Sunday, July 02, 2006

bits of history about Labasa

from a website -
Labasa Town The town established in 1922, this town was formerly a village with an earth road having deep side drains. During the spring tide you could fish in the middle of the commercial sites that were surrounded by cane, rice, coconut and cattle farms.

wrong - Labasa was never a village. It is the name of a river. The village was Naseakula and the area called Nasea by most people.

The present site of the Civic Centre was the site where James McCober family occupied four bure houses and the site was covered with tiri patches that became lowland swaps at high tide. There were no water supply, electricity or telephone services and people used well and tank water, kerosene hurricane lamps, and horses as the means of transportation.

Tiri is mangrove.

There were a few stores scattered in the area facing the CSR tramline, which was the main highway in those days.

and the attractions -

There are several charming and interesting attractions here like the hot springs at Waiqele or the floating island at Nakelikoso lying 26 miles from town. The swinging bridge here was built in early days and is still in use. You can also enjoy the lovely beaches at Nasealevu/Nukutatava, or the cascading clear Lekutulevu Waterfalls. Three sisters, is a mountain with a legendary background. This natural beauty is quite popular and has 3 knolls that give it its name.

and sports -The Council provides sporting areas for rugby, soccer, volleyball, netball, lawn tennis (operated by an association), squash courts, swimming pool. The FSC (Fiji Sugar Co-operation Ltd) has a bowling green and a golf course.

from the Cyclopedia of Fiji 1907, the following are listed as living and working in Labasa, mainly at the sugarmill. Some of the names are still around in Fiji in the Part-European community.

Mr Alfred Hill, Mr Charles Hill, Mr Edgar Masters, Mr Robert Duncan McPhee, Mr Charles R Innes, Mr John Moore, Mr Trevor Jones, Mr Charles Carne, Mr James Hillhouse, Mr Angus Morrison, Mr James Simmons, Mr Isaac Simpson, Mr Michael Dyer, Captain H Hansen, Mr James M Shute, Mr William James Barrack, Mrs Ellen E Harman, Mr Mathew Siompson, Mr James Brand Simmons, Mr Charles Ormond Eyre, Mr Julian Bathie Miller, Mr F Whippy, and others.

It's interesting that they give little bios for each person, emphasising schooling overseas mainly, then their job. They don't pay much attention to the Fijian or Part-Fijian wives of many of these men.

The Cyclopedia seems to have been compiled to attract overseas investors in Fiji. I don't dare copy some of the awful descriptions the author/authors have of the indigenous population and the Indian indentured labourers!

The class structure was replicated in the housing of the families in Labasa - the people with the highest status on the hill in large bungalows, engineers and moderately skilled staff half-way down the hill, and the lowest area for the 'lines' which were crowded barracks for labourers. These 'lines' remained for more than eighty years. I saw some of the 'lines' in Lautoka one time and they were two small rooms per family in a long rectangular wooden building which housed about fifteen families.


Pandabonium said...

Wow, that is interesting stuff. The 1907 references are much like the books I mentioned about US possessions around that same time. The colonial attitude.

These days, developed countries still act the same way, but they use more friendly language to cover it up. said...

I just stumbled across your blog as I was doing some family history research. I wonder if you have any further information about James Brand Simmons, my grandmother's uncle? Cheers!

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Harshbutfair- I don't know where you live but if you can get hold of that old Encyclopedia of Fiji from about 1907 there are lots of stories about the Europeans and Part-Europeans of Fiji from that time, including a bit about James Brand Simmons.
I'll make a new post about him later today - not here as it is too long.
Also, you might like to look up a Fiji telephone directory (it's on-line) and maybe phone or write to some of the Simmons in Fiji. There are at least seven Simmons families listed for Labasa, possibly your distant cousins!

helen Harman said...

Is there much about Ellen Harman in the encyclopaedia? She was my husbands grandmother and ran the plantation after her husband was killed.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

On p 280 there is a reference to Mrs Ellen E Harman, widow of the late Mr Arthur Harman, came to Fiji in 1883. Mr Harman had been in Fiji since early childhood. He died October 1889. The property known as Ldesiaceva is situated at the southernmost point of Savusavu Bay and consists of 300 acres, of which 200 acrs are under cultivation with coconuts. Mrs Harman manages the estate with Fijian labour. Mrs Harman has a family of two boys and one girl.
I hope that this information is of interest to your family.

Anonymous said...

I was interested in Duncan Mcphee as mentioned in your 1907 reference. He is my grandmother's Father. Do you have much information about him or whether any of the Mcphee's are still in Labasa?

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

I posted what I found in the Cyclopedia of Fiji on a new post today so check it out. Something about Robert Duncan McPhee. But there don't seem to be an McPhees in the Fiji phone book today.

maxine said...

hi i am a simmons who was born in Labasa, I belong to the clan of james Simmons.
Take Care

maxine said...

If any of you need some information about the simmons and hill of Labasa pls do not hesitate to contact me. Now i reside in Sydney Australia.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Hello Maxine,
We are related I guess as Peceli said the Simmons are our relatives and there's some connection with Mali Island people there.

joseph said...

Hello. I am Joseph Simmons, son of Douglas Joseph Simmons. His mother was Henerietta Emily Simmons whos father was Douglas Simmons (senior)I believe we are direct descendants of James Brand Simmons. I just need some confirmation if someone can point me in the right direction. Maxine....I'm your nephew.

Anonymous said...


my name is Leslie Simmons, my great grandfather was James Brand Simmons. Ilive in Tavua now but my father, Roderick Simon Simmons (II), was from Dreketi. Would like to trace my family history. Help?

Anonymous said...

Hi i would like to know a cousin who used to work for the FBC in Fiji called Mary Simmons.

Anonymous said...

hi im stephanie and my mum is claire de-lun vanessa simmons who is the daughter of march carter simmons whose father was douglas simmons but am not sure if it was the senior douglas or his son... can u help trace my mums family line... u can email me on

mtldsimmons said...

Hi there, to those asking about the Simmons connection from Labasa, we've just created a 'closed' page on facebook where all who has connections to the Fiji simmons family can meet there.

This is the link, it's a newly created group, where you can share more with them.



Teresia Ma'afu said...

my aunty Luisa lives in Nukutatava she is my dads sister they are the only ones left in their family I wonder if you know them?


Anonymous said...

where does the name labasa come from?

Vakaviti Decor said...

interesting Blog site :) love to read this during my spare time vinaka

Anonymous said...

Kia ora from NZ - I was researching our family connections to the McPhee / Ranken family in Labasa and came across this blog post. We are visiting Labasa early Jan (4-7) and hope to learn more about our family history there. Our grandfather Duncan Ranken was born in Labasa (his mother was Caroline Sarah McPhee / Day) and I understand the Robinson family are distant relations. If you could please help us with any tips or contacts, that would be great! I would love to hear from you soon. My email - - Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Hello Everyone,

I am the daughter of the late Mr. August Carter Simmons. The 3rd Son of Douglas Carter Simmons Senior from Labasa. Maxine, Claire De lun and Lesley are all cousins with me.

Hope we keep in touch during the reunion.