Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Finding a bone of Rev Baker

from w
I'm really surprised that no-one today seems to know that under the pulpit at Baker Hall, Davuilevu, there was a memorial to Rev Thomas Baker. The words in Fijian on the pulpit say so, so the builders/renovators obviously couldn't understand the Fijian language.  Everyone in Davuilevu knew this - certainly in the 50s and 60s.  It;s not a surprising find at all.  Even the Fiji Times editorial ran a piece about the 'discovery' during the renovations.  A Fijian should be a consultant to the builders/renovators.
Here are what one journalist wrote:

A historical find

Ana Madigibuli
Thursday, May 22, 2014
A SIGNIFICANT piece of history, a small enclosed concrete plot that has the coffin containing a bone of the late Reverend Thomas Baker, who was killed at Nubutautau in 1867, was found at the Thomas Baker hall in Nausori on Monday.
The enclosed plot, which is underneath the hall's pulpit, was discovered by construction workers who were doing renovation work in the Baker Hall.
Davuilevu Theological College history lecturer Reverend Ilimeleki Susu said the bone was given to the former chairman of the Methodist Mission, Reverend Arthur Small, in the early 1900 by the people of Nubutautau where Mr Baker was murdered.
Mr Susu said Mr Small handed over the piece of bone to his successor Reverend Robert. L. McDonald in 1925.
"Mr McDonald, on January 7, 1926 handed over the remaining bone to the principal of the Davuilevu Theological College, Reverend Charles. O. Lelean, who then, with students from his college, did the last honour in burying Mr Baker's bone," Mr Susu said.
"The bone has been buried for 81 years at the hall and no one knew where exactly within the hall premises until the construction workers discovered it.  (Wrong)
"Mr Lelean, at the time, wrote a letter to Mr McDonald informing him of the last honour that he and his students did to the remains of the late Reverend Baker."
Mr Susu said an engraving made by Mr Lelean on the coffin reads "This casket contains a bone of Thomas Baker who was killed at Navosa on July 21 1867".
Construction worker Mukesh Chandra said he was surprised and shocked to discover a concrete plot underneath the hall while removing the timber floors.
"We did not know what it was until we read what was engraved on the plot which was "Thomas Baker 1867" then we realised that it was a small burial plot for the late Thomas Baker," Mr Chandra said.
Methodist Church general secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra said the bone would not be removed from the hall after the renovation work was completed.
Mr Nawadra said it was a significant piece of history for all Methodists in Fiji as it showed and reminded them of the sacrifices that Reverend Baker in taking the Word of God to the people.
And the editorial from the Fiji Times.

History unfolds

Fred Wesley
Thursday, May 22, 2014
When construction worker Mukesh Chandra said he was surprised and shocked to discover a concrete plot underneath the Thomas Baker Hall on Monday, he actually echoed the sentiments of many people in Fiji.
There was no doubting the impact of this discovery though on our history.
The small concrete plot had a coffin containing a bone of the late Reverend Thomas Baker.
For those who came in late, Mr Baker was killed in the highlands of Navosa in 1867.
Driven by his desire to spread the Gospel, Mr Baker had travelled to the interior, slowly making his way through inhospitable terrain to reach Nubutautau.
Sitting about 3000 feet above sea level in the heart of Viti Levu, this little village was to be the place Mr Baker would be murdered, cooked and eaten on July 21 that year.
Caged in by mountains, it was an unlikely place to be in for a man from Playden, a village in the Rother District of East Sussex in England.
The people of Nubutautau have since lived with the tag of "killers of the Reverend Thomas Baker", the only white missionary to be killed and eaten in Fiji.
Believing they were cursed after that event, the people of Nubutautau apologised to the direct descendants of Mr Baker in 2003.
They blamed their difficulties over the years on the crime of their ancestors.
The enclosed plot, which was underneath the hall's pulpit, was discovered by construction workers who were doing renovation work in the Baker Hall.
As much as we may want to shrug off bits of our history, they have an interesting tendency to pop up when we least expect them to.
We have a history that is rich in culture and tradition.
Our history brims with tales of fierce warriors, very good seafarers, and stretches through to the hard work of our girmitiya in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The dark side of our history isn't pleasant though.
This latest discovery is a firm reminder of our cannibalistic past.
Obviously it is a part many people will want buried forever.
This, however, is a part of our history.
In a sense, this episode brings to the fore our transition from darkness to the light.
While it stands to reason that this is all part of history, it should remind us of how much we have progressed.
It does not, however, answer many questions that have lingered since that fateful day at Nubutautau.
For a description of one of the many ceremonies of apology in the mountain village -concerning the death of Rev Thomas Baker) go to

1 comment:

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

In September 2008 Fiji Times, Fred Wesley wrote:

In 1885, Arthur Small who was later to be the veteran chairman of the Fiji District went to Navosa and baptised five tribesmen, two of them being members of the party that killed Baker.

The baptisms were conducted on the spot where Baker and his friends had been attacked. Small found one of Baker's bones in the fork of a tree nearby; this was taken to Davuilevu where it is now under the pulpit platform in the Baker Memorial Hall in Davuilevu.