1937: Levuka population decline, as copra costs rise; and growth of sugar-cane area, Lautoka

The Anglican parson of Levuka, left in the mid 1930s, and it appeared the mission was closed as the gardens were “abandoned”. C. W. Whonsbon-Aston reported in Levuka Days of a Parson in Polynesia published London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1937: “My period at Levuka was drawing to an end.

What was the fate for declining Levuka? A problem was pressing itself on the Bishop. What should be the fate of Levuka with its falling population? The necessity to retrench in view of straitened finances was counterbalanced by Levuka’s possession of its beautiful church, the only permanent church of our communion in Fiji, its remaining churchpeople, its central position in relation to the outer islands and its tradition as the foundation parish of the Diocese’.

Levuka was slowly sinking: While Levuka was slowly sinking (though the return of copra to a reasonable cost of handling will help to rehabilitate the old place), on the other side of Viti Levu another settlement in the sugar-cane area, Lautoka, was becoming the second place in size in the colony.

Lautoka risng: Lautoka is about 180 miles by water from Levuka, but is on the same island as Suva, and progress demanded the building of a road to link it up with the capital–no small undertaking in a land of heavy tropical downpours. About Lautoka is a series of outer settlements for sugar-cane farming under European overseers. It has the unfortunate handicap of having no permanent Anglican building for worship, the Methodist chapel, to the building of which many Anglicans subscribed some year ago, being used, by the courtesy of the local minister, by the Vicar. It is a big field with a great scope”.

Methodist and Anglicans combine: The problem was solved in the only way possible for the time being by the temporary fusion of the two big areas into one parish. Naturally no single vicar can do justice to such a proposition and see that every member of the Church of our fathers is individually shepherded, so we have definitely lost ground. The time came for us to leave Levuka. The parting was exceedingly difficult under such conditions.

Anglican mission “failed”: Three years of uphill fighting against unusual circumstances with many victories for which to thank the good Lord–and, naturally, a few mistakes to thank the Lord for, too, for we are all of us fools some time or other for the sake of experience.

Sad loss of a loved garden: It was hardly to be expected that the gardens would remain the same little corner of an earthly paradise; the Kuo Min Tang had a providential national day, and the ducks that had waddled about the grounds were slaughtered to the spirit of a Chinese holiday; the dear old magpie flew in through the open louvre to breakfast with us for the last time; and the old and young Solomon Islanders made their lament and sang their songs of farewell to the strum of their stringed instruments. The remaining Europeans said their farewells in their own particular way. We moved on, for our last few weeks, to the charge of Suva”.

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