The Fiji Times » Introducing a Governor to Fiji

On June 28, 1938, Sir Harry Charles Luke was appointed Governor of Fiji and High Commissioner for the Western Pacific. He replaced Sir Arthur Richards who had been appointed Governor of Jamaica.

On July 26, he went to Buckingham Palace to “kiss his hand” after his nomination.

King George VI sat him down and told him about the three days he and the Queen spent in Fiji in 1927, when they were Duke and Duchess of York.

Sir Harry also had a chat with Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald, who had also spent some time in Fiji and described his time here as “one of the happiest times” of his life.

Sir Harry traveled to Fiji from Vancouver in Canada aboard the ssNiagara.

Australia’s Governor General, Lord Gowrie, and Fiji’s Director of Agriculture, Dr Jack, were also on board. The ssNiagara crossed the International Date Line on September 14 and sailed to Suva a few hours after dark. The passengers therefore slept on board and did not disembark until the following morning. On September 16, 1938, the ship landed at 9 a.m. and the Governor was received by a Fiji Defense Force honor guard.

“Their participation was extremely clever, and I love their dress full of scarlet tunic and white sulu (kilt) with a Vandyked edge,” Sir Harry said in his book, From A South Seas Diary.

“Was subsequently sworn in, first as Governor, then as High Commissioner, to the Supreme Court by OCK Corrie, the Chief Justice, former colleague and close neighbor in Jerusalem.”

According to Pacific Islands Monthly, Sir Harr Luke was born in 1884 and educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford.

He earned the degrees of Bachelor of Arts in 1906, Master of Arts in 1910, and Bachelor of Literature in 1919. At the time, the indigenous Fijian population was 103,000. One of Sir Harry’s first public engagements was a lunch he attended with a Dr SMLabret and Dr Strode of the Rockefeller Foundation and Claude Monckton, the Aboriginal affairs adviser, who brought with him a young Fijian chief, Ratu Granville Wellington Lalabalavu.

“Dr Lambert has worked in Fiji and the Western Pacific for about 20 years, first on hookworm and then on all other diseases,” said Sir Harry.

Monckton and Ratu Lalabalavu, affectionately known as Ratu Lala, wanted to discuss details of an upcoming Grand Council of Chiefs meeting at Somosomo, Cakaudrove.

Ratu Lala was both the Roko of the government and the leader of Cakaudrove.

Government buildings, Suva. Image: FROM A SOUTH SEAS JOURNAL

“As we entered the living room, Lala gave the Fijian tama (greeting) of squatting on her buttocks and clapping her hands before shaking hands in European fashion,” Sir Harry noted in his diary.

Sir Harry was impressed with the way Ratu Lala spoke his English. In October, the Governor had his first experience of attending a GCC meeting.

He left Suva in the boat mvYanawai, which he described as a “comfortable little boat” chartered for the occasion because the official government ship Viti was still under construction in Hong Kong. Thereafter, the GCC met every two years and was the constitutional representative body for all Fijians.

It generally sat for about a fortnight and never met twice in a row in the same province.

This was before the time when a permanent meeting structure was built.

“The governor calls the council to order, the agenda for which has been prepared in advance, then goes away and leaves the native affairs adviser to preside over the deliberations, which are conducted in Fijian,” Sir Harry said about of his role.

“When these are completed, he returns for the summary of the council’s recommendations and communicates his own decisions on them.” Sir Harry was impressed with the way Ratu Lala spoke his English.

In October, the Governor had his first experience of attending a GCC meeting.

He left Suva in the boat mvYanawai, which he described as a “comfortable little boat” chartered for the occasion because the official government ship Viti was still under construction in Hong Kong.

Thereafter, the GCC met every two years and was the constitutional representative body for all Fijians.

It generally sat for about a fortnight and never met twice in a row in the same province. This was before the time when a permanent meeting structure was built.

A cavuikelekele ceremony presented to Sir Harry. PICTURED: FROM A SOUTH SEAS JOURNAL.

“The governor calls the council to order, the agenda for which has been prepared in advance, then goes away and leaves the native affairs adviser to preside over the deliberations, which are conducted in Fijian,” Sir Harry said about of his role.

“When these are completed, he returns for the summary of the council’s recommendations and communicates his own decisions on them.”

Sir Harry was impressed with the indigenous peoples’ presentation of their cultural traditions and practices and spoke of their yaqona, tabua and sevusevuamong others.

“At the end of the ceremonies, I read my speech in English and was followed by Ratu Sukuna, who read the Fijian version. Each reading took about an hour and the council then adjourned for the day.

“I was happy for Ratu Lala, who was in obvious pain at times from his recent surgery.”

Sir Harry said in his diary that Ratu Lala had been seriously ill with an abscess behind his ear, caused when an enemy “put a draunikau on him”.

“This spell, like well-known forms of sorcery in medieval Europe, is worked using the hair or fingernails or any other emanation of the intended victim, hidden somewhere in the house or under the lintel. ..”

“I don’t know what’s true in any of this, but I’m told that Lala strongly believed he had been bewitched and that at some point he gave himself away as lost. Fortunately, he now seems very well on the road to recovery.

After a number of traditional dances, the governor returned to the ship in the evening, while Ratu Lala entertained some of the visiting chiefs with water snakes.

“It is one of the main foods unique to the district, as it is a feudal obligation of the Tavuki village chief to periodically send a small number of these creatures to the Tui Thakau (Cakau),” Sir’s diary reads. Harry.

“After being kept in pits for some time and fattened for the occasion, the snakes are seasoned, then steamed together in banana leaves and served neatly arranged in a continuous coil, so that the heads are carefully hidden under the spool and are not seen.”

“The guests choose the pieces they like, skin them and eat them like eel. Sukuna told me that, having a relationship with Thakaundrove (Cakaudrove), he was compelled by etiquette to participate in the dish but did so half-heartedly.

The day after the opening of the GCC meeting, Sir Harry returned to Suva but left for Taveuni a few days later to close it, visiting on his way to Fiji’s first capital, Levuka, at Ovalau and Savusavu at Vanua Levu.

On November 4, he closed the Somosomo CCG before reading a message from His Majesty the King.

“I have received the loyal message from you and the Grand Council of Fijian Chiefs at their first meeting to be held under my reign,” Sir Harry read.

“The Queen and I have very happy memories of our visit to Fiji eleven years ago and vivid memories of the loyalty of its people.

“I am happy to receive the Chiefs’ message on this occasion and wish them success in their deliberations and prosperity in the future.”

Sir Harry is carried on a canoe by 50 men to Tavuki village in Kadavu. Image: Extract from a South Seas newspaper

In the evening the Governor attended a dance organized by the European women of Taveuni, in particular Mrs. MacKenzie from the north of the island and Roode Tarte from the southern end of the island, wives of wealthy copra planters from the ‘era.

The governor was delighted by decorating the supper table with tagimoucia flowers obtained from a lake in the crater of a 4,000-foot mountain now called Uluiqalau.

“I take some plants to Suva, but I’m told it’s a vain hope and no one has managed to grow them far from their natural habitat.

According to Sir Harry’s dairy, he returned to Suva on November 5. He worked in Fiji for four years until July 21, 1942.

Sir Harry was the governor at the start of the Second World War in the Pacific.

Sir Harry attends a firewalking session. Image: FROM A SOUTH SEAS JOURNAL

According to Fiji time records, he oversaw the construction of Nadi Airport and warned the Fiji legislature of the impending threat of war from Japan in the Pacific.

On January 25, 1940, he laid the first two foundation stones of the Anglican Church in Suva.

In 1943 Sir Harry retired from colonial service and served for three years as the British Council’s chief representative in the Caribbean.

He died in Cyprus on May 11, 1969.

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