Thursday, June 20, 2019

Like wolves and hyaenas

’A fortnight ago a party of Bau men pillaged many of the plantations of Verata, & killed several persons: and this week they went in greater numbers, - ravaged part of the territories of the king of Verata, burned two settlements, killed 260 human beings, and brought away many prisoners. For two days they have been tearing and devouring one another like wolves and hyaenas.’ This is the Scottish missionary David Cargill, born 210 years ago today, writing in his diary about life on the island of Fiji in the 1830s.

Cargill was born on 20 June 1809 in Brechin, Forfarshire, Scotland, the second son of a banker. He graduated from King’s College, Aberdeen in 1830. Whilst studying he had joined the Aberdeen Methodist Circuit, and in 1831 he was admitted to the church as a preacher. The following year
 he got married, to Margaret Smith, and he also received his first missionary appointment for the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, to Tonga, in the South Pacific. Soon after the couple sailed for Australia, and eventually, to Tonga. They worked together there, with another missionary for three years, helping Christian development. The Cargills then moved with their young family and other missionaries to the Fiji Islands, where Christian influence had yet to take hold. David Cargill is credited alongside his co-worker, William Cross, with establishing the first Wesleyan Church in Fiji.

As a trained linguist, Cargill wrote the first grammar and dictionary for a Fijian language and he also supervised the translation of parts of the Bible into Fijian. Margaret died in 1840, and grief stricken, he returned to Britain with his four daughters. He remarried on 27 November 1841, to Augusta Bicknell, and shortly afterwards they all sailed for Hobart, Tasmania. Although his children became seriously ill with measles during the voyage, they all survived. Moreover, Margaret gave birth to a son on board. They spent several months in Tasmania, before heading for Tonga, where Cargill took over the superintendancy of the Vava’u Wesleyan mission. Unfortunately, he was struck down by dengue fever, which led to severe exhaustion and depression. He died of an overdose of laudanum in April 1843. There is a little further information about him available at Mundus. There is also a memoir written by Cargill’s wife, Margaret, and edited by her husband (first published in 1841 as Memoirs of Mrs Margaret Cargill). A modern edition of this can be previewed at Amazon.

However, it was not until the 1970s that Cargill’s diaries were edited (by Albert J. Schulz) and published by the Australian National University as The Diaries and Correspondence of David Cargill, 1832-1843. This work can be freely read online at the university website or at Docbox. H. E. Maude in his preface says this: ‘Some missionaries [. . .] appear to have been compulsive diarists, and many were required by the rules of the societies which sent them into the field to submit reports which could be published in whole or part for the delectation of their supporters back home, who somewhat naturally liked to feel that they were getting their money’s worth. In any case, whatever their motivation, they wrote too much for immediate use and there is still a wealth of data of value to anthropologists and historians to be found in their manuscript journals and letters, and particularly in those of the earlier missionaries, who lived among the Pacific Islanders at a time when local cultures were still functioning virtually unchanged. The diaries and correspondence of David
Cargill have long been recognised as among the most valuable of this still unpublished material, since Cargill was not only the first university educated Methodist to be assigned to the islands but also, with William Cross, the first European missionary to live in Fiji.’

And here is a sample of entries from the published diaries.

27 March 1833
‘It is probable that we shall have to remain 3 or 4 months in Sydney. Mrs Cargill is much weakened by the voyage. There have been many hinderances in the way of improvement in Sydney, so that religion seems to be at a low ebb. There is however the appearance of a little cloud in the heavens. The congregations though small are very attentive to the word. O Lord, I beseech Thee, send now prosperity. I feel determined through divine grace to be entirely devoted to the work in which I am engaged. May the Lord qualify me for usefulness.

It is not likely that we shall meet with anyone in this place qualified to teach us the Tonga language. Mr Orton has furnished us with a few translations: they will perhaps assist me in [     ] myself master of a small vocabulary; till I shall [have] better facilities for acquiring the language.

During the voyage we made but little progress in the acquisition of Greek. Mr Whiteley, I think, advanced as far as the end of the first conjugation. What he has acquired, he seems to understand. Mr Tucker could translate the first 12 verses of the 1st ch. of John.’

20 June 1833
‘This day I have lived twenty-four years. My life has been hitherto a life of many mercies. I feel condemned for my ingratitude, & the small progress I have made in divine things. I have indeed been a cumberer of the ground. O Lord, revive thy work in my heart! Enable me to make an unreserved dedication of the members of my body & the faculties of my soul to thy service.

Most of the inhabitants of this Colony are sunk very low in the mire of iniquity. And even the piety of professing Christians is very superficial. The profligacy of the wicked, & the lukewarmness of professors, call loudly for divine vengeance. There are but few encouragements for the labourer in this part of the vineyard. To use the expression of the venerable & respected Mr McAllum, preaching to the Majority of the inhabitants, is like ‘plowing among rocks.’ But although the society do not appear to consider one another to provoke one another to love and good works, it is nevertheless to be expected that some of the seeds of grace are sown in good ground. There are a few who possess a leaven of piety & love. But their ardour is so damped by the prevailing lukewarmness, that they are entirely thrown into the background. May the happy day soon dawn when the inhabitants of this Colony shall have been raised from their moral degradation!

I am engaged in attending to Mr Orton’s appointments during his absence: And have frequently to preach 5 or 6 times in Sydney during the week. The Lord has been pleased so far to honour me as to make my services useful in the conviction & conversion of two or three persons who it is hoped, will be living stones in the temple of God. My time is chiefly occupied in preparing for the pulpit, & visiting the people, so that I have had but little time to improve my stock of general knowledge . . .’

4 September 1833
‘Rode about 26 miles through ‘the bush’ in company with Mr. Orton to visit the people residing in the vicinity of Botany Bay. Some of them are in a deplorable and wretched condition; We fell in with a small village on the beach, inhabited by fishermen, who not only neglect and violate the Christian Sabbath by pursuing their usual employment, but seem destitute of even the form of godliness, & we have reason to suspect, are living in concubinage with aboriginal women. One of the women, however, expressed a desire to learn to read: & there was an air of cleanliness about the huts wh. ill accorded with their heathenish depravity. Does not the condition of such pitiable beings prove, that man without the Gospel is foolish, & is prone to say, ‘There is no God?’ Returned home about 1/2 past 5 P.M. and @ 7 - preached in Macquarie St. Chapel from - ‘behold I stand @ the door and knock’ &c.’

20 October 1833
‘Mrs. C. exhibited symptoms of inflammation wh. induced Dr. Bland to draw a considerable quantity of blood from her; The disagreeable symptoms were removed, & she experienced great relief. Baby is doing well.’

17 November 1833
‘This morning our lovely infant was baptized in Marquarie St Ch. by the Revd W. Simpson. May the Lord spare her life and grant her grace to be a comfort & blessing to us. She is named Jane Smith out of respect to her grandmother.’

12 February 1834
‘This afternoon attended divine service in the chapel. After Bro. T’s address to the congregation, we witnessed an interesting sight in the marriage of four couples: including the King & Queen of a small island about 40 miles from Vavau. Native teachers have been sent to instruct them. With the divine blessing on their labours, the people about 60 in number have led resolved to abandon idolatry & embrace Christianity. The King & some of his subjects have come to Vavau to be married & baptized. The rest of the people of the island are expected when the wind is favourable to the sailing of the canoes. And thus one island after another is deserting the ranks of idolatry, & Satan’s empire is becoming less extensive & powerful. O that the day may soon dawn when not only every island in this vast ocean shall have been christianized, but when the friends of religion shall triumphantly sing -
Jesus the Conqueror reigns,
In glorious strength array’d;
His Kingdom over all maintains
And bids the earth be glad.’

29 August 1836
‘This day I finished my translation of the three epistles of John into the Tonguese language: May the Lord make them a blessing to all who may read or hear them.’

20 July 1838
‘About 2 O.C. this morning our fifth child - a stout girl - was born. We have had none but natives to assist us at this critical juncture, but the Lord has been better to us than all our fears. Our native female servant has been very attentive and kind on this occasion. Mrs C is much better. . . than we could have expected her to be. May she and I have grace to dedicate ourselves afresh to the service of God.’

23 July 1838
This forenoon our people under the direction of Uiliami Lajike began to build a new chapel. We held divine service at the erecting of the posts which are to support the building. The scene was very interesting and I trust profitable to the souls of many. A large congregation was present, and many tears of joy were shed. The Feejeeans and the Tonguese seem to be desirous of outstripping one another in this labour of love. All have engaged in the undertaking with great alacrity and goodwill. Several heathens have volunteered their services in rearing this Christian temple. Lua - the quondam persecutor of the Christians - has very kindly presented us with several large skeins of cynet [plaited straw or similar], and has tendered his assistance in the preparation of the various materials for the house of prayer. Soroangkali - the king’s brother has presented the Chief of the Christian party with a large roll of cynet. The chapel when finished will probably hold between 500 & 600 persons. May it be the birthplace of many immortal souls.’

8 August 1839
‘The Capn took the vessel to Koro to buy yams. Koro is an island about forty miles from Somosomo. The inhabitants have had but little intercourse with foreigners, and are in a very barbarous state. A few weeks ago the male inhabitants of one town were treacherously decoyed by the inhabitants of another into a yam plantation, and all put to death. The women and children are enslaved. As we approached that part of the island where the Capn expected to find a harbour, the vessel was nearly on a reef. In five seconds more she would probably have struck, but she instantly obeyed the helm; and thus to all appearance we were saved from a watery grave. The Capn steered to another part of the island, and there dropped anchor.’

1 November 1839
‘This morning a little after break of day, I was surprised to hear the sound of voices talking very loudly, near the front fence of the Mission premises, and going out to ascertain the cause of their noise found a human head in our garden. This was the head of the old man whose body had been abused on the beach. The arm of the body had been broken by a bullet, wh. passed through the bone near the shoulder, & the upper part of the skull had been knocked off with a club. The head had been thrown into our garden during the night, with the intention no doubt of annoying us and shocking our feelings. The victims of war were brought from Verata, & were killed by the Bau people. 260 human beings were killed & brought away by victors to be roasted and eaten. Many women & children were taken alive to be kept for slaves. About 30 living children were hoisted up to the mast head as flags of triumph. The motions of the canoes when sailing soon killed the helpless creatures, & silenced their piercing cries. Other children were taken alive to Bau that the boys might learn the art of Fijian warfare by firing arrows @ them and beating them with clubs.

As far as I can learn, the war originated with the Bau people. Some time ago they killed three Verata men as sacrifices during the building of a temple. The Verata men revenged the injury by killing five Bau men. And thus the war commenced. A fortnight ago a party of Bau men pillaged many of the plantations of Verata, & killed several persons: and this week they went in greater numbers, - ravaged part of the territories of the king of Verata, burned two settlements, killed 260 human beings, and brought away many prisoners. For two days they have been tearing and devouring one another like wolves and hyaenas. O that a door of usefulness were opened in these parts of Feejee, that we might publish the glad tidings of the advent of the Prince of Peace. In the meanwhile, they will not listen to our report. But they are in the hands of God. . .’

No comments: