Fiji Time: 1:28 PM on Wednesday 21 February

Fiji Times Logo

/ Front page / Features

Reverend David Cargill's diary Part 2

Sikeli Qounadovu
Sunday, January 14, 2018

In primary school, I was taught that David Cargill and William Cross were the two first missionaries to arrive in the country.

However there was no mention of an influential figure, Reverend Josua Mateinaniu.

In fact, I don't remember if any of the school's history books ever had his name.

Mateinaniu, the unsung hero.

Originally from Fulaga in the Lau Group, Mateinaniu had accompanied a Tongan chief to the Friendly Islands to teach the Tongans the Fijian dance, meke wesi.

"He accompanied Vuki, a Tonga chief, to the Tonga isles, in order to teach the Tonguese (Tongans) a Feejeean dance. He never accomplished his design; and he has frequently expressed his gratitude that, instead of being permitted to teach the Tonguese a foolish and useless dance and song, the missionaries were instrumental in teaching him to sing the songs of Zion. After his conversion, he was employed as a local preacher.

"He is a man of few words, and great meekness. He is a willing labourer, and is faithful and zealous in the discharge of his duty. He has been honoured by God as an instrument of good, as a subordinate agent of the mission in Feejee," wrote Cargill.

Mateinaniu, just like Tongan Reverend Paula Havea and other native island missionaries, were sent to hostile places first before the white missionaries arrived. They did a lot of the heavy work.

John Garret in his book To Live Among the Stars published in 1985 described the important and influential role Mateinaniu played in spreading the gospel in the islands of the Fiji Group.

"Mateinaniu was himself a most important factor in the missionary impact made on Lakeba from the start. He went ahead of the first missionaries to Somosomo and preached there with some success among the Tongans, who were in the service of Tui Cakau at that time, thus making it possible for Hunt and Lyth, to establish that station.

"A Fijian chief who had been converted in Tonga, Josua Mateinaniu of Fulaga, who accompanied the first Wesleyans to Lakeba in 1835 , was a person of far greater importance than most previous accounts allow.

"His status and his command of both Tongan and Fijian eased the entry of David Cargill and William Gross of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. Recognising that effective Christian mission in Fiji depended to a large extent on the attitude of Bau, Rewa and the Tui Cakau, the Wesleyans sent Josua Mateinaniu westward alone from Lakeba toward the end of 1835 to mingle with the many Tongans who were spread out through the islands and to sound out the situation in the strongholds of the high chiefs. He was a well-informed scout who advised on the future course of gospel warfare.

"By September 1836, he was back at Lakeba. On the Sunday after his return Cargill's small chapel was overflowing with a congregation 'of 300 or 400 Tonguese from the Leeward Is. of Feejee'. Many of them had embraced Christianity through the instrumentality of Joshua, an accredited preacher whom we sent among them 10 months ago. He has acted with great zeal and fidelity'.

"He preached in Bau regularly, long before it was really opened to white missionaries. "At the time of Hunt's death, he was stationed at Viwa; he and his wife personally cared for Hunt's family during the long weeks of that final illness."

John Garrett, To Live Among the Stars, Institute of Pacific Studies, 1985

Before travelling to Fiji, Reverends Cargill and Cross first had to learn the Fijian language. Cargill of course a linguist himself was guided by Mateinaniu.

This is the account of the late Reverend Cargill from the book The Diaries and Correspondence of David Cargill, 1832-1843, edited by Albert J Schutz and published by the Australian National University.

Early 1835

In early February, Cargill and Cross began their study of the Fijian language, with the assistance of a Lauan (eastern) Fijian living on Vava'u. Their first project was a four-page primer and catechism called A Vosa Vaka Viji i Manda, and it consisted of a tentative alphabet, numerals, a partial syllabary, words grouped according to their number of syllables, a modified catechism, and the Lord's Prayer.

Their orthography was a modification of the one developed for Tongan: five vowel symbols were used (as they are today), and such diagraphs as oo for, previously used for Tongan, were dispensed with. The Tongan convention of using g rather than ng was adopted, and using the same principle (a single letter to represent a single sound), Cargill drew on his Greek studies for a sound similar to one of the two that in English are written as th. But in Nuku'alofa, Hobbs, the printer, objected for practical reasons. Cargill and Cross completed their manuscript in March and sent it to John Hobbs for printing at Nukualofa.

Cargill, however, made no mention of Cross in his journal entries, a marked contrast to the number of times he had spoken of Turner with affection. From March to October, the missionaries marked time, waiting for passage to Lakeba.

From the time of his son's death in January to the departure, Cargill made only 11 entries in his journal. In mid-February he confessed his uneasiness about the Fiji appointment:

"I feel considerable exercise of mind with regards to Fiji. I do not regret that I am appointed to labour among the people of those islands, but I fear lest they should not receive our message.

"Nevertheless I know that every other stronghold of Satan must be given up to the Conqueror Jesus; and it is my earnest prayer that the time may be at hand when the Fijians shall embrace the Gospel of Christ. May the Lord strengthen my dear wife, and prepare us both, for extensive usefulness in the new and important sphere, in which we are appointed to labour."

On October 8, 1835, in a small vessel (the Blackbird) that brought John Hobbs from Tongatapu to Vava'u, Cargill and Cross, with their families, finally left Tonga for their new appointment in Fiji.

To be continued...

Fiji Times Front Page Thumbnail

Kaila Front Page ThumbnailFiji Times & Kaila Frontpage PDF Downloads

Use the free Acrobat Reader to view.

Code Inward TTs Outward TTs
CAD 0.63170.6127
JPY 54.204251.2042
GBP 0.35800.3500
EUR 0.40540.3934
NZD 0.68860.6556
AUD 0.63870.6137
USD 0.50450.4875



Exchange Rate updated on 20th, February, 2018

Today's Most Read Stories

  1. 'Fake profiles can't vote'
  2. Tears flow for eleven
  3. 862 dengue cases
  4. Winston memorial service
  5. Raj responds to criticism
  6. Nacamaki villagers resist relocation
  7. Students chosen to lead
  8. Leaders pay tribute to victims
  9. Young minds share ideas at forum
  10. Forestry sector 'boom'

Top Stories this Week

  1. Long wait Monday (19 Feb)
  2. Plans to open caves for public viewing Monday (19 Feb)
  3. None like Gita Friday (16 Feb)
  4. Della S(h)aw love Thursday (15 Feb)
  5. Villagers cry foul Thursday (15 Feb)
  6. Masirewa scores biggest try Monday (19 Feb)
  7. Bitcoin rises above $20,175 Saturday (17 Feb)
  8. Adi Meretui joins SODELPA camp Monday (19 Feb)
  9. Sau's 7s aim Monday (19 Feb)
  10. Indian engineers to assess Fiji's railway network Monday (19 Feb)