1870s: Anglican Minister of Levuka refuses to join Klu Klux Knan

William E. Floyd, “the Apostle of the Anglican Communion to the Western Pacific” and was “pioneer priest to the scattered English people of Polynesia from town of Levuka, on the shores of a pretty little bay, stands his great memorial, the Church of the Holy Redeemer, one of the most beautiful consecrated buildings in the South Seas in its setting of green lawns, hibiscus, frangipani and waving palms, with the everlasting green of the steep volcanic hills as a background and a low rock wall in front, reminiscent of the stone fences of old Ireland, his birthplace”.

Goldminer turned Minister: William Floyd was born in County Wexford, was educated at Beaufield Collegiate School, Enniscorthy, and went to Australia, where his people settled at Emerald Hill. He was ordained by Bishop Perry, of Melbourne, and, after a successful ministry in the goldfields, left for the romantic kingdom of Cakabau, overlord of Fiji, in 1868. He first settled as a cotton-grower at Dreketi River until on November 15, 1870, he landed in the old capital, Levuka.

Threatened with the charge of high treason: His second difficulty arose with regard to his relationship to the de facto Government of the day. His refusal to be present officially on the dais with King Cakabau at his proclamation brought him into conflict with the peculiarly unsatisfactory authority. On the other hand, the establishment of a “Ku Klux Klan” by the white settlers, intended to protect their rights (but really to oppose any form of government that curtailed their unbridled licence)–an organisation of which some thrilling tales are told–failed to secure his support.

Refused to omit the name of Queen Victoria: He was threatened with the charge of high treason by the then Prime Minister because he refused to omit the name of Queen Victoria and place that of King Cakabau in the State Prayers. “Few know what I had to suffer in these days,” he says.

“So literally without scrip or purse, without the support of any leader’s advice, he had to establish the Church in a country whose native population was already Christianised and whose white settlers were struggling to maintain the footing they had with great difficulty won. . . . In later days he loved to tell how Sunday by Sunday he prayed for Victoria in the land of Cakabau. Every pressure that could be put on him was in vain, and when once the English flag flew in Fiji the Church of England parson of Levuka alone had to make no change in his customs.”* [* From the panegyric at the Memorial Service.]
Levuka Days of a Parson in Polynesia, By C. W. Whonsbon-Aston, London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1937.


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