1870: Levuka had 52 hotels and kava saloons on the one mile beach front

The Moon and Polynesia By C. W. Whonsbon-Aston Archdeacon of Fiji, London: Published by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Sydney: Australian Board of Missions, 1961 reported the Anglican Church came first of all to Levuka in the person of a single priest, the Rev. William Floyd, an Irishman ordained in Melbourne by Bishop Perry.

“King of the Cannibal Isles”, King Cakabau:
Levuka was the original capital and was reigned over by the “King of the Cannibal Isles”, King Cakabau, when Floyd arrived in 1870. His licence was from the Bishop of London. SPG in London, together with the Australian Church, made his coming possible. It was a very rough settlement, with 52 hotels and kava saloons on the one mile beach front, but it was some of the European settlers who invited him. They were his first concern.

Mission for black-birded Melenesians: Floyd had a strong missionary heart and he can be said to have pioneered the two great missionary fields hereabouts in which our Church works today. They are that among the Melanesian labour (a Melanesian Mission within Polynesia that has brought some confusion to many people) and the work among the Indian immigrants. The former had its beginnings in Levuka, the latter belongs mainly to Labasa (pronounced Lambasa) on the laige island of Vanua Levu, away to the North.

Blackbirding another name for slavery:“We are trying to wipe out something of the infamy of a serious blot on the history of European contacts in the South Pacific. One of the most infamous pages was that of the slave trade, called in those days “blackbirding”, by which some of the poorest types that ever entered the Pacific shanghaied natives from the Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides to bring them to Fiji for the cotton fields. It brought about the martyrdom of Bishop Patteson, who was on his way to Levuka to deal with the iniquitous trade when he was killed at Nukapa by the very people whose cause he was about to espouse.

British war against slavetrade: As a result of the martyrdom British warships intensified the search for slave vessels and methods of proper recruitment were instituted. Then the cotton boom burst and sugar began to enter the field. This form of labour, however, proved either too slow or insufficient and Indian labour was introduced; the “black boys” were just thrown aside, no one taking any responsibility for them. The majority stayed about Levuka, some went to Rabi Island and many settled in the environs of Suva.

Anglican mission for blackbirded remnants: “The state of this homeless, landless, hungry and poverty stricken remnant came to Floyd’s attention through the Chief Justice in the first Colonial Administration. Since then their cause has been the Church’s.

Anglican Church got land at Levuka: Floyd managed to get friendly Fijian villagers to give them the use of some hilltop land near Levuka. The subsequent collection of tin shacks with an almost complete lack of ideas of hygiene, with TB and leprosy as scourges, became a problem for the Church. The men worked long hours on rather meagre pay on very heavy work in trading stores, on small ships and on the wharves, for Levuka was the centre of the copra world. At the end of each long day they were too weary to be worried about being “socialised”, and the Government schools would not take their children. Not many of the old folks are left, but their descendants are more than a remnant now. In these newer days they have become much more concerned about living more decently. The opening of a parochial school (which cannot be self-supporting) a few years ago helped to this end, while a scheme to rebuild the village on a spot a little higher up, with the Church meeting them £ for £, has resulted in a very presentable new settlement of neat houses, with gardens and hedges, and TB and leprosy hardly heard of.

Levuka loses copra mill to Suva: Unfortunately, a few years ago, the whole of Levuka’s livelihood was taken away in one fell swoop, when a copra mill was built in Suva. No alternative was offered and unemployment and the resultant poverty marched in for the Solomon again.


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