1844: Tui Levuka orders traders to leave Levuka:houses fall into ruins, and scrub invades clearings

“Levuka fell upon evil days in 1844, when some of the traders incurred Cakobau’s displeasure, and he drove them all out of his dominions”. The cause was described as “there was at Rewa a man named Charles Pickering, said to be a native of New South Wales, who was a source of trouble between whites and natives wherever he went. During the Bau-Rewa war Pickering abused the position of neutrality enjoyed by foreign residents by carrying information to Quraniqio, and becoming that chief’s active agent.

In May, 1844: Pickering sailed his schooner Jane to Lau, ostensibly on a trading trip, but there were ground for believing that his real purpose was to take one of Tanoa’s run-away wives to Lakeba, in order to stir up revolt against Bau. he was unfortunate. The Jane was wrecked on Cicia Island; and the havoc wrought by reef and sea was completed by the natives, who killed one of the crew and salvaged and seized the cargo. Pickering escaped to Lakeba, where he was given food and shelter by the missionaries.

News of the wreck reached Levuka and Bau at about the same time. A Levuka schooner sailed at once for Cicia, to try and buy anchors and chains from the wreck; but, fearing reprisals, the natives would not come off to trade, and the crew knew better than to land. The schooner sailed on to Lakeba.

Meanwhile, Cakobau sent Mara in hot pursuit of Pickering, with a large war-canoe. Pickering, knowing what to expect if Cakobau should capture him, offered liberal payment to the Levuka boat to take him and his women to Rewa. Though the Levuka men were not behind the natives in their dislike of the man, they were tempted by the opportunity to redeem an unprofitable trip, and took him. After a fruitless call at Somosomo, the Bau canoe reached Lakeba in July, to find that its quarry had escaped.

Angry at the frustration of his plans, Cakobau made reprisals not only against the men who had been the cause of it, but against the whole settlement. Early in ‘August, the white men and their families were given three days in which to leave Levuka. Whippy and his friends offered gifts, but in vain. Even Tui Levuka, under whom protection they had hitherto lived, had become perturbed at their growing prosperity, and in any case he was too much under Cakobau’s influence to oppose his will. the Bau’s attacks; they moved, however, to Makogai, but finding that place too unprotected, they went on to Solevu Bay, near the southernmost point of Vanua Levu, and settled at Nawaido. In their haste, they were forced to abandon everything they could not carry away in their little ships. The hull of a 70-ton schooner, which Whippy and his partner were building for trading to the colonies, was left on the stocks; the houses fell into ruins, and scrub invaded the clearings; and the beach and harbour, which had seen so much activity, were deserted by all but a few roving whites attracted to the place”.


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