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Watriama and Co

Watriama and Co: Further Pacific Islands Portraits

Hugh Laracy
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: ANU Press
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    Watriama and Co
    Book Description:

    Watriama and Co (the title echoes Kipling’s Stalky and Co!) is a collection of biographical essays about people associated with the Pacific Islands. It covers a period of almost a century and a half. However, the individual stories of first-hand experience converge to some extent in various ways so as to present a broadly coherent picture of ‘Pacific History’. In this, politics, economics and religion overlap. So, too, do indigenous cultures and concerns; together with the activities and interests of the Europeans who ventured into the Pacific and who had a profound, widespread and enduring impact there from the nineteenth century, and who also prompted reactions from the Island peoples. Not least significant in this process is the fact that the Europeans generated a ‘paper trail’ through which their stories and those of the Islanders (who also contributed to their written record) can be known. Thus, not only are the subjects of the essays to be encountered personally, and within a contextual kinship, but the way in which the past has shaped the future is clearly discernible. Watriama himself features in various historical narratives. So, too, certain of his confrères in this collection, which is the product of several decades of exploring the Pacific past in archives, by sea, and on foot through most of Oceania.

    eISBN: 978-1-921666-33-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Hugh Laracy
  4. 1. Pierre Chanel of Futuna (1803–1841): The making of a saint
    (pp. 1-32)

    Apart from James Cook and William Bligh—and leaving aside the creative geniuses, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson and Paul Gauguin, whose lives and works find their main constituency of interest elsewhere—who is the most variously and extensively commemorated figure in the field of Pacific history? Nowhere, with the obvious exceptions of the small Polynesian islands of Wallis and Futuna, north of Tonga, is his name an ingrained commonplace. Yet, admittedly without the benefit of exhaustive comparative research, but after perusing bibliographies and consulting with mission historians, one may confidently assert that the likely answer is ʹPierre Chanelʹ.¹ A...

  5. 2. The Sinclairs Of Pigeon Bay, or ʹThe Prehistory of the Robinsons of Niʹihauʹ: An essay in historiography, or ʹtales their mother told themʹ
    (pp. 33-52)

    Of thehaole(i.e. European) settler dynasties of Hawaiʹi there is none grander than that of the Robinsons of the island of Niʹihau and of Makaweli estate on neighbouring Kauai, 24 kilometres away, across the Kaulakahu Channel. The family is pre-eminent in its long occupancy of its lands, in the lofty distance that it maintains from the outside community and in its inventive ennobling of its past. It has owned Niʹihau since 1864 and, increasingly from the 1880s, when a new generation led by Aubrey Robinson assumed control of the familyʹs ranching and planting operations, it has stringently discouraged visitors....

  6. 3. Insular Eminence: Cardinal Moran (1830–1911) and the Pacific islands
    (pp. 53-68)

    Patrick Francis Moran is a major figure in the story of the worldwide spread of Catholicism consequent upon the outpouring of Irish migrants in the nineteenth century. That is, he is prominently located within one of the two major, and occasionally converging, ethnic strands within the overall Church-building process of the period.¹ French Catholics, keen to compensate for the assault on the Church in their homeland by the votaries of the Revolution, may have led the Catholic missionary outreach to indigenous peoples in Africa, Asia and Oceania. But it was mostly from among the Irish, carrying their religion with them,...

  7. 4. Constance Frederica Gordon-Cumming (1837–1924): Traveller, author, painter
    (pp. 69-92)

    ʹEkaʹ, as Constance Frederica Gordon-Cumming was generally known to those acquainted with her, was an assertive and self-assured woman of independent means.¹ She came from a large and socially well-connected family and was unconstrained by domestic obligations. Genteelly but not delicately brought up, she achieved distinction in the 1880s as a productive author and as a skilled and prolific painter of watercolour landscapes. Her accomplishments in these areas during that epiphanic decade derived mainly from a sustained bout of travelling that she undertook in various parts of the world, not least in the Pacific, between 1868 and 1880. She was...

  8. 5. Niels Peter Sorensen (1848–1935): The story of a criminal adventurer
    (pp. 93-110)

    ʹFrom villains like ʺBullyʺ Hayes, James Toutant Proctor, the murderous Rorique brothers, the cowardlyRainbow Warriorterrorists—and numerous others of their ilk—may we be protectedʹ.¹ No such litany of the miscreants whose crimes have brought them more than a passing mention in the historical records of the Pacific would be complete without the name of Niels Peter Sorensen. Indeed, it would seem to be not unfitting that most of what is known of him relates to his misdeeds and that much of what he made known about himself was demonstrably untrue. The violence, robbery and deceit, though, that...

  9. 6. John Strasburg (1856–1924): A plain sailor
    (pp. 111-126)

    John Strasburgʹs is not a conspicuous name in the maritime history of the Pacific. Hitherto it has rated barely more than a footnote in the literature. Yet, he is still a significant figure. This is not on account of any magnitude of achievement, for any dramatic acts of villainy or, indeed, for establishing a notable claim on the attention of his contemporaries by any other means. Rather, it is mainly because—unusual among his kind—he generated sufficient written records to reveal his participation in the busy and burgeoning commercial life of the Pacific islands between the 1880s and World...

  10. 7. Ernest Frederick Hughes Allen (1867–1924): South Seas trader
    (pp. 127-140)

    Salt water ran strongly in the veins of Ernest Allen. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there were admirals in the family and, in the nineteenth century, there was a post-captain. About 1850 the latterʹs son, Frederick Kenneth Allen, was invalided out of the Royal Navy and migrated to New Zealand. There, at Wellington, in 1851 he married Frances Stratford Elizabeth Houghton, the 19-year-old daughter of another ex-navy man, Robert Houghton. Said to be an illegitimate son of one of the Cochrane family, to which Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775–1860), and the model for Frederick Marryatʹs...

  11. 8. Beatrice Grimshaw (1870–1953): Pride and prejudice in Papua
    (pp. 141-168)

    Of all the writers connected with the Pacific islands, probably the most prolific has been Beatrice Ethel Grimshaw, who lived from 1870 to 1953. Initially a journalist, she began her Pacific career as a propagandist for commercial and settler interests, but later, after becoming a settler herself, she concentrated on fiction writing. She was the author of nearly four-dozen books. Most of them were escapist outdoor romances with an exotic, titillatingly dangerous, Pacific setting. As a supplier of the popular market for easily digested entertainment, as an author whose characters tend to be stereotyped ʹgoodiesʹ and ʹbaddiesʹ and whose mechanically...

  12. 9. W.J. Watriama (c. 1880–1925): Pretender and patriot, (or ʹa blackmanʹs defence of White Australiaʹ)
    (pp. 169-186)

    According to W.M. Hughes, Australiaʹs prime minister during World War I, Australia entered that conflict to ensure its national security and ʹto maintain those ideals which we have nailed to the very topmost of our flag-poles—White Australia, and those other aspirations of this young democracyʹ.¹ Given the one aspiration which Hughes chose to specify in that comment, and although the White Australia policy was mainly concerned with the exclusion of Asians, there is some irony in the fact that when White Australians went to war in 1914, black Australians went too. Admittedly, their number was small and their contribution...

  13. 10. Lucy Evelyn Cheesman (1881–1969): Traveller, writer, scientist
    (pp. 187-210)

    Evelyn Cheesman, as she was normally known, was an unlikely example of that not uncommon species the naturalist–adventurer. She was a slightly built woman with limited financial means and scant formal training. Such apparent disadvantages, though, were offset, as the record shows, by invincible self reliance and minimal regard for personal comfort. She was an entomologist who made six arduous and extensive solo expeditions to various Pacific islands between 1924 and 1955 to collect insects, and who recounted her experiences in seven books which gratified the capacity for risk-free wonderment of a large popular audience of vicarious vagrants. In...

  14. 11. Donald Gilbert Kennedy (1898–1967): An outsider in the Colonial Service
    (pp. 211-228)

    When Donald Gilbert Kennedy, last a resident of Baylyʹs Beach in northern New Zealand, died in 1976, his passing attracted little attention. True, there was a small item in theNew Zealand Herald, ʹWar Hero Dies, aged 77ʹ.¹ But in the oceanic archipelagoes of Tuvalu, Solomons and Fiji where he had lived most of his life and where his name had once resonated, his demise went unnoticed. Even the Sydney-basedPacific Islands Monthly, which had followed his career from 1935 to 1954, missed it. Reasons for such an oversight are easy to find: Kennedyʹs colonial heyday was well behind him,...

  15. 12. George Bogese (1904–1959): ʹJust a bloody traitorʹ?
    (pp. 229-242)

    Although World War II, especially the battle for Guadalcanal, brought the Solomon Islands to international prominence, few of the Islanders emerged from the war with significantly enhanced reputations. Of those who did, probably only three became well known outside the group. Of these, two, Jacob Vouza and Bill Bennett, have been honoured as heroes for their service on the side of the victorious Allies: Vouza for an act of bravery in refusing to tell his Japanese captors about American defence positions and then providing useful information to the US marines; Bennett for sustained bravery while serving behind Japanese lines with...

  16. 13. Hector MacQuarrie (1889–1973): Traveller, writer, friend of Vouza
    (pp. 243-256)

    Hector is an honoured name. It was borne by the valiant defender of Troy who was slain by the Greek invader Achilles about 1,200 BC, and who is commemorated in the rousing marching songBritish Grenadiers:

    Some talk of Alexander, and some of Hercules,

    Of Hector and Lysander, and such great names as these.

    Subsequently, it has become not uncommon among Scots surnamed MacQuarrie (with its orthographical variants). Such is scarcely surprising since a national hero named Hector MacQuarrie, from Ulva, near Iona, fought alongside Robert Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 in expelling the English forces from...

  17. 14. Patrick OʹReilly (1900–1988): Bibliographer of the Pacific
    (pp. 257-266)

    In 1989 theJournal de la Société des Océanistespublished a set of four laudatory testimonials in honour of Patrick OʹReilly who had died in Paris on 6 August 1988 at the age of 88. He had been secretary-general of theSociétéfrom 1944 to 1973. Several years earlier, in 1982, it had also dedicated a double issue of theJournalto him.² These were both well-deserved tributes. They honoured a man whose scholarly labours—and allegedly ʹdictatorialʹ management style—had helped make theSociété(from its inception a more academically professional operation than its closest analogue, the Polynesian Society...

  18. Index
    (pp. 267-272)