Tamate now visited the stations
planted by his former colleague, he had to confess that the condition of
affairs was disappointing. "In consequence of removals and changes in the
missionary staff during the last four or five years, much of the work has
come to a stand-still, and will have to be commenced afresh. Too much
seems to have been looked for from the native teachers, and thorough
reorganisation has become necessary."
At Kiwai Island he found that there
had been many deaths, and that the Loyalty Island teachers had suffered
much. "Some of them have been really good men, and had they only been free
from fever and lived, a really good work might have been done. There is no
school, and no attempt at one. The Sunday services consist of singing and
prayer only. It may be the teachers know very little of the language, and
are therefore unable to teach or exhort, The great trouble and drawback is
the variety of the languages. Had it been possible to educate these two
men in their own languages, they would have taken more interest in the
work, and made better teachers."
At the same time Tamate found that
the work and influence of the teachers had not gone for nought. The people
had been familiarised with the strangers, and with their friendly purpose.
"Certainly the living of teachers among them has had a good influence, and
one that has extended to many other parts around (Fly River). Indeed, but
for that influence, travellers would not be able to go about in the same
peace and safety as they enjoy at present. In many places ‘missionari’ is
equivalent to peace or friendship."
Of the condition of matters at
Saibai Island, Tamate was able to report in more satisfactory terms. "Ten
years since I last visited this island, and what a change! Then they were
a wild, rough people, and only a few years before terrible skull-hunters,
and the terror of the mainland natives. I fear the Saibaians, and not the
Tuger alone, have driven the tribes away back into the bush. Now they are
nice, quiet, kindly, intelligent folk; amongst them many church members,
and all nominal Christians, attending services and holding services in
their own houses morning and evening." The king was found to be "a squat,
smart young fellow, who speaks English, and is of great assistance to the
teachers. He is also a deacon of the Church and attends to his duties—if
the following is included in a deacon’s duty: During service, should any
poor unfortunates shut their eyes, nod, or fall asleep, he walks straight
to them, lifts their head, and whispers loudly, ‘Awake: no sleeping!’"
Tamate found the teacher Jakoba, a
native of Lifu, to be a man well fitted for his work, and he was
constrained to wish that the mission had many more such men. "Altogether,"
he concludes, "I think Saibai has advanced as well as any mission station
I know of."
The expedition was not concluded
without an effort to enter into preliminary relations with people on the
mainland who had never seen the white man or listened to the proclamation
of the gospel of peace. A special attempt was made to get into touch with
the warlike tribe known as the Tuger. In this sort of work Tamate was in
his element, and we have a spirited account of the search for the Tuger
and the encounter with them.
"At several places up the Wasi Kassa
and Mai Kassa (Baxter River), we saw old camps said to belong to the Tuger.
We camped at some of them. We were very anxious to meet with these greatly
dreaded marauders, of whom such terrible stories are told, such as their
being cannibals whose whole occupation is in seeking for human flesh; of
all of which I did not, and do not now, believe a single iota; but that
they are skull-hunters I do not doubt in the least.
"The country is very low, and
although we saw fires burning not many miles inland, yet I believe the
natives live well back, and come down to burn the long grass in the season
for kangaroo hunting, and to fish in the sea and get salt water. We went
west as far as the boundary; indeed, when Mr. Cameron took the stars, we
were found to be a few miles beyond. This was a great disappointment to
us, as we had met the Tuger that day, and did not like the idea of turning
back without making further acquaintance with them, but, of course, the
Governor could not leave his own territory. On coming round a point we saw
in the bay a clump of cocoa-nut palms and a few houses. Soon we saw a
couple of natives walking about on the beach.
"Having come about one hundred miles
without seeing any signs of human life, we were now delighted, and His
Excellency gave orders at once to anchor, and away he went with a good
crew to the shore. He had great difficulty. in getting the few natives
about to come near. A quarter of a mile further west was a creek, and it
was evident that numbers were there, although at first they appeared one
at a time. The tide falling fast, the Governor and party only returned,
and, our steam-launch and boats high and dry, many natives cautiously came
off to trade. They would place their articles down some distance from us,
then retire and sign to us to place ours, take theirs and retire. This
went on for some time, until, gaining more confidence, they came near the
boats and launch and handed what they had, receiving, in return, plane
irons, tomahawks, knives, red cloth, and the like.
"About one hundred of them were
about us, a fine-looking lot of fellows, and better made men it would be
difficult to find anywhere. A few of them had bad, evil-disposed faces,
and it was well to keep a good lookout. At sundown they were ordered away.
In the moonlight a few came off professedly to barter; but, we all
believe, really to spy out the land. They were kept at a respectable
"For some hours there was great
excitement ashore, and eventually a number of canoes began to creep up
under the shade of the mangroves, and a few came out towards us, the tide
being well in. We felt sure they meant no good, so the Governor, with his
two boats, well armed, pulled away to meet them and prevent their coming
too near. They soon disappeared, as they could see the movements of the
boats better than our party could see theirs. We soon had quiet, and,
setting a watch, all went comfortably to sleep.
"There is no doubt this is the Tuger
tribe, and physically they may well be a terror to those farther east.
Being in Dutch territory, it is possible they were near home, and may be
Dutchmen, so nothing could be said or done to them. We fancied they were
on the move, and that by our returning slowly we should again meet them,
and in British territory; but we did not. I wish we had a couple of good
Samoan or Rarotongan teachers for them. (Were) they won to Christ, we
should indeed have a splendid supply of teachers for the future."
The routine work of the mission
occupied Tamate at Motumotu until the autumn, when he and Tamate Vaine
made an extended tour amid the scenes of his early missionary life in the
South Sea Islands. The Samoas and the Hervey Islands were visited, and
everywhere the voyagers received an ovation. At Rarotonga, in particular,
Tamate was glad to meet with all his old friends again after an absence of
thirteen years. "It was an exciting meeting." Those who were present
remarked with surprise how quickly Tamate recognised all his old friends,
naming each one as they pressed round to greet him. On the Sunday he
preached in the church at his old station of Avarua, using the Rarotongan
tongue with absolute fluency. He had looked forward to the meeting with
"young, loving Timothy," pastor of the church at Avarua, but he only
arrived in time to perform the last rites of Christian burial for his
beloved friend and former disciple.